Monday, November 28, 2005

Improving Family Worship

I want to be careful what I teach my children through the practice of family worship. Learning to sit quietly while the Bible is read, or prayers are said, can be a significant accomplishment for little children, but not if they've only learned to tune out what's going on. Good manners are not the end, but a means. What I want out of family worship is for them to have a focused quiet, like the kind that occurs when eating a favorite meal and all you hear is the work of the fork and spoon.

I've noticed for some time that we've lacked the focus and the enjoyment of mining the Word of the Lord during our times of family worship. Now that my two older children can read well enough, I've taken some steps to try to remedy that.

I've explained to them the ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication) model of prayer, and on a small whiteboard I have a column for each category. As the children listen to me read through the Scriptures, I instruct them to tell me things to write down on the board for each area. This forms a large part of our prayer list each evening.

This approach, I pray, will show my children that God's Word is not to be read passively, nor to be read merely as stories, but every time you read the Scripture, you ought to lay your hand upon it and say, "It is mine, and I am to live upon it."

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Happy New Year!

Am I early? Not if I'm reading my lectionary right. The first week of Advent begins tomorrow, which begins the new year on the church calendar.

This has been my second year using a lectionary based on the Book of Common Prayer from 1662 for my private Bible Study. Of course there's nothing wrong with reading the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, but when I used that approach I disliked spending all my devotion in only one book of the Bible. The lectionary approach keeps you in several books every morning and evening. For instance, here's today's reading:

Ps 124, 125
Gen 35:1-20
Matt 13:1-17

Ps 119:97-112
Isa 42:1-9
Rev 21:22-22:5

I can't find the exact one I use on-line; but here's a recommendation for trying it out.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

The Forgotten Call for Humble Penitence

As a thought experiment I googled a few key Thanksgiving Day proclamations with the intent of comparing them theologically. I sampled Plymouth Colony's First Proclamation of 1676 (although some historians question the validity of the source document) , President Washington's 1789 proclamation, President Lincoln's of 1863, and President Bush's of 2005.

Most strikingly, the 1676 proclamation doesn't mention thanks for an abundant harvest at all; rather, it expresses gratitude that the Lord did not totally consume them with afflictions. It's also a call to consecration, "in view of God's returning mercy," so that the Lord may behold them as a people "sensible of God's afflictions."

Washington proclaims a special day of thanks in part to, "beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions." Lincoln calls for a "humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience."

Regrettably, somewhere along the way, the call for humble penitence is lost. Recent Presidents, including the current one, make no such request of the American people. No connection is made between national afflictions and God's hand. From President Bush's proclamation, all we ask of God now is that He "watch over us", give us His "special blessing", and "guide us as we move forward." We are a people no longer sensible of God's afflictions.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Growing in Years, Growing in Grace

Our daughter Grace celebrated her 6th birthday this week. She invited a few friends from the neighborhood to our house for the evening.

Her new friendships have brought with them a mixture of blessings and trouble. But we pray with confidence that she will love whatsoever things are true and pure and lovely and of good report, following the example of her Savior Jesus Christ. And she does already, to a degree. Today I walked into her room and found her working with her 3 year old brother on his Scripture memory--that's encouraging!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Pie and Praise

One of the beloved traditions of our church occurs on the Sunday evening before Thanksgiving. The church comes together to enjoy homemade pies and fellowship and then spends the remainder of the evening publicly thanking God through prayer for His goodness to us over the last year. This has been going on for 15 years. It is refreshing to be part of a church body that, despite being geographically separated by long distances, enjoys getting together enough to make the drive. And does so pretty frequently.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

What Does it Mean to be Reformed?

In an effort to understand how churches in the same denomination (PCA) can be so different, I picked up this book. It's a collection of essays covering the 3 major strands of the American reformed church: Princeton, Dutch, and Southern Presbyterian. Each background has an introductory essay and 2 or 3 essays on crucial men in that strand and their theology.

To boil down my notes on the book to the length of a typical blogpost, I'll say that the book does a great job explaining the distinctions of the 3 backgrounds in view, but at the end I'm left with the feeling that there's a large group of people that call themselves reformed that wouldn't identify with any of the three groups. It seems there should have been some discussion over the large number of reformed Baptists, or used-to-be-Baptist reformed folks. These are the kind of folks that we most often meet in the PCA and undoubtedly have added to the uniqueness of American reformed theology and practice.
Athanasius Contra Mundo

Desiring God radio aired Piper's biographical message on Athanasius. Here are the points I appreciated the most:
- Why it's worth fighting over doctrine that Christians have disagreed about for centuries
- Loving Christ must include loving true propositions about Christ. So, doctrine is essential in loving Christ.

I hope you get time to listen to it; I recommend it.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Veteran's Day to a 5 year old

I asked my children what we remember on Veteran's Day. My 7 year old son got it right, but Grace, my 5-year old daughter had a different conception. She said, "we remember those that take care of dogs."

We have since explained to her the difference between a veteran and a veterinarian.

Friday, November 11, 2005

A Question about Helping Neighbors You Don't Know

Our friend Melene, who lives in North Carolina, asked us to pray for a family in our neighborhood that was in serious need. Melene's husband was deployed with our neighbor's husband, who arrived home yesterday and will care for his wife during a very-risky brain surgery.

We hadn't met the family until recently, and so far we've only met the children and their aunt. The aunt, by the way, lost everything in Katrina and now lives here and cares for her sister's 4 children while she tries to cope with the daily pain associated with loss of brain fluid. There are serious needs all around.

This family is Catholic and may be getting assistance from their church; we don't know. So my question is what is the proper thing for us to do?

In addition to prayer, our current plan is to take them a meal and ask if their church is providing meals and other assistance. If they need help, we want to provide it; but we don't want to be too pushy since we're strangers who happen to live near-by. Other thoughts?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Conversion of Man is Real!

There are skeptics of conversion; they think man's nature cannot truly be changed. And there are those of us that for years have longed for loved ones to know the Lord, and to be frank, we have given up on them. How encouraging it was tonight to have at my dinner table a new friend in Christ. He was a sixth generation Mormon (RLDS) who as an young adult left that cult at great personal cost and now embraces the Biblical truth.

What's more remarkable is that his parents left that false faith, too! Even more remarkable is that my friend's father was the State leader of the Mormon (RLDS) church when he left!

The gospel is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe. No matter what age or situation. Take courage, have hope, keep praying for your lost loved ones!

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Outdoor Recreation

We're enjoying an unusually long Fall here in Albuquerque. To celebrate, some co-workers and I hiked 12 miles Friday in the Sandia mountains on the east side of town.

Then this morning, Eli and I, and some neighbors, went for a horseback ride a few minutes from base. You wouldn't want to do either of these activities in the summer, but it was perfect today!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Nice Quotes

Desiring God is putting message before money...all the conference lectures from this year's national conference are available for free download (here and here). The theme of the conference was Suffering and the Sovereignty of God. Joni Eareckson Tada covers the subject masterfully, and during her address remarks (and here's my paraphrase from memory), "instead of rehearsing our theology with each other, we are to live out our theology in front of others."

Also, one of the books that I have my nose in is Tim Keller's Ministries of Mercy. Sometimes it pays to read the endnotes carefully. That's where I found this great quote from the minutes of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 1892,
In the meantime [since we don't have parishes yet], our usages have taught the poor that the State and not the Church is their almoner, but it is high time that it be rescued from this neglect, and restored to its proper dignity as the most ancient and one of the most significant of ecclesiastical functions...The municipal overseer can never be a substitute for the deacon...The Church must prove herself the friend of the workingman. She can and should answer and conquer the communist by the deacon."