Thursday, July 26, 2012

Strangers and Exiles on the Earth

Some would have us avoid involvement in events here on earth, except for "getting people saved" and perhaps doing stuff for the church. They say that everything else is not that important and does not need to be redeemed and restored to Biblical standards because we are supposed to be "strangers and exiles on the earth." That we are strangers and exiles is true. See Hebrews 11:13-16:
"These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city."
So yes, we look with great expectation to Heaven, but then look at what these strangers and exiles did on earth. Verses 33-34:
"...who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight."
Let us hold fast to our faith in God and His promises and conquer some kingdoms!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Land Promise

And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God. ~Genesis 17:8

And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.
~Galatians 3:29

For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. ~Romans 4:13

The LORD said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
~Psalm 2:7-8

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. ~Matthew 5:5

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going...For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God....But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
~Hebrews 11:8,10,16

Did you all catch that? Christian will agree that God promised Abraham the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession, but then disagree about what that means today. Well, in Galatians 3:29 we see that if we are Christ's (those with faith, those who have been baptized, Gal. 3:26-27) then we are Abraham's offspring and heirs of the promises that God gave to Abraham (including the land). Then in Romans 4:13 we see that what was promised was not just Canaan, but the whole world (and is received by the "righteousness of faith"). There are many other verses that confirm this, such as Psalms 2:7-8, Matthew 5:5, etc... And finally we see in Hebrews 11:8,10,16 that it is not only a redeemed earth that we will inherit, but Heaven as well. 

There is so much more to this land promise of Gen. 17:8 than a little plot of land in Palestine! The whole earth is promised to us, and indeed Heaven is promised. Christ's Kingdom is filling the earth (Dan. 2:35), and truly has, and will have, "dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth!" (Ps. 72:8).

Friday, July 20, 2012

Singing in Family Worship

Taken from Thoughts on Family Worship (1847) by Pastor James W. Alexander,

"The use of psalmody in domestic worship, tends to the improvement of this part of divine service in public. We may push the art and exquisite harmony of choirs, or select companies, to any degree of advancement, however high, yet the great end will not be attained, until we secure the united voices of the whole congregation...We believe that the revival of psalmody in the house, would contribute to train voices for the sanctuary. In order to have this effect, it should not be left to take care of itself, or be executed in a careless, random way. Some pains should be taken to select suitable tunes, and to make every member of the household familiar with them...[T]he daily exercise itself is a school of music; and we have never known a family in which it was common, that did not attain to some excellence in this department....It would be a peculiar pleasure to the writer of these lines, if he could know that he had succeeded in bringing the vocal praise of God into the daily worship of even a single household...It is mournful to think, that a service which was so precious to our ancestors, and which they made sacrifices to enjoy, even when under the sword of persecution, should die out of many Christian families in these days of peace, when there is no lack of worldly rejoicings."

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Home Education

"Basic to the calling of every child is to be a member of a family. Virtually all children will some day become husbands and wives, and fathers or mothers. The statist school is destructive of this calling. Its attempts to meet the need are essentially external and mechanical, i.e., home economics courses, sex education, and the like. But the essential training for family life is family life and a family-oriented school and society. It means Biblical education. It means discipline, and training in godly relationships."

~ R.J. Rushdoony (from The Institutes of Biblical Law, page 184)

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Poem for Graduation

So I have now officially "graduated" from "high school" homeschool (as of June 30th). While there are more important milestones in life, this one being somewhat artificial, I am glad for the opportunity to take a look at where I have been and where I am going. Here is a poem that I wrote for the occasion trying to express some of my vision for my life. 

Beyond the Windy Plains 

Lo, beyond the windy plains with tumbleweeds and space 
There is a land that I call home, to me a special place.
'Tis not because of fame or wealth that its call I still hear,
But 'tis because its need and strife I feel a falling tear.

There are many lands both far and wide that give a lonesome call,
This land is not the only one that feels the dreadful Fall.
But I am one, I cannot do but this to serve God now:
Just one man's work by His dear grace, in finite space to plow.

