Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Meditations Upon a Bookstore

God Jul!

Our family doesn't do gifts at Christmas. Some day I'll write about this excellent idea we've stolen called "GOTYA days" which allow us to celebrate our loved ones while freeing Christmas (somewhat) from the tyranny of things.

However, we do purchase some gifts for extended family. Since we love to give gifts that have, if possible, some eternal value, we often end up shopping in Christian bookstores. This year in particular, that has been deeply depressing.

What do you find in these stores? Second-rate, sentimentalist pseudo-Christian fiction, bracelets filled with uninterpretable acroyms (WWJD, FROG), jewelled fishies and crosses with real mustard seeds embedded in them, rewarmed worldly hip-hop PRAZES FOR JEEZUS FREEKS albums and the latest variation PURPOSE-DRIVEN(TM) DRIVEL(TM).

I guess I'm grumpy today. But let me share with you some of the "treasures" I found at the Treasure House in Barrie, but which could be found in most Christian book stores. Text in italics are taken from the advertising copy of the store.

Instructing your children:
Bob, Larry, and the whole VeggieTales team show you how to build a powerful relationship with God.
I used to like VeggieTales. Our kids used to watch them, until they were about 3 or 4 years old. We stopped following Bob and Larry after that dreadful version of Jonah's story. But as a family devotional? Never! Want to train your children to know God? Use this wonderful, child-friendly catechism instead!

Don't have time for meeting with God? Try:
HCSB Light Speed Bible
Now you can read and comprehend every word of the Bible in 24 hours! Includes a 4-step speed-reading technique at a seventh grade reading level.
Speed-reading the Bible? Comprehend every word? So, do you speed read the love letters your spouse sends you? Do you speed read the old letters written by departed loved ones? No. You bathe in them, meditate on them, mull them over, celebrate them. Why would we treat God's letter as less worthy of our attention and effort?

Find the Bible too complex? We have an answer for that too!
The Message: Vintage Remix and Numbered Edition
God's Word was meant to be read -- and understood. It was first written in the language of the people, and this Bible gets back to that.
Another confession: I liked "The Message." I enjoyed it as an extreme paraphrase, but one with some insightful commentary. But I never considered it to be Scripture! These recent printings have verse references added and come in large leather editions. I can only assume the idea is that some people use The Message as their regular Bibles, which is frightening.

prophecySigh. Also in the store were two or four bookcases labelled "self-help," though we as Christians should be most aware of the sheer folly of trying to help ourselves. The "prophecy" shelf had a lovely sampling of the most extreme madness offered to the Christian church, including lovely tomes by Prophets Joyner and Price.

Oh, and don't miss the anniversary of Wilkinson's Prayer of Jabez. After all, you don't want to miss a chance to "release God's favour, power and protection."

Ok, enough grumping. There are many wonderful books out there that glorify God, humble man and edify the saints. All for the cost of a little digging.

May God bless your Christmas with much of himself!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

What's wrong with childcare?

Hmm, I never intended this to become a political blog. But I cannot pass by this battle of world views between the Conservatives and Liberals, since it is so relevant to this issue of raising children.

The Liberals are promising to pour $11 billion dollars into institutional child care, partly in response to the Conservative plan to enable parents to choose non-institutional child care options (for example, raising your own kids at home).

So, why am I so opposed to institutional child care? I do recognize that in some situations it may be a necessary evil. But I do believe that as Christian parents, we should be very hesitant to ever commit our kids to state-run preschools. (In fact, we should be hesitant to put them in state-run schools, but that is a topic for another post.)

State-run institutions do not teach a Christian world-view. In fact, they will actively exclude Christ. If you really believe that "the first five years last a lifetime," then surely this is not the place for our children.

Not only that, but there is considerable statistical evidence for the damaging effects of preschool. Here are extracts from several reports over the past few years:

LifeSite News, November 10, 2005:

Preschool Damages Children’s Social Skills and Emotional Development
Preschool has a negative effect on a child’s social and emotionaldevelopment, according to a study of 14,000 US preschool children.

On average, the report found that the earlier a child enters apreschool center, the slower his or her pace of social development.“Our results for the intensity of attending a center program – measuredin hours per week and months per year – are worrisome, while varyingacross different types of families and children,” the report stated.

News Release, National Institutes of Health (USA), July 16, 2003:

Child Care Linked To Assertive, Noncompliant, and Aggressive Behaviors -- Vast Majority of Children Within Normal Range
The more time children spent in child care from birth to age four-and-a-half, the more adults tended to rate them, both at age four-and-a-half and at kindergarten, as less likely to get along with others, as more assertive, as disobedient, and as aggressive, according to a study appearing in the July/August issue of Child Development.

The link between time in child care and problem behavior was greater than the link between infant temperament and problem behavior or maternal depression and problem behavior. This link between time in child care and problem behavior was also greater for children in center-based care than for children in other types of care.

The link between time in child care and problem behavior occurred across all family backgrounds and all types and quality of care.

CBC News, April 20, 2001:

The more time children spend in day care, the more likely they are to exhibit assertive, defiant and even mean behaviour by the time they get to kindergarten, says new research.

A study presented Thursday at the annual meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development in Minneapolis found that 4 1/2-year-old children who attended day care were rated by mothers, care-givers and kindergarten teachers as more aggressive than kids who stayed at home.

Given all these negative results, why are the Liberals pushing so hard for increased institutional care? Even parents don't want it. According to this February 16, 2005 article from LifeSiteNews.com a recent poll by the Vanier Institute of the Family showed:
  • Nine out of ten Canadians feel that in a two parent situation, ideally one parent should stay at home to raise the children
  • almost all employed mothers would work part-time if they could afford it
  • as would 84% of fathers
  • parents surveyed indicated that daycare would be their last choice for child care
So why are they doing it? The parents don't want it. The statistics don't support it. The only answer is ideology. The Liberals want to shape Canada into their desired image: secular humanism, radical feminism, and "tolerance" which tolerates everything except dissent.

Parents, raise your children to honour God! Don't abdicate to the state the responsibility given to you by God. Instead, ask God for what you need to discharge this solemn (and joyful) task!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

So, Mr. Harper, what about three for three?

In my last post, I mused about Stephen Harper reading my blog. Then I read this article:

Harper mulls income splitting among tax cuts as campaign enters Week 2

Well, in this post I had noted that when my family went from two incomes to one income, from no dependents to two dependents, the drop in our tax bill was less than $1000, even though our income had almost been cut in half.

I guess Stephen Harper really does read my blog. (Yes, I am kidding.)

I'm delighted with what I'm hearing from the Conservative Party. It has always bothered me that from an income tax vantage point, each wage earner is treated as a separate entity, instead of the family unit being seen as a single economic unit. This is quite unfair and unrealistic.

