The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Posts Tagged ‘children

Praying for our children

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Lewis Allen has a couple of very profitable posts about praying for our children. In the first, leaving a legacy, he quotes Flavel:

For my own part, I must profess before the world that I have a high value for this mercy, and do, from the bottom of my heart, bless the Lord, Who gave me a religious and tender father, who often poured out his soul for me. He was the one that was inwardly acquainted with God, and being full of compassion for his children, often carried them before God, prayed and pleaded with God for them, wept and made supplication for them.

This stock of prayers and blessings left by him before the Lord, I cannot but esteem above the fairest inheritance on earth. O, it is no small mercy to have thousands of fervent prayers lying before the Lord, filed up in heaven for us. And O that we would all be faithful to this duty! Surely our love, especially to the souls of our relations, should not grow cold when our breath doth. O that we should remember this duty in our lives, and if God give opportunity and ability, fully discharge it when we die; considering, as Christ did, we shall be no more, but they are in this world, in the midst of a defiled, tempting, troublesome world. It is the last office of love for ever we shall do for them.

John Flavel, “Sermon on John 17.11,” Works, 1:257-8

In the second, Lewis offers the pattern of his own prayers for his children. I am rebuked by the consistency, specificity and spirituality of those prayers. A good example for us all . . .

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 3 July 2012 at 12:31

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Protecting children from sexual abuse

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Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 13 March 2012 at 09:35

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Glued to the crystal bucket

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. . . Christian parents must be concerned, not just with what content children are watching, but how much exposure they really experience. Something has gone wrong when the default position of the television is on, rather than off. There is something even more wrong when children and teenagers have televisions and Internet access in their bedrooms.

Al Mohler highlights an American report about the dangers of early and unfettered access to screen entertainment and “education.” Helpful reading for parents.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 21 October 2011 at 19:10

The simple parent

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Kevin DeYoung suggests that we may have overcomplicated our parenting, focusing too much on the minutiae of what we do (on the basis of having read that book or heard that sermon series or found that system – you know, the one that really works) and overlooking the vital significance of who we are. It is encouraging and yet demanding stuff. He also records the gospel-rich communication that many parents wish might be the standard of their interaction with their children alongside the conversation that most of us have, which is worth reading in itself.

Could it be we’ve made parenting too complicated? Isn’t the most important thing not what we do but who we are as parents? They will see our character before they remember our exact rules regarding television and twinkies.

I could be wrong. My kids are still young. Maybe this no-theory is a theory of its own. I just know that the longer I parent the more I want to focus on doing a few things really well, and not get too passionate about all the rest. I want to spend time with my kids, teach them the Bible, take them to church, laugh with them, cry with them, discipline them when they disobey, say sorry when I mess up, and pray like crazy. I want them to look back and think, “I’m not sure what my parents were doing or if they even knew what they were doing. But I always knew my parents loved me and I knew they loved Jesus.” Maybe it’s not that complicated after all.

Read it all.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 17 May 2011 at 05:51

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Five ways to make your kids hate church

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Five excellent suggestions from Thomas Weaver:

1. Make sure your faith is only something you live out in public.

2. Pray only in front of people.

3. Focus on your morals.

4. Give financially as long as it doesn’t impede your needs.

5. Make church community a priority… as long as there is nothing else you want to do.

He fills them out a little here.

Any other ideas?

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 2 April 2011 at 08:12

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Pressing home the truth

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Joe Holland offers parents some counsels and encouragements for pressing the truth into the (sometimes!) tender hearts of our children:

They sit there next to you and their feet don’t even hit the floor. You’re thinking, “What, if anything of this guy’s sermon is sinking into my kid’s head?” And with that little thought you’ve already decided not to engage your child about the sermon. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Let me introduce you to the most important rule when talking to your kids about the sermon: They retain more than you think they do. The second most important rule is like it: They understand more than you think they do.

Read all about it!

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 3 March 2011 at 14:46

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The invasion of parenting

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Paul Tripp reminds us that parenting is an opportunity to employ prepared spontaneity, not an interruption to our selfish plans and purposes:

But my problem is that there are moments when I tend to love my little kingdom of one more than I love his. So I’m impatient, discouraged, or irritated not because my children have broken the laws of God’s kingdom, but the laws of mine. In my kingdom there shall be no parenting on family vacation days, or when I am reading the paper on my iPad, or after ten o’clock at night, or during a good meal, or . . . I could go on. And when I’m angry about interruptions to my kingdom plan, there are four things I tend to do.

1. I tend to turn a God-given moment of ministry into a moment of anger.

2. I do this because I have personalized what is not personal. (Before we left for the amusement park that day, my children didn’t plot to drive me crazy in the parking lot.)

3. Because I have personalized what is not personal, I am adversarial in my response. (It’s not me acting for my children, but acting against them because they are in the way of what I want.)

4. So I end up settling for situational solutions that don’t really get to the heart of the matter. (I bark and order, I instill guilt, I threaten a punishment and walk away, and my children are utterly unchanged by the encounter.)

Read it all. More helpful insights are also provided on the joyful impossibility of parenting.

