Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Hospitality Has Its Limits

In our family worship we have been reading through Romans. Tonight after I read the end of the first chapter about the gossips, slanderers, haters of God, etc, my 3-year old son announced, "I don't want them to come to my house!"

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Jemez Falls, NM

After worship today we drove up to the Santa Fe National Forest. It was 72 degrees when we left Albuquerque, but two hours north it was only 50 degrees in the Jemez Springs area. We forgot to pack for the temperature change but fortunately Kristin had a bag of girls clothes for goodwill in the trunk. So the Bailey boys were stylin' in a strange way, but warm.

Our dog, Glory, takes the polar bear challenge

This is the overlook to a large waterfall that was mostly frozen over.

We're now at the top of the waterfall.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Help for Distressed Parents

There is solid help for parents in this old, 36-page book; more than you'll find in much better publicized and lengthier books of today. I read this yesterday during the flight home from D.C.

The original title was much more provocative, "Counsels and Comforts for Godly Parents Afflicted with Ungodly Children." I'll structure this brief review around the key words in that title.

Mather has a test to see if you are indeed a godly parent. Godly parents are more afraid of their children being ungodly than of their being in any other way unhappy. They are afflicted for their children's contrariness unto God more than anything else. Ungodly parents, on the other hand, though the souls of their children are altogether unacquainted with the ways of God, care only that their child be dressed up in a few idle gaieties and, perhaps, some useless accomplishments (see Job 21:11, 14).

His counsel to godly parents is to remind them that their own original sin is written with deleted characters in all the ungodliness of their children. Much of the parents' actual sin can likewise be read in the children's ungodliness. Godly parents are not to forget that persons with uncircumcised hearts are born of such as had themselves experienced a circumcision of God upon their hearts.

More specifically, Mather counsels godly parents to single out the Scriptures which plainly condemn their vices and have the children read those awful Scriptures. Then charge them that, since they will answer before God, they conform themselves accordingly.

Don't humor your children with vanities that appeal to an unrenewed heart. Be as ingenious as possible at making a thorn hedge against every way of sinning attractive to your child. Be especially careful of the company they keep.

Most importantly, remember that distressed parents of old brought their diseased and disabled children unto the Lord Jesus Christ, and He healed them all. Thus, go plead before the Lord!

Have you done all this? Then do not despair, though you do not presently reap the fruit of all, delays are not denials!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

They're Merciful to Us

A big blog thanks to Cody and Erika Steele for graciously watching our children tonight so Kristin could enjoy a breather. I'm on the road and have been for most of the last three weeks. Thanks to Christian friends like the Steeles my wife has not yet been driven to desperation! Thank you for nurturing my family with your deeds of love.
Church Is For Losers

The recently deceased and much missed Edmund Clowney wrote The Church as part of a recent theological series called Contours of Christian Theology. It pleases me that the series editor gave such an important topic to a reformed Presbyterian. I finished it this week while on a trip to D.C. My favorite line was,
It [the Church] is composed of losers -- those who have lost everything for Christ's sake, but have found everything in him

This book is largely a scholarly and wide-ranging apologetic against an onslaught of attacks brought against the church today. But Clowney handles wolves on all sides with the composed manner of a mature shepherd. As he says, "love cannot ignore the seriousness of error, but neither can it forget the power of the truth."

Clowney honed my understanding of the Gospel and how it informs personal holiness. Instead of thinking of holiness in "try harder" or pietistic terms, he says,

The life of holiness is the life of faith in which the believer, with a deepening knowledge of his own sin and helplessness apart from Christ, increasingly casts himself upon the Lord, and seeks the power of the Spirit and the wisdom and comfort of the Bible to battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil. It is not a lonely struggle, for Christ gives the Spirit to the members of his body to help one another. Growth in true holiness is always growth together; it takes place through the nurture, the work, and worship of the church.

If you'd like to be better armed against false teaching, you need to read this one.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Burn and Break

"Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?" Jer 23:29

Hardened by the deceitfulness of sin
Empty, cold, dull.
Adulterous, apathetic, unbroken
Rock, unfeeling, loveless
Thankless, proud, Diotrephes-incarnate.

Such is my heart in Your sight.

Raging fire, slash and burn,
Hammer of God, bash and turn
until with my whole heart I seek thee!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Hidden Joys of Child-Rearing

Time for a myth-buster. Some Christian couples put off having children because they're told that children will radically change their life. They imagine having to give up comfortable lifestyles and personal pleasures. They observe other parents obsessing over their children, seemingly unable to think, talk, or do anything unrelated to the kiddos. Here's the myth: your life stops the moment your child's starts.

