Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Joyful Home-Part 6

My wife and I are indebted to many for helping us acquire the resources to raise godly and joyful children. The Scriptures have been our greatest asset, of course. We endeavor to raise children that not only behave well but also love the Lord with all their hearts and His Word as their light.

We are greatly indebted to Douglas and Nancy Wilson. Doug was my pastor in Idaho before we moved to Virginia. His many books, practical knowledge, wisdom and present example as a husband and a father, taught me much about how to live. My wife can say the same about Nancy. I highly recommend all of their books to you.

Much of what I am saying here is my version of what Doug and Nancy have already said in many places. I hope my version of things will be a contribution to the Great Conversation.

In addition to the Scriptures and the Wilsons, we have been blessed by the examples of many godly families as we have raised our children. This has become a rarity these days. When we lived in Moscow, there were literally many dozens of families who were doing an excellent job in their homes and families and were ahead of us in the process. We got to watch and learn.

Incidentally, I want to say a word about learning. Books are great. Vision is better. Notice things. Watch. File away. Yes, we like that. No, we do not want to do it that way. Notice children that really impress you and then get to know their parents. Ask questions. Many Christians are too prideful to admit that they do not know what they are doing in raising children. Don’t be like this. Most of you were probably not raised very well. I wasn’t. I had to learn everything. That is not shameful. The shame is having the opportunity to learn from godly examples and then NOT doing so.

We like American

Greece Day 1-Santorini, April 11.

Katie and I are heading to the bus stop. We want to explore the island of Santorini and have been told the bus is a good way to do so.

We pass a local grocery and remember that we need bottled water for our outing. The prices are much better here than at our hotel, which is just one block away. I suppose this is not surprising as the four star hotel is normally filled with tourists from America, Germany, France and Great Britain.

It's not full now. We are two of a total of eight guests, the first of the season. The others are all Americans. As far as I can tell, they are like us. Not rich, scraped enough money together for a dream vacation and that is why they are here in April.

But the Greeks don’t buy it. We are from America. We are rich.

We are not yet at the bus stop. We’ve got our water, at 30 cents, Euro, and we are trying to get there. We see the bus kiosk and make our way down the walk. Katie spies a carpet and handwork shop, embroidery, stitching, that sort of thing. An old Greek man in an old Greek suit smiles and beckons us in to look around. We are one block from the hotel, day one of our eight day tour of Greece, about ten minutes into our trip.

“Come, come. Look.” Most everyone here speaks English. He is old. He doesn’t.


“No, we are from the United States.”

“Ah,” with some excitement. “American. Welcome. We like American.” And strangely, he stands like a soldier and salutes.

“For you,” he continues and starts digging around under some carpets and then produces a nice Santorini postcard.

Katie is looking at the embroidered table loths. Uh-oh.

“How much?”

“Four hundred.”



Katie and I look at each other, wondering.

“He can’t mean four hundred Euros. That would mean almost $550.”

I turn back to the old man. He smiles. I notice that some of his teeth are missing.

“Do you mean forty Euros?”

He gets a pen and a 2 inch wide scroll of printer paper. There is no cash register or printer around. He writes, 400.

I turn to Katie. “Maybe he means 4 Euros?”

I write.
400? And push the paper back.

He circles the 400, then grabs another ebroidery that Katie is looking at, placing it with the other one. He hold up two fingers and writes, 600.

We are very confused.

“Four daughters, 65 days,” he says and makes some stitching motions.

“Hold on,” we say and disappear a couple doors down to get the grocer. He tells us that the carpet shop is closed but we know that the old man is there. He comes with us, leaving his cash register open. We think the grocer must be good at English. He is not timeless old, like the old man, but he is old enough not to care that most of the world speaks English.

He talks to the old man. The old man talks.

“Six hundred for two,” the grocer says.


“Yes.” And disappears.

“Can’t be,” I say to Katie. “Let’s go. We just got here. We need to talk to somebody that speaks English.”

She hesitates and the old man smiles. “Daughters.” More stitching motions.

We write again. He writes. We aren’t getting anywhere. I pull some Euros out and show him a 10.

“How many?” I ask.

