Weekend Reading: June 20, 2014

Summer is finally here (officially)!  So grab a towel and the kids and head to the pool – and keep your ipad or smartphone with you for some weekend reading.  Here are my top stories, videos, and things to check out as you kick back, or gear up for a busy weekend:

Amazon Fulfillment Center Insider’s Look – this was just a fascinating look inside Amazon’s gigantic warehouses – highly recommend you skim through this one.

HGTV cancels show due to Christian overtones – this is pretty much standard fair these days, but in case you missed it, two brothers who were stars in a brand new HGTV show titled ‘Flip it Forward’ have had their show canceled because **shockingly** they oppose muslim terrorists, abortion, and gay rights.

Disease is on the Border – if you’ve been watching the news at all lately, you’ve noticed that a flood of illegal immigrants has been amassing in Texas and Arizona. Many have come from South America via Mexico and are bringing contagious diseases with them.

Is Success Dangerous? – Jared Wilson says so, and has some good things for Christians to keep in mind.

America in a Spiritual Crisis – potential Presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul said Friday that America needs revival more than it needs political leadership…I agree with him there!

Great Music from Keith and Kristyn Getty – If you attend our Thursday Lifegroup here in Dublin Ohio you’ll know we sang a new song last night from this more recent release of the Getty’s.  Check it out!

Travel by Drone! – This is a neat website where you can check out videos from cameras strapped to drones in top cities all over the world. A fun little diversion if you’re curious what Berlin or Kiev looks like from a few thousand feet above the ground.

Seeking the Face of God – this 2009 article by John Piper was helpful to me this week as I did a personal study on what it means to “seek the face” of the Lord.  One of my favorite scriptures is 1 Chron. 16:11 because it was Katie’s signature verse used to sign her love letters to me in college and reflected her desire for me to put God first – even before her.  Preview: “This setting of the mind is the opposite of mental coasting. It is a conscious choice to direct the heart toward God.”  Along similar lines, check out David Mathis’ article on ‘Bringing the Bible Home to Your Heart’ – h/t Parris Payden

My dog ate my emails – Former IRS Chief Lois Lerner’s emails seem to have disappeared, yet White House officials are unapologetic.  Go figure.

What do you do when you’re stuck in the Vegas Airport overnight? Why, shoot a music video using your iphone of course! – pretty funny stuff here! h/t Parris Payden

Pornolescence – Timely article by Tim Challies this week on the nature of Porn and its affect on Christian homes across America. – h/t Parris Payden

Hollywood Hearts Abortion and PCUSA Gay Marriage Update – Al Mohler gives a rundown on the vote of the Presbyterian Church USA (the more liberal of the two mainline Presbyterian denominations) to allow their ministers to marry same-sex couples.  He also discusses a new movie out of Hollywood’s sewers which seeks to make an abortion plot-line into a romantic comedy. Discretion advised if you’re listening with kids around.

How Suffering Leads to Joy and Hope – Two weeks ago I preached a message from Romans 5:1-5 on how suffering brings endurance, character and hope which ultimately yields joy.  The audio from that sermon is now posted if you have a desire to check it out.

In the Aftermath of Disappointing Elections – Tim Challies writes about his disappointment in the aftermath of the Ontario Elections the other day and how his faith, like Abraham’s, must be grounded in God’s character.  I wrote a similar piece just after the 2012 elections – find that little piece of archive goodness HERE. 

Resources, Resources!

Pray like a Puritan! – Looking for help in your prayer life? Check out the Valley of Vision.  These puritan prayers will inspire, deepen, and lift your heart as you prepare to spend time with the Lord.  Really enjoy this book!

Spurgeon at 180 – This week would have been C.H. Spurgeon’s 180th Birthday, and to celebrate the Confessing Baptists are giving away a complete sermon series – enter to win at the link above! h/t Parris Payden

Oh Holy Night

With each passing Christmas season it seems as though I get more and more excited with its advent (no pun intended), and enjoy each year more than the previous year.  One of my favorite parts of the season are the Christmas songs – not the annoying ones that Congress ought to pass a law against (we can snoop on people’s cell phone conversations but we can’t make “Grandma got run over by a reindeer” go away???), but the ones that move our souls to remember why the season is so special.

