Sunday, May 31, 2009

Brave and courageous murderers?

The news today is abuzz with the shooting of late term abortionist George Tiller at church services. That this man could murder children during the week for money and then sit in a church on Sunday indicates that he exhibited some of the traits of being a psychopath.

I fear that someone took a misguided step to stop a man who made his living in large part on murdering children in the womb for profit by shooting him. We don't know yet if that is the case, but it is the most likely scenario. While I understand the horror of late-term abortion and understand the desire to stop future murders-for-profit, there is no justification for killing this man. Of course what no one will say is that if a man came across another man holding a knife to the throat of an infant, poised to cut her throat, and shot him to keep him from murdering the infant, he would be praised as a hero. Lest someone jump to conclusions and claim that I am justifying the murder of abortionist George Tiller, I am not. I am merely pointing out the twisted worldview that sees the lives of some children as more important than others based on location, in or out of the womb. To our nation's eternal shame, abortion is legal in this country and those who cherish life must work within the system to overturn the wrongly decided Roe v. Wade case and make abortion illegal. Until that day comes, we must work in non-violent ways to turn people away from abortion. God will judge George Tiller for the blood he shed.

Pro-life groups are uniformly denouncing the killing of George Tiller, a fact often buried in news reports. Details at this point are sketchy but that is not stopping the media from jumping to conclusions, nor is it stopping one of the High Priestesses of the bloody cult of choice from trying to score political points in support of her lucrative business.

Nancy Keenan, president of abortion-rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America, issued a statement praising Tiller's commitment.

"Dr. Tiller's murder will send a chill down the spines of the brave and courageous providers and other professionals who are part of reproductive-health centers that serve women across this country. We want them to know that they have our support as they move forward in providing these essential services in the aftermath of the shocking news from Wichita," Keenan said.

What sends a chill down my spine is that someone who murders unborn children can be labeled "brave and courageous". It is awfully brave to coldly kill a unborn child and to collect a paycheck for doing it. Men like George Tiller should be put on trial, not on a pedestal.

The news will be filled with comments of how hypocritical it is for someone to murder a man in the name of life, never once noting how hypocritical it is for someone who profits from murder to denounce murder.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

And can it be...

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Charles Wesley, 1738

I am not a big music guy. I hate signing because I am self-conscious about how bad I sound. I would generally be happy to skip singing entirely and just go right to the preaching. But I really love the hymn And Can It Be That I Should Gain? not just for the song itself but because of the deep theological themes that it brings up. That Jesus Christ would die for others, and not just others but that He would die for the very people who hated Him and caused Him such grief, that He died for those who wouldn't lift a finger to help Him. That I gain all for something done for me centuries before I was born. Jesus Christ left the side of His Father, the perfect comfort and glory and communion with the Father, to intentionally come to earth specifically to die to redeem a people to Himself. Not because it made Him more than He was but strictly as an act of mercy and grace, looking upon fallen humanity with pity and saving some in spite of themselves. That is indeed a God who is worthy of all praise and honor and glory, a God who demands nothing from us but instead provides us everything.

How can it be that I should gain from the Savior's blood? Because He was moved by pity and love and died for me, He did it all for His sheep.

More on the USA Today report

Voddie Baucham has an interesting take on the USA Today report that I blogged about earlier. He sees a different issue with the report. I didn't realize that there was an undercurrent that was painting homeschool as a new hobby for rich, white families but as Voddie points out homeschooling is rising among all races, not just whites, but the report makes it sound like it is a white phenomenon. Why would anyone try to turn this into a class and race issue? Perhaps those who have a vested interest in seeing as many kids forced into the public school system under the watchful eye of union teachers and education bureaucrats. Who might benefit from that? Perhaps the NEA and the Department of Education who produced this report.

Always follow the money, especially when you are dealing with the media and the government.

What can we learn from Tennessee Primitive Baptists?

I read an interesting post from Bob Gonzalez, dean of Reformed Baptist Seminary, concerning his vacation to Tennessee, in a little town called Cades Cove. Bob quoted from a visitors guide he picked up on his visit regarding Cades Cove Primitive Baptist Church. I was not a fan of some of the theology or ecclesiology he described, but one thing jumped out at me.

Interestingly, according to the guide, the Primitive Baptist congregation only met together once a month for corporate worship. Apparently they met in homes on the other Lord’s Days. I’m not certain why this would have been their custom, but it may have been difficulty in traveling—especially during winter months.

I found that really interesting as well, perhaps not for the same reason as Dean Gonzalez.

Is that the right way to go, home fellowship three or four Sundays a month and then one gathering of a group of home fellowships in one big assembly? Maybe, maybe not. I am intrigued by the idea. It seems a way to bridge some of the concerns I have, you have close intimate fellowship with a group of believers in the home but you retain that idea of the greater community of believers in the area and you have an opportunity for more traditional gathering in a larger setting once in a while.

What is more important is that we think about alternate ways of fellowship. The day after Pentecost, Peter and the apostles didn't go to First National Bank of Jerusalem to take out a $3 million construction loan so they could build a "church" with a 4000 person capacity sanctuary, plenty of classroom space and a phat audio-visual system for streaming video. They devoted themselves to fellowship, to breaking bread, to teaching, to prayer. None of those require a "church" building and none of those require a liturgy or a schedule. In fact, I am more and more convinced that the traditional model of church with a building, a schedule and a clergy-laity fellowship impede the very activities that the church devoted herself to in the earliest days. Remember in those days, you see home fellowships being led by Paul and the other apostles.

I really like the idea of home fellowships gathering periodically together in a community. I worry that home fellowships might tend to become islands, unconnected from the greater body in an area. We shouldn't be afraid of new ideas that are really very old ideas. Think how great fellowship would be in small gatherings in homes and then a bigger gathering of several smaller groups once a month, perhaps an all day event with prayer and teaching and preaching and breaking bread. How much more would people know one another and be able to really love one another?

Friday, May 29, 2009

New statistics on homeschooling families

A report in USA Today, Profound shift in kind of families who are home schooling their children, highlights a number of the subtle but important changes to the homeschooling population. What is interesting in the report is the way that the face of homeschooling is changing. The most significant things the report found that homeschool families are more affluent and better educated than they were previously.

Home schooling has grown most sharply for higher-income families. In 1999, 63.6% of home-schooling families earned less than $50,000. Now 60.0% earn more than $50,000.

I think that is reflective of a couple of things, one that the social stigma of homeschooling is diminishing and two that more affluent couples have been hit hard by the recession, and they are not pulling kids out of public schools but instead expensive private schools. Kind of puts the uninformed stereotype of homeschool families being backwoods kooks and religious zealots to rest. One statistic that they pointed out was the gender swing in homeschooling families:

Perhaps most significant: The ratio of home-schooled boys to girls has shifted significantly. In 1999, it was 49% boys, 51% girls. Now boys account for only 42%; 58% are girls.

That may well be a result of parents who are fed up with mean-girl behavior in schools, says Henry Cate, who along with his wife home-schools their three daughters in Santa Clara, Calif. "It's just pushing some parents over the edge," says Cate, who writes the blog Why Homeschool.

I know this all too well. My older girls experienced that in school and like I have said before, since harassment and emotional abuse are the kind of socialization kids get in public schools, I will gladly opt to have my kids be “unsocialized”. I am far more worried about my kids being fed socialism and secularism than I am about socialization.

Skip the advertisements, go back to the book!

In response to precipitously declining numbers, some liberal denominations are turning to professional ad campaigns to try to draw young people in…

Ad campaigns invite people to church

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Shrinking mainline Protestant denominations are turning to marketing to help stem decades of membership losses and stay afloat.

The United Methodist Church recently unveiled a $20 million rebranding effort aimed at attracting younger members to the large but diminishing Protestant group. The new ads will appear over the next four years as part of the denomination's "Rethink Church" campaign.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has invested nearly $1.2 million over the past two years launching a similar branding effort based on the theme, "God's Work, Our Hands."

The denominations are trying to bounce back from losses that began in the mid-1960s.

From 1990 to 2008 alone, mainline Protestants dropped from 18.7 percent to 12.9 percent of the population, according to the American Religious Identification Survey.

