Thursday, February 26, 2015

Lesser Magistrates

Just finished Matthew J. Trewhella's, The Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrates- A proper resistance to tyranny and a repudiation of unlimited obedience to civil government.

I highly recommend this book. It is important than all Christians, ministers and laymen, understand, encourage and support this doctrine. As the federal government encroaches more and more upon our liberty, we must insist that our lesser magistrates interpose between that growing tyranny and the people. This is their duty before God and on behalf of those they represent.

Sadly, most lesser magistrates either do not understand their duty or simply are afraid to enforce it. One reason is their own self interest. Interposition is costly. Another major reason for capitulation is money. The federal government's main threat against states and localities is withholding federal funds. It is not only individuals that are slaves of the nanny state. States are slaves of federal money for roads, schools and various institutions, as our local communities. They are bought and kept.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Paedo Communion

Just read Visible Saints- The History of a Puritan Idea by Edmund S. Morgan.

First of all, I have library cards in my books and this one had a prior reader, my son Zachary, dated May 11, 2005. What is amazing about this is that Zach is now 21, so at that time he was 11. Huh? Must be those weird homeschoolers, Omnibus parents. Actually, at that time he was in my school, Pactum Boys Academy. We were doing Omnibus and that was one of the assigned books. I can't believe he got through it.

Somehow, I did not read the book back then but did read it yesterday.  For a minster of 49 and 11/12ths, it was an excellent read. Not so much for an 11 year old!

The upshot of the book and thus the title, is that the Puritan (non-Separtists)  idea (including the Separtists) was to flatten out the difference between the invisible and visible church. They were Puritans, after all. In seeking to enforce the marks of the church: 1. Preaching of the Word and Sound Doctrine, 2. Right Administration of the Sacraments, and 3. Discipline, they went too far.

Particularly, where they went too far was to require proof of the Spirit's working with saving faith in one's life BEFORE they could become members of the church. This innovation occurred in New England in the 1630s.

The result of this requirement was a test of one's experience of saving faith. Over a short period of time, less than 10 years, the Puritans developed a morphology of saving faith. They contended that it necessarily followed a particular order. Since everyone knew what was expected of them, the story of their conversions, their testimonies, became remarkably similar. Any deviation from this narrative was considered invalid and one could not join the church.

However, these Puritans had babies, lots of them. And as these children grew up into adulthood, they were supposed to give the same narration. I grew up in the church, I thought I was a Christian, but I was assailed by doubts and sins to realize that I did not possess saving faith. I finally learned to abhor my sins and turn from them to the living Christ and thus received saving faith. The problem with this narrative is that it was not the practical realization of many children. Some simply followed in faith as their parent's did. If they were honest and faithful Christians, they could not come up with a litany of doubts, rebellions and sins and so were not considered to have saving faith. These kids were already baptized but were now refused the Lord's Supper. Some came to tell the story of saving faith but often not until their mid-20s. Some never told that story.

Others openly rebelled. I have no doubt that this situation would cause kids to openly rebel. If they were taught to doubt their belief and salvation from early childhood, that doubt would only grow. Instead of encouraging them in the faith, their parents and pastors discouraged them in the faith.

Those baptized children growing up without a testimony of conversion were looked at as unregenerate. No doubt some of them were. But no doubt a lot of them were regenerate but were also honest enough to not lie about how it happened.

When these children had children, a huge controversy arose in the churches. Can we baptize the children of non-communicant members? Can we baptize the children of parents we openly believe to be unregenerate? Keep in mind that these unregenerate adults were not openly rebellious or leading scandalous lifestyles. In those cases, the offender could be censored or excommunicated. They simply could not come up with right testimony to convince their elders that they had obtained saving faith.

A synod finally decided to let the church baptize these children, even though their parents were not FULL members of the church. This was called the Half-way covenant.

A better understanding of the morphology of saving faith is mystery. Some receive saving faith in the womb like John the Baptist. Some know the things of God from a little child, like Timothy. Some receive the Spirit of Regeneration at Baptism. Others find in themselves rebellion and hatred against their parents and against God and must despise their sins and turn to Jesus and thus receive saving faith. But it is misguided to demand exactly how and when God is going to do this in the lives of His people.

The Westminster Confession of Faith wisely places this time table in the able hands of the Lord. In 28.6 it says, "The efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited and conferred by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God's own will, in his appointed time."

The efficacy here would be understood as God' saving grace resulting in saving faith.

We should simply believe God and take Him at His promises. At the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Peter said, "For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call."

The promise was the Spirit and it was there for the 3000 at Pentecost AND their children and all those who are far off AND for their children. It is not presumptuous to believe in God's promises for our children. It is not presumptuous to believe that they are His, that they have His Spirit, that they are regenerate, that they possess saving faith.

Now, it would be presumptuous to believe this in the face of clear evidence to the contrary. If they are in rebellion, openly disdain Christ and their own parents, fall into regular and scandalous sins and will not hear correction, then the church should act.

But the normal expectation in the life of the church is that the children of true believers will themselves be true believers. This requires regeneration and saving faith, faith as a little child, a paedo, an infant.

And this is why we should treat our littlest members as members, indeed. Give them the bread and wine so that they grow up into Jesus, always knowing that His body and blood was given for them, to cover their sins and to draw them to His Table.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Onward Christian Soldiers!