To that end, I thought about writing a few few posts about my favorite songs and what makes them so darn good. Hopefully this is the first of several…feel free to comment and tell me what your favorite songs are and why.

Oh Holy Night

I can’t listen to this song without something stirring inside. The song takes us back to that moment of incarnation in Bethlehem better than most musical reproductions of the scene. In the first verse, the scene is set, you hear about the starts, the night, and you are there.

You are also reminded of the plight of man.  Something has gone terribly wrong, and what is about to happen on this night is about to change, well, everything.  The verse says, “Long lay the world in sin and error pining.”  What are we pining for?  A Savior.   A Rescuer. The melody takes on a decidedly morose tone meant to cast some sadness on your heart, and remind you what is at stake…the fate of the world.

Then the second stanza breaks in:

Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we
Let all within us praise His holy name
Christ is the Lord, let ever, ever praise Thee
 

This is where I lose it!  Haha!  Seriously though, let me explain:

Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
 

These chains and the slavery are bound up in one idea, and it comes in a hint from the first stanza – sin.  The whole world is bound up together in one cataclysmic death spiral and we’re spinning out of control toward one not so particularly delightful end.

Jesus, the One whose birth we’re hovering about in our minds eye is the One who is breaking the chains – Jesus is the pronoun “He” here – and He’s breaking both the chains of slavery and oppression (inferring that this slavery isn’t so great, in fact its vile and its destroying us).  But it doesn’t stop there – the writer says that the “slave is our brother”, which could mean so many things, but in the context of the hymn what I think it means is that we are all slaves from the same family now having been redeemed by Christ.  French poet Placide Cappeau who wrote the original lyrics first had a verse which was initially translated, “He sees a brother where there was only a slave, love unites those that iron had chained.”

So the thrust of this sentiment is that we are all in bondage to sin.  It also has overtones that both physically free and physically enslaved all share in the brotherhood of mankind and are all slaves together until Christ redeems those who put their faith in Him.

It always “gets” me to sing that “in His name all oppression shall cease” because the idea here is there is this power – a real power – in the name of the baby being born. Why is that?  Because He is a being born a King!  Kings utter a word and servants obey. They go and do whatever their Lord tells them to do. When Jesus opens His mouth, every syllable necessarily brings forth obedience (think of the wind and waves obeying Him later in His ministry, and the creation coming forth at the beginning of Genesis 1).  It is awful comforting to think that at the word of our King all oppression shall cease.

Finally, the hymn breaks forth into doxology:

Let all within us praise His holy name
Christ is the Lord, let ever, ever praise Thee

 

Paul’s Romans 11 praise echoes in my mind, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever” (Rom. 11:33, 36)

When I sing this part of the verse, I realize that “all that is within us” praising “His holy name” is a call to respond to all the truth the writer has just impressed on our minds and hearts.  That truth is that though the world was lost in the mire and bondage of sin, though the oppression of life had seemed to rule the day, though the entire course of life seemed destined toward eternal misery, yet here is One who will snatch us up from death into newness of life!  This is the day, this is the hour, this is the moment when the “Christ” the “Savior” the “King” has come.

What a great song! I hope you can sing this song with gusto this Christmas as you ponder these profound and glorious truths in your heart.

 

Family Worship

As the kids have gotten older, Kate and I have tried to find ways to raise the kiddos in a way that causes them to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus.  Some of the time we feel as though we’re doing great, other times…not to much!  Much of this is just a matter of disciplining ourselves to make time and make it a priority. 

To that end, I wanted to pass along a helpful excerpt from RC Sproul, Jr. on the topic of Family Worship.  He has many helpful suggestions that were encouraging to our family, and hopefully will be encouraging to yours!

 

Simple Steps for Family Worship

by RC Sproul, Jr.

Timing

Right now in our lives, we practice family worship right after supper. We used to have family worship right before the kids went to bed. Either one is fine for us, but there is a practical reason for doing it in that time frame. Every day, no matter what, we eat supper and we go to bed, so we have a pair of alarm clocks that tell us we cannot escape our call to do this. We think, “Oh, we just finished eating, it’s time,” or, “We’re about to go to bed, it’s time.”