“400 for two.” Fingers up.

“40 tens?” I say, waving a Ten Euro in the air.


“Too much,” we say, now keeping two one syllable words. And we start to leave the shop. We know there is some serious communication problem going on.

“Wait. For you, 300.”

I pull out my wallet again and count out three tens.

“Will that do?”

“Yes,” he says, and more missing teeth.

We take the pretty do-dad, I’m not exactly sure what it is, and start for the door. His wife makes an entrance and she is all smiles, too. She makes stitching motions. “I make.” We get a picture and then leave.

This incident provides us with many laughs and a lot of conversation for two days. Did he really want 400 Euros, 600 for two? Or was it really 40? Or 4? Maybe we paid 30 and could have gotten five of them.

We are not sure and we never made it to the bus stop.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Joyful Home-Part 5

First of all, let me say that my children are wonderful. Furthermore, let me say that the fact of their being wonderful is essential to the rest of the things that I have to say to you. It is not essential in the sense that my children need to be perfect in order to teach you something about raising godly kids. That is not really what I mean. I do think that I have to have some moral authority in order to speak to you on this subject. Thus, my children should be well behaved, godly, happy examples. It would be no help to you to write these things if my own children had already turned out stinkers. So, they should be good children by a fairly high objective standard. I think they meet that standard.

What I mean by ‘my children are wonderful’ has as much to do with my wife and I as it does to do with them. What I want to say is that we are pleased with them. And this pleasure derives not just in their external behavior towards us but in the very fact of being parents and the joy that it brings us to be their parents.

A word of caution here. This is much more than just thinking that you love your children and then turning a blind eye to their every fault. Children can be pleasant or unpleasant based upon how they behave. And that behavior is largely governed by the parent’s ability to see, even with some objectivity, and then to act. Some parents cannot see anything negative in regards to their own children and thus fail to teach them or discipline them in any way. The Bible has a word for this. It is called hatred.

Other parents, however, see far too much. Actually, seeing is not the problem. How you see is the problem. Some parents, especially those who are trying to do a really, really good job of raising their children, can ‘only’ see defects and they spend all of their time chasing down those defects. In this case, the children are not good enough and never will be. There is a bias towards perfectionism on the part of the parent that can never allow the children to have passed the test. That kind of parent will never be able to say, along with me, that “My children are wonderful.”

By wonderful I do not mean perfect. By wonderful I do not mean sinless. My kids make lots of mistakes. They commit plenty of sins. I try to look at them with my eyes open, seeing that they are sinners, immature, still a tad foolish. This is the way they are because they are children.

However, the fact that they are children does not take from me the great pleasure of enjoying them. It is helpful for us to understand this. I think many Christians, perhaps especially in our own Reformed tradition, misunderstand God, and then reenact that misunderstanding as they parent their own children. They see God as an austere Father who cannot tolerate sin in any fashion, Who is just waiting for us to slip up so that He can squash us. Is it any wonder that fathers who view the Father this way, tend to be harsh, critical and unpleased?

I must confess that I must fight this tendency. I think moms tend to be more critical of girls, dads to their sons. But there is so much in our children to be pleased with. Why not see it and find great pleasure? It is not the same thing to have high standards for your children in behavior, education and Christian witness and to be highly critical when they do not meet your perfectionistic standards. In fact, if you have high standards the children will tend to live up to them or at least live up towards them. But if you are highly critical about shortcomings, then the children will react against this. They can feel, even if they cannot understand, the hypocrisy of your demands and your behavior. Your hypercritical attitude is far worse than their failure to vacuum the carpet just so, or set the table just right, or put the napkin on the lap at the right time. Your critical attitude is even worse than their sour face towards sister, a lazy morning of school work, or a host of other shortcomings.

I will discuss these issues more as we discuss the needed pleasant aroma of the home in raising godly children. However, suffice to say here that in order to say that your children are wonderful you have to see that it is actually the case, believe it and act as if it was so.