The Lord is leading forth those whom He has redeemed. He has called us out of the world, forgiven our sins and made us partakers of Christ as His own dear children.
         This Assurance of Pardon part of our service is very important. We sometimes prefer to linger under our sins, letting the contrition weigh heavily upon us. Sometimes it takes a great weight to get us to repent. But having repented, we need not bear that weight any longer.
        In Pilgrim’s progress, when Christian stood gazing at the cross, his burden of sin simply slid from his back. He became light in the forgiveness of the cross
        This is why we stand after confession, because our burden is gone and we are light in the presence of our Lord. And now, lightened by the loss of our burden, we are to march on in Jesus Christ.
       Onward Christian soldiers!

Apple of His Eye

The Lord is gracious and kind to us. He has drawn us close to Himself as a good father draws his dearly beloved children to himself. This is why we are seated at His Table.
         The eye is very sensitive. All men naturally protect their eyes. God does that for us. We are His focus, the center of His interest, even of His self-interest. To protect His people is to protect Himself as we are the body of Christ.
        Every mother and father knows that when you touch their children you touch them. Thus is God’s attitude towards His children. He is intimately acquainted with His children and holds them close to His heart. God’s people are the apple of His eye. He desires that we know and understand this truth and so put our utmost and explicit trust in Him as our Father.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Pass the Ball

For those who have blown it with your older or grown kids and it is obvious, do not say, “We did everything. We took them to church and youth group. We even enrolled them in Christian Schools.” There is likely a real and screaming reason why your children are in rebellion. Find it. Confess it to them. Ask them for forgiveness.
Your asking for forgiveness is the first step in their restoration. It does two things. First, it places the ball in their court. If they grant real forgiveness, then the reason for their bitterness is gone. The barrier that kept them from God is now removed. Even though they were not justified in their sin and rebellion, they felt like they were. By asking their forgiveness, you remove the immediate stumbling block for them to come back to the faith. You put the ball in their court and give room for the Spirit to work on their hearts.

Furthermore, in order for you to ask their forgiveness, you will have already asked God’s forgiveness. God freely grants it. This enables you to go to them in true humility. This also enables you to leave the future consequences up to God. You cannot redeem yourself through regret and reproaches. Freely receive and freely give forgiveness.

The Wayward Child

   I am a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I offer you hope. There is good news. But the good news of the gospel always comes after the bad news of sin and failure. And wherever sin abounds, grace doth much more abound. If you have failed as a parent, and we all have, then there is grace to cover your sin. And this grace has the amazing power to forgive, reconcile and heal. And this grace can even reach back over time and produce fruit. But in order for it to do so, there needs to be honesty, confession, repentance and forgiveness.
         Let me say also, and this part is scary, that there are consequences for disobedience. In God’s ordinary means of salvation, being raised properly in a Christian home is a big one. So, if there has been gross negligence and disobedience on the part of parents, then this is difficult to overcome. But we are those who believe in Resurrection, life after death, and this is also God’s extraordinary means.

         So, my aim as a minister and as a speaker on raising children is to catch young parents with young children so that God’s grace supernaturally flows down hill. But I also want to speak hope and resurrection to those older parents who are in great need.

Rebellious Teens

When there is rebellion from teens, some level of repentance from the parents to God and to your teen is in order. This provides an avenue for the child’s repentance but it is no guarantee. Remember, what we stated before about our lives together? You do not love your child for their sake. You love your child for Christ’s sake. This enables you to do that which is right based upon the Word of God. This is the truth in love.

Rebellious teens may require some tough love. But don’t start with tough love. Start with gentleness, patience and kindness. It is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. But God is also willing to bring discipline, chastisement and eventually judgment. When it comes to judgment, He is no longer being kind.  But God is very longsuffering before judgment falls. We should be like Him.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Not Free

Parents, what would you actually do if you were totally free to choose to do whatever you wanted to do? That is not a totally fair question. The reason it is not a fair question, is that we are not totally free to choose. Thank God!
      We are not free because His Spirit indwells us. We are not free because we are slaves of Christ. We have been bought with a price. But we must relinquish the rights of our old master the devil and submit to the will of our new master, Jesus Christ.
      We are not free because we are connected to Christ’s Church. This means a direct connection to God’s Word preached, taught and pushed out into the corners of our lives. God’s Word is a living and two-edged sword and it compels us to do that which is right.
      We are not free because we are connected to Christ’s body, particularly, the local church. We have pastors, elders, deacons and fellow congregants who pray for us, confront us, know us and love us such that we are exhorted to do that which is right.
      And in all of this we have abundant grace, from God and from men, that forgives us our sins and enables us to start anew with each grace filled day.
      This means receiving and dispensing forgiveness in great abundance.
      If you get this, then the daunting task of bringing teenagers into adulthood is not so overwhelming. If you did your good work, by the grace of God, in the little years, then the coming of age years will be good and glorious.

      The goal then of raising teens and young adults is their own ownership of who they are in Jesus Christ. We want them to own up to it of their own free will. This is not independence from God, the Church or the Christian Community, but rather, a personal conviction of loyalty to God, the Church, family and community.

Into the Deep

The first step in being a spiritually eligible to discipline your children is to recognize your own failings and sins and seek to correct them.  If you are prone to anger, especially anger at your children, then you need to deal with this before the Lord before you deal with your children.  Because you must deal with your children in order to be obedient to God, then you also must deal with your anger.

This is one of the glorious aspects of being a parent. We start out on a journey to teach our children so that they grow up well, have faith in Christ, and learn maturity and wisdom. But in that process of raising children, we find that the Lord is making a good work of us, so that we grow up, have faith in Christ and learn maturity and wisdom. He calls us to the task of parenting and parenting well but we cannot accomplish that task unless He continues to transform us into the image of Christ. And then we find, wonder of wonders, that He uses the very process that He calls us to fulfill, parenting, to lead us into the deep waters of our lives in Christ.  God’s ways truly are glorious and past finding out!