29 January 2013

Men and Worship

Today, I want to begin looking at two topics that concern me: men and worship. I am combining them for a critical look at how men relate to what worship has become today.

Men don’t want to go to church.  There are numerous surveys and polls looking at church attendance in the US. Most indicate that women constitute anywhere from 60-75% of the congregation in most churches on Sunday morning. In very informal and non-scientific studies here in the Czech Republic (I've actually counted) I have found the ratio of women to men in corporate worship services to be six or seven to one! There are a lot of possible reasons for this. 

Some reasons given by men on why they don't like going to church are as follows:
·      Men want as much time for themselves as possible when they are not working
·      Socializing does not come easy for men as it comes to women
·      Men do not feel the necessity to go to Church considering that they can pretty much worship God at home
·      Men hate listening to a boring lecture which they really cannot relate to
·      Men consider singing in Church to be sissy
·      Men think there is no point in going to the Church and sleeping. They might as well sleep at home
·      Most men consider going to church a waste of time

Many Men don’t like church because they don’t understand it.
·      What am I supposed to do when the pastor is praying? Even worse, what if there is a time of silence?
·      What if I make the effort and still don’t understand what he’s talking about?
·      What does he mean “examine myself”

This is not a new problem. Thomas Boston, in a book first published in 1720, wrote that “The unregenerate would find fault with heaven on several accounts.” Admittedly, he is addressing a group of unregenerate folk here, but he takes up the idea of despising worship. His “accounts” 5 and 6 read this way: 

5. They would never like the employment of heaven, they care so little for it now. The business of saints there would be an intolerable burden to them, seeing it is not agreeable to their nature. To be taken up in beholding, admiring, and praising Him that sits on the throne, and the Lamb, would be work unsuitable, and therefore unsavory to the unredeemed soul.

6. They would find this fault with it, that the whole is of everlasting continuance. This would be a killing burden in it to them. How as now account the Sabbath day a burden, brook the celebration of an everlasting Sabbath in the heavens!

(Human Nature in Its Fourfold State, p. 247-8.)

I will be looking at this over the course of a few weeks (probably not all in a row). Care to join in the discussion?


25 January 2013

The Chapel Library - A Rare and Valuable Ministry

Sandra and I were talking with a friend last week and the topic of the Chapel Library in Pensacola, Florida came up. Our friend just bubbled over with enthusiasm for this ministry.

I have also benefited from their ministry. In fact, the reason I am writing about this right now is that I opened the folder on my desktop labelled “General Reading” this morning and one of the items I found in there was a downloaded file on the doctrine of justification. It was a good, brief, study. I had downloaded it free from the Chapel Library. It’s one of numerous titles I have received from this ministry over the years.

This worldwide literature and evangelism ministry is the work of one small congregation. The description on their website (which is nice-looking and informative, BTW) reads, in part, this way:
Chapel Library is a ministry of Mount Zion Bible Church, a Christ-centered church in Pensacola, Florida, with approximately 80 attending. The worldwide ministries have ten full-time and four part-time staff, and operate under the oversight of the elders of MZBC.
Our purpose is to humble the pride of man, to exalt the grace of God in salvation, and to promote real holiness in heart and life, by sending Christ-centered materials from prior centuries worldwide without charge.
The list of materials includes more than 800 books which may be downloaded free or requested in print (if you are in North America). Same price: free.

This is a truly amazing ministry. I recommend that you explore their website, use their services, and, if possible, send a little financial support their way.

22 January 2013

The Father of Modern Education

Jan Amos Comenius (1592 -- 1671) is often referred to as "The Father of Modern Education." A pretty lofty title for someone you probably never heard of, right?

Comenius was a Bohemian (Czech) pastor and educator. He lived a life of exile and difficulty, losing two wives along the way. Europe was wracked with war for most of his life and Comenius managed to get in the way of it often. The various phases of the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) were waged throughout much of the adulthood of Comenius. It is commonly accepted that this lengthy war began with what has become known as the "Defenestration of Prague."