Paul’s highly-spoken-of DVDs, Getting to the Heart of Parenting, are available for a week at WTS Bookstore at a 75% discount.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 13 January 2011 at 13:12

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Of crying children and church services

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The Norman Rockwell on the right represents a scene too often played out in churches, and which we have laboured to address in the one which I serve: the bawling infant, the stolid guardian, the penetrating howl. We cannot object to children being children, and the occasional gurgle, slurp, cry, or – when older – the distinct answer to the preacher’s rhetorical questions, we will not criticise. We love to see them present, and learning to sing and pray and hear the Word of God. However, when they keep everyone else from doing the same, we must take a stand.

Earlier today a friend passed on a nugget of Spurgeonic wisdom, which – not being able to trace it immediately – I can only paraphrase: “Crying children in the services of worship are like New Year’s resolutions: they should be carried out immediately!”

And so say all of us.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 16 November 2010 at 18:45

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Spiritual humidity

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Cornelius Van Til gives us a taste of his childhood in his essay,  Why I Believe in God. Referring to an occasion in which, sleeping in the family barn one night, he felt a child’s terror of the dark and its inexplicable noises, he speaks of the reaction he knew his parents would have had:

Yet I know what they would have said. Of course there were no ghosts, and certainly I should not be afraid anyway, since with body and soul I belonged to my Savior who died for me on the Cross and rose again that His people might be saved from hell and go to heaven! I should pray earnestly and often that the Holy Spirit might give me a new heart so that I might truly love God instead of sin and myself.

How do I know that this is the sort of thing they would have told me? Well, that was the sort of thing they spoke about from time to time. Or rather, that was the sort of thing that constituted the atmosphere of our daily life. Ours was not in any sense a pietistic family. There were not any great emotional outbursts on any occasion that I recall. There was much ado about making hay in the summer and about caring for the cows and sheep in the winter, but round about it all there was a deep conditioning atmosphere. Though there were no tropical showers of revivals, the relative humidity was always very high. At every meal the whole family was present. There was a closing as well as an opening prayer, and a chapter of the Bible was read each time. The Bible was read through from Genesis to Revelation. At breakfast or at dinner, as the case might be, we would hear of the New Testament, or of “the children of Gad after their families, of Zephon and Haggi and Shuni and Ozni, of Eri and Areli.” I do not claim that I always fully understood the meaning of it all. Yet of the total effect there can be no doubt. The Bible became for me, in all its parts, in every syllable, the very Word of God. I learned that I must believe the Scripture story, and that “faith” was a gift of God. What had happened in the past, and particularly what had happened in the past in Palestine, was of the greatest moment to me. In short, I was brought up in what Dr. Joad would call “topographical and temporal parochialism.” I was “conditioned” in the most thorough fashion. I could not help believing in God — in the God of Christianity — in the God of the whole Bible!

Christian parents: how are you conditioning your children? Either you must or someone else will. You may refrain from ‘indoctrinating’ your children, as the world calls it, when the world and Satan agree to do so the same. Until then, though there be no tropical showers of revival in your home or in your church, make sure you keep the relative humidity very high, that the “olive plants all around your table” (Ps 128.3) may grow up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, being saved and equipped to serve by him.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Wednesday 27 October 2010 at 16:00

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“Suppose your child was dying . . .”

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From James Smith, in Our Father and Comforter: Or, God the Portion of His People:

Surely, if parents realized the value of their children’s souls; if they had a vivid sight of the danger to which they are exposed; if they felt that they must be saved by the Lord Jesus–or perish for ever–then they would act very differently toward them!

Could a parent, if he believed the Scriptural representation of hell, as a place of torment; and saw that his child hung over that ever-burning lake as by a thread–and might, at any moment, by some accident, be plunged into the bottomless abyss; I say, if he saw and believed this–could he let his child go on, day after day, and month after month, without the tender expostulation, the affectionate appeal, and the heart-felt prayer with him? I think not!

Alas! alas! We do not half believe in the horrors of hell, in the danger of our children, and in the absolute necessity of faith in Christ, in order to for them to be saved–or we could never live as we do!

What anxiety is manifested about their health and their education; and what indifference about their never-dying souls! One feels at times ready to conclude that many professing Christian parents must be half infidels, or wholly insane–to act as they do!

Reader, suppose your child was dying. His pulses are faint and few. He breathes short and hard. You approach his bedside. You take his hand in yours. He asks, “Father, did you believe I was a sinner? Did you know that it was possible I might die young? Were you aware that, without faith in Christ–I must perish forever? Did you, father?”

“I did, my child.”

“Then how could you be so cruel, so hard-hearted, as to treat me in the way you have? You never took me aside to talk to me seriously. You never endeavored to impress upon my mind the importance of spiritual things. You never earnestly warned me to flee from the wrath to come. You never lovingly invited me to the Lord Jesus Christ. You never prayed with me as if you believed I was in danger of going to hell, and could only be saved by the grace of God. You were very earnest about temporal things–but indifferent about spiritual realities. You knew that I was going to hell–and you did not try to prevent it. Now I am lost! Lost for ever–and you are the cause of it! Or, at least, you are accessory to my everlasting damnation!”

Or, suppose you were before the Great White Throne, and the Judge seated thereon, and you meet your children there. One of them points to you, and says, “There is my mother! She showed great concern about my body–but she never showed anxiety about my soul. She never knelt by my side in prayer. I never heard her plead with God for my soul, nor did she ever, in downright earnest, plead with me. I charge her, before the Judge of all–with cruelty to my soul; and throughout eternity I shall curse the day that ever I had such a parent! No name will excite my enmity, or draw forth my bitter reproaches, like the name of my mother! I am lost, lost forever–and my mother never heartily tried to prevent it!”

