Thursday, May 24, 2007

Dug in Pride

The Federal Vision squabbles continue to amaze me. Although I do not like the term 'the Federal Vision guys', it appears that those of us who believe a certain few set of things are getting lumped into a crowd. So, while there is no Federal Vision proper, I suppose I identify, and gladly so, with those men who are now being accused of being 'Federal Vision.' I think right will win out and trust that being Federal Vision will eventually roll into the background as simply those men who are articulating and emphasizing a few important differences in Biblical theology and practice.

The big issues are emphases in Baptism and the Lord's Supper, paedocommunion and the objective covenant. Some of the things we emphasize in these areas are nuances that are not addressed in the great Reformed Confessions. Very few of the so-called Federal Vision men take important exceptions from the Confessions, Westminster or the Three Forms. We believe them, down into the details. The exceptions would be on what we ought to do on the Lord's Day, namely feasting, and not being gloomy, and who ought to take the Lord's Supper, even our small children, because they are saints, too!

I think a lot of this boils down to opposition about paedocommunion. Many of the rest of the issues are red herrings. Our men argue regularly from the Scriptures while many of our opponents have staked out their ground on the confessions. That is just plain wrong.
We do not mind starting with the confessions. We are confessional. Confessions are a good summary of what we beleive the bible to teach. But when two men of the same confession, disagree, it is necessary for them to resort to Scripture. Our men are doing this. Our opponents are not doing it very well. That is curious.

One of my students sometimes makes stupid mistakes. When the dumb mistake is pointed out to him, he digs in his feet. He insists that he does not know the right way to do the problem. He persists in this error, not through ignorance and lack of knowledge, but because of plain old stubborn pride. He does not need the problem explained to him again. It is not a difference of opinion on how to do the problem. He just needs a spanking. No, I don't give him a spanking but I do help him see that he needs one and that is usually enough. If he still persists in his stubborn pride after that, I inform his father. I turn him over to father and he takes care of it.

Sure, I think our opponents are the ones with stubborn pride. They have persisted in their error, false accusations and purposeful misunderstandings. At this point, they have a lot invested in NOT seeing the truth (or simply even our veiw of it) , or even in the WAY the thing has been handled, if not the very issues themselves. To admit wrong now means to give up way to much. But to fail to admit wrong means foolishly holding on to the things one ought to let go.

What things?

For one, the accusations of high doctrinal error against such men as Steve Wilkins, Peter Leithart, Douglas Wilson, Rich Lusk, Jeff Myers, James Jordan and the rest of the banditos. Just give it up and admit that it was not as big of a deal as you intially thought. You over reacted, Joe Morecraft, OPC Report, PCA Study Committee, MARS. Admit it and make things right so we can get on to real work.

I am willing to bet that time will prove me out. Although the OPC, and PCA seem like large opposing groups, the voices rattling the loudest swords within them are a small but loud group. They currently have a listening public but the voices of reason, Myers 33 reasons not to accept the PCA Study committee report, will shatter the enthusiasm. Your posturing over the Confessions will be trumped in the light of exegesis. Get out your Bibles. We welcome this. Do you?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Communion Mediation-King Jesus

We celebrate many things at the Lord’s Table. It is a table of communication, conversation and communion between us and the Lord.

Here we renew covenant vows. One of the central commitments that we have made is to be submissive to the Lord. He is king. We are subjects. And He is more than just the kind of King that you try to get around obeying. In many kingdoms, the ruling authority are seen as the them, the people are the us. Thus, it is easy to have the mindset that the ruling authorities are not us. We have to get around them and to do so does not a cause a problem with our conscience. Because the authorities are them and not us, we do not have a problem avoiding them or even disobeying them. Some of this is okay, depending on who the authority is. Is it the federal government, public education, theologians, academics, philosophers? We have to figure this all out in real time.