Back to Comenius. As he traveled and lived in exile, he also wrote. His great interest was the reforming of education. Dr. C. Matthew McMahon writes:
His contributions to the educational scene are immeasurable in many ways, and, as stated before, he is deemed the “Father of Modern Education.” He answered the question “Is there a way to teach children pleasantly, but quickly at the same time?” in a most biblical and helpful manner. The various schools of his day thought this was impossible. They leaned upon corporeal discipline to the extreme, and neglected the teaching of girls altogether. Comenius though that learning should be done in the home (following thoughts surrounding catechizing that began during the Reformation) and thus by parents, which would have included the mother. If mothers, then, were not educated, then children would not be educated as well. He wrote the book The Great Didactic (published in 1657 in Holland) that encompassed a Christian worldview in learning from God’s second book – nature, and aiding parents in helping their children learn about god in every way possible. Children in Comenius day were trained to repeat memorized Latin vocabulary and conjugations, but they were not taught to think well. If one cannot think well, how can they learn or understand a given proposition? Education for Comenius stretches beyond the boundaries of the classroom and encompasses all of life.
Comenius believed in the principle called "pansophy." "For Comenius there was always only one truth. The light of reason must submit in obedience to the will of God. This is Comenius’s fundamental pedagogical and pansophic principle." (see this article at Christian History).

So, according to Comenius, education is not rote learning in a classroom, although he did not advocate abandoning the classroom. Rather, a full-orbed education of all people (males and females to be included) with an emphasis on understanding God's universe, is essential. The above-mentioned article in Christian History closes this way:
In Christ Comenius found the light of his life. In the midst of tumultous events he sang out his love to Christ in a large number of songs. It was to Christ that he yielded himself. Above all else he bequeathed to his descendants in the Unity the love of the pure truth of God and his Word. Having found his hope in Christ, Comenius drew from him all his life.
Worthy of some further reading, don't you agree?

18 January 2013

The Queen's Christmas Message

Last July I wrote about our trip to the UK for a homeschool conference. Along the way I mentioned the Queen's (Queen Elizabeth II) Christmas message from the previous December. It was quite the Gospel-centered message. Well, she has done it again.

The 2012 iteration of the Queen's message, which she actually filmed in 3-D, is once again gracious and wise. It also makes clear who is the Savior of the world. Here is a part of the text of her message:
Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves – from our recklessness or our greed. God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general (important though they are) – but a Saviour, with the power to forgive.

Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God’s love.

In the last verse of this beautiful carol, O Little Town of Bethlehem, there’s a prayer:

O Holy Child of Bethlehem

Descend to us we pray

Cast out our sin

And enter in

Be born in us today

It is my prayer that on this Christmas day we might all find room in our lives for the message of the angels and for the love of God through Christ our Lord.
What irony. The land from which our American forefathers fled in order to practice their Christianity is ruled (ceremonially, at least) by a Christian monarch. The land to which they fled is an increasingly hostile environment for that same belief in the Savior, Jesus Christ.

The message can be viewed here.

15 January 2013

What’s your name?

Guest Blog by good friend and teacher on Leadership Kimunya Mugo of Nairobi, Kenya.

Never forget, roots run deep.

[Excerpt from my new book soon in a bookstore near you..."Home Bound: Lead at Home in 6 Intentional Steps"]

I recently came across a very interesting but sad description of a family’s lineage. Dr. Kevin Leman* describes his as ‘A Well-Watered Ancestry’. This is not to be confused with the charming, progressive, and healthy type of ancestry. “I come from a long line of drinkers,” says Dr. Leman. “Virtually all Lemans enjoyed slugging down a few cold ones. Okay, not a few. Many.” Not many people I know desire to provide such an ancestry or build a similar foundation for their family.

When we first discovered that we were going to become parents, the joy I felt is indescribable. My heart nearly burst with pride. I was going to be a father! However, questions ravaged my poor mind like a bad storm and tore at my innards like the worst tornado ever. Would I be a good father? How would I take care of the growing family? What if I lost my job, then what? Will the baby ‘steal’ my time with my wife? Would my employer insist on sending me out on mission for extended periods? And many more!

My mind was desperately trying to answer, “What is your name?” It was a desperate attempt to begin molding the definition of my family and the identity that would be its anchor.

To appreciate where we were coming from, we will have to go back to the beginning. Like Dr. Leman, I too had a ‘well-watered’ ancestry, especially on my father’s side. My grandfather loved the tipple, I have no recollection of a single night he came home sober during those days we would be visiting him and my grandmother. My uncle and two aunties also partied hard. Alcohol was a feature in any of our family events, it is a miracle that some of us did not end up thoroughly imbibed at a very tender age!

