jump start

June 30, 2016

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The Heart Needs Giving

To balance out your character you need to do more than guard your heart. It is the flip side that makes you authentic … you also need to give your heart. To resist releasing yourself for fear of getting burned may seem safe, but in the long run it is lethal.4

(1) Giving the heart means risk, entanglements, becoming vulnerable: It means having to step out in faith, believing God rather than one’s own strategies. It means having to give up something … sometimes a lot. It can even mean having your heart broken and wrung like a towel. But to fail to give it means to lock it up safely in the casket of selfishness. And like a body laid to rest in a casket, the heart will change; though safe, dark, and motionless, it will rot and become a bag of bones.

(2) Giving the heart also means accountability: “As the maxim goes, ‘People are willing to give God credit, but not cash.’ As long as accountability is in the future and suspended in space, I will accept it. But if it actually starts interfering with my personal life, forget it.”5

To believe you can give your heart without accountability is like believing that you can raise children without discipline, run a company without rules, or lead an army without authority. Accountability is to the Great Commission what tracks are to a train. It is the means of quality control, facilitates leadership, protects the congregation, makes ministry a joy, helps people keep their commitments.6

(3) Giving the heart means involvement: Involvement with God, involvement with family, involvement with other Christians, and involvement with non-Christians. And what does involvement include? It includes: sacrificial love, walking by faith rather than sight, spontaneity rather than rigidity, the risk of vulnerability, and a willingness to become accountable. In Webster’s Dictionary, we find that being involved means “to draw in as a participant, to relate closely, to connect, to include.”

Religious striving is far too often egocentric, and though this can be purified and brought into the service of God through His Word, too often true fellowship with God and loving Him with all our heart is corrupted and nullified by craving and striving for power, security, or other selfish desires that stem from a heart that is kept from God as our source of strength, joy, and meaning in life.

Then the Lord said, “Because this people draw near with their words, But they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote, Therefore behold, I will once again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous” (Isa. 29:13).

Obviously, withholding the heart means our inability and our unwillingness to give our hearts to either God or ministry to others. Certainly, since we never arrive at ultimate maturity in this life, there will always be room for growth in giving the heart because it is so difficult to give up our various methods of self-protection.

The Heart Needs Preparing

Psalm 78:8 And not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation that did not prepare its heart, And whose spirit was not faithful to God.

Psalm 108:1 A Song, a Psalm of David. My heart is steadfast, O God; I will sing, I will sing praises, even with my soul.

The word “prepare” in Psalm 78:8 and “steadfast” in Psalm 108:1 is the Hebrew, kuwn. Its basic meaning is “to be firm, established, stable.” From this it came to mean (a) “be set up, established, fixed” and is used in the Old Testament of a house fixed on a foundation, of the establishment of a throne or kingdom, and of persons being established, secure and enduring. (b) Then it came to mean “to fix so as to prepare, be ready, arrange, set in order.” As such it was used of preparing words for wise speech, of the preparation of food, of preparing the foundation for the temple of Solomon, of prayer being prepared, arranged, and set in order before God, of preparing a road, a sacrifice, one’s steps or path (Ps. 119:133), of God’s creative activity, of what He has established as the heavens by His understanding, and of preparing the heart.

This word is used in Psalm 78:8 of preparing the heart to be firm, focused, and fixed on the Lord in the sense of trust and rest in God’s love, goodness, wisdom, grace, and power (cf. Ps. 112:7-8). The point here is that the heart can only become steadfast, stable, when it has been properly prepared in a biblical sense.

This same word is used in Psalm 108:1 of preparing the heart to worship the Lord. The KJV translates this as “My heart is fixed” while the NASB, NIV, and RSV all have “My heart is steadfast.” The Amplified Bible has “My heart is fixed—steadfast [in the confidence of faith].” But the idea here is that it is steadfast because it has been spiritually prepared. Remember, “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” As the heavens were prepared, fixed, and established by God’s understanding, so our hearts are made stable by the understanding which comes from God’s Word (cf. Col. 2:1-6).

Just as the human heart needs preparation through proper diet and exercise in order to handle strenuous activity and be healthy in general, so one’s spiritual heart must be properly prepared if it is going to be able to effectively respond to God in the varied situations of life.

This is one of the ways we can guard the heart, but the emphasis here is on the need of spiritual preparation through the various biblical disciplines—honest, deep down confession of sin, fervent prayer, careful Bible study, meditation on the Word, Scripture reading and memory, and fellowship with believers. We need these disciplines to stabilize the heart so we can respond positively to God in trust for the varying situations of life.

I know I’m in bad shape mentally and spiritually when I stop wanting to give, to stop blessing, to be a part from instead of a part of, often when I get like this I’m one step from spiraling out of control.

To those of you old enough to remember “Lost in Space”….danger Will Robinson, danger.