But at the table, we come to submit ourselves to the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the ultimate and infallible authority. He is an absolute ruler but His rule over all is directly to our benefit. He loves us dearly and treats us accordingly. Thus, it would be the utmost affront for us to circumvent His rule. We ought to gladly submit to every aspect of His monarchy. We say this here in this meal. So, do not keep secrets from this King. Do not subvert His rule, disobey His ambassadors or disregard His written law. Do not go around His rule but come to Him in humility and homage. For in submitting to His rule is the promise of blessing and life eternal.

Fairwell Falwell

This past week a great saint passed away. Rev. Jerry Falwell died and His Spirit has gone to be with Lord, waiting for the Resurrection of the Dead. Just as we remind you of your baptism when we bring little ones into the world and into the church, so it is fitting for us to remember our baptisms at the passing of the saints into glory.

Many of you went to Liberty University and at times have attended Thomas Road Baptist Church. Thus, Rev. Falwell had a large impact on your life. By God’s providence you ended up here where we have important and significant differences with the doctrine and practice of Rev. Falwell. But instead of thinking that where you are now is a different stream than the one you are were in there, I hope you can think of it as a deeper stream. Thus, it is fitting to give thanks for Rev. Falwell for being faithful to God and to you further up the stream. And he was faithful there until the end. There are many aspects about his life accomplishments and personal character that are great examples to all of us. Let us remember him and let us also remember God’s marking of us to be faithful over many decades. He fought the good fight. He finished the race. Let us do likewise.

Some people did not like Rev. Falwell because he sometimes said things that he should not have said. At times, he found himself having to apologize and the apology was construed to mean that he was taking back his initial assertions of biblical commands. But he was not taking them back. As far as I know, he never did so.

So, while Rev. Falwell sometimes said things that he should not have said, or not the way he did, or not at the right time, he more often said many things that he should have said. He said them boldly and he said them in a media spotlight that was particularly hostile, not just to Falwell’s brand of Christianity, but to the very tenets of Christianity. God’s will, I pray, for one man more, of such fortitude that he displayed.

Ps 71:23-24 23 My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing unto thee; and my soul, which thou hast redeemed. 24 My tongue also shall talk of thy righteousness all the day long: for they are confounded, for they are brought unto shame, that seek my hurt.

While we should be careful with our tongues, we ought not to fault those bold men who display their bibles and proclaim God’s Word. Our danger is not saying what we shouldn’t. Our danger is failing to say what we should say. Rev. Falwell rarely made that mistake. He was fearless of the liberal forces around him. I would say that much of the church in America are like scared rabbits around liberals, the media, modern Academia, and perhaps even unbelievers in general. We are cowed into silence when we should speak out.

Where will we find men who are willing to proclaim not just the remission of sins, which is a grand and glorious doctrine, but Repentance and the Remission of sins? Something has gone wrong. Men need to stop doing the wicked that they are doing. To the world, this is the doctrine of death unto death but to those who are being saved, it is the aroma of life unto life. Let us not fear men, but God, and speak of the manifold glories of God in Christ, just like Jerry Falwell did.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Fishers of Fish

Fishers of fish sometimes make good fishers of men. Well, at least perhaps there is some fishing knowledge worth thinking about in cathching men. The fish are biting today and that gets me thinking.

I have a little spot I check often. On the way to work, or the way home, I stop off and fish. Sometimes for only five minutes. But in five mintues I can know if the fish are biting, or not. If I stayed longer, I could probably catch a fish or two but I like catching fish in quantity and do not like to fish for hours with little success. But that does not mean the times when I do catch a lot of fish are times of small investment. I've done my work ahead of time, watching for right conditions to develop.

I know where the fish are. I know when they are hitting. And when they hit, I know how to hook them. But, the fish are not always there and they are not always biting.

There are some corollaries here for fishing for men. Men are pre-disposed to bite. At some point, given the right convergence of circumstances, they will be interested in the presentation. And while presentation is important, if the bite is on, even a bad presentation will produce consistent results.

