Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Church-Based Hope for Adultolescents

John Piper wrote a great piece in Bethlehem's newsletter last week. It is entitled, "A Church-Based Hope for Adultescents" and can be accessed HERE.

Following on the heals of Alex and Brett Harris, Al Mohler, and others, Piper hits the nail squarely on the head in decrying the rise of the young adult who refuses to grow up. He then adds concrete, useful thoughts on the response of the church.

You can read the text here if you don't want to use the link above: 

A Church-Based Hope for “Adultolescents”

By John PiperNovember 13, 2007


Christian Smith, professor of sociology at Notre Dame, wrote in the most recent Books and Culture a review of six books that deal with the new phenomenon of “adultolescence”—that is, the postponement of adulthood into the thirties. I want to relate this phenomenon to the church. But first here is a summary from Smith’s article of what it is and how it came about.

What Is Adultolescence?

Smith writes,

“Teenager” and “adolescence” as representing a distinct stage of life were very much 20th-century inventions, brought into being by changes in mass education, child labor laws, urbanization and suburbanization, mass consumerism, and the media. Similarly, a new, distinct, and important stage in life, situated between the teenage years and full-fledged adulthood, has emerged in our culture in recent decades—reshaping the meaning of self, youth, relationships, and life commitments as well as a variety of behaviors and dispositions among the young.

What has emerged from this new situation has been variously labeled “extended adolescence,” “youthhood,” “adultolescence,” “young adulthood,” the “twenty-somethings,” and “emerging adulthood.”

One way of describing this group is to highlight the tendency to delay adulthood or stay in the youth mindset longer than we used to. Smith suggests the following causes for this delay in arriving at mature, responsible adulthood.

First is the growth of higher education. The GI Bill, changes in the American economy, and government subsidizing of community colleges and state universities led in the second half of the last century to a dramatic rise in the number of high school graduates going on to college and university. More recently, many feel pressured—in pursuit of the American dream—to add years of graduate school education on top of their bachelor’s degree. As a result, a huge proportion of American youth are no longer stopping school and beginning stable careers at age 18 but are extending their formal schooling well into their twenties. And those who are aiming to join America's professional and knowledge classes—those who most powerfully shape our culture and society—are continuing in graduate and professional school programs often up until their thirties.

A second and related social change crucial to the rise of emerging adulthood is the delay of marriage by American youth over the last decades. Between 1950 and 2000, the median age of first marriage for women rose from 20 to 25 years old. For men during that same time the median age rose from 22 to 27 years old. The sharpest increase for both took place after 1970. Half a century ago, many young people were anxious to get out of high school, marry, settle down, have children, and start a long-term career. But many youth today, especially but not exclusively men, face almost a decade between high school graduation and marriage to spend exploring life's many options in unprecedented freedom.

A third major social transformation contributing to the rise of emerging adulthood as a distinct life phase concerns changes in the American and global economy that undermine stable, lifelong careers and replace them instead with careers of lower security, more frequent job changes, and an ongoing need for new training and education. Most young people today know they need to approach their careers with a variety of skills, maximal flexibility, and readiness to re tool as needed. That itself pushes youth toward extended schooling, delay of marriage, and, arguably, a general psychological orientation of maximizing options and postponing commitments.

Finally, and in part as a response to all of the above, parents of today’s youth, aware of the resources often required to succeed, seem increasingly willing to extend financial and other support to their children, well into their twenties and even into their early thirties.

The characteristics of the 18-30 year-olds that these four factors produce include:

(1) identity exploration, (2) instability, (3) focus on self, (4) feeling in limbo, in transition, in-between, and (5) sense of possibilities, opportunities, and unparalleled hope. These, of course, are also often accompanied by big doses of transience, confusion, anxiety, self-obsession, melodrama, conflict, and disappointment.

How Should the Church Respond?

How might the church respond to this phenomenon in our culture? Here are my suggestions.

1. The church will encourage maturity, not the opposite. “Do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature” (1 Corinthians 4:20).

2. The church will press the fact that maturity is not a function of being out of school but is possible to develop while in school.

3. While celebrating the call to life long singleness, the church will not encourage those who don’t have the cal to wait till late in their twenties or thirties to marry, even if it means marrying while in school.

4. The church will foster flexibility in life through living by faith and resist the notion that learning to be professionally flexible must happen through a decade of experimentation.

5. The church will help parents prepare their youth for independent financial living by age 22 or sooner, where disabilities do not prevent.

6. The church will provide a stability and steadiness in life for young adults who find a significant identity there.

7. The church will provide inspiring, worldview-forming teaching week in and week out that will deepen the mature mind.

8. The church will provide a web of serious, maturing relationships.

9. The church will be a corporate communion of believers with God in his word and his ordinances that provide a regular experience of universal significance.

10. The church will be a beacon of truth that helps young adults keep their bearings in the uncertainties of cultural fog and riptides.

11. The church will regularly sound the trumpet for young adults that Christ is Lord of their lives and that they are not dependent on mom and dad for ultimate guidance.

12. The church will provide leadership and service roles that call for the responsibility of maturity in the young adults who fill them.

13. The church will continually clarify and encourage a God-centered perspective on college and grad school and career development.

14. The church will lift up the incentives and values of chaste and holy singleness, as well as faithful and holy marriage.

15. The church will relentlessly extol the maturing and strengthening effects of the only infallible life charter for young adults, the Bible.

In these ways, I pray that the Lord Jesus, through his church, will nurture a provocative and compelling cultural alternative among our “emerging adults.” This counter-cultural band will have more stability, clearer identity, deeper wisdom, Christ-dependent flexibility, an orientation on the good of others not just themselves, a readiness to bear responsibility and not just demand rights, an expectation that they will suffer without returning evil for evil, an awareness that life is short and after that comes judgment, and a bent to defer gratification till heaven if necessary so as to do maximum good and not forfeit final joy in God.

Seeking to serve the next generation,

Pastor John

© Desiring God

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Romans 1 and Poll Results

I was listening recently to a sermon by Tim Conway regarding the decision of how to educate your child (click HERE for the link)... public, private, or home. He does a very nice job articulating Scripture and the principles therein as he encourages his listeners to apply the Bible in this area.

One of the principles he brings out is directly out of Romans 1. God has given man no excuse for not knowing him, yet man refuses. They do not honor Him or give thanks to Him. Instead they became futile in their thinking and although claiming to be wise, were in reality fools. This is a perfect example of what is going on in the public school system and in many private schools as well. While they may not explicitly challenge God, they simply ignore Him. Note what God says of His judgment upon such people (beginning in verse 26): they are given up to dishonorable passions, to debased minds to do what ought not to be done.  

Shortly after listening to this sermon, I read in our local papers about a comprehensive survey of the students of all the public colleges in Minnesota. One fact in particular stood out. The students were asked if they had had sexual relations in the past. Then they were asked if they had had sexual relations in the past twelve months. The results were frightening. The percentage answering "yes" to the first question was slightly more than 78%! That's almost four in five of all students in the college! The percentage answering "yes" to the second question was not much better... 72%! So almost three in four college students have been involved in fornication in the past twelve months alone! 

Is there any question that these students and their professors have been given over to the dishonorable passions of a debased mind? Is there any question God has brought his judgment upon these schools based upon Romans 1? And is there any question the public secondary schools aren't very far behind. As long as God is ignored in these institutions, He will bring His judgment upon them. 

