Saturday, January 31, 2004

Not As Strong As They Think We Are

It's uncanny how many times people have commented to us that they don't have the patience to homeschool. Like a character out of The Wizard of Oz, if only they had "patience" then all would be well.

What's worse is they seem to think that WE have patience! As if educating our children at home just comes easy for people like us! To twist a title from a Rich Mullins' song, we are not as strong as they think we are. My wife and I have come face-to-face with our utter sinfulness as we try our patience everyday with our children.

Both wheat and tares are growing out of our homeschooling experience. The wheat is that my wife is becoming ever more beautiful. The difficulties of our first full year of homeschooling have been instruments in God's hand to sanctify her. Yes, some days there are tears, and ashamedly, some days there are fits of rage. But more and more (it is undeniable!) God is honoring our decision by bringing forth fruits of the Spirit in my wife.

On the other hand, tares come from when we do "loose it" with our children. It scares us to see our oldest son angry more often. You reap what you sow (Gal 6:7).

But I, as responsible to God for my wife and children, remain convinced that we are on the right course. To say it bluntly, getting rid of the children is not getting rid of your "patience" problem. The problem lies within us, it's not external to us. We need to accept the difficulties of child-rearing as tools in God's hand, and although we are weak, He is strong.

Friday, January 30, 2004

Sibling Rivalry

Our two oldest children, 6 and 4, seem to have gotten over a long-running, bad case of sibling rivalry. They still have flare-ups, but more often now it's just general buffoonery between them. We prefer this to quarrelling, but Miss Manners would find our table behavior lacking.

Wouldn't it be great if the sibling rivalry between reformed leaders would also run out of wind? I found R.C. Sproul Jr.'s squib largely refreshing. But not enough reformed leaders have swallowed this medicine. I listened to the public debate today between Doug Wilson and his secular opponents in Moscow, Idaho and was saddened to hear that one reformed leader had published an article against Doug Wilson in the town's newspaper prior to the debate. That article was used by the secularists to further discredit Christ Church and Christian schools in general. I've loosely followed the blows exchanged between these reformed leaders, and know that matters remain unresolved. But publishing a hit piece in the city newspaper seems just plain spiteful.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

A Daughter of Sarah

Worldview Academy has a good ad in WORLD (31 Jan 04, pg 33). Pictured is a female college advisor described as beautiful and sincerely desiring your daughter to be free of the shackles of useless religion. When it comes to college and our daughter, Kristin and I are considering it, but we don't want to send our girl away from home. Perhaps education in a subject like nursing would help her be a better home-keeper? We're really hoping that by the time our daughter is ready for college there will be better options.

But getting back to the ad, what is the definition of a beautiful woman? In Scripture we read that Sarah was a beautiful woman. Does this refer to her appearance? It's clear that men were attracted to her. But consider what God prized about Sarah. Her gentle and quiet spirit is cited as very valuable in His sight and became the pattern for all godly women. And this is emphatically called beauty (1 Pet 3).

As a young man I wasn't trained to think of beauty this way. It's still hard to think this way.

George Whitefield, while commending Jonathan Edwards' wife, Sarah, said he longed to marry a daughter of Abraham like her. In addition to being a daughter of Abraham, our girls should also be a daughter of Sarah. They are to make themselves beautiful the way the holy women of the past have.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Where are the Men?

It's common knowledge that men have largely abdicated their family leadership responsibility. And the women have picked it up. It's also well established that men have withdrawn from church leadership. And the women have picked it up.

As I walked into work today, some other observations came to mind: "There sure are a lot of women here; more women than men, easily". "A lot of the men that are here don't do much". "I've had a female boss for three straight assignments".

Maybe it's just me, but it appears men have abdicated their leadership role at work, too. And the women have picked it up.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Working for Uncle Laban

The most commonly voiced ailment among men I know is doubt about their career choice. Some friends are chasing contentment by repeatedly changing careers. Others though remind me of Jacob. They continue in their toil for 'Uncle Laban' because he offers them 'Rachel'. Contentment will be realized, they believe, when they receive Laban's promise.

At a young age I entered into an agreement with a similiar uncle. The 'Rachel' of his deal was leadership and an exciting lifestyle. Other men choose different uncles to find the Rachel of their ambitions. But we share this in common. When we reach the point in our career where we expect to have Rachel but instead receive Leah, we wonder whether we picked the wrong uncle. We question whether we should quit this uncle's service. Most of us don't. Since our obligation for Rachel remains partly paid, and usually our wages are changed in a way we like, many of us settle for Leah now while still hoping for Rachel later.

After reading Back to Basics I've realized my Uncle Laban has no Rachel to offer. And what pseudo-contentment he does offer, I don't need. Rather, my vocation is a vehicle to serve God in a priestly and kingly role and everyday. I am to proclaim His excellencies (priestly function) and reign upon the earth to His glory (kingly function). I am to do all things in an excellent manner unto the Lord. And in doing this I find the leadership and lifestyle that I originally longed for.