I bust this myth everytime I have to leave my family. One of the unexpected, hidden joys of child-rearing is how it focuses my private time on what really counts. When away on a trip I have a much harder time pulling off private worship and my personal reading really drops off. I waste too much of these free evenings passively watching TV or surfing the web.

But when at home and the kids are in bed I know I have only a limited amount of time and it disciplines me to make the most of it. And I believe as a result of more time in the Word, private prayer, and useful reading, God brings about growth that otherwise would not have come.

So I think parenting young children offers naturally lazy people like me a forcing function to make those early morning and late evening hours count. Rather than giving up your life, this season of life can help you to cut out the wasted time, thereby redeeming it for more useful purposes.

And lastly, this may also uncover idols of the heart. If you only have an hour or two to yourself each day it's likely that what you run to during that time is your god. When a deer pants for water, it goes where it can be satisfied. So do we. Do we run to Him, and the thoughts of Him, even with the remains of the day?

Saturday, March 18, 2006


Yesterday most of my team enjoyed a day out of the office to focus on being better wingmen to each other. We literally put our lives into each others' hands throughout our day of rockclimbing at Socorro (about an hour south of Albuquerque). It's a privilege to lead such a great team of men.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Downsizing Hell

Did you know that religious women are having many times more babies in America than secular women?

First Things' contributor Michael Novak explains the mega-trend in a recent post, but to get this you'll need to put your math hat on for a moment. "Nearly a quarter of the children of baby boomers descend from the mere 11 percent of baby boomer women who had four or more children."

Also, consider the demographics of France. "Among French women born in the early 1960s, less than a third have three or more children. But this distinct minority of French women (most of them presumably practicing Catholics and Muslims) produced more than 50 percent of all children born to their generation, in large measure because so many of their contemporaries had one child or none at all."

Forgive me for the overly provocative title on this post; just because religious folks are having more children than secular ones doesn't mean hell's population growth will slow down. But as Dr. Rayburn points out in his article on covenant succession, "Christian parents do not imagine themselves to be populating hell when they bring sons and daughters into the world!"

So in some sense, one way that this earth can become more like the kingdom of Christ and less like the kingdoms of this world is for this trend to continue.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Hymns for Dummies

When Kristin was planning our wedding she asked what music I would like for the prelude and closing of the service. As a new Christian, I wanted hymns. The problem was I knew next to nothing about them. If memory serves, I picked The Old Rugged Cross, Amazing Grace, and Blessed Assurance. This exhausted my knowledge of hymns. Kristin was gracious and honored what I now view as pretty tacky for a wedding.

How does one overcome such hymnody illiteracy? One way is to make them more accessible, which is basically the idea behind the Indelible Grace CDs.

When I borrowed a couple Indelible Grace CDs from a friend several years ago, I couldn't stand them. But now I listen to them almost everyday. I wouldn't necessary enjoy them during corporate worship, but they can fan into flame moments of personal worship.

I remember a pastor saying that every couple hundred years the Church makes a good hymn. Indelible Grace helps introduce them to poor illiterates like me. Here are the lyrics to one that I've recently grown to love (it's on the lastest CD).

“I Asked the Lord That I Might Grow”

I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek, more earnestly, His face.

’Twas He who taught me thus to pray,
And He, I trust, has answered prayer!
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair.

I hoped that in some favored hour,
At once He’d answer my request;
And by His love’s constraining pow’r,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry pow’rs of hell
Assault my soul in every part.

Yea more, with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

Lord, why is this, I trembling cried,
Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?
“’Tis in this way, the Lord replied,
I answer prayer for grace and faith.

These inward trials I employ,
From self, and pride, to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st find thy all in Me.”

John Newton, 1779

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Sting of Little Things

Why is it that little things can hurt so much? My pastor's wife says she has no trouble believing that major trials in life are from God and for her good, but little pains and everyday vexations really get her down. She's right.

Today our little thing is neighbor issues. One neighbor called and said that their children can't go with us to church anymore because they don't want their children learning the catechism. My children are hurt by this the most; they loved having friends at church with them on Wednesday nights. It also makes Kristin and I feel like cultists.

Another neighbor quit homeschooling today and backed out of a minor commitment to us. I don't know why this bugs us. I guess in someway the homeschooling families of my neighorhood are interconnected, and when one leaves the path that we've also chosen, we're tempted to question anew whether we're doing the right thing in homeschooling.

I rest in this: "This I know, God is for me." (Psalm 56:9)
Talking to My Windshield

I'm in Seattle for a couple of meetings with Boeing and I ran into my Mormon co-worker that I've mentioned in previous posts. He needed a ride around town and so we spent an hour together this evening negotiating Seattle traffic.