As those entrusted with the lives of precious children created in the image of God, do we honestly do our best to care for their souls by sending them to places where God's judgment is so readily apparent? 

I think not....

Friday, November 09, 2007

Michael Billings...the Day After

The earthly remains of Michael Billings were laid to rest yesterday. I did not know him, but I had the pleasure of seeing him work during several Vision Forum events. Like all of the interns of the time, he was a remarkable young man.

Doug Phillips has posted many tributes and remembrances to Michael, all from men of Godly stature. Please take some time and read them, both to honor Michael, but also to consider what would be written about you or about your own son if the Lord were to call today. If you don't like what comes to mind, then make the change. Do the hard things. Follow Jesus with all your heart, conforming your life to His Word.

HERE'S the link to Doug's blog. It is the generic link, so depending on when you click on it, you won't necessarily go straight to the tributes to Michael. They are dated November 9, 2007 and earlier.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A Young Man...

Sometimes it's hard to get a picture of what we want as an end result for our parenting. Sure, we have glimpses here and there and may have some parts in focus. But what kind of young person do we really hope to launch into the world...and for this post, what kind of young MAN do we as parents wish to launch?

Here is an example to follow. This young man at age 18 is more mature than most 30-year-olds, and knows what really matters in life. Those with daughters should dream of this type of young man for future sons-in-law.

His name is Michael Billings...and he is now in the presence of his Savior as the result of a car accident last Sunday evening.

Please take a moment to click over to Doug Phillips' blog and read Doug's tribute to this remarkable young man. Be sure to take the 7-8 minutes to hear Michael's sermon to his fellow interns...Doug has it available at the end of his tribute. When you recognize this sermon was delivered by a young man who was 17 at the time, it makes you tremble at the state of most of the young men in our country, and yet have hope because there ARE such men as Michael out there.

May he be resting in the bosom of his Savior, and may that same Savior, Jesus Christ, bring comfort and peace to his family and friends during their time of loss.

HERE'S the link to the tribute.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Strength, Wisdom...and Pride

I was blessed enough to be able to attend a retreat this last weekend where Gregg Harris was the keynote speaker. In one of his presentations, he discussed the concept of a "Rebelutionary" household. Of course, this is based on his twin sons' ministry to young adults, "The Rebelution." While Alex and Brett are calling their generation to rebel against low expectations, Gregg is calling on the parents of that generation...and Dad in create a household that enables this rebellion for the glory of God!

Gregg pointed out that Scripture often refers to young adults as having strength. It also often refers to older adults as having wisdom. It never combines the two; young adults are not commended for their wisdom nor are older adults commended for their strength. This is one of the causes of the social pathologies of today. Young men are full of strength with no wisdom available to tell them how to use it!

Gregg suggests a partnership: Young adults with their strength partnering with older adults with their wisdom. Together, they can do amazing things. I find that concept quite exciting.

But there's a problem.

In today's world, our children are being bombarded on all sides with "self-esteem." As a result, we have a generation that thinks quite highly of themselves, and believes they are already the repository of all wisdom. They have no clue that "foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child." I am reading another book by J.C. Ryle on the topic of thoughts for young men. Ryle lived in the mid-1800s...but his admonitions are every bit as applicable today as they were over a century ago. His first admonition is against the sin of pride, and he specifically targets the pride of a young man that says he knows more than his elders, and therefore has nothing to learn or gain from them. This is obviously folly...and it's obviously still true today, if not more so. As a result, this generation of young adults doesn't believe they need the wisdom of older adults. Pride condemns any hope of a partnership with parents.

How then, do we then implement this partnership?

It will require efforts and grace on both sides. First... the parents must create an environment where life with them is an adventure, specifically an adventure in Christian love and service. They must have a stated vision, a goal...and the children and young adults must be major players in that vision. Secondly... the young adult must humble himself to the point of understanding he does NOT have the wisdom necessary to be effective in our world, and that his parents do! If he will humble himself and place himself under the authority of his parents as Scripture admonishes him to do, and the parents are actively seeking to partner with him and his strength... great things will happen! The Kingdom will be advanced. The young adult will grow in wisdom and knowledge and character. He will be launched off the shoulders of his parents and will then be in a place to launch the next generation off of his shoulders to points far higher than anyone in the parents' generation could have imagined.

This is a great vision. This is a great thing to apply to your family. This draws families close, while placing their focus on loving their neighbor in the name of the Lord. This will be Christianity applied! But it requires vision and humbleness...both of which God will give if you ask.

May God receive the glory.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Myth of Adolescence

Brett and Alex Harris have been making huge waves in the young adult community for several years now by promoting their message of "Rebelution" by encouraging young people to "Do hard things." They have a very distinct and unique message that is sorely needed by the next generation. One of the underlying theses of their message is that of the myth of adolescence. Alex Harris writes a great article that is posted both at their Rebelution blog and reprinted in Randy Alcorn's Eternal Perspective Ministries newsletter (where I read it). Randy says of the twins, "Alex and Brett Harris are the real deal- young men of character, depth, and eternal perspective. They're abandoned to Jesus. Their message is vital, for just such a time as this. Join the rebelution!"

I am taking the liberty of bringing Alex's article here, where it fits in so well with the message of this blog.

Enjoy...learn...and apply!

The Myth of Adolescence
by Alex Harris

The trained elephant of India is a perfect picture of the power of psychological captivity. Tamed and utilized for its enormous strength, the great beast stands nearly 10 feet tall and weighs up to 5 tons when fully grown. Its tasks may include uprooting full-grown trees, hauling great boulders, and carrying enormous loads on its shoulders. And yet, when the day's work is done and this powerful beast must be kept from wandering off during the night, its owner simply takes a piece of twine, attaches it to a small branch embedded in the ground, and ties it around the elephant's right hind leg. Reason dictates that the elephant can easily snap the twine or pull the twig from the ground, and yet the owner does not worry, fully confident that when morning comes he will find the animal exactly where he left him. And he does.

I'll admit that upon first hearing of this practice, I couldn't decide which was harder to believe: that the owner was confident, or that his confidence proved justified. A beast that can uproot trees is suddenly unable to pull up a twig? What is it about the piece of twine and the small branch that allows them to subdue all of the elephant's power? I soon discovered that it had little to do with the twine around the elephant's ankle, and everything to do with invisible shackles around its mind.

My contention is simple: The young adults of our generation are the elephant. Our twine is the 20th century concept of adolescence. Our twig is societal expectations. We stand restrained as a hurting world burns around us. Yet our twine and twig are of a recent origin. Young adults of the past were not so encumbered.

David Farragut, the U. S. Navy's first admiral, became a midshipman on the warship Essex at the age of 10. At the age of 12, a mere boy by modern standards, Farragut was given command of his first ship, sailing a captured vessel, crew, and prisoners, back to the U. S. after a successful battle. Young David was given responsibility at an early age, and he rose to the occasion.

The father of our country, George Washington, though never thought to be particularly bright by his peers, began to master geometry, trigonometry, and surveying when he would have been a 5th or 6th grader in our day and ceased his formal education at 14 years of age. At the age of 16 he was named official surveyor for Culpepper County, Virginia. For the next three years, Washington earned nearly $100,000 a year (in modern purchasing power). By the age of 21, he had leveraged his knowledge of the surrounding land, along with his income, to acquire 2,300 acres of prime Virginia land.

