Thoughts of a Country Preacher

The Monday morning ruminations of a pastor.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Family Days

My parents and my wife’s parents live about fifteen minutes apart from each other. While some might think that this would make visits easier, it in fact makes them much more difficult. This means that when we come in for a visit, we have to visit them both, both families want us to eat with them, or go with them to someplace, and everything else. And quite honestly, there just are not enough hours in the day to make everyone happy. But over the years, we have learned how to strike as just of a balance as possible. This Saturday, we visited with both families – above you will find my father (John Jr.), reading to my son Jack (John IV), and my father in law Chuck balancing Jack on a cast iron Farmall tractor he restored for him.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Head'n Out

I was out of pocket last week, and as such there was no post – and I apologize for that. One week ago today I, my son, and my lovely wife left for our first vacation in five years, and yes we were ready for it. So, if you will allow me to, this week I will regale you with stories from our vacation. They will never make for a best seller, but they may be of some interest to my regular readers. So….

One week ago today, we set out on the first leg of our trip. Eldon to Festus, MO where we stayed the night with Andrea’s parents (because all great trips start with a stop at the inlaw’s, right?). Really, for us this was a great first leg. Andrea worked until 5, which would have made for a very late night had we tried to make it to Louisville. Plus, my parents live about 15 minutes away, so it gave both sets of grandparents the chance to spend some time with baby Jack.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Psalm 1

First, an apology. I have not been spending much time on my posts and I know it shows. However, within the next week or so it is my hope that several projects I have been working on for the past several months will be brought to fruition, allowing me to spend more time here (and just about everywhere else). But until then, please allow me to offer some words from the Psalmist.

Psalm 1:1-6 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. 3 He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers. 4 The wicked are not so, But they are like chaff which the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. 6 For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the wicked will perish.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Words to Ponder

"Conversion is a great and glorious work of God's power, at once changing the heart, and infusing life into the dead soul; though the grace then implanted more gradually displays itself in some than in others. But as to fixing on the precise time when they put forth the very first act of grace, there is a great deal of difference in different persons; in some it seems to be very discernible when the very time was; but others are more at a loss. In this respect, there are very many who do not know, even when they have it, that it is the grace of conversion, and sometimes do not think it to be so till a long time after. Many, even when they come to entertain great hopes that they are converted, if they remember what they experienced in the first exercises of grace, they are at a loss whether it was any more than a common illumination; or whether some other more clear and remarkable experience which they had afterwards, was not the first of a saving nature. The manner of God's work on the soul, sometimes especially, is very mysterious; and it is with the kingdom of God as to its manifestation in the heart of a convert…

There is a great difference among those who are converted, as to the degree of hope and satisfaction they have concerning their own state. Some have a high degree of satisfaction in this matter almost constantly: and yet it is rare that any enjoy so full an assurance of their interest in Christ that self-examination should seem needless to them; unless it be at particular seasons, while in the actual enjoyment of some great discovery God gives of his glory and rich grace in Christ, to the drawing forth of extraordinary acts of grace. But the greater part, as they sometimes fall into dead frames of spirit, are frequently exercised with scruples and fears concerning their condition.

They generally have an awful apprehension of the dreadful nature of a false hope; and there has been observable in most a great caution, lest in giving an account of their experiences, they should say too much, and use too strong terms. Many, after they have related their experiences, have been greatly afflicted with fears, lest they have played the hypocrite, and used stronger terms than their case would fairly allow of; and yet could not find how they could correct themselves.

I think the main ground of the doubts and fears that persons after their conversion have been exercised with about their own state, has been, that they have found so much corruption remaining in their hearts. At first, their souls seem to be all alive, their hearts are fixed, and their affections flowing; they seem to live quite above the world, and meet with but little difficulty in religious exercises; and they are ready to think it will always be so. Though they are truly abased under a sense of their vileness, by reason of former acts of sin, yet they are not then sufficiently sensible what corruption still remains in their hearts; and therefore are surprised when they find that they begin to be in dull and dead frames, troubled with wandering thoughts at the time of public and private worship, and utterly unable to keep them-selves from them. When they find themselves unaffected, while yet there is the greatest occasion to be affected; and when they feel worldly dispositions working in them - pride, envy, stirrings of revenge, or some ill spirit towards some person that has injured them, as well as other workings of indwelling sin-their hearts are almost sunk with the disappointment; and they are ready presently to think that they are mere hypocrites.

