Salvation of Children

“58 came forward to be saved last night at vbs! praise God!” – Facebook post by a Friend

This post has rattled around in my head this week and I just can’t shake it. It is not that I do not want to be excited with and for my friend over these children, I do. However, in light of the study I have done getting ready to preach this last Saturday, I am not sure that these invitation-walk-the-aisle experiences are helping anyone. It is not that I think that children cannot be converted at a VBS or during any portion of childhood (God is God and He does what He pleases). The grave concern I have is that children understand salvation properly and I fear that often at things like VBS we are building on a foundation of emotion and not conviction.

I fear that we in the evangelical world have become so accustomed to the Charles Finney revivalism view of salvation (it goes something like this: walk to the front during the moving music after threats of eternal fire, pray a little prayer and HOCUS POCUS! You are now a “christian”) that even adults do not understand the true nature of the gospel and the choice it presents. In reading Luke 9:23-25 it is clear that the decision to follow Jesus is a serious, deep, life-altering commitment from which there is no turning back. This is a decision to follow Jesus no matter what, for the rest of your life. This is a decision to leave everything and everyone else behind if necessary and follow Jesus. If this is the decision that Jesus is asking for, it is reasonable to believe that a child is capable of understanding this decision, much less make such a choice?

Is a young child able to understand what it means to repent of your sin, daily, constantly? Are they able to properly understand what it truly means to confess Jesus as Lord? (Rom 10:9-10)

I am not saying that children can’t make such a commitment (I started my journey following Jesus at 5) but I am concerned that we often make it sound too much like saying magic words and not enough about Lordship and obedience. We focus the “gospel” on us and our felt needs instead of the truth that God commands all men everywhere to repent and believe. Salvation in its essence has little to do with actually saving me from hell and has everything to do with my acknowledgment of God’s rightful place as eternal and almighty God to whom all allegiance and honor is due. The gospel has as its heart the glory of God through the suffering of Jesus the Christ to present former rebels as adopted sons, not for their own sake or to met a need of God but rather to showcase the greatness of his own character and love.

I know nothing about how the group of believers at the VBS mentioned above presented the gospel. They may have done so with the greatest fidelity to the text of the New Testament. For me it was a reminder of the delicacy and patience needed to faithfully share the truth with these little ones. A call to remember that they need to be trusting in Jesus alone for their salvation, not in magic words or an emotional experience but in the quiet assurance that submitting your life to the King of Kings brings. It was a reminder to approach baptism of children and presenting the gospel to my own children with the utmost care. For how terrible would it be to give such precious ones false hope and assurances based on a simple repeated prayer instead on a sure understanding of Jesus work on the cross and submission to his will through repentance of sin and ongoing obedience.

London Baptist Confession – Week 1

1. The Holy Scriptures

1. The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and ¹infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience.

Although the ²light of nature and the works of creation and providence manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God so much that man is left without any excuse, they are not sufficient to provide that knowledge of God and His will which is necessary for salvation.³

Therefore it pleased the Lord at sundry times and in divers manners to reveal Himself, and to declare His will to His church;

– and afterward, for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the church, protecting it against the corruption of the flesh and the malice of Satan and the world,

– it pleased the Lord to commit His revealed Truth wholly to writing.4 Therefore the Holy Scriptures are most necessary, those former ways by which God revealed His will unto His people having now ceased.

12 Timothy 3:15-17; Isaiah 8:20; Luke 16:29, 31; Ephesians 2:20;

2Romans 1:19-21; Romans 2:14,15; Psalms 19:1-3;

3Hebrews 1:1;

4Proverbs 22:19-21; Romans 15:4; 2 Peter 1:19,20

Thoughts to ponder:

Could anyone looking at your life tell that the Bible is your final authority? How? or Why not?

Do you really believe that the Bible is completely sufficient for all of life? Could someone tell by watching you?