These examples astound us in our day and age, but this is because we view life through an extra social category called 'adolescence', a category that would have been completely foreign to men and women just 100 years ago. Prior to the late 1800s there were only 3 categories of age: childhood, adulthood, and old age. It was only with the coming of the early labor movement with its progressive child labor laws, coupled with new compulsory schooling laws, that a new category, called adolescence, was invented. Coined by G. Stanley Hall, who is often considered the father of American psychology, 'adolescence' identified the artificial zone between childhood and adulthood when young people ceased to be children, but were no longer permitted by law to assume the normal responsibilities of adulthood, such as entering into a trade or finding gainful employment. Consequently, marriage and family had to be delayed as well, and so we invented 'the teenager', an unfortunate creature who had all the yearnings and capabilities of an adult, but none of the freedoms or responsibilities.

Teenage life became a 4-year sentence of continuing primary education and relative idleness known as 'high school' (four years of schooling which would later be repeated in the first two years of college). Abolished by law were the young Farraguts and young Washingtons, who couldn't spare the time to be children any longer than necessary. Cultivated instead was the culture we know today, where young people are allowed, encouraged, and even forced to remain quasi-children for much longer than necessary.

The effect of this seismic shift in America's philosophy of education is not limited to students in the public schools. As homeschoolers we may feel as though we have escaped the danger, but an honest evaluation proves that, as a whole, we also fall short of realizing our potential. After reading the examples of great men of our country's past, we should recognize that there is no reason why a 13 to 18 year old cannot behave as a responsible adult. History proves it is possible. Diverse cultures confirm its validity. The only thing holding young people back in America today is the twine of this perpetual recess called adolescence and the twig of lowered social expectations. We expect immaturity and irresponsibility, from ourselves and from one another, and that is exactly what we get.

I wrote of the great elephants of India, who, although they have the physical capacity to uproot trees during the day, can be restrained all night long by a piece of twine and a twig. How is this possible?

The elephant's training begins when it is still young and considerably less powerful. Removed from its mother, the elephant is then shackled with an iron chain to a large tree. For days and weeks on end, the baby elephant strains against its restraints, only to find that all exertion is useless. Then slowly, over a period of several weeks, sometimes months, smaller chains and smaller trees are used. Eventually, you can use a piece of twine and a small branch, and the great beast will not budge. Its mind is fully committed to the idea that it cannot go anywhere when there is something around its right hind leg.

And so I ask my generation, individually and corporately, "What is holding us back?" History demonstrates that we are far more capable than we think we are. Our failure to realize substantial achievement at early ages is due, not to any innate inadequacies on our part, but rather to our social conditioning. American society, with its media-saturated youth culture, not only follows trends and fads, but it creates them. Classrooms, TV shows, magazines, and websites are not only addressing us at the level of social expectations, but they are in fact dictating those expectations. They tell us how to act, think, and talk; they tell us what to wear, what to buy, and where to buy it; they tell us what to dream, what to value, and what to hate. We are being squeezed into a mold where there is no room for Christian character or competence. And as the famous proverb goes, "As the twig is bent, so grows the tree."

In what could be considered the most maddening aspect of this crisis, not all areas of maturity are being stunted. In a powerful demonstration of teenagers' ability to meet the expectations set before them, we witness young people today reaching unprecedented levels of technological proficiency and sexual experience. It is ironic that many teenagers, while fluent in multiple computer languages, are not expected to carry on an intelligent conversation with an adult. It is heartbreaking that so many young girls, while constantly pressed to become more and more sexually alluring, are not expected to attain any notable level of character beneath the surface.

Our world cannot last another generation of Christian young people who fit in. The shackles of society are on our minds and hearts, not our ankles. We are held back only by the myth of adolescence and the lies of social expectations. If we would only recognize that our restraints are illusory, and then let God's Word and all of history govern our sense of what we are capable of, we would be a force this world could no longer ignore.

We face a crisis and an opportunity. A crisis, in the sense that we can no longer afford to slowly drift towards adulthood, viewing the teen years as a vacation from responsibility, and an opportunity, in the sense that we can embrace life now and make a difference for the glory of God, and for the good of our family, our nation, and our world. Look down at your "ankle" and see the pathetic contrivance that has been restraining you. Now renew your mind in the light of God's Word and take a step forward.

Saturday, September 29, 2007


So let's say you have taken the responsibility to disciple your children to heart. Let's say you are home-educating them.

And let's say you are burning out or have already burned are ready to throw in the towel.

Why? How could that be? Aren't you doing what you are called by God to do?

(Note: The principle I'm about to discuss applies to all types of burnout, not just that of home-educating moms and dads.)

I had the privilege of attending the Desiring God National Conference entitled, "Stand" last night. The first speaker was John MacArthur (Sermon summary and link to listen HERE). One of his points on being a person who perseveres involved burnout. He noted that burnout is not the result of hard work. A ditch digger does extremely hard labor, yet he doesn't "burnout." Rather, burnout is the result of discouragement...and discouragement is the result of unmet expectations. That alone is profound, but even more so was his conclusion that man as a sinner is not owed a single thing. Each and every thing we have, from the next beat of our heart to our home to our children to our job...all of it is the result of the mercy of God.

Before you read on, go back and read that last part again. Consider it. Dwell upon it.

Burnout is the result of discouragement.
Discouragement is the result of unmet expectations.
All we have is the result of the mercy of God.

How does this fit you in your life right now?

(The rest is my musings on his point)

When we finally bring into focus that everything in our world is a merciful gift from God rather than something owed to us, we finally get our expectations correct. In other words, we no longer expect anything, but rather focus on the thankfulness for the mercies God has extended in our lives to this point. As a result, we cannot have unmet expectations. If we don't have unmet expectations, we don't have discouragement. And if we don't have discouragement, we don't have burnout.

How does this apply to the home-educating parent (usually moms)? Do I really mean you are to have no expectations of your children when you home-educate? No. What I mean is to realize your children are merciful gifts from God, your ability to be home with them is a merciful gift from God, your desire to raise them in the fear and admonition of the Lord is a merciful gift from God, your child's individual personality, talents, and abilities are merciful gifts from God. Note how you cannot help but bring an overarching theme of thanksgiving to God when reading and considering a list like this. When your focus shifts from curriculum accomplishment to mercies and thanksgiving, then you are free to work with your children as individual gifts from God, knowing that He is ultimately going to direct their paths as you shepherd them. You are free from the tyranny of the curriculum and the scope and sequence. You are free from unrealistic expectations based upon someone else's description of what your homeschool should look like. You are free then of discouragement, and thus free from burnout.

It ultimately is a focus issue and an understanding of God's truth in our lives. Keep your focus and you will God's glory!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Arrested Development

Anyone who takes a very close look at today's younger culture discovers very quickly that it is populated by people (males, especially) who refuse to grow up and take on the responsibilities and maturity of adulthood. This is a tragedy in individual lives and in individual families, but when it become endemic to a culture, it is a HUGE factor in the collapse of that culture. A culture cannot long survive without young adults doing the things adults are supposed to do...things that build, sustain, and stabilize a culture. Obviously this isn't every single young adult...but there are so many to whom this does apply that, when applied alongside so many other cultural pathologies, well...dare I say that our future as the beacon of freedom and liberty looks quite dim.

Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Seminary, writes in his blog a review of "The Death of the Grown-Up: How America's Arrested Development is Bringing Down Western Civilization." The review is quite good, and I suspect the book is as well. Please take a moment to click over and read what Dr. Mohler has to say...and then do whatever it takes within your own family to keep your children from being part of the problem. Quite literally...our future as a country depends upon just that.

HERE'S the article.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Things I Learned from Voddie, Part I

Within the first few minutes of Voddie Baucham's first video, he lists five rules for Biblical interpretation. These are rules with which each and every Christian should be equipped, for without them, you will find yourself either erroneously interpreting Biblical text or accepting, out of ignorance, someone else's erroneous interpretations.

Rule 1: Context

Rule 2: Context

Rule 3: Context

Rule 4: Text can't mean what it never meant.
(The author had a plain meaning for his text, and you don't have permission to change it! You have to work to discover the author's meaning, and then live with it, whether you like his conclusion or not.)

Rule 5: Narrative is not normative. (Biblical stories are most certainly true, but that doesn't mean they are normatively true as a rule for every Christian. The story of Jonah is true, but we don't expect that Christians will normally get swallowed by large fish as part of a judgment of God.)

Voddie applies these rules to obliterate the common incorrect interpretation and usage of Jeremiah 29:11 ("For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.") This promise wasn't made to you! But is does apply to you. To find out how...listen to the sermon HERE.

The Multigenerational Legacy

I couldn't even wait to put this one up on the blog. I have NO DOUBT that the 50 minutes you will spend watching and listening to each of the last two messages by Dr. Voddie Baucham will be worth every second. His is a God-centered, God-honoring message to families. We so desperately need to hear the message of looking beyond our own generation or two; we desperately need the message of "legacy," something about which no one seems to consider any longer.

The first video is only 15 minutes and consists of Voddie and his wife, Bridget, talking about raising children and about having an intentional mindset of leaving a multigenerational legacy. It's inspiring. If you don't ever get to the last two...please take a quarter of an hour and listen to the first one. Your family will be better for it.

I'll comment more when I've been able to view this completely myself...but I couldn't wait to share it!

Thanks to Tony Kummer for putting the first sermon up on his blog...where I was able to find it and thus be led to the rest.

Enjoy and be blessed!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The "Saved" Family

One of the driving forces behind my efforts on the blog is to encourage dads to shepherd their families in such a manner they grow in the knowledge of, love for, and obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ...and display that knowledge, love, and obedience in action as individuals and as a family. Obviously, I assume salvation has occurred in order for this to happen.

But, Dad... you know your family; I don't. Is there evidence of saving faith in your children, in your wife, in you? As part of your discipleship of your children, have you taught them how to examine themselves in light of First John? Do you know how to examine yourself? Have you ever even considered it...or are you relying upon the false American idea of basing the assurance of your salvation upon a "decision" made years previous?

This is critical.

Nothing else written here or anywhere else matters a whit if you, your wife, and your children do not have a saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

I wrote an article on my other blog and then followed it up with five links to remarkable sermons on the subject. May I plead with you, may I urge you to please read the article and listen to the sermons...and then apply what you learn to yourself, your wife, and your children? Eternity is at stake.

My article is accessed by clicking HERE.

The links to the sermons are accessed by clicking HERE.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Motivational Poster for the Emergent Church

Motivational poster for the Emergent Church and the post-modern mindset in general...goes along well with the concepts addressed in my previous post.

Thanks to the folks at Pyromaniacs for the creativity!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

I Don't Homeschool Because...

It doesn't take much to notice that any time anyone publishes an article in defense of a Biblical admonition to disciple/educate the children of Christians at home, responses come back with arguments for why a family has decided to send their children off to school...usually the government school. Most often these are simply justifications (I read somewhere on another blog a quote..."pitch a rock over a fence, and the dog that yells the loudest is the one hit!"); other times there is a broken heart going along with it because the family would rather not have sent their children away, but felt they had no other choice.

I will also grant that there have been children who have successfully navigated the difficult spiritual territory of the government schools and come out the other end as strong believers. I know some of those young people. I also know they had at least four very important things going for them: 1) They were individuals who were soundly saved. 2) They were not peer dependent, and tended to be natural leaders. 3) They had very strong home lives with parents who discipled them rather than just shuttled them to different activities. 4) They had a strong, God-centered, Bible-preaching church. And lastly...I'm afraid they are the exception, especially given the latest statistics showing well over three-quarters of young people abandon their "faith" shortly after leaving home for post-secondary education. Of course, this means there was no saving faith in the first place...which is all the more reason parents need the discipling time with their children that is otherwise lost to the government school.

What I hope to do with this article is address some of the more common arguments used by those who have sent their children out of the home.

"My children will be missionaries and lights to the school, a 'federally-funded mission field.'"

While I might be able to see a bit of this argument if you are talking about older teens who are exceedingly mature in their faith, this argument is specious when it comes to any other category of child. In the first place, they are in an authoritarian environment where they are to in submission to the teachers. Does anyone honestly believe a child (or even most teens) can handle himself against a prepared person in authority who challenges that child's faith? How exactly is this child supposed to be a missionary? Invite other children to church? He can do that in his own neighborhood! And that's not exactly being a "missionary."

The other more important issue is that the Biblical examples in the New Testament never involve evangelizing children apart from their parents. In fact, it is most often dad who is evangelized, converted...and then his whole household after him! So if you honestly want your child involved in witnessing to others, bring him along with you as you witness to and minister to the dads and moms in your own neighborhood and sphere of influence! Then he not only gets to participate, but he gets to learn how it's done from you. He has no one to teach him how to be a "missionary" at school....

"My children need friends."

If your child cannot live without his age-related peers, then he is peer-dependent. God says that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child. If your child needs to be around his "friends" that much, you are not helping him to mature, but rather to support the foolishness that is already in his own heart. You are also teaching him to be unable to relate to other age groups, both younger and older. Ideally, you will have a family that is larger than the American norm, and your child will have a built-in set of "friends" of many ages!

"I don't have the education to teach my own child."

Studies published by the Homeschool Legal Defense Association have proven without a doubt that the educational success of homeschooled young people has absolutely no relationship to the education level of their parents! You are a mom or a dad who wants the absolute best for your child. That's the only qualification necessary!

"I want my child to be 'successful'."

What is the ultimate benefit if your child gains the whole world, but loses his soul? What does it mean to be "successful?" If it means a high standard of living in the Disneyworld that is America, it is a woefully inadequate definition. Biblically, "successful" is to know Jesus and to be like Him. Anything else pales in comparison. Exactly how is the officially atheist, multicultural, diversity-worshipping government school going to help your child know Jesus and become like Him? At best, you will be trying to make up time in the few minutes that are left over at the end of the day. A person questioned my use in a previous post of of a statistic, 20-30 minutes of time a day with your children. While it's a generic number, it's not all that far off the mark. The children get up horridly early in the morning to board the bus. When school is over, there is sports practice, time hanging with friends, and homework. You, mom and dad, get whatever is left are in fourth or fifth place in priority for time during the day. Just try countering hours upon hours of postmodern mindset in just a few minutes at the end of the day.... Just how will you prioritize discipling your child to know Jesus and to become like Him???

