Theological Thoughts

Hiding Behind False Piety

Hiding Behind False Piety

It’s easy to hide behind devotional language: “God is all I need.” “Just give me Jesus.” This language was used in pietistic movements throughout the 18th-19th centuries and is employed abundantly today as a way of manipulating the Christian to internalize his faith.

The piety of such words betray a fundamental need in the human soul: we are made for one another. We are made to be in each other’s lives; so that, to desire God is to necessarily desire the people God created. To be the foot is to need the other parts.The Head leads when the other parts work together and see each others’ need and purpose in the body.

Pastoral Self-Care Lecture

Pastoral Self-Care Lecture

At the 2017 Biblical Horizons’ Conference, I delivered a lecture on pastoral self-care. You can listen to the lecture free here.

I Believe Children Should Be in Worship, Now What?

I Believe Children Should Be in Worship, Now What?

You attend a big/small evangelical church and you are now convinced that children should be in worship. “I believe this,” you say, “but my church doesn’t. Now what?” I want you to be faithful to your church and there is a way of doing that while disagreeing with the general ethos of the church regarding children.

First, I’d encourage you to talk to your pastor or an available church officer. Ask them if there would be any problem with bringing your little children to church. Though they may oppose it, kindly affirm that you would like to try it for some of the reasons mentioned in previous posts. With few exceptions, they have all been accommodating.

Secondly, begin to prepare your children to sit with you in worship during the week (I’ve written about this. Send me a note if you’d like suggestions).

Finally, persevere. Be prepared for some initial difficulties. Training children at home is a long-term labor of love and the same is true at church.

Exhortation to Worship

Exhortation to Worship

The Bible has a way of ruining our way. The Bible marks God’s territory in places we think belong to us. God marks his territory in worship today because His ways are higher than man’s attempts to worship him. So, this morning, I am urging you to believe.

What would happen if we worshiped like we believed it? How would our view of worship change if we believed we are mystically and mysteriously seated in heavenly places, or in some way judging angels and the world, or if we believed we were God’s treasured possession? Or what if we believed that the Spirit of God is hovering over us as He did in creation preparing to form us into something new today? What if we believed that these next 60 minutes will transform us in a miraculous way? What if we believed that as we begin to worship shortly, God is going to shape your humanity into His glorious image? What if we believed that by the end of the Supper you will gain heaven? What if we believed that Jesus is going to take your words and make them into something beautiful before the Father in heaven? Brothers and sisters, believe this and rejoice.

The Comedy of Worship and Crying Children

The Comedy of Worship and Crying Children

When Paul says we are “fools for Christ,” he is saying that the Christian faith is comedic. An unbeliever should find Christian worship humorous at some level. In fact, to be a Christian is to live in the comedy of God’s work in history. Think about it: God is using the cries of infants to frighten his foes (Ps. 8:2), and our Lord says that the kingdom belongs to little children (Mat. 19:14). What could be weaker and funnier than a kingdom/army of infants?

In short, worship is a humorous clash of old and young, crying and singing, male and female all together worshipping one true God. I have often said that worship is not a classroom. The ideas we have of people quietly sitting receiving information needs to be dismantled. Little children need to be with adults in Church because without them the kingdom gathered is an incomplete kingdom. While cry rooms and nurseries are good and right, institutionalizing children’s church while the big people meet elsewhere is unwise and unhealthy for the proper flow of the kingdom of God on earth.

When we participate in worship together–nursing infants, little children, teenagers, adults–we are participating in history’s great comedy where God joyfully defeats evil (Ps. 2) through the cries of the weak and strong.

The Braying of Asses

The Braying of Asses

“…we marvel when we hear music in which one voice sings a simple melody, while three, four, or five other voices play and trip lustily around the voice that sings its simple melody and adorn this simple melody wonderfully with artistic musical effects, thus reminding us of a heavenly dance, where all meet in a spirit of friendliness, caress and embrace. A person who gives this some thought and yet does not regard music as a marvelous creation of God, must be a clodhopper indeed and does not deserve to be called a human being; he should be permitted to hear nothing but the braying of asses and the grunting of hogs.” -Dr. Martin Luther

Luther on the Gift of Music

Luther on the Gift of Music

“Music is an outstanding gift of God and next to theology. I would not give up my slight knowledge of music for a great consideration. And youth should be taught this art; for it makes fine skillful people.”

“The riches of music are so excellent and so precious that words fail me whenever I attempt to discuss and describe them…. In summary, next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world. It controls our thoughts, minds, hearts, and spirits…”

“Our dear fathers and prophets did not desire without reason that music be always used in the churches. Hence, we have so many songs and psalms. This precious gift has been given to man alone that he might thereby remind himself that God has created man for the express purpose of praising and extolling God.”

Inquiring Children

Inquiring Children

I have a child who in an uneventful day will pose an average of 50 questions; on an eventful day, the average might double. How do they do it? It’s easy to be overwhelmed. I am often overwhelmed. My wife is a much more patient saint. But the point is we do want inquiring children. They are image-bearers in their world created by their God and their goal is to explore the grain of sand and the grand questions of life. Let them be curious. Let them ask. Let them explore life in all its beauty and mystery. Don’t crush their quest.

Idolizing Parental Wisdom

Idolizing Parental Wisdom

We tend to idolize our wisdom, which is why at times we are quick to dismiss our children’s perspectives and observations. I understand that foolishness needs to be corrected, or better yet, re-directed. But I find myself continually amazed at the insights of children. They carry with them a sense of awe in their interpretation of the world that we need a lot more of as adults. To that end, we need to pay closer attention to their words for unto such belong the kingdom of heaven. When we quickly dismiss what they say, we may be missing a bit of the kingdom and simultaneously crushing their ability to grow emotionally and intellectually.

Discerning Between Discipline and Accidents

Discerning Between Discipline and Accidents

One of the difficulties of parenting is the art of discernment. Distinguishing between acts of disobedience and accidents is fundamental to avoid crushing our children’s spirit. Accidents are not reasons for discipline, they are opportunities for productive conversations. When a child spills his water, rarely is it related to an act of willful disobedience. They are children. Children and accidents are almost synonymous. We should expect them and we should, in turn, prepare to deal with them rightly. I confess this is no easy task, but one we should be aware and prepared. Confusing accidents with disobedience can crush their day-to-day experience and joy. Further, they can begin to hide accidents for fear that they may be interpreted as sinful actions.