Sunday, July 29, 2007

Son of the Covenant: Ezekiel Joel Bailey

What a great delight it was today to have our pastor baptize Zeke in the Triune name of God. As the water was applied to his head, Zeke's eyes opened wide and he gave the pastor a huge smile!

For those unfamiliar with covenant baptism, here is how it is done:

The minister reads the covenant promises:

For to you is the promise, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call unto him. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee. Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved, thou and thy house. (Acts 2:39; Gen. 17:7; Acts 16:31)

The minister then proposes the following questions to the parents:
1. Do you acknowledge your child’s need of the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ, and the renewing grace of the Holy Spirit?
2. Do you claim God’s covenant promises in (his) behalf, and do you look in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ for (his) salvation, as you do for your own?
3. Do you now unreservedly dedicate your child to God, and promise, in humble reliance upon divine grace, that you will endeavor to set before (him) a godly example, that you will pray with and for (him), that you will teach (him) the
doctrines of our holy religion, and that you will strive, by all the means of God’s appointment, to bring (him) up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?

And then the minister addresses the congregation:
Do you as a congregation undertake the responsibility of assisting the parents in the Christian nurture of this child?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Down home post

In a recent mass e-mail from Dr. Dobson, of Focus on the Family fame, he included a story of a Christian physician who drives a bus of poor kiddos from a small town to a Vacation Bible School program in a neighboring small town. What makes this story blogworthy is that the doctor's town is my hometown, Seneca, in the northwest corner of South Carolina. And the other town that Dr Dobson mentions was our archrival, Walhalla (commonly nick-named Hog-wallow). This is all the excuse I need to give a little autobiographical info.

Here's the most picturesque photo of the area where I spent most of my childhood fishin' and swimmin', and boatin'.

The "rich kids" (usually families that moved into our area from more costly areas) got to live on the lake, but most of us locals couldn't afford it. Below is a satellite image of the house and property I spent most of my childhood at. The current owners have enlarged the house and tore down the barn, but you can still see the woods and pond that kept me outside for most of my growing-up years.

Perhaps this rural setting explains why I am still uncomfortable in large cities. I especially pity boys who grow up trapped in a .25 acre lot surrounded by other .25 acre lots with no room to explore, or hit a baseball, or even just throw a rock into the woods.

In a few months I'll be heading back to Seneca. My younger brother is getting married. Fittingly, the gal he is marrying is from Walhalla.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Teaching children to have daily devotions

We're gearing up for the new homeschool year which will start in a couple of weeks. Most of our supplies are in (more great books!!). The new thing this year will be to train Eli and Grace to have daily devotions. I plan to use this approach:

[H]ere is a priceless suggestion from pastor and homiletics professor Mike Bullmore, on how to teach your children to read the Bible.

When each of his children turn eight, Mike buys them a journal. A nice one. Then he tells them, “Tomorrow, we are going to have devotions together and do something that I hope lasts the rest of your life.” The next morning, he has the child begin reading a chapter a day in the Bible, starting in one of the gospels.

To help them meditate on what they’ve read, Mike has them write two simple sentences in their journal. One begins with the word “God” and one starts with the word “I.” Each day, Mike reads what his children wrote, a practice which gives him a unique window into their soul.

Once his children fill up their journal, they go on a special date with Daddy to buy a new one.

HT: Christ-centered children

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Saturday, July 21, 2007

FAQ from FAB (Faith A. Bailey)

Faith is very quiet in public, but when at home she is the most talkative one in our family. From sunup to sundown she is a little chatterbox. The only downside is that she says the same things over and over and they're questions she expects you to answer.

Her most FAQ is "Wha U Doing?" After the person answers this a few times, she switches to "Why?" before going right back to "Wha U Doing?" Kristin tries to convince me that this is how she builds her vocabulary, but I think she just really enjoys asking questions.

This photo was snapped when she discovered lollipops (someone else's) and was going for two-at-a-time.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Resigning from the ministry

In my reading and listening over the last couple of months (ever since my pastor submitted his resignation--please don't forget to pray for tomorrow's Presbytery meeting) I've stumbled across a number of helpful things to put into perspective the great difficulty of the ministry. Beside the farewell sermon from Edwards, I learned of Charles Simeon (a Calvinistic Anglican) and how the deacons of his church locked the pews during worship services because they didn't like him. They did this for 10 years!

I also stumbled across this timeless letter from a middle-aged pastor to his mentor. It's piercing in its analysis of the difficulties of the pastor.