"But my schools aren't like that..."

Uh-huh.... Invariably people wishing to justify the placement of their children in the government school will say their schools are better than what is described elsewhere, that these schools have Christian influence and morals. Uh-huh.... While your particular school may have a few Christian teachers or administrators, you have no guarantee your child will have that particular teacher. Then add the legal gags that are placed upon these same teachers and administrators and you will not have them able to teach Christianity or the Christian worldview as ultimate truth. Then you have the problem of the books themselves. They are generally published nationally and include all the tripe about multiculturalism, tolerance, and diversity...not to mention the postmodern viewpoint of no absolute truth. Then add in the peer influences from children who don't respect your morals and subject any child trying to bring his parents' morals into the school to untold ridicule. Oh, and don't forget the over-the-top pushing of such great holidays as Halloween and Earth Day. Sorry...while your school may be better than some, it still suffers from the problems inherent to the government school system.

"Both parents need to work to make ends meet."

While I can sympathize with this argument, I am willing to suggest that in most cases "making ends meet" is required because of excessive lifestyle that isn't necessary to the raising of strong, Godly children. How big is the house? How many cars do you have? How many TVs? Cable? How many cell phones? Latest fashions? And on and on. If you buy into the "American Dream" of success, then you will happily go into massive debt to have "bigger and better" and keep up with the neighbors. I know large families who live simply, requiring far less money than many smaller families...and they are raising wonderfully mature, well-adjusted, happy children, all the while homeschooling each of them! Until you are down to not being able to put a roof over your head or food on the table, this argument doesn't hold water. Remember our "greatest generation" was raised during the Depression....

"I would like to homeschool my child, but can't because of ....."

I left the blank at the end of the sentence because the reason are myriad, from a child's handicap to a parent's chronic illness. These are the heartbreaking stories, for you can hear the pain in the parents' hearts, desiring to disciple and educate their children at home, but cannot do it alone. They need help.

And here's where my answer may surprise you. I agree with their decision.

Why...especially given what I've written previously and now?

I agree because they truly cannot raise their children at home...and the government is the only entity that has stepped up to help them. The church used to fulfill this function. They were the community that stepped in to help each other. But the church has abdicated many of its functions to the government, which has happily taken them on. Thus in cases where the church should have been available to help, they weren't...and so the family turns to the only place it can for help: the government.

I know of some churches that are different, that are trying to reclaim the jurisdiction that is rightly theirs. They value so highly the Biblical admonition to disciple children at home that they have made it a priority in their congregations. They are intentional about several things. First, they have no buildings and no paid staff. That means that every single penny of offering goes to ministry and missions. They have taught their congregation the meaning of Christian community and the priority other Christians should have in each other's lives. So, for instance, if there is a single mom in the congregation, they require her to attempt to go to her family for support and help. If the family won't help, then they ask her to voluntarily place herself under the leadership of one of the elders. If she will do that, the church will do everything necessary, from money to physical help in her home, to allow her to disciple and educate her children at home.

This is what should happen in the lives of people using this reason not to homeschool. But sadly, in America today, the church is all about a voluntary association of autonomous individuals looking for individual fulfillment. The Bride of Christ has given up her responsibilities to her members. And the government has overstepped its jurisdictional bounds and taken over.

So to those who are in this situation, I am truly sorry for you. I wish your church understood and was different. But it probably isn't, and so you are doing the best you can. Please don't feel chastised by those of us who passionately believe in discipling at home. Some of us, anyway, understand.

To everyone about meditating on Deuteronomy 6, Ephesians 6, Psalm 1, and the whole book of Proverbs to start? How about acting upon what you find there? Put the Word into action in your life...and disciple your children at home!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Results of Scripture Memorization

To echo Tony at "The Kummeropolis"...why can't I do this? Take 11 minutes and receive the blessings of hearing Hebrews 9 and 10 recited in a manner as if it were being preached live by the original author. It's stunning. He's not using some weak translation, either; he's preaching the English Standard Version, yet it is immensely understandable.

And then consider how to discipline and teach yourself and your entire family how to memorize Scripture. A good method suggested by Ruth Beechick can be found HERE. (Note: She does recommend using the King James. I am not a KJV-only advocate, but would suggest that you use as literal a translation as possible. That would be NAS, ESV, KJV...and not NIV.) I suspect that memorizing this way could lead to being able to recite Scripture in a manner similar to this gentleman from Sovereign Grace Ministries:

Friday, August 31, 2007

An Essential Component of Manhood...

For those of you discipling boys to be solid, Christian's a post on my other blog that will help you in that endeavor! Enjoy...and practice it yourself at church this weekend!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Family Driven Faith YouTube Videos

A few weeks ago, I posted on the release of Dr. Voddie Baucham's new book, Family Driven Faith. Thanks to Tony at For His Glory, I found a new section of YouTube entitled "Broadcast Yourself." It allows a person to put many of his own videos in one place. In this case, Dr. Baucham has placed fourteen videos as of the date of this posting...all are short, usually less than two minutes. They are simply videos of him discussing different aspects of the issues raised in his book. The video below is a sample...Dr. Baucham describing what it means to be a disciple...quite apropos for this particular blog...and a straight up call for parents (Dads in particular) to be the discipler of his children. You can find the rest of the videos sure to watch the one entitled, "Put the Baby in the Beemer"...for it is a short poem that is a devastating critique of United States cultural norms today.

May they be a challenge and an encouragement to you as you strive to raise your family in the Lord.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

It's That Time of Year....

Late August/Early's that time of year again. You know it from all the sales going on at the stores. In fact, I heard (no hard evidence) that the sales of back-to-school supplies and dorm furnishing supplies are second only to Christmas! Yes, it's the time of year that most of America kiss their young ones goodbye, pack them onto the yellow bus, and then head off to do whatever it is these adults do when their children are not with them.... These moms (and dads) are assuming they are doing the best by their children and that if the little ones will just apply themselves, they will be "successful" in life. The officially godless, multicultural, diversity-embracing, tolerance-teaching government school will see to it for them....

I just finished John MacArthur's new book, The Truth War (available with just a click on the left of my blog). In it he battles the mindset of what is known as the Emergent Church, a mindset that affects virtually all in the Western world today, regardless of church affiliation. That mindset is post-modernism...and that is the worldview that will be both officially and unofficially inculcated into your children in the government school.

So what sort of ideas characterize post-modernism?

MacArthur writes, "Objectivity is an illusion. Nothing is certain, and the thoughtful person will never speak with too much conviction about anything. Strong convictions about any point of truth are judged supremely arrogant and hopelessly naive. Everyone is entitled to his own truth." And later, "In the postmodern perspective, certainty is regarded as inherently arrogant, elitist, intolerant, oppressive and therefore always wrong (emphasis added)."

Your children will be taught over and over again that there is no such thing as absolute truth (except of course, the absolute truth that there is no absolute truth!). And they will be taught that anyone with a truth claim and its accompanying certainty is arrogant, intolerant, and ultimately always wrong.

What is scary is this viewpoint has crept into the church unnoticed and affects even some of the most mature believers. I have been on the receiving end of it. By proclaiming with certainty what I believe to be true about subjects ranging from Reformed Theology to childrearing to education, I have been pronounced "arrogant" by those bearing opposite opinions. Rather than deal with the issues at hand and attempt to debate them with God's Word as the referee, the attack has always been a personal one led by the charge of arrogance and thus a minimizing of my point of view. I have been told that I am not "humble," and that if I were only "humble," my viewpoints would be heard.

