Another day of witness and an invitation…

I have very little doubt that my brothers in the Presbyterian Church in America would state privately that abortion is a modern genocide. Yet when it comes to prophetic ministry to state that truth publicly, there is more silence than talk. Will our Lord judge us well for such inconsistency?

Along with a number of people from Trinity, I drive for over thirty minutes to stand at the gates of hell, telling the residents of Greenville that children are being murdered within her gates, that she has a death-camp in her midst. I do so one day of the six days a week the abortuary is open. I invite my brothers and pastors from the PCA to put some flesh on those theological bones by practicing true religion outside the Greenville Women’s Clinic.

A map showing PCA churches near the place in Greenville where babies are murdered.

A map showing PCA churches near the place in Greenville where babies are murdered.

Would you consider being there one of those six days? Will you join us?

Let the contemplations of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (as told by Eric Metaxas) inspire you…

The Scriptures said that faith without works is dead, that faith “is the evidence of things not seen.” Bonhoeffer knew that one could see some things only with the eyes of faith, but they were no less real and true than the things one saw with one’s physical eyes. But the eyes of faith had a moral component. To see that it was against God’s will to persecute Jews, one must choose to open one’s eyes. And then one would face another uncomfortable choice: whether to act as God required.

Bonhoeffer strove to see what God wanted to show and then to do what God asked in response. That was the obedient Christian life, the call of the disciple. And it came with a cost, which explained why so many were afraid to open their eyes in the first place. It was the antithesis of the “cheap grace” that required nothing more than an easy mental assent, which he wrote about in Discipleship (Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, 278-279).

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Raising our children to be those of whom the world was not worthy (part 3)…

37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated 38 (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground (Heb. 11:37-38).

Of verse 38, the Puritan pastor John Owen writes:

Of this world it is said, that it was “not worthy” of those sufferers. It was not so in the ages and seasons wherein they lived; nor is so of them who suffer in any other age whatever. The world thinks them not worthy of it, or to live in it, to enjoy any name or place among the men of it. Here is a testimony given to the contrary, — that the world is not worthy of them. Nor can any thing be spoken to the greater provocation of it. To tell the great, the mighty, the wealthy, the rulers of the world, that they are not worthy of the society of such as in their days are poor, destitute, despised, wanderers, whom they hurt and persecute, as the “offscouring of all things,” is that which fills them with indignation. There is not an informer or apparitor but would think himself disparaged by it. But they may esteem of it as they please; we know that this testimony is true, and the world one day shall confess it so to be.

Reflecting on this verse, Owen makes this observation:

It becomes us to be filled with thoughts of and affections unto spiritual things, to labor for an anticipation of glory, that we faint not in the consideration of the evils that may befall us on the account of the gospel.

Parents, how are you cultivating the above mindset in yourself and then in your children? Continue reading

Raising our children to be those of whom the world was not worthy (part 2)…

If we believe the coming generation will face more hostility from our pagan culture, how do we switch gears from raising them for worldly success—as we have been doing, let’s be honest—to raising them for warfare, suffering, and loss? (We should have been doing that all along!) Here’s my list (Add others in the comments, please):

1. Discipline your children with the rod and with the Word. Proverbs 22:15, 23:13, 29:15. Love them through discipline (Prov. 13:24). Want them to have a right regard for authority?—one where they know that the ultimate authority is God whose throne is in heaven? Show your children your own fear of God and submission to His will in this task. Rebuke them and train them with the Word. Spank and speak. Give the no and the yes. Punish for sin and go to God’s Word to show them the right path.

Remember, we are no longer training them for success in the world, we are training them for success in battle… Continue reading

Missing the elephant in the womb…

Sad story in The New York Times this morning…made sadder by the blindness of many of the participants. Amazingly, the hospital and her administrators, who are obeying the laws of the State of Texas, are on the side of the angels this time.

Update: Now baby Munoz’s life is in the hands of the courts. Mr. Munoz has sued the hospital

This morning, Munoz took another step toward fulfilling JPS’ wish for clarity, filing suit in Tarrant County District Court. In the suit, he says the hospital has diagnosed her as “brain dead” and that all life-sustaining treatments should be stopped.

