Friday, September 19, 2008

On a Holiday/Vacation

My family and I are on a short holiday/vacation away to visit family and friends - and so I will not be posting again until October 1st. May God continue to bless you with the fullness of His joy!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Self-centered Christianity

Here are my favorite two video clips about how some people live out their Christianity. The first is about self-centered faith, the second is about self-centered church.

Messiah complex

An article by Gene Edward Veith from World Magazine 2008-09-23/30.

Obama and the danger of a divinized ruler

Critics accuse Barack Obama of presenting himself as some kind of Messiah. His speech upon clinching the Democratic nomination claimed for the event a cosmic significance that future generations would look back upon: "This was the moment," he said, "when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal." His campaign slogans exhort us to "Believe." One of his posters gives biblical concepts a new object: "Faith. Hope. Change. Barack Obama for President."

But Obama's messianic image is more than just over-the-top political rhetoric. Many Americans are actually giving him religious veneration. Some are even hailing him as savior. Conservative Catholic blogger Christopher Blosser started an entire website, Is Barack Obama the Messiah? (, to track the spiritual devotion to the presidential nominee. The site shows how media photographs portrays the candidate bathed in heavenly light or adorned with halos. More telling are the testimonies of Obama's disciples.

Says U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., the son of the civil-rights activist, of Obama's pending nomination: "The event itself is so extraordinary that another chapter could be added to the Bible to chronicle its significance." Movie director Spike Lee goes further. After the presidential election, "You'll have to measure time by 'Before Obama' and 'After Obama.'" Lee added, "Everything's going to be affected by this seismic change in the universe." "A black man with a white mother became a savior to us," proclaimed Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam. He "could turn out to be one who can lift America from her fall."

Established journalists have embraced the new religion. "Barack Obama isn't really one of us," reports Mark Mortford of the San Francisco Chronicle. He is, in fact, "a Lightworker, that rare kind of attuned being who has the ability to lead us not merely to new foreign policies or health care plans or whatnot, but who can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet, of relating and connecting and engaging with this bizarre earthly experiment. These kinds of people actually help us evolve." At Obama rallies, such is the religious fervor that people often pass out, like being slain in the spirit at a Pentecostal revival.

Democrats have been warning against the danger of mixing religion and politics. They fear the influence of conservative Christians on a secular state. But influence and mixing is far less of a danger to a free republic than the union of religion and politics in the form of a divinized ruler. Human beings have a tendency to revert to that kind of ruler, as we see in the god-kings of ancient Egypt, the divine emperors of Rome, the divine-right absolute monarchies of early modern Europe, and the cult of the Leader in today's totalitarian states.

The real Messiah, though, was despised, rejected, and crucified. He gives salvation from sin, death, and the devil and opens the way to the kingdom of heaven. And He allows for no other Messiahs.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Blessing of God in Growth and Tragedy

I have been reflecting lately about the dichotomy of what is happening at Arrowsmith in these days - as we are a season of great growth (in spirit and in attendance) while at the same time also experiencing a tremendous amount of struggle, pain, tragedy and death. The reality is both of these are from God’s sovereign loving hand. He is using both the joy of growth and the pain of tragedy to only develop our hearts and mold our character, but also to keep us from sliding too far off of either side of these of these issues; growth can slide into comfort, laziness and ingratitude, and tragedy can result in despair, depression and hopelessness.

Pastor Lee Boehm and I were witnesses to see the blessing God gives in joy and tragedy in the lives of Alvin and Judi Schulz during our visit with them yesterday in Vancouver. In spite of the tragedy of a severed spine, they are rejoicing in God because of who He is and what He is doing in their own lives, and the lives of others. They both recognize that God has a glorious plan and purpose in the midst of their tragic circumstance. In observing them I thought of Paul’s words from 2 Corinthians 6:10 where he reflects that we are to be people who in Christ should be known "as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.”

John Piper mirrored a similar thought on his blog from August 27, 2008. Here it is:

The Strange Pair of Joy and Tragedy

Soren Kierkegaard said, “When the age loses the tragic, it gains despair.”

This sounds profoundly right.