 

 

Leaving your support group, withdrawal, anger, bitterness, it’s the same message, “danger”.

 

 

Do the opposite reconnect with one person then another, then give the smallest thing, 5 minutes, hold the door open, say thank, it will snowball into other blessings.

 

 

If that doesn’t work, just call me and I’ll plain kick your ass instead, always works on me.

 

Blessings

From scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

the magic number 7

June 29, 2016

churtch

Here are seven reasons the heart needs guarding:

(1) The heart needs guarding because we do not naturally think and look at life like God does. We are inherently ignorant of His mind and His ways. We desperately need the wisdom and direction of the Lord to know His ways and to know our own heart and its wicked ways. Proverbs 19:3 warns us that our foolishness subverts or perverts our way. “Perverts” is the Hebrew word, salaph, “to twist, pervert, overturn.”

(2) The heart needs guarding because, like sheep, we are prone to wander from God in our hearts (Isa. 53:6a). We want to live independently to control and direct our own affairs. We want to be in charge of our own destinies. Oh yes, some of us want to trust God with getting us into heaven, but we would too often prefer to direct our own affairs down here on earth partly because we are so committed to our own desires. To completely follow His directions means we may be called on to give up something that we think we must have in order to be secure or happy. Thus it is much safer to be in charge ourselves, so we think. Man is inherently rebellious by nature as a result of the fall.

(3) The heart needs guarding because the heart is not just deceitful, it is more deceitful than all else (Jer. 17:9a). We can’t trust it because of its natural selfishness, self-centeredness, and self-protective ways and devices (Ps. 81:12-14; Jer. 17:9; 2:13). But to experience God’s way we must first repudiate our self-trust or reliance upon those devices we use to protect ourselves. Then, in the place of self-trust, we need to learn to rely completely on the Lord regardless of how things appear. Rather than lean on our own understanding, we trust the Lord to direct our path (Prov. 3:5; Ps. 37:5). But our heart, because of our fears and selfish concerns, deceives us through its vain rationalizations and we want to turn to our own solutions.

(4) The heart needs guarding because the heart is desperately sick, i.e., incurably wicked (Jer. 17:9b). The NIV translates this “beyond cure.” Remember that the word “heart” may be used for the mind, the emotions, the will, the whole inner man, or as here, of the sinful nature that is a part of the inner man.

The sinful nature cannot be eradicated, it cannot be improved, or changed for the better. Human reformation doesn’t work on the heart of man. So again, he who trusts his own heart is a fool! The pull of this old nature is always there to deceive us.

(5) The heart needs guarding because the heart cannot be understood by our own wisdom. Only God can reveal and lay bare our hearts to us (Jer. 17:10; 20:12, Pr. 17:3; Ps. 139:23). It is hard to know our own motives and reasons (1 Cor. 4:4). We are naturally skilled at deceiving ourselves.

(6) The heart needs guarding because the heart is the wellspring of life; the fountain of attitudes, values, beliefs, aspirations, and pursuits (Pr. 4:23; Matt. 13:34; 15:18; 6:21). Because of this, we must guard it or we develop those of the world and this will always lead us astray.

(7) The heart needs guarding because, as is the fountain, so must be the streams that flow from it—the eyes, the mouth, the feet, i.e., words and actions. The means for guarding the heart will come as we study some of the other needs of the heart. But to balance out character, we need to do more than guard our hearts.

Lot’s of interesting comments, thank you, please send comments, questions and prayer requests to: scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

pass it on

June 28, 2016

growth marks

Since the heart is so important to what we think, say, and do, we each need to regularly do open heart surgery with the scalpel of the Word under the guiding hand of the great physician, the Lord Jesus. We accomplish this through the teaching, guiding, convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit. Like a sharp two-edged sword, the Word divides the inner man asunder to reveal the true condition and needs of our hearts (Heb. 4:12).

Most people today want to be successful according to their own idea of success. However, as you listen to the success propaganda of today, again and again the focus of attention is on one of two things. First, the vast majority of thinking, writing, and talk focuses on the outer self—on how smart I can appear, what kind of impression I make, how much applause I register on the applause meter, how much I make, how much I own, how fast I climb the ladder of success in my company, and on the list goes. Very little that you read places any emphasis on the inner man, on the heart, the wellspring of our thoughts, motives, ambitions, values, and decisions. And second, when what you read or hear does place an emphasis on the heart, it generally does so in a completely self-centered way, even in a lot of Christian literature.

Against the present anthropocentric (man-centered) kind of spirituality so common today is the biblical theocentric (God-centered) spirituality which sees the glory of God and the advancement of the kingdom of God as the priority pursuit and reason for life. Scripture’s goal is not material or even spiritual gain for oneself, nor self-realization or promotion, but the realization of our calling as heralds and ambassadors of Jesus Christ. “Franz Kafka once observed: ‘The Fathers of the Church were not afraid to go out into the desert because they had a richness in their hearts. But we, with richness all around us, are afraid, because the desert is in our hearts.’”

