The Battleground of Sufficiency

The Battleground of Sufficiency

It doesn’t take a long and strenuous evaluation of the evangelical church to render the conclusion that we are living in the midst of a high definition entertainment “Jesus” culture.  If there was ever a need for growing discernment it’s our present day.   In recent days, we have seen the release of a movie titled Son of God.  Additionally, a movie titled Noah stirred up much controversy by skewing the storyline of Noah’s story as revealed in the Bible.  We have also seen the release of another movie titled, God’s Not Dead which has been largely embraced by the evangelical community.  In a day where we are seeing many religious films released and eschatological books written about “blood moons” – what should we learn from this pattern?  Someone once remarked, “sex sells” and they were right, but so does religion!

A new movie has just been released titled, Heaven Is For Real.  This movie is taken from the book Heaven Is For Real that was released back in 2011.  The book was written by a man named Todd Burpo who happens to be a pastor.  The book tells the story about his son Colton, who allegedly visited heaven at age 4 while being operated on following a ruptured appendix.  One thing is for sure, people are talking about these films and books at work.  Pastors are being asked about these movies and popular books.  Christians in general will be asked about these “blood moons” and heavenly visitations, and we must be prepared to give an answer.

As we think through these movies and best selling books, it would be wise to ask God for growing discernment and remain fully committed to the sufficiency of Scripture.

The Positive

Increased Religious Conversations

As we think through the popularity of these movies and books, it clearly opens up opportunities to discuss the details with non-believers.  When non-believers want to focus on the flood and the wrath of God, we have a wonderful open door to talk about the covenant of grace that is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  If we are prepared, we can move a conversation with a skeptical co-worker from the flood of Genesis 6 to the love of God as revealed in John 3:16.

Opportunities for Spiritual Maturity

Within the church, certainly many of the members of our church will view these movies and it’s probable that they will have mixed reviews.  If we use these opportunities wisely, we can take these movies and books as opportunities to educate our people on the main point of Noah, biblical eschatological boundaries, Christian discernment, and biblical sufficiency.  As a church, we must be progressing in our sanctification and spiritual maturity.

The Negative

Lack of Discernment

There is really no way around it.  The popularity of movies on Noah, Jesus, blood moons, and a heavenly visit by a 4 year old boy point to the lack of spiritual discernment prevalent within the evangelical church.  We hear it in songs on the radio, “Just Say Jesus” and when someone claims to be a Christian – we in the American evangelical church often give them a free pass to say many outlandish things in books and movies that don’t square with God’s Word.  Are we afraid of hurting people’s feelings?  Are we as Christians called to be “nice” to people even when they violate the Word of God?

Decline in Commitment to the Sufficiency of Scripture

The American evangelical community has long suffered on the battlefield of the sufficiency of Scripture.  The largest denomination of evangelicals (The Southern Baptist Convention) once went to battle on the inerrancy of God’s Word.  By God’s grace, they won that battle.  However, as we take a closer examination of the issues, it’s quite clear that we are losing the battle on the sufficiency of Scripture.

About the Movies

The main thing to remember when movies are made is that they are designed to make money rather than to honor the sacred text of God’s Word.  If we were to ask most Christians about their position on the cults of Mormonism or the Jehovah’s Witnesses, in many cases the conversation would move toward the publications of these cultic groups.  For instance, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society and the Book of Mormon are both extra-biblical literature that add to God’s Word.  We as Christians deny that any other word is necessary since the Word of God is sufficient.  However, when it comes to books written about a 4 year old little boy that went to heaven and had a conversation with God and then came back to tell his story – we seem to have mixed reviews.  Did God leave something out of His Bible?  Do we need another special revelation?  The answer is simply – no.  Therefore, on the basis of the sufficiency of Scripture, we must reject the validity and necessity of Heaven Is For Real.  After all, we know it’s for real because God has already sufficiently communicated that in a book – the Bible.

Regarding Heaven Is For Real, I agree with Tim Challies’ remarks from his review of this book:

If you struggle believing what the Bible says, but learn to find security in the testimony of a toddler, well, I feel sorry for you. And I do not mean this in a condescending way. If God’s Word is not sufficient for you, if the testimony of his Spirit, given to believers, is not enough for you, you will not find any true hope in the unproven tales of a child. This hope may last for a moment, but it will not sustain you, it will not bless you, in those times when hope is waning and times are hard.  So reject this book. Do not read it. Do not believe it. And do not feel guilty doing so.

We must remember that God inspired a book to be preached rather than a movie to be watched.  One thing that I’m constantly aware of with the growing technological world is that high definition images can compete for the attention of people in a far greater way than black print on white paper.  In short, books have become boring while images and graphics have become popular.  Is God’s Word not enough?  We must be called to remembrance that God inspired a book and desires to reveal Himself in printed words rather than exquisite graphics and high definition films.

About the Blood Moon Craze

John Hagee has led the charge up the best seller’s list with his book titled, Four Blood Moons: Something Is About to Change.  The main premise of his book is based on the big historical events that have taken place in Israel’s history during the cyclical blood moon phases.  The problem with his book is twofold.  First, Hagee is right to point out some of Israel’s historical moments have taken place during these blood moon phases.  However, it’s also clear as we survey history, the overwhelming majority of these blood moons have not been connected to any major historical event in Israel’s history.  In fact, far more blood moon cycles have resulted in more normative than abnormal events in Israel’s history.