One telling statistic from the article: "The median age for a United Methodist is 57, according to the Rev. Larry Hollon, the denomination's chief communications executive.". Yikes! In a few decades, between people fleeing and people dying, the UMC will virtually cease to exist.

Here are a couple of their advertisement videos…

Here is where the disconnect happens. People are not abandoning the ELCA, the United Methodist Church and other mainline/liberal denominations because they aren’t helping enough women in Senegal to start their own businesses or passing out enough care kits to people crossing the border in violation of the law. That is a very noble cause but it puts the ox before the cart. When you abandon the Bible and the Gospel, you cease to be a force for the Kingdom and become a do-gooder organization with a religious patina. Make your message first and foremost the Word of God, the Savior on a cross who died and rose again to redeem lost sinners. Then and only then talk to people about women starting businesses in Senegal.

What is going to draw people is the Gospel. Once we win them with the Gospel, we absolutely must turn to helping feed the poor, the widows, visiting those in prison. We do a shameful job of that for the most part in the church. But we cannot reduce the Gospel to a philosophy of good works and not expect people to abandon the church. If someone wants to help people removed from the Gospel, there are lots of secular social organizations that will do the same thing and probably do it better. It is no different from “seeker sensitive” churches, there will always be a more exciting circus that will draw them away if they are not there first and primarily for the Gospel. The world is always going to be better at doing worldly things.

You don’t need a marketing agency and clever TV ads. You just need a very old book. That book is always relevant and always speaks to what people really need, whether in the first century or the twenty first.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Congress shall make no law...

...respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof

But apparently local bureaucrats feel free to try to restrict home Bible studies or require people to get a permit to have a religious assembly. From Fox News...

Couple Ordered to Stop Holding Bible Study at Home Without Permit

Pastor David Jones and his wife Mary have been told that they cannot invite friends to their San Diego, Calif. home for a bible study — unless they are willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars to San Diego County.

"On Good Friday we had an employee from San Diego County come to our house, and inform us that the bible study that we were having was a religious assembly, and in violation of the code in the county." David Jones told FOX News.

"We told them this is not really a religious assembly — this is just a bible study with friends. We have a meal, we pray, that was all," Jones said.

A few days later, the couple received a written warning that cited "unlawful use of land," ordering them to either "stop religious assembly or apply for a major use permit," the couple's attorney Dean Broyles told San Diego news station 10News.

But the major use permit could cost the Jones' thousands of dollars just to have a few friends over.

I wonder if a group of atheists or homosexual activists were having a meeting in a home, would San Diego county make them get a permit? Methinks not.

Check out this video from Channel 10 in San Diego for more. We have ten people do a Bible study every night in our home just with our family alone. I wonder if we should buy a permit from the government that is supposed to be serving and protecting us in order to exercise a Constitutionally guaranteed right? Think about that, tax payers having to pay a fee to a government agency in order to exercise rights guaranteed in our Constitution long before San Diego was incorporated.

Heresy, error and difference

I have been reading Frank Viola’s book Reimaging Church as I have mentioned previously, and I like a lot of what he has to say. The book raises some questions that are left unanswered other than some sweeping generalizations. Case in point would be divisions over doctrines. Frank Viola would claim that as long as we agree on faith in Jesus Christ, we are not permitted to divide on any other issue. I am still working through this (and Alan Knox just posted on this topic this morning). I get what he is saying but I also think that when you get past the generalizations, the issue becomes more muddled.

As an example. My wife and I hold to the plain reading and traditional 1 Corinthians 11 interpretation that women should cover their heads while praying. We could (and do) get past that in fellowship. If a husband and wife are not convinced of this, that is their concern. We are following Scripture and our conscience and as such this brother’s wife not covering her head does not impact us.

On the other hand there are issues that run up against Scriptural prohibitions. For example, if we take Paul at his word and agree that women are not permitted to teach ( 1 Tim 2:12) and yet we have brothers and sisters seeking fellowship who insist on women teaching in the context of the assembled body, what then? My wife and I would not sit under teaching from a woman, so do we just have to excuse ourselves if a woman teaches? Or just sit there and deal with it when we believe that we are in violation of Scripture by doing so? Do we force the other couple to refrain from the wife teaching? It seems we find ourselves in a situation where irreconcilable differences do exist and yet we don't see where separation is permitted. So what are we to do?

It is not a perfect situation but I think we need to make distinctions between heresy, error and difference.

In the wide world of faith, there are heresies, errors and differences. Heresies include a whole host of issues, mostly stemming from the nature of God/the person of Christ and on justification by faith alone. Those who hold to heresies are disqualified by Scripture from even being considered brothers in Christ, holding to a “different gospel” that is anathema. Then on the other side are differences. Brother can have differences in doctrine and still be in fellowship. Quibbles over the end times are differences. I am in fellowship currently with a number of brothers who hold to a dispensational hermeneutic and I work with it (sometimes gritting my teeth!). A number of women cover their heads in our local assembly but some don't.

In the middle are errors and here is where the sticky part comes in. Errors do not disqualify one as a brother but they certainly impede fellowship. The issue of women teaching I mentioned about is one example. Baptism is another one. If I were an elder in a church and a couple came to me to ask me to be involved with the baptism of their infant, I would have to refuse to be involved in what I consider to be an unscriptural practice. Paul certainly wouldn’t spend the time he did writing about doctrine and correcting errors if the issues he was dealing with were unimportant.

This would bring us back to the Apollos issue (Acts 18: 24-28). He was teaching but doing so incorrectly. Aquila and Priscilla corrected him. They were not content to merely let him go on falsely. We don’t know what he was saying precisely but we do know that what he was teaching was far enough into error to warrant correction. We also don’t know what would have happened if he had rejected the teaching of Aquila and Priscilla, but can we assume that they would have merely shrugged their shoulders and went along to get along?

There is no Biblical warrant for division of fellowship outside of heresy and unrepentant sin. I concede that. On the other hand, there is not much dealing with doctrinal differences between brothers at all. The “I am of Paul, I am of Apollos” argument Mr. Viola makes doesn’t seem to fit into this idea of dealing with errors, perceived or otherwise. We do see Paul writing to correct and instruct in all manner of issues, especially in 1 Corinthians. Ranging from sin in the church to the Lord’s Supper to headcovering, Paul covers a lot of issues. There is a world of difference between dividing over petty or non-vital issues like music styles and dividing over issues that rise to the level of violating Scripture.

So what are we to do. Just suck it up and deal with it? Avoid any activities that might cause dissension? Go our separate ways? There are issues that are going to come up and when they do, how do we deal with them? If the local assembly in fellowship is not the venue, then where do we deal with doctrine?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A solution for Guantanamo Bay detainees...

Just legally declare them fetuses!

Check out this tongue-in-cheek satire from Scott Orr and then think about how tragically true it is.

In an effort to shut down the U.S. Naval Detention Center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, thereby restoring America's moral standing in the world, President Barack Obama today declared some 240 enemy combatants held at Gitmo to be 'human fetuses'.

In an executive order, the president said, "Since I ordered Gitmo shut down, and people don't want us to bring the inmates here, the only way to extract them from the facility is to change their legal status to one that offers us more choices."

While accused terrorists have access to attorneys, and nearly-limitless legal appeals, a fetus has no legal standing, cannot speak for itself, and is subject to the death penalty without regard to guilt or innocence.

Civil rights advocates have pressured Obama to follow through on campaign promises to shutter Gitmo, but even Democrats in Congress have resisted bringing the inmates to U.S. soil for trials and incarceration.

"We can debate whether enemy combatants have access to protections under the U.S. Constitution," said Obama. "However, no serious person would grant such protection to an embryo or fetus. The loss of 240 fetuses wouldn't raise an eyebrow in a nation where more than 3,000 of them hit the Dumpster daily."

We live in a nation where many people are far more worried about the rights of terrorists than they are about the rights of innocent unborn children. Ponder that.

Mid-Michigan Reformation Society blog

There is not much there now, but we have the beginnings of a blog to serve as a public repository of upcoming events, interesting articles and sermons, general information etc.

Check it out!