Bloesch also writes: (Rev, Dr. Donald Bloesch will drive you absolutely nuts if you read his works, you’ll will disagree with 60% of what he says, but the other 40% will drive you to your knees).

In our society today, the humanist ideal of happiness or interior well-being was incorporated into Christian faith without any drastic modification so that religion was given a decidedly anthropocentric orientation. It is generally acknowledged that much popular religion (both conservative and liberal) is narcissistic (egocentric), focusing on inner feelings and on purely personal hopes and goals. God is deemed necessary to help his people attain the desires of their hearts or to find perfect happiness. Some even make the object of religion sound like capitalist consumerism—acquiring the goods of this life. But is prosperity an inevitable concomitant of true faith?

Importantly and interestingly, the Bible says very little about success, especially that kind of success, but as seen, it says a tremendous amount about the heart because the heart is the wellspring of true success. Little wonder, then, the word “heart” is found literally hundreds of times in the Bible. So, when it comes to describing man and his needs, heart is one of the most commonly used terms of the Bible and, again, most of these occurrences are used metaphorically of the inner man, either of the mind, the emotions, the will, the sinful nature, or inclusively of the total inner person.

Is it any wonder then, that Solomon challenges us:

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. (Proverbs 4:23, NIV)

Swindoll writes: “How important is the heart? It is there that character is formed. It alone holds the secrets of true success. Its treasures are priceless—but they can be stolen.”

We must all ask ourselves this question: How well am I guarding (keeping) my heart? Is the condition of my heart my greatest concern? It should be because it is so determinative of every aspect of life. It ultimately determines our love for God and for others. It determines who we are and what we do.

The Heart Needs Guarding

The heart needs guarding because of its natural bent as a part of our fallenness. And this is true even of those who have been regenerated by the Spirit of God through faith in Jesus Christ. While believers possess the new nature and the capacity to know God and discern spiritual things, and while they have received the enlightening and empowering ministry of the Holy Spirit, they still possess the old nature or the wretched capacity for evil and selfish pursuits by which they can independently strive to handle life on their own apart from God.

To use biblical analogies or illustrations, we can be:

(1) People committed to building our own cisterns, but these always turn out to be broken cisterns that can hold no water (Jer. 2:13).

(2) People who are always prone to turn to the arm of the flesh rather than to the arm of God and His resources (Jer. 2:13; 17:5f).

(3) People who seek to walk by the light of our own man-made firebrands (Isa. 50:11).

To use the words of Isaiah, we can become filled with influences from the east, i.e., man’s substitutes for life for God’s plan for life (Isa. 2:5-6). Obviously, then, as Proverbs 28:26 warns us, the heart of man is not a safe haven, “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered.” (See also Prov. 20:9 and Jer. 17:9.)

Isaiah 55:8-11 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. 9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. 10 For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth, And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; 11 So shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”

Jeremiah 10:23 I know, O LORD, that a man’s way is not in himself; Nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps.

Guard your heart, especially as American falls, becomes a socialist nation and Christian speech will soon be outlawed as hate speech.

I usually end with a God bless you, but instead for a while I will say; “Grow up, stand up, get a spine, and fight back, stop being passive, risk everything and be militant, expressive and fearless.”

scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

above all

June 27, 2016

hand sign

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life”

(Proverbs 4:23, NIV).

Certainly we live in a consumer-oriented, materialistic, hedonistic society bent on pleasing self. In comparison to some portions of the world, most of us are accustomed to very high levels of luxury by way of our comforts, pleasures, and security. With this has come the prominent idea that happiness comes in accomplishments, in recognition, in material possessions, comfort, and the like. We have come to believe the mistaken (and Satan promoted) notion that if we just acquire certain things, then we can be truly happy and even secure. As a result, people develop their own agendas by which they seek to climb the mountain of success or happiness.

As Christians, we may have rejected some or even a lot of these notions. Yet, the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, and because we are all so easily influenced by the world around us, our hearts need guarding.

Scripture clearly teaches us that the real issues of life are spiritual and are really matters of the heart, the inner man. Maybe it’s for this reason the word “heart” is found so many times in the Bible. Because the word “heart” can be translated a number of ways, depending on the context, the number of times it is found varies in the different translations of the English Bible (863 in the NASB, 963 in the KJV, and 791 in the NIV). As these numbers suggest, the heart is a prominent concept and one of the most commonly used words of the Bible. Most of these occurrences are used metaphorically of the inner man. When used metaphorically (depending on the context) heart refers to either the mind, the emotions, the will, to the sinful nature, inclusively to the total inner man, or simply to the person as a whole and is often translated as such. As a simple illustration of how various translations handle the word heart, compare the translation of the KJV in Exodus 9:14, “I will send all my plagues upon thine heart (referring to Pharaoh), and upon thy servants,” with the NASB’s “I will send my plagues on you (marginal reading has “heart”) and your servants.”