My Dear Jim:

I am through. Yesterday I handed in my resignation, to take effect at once, and this morning I began work for the Land Company. I shall not return to the pastorate. I think I can see into your heart as you read these words and behold not a little disappointment, if not disgust. I don't blame you at all, for I am somewhat disgusted with myself. Do you recall the days in the seminary when we talked of the future and painted pictures of what we were to do for the kingdom of God? We saw the boundless need for unselfish Christian service and longed to be out among men doing our part towards the world's redemption. I shall never forget that last talk on the night before our graduation. You were to go to the foreign field and I to the Church.

We had brave dreams of usefulness, and you have realized them. As I look back across twenty-five years I can see some lives that I have helped, and some things which I have been permitted to do that are worth while; but, sitting here tonight, I am more than half convinced that God never intended me to be a minister. If He did, I am not big enough and brave enough to pay the price. Even if it leads you to write me down a coward, I'm going to tell you why I've quit.

In these years I have found not a few earnest, unselfish, consecrated Christians. I do not believe that I am specially morbid or unfair in my estimate. So far as I know my own heart, I am not bitter. But through all these years a conviction has been growing within me that the average church-member cares precious little about the kingdom of God and its advancement, or the welfare of his fellow men. He is a Christian in order that he may save his soul from hell, and for no other reason. He does as little as he can, lives as indifferently as he dares. If he thought he could gain heaven without even lifting his finger for others, he would jump at the chance. Never have I known more than a small minority of any church which I have served to be really interested in and unselfishly devoted to God's work. It took my whole time to pull and push and urge and persuade the reluctant members of my church to undertake a little something for their fellow men. They took a covenant to be faithful in attendance upon the services of the church and not one out of ten ever thought of attending prayer-meeting. A large percentage seldom attended church in the morning, and a pitifully small number in the evening. It did not seem to mean anything to them that they had dedicated themselves to the service of Christ.

I am tired; tired of being the only one in the church from whom real sacrifice is expected; tired of straining and tugging to get Christian people to live like Christians; tired of planning work for my people and then being compelled to do it myself or see it left undone; tired of dodging my creditors when I would not need to if I had what is due me; tired of the affrighting vision of a penniless old age. I am not leaving Christ. I love Him. I shall still try to serve Him.

Judge me leniently, for I cannot bear to lose your friendship.

Yours of Old,

Horse Camp

It wouldn't be summer for us if Eli didn't get some time with horses. For the past 4 years he has enjoyed horse camp. Here he is with Fame, his favorite.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A Farewell Sermon (part 4)

This will be the longest of the excerpts I give from Jonathan Edwards' farewell sermon, but it is something that deserves the space and time.

How highly therefore does it now become us to consider of that time when we must meet one another before the chief Shepherd! When I must give an account of my stewardship, of the service I have done for, and the reception and treatment I have had among the people to whom he sent me. And you must give an account of your own conduct towards me.

For then both you and I must appear together, and we both must give an account, in order to an infallible, righteous and eternal sentence to be passed upon us, by him who will judge us with respect to all that we have said or done in our meeting here, and all our conduct one towards another in the house of God and elsewhere.

He will judge us with respect to all the controversies which have subsisted between us, with the strictest impartiality, and will examine our treatment of each other in those controversies. There is nothing covered that shall not be revealed, nor hid which shall not be known. All will be examined in the searching, penetrating light of God’s omniscience and glory, and by him whose eyes are as a flame of fire. Truth and right shall be made plainly to appear, being stripped of every veil. And all error, falsehood, unrighteousness, and injury shall be laid open, stripped of every disguise. Every specious pretense, every cavil, and all false reasoning shall vanish in a moment, as not being able to bear the light of that day. And then our hearts will be turned inside out, and the secrets of them will be made more plainly to appear than our outward actions do now.

Then it shall appear what the ends are which we have aimed at, what have been the governing principles which we have acted from, and what have been the dispositions we have exercised in our ecclesiastical disputes and contests. Then it will appear whether I acted uprightly, and from a truly conscientious, careful regard to my duty to my great Lord and Master, in some former ecclesiastical controversies, which have been attended with exceeding unhappy circumstances and consequences. It will appear whether there was any just cause for the resentment which was manifested on those occasions.