The Mid-Michigan Reformation Society

Weakness in the Body

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Eph 4:15-16)

What causes the body to grow? The whole body working, each part working properly. If you lay in bed all day long and eat Cheetos, but work out your left arm with a barbell, are you going to have a healthy body? Not at all. You are going to have a sore and overexercised arm, probably with muscle damage from doing all the lifting without support, and the rest of the body is going to get flabby and weak. That is true with the church as well. The Body is healthy and growing when each part is working (and working properly).

Is that what we see today when the church gathers? The whole body working together? Or do we see a few parts doing all of the work and the rest atrophying from disuse? Or just as bad we see people in the church working in ways that they are not equipped for or not called or even permitted to do.

When we see the metaphor of the church as a body, what stands out?

1 Cor 10: 17 speaks of our unity as many who are one body.

1 Cor 12: 12-25 speaks of the body as being made of many parts or members and how vital and unique each part is.

Romans 12: 4-8 has Paul exhorting us that although we have different functions and talents, the whole body works together.

Col 1:18 tells us that this body, the church of Christ, has Christ Himself as the head.

Hebrews 13: 3 reminds us that as parts of the same body, the suffering of one part impacts us all.

What stands out to me is the wholeness, the interdependence that the Body of Christ has for one another. Each part knitted together by sinews working in concert with the rest of the body. Not all parts are designed for the same functions but all functions are necessary.

The problem is that we have too many appendixes. Huh? Think about it. What does the appendix do in the body? No one is really sure. It may have a function that we don't know about but generally it just sits there until it gets inflamed and causes a problem. The body of Christ is like a body full of appendixes. Too many parts that don't do anything and no one seems to know (or care) what they should be doing. A couple of body parts do most of the work and the rest just sit there in a puddle.

My point here is not to wag a finger at the Body and tell them they are lazy. In fact just the opposite is true. Those who are carrying the load, getting frustrated and burned out, need to encourage others to service. Not by veiled accusations of laziness but in equipping them for ministry within the Body. A Christian who is spiritually immature and unprofitable for ministry is not going to become profitable and mature by passively sitting around listening and watching a few others do the heavy lifting. Those doing the heavy lifting need to relinquish control. Often we see hands trying to walk because they don't trust and encourage the legs to do it. A few parts consolidate all of the responsibility and authority to themselves and the rest of the body lets them do it. The end result is a Body that doesn't work together, is ineffective and ultimately unprofitable.

That might mean people making mistakes. That might mean that gatherings get messy sometimes, things may not run on schedule all the time. People may get frustrated and discouraged and need encouragement. That is OK! 1 Cor 14:40 does not mean we need a rigid schedule, choreography and liturgy. It might mean that people need to step aside and let others serve even if they don't always agree with how they serve. It might not be the neat and tidy Christianity that we know and are comfortable with, but I think that in the long term the Body of Christ will be far more healthy for all involved if the members are all working properly.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Counting Down


So the Supreme Court of California has decided to uphold the Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage but is allowing homosexuals who already are "married" under the "right" created out of thin air by the same court can stay "married". So it is OK to ban gay marriage but if you already have gotten married under a now outlawed provision, you are still married? Way to make a hot button issue even more muddled. 18,000 gays are married in California but now homosexuals can't get married in the future?

This just begs for a national referendum and amendment to either allow it or not.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Membership or fellowship: Which is the greater need today?

As I mentioned in a prior post, a small group of men are considering starting a "church" in this area (I will use church in the way it is normally defined as a local assembly of believers). I also mentioned that I am looking at several criteria people or ministries have posted that deal with which qualities reflect a healthy church or more importantly a Biblical church. I think one can have a growing, outwardly "healthy" church that is un-Biblical and there are plenty of examples that bear that out. Our standard for the local gathering must be the Scriptures before we even think about what tradition says or what the world says. One place we are going to look at and maybe base our prayer and discussions around are the 9 Marks of a healthy church, posted by Mark Dever's ministry 9 Marks Ministry. That is kind of a no-brainer, the 9 Marks model is widely respected especially among the Reformed and many conservative Christians. I find the 9 Marks to be an excellent guide and the material put out by the ministry to be solid and Biblical, a great defender of Reformed doctrines and Baptist practice. But...

In my review of the 9 Marks, something kind of jumped out at me. There was a mark for church discipline, there was a mark for membership but not a mark for prayer or fellowship. How can we evaluate a "healthy church" much less a "Biblical church" without looking at the fellowship or prayer life of that church? The earliest days of the church were marked by devotion to four things: fellowship, the breaking of bread, the Apostles' teaching and prayer (Acts 2:42). Three of the four things that the church devoted herself to are not on the 9 Marks list.

Then I found it, at the bottom in an addendum:

In identifying and promoting these nine marks, we are not intending to lay down an exhaustive or authoritative list. There are other significant marks of healthy churches, like prayer and fellowship. We want to pursue those ourselves as well, and we want you to pursue them with us. But these nine are the ones we think are most neglected in most local churches today, with the most damaging ramifications. Join us in cultivating churches that reflect the character of God.

I am pretty concerned that fellowship and prayer are relegated to footnotes. I am quite certain that Mark Dever and company have a high view of prayer and of fellowship. Why then are they merely mentioned in passing at the bottom of the list? I am far more concerned about fellowship than I am about membership. We see fellowship all throughout the New Testament, but we never see membership as we understand it today.

I fear that the reason fellowship and prayer get short shrift in the 9 Marks is that the assumption is that almost every church already HAS fellowship and prayer in the form of a church gathering in a sanctuary and corporate prayer led by the pastor. We have imprinted our traditions on these words and given them meaning that are unwarranted from the text. Fellowship means a couple of minutes of shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries. Prayer means listening to someone else who is paid to preach and pray on your behalf. Corporately praying and gathering for teaching is important but it cannot replace Biblical fellowship and intimate times of prayer.

Can we assume that church gatherings have fellowship and prayer? Does meeting in the same room and listening to someone else pray on your behalf count as Biblical fellowship and prayer? A once a month sparsely attended potluck dinner is a poor substitute to devoting ourselves to fellowship and the breaking of bread. More to the point, can we have a "healthy" church where fellowship and prayer is given only passing thought? My point is not a criticism of 9 Marks but just to point out how easy it is to make assumptions that are unwarranted by reality and focus on areas that are at best peripheral issues and at worst are merely human traditions.

We have got to get this right in the church. All the Reformation in the world will not change the church if we fail to get past the traditions and labels we have erected. May I suggest we focus on fixing the fundamentals before we start tinkering with traditions?

Wings thump Blackhawks

The Red Wings pounded the Chicago Blackhawks yesterday, lighting up French goalie Christobel Huet for five goals. They took a 3-1 series lead without two of the best players in the NHL, Pavel Datsyuk and Nik Lidstrom. Huet, the only French player in the NHL, was letting pucks into the net like German soldiers into Paris.

I especially liked this short-handed goal...

Now the demoralized Blackhawks have to come to Hockeytown for game five with Datsyuk and Lidstrom back. Say goodnight Gracie.

Keep it simple

The M Blog: What you need to know to plant a church

Guy Muse, a man who knows a little something about planting churches as a missionary in Ecuador who have helped establish over 100 churches in Ecuador, has some sound words to ponder when looking to establish a church. I found these very helpful, some guys I know and I are considering starting a gathering in this area and these are helpful words. I am seeking to read what people in a broad spectrum have to say about what a healthy/Biblical church looks like. More on that a little later.

(HT: Alan Knox)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Now that sounds like Biblical fellowship

We had a missionary visiting today and he was describing their Sunday fellowship in Hong Kong. Believers gathered in their home starting at around 8:00 AM and then spent the rest of the day in fellowship, having meals, meeting one on one, listening to preaching, Bible studies, spending time with one another. He said the last person would leave at around 8:30 PM. It is clearly a long day for he and his wife but it also sounds like an enormous blessing. They know the people they worship with, what is going on in their lives, what they need. They meet in homes or simple buildings, they somehow manage without "churches" to be the church.

Why do we think we are so sophisticated in America that we have moved beyond this sort of fellowship? It is fine for those people over there but we can get the same thing in our expensive buildings and scheduled programs, we don't want anything unscripted. Have we moved beyond Biblical fellowship and found something better?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

What makes teaching “good” teaching?