Secondly, Hagee and all of the other prophecy preachers seem to be leading people to look to the sky and the signs of our changing world for Jesus’ return.  That is a clear violation of Scripture.  Rather than looking to the sky for Jesus’ return, we should be carrying out the Great Commission and doing the work of our Father until Jesus’ return.  Remember the disciples who viewed the ascension of Jesus into heaven?  They were gazing into the sky!  According to Acts 1:10-11, two angels appeared next to them and gave them this command: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven?  This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”  The point is clear, as Christians and Christian preachers, we are to be doing the work of our Lord until He returns rather than studying blood moon cycles.

Sufficiency Debate

We are living in a culture that emphasizes experience over the exposition of God’s Word.  The real issue at stake in all of the religious movies and blood moon books is the sufficiency of Scripture.  Is God’s Word enough or must we depend on a movie to do our evangelism?  Does faith come by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ?  Should we be exploring astronomy and charting cycles of blood moons or should we be preaching the good news and doing the work of the Lord?  Is the Bible sufficient?  Are the prophecies of Daniel and Joel enough?  Is the Revelation of Jesus Christ to John enough?  Must we add to it?

As we think critically about these matters, we must be balanced and discerning Christians.  We must use open doors to share the truth of the Bible with an ever growing secular society.  However, as Hollywood and celebrity pastors continue to compete for our attention, we must exercise our discernment wisely and stand firm upon the holy, infallible, inerrant, and completely sufficient Word of the living God.

Pastor Josh Buice

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You may find David Platt’s words from Secret Church helpful.

The Wilted Flower Syndrome

The Wilted Flower Syndrome

Today, multitudes of teenagers are walking through life in the shadows.  They wear dark clothing, paint their fingernails different shades of darkness, dye their hair dark colors, and seem to always have their faces toward the ground.  I refer to this pattern as the “Wilted Flower Syndrome.”  There are even Barbie-like dolls with an appearance of darkness currently on the shelves of major retail big box stores being marketed to your daughter. Statistics inform us that a large number of teenagers are seeking medical help for depression and anxiety issues with suicide as one of the top five causes of death for teenagers.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “About 11 percent of adolescents have a depressive disorder by age 18 according to the National Comorbidity Survey-Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A). Girls are more likely than boys to experience depression. The risk for depression increases as a child gets older. According to the World Health Organization, major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability among Americans age 15 to 44.”

In many cases, these teenagers come from stable homes with caring parents who seek to show them attention and provide a good home for them.  What is the cause for the great numbers of teenagers who seem to be wilted rather than blooming?  While I am not scientist or medical professional, I do think the link may be related to the information teenagers are consuming each day through a variety of media outlets.

The Garden of Eden and Modern Society

The book of Genesis begins with the beauty of God’s expansive creation.  The commentary of God’s creation was that God saw that it was good.  It was paradise on earth.  Yet, in the midst of the Garden, the devil approached Eve in the form of a serpent and tempted her.  If you take a close look at his attack, it was truly brilliant.  Satan attacked Eve through the “eye gate” and the “ear gate.”  He attacked Eve through the eyes by causing her to look at the forbidden tree.  He didn’t want her to look at it in the same way.  He was twisting her perspective.  Satan also attacked Eve through her ears.  Not only did he direct her eyes, but he lied to her through her ears.  He spoke a lie and twisted God’s word about the forbidden fruit.  Eve at the fruit and gave it to her husband and he likewise disobeyed God.

As we read Romans 5:12, we see the New Testament commentary on that horrible event of sin.  As we go back and revisit Genesis, we see that what started off as good in the eyes of God ended badly!  The book of Genesis started with creation and ended with a curse.  It began with divine blessing and ended with decadence, depravity, defiance, and death.  All of this was the result of a massive attack of Satan that came to Eve through her eyes and ears.  As we consider the “wilted flowers” of our society, could it be that Satan is attacking the teenagers through the eyes and ears as he once did Eve in the Garden?

Modernity is both a blessing and a curse.  We can be thankful for comfortable automobiles, medical advancement, heating and air, and a multitude of other blessings that we can attribute to modern technology.  However, like anything good, Satan will attack it.  We see that through the information technology that we have come to use on a normative basis.  Consider the following statistics of media intake in America.

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Child Television Statistics
Number of minutes per week that the average child watches television 1,480
4-6 year olds were asked to choose TV or fathers – this % chose TV 54 %
Hours per year the average American youth spends in school 900 hours
Hours per year the average American youth watches television 1,200
Number of violent acts seen on TV by age 18 150,000
Number of 30 second TV commercials seen in a year by an average child 16,000
Source: BLS American Time Use Survey, A.C. Nielsen Co.

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These statistics and others among similar studies point to the potential source of depression, anxiety, and discouragement among the children of our culture.  After all, why would teenagers who don’t buy their own food, clothes, transportation, furniture, television (and other media devices), or pay rent – fall into a massive depression?  Could it be that they have been listening to Satan?  And how would they be communicating with the devil?  No, it isn’t through Ouija boards or a cultic séance.  The medium of this contact could very well be the technology that has become commonplace in our lives – television, iPad, iPhone, iPod, and other screen devices.  Before you think this is an article written by some angry alarmist, keep reading and consider the connection between the attack of Eve in the Garden and the way our culture uses technology.