I really do think my children are wonderful. We still have a lot of work to do with some of them. The oldest is seventeen. We are mostly done training her in our home. She should be an adult now. We just need to learn how to let her stand on her own feet. The youngest is five. He still needs a lot of day to day training. But for both of them, and the four in between, it truly has been a labor of, not only love, but also pleasure, in training them up in the way that they should go. By God’s grace, we have not been disappointed. They are all a testament of God’s grace to us and to our children.

A last word about our children that also applies to yours. This job of parenting is done by the grace of God. We can see by the fruit that we have done well. Not perfect. There are many better parents. Can’t say that I have seen better children, though. Remember, mine are wonderful. But this is not done by perfect parents who have read all the right books and have the perfect answer to every potential problem. Raising children takes wisdom by relying upon God’s Holy Spirit to lead.

Greek Orthodox is Greek to Me

Someone asked where we went to church in Greece. Here's the story.

We did intend to make it to church on Sunday and eagerly looked forward to worshipping with the saints in another part of the world. Not the saints on the wall. I mean the live saints in the sanctuary.

We had a bit of a transportation problem that morning. The hotel bus to town did not run until 9:00. Services started at 8:00 and ran until about 10:00. Since we would not have any idea what was going on anyway, we thought it would not be so bad to show up at 9:30 and catch the last half hour of the service. So, we caught the bus and headed to town.

We had an extra logisitical problem. We did not know exactly which church to go to. There are numerous churches on Mykonos but apparently not as numerous number of priests. Apparently they move around to different churches doing services. They broadcast these services outside the churches via microphone and loud speakers. As we headed into town we could hear a service going on. However, in the maze of the 'walking only' streets that is downtown Mykonos, we could not locate the source of the chanting priest.

After wandering around at a rapid pace for well over thirty minutes, we decided to slow down and relax, realizing that we had missed the morning service.

Sometime after 10:00am we wandered upon another church in the middle of town. The church was crowded to overflowing and there were many people standing outside the church, gathered around both the back and side entrances. Many men were outside, dressed nicecly, but in animated conversations, oblivious to the service going on inside the church. We were excited to finally find the service and tried to make our way into the church. It was crowded and there was really only room for my wife, Katie, with her church dress on, but bare sleeves, to stand just inside the side door with the ladies in full sleeves. I looked in, couldn't see anything, and decided not to get trapped between the various Greek middle aged women who were standing at the door's threshhold. Katie, however, made her way into the church, with some encouragement from the ladies. After a few minutes, a few more ladies made their way into the church behind my wife, and she was blocked from making her way outside. I stood outside the church, observing the many people seemingly oblivious to the goings on inside.

Occasionally, one of the outside worshippers, having heard some cue from inside, would step closer to the building, perhaps touch the building, do a bit of crossing and pass a moment or two in some reverance. As I said, more Greek to me.

At one point, two boys, about 7 and 10, popped out from the back of the crowded church. With smiles and laughs they sprinted back around to the side entrance shoving their way back into the church. I think their game was to see if they could squeeze through everyone back towards the back again. Worship did not seem to be on their mind at all.

There was finally a break in the service and the crowd issued forth. Katie was freed from her position and made here way to me, smiling, at having finally got to worship with the Greeks.

After the service, most of the Greek men and a goodly number of the younger women, immediately lit up their cigarettes and began talking. Everywhere we went in Greece, we found that a large percentage of the population smokes.

Oddly, right after the service, they began to pass out presents in bags. Inside the bags was a muffin, nuts, a sweet roll and a few other items. As we had stood around watching the people from a few feet away, a lady walked forward and handed me one of the bags. "Efgharisto," I said. She replied, "Parakalow."

Later that morning we made our way back to the hotel. A young lady there had told us when the church times were and asked if we had made it to the service.

"Yes, and they even gave us a gift." And we held up the pretty bag of treats for her to see.

A smile crossed her face but also a bit of a puzzled look at the same time.

"Oh, that is the gift for the funeral service." she said. "I am pretty sure that is the six-month service."

My wife and I looked at each other and laughed.

That explained some of the more curious looks we had got at the service. I suppose it would not be so weird if a foreigner came to Sunday worship. But to come to a memorial service of some unknown stranger is a bit stranger.