If you're about to decide on a career or you're re-thinking the one you have now, my advice to you is don't let the decision consume you. If you are in a lawful vocation, able to proclaim God's excellencies and do your work in an excellent manner, be content with what you have.
The Way Things Ought To Be

I'm not a seminarian, but I've heard that one of the difficulties of a seminary education is finding an unexplored topic of doctrine for your final thesis. Some of the titles for the papers I've seen are arcane and seem of little use for the minister's future service in the church.

Why not think and write on things much more instructive and important? Why not describe the way things ought to be in the church? For example, if it's true that the state has wrongly assumed much of the church's responsibilities, perhaps we need thesis papers like:

- If abortion were to end, or greatly diminish, how should a church be prepared to respond?
- How should the church address the woes of the foster care system?

Am I saying that doctrine is unimportant? By no means! I am not for diminishing a proper understanding of orthodoxy. At the same time, I see a great need for the church to understand more about orthopraxy.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

3 hours, 40 minutes with a Mormon

I sat next to a friendly Mormon couple on my flight from Atlanta to Salt Lake City this week.

Besides discussing Jesus, the Trinity, and the gospel, I was also able to learn about their missionary preparation and upbringing. My fellow passenger did his two years as a missionary to South Africa in the mid-90s. During that time he made 7 notches on his Book of Mormon.

As we entered into our conversation he mentioned being rusty on apologetics. This gave me the impression that a Mormon's zeal for the lost runs dry when the two year trip is over. However, later I saw how their doctrine of baptism for the dead empties them of any evangelistic zeal. Why should he worry if I reject his presentation of the Mormon faith? A hundred years from now if any of my ancestors embrace it, they can be baptized for dead-me. And somehow, in the Mormon's view of the afterlife, I would once again have the chance to accept this faith and be saved.

I'm surprised at how thoroughly wacky the Mormon faith is. It's not even monotheistic. Christians have more in common with Muslims than Mormons.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Random Thoughts on Leading a Family

Ways I've tried to teach my young children the faith:

During bathtime (which is after family worship), I take advantage of the captive audience and go more in depth in explaining the parts of the Creed and other memory work. This not only allows Family Worship to progress with the whole family in mind, but also ensures my children understand what they're saying.

Another crazy idea for young children is the candy game. It's pretty simple, for every catechism question answered correctly they get an M&M or something. I've also seen the catechism incorporated into freeze-tag.

Ways I've tried to disciple my wife:

One of her biggest needs is an occassional get-away break. I call this giving her a sabbatical. A night and a day in a nice hotel or a B&B where she can catch up on crafts, a new book, etc, goes a long way towards rejuvenation. Also, one night away from the children is enough to remind you how special this time of their life is.

When she goes for a lengthy drive by herself (to a women's meeting, etc), I give her a good message on CD to listen to on the way. I try to ensure she hears the best of all the stuff that I've been listening to.

Last year we read the Bible through on the same plan. This year, I've decided that we'll follow Tabletalk's study of Hebrews but add Calvin's commentary and a weekly Heidelberg catechism question and memory verse.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Dear Agnostic

I was pleased to receive a response to my Razormouth Article from a young agnostic. It seems that God is calling her to Himself. She wrote to tell me that she wants to believe and find a good church! Praise God!

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Duped No More

Don't confuse the blessing of God with the craft of Satan.

How many times have we heard somebody thank God for something that was clearly, straight out of a pit in hell? Here are several clear examples: acceptance speeches by entertainers; political addresses; ordination rites for homosexuals.

At the same time, there may be more wily ways that we are missing the craft of Satan by thinking it's the blessing of God. Look what's happened to the family and church. Our country has no shortages of churches, but we don't see Titus 2 lived out. Parents praise an active youth ministry, but don't disciple their own children. We enjoy contemporary worship music and yet we wonder why the world is in the church. Hmmm.

Count your blessings one by one, but just make sure you're paying attention.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Who's your Tax-Collector?

Any first-grade Sunday-schooler knows that tax collectors were despised by their fellow Jews in the Gospels. My question: which occupation today is spit upon by God's covenant people?

Within my circles, several come to mind. First is that minister-of-cool, the youth pastor! Next is probably that dumbed-down servant of the state, the public school teacher. But third is of most interest to me, because it's about me, in third place is the US military.

I remember at Vision Forum's Uniting Church and Home Conference, I sat by a lady who was quite repulsed to be sharing table space with a "soldier". Her main objection seemed to be that the US military is controlled by the UN. Another objection I hear is that we're oath-breakers. Since we take an oath to support the Constitution, and the Constitution says that only Congress can declare war, and since Congress hasn't declared war for any conflict in recent history, then the US military has broken their oath and is engaged in unauthorized combat.

I guess my only response is to look at John the Baptist. When a Roman guard asked him what should he do, John didn't say "get out, for it's wrong to obey an imperialist head of state". Surprisingly, his harshest words weren't for the military or the tax collectors, but for those sons of Satan, the religiously self-righteous.

Play that fundamentalist music, white boy!

After reading Ken Myers', All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes, I saw the emptiness of pop music and had newfound interest in folk and classical.

I've purchased several bluegrass CDs over the last year. I enjoy the instrumentation, but for the most part, the lyrics I can do without. I think my problem is that I'm picking the bluegrass out of the "Gospel" section. This may explain why there's so much fundamentalist theology.