Monday, September 26, 2005

Twice as Much a Son of Hell

Everything they do is done for men to see. (Matthew 23:5)

A visiting minister on Sunday showed how big a problem self-righteousness is in the Christian family. He's in campus ministry and when I asked him how well the college students from Christian homes grasp the Gospel, he basically said that their parents have taught them self-righteousness and not the Christian Gospel.

He pointed out that as parents we are most happy when our children exhibit certain external behaviors and avoid others--this is our mark of success. We haven't taught them that Jesus was harshest with those who thought they had it together, who didn't acutely hate their sin and long for a Savior.

The minister added that parents just aren't as concerned with self-righteousness in their children as they are with "worldly" behavior, as if self-righteousness isn't twice as bad or dangerous. Despite all our effort in raising our children, if we're only teaching them how to behave, instead of modeling and exhorting them to continually repent and believe the Gospel, all we're doing is populating Hell.

You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are. (Matthew 23:15)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Childless by Choice

One of the things that strikes me as odd about this assignment is the number of married couples I've met without children. Of course to them I'm the odd one for having 4 children (I'm often asked if I'm Mormon), but it's getting to the point where it's unusual to meet a married couple in their thirties that have children.

In some cases the couples desire children but are infertile. But in many cases there is a conscious decision never to have children because it would interfere with their career plans. I can understand this selfishness among the non-Christian couples, but it's discouraging to find a similar attitude in believers.

I think the problem, once again, is a small Gospel. It's a lack of understanding of what we are saved unto. "Be fruitful and multiply" was never repealed. While the dominion mandate means more than raising Christian children, it does mean at least that.

The second problem is that American evangelicals find too much pleasure in ease. We are addicted to comfort and selfishness. Children are too much work. "Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean" you know (Prov 14:4).

Monday, September 19, 2005

Conspiring Against Me

For people will be lovers of self (2 Tim 3:2)

Tweaking what Calvin said, God sends afflictions into my life to wean me from an excessive love of myself. The Heidelberg, always encouraging, adds that God "will turn to my good whatever adversity he sends me in this sad world." (No. 26)

Bottomline: That terrible weekend I just endured, where everything conspired against me, Kristin was terribly sick, my three-year old suffered from some sort of urinary problem, my newborn owned the night, and my dog wouldn't quit barking, shows that God's loving providence is often acutely painful. But instead of "kissing the rod", I'm more apt to get out of its way. The old man -- that self-lover -- dies hard, and the new man needs a lot of maturing. The remedy for both problems is suffering.

This weekend reminded me that the Baileys, this family that I am the head of, certainly does not have it all together. We have our list of issues, we can be "high maintenance", we are often undone. We need the Lord. We need Him who comes "proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every affliction" (Mt 4:23).

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Wrestling with God

An encouraging sermon from Pastor Meyers on a theme of particular interest to this blog. The encouragement: learning to see the face of God behind your struggles.

Thursday, September 15, 2005


When my mom called last week wanting a recommendation for a study Bible, I mulled over which one would be right for her. Meanwhile, Kristin was smarter and mailed her one of ours.

I've been praying for something like this to happen in her life (although not as faithfully as I should). Turns out her next-door neighbor, a close friend, got her involved in a Bible study at a local Presbyterian church, and now she's in God's Word on a regular basis.

I was supposed to start a neighborhood Bible study tomorrow night. We decided to postpone it for a little while because I forgot how much work having a new baby is. But we're excited about the response. Several families, friends of ours in the neighborhood, that don't have strong church backgrounds want to come.

I've heard a little about "unschooling". I think it's where you avoid the typical educational approach of classes, textbooks, and the like in order to teach more naturally. Perhaps evangelism, note the nefarious "-ism", is in need of the same approach. If we love our neighbors, instead of treating them as evangel"ism" projects, if we enjoy spending time with them and serving them, we might find that disciple-making comes naturally.

Monday, September 12, 2005

It's Hard to Believe

Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (John 20:29)
I struggle with believing God; I'll try to be specific. I have no problem believing that there is a God, or in my own sinfulness--that is too apparent. And I don't doubt God loves me, at least not since hearing a sermon by a pastor who rebuked me with, "what part of Jesus dying on the Cross makes you wonder whether God loves you?!?" But it's hard for me to believe God is really actively involved in my life.

I'm cynical. When I thank God for an answered prayer what I'm really thinking is that if you wait long enough, and do enough, eventually you'll almost always get what you want--God or no God. Thanking God after I get what I want doesn't seem like biblical faith; true faith should begin before "the answer" and continue on despite what comes. But this I lack.

I think David, in some of his psalms, expresses the difficulty of faith, while at the same time reminding himself of God's promises (see Psalm 13 for an example). So maybe what I experience is right, and a lack of "doubting God" may be an indication that I'm not trusting Him for anything hard.

Martin Luther sometimes lamented the hiddeness of God. Is He really there? Does He really hear? Is He really involved? But Luther points out that for God to be hidden, He must be present! We walk by faith, not sight. Even when it is hard to believe. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Instead of a Post

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Sunday, September 04, 2005

The Confessions of St. Augustine

I'm making slow progress through this classic work, not because it's a hard read, but because no book can compete with a baby. But I can't pass up posting the great analogy about the Word of God contained in this quote,

I therefore decided to give my attention to the study of the Holy Scripture and to see what they were like. And what I saw was something that is not discovered by the proud and is not laid open to children; the way in is low and humble, but inside the vault is high and veiled in mysteries, and I lacked the qualities which would make me fit to enter in or stoop my neck to follow the pathway. For when I studied the Scriptures then I did not feel as I am writing about them now. They seemed to me unworthy of comparison with the grand style of Cicero. For my pride shrank from their modesty, and my sharp eye was not penetrating enough to see into their depths.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

How to Hear a Sermon

Last week our pastor preached a fine sermon which included this topic. He's mentioned before that when he sees people sleeping during the sermon, he just yells louder, but this time he focused on the opposite problem: nitpicking. As a Bible college and seminary graduate, he declared himself to be a nit expert; however, sitting in judgment of a sermon (instead of sitting under one) is common to many who take the faith seriously.

Remember Paul's rhetorical question, "how are they to hear without someone preaching?" We all desire a greater faith, and since faith comes from hearing, we would profit from knowing how to hear a sermon.

Take this advice: Prepare for hearing a sermon with diligence and prayer beforehand. Then examine what you hear by the Scriptures [be good Bereans], and by all means receive the truth with faith, love, and meekness, as the Word of God to you! Since God has spoken to you, meditate upon what He said; hide it in your heart, and bring forth its fruit in your life. (WLC 160)