Looks like I'm voting Conservative this year. For the first time.

However, if you're still listening Mr. Harper, there is one evil in Canada which is far greater than redefining marriage, far greater than judicial activism, far greater than unfair tax laws.

Let's stop murdering babies. Let's work towards a complete ban on abortion. I know it will take time, but:

Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision, offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever, ’twixt that darkness and that light.

Then to side with truth is noble, when we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit, and ’tis prosperous to be just;
Then it is the brave man chooses while the coward stands aside,
Till the multitude make virtue of the faith they had denied.

By the light of burning martyrs, Christ, Thy bleeding feet we track,
Toiling up new Calv’ries ever with the cross that turns not back;
New occasions teach new duties, time makes ancient good uncouth,
They must upward still and onward, who would keep abreast of truth.

Though the cause of evil prosper, yet the truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong;
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.

As James Lowell wrote to protest America's war with Mexico, so let the Conservative Party claim all of the Right and begin to end this wicked practice.

(Thanks to the CyberHymnal for the words to this song.)

Monday, December 05, 2005

A glimmer of hope

Does Stephen Harper read my blog? (Heh. Ok, I think I know the answer to that one.)

More likely (way more likely!) he listened to Advocates for Childcare Choice and other Canadians who wanted more parental input into the care their children receive.

Instead of simply pouring billions more into institutional childcare centres, the Tories are proposing a per-child subsidy of $100 per month that would be given directly to the families. This would be combined with an additional $250 million per year for institutional childcare.

Applause, applause!

For more information, see the CBC article.

Perhaps there is hope for our nation, after all. (There is always hope with a sovereign God!)

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

All our sons command?

IMGP2220.JPGOh, Canada, our home and native land,
True patriot love, in all our sons command.

I want my country to command my son's and daughter's patriotic love,but I don't want my country's government to supplant me as their father.

In Germany, the state defines where the children will be taught and what they will be taught. The UK is contemplating mandating state education of children from the moment they are weaned.

Canada has not gone as far as either of these examples, but there isdisturbing movement in that direction. The government is looking atpouring billions of dollars into a nationwide childcare program, tocreate many more spaces in childcare centres. (And no, this isn't partof last week's desperate spending spree by a government about to bedissolved.)

Why not spend that money to enable parents to raise their children athome? The tax system in Canada discriminates against single-incomefamilies, making it more difficult for mothers to stay with theirkids. In one tax year, our family went from having two incomes and nodependents to one income with two dependents. The total tax savings? than a thousand dollars.

There is a group working for greater fairness in child care dollars. leave you with this (slightly redacted) article that LifeSite Newsran two weeks ago:

By Terry Vanderheyden

OTTAWA, November 17, 2005 (LifeSiteNews.com) - This Saturday November19th, the National Fund the Child Coalition, a national alliance ofgrassroots organizations which is opposed to the Liberal government's"one-size-fits-all" National Daycare program, will be holding a numberof rallies across the country.

The Coalition argues that the government-controlled daycare programdiscriminates against the majority of Canadian families. The Coalitioncalls on the federal government to support all Canadian families by"funding the child."

The Coalition advocates a program which will provide parents with childcare choices and "fair and equitable financial support for all Canadianfamilies."

"While families have been working and carpooling and trying to makeends meet, they haven't had time to notice that the federal governmenthas promised billions of dollars to fund a government controlledchildcare program that actually discriminates against the majority ofCanadian families and ignores the fact that parents across Canada arenot asking for more daycare," a Coalition flyer emphasizes. "Thisproposed program does not treat all families equitably."

The Coalition points out that families who chose to have a parent stayhome with children, or have a relative care for children are beingunfairly discriminated against. "Individual families and groups acrossCanada are generating a simmering national debate about who should bemaking decisions about child care: the government or parents," theflyer continues. "The answer is simple - Canadians are demanding thegovernment 'fund the child' which means providing financial supportdirectly to parents, so they can make child care decisions on behalf oftheir children."

"Instead of the federal government funding a program that clearlydiscriminates against the majority of Canadian families, they could belaunching an impressive, innovative and purposeful new Canadian SocialPolicy, one which will stand the test of time, if it is built on thecornerstone of fair and equitable financial support for all Canadianfamilies."

They also encourage supporters to email Paul Martin and localprovincial Premiers about the program: "Tell them you want them to'Fund the Child' instead of building a discriminatory and unpopularsystem of universal daycare."

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The Family in God's Presence

Flickr Photo
This is a second posting on discipling our children that began with this call to parents to take seriously their responsibility toward their descendants.

One of the wonderful ways we can teach our kids is to have them at the Sunday morning service with us. I am grateful to belong to a church where the pastor hates juniour church. We have long believed in the importance of having our children worship with us and learn together with us.

John and Noel Piper, in their excellent pamphlet The Family: Together in God's Presence, express the importance this way:

Children should see how Mom and Dad bow their heads in earnest prayer during the prelude and other non-directed times. They should see how Mom and Dad sing praise to God with joy in their faces, and how they listen hungrily to His Word. They should catch the spirit of their parents meeting the living God. Something seems wrong when parents want to take their children in the formative years and put them with other children and other adults to form their attitude and behavior in worship. Parents should be jealous to model for their children the tremendous value they put on reverence in the presence of Almighty God.

Our children are five anFlickr Photod seven. They have learned the basic skills of singing with us, and sitting still through the message. Our pastor, who loves kids, makes an extraordinary effort to include the children in the sermon, occasionally asking the children questions, explaining key points in simple language, and using compelling and memorable allegories.

To further help them participate in the message itself, we encourage them to write or draw something related to what the preacher is speaking about. The pictures on this entry were taken from the kids' notebooks.

Here is an extract from the five year old’s notebook from a sermon on Romans 8:5:

how can we be justified? Well, we can ask God But if you are in hte flehs you can not be justified. things will not Get you to heaven. But we can repent from our sin.
Flickr Photo

Another extract from the same author's notebook, a few weeks later:

God came to us. He deid on the cross. God is the only person who is perecet [perfect]. But on the other hand there is sin. Satan tempts us to sin. But God is good. God has sent blessings. psalm 100:29 says: They provoked the LORD to anger with their deeds, and a plague broke out among them. this is of the scripture. Revelation 22:21 says the grace of the LORD Jesus be with all. Amen. From the ESV. If you dond't understand what I meen I'll explane it to you. What a great God we have. I'v written all this with my owen hand. And no help.

And that's true. No one helped him at all. Those verses he mentioned weren't even part of the service. The kids frequently amaze us at what they are able to understand from the sermon.

