Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Justin Taylor cites the findings of Robbie Low from Touchstone magazine about the father’s role in nurturing the faith of his children. I have read these findings before and want to note a finding that confirms how important the role of the father is in passing down the faith. If the father is absent from worship, then only 2% of the children will go on to become part of the church into adulthood. If the father is faithful, that number climbs to as high as 75%. That’s a 73% gap!  

Dads, if you name the name of Christ, the whole while devoting your Sundays to Nascar, football, and personal recreation, you are in serious sin. I admonish you to lead your family to Christ and His church lest you eternally regret leading your kids to the fleeting pleasures of this world.

Quoting from Low:

In short, if a father does not go to church, no matter how faithful his wife’s devotions, only one child in 50 will become a regular worshipper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers (regular and irregular). If a father goes but irregularly to church, regardless of his wife’s devotion, between a half and two-thirds of their offspring will find themselves coming to church regularly or occasionally.

A non-practicing mother with a regular father will see a minimum of two-thirds of her children ending up at church. In contrast, a non-practicing father with a regular mother will see two-thirds of his children never darken the church door. If his wife is similarly negligent that figure rises to 80 percent!

A Book Review of William P. Farley’s, “Gospel-Powered Parenting: How the Gospel Shapes and Transforms Parenting”

William P. Farley is pastor of Grace Christian Fellowship in Spokane, WA, which belongs to the Sovereign Grace Ministries network of churches.

Farley strikes the balance beautifully between the absolute freedom of God in His sovereignty to regenerate the heart of the elect along with God’s sovereignly prescribed means for parents in raising their kids. This balance protects parents from being negligent and passive in the name of God’s sovereignty (“My kids salvation rests completely in God and has little or nothing to do with me”) or presumption that the prescribed means operate as an assembly line where we simply create Christians by pushing the right buttons (“If I parent exactly how God wants me to, then my kids will absolutely be Christians”).

We, therefore, don’t parent as if it completely depends on God, nor as if it completely depends on us. These complexities of means and God’s overarching Sovereign purposes have long confounded God’s people. Godly parents may see their children rebel, whereas Godless parents may see their children radically regenerated by God’s Spirit. Having said that, Farley acknowledges that God generally works through means and that negligent parents will generally see the consequences in their children, whereas Godly parents will generally see greater evidences of grace operating in their children.

If anything, Farley advocates parenting that is completely dependent upon God’s grace in the discharge of the prescribed means He calls us to.

The most striking and insightful aspects of the book for me personally can be summarized in the following points:

–          We must parent with one eye on eternity. Farley states, “…the Christian does not parent for this life only”.  We have 18 short years to not only influence their short time in this life, but also for all eternity.

–          Our aim is not to create “moral” kids. We ought not solely seek behavioral modification in our children. This alone will create nice little hypocrites who are further away from the Gospel of grace. While we must discipline and certainly condemn certain behaviors, we must always be pointing our kids to the cross and the Gospel.

–          Theology is enormously practical in how we parent because we should seek to emulate the “communicable” attributes of God towards our children. If we don’t know God, then we will paint a distorted picture of His nature to our children.

–          Regardless of schooling convictions (Christian school, public school, home school), the one factor that most influences our children’s Spiritual wellbeing is the faithful and consistent attention of parents. Farley concedes that public school might be too harmful for some and that all parents must use discretion. Having said that, a particular “method”  won’t work apart from parents who honor God above all.

–          Marriages preach the Gospel.

–          Dads matter more than any other factor in the perseverance of children’s interest in Spiritual things and church attendance into adulthood.

–          Lastly, Farley said, “Love God more than your children”. He cites many examples from pastoral ministry where families placed their kids above God and have gone on to pay a dear price with the apostasy of their children. If the parents weren’t valuing God more than the weekend soccer games, etc., why should we expect our kids to honor God more than __________ (fill in the blank).

Bottom Line:

I commend this book for parents. There is no shortage of books on parenting, but I think Farley brings out many good points and pastoral life illustrations that will be helpful and hopeful for most parents.

Here it is: http://www.sbts.edu/resources/files/2010/09/boy-to-man.pdf

Women in the Reformation

Posted: November 23, 2010 by Scott Kistler in Biography, Church History, Family, History, Womanhood
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Justin Holcomb, writing at The Resurgence blog, writes short descriptions of the lives of several women that God used in the 16th century.  Here was one that I found particularly interesting:

Olimpia Fulvia Morata was an Italian scholar born in Ferrera as the oldest child of a humanist scholar, who, after being forced to flee his city to northern Italy, lectured on the teachings of Calvin and Luther. Olimpia flourished in her studies, especially in Latin and Greek, exhibiting impeccable scholarship. She wrote Latin dialogues, Greek poems, and letters to both scholars (in Latin) and less educated women (in Italian). In her “Dialogue between Theophilia and Philotima,” she encouraged those who feared that their gross sins obstructed their way to God:

    Don’t be afraid … No odor of sinners can be so foul that its force cannot be broken and weakened by the sweetest odor that flows from the death of Christ, which alone God can perfume. Therefore seek Christ.