Maria explained that the Greeks do multiple funeral services. They do them immediately after the death, at forty days, six months and then annually. We were at the six-month service. They give gifts, she told us, for good luck, even to strangers. Thus, explaining why we had gotten our gift.

So, THAT's where we went to church in Greece.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Returned from Greece

I have just returned from a ten day vacation in Greece with my lovely wife of 20 years, my dearest Katie. We were celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary. We had a splendid time. I will be posting some of our travel experiences in the next week or so. Mostly, things went off without a hitch and we were glad we chose to travel to Greece. We did make a few gaphs that ought to supply you with a few laughs.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter Communion Meditation

Our fellowship with God and man was broken in Adam. The one loaf was broken but it lay shattered and torn, not reunited. But in Christ, there is a new humanity. He was broken for us but He was not left broken. His body was raised bringing life to all that are raised in Him. His body was gathered from the dead that all those who are gathered in Him are also gathered from the dead. His gathered body is offered to all that sit here and are the called according to His promises. His body is given for you. We are all reassimilated in Christ.

What was broken and shattered is now put back together. We are new men, new women, new children. The death that reigned in Adam has been conquered in Jesus. The broken body of humanity in Adam has been gathered by the broken body of Jesus Christ.

This means that we have new life and the hope of new life. This life is realized primarily in the body of Christ, His Church. Because we have been made partakers of the body of Christ, we live, like Him. Death no longer is master and ruler. Sin no longer is the tyrant on the throne. There is a new Master and Lord and we must serve Him in righteousness rather than sin and death in unrighteousness. As we eat and drink, we are being transformed into the new humanity that we are. We are being renewed into the likeness of Christ.

These words may sound abstract but they are not. They are very practical. We are growing in thankfulness, hope, and joy. The fruit of the Spirit should be present and growing among us.

Gal 5:16-6:2 16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulful the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

The works of the flesh should be struggling and diminishing among us. The fruit of the Spirit should be flourishing and growing among us. Life conquers death in Jesus Christ. So let us live as the new creation in the regeneration, loving one another in Christ and so fulfilling the law of God.

Easter Exhortation

We often make the mistake of having a sentimental religion. By this, I mean, constructing a faith upon what we feel would be best or what it would be if it were nice and tidy, a precious moment, so to speak. But the Bible and the gospel comes to us on God’s terms and not ours. Because of this, we have to take it as it is given and not as we had hoped it would be. This causes us to submit to God, His Providence, His wisdom, His Christ.

Resurrection Sunday is another one of those parts of the Bible that is often remembered in a sentimental way. I think many Christians envision something other than what actually happened. We have sunrise services so that we can glory in the empty tomb. We picture Mary Magdelene, Peter and John running to the tomb in eager anticipation of finding it empty in proof that Jesus has been raised from the dead. But that is not what happened. They came to the tomb but not eagerly, not in belief, but still lost in their despair and misery. They had not yet believed and so their doubts and fears and disappointments completely blinded them. Among the disciples and even the apostles, there are no exceptions. None anticipated the Resurrection. None were eager for an empty tomb.

But this does not change the fact that Jesus really had risen. The disciples did not believe it and could not see it, but nonetheless it was true. And because it was and is true, they would soon be able to see and have their hope and strength renewed.

We are not unlike the first disciples. We are disciples of Jesus, indeed, but we have our dark moments. We have our Black Fridays like that horrific Friday when Jesus was crucified. All is black and gloom. All hope is lost. All confidence is shattered. We have great doubts and are at a loss as to who Jesus really is. Will He come to me? Will He save me? Am I really His beloved? Or was all that hope just a dream?

We all have our Barren Saturdays, when the day drags on without a word from the Lord. He seems to be gone and not coming back. Where is the joy that we once had in Christ? Where is the hope of Him being King and protecting me from the enemies of my hope? Will He fight this sense of loneliness, of apathy, of unrequited longing? Where is Jesus at this hour of great need?
We have all had our Dissapointing Sundays, when a hope has arisen that perhaps He will come, perhaps He will rise only to find that the tomb is empty but Jesus is not to be found. We thought we could go to Him but He is not there. He has gone.