Every “church” teaches. Whether it is a Reformed congregation working through the Westminster Confession or a prosperity preacher teaching about why God wants you to be rich or a liberal church teaching that God’s love means anything goes, all churches teach something. The question is, what separates “good” teaching from “bad” teaching.

* It is not as simple as what I like is good teaching, what I don’t is bad

* It is not merely that the more Reformed the teaching, the better it is

* It is not the style or the ability of the one doing the teaching

* It is not how useful the teaching is to my daily life

It is much deeper than any of that and it all comes down to one thing, one Reformational principle: Soli Deo Gloria, to God alone be the glory.

Teaching is integral to the Christian life. Do a word search for “teach” or “taught” or “instruct” in the New Testament and you will see how often we see Christ and the apostles teaching. Teaching was integral to the life of the church from the earliest times, “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42). They taught in the temple, in houses, in schools, in the open air, in synagogues. Being able to teach is a desirable quality in an elder (1 Tim 3:2). We teach one another (Rom 15:14) and we teach our children (Eph 6:4). Clearly though, not all teaching is profitable teaching.

Much of what passes for “teaching” is shallow, moralistic teaching that dumbs the Gospel down into something that makes us better, nicer people. In place of the stark sinfulness of man and the inestimable holiness of God, we get cheesy lessons on how to be a better (fill in the blank). Being a better husband/wife/friend/whatever is fine and dandy, but if we don’t know why we should do what we should do we inevitably will do what we do to glorify ourselves rather than God.

Whether at the level of children or with adults, a lot of teaching centers around what we should do or how we should act without first answering the question of why. It is easy for teaching to become man-centered or moralistic or meaningless and the only sure antidote to that is to strive to make sure that all teaching is done to and for the glory of God. As we talked about in a recent Bible study, we are not to be holy as He is holy, to be righteous in order to save ourselves or glorify our selves but because as His elect sheep when we are holy or righteous even in our flawed way we bring glory to Him.

Even Reformed teaching, which I love (except the infant baptism and ecclesiastical traditions), can fall into the trap of being less about Soli Deo Gloria and more about intellectual triumphalism. A recent episode of the White Horse Inn had a guy on who was railing against “bad preaching” and his definition was clearly based on intellectual snobbery. It is possible, and perhaps quite easy, to be perfectly orthodox and Reformed in your teaching and still have it be “bad” teaching.

There is another aspect of “good” teaching. Earnest teaching that sincerely seeks to glorify God but does so without the truth is not God honoring. You can be sincere and earnest as the day is long, but if you are sincerely and earnestly wrong that doesn’t bring glory to God. There is Biblical precedent for this in Acts 18:

Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus. (Acts 18: 24-28)

Apollos was a great guy by all accounts, a skillful teacher, a sincere believer, full of enthusiasm but he was missing some key elements of the truth. Priscilla and Aquila didn’t feel the need to go long to get along, they took him aside and explained where he was in error. Listen, none of us are born (or born-again!) with an even semi-clear understanding of the Gospel. That is not en excuse to remain ignorant of the things of God. We all need to be open to correction and instruction and to constantly seek God in His Word.

Somehow we have gotten into a mindset that if someone is trying really hard and is a nice person, they ought not be corrected if they are in error. Nothing could be further from the truth! It is not being a good brother in Christ to let someone linger in error (Of course it is not Biblical to beat someone over the head and prove them wrong to make yourself feel superior) Great teaching is true and faithful to the Scriptures, it is accurate and the greatest teachers seek to constantly test what they say against the Word and welcome discussion and disagreement. I would much rather have a spirited, thoughtful disagreement among brothers than a bunch of people nodding their heads in mute agreement.

What qualifies as solid or good teaching in my reckoning is pretty broad but is always based on teaching from the Scriptures. Systematic and Biblical theology are great, but only so far as they aid our understanding of God’s Word. Similarly, teaching that focuses on application is great as long as it flows from studying the Word instead of moralism. When we let our teaching stray from the Word into hypothesis and conjecture, we cease to glorify God by proclaiming His Word and all we do should be done to the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31).

What then is the standard by which we measure one man’s teaching to be “solid” teaching and another man to fall short? Teaching that is faithful to the Word and brings glory to God as its purpose and goal is good teaching. Anything else is not.

Adventures in education!

First up...A new furor has erupted in one school and has been overblown by the media in an instructive case about the worldview of secular education. A school in Texas allowed the Gideons to place Bibles within reach of students. The horror!

Some parents in Frisco, Texas, are fuming because their public school district allowed Christian evangelists to provide Bibles to students on school grounds, which administrators say was done to stop even more proselytizing outside the schools.

Frisco Independent Schools allowed Gideons International to display Bibles on tabletops in all 13 of the district's middle and high schools last week. Officials say it didn't violate the law, but some parents say school is not the place to be offering the Good Book.
The Gideons are now taking advantage of a school policy that allows them to leave Bibles on a tabletop in the schools' front offices, though they're barred from interacting with students or remaining there during school hours.

A spokeswoman for the school district said that a number of materials are made available to students this way, including newspapers, camp brochures and tutoring pamphlets. College and military recruitment information is available all year long. The Gideon Bibles were made available for just one day.

Do I think schools should be in the business of handing out Bibles or facilitating that happening? Not really even though in a place of "learning" the fact that the most important and accessible instrument of change and the development of Western Civilization is banned is telling.

What is most instructive is that in public schools, a couple of parents are outraged and it makes news when Bibles are left out among other literature. Other literature, as if the Word of God is a pamphlet. Yet those same schools can dispense advice on sexuality unimpeded to children and can provide them condoms and a wink without parental permission.

In another story, we see our progressive friends in California using a children's book about "gay penguins" to teach kids that homosexuality is just another lifestyle that they accept and embrace. No intereference from those pesky parents allowed of course!

A group of parents in a California school district say they are being bullied by school administrators into accepting a new curriculum that addresses bullying, respect and acceptance -- and that includes compulsory lessons about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community that will be taught to children as young as 5 years old.
The parents are also angry that they will not be allowed to keep their children out of the classes.

“I believe these children are far too young to be learning about what these issues mean,” said Alaina Stewart, who has three children who attend elementary school in Alameda. “These are adult issues and they are being thrust upon the children.”

But the school board says otherwise, and its attorneys say that if the curriculum is adopted, the parents will have no legal right to remove their children from class when the lessons are being taught.
Among the course materials that could be added to the curriculum is "And Tango Makes Three," a children’s book about gay penguins struggling to create a family. The book has been banned in some areas of the country.

In response to the controversy surrounding the proposed curriculum, the school board has held two public debates this month.

One parent told an “overwhelming” majority of parents spoke out against LGBT instruction at one of the meetings, but that public opinion had little impact.

Silly parents! Who cares what the taxpayers and the parents of these kids think? Don't you know that public school teachers are professionals and you should just do what they tell you. Just put little Suzie on the bus and we will take care of the rest!

Still, my wife was grilled by another mom, ostensibly a Christian at a Bible study breakfast and asked if she was concerned about "socialization". If this is the kind of socialization you get at school, you can keep it!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Follow the money

I read a very sad editorial this morning, The Bully Pulpit, and it should serve as a warning for all of those who see size and organization and money as signs of success in the church.

In a nutshell, a small Congregational church (Center Congregational Church) that is part of the UCC (United Church of Christ), an infamously liberal denomination, has decided to no longer affiliate itself with the UCC because of the UCC’s heretical 2005 decision to permit homosexual “marriage”. That was too much for these folks and they decided to move on.

Not so fast. The UCC has decided that the property occupied by Center Congregational Church, held in a trust from the 19th century rightfully should be administered not by the people who faithfully attend that church but instead by an administrator from the UCC.

The intent of the trust was to preserve the location as a Congregational church. It is hard to believe that the land bequeathed as a gift by Mrs. Harriet Cox in 1895 was intended to be seized by a denomination that didn’t exist at the time and has abandoned any semblance or pretence of Biblical orthodoxy.

You may wonder why the UCC would bother to go through all of this trouble for a tiny church building that is breaking away. Why not just let them go and concentrate on tearing down the walls of orthodoxy? When in doubt, always follow the money. Look at this description of the area that Center Congregational Church occupies:

Center Congregational occupies a modest brick building on the edge of Atlanta's Buckhead neighborhood, a district of mansions, megachurches and private schools.