Keeping her alive “makes no sense, and amounts to nothing more than the cruel and obscene mutilation of a deceased body against the expressed will of the deceased and her family.”

Update 1.22.14: The lawyers for Mrs. Munoz’s husband are now claiming the baby is not healthy and so deserves to die. A hearing is set for this Friday in Fort Worth:

A state district judge will hold a hearing Friday to consider removing a pregnant Haltom City woman from life support after she was kept alive by John Peter Smith Hospital against her family’s wishes.

State District Judge R.H. Wallace will hear a request by the family of Marlise Muñoz to have JPS immediately cease further medical procedures and remove her from any respirators, ventilators or other “life support” and release her body to the family for burial.

Please be praying for Judge Wallace and for the life of the baby.

Update 1.24.14: The judge ordered the hospital to terminate the life-support. Many sources are reporting that even the hospital is saying the baby is “not viable.” The Lord knows. The hospital could also now appeal the decision. Here’s a bit from the AP report:

Judge R. H. Wallace Jr. issued the ruling in the case of Marlise Munoz. John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth has been keeping Munoz on life support against her family’s wishes. The judge gave the hospital until 5 p.m. CST Monday to remove life support. The hospital did not immediately say Friday whether it would appeal.

Update 1.27.14: The hospital threw in the towel and decided not to appeal the judge’s decision. Mr. Munoz stopped the life-support around noon yesterday. Again, no mention of the baby who was being kept alive by these methods. No mention of the possibility of life coming out of these dire circumstances…

A lawyer for the family said Sunday that Marlise Muñoz was pronounced dead a short time after life support was withdrawn.

“Our client, Erick Muñoz, has authorized us to give notice that today, at approximately 11:30 a.m. … Marlise Muñoz’s body was disconnected from ‘life support’ and released to Mr. Muñoz,” said a statement from the family’s attorneys, Heather L. King and Jessica H. Janicek.

 

Wifely Wednesday: Thanksgiving

DSC_0003Today when Andrew came home from work, he immediately settled down to the business at hand: annoying his children. Now just wait! Before you judge him for being one of those wicked fathers who exasperates his children, or chastise me for disrespecting my husband on a public blog, read on. You see, if Andrew did the sorts of things to me that he was doing to the children, I would be GREATLY annoyed. I do not enjoy tickling. Hate it, in fact. Andrew, however, seems to have a pathological need to tickle somebody every day. And before we had children, I was, unfortunately, his only prey. Andrew’s children, on the other hand, love nothing better than having their father annoy, er, I mean tickle them until they have tears streaming down their faces and they about wet their pants.

So here is my simple thanksgiving for the day. I am thankful that my children take my place during the daily rough house routine. I am thankful that the boys love to watch Detroit Tigers games with Andrew so that I don’t have to feign interest. I am thankful that Zeke drinks coffee with Andrew, because I think it’s gross and Andrew loves to have a coffee buddy. I am thankful that Anna likes to scratch backs for hours on end, because Andrew loves to have his back scratched for hours on end.

And I’m sure if Andrew were writing this post, he would probably say something like, “My wife is sitting happily in the den playing board games with her children. I would rather get a root canal than play a board game, but my wife loves them. I have sorely neglected her desire in this area for the better part of our marriage, so I am thankful that her children fill this need of hers. They love to sit and throw dice while they move little pieces around colored squares. That’s weird, but I’m just glad somebody else in the house will play with poor, neglected Sarah!”

Well, ok, maybe he wouldn’t word it quite like that, but you get the point! One of those funny little blessings of large families is that, eventually, somebody in the house is interested in what you are interested in. And that’s just something to be thankful for.

The church is unnecessary, like fatherhood…

Americans in the 21st century are a particular type of beast with a particular type of culture which influences us to think particular thoughts and feel particular feelings about the church.