I've been praying for something like this. During our time together I was able to stammer through a presentation of the Gospel according to the Bible (again) and piece together an argument for why direct revelation ceased with the close of the biblical canon.

I do not consider persuasion one of my gifts, and trust that God can not only work through my many weaknesses, but despite them! Yet, as far as I could tell, I was talking to my windshield.

Gotta think how patient God is with me and 'go and do likewise.'

Monday, March 13, 2006

Saying 'Peace', 'Peace', When There is no Peace

During the Ligonier conference Max McLean presented a sermon from George Whitefield called Method of Grace. Read the link if you long to hear a singularly pure Gospel presented with immense feeling and earnestness.

I've posted the following excerpt because it's one of my favorite Gospel themes. We, saved by grace, are prone to wander back to a covenant of works.

When a poor soul is somewhat awakened by the terrors of the Lord, then the poor creature, being born under the covenant of works, flies directly to a covenant of works again.

And as Adam and Eve hid themselves among the trees of the garden, and sewed fig leaves together to cover their nakedness, so the poor sinner, when awakened, flies to his duties and to his performances, to hide himself from God, and goes to patch up a righteousness of his own.

Says he, I will be mighty good now -- I will reform -- I will do all I can; and then certainly Jesus Christ will have mercy on me. But before you can speak peace to your heart, you must be brought to see that God may damn you for the best prayer you ever put up; you must be brought to see that all your duties -- all your righteousness -- as the prophet elegantly expresses it -- put them all together, are so far from recommending you to God, are so far from being any motive and inducement to God to have mercy on your poor soul, that he will see them to be filthy rags, a menstruous cloth -- that God hates them, and cannot away with them, if you bring them to him in order to recommend you to his favor.

My dear friends, what is there in our performances to recommend us unto God? Our persons are in an unjustified state by nature, we deserve to be damned ten thousand times over; and what must our performances be? We can do no good thing by nature: "They that are in the flesh cannot please God." You may do many things materially good, but you cannot do a thing formally and rightly good; because nature cannot act above itself.

After we are renewed, yet we are renewed but in part, indwelling sin continues in us, there is a mixture of corruption in every one of our duties; so that after we are converted, were Jesus Christ only to accept us according to our works, our works would damn us, for we cannot put up a prayer but it is far from that perfection which the moral law requireth.

I do not know what you may think, but I can say that I cannot pray but I sin -- I cannot preach to you or any others but I sin -- I can do nothing without sin; and, as one expresseth it, my repentance wants to be repented of, and my tears to be washed in the precious blood of my dear Redeemer. Our best duties are as so many splendid sins.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Jesus, the Bearded Woman

A great post from my pastor from a previous assignment.

Friday, March 10, 2006

In Brief: Bought With a Price, Day 2

Today was the full day of the Ligonier conference on the Church. As I spoke with people during breaks I was reminded that the Holy Spirit, like a master surgeon, skillfully cuts with the Word according to each person's needs. Parts of the messages that were not particularly impacting to me were invaluable to others. In some sense, the Holy Spirit must individually-wrap each part of the preached Word and personally deliver this bundle of presents to individuals according to their exact need.

I was very impressed with John MacArthur's message on the shepherd and his flock. I regret largely ignoring his ministry in the past. Best line: "A good shepherd is not known by how well he pets the sheep; a good shepherd is to be known by how well he protects the sheep." In the context of his message, this statement packed a big punch.

Lig Duncan spoke on the Invisible Church and warned that those who deny the distinction between the visible and invisible aspects of the Church downplay the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit.

Ken Jones spoke on One Body, Many Parts; he gave two crisp reasons why a Christian must be part of a local church. First, to withhold your presence denies the church access to one of the gifts that God has supplied the church; and second, you are denying yourself access to the gifts of others.

Sinclair Ferguson presented the Church's Message giving powerful illustrations of the gospel. For example, until now I had never seen the beauty of the gospel in the arm-crossed blessing Jacob gives Ephraim and Manasseh. The father's right hand ought to rest on the rightful elder brother, but no, graciously the hand of blessing is given to the other.

Lig Duncan spoke on the Church's Mission in a Piper-esqe way emphasizing that missions exist because worship doesn't. Missions is not the goal of the church, worship is.