But all of your Fridays, Saturdays and early Sundays do not change the fact that Christ is Risen. He has risen and conquered the death of Friday. He has returned and brought meaning to the drought of Saturday. He is right behind you on your disappointing Sunday. He speaks and like Mary, you must simply turn around to see Him. His resurrection puts all of the loss, longing, and languishing into perspective. It turns sorrow into joy and mourning into rejoicing.

There is nothing that can separate you from His love. You have but to remember what He said, to believe that His rising is the crowning of victory over death. And that in this victory are all the hopes and joys of your victory. He comes to you on Friday and you must see Him crucified for sins and your sins. He comes to You on Saturday and you must see Him bringing victory over sorrows and your sorrows. He comes to You on Sunday and all hope is renewed. He is risen.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Joyful Home-Part 4

It is not enough to get them to obey. I can make your little children obey. I am bigger than they are. What we want is to get them to love. Love to obey. Love to serve. Love to worship. Love to sing. Love to fellowship. You see, many children DO these things but many of them despise them the entire time. They are rebellions waiting to happen, just waiting for train 18 that will take them out of all this parental and family oppression. Sound too harsh? Look around at some of the families that you know that had 18 and 19 year olds that just could not wait to get out on their own and ruin their lives. It happens. A lot. And the scary thing is, it happens too often in Christian homes, homeschool homes, Christian schooled homes.

As I have done these talks or conferences, I have called them The Joyful Home, Biblical Child Rearing and Practical Wisdom. Who am I? Who is my wife? How is it that we are practically wise? At the risk of losing you amidst your shock at such arrogance, let me say that, We, are the wise. Now, you say, you’ve really done it! If it wasn’t arrogant enough to give us your children as your qualification, now you are painting yourself out as some modern day Solomon! God’s gift to the rest of us who do not know how to raise our own kids.

Slow down there, catch a breath. Let me explain.

I’ll start by saying, yes and no. No, because I hope the angle from which I come to you is one of humility, for only humility is truly wise. Yes, because Solomon wrote all that he did so that we would not be foolish but rather, wise. Those who heed his counsel, and the counsel of the other biblical writers, really do gain wisdom. They are not God’s gift to the earth or to every other human being that they can corner with their divine wisdom but they do have a wisdom that is gained from the experience of others and one that is empowered by the Holy Spirit.

This is not personal know-it-all arrogance. This is recognizing the fact that in your own strength and wisdom you would simply be a fool but in the strength and wisdom of God, you are wise.

It is foolish not to be wise. Why? Because wisdom cries out in the street. Wisdom is not hidden. Wisdom is all around you, in the Word, in the Church, in the good families that you know, in the bad families that you know, in obedience, in disobedience, in righteousness and even in sin.

What do we, my wife and I, have to offer? Are we the wisest of human beings or even parents? No, not by a long shot but to deny that God has given us wisdom is to deny His kindness to us. And you must gain wisdom, too, if you are to raise your children to God’s glory.

And this takes us back to my insistence on my primary qualification and that is my children. Without boring you with the pridefully blind parental details, let me tell you a bit about them.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday Homily

2 Cor 7:9-10 9 Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. 10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.

1Thess 4:13-14 13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

This night is a solemn occasion for us. We are reminded not only of the death of our Lord but also of our share in it. Jesus did not just die for sin or for sinners as some abstract ideal. He died for particular sins and for particular sinners. He died because we are fallen and dead in Adam and it is his desire to raise us up again to newness of life. He died because we followed Adam into sin with our own sins and thus confirmed the truth that all have fallen in Adam. He died because our sinful nature and our sins indeed have lumped us in with all the objects of wrath and have brought death to those who were meant for life. Without the death of Jesus, those sins cannot be taken away. Without the death of Jesus we cannot be justified and declared not guilty before our perfect and holy heavenly Father.

So, it is good for us to reflect on what a grand failure and horrific sin was committed in the person of Adam. He was perfect in righteousness and holiness. He was walking with God in the garden. He had heard God’s command and knew that he must heed, or die. And yet, Adam chose death rather than life.