And then our late grand controversy, concerning the qualifications necessary for admission to the privileges of members, in complete standing, in the visible church of Christ, will be examined and judged in all its parts and circumstances, and the whole set forth in a clear, certain, and perfect light. Then it will appear whether the doctrine which I have preached and published concerning this matter be Christ’s own doctrine, whether he will not own it as one of the precious truths which have proceeded from his own mouth, and vindicate and honor as such before the whole universe.

Then it will appear whether, in declaring this doctrine, and acting agreeable to it, and in my general conduct in the affair, I have been influenced from any regard to my own temporal interest, or honor, or desire to appear wiser than others, or have acted from any sinister, secular views whatsoever, and whether what I have done has not been from a careful, strict, and tender regard to the will of my Lord and Master, and because I dare not offend him, being satisfied what his will was, after a long, diligent, impartial, and prayerful inquiry.

Then it will appear whether my people have done their duty to their pastor with respect to this matter; whether they have shown a right temper and spirit on this occasion; whether they have done me justice in hearing, attending to and considering what I had to say in evidence of what I believed and taught as part of the counsel of God; whether I have been treated with that impartiality, candor, and regard which the just Judge esteemed due; and whether, in the many steps which have been taken, and the many things that have been said and done in the course of this controversy, righteousness, and charity, and Christian decorum have been maintained; or, if otherwise, to how great a degree these things have been violated.

Then every step of the conduct of each of us in this affair, from first to last, and the spirit we have exercised in all, shall be examined and manifested, and our own consciences shall speak plain and loud, and each of us shall be convinced, and the world shall know; and never shall there be any more mistake, misrepresentation, or misapprehension of the affair to eternity.

Special Delivery

From one of our deployed church friends:

Thank you for the wonderful care package! Please pass along my appreciation to everyone who contributed. It brightened up my week. Thank you all for your prayers and support!

God bless,

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A Farewell Sermon (part 3)

I continue with a few excerpts of a personal nature from Jonathan Edwards' farewell sermon after being voted out of his congregation.

The improvement I would make of the subject is to lead the people here present, who have been under my pastoral care, to some reflections, and give them some advice suitable to our present circumstances, relating to what has been lately done in order to our being separated, but expecting to meet each other before the great tribunal at the day of judgment.

The deep and serious consideration of our future most solemn meeting, is certainly most suitable at such a time as this. There having so lately been that done, which, in all probability, will (as to the relation we have heretofore stood in) be followed with an everlasting separation.

How often have we met together in the house of God in this relation! How often have I spoke to you, instructed, counseled, warned, directed, and fed you, and administered ordinances among you, as the people which were committed to my care, and of whose precious souls I had the charge! But in all probability this never will be again.

I have spent the prime of my life and strength in labors for your eternal welfare. You are my witnesses that what strength I have had I have not neglected in idleness, nor laid out in prosecuting worldly schemes, and managing temporal affairs, for the advancement of my outward estate, and aggrandizing myself and family. But [I] have given myself to the work of the ministry, laboring in it night and day, rising early and applying myself to this great business to which Christ appointed me. I have found the work of the ministry among you to be a great work indeed, a work of exceeding care, labor and difficulty. Many have been the heavy burdens that I have borne in it, to which my strength has been very unequal. God called me to bear these burdens; and I bless his name that he has so supported me as to keep me from sinking under them, and that his power herein has been manifested in my weakness. So that although I have often been troubled on every side, yet I have not been distressed; perplexed, but not in despair; cast down, but not destroyed. — But now I have reason to think my work is finished which I had to do as your minister: you have publicly rejected me, and my opportunities cease.

Rescued from a Trapped Car

This post will be the start of an occasional category called "Heroics in Parenting" where we get to tell daring stories of adventure common among those who live with the young and foolish.

As I sat unsuspectingly at my desk at work yesterday, my wife called with the all too common watchphrase "I need help!" She explained that Isaiah had been trapped in his seatbelt in the van for the last half hour and could not get out. I mounted my trusty bike and pedal power had me home in under 3 minutes and the process of freeing a 5-year old from a trapped carseat began.

You may wonder how one gets trapped in a seatbelt? To know this could come in handy if ever you need to tie down a terrorist in your mini-van. Here is how it is done: Buckle the seatbelt behind your body. Now with one hand pull the shoulder portion of the seatbelt in front of you. With the other hand release the catch of the seatbelt. Let the seatbelt recoil until it is taut. The person in this seat has now basically lassoed themselves. Anyone over 4 feet tall will not be able to escape this noose unless the belt is cut in two.