Being together as a family before God with the assembled church family is a marvelous priviledge. Don't let your children miss out!
Flickr Photo

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Monday, November 28, 2005

"Professionalism" and Children

As discussed in previous postings, in many Western nations including Canada, there is an increasing pressure to allow the state to raise our children. We who are Christian parents (and the churches which form our communities of faith) must vigorously resist the intruder.

Sadly, I think many Christians have become used to the idea of allowing the "professionals" to take over many of the responsibilities which should have remained with the parents. We put them into daycare the moment they're weaned, into preschool when they reach three, juniour kindergarten at five, seniour kindergarten at six, and visit with them occasionally between now and university.
Indoor Sunday School
In no area is this "leave-it-to-the-professionals" attitude more dangerous than in our churches.

Let the pastor lead our kids to Christ, the Sunday School teacher instruct them in Scripture,the Children's Church teach them to worship, and their weekday club leader disciple them.

No, no, no, NO!

When we stand before God in the final judgment, who is he going to ask first about the raising of our children? Their Sunday School teacher? The pastor?

He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children (Ps 78:5 ESV)

Fathers are to teach their children! (Or, if the father is unbelieving or absent, mothers!) There are many, many references commanding the people of God to teach their own children. Pastors, Sunday School teachers, and others are valuable additions, wonderful partners for the parents, but the responsibility cannot be delegated. We, parents, are called and equipped by God to teach our children the "glorious deeds of theLORD, and his might, and the wonders he has done." (Ps 78:4)

I'm going to attempt to wax eloquent (or perhaps wane eloquent) on this topic as part of this series on children. To end this short polemic with a bit of practical advice, let me direct you to an earlier posting I made on using the Catechism at home for training your children.

May God convict us, direct us, and empower us to leave a godly legacy and profound spiritual inheritance to our children!

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
(Deut 29:29 ESV)

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Thursday, November 24, 2005

Tech: A Taste for Spam?

Flickr PhotoSpam, once known by the less-picturesque name of "unsolicited commercial e-mail" or UCE, is one of the great scourges of the Net.

According to MessageLabs, currently 67% of all e-mail traffic is spam.? At one point in July, last year, spam reached a whopping 94.5% of all e-mail traffic.

That's a lot of e-mail about questionable diets, unsavoury personal practices, suspicious medications, illegal pyramid schemes and vile pornography.

So, how do you prevent spam? One excellent tool in this continuing battle is spamgourmet.com, whose icon is that strange image above. Spamgourmet provides free, disposable e-mail addresses.

The key to preventing spam starts with protecting your e-mail address. However, there are many circumstances which require you to provide a valid address: online newspaper registration, software downloads, blogs, etc. You might reasonably fear that some of these groups may not entirely trustworthy with your precious e-mail address.

Enter spamgourmet. It allows you to create disposable e-mail addresses. A disposable e-mail address is an address that will work for a time, then stop working. Thus you can give out your e-mail address freely, and you may suffer some spam for a time, which will suddenly stop when that address is no longer valid.

After registering with spamgourmet and giving them your normal e-mail (you have to trust somebody, right?), you can create any number of temporary addresses which will be provided by the web site. Admittedly, these addresses look a little strange (e.g. mytmp.10.tomgee@spamgourmet.com), but it seems a small price to pay for protecting your inbox.

There are many other functions provided by this excellent service. If you've finished buying all the cheap Prozac you'll ever need, check them out!

Monday, November 21, 2005

State approved children?

Flickr Photo

In a previous posting, we saw an example of a modern, Western, democratic state which not only banned homeschooling, but also banned a private Christian school, removed the rights of parents to control their children's education, and jailed one Baptist couple for not sending their children to a school play (which they considered blasphemous).

If you are a Christian parent, serious about training up your children, you can surely sympathize with the difficulties experienced by these German parents. I'm not saying that you must homeschool to be a good Christian parent, but we must have the ability to limit the amount of darkness that our children are exposed to. As shepherds of our children, we need to have some control over the fold and some ability to fight the wolves.

There seems to be a trend in some Western nations (including my own: Canada) to expand the role of the state is the shaping of children. It was the excellent LifeSite news organization that reported on the following:

UK Proposes Mandatory Preschool from Birth
By Terry Vanderheyden
LONDON, November 11, 2005 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A proposed law to mandate that all children enter preschool from birth is being debated by UK lawmakers.

Introducing the bill, Children's Minister Beverley Hughes said that the program would provide "integrated care and education from birth. We want to establish a coherent framework that defines progression for young children from nought to five." .....

A "coherent framework". But whose framework? Not a biblical framework. Not a God-honoring framework. As a state-sponsored institution, it is not likely to be one that is receptive to the exclusive claims of Christ.

The Bible is filled with commands to train up our children (Deut 6:7, Eph 6:4), including many references to our grandchildren and even great-granchildren (Deut 4:9-10, Ps 78;4-6). As Christians, as the Church, we must keep our focus not only on our own kids but two or three generations into the future. How are we preparing our kids now to train their children and grandchildren?

Certainly part of that responsibility includes maintaining a context in which our children are even allowed to train their children. If it's getting more difficult now, what will the future be like when, God willing, our children want to pass on their values and their faith to their own kids?

Beware, our British brothers and sisters! The wolves are much too close already to the cradle! We will pray for and with you!

Next time: So you don't think this can happen in Canada, eh?

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Saturday, November 19, 2005

Tech: edit your blogs with flock!

I have a confession to make. I'm a geek. There. I've said it. I like to write about theological issues, and any issue that relates to God is infinitely more important than earthly issues. So I've been holding off talking about technological issues.

But it's been hard. And I've decided to give greater reign to my geekiness. However, I will label any such posts with the "tech" prefix. But for my fellow technophiles, I will be sharing recent discoveries over the next few weeks. You've been warne
d! :-)

Ever since I began this blog, I've been looking for a decent editor.
I'm on a dial-up line, so using the built-in Blogger interface isn't an option ... I need an offline editor.

I'm enthusiastically pro-open source, vehemently opposed to the Microsoft monopoly, so using the Word plugin for Blogger won't work for me. I've been getting by with the e-mail interface, except that there's no efficient way for me to include pictures in these images. And you've got to have pictures!

So I have been totally, utterly delighted to discover flock! This marvelous web browser has a fully integrated blog editor. The editor integrates with Flickr, making image insertion very simple. It understands the abilities and limitations of typical blog entries, and fully supports offline composition, drafts, and finally publishing. It also permits organizing and editing of existing posts. Wonderful!

The software has many other perks that I have not yet explored. It supports an integrated, online version of bookmarks through del.icio.us, automatic notification through technorati, and no doubt many other features. Based on the firefox code base, you have a full-featured web browser and endless modules and themes to play with. If you're still using Internet Explorer, you really should consider switching to firefox or even to flock (unless, of course, you've developed a great love of being infected with spyware and cross-scripting worms).