After supper, I’ll ask one of the children, “Please gather the things for worship.” We have a place where we keep the worship materials, and one of the children will go and get the stack of books and things, and place it on the table in front of me.

Away From Home Or With Guests

By the way, if we’re not at home, we modify things a little bit. We have worship in the car sometimes. If we’re at a friend’s house or even a stranger’s house, we don’t impose on him or her and say, “Well, thank you for supper, it’s now time for the Sproul family to have worship.” If we have a guest at our house, we try to make an assessment of his or her spiritual maturity and then make a decision. We might ask ourselves, “Will this make our guest angry, or will he like this?” If it likely will make him mad, we probably won’t do it.

Catechism

When we are at home, we start with our catechism work. Catechism is a word that is unfamiliar to many today. A catechism is simply a tool for teaching basic biblical content to those who are young or new to the faith. A catechism typically consists of questions and answers. The parent asks the child a question, and the child gives the answer.

We use two different catechisms. We have a children’s catechism that consists of fifty questions. Each of the questions is five or six words and each of the answers is about three words. I ask my son Reilly, who is three years old, “Reilly, who made you?” Reilly says, “God.” I say, “What else did God make?” He says, “Everything.” As you can see, the questions and answers are very short. We teach these to the very small children, and when they learn these things, we celebrate. We don’t bribe. We don’t buy them off. But we do celebrate. When one learns the entire children’s catechism, the whole family goes out for ice cream, because Daddy likes ice cream.

When the children get bigger, we move to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, which has slightly longer questions and answers. There are 107 of these. When the children master them all, I take them skiing, because Daddy likes skiing.

We have a “sophisticated” system by which we do the memory work. It goes like this. I say to the children: “Daddy says, ‘What is man’s chief end?’ You say, ‘Man’s chief end …'”

They say, “Man’s chief end …”
I say, “… is to glorify God …”
They say, “… is to glorify God …”
Finally, I say, “… and enjoy him forever.”
They say, “… and enjoy him forever.”

We do that, and after a couple of days they get it. As I said, it’s a terribly complicated system.

Scripture Memory

Then we move on to Bible memory. We have a “complicated” system for that, too. Right now our family is working through the Psalms, so every day we recite one of the psalms we have learned and we work on a new psalm. Don’t be overly impressed; we are only up to twelve. I don’t know what we’re going to do when they get really long. When we get to Psalm 119, then you can be impressed. But again, we use the same system. I say a verse or part of a verse, and the kids repeat it. My older kids make fun of me because I have my Bible open as I’m helping them learn these things, but they know many of the psalms by heart.

Scripture Reading

Then we move to Scripture reading. We have done our Scripture readings in different ways. Sometimes we read a book of the Bible. Sometimes, when we have a new child who is very small, we use one of the children’s Bible storybooks. I want to give them a very basic understanding of the flow of Scripture. Right now we’re going through one of those Bible storybooks where Jesus has eyes that look like Ping-Pong balls.

I read the story, then I give my sermon, and my sermons are typically twenty to thirty seconds long. I give the children some sort of lesson from the text. I want to bring the text to bear on their lives and mine.

This gives me an opportunity to practice the first corollary to the “R. C. Sproul Jr. principle of hermeneutics.” Hermeneutics is the study of interpretation, and the R. C. Sproul Jr. principle of hermeneutics states that whenever you are reading your Bible and you see someone doing something really stupid, you must not say to yourself, “How can he be so stupid?” but “How am I more stupid?” The first corollary to this principle is that whenever you are reading a story in the Bible and you wonder who you are in the story, you are the sinner. If you are reading a story and there is more than one sinner, as in the parable of the prodigal son, you’re both. So we read our Bible text and I ask: “Children, how are we like this person? And how are we like that person? And how am I like this person or that person?” That’s the sermon.