The term heart, then, generally speaks of the inner person and the spiritual life in all its various aspects. This multiple use of “heart” along with the way it is used strongly focuses our attention on the importance of the spiritual life. Like the human heart, it is central and vital to our existence.

Because of vast number of passages using the word “heart,” I have focused primarily, though not exclusively, on the Psalms and Proverbs. It is here we find the greatest concentration of uses in this one section of the Bible.

The Purpose and Goal

Enlightenment: First, one goal of this study is designed to show how we can use a concordance to get God’s perspective on a particular subject. A second goal is to help us see afresh how important our inner world really is in terms of our ideas about God, ourselves, and others, and in terms of our motives, goals, and aspirations.

Exhortation: The design here is an appeal for the personal application that we might each deal with the inner life in the light of God’s Word in practical and personal ways.

Encouragement: Another goal is encouragement. We all need to be encouraged to seek God Himself and His resources as we struggle with the various pulls of our sinful natures in the ups and downs of life.

Importance of the Heart in Scripture

As evidenced by the many recurrences, the term “heart” is a very important word because God is so deeply concerned about the inner man or the condition of the heart.

1 Samuel 16:7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

Jeremiah 17:9-10 The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? 10 I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds.

These passages teach us that the Lord looks at and searches the heart, the inner person. Why is the heart so important? Because the issues of life—our actions, works, pursuits, etc.—all proceed from the heart (Pr. 4:23; Matt. 6:21; 12:34; 15:18). What we do in word and deed is first of all a product of what we are on the inside.

In His Sermon on the Mount, the Lord Jesus spoke strongly against the mere external, performance-oriented hypocrisy of the religious Pharisees. In Matthew 5:17-48, no less than six times He contrasted the mere external approach to the Old Testament Scripture, as it was taught by the Pharisees, with His own teaching which, of course, was accorded with the true design of God’s Word. He did this by the following statements:

“You have heard … but I say to you …” (vss. 21-22)

“You have heard … but I say to you …” (vss. 27-28)

“It was said … but I say to you …” (vss. 31-32)

“You have heard … but I say to you …” (vss. 33-34)

“You have heard … but I say to you …” (vss. 38-39)

“You have heard … but I say to you …” (vss. 43-44)

What was the Lord showing the people? He was calling their attention to the moral precepts they had been taught by their religious leaders for years, precepts which had their source in the Old Testament Scriptures. But then, with the words, “but I say to you,” He readdressed those same issues as, first and foremost, matters of the heart. This and only this is authentic Christianity. Biblical Christianity centers in an inward, intimate walk with God by faith. Anything else is nothing more than religious hypocrisy.

For instance, Jesus teaches us that adultery and murder begin in the heart. You may not have literally committed adultery, but if you look at a woman or a man with that in view, you have already committed adultery. Where? In your heart! (Matt. 5:28). Our walk with God is always a matter of the heart.

However, as one of the consequences of the fall, people look on the outward appearance. God, however, is always concerned with the heart, with the reality and condition of what is on the inside. Why? Because if the inside of the cup is clean, so will be the outside.

1 Samuel 16:7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” (RSV)

One of the goals of the Christian life is the formation of Christlike character, the character of Christ formed in our lives through the various life changing tools that God has chosen to use:

  • The ministry of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16-26)

  • The truth of the Word (Ps. 19:7-14; 119:9-11; John 17:17)

  • The trials and testings of life (Jam. 1:2-4; Ps. 119:67, 71)

  • The ministry of others as iron sharpens iron (Prov. 27:17)

For these tools to be truly effective, we need personal diligence in honestly dealing with the heart.

Hard to do when our heart does everything it can to deceive us. but there is a plan, stay tuned.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

THE PONDERING

June 26, 2016

thinking over feeling

One goal, one quest, that you may think!

A few years ago, as a former professor of New Testament Theology I was invited to address an academic convocation at a large seminary. A convocation in a university or seminary usually is attended with pomp and circumstance: The faculty members are adorned in full academic regalia as they march in procession to the front of the auditorium, and the guest speaker is expected to bring an address of weighty, scholarly material. Thus, on this occasion, when I entered the hall, there was a hush of expectancy as students and faculty waited with eager anticipation for my forthcoming remarks. Being an expert in the field of Christology, I was expected to present an address revealing my most recent research in the field.