He represents us well. For here we are on the winning side of the resurrection, on the knowing side of the Ascension, on the victorious side of Pentecost. Jesus has done all that He said He would do. He has kept all of His promises. And yet, we still, like sheep, have gone astray. We still, like the disciples, deny and abandon our Lord in seeking after what is forbidden. We still, like Peter, proclaim death-defying allegiance, only to shrink away from Jesus in fear of man. And all of this with the power of the Holy Spirit present and promised to us. If we only believed with our heart and actions the way we proclaim with our lips.

These are sorrowful words. Words of failure and sin. Words of hopelessness and despair. Words of guilt and shame. O, wretched men that we are, Who will deliver us from the body of this death!

It is not glorious that we are sad. However, it is most glorious that our sadness drives us to Jesus. For some, it is not so. It was not so for Judas. He sorrowed with the world’s sorrow and only discovered death. It was not true for Simon Magus. He sorrowed with the world’s sorrow and only found fear. But Peter was moved to weeping for his great sin. He was restored and became a mighty man of God. Paul was moved to repentance for his sorrow and was a mighty man of God.

It is not glorious that we are sad, unless our sadness moves us to repentance, unless our sadness brings us to the cross, to cast all of our cares on Jesus, unless our sadness brings the sorrow that leads to repentance and repentance to life. Then will our sadness be turned to joy. Then will our weeping end in rejoicing.

We have reflected on sad things here tonight. But let us remember that Easter is coming. We know this. We cannot be sad forever. Our sadness drives us to Jesus. Our sadness carries us to the resurrection. Our sadness is necessary so that our rejoicing can be inversely proportionate. We weep today, knowing that the Lord is near so that we can rejoice on Easter Sunday. As we leave here tonight, contemplative of our own sins and the fact that Jesus died to pay for them, let us do so with hope. Let us do so with anticipation. Let us do so with the knowledge that Jesus has already risen and that He receives all those who come to Him in true humility and repentance.

We do not wink at sin. It is an enemy and produces all manner of sorrow and suffering in the world. But we do wink at the supposed victory of death on this night. Jesus is crucified before us and sin and death rejoice. We let them have their moment for it has all been a wonderful feint and stratagem of our Lord. Sin is no victor. Death is no champion. There is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

Jesus has become sin for us and died for us, only to condemn sin and death in us. Glory be to God in the Highest. Easter is coming! Amen.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Communion Meditation-Inauguration

Today, we have celebrated the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem at the Triumphal Entry. I have mentioned many times that this meal can be pictured as the reception dinner of a wedding feast of the Lord Jesus and His bride the Church. I have also mentioned another biblical picture of this meal; the coronation of a King. It is most fitting to remind ourselves of that picture today, on Palm Sunday.

We need to see this in a new light, though. I think we sometimes picture what we are doing here as a precursor to participation in the heavenly kingdom of Jesus. We do this to give us the hope that someday we really will sit in the heavenly banqueting halls and eat with Jesus. We put ourselves in the mindset that what we are doing here is only play acting, or maybe practicing, for some future event. I would concede a bit of that. In the resurrection, I think we will do this better. After all, we won’t have sin messing with us anymore. But that is a qualitative difference.

Suppose a child were to enact a high tea but they did not do it with little plastic cups and kettles. They asked mother to provide the real china, a teapot, some brownies and cakes and real little girls to share it all with. Mother obliges. Is this a tea party? A real, bonafide, tea party? Yes, absolutely, it is just the five year old version. But the tea is real, the brownies are real, the freinds are real.

Is our inauguration party real? Absolutely. Is Jesus here? In might and power. Is the food and drink nourishing and gladdening? Like none other.

So, let us say, "All Hail to King Jesus!"

Exhortation-God Laughs

This is Holy Week, a week in which we remember many important events from our Christian history and the life of Jesus.

First of all, today we remember and celebrate the triumphal entry, the fact that Jesus is King, not just of heaven but also of earth. The day comes with high hopes but the week seems to lead on with tragedy looming. But is it tragedy or comedy?

The arrest on Thursday after Jesus eats with the twelve, one of them betrayer. Tragedy shapes up and thickens or is Jesus working a Divine Comedy, fattening up the adversaries for the fall, the last laugh, the cosmic, gotcha!