The current version is a developer's prerelease (0.4.10), which means it has some rough edges. It doesn't (yet?) support font colours, and some dialogs have completely transparent backgrounds that make them difficult to use, but I'm still totally tickled with it.

Well done, flock team! I eagerly await the next version!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Raise up your children (before the state does it for you)

Flickr PhotoThe Brussels Journal reports in its provocatively-named article Hitler's Ghost Haunts German Parents on the plight of German parents who, objecting to the secular corruption emphasis of state classrooms, desire to teach their kids at home or at self-organized Christian schools. Two Baptist couples have lost authority over their children's' education by the appointment of a state truancy guardian, another couple was imprisoned for several days over their refusal to allow their children to attend a school play they considered blasphemous.

As the Journal notes:
Children are not allowed to opt out of classes or school activities and homeschooling is illegal in Germany since Adolf Hitler outlawed it in 1938.
The German mentality, even among its so-called conservatives, is very statist. Parents are considered to be incapable of schooling their own children. In this respect the German mentality does not seem to have changed much since the days of Adolf Hitler, when the Germans were expected to look upon the state as a caring parent.
So here is an example of a modern, Western country that asserts full state control over the teaching of the children. Could such a thing happen here?

Should we care?

I mean, public school education was what most of us Western Christians have had. If it was good enough for us, it's good enough for our kids, right? Sure, they don't teach the Bible, but we can do that at home, or at Sunday school.

We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.
Psalm 78:4-7

I hope over the next series of posts to show that, at least in Canada, in most circumstances the secular school is a poor choice for Christian parents. I also believe that the state is in fact extending its control over our children. I don't think it's through the actions of some government conspiracy, but is a natural result of the direction our culture has been heading. When "tolerance" is the only standard against which morality is measured, then the "intolerant" claims of Christianity become the ultimate crime.

But to begin, I encourage you to read the Journal article. It sent chills down my spine. I hope it will do the same for you.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Train Up Your Children: The Catechism

This post by kerux on the importance of preaching to children made me think about the training that we as parents owe to our children.

One of the wonderful tools that my wife and I have been using during our family devotions is a book called Training Hearts, Teaching Minds by Starr Meade, P&R Publishing.  Based on the Westminster Shorter Catechism, it walks you through 107 questions and answers, one question per week.  It contains a well-prepared discussion, along with Scriptural passages, on some aspect of the answer for 6 days of the week (you get Sundays off).

Our kids, who are 5 and 7, greatly enjoy this time.  We review the previous 10 questions and answers each evening, then read through the day's entry.  For the Bible passage, we do a "sword drill" (where the children race to look up the verses in their Bibles) and take turns reading the verses aloud.

The catechism is a marvelous tool.  Before I started seriously looking into it, my concept of "catechism" was some boring old list of peculiar questions with academic answers.  But the catechism is not boring!  It is an incredible, succinct distillation of centuries of theological understanding and wisdom.

I mean, when your kids have asked you "What is prayer?" ... what did you say?  I think I said "prayer is talking to God."  Which is a fine answer for a 2-3 year old, but look at the rich answer of the catechism:
Q98: What is prayer?
A98: Prayer is offering our desires to God in the name of Christ for things that agree with His will, confessing our sins, and thankfully recognizing His mercies.
Here are some other sample questions and answers:
Q1: What is man's primary purpose?
A1: Man's primary purpose is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.

Q2: What authority from God directs us how to glorify and enjoy Him?
A2: The only authority for glorifying and enjoying Him is the Bible, which is the word of God and is made up of the Old and New Testaments.

Q35: What is sanctification?
A35: Sanctification is the work of God's free grace by which our whole person is made new in the image of God, and we are made more and more able to become dead to sin and alive to righteousness.
Most of these answers are too complex for our children to remember, so after we've discussed them, we create simpler ones which are part of our nightly review.  For example, answer 2 has become "The Bible, in the Old and New Testaments, and is the word of God."

Although it will take us fully 2.5 years to cover the whole book, by the end the kids will have explored the nature and purposes of God, the truths of the Trinity, the purpose of man, the nature and consequences of sin, the requirements and consequences of redemption .... what a wonderful foundation to be able to provide for you children.

I enthusiastically encourage all Christian parents to consider using this book or some other form of the catechism to train up their children.  This is part of their spiritual heritage and will be part of the legacy which you will leave to them.

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

Deuteronomy 29:29

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Offtopic: SiteMeter

Like many other bloggers, I have a link to SiteMeter on my blog.  (Right side of the screen, at the bottom of the other links).  It tracks how many visitors come to this site, roughly how long they stay, and how many pages they read.

The most interesting part of SiteMeter, though, is that it tracks how each visitor found this site.  Many visitors are directed here by web search engines, and SiteMeter records the search terms that were being used.  The searches that have brought people here recently are an eclectic and funny mix, including:

"literal interpretation of Jonah"
    Ok, so that's not very funny.

"critical statements about sovereign grace ministries"
    Not that I remember making any.  I'm very fond of their music and preaching!

"agnes sanford"
    I'm quite delighted to be part of the commentary on the frightening Mrs. Sanford.

"document on odd neighbours"
    Well, I could certainly write one up, if you like.  No lack of material.  (Probably my neighbours would say the same about me.)

"john and paula sandford critique"
    Theological descendants of Mrs. Sanford.  So again, I'm happy to be part of the nay-saying crowd.

"some ideas on how you handle race issues at school"
    Well, I guess you run that race just as fast as you can.  Oh, wait, not that kind of race?

"theophostic ministry"
    See comments on John and Paula.  Fairly similar practices.

"christian international dating"
    I have no idea why such a phrase would send you here!

"does a lost love ever wonder about the person they left behind"
    This is more sad than funny, although I hope the person who came here with that question would get some hint of the only Love who would ever fill that hole they have.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Error from the Inside-Out

The (In)Scrutable Observer (Dave Ulrick) is a man who was involved in the Charismatic movement for many years. I highly recommend that you check out his insightful and very honest blog, especially his posts (such as this one) examining his years as a Charismatic. He speaks of having many remarkable experiences, some of which are hard to explain, but his conclusion is that the spiritual fruit that he received was "100% rotten."

Food for thought.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Pages for the Poor

Do you have children who love to read? Do you know children who love to read?

Do you want these children to have a greater sense of God's love for the poor? Do you want to teach them about how we can help serve the global poor?

Then check out a great read-a-thon program called Pages for the Poor.