Through devices such as an iPad or an iPhone, teenagers can receive many images through the eyes.  Some of these images can be good, but as we are honest with ourselves, many of the images the teenagers are receiving in rapid fire succession are not for their good.  They show them images of success that they are to live up to.  They provide them role models to follow.  These images provide standards of waist sizes and skin tone.  The image is a powerful tool, and Satan knows it.  Remember, he pointed out the image of the forbidden fruit to Eve many years ago.

These devices also have long surpassed the Walkman and Gameboy devices from the 90′s.  The point is, these HD devices provide stunning imagery alongside great sound at the touch of a button.  While Satan provides images to view, he also speaks lies into their ears.  Satan hates the truth and is known as the “father of lies” (John 8:44).  Our generation is a connected generation with wires coming out of ears and fingers on screens the majority of an average day.  Satan carefully weaves his lies into popular music and it he delivers his message with power, privacy, and proficiency.  Before long, like Eve in the Garden of Eden, teenagers have the forbidden fruit in their hands and soon thereafter they feel entrapped by their sin.  This pattern causes their beautiful minds which are gifts from God to become a dark wilted flower.

The Responsibility of Parents

Deuteronomy 6 provides us as parents with the responsibility of caring for our children.  It is our duty to protect our children from culture.  It’s time for us to realize that we must protect the eyes and ears of our children from this present evil age.  We must address this issue and place boundaries on who can and cannot speak into the lives of our children.  Rather than just providing tablet devices with open Internet capabilities to children, we must create filters and actively manage their intake of movies, music, and written forms of media.

Furthermore, it is our duty as fathers and mothers to teach our children to know God through His Word.  In times of distress, doubt, discouragement, and defeat – we should teach our children to find their hope in God through Jesus Christ.  As the Psalmist rightly declares, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11).  As statistics tell us that 70-88% of all college students by the end of their freshman year walk away from the faith of their parents, we must take our role seriously.  It must be known to our children before they leave our homes that Jesus is more than a suit and a tie on Sunday to us. We must live out our theology in the home and provide substantial evidence to corroborate our faith in Jesus.  If our children see a disconnect between our doctrine and duty – they will likely grow disconnected from the church.

I can’t promise that media management will cause all wilted flowers to bloom.  What I can promise is that consistent media management will honor God and seek to accomplish Proverbs 22:6 – “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”  Satan will use media intake to accomplish 2 Corinthians 4:4 – to blind the minds of children to the gospel.  It is our duty as parents to shine the light of the glorious gospel of Christ into the darkness that our teenagers often dwell in.  As we think about media and the influence it has on children, we must ask ourselves a really important question.  Who has the right to influence my child?  Remember, if we neglect to influence our children, Satan is waiting at the curbside.  He is interested in connecting your child to other teachers of neopaganism, secular humanism, atheism, and most of these teachers are found through the door of postmodernism.

Don’t just sit back, stand up!  Don’t remain silent, speak up!  Don’t surrender, move up!  Your child is worth it.  God has entrusted you with your child and you must honor Him.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Pastor Josh Buice

 

The Unwritten Pastoral Code

The Unwritten Pastoral Code

Through the years, I have been forced to think through my positions as a pastor.  I was not called from a long line of pastors in my family.  Although my grandfather was a pastor, he died before I was born.  I was never able to have a good cup of coffee with him and ask him his opinions on specific things in pastoral ministry.  My father was a fireman for 36 years, and I can get advice from him on many things in life, but not pastoral advice.  Therefore, much of the practical things related to pastoral ministry must be learned and developed on the job rather than in the classroom.  In a few weeks, I will complete my 10th year as a lead pastor.  During these 10 years, I have made mistakes, adjusted practical positions, adjusted theological positions, and hopefully gained wisdom along the journey.  Being a pastor is not as simple as it may seem, and learning to make the right decisions is not always easy.

Several years ago, I recall having breakfast with a group of older pastors.  They were talking about ministry and practical aspects of the office of a pastor.  I recall the topic of “sheep swapping” among churches came up in our conversation over coffee.  The question was posed, “What is your policy for visitors who attend your church from another congregation?”  I recall hearing about the “unwritten code” over the meal.  Similarly, a couple of weeks ago, I attended a monthly pastors’ lunch where that exact same topic was announced for discussion.  Once again, I enjoyed hearing the pastors describe their positions.  It was both helpful and insightful.

The “unwritten pastoral code” as I have termed it, is a simple position followed by many pastors through the years.  This unpublished rule of pastoral ethics suggests that if a visiting family attends your church from another church family and you have their information on a visitor’s form, you should contact their pastor to let him know of their visit and inform him that you have no desire to steal away his sheep.  While this is not a mandate among autonomous congregations, I do follow it for the reasons stated below.