Prayer

After the sermon, I take prayer requests. I ask, “Children, what would you like Daddy to pray for tonight?” Now, I encourage my children to pray. They pray before they go to bed. They pray at times during home-school. They pray on many occasions. But when we gather together for family worship, they don’t pray. Why not? From the beginning, I have done the praying at family worship because I want to communicate to them—and, more importantly, to myself—the importance of the father’s priestly role in the home. I am saying to them and to myself, “I am responsible, as the head of this home, to take you before the throne of God, to beseech the God of heaven and earth for your wellbeing.”

In fact, when the children were younger, we even had a posture to help communicate this—again, more to me than to them. I would ask the little ones to come sit on my lap. I would take one on each leg, put my arms around the children, put my hands over their heads, and pray for them. I would ask God to bless them specifically. My son Campbell would ask every night, “Please ask God that we would grow in grace, in the fruit of the spirit, and in wisdom.” God has blessed him with wisdom.

Singing

Then we move into singing. Again, the children are invited to participate by choosing what we are going to sing. We sing the service music from our church’s liturgy. We sing the Gloria Patri. We sing the Doxology. We sing the Apostles’ Creed or the Nicene Creed. We sing the Song of Simeon, which is how our church closes its service.

Let me tell you about something that is even more practical. When visitors to Saint Peter Church try to find the nursery, we tell them we do have a nursery, but we hope they won’t mind serving in the nursery on that particular day. We assure them that if they’ll look after their children, we’ll be fine. You see, we worship together—parents and children. Visitors are afraid and puzzled about this. They think, “What kind of weird thing is this?” Then, when we in the congregation stand to confess our faith together and little two- and three-year-olds ardently recite the Apostles’ Creed, suddenly our visitors see the beauty of it.

We let our children pick the songs they want to sing. We do have one rule—only one child’s song a night. Reilly always wants to sing “Hallelu.” I’ll ask, “What do you want to sing tonight, Reilly?” and he’ll say, “Hallelu.” It’s a very simple song: “Hallelu, hallelu, hallelu, hallelujah, praise ye the Lord!” We divide the family in half, and half of them are the “hallelus” and half of them are the “praise ye the Lords,” then after the first verse we switch and do it faster. But we sing only one of these a night.

That’s it. It’s not complicated. It’s not time-consuming. It’s not a duty. It’s a joy, a delight.

What If I Haven’t Been Doing Family Worship?

At this point, you fathers might be thinking, “OK, R. C., I see this. I see that I ought to do this. I see how to do it. But what do I do about the fact that I haven’t been doing this?” Here’s what you do: Gather your family together, sit them down, and then tell them that you are sorry for failing them in this way. Show them what repentance looks like. Then tell them that Jesus Christ came to suffer the wrath of God the Father for failures such as this. Give thanks for that provision. Pray in thanksgiving for that forgiveness. Then sing in thanksgiving for that forgiveness. That is day one. If you have done this in the past and have fallen out of the habit, simply follow the same instructions.

But I’m Too Busy for Family Worship

But if you are too busy, here is what I want you to do: stop being too busy! What could possibly be more important? The God of heaven and earth, the self-existent, transcendent, holy God, is inviting you to walk with Him in the cool of the evening. Will you say to Him, “Thanks for the invitation, Lord, but I’ve got my bowling league tonight.” Would you tell Him, “I’d love to meet with You tonight, but I have a meeting with someone important.” No one is too busy to draw near to the living God. No one is too busy to give up the less important, the less rewarding, and the less joyful for the source of all joy.

The glory of the gospel is that the high, transcendent, exultant God, because of the work of Christ, has drawn near to us and to our children, and will continue to do so. Therefore, don’t do this in order to be holy. Do it to be happy. In the end, it’s the same thing. Our austere pursuit of personal holiness doesn’t impress God one bit. But God delights when we delight in Him. Bring the children; suffer the children to come unto Him (Matt. 19:14). Do this so that you might glorify and enjoy Him now, for this is what we will be doing forever.

This series has been adapted from material in R.C. Sproul Jr.’s contribution to Holy, Holy, Holy: Proclaiming the Perfections of God.

If you’d like more resources to assist you in the area of family worship, please consider:

Orginally found at: http://www.ligonier.org/blog/simple-steps-family-worship-part-1/