Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Blind Eye and a Deaf Ear

from Spurgeons Lectures to My Students, A Blind Eye and a Deaf Ear:

"To go about the congregation ferreting out disaffection, like a gamekeeper after rabbits, is a mean employment and is generally rewarded most sorrowfully. When nothing is to be discovered which will help us to love others we had better cease from the inquiry, for we may drag to light that which may be the commencement of years of contention. I am not, of course, referring to cases requiring discipline, which must be thoroughly investigated and boldly dealt with, but I have upon my mind mere personal matters where the main sufferer is yourself; here it is always best not to know, nor to wish to know, what is being said about you, either by friends or foes. Those who praise us are probably as much mistaken as those who abuse us, and the one may be regarded as a set off to the other, if indeed it be worth while taking any account at all of man's judgment. If we have the approbation of our God, certified by a placid conscience, we can afford to be indifferent to the opinions of our fellow-men, whether they commend or condemn. If we cannot reach this point we are babes and not men.

Some are childishly anxious to know their friend's opinion of them, and if it contain the smallest element of dissent or censure, they regard him as an enemy forthwith. Surely we are not popes, and do not wish our hearers to regard us as infallible ! We have known men to become quite enraged at a perfectly fair and reasonable remark, and regard an honest friend as an opponent who delighted to find fault; this misrepresentation on the one side has soon produced heat on the other, and strife has ensued. How much better is gentle forbearance ! You must be able to bear criticism, or you are not fit to be at the head of a congregation; and you must let the critic go without reckoning him among your deadly foes, or you will prove yourself a mere weakling. It is wisest always to show double kindness where you have been severely handled by one who thought it his duty to do so, for he is probably an honest man and worth winning. He who in your early days hardly thinks you fit for the pastorate may yet become your firmest defender if he sees that you grow in grace, advance in qualification for the work; do not, therefore, regard him as a foe for truthfully expressing doubts; does not your own heart confess that his fears were not altogether groundless ? Turn your deaf ear to what you judge to be his harsh criticism, and endeavor to be better."

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Standard of Christian Parenting

I turned my life over to Jesus when I was 24 years old, during my last year of college. I immediately sought out and joined a group that my dad had recommended years earlier called the Navigators.

That last year in Michigan, I mostly went to church by myself, and also went to the Navigators meetings. When we moved to South Florida, shortly before we were married, my wife, Laura, through her own journey of Faith Discovery also became a believer. At first, we went to Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale until we were led to our current church. (And anyone that knows us knows about the failed attempt at a church plant.)

Over the past decade, we've grown together in our Faith and Understanding of Jesus and His Mission. Through the good times and the bad. Interestingly, we seem to do the most growing during the bad times, when circumstances try to get the better of us.

When we turned 30, our biological clocks started ticking and we took seriously the idea of starting a family, though naive as to all that that would entail. Almost 4 years later, we were blessed with a little boy. This past year has been the hardest (economically) and also the greatest - emotionally, relationally, and spiritually - of our entire lives. This coming month, we are expecting a little girl, which I can imagine will only increase our joy exponentially.

We've both discussed the idea that, with only Grant by our side, at times, he seemed like a little side-kick. He was fun to have around, but not too much trouble. But with a little girl on the way, we are feeling more like a family. And we are seriously starting to lay down a plan on how we are going to raise them spiritually and practically.

For Christmas, my wife bought me a book called Revolutionary Parenting by George Barna - I wrote about it a few months ago. Obviously, I could kill myself reading a plethora of books about parenting, but I don't intend to.

Over the past decade, we've seen some great examples of parenting amongst some of the Christian friends that we've made. We cherry-picked some of their elements in order to form our own plan for raising our kids.

We've seen, first-hand, families that pray together every day, more than once a day even. We've seen families that engage their kids in discussions spanning Biblical and spiritual matters, as well as anything else that may be pertinent.

We knew one family, in particular, with six kids. The mother home schooled all six kids. At times, I would hear people at church criticize them for their lack of commitment to church or church activities. They were involved in church, but I think that people saw their potential for impact and were disappointed that they weren't more involved.