1.  Thou Shalt Not Steal Sheep

Not long ago, I was made aware that a specific church not far from our campus took in 40 families (approximately 100 members) from another church across town where this pastor had previously served.  Among most pastoral circles, methods like this will cause you to be labeled as a sheep thief.  When visiting families attend our church services, I make an initial contact with them through a generic letter.  If they continue to visit, I will usually call their pastor to let him know of their perpetual visits so that he will know what is going on (and where his sheep are).  If unresolved problems are lingering between the family and their home church, the pastor can seek restoration before they officially sever ties with the church.  This is healthy for the pastor, the church, and the visiting family.  It also prevents me and our congregation from becoming sheep thieves.  In fact, it may result in restoration and the visiting family returning to their church.  I know – that method completely violates the church growth manuals of our day.

2.  Avoiding Evangelical Competition

Within the evangelical church today, there is a very unhealthy spirit of competition.  Pastors are often afraid to pray for one another or work together because they feel threatened.  Often pastors seem to be competing for the same sheep rather than looking at the multitudes of lost people who often live within the shadow of their steeple (supposing they have a steeple).  This spirit of competition is prevalent in so many forms, even Christian radio.  It’s not an uncommon thing to hear a commercial of a pastor from one church on the Christian radio station inviting other Christians to his church.  An honest assessment will tell us that the target audience of a Christian radio station is primarily believers who are currently members within a local church.  Therefore, it goes without saying, we have a massive competition problem in the evangelical church today.  Encouraging visiting families to go back to their church and resolve problems with their pastor and their church is a lost art and an unwritten code of pastoral ethics, but it will lay to rest a spirit of competition among churches.

It may seem like a crazy thought, but if a family is seeking membership in the church where I serve for no apparent reason other than they just like our playground or the style of music, I will likely ask them to return to their church.  As pastors, we must create a culture of robust church membership and teach the true reasons for leaving a church.  A better playground, praise band, or bigger church is not a good reason to “swap churches.”

3.  Embracing a High View of Pastoral Ministry

When people join a church, they likewise submit themselves under the leadership of pastoral authority.  To suggest that today’s evangelical church is weak in this area is an understatement to say the least.  We are living in times of greater autonomy and privacy.  However, the very nature of the church stands against the world of private Christian decisions and lifestyle.  If a visiting family attends more than one service with our congregation, it is my duty to talk to their pastor.  He is the one responsible for their spiritual wellbeing.  He is the shepherd who has lost his sheep and may not know where they are currently attending!  A high view of pastoral authority and leadership will attempt to keep church members rightly connected with their pastors.  Unless the church is heretical or outside of the evangelical boundaries, the visiting family should be seeking guidance and prayer from their pastoral leaders before leaving their church.

4.  Protecting the Flock of God from Wolves

The present day church is drunk on church growth.  Almost any tactic you can imagine today is being employed in order to attract new sheep from other churches.  If a church takes in members without counseling with their former pastoral leaders, it could be a dangerous thing for the entire church family.  Why?  Because wolves often dress in sheep’s clothing.  More than one congregation has been hurt and confused by wolves who came into the flock looking like and speaking like sheep.  The job of the shepherd is to protect the flock.  Pastors are not CEO business men who are somehow separated from the people in the church until Sunday morning at 11am.  The shepherd is called to feed and care for the flock, and this involves protecting them from the wolves (Titus 1).  A simple conversation with the pastoral staff of the visiting family could save the entire church a great deal of pain.  There are false sheep and false shepherds, and churches should be cautious of these problems.

5.  Toward a High View of Church Membership

As we examine the Bible, we see a clear calling for the pastors who oversee and the church members who submit.  While the pastors are to act as spiritual shepherds, the members are to act as spiritual sheep.  Sheep are not to just wander off into another pasture for grazing.  Shepherds shouldn’t allow sheep to just disappear.  There should be a mutual desire for oversight and submission within the life of the church.  As pastors feed the sheep of God’s flock, the members are to receive the food and submit to their spiritual authority.

As we consider the need for regenerate church membership, we must also pursue a truly submissive church membership.  The word “submit” is often abused and rejected based on faulty definitions.  However, a pastor should not just come in on a Tuesday morning and find a letter on his desk indicating that a family from the church has visited and pursued membership in another church down the road.  Members should seek pastoral advice, counsel, and prayer before making such moves.  Unless the members are leaving because of gross heresy or other abusive sinful actions that require more immediate action, the members should be under the guidance of their pastors prior to making such big decisions.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

As a pastor, I have seen and experienced the good, bad, and the ugly in church membership moves.  I have seen families leave without the first request for prayer as they seek God’s will about a possible move.  I have had pastors take in members from the church that I serve without the first phone call.  I have also experienced good situations where families have approached me or a member of our pastoral staff for prayer regarding a possible business relocation, issues related to distance in travel, and other understandable concerns.  Most recently, a man approached me about membership in our church.  We had come to know one another and had met for coffee a few different times, but I had not expected that he and his family would come and join our church.  However, before they made up their mind to leave their church family (which was in another town from where we are located), he sought counsel from the elders of his church.  Through prayer and a season of counsel, the elders of his congregation gave his family their blessing in their desired move.  This was perhaps the most biblical and prayerful move that I have witnessed in my 10 years as a lead pastor.  I was greatly encouraged.