Do you think that individualism affects how we think about the church? Do you think the predominant idea of having a personal relationship with God affects how we think of the church? Do you think materialism affects how we think about the church? Do you think postmodern and moral relativism affects how we think about the church? Do you think our view of leadership, affects our view of the church? Do you think our hatred of authority affects how we think about the church? Do you think our fixation on entertainment, particularly sports, affects how we think about the church? Do you think technology with her social networking affects how we think about the church? Do you think our fatherlessness affects how we think about the church? Do you think the prominence of parachurch ministries affects how we understand the church? Do you think today’s failures and abuses of the church—different than Martin Luther’s day but equally unbiblical—affect how we think about the church? Do you think our view of male and female, biblical sexuality—affect how we understand the church? Do you think our view of Christian discipleship—it being an individual pursuit (huh?)—affects how we understand the church? Do you think our view of discipline and the spiritual authority of the elder board affects our view of the church? Do you think our view of the Word of God, especially the preached Word, affects our view of the church?

There is a statement by the early church father Cyprian that was echoed by John Calvin. It speaks to the importance and position of the church. A paraphrase would be this: the man who won’t have the Church as his mother may not have God as his Father. Now, why was it important for the early Reformers to hold to such a “high view” of the church? It is Biblical. To an uninformed observer, it may have looked like the Reformers were throwing off the church in breaking away from the Roman Catholic Church. But, they were not throwing off the church; they desired to reform the church, to return the church to her apostolic/Biblical authority. They understood that the church was the “household of God,” “the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15).

That statement—”the man who won’t have the Church as his mother may not have God as his Father,”—is not very popular today with those who profess to follow Jesus. You often hear people trample on the church who profess faith in Jesus. “I believe in Jesus, but I don’t go for ‘organized religion.’” Have you ever heard anybody say that? Do you know someone who professes to follow Christ but refuses to attend church? He won’t come near a church because he had a “bad experience” at a church or because he lived through a church split that was particularly nasty or because the pastor may have loved him too well, by being concerned for his soul, warning him to start loving his wife, or to stop looking at pornography, or to get a job and provide for his family. That dismissive attitude toward the church is so common.

Even if there was no “bad experience,” the basic understanding of the church today—and many of you believe this to be true though you may not say it—is that the church is not necessary. I was going to say nice but not necessary…but most don’t think it is nice.

We think we can receive everything we receive at church elsewhere. We can sit under the ministry of the Word by reading at home for a few minutes when we are falling asleep. We can fellowship with other believers by meeting them for a meal at Applebee’s. We can tithe by giving our money to missionaries and Radio programs and Campus Crusade and Intervarsity. We can be taught God’s Word by reading all of Tim Keller’s books. We learn God’s Word by purchasing a Gospel Transformation Bible which is chock full of notes from great pastors, wonderful scholars, smart guys with like actually godliness. We can even have accountability with our best friends. We can have mountaintop spiritual experiences by attending retreats at cushy retreat centers. We can have transforming times of devotion by attending conferences where the speakers are eloquent and have Scottish accents. We can hear good preaching by logging on to sermonaudio.com and searching for another one of those good Scottish accents. We can love others by volunteering at the soup kitchen each week. We can sing in our hearts to God with the help of Christian radio stations. We can worship God by taking hikes in nature.

All the spiritual pursuits that are commended in Scripture can be found elsewhere and with none of the baggage of the church. The ministry of the Holy Spirit, we believe, is purer outside the church.

Here’s the problem with all those other pursuits: The Father is not there. The church is His “household” (1 Tim. 3:15). We prefer to be outside the household, orphans without Father or Mother.

Academic barrenness and RTS's little "thank you"…

And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them (Mark 10:13-16).

I received an invitation in the church mail box for the inauguration of Dr. Michael J. Kruger. He will be the fourth president of Reformed Theological Seminary Charlotte. Near the bottom of that invitation is a little statement, a “thank you” to those who will not do something: “Thank you for not bringing children to this adult only worship service.”

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Now, I do not know what sort of seating is available at Uptown Church. Perhaps the Board of Trustees is concerned that adults (donors) have seats. But, really, they could have chosen a number of venues in Charlotte that would have ample seating. There is a large PCA church in town. That can’t be what’s motivating the Board of Trustees to give you thanks for complying.