 

However, as I stood at the lectern and began to recite a litany of the titles of Jesus drawn from the Scriptures. The litany went on for several minutes as the full impact of the titles, given without commentary, was felt by some of the audience. I simply said with pauses in between: “Christ … Lord … Rabbi … Son of Man … Son of God … Son of David … Lion of Judah … the Rose of Sharon … the Bright and Morning Star … the Alpha and Omega … the Logos … the Advocate … the Prince of Peace … the only begotten of the Father … the Lamb without blemish.…” On and on I recited all of the titles that the biblical writers had conferred on Jesus.

When I finished there was a look of confusion on the faculties faces and the crowded hall of students were doubly perplexed.

Knowing they were expecting more I explained;

It is important to realize than these titles reveal something of His identity and give us a hint as to the meaning of His actions. It is customary in theology to distinguish between the person of Christ and the work of Christ. The distinction is an important one, but it must never involve a separation. Jesus is known in part by what He did. On the other hand, the significance of what He did is strongly conditioned by who He is. Though we may distinguish between person and work, we must never isolate the one from the other. When we look at the titles conferred on Jesus in the New Testament, we see an interplay between person and work.

 

The final comment is a question posed for each and every one of you. It is my supposition that if you do not understand each of the facets of Christ’s identity than you may have entered into the doorway of heaven’s grace, but you have not entered into its bounty.

 

John 10:9; I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. NIV.

Many have entered in the gateway of salvation, but for many reasons many never “go out” and search the riches of Christ’s bounty. The question I pose for you today is; “what is holding you back?”

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

last step

June 25, 2016

balance

Stage 3: Create “How-To” Experiences (last step)

In the Rhetoric Stage—high school age, roughly—it’s time to get the theological and apologetic training out of the classroom and into real life. The best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else, and the rhetoric stage forces students to do just that. Students must learn to take the what and the why of Christianity and communicate it in a coherent and reasonable manner. We need to create experiences in which students have the opportunity to articulate what they believe and why they believe it. Here are three practical examples.

  1. Role-play.

I love being invited to an unsuspecting youth group to role-play an atheist or Mormon. By interacting with my non-Christian character, students are forced to explain and defend their Christian views. Unfortunately, most Christian youth are ill-equipped to do so. Worse, they don’t know how ill-equipped they are. After I thoroughly dismantle their responses through the role-play, the students’ eyes are opened and many are motivated to learn the what and the why. Over time, continued role-play can help students hone their ability to articulate the truth.

  1. Invite guests.

(make sure your students are ready, mature, well equipped and grounded, or you’ll actually have this backfire) I usually reserve this step to young adults or college age, but you will know better with your group. (it’s also harder now with the tolerance police.

Don’t just role-play non-Christian characters with your students, invite the real thing. After teaching your students about the Trinitarian nature of God, invite Jehovah’s Witnesses into your home or youth group to discuss the topic. Teach your students about the nature of salvation and invite Mormon missionaries over for a conversation on the matter. Once you’ve equipped your students with arguments for God’s existence, ask your atheist neighbor to discuss the topic with them. When students are forced to have real-time conversations with real-life people, their learning increases exponentially.

  1. Visit another religious site.

As a youth pastor, I would teach my students about other religions. I knew they would eventually encounter a friendly Hindu neighbor, a kind Muslim classmate, or some other person who held opposing beliefs, but I wanted to be the one to expose them to those ideas first. My strategy was inoculation, not isolation. So after teaching about a religion like Buddhism and offering a biblical and philosophical critique, I would arrange a field trip to the local Buddhist temple. A monk gave us a tour, explained their basic beliefs and practices, and answered students’ questions. Everything the students learned in the classroom prior to the field trip came to life as they engaged a Buddhist monk in the flesh. The encounter was exciting, and it gave students an opportunity to get the theology and apologetics out of the classroom and into a real conversation.

Again, they were forced to articulate the truth, and in doing so, they learned the truth in a deeper and more meaningful way.

Training Must Be Intentional

It’s time to stop bemoaning the exodus of students from our churches and start doing something intentional to stop it. The world is certainly serious about stripping students of their Christian faith. Atheist Daniel Dennett speaks for many when he said, “They will see me as just another liberal professor trying to cajole them out of some of their convictions, and they are dead right about that—that’s what I am, and that’s exactly what I am trying to do.”  8 They’re intentional out there in the world. We’d better get intentional here in the church.

This three-stage plan of training provides a practical strategy that can be implemented immediately. Take it and use it. Build on it and add your own ideas. But do not wait to start training up the next generation. Too much is at stake.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

I don’t usually include bibliographies, but these books are of such great value I think those that are interested would be really well served by this short list.

This is excerpted from A New Kind of Apologist: Adopting Fresh Strategies, Addressing the Latest Issues, Engaging the Culture, edited by Sean McDowell, Harvest House Publishers

1 C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy (New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1955), 207.

2 Susan Wise Bauer, “What is Classical Education?” Available online at http://www.welltrainedmind.com/classical-education/.