In conclusion, I believe that this “unwritten pastoral code” serves as a means to a more biblical church membership, the protection of God’s flock, and provides pastors a way to fulfill their calling to provide guidance and oversight to the members of the congregation.

We are more than talking heads in the pulpit.  Members are more than nickels and noses on Sunday mornings.  We must function as a genuine church for God’s glory!

Soli Deo Gloria,

Pastor Josh Buice

 

Unveiling the Dark Sayings of the Gospel

Unveiling the Dark Sayings of the Gospel

This past week I read an interesting story about a spiritual awakening that swept through the mining villages of South Wales around the early 1900′s.  According to historical records, entire villages turned to Christ.  It was said that taverns closed their doors and churches filled their pews.  The gospel had penetrated the hard hearts of miners and things drastically changed in their communities.  However, if you were to travel to those same areas today, you would find that the taverns are doing a great business and the church pews are relatively empty.

What happened over the last 114 years?  The problem is simple.  The old hard miners became Christians at a late age.  They didn’t understand the importance of passing on the truths of the gospel to their children and grandchildren.  Perhaps they merely took for granted that they would follow in their footsteps.  Tragically, they didn’t.  Today in those areas the fragrance of the gospel has almost been lost.

We are currently between first and second Timothy in our Sunday worship time as a church.  I am presently preaching through a series titled, “God’s Design for the Family.”  I’m sure that God intended others to benefit from this series, but to speak quite honestly, I firmly believe it was intended for me.  In God’s grace and kindness toward me, He has allowed me to study and review the great errors of Israel as a lesson for my own family life and ministry.

Psalm 78 records the tragic mistake of Israel.  Although they had experienced the great power of God’s deliverance from Egypt, His provisions in the wilderness, and His victory in the battle field, the people failed miserably in carrying out what Deuteronomy 6 commanded.  They were to speak to their children about God’s salvation in the morning, as they traveled on the road, and before they went to sleep at night.  They were to have the Word of God in their homes and upon their gates.  Somehow, over the years, the children who followed were not taught about the greatness and glory of God.  Israel had veiled the gospel.  Israel had turned the good news into “dark sayings from of old.”

When statistics tell us that 70-88% of all students walk away from the faith of their parents by the end of their freshman year of college - we can’t afford to play games with our style of parenting!  We have only one life.  We must make it count for Christ.  Our children are being hit squarely between the eyes with a barrage of false doctrine, a buffet line of twisted ideas about the origins of life, open theism, modernism, paganism, and atheism.  The God of the Bible has been relegated to the size of a fictional comic book character who can be tossed aside in pursuit of real truth and freedom.  In this culture, we must take seriously the task of parenting and maximize our time with our children.

Statistics Speak

Statistics can be twisted and skewed at times, but sometimes simple statistics can speak great volumes of truth.  For instance, the total number of hours that children spend in the seat of a public school classroom from K to 12th grade is 15,000.  How can parents buy the idea that a couple of hours per week on the church campus will be good enough to shape the worldview of a child and cause him to look at life through the lens of the gospel?  It simply will not work.

On the flip side of that coin is the reality that if parents will take 5 nights per week from age 3 to 18 and lead the family in Scripture, prayer, and song – that will total 3,900 opportunities to raise up the child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  Attach that to the teaching time that takes place on the church campus (approximately 2,500), and that will total 6,400 official teaching opportunities directed toward your child.  If you seek to practice Deuteronomy 6 as a good rule in your home, you can easily add many other unofficial conversations about God and His saving grace over the years.  As a busy father, the key is maximizing opportunities and being consistent.  Carving out time is difficult at times, but we all have the same number of hours in each day.  It’s about making wise decisions.

Charles Spurgeon once said, “The Christian family was the bulwark of godliness in the days of the Puritans but in these evil times hundreds of families of so-called Christians have no family worship, no restraint upon growing sons, and no wholesome instruction or discipline. See how the families of many professors are as dressy, as godless as the children of the non-religious! How can we hope to see the Kingdom of our Lord advance when His own disciples do not teach His gospel to their own sons and daughters?”

What Is Family Worship?

Family worship is not worship of the family!  In fact, it’s the exact opposite.  It’s teaching the family to tear down idols and worship the one true and living God revealed to us in creation (generally) and Holy Scripture (specially).  Family worship is, as Joel Beeke defines, “Generally speaking, this includes instruction in the Word of God, prayer before the throne of God, and singing to the glory of God.”  The point of family worship is fathers and mothers taking the responsibility laid upon them to teach their children about the good news of Jesus Christ.  While it is the job of the pastoral staff to teach children the gospel, it’s the primary duty of parents.

Family worship, as Joel Beeke rightly states, involves Scripture, prayer, and song.  Anyone who can read can prepare a short devotion from God’s Word.  A good study Bible or trusted commentaries (pick good resources) can provide you aid in this task.  In fact, you should consider consulting your pastor for good resources to use in your family worship (a starter list can be found below).  If you or your spouse cannot sing well, consider the many online resources that provide good song choices that you can pick from to lead your family in song.  Be creative!