The elements of life that make tragedy possible are the same as the ones that fight off despair. For tragedy to be real there has to be something hugely precious, and there has to be the capacity to feel a great emotion. When these are both present, tragedy can happen.

Despair is the horrible blankness that settles over us when nothing is seen as precious anymore and there is no capacity to feel it anyway.

As great as our tragedy may be, if we feel it to the full, it is a sign that the weapons against despair are still in place.

Often the gifts of God come in strange pairs. “It has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake” (Philippians 1:29).

Monday, September 8, 2008

Parenting – Top 10 Ways to (Wrongly) Provoke Your Children

This is the sixth and last installment of "39 Lessons, 20 Tips and 10 "Don'ts" For Parenting" by Matt & Elizabeth Schmucker from the most recent edition of 9Marks E-Newsletter on Family and Parenting. Here the Schumakers share Top 10 Ways to (Wrongly) Provoke Your Children that they have learned as parents:

Colossians 3:21: "Fathers [and mothers], do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged."

Ephesians 6:4: "Fathers [and mothers], do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."

1. Make it a habit to discipline your child while angry.

2. Make it a point to scold your child – especially in public. Mockery and ridicule work well.

3. Deliberately embarrass your child in front of his/her friends. Name calling really gets their attention.

4. Create double standards so that the child never knows who or what to follow.

5. Preach and hold the child to a gospel of self-discipline instead of a gospel of grace. (Note: the Bible presents Pharisees as very unhappy people.)

6. Never admit you're wrong and never ask your children for forgiveness.

7. Inspect your child until you find something wrong. Holding them to an unreachable standard makes this task easier.

8. Judge a fight between your children before you've listened to them.

9. Compare your child to others.

10. Promise your children things early in the day and then don't fulfill the promise.

Parents should provoke their children…in good ways: "And let us consider how we may spur one another on [provoke!] toward love and good deeds" (Heb. 10:24).

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Parenting - 20 Tips For Raising God-Honoring Children

This is the fifth installment of "39 Lessons, 20 Tips and 10 "Don'ts" For Parenting" by Matt & Elizabeth Schmucker from the most recent edition of 9Marks E-Newsletter on Family and Parenting. Here the Schumakers share 20 tips for raising God-honoring children they have learned as parents:

1. The saying goes, "When mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." We believe daddy is actually the problem. From a complementarian's viewpoint one needs to conclude the above saying with, "And if daddy ain't happy in the Lord, ain't nobody happy."

2. In a stay-at-home-mom scenario, dad tends to back away from discipline when mom has been with the children all day. In one sense this is wise as he has not observed the rhythm and rhyme of the day. However, dad needs to catch up and jump in.

3. Talk to both good and not-so-good parents; you'll learn lessons from both.

4. Talking to really old parents may not prove to be fruitful as their memories fade and they'll remember raising kids as either a nightmare or a glorious experience. Talking to parents 5-10 years ahead of where you are seems most fruitful (Prov. 15:22: "Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed").

5. Though you may think this premature, have a vision for being involved spiritually with your grandchildren. This will shape even your parenting.

  • Positive example: Paul writing to Timothy said, "I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in your also" (2 Tim. 1:5).
  • Negative example: "After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel" (Judg. 2:10).

6. Let your children see you practicing hospitality and let them participate. This breaks down the selfish tendencies all kids have (Rom. 12:13: "Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality").

7. Unbelievers set up their home for the benefit of themselves. Christians should set up and use their homes for the benefit of their family, the church community, and outsiders (notice the order of this list). Supporting verses:

  • "If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever" (1 Tim. 5:8).
  • "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers" (Gal. 6:10).

8. If we could do it again, we would not have a television in our home. The television competes with more important things going on in the home. It competes for right thinking in the mind of the child. If you have a television, then watch it with your children (when you can) and play "catch the lies."

9. Our generation of parents encourages children to express themselves and vent all that's on their minds. My parents' generation grew up under the instruction that "Children are to be seen and not heard." Both appear to be out of balance. Proverbs 10:8 says, "The wise in heart accept commands, but a chattering fool comes to ruin." Ephesians 4:29 suggests that the purpose of speech is to the benefit of the listener.