MacArthur writes again, "one of the highest values (if not the supreme virtue by which all others are measured) is a particular notion of 'humility'--namely, the standard postmodern species of humility, which starts with the assumption that certainty, assurance, and bold conviction are arrogant and therefore wrong." Therefore to be "humble" in the eyes of most of the church today, one cannot express anything with certainty, assurance, or bold conviction. Your viewpoint might be heard, but you must present it with the mindset that you have no conviction about it, that it couldn't actually be true for everyone! MacArthur points out that the humility being called for here "is actually a form of unbelief, rooted in an impudent refusal to acknowledge that God has been sufficiently clear in His self-revelation to His creatures." (Doctrine of perspicuity anyone? Oops...that would be an absolute truth!)

This leads to nothing more than everyone doing what is right in their own eyes...and all the attendant societal maladies that accompany such folly.

Church! Wake up! If you are calling someone arrogant for expressing conviction, then you are exposing your post-modern worldview. You do not have a Biblical worldview in play.

So back to the school issue.... By entrusting your children to the schools eight hours a day, you are virtually guaranteeing they will internalize the post-modern mindset of "broad-mindedness", "diversity", and "tolerance." There will be indoctrination going on. Would you like to see some of it at its worst? Click here and watch the two videos. They are from a film created over a decade ago and still distributed today to activist teachers. Watch the young, impressionable minds being twisted by the propaganda being spewed by authority figures they trust. Your gut will churn in revulsion at the raping of these precious children's souls. And worse...this was a decade ago. Do you really think it's gotten better? No matter how "good" you think your particular school is, you do your children a huge disservice if you don't monitor every single thing they are taught, to include every single book they read, so that you might counter (in the 20-30 minutes of free time a day you have with them) the anti-Biblical bias that pervades all subjects and virtually all peer conversations.

But better yet... why send them off in the first place? So you can have time with other moms? So you can clean your house better? So you can indulge yourself a bit? Really, none of those desires are bad in small doses. But the desire to rid yourself of your children eight hours a day is fraught with poor priorities. There are moms in our neighborhood that take bottles of champagne to the bus stop on the first day of school so they can celebrate their freedom from little Jenny and little Johnny as soon as they are on the bus! Just how sad is that?!

Consider why you do what you do. Ostensibly you are sending them off so they will one day be a "success," and "education" is the ultimate means to that success. Unfortunately you are again showing your post-modern mindset. I believe it was A.W. Tozer (I've been reading a lot of books lately and lost track of where this came from) who points out that "education" to the post-modern mind is seen as salvation. Every problem in life can be solved by more education. That viewpoint is the unspoken basis of why you do what you do with your children. Education=success=salvation.

Instead, what about consulting the particular Deuteronomy 6, Ephesians 6, Psalm 1, and the entire book of Proverbs? Note God's overarching themes and desires: Among other things, note that the father is charged to raise up a child who is wise (as opposed to "smart"), who fears the Lord, who handles the Word of God well, who loves God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength and his neighbor as himself (actual practical outworking of faith), who takes on mature adult responsibilities. In short, what God desires is summed up in the concept of discipleship. Note well that none of this will happen in any group classroom, but particularly not in a government school classroom. For example, when was the last time a child developed "wisdom" from his peers, all of whom have foolishness bound up in their hearts? All that the world says is important in education is absent from God's priorities. Calculus, foreign language, grammar, history, lab science (everything we tend to focus upon and brag about to our neighbors)...none of them are first in line. Are they important? In a sense, potentially...but the bottom line is they are all secondary! A solidly saved child who grows into adulthood as a young person of wisdom and Biblical accuracy will affect his world, will strengthen and expand the Kingdom, will spread the Gospel of our Lord, and will be pleasing in the sight of God, regardless of how the secondary subjects are mastered. But a child who masters the secondary subjects at the expense of salvation, Biblical wisdom, Biblical maturity, and Biblical love brings nothing of value to his world; but rather he brings the worldly materialism that so engulfs most in the United States and ultimately, his efforts will be nothing but a stench in God's nostrils. (Oops...there I go being "arrogant" again!)

A.W. Tozer in "Rut, Rot, or Revival" states, "'Society,' said Emerson, 'is in conspiracy to make every man like every other man.' But what he did not say was that society is in a conspiracy to make every man ungodly in his thinking (emphasis added)." That about sums it up. As you are making your educational choices, you must take your head out of the sand and understand that society at large, and thus the government schools (and most "Christian schools" as well) are in a conspiracy to make your children just like everyone else. And "everyone else" will be ungodly and postmodern in their thinking, to include "wrong ambition, love of money, overappreciation of earthly things, jealousy and envy,..." "broad-minded," "tolerant," and "diversity-loving."

As I have written before...exactly what kind of young adult do you want at the end of your parenting years? What characteristics do you want to see? What is your Biblically-based definition of "success?" Your answers to these and similar questions will drive the decisions and priorities you make today...which will dramatically impact who your children become as adults. Do you really want them to be like "everyone else"????

Paul Washer's Youth Evangelism Sermon (Condensed Version)

Back in February I provided a post that included a YouTube video of a full hour-long sermon by Paul Washer, a sermon given to a Southern Baptist Youth Evangelism group. That sermon was my introduction to Pastor Washer's extremely powerful preaching. Since then I have listened to hours upon hours of his sermons, each one strongly containing the power of the Gospel. For those who haven't had the encouragement to listen to the full-length sermon, someone has put together the highlights of the sermon mentioned above and created a video of it. (Disclaimer: The creator of the video took some creative license and used the History Channel logo as if the video were from that station. Obviously, it's not....)

May you be blessed by what you hear...and even better, may you and your children find your salvation through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ alone, and not from a "decision."

Friday, August 03, 2007

The Unexamined Life

A.W. Tozer in Rut, Rot or Revival: The Condition of the Church is quoted as saying, "The philosopher Socrates said, 'An unexamined life is not worth living.' If a common philosopher could think that, how much more we Christians ought to listen to the Holy Spirit when He says, 'Examine yourself.' An unexamined Christian lies like an unattended garden. Let your garden go unattended for a few months, and you will not have roses and tomatoes but weeds. An unexamined Christian life is like an unkempt house. Lock your house up as tight as you will and leave it long enough, and when you come back you will not believe the dirt that got in from somewhere. An unexamined Christian is like an untaught child. A child that is not taught will be a little savage. It takes examination, teaching, instruction, discipline, caring, tending, weeding, and cultivating to keep the life right."

Lest we blindly go through life erroneously believing we are saved, we need to examine ourselves as commanded by God. As parents, we need to examine our children as best we can, and then as they mature, teach them to examine themselves. All this reminds me once more of a fantastic sermon by Paul Washer that should be part of any serious Christian's collection. It can be found here, either to listen online or to download. I personally place them all on my ipod in a "Washer" playlist and listen whenever I'm in the car...sure beats the rot on the radio!

