Thursday, February 28, 2008

Peaceful Contentment - Generosity

I’ve been writing about how by giving our children an allowance we hope to instill in them a spirit of contentment that results in gratitude, mercy and generosity. I’ve discussed mercy and gratitude, and now, generosity.

When we give them an allowance, it is a gift, with no conditions on it’s deposition save one: that they record what they plan to do with it. So, our tradition is that when they receive their allowance on Saturday, they record the amount in their account books, then decide how much to give at church, then how much to give to the Compassion children we sponsor for them, and finally how much they want to save.

Naturally, we give guidance to them as they decide and have tried to teach and demonstrate qualities of gratitude, mercy and generosity in how we handle money, but ultimately, the decision is theirs.

So far, with both the older children (who are believers) it has worked exceptionally well. My wife and I are both surprised and grateful about the degree of their generosity. Without hesitation or remorse, they freely give the majority of their money away. Further, they will frequently spend the money left over on gifts for the children we sponsor who live in developing nations. As I plan out our finances and expenses for the year, I am inspired by my children to give money away, not out of obligation, but from a spirit of gratitude, mercy and generosity befitting one who follows Jesus.

But just as you abound in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and in all earnestness and in the love we inspired in you, see that you abound in this gracious work also.
I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also.
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.

II Corinthians 8:7-9

Friday, February 22, 2008

Chesterton on Virtue

The Modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone. Thus some scientists care for truth; but their truth is pitiless. And thus some humanitarians care only for pity; but their pity--I am sorry to say--is often untruthful.
- G.K. Chesterton

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Peaceful Contentment - Mercy

We’re still talking about allowances for our children and how we use it as a tool to encourage contentment. I’ve talked about the idea of gratitude, and our desire to instill it in our children, but like all spiritual development, we hope it will manifest itself in practical ways. We hope that helping them learn to receive all material benefits with gratitude and thanksgiving will help them be generous and merciful as well.

Mercy is a key attribute of any true follower of Jesus. Just as God, in Christ, was merciful to us, and Christ in turn had compassion upon the masses who came to Him, so we desire that our family, ourselves and our children to be merciful in our dealings with others. To that end, we sponsor children in the developing world through Compassion. My wife and I have been involved since our first years of marriage and on the occasion of a Marshling turning five; we begin sponsoring a child of the same gender and birth-date. So far, Emily and Timothy have benefited greatly from corresponding with their sponsored children, from praying for them, and from contributing to their sponsorship financially. Our hope is that as they grow and they are better able to afford it, they will begin to take on more and more of the financial support of their ‘adopted’ siblings.

If you’ve ever wondered about how to assist the developing world, consider sponsoring a child through Compassion. It’s only $35 a month, which supplies food, shelter, education and unapologetic instruction in the Christianity. One of the consequences of living lives of contented gratitude is a desire to mercifully help those in need. Compassion has been a great way from our family to do that.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Peaceful Contentment - Gratitude

A few weeks ago I promised to talk about how we try to encourage an attitude of peaceful contentment in our home. There are obviously many ways we do it, but one way is by giving the older children an allowance. Beyond the practical reasons of developing their arithmetic and money skills, we believe there are specific spiritual benefits to receiving an allowance and being taught how to handle money.

The main goals we have are teaching them a spirit of gratitude, mercy and generosity.

One way we use the allowance to teach them gratitude is by keeping the allowance a true gift. It is not earned by doing chores or other jobs: these are part of the responsibility of everyone living in the house to “through love, serve one another”. The allowance also is not necessary for them to meet their needs; they have food, shelter and clothing, their allowance can be used for anything else they might want, but not need. Ultimately, this is the same way in which God deals with us. He pours out common grace on all by providing sun, rain, springtime and harvest. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights “ (James 1:17). We do nothing to earn or merit His grace; rather, He gives generously to us out of His own love and mercy. Our reaction should be unrestricted gratitude and thanksgiving, but instead we often squirm and complain and want more. In making our children’s allowance a free gift, we are seeking to instill in them a sense of gratitude, not to us, but to God, their heavenly father.

More on mercy and generosity next time.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Doug Wilson on Law and Gospel

Here's a great quotation from Doug Wilson on "Hearing 'Law' and 'Gospel'":

For the perishing, the entire Bible is law. It is heard as law, as condemnation, and as a hateful word of authority.The unbeliever refuses to honor God as God and refuses to give Him thanks. Even the common kindnesses poured out on him - sunshine, food, health - obligate him to render thanks, but he hates to do so. The obligation is therefore perceived by him as hateful law. But when a man hears with faith, the entire Bible is Gospel - good news, relief, rest. The unregenerate heart reacts to the Ten Commandments as though there were nothing there but thunder, lightning, and blue ruin. The regenerate heart hears the preamble to the Ten Commandments - "I am the Lord you God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage." (Ex. 20:2). The law is Gospel, and obedience proceeds from gratitude.

The law is altogether lovely and gracious. But the law presents itself this way to those who have already been saved through the Cross. For those still in the grip of unbelief, the law terrifies and makes them shrink back from the mountain. But, of course, the Gospel makes them shrink back the same way.

So the division that makes sense is the division between sheep and goats, wheat and tares, believers and unbelievers. And it is the Word of God, sharper than any sword, which makes this distinction.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Delightful Sundays Redux

One of the ways we celebrate Sundays is feasting after the morning church service. We stay in our nice clothes, set the table as beautifully as we're able (we use our good china, though our youngest still gets a sippy-cup: see photo), drink fancy drinks out of elegant glassware (sippy-cup exceptions duly noted) and enjoy the finest meal of the week. In this case, roast chicken with potatoes, gravy, broccoli and a splendid dessert.

Then, after having naps and playing quiet games, we have a fancy tea time prior to attending the evening service. Again, we use our fine china tea cups, drink lapsang souchong and eat splendid treats. It is all part of our desire to truly enjoy a sabbath rest and to feast in a biblical way.

Some people think those who celebrate Sunday are sticks in the mud, and some people with a high view of Sunday are. However, I'm salivating just looking at these photos. Sabbath feasting: It sure beats mowing the lawn!