10. You cannot expect younger children to obey if their older siblings do not. Proverbs 10:17 says, "He who heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray."

11. One's conscience is not the same as the Law of the Lord. If conscience is defined as "That inner-voice that acts as a guide as to the rightness or wrongness of a behavior," then your conscience is only as good as your knowledge of God's Word. An informed conscience can be a trustworthy thing if it is drawing from God's Word, God's Law. An uninformed conscience is incredibly dangerous. Inform your child's conscience by pouring in God's Word.

12. We often speak of a home with the aroma of Christ (peace, hope, forgiveness and love—all for God's glory). Alternatives are homes with the aroma of

  • a bus station—people just passing through
  • a war zone—people fighting all the time

What does your home smell like?

13. "Moral children" does not equal "Christian children."

14. Do a "sermon review" with your children sometime on Sunday. Have each child recap what he or she learned in Sunday School or "big church" and then help them apply it to their own hearts and trials. Then spend time praying for each other's coming week.

15. Martin Luther said he had the responsibility to be the worship leading pastor in his own home. His home was to be both a school and a church. Fathers, do you have this mindset?

16. The unstated implication of Luther's charge (above) is that fathers need to be present to lead in worship. Being in the house with a Blackberry in hands doesn't count!

17. Don Whitney encourages "brevity, regularity and flexibility" in family worship.

18. Build in your children a global vision of God's work in the world and thereby build a Great commission Mindset. We have found that having a map near to where we eat most of our meals is helpful. Reading from Operation World can inform the entire family of God's work in the world.

19. When children ask for permission to do something, their request can fall into one of several categories:

  • Not Wise / Permissible - E.g. out with friends on Sat night
  • Not Wise / Not Permissible - E.g. underage drinking and driving
  • Wise / Permissible - E.g. excused from family chores to prepare for next day's test
  • Wise / Not Permissible - This problem rarely presents itself. Wants to save money for college but is not working age.

The Not Wise / Permissible category is the hardest to deal with. Try to break down the request and sort out in your own mind why you think the request is unwise. Is it your own preference or is it truly unwise? Then encourage them to think through the wisdom of the matter, so that, even if you permit them to do it, they will remember the lesson when things go poorly.

20. Build Godward children.

The Goodness of God in the Blessing of Family

This past Wednesday morning Eric and Jennifer flew back to Boston to continue their master’s degree at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. We were truly blessed to have them with us for over three months. The last few days Nancy, Micah and myself definitely sense an emptiness in our home and our hearts - yet we rejoice that God has been so good in bringing us together as a family this summer!

Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion! For he strengthens the bars of your gates; he blesses your children within you. (Psalm 147:12-13)

In taking them to the airport in Nanaimo I was reminded of one of our favorite video clips about flying by Brian Regan. Here it is:

Friday, September 5, 2008

Parenting - Lessons About God

This is the fourth installment of "39 Lessons, 20 Tips and 10 "Don'ts" For Parenting" by Matt & Elizabeth Schmucker from the most recent edition of 9Marks E-Newsletter on Family and Parenting. Here are lessons 37-39 in which the Schumakers share what they have learned about God as parents:

37. Prayer is a mighty weapon to use in the life of your children - i
t changes the parent's approach to the child and it softens the hard-hearted child.

38. God uses children as a mirror to your own heart to expose your sin and hypocrisy.

39. God elects. God saves. Parents cannot do this heart-changing work. At best we can pray and point to the One who can cause our children to be born again.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

What We Deserve

One the most common responses to suffering and struggle and tragedy in life tends to be: "I don't deserve this!" Here is a mailbag letter from the August 9/16, 2008 issue of World Magazine written by Melanie Burns of Becida, Minnesota who gives us a God-centered response from an example in her own life:

When I had cancer, well-meaning people told me, "You don't deserve this!" But according to the Bible, I did deserve it, and worse. If I had died at age 26 and left my two little girls without a mother, my life was still a picture of God's grace. Every time I had seen a baby smile, held my husband's hand, smelled a campfire, or even taken a breath, I experienced a precious gift from God. Seven healthy years and three babies later, my kids' drawings and my husband's loving glances still get me teary-eyed. Dirty diapers, uncorrected math papers, and piles of unwashed laundry are proof that I'm still alive and experiencing God's grace in another day.