Hat tip: Justin Taylor

The Bible Story Handbook by John and Kim Walton
Crossway Books, 2010

The Bible Story Handbook is a new resource for parents and Sunday School teachers wanting to clearly and correctly communicate the truth of the Bible to children. Unlike many such resources, this is not a curriculum or lesson plan, but is a rather unique tool that will assist and enrich all those who seek to communicate God’s timeless truth to young hearts and minds.

Beginning the collection off is an essay on the need for this book and the dangers of “dumbing down” Biblical stories. It is the danger of hermeneutics trumping exegesis, to use the language of Stuart and Fee’s “How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth.” Though the gray area theological points of the authors shines through a little too strongly at times (in particular their views on creation and the continuation of charismata), the introduction should be essential reading for all who minister to children and have the sacred duty of teaching them about God from the Scriptures. This includes ALL parents! To sum up the concept of the book, here’s a quote:

“Though we might be able to learn innumerable things from a passage, the passage is not teaching everything that anybody sees in it.” (p.22)

The books aims to help teachers understand both what the main point of a Bible story is, and what it specifically is not. This is a really useful thing to have, especially for people less well versed in the Scriptures who may not so quickly recall other areas of the Bible that help identify the meaning of the text being studied. John and Kim Walton have provided a quick reference guide to check context, and so it is a book that can be used whether following a curriculum, or creating your own lessons from scratch.
After the introduction, the book is broken into Old Testament and New Testament, covering a lot of the narrative of the Old Testament, and then providing lesson coverage for the Gospels, Acts and Revelation. The epistles are not covered since they do not meet the requirements of narrative story. Each lesson contains the following sections:

– Lesson Focus
– Lesson Application
– Biblical Context
– Interpretational Issues in the Story
– Background Information
– Mistakes to Avoid

The lessons take up around a couple of pages each, so the material is not particularly lengthy, but is written for adults to consult and consider prior to teaching. I daresay that there will be disagreements along the way. For instance, comparing the Walton’s take on the story of Jonah with Tullian Tchividjian’s brilliant Surprised By Grace, it is clear that they hold strong opinions about the use and abuse of the text that may differ with other writers and theologians. I do appreciate their strength of conviction, but it will have to be weighed against other sources too – no carte blanche for anyone but God, I’m afraid!

I do not foresee this being a book that is allowed to gather dust – with two young sons of my own, and regular ministry to children in our home church, I will be routinely consulting this volume for a quick checkup to see if the lesson is on point, and will likely employ it in personal study and sermon preparation too! This is a unique resource to add to your collection.

A review copy was provided to me at no charge by the publisher. No attempt was made to gain a favorable review, and all opinions and recommendations expressed are the author’s own.

The following are my notes from my address at the Gospel-Powered Parenting Conference. You can also find the audio here (link).

Ephesians 5:15–6:4 (ESV) — 15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. 1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

5:15-17 “Precept and Proverb Driven Life” (Truth and Goodness)

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

–          “carefully”, “how you walk” = we must be sober in how we live our life. The Christian life is often described as a walk. In the context of parenting, the way we walk affects where our kids go. They are following us, trusting us to lead them.

  • We hike once in awhile and we are mindful of the kids staying on the path. we must be careful not to stray to the side or you might fall off, or walk into poison ivy. You must stay alert; not a good time to be looking backwards while you are walking.

–          Psalm 119:1–3 (ESV) — 1 Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord! 2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, 3 who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways!

–          Psalm 119:9–10 (ESV) — 9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. 10 With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!

–          Psalm 119:19–20 (ESV) — 19 I am a sojourner on the earth; hide not your commandments from me! 20 My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times.

–          Psalm 119:32 (ESV) — 32 I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!

–          Psalm 119:35 (ESV) — 35 Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.

–          Psalm 119:44–45 (ESV) — 44 I will keep your law continually, forever and ever, 45 and I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your precepts.

–          Psalm 119:54 (ESV) — 54 Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning.

–          Psalm 119:59 (ESV) — 59 When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies;

–          Psalm 119:67 (ESV) — 67 Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word.

