…every time my kids have gotten in the car after soccer practice or a school day, a playdate with friends or even a night spent with impoverished girls in SE Asia, my default question has always been about their own personal fun. I’m typically asking, first, about their good time, the friends they hung out with, the general awesomeness of the event itself.
via Adoption Journey
It is not enough to know that Jesus is a Person worthy of trust; it is also necessary to know that He is willing to have us trust Him. It is not enough that He saved others; we need to know also that He has saved us. That knowledge is given in the story of the Cross. For us Jesus does not merely place His fingers in the ears and say, “Be opened”; for us He does not merely say “Arise and walk.” For us He has done a greater thing–for us He died. Our dreadful guilt, the condemnation of God’s law–it was wiped out by an act of grace. That is the message which brings Jesus near to us, and makes Him not merely the Savior of the men of Galilee long ago, but the Savior of you and me.
-J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism
Gerald Sittser, in his book, Water from a Deep Well, provides a unique look at Christianity throughout history. I would highly recommend his book, which ties church history, historical theology, biography, and spiritual formation in a tidy 364 page package. He summarizes his work in these terms:
The magnificent history of Christian spirituality…provides us with a wide variety of traditions from which to learn. The martyrs call us to proclaim Jesus as Lord and the desert saints to fight against the world, the flesh and the devil. The early church challenges us to create a community of belonging for broken, displaced, disconnected people. Medieval monks invite us to abide by healthy rhythms, mendicants to imitate the life of Christ and mystics to seek union with God. The Reformers urge us to listen to the Word of God, evangelicals to surrender our lives to it and missionaries to proclaim it to the world. The stories of these saints are at our disposal to enlarge, enrich and warn us. “There is more!” they tell us. “So much more.”
AWANA has done a complete revamp of their Preschool Cubbies curriculum and they sent me a sampling of the material to review. Being a fan, not only of AWANA, but more importantly of scripture memorization, I told them I’d be glad to look at this ESV based curriculum a well as give a prize pack worth over $300 of curriculum and Cubbies goodies away!
Awana has been helping churches and parents raise children and youth to know, love and serve
Brooks, Rice. God’s Not Dead. 2013, Nashville: Thomas Nelson. 279 pages.
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I have to admit, after receiving a copy of Broock’s book God’s Not Dead, I was a bit skeptical. A book that is seemingly named after a popular contemporary Christian song peaked a mild alert. Would this work be very original? Is it going to come across as a bit contrived? Will it seem too mainstream?
The answer to these questions,
Well, I don’t have a 12 year old…yet. I have an 8 year old, a 7 year old, and a 2 month old. For my first two children, I wrote them a letter that I wanted them to open on their 12th birthday. Since I didn’t have a blog back then, and frankly since I haven’t posted since May and needed some easy material, I wanted to post my newest letter. This is to my newborn, Dorothy. I hope it will encourage you and even be a potential resource for other dad’s who desire to leave the same legacy I’m shooting for.
Happy 12th birthday! I’m thankful for you. You have been a great blessing to our family. I’m writing this as you are a baby in your Continue Reading…
Shepherding what I call “Second Generation Christians,” children who show an affinity to the gospel in a home where parents are believers, is perhaps one of the greatest spiritual leadership challenges I face on a week-by-week basis. Were I to take a more “nurturing” stance on soteriology, I would really have no problems. You say you love Jesus? You want to live your life for him? Great! Let’s go for baptism and get you in the new believer’s class.
However, I think Scripture paints for us a stream of soteriology that is much more “conversionistic.” What I mean is that the gospel shows us the black and white nature of redemption. You are either children of wrath or lambs who hear his voice. You are either captured by the dominion of darkness or a citizen of the Kingdom of His beloved Son. You are either Continue Reading…
Greear, J.D. Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart: How to know for sure you are saved. Nashville: Holman. 2013. 128 pages.
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Salvation is not a prayer you pray in a one-time ceremony and then move on from; salvation is a posture of repentance and faith that you begin in a moment and maintain for the rest of your life. (p. 5)
Beginning with Greear’s own testimony and weaving his struggles of doubt through it, Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart, is an attempt to help believers understand that a true gospel response should bring certainty and a posture of faith and obedience. Borrowing heavily from his first book, Gospel, this short book works through the questions of what it means to be saved, what the gospel is, how repentance and faith are the proper response to the gospel, and touches on a couple of other issues like baptism and justification by faith.
One would say that Greear’s view of the gospel is highly individualistic, meaning that he emphasizes the gospel being in place for the saving of the person. I’m sure that Greear is more inclusive in his overall soteriology, but this book exemplifies that pigeon hole when he says the gospel can be summed up in four words: “Jesus in my place.” Greear never really touches on the gospel nuances of kingdom, restoration, or worship. This is, for the most part, a one-lens work.
Though, overall, I find this little book helpful and engaging, I would offer two levels of critique. I think Greear comes a bit short in helping the Americanized gospel message be more clear. Even in a more gospel-centric evangelical community, the word “gospel” is being thrown around so frequently these days that more needs to be said in this arena about presenting the message from a I Corinthians 15:3-4 context. I think Greear touches on that when he says, “Shorthand phrases for the gospel can serve a good purpose, insofar as everyone knows exactly what they mean,” but I’m afraid more could have been done in terms of clarifying the core tenants of the message which Paul calls “of first importance (I Cor. 15:3).
Secondly, even knowing Greear’s reformed perspective, I walked away from the book feeling like a case could be made for a “nurture” view of salvation. Typically, soteriology runs in two streams, one a more conversionistic stream, and the other a more nurturing stream, where one may claim being a Christian and “never knowing any different in their life. This is especially conspicuous in the section titled “Present Posture Is Better Proof than a Past Memory.” Although he says, “I don’t mean to imply that there is not a “point” of salvation or that salvation is something you grow into gradually over time,” his point seems to be muddied when speaking of people being raised in a Christian home coming to a point “where they realized they believed rather than one in which they decided to believe (45).” My question is, are we making a distinction without a difference here.
All in all, I think this can be a helpful read for someone struggling with doubt, but probably not helpful as a way to hash out a salvation theology. There are many things I appreciate about this book and a host of bold statements I’m glad Greear made. I would definitely put this in the hands of a student looking for assurance, a parent wanting to help diagnose their child’s spiritual condition, or a pastor wanting good salvation counseling material.
At our church, we take great care in teaching children the Bible and helping them to apply it to their lives. Something we added to our curriculum this year were additional objectives that help children gain skills in understanding the Bible. These objectives have also been designed to place key Bible “anchors” in a child’s heart that will serve their spirits for years to come. This is not an end-all or authoritative list, but we feel it complements our curriculum and purposes well. Here they are:
- Memorize the books of the New Testament
- Understand how the Bible is divided into books, chapters, and verses Continue Reading…