My wife has developed this program which combines excellence in reading with ministering to the global poor via Partners Interational. She ran this program with a homeschooling group last year, and with just 11 families participating over a 5 week period they raised $2,132, providing through Partners' Harvest of Hope:
  • 12 goats
  • 4 piglets
  • 18 Bibles
  • 1 mule (for a travelling pastor in Cuba)
  • 1 bicycle (for a travelling evangelist in South Asia)
  • a range of medical, dental, farming aids, clean water projects and school supplies
  • sponsoring 2 children for an entire year
Partners International is a wonderful organization that helps the poor, but never loses sight of the Great Commission, recognizing that the best way to serve the poor is to bring them the Gospel.

Whether your children are accomplished readers or just beginners, I think you'll find the program encouraging and worthwhile. You can participate as individuals, families, Sunday Schools or other groups.

An upcoming issue of Faith Today will be talking about this program, but you can find all the information you need now at the website.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Reformation of Hallowe'en

It's almost that time of year again!  When our neighbourhoods celebrate fear, horror and death (albeit in a tongue-in-cheek fashion) and we poor Christian parents are faced with the dilemma of deciding how to handle Hallowe'en again this year.

Some parents take their children to their local church's "harvest festivals", where the kids can enjoy costumes and candy but in a more wholesome environment.  This is what we had done for the past two years.  But now, having left that church and joined with a small church that doesn't hold such an event, we are again confronted by the question of what to do with Hallowe'en.

For the first two years in our neighbourhood, when our kids were too young to trick-or-treat, we handed out candies and greeted the children, just like everyone else on the street.  However, we didn't play spooky music or have half-buried skulls in our front yard.  (Or even one of those "witch-flown-into-lamp-post" things that seem to be everywhere.)

When our kids were a few years old, we tried having an anti-Hallowe'en.  Instead of dark music, cobwebs and scary sounds, we set up halogen flood lights, table lamps, anything that would glow brightly.  Then we put out a table with a cheery collection of coffee, hot chocolate, bowls of candy, classical music playing (and not "Toccata and Fugue"!) and a VeggieTales video for the kids.  This was a neat opportunity to meet the kids, meet the neighbours and hang out, reclaiming the good parts of the evening without participating in the dark side.  The first year we met lots of people.  The second year, almost no one came by.  Maybe Christian neighbours are scarier than skulls with glowing eyes?

Tim Challies has a provocative and compelling post which argues that some form of participation is a better testimony to your neighbourhood than a dark house and absentee Christians.  He's convinced me that my family should consider doing this again.

However, we're taking a different approach this year.  We will be having a "Reformation Celebration."  After all, it was October 31, 1571 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg door!  An event well worth celebrating.

We're getting together with a couple of other families.  Each group will dress in "period costume."  (Well, maybe "period bathrobes".  Trying to find a doublet, hose, and other medieval elements would require too much planning.)  We will acting out various sketches celebrating different stories of the Reformation (the kids love this stuff!), and celebrate the work of God in the recovery of the Solas.  (I want to be Tetzel selling indulgences!  "When a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs!")

So, we'll see how it goes.  Maybe next year we'll combine the anti-Hallowe'en with the Reformation.  Get our neighbours to be part of the fun.

Of course, it's pretty cold in Canada by the end of October.  Does anyone have a good, winter bathrobe they can lend me?  I'll let one of your relatives out of purgatory!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Limits of Submissive Dissent?

I was reading a great post from Clint Humfrey about dealing with dissent on peripheral matters.

Rest of post removed by author

Friday, September 23, 2005

What do miserable Christians sing?

This was the title of the most recent edition of the Sovereign Grace Journal.  The lead article was discussing the loss of the lament in modern Christian worship.  While the Psalms are filled with many songs to be sung by those grieving or feeling abandoned or angry at God, the whole genre is absent from our worship services.

I've come across one song that, while not written for worship, is I think a good example of a modern-day lament.  I've used the song in my personal devotions, and I'm going to try to adopt it in our family devotions.  My children are 5 and 7, so I'm not sure how they'll interpret it, but it will give us a good chance to talk about how to respond in faith when we're mad, or sad, or lonely.

The song is Rich Mullin's Hard to Get.  It's copyright 1998 by Liturgy Legacy.
You who live in heaven
Hear the prayers of those of us who live on earth
Who are afraid of being left by those we love
And who get hardened by the hurt.
Do you remember when you lived down here where we all scrape
To find the faith to ask for daily bread?
Did you forget about us after you had flown away?
Well, I memorized every word you said.
Still I'm so scared, I'm holding my breath
While you're up there just playing hard to get.

You who live in radiance
Hear the prayers of those of us who live in skin?
We have a love that's not as patient as yours was
Still we do love now and then.
Did you ever know loneliness?
Did you ever know need?
Do you remember just how long a night can get?
When you are barely holding on
And your friends fall asleep
And don't see the blood that's running in your sweat.
Will those who mourn be left uncomforted
While you're up there just playing hard to get?

And I know you bore our sorrows.
And I know you feel our pain.
And I know it would not hurt any less
Even if it could be explained.
And I know that I am only lashing out
At the One who loves me most.
And after I figured this, somehow
All I really need to know....

Is if you who live in eternity
Hear the prayers of those of us who live in time?
We can't see what's ahead
And we can not get free of what we've left behind.
I'm reeling from these voices that keep screaming in my ears
All the words of shame and doubt, blame and regret.
I can't see how you're leading me unless you've led me here
Where I'm lost enough to let myself be led
And so you've been here all along I guess
It's just your ways and you are just plain hard to get.
I think this song has many fine, lamenting elements.  Written in that dense, informal style so characteristic of Rich Mullins, it expresses fear, frustration, abandonment, doubt.  Yet it is shot through with statements of faith, with the recognition of Jesus' sympathy with our suffering, and submission to his love and leading.

However, at the same time, it is uncomfortable.  It says things that I know are unworthy of God, and ends with a sort of hopeful resignation.  Rather reminiscent of some of the lament Psalms.  Perhaps, just the sort of thing a miserable Christian could sing.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Reformation and Conversation

Although I've been thoroughly Reformed in my beliefs for years, I'm a recent arrival to Reformed churches.  For the last decade, my family and I had been deeply ensconced in the Christian and Missionary Alliance.

So, I tend to be very aware of the differences between my old community and my new one.  One of the truly great distinctions of the Reformed folks I find myself around is that they love to talk!  They love to discuss God, Jesus, the Bible, the Church, doctrine, the World ... pick any topic that has any relation to God, and they'll talk about it!  (I should say, we'll talk about it.  I love these people, these truths, this God and these wonderful relationships.)

Dr. Haykin in a recent message given at the chapel at TBS noted that God loves words.  Our Lord is the God Who speaks!  And boy, Reformed also keep on speaking!  There are blogs (Toronto Baptist Seminary, kerux noemata, Cowboyology, Ruminations by the Lake, Christian Thought, tolle lego, even this humble forum), conferences (Carey, FRPS, Sovereign Grace), periodicals (Sovereign Grace Journal) and many, many other forms of communications.  And modern day Reformed conversationalists are simply following in a long established tradition.  Look at the incredible number of books, pamphlets and sermons put out by Luther, Calvin and their kin!

