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Archive for July, 2012


One of our members is a Baptist in transition. He is interested in understanding more about covenant theology and particularly how this informs and shapes how we treat children in the church. He asked about books to read in this subject. I couldn’t really think of any. We are great about defending infant baptism, but after that ….

Then I came across Our Covenant With Kids: Biblical Nurture in Home and Church by Tim Sisemore (it was previously released as Of Such is the Kingdom). I don’t like the title, finding it misleading. It isn’t our covenant, but God’s covenant with us that includes our children. But I suspected I ought to read it to gain a better theoretical understanding and therefore begin to move the congregation toward better nurture of our covenant kids in the church.

“The purpose of this book is to examine the entire teaching of the Bible that relates to children, to systematize it, and use this foundation to develop strategies that more adequately enable us to minister effectively to our children.”

This is, in many ways, a big picture book. He is thorough, and covers much ground. Numerous topics are covered, and covered well, but not exhaustively. For instance, in the chapter on the salvation of children, he talks about those dying in infancy. He covers the main views succinctly, and briefly argues for one over the others. I agree with him. But this discussion could have taken up many more pages. Sisemore displays great restraint and discipline as he approaches these topics. He gives information to help you sort through some things and make better decisions.

He begins with the nature of the task, parenting in a world hostile to our faith. The culture has affected the Church in general in a few significant ways: the loss of truth (we disregard doctrine), the loss of humanness due to evolutionary thought and the animal rights agenda (we’re okay with slaughtering children, but not seals, whales etc.), and the adultification of children (the world seduces them from an early age). As a result, he sets out to give us a theology of children, not merely instruction. So much of this is often assumed in parenting books. He wants to make it explicit so we can see if we are deviating from biblical norms in how we think of children. If we are deviating from biblical norms, our approach to instruction and nurture will be ineffective and possibly harmful.

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I should stop reading blogs. But then I’d have less to say on this blog. Then again, who cares what I say.

Yes, I’m in a cranky mood. There are reasons, but not ones I want to share.

Will we fall for a lie too?

A number of people are of the distinct impression that the PCA should have issued a statement denying theistic evolution, or affirming the reality of Adam and Eve as special creations of God in His image. They believe the only way to confront the increasing popularity of this sub-biblical, and gospel-destroying view point is to issue a statement, hang a sign saying “not welcome”. There are some in the PCA who think this, and some outside the PCA who think this. I’ve even heard of a family that left the PCA because we didn’t make this statement.

As a member of the court who voted in the majority, I guess I take this a little too personally. I am not sure why this bothers me so much. Perhaps it goes back to why I’ve generally been in cranky lately. But there is the implication that either I don’t understand the gravity of the problem or don’t care about the problem. There is somehow the suspicion on the part of some that the PCA is moving closer to apostasy because we didn’t do something.

But we did. It is easy to look at the ruling, but not think of why people ruled. Some critics have stated why some of us voted the way we did- but still aren’t happy.

I get the seriousness of the issue. The issue of evolution was instrumental in my conversion. I am a young earth, 6 day creationist. I know this makes me a small-minded, caveman in the minds of some people. But I recognize that God’s Word is perfect (though our interpretations are anything but), and that science is not perfect. What they say today is not carved in stone because they always come up with new data, new methods of collecting data and new interpretations of data. It is foolish to think that the majority view of science supercedes Scripture. How’s that Ice Age predicted in the 70’s working?

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Boys Night Out


One of the vacation traditions that has emerged over the years is “Boys Night Out”.

There is an upscale (for the North Country) bar & restaurant in town. They offer a decent selection of beers on tap and have deals on Tuesday nights. So we’ll go out, have a few beers and some food and talk. The ‘we’ would be my brothers-in-law and me.

Since Dan is only up here this week, we went out last night. It was, in some ways, a perfect storm. Tuesday nights are slow around here. So, some of the local restaurants were closed. But last night was the eve of a holiday. This meant more people in town looking to eat and have a few drinks. When we showed up in the Yaris, the place was packed. No tables available. No stools at the bar.

I ordered a Righteous Ale and we took some seats outside. It was a nice night out, and it was far more quiet out there. We also got a front row for all the people trying to get into the restaurant. As a result of the short staffing and packed house, getting food was more interesting than usual. This is when I usually have mussels. They have great mussels at this restaurant, and we enjoyed the curry mussels. But we were like the red-headed step-child out there. This meant that Dan couldn’t get his frites, which is good because I’m trying to cut back on my carbs. This endeavor has been quite unsuccessful thus far.

At one point a car pulled up and a bunch of guys got out. They didn’t look like locals. And when you have skinny jeans, moussed hair and a lap dog in your arms … things are pretty clear. Before they went in, he handed the Westie-looking dog to another guy. Then the amusement began. The guy had a piece of luggage and was trying to stuff the complacent dog into the bag. I nearly offered to watch the dog for them, feeling bad for the dog. Suddenly it dawned on him that he was in front of the window and could be seen by the staff trying to smuggle a non-work dog into an eating establishment. He wandered down the road with dog and luggage, returning a few minutes with dog in luggage.

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In my first pastorate, I served in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARP), which had a long history of Psalm singing. While they no longer practice exclusive psalmody, they still break out the Bible Song Books for Synod each year. It was always foreign to me, having not grown up in the ARP. The songs seemed more adaptations of Psalms than a true Psalter.

Recently someone gave me a copy of Psalm Singing Revisited: The Case for Exclusive Psalmody by Bruce Stewart. It is a short booklet, but I finally found some time to read through it. I thought I’d share my interactions with the booklet, and therefore his position as noted in the subtitle.

The Reformed heritage has a long tradition of singing the Psalms. This has long been understood to be necessary on the basis of the Regulative Principle of Worship as expressed in the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) as well as the Larger and Shorter Catechisms.

1. The light of nature sheweth that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all, is good, and doth good unto all, and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture. WCF, XXI

The argument is that the Psalms are songs given to us by God. All other songs are the product of the imaginations and devices of men and therefore unacceptable for worship. The question is, is this a proper interpretation and application of the Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW)? Is it consistent with how we apply the RPW to other elements of worship prescribed in Scripture?

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Certain titles attract your attention as a pastor. Jonathan Dodson’s Gospel-Centered Discipleship has one of those titles. There is a discipleship crisis in the American Church. We too easily lapse into moralism or legalism instead of pursuing a healthy biblical vision of holiness. Or, some churches barely pursue any form of discipleship. Wanting to strengthen our discipleship, I was drawn to this book.

It is hard to live up to the hype. This is an inconsistent book. There are some very good, even excellent sections. And then there are sections, even chapters, that were frustrating, confusing and not very helpful.

Dodson is heavily dependent on Keller, Owen, Edwards, Lovelace and Piper. The best portions of the book bear their mark. Those sections focus on how the gospel keeps us from both legalism and license. The gospel calls us to holiness- godly character and actions- but also provides the proper motivation and power for that holiness. Our sinful hearts default to trying to be good according to our own wisdom and power. So, we slip into legalism, rules and try to obey in the power of the flesh. Dodson does a good job of stressing the importance of the gospel for sanctification.

“The gospel is necessary for getting right and doing right with God, for salvation and sanctification.”

One of the strengths of the book is the chapter on Gospel Motivation. There is explores how the gospel produces “religious affections” which are the motivation for godly living. He also discusses the role of confession and repentance in the process of sanctification.

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