–          Psalm 119:85 (ESV) — 85 The insolent have dug pitfalls for me; they do not live according to your law.

–          Psalm 119:95 (ESV) — 95 The wicked lie in wait to destroy me, but I consider your testimonies.

–          Psalm 119:101–102 (ESV) — 101 I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word. 102 I do not turn aside from your rules, for you have taught me.

–          Psalm 119:105 (ESV) — 105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

–          Psalm 119:110 (ESV) — 110 The wicked have laid a snare for me, but I do not stray from your precepts.

–          Psalm 119:117–118 (ESV) — 117 Hold me up, that I may be safe and have regard for your statutes continually! 118 You spurn all who go astray from your statutes, for their cunning is in vain.

–          Psalm 119:133 (ESV) — 133 Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me.

–          Psalm 119:176 (ESV) — 176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments.

  • Last verse of Psalm is not triumphant, but confessional and a plea. We need grace and mercy on this journey of walking in the Lord, but walk we must. The stakes are high. Pastor Farley points out in his book how important modeling is. Do as I say not as I do doesn’t jive with kids for a reason. They will grow up jaded and bitter. They will honestly resent you when they grow older. They will have little to no respect for a hypocritical parent. They can care less how good you look on Sunday, when they see right through you at home. Your kids are watching you. You might be convinced that they aren’t watching you, but they are. Parents are still the most significant role models for kids.

 –          not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

–          We walk according to the Lord’s precepts not just because it is true, though that alone is enough motivation, but because is “good”.

–          We see the goodness of God in this text as Paul employs “wisdom” literature in brief. The contrast between wise and unwise, foolish and understanding, beckon us to God’s wisdom as being good. We need a Proverbs driven life, seeking obedience to God’s precepts, but also an abiding affirmation of the hearty goodness in God’s ways.

–          We are also told to make “the best use of the time, because the days are evil”. There’s an urgency to acquire wisdom, to walk in the will of the Lord and reject our foolishness and the evil time. We must seek wisdom in Christ or perish. This is summed up quite well in the first chapter of Proverbs: (more…)

As a father and former child myself, I have found myself searching the Scriptures more and more lately in developing a Biblically grounded theology of children. The Church has been doing this for years and there is hardly any consensus on how exactly our children are initiated into the full membership of the Church community. Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Catholics, Anglicans, and so on all have varying convictions on these matters. I am not attempting to resolve this doctrinal matter in its entirety, but do want to commend the following quotes from C.H. Spurgeon (from “Spiritual Parenting”)  as something that I trust we can all get behind and seek in the life of our children and Church. Enjoy.

Importance of training children in the faith: “Parents sin in the same way when they omit religion from the education of their children. Perhaps the thought is that their children cannot be converted while they are children…Let us expect our children to know the Lord. Let us from the beginning mingle the name of Jesus with their ABC’s. Let them read their first lessons from the Bible…But let us never be guilty, as parents, of forgetting the religious training of our children. If we do, we may be guilty of the blood of their souls.”

The sin of low expectations: “Another result is that the conversion of children is not expected in many of our churches and congregations. I mean, that they do not expect the children to be converted as children. The theory is that if we can impress youthful minds with principles which may, in after years, prove useful to them, we have done a great deal. But to convert children as children, and to regard them as being as much believers as their seniors, is regarded as absurd.”

The sin of cynicism: “Another bad result is that the conversion of children is not believed. Certain suspicious people always file their teeth a bit when they hear of a newly-converted child: they will have a bite at him if they can. They very rightly insist that these children should be carefully examined before they are baptized and admitted into the church. However, they are wrong in insisting that only in exceptional instances are they to be received. We quite agree with them as to the care to be exercised, but it should be the same in all cases, and neither more nor less in the cases of children.”

I highly commend these words from Spurgeon. I want to reaffirm over and over again how important it is for us to train the little ones in the Way, the Truth, and the Life. God has ordained instruction as the primary means whereby our children are brought into a faithful relationship with the Father (Deut. 6:4-9). Studies show that our children’s capacity for learning is amazingly high between infancy and 5 years.  Our children’s most tender years are also the most pliable. Their sense of identity and worldview are pretty much solidified by 18-20 years of age. Why is then that many parents have abandoned instructing their kids, instead saying, “I don’t want them to believe just because I believe and taught them. I want them to grow up and then find out for themselves what they believe.” This type of thinking is deadly. We wouldn’t dare keep our children from math, literature, etc because we would rather them grow up and decide whether they want to learn or not. We wouldn’t dare refrain from teaching our children the danger of running into the street and touching a hot stove. How much more then should we be guiding our children into eternal truth for their eternal good? (more…)