Great is your mercy, O Lord; give me life according to your rules. (Psalm 119:156)

Parenting - Lessons About Satan

This is the third installment of "39 Lessons, 20 Tips and 10 "Don'ts" For Parenting" by Matt & Elizabeth Schmucker from the most recent edition of 9Marks E-Newsletter on Family and Parenting. Here are lessons 31-36 in which the Schumakers share what they have learned about Satan as parents.

31. It seems Satan comes into our homes on Sunday mornings in order to make the Lord's Day one of struggle.

32. Do not feel outside pressure to baptize your children. Look for and test for a credible profession of faith in your child (Prov 22:15 "Folly is bound up in the heart of a child…").

33. Satan is a divider and always attacks authority: husband/wife and parent/child. In your home fight for unity around the gospel.

34. For mothers, the "I-can-do-it-all-superwoman" mindset is at best a myth and at worst a lie from hell (Matt. 6:24 "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money"; Luke 10:40 "But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made; verse 41: "Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her").

35. Beware of sports…on Sundays! Decide while your children are young that you will not allow the growing all-weekend sports phenomenon to usurp your worship (Ex. 20:8 "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God").

36. Arm your children for the world, not (necessarily) shield them from it. Consider getting your high-school-aged children out of the Christian bubble.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Mount Arrowsmith - Labour Day 2008

From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work. (Psalm 104:13)

Parenting - Lessons About Children

This is the second installment of "39 Lessons, 20 Tips and 10 "Don'ts" For Parenting" by Matt & Elizabeth Schmucker from the most recent edition of 9Marks E-Newsletter on Family and Parenting. Here are lessons 12-30 in which the Schumakers share what they have learned about children as parents.

12. Little kids need the strength of your youth; older kids need your wisdom (i.e. have children while you're young!).

13. Pack in truth while your children are little and trust the Lord to unpack it in his time.

14. Study your children. Know their "love language."

15. Consistent, loving, faithful discipline brings peace to the home. Inconsistency brings chaos.

16. Do not let your child see their value in light of the world's standards. The world rewards the 3 R's. God delights in the heart that is tuned toward his (Deuteronomy 30:8-10: "You will again obey the Lord and follow all his commands I am giving you today. Then the Lord your God will make you most prosperous in all the work of your hands and in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your land. The Lord will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted in your fathers, if you obey the Lord your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul").

17. God hands out "talents" to our children. The child with two talents who exercises both may in fact be more pleasing in the eyes of God than the one with five talents who exercises three (Matt. 25). Faithful stewardship is the goal!

18. On some days, it's just fine to accomplish nothing more than keeping your kids fed and safe.

19. Older children need to learn how to care for the weaker among them; doing so smells like Jesus. Matthew 18 reads, "And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me." By contrast, Psalm 10:2 reads, "In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak, who are caught in the schemes he devises."

20. Do not presume you will be able to speak into the lives of your older children if you do not live in their world when they are younger. Play with your children. There is a reap/sow principle at work here (2 Cor. 9:6: "Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously").

21. There's nothing wrong with boredom for your children. It causes them to be creative.

22. Send your kids to bed well (and school!) (Eph. 4:26: "In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry").

23. Make sure your kids keep short accounts with each other. Create a culture of care and forgiveness in your home (1 Cor. 13:5: "Love…keeps no record of wrongs").

24. Teach your kids to be shock absorbers, not wave makers (Matt. 5:9: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God").

25. Kids can memorize scripture very quickly.

26. Teach your children to notice needs. Teach them to ask, "What can I do to help?" (Phil. 2:3: "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves").

27. Teach your children to look adults in the eyes. It shows respect and recognizes authority.

28. Fight materialism by teaching your children to have a thankful heart (1 Thes. 5:18: "…give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus").

29. Teach your children to receive reproof, correction, and instruction (Prov. 12:15 "The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice").

30. Let kids be kids. Let them dabble in various areas of extra-curricular activities (sports, art, drama, etc) rather than build a resume.