3 It’s certainly not the only, or even primary, indicator of academic “success,” but standardized test scores from the Association of Classical and Christian Schools indicate classically trained students clearly outperform their publicly educated counterparts: http://www.accsedu.org/what-is-cce/statistics_at_a_glance.

4 It is a short 38-page booklet of theological Q & A for kids, published by Great Commission Publications. You can order it online at http://www.gcp.org/ProductDetail.aspx?Item=020030.

5 Of course, this doesn’t mean they won’t begin asking “why” questions earlier or that you cannot begin teaching apologetics at younger ages. But generally speaking, they are most definitely ready to begin apologetic training in fourth or fifth grade.

6 The research was conducted by Kara Powell & Brad Griffin. Read more online at http://stickyfaith.org/articles/i-doubt-it.

7 Norm Geisler and Frank Turek wrote an excellent book answering these four questions entitled, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist (Crossway, 2004). I suggest every high schooler read this book before they graduate. There is also an excellent starter apologetics book for middle school students entitled, Living Loud: Defending Your Faith (B & H Publishers, 2002), that Geisler co-wrote with Joseph Holden.

8 Daniel Dennett, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (New York: Penguin Group, 2006), 53.

balance

Appreciate all the feed back, yes, this is good for Sunday school, home school, at home and even for a new believer’s class. Thank you for all the questions and encouragement. (we’ve had four charter schools ask for this to be taught this summer before teachers head back into the class room. Thank you Karl for picking up the slack and helping out.)

Around fourth or fifth grade, a student’s mind grows significantly in its capacity for abstract thought. As their ability to reason grows, they begin to transition from what questions to why questions. Don’t be surprised if they begin to question you and challenge your answers at this stage. And don’t be threatened by it either. Instead, capitalize on it. They’ve reached the Logic Stage and are now ready for a good dose of apologetics.  5

This is the time for arguments for God’s existence, evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, and reasons why the Bible is not only historically reliable, but also divinely inspired. In addition, we must help them overcome objections to Christianity, such as the problem of evil and suffering, moral relativism, religious pluralism, and challenges to the Bible. When we equip them with “the reason for the hope” we have in Christ, we help secure the theological foundation of stage one and strengthen their confidence that Christianity is objectively true. Here are three practical steps for this stage.

  1. Ask them questions first.

Don’t wait for students to raise questions and challenges; be proactive and provoke their questions. Question the theological training you provided in stage one: “You believe God is all-powerful and all-loving, but how do you know He exists in the first place?” And then wait. Let them struggle to answer, and then question their answers. Struggling can create some healthy internal motivation for our students to care about the questions and seek out satisfying answers.

  1. Never shut down their questions.

Create a safe space for students’ doubts by allowing them to ask any and all questions. And when they ask, affirm them in their questioning. According to recent research by the Fuller Youth Institute, students who were free to express their doubts during high school showed greater faith maturity in college.  6 If you shut down their questions, they won’t stop questioning, they’ll just seek answers elsewhere—without you.

  1. Answer four key questions.

The case for Christianity is a cumulative one. That means there is no apologetic silver bullet, no single argument that establishes the entire case. Instead, we must help students identify the key components of our cumulative case and supply them with the supporting reasons and evidence. Have them answer these four key questions to establish the truthfulness of Christianity:

Does truth exist?

Does God exist?

Does God act (miracles)?

Does God speak (Scripture)?  7

By the time a student graduates from our home or our ministry, she must move beyond merely believing the truth to actually knowing the truth. What’s the difference? Philosophers generally define knowledge as justified true belief. If I know something, not only do I believe it to be true, but it’s supported by adequate reasons. The theological training of stage one supplies the true beliefs of Christian orthodoxy and the apologetic training of stage two provides the reasons and justification. Together they furnish our students with knowledge of the truth.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

A big thanks to Hyperion Publishing and Lighthouse press.

Prayer for Ann D, brain damage from a fall and hitting the curb and now pulmonary embolism.

Pray for Katherine her sister, totally unprepared to deal with this.

For Roger B, Tulsa ok, throat cancer

For Bonnie W, knee surgery next Monday

the right way

June 23, 2016

balance

Teach a child the right way (part two), this may sound dumb, but children are born naked, without an instruction manual, a fallen nature and new parents are basically clueless, I wish I had this much to go on.

Before we look forward in the formation of the next generation, let’s first look to the past. If we can lay aside what C.S. Lewis called chronological snobbery—“the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited”  —we will discover long-forgotten insights to help forge a path forward. So for a moment, I want you to lay aside modern educational models and contemporary youth ministry approaches and programs and consider an ancient model.