I think we should look for hungry men. This hunger is displayed in many different ways. Questions, uncertainty, trials, all are an indication that a man may be growing hungry. Then, make a good presentation. Speak the truth in love. If God has prepared the soil of the heart, the plant will grow. If God has heated up the water, then the fish are going to light up. But the control of all the elements is up to God.

So, look for good conditions. And when you see them, cast your bread, or in my case, pumpkinseed salamander, on the water and expect a good bite.

Joyful Home-Part 9

Prov 29:15 15 The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.


Raising Children means that parents must always be teaching. You do not get days off or time outs. For some parents, this can be exasperating. For some children, this can be exasperating. The job of parenting never ends. You don’t get breaks and you shouldn’t want them.

Why is this the case? Because you never know what is going to happen next. If you decide to have parenting free times or discipline breaks, your offspring may not comply. In fact, they have such amazing natural psychological abilities, that they know when you are heading out for a coffee break and plan their little bits of misbehavior or rebellion at precisely that time. Instead of being constantly frustrated by this, godly and mature parents ought to be amused.

Because you never get to lay down your mantle as parent, it is important that you always be prepared to do the job. Must parents be perfect then? Far from it. We are humans, just like our children. We are sinners, just like them. But we need to understand that because the task of parenting is so daunting, it is important that we be more mature, read this sanctified, than our children. We need to anticipate what is going to happen, sinful stuff, and plan for it. That way, when it happens, and it will regularly, it does not catch us off guard and throw us into the kind of tantrum that we are in need of correcting.

Those of you who have been to Walmart or McDonalds know what I mean. The lady’s kid acts up in a frightful manner. The mom asks him to stop. Three seconds later, when said tot knowingly ignores his mother, she flies off into a tirade that is far worse, and if she only knew, much more embarrassing than the child’s initial behavior. But many feel sorry for the mother when they should feel sorry for the child.

So, in order for parents to be able to discipline effectively, it is vital that they already be disciplined themselves. At least, in the area that they are currently trying to teach the child. Parents must be honest to teach to the children not to lie, self-controlled to teach them not to throw tantrums, joyful and content to teach their children the same things. Remember, you CAN get the children to buckle under to your demands. That is no great talent. You are bigger than they are. But what you cannot get them to do is to “do as you say and not as you do.” The children will follow your example, not your words.

This leads us into our next topic. That parents must be spiritual in order to administer discipline. Parents must be spiritual spankers.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Baseball is Life-Too Hard for Most

Is it any wonder that baseball in America is in decline? Athletes, in mass, defect to that particularly unAmerican sport, soccer. Why? Because soccer is fun. Granted. I can't argue.

But why leave that great American, and from my perspective, with tongue slightly in cheek, peculiarly Christian sport that we call baseball? The answer is fairly easy. It is too hard. Baseball does not provide instant results. There is a tremendous amount of frustration and humiliation.

Take a great athlete, one that has never played the game, and put him on a soccer pitch. In days he'll be the one of the top players. Take a great athlete, one who has never played the game, and put him on a baseball diamond. He will miss fly balls. He will struggle at the plate. He will be baffled at curve balls. He will quit and go play soccer.

Okay, okay, don't yell. I don't mind soccer, really. In fact, every 20 or 30 minutes, when someone actually scores, it is almost interesting. My point here is that the fact of baseball defection is proof positive that Americans have learned to take the easy road, the one most traveled by.

Take the curve ball for instance. Many people cannot hit a curve ball. There is no shame in that. It is a hard thing to do. But with a great deal of training, seeing hundreds of curveballs over and over again and getting plunked by a few that didn't curve, one can get a feel for how to do it. This takes time. It takes humiliation. It takes patience. All of the things that American adults, and now by ordinary generation, American children are sorely lacking.

You can hit a curve ball but you have to see the different spin, wait for the ball, keep your hands back, don't lose your hips. Curve balls are training for life. The boys that never learn to hit a curve ball eventually wash out of the sport, whether at the high school or collegiate level. If the pitcher knows that he can get you out on that pitch, he will do so. But many hitters know that one of the easiest pitches to hit out of the park is the curve ball, especially if it hangs in the zone for a tad bit too long.