But who am I, that I do think to do so great a work?
I am but a poor sinner, weak, and dangers 'round me lurk.
What if in trying to do kind help, I think I stand, but fall? 
What if by trying to do great things I bring down greater gall? 

But is this life? to never do because the fear of sin? 
Should not I fear almighty God, and in His name begin? 
Ah, here is hope, for with this fear we see our faith's sound rest 
And with this faith we hold to God who leads us through the test.

So if I'm with God, and He with me, I shall not fear to plan 
To do a loving pastor's share in guiding erring man,
To love my own dear family, to serve and lead and fight,
For Christ's covenant and kingly crown, for honor and for right! 

I see around our dinner board, the olive plants and vine.
How happy I see these treasures dear, what blessed joy in mine! 
My Rose of Sharon brightly beams hospitable grace and duty
With godly wisdom and her love, our house does shine with beauty.

And there the "simple" parish church, my beloved and my flock–
'Tis not simple to those that know, it's people reel and rock.
I am no better, 'tis God will save her, through many a stormy sea;
She'll continue to rise, come back again and make the Devil flee.

And in the light of Christ's loved bride the peoples all will walk 
And our own county, city, street, will of Lord Jesus talk.
Whether friend or foe, man or fool, the wise or wicked one, 
They all must face the news we bring, to stand before the Son. 

This and more, my vision, dream, is what in faith I take 
For my calling and duty near, for this my goal I make.
Oh that God would wrought in us for Him a greater zeal, 
Love that comes from a pure heart, His Spirit as our seal! 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Happy Inconsistency

"The instrumentalities of the family are chosen and ordained of God as the most efficient of all means of grace—more truly and efficaciously means of saving grace than all the other ordinances of the church. To family piety are given the best promises of the gospel, under the new, as well as under the old dispensation. How, then, should a wise God do otherwise than consecrate the Christian family, and ordain that the believing parents shall sanctify the children? Hence, the very foundation of all parental fidelity to children's souls is to be laid in the conscientious, solemn, and hearty adoption of the very duties and promises which God seals in the covenant of infant baptism. It is pleasing to think that many Christians who refuse the sacrament do, with a happy inconsistency, embrace the duties and seek the blessing. But God gives all his people the truths and promises, along with the edifying seal. Let us hold fast to both."
~R.L. Dabney (from Parental Responsibilities, 1879)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Family in the Old Testament

The family is one of the most neglected pieces of modern society, even in much of modern Christianity. As much as people talk of “family values,” our families are a weak semblance of what they used to be. The civil sphere has progressively taken power and responsibility from the family, and the church has often taught theology and practice that promotes the individual to the detriment of the family and eventually to the church as well. While the New Testament gives many directions concerning the family (e.g. Eph. 5:22-6:9), many people miss the large foundation that the Old Testament lays for any discussion of the family. The family is woven throughout the fabric of the Old Testament, and to ignore the family is to miss an important part of how God works His redemption. 

“Much of the Bible’s teaching goes back to the way we are made; it goes back to creation itself” (Eerdmans’ Handbook, 61), and at the creation of the world we immediately see the importance of the family. “Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Gen. 2:18). The only thing “not good” in Eden was that Adam was alone. So God created Eve as his wife and formed the first married couple. This laid the foundation for the family and the rest of human relationships. Adam and Eve, like all married couples to follow, became one flesh, reflecting the Triune God as several, but one. They were equal in importance and different in role, creating a balanced structure for society.

This marriage of Adam and Eve was not made as an end in itself, but as a “God-appointed means to a God-appointed end” (Morecraft, 621). This end was that of godly work, dominion, fruitfulness, and worship. God created them (man and woman) to be God’s image and to “have dominion...over all the earth,” to be “fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:26, 28). Eve was made as a helper fit for Adam, Adam’s task which needed help being to work and keep the garden and to keep God’s law of not eating the forbidden fruit (Gen. 2:15-18). These were responsibilities that came with God’s covenant relationship with Adam and Eve, Adam bearing the primary responsibility and Eve helping him in this task. Thus the family was designed as the basic economic, cultural, and religious unit, necessary for the well-being of these areas.