Father’s Day – Part 2

I posted this a couple of months ago after a conversation with my Papa and I can think of nothing more appropriate than to repost it today:

“I love you with all my heart” – simple words but they come with a lifetime of impact. I am not sure I can describe what hearing these words from my Grandfather means to me. He is the Patriarch of our family. A man who has, as best he knew how, led us as he has followed Jesus. A deep thinker with wisdom won from a less than perfect life lived in the constant awareness of the presence of Almighty God who was working even the terrible things in his life for his good and God’s glory. A man who at close to 50 uprooted his household to follow the leading of God into a 15 year ministry in one of the hardest areas of the country. Only to be abused, beat up, maligned, and slandered by those he was called to serve. All the while he loved them, served them, wept for them, prayed for them and guarded their souls. He is a man who has modeled to us Christ-like love and sacrificial servant leadership for his bride for over 50 years. He has been a father to the fatherless in our family. He has passionately loved and rejoiced in each child with which the Lord God has blessed our family. Some of my earliest memories are of Papa lifting high in the air each of the Grandchildren, smile on his face and his deep rumbling laughter rolling out of his big heart. From the “secret” good-bye rituals he taught each of us grandchildren to his attentive ear he was quick to give each of us, he has spent his life communicating to us we mattered, we were special to him and he loved us. Even when each of us have been our sinful-selves, he has loved us and prayed for us. He is a 3 John 4 kind of man.

3 John 4

4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

Lord, may I be a cause for Papa’s joy and not sorrow. Please allow me to maximize the impact of the godly heritage he is leaving us daily. May you give me wisdom not to squander the opportunities to learn from and be around him. Thank you for allowing me to be loved by such a godly man. In the might name of Jesus who is the Christ, Amen. 

Happy Father’s Day!

Father’s Day – Part 1

On this Father’s Day, it is only fitting to reflect on those God has called us to Honor (Exodus 20:12) and Obey (Eph 6:1-2). The ones to whom God entrusted us to raise our fathers.

For me, Father’s Day is always a bit bittersweet. Bitter because it brings me to reflect on what I have lost but Sweet because of the riches I gained by being the son of such a godly man.

Today brings to mind my Dad whom I still miss very much. He was a man’s man who loved his family with all of his heart. He taught my brother and I so very many things. He taught us what it looks like for a man to love his wife like Christ loves the church (Eph 5:25-33). He taught us what it looks like to be a one-woman-man (Titus 1:6). He taught us what it looked like to truly become one-flesh with your wife (Gen 2:24; Eph 5:31). (At their death my Papa said he had never seen two people he thought more closely resembled this truth than my parents. He said that they were so much apart of the other that they could not “make a sandwich with out the other one”. And he truly meant this as one of the highest complements he could give. What a heritage.)

He taught us that a real man cares more about others than his own interests (Phil 2:3-4). He taught us that one of the marks of a real man and father was sacrifice for those you love. (My shoes always were in better shape and newer than Dad’s because he would make sure everyone was taken care of and if there were funds left then and only then would he remotely entertain taking care of his needs. And even then it was only after he could not think of anything to lavish on my mother.) He taught me that there is nothing more important than a man’s responsibility to his family (1 Tim 5:8), not a career, not hobbies, not even church! (My dad resigned as a Deacon at our church because it began taking too much time from his training of my brother and I. Not that it mattered when he resigned, like any true servant he kept serving without the title – he was just free of the endless meetings.) He taught us that a real man sacrifices for his convictions.

He taught us how to think through and research jobs you did not know how to do and then tackle them to serve your family. He taught us how to work on cars and build well-houses (boy, my thumbs hurt just thinking about that one!). He taught us how to laugh and enjoy life (One of my favorite pictures is of him laughing and “getting it all over [him]self” as he often said).

He was a man that took seriously the Word of God and tried to guard his steps to walk therein. I watched him vigorously defend the truth, standing his ground no matter the opposition. I also watched him, once convicted of his sin by that same Word in the hands of another brother in Christ, repent in tears for sins both public and private.

He was a man to whom I paid far too little honor when he walked among men and whom I now miss greatly.