Parents, how could you bear this? Parents, parents! By all the tender ties that unite you to your children, I beseech you to seek, first, principally, and most earnestly–the conversion of your children!

HT: Grace Gems.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 8 October 2010 at 15:09

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“Like cat, like kit”: Spurgeon on motherhood

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Chris Brauns kindly gives us a selection from Spurgeon’s Practical Wisdom (Banner), a book which I hope to review in full soon.  This section is on the vital importance of a mother’s wise and principled care of her children.

Most men are what their mothers made them. The father is away from home all day, and has not half the influence over the children that the mother has. The cow has most to do with the calf. If a ragged colt grows into a good horse, we know who it is that combed him. A mother is therefore a very responsible woman, even though she may be the poorest in the land, for the bad or the good of her boys and girls very much depends upon her. As is the gardener such is the garden, as is the wife such is the family. Samuel’s mother made him a little coat every year, but she had done a deal for him before that: Samuel would not have been Samuel if Hannah had not been Hannah. We shall never see a better set of men till the mothers are better. We must have Sarahs and Rebekahs before we shall see Isaacs and Jacobs. Grace does not run in the blood, but we generally find that the Timothies have mothers of a godly sort.

Little children give their mother the headache, but if she lets them have their own way, when they grow up to be great children they will give her the heartache. Foolish fondness spoils many, and letting faults alone spoils more. Gardens that are never weeded will grow very little worth gathering; all watering and no hoeing will make a bad crop. A child may have too much of its mother’s love, and in the long run it may turn out that it had too little. Soft-hearted mothers rear soft-headed children; they hurt them for life because they are afraid of hurting them when they are young. Coddle your children, and they will turn out noodles. You may sugar a child till everybody is sick of it. Boys’ jackets need a little dusting every now and then, and girls’ dresses are all the better for occasional trimming. Children without chastisement are fields without ploughing. The very best colts want breaking in. Not that we like severity; cruel mothers are not mothers, and those who are always flogging and fault-finding ought to be flogged themselves. There is reason in all things, as the madman said when he cut off his nose.

Good mothers are very dear to their children. There’s no mother in the world like our own mother. My friend Sanders, from Glasgow, says, “The mither’s breath is aye sweet.” Every woman is a handsome woman to her own son. That man is not worth hanging who does not love his mother. When good women lead their little ones to the Saviour, the Lord Jesus blesses not only the children, but their mothers as well. Happy are they among women who see their sons and their daughters walking in the truth.

He who thinks it easy to bring up a family never had one of his own. A mother who trains her children aright had need be wiser than Solomon, for his son turned out a fool. Some children are perverse from their infancy; none are born perfect, but some have a double share of imperfections. Do what you will with some children, they don’t improve. Wash a dog, comb a dog, still a dog is but a dog: trouble seems thrown away on some children. Such cases are meant to drive us to God, for he can turn blackamoors white, and cleanse out the leopard’s spots. It is clear that whatever faults our children have, we are their parents, and we cannot find fault with the stock they came of. Wild geese do not lay tame eggs. That which is born of a hen will be sure to scratch in the dust. The child of a cat will hunt after mice. Every creature follows its kind. If we are black, we cannot blame our offspring if they are dark too. Let us do our best with them, and pray the Mighty Lord to put his hand to the work. Children of prayer will grow up to be children of praise; mothers who have wept before God for their sons, will one day sing a new song over them. Some colts often break the halter, and yet become quiet in harness. God can make those new whom we cannot mend, therefore let mothers never despair of their children as long as they live. Are they away from you across the sea? Remember, the Lord is there as well as here. Prodigals may wander, but they are never out of sight of the Great Father, even though they may be  ‘a great way off.’

Let mothers labor to make home the happiest place in the world. If they are always nagging and grumbling they will lose their hold of their children, and the boys will be tempted to spend their evenings away from home. Home is the best place for boys and men, and a good mother is the soul of home. The smile of a mother’s face has enticed many into the right path, and the fear of bringing a tear into her eye has called off many a man from evil ways. The boy may have a heart of iron, but his mother can hold him like a magnet. The devil never reckons a man to be lost so long as he has a good mother alive. O woman, great is thy power! See to it that it be used for him who thought of his mother even in the agonies of death.

For more from Spurgeon on the joys and responsibilities of motherhood, see here.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 22 May 2010 at 19:31

Faithful and true

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A father’s broken promises are a terrible testimony to the God whose word cannot be broken.

As is plain from the parallels that Scripture draws between God the father and human fathers, children should look at a parent and see their something that mediates and models the character of God.  A child should look at a father’s relationship with a mother and ultimately think, “If that is a faint reflection of the love of Jesus for the church, then that is a Jesus I want as my Saviour.”  The child likewise, from the experience of being fathered, should be drawn to think, “If my father’s love for me is a faint reflection of the heavenly Father’s love for his children, then I want to be a true child of God.”