A few weeks back, I was rereading Pilgrim's Progress, and came to the part of the story where Christian and his comrade Hopeful have entered the Enchanted Ground, where to sleep is to perish.  They find themselves struggling to keep their eyes open as they traverse this part of their journey, so Christian says to Hopeful: "Let us keep ourselves awake with good discourse."

That is truly a Reformed suggestion.

Let the good discourse continue!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Calvinism #3: The Courage of Conviction

A personal note today. 

Over the past few todays, in preparing this little series of posting on Calvinism, I've been rereading the little booklet What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism, from Bethlehem Baptist Church.  Mostly, I was looking for those quotes from Augustine, Whitefield, Spurgeon and others that I've included in the previous posts.

Well, be careful what you read and what you type.  God might just use it to convict your heart and redirect your life.

First, being a huge fan of Spurgeon's teaching, I was quite affected by this quote from WWBA5PC:
Spurgeon started a college for pastors and was intent that the key to being a worthy teacher in the church was to grasp these doctrines of grace:

Arminianism is thus guilty of confusing doctrines and of acting as an obstruction to a clear and lucid grasp of the Scripture; because it misstates or ignores the eternal purpose of God, it dislocates the meaning of the whole plan of redemption.  Indeed confusion is inevitable apart from this foundational truth [of election].

Without it there is a lack of unity of thought, and generally speaking they have no idea whatever of a system of divinity.  It is almost impossible to make a man a theologian unless you begin with this [doctrine of election].  You may if you please put a young believer in college for years, but unless you shew him this ground-plan of the everlasting covenant, he will make little progress, because his studies do not cohere, he does not see how one truth fits with another, and how all truths must harmonize together...

This coherence that election provides to the Bible has indeed been foundational for me.  In understanding God's electing sovereignty, much of what was previously incomprehensible within the Bible now makes sense: the call of Abraham, the choosing of the nation of Israel, the entire passage of Romans 9, etc.

While working through these thoughts, I also read this post from Clint Humfrey about the Toronto Baptist Seminary, where amongst other details he describes it as:
the only school in Canada that explicitly emphasizes the sovereignty of God in all things, particularly soteriology. This has been popularly called 'Calvinism' but the emphasis is larger than the label.

I thought about my own studies at Tyndale Seminary, where I've been studying part time for the last year.  I really enjoyed the Greek classes, but was concerned that in some of the other courses there was a lack of Bible-centredness.  The experience of another close friend at this school led me to understand that this lack would likely become more significant as I went forward.  I may very well be painting with an overly-broad brush, so don't take my comments as a wholesale criticism of the school ... these are my personal thoughts and experiences and may not correspond to most peoples' encounters with the school.

The final confirming note came from my rereading the last chapter of Piper's book Brothers, We Are NOT Professionals.  God had used this book 1.5 years ago to totally change the direction of my life and send me to the seminary.  Now He used it again to change the school I was in.

The last chapter of this excellent book, called "Brothers, Pray for the Seminaries", says this:
We cannot overemphasize the importance of our seminaries in shaping the theology and spirit of the churches and denominations and missionary enterprise.  The tone of the classrooms and teachers exerts profound effect on the tone of our pupils.  What the teachers are passionate about will by and large be the passions of our younger pastors.  What they neglect will likely be neglected in the pulpits.

When I was choosing a seminary, someone gave me good advice.  "A seminary is one thing" -- he told me, "faculty.  Do not choose a denomination or a library or a location.  Choose a great faculty.  Everything else is incidental."  By "great faculty" he, of course, did not mean mere charismatic personalities.  He meant that wonderful combination of passion for God, for truth, for the church, and for the perishing, along with a deep understanding of God and His Word, a high esteem for doctrinal truth and careful interpretation and exposition of the infallible Bible.  (pp. 261-262)
That was enough for me.  With the help of my pastor, on the very last day of registration, I've transferred from Tyndale to TBS.  I don't want to be a great scholar.  I don't want to be known as an expert in any given field.  I want to passionately love God, His church, His Word, and the lost!  I want to accurately preach and teach the transforming truths of the Bible, to model Christlikeness, and to delight in God's glory in and through his global body and local church!

Now, if only I could get the textbooks in time......

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Calvinism #2: Who needs evangelism?

I used to teach courses both at my church and my at-work Bible study on evangelism.  Lifestyle evangelism, explaining the gospel, the Roman Road, the Bridge to Life, etc.  But one part that always troubled me was the idea of asking people to believe something.  To choose to believe something.

I mean, belief is not a choice.  If I tell you that 2+2=4, you don't choose to believe or not.  You simply believe, or you don't.  When talking with my sister-in-law (see previous post) and her husband, I used her husband's blue shirt as an example.

To her husband I said, "Jeff, I know your shirt appears to you to be blue.  But I tell you it's really red.  And it's really important that you believe that it's red.  In fact, you will suffer eternal torment unless you come to believe that your shirt is red."  But if he looks at his shirt, and it still looks blue to him, what is he going to do?  Pretend it looks red?  Try to convince himself that it's red?  If he really believes that he will suffer, but the shirt still looks blue, what is he to do?

(Please don't push my example too far.  I know it's a grossly imperfect model of believing in the claims of Jesus.  All I'm trying to illustrate is that people don't choose to believe.  They simply believe or they don't.)

This contradiction, asking people to believe in the Gospel but knowing that belief is not a choice, drove me to the Scriptures.  The result of many months of work was another course called "The Theology of Evangelism", which was basically an introduction to the 5 doctrines of grace and their consequences for personal evangelism.  It's funny how when some Christians first encounter Calvinism, they think it makes evangelism unnecessary.  However, the truths of God's election and irresistable grace are not obstacles to evangelism, they are the hope of evangelism!  What other hope do we have for reaching the lost but that God Himself will draw in unstoppable power?

John Piper tells a story about a missionary he and his wife heard at an Urbana conference.  Both of them were young, rather tentative Calvinists.  A long-time missionary stood before the crowd and said "Twenty years ago, if I had been a Calvinist, I would never have gone to the mission field."  This caused their hearts to sink.  And then he said, "Now, after twenty years of dealing with the hardness of the human heart, I could never remain on the mission field if I were not a Calvinist."