Hmmm. Here is the description of Buckhead on Wikipedia:

According to Forbes Magazine, Buckhead is home to the 9th wealthiest zip code in the nation (30327), with a household income in excess of $341,000 per year and is the location of the wealthiest of Atlanta's neighborhoods. Home to the Governor Mansion the area's real estate market is also the most expensive in the state of Georgia with an average home value in 2005 of approximately $761,000

Double hmmm. I have been to Buckhead, I stayed there once on business. Where did I stay? The very swanky Ritz-Carlton in Buckhead. I recall vividly the enormous indoor swimming pool with plush Ritz-Carlton robes, baskets of fresh fruit and chilled bottles of water. It was very nice, one of the nicest hotels I have stayed at (and the stock market at that time was in considerably better shape!). Coincidence that “Christians” are suing to take away a church that just happens to be located on a quarter acre plot in a very ritzy area? I think not. Follow the money.

We are going to see more and more of this as denomination after denomination follows after the winds of “change” and accepts the spirit of the age. Christians who are trying to faithfully worship God are going to find themselves increasingly having to make the choice of gritting their teeth at the heresy of their denomination or finding themselves ejected from the building they have occupied and paid for over the years.

This is merely the latest manifestation of the institution of the church superseding the reality of the church. When we say “church”, the picture is of the building, the pastor, the denomination and not the people of God. The more power and money gets concentrated in the institution, the more likely that the Gospel will be set aside for the sake of institutional self-preservation.

I agree with Barney Frank about something. Ugh.

This is about the dumbest, most meaningless things I have seen Congress do. Let’s pass a resolution declaring 2010 the “Year of the Bible”. Wow. Thank you Representative Paul Broun for a foolish political stunt. Here is the text from Representative Broun’s pronouncement:

“I hope that the National Day of Prayer will encourage America’s citizens and leaders to seek God’s help through prayer and Bible reading. The Bible’s tremendous influence in the shaping of American history and providing hope for all Americans is something that Congress and the President should formally acknowledge.

“The National Year of the Bible Resolution reminds us that our great nation was founded upon Biblical principles and that religious freedom is guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. I encourage Speaker Nancy Pelosi to bring this resolution to the floor so President Barack Obama has the opportunity to designate an appropriate year as ‘The National Year of the Bible,’” said Paul Broun.

Civic religion at it’s finest! This is a quote from Congressman Barney Frank and as nauseating as he is I have to agree with him on this:

“Does that mean 2009 is not the year of the Bible?” mocked Rep. Barney Frank ¬(D-Mass.), who is Jewish. “What is 2012 the year of? The Quran?”

Is having 2010 be “The Year of the Bible” going to encourage people to read the Bible? Will it make America a holier nation for a year? What happens in 2011? Is 2010 the year of the Bible only in America?

The Bible is not a slogan or a political prop. Quite frankly as someone who loves the Bible and thinks more people should read it, (especially Christians!) I also don’t think the Federal government has any business encouraging people to read it. Whenever we entangle the secular government with the sacred work of proclaiming the Gospel, the Gospel always suffers for it.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Good fellowship AND teaching

I went to a great meeting tonight, very nice fellowship with a group of men while we studied R.C. Sproul's Grace Unknown. Good book and it just happened that we were looking at the chapter on particular redemption. See, that is what I am talking 'bout. Great, deep teaching coupled with great fellowship equals a happy Arthur. That is what it is all about isn't it?

Becoming April...: Christian Idols

Becoming April...: Christian Idols

April is back and she brought a new blog with her. She may not post very often but when she does it is worthwhile to read. You may not agree with what she says (I do!) but you should ponder her thoughts. Give it a read!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Encouraging first meeting

We had a great first meeting. Thirteen people were in attendance which is about double what I expected. We spent a couple hours praying and talking, and set a first meeting for Saturday, August 1st from 11:00 to 1:30 at Grace Orthodox Presbyterian. Very encouraging!

Incomplete Christians

I was checking out a couple of posts on John MacArthur's "blog" (I am pretty sure he has no idea how to blog, he is kind of an old school guy!) Shepherd's Fellowship. They spoke of the importance of the local chuch in one and the other was a critique of the "seeker sensitive", entertainment driven churches where people become mere spectators.

To that I say: Amen!

The local church assembly is vital and eminently Biblical. Those who feel they can just stay home by themselves and be just fine are ignorant of their own need for community and the Bible’s teaching on the fellowship of the saints. So much of the New Testament is written in the context of the local assembly that it is hard to imagine a scenario where Christians gathering together frequently and purposefully is absent. So I agree with Dr. MacArthur wholeheartedly in his defense of the importance of the local church gathering. I also agree with the need for more and better teaching in the local assembly. It is the rare group indeed that will have a teacher of the caliber and gifting of a John MacArthur, a preacher and an exegete with few peers. That doesn’t mean that the average Christian in a local assembly has an excuse to be ignorant of Biblical doctrine, nor does it excuse shallow teaching within that same assembly.

What I found kind of ironic was this reference from the post called The Necessity of the Local Church:

"It is only in the local body to which one is committed that there can be the level of intimacy that is required for carefully stimulating fellow-believers “to love and good deeds.” And it is only in this setting that we can encourage one another." (emphasis added)

Now look at the picture of a service at Grace Community Church.

This is not a criticism of John MacArthur, a man who I respect greatly and have learned much from. My concern is that we have so imprinted on our minds what "church" looks like that we can read things like Acts 2:42 and talk about intimate, one-another fellowship and think that we see that in an auditorium of thousands of people listening while John MacArthur teaches. I love listening to John MacArthur teach! His was one of my favorite talks at Together for the Gospel. But is Grace Community Church an accurate depiction of the picture of Christian fellowship we see in Acts 2:42 and elsewhere in the New Testament? I mean if you are in this seat and you squint, you can sort of see the pulpit. I would hazard that a man who looked sort of like Dr. MacArthur could stand up there and lipsync while the big overhead screen played a recording of Dr. MacArthur and many people in seats this far back might never know.

When we look into the New Testament and see where the local assembly is spoken of, what we see is fellowship, intimacy, familial relationships. While folks in huge assemblies like Grace Community Church and Bethlehem Baptist are getting great teaching, teaching I would love to hear every week, are they getting fellowship as well? If you attended Grace Community Church every week and went to every scheduled service for a year, how many people would you get to know? 100? How many of those would you know really well? A lot fewer I would imagine. The reality is that on a Sunday, a person at Grace Community Church is surrounded by maybe 100 people they know and how many thousands they don’t. Great teaching yes, great fellowship no. At least not the kind of fellowship we see in the local assembly in the New Testament. Christians gathered in the upper room being taught by Paul and sharing meals into the wee hours of the morning doesn’t translate well into thousands of people in an auditorium filled with strangers watching a choreographed performance and an hour long sermon. That is not a knock on Grace Community Church, where at least the people are getting peerless teaching from Dr. MacArthur. It is just a reality of the vast majority of large churches in America where sheer size and organization makes intimate fellowship virtually impossible.

This is not an issue just in the churches led by “celebrity pastors” like MacArthur and Piper. It is an issue in local churches where several hundred people gather on Sunday for a couple of hours of scheduled time together. As an example, I had lunch today with my friend Joe and his friend Matt. Just three Christians having lunch, talking about our passions and pondering the things of God. That was great fellowship and far more fulfilling than an hour sitting next to someone I don’t know listening to someone else preach to me. If I want to hear a great sermon, there are thousands of them available online that I can download onto my iPod and listen at my leisure. I can’t get fellowship from an iPod.

On the other hand, as we talked about at lunch, there can be a tendency to go too far in the other direction. Some look at the tradition-bound institutionalized church and see the flaws and take that as justification to chuck a lot of good stuff along with the baggage. What you end up with is what you see in a many circles in the greater Body: people who are fuzzy on doctrine or outright reject fundamental truths. It seems to be pretty hard to find small, intimate fellowship coupled with sold Biblical teaching. I know that a blanket assertion like that will cause some raised eyebrows. I think it cannot be argued that the Body of Christ, by and large, is woefully underequipped when it comes to doctrine and theology, not empty scholasticism but real, practical theology that impacts our evangelism, our service, our ecclesiology, our family life.