When we make our children promises, we must underwrite them with a “God willing.”  But we must never give our children an excuse to imagine that God is not true to his promises of blessing or, indeed, his threatening of punishment.  We must never make a promise that we do not have the strictest intention of fulfilling to the best of our strength and ability; we must not make extravagant or vain promises for the fulfilment of which we have no capacity.

As God’s constituted authority and representative and teacher of his truth, if we say that we will be somewhere or do something, barring genuine providential hindrances, we must be there or do it.  If we lay down a condition upon which blessing will follow, that blessing must follow.  If we make plain that there are sanctions that will follow transgression, those sanctions must fall as promised.  Anything less opens the door for a child to doubt, disbelieve, neglect or even scorn the truth of God.  I know men whose word I simply will not take because they have made promises and given assurances that have turned out time and again to be nothing more than airy semi-intention.  Their word is not good.  The word of God is sure.  Pity the child who grows up not knowing that when God or those who communicate his truth and character speak, their words can be relied upon.  Even when we fail because of genuine providential hindrances, we can take the opportunity to remind our children that the power and wisdom of God prevents his ever falling short.

At the same time, I was reminded of a nuance of this.  Returning home recently from a day serving another church, I had a phone call from my oldest son.  He likes to chat with Daddy before he goes to bed if Daddy is somewhere else.  The usual questions: “Where have you been?  What have you been doing?  Where are you now?”  I overhear the muttered encouragements of my wife in the background that it is time for the boy to hit the sack.  Then, the promise: “I will come and see you when I get home and give you a kiss before I go to bed.”

I got back in reasonable time and, as I went up to my own bed, I stopped in on the boys, as I do, and made sure I gave Thing One a goodnight kiss (Thing Two is still in a cot, and covered in snot, so I just looked!).  Well, Thing Two was struggling with his cold and was up repeatedly in the night.  After my wife went a couple of times to calm him, I went to give him a shot of medicine (were the teeth also giving him grief?) at about 4am.  A few moments after getting back to the warmth of the sheets there was the soft padding of Thing One heading for our bedroom.  I glanced at the clock: 0400.  Yoicks!  A voice: “Daddy, you didn’t kiss me goodnight!”

I opened my arms for a high-grade huggle (a quite delicious combination of a hug and a snuggle).  How glad I was that I could say in good conscience, “I did give you a kiss!”  Then a plaintive complaint: “I didn’t feel it.”  A couple of big smooches quickly followed, and a now-happy son curled up in my arms and went to sleep.  After a few minutes I returned him to his own bed.  (Those who like completeness in these things will appreciate knowing that he was back forty minutes later when the storm woke him up, complaining that it was too dark.  I gave up on sleep, got dressed, carried him to his bed, turned the light on, and got on with the day.)

I spoke the truth to my son, and I was able to make good on my promise.  But he did not feel it.  That is not the same as a promise being unfulfilled.  It is worth remembering that our experience of the promises of God may be similar.  God has spoken words to us, given particular assurances, and held out for our future unshakeable promises.  We hear the words, we understand the assurance conceptually, but we do not feel it concretely.  We look at the future, and it seems that the providences of God are pointing counter to his promises.  We wonder whether or not God does love us.  Are the everlasting arms really underneath us?  Is he always with us?  Is he giving us wisdom in response to our desperate cries?  Why do we seem to walk in darkness when we are children of light?

We may not feel what is nonetheless true.  God does kiss us, he showers us with blessings, he encompasses us with deeds that work out his words, but we are not always aware of it.

But God is faithful and true.  He is pleased to bless us in accordance with his promises, whether we immediately and concretely feel it to be so or not.  We have no cause to doubt him, even though we may sometimes go to him with the plaintive cry, “Father, I don’t feel it.”  He is our loving heavenly Father.  At those times he may sweep us into his arms, shower us with kisses, and gently ask, “Do you feel it now?”  Then we can go to sleep.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Wednesday 25 November 2009 at 15:33

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Things various

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A few bits from around the web:

  • Parents, obey your children? Al Mohler draws on and responds to an interesting article about the portrayal of parents generally, and – specifically – their relationship to their children, in popular children’s literature.
  • John Piper’s call to the ministry.  Justin Taylor gives the details at some length.
  • English Language Day.  Actually, this was yesterday (13 October).  Is this an American thing?  Surely not!  Still, I don’t know how else I would have found out about it.  Apparently, it marks the date in 1362 when a Chancellor opened Parliament with a speech in English.  Neat.
  • Er . . . that’s it, actually.  I thought I had more interesting things in the reader than that, but it’s funny how the discipline of reading and weeding convinces one that perhaps 75% or more of the stuff that flows down the feeds is tripe to be bypassed.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Wednesday 14 October 2009 at 15:20

Educating our children

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Martin Downes posts an article from The Evangelical Magazine (I presume he wrote it, but he doesn’t say – self-effacing chap, he is!) about the primary role of the parents in teaching children the fear of the Lord (and not sloping shoulders and expecting the church to act as some kind of surrogate in the process).

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 18 September 2009 at 09:46

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Jonathan Edwards the parent

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Z tells us about someone else enjoying Marsden’s biography of Jonathan Edwards, quoting from chapter 20 on aspects of his family life:

The first impression a visitor would have upon arriving at the Edwards home was that there were a lot of children. The second impression would be that they were very well disciplined. Jonathan aided Sarah in disciplining the children from an early age. ‘When they first discovered any considerable degree of will and stubbornness,’ wrote biographer Samuel Hopkins, ‘he would attend to them till he had thoroughly subdued them and brought them to submit with the greatest calmness, and commonly without striking a blow, effectively establishing his parental authority and producing a cheerful obedience ever after.