Monday, June 25, 2007

To Love the Word

A relative newcomer to my world is Paul Washer, seasoned missionary and pastor for the Southern Baptist Convention. His preaching reflects a deep love and fear of God like none other I have heard. He pulls no punches, and regularly takes American Christianity and his own denomination to task for its reliance upon culture and tradition instead of Bible. I have listened and relistened to hours and hours of his sermons, and go back for more because he takes me to a place I rarely see, but wish to find...a place nearer to God and His holiness. Some may call his preaching "hard"...but I find it challenging and convicting as he uses God's Word to fillet my wicked heart and refill it with God's grace and mercy.

Most recently I have been listening to a series of sermons entitled "To Love the Word"...meditations on Deuteronomy 6:1-9. As I post this, I haven't quite finished the second one...but he spends a lot of time focusing on the application of loving the Word to dad's role of bringing that Word to bear in his family. Thus the appropriateness of commending these sermons on this blog.

You can listen directly at these links, or register and download them in mp3 format for free.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Voddie's Latest Scribblings

Dr. Voddie Baucham, one of my favorite preachers and authors (as is attested to by the link to his blog over on the left), is out with his latest book, Family Driven Faith. I've been looking forward to its release for some time now. Dr. Baucham certainly "walks his talk" ... and his talk is written in a very readable, yet very direct manner. In the first chapter, he quickly defines the problem...extremely large percentages of the young people in his denomination (Southern Baptist) are leaving the faith as young adults. Then he turns to the root cause...the primacy of human wisdom over Biblical wisdom in most of our life decisions. You will find yourself nodding in agreement...and occasionally twitching from the sting of a point that is too close to home. But you will be drawn to discover the antidote he derives from his study of the Word.

If you resonate with the content of this blog and it's sister will find this book to be a rewarding read.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Every Day is Mother's Day!

It's now a couple of weeks after the Sunday in which we here in America honor our mothers. Although this post could have been written right at Mother's Day, I chose to wait a bit so as to make it more unique, and not just one more post on mothers at the appropriately timed part of the year.

I write this blog in hopes of collecting my thoughts on discipling my own children and in hopes of possibly inspiring and encouraging others to do to the same. But that discipling is going to be very difficult to accomplish all my myself. There is a good reason God gave Adam a wife and there is a good reason God gave me my wife. Part of that reason is that I am not whole without her nor am I capable of carrying out God's mandate for my family alone.

In one of my original posts in this blog, I wrote of the necessity of putting the marriage before the children. That has not changed. A dad who desires to disciple his children will first romance his wife. He will love and cherish her. He will recognize her as God's second-best gift, second only to His gift of salvation. He will work hard to resist the temptation to put her second to the children. He will honor her in her work in the family. He will remember to work to make sure she remains his best friend.

I have certainly not always done these things; in fact, I have often fallen woefully short. But that doesn't change the fact that these types of activities exhibit leadership, exhibit love, and help to create a marriage that glorifies God as an image of the relationship between Christ and His bride, the Church.

Would you join me in honoring your own bride, she who is not only your wife, but an Image-bearer of God and your sister in Christ? And not just on the one day a year as proclaimed by Hallmark, but on every day of the year.... In doing so, you build a family that honors your Lord. In doing so, you set the foundation for discipling your children. In doing so, you set an example for your children of what marriage should be. In doing so, you bring glory to God.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

And the Two Shall Become One

I haven't posted in quite some time...and I know there are people who regularly stop by. So I thought an explaination would be in order.'s a very busy time of year.

Second...and most importantly...I am experiencing the inexpressable love, forgiveness, and perseverance of the woman who is my bride. She looks beyond my faults, my hard-headedness, my poor communication skills, my stumblings and loves me anyway. She deserves much of the time I have been spending on my blogs. Thus although I will continue to write, my postings will be less frequent.

This woman, this Image-bearer, whom God has given me brings a spark to my soul that builds me up and makes me desire to be the husband she deserves, the father our children deserve. I still have a pre-marriage picture of her with her green eyes sparkling and her smile that brightens a room. And now, after a marriage that is measured in multiple decades, those eyes still sparkle, and her smile still lights this man's heart! And yet, it's not truly her physical beauty that touches deepest; it is her touch, her encouragement, her love, both for me and for our Savior.

The Proverbs ask, "An excellent wife, who can find?" My answer is that I couldn't find her...rather, God found her and graciously brought her to me. It is through His sovereign will that we met and married all those years ago. It is to Him I owe thanksgiving and praise for the bride of my youth. And it is to my bride and my love that I publically bring praise in this blog.

Sweetheart...I love you.

And to those men who read my humble musings...may God see fit to bless you as well with such a wife.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Just Another Flavor of Ice Cream?

We subscribe to Randy Alcorn's quarterly newsletter (Eternal Perspective Ministries). Alcorn always includes a section of inspiriational quotations. Whenever my wife finds anything that is inspirational, she clips it or adds it to a quote book she keeps. Providentially, one of the quotations from a past newsletter fell out of her book and I found it. It was by one of my favorite authors and theologians, A.W. Tozer! He writes (emphasis in the quotation is mine):

"The church's mightiest influence is felt when she is different from the world in which she lives. Her power lies in her being different, rises with the degree in which she differs and sinks as the difference diminishes.

This is so fully and clearly taught in the Scriptures and so well illustrated in Church history that it is hard to see how we can miss it. But miss it we do, for we hear constantly that the Church must try to be as much like the world as possible, excepting, of course, where the world is too, too sinful....

Let us plant ourselves on the hill of Zion and invite the world to come over to us, but never under any circumstances will we go over to them. The cross is the symbol of Christianity, and the cross speaks of death and separation, never of compromise. No one ever compromised with a cross. The cross separated between the dead and the living. The timid and fearful will cry "Extreme!" and they will be right. The cross is the essence of all that is extreme and final. The message of Christ is a call across a gulf from death to life, from sin to righteousness, and from Satan to God." ...The Set of the Sail, pp 35, 36

When Tozer advocates the "church" being different from the world, he is not speaking of a building nor is he speaking of a segregated part of our lives that should be different. In several of his other writings he points out that for the "church" to have certain characteristics, the "Christians" in the church must have those characteristics. So for the church to be different, the Christians in the church must be different…and it is an all-inclusive difference. We can't be different in just certain segments of our lives. As Christians, our lives should every day become more and more illustrative of a holy life based upon the Word of God. This is sanctification; becoming more and more like our Savior, Jesus Christ.

So why is it so critical to be "different?"

We as Christians are charged to influence our world, to take dominion over it, and to penetrate the darkness with the light of the Gospel. Tozer is absolutely correct when he posits that the church's influence and power varies directly with her difference from the world. When we as the church are compromising with the culture, we are weak. When we are different, we are strong. Why? A church that has compromised is just one more selection in the smorgasbord of ideas with nothing distinct to more flavor of ice cream in one of those shops with 30 different flavors. But when a church is distinctively different and stands in stark contrast to everything else in the world, it illuminates the cravenness and false hope that is offered by the world. We would no longer be just "one more flavor," but rather a distinctly different light streaming into the darkness.

Tozer's third paragraph seems especially appropriate given that this post is being composed during Holy Week. The Cross is our focus for it is where our redemption was accomplished. Will we stand and call the world to come to us, to die to their sin and to live to Christ? Or will we downplay our distinctiveness, compromise with the world, and go over to them? Remember when well-meaning people tell us to build bridges to the unregenerate that "bridges" offer traffic in both directions…and compromise is inevitable!

