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A Catechism for the Very Youngest

Many of our readers are familiar with the Westminster Shorter Catechism, which B.B. Warfield notes is definitely worth learning, but definitely not very easy. Many families use the shorter catechism as a regular part of their devotions, family worship and theological training of children. Others are also familiar with the First Catechism – a form of the shorter catechism designed for younger children.

When our children were very young (able to speak a few words, but certainly not sentences), I found even the First Catechism to be a little unwieldy for them. And so we began to put together a short catechism for very young children.

The Church’s Egypt Moment

“Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.” So sayeth the apostle Paul. Land for your offspring. A great name. A great nation. A great blessing. The protection of God. Abram believed those promises and acted like he believed them. He left Ur; even when he got to the promised land, he kept moving and camping out, trusting God the whole time.

But then things were complicated by a famine. Leaving the promised land in the rear view mirror, they headed to Egypt, still believing that they would return (see Gen. 12:10’s note about the “sojourn”). Struck by the beauty of his wife, he began to fear for his life – what would they do to Abram in order to get to Sarai? And so he hatched a plan of half-truths and self-protection: “Tell them you’re my sister.”

It worked – almost too well. Not only wasn’t Abram killed, his pockets and stalls were filled with the riches of none less than Pharaoh himself. And only by the hand of God himself was Sarai saved from a life in Pharaoh’s harem.

What just happened??! I’m glad you asked, because if we pay attention, we’ll see a mirror for the American church to peer […]

Movies & Gratitude

[I’m writing this before the Indiana primary results are published; so this post has nothing to do with that. Sorry for any disappointment.]

During a recent vacation, I watched two movies. This is unremarkable as I watched movies at other times, too. But this time I watched films I’m not embarrassed to having enjoyed (I’m looking at you, Michael Bay). Both movies were well done and both, uniquely, made me grateful. Misery loves company, so hopefully thankfulness does, too. 

Why We Sing

Of all the things we do in worship, singing is the most mysterious to me. That’s probably not a great statement about my theology, but it’s accurate. I understand the why of our singing less than the other elements of worship. Why do we sing? Why not just recite Scripture out loud? Or why do we sing together? Why not just let one person sing (this tempts me sometimes…)? 

In Praise of Administration

[Note: After a helpful conversation with a friend, I’ve edited this post to speak more clearly to the structure and organizational ministry in local congregations, realizing that “administration” is used in 1 Corinthians more to highlight the work of elders ruling in the church. Since the article was more focused on the organizational side of administration, I’ve made some word changes to reflect that.]

“I’m not gifted in organization.”

I’ve said that. Many pastors I know have said the same thing. When you hear a pastor say that, it may be an attempted excuse for why the life of the church is a muddied mess and something fell through the cracks, again. There’s often some truth to it. Not everyone is naturally gifted at organization and organizational leadership. And so, for almost a decade of pastoral ministry, I chanted the mantra in order to explain why our church calendar wasn’t up-to-date and why my expense reports were months late. It’s true that I’m not great at it. But the wider truth is that I don’t like to do administrative work, so I just don’t. 

Super Wednesday

I’m writing this before the results of “Super Tuesday” (surely the highest billing any Tuesday’s ever gotten) are announced. Still, it seems fairly certain that I’ll continue to be disappointed and frustrated by the whole thing. If you want insight into my psyche, see my non-gentle-nor-reformational note over at facebook.

To right the ship of my heart, to bring my frustrations and anxieties to the proper place (i.e., God, not the internet), here are some things that make this Wednesday “Super Wednesday.”

Today, on Super Wednesday, Jesus is still on his throne, working everything out for the good of the church (Eph. 1:22). It’s up to me to decide whether to view Jesus’ kingship through the lens of my frustrations (personal or national) or vice versa: to view my frustrations through the lens of Jesus’ reign. Hopefully the choice is clear.

Today, on Super Wednesday, God still listens to the prayers of His people and is moved to action by those prayers. He loves them so much they’re like heaven’s scented candles (Rev. 5:8). And He loves you so much He wants to hear what’s on your heart, what’s keeping you up at night or eating at you from the inside out (1 Pet. 5:7)! I hope […]

This Post is Nothing New

Here I am staring at a blank screen. I have a blog post due today, but I don’t really have anything new to write. So let’s go with that: much of the Christian life and the Christian ministry isn’t new and doesn’t need to be. 

If you’ve been a Christian for a little while, maybe you haven’t learned anything new about God or faith in quite some time. This is not usually a sign of a problem. There’s no commandment that you have to be constantly finding something new. Further and thankfully, we aren’t under any compulsion to be discovering new songs for worship or unexplored realms of theology.

Because Biblical Christianity isn’t about what’s new, but what’s old. 

For the success of others

If you’ve been following this blog, you know by now that one of our dearest friends and mentors, Dave Long, recently died. Like Barry, I’ve been trying to not only grieve but to think and consider, to remember lessons Dave taught me by precept or example. In family worship over the past week, I tried to teach my kids some of the biggest lessons God taught me through my friend Dave.

I’d like to tell you one of those, too.

In Acts 9:26-30, the church in Jerusalem is, wisely, worried about the sincerity of the Saul’s conversion, who until recently had been “breathing threats” against the church. Were it not for Barnabas – who had seen the fruit of Saul’s conversion firsthand and put his own reputation on the line to speak up for Saul – the whole situation might have turned out very differently. Although Barnabas wasn’t at the heart of the story, he was instrumental in the success of Saul’s ministry.

Here’s the lesson Dave showed me: Work for the success of others, not your own. 

What Happens When We Forget The Future

It seems on almost every page the Psalms are reminding us to remember, to not forget:

“My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you…” (42:6)

“I will remember the deeds of the Lord…” (77:11)

“…they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God…” (78:7)

“Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles…” (105:5)

To remember God’s gracious and powerful acts is to honor Him; to forget is to dishonor Him. While we seem to know this intrinsically in our relationships with others – how do you feel when someone seems to forget or ignore all that you’ve done for them? – we struggle to remember all that God has done. And so we read our Bibles, we worship weekly, never tiring of reminders, so that we might honor God rightly.

But it isn’t just the past that must be remembered.