As our son approached the junior-high years, my wife and I began to rethink our views on educating and discipling our kids. We were dissatisfied with things we were seeing in her life, not only academically, but also spiritually and morally. In that process of reevaluation, we discovered an ancient approach to education called “classical education,” stretching back to the Classical Greeks and Romans and formalized in the Middle Ages. Educator Susan Wise Bauer offers a concise description of this approach:

Classical education depends on a three-part process of training the mind. The early years of school are spent in absorbing facts, systematically laying the foundations for advanced study [Grammar Stage]. In the middle grades, students learn to think through arguments [Logic Stage]. In the high school years, they learn to express themselves [Rhetoric Stage].

While not an exhaustive definition, it gets us started and highlights the three-stage pattern of classical education called the trivium. In the early years of elementary school, called the Grammar Stage, children’s minds are like sponges. There is a natural wonder at the world around them and a corresponding love of learning. Young children are primarily interested in the what questions. They want to know facts about the world, and they absorb and memorize them with ease.

Nearing the middle-school or junior-high years, a student’s mind grows in its ability to analyze and think abstractly. During this phase, called the Logic Stage, students are asking the why questions. Many adults perceive such questioning to be a direct challenge to their authority, but often it’s merely the outworking of our natural inclination to sort things out for ourselves. At this stage, students want to know if there are good reasons to believe the so-called facts they were given at younger ages and to see if those facts provide a coherent picture of the world.

As students approach high school and enter the Rhetoric Stage, they grow in their ability to communicate. During this stage, students build on the first two stages by taking the what and the why and communicating what they’ve learned through the how-to of writing and speaking. Research, writing papers, giving speeches, debating and the like force students to articulate what they’ve come to believe as true.

The medievals believed this trivium pattern corresponded to the universal human experience of learning. It accurately captures the manner in which young minds are best trained.  3 Thus, we should take this ancient approach to education and breathe into it new life for our modern context. Indeed, the trivium provides us with a three-stage approach to discipling the next generation:

Stage 1: Teach the What—Grammar Stage (primary focus of grades 0–4)

Stage 2: Teach the Why—Logic Stage (primary focus of grades 5–8)

Stage 3: Teach the How-To—Rhetoric Stage (primary focus of grades 9–12)

Outlining a general approach is vital. First, it keeps us from getting lost in the details of training. Without the big picture, we may wander aimlessly, looking for the latest and greatest video series or searching for that one comprehensive curriculum package. Certainly, individual tools are important, but we need to understand the larger strategy within which our tools fit and make sense. Second, it brings to light the requisite context for effective training. Apologetics is the why, but there must be an appropriate foundation of the what in place first for the why to secure it.

So first, we must be convinced of the necessity of apologetics, and second, we must have a larger discipleship framework in place into which we fit apologetics. Now we’re ready to explore the practical how-to’s.

Stage 1: Teach the What

Before we can teach our students how to defend what we believe, they must know what it is we actually believe. They must first engage theology, the study of God. Apologetics is properly understood as a sub-branch of theology; theology is its foundation. When should theological training begin? As soon as our kids can speak.

From the youngest of ages, we need to teach children God’s attributes, Trinitarian doctrine, the deity of Christ, the meaning of the cross, the nature of Scripture, the nature of man, and the nature of the church. Grab any standard systematic theology and its table of contents will give you an overview of theological topics to teach. Of course, we need to communicate theology in an age-appropriate manner, so a child’s first exposure will be basic, but it will also be foundational. Just as learning language during the Grammar Stage of classical education provides the building blocks for all future learning, learning the language of theology builds a foundation for future training in apologetics. Here are three practical steps for this stage.

  1. Reading.

Read, read, read. I cannot emphasize this enough. Start by reading to them. Read children’s Bibles, individual biblical stories, classical stories, and any Christian children’s books you can get your hands on. Read to them at home, at church, and at school. Reading is an indispensable tool in teaching theology. It’s no accident God gave us His Word in written form and not on a DVD. We want our students’ learning to be primarily from words, not images.

  1. Catechism.

A catechism is simply a summary of Christian doctrine. It is generally laid out in question-answer format and is a fantastic tool to build a theological foundation in our kids. My wife and I are currently working our way through a children’s version titled First Catechism  4 with our three-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter. We ask them a catechism question—“Who made you?”—and they memorize the answer—“God.” Trust me. You will be astonished by your preschooler’s ability to memorize large portions of information. By having our kids memorize the catechism, we are pouring into them the raw theological material we will build upon in later years. My wife and I also teach the class for two- and three-year-olds at our local church and are taking them through this catechism as well.

  1. Memorization.

Capitalize on your kids’ capabilities by having them memorize significant theological pieces. In addition to the catechism, have them memorize important passages of Scripture and the great creeds of the church. Singing praise songs and hymns is a great way to memorize theological content as well. Here is a list of ten important items to have children memorize:

First Catechism

Apostles Creed

Nicene Creed

Attributes of God

Ten Commandments

Lord’s Prayer

Psalm 23

The Beatitudes

The Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-39)

The Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20)

Sadly, this is where much of our Christian education stops. Whether it’s children, youth, or adults, we just keep teaching the what and never equip our people with the why. (And I’m being wildly optimistic that most people even know this much).