But this state of things did not continue. The breakdown of this covenant started with a breakdown of the family. Eve was approached by the serpent, which she was supposed to be subduing. Adam neglected His responsibility by not doing anything when Eve was being tempted, even though he “was with her” (Gen. 3:6), and was led by Eve into this sin. Thus they sinned against God in whose image they were made. All creational order was reversed and the family was at the heart of it. After Adam, families continued to fall into sin together. The family of Cain became wicked, rejecting redemption, leading to the judgment of the flood. The house of Eli had iniquity because of the sins of the sons (1 Sam. 3:13-14). Certain dynasties of the kings of Israel were specially noted for their sins, such as the house of Jereboam or of Omri.

Not only do we see families sin together in the Old Testament, but they are cursed together as well. Because of Adam’s sin, his family and descendants whom he represented covenantally also fell into sin together. The curse found in Genesis 3:16-19 curses the family and its dominion work. The woman shall have pain in bearing children, man and woman shall have marital strife, their work shall be much harder, and they will die. Immediately after this we see Adam and Eve’s family cursed with sin as Cain kills his brother Abel. Throughout the rest of Scripture we see not only Adam’s sin effect men, but each family suffers as a unit for it own sin also (e.g. Jer. 23:34, Daniel 6:24). Especially vivid is the episode of Achan, where first all Israel is punished with defeat for his great sin, and then he and his children and belongings are stoned and burned together by the order of God. The LORD declares that he is “a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me” (Deut. 5:9).

This would be a depressing view of the family if this was all, but there is more. Not only is the family together in sin and judgement, but it is together in redemption as well. “God’s creational orderings for marriage and the family have continuing significance in the purposes of a method in conformity with creation, God accomplishes his purposes of redemption” (Robertson, 79). Right amidst the curse following the fall into sin there is a covenantal promise that God will preserve a godly offspring with its representative (“he”) that will crush the head of the serpent (Gen. 3:15). When that godly offspring begins to intermarry with the ungodly family of Cain (Hendriksen, 87), God makes His covenant with Noah and his family, saving them from the judgment of the flood, promising future protection and life, and re-giving the dominion mandate to them (Gen. 6-9). Later God makes His covenant with Abraham and his family, determining to save them and be their God, giving them the sign of circumcision as a sign and seal of the covenant (Gen. 17). Years later God reaffirms His covenant with the family of Israel, the households of Israel forming an important part (e.g. Deut 12:6-7). In the Passover, Israel is saved by families, a lamb for a household (Exod. 12:3). All of Israel’s children are included in the covenant (Deut 29:10-15). And when God makes His covenant with King David, He includes David’s offspring and house in the promise (2 Sam. 7:12, 29). In these covenants you can “see the family in God's plan and purpose. You see that with God, our children matter” (Scott, 3).

During the time of these covenants, the promise contained in them includes the restoration of the family from the curse. The man who fears the LORD shall be blessed by a wife like a fruitful vine and children like olive shoots (Ps. 128:3-4). His offspring will be mighty and will be his reward and blessing (Ps. 122:2; 127:3, 5). The womb will be blessed (Deut. 7:14, 28:4), and the work the family does will be blessed as well (Deut. 28:1-14). The family will rejoice, eat, teach, make clothing, in short, they will do culture together before the Lord (Deut 6:7, 14:26; Prov. 31:10-31). Throughout these covenants the family is being renewed back into its original economic, cultural, and religious tasks under the direction and blessing of God. The family has a calling of dominion to fulfill and the fall of man has not altered this calling, but it has made God’s regenerating work necessary (Rushdoony, 163). “From the very outset, God intends by the covenant of redemption to realize for man those blessings originally defaulted under the covenant of creation” (Robertson, 91).