Much earlier (centuries before Calvin!), Augustine noted in one of his letters the hope that irresistable grace brings to evangelism:
If, as I prefer to think in your case, you agree with us in supposing that we are doing our duty in praying to God, as our custom is, for them that refuse to believe, that they may be willing to believe and for those who resist and oppose his law and doctrine, that they may believe and follow it.  If you agree with us in thinking that we are doing our duty in giving thanks to God, as is our custom, for such people when they have been converted ... then you are surely bound to admit that the wills of men are preveniently moved by the grace of God, and that it is God who makes them to will the good which they refused; for it is God whom we ask so to do, and we know that it is meet and right to give thanks to him for so doing...
A final quote to end today's instalment.  George Whitefield was a great evangelist in the 18th century, drawing tens of thousands of people to Jesus.  He pleaded with John Wesley not to oppose the doctrines of Calvinism:
I cannot bear the thoughts of opposing you: but how can I avoid it, if you go about (as your brother Charles once said) to drive John Calvin out of Bristol.  Alas, I never read anything that Calvin wrote; my doctrines I had from Christ and His apostles; I was taught them of God.  (Arnold Dalimore, GEORGE WHITEFIELD 1, p. 574)
It was his belief in this glorious doctrine that enabled his evangelism:
The doctrines of our election, and free justification in Christ Jesus are daily more and more pressed upon my heart.  They fill my soul with a holy fire and afford me great confidence in God my Saviour.

I hope we shall catch fire from each other, and that there will be a holy emulation amongst us, who shall most debase man and exalt the Lord Jesus.  Nothing but the doctrines of the Reformation can do this.  All others leave freewill in man and make him, in part at least, a saviour to himself.  My soul, come not thou near the secret of those who teach such things ... I know Christ is all in all.  Man is nothing: he hath a free will to go to hell, but none to go to heaven, till God worketh in him to will and to do his good pleasure.

Oh the excellency of the doctrine of election and of the saints' final perseverance!  I am persuaded, til a man comes to believe and feel these important truths, he cannot come out of himself, but when convinced of these and assured of their application to his own heart, he then walks by faith indeed!  (Dalimore, p. 407)
(Quotes from Augustine and Whitefield are drawn from Bethlehem Baptist Church's What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism.)

Go and take the Gospel to those around you, asking God to open their eyes and effectually call them!

Monday, September 05, 2005

a TULIP by any other name...

Yesterday, my wife and I were discussing "Calvinism" with my sister-in-law and her husband.  They are both believers, but certainly do not embrace a Calvinist viewpoint.  In response to my SIL's question, I described the 5 points summarizing this doctrine of grace, using the TULIP acronym.

For those unfamiliar with TULIP, the 5 points are:
Total depravity: we are incapable of responding positively to God ("dead in your trespasses and sins", Eph 2:1, Col 2:13)
Unconditional election: God sovereignly chose those whom he would grant the gift of faith before any of us were created ("For he chose us in him before the creation of the world ... he predestined us to be adopted as his sons", Eph 1:4-5)
Limited atonement: Jesus on the cross absorbed the penalty for the all the sins of all the elect, purchasing not only their forgiveness but even the mercy that would effectually draw them to himself ("with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation", Rev. 5:9)
Irresistable grace: when God calls his elect, he overcomes the rebellion of their hearts and brings them to faith so that they are saved ("children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God", John 1:12)
Perseverance (or Preservation) of the saints: those who are called by the irresistable grace of God cannot lose their salvation but will endure to the end ("I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish", John 10:27)

(I am hugely indebted to John Piper and the staff of Bethlehem Baptist Church for their little booklet What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism for a clear explanation of these ideas and approach toward introducing people to them.  You can find the booklet on their website (www.desiringgod.org). )

My SIL's response was "I have a problem with every one of those points."  Which led to a energetic (but friendly) discussion of these ideas.

Over the next few days I'm going to post some thoughts and experiences I've had regarding these five points and the theology behind them.  But I'd love to hear from others about their thoughts and experiences regarding these distinctives.

Let me close this post with a couple of significant quotes from the What We Believe booklet:

George Mueller, an amazing man of faith and founder of several orphanages in Britain in the 1800's:
Before the period [when I came to prize the Bible alone as my standard of judgment] I had been much opposed to the doctrines of election, particular redemption (i.e. limited atonement), and final persevering grace.  But now I was brought to examine these precious truths by the Word of God.  Being made willing to have no glory of my own in the conversion of sinners, but to consider myself merely an instrument; and being made willing to receive what the Scriptures said, I went to the Word, reading the New Testament from the beginning, with a particular reference to these truths.

To my great astonishment I found that the passages which speak decidedly for election and persevering grace, were about four times as many as those which speak apparently against these truths; and even those few, shortly after, when I had examined and understood them, served to confirm me in the above doctrines.

As to the effect which my belief in these doctrines had on me, I am constrained to state for God's glory, that though I am still exceedingly weak, and by no means so dead to the lusts of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, as I might be, and as I ought to be, yet, by the grace of God, I have walked more closely with Him since that period.  My life has not been so variable, and I may say that I have lived much more for God than before.  (Autobiography, pp. 33-34)

Charles Spurgeon:
I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what is nowadays called Calvinism.  It is a nickname to call it Calvinism: Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else.  I do not believe we can preach the gospel ... unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel unless we base i upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the Cross; nor can I comprehend the gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called (Autobiography 1, p. 168)

Friday, August 05, 2005

"We used to sing our theology"

This was a comment made to me by a class mate.  He was mourning the loss of theological depth in worship, believing that in many churches, songs focusing on a personal experience of God have supplanted songs focusing on the nature of God.

Now, I'm a big fan of both forms of worship, both Hillsong/Vineyard and Sovereign Grace/PDI, Matt Redman and Mark Altrogge, Michael W. Smith and Augustus Toplady.  Balance is wonderful.  If all I sing is experiential -- how wonderful God is to me -- then eventually my worship is more about me than about God.  If all I sing is objective -- how wonderful God is in Himself -- then I am not glorifying God fully, since part of praising Him is treasuring Him personally.  So I seek to emphasize first how wonderful God is, then reflect as well on how wonderful He is to me.

But that's not the main point of my wandering comment this morning.  I was looking through a hymnal at home last night, and was struck by the breadth and depth of these older hymns.

You see, I love old books.  Mostly I love to read them, but I also love to have them in my hands, if possible.  My grandfather was an enthusiastic collector of old books, all old books.  Library sell-offs (and cast offs), auctions, all of these were fertile ground for harvesting more old books.  His shelves are a fascinating collection of peculiar tomes ("The Life of Man as Illustrated in a Series of Woodcuts"), pragmatic pamphlets ("The Knotts' Berry Book"), long-forgotten editions ("Best Short Stories of 1912") and a few remarkable gems ("The Atomic Age Begins").

Amongst these was a short, stout, warped and tattered volume whose title can just barely be made out amongst the cracked leather of its spine: "Methodist Hymns".  The title page is a little more readable and voluble: "Hymns for the use of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Revised Edition, New York, 1854."  Written in pencil on the front and back inner pages, in a childish scribble, is the name Martha Long.  If I remember correctly, she is my great-great aunt.  Maybe there should be another "great" in there.