Tozer recognizes that we will be called "extreme" when we determine to stand on the Bible in all facets of our lives. Yet he realizes that the message of the Cross IS extreme, and it is that very extremism that brings life to the dead. If we truly love our neighbors, we will desire to bring that Life to them…and that involves being "extremely" different.

As we raise our children (and just live our lives), do we ever sit down and consider just how much of what we do is influenced by our culture, i.e. "the world"? How "different" are we? I dare say that for most people who go by the name "evangelical," the difference is minimal and usually restricted to a short list of things we don't do…sort of like Tozer declaring that the church is like the world, except where the world is too sinful. Where is the distinctiveness, the difference? Where is the aroma of Christ?

OK…so we are to be different. How might that be accomplished?

There is certainly a myriad of ways for Christians to be distinct from the world. I would suggest a good place for the individual and his family to start would be here.

But this is a blog about discipling our children. How would this apply in the raising of our progeny? First, please note that our world has seduced us into raising a generation that is becoming known as "Generation Me"…a generation that is so completely focused on self and self-esteem as to not even comprehend concepts such as duty and service to others. Sean McDowell has an excellent article on Generation Me here. So one way to be "different" is to raise our children in such a way that they do not subscribe to the narcissistic ways of Generation Me. Again, there are many ways to do this, but here are two suggestions:

1) Practice hospitality in your home on a regular basis (please note that hospitality is different from entertaining). Make your home a place of comfort, refuge, and witness to your neighbors and people you don't know in your church. After all, hospitality is literally "love of strangers." But more importantly, involve your children as their maturity allows. They should be assisting in preparing the meal, serving it, and cleaning up afterwards. They should be at the table participating in the conversation. But most of all, they should be learning the necessity of serving others.

2) Through the practice of hospitality, you will actually get to know your neighbors. When there is a need, your children should be part of the solution. If they are young, then they should be helping one of the parents as the parent seeks to minister. If they are older, then they can be directly involved in ministering to those in need. But if you are following the world's direction for rearing children, that would be very difficult. Your children are most likely in a school, where most of their day is taken up. Then they will have after-school activities and sports, not to mention homework. Their entire day will be spoken for in activities for building up "self", leaving no time for the critically important lesson of serving others in the name of Christ.

So maybe the first step will be rethinking what exactly you are trying to accomplish in raising your children and then asking yourself if the way you are going about it is taking you in that direction. If you want to avoid "Generation Me" for your children while creating a family that has a very distinct Christian witness, look at what the world says to do…and then do the opposite! Your family will show Christ as not just another flavor of ice cream, but as the treasure He really is. And for raising your children to know Christ and make Him known, your children will one day rise up and call you blessed...and many of those to whom your family ministered will join you around the throne in eternity in joyful worship of our Father.

To me, that makes "different" sound extremely good....

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

To Be or Not To Be

Think of the most common question your children are asked about their future, especially as they enter the mid-teen years and later: “What are you going to BE?” Think of the answers that are usually given: doctor, engineer, nurse, musician, etc.

Note the link our culture places between what you do and who you are.

But how true is it? I contend that for the Christian, it is a dangerous falsehood. It doesn’t take much thought to realize that there shouldn’t be a connection between the two. Unfortunately we tend to equate the two, to our detriment.

I have a friend who is an airline pilot. He suffered a medical condition in midlife that caused him to lose his medical qualification to fly, forcing him to medically retire in his early forties. He tells of wandering aimlessly through life, unsure of who he was. This is because he had completely equated what he did (airline pilot) with who he was (airline pilot). When the one was taken from him, who he was ended up taken as well. (The good news is that his medical was restored many years later and he returned to flying status…but this time he understands that flying is only what he does.)

Consider how many people go through midlife crises. (Yes, I’m playing psychologist here.) Could it be that they, too, have attached who they are to what they do? At midlife, you start to discover that your career progression is probably not going like you planned in your younger years. The end of your career appears on the horizon. What you do has turned out to be somewhat mediocre and will soon end. Therefore, who you are is also mediocre and will soon end, leaving you aimlessly wandering through later life (or trying to hit a little white ball into several holes each day).

It only takes a moment of introspection to realize how much we as Christian parents have bought into that very same lie and how we communicate it to our children. What is the primary focus of our child-raising? I heard of a Barna poll of Christian parents that showed a horrifyingly large number of them considered their first parenting objective to be to raise a child who was “successful” (meaning economic and worldly success). Even worse was the number who listed raising their child to know Christ as the third or fourth most important objective…or didn’t list knowing Christ at all!!! This shows one of two things: either how parents use the moniker “Christian” when they aren’t really a Christian, or how deeply they are submersed in the American culture of “success.” We raise our children with a primary focus on career…what they will do…and communicate both our success or our failure as parents as well as the child’s success or failure as a young adult with how they do regarding what they will do/be. Knowing God and having a lively, intimate relationship with Him is considered something that just “happens” as long as we get them to attend church and youth group. Could this improper focus on what a child will do instead of who a child is be why 75-88% of young adults walk away from the faith of their parents?

I see two applications here:

One…for us as adults. We need to take a good look at ourselves and have an honest evaluation of whether we consider who we are as what we do. I know that is especially a factor in many men’s lives, but probably also in many women’s as well. So in truth, who are we? If you have repented of your sin, placed full trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, then you are a Christian…a blood-bought, heaven-bound adopted child of God, with all the attendant responsibilities and privileges. You are not what you do. That could go away tomorrow and it would not change you at your core. This is a freedom those who put so much weight on what they do cannot ever comprehend. You are free in Christ to live a life of Christian love and service, to the glory of God. You are free of the tyranny of the career; you are free of being defined in terms of economic output. In reality, as a Christian, you will make the best employee your employer could ever ask for…but you do it because you are free NOT to do it should God call elsewhere.

Two…for your children. Are they Christians? Have you led them to the Lord? Are they showing fruits of the Spirit? If not, then this discussion as far as they are concerned is moot. All of your efforts need to be geared toward entreating God to bring them into the Kingdom. If you are reasonably confident they are saved, do you disciple them? Do you communicate their worth as who they are in Christ? Or do you communicate their worth as their grades, their standardized test scores, their success in sports, and their career direction? Do they know in the deepest recesses of their hearts that they are loved and cherished by their Creator and that HE alone reserves the right to define who they are and that they are His children? Only then will they be protected from the mental anguish of being defined by the world based on their economic productivity. Only then will they be protected from the feelings of loss that accompany an unstable career. Only then will they have self-esteem that arises from the correct source.

Imagine a family where each member knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that he or she is a child of the King. Each of them will be growing in Christlikeness. Each of them will be embracing their roles as defined by their Creator. Each of them will be growing in love for one another and for the lost of the world. Each of them will be growing in maturity and wisdom because they know the fear of God, which is where one finds true maturity and wisdom. Each of them will have an accurate self-worth based on truth instead of on worldly definitions. As a family, they will be grounded; they will be a rock. And they will be a witness of the glory of God to the lost and dying in this world.

So…to be or not to be…will you be a child of God, or will you be a doctor, a lawyer, a mechanic, or a ditch-digger? Will your children be children of God, or will they also hang their worth on being a nurse, an engineer, a plumber, or a pilot?