Part three tomorrow

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

hot house Christians

June 22, 2016

not ashamed

Sadly, the majority of our Christian students aren’t ready for either college or life in the “real” world. They’re not prepared for the serious intellectual challenges awaiting them, let alone the barrage of moral challenges from an increasingly secular culture. It’s a huge reason why we continue to hemorrhage youth from our churches.

The study of. Apologetics helped rebuild my faith in Christ, and I became convinced of its absolute necessity for student discipleship. That’s right, I said necessity. Apologetics is not optional in a post-Christian culture. It’s not just for the nerdy youth group kid “who’s into that kind of stuff.” God is a rational God, and we are made in His image. Therefore, every student is rational by design, instinctively gathering reasons and evidence as they seek to make sense of the world around them and form a coherent set of beliefs about reality. As the church equips a new generation for the cause of Christ, we must begin with the conviction that apologetics is an indispensable tool.

Now, I’m under no false pretense that if we simply give students apologetics we’ll automatically secure their faith in Christ for a lifetime. Human beings are not just thinking beings; we’re emotional, experiential, and volitional as well. That’s why 1 Peter 3:15 (nasb)—the apologist’s theme verse—begins and ends with two very important phrases. Peter starts with this reminder: “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.” Apologetics should be done amidst a certain kind of life, one where we surrender more and more of ourselves to Christ. When we do this, He transforms us. A life transformed by Christ is the requisite context for making “a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you.” Peter ends the verse with a picture of such an apologetic: it is gentle and respectful.

So, while apologetics training is necessary to disciple the next generation, it is not sufficient by itself to form fully devoted followers of Jesus. However, this does not minimize its necessity. The mind plays a prominent role in our spiritual transformation—“be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2 nasb)—and, therefore, we ignore the minds of the next generation to our own peril.

Maybe you’re already convinced but wondering, “How can we effectively equip a new generation with apologetics?” Let me share some ideas that are borne out of my own experience teaching students as a youth pastor for eleven years, as a parent now for 38 years and as Pastor for the 40. I’ve made plenty of mistakes in all three roles, but my experience has allowed me to hone an approach that can be effective at home, at church, at youth group, or in a Christian school.

So yes the above is a teaser, something to whet your appetites (yes that’s a pun for the knife fans). We need to practice what we preach, live what we hear from the church, the Lord and his word, and not be the “do it because I say so parents” but the live like I live parents (no hypocrisy).

We need to not only rescue the lost, but in some cases rescue our own youth that are “hot house Christians” that can never live in the secular world.

Stay tuned

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Aladdin Sane

June 21, 2016

thinking over feeling

It’s not unreasonable to argue that the New Atheism does more than simply reflect the cultural stereotype of the ‘warfare’ of science and religion; it actually depends upon it for its plausibility. The origins of this idea—often referred to as the ‘conflict thesis’ in scholarly works—lies in the massive social shifts that took place in Victorian England. In the early part of the nineteenth century most English scientists were ordained clergy of the Church of England who saw no tension between their faith and the scientific method. With the passing of time it became increasingly important for scientists to assert their independence of the Church—or any other institution. This led to a significant shift in the dynamics of cultural power as scientists began to wrest cultural and professional authority from their clerical counterparts in shaping intellectual enquiry and values.

 

 

The perception that science and religion were at war with each other was not, as some New Atheist writers seem to think, the result of the Darwinian debates. It actually arose later in the nineteenth century through highly polemical popular works such as John Draper’s History of the Conflict between Religion and Science (1874) and Andrew White’s History of the Warfare of Science with Theology (1896). Through shrewd manipulation of the historical evidence these passionate books portrayed noble, honest, objective and heroic scientists as victims, struggling to defend the truth against odious, manipulative and repressive Catholic clergy.

 

 

These two works, today remembered as much for their ideological stridency as their historical inaccuracy, had a deep impact on atheist thinking. Bertrand Russell, for example, draws uncritically on both sources in his History of Western Philosophy. Despite (or perhaps on account of?) their lightweight and superficial reading of history, they established the popular stereotype of the warfare of science and religion that persists to this day, largely through uncritical repetition in the media.

On and on, if you think the debate is going to end, it won’t. what’s important to remember is the ever growing numbers of scientists that are coming to Christ as they see science failing to prove God is dead and more importantly the emptiness of their own personal lives.

 

 

What can you do? Pray for all these academic enemies to fall on their sword. It seems the more they follow the lemmings path of science over the cliff of  “reason” the more susceptible they are to the gospel.

 

 

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

 

Our bible winner is James R. of Utica, New York, we had 43 participants in the bible quiz, congrats to everyone.