Now, being hard-core Calvinist, I am in disagreement with some significant elements of old Methodism (and even more with modern Methodism), but boy! could they sing!  All of the members of this church back in Aunt Martha's days had their own copies of this hymnal.  It was clearly designed to be used both on Sundays and throughout the week.  And talk about singing your theology!  Just look at the categories of songs in this 750+ page book:
  • Introduction to worship
  • The Divine Perfections
  • Jesus Christ
  • The Holy Spirit
  • Institutions of the Gospel
  • The Ministry
  • The Church
  • The Sabbath
  • Baptism
  • The Lord's Supper
  • Provisions and Promises of the Gospel
  • The Sinner
  • Depravity
  • Awakening
  • Inviting
  • Penitential
  • The Christian Life
  • Justification by Faith
  • Adoption and Assurance
  • Sanctification
  • Means of Grace
  • Prayer and Intercession
  • Family Devotion
  • The Clost
  • Reading the Scriptures
  • Christian Fellowship
  • Duties and Trials
  • The Warfare
  • Patience and Resignation
  • Growth in Grace
  • Humiliation
  • Unfaithfulness mourned
  • Backslidings lamented
  • Rejoicing
  • Deliverance from Trouble
  • Communion with God
  • Prospect of Heaven
  • Special Occasions
  • Time and Eternity
  • Close of Worship 

And let me just share one of these hymns with you.  This is number 676.  The songs did not for the most part have titles, but summary lines, which for this one is "Riches of God's word".
The counsels of redeeming grace
    The sacred leaves unfold;
And here the Saviour's lovely face
    Our raptured eyes behold.

Here light descending from above
    Directs our doubtful feet;
Here promises of heavenly love
    Our ardent wishes meet.

Our num'rous griefs are here redresse'd,
    And all our wants supplied;
Naught we can ask to make us blest
    Is in this book denied.

For these inestimable gains,
    That so enrich the mind,
O may we search with eager pains,
    Assured that we shall find.


Friday, June 17, 2005

John Piper on Evangelism

Love is doing whatever you need to do to help people see and savour the glory of God in Christ forever and ever.

>From Pierced by the Word, #1.

John Piper on Prayer...

Prayer is the echo of the freedom and sufficiency of God in the heart of powerless man.
John Piper.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

John Piper speaks...

When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, He removed forever the wrath of God from all who trust Him.  God's disposition to us now is entirely mercy, even when severe and disciplinary. (Rom 8:1)

John Piper, Pierced by the Word, #27

Monday, June 13, 2005

A Work In Progress

Creation of this blog was a bit of a happy accident, but I'll see what sort of value I can provide. Meanwhile, here is an extract from a letter written by Samuel Rutherford (1660-1661) to a lady friend in Scotland.

This letter has been a great encouragement and challenge to me, to focus on the eternal splendour of our Lord and our final Home.



Grace, mercy and peace be unto you. You are not a little obliged to
His rich grace, who has separated you for Himself, and for the
promised inheritance with the saints in light, from this condemned and
guilty world.

Hold fast to Christ, content for Him; it is a lawful plea to go to
holding and having for Christ; and it is not possible to keep Christ
peaceably, having once gotten Him, except the devil were dead. It
must be your resolution to set your face against Satan's northern
tempests and storms, for salvation. Nature would have heaven to come
to us while sleeping in our beds. We would all buy Christ, as if we
could any of us pay the price ourselves. But Christ is worth more
blood and lives than either you or I have to give Him. When we shall
come home, and enter into the possession of our Brother's fair
kingdom, and when our heads shall find the weight of the eternal crown
of glory, then we shall look back to pains and sufferings and then we
will see life and sorrow to be less than one step or stride from a
prison to glory. Our little inch of time -- suffering is not worthy
of our first night's welcome-home to heaven. Oh, what then shall be
the weight of every one of Christ's kisses! Oh, how weighty, and of
what worth shall be every one of Christ's love-smiles be! Oh, when
once He shall thrust a wearied traveler's head between His blessed
breasts, the poor soul will think one kiss of Christ has fully paid
him back for forty or fifty years' wet feet, and all its sore hearts,
and light (2 Cor. 4:17) sufferings it had in following after Christ!

Oh, thrice blinded souls, whose hearts are charmed and bewitched with
dreams, shadows, feckless things, night-vanities, and night-fancies
of a miserable life of sin! Shame on us who sit still, fettered with
the love and fondness of a loan of a piece of dead clay! Oh, poor
fools, who are beguiled with painted things, and this world's fair
weather, and smooth promises, and rotten, worm-eaten hopes! May not
the devil laugh to see us give out our souls, and get in but corrupt
and counterfeit pleasures of sin? O for a sight of eternity's glory,
and a little tasting of the Lamb's marriage supper! Half a swallow,
even a drop of the wine of consolation, that is up at our
banqueting-house, out of Christ's own hand, would make our stomachs
loath the brown bread and the sour drink of a miserable life. Oh, how
witless we are, to grow restless, and chase, and run, till our souls
be out of breath, after a condemned happiness of our own making! And
do we not think far too much of ourselves when we make it a matter of
child's play, and drink a toast over paradise? We trifle with the
heaven that Christ did sweat for, in return for a blast of smoke, and
for Esau's morning breakfast. O that we were out of ourselves, and
dead to this world, and this world dead and crucified to us!

If we would fall out of love with all our masked and painted lovers,
then Christ would win and conquer to Himself a lodging in the inmost
chamber of our heart. Then Christ would be our night-song and
morning-song; then the very whisper of our Well-beloved's feet, when
He comes, and His first knock or rap at the door, would be as news of
two heavens to us. O that our eyes and our soul's smelling should go
after a blasted and sunburnt flower, even this plastered, fair (on the
outside) world; and as a result we have neither eye nor smell for the
Flower of Jesse, for that Plant of renown, for Christ, the choicest,
the fairest, the sweetest rose that ever God planted! Oh, let some of
us die to smell the fragrance of Him; and let my part of this rotten
world be forfeited and sold for ever, provided I may anchor my
tottering soul upon Christ! I know that sometimes I murmur, "Lord,
what will you have for Christ?" But, O Lord, can you be trifled with
and propined with any gift for Christ? O Lord, can Christ be sold?
Or rather, may not a poor needy sinner have Him for nothing? If I can
get no more, oh, let me be pained to all eternity, with longing for
Him! The joy of hungering for Christ should be my heaven for
evermore. Alas, that I cannot draw souls and Christ together! But I
desire the coming of His kingdom, and that Christ, as I assuredly hope
He will, would come upon withered Scotland, as rain upon the new-mown grass.