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 ( - 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

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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.
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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!
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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, 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., 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 ( - 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, 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.