Care for his children’s souls was his preeminent concern. In morning devotions he quizzed them on Scripture with questions appropriate to their ages. On Saturday evenings, the beginning of the Sabbath, he taught them the Westminster Shorter Catechism, making sure they understood as well as memorized the answers.

Edwards also believed in not holding back the terrors of hell from his children. ‘As innocent as children seem to us,’ he wrote, ‘if they are out of Christ, they are not so in God’s sight, but are young vipers….’ At the judgment day unregenerate children would hardly thank their parents for sentimental tenderness that protected them from knowing the true dangers of their estate. Always looking for opportunities to awaken the young to their condition, he had taken the children to view the remains of the Lyman house fire that claimed two girls’ lives.

By far the greater burden of childrearing fell to Sarah….On one occasion, when she was out of town in 1748, Jonathan was soon near his wits’ end. Children of almost every age needed to be cared for. ‘We have been without you,’ Jonathan lamented in a letter, ‘almost as long as we know how to be!’ (George Marsden, Jonathan Edwards: A Life, 321-323)

How I should love to sit down and ask Edwards for practical advice as to how a father goes about securing such a spirit among his children as is described in the first paragraph.  I admit that I do not recognise much of that in myself.  I recognise a little more of the next two paragraphs, though I need more of a servant spirit in seeking to cultivate such an environment in my home.  The final paragraph is the one where I think, “Ah! I am like Jonathan Edwards.”

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 7 August 2009 at 08:57

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Born believing in God

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Augustine put it slightly more robustly at the opening of his Confessions: “Our hearts are restless, until they find rest in you.”

Now Dr Justin Barrett, from the Institute for Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology at Oxford University, is arguing that it is the natural default position of children to believe in God, challenging the view of some atheists that religion is learned through family indoctrination.  In this snippet from the BBC, Dr Barrett discusses whether religion or atheism is learned with scientist and writer Professor Lewis Wolpert:

Are we born believing in God?

It is hardly a Christian approach, but it certainly bears out the truths of Romans 1 and 2.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 24 March 2009 at 09:10

Pressing on

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Last Friday I spoke at a school assembly.  It being Friday 13th I decided to speak on the topic of bad luck.  I was grossly out of sync with the mood of the whole school.  Forgetting that Friday was Comic Relief, I turned up to discover almost everyone – teachers included – in fancy dress.  Although I adapted what I had to say, the assembly started late, everyone was restless and excited, and no-one seemed to be listening.  Not the greatest, but the Lord can accomplish something even in that.

I had a phone and personal appointment during the rest of the day on Friday, and – early Saturday morning – was off to London to the London Theological Seminary.  Not quite sure what to expect from an open day, I was especially interested to see what the developments were in the course.  We may be involved at some point with the LTS placement scheme for students, and I was interested in getting a sense of what ‘product’ might be coming our way.  I met a few friends there, and it seems as if the development of the course is positive in many respects.  I headed home to spend some time with my family and another family from the church before heading out to meet up with the Maidenbower Police Community Support Officer (PCSO).  We had a good chat, and I was able to get a better sense of what some of the young people we meet with are about, and where we might find them.  It may be that more opportunities will come as a result of this.

On Sunday I took the next lesson on the intellectual development of our children, considering the options for formal education by looking at the pros and cons of home education.  It was another good discussion.  With several young families, these are live issues.  We are attempting to equip the parents to make wise and intelligent decisions as they consider how to glorify God in the training of their children.

I then preached from Isaiah 45.22 on Looking to Jesus.  This is the start of a brief series on becoming and being a Christian.  It is a development of the sermons that I preached in Holland – the material would be of value, I thought, in the congregation in Maidenbower.

We took the call of God – “Look to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth” – as being the voice of the Son in particular.  We then considered the command given, a looking that involves turning from everything else as a means of being saved, and fixing one’s attention on something definite and particular.  Then there is the object identified: “Look to me.”  Christ calls for a saving look at himself as the crucified one, as the only Saviour of sinners, in all the fulness of his saving capacity, and not to ourselves, other men, or any creature or invention of men.  What is the purpose intended?  It is that we might be saved, rescued from wretchedness and wandering, brought certainly, immediately and totally into the kingdom of God by one saving look at Jesus Christ.  Finally, we saw the promise extended: the invitation is universal, the offer is free.  The church should not limit the offer of salvation when Christ does not, but should declare Christ’s willingness and ability to save all those who come to him.  This is the Jesus to whom sinners must look: they must not doubt, but obey, and leave the saving with God.

We had several new faces, which was encouraging, and had one visitor back for lunch, having a good conversation.  We hope to see this young man again.  The rest of the day went well, although we had an unfortunate disturbance in the evening service when one of the members was taken ill.  This disruption toward the beginning of the service unsettled everyone, and it seemed difficult to maintain any kind of mental or spiritual momentum afterward.  Still, God blessed the day, and we look for fruit from the preaching.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 16 March 2009 at 11:54

Facebook turns your brain to mush

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It’s official!  Or, at least, as official as you consider something to be that merits a fairly long piece in The Daily Mail.