Luckily for Isaiah he is still under 4 feet tall. After being stuck in his seat for 45 minutes he was quite hysterical and weary from repeated struggles to free himself. In the end we had to remove most of his clothing and the sweat on his body helped lubricate this situation enough that we could extract him inch by inch from his seat.

What adventure will today hold for us mild-mannered parents? Stay tuned for the next Heroics in Parenting!

Monday, July 16, 2007

A Farewell Sermon (part 2)

Excerpts from Jonathan Edward's farewell sermon continued from yesterday.

Ministers, and the people who have been under their care, shall meet together before Christ, that he may judge between them, as to any controversies which have subsisted between them in this world.

It often comes to pass in this evil world, that great differences and controversies arise between ministers and the people under their pastoral care. Though they are under the greatest obligations to live in peace, above persons in almost any relation whatever, and although contests and dissensions between persons so related are the most unhappy and terrible in their consequences on many accounts of any sort of contentions, yet how frequent have such contentions been! Sometimes a people contest with their ministers about their doctrine, sometimes about their administrations and conduct, and sometimes about their maintenance. Sometimes such contests continue a long time, and sometimes they are decided in this world, according to the prevailing interest of one party or the other, rather than by the Word of God, and the reason of things. And sometimes such controversies never have any proper determination in this world.

But at the day of judgment there will be a full, perfect, and everlasting decision of them. The infallible Judge, the infinite fountain of light, truth, and justice, will judge between the contending parties, and will declare what is the truth, who is in the right, and what is agreeable to his mind and will. And in order hereto, the parties must stand together before him at the last day, which will be the great day of finishing and determining all controversies, rectifying all mistakes, and abolishing all unrighteous judgments, errors, and confusions, which have before subsisted in the world of mankind.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

A Farewell Sermon (part 1)

Over the last couple of months of reading I've stumbled across a couple very impressive farewell sermons. I was impressed because these pastors had been voted out by the congregation they had served faithfully for many years and yet their farewell sermon contained no malice but also boldly proclaimed the truth, "we will meet again. This will be set right." I plan to post some excerpts from the farewell sermon of Jonathan Edwards preached at the First Church in Northampton, MA after being voted out as the Pastor July 1, 1750.

Now ministers and their people may disagree in their judgments concerning some matters of religion, and may sometimes meet to confer together concerning those things wherein they differ, and to hear the reasons that may be offered on one side and the other; and all may be ineffectual as to any conviction of the truth. They may meet and part again, no more agreed than before, and that side which was in the wrong may remain so still. Sometimes the meetings of ministers with their people, in such a case of disagreeing sentiments, are attended with unhappy debate and controversy, managed with much prejudice and want of candor; not tending to light and conviction, but rather to confirm and increase darkness, and establish opposition to the truth, and alienation of affection one from another. But when they shall meet together at the day of judgment, before the tribunal of the great Judge, the mind and will of Christ will be made known, and there shall no longer be any debate or difference of opinions. The evidence of the truth shall appear beyond all dispute, and all controversies shall be finally and forever decided.

Now in this present state it often happens that when ministers and people meet together to debate and manage their ecclesiastical affairs, especially in a state of controversy, they are ready to judge and censure with regard to each other’s views, designs, and the principles and ends by which each is influenced, and are greatly mistaken in their judgment and wrong one another in their censures. But at that future meeting, things will be set in a true and perfect light, and the principles and aims that everyone has acted from, shall be certainly known. There will be an end to all errors of this kind, and all unrighteous censures.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Jane Austen through a man's eyes

Here's a funny quote from Dave Harvey's new book, When Sinners Say "I Do". I hear the book is really good.

I'm way too masculine to enjoy Jane Austen. Now, I realize that women usually read that as, "I'm not smart enough to get Jane Austen," and I suppose there may be some truth to that. But even if guys like me don't get the point, I've got to respect any author who can actually capture the imagination of an audience without mentioning a grenade-launcher. Even once. And I'm still way too masculine to enjoy Jane Austen.

In a touch of divine humor, God has given me a wife and two daughters who love everything Austen-esque. Maybe I'm missing something, but it seems to me that the plot is always the same. The only difference I can see is the name of the mansion.

If you've never read a Jane Austen or seen a movie adaptation, let me save you some time. Here's the plot. Start with an anxious, unmarried woman in late eighteenth-century England whose mom is wound up even tighter than she is. Bring in a clueless guy, also usually rich and unexplainably single, who doesn't know he needs a temperamental unmarried woman to make him normal. Throw in some eccentric characters, frilly clothes, a formal ball, and lots of soggy English countryside. End with a deliriously happy wedding, leaving the distinct impression that this couple will never know anything but harmonious marital bliss. Cut to the credits, cue the violins, go buy the soundtrack. That about sums it up.