What little children require are nursery workers and cry rooms and air fresheners…and, worst of all, they make noise, bless their hearts. On the solemn occasion of a doctor being inaugurated to the pinnacle of this particular parachurch ministry, noise of children would be a solemnity-breaker, a terrible interruption, a most unwelcome intrusion. The fragile solemnity of the occasion is being held together by a few threads of academic gowns, transitional silence, and classical subtlety. A child crying could quickly sever those threads…

Though there may be a whole host of pragmatic reasons for this request to leave your children at home, it stands as a testimony to academic barrenness. Presidents of seminaries are inaugurated at child-free, squeaky-clean, adult-only worship services. Contrast that to the strong solemnity of the installation of pastors in a local body of believers. They are ordained and installed in worship services with families strewn across the pews, children crying during the prayers (God-ordained strength: Psalm 8:2), mothers and fathers roaming about the back of the sanctuary bouncing infants, cheerios being crushed into the carpet, sons and daughters learning something deeply significant as the fathers of the church press their weight on the shoulders of the new shepherd.

Which more resembles the ministry of Jesus?

In this decision to forbid children at a worship service, The Board of Trustees of RTS has given the first class to current students on the orthodoxy of barrenness.

I’m tempted to load up the Ford E-350 and see what happens…

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Living for the glory of others…

I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do (John 17:4).

The result of Jesus’s living for the glory of His Father is amazing fruit. Though the world tells us to live for our own glory—to “reach for the stars,” to “be true to ourselves,” to “be all that you can be,”—all those pursuits will ultimately end in barrenness. Jesus found glory in living for His Father’s glory. We too will find glory when we die to self and live for Jesus. As Jesus lived for the Father, so we live for Jesus. As the fruit of Jesus living for the Father resulted in our eternal salvation, so our living for Jesus will result in fruitfulness in those around us.

Wifely Wednesday: Better Late…

IMG_0003Well here it is, 12:30 in the afternoon and I only just now realized it’s Wednesday! I’ve been busy all morning cleaning out the homeschool cupboard. Finished text books are put on the bookshelf or cycled down to the younger sibling for next year, finished workbooks are filed away in case the great state of South Carolina should ever decide to check up on what I’m teaching my children, mini pencils and those without erasers have been thrown away, new pencils are sharpened and put in the basket, craft supplies were weeded out and reorganized. And, of course, all this cleaning had the delightful effect of making my children suddenly struck with a passion to use all the craft supplies we own. Which means I’ll get to clean it all again this afternoon.

Does this happen in your house? A newly cleaned room becomes the one room that everybody wants to play in? My attitude on this was changed radically after I read a post by Rachel Jankovic on the Femina blog. In it she said,

Imagine you spent the day rearranging and cleaning up the living space in your home. You have flowers and clean curtains and fresh throw pillows and maybe a candle. You are pleased. The right lights are on. Things are good. And then, like the wolf on the fold, the people in your life descend upon your work. They peel off socks and put their feet on the coffee table. They come from afar bringing baskets of craftiness to spread out upon the couch. They pop popcorn and carelessly munch. Someone goes so far as to get out the puzzles. In such a moment, it would be easy (don’t ask me how I know) to become shrill. It is easy to see each chin-glancing popcorn shrapnel as an insult. “Don’t you value the work I do?!” “Don’t you care how long this took me?!” “Why can’t you just not do this??” Even if you don’t say it, you may feel a little despair, a little resentment, and a little “why do I even try?”.

But the truth is, we need a new perspective. It is moments like this that should give us a lot of job satisfaction. These people are enjoying you. They are enjoying your work. But, like a great dinner all laid out on the table, you don’t enjoy it without touching it. A chef would not look at dishes coming back to the kitchen untouched as a sign of success. It would not mean great things about your work. Yet this is what we want from the work we do in our homes.

I’m sure most of you have noticed the magnetic power of what you clean. Clean the bookshelf up, and everyone wants to read. Organize the little toys, and everyone wants to play with the things they have been callously walking on for days. This is a sign that you are succeeding, that your people love your work. Think of it like food, because that is how it is getting used.

So as summer vacation takes off and our children are gathered around us, let’s take satisfaction in the pleasure they take from us and from our work. It may not come in the form of adoring praise or maintaining the pristine cleanliness of our homes. More likely it will be sticky faces from the lunch we made or elaborate forts built after we read a book that inspired their inner architect. Hooray for messy, happy summer!

~Sarah Dionne