We get curves all the time in our lives. Things do not go as we plan. The regularity of life, which we can easily deal with, changes speeds. Children get sick. Spouses die. False accusations and rumors swirl. Many Christians do not know how to deal with this, so they either don't deal with it, or they deal with it poorly. But the Christian baseball player knows a trick or two. Keep your eye on the ball, do not commit too soon, wait for it to break, deliver the time honored and disciplined stroke. And if you miss, which you are still inclined to do, then come up swinging the next time.

We sorely need this training. We need it in our churches. We need it in our homes. We need it in our sports. Sadly, it seems to be largely missing from all three.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Joyful Home-Part 8

Thinking Right at the Start

This could be read as thinking correctly from the beginning, which would be good, or simply as thinking from the beginning, which would also be good. Failing to think and plan about what you are doing and why are you doing it is a great problem. Many people do not even think about raising their children until they get into a crisis. A crisis of first time discipline from an 18-month old, or worse, the potentially rebellious teen years for poorly brought up children. Put it off and you'll be sorry. Use a worldly or even an abdicating methodology and you will also be sorry. So, it is good to think right at the beginning but it is better to think right at the beginning.

A home that is harsh cannot expect to produce lovely, happy, well-disciplined children. A harsh home, read father and mother, may get compliance but compliance is not the same thing as discipline. Forced compliance is not discipline. Discipline produces responsibility. Forced compliance often produces the opposite, that is, rebellion. To be sure, much of discipline, especially in the earliest stages, is not much more than forced compliance. You are bigger than they are. Make them obey. But the entire task of disciplining children is to turn them over to a godly self-discipline. The goal is to not have to force them anymore because they earnestly desire to do what is right on their own.

This is important to get at the beginning. Many parents hardly discipline at all when the children are very small, letting them do whatever they want. Then, when they enter their teens, the children act out and the parents start to clamp down until the older teenager is not allowed to do anything without having to give a detailed account. If they disobey, they are then grounded where mom or dad watches over every move and there is virtually no freedom. This is EXACTLY the opposite of what you want to have happen.

Think about it. What you want is for very little children, say under age three, to live in a totalitarian police state. Nearly all of their actions and decisions are centrally governed by queen mother and king father. But as soon as they are able to start making decisions, preferably good ones, then there needs to be an increasing amount of freedom. If you do this right, your seventeen year old ought to have little or no rules, because she is or is very nearly an adult. Rather than what many parents do, which is to throw every conceivable rule at her just at the time when she is expecting independence. Is there any wonder that this methodology causes stark rebellion?

Joyful Home-Part 7


Before we get very much further along in our topic, I want to set some ground rules. I will return to different aspects of these ground rules later on. I will do an apologetic about the rod from scripture in the next chapter. For now, I am assuming that you are on the same page with me. Thus, I am not trying to convince you, I am trying to give you some wisdom on how to discipline correctly.

As I mentioned in the first chapter, we are aiming at a particular kind of aroma in the home. The home should be a lovely place for all members of the family, especially for those little ones who are on the receiving end of discipline. And not just discipline in the abstract, which has many forms, but especially those who are receiving the hard side of a spanking spoon or paddle. The home should be a very pleasant and lovely place for them, as well.

The spiritual aroma of your home should be the smell of baking bread, not sauerkraut. Don’t argue with me here. I am not opposed to sauerkraut, just how it smells when it is cooking. I am not sure how anyone could bring themselves to eat the stuff after having smelled it boiling, though.

Anyway, when gearing up for discipline, bake some bread. Is that lovely smell the general and regular attitude of your home? If so, good, we are ready to get on. If not, then you need to do some rethinking and relearning of your own behavior before you can expect good results with your children. This will become increasingly clear as we move forward.