This is in the Old Testament and some would restrict this importance of the family to it, thinking that somehow the New Testament is more individualistic. But the New Testament (i.e. the New Covenant) is the consummation of the Old Covenant(s). The family is being renewed in redemption and the New Covenant brings even greater renewal, not less. One of the last prophecies made in the Old Testament proclaims that with the coming of Elijah the hearts of the fathers and the children will be turned to each other (Mal. 4:6), being fulfilled in the coming of John the Baptist (Luke 1:17). Thus,
“the duty of parental fidelity is equally prominent in both dispensations. The old terminates with it; the new opens with it. This is the connecting link between both; it is the hinge in which they meet and combine with each other. How plain it is that God regards it as prime practical importance for man’s salvation!” (Dabney, 677).
The promise to Abraham was that the families of the earth shall be blessed through Christ (Gen. 12:3, Gal. 3:16, 29). When God proclaims the news of the New Covenant which He will make with Israel in Jeremiah 31 he says that He “will be the God of all the clans of Israel” (vs. 1), and He will not cast off their offspring (vs. 37), Israel being Christians, and their offspring and families being Christian offspring and families (Gal. 3, Eph. 2:11-22). The promise of salvation is to believers and their children and households (Acts 2:38, 16:31). Thus in New Testament times families continue to be renewed into the image of Christ and take on their God-given roles, with even more power to do so than in the Old Testament.

And so we see that the family is not merely a nice thing to have around but is basic to the plan of creation, fall, and redemption. It has jobs to do, and although sins has corrupted and torn apart the family, God’s gracious redemption is restoring families back to their place under God doing His work. Let us each one look to our own place and station in our families and seek to live with new life in that capacity, walking according to Christ’s saving power and love. May our families be, as families, Christ’s disciples, baptized in the name of the Triune God, and observing all that Christ has commanded. Let us see our families taking again their rightful place in society as guardians of Christian economics, culture, and worship, teaching these things to their children when they sit in their houses, walk by the way, lie down, and rise (Deut. 6:7). And as the family is restored to godliness may we see the state and church also find their proper places. As we see the blessings of the godly family we will see the prosperity of Jerusalem. “Peace upon Israel!” (Ps. 128:6).

Dabney, Robert L. Discussions Vol 1. Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1982.
Eerdmans’ Handbook to the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1973.
Hendriksen, William Survey of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1995.
The Holy Bible (ESV). Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2003.
Morecraft, Dr. Joseph C. Authentic Christianity. Powder Springs, GA: Minkoff Family; American Vision, 2009.
Robertson, O. Palmer The Christ of the Covenants. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1980.
Rushdoony, Rousas John The Institutes of Biblical Law. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1973.
Scott, Dr. Jack B. “Lecture 3: Genesis 12-24” OTS105 Old Testament Survey. Lakeland, FL: Whitefield, 2008.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Early Church Fathers on Abortion

You might remember me posting the quote from the Didache (c. AD 90) "Do not murder a child by abortion or kill a new-born infant." Well here are a few more quotes from fellow Christians who wrote 1,800-1,900 years ago on the subject of abortion.

The Epistle of Barnabas 19:5, (AD 80-120), in declaring the way of life, says "Thou shalt love thy neighbor more than thine own soul. Thou shalt not murder a child by abortion, nor again shalt thou kill it when it is born. Thou shalt not withhold thy hand from thy son or daughter, but from their youth thou shalt teach them the fear of God."

Clement (AD 190) in The Paedagogus, Book 2, Chapter 10 "Our whole life can go on in observation of the laws of nature, if we gain dominion over our desires from the beginning and if we do not kill, by various means of a perverse art, the human offspring, born according to the designs of divine providence; for these women who, in order to hide their immorality, use abortive drugs which expel the matter completely dead, abort at the same time their human feelings." Clement also in describing the main themes of the Christian community says, "Abortion is killing human life that is under God’s care, design and providence."

Tertullian (AD 160-240) writes in The Apology, Chapter 9: "In our case, murder being once for all forbidden, we may not destroy even the fetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from other parts of the body for its sustenance. To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man-killing; nor does it matter whether you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to the birth. That is a man which is going to be one; you have the fruit already in the seed."

Hippolytus of Rome (AD 222) in The Refutation of All Heresies Book 9, Chapter 7 says, "Women, reputed believers, began to resort to drugs for producing sterility, and to gird themselves round, so to expel what was being conceived on account of their not wishing to have a child either by a slave or by any paltry fellow, for the sake of their family and excessive wealth. Behold, into how great impiety that lawless one has proceeded, by inculcating adultery and murder at the same time!"