The trial. A trial? Can you call it that? But no, God is working a stage and all the world’s characters are merely players.

The execution of Jesus on the Cross. If the rulers of this world had known what God was doing, they would not have killed the Lord of Glory? Why? Because He was good? No, because God was laughing them into derision through the cross.

The darkness when the Light is taken from the Earth. But a new day is dawning, one that will rise and shine brighter and brighter until a full day.

The death of Jesus, the hope of Israel. The death was necessary and had to be. Jesus had even made some simple attempts at explaining it but not in such a way that His disciples ever figured it out. It is almost as if God is trifling with our emotions so that our tears of sorrow will turn into peals of joy.

The sorrow of lost hopes and failed loyalties, the ignorance and unbelief of the apostles.

The despair of Saturday, sad, heavy hearts. A good plan gone awry.

The doubtful wondering about Jesus and who Jesus thought He was. Gloom and despair.

An empathetic God watching like a mother watching her two year old search for her on the next aisle at the department store. The child is frantic. The mother is empathetic and amused at the same time. The child is lost. The mother is in complete control. A tragedy to the child. A comedy to the mother.

The resurrection with all its glory, making sense of all the senseless failures of the week. The joke is out. The Lord is alive.

The tragedy takes a turn and all the players bow with smiles and the crowd is relieved. The mockery of Jesus is turned into God's mockery of unbelief, His mockery of rebellion and of lost hope.

And God laughs.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Joyful Home-Part 3

I think a basic question that needs answered is, “Why is this man qualified to tell me how to raise my kids?” The answer to that could be short and smart aleck. Because I am a pastor and can deliver God’s Word to you about how to do this. If the Bible says it and I say what the Bible says then you are all obligated to follow. In one sense this is true and we all ought to be willing to hear the Bible and wisdom from whatever quarter it comes from. We ought to be able to learn from godly wise men and we ought to be able to learn from the foolish.

Solomon, himself, uses this tack. He teaches his son from a storehouse of wisdom, through many victories and many failures. He also asks his son to come over and look out the window at a young man being seduced by an adulteress. He wants his son to see the fool being led to his doom. So, even fools can teach wisdom to a wise man. To him who has, even more will be given.
I am not asserting a bald truth kind of authority here. I do intend to teach biblical principles and to show them applied in the world in which we live. But my qualification is more than words, even bible words, or books or knowledge or simply being right. I need to have those qualifications but if I have those and I do not have this other qualification, then I would not expect you to have much confidence in the things that I am going to say.

So, what is this other basic qualification? If it is not intrinsic or learned knowledge, bible beating, formulated God-speak, ordination magic, or anything else of that nature, then what is it?

Well, quite simply said, it is my children.

“Now that’s an arrogant thing to say! Another one of those perfect kid maniacs telling everyone else how to do it.”

Well, I hope not. I have read enough of the paint by numbers child trainging sorts of books and seen enough train wrecks of lives from that methodology, that this is manifestly NOT what I am presenting here.

I do want to give you biblical principles. I do want to hold out hope to you. I do want to proclaim the promises of God in Christ for you and your children. All of this while robustly affirming the nature of our Triune God. He is One in Three. This nature of God is the foundation for every form of diversity in the body of Christ. We are all different. Our families are different. Parents have very different backgrounds. Number of children, gender make-up of the children, church and historical background, and a thousand other variables give us a wonderful tapestry of families in the church. They should all be woven together into a glorious picture of faithfulness in God’s promises. It will look very different from family to family. But what ought to be evident in all of these very different Christian families is love, respect, honor, obedience, cheerfulness and service.

I will give you some very practical ‘how tos’ but that always makes me a bit nervous. Whenever the teaching gets too method oriented, the tendency is to latch on to the method as the principle. I don’t want this to happen. We lose the sense of diversity, or the Triune nature of God and end up insisting on training and education having to be done a particular way. That is a grave and costly mistake. It is one that invariably sucks the love and life out of the process. The parents are frustrated and the children end up despising the things that they should love. And that is our real goal in training and educating our children; to get them to love the things that we love, particularly our God and our neighbor.