Apparently, social networking sites do measurable damage to the brains of children.

Professor Susan Greenfield says:

My fear is that these technologies are infantilising the brain into the state of small children who are attracted by buzzing noises and bright lights, who have a small attention span and who live for the moment.

I have to admit that I read that, and it sounds a bit like a chicken-and-egg issue to me.  Are we becoming like that because we spend too much time on Facebook, or are we attracted to Facebook because that’s what we have become?

See also here and here and here.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Wednesday 25 February 2009 at 12:25

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Here, there, and everywhere

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The last couple of weeks have been something of a blur.  I think I last posted an update the Monday before I went to Holland.  The main task that week, in addition to the midweek prayer meeting, was finishing the preparation of the sermons, and also preparing some questions and pointers to answers for the discussion sessions at the conference.

I flew out to Schipol Airport, Amsterdam, on Thursday evening.  I was met at the airport by Arjen van Gent, a theology student.  We travelled an hour or so by train to his home, and as I quizzed him I began to learn a little more about the conference and its circumstances, aims, and attendees.  Arriving at his parents’ home, I scoffed a friendly pizza and headed pretty early to bed where I had a good night’s sleep.  I woke, and made full use of the space-age shower in the bathroom (although a slightly exuberant twist of one particular knob did cause freezing water to power into my shanks just as I thought I had finished).  I had a light breakfast while waiting for Arjen to emerge, and then I did a little reading and prepared to leave for the conference.  Marcel Vroegop, with whom I had been in primary contact, dropped in just to confirm with his own eyes that the speaker was indeed on Dutch soil, and it was good to meet him.  We had a lunch time feast of pancakes, and then Arjen and I set out into the snow and wind for a stroll through a forested area – almost as bracing as freezing water on the shanks!  We set off shortly afterward for the conference – Arjen and his father and myself, picking up a couple called Marco and Geretta in the same town before heading into the traffic for the 90 minute or so journey to the conference centre.

We arrived to find most of the committee ensconced and preparing the ground.  An evening meal of frankfurters and tomato soup was quickly prepared, and we made the place ready for the first service.

Those who came were, for the most part, hungry for the Word of God.  Even if they were not, food was offered in abundance.  The committee had asked for six sermons, in addition to which we visited a local church in nearby Rijssen on the Lord’s day morning.  Each sermon had 80 minutes allotted to it (albeit in translation), followed by a fifteen minute break, and then a discussion period in mentor-groups (which also served as teams for catering) which lasted 30 to 60 minutes (depending on the time available).  I was often participating in those discussions, and often informal discussion would continue afterward.  In the course of the weekend, I also had many opportunities for personal interaction with those attending, and was delighted with the open hearts and frank attitudes of many who were present.  A brother named Oskar Loohuis (I hope I have that spelling right) translated the first four sermons, and Arjen’s father, Pieter, translated the last two.  My assigned topics, and the texts and sermons from which I preached, were as follows:

  • How does Christ become my Redeemer? (Isaiah 45:22 > Looking unto Jesus)
  • Union with Christ (2Cor 5.17 > A new creation)
  • The Biblical signs of a true Christian (1Jn > What is a true Christian?)
  • Biblical manhood and womanhood (Gen 1.27 > Biblical manhood and womanhood)
  • Living the Christian life (Phil 2.12-13 > Working in and working out)
  • A Christ-glorifying life (2Tim 4.6-8 > The Saviour and his servant)

As you can see, these were foundational truths covering something of the range of Christian experience.  I think that God drew near to bless us, especially during two or three of those sermons.

That said, I learned yet more about the dark art of preaching via a translator.  The translators were excellent, but I did not always make their job easy.  The more topical sermons (the third and fourth) had much more technical and precise language in more complex headings as I tried to draw several different texts together.  These did not always translate easily and well.  I also had a plan for a way of referencing 1 John in the third sermon that worked better in theory than in practice.  Of course, over such an intense few days, weariness also sets in, not least on the part of the congregation.

There were many times when I was facing afresh the recognition that the Spirit of God alone can bring the truth to bear on men’s hearts.  I am also conscious that my sense of profit is not the same as something profitable accomplished.

On Monday we cleaned out the building in which we had stayed and were back in Waganingen by about midday.  Once the available members of the committee had convened, we enjoyed an easy lunch together and discussed various issues and relaxed and laughed.  Then, I was graciously escorted back to the airport and headed home.  The fellowship was very sweet, and I very much enjoyed my time with these dear brothers and sisters, being encouraged and instructed by the vigorous and sacrificial faith that particular friends are showing, and by the earnest and gracious character that many demonstrated over the course of the whole weekend.

I returned home weary, and slept well and long for the next two nights.  During the days, as well as taking a Sabbath for myself, I was catching up at home, and then began producing some follow-up material to the conference for which I was asked (an ongoing process).  I also had some writing projects that I needed to pursue, and managed to do a little reading.  On Thursday afternoon, it being a half-term break here, I went out to the park during the afternoon, and was delighted to find a few lads playing football, two of home remembered me from before.  I played football in the pouring rain for about half-an-hour, and then spoke to them a little about Christ and his church.  Although they were resistant, a couple of them did take CDs of sermons, and I think that there might have been some genuine interest.