With this background, I had to break traditions that were not healthy for my life and that of my new family too. It was time to reclaim the dignity of the name. This identity would go against common-speak and stand out for its resilience, integrity, and above all, a spirit of servant-leadership.

Naming our children was not going to be routine, it was not a labeling process. It was a re-birth of my wife and I. We were going to bestow a legacy upon our children. From birth they were going to walk in the promise, a promise that they were made for greatness. Please note that, in greatness, I do not necessarily mean they will become celebrities or some beings with an elevated status. I would not mind if they did, but this was not the primary focus.

Their names were just the first step to a future where they would become people that matter. They would become pillars of hope in a world of pain, deceit, poverty, and mediocrity.

How are you taking charge of leadership in your home? What deliberate steps are you making to become that intentional leader your family deserves?

* Dr. Kevin Leman, What a Difference a Daddy Makes: The indelible Imprint a Dad Leaves on His Daughter’s Life (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000), 72.

"For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6

Kimunya's blog can be found here.

11 January 2013

History Being Made in Czech Republic

Today is a momentous and important day in the history of the Czech Republic. Today, for the first time, the citizens of this former Soviet Republic will have a direct vote for their President. The voting will actually take place over two days (today and tomorrow), and will likely result in a run-off between the top two candidates in two weeks.

Since the new constitution was passed in 1992, presidents have been appointed by the legislature, which surprisingly gave up that power, passing a law handing that authority over to the general populace. Interestingly, the Communist Party (KSČM) tried to block the new law.
According to the implementation laws that went into effect August, 2012,  any citizen over 18 may be nominated for candidacy upon the submission of:

- 50,000 citizen signatures

-20 signatures from the Chamber of Deputies

-10 signatures from the Senate
Many candidates have surfaced, from an actress to a lawyer covered in tattoos (including his face and head) to several current members of the government. As I write this, nine candidates have been ruled eligible, of the twenty who took out nomination papers. I'm in no position to speculate on outcomes, but I do suspect that whoever emerges triumphant in this election will change the stance of the Czech Republic with regard to Europe. From my viewpoint this is too bad. Europe needs some resistors to aid The UK in its stand to hold on to some of its sovereignty.

Current President Vaclav Klaus (who is term-limited) has been, at best, standoffish, with the European Union. Zapaday, a news calendar has stated it this way:
Among the leading candidates to replace euroskeptic Klaus are former prime ministers Milos Zeman and Jan Fischer, who are both much more inclined towards closer cooperation with the EU than their predecessor.
So, congratulations to the entire Czech Republic on this milestone. I hope that you come out to vote.

08 January 2013

Blogs and Bloggers

A couple of months ago, my wife became a member of a group called Fellowship of Christian Bloggers. I found it interesting, first of all, that such a group exists, and secondly that my wife would join up. She really isn't much of a joiner.

That did get me thinking about blogs and their writers in general. What are blogs? Who writes them? Why? Well, the easy part is that "blog" is a shortened version of "web log." Hence, blog.

The answers to the other questions really vary widely, depending upon the writer and the genre (if there is one). So I defer to another couple of questions, "Who reads them?" and "Why?" So, I made a list of the blogs that I tend to read. I don't read any of them "religiously," but there are a few that I frequent. I will list some of them here (saving others for another blog entry) and give brief overviews. Then I will add each of them to a so-far non-existent blog list or "blog roll."

Tim Challies. This is one that makes me really shake my head. Challies produces a blog every day. In it he includes news, views, reviews and more. I do not understand how a man with a family and a church to pastor finds the time and energy to do all that Tim does with this blog. I do know that I read it fairly regularly and usually profit from it. Of particular interest to me is the various book reviews he produces. He also, of course, has a twitter account at: @challies.

Albert Mohler. Dr. Mohler is President of The Southern Baptists Theological Seminary. He writes and speaks often. His content varies from theological topics to reflections on the news of the day. Follow him and you will most likely learn something. You should not be disappointed with the time spent reading his blog.

PyroManiacs. This a "group blog" written by men named Phil Johnson, Dan Phillips, Frank Turk, and someone referred to as "Pecadillo." The topics vary and seem, to me, a bit strange at times. But, I think it's a "good" strange. Included as part of this blog is something titled "Your weekly dose of Spurgeon." I'll leave it to you readers to figure out what that's about.