What if the children don’t like family worship?  Let’s face it, they probably will not at first (especially if you are starting in their teen years).  Over time, especially as God works in their heart – they will come to appreciate it.  We cannot afford to mold our parenting styles and adopt our convictions based on what’s considered cool by the peers of our teenagers.  Far too many tragedies have been written down in history by parents who adopted that approach.

If you are faithful in your time of family worship, you will teach your children to value the corporate gathering of the believers.  Jonathan Edwards once said, “Every Christian family ought to be as it were a little church.”  If you are having a good time of worship with your family, it will intensify the worship that takes place when the collective families assemble Sunday.  Additionally, if you are praying with your family – it will not only teach you and your family to value the prayer service of your church, but it will radically alter the type of praying that occurs in those gatherings.  This is essential for the health of the church.

Dr. Joel Beeke preached in our first G3 Conference (Questions & Answers Session – Start at 19:00 min.) back in January of 2013.  I asked him to tell of his story of family worship and the benefits he experienced as a boy.  He went on to tell of a really special and unique moment in his family’s life.  It was the fiftieth wedding anniversary of his parents.  All five siblings got together and planned to thank their parents individually for one thing – without consulting the other siblings on what they had planned to say.  Without talking to one another – all five thanked their mother for her prayer life.  Then, they turned to their father, and all five thanked him for leading them in family worship.  Dr. Beeke’s brother recounted the many times that their father would lead them through The Pilgrim’s Progress on Sunday evenings and with tears streaming down his face – he would point them to Christ.  Needless to say – it left an indelible mark upon their family.  I venture to say, when you arrive in heaven, you could inquire of Joel Beeke’s father and interview him.  Ask him if he had any regrets upon his deathbed for leading his family in worship and I can promise you he will say – no!

Maximize opportunities in the life of your family.  Make necessary sacrifices.  This may mean that you have to say “no” to a sports league once in a while or that you may need to reconsider taking that promotion that could cost you more time away from your family.  The key is keeping Christ at the center of your family rather than asking Him to come along for the ride.

May our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ lead a reformation of faithful Christians into our society from the living rooms of common men who take seriously the truths of Deuteronomy 6 and Psalm 78.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Pastor Josh Buice

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RESOURCES:

Bible – Consider reading through a book of the Bible and taking it slowly and explaining the small sections.  Sometimes the divisions in your Bible will help you choose a starting and stopping place as you go through the book.  Sometimes slower is better!

Study Bible Recommendations:

  1. ESV Study Bible
  2. John MacArthur’s Study Bible

Books:

  1. The Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan
  2. Big Truths for Little Kids – Susan Hunt (in the chapter on baptism, you will need to alter it or skip it.  The chapter is written from a Presbyterian position on baptism which we don’t embrace.  A little time preparing will allow you to alter the story line and your children will never know the difference).
  3. Valley of Vision – A Collection of Puritan Prayers
  4. Big Thoughts for Little Thinkers – Joey Allen
  5. Big Thoughts for Little People – Kenneth N. Taylor
  6. Christian Biographies For Young Readers Series
  7. A Guide to Prayer – Isaac Watts
  8. The Plan: How God got the World Ready for Jesus – Sinclair Ferguson
  9. Puritan Catechism – Spurgeon
  10. Baptist Catechism – John Piper
  11. The Family Worship Book – Terry L. Johnson

Audio / Video / Media:

If you want to better understand how to sing and how to explain a passage of Scripture, make sure you are using trusted sources for your study.  Below you will see some audio / video resources for you to use.

  1. Psalms – www.cgmusic.org
  2. Hymnals – www.nethymnal.org
  3. Sovereign Grace Music
  4. Grace to You – John MacArthur
  5. Desiring God – John Piper
  6. Ligonier Ministries
  7. Behold Your God - DVD / Bible Study on the Attributes of God
  8. Truth For Life – Alistair Begg
  9. Blue Letter Bible
  10. Tim Challies’ Blog – Challies.com

Creeds and Doctrinal Statements:

  1. Apostles’ Creed
  2. Baptist Faith and Message
  3. Nicene Creed
  4. 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith
  5. Abstract of Principles (the oldest doctrinal statement of the Southern Baptist Convention)

*In the Apostles’ Creed – references to the “Holy Catholic Church” is a reference to the universal church – not the Roman Catholic Church.  Some people replace “catholic” with “Christian” – but that is not necessary.  The term catholic is a direct reference to the universal church of all believers from all across the world – among the nations.

METHODS:

  1. Read

Books (such as The Pilgrim’s Progress):  Read through a book and then take time to discuss the gospel implications that you can all learn in that chosen section or chapter.

Bible:  Read a chosen passage and then seek to explain what it means.  A good study Bible will be a great help to you in this area.  See list above for recommendations.

  1. Prayer
  2. Sing

TIP:  If you or spouse are unable to sing well, consider using music from your iPod or computer to assist your family in singing.  I highly recommend going through the hymns and teaching your children to sing the rich theology.  The Baptist Hymnal is available as an iPad download and is very profitable in this area.