On Friday afternoon, a friend came by to spend an hour or so for us to read some more of John Angell James together, a little bit of which is here.  A few minutes after he left, I had a phone appointment for the rest of the afternoon.  In the evening, I relaxed and read.  Saturday morning was sermon preparation, and in the afternoon I went back out to Maidenbower to see who was around.  This time, the older young people were missing (Jobs? Season tickets to various football clubs?  Football matches?) but there were a lot of young families around and one or two watching football matches being played.  Not the easiest environment in which to do gospel work more explicitly, but a good one in which to watch the world and learn how men are.

On the Lord’s day, our adult Sunday School class continued to consider our children’s intellectual development.  As an off-shoot, we are taking an opportunity to consider the formal education of our children, and – having established some fundamental principles and goals – we are looking at various approaches to formal education.  Yesterday we assessed the pros and cons of state education (including state schools with a Christian ethos).  We hope to go on to look at home education and other options.

In the morning worship I preached on The Liberator from John 8.36: “If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”  We began by identifying the slavery men know: even – sometimes especially – those who boast in their freedom, are moral slaves to sin: ambition, anger, lust, greed, revenge, appetite, opinion, religion, superstition and scepticism.  This is the illusory freedom of the condemned prisoner dreaming of open spaces.

broken-chain-3From there, we considered the freedom Christ gives: “if the Son makes you free.”  That ‘if’ is the key in the lock, the gleam of light in darkness that promises the prospect of deliverance.  It points to the author of freedom, the Son, who acts righteously, justly, freely, instantly and eternally in making free.  In might and with mercy, with authority and compassion, he can and does set the prisoners free.

It is a glorious freedom, a freedom that alone is worthy of the name.  We are set free from the guilt, punishment, power and consequences of sin.  We are set free to obey God, not needing to fear either men or outcomes in our pursuit of glorifying the God of our salvation.

I called upon some to feel their chains, that they might not boast in an illusion when offered freedom indeed.  Christ alone can liberate the captives.

I called upon others to feel their freedoms, to enjoy and employ the freedom bestowed by Jesus, so that we glorify God as those who are free indeed.

We had a friend from the church over for lunch, and I also got a little reading done.  The evening service was good, not least because my eldest son sat all the way through (with a little encouragement) for the first time.

Today, I will be at the John Owen Centre, participating in the Theology Study Group.  We are considering Tim Keller’s The Reason for God (reviewed here).  The discussion is usually stimulating, and the fellowship enjoyable.  The rest of the week is stacked to the gills with stuff.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 23 February 2009 at 07:28

Shocking insights

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David Anderson explains why smacking a child is not the moral equivalent of using an electric fence to control an animal’s behaviour.

Bogus “moral equivalence” arguments are one that liberals have been using, quite effectively, over recent decades in their attempts to undermine the Christian foundations of Western society. “This” is equivalent to “that”, and we all know “that” is evil, therefore “this” has got to go. This is silly reductionism.

He goes on to demonstrate how such foolish reductionist arguments lay a foundation for moral erosion.

PS I am not persuaded that one can lay a foundation for erosion, but it’s late, I’m tired, and you know what I mean!

Written by Jeremy Walker

Wednesday 11 February 2009 at 22:47

Posted in While wandering . . .

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The unthinking thought police

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Two nice news stories for this morning.

In the first, a Christian nurse has been suspended for offering to pray for a patient.  After offering to pray for one patient.  The patient declined, and the nurse, Mrs Petrie, apparently let the matter drop.  The patient- though allegedly not offended herself – contacted the Trust for which Mrs Petrie worked.  Mrs Petrie was subsequently suspended for an investigation.  Just recently, government minister Steven Timms made the case that faith ought not to be relegated to the private sphere.  In other words, we are entitled to be Christians in public – hardly a shocking thought, you would have imagined.  There are lots of people who serve me in various ways who don’t pray for me every day; I wonder if I can have them suspended because I don’t like the way their lack of faith in God impacts on the way that they relate to me?

In the second, we are informed that the aggressive pursuit of personal success by adults is now the greatest threat to British children.  Hyper-individualism is wrecking young lives, reports the BBC, who say that a significant independent report

calls for a sea-change in social attitudes and policies to counter the damage done to children by society.

Family break-up, unprincipled advertising, too much competition in education and income inequality are mentioned as big contributing factors.

A panel of independent experts carried out the study over three years.

The report, called The Good Childhood Inquiry and commissioned by the Children’s Society, concludes that children’s lives in Britain have become “more difficult than in the past”, adding that “more young people are anxious and troubled”.

According to the panel, “excessive individualism” is to blame for many of the problems children face and needs to be replaced by a value system where people seek satisfaction more from helping others rather than pursuing private advantage.

Reading that last paragraph, one might almost be foolish enough to imagine that mature Christian parents, members of a healthy church, cared for by faithful pastors, serving after the pattern of Christ himself (Phil 2.3-8) would provide an excellent environment for bringing up much-loved, well-adjusted, happy and confident children.  Of course, that would be nonsense.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 2 February 2009 at 10:46

Special subject: the blindingly obvious

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Gene Veith points us toward evidence that children raised by both parents in a family that goes to church have fewer problems.  The study he refers to apparently indicates that

children in an intact religious family “are more likely to exhibit positive social behavior, including showing respect for teachers and neighbors, getting along with other children, understanding other people’s feelings, and trying to resolve conflicts with classmates, family, or friends.”