I have been so richly and truly blessed to have been his son and I pray that I can live faithfully – thereby honoring his labor and investment in my life which ultimately honors our Heavenly Father.

I love you Dad.

Oops!

Well, we had another sonogram last night to confirm what the tech saw about a week and a half ago when trying to determine the gender of our precious one and God laughed. Personally I believe he has been having a good chuckle at our situation since the last sono because for all of our wonderful technical gizmos and sophistication some things are still reserved for the mind of God.

As we all peered at the screen as the precious miracle came into view we noticed several things. First, as Mrs. Pauper had been reporting for about a week, this kid is busy! Our wonderful friend Lady J who does the sonograms had to really work to keep up with this child (Houston, I think we may be in trouble here!). Which is wonderful news as to the health of our baby but I think it spells the end of the nice quiet life of books and gentle spirited children in our home.

Second, as Lady J chased this kid and tried and tried to recreate the image she had seen more than a week ago she grew more and more perplexed. Each time she would frame the shot it began to look more and more like girl parts on the screen but since baby would not hold still she just assumed it was the angle or position hiding the telltale signs. However, after shot after shot seemed to show clearer and clearer images of an “inny” not an “outy” Lady J became crestfallen at this turn of events (we seem to be poised to ruin her perfect streak of gender identification on the first sono). By the end of the session she was now 90% sure we are having another precious daughter!

BUT she wants to do another sono in a week, JUST TO MAKE SURE!! ;o)

My Excellent Wife: Focus in the Midst of Chaos

“Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” Proverbs 31:29 (ESV)

Today was one off “Those Days” for Mrs. Pauper. I mean the kind that would leave even the most hearty among us a quivering gelatinous mass on the floor. From extended family issues to migraines and all of the details of life in between she had more than a full plate today. Which makes the scene that unfolded in our kitchen this evening even more remarkable.

I would have fully expected (and I even encouraged) her to take full advantage of my return from the office to take her leave and retire to her bed to sleep off the stress of the day and the migraine it induced. However, not only did she put the final touches on a batch of her famous (and “slap yo momma” delicious) chili but she also took time to bake cornbread while it was finishing. It was during the preparation of this added treat that I hear my wonderful bride in the kitchen teaching fractions to The Little Pauper using the measuring cups. As I hear this conversation from the other room, I could not decide what I was most thankful for or more amazed by: the fact that Mrs. Pauper is so devoted to the mission God has given her in life (raising warriors for the cross) that she refuses to let even the smallest opportunity escape to mold and shape our children OR the fact that every bit of what she did from 2pm today on was simply because she loved her family OR that she did all of it with her head splitting from pain that would make most of us turn into the worst drug-seeking crack-ho simply to stop the pain!

Did The Little Pauper walk out of the kitchen a fraction smashing genius? No, but a few more of the pieces fell into place and most importantly she walked away having participated with my wife as she modeled the attributes of a godly wife and mother. The Little Pauper once again heard and saw the importance of being a keeper at home (Titus 2:5) and watched firsthand as her Mom practiced sacrificial love.

What more could any godly husband and father ask for? I am truly most richly, undeservedly blessed beyond measure.

“He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.” Proverbs 18:22 (ESV)

The Thoughts of a 4 Year Old

After finding out this week that we are most likely having a baby boy this November The Little Pauper had much to think about. She had been proclaiming for the last week or so that she wanted a little sister and so this news left her with a bit of a dilemma. With much reflection by bedtime while they snuggled she told Mrs. Pauper that she truly was excited about having a brother.

“But” she said “is his name really going to be _____ something?”

To which my bride said, “Well, yes his name will be _____ something.”

This news greatly distressed The Little Pauper and she replied, “We are really going to call him ‘_____ SOMETHING!?!’ ”

And the light bulb come on, 2 separate conversations were going on here.

Oh the compassion of a big sister already concerned for her brother! I have to remind myself that for all of her moments of understanding which exceed her years she still is a concrete minded 4 year old. And such a precious, tender-hearted, blessing of one at that!