Ultimately I think that people are starved for both fellowship as well as teaching and the church is weaker as a body for it. The solution is not prepackaged. This model or that model will not fix it. Just have church in your house will not fix it. Just have more expository preaching will not fix it. It is going to require Christians to be willing to set aside preconceived notions on both sides, open the Word of God and start having meaningful conversation. It may mean that men like Joe and Matt and I may start a gathering focused on the Word and on fellowship. I don’t know yet. What I do know is that something is missing in my life and in the lives of my family and many others I speak to. Without genuine, intimate, familial Christian fellowship coupled with the great truths of the faith and the preached Word we are incomplete Christians and incomplete Christians are unable to experience the joy that the early Christians had.

Reformation Society Meeting tonight!

We are getting together for an initial meeting tonight to pray and discuss where (or if) we see this effort going. I would expect we will have half a dozen men or so for sure, and possible quite a few more.

I am looking forward to this time of fellowship. The men that I know are coming come from disparate backgrounds and with wide ranging views of the church, but from what I have seen we all share a common concern over the state of the local assembly as it pertains to Biblical knowledge and the need for solid, Bible based teaching. To my way of thinking, this is an ideal setting for this sort of teaching, where Christians gather to discuss the Word, debate and share ideas and as importantly spend time in fellowship with one another. The session I attended at the Northeast Michigan Reformation Society up north was good teaching but the lunch fellowship afterward was even better. We need more and better teaching and we need more and more genuine fellowship. What better way to accomplish that than by getting the Body together under the authority of the Word?

Look for a recap later tonight or tomorrow. I am sure you can't wait!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Opening our minds to supporters of murder

President Obama spoke today at the commencement ceremony at Notre Dame, a shameful moment for that institution, and called for both sides on the abortion debate to be "open-minded"...

"When we open up our hearts and our minds to those who may not think precisely like we do or believe precisely what we believe -- that's when we discover at least the possibility of common ground," Obama said.

Mr. President, I have no room for being open-minded when it comes to the murder of unborn children. No sane person should. We can argue about taxes, we can debate about immigration, we can be respectful when it comes to gun ownership but when it comes to infanticide, there is no room for open-mindedness, for compromise, for common ground, for respect. I cannot and I will not respect a position that reduces human life to a "choice" and sacrifices children for the sake of convenience.

Homeschoolers, big families and multigenerational impact

One of the statistics that caught my attention at the INCH conference had to do with the potential disparate influence of homeschooling families on the culture. Homeschool families on average have more than twice as many kids as non-homeschooling families. That is an enormous disparity and conferences like this one reinforce the idea of multigenerational vision with the youth and children being raised in these families. Properly done, these kids are being raised to rebel not against their parents or their faith but against the culture of mediocrity, of narcissism, of immorality and of death that surrounds them.

Make no mistake. The number one reason we homeschool and the reason that overrides all others and a reason that would be sufficient even if it were the only reason is obedience to God. Obedience to the mandate to raise our children in the fear and admonition, the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4), to speak to them of the Words of God morning and night and make them central in our homes (Deut 6: 7-9), to teach our sons to turn to us and the elders of the church to learn what has come before (Deut 32:7). But we also homeschool because we know that the children we raise now will someday be adults and go into the world. When they go we need to make sure that they are equipped for what they will find, that they will see all that is wrong and much that is right in that world and will be prepared to take Jesus Christ to the lost. Children in public schools are well-prepared to deal with the world on the world's terms. They are well-prepared to fit in with the culture and society, to become "productive members of society" and to do what is expected of them by the world. They may even "go to church" and be good people, but by and large a public school education is not going to prepare them for the enormous challenges that are ahead of us. When our vision for our kids only extends to the graduation ceremony of high school or the commencement ceremony at a college, we have failed them. Our vision as those entrusted with children must go beyond surviving the teen years and bloom into a multi-generation vision of the family that transcends the world's social structure and prepares children to become adults taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ from our homes and into the world.

The enormity of the task we face and the charge we have been given is far too great to compress into a few daily devotionals in the evening, youth groups, VBS and Sunday mornings spent rushing to and fro to fulfill our religious obligation. The task at hand demands our full attention and we cannot fulfill that mandate from God when our kids are being raised and taught for the most part by strangers and subcontractors.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

INCH: Closing Thoughts

Some closing thoughts

All very encouraging. The speakers were OK and the vendors were good. I am kind of thinking that rather than a million different sessions, some of which were clearly mediocre, we would have been better off with fewer, but better sessions, and more time with vendors.

The facilities are not great. Not enough parking, not enough places to eat. The chairs in the main hall are so uncomfortable that if they had them at Guantanamo Bay, Nancy Pelosi would deny every being told about them. The acoustics were kind of bad. Not a great facility.

Need more time with vendors. Did I say that?

Would love to see someone like Voddie Baucham speak.

The children’s program was fun for the kids and made it way easier for parents to pay attention knowing that their kids were cared for and safe.

But it is nonetheless great to spend two days with tons of people who come at life and parenting from the same basic worldview. It was very encouraging, gave us a lot to think about. We saw people like our friends John & Debbie we hadn’t seen in a while and met lots of new people. The older kids helped out and they seemed to really enjoy that. My older girls especially liked what they heard in the sessions about purity and courtship topics. We are all looking forward to next year!

INCH: Worshop Six

Preserving Educational Freedom…Michigan at the crossroads

James Muffett

How did we get where we are as a nation?
The Greatest Story Never Told

- “To destroy a people, you must first sever them from their roots” Alexander Solzhenitsyn
- Our history books tell us a story that Christians were the cause of all the evils in America, but never tell about the wonderful things that Christians that Christians in America brought to the world.
- The 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines terms in the way that the founding fathers defined them rather than the twisted way they are defined today.
- Education for the first 150 in American history was conducted primarily in the home using the Bible and biblically based textbooks.
- The Boston Latin school was established in 1636 to make sure that kids could read the Bible
- 1647 in Mass. Every town with fifty or more people had to pool into a school “the old deluder law”. The purpose was to make sure that people could read the Bible and thus thwart the “old deluder” i.e. Satan.
- 106 of the first 108 universities in this country were established by Christians to train ministers.
“Cursed be all that learning which is contrary to the cross of Christ:” Rev Dickenson, Princeton University
- Education was a sowing process that produces reaping
- The same people who were long haired hippies in the 60’s are running education, government, entertainment, media and business.
- “…A Republic must either preserve its virtue or lose its liberty” John Witherspoon

John Wycliffe, by the people, of the people and for the people

America’s providential history

Deu 32:7

Psalm 143:5

What is a fair assessment of where we are?

We live in a war of worldviews

John Dewey , the founder of modern progressive education in this century, signer of the humanist manifesto: “We find insufficient evidence for the belief in the existence of a supernatural. It is either meaningless or irrelevant”

Karl Marx Nowadays in our evolutionary conception of the universe there is absolutely no room for a Creator

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, “Freedom without restraint”

Preserving Our Educational Freedom

What we are doing now is planting seeds now for the next generation. It is more than just keeping them out of the polluted system. It is a greater vision.

Back in the day we lived in a virtual police state. Homeschoolers had to hide their kids during the schoolday. We have won many victories in Michigan to win freedom for home education. Under Governor Engler, Michigan went from one of the worst states to one of the best states to homeschool our kids. Many others went through many trials to win back the rights to raise our own kids.

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty

John Stryker, millionaire homosexual activist in Kalamazoo

Prior to 2006, committee chairs were 17% liberal, they are now 87% liberal

It is on in Michigan!

Abortion bills, start kindergarten earlier, raise mandatory attendance to 18, register all homeschool, expand sex ed and contraception down to middle school

If you do not take an interest in politics, politics will take an interest in you!

What do we do going forward?

Jesus and Civil Government

Mark 12: 13-17

(Render under to Caesar what is Caesars yes but my children do not belong to Caesars!)

Romans 13: 1-7

Politics Redefined

14 billion of a 40 billion budgets goes to K-12. Homeschool or not, we are citizens of this state.