Adrian Warnock. This is one interesting fellow. Trained as a medical doctor and psychiatrist, he currently works in research in London (UK). He is also a regular preacher at Jubilee Fellowship in that city. His topics vary widely and can be interesting. He even has an "End of the Year Review."

Views From The Loft. This is my favorite (honestly). I get to read it regularly, before it's even published! It is written by Sandra Lovelace (yes, my wife). She is one of the most astute observers of the world I have ever read. Look this one up. You will not be disappointed.

04 January 2013

The God of All Creation

I recent days I wrote about things of the end of the world (which, in case you hadn't noticed, did not happen on 21 December). More recently I have embarked on a little thinking on the beginning.

God is the Creator. He made what is. In Isaiah 44, we read "Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: 'I am the LORD, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself...'" This is a proclamation of God's creative activity (an excellent treatment of this is found in A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, Dr. Robert L. Reymond, pp. 184-191. Heck, read the whole book!).

God is zealous to have us understand that He is the founder of all things. It's important that we have this as a foundational awareness. This is even more necessary as we contemplate how far society has come from accepting these basic truths. Ken Ham, of Answers in Genesis, writes,
The devastating effect that evolutionary humanism has had on society, and even the church, makes it clear that everyone—including Christians—needs to return to the clear teachings of Scripture and Genesis and acknowledge Christ as our Creator and Saviour. In fact, Genesis has the answer to many of the problems facing the compromising church and questioning world today.
So, contemplating this Creator, let's look (very briefly) at  
"Things We Must Understand About The God of Creation."  

God Himself is not a created thing – although it is claimed by many that primitive man dreamed Him up to explain things they didn’t understand. One religion, which is making claims to be mainstream evangelical, holds that God, the Father, was once a man and grew up to be God. Here are two major understandings of God’s existence.

1. He is. Look at Revelation 1:8. To John, the writer of Revelation, and to us, God almighty declares that He exists – and always did. There are all sorts of arguments for the existence of God, they’re called by names such as the ontological argument, the First Cause Argument, the Moral Argument, and the Argument from Design. These are, perhaps, food for discussion at another time. For now, I have the Bible. I have come to believe it. It has never been proved to be wrong. God is.

2. He Was.  Back to Genesis 1:1. God had to be there before the creation  in order to be the creator. Isn't that logical? Want more? Read the following,  1 Corinthians 2:7;  Ephesians 1:4; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 1:1-2;  Jude 25. (said that it would be brief!).

So, here’s where we begin – at the beginning. In the beginning God. There was nothing that preceded God. Nothing created God. He said “I am.” He is in constant state of existence. If we actually give that some thought, it can be hard to grasp. There was a time when there was no time; but there never was a time when there was no God! Mind boggling. That’s because He is God. 

01 January 2013

First Things

A joyous 2013 to you all. For this first day and first blog post of the new year. I want to take a look at first things.

The Book of Genesis is the book of first things. It chronicles the very first day, the first animals, the first trees, etc. It also contains the first mention of the Gospel. I often refer to this book as The Gospel of Genesis.
Read Luke 24:25-27. This narrative takes place as the Risen Jesus travels along the road to Emmaus with a couple of sad disciples. People generally accept that the NT is about Jesus Christ. Jesus, however, taught that the entire Bible was about Him! As we think about first things, we have to recognize that THE first thing was the Christ, the Word, the 2nd person of the Trinity. 

He was there – at the beginning. It's there in John 1:1. How do we know that John is writing about Jesus Christ? This is a reasonable question. Nowhere in these verses is the Name of Jesus actually mentioned. He is simply referred to as the Word. But, John makes it clear that Jesus is His subject. We find this clarity in 1 John 1:1-3. We can also look into John 17:5. Who was with the Father in the beginning? It was Jesus.

He was there – involved in the creation. Having established that it was Jesus Christ whom John proclaimed to be the Word who was present at creation, we can look at “why” He was there. He was being creative! Through Him ALL things were made. (See Heb. 1:1-2). Jesus Christ, is the Creator God. Does that diminish the roles of the Father and the Holy Spirit? Certainly not. But, you see, this entire Book (Bible) is about Him; the only possible redeemer of mankind.

So, scant as it is, here's a quick peek at THE First Things.  Having managed to make it through the "holiday season," and the end of the Mayan Calendar. We can catch our breath and contemplate anew the grandeur and the majesty of the Christ - and marvel at His creation.