Why doesn't anything happen in Jane Austen after the wedding? What about sequels? Here are a few post-wedding Austen stories I'd like to see:

Sense and Sensibility, Episode II - I Miss My Mom
Pride and Prejudice - The Sequel: Darcy's Hunting Buddies Move In
Emma Returns: The Matchmaker Strikes Again

I know...not likely. That's why I prefer guy flicks. They end at the right spot--usually when somebody dies. A Western never ends before the two main characters face off in the street, guns blazing. War movies don't end just as the bombing raid is taking off. And sports movies don't end until you see how the big game turned out. But in the world of Jane Austen, stories end at the altar, just when reality is about to come knocking. I don't get it.

By the way, I like Austen's novels, mainly due to the good and bad examples of men, women, and marriage.

HT: Tim Challies

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


We live in a time where "ambition" only has negative connotations. Too few try to excel, too many are content to be at ease, even in Zion. This is most unfortunate for me personally, I must have a role model to motivate me, to inspire me. I'm most content as a #2, following in the footsteps of a #1.

I know nothing else about Faith Pres in Mesquite, Tx other than what I see in the link below. Judging from that, I'm very impressed by what I see in this session, these children, and most of all the parents of these children. If you're a parent and think you're doing okay keeping the baptismal vow you made to teach your children this holy religion, look here and be motivated to do more.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Idolatry in our culture

What do you do with all that talk in the Bible against idols? How do we explain that idolatry is still a problem for us today?

PCA pastor Tim Keller's recent article answers that question by showing that sin is always primarily an issue of idolatry. The basic argument:

  • Sin isn't only doing bad things, it is more fundamentally making good things into ultimate things
  • Sin is building your identity--your self-worth and happiness--on anything other than God. For example, sin is looking to your career (or romance, etc) to save you, to give you everything that you should be looking for in God.
  • Making an idol out of something means giving it the love you should be giving your Creator and Sustainer

Friday, July 06, 2007

Christmas in July

I wish the military men from our church who are currently deployed could be back home with us right now, but thanks to several friends from church who spent part of their 4th of July with us, our deployed brothers will at least each have a really nice care package coming their way.

Thanks friends for helping and let's be faithful to pray for these men and their families!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Reformed Pastor

I finished my second time through the book (in about 10 years) recently. If you haven't read it and you're thinking about the ministry, put this at the top of your list! It will inspire and humble you!

"One of the best known classics on the work of the Christian ministry. Is a most extraordinary performance, and should be read by every young minister, before he takes a people under his stated care; and, I think, the practical part of it reviewed every three or four years; for nothing would have a greater tendency to awaken the spirit of a minister to that zeal in his work, for want of which many good men are but shadows of what (by the blessing of God) they might be, if the maxims and measures laid down in that incomparable Treatise were strenuously pursued." - Philip Doddridge

Sunday, July 01, 2007

When he grows up

When Zeke grows up I'd love for him to be a pastor. But if he's not called to this, I will make sure that he has the right set of heroes. The Church could certainly use more godly men, and sad to say, especially black men who are sound in their theology.

To this end, I like to read books that tell how God has used godly black men in the past so I can give Zeke the right set of heroes. The latest read has been, The Faithful Preacher: Recapturing the Vision of Three Pioneering African American Pastors, by Thabiti Anyabwile (I have no idea how to say that name, but the author is a reformed evangelical leader and pastor).

The book highlights the lives of three African American pastors; Lemuel Haynes, Daniel A. Payne, and Francis J. Grimke. It's a cross between a biography and a collection of sermons.

Haynes (1753-1853) spent the majority of his pastoral career, some thirty years, pastoring an all white church in Rutland, VT. He was Calvinistic in theology and basically a "black puritan". Payne (1811-1893) was a pastor within the AME church who dedicated his life to seeing the pastorate educated in Christian doctrine. Grimke (1850-1937), after studying under Charles Hodge at Princeton, became a pastor in Washington D.C. with a focus on reforming the white and black churches to have biblical views on issues of race.

These certainly are forgotten men in the history of American Christianity. Thanks to the efforts of Anyabwile, their lives have been retold and now I can share their stories with Zeke in hopes that he will grow up to proclaim unashamedly the glorious gospel of our risen King.