Monday, March 31, 2008

What I've been reading

From left to right:
The Temple: Its Ministry and Services
Alfred Edersheim

I have really enjoyed reading this book, which is a good overview of the 1st century temple. Though written well over a century ago, the illustrations and Edersheim's descriptions hold up very well. He very carefully goes through the physical aspects of the temple, then the services and practical organization. The footnotes are never distracting and the illustrations are clear and helpful. I appreciated the manner in which he shows how the temple traditions were established: some by God in the Old Testament, some by rabbis and priests through the intervening centuries.

Edersheim also takes great care to demonstrate how Jesus Christ fulfilled the prophecies and symbols of the temple. Best read in several sittings and casually, but certainly worth reading for the depth it adds to our understanding of much of the New Testament. My only caution is that given the age of the book, it does not adequately reflect the research and archeology of the last century.

The Elders of the Church
Lawrence Eyres

This is a book that can be read fairly quickly, but is more than a pamphlet. Eyres is a Presbyterian and it certainly shows in his approach to the ideas of eldership in the church. The early chapters, in which he deals with the more general ideas about eldership (E.g. a church should be governed by a plurality of elders, God calls men to be elders, the qualifications and function of elders), are the best and contain the most biblical evidence. The later chapters (on specific roles and ecclesial issues) are not nearly so well written and, unsurprisingly, contain much less biblical evidence to support his contentions. Despite that short-coming, the final chapters do contain enough good advice (based on years of experience in a local church) that they are worth reading and considering.

If nothing else, his book is a challenge to think biblically and carefully about how and why we select leaders for the local church.

The Fourth World War: Diplomacy and Espionage in the Age of Terrorism
Count de Marenches and David Andelman

I first read this book (in an overview fashion) in 1998 and ignored the claims Marenches was making. He predicted the War on Terror we now find ourselves in and suggested a number of (often immoral) ways of waging it. Still, this book has valuable lessons which I will be addressing in a future post.

King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table
Thomas Mallory (updated and translated by the Illustrated Junior Library)

Read at bedtimes with the children, this book is a relatively faithful adaptation of the Malory version of the Arthurian legends, but sanitized and updated for the 1950 children’s library release. Unfortunately, it combines the worst both worlds: the archaic language of Malory with none of the grandeur or epic feel. So, it was more difficult for the children to understand, but with none of the benefits. Still, the children all enjoyed the book (some more than others).

Also, it was nice to have a children’s version that kept the main elements sweep of the legend (both heroic and tragic). The Pyle version was my first exposure to Arthur, and will always be classic, but its glaring deficiency is the way he ignores or glosses over the less noble aspects of the story.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

One Thing for Children

Continuing the look at Ephesians 6:1-3 that I shared with the youth, we notice that while God has a lot to say and directions to give about how wives should relate to husbands, and husbands to wives, slaves to masters and so on, there is only one requirement he gives to children: obedience. Not only so, but he also gives the rationale for the command (which he does not always do with the others): that it may go well with you and that you may live long on the earth.

So, I spent a good part of the talk discussing reasons to obey our parents, and they are:

1. Because God commands it.

2. That it may go well for us

3. It is for our good (Prov. 1:8,9)

The idea here was that God has given us parents to be an instrument of His blessing in our lives, that their instruction may “be like a wreath about your head”.

4. It is good preparation. (Prov. 3:1-4, 11-18)

This chapter of Proverbs directly ties obedience to our parents with obedience to and fear of, the Lord. This, in turn, is the basis of all wisdom, for which accrues many benefits to us. One way this applies specifically to the idea of obeying parents is that learning to obey our parents at as young an age as possible, is excellent training for a life of obedience to Jesus Christ. If a child learns to bend his will to the directions of his parents, even when the reasons for the directions are hard to understand, that child will, we pray, find it easier to bend his will to God’s because he will already be accustomed to obedience.

I summarized all of that, by making the statement, "your relationship with Jesus Christ will grow proportionately with you willingness to obey your parents".

Next time, I’ll relate some of the specific goals I shared with the youth with respect to relating to their parents.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Thinking About Blogging...

I don't have a lot of time today, but have been thinking about blogs and blogging and how I choose what to write. As a result, my thoughts keep returning to the the saying:

Everything that needs to be said has been said, but not everyone has said it yet.......

How's that for an excuse to not post a very meaningful entry today?

Friday, March 21, 2008

What Are Parents For?

Last time I wrote about some of the questions that the youth I spoke with asked regarding their parents. One statement they didn’t make, but which they all admitted they had exclaimed at their parents in frustration was: "I didn’t ask to be born!".

That’s entirely true. None of us asked to be born. Why did God give us parents? Are they just there to keep teens from doing what they want? Or, is there a deeper, transcendent purpose for which God gave parents?