INCH: Workshop Five

Training Boys to be Godly Men
Kenneth Knott

Taught at Littlefield schools for 11 years

Five culturally accepted myths

It is normal for a boy to go through some phase of rebellion. Much of the church has accepted this. We do not have to accept this, rebellion does not have to be a normal thing in your family. Never accept the notion that rebellion is inevitable. Where does the Bible tell us rebellion is normal. Those who say it is normal probably experience it in their home and are justifying it.

It is wrong for a father to be confident in his abilities. The media image of father is a less than favorable way, i.e. Homer Simpson. It is OK to be confident and speak with authority in our homes. Paul tells men to imitate him as he imitates Christ. We should tell our sons that as well, imitate us.

It is wrong to be authoritative. A subconscious fear we are going to repeat the mistakes of our fathers? Not abusive, but authoritative. If you are going to err on the side of being too strict or being to lenient, err on the side of strict! Don’t have debates with your kids on simple things.

Being a husband and father is exhausting, laborious and taxing work. Is it? The more you embrace the idea that being a husband and father is hard, the more it is. Are blessings hard, laborious and taxing? We compare it to work. Going home is where we rest, it is not work. At times it is hard, but that is not a normal state of being. Our home as men is a place of respite.

If you are homeschooling, dad needs to be formally involved in some part of the curriculum. Moms measure kids up to a system that doesn’t work anyway. Don’t let our kids be compared to what the public school tells us where our kids should be. That system at best produces mediocrity. His son didn’t read at 8 and would have been labeled as learning disabled, but less than a year later the kid was a voracious reader. Use the teachable moment rather than formal teaching. Having daily devotions is great but it is not a Biblical commandment, but being a Godly man to your boys is. Teach your boys when you can, teachable moments.

One of the greatest secrets in raising your sons is to capitalize on the strengths of your friends. If you don’t have any like minded friends, that should be a prayer. We are called to communal living so that we can help each other raise our boys. Find other men and help them raise their boys and have them help you raise your boys. Ken uses a curriculum that teaches boys to be men: how to treat a lady, how to shake a man’s hand. Seeing other men who believe like you do helps validate and solidify what you are saying.

I like this idea of communal men teaching kids.

INCH: Keynote Session 2

Freedom: Homeschools at Risk with “Change” in Government

Christopher Klicka, Senior Counsel for the Home School Legal Defense Association.

Intro by Mike Winters

Genesis 18:19

Malachi 2: 15

To be the man God wants: You must be able to teach your children and live out what God wants before them. That is all, God has commissioned us to teach our children who God is and what he requires.


Lawyers are replacing lab rats in experiments. Why? Lawyers are more plentiful than rats. The scientists were getting emotionally attached to the rats. There are just some thing a rat won’t do.

When Christ started it was only legal in five states to homeschool your children, today it is legal in all 50.

Homeschool is not a choice we make, it is what we are called. We will only retain our freedom as long as we place Christ first in our home.

Homeschooling is at risk in the Obama administration and across the country as legislatures have changed hands. The public schools are pumping out kids with values that are different than ours, the media has a worldview that is different than ours. But God will see us through this time.

What is coming up that threatens homeschools?

The UN Convention on the rights of the child. The treaty is not a foreign affairs issue, it impacts domestic policy. If ratified it will be interpreted by the judges

The philosophy of social workers is opposed to our worldview (not in every case obviously).

It will be up in large part to homeschool families to call the Senate and stop the UN Convention on the rights of the child.

Rep. Hoekstra is pushing a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the rights of parents to direct the raising and educating of their children. Has 89 co-sponsors already. See webpage below…

Our rights as parents are worth fighting for.

President Obama is trying to undo all of the good done by President Bush. Obama is pushing pro-abortion/pro-homosexual agendas and appointing people who will support that agenda. Protections in place to protect parents from governmental intrusion are under assault.

It is a “Government Knows Best” worldview.

Now some positive things. Everyone is feeling might low right now.

We have been here before. It used to be illegal to homeschool in most states.

The average homeschool family is 3.8, the average non-homeschool is 1.5. At that rate in five generations 70% of kids will be homeschooled.

The DeJonge decision. In one decision, Michigan went from one of the worst states to homeschool to one of the best. We also have some of the most aggressive social workers and truancy officers in the nation.

INCH: Fellowship Session

We broke up after dinner into little sessions. We chose the homeschooling large families group. It is wonderful to be surrounded by hundreds of other couples who are Christians and who homeschool their kids. No one is going to look at us like we are weird because we are Christians or because we homeschool. But get us in that room and not only is everyone there homeschooling and devoted Christians, they all had at least five kids. One couple came in late and didn’t realize that they were in the wrong session until they introduced themselves as a couple with an 8 and 11 year old. We politely told them they were three kids short and had to leave. We got to talk about frustrations and concerns and boy is it nice to hear other people who have a large family express the same concerns we have. We aren’t weird! Well, maybe a little but we are not alone.

INCH: Keynote Speaker

Family: The ‘HOME’ in Homeschooling

Todd Wilson, The Family Man


(Opening Song: For All Generations)

Intro by Mike Winters, director of INCH:

The alternative education system, like the serpent, tells us we can become like God. We home educate our children because the government system takes our kids for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week and teaches them what is contrary to what the Bible says.

We home disciple our children because 7 days a week, 24 hours a day we want our children to know the God that created them.

We believe that ultimately home education is discipleship of our children

Proverbs 31


Homeschooling is supposed to be a good thing!

Family is the “home” in homeschooling

Our greatest impact, where we will change the world, is in our home. We don’t train in the home for greatness, it is a place for greatness. Sometimes we don’t make this family thing look very good. Our job is to make it look good. The family is where the best stuff is, but it also is the hardest.

The family has never been under attack like it is. Baloney, the family has always been under attack. The greatest danger comes not from outside the walls, but inside the walls.

Family is hard but it is good

We will remember it is hard, but we must remember it is good.

We need each other in the midst of all of this difficulty.

This homeschooling thing is a dad thing:

Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. (Tit 2:2)

Older guys are to believe what they say they believe. Older men need to encourage and mentor younger men that marriage is hard, but it is good.

Older women need to teach younger women to love their husbands. Mothers are older women to their daughters. Also to love their children. Aren’t children easy to love? Urge them to be sensitive.

We are a body of people here to encourage us to good works.

This is hard but it is good!

The Best Part of INCH so far?

If you ask the kids they will probably say stopping for dinner at IHOP last night at 10:00. We don't have the two littlest ones, they are with a friend, so we braved the scary world of restaurants and had a big dinner. We were starving, there simply is not enough time to browse vendors and eat, we are always rushing from one session to another. No one ate dinner during the dinner break and we had pretty minimal lunches, so huge plates of eggs, pancakes and pork products hit the spot.

You know you are a big family when your kids realize that you are pulling into a place without a drive-thru and one of them says in awed, reverent tones: "You mean we are eating...inside!?"

INCH: Workshop 2

Are you raising a rebel?

Kathie Morrissey

(I have noticed that there are quite a few women covering their heads at the conference, which is nice to see!)

Started off having kids sing a song, I am not sure what the point was….

- Rebellion: The rejection of authority (external and internal)

The world sees rebellion from children as normative. I.e. the “terrible twos” are normal and the continual rebellion from teens.

Learning to obey the first time is foundational to parenting. Why doesn’t this happen? We don’t require it.

We don’t train our children to obey to control them but because it is what God has commanded.

What do our kids see in our reaction to authority? Does dad complain about his boss, does mom undermine dad’s authority when he is not around? Doing so teaches our kids to rebel when the rules are not to their liking.

Passive rebellion is when kids do what they are told externally. They do what we tell them on the outside but on the inside they are still rebelling.

Rebellion is often internal. Saying no gets you in trouble, but there are subtle ways that kids can rebel. Consistent forgetfullness, violating understood but unspoken rules., etc.

Behavior modification is not the same thing as obedience. Very true and a weak spot for me. We punish the wrong external behavior but we need to deal with the rebellious heart.

The most significant thing we can do to influence kids hearts is to be a proper example. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink (but you can salt his oats!)

We must teach kids to obey the first time. Kids are trained to know when we are serious. In other words, do they obey the first time or do they wait until the parents starts counting or starts yelling.

Never give instructions more than once.


Take your kids to God’s Word to reprove them

Fixing this takes consistency. They won’t undo poor habits right away. A weed in a garden allowed to grow gets deeper roots and is hard to undo.