 

7 Things About Your Christian Family

7 Things About Your Christian Family

In his well known book, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, Mark Dever writes, “The family is supposed to be our training ground in this loving authority. It is a ramping-up place that God has given us to learn love, respect, honor, obedience, and trust, in order to prepare us for relating to others and ultimately to God Himself.”  The family is God’s ordained plan for our lives.  God created Adam and presented him with his wife Eve.  They were commanded to be fruitful and multiply.  The plan of marriage and family is the foundation of civilization and was instituted by God.  As we live life, we often become wrapped up in our culture and forget about the big picture.  If we aren’t careful, we stop looking at life and culture through the lens of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  When that happens – the culture invades our minds and our hearts.  This invasion has lasting results.  Sometimes the results are eternal.  Below I have written an article with seven things you should know about your family.  I’m sure you can add to my list.  The list isn’t intended to be an exhaustive rule.  If you are challenged by the points, know that I have written them with a healthy inward gaze.

1.  Dad, your family has been entrusted to your care by God.

As we read the Bible, it’s abundantly clear, God has arranged the family and placed the man as the head of his home.  Therefore, the man is in a place of physical responsibility as the provider, but the most important aspect of his role is the spiritual leadership that he must provide.  It isn’t the job of the mother to be the spiritual leader of the family.  Every father must see himself as the priest of his home.  The house and automobile that the family owns will be directly connected to the provision of the father, but more important marks upon the family exist in the area of spiritual leadership.

For instance, what church the family belongs to is connected to the father.  The decisions made each day that have lasting spiritual consequences upon the family are directly connected to the leadership of the father in the home.  If the father is lazy in his approach to the gospel, his family will suffer the consequences.  God has rendered unto our care gold and He desires to receive gold upon His return.  Men must take responsibility for the care of their family.   Psychologist Harold Voth, in his book, The Castrated Family, argues that there will be nothing but chaos in a family where the father is not the head of the family.  He points out that the father is responsible for the direction, character, family standards, and overall strength.  Dad, your family needs you and God has placed them in your care.

2.  The devil hates your family.

It’s true – the devil hates the Christian family.  However, the devil hates the institution of family in general.  That’s why unbelieving families experience divorce too.  That’s why unbelievers turn to homosexuality.  That’s why unbelieving homes have rebellious children too.  The devil, like a roaring lion, is seeking his prey.  Sometimes the attack will come upon the father.  The devil will lure the family away from God by enticing the father’s love for sports, the lake, or a bigger house.  In some cases, the devil will slither like a snake in silence as he attacks the mother of the home with the pursuit of more money and a promising career away from the home.  The subtle devil will, in many cases, attack the woman with a need for fulfillment as he entices her into the trap of adultery.  She may fall into this trap through a simple private message on Facebook just after making the kids a PB&J for lunch.  The devil hates marriage.  The devil hates your children.  The devil hates the gospel and the covenant keeping promise of marriage.

If he is unsuccessful in his attempts, he will continue to attack.  He may use an old method called divide and conquer.  His plan of advancement may take place through technology devices.  Through i-devices, he may create distance between the family, between the children, and between the parents.  He will then wiggle his way into the home by creating space between the family and then attacking them when they are weak.  The devil loves to watch a family crumble to the ground.  The devil loves the ring of the last number of the divorce attorney being pressed on the cell phone.  The devil hates your family.  What are you doing about it?

3.  Boundaries are necessary.

In our sinful heart, we are programmed to resist boundaries.  The postmodern mind views boundaries as legalism and rigid rules that bind our freedom.  If we are honest, we all need boundaries.  This past week, Kari and I discussed some needed boundaries with technology in our home.  Although we are not opposed to the use of technology in our home, we don’t want it to rule our home.  We set aside two or three days each week to be unplugged days where no i-device would be used.  Those boundaries are helpful for the health of our relationships in our home.  Such boundaries guard the heart from idolatry.  When we cannot go a day or two without a technology device – it speaks of massive problems in our heart.  Have we found our joy in technology rather than Christ?

Technology isn’t the only area where boundaries are necessary.  We could discuss food, work, exercise, recreation, relationships, and a number of additional areas where boundaries are necessary.  We can categorize these boundaries under two main headings (personal and biblical).  If the Bible doesn’t address the issue (directly or indirectly), we may have freedom to choose.  If that’s the case, we can classify this as a personal issue.  We are free to set the boundaries to a degree.  If the Bible does address a specific issue, we are completely bound by the rules established in the Word of God.  Although Israel often complained about the civil and ceremonial law which provided boundaries upon their dietary practices, it was for their own good and God’s glory.  We must not reject healthy boundaries.  It’s a good thing for your children to hear the word “no” come out of your mouth.  It is possible to spoil your children to hell.

4.  The gospel, not morality, is the key to success.

As a father, I often find myself repeating the phrase, “be good” to my children.  While that is a good thing to teach children, I can fail them miserably by raising them to “be good” kids.  Many good kids have grown up to be good rebels who live for self rather than Christ.  As I grow as a father, I am constantly looking to reinforce the statement with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Why do I want my children to “be good” for their mother when they go out in public?  Why do I want my son to honor his mother during his time in school?  These things matter, but they must be reinforced with the gospel.  This is something that I often fail in and one area that I am praying for maturity and sanctification.