Mixed into the day's agenda was a hard-heart-busting presentation of a George Whitefield sermon by Max McLean, 3 small-group prayer meetings, a soul-awakening musical concert, and part one of a Q&A.
What I "Bought With a Price"

Here's what I picked up at the Ligonier Conference bookstore:

The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul (Philip Doddridge, 1745)

Help for Distressed Parents (Cotton Mather, 1694). I love the original title for this one!, "Counsels and Comforts for Godly Parents Afflicted with Ungodly Children"

A Family Well-Ordered (Cotton Mather, 1699)

Parent's Concern for Their Unsaved Children (Edward Lawrence, 1681)

A Simple Way to Pray (Archie Parrish, 1998); this one expands Martin Luther's 35-page letter to his barber on prayer from 1535

Also, I bought an audio presentation of George Whitefield's volcanic sermon, The Method Grace, presented by Max McLean. Ligonier plans on producing a Classic Sermon Series to provide historical examples of Christ-centered, biblical sermons.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Happy Birthday, Kristin!

Ligonier Ministries Conference Day 1

A couple of blogs I read have already commented on today's conference favorably; I agree with them. I'll just add some other observations.

The conference lecture hall has a wonderful organ; it vibrates your bones from 50 rows back. Plus, the Westminster Brass are delightful. But surprisingly, I enjoy singing in a smaller setting (like my church) with folks I know. Still, I'm glad it's part of the conference.

Demographics always interest me. The average attendee's age here is probably somewhere in the 50s, not many folks in the 20s here. I'm pleased that there is some racial diversity, although more would be better.

Hearing MacArthur was a delight. He presented the history of the battle for the Headship of the Church--is the head the Pope, the Crown, or the Christ? He relied on notes a good deal, but his message was still mesmerizing. It was peppered with refreshingly inflammatory quotes from the Reformers about how the Pope is the anti-Christ and the pluck of the Scottish Covenanters. He showed that the headship battle is still fought today by Roman Catholic dogma, modern liberals, and emergent church types.

Sproul spoke on four Church attributes: one, holy, catholic and apostolic. He gave a great Jon Hus/Martin Luther anecdote and an immensely helpful presentation on how New Testament revelation must be apostolic. I'll use that during my next meeting with my Mormon friend.

Tomorrow's a full day that I eagerly await.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Conference Time

Kristin's Epiphany gift to me was a ticket to the Ligonier National Conference in Orlando. The time has come! Thank you sweetheart! May God use the messages from this conference to make me a better churchman, husband, and father.

Monday, March 06, 2006

A Husbandman's Garden

Andree Seu's recent thoughts on becoming an older woman can be summarized, I think, by her remark,

The plan is that as the woman's first beauty wanes, a ripening comes that is the second beauty. It is by this that men may still love their wives, even as the bridal dowry of physical allure is exchanged, over time, for the better dowry of an inner glow. [emphasis mine]

A man loves the bride of his youth over time by remembering that a wife is a husbandman's garden. He is to tend her well, watering her with the Word (Eph 5:26), with the hope of producing a gentle and quiet spirit (1 Pet 3:4).

And for good or bad, a husband will reap what he sows. The years will prove it so.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

How We Got Nothing But Money

My grandfather turns 100 this year. If you don't know any centarians, then you'll profit from reading my Grandfather Witty's vivid account of life in the early 1900s.

Back then work and entertainment were remarkably different. Family and community were stronger, often because both parents worked the family farm. The children learned to work by first playing at their grown-up's work. They learned to love the land, their family, and community.

For entertainment the oldtime people used to visit each other in the evenings, it was called "sitting till bedtime." They told stories about each other, their past, and the land. And among the hearers were children, thus keeping the memories alive. Some have said, "they had everything but money."

How times have changed. Now the child is not expected to return home and be of use to the place and community he grew up in. He is educated to leave home and earn money that has nothing to do with his parents or the place he grew up. The aims are now money and ease.

We tell our stories now mostly to doctors or lawyers or insurance adjusters, not to our neighbors for their (and our) entertainment. The stories that our children hear are made up for them in New York or Los Angeles or other centers of commerce.

Generation after generation, as children depart their family's home without hearing the stories and without coming back to their community, the place loses its memory--its history and culture. And this, in part, explains how we now have nothing but money.

(This post was heavily influenced by a recent reading of Wendell Berry's What Are People For?, especially Part III).
Receiving Discipline

We enjoyed a conversation last night with a group of friends from church about Hebrews 12 and the Lord's discipline.

Perhaps, there is a litmus test for our true intentions in this life. If God were to give you a choice to live in ease and keep your sins, or to have them burnt away through trial, would you say 'give me sanctified affliction'? The answer to this question reveals your true love.

But why do I complain of thee?
'Cause thou'rt the Rod that scourgeth mee?
But if a good child I will bee,
I'le kiss the Rod, and honour thee.
--'Eliza', 1652

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I like the idea...

Here's a new podcast called Ordinary Means. From their site: "Ordinary Means" exists to call the Church of Christ back to a trust in God's means--the Word, the Sacraments, and prayer--as the primary means God uses to seek, save, and sanctify.

Sounds like something I need to hear.