They are ready to argue that, if God had indeed done such great things for them, as they hoped, such ingratitude would be inconsistent with it. They complain of the hardness and wickedness of their hearts; and say there is so much corruption, that it seems to them impossible there should be any goodness there. Many of them seem to be much more sensible how corrupt their hearts are, than before they were converted; and some have been too ready to be impressed with fear, that instead of becoming better, they are grown much worse, and make it an argument against the goodness of their state. But in truth, the case seems plainly to be, that now they feel the pain of their own wound; they have a watchful eye upon their hearts, that they did not use to have.
They take more notice of what sin is there which is now more burdensome to them; they strive more against it, and feel more of its strength."

Monday, June 04, 2007

On the Theological Education of Our Children

There are not a lot of things in life that truly scare me. I’ve almost drowned (twice), I’ve been shot at, and I’ve had I don’t know how many near misses on the highways. Admittedly, I really don’t want to go through those things again, but I wasn’t super scared either. However, for the past several months, there has been a twenty-pound terror living in my house, my son, "baby" Jack. It’s not that he’s scary in and of himself – he’s actually a very mild mannered and well-behaved child. What’s scary is that I am responsible for him, responsible for his upbringing, and most of all, his spiritual education, and when I think of that, it scares me to the point of tears.
While I greatly appreciate how God has worked in my life, I do not want my son to grow up like I did. My faith tells me my life was providence, but to the casual observer it was a craps shoot. I accepted Christ when I was 5, and since neither of my parents were Christians, my spiritual growth was very hit and miss.

Parents should be very deliberate about their children’s spiritual training, and as I look at the years ahead, I honestly have very little idea about how to train up my child in "the way he should go." Since this topic has been on my mind lately, I’m hoping to share what I have come up with so far – and if anyone has any suggestions – by all means share them.

Stay Centered on the Bible
One aspect of my childhood that helped me tremendously was the fact that my Sunday School classes focused upon Bible stories from the Old and New Testaments. As such, later in life when I began to study the Bible deeper, I had a foundation of Bible knowledge and a healthy respect for its authority. Right now, I want to give Jack that same foundation. So, when I do my quiet times, I do them with him. In addition, when I do my studies for my sermons, I take Jack into my office and do them with him. It is my hopes that as time progresses, he learns important Biblical lessons. And most importantly, learn how to study the Bible himself.

Teach Them Theology
When I went to college, I had more than a few friends who grew up in church, only to abandon their faith after a short time in school. Why did this happen? Because in college their faith was challenged, and they were unable to answer those challenges. I don’t just want Jack to know the truth; I want him to know why it is the truth. Right now I’m reading Grudem’s Bible Doctrine to him. When I was younger I remember my father reading the Brother’s Grimm Fairy Tales to me, and to this day – despite the fact that it has been decades since last reading them – I still vividly remember how Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Little Red Riding Hood really went. Despite Walt Disney’s best attempts to make them as "G" as possible. Hopefully in the same way, young Jack will also recall Mr. Grudem’s lessons years from now, even if he strays from studying them himself.
I also plan on teaching him one of the old Baptist catechisms. I haven’t figured out which one I’ll use yet, or how exactly I’ll do it, but I do know that one must be careful with catechisms. I met a fellow once who taught his 3-year-old a catechism, and would often put him in front of crowds to recite it from memory. At first I was impressed, but then I realized that this kid was just parroting what his parents taught him – he very likely didn’t have a clue what it all meant. And that is the last thing I want for Jack, I want him to understand theology, not just repeat it.

The call to train a child in the ways of the Lord is a high calling, and many times I wonder if I am truly up to it. To further complicate things, I am the pastor of a small church with about a half dozen young families – all with children under the age of 5. These parents are looking to me for help in raising their children. To help them, I’m hoping to have a "Parenting 101" class in the next several weeks, but I will admit that I need help myself. If anyone out there has any good materials or ideas, please let me know.

Deuteronomy 6:4-7 4 "Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! 5 "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 "These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.

Disclaimer: I had a pastor who said that when he started pastoring, he had 4 sermons on raising kids & no kids himself. Today, he has 4 kids and no sermons on raising kids. As such, I reserve the right to amend, add to, and do whatever else as I learn more about parenting myself.

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