5.  Adjustments are necessary.

Plan ahead and remain flexible.  That’s what I have learned as the father of four children.  By nature I am not the most patient man in the world.  I have had to learn to make adjustments.  At the end of a long day, I often think about how I have failed in my attempts to be a Christ exalting father in the way I disciplined my children.  Those thoughts are God’s grace upon my life.  Perhaps you experience them too.  They allow me to go to bed at night and make necessary adjustments for the upcoming day.  Sanctifying adjustments are a must in the life of any family.  Children must learn to make them.  Mothers must learn to make them.  Fathers must learn to make them.  As fathers make adjustments and his sanctification is visible in the eyes of the family – it will leave an indelible mark upon the life of that family.

6.  Family worship will likely never be cool for your family.

Are your children learning about life through the lens of a television show or through the pages of the Bible?  I remember watching a particular family closely as I was growing up.  It seemed that the mother and father always made family decision in an attempt to be cool.  Family worship is likely never to be a cool decision for a mother and father to make.  Like any discipline, although it’s not fun or perhaps the popular choice among friends or family members, it will bear eternal fruit.  I still recall Dr. Joel Beeke’s answer to my question in the 2013 G3 Conference during our panel discussion.  He said, “God has basically instructed us to do four things with our children everyday.”

  • Read the Bible
  • Talk with our children about the Bible
  • Pray with our children
  • Sing with them

Dr. Beeke went on to urge pastors to preach on this topic and provide helpful resources for families to do this on a weekly basis.  We often complain about how children are walking away from the church and the truth of the gospel as they grow older.  The question remains, how much time did we spend instructing our children about the gospel, biblical manhood and womanhood, the importance of the church, and a host of other issues?  If you organize a family worship time with your children a minimum of 5 times per week, starting at age 3 and ending at age 18 when they move out of your home, that totals 3,900 opportunities over 15 years to instruct your children with the gospel.  Make the most of the limited time you have with your children.  They will soon be gone.  The devil is waiting on them at the end of your driveway.  Will they be prepared?

Charles Spurgeon once said, “The Christian family was the bulwark of godliness in the days of the Puritans but in these evil times hundreds of families of so-called Christians have no family worship, no restraint upon growing sons, and no wholesome instruction or discipline. See how the families of many professors are as dressy, as godless as the children of the non-religious! How can we hope to see the Kingdom of our Lord advance when His own disciples do not teach His gospel to their own sons and daughters?1

7.  Your family is not the church of Jesus Christ.

The family is extremely important and was designed by God.  The family is to be a nurturing center for all of the members and a training ground for the children.  While the father is the priest and worship must happen in the home, the institution of family is not the church.  Although God has created the institutions of family, government, and the church – we see a special relationship between Christ and the church that transcends the other two institutions.  Family as we know it here in this life will change drastically when we arrive in heaven.  The government in this life will be replaced by the rule of God without the veil of time and space.  God will no longer use the mediator of government to rule.  Yet, we see that the church of Jesus Christ will be present in heaven.

Family time is important and we must guard it.  We must nurture our family and allow love to permeate our home.  However, we must never allow family to become an idol to us.  We must never replace the church with our family.  God has saved us and called us into His church.  Fathers and mothers must learn to balance this wisely, but nevertheless, the responsibility of worship and service in the life of the church is not debatable.  It is vital for our children to see us serve Christ through the church.  If our children only see the fathers serve in the church while mothers nurture their children until they move out at age 18, we will likely raise unbalanced children who have not seen the importance of serving Christ as functioning members of the body.  If we are not cautious, we will raise practical atheists who hear doctrine come out of our mouths but see a massive disconnect from word and deed.  The book of James reveals this truth.  Our doctrine must have legs and feet!  Our faith must have action – in all seasons of life.

In closing, I want to make a clear confessional statement.  I am a young father of four children and I have not figured out all of the answers to this thing called parenting.  I fail often.  I fail miserably.  I know it and it hurts me to think of how I miss the mark on a constant basis.  Here is what I do know.  Life is short.  Life is not a video game.  We don’t have the luxury of a reset button.  We do have a promised appointment before the throne of God.  We must trust in God’s unending grace to get us through this life and in His divine sovereignty for the salvation of our children’s souls.  In the end – we must fight the good fight of faith and persevere in the faith until we finish our course.  Christ is worth it.

Paul David Tripp writes, “In the family, life is brought not only to our doorstep, but into our kitchens, bedrooms, and dens. In the family, life is happening all around us, and it begs to be questioned, evaluated, interpreted, and discussed. There is no more consistent, pregnant, dynamic forum for instruction about life than the family, because that is exactly what God designed the family to be, a learning community.”2

Sola Fide,

Pastor Josh Buice

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1.  Only a Prayer Meeting, Christian Focus Publications, 2000, 12.

2.  Age of Opportunity, P&R Publishing, 1997, 41-42

DBG Spotlight

Is Church Membership Really Required?
Ricky Jones writes, “Asking where the Bible commands you to be a church member is like asking where the USGA rulebook for golf insists you be a human. The whole book is addressed to the church.”  Read the full article here.

Albert Mohler on Aronofsky’s “Noah”
Dr. Mohler writes, “More than anything else, the controversy over Noah should lead Christians to understand something that should be our natural instinct. We must recognize that the Bible tells its own story infinitely better than anyone else can tell it – Hollywood included.”  Read the full article here.