Well, I never . . .

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 12 January 2009 at 17:13

A prayer for our sons

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William came home on Sunday afternoon from the hospital, and mother and baby are doing well.  Caleb is adjusting magnificently in some respects, and finding life tough in others.  It seems a good time to re-post the following, in contemplation of both our sons.

Our Baby Boy

What shall we ask for our baby boy?
Shall we ask for fame, or gain, or joy,
For the dear-bought wisdom of the schools,
Or a skilful hand in the use of tools?
Ah, nay, our wishes much higher go
Than the highest hill with its cap of snow,
And the heart’s desire must wider be
Than the utmost stretch of the boundless sea.

We ask for the blessing of God above
And an early sense of the Saviour’s love,
An early sense of his wondrous grace
And an early start to seek his face;
A soul that is cleansed by the Saviour’s blood,
A heart that is kept by the peace of God,
Where the very God of peace may dwell,
His holy secrets of love to tell.

Feet that shall walk in the path of life
And follow the Lamb through stress or strife,
That following on through pain and loss
He may learn the worth of the Saviour’s cross;
A place in his heart for the words of truth,
And God for his guide from his early youth.
Great things we ask for our baby boy –
A place in God’s universe of joy,
A home in the land where his Son supreme
And his wondrous cross are the dearest theme.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 11 November 2008 at 09:12

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The power of example

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In the previous post, I mentioned an adult Sunday School on being living sermons in our marriages.  In applying this to parents, I quoted the following section from a booklet by J. C. Ryle entitled The Duties of Parents.  Ryle exhorts parents to train their children “remembering continually the influence of your own example.”  He says:

Instruction, and advice, and commands will profit little, unless they are backed up by the pattern of your own life.  Your children will never believe you are in earnest, and really wish them to obey you, so long as your actions contradict your counsel. Archbishop Tillotson made a wise remark when he said, “To give children good instruction, and a bad example, is but beckoning to them with the head to show them the way to heaven, while we take them by the hand and lead them in the way to hell.”

We little know the force and power of example.  No one of us can live to himself in this world; we are always influencing those around us, in one way or another, either for good or for evil, either for God or for sin. They see our ways, they mark our conduct, they observe our behaviour, and what they see us practise, that they may fairly suppose we think right.  And never, I believe, does example tell so powerfully as it does in the case of parents and children.

Fathers and mothers, do not forget that children learn more by the eye than they do by the ear.  No school will make such deep marks on character as home.  The best of schoolmasters will not imprint on their minds as much as they will pick up at your fireside.  Imitation is a far stronger principle with children than memory.  What they see has a much stronger effect on their minds than what they are told.

Take care, then, what you do before a child.  It is a true proverb, “Who sins before a child, sins double.” Strive rather to be a living epistle of Christ, such as your families can read, and that plainly too.  Be an example of reverence for the Word of God, reverence in prayer, reverence for means of grace, reverence for the Lord’s day. Be an example in words, in temper, in diligence, in temperance, in faith, in charity, in kindness, in humility.  Think not your children will practise what they do not see you do.  You are their model picture, and they will copy what you are.  Your reasoning and your lecturing, your wise commands and your good advice; all this they may not understand, but they can understand your life.

Children are very quick observers; very quick in seeing through some kinds of hypocrisy, very quick in finding out what you really think and feel, very quick in adopting all your ways and opinions.  You will often find as the father is, so is the son.

Remember the word that the conqueror Caesar always used to his soldiers in a battle.  He did not say “Go forward,” but “Come.” So it must be with you in training your children.  They will seldom learn habits which they see you despise, or walk in paths in which you do not walk yourself.  He that preaches to his children what he does not practise, is working a work that never goes forward.  It is like the fabled web of Penelope of old, who wove all day, and unwove all night.  Even so, the parent who tries to train without setting a good example is building with one hand, and pulling down with the other.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 14 July 2008 at 20:13

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“Our Baby Boy”

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My previous post reminded me of the poem below. I cannot remember where I found these verses, but I do know that they were anonymous when I saw them. They express our deepest desire for our son.

Our Baby Boy

What shall we ask for our baby boy?
Shall we ask for fame, or gain, or joy,
For the dear-bought wisdom of the schools,
Or a skilful hand in the use of tools?
Ah, nay, our wishes much higher go
Than the highest hill with its cap of snow,
And the heart’s desire must wider be
Than the utmost stretch of the boundless sea.

We ask for the blessing of God above
And an early sense of the Saviour’s love,
An early sense of his wondrous grace
And an early start to seek his face;
A soul that is cleansed by the Saviour’s blood,
A heart that is kept by the peace of God,
Where the very God of peace may dwell,
His holy secrets of love to tell.

Feet that shall walk in the path of life
And follow the Lamb through stress or strife,
That following on through pain and loss
He may learn the worth of the Saviour’s cross;
A place in his heart for the words of truth,
And God for his guide from his early youth.
Great things we ask for our baby boy –
A place in God’s universe of joy,
A home in the land where his Son supreme
And his wondrous cross are the dearest theme.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Wednesday 23 April 2008 at 19:20

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