But now, with our own family forming, I think I can see more clearly the priorities of the "home-school" brood. With six kids and two adults, they were practically their own "small group". Let's face it, with that many kids, every day at home is basically a "cell church". Which makes me wonder. How many kids do you need to have, to take on that sort of function?

As we've discussed our plan for raising our children, we've both agreed that we are going to raise the standards by which we both were raised by our own parents. Having read Barna's recommendations for standards, I can't say that I would commit to all of the standards that he prescribes in his book. Not because I disagree with them on principle, but because I don't think that some of them are a realistic fit for our personalities and our family.

Also, as I've stated, there are some examples that we've seen first hand that we are definitely going to incorporate into our familial plan. Obviously, we never know what kind of curve balls God is going to throw at us, but we actually usually have a better batting average against curve balls anyways.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Standard for Christian Parenthood: a brief history.

I think that it is safe to say that I was raised in a Christian home environment, though that terminology is much too vague to really say much of anything. So I'll be more specific.

Our family went to church every Sunday. Our church was a few miles away, in the neighboring city. No one at our church went to the same school as me or lived near me, so mostly, I only saw them at church or at church-related activities.

My grandparents actually lived near the church, and more often than not, we'd go to their house for Sunday dinner after church. If I'm to understand correctly, they'd been going to this church for a long time. It was the same church that my father was raised in. According to my memory, there were usually about 100 people at service each week, maybe 250 on Easter or Christmas.

When I was younger, my dad actually led the youth group and I have a few associated memories of the teenagers being at our house or going along with whatever activity they were doing. By the time I was a teen, my dad was no longer involved in the youth group (I never quite understood this. You'd think it'd have been the other way around.)

My dad had quite a few "guy" buddies from church that would often come over to our house to hang out, work on the car, play a board game, or watch a football game. I don't ever remember my parents hanging out with other couples or other families, just the "guys".

He did a lot of reading. Over the years, he managed to build quite a library, especially for a non-pastor, blue collar factory worker. Though my dad read a lot of theological books, I think it was more of a personal thing for him. I don't remember many familial discussions involving us or my mom about my dad's thorough interest in theology and ecclesiology.

He listened to John Macarthur sermons on a regular basis, so we were exposed to this by sheer proximity. The only at-home aspect of my father's faith that I think he really went out of his way to include us was music. He made sure that we were involved in singing at church, with or without him. He also included us in his musical selections at home and abroad (while driving). We listened to a lot of worship music. Also Contemporary Christian Pop (80's) and even Contemporary Christian Rock (80's). We rarely listened to secular music - if we did, it was usually piano based (as he played the piano).

Occasionally, he would announce that we were going to start "praying together" before meals. This was always short lived. The only time that we were guaranteed to pray before a meal, was Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Also, he would occasionally announce that we were going to start "studying the Bible" together as a family. This would also be short lived.
Obviously, he wanted these things to happen, but I think he just didn't have the "stick-to-itediveness" to make these elements a regular part of our upbringing.

My mom always played the part of dutiful wife, and probably didn't have as much of a discernible impact on our family as a whole, though she obviously shaped my own personal character development much more so than my father.

When we moved, an hour south, to another part of Michigan, my father pretty much stopped going to church (for a few years). I never really knew why, but I have a theory. I think that upon leaving the church that he'd gone to for all of his life, he was kind of at a loss as to what to do next. He also had the precedent set already by his own father, who had simply stopped going to church late in his life. I think those few years out of church were a time of reevaluation for him. In retrospect, he clearly came out a more mature Christian who took his faith more seriously. It was actually kind of cool to watch my dad mature as a Christian during the last 10 years of his life - at least, from my point of view.

My mother, on the other hand, just found a new church right away and kept going each week. My brothers and I had one of two choices - keep going to church every week with mom, or use dad as an excuse to stay home from church. I've never asked my brothers how this season of my dad's affected them, but for me, it made it that much easier to let my upbringing fall by the wayside once I was off to college.

When I first arrived at college, I made a few pathetic attempts to get into a Bible group on campus, but the endeavor didn't last long and was soon forgotten.
In my next post, I'll address the Faith Journey that my wife and I began at the age of 24, just before we were married.

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