Unsurprisingly, God has a lot to say about the subject in His Word. In his letter to the Ephesian Christians, the Apostle Paul devotes long sections to establishing principles to guide the relationships that believers have with one another. He spends the first three chapters talking about the unity we enjoy because of what Jesus has done, and the last three outlining practical ways in which these principles can be applied to how we live our lives. So it is that in chapter six, after having given guidance to husbands and wives on how to relate, he comes to speak to children:

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise), SO THAT IT MAY BE WELL WITH YOU, AND THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG ON THE EARTH.
- Ephesians 6:1-3

The first thing to note from a reading of Ephesians 5-6, is that not only is a parent’s relationship with his children one of many, but it is not even the most important relationship. A husband and wife should make their marriage of greater priority than their children, and each must give primacy to their individual relationship to God. So, the first point I wanted to make to the teens was that they are not, and should not expect to be, the top priority for their parents because their parents have other God-given responsibilities that they can not neglect. In our day of hyper-parenting, it is good to remind ourselves that our lives ought not revolve around our children, or any other human relationship, but they ought be centred on God.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Teach Them Gently

A few months ago I was privileged to speak with the youth of our church. I had been given the topic of "parents" and really enjoying preparing and presenting the message. Most of the youth are not from the church, so I enjoyed the challenge of dealing with the variety of questions that came from them, specifically as their varied living situations relate to the commands to obey their parents. Some questions were ones you’d typically expect from teenagers, and others were more complex.

"I spend weekdays with my mom, and weekends with my dad. Who should I obey? When?"

"My dad doesn’t want me going to the church’s youth group any more."

"My parents are dumb and don’t know anything. How can I respect them?"

"My mom thinks school is a waste of time and wants me to help in the store instead."

"My dad’s a drunk who doesn’t care about me."

And on and on.

I was grateful to God for the opportunity to share with them that the teachings of the Bible are relevant to their situations, that God is able to be a help in difficult times, that God is willing to deal with us regardless of our current spiritual maturity.

I have been convicted of late by the words of James 3:13.

"Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom."

The phrase "gentleness of wisdom" has really stuck with me.

How often when dealing with the social and moral issues of our day do we who are believers come across as harsh, or intransigent or unloving because of the manner in which we present our understanding of what the Bible teaches. We can become critical and seem smug or even, forgive us, superior, to those we are seeking to convince. May God grant that we present the truth He has revealed in Scripture in such a fashion that our manner does not invalidate what our mouths are speaking. It is such a difficult thing to present uncompromising truth in a gentle, loving spirit that we need to cry out to God for His help, because we know without that assistance, we will fail. We need to pray that we will be known for love and truth, and the gentleness of wisdom.

Next time, I’ll write on what I actually taught the youth about God’s plan for children and parents.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Walk in Love

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
- Ephesians 5:1-2

My family and I have been blessed to be worshipping with the believers are Grimsby Bible Church Sunday evenings the past few months. We have been working our way through I Peter and a few weeks ago Kirk Wellum brought a message from I Peter 1: 22-25 in which he spoke about the importance and priority of love, especially among believers. As always, it was both exegetically sound and challenging. In the days that followed, we Marshes have been presented with numerous opportunities to serve others in often unpleasant ways. It has been inconvenient and tiring, disruptive to our schedules and distracting from our plans, but we are thankful that God in His grace and by His Spirit has reminded us of His command to walk in love and given us the discipline and willingness to serve. I can not say it has been easy, but we all feel the satisfaction that obedience to the Lord brings and I pray my entire family will continue to learn how to love one another cheerfully, and from the heart.

I am sometimes asked why I blog on the ten commandments. After all, we are under grace and the Law of Christ, not the Law of Moses. We ought to focus on love alone. While I heartily agree that the chief end of Christ’s law is to love God and to love our neighbours (Mat 22:37-39) I also freely acknowledge my own sinful and deceptive heart. In a day when love has lost much of its objective meaning and had become largely self-defined, the ten commandments, especially the final six, serve as practical examples of how I am to love my neighbour. I can so easily justify my own selfish desires that I thank God He has given commands to not covet, to be honest with others in all things, and to bear with one another.

May the God of all grace glory help each one of us to “walk in love”, sincerely, truthfully and sacrificially.

Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart,
- I Peter 1:22

Monday, March 03, 2008

What I've been reading

From left to right:

Worship by the Book
Edited: Don Carson

Easily the best book currently in print about corporate worship. Carson and his co-authors write thoughtfully and well about the subject. The first chapter alone is worth several times the cover price. It has heavily influenced my own thinking on corporate worship and though this was my third time through, I still gleaned more from it than from almost any other current book on the subject.

Business for the Glory of God
Wayne Grudem

Grudem offers a fairly superficial overview (it's a short book!) of the morality associated with various activities associated with business. He is clearly coming from a distinctive economic perspective, but never the less, challenges the reader to think biblically and clearly about engaging in business activies.

Nine Marks of a Healthy Church
Mark Dever

This is a good, popular level book, clearly written by a Pastor, about the characteristics of a healthy church. It is not a restatement of the classical view of the 'true church', but is rather a practical corrective to many of the features of contemporary churches which distract from the purpose of the church. An easy, but worthwhile read.