The world tells us not to correct kids. The Bible tells us the rod is the way to correct children who are rebelling against their parents. Spanking out of need, not out of anger. Spanking early leads to not being spanked later.

Improper Correction

Rules without relationship breed rebellion.

Sound quote.

Inconsistency is improper correction, kids are frustrated when they don’t know what to do. We contribute to the rebellion of our kids by being lazy and inconsistent

Also, embarrassing or putting down kids. Correction should be private. “you never obey” “you’re a bad child”. All of our words are used to either bless or curse our children. That kind of stuck me where I live.

When we are angry with our children we close their hearts and lose our influence with them. It doesn’t take much character to see the flaws in our kids.

We don’t want to punish our kids, we want to change their hearts.

(She suggests a book called Good and Angry and Freedom from the spirit of anger, Solving the Crisis in Homeschooling)

Learn from someone else’s mistake instead of making them ourselves.

Failure to train in righteousness

- Make them go back and do what’s right

- Protection from wrong influence

- Danger of peer pressure

- Encourage them to use their influence in a positive way: Rebel against what is wrong in the culture. Our kids should rebel against what is wrong around them, not against us. Rebel against what society is telling them. Make their teen years count for God.

(DVD Dr. Davis What to expect from our kids/twelve year olds? The teenage years of Jesus Christ)

Key Ingredients to avoid rebellion

1 Pray for our children (Scripture prayer with children)

2. Scripture reading with kids & character training

3. Keeping their hearts

The most important habit we can instill in our kids is daily reading of God’s Word. It is about consistent, calm not done in anger. Correct and get it over with. Other punishments lead to constant anger.

Very good seminar. I am too often satisfied with forcing obedience from my kids. What I want is wrong. I shouldn’t want their obedience, I want their heart which will leads to obedience. Forcing obedience will not give us their hearts.

Friday, May 15, 2009

INCH: Workshop 1

Homeschooling for such a time as this

Skeet Savage

“I don’t see homeschooling as an option” This is God’s mandate.

- We must understand the times to understand why homeschooling is for such a time as this.

- Immorality has gone mainstream. How did we get here?

- This is the fruit of years of value neutral, Godless education. Governmental education has a different approach and goal than Christian education. We need to understand history. Homeschooling was once persecuted in this country.

- Will the Son of Man find faith in your house, in your children, in you? The test of the Christian is that the world will hate you.

- We have been called out of government schools, called for a purpose, to raise up a people to witness to a lost and dying world.

- What are your children learning from you, holiness or covetousness? What is the purpose of education, is it to get a job to get money to buy stuff?

- Are you homeschooling for the glory of God?

- Homeschooling is a means by which is disciple our children until Christ is fully formed in them.

- You can’t have a prayerless homeschool. It is a “one anothering” homeschool, we cannot homeschool like the world homeschool.

- Homeschooling is how we train our children to be about the Fathers business and nothing else.

- We cannot just be concerned about me and mine, it is not a head in the sand approach. We must be aware of the challenges that face us in such a time as this.

- God intended for us to feel a little overwhelmed when you hold that baby for the first time.

- Some see homeschooling as a political movement. To God it is not a political movement.

Skeet is a pioneer of sorts, she was homeschooling her kids in the 70’s or as she said I was a homeschooler when homeschooling wasn’t cool!

The never ending quest for relevance

The Wall Street Journal (of all places) had an interesting article on the struggle of "emergent" churches trying to adapt to being the establishment in many ways rather than being an alternative to the establishment, An Upstart Church Movement Wrestles With Growing Older . It is a fascinating look at the "growing up" of emergent churches. I found a couple of quotes to really capture the essence of their problem...

Trinity's "season of change," as Mr. Mathes describes it, is emblematic of the struggle that many religious institutions face as they reach a certain age: how to reach a new generation while remaining relevant to the needs of the congregation. But at churches like Trinity, which identify as Christian but deliberately choose not to connect with any denomination, the transition is especially challenging. These churches were founded by people in rebellion against established institutions. Ten years down the road, they have become the establishment.
Mr. Cron says Trinity was at a size and an age where "it needed a new set of eyes," to see new things. "You don't want to become ossified," he says. "You have to keep thinking freshly on how to do church."

When your main concerns becomes "being relevant", you quickly find out how fickle a concept "relevance" is. Your driving passion becomes finding out what the newest fad is because the worst thing that can happen to your church is not drifting into heresy, it is becoming passe and boring or GASP irrelevant. In many, many ways emerging churches have the same problem as traditional institutional churches: they focus on "how to do church" and that really is not what it is all about. The church is not something we do, it is who we are.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

INCH starts tomorrow

We are helping with the vendor set-up today, but the INCH conference starts tomorrow. Here is a sampling of the sessions we are going to (some together and some separately to maximize our attendance)...

FREEDOM: Homeschools At Risk with “Change” in Government
Chris Klicka, attorney for the Home School Legal Defense Association

This talk is a wake up call for all homeschoolers to be ready at a moment’s notice for action. Chris will give a bird’s eye view of what is happening in Washington D.C. and around the country in the state legislatures, as he reports on the current battle grounds and issues of the day. We'll talk about the dangers facing homeschools, looking especially at the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child waiting to be ratified by the US Senate. Chris will demonstrate how it would destroy parental rights in America and explain what you can do. He will discuss the make-up of Congress and the new administration, along with their philosophies and possible attempts to remove protections for homeschools in federal education legislation.

FAMILY: The ‘HOME’ in Homeschooling
Todd Wilson, The Family Man

Since the beginning of time, family has been the keystone in God’s plan for the transmission of truth and redemption. Because of that, families have also become a primary target for the enemy’s attack. But don’t lose heart; God has given us each other so that we can stand strong against the bombardment. Join Todd prepared to laugh, feel encouraged, and be challenged in YOUR distinct role within your family, within the homeschooling community, and within the larger Body of Christ. United we stand, but divided…we fall.

Parents’ Rights… A Crisis is Coming by William Wagner

In 1923, the United States Supreme Court ruled that parents have the fundamental right to direct the education and upbringing of their children. So why are parental rights suddenly endangered? Hear how the Supreme Court and our nation’s lower courts are failing to hold parental rights to the same legal standard as fundamental rights like speech and press, and how European court decisions on children’s rights are influencing our U.S. judicial system. There are three threats to parental rights that involve the political right, political left, and international law, and a solution has been proposed that will be the battle of the century for home schoolers and other pro-family forces. Come hear about the next biggest threat to our homeschool freedom and what you can do about it.

Training Boys To Be Godly Men by Kenneth Knott

Presented by a homeschooling father of six boys, this workshop is for fathers interested in taking a more active role in raising their own sons toward biblical masculinity and maturity. Practical advice is offered in the way of capitalizing on the strengths of other like-minded men so that sons experience a plurality of leadership in which fathers play a central role. Education is presented as natural, engaging, and a source of intimate joy for fathers and sons together. This workshop will challenge, inform, and leave you encouraged!

Our older kids are going to some sessions as well like...

Can Girls Have Guys as Friends? by Phylicia Duran

Saying you’re committed to purity is one thing… but how do you actually walk that out? Often girls are at a loss as to how they should go about friendships with young men before they are of the age to marry. Join us for an honest discussion about modesty, flirtation, relationships with guys, and the differences between relationships during your high school years and afterward.
(we know Phylicia from up north and she has a great blog for teens and young adults, A Quill and Inkwell)

Learning Faithfulness to Your Future Spouse by Tom Houck

When should a person begin to be faithful to his or her future spouse - before or after they know who they are? The Bible has a lot to say on this subject! Not knowing who their future spouse is, doesn’t give anyone the right to be unfaithful. If you are old enough – that person already exists. Therefore, having a romantic relationship with anyone who is not God’s specific person for you means you are not only being unfaithful to your future spouse, you are causing someone else’s future spouse to also be unfaithful. Learn how to be emotionally faithful, which is the first step to being physically faithful. If a person has not followed these principles, they are not alone. Learn how to follow God’s principles from now on, how to conquer discouragement, prevent further damage, and receive God’s forgiveness!

Sounds pretty educational and encouraging. Look for updates tomorrow and Saturday between sessions and vendor hall shopping!