Church or Family: Who Develops Children?

(Photo by Martin Kníže on Unsplash)

A vital question that every parent and guardian must ask is, “Who is the primary spiritual director for my children?” The answer to that question will have profound impact on your daily life. Typically, we see two places, or institutions if you will, where the spiritual development of children takes place: the Church and the home.

The Church, of course, is the meeting place of the people of God. We will go with Edward Hiscox’s definition of what a Church is, “A Christian Church is a company of regenerate persons, baptized on a profession of faith in Christ; united in covenant for worship, instruction, the observance of Christian ordinances, and for such service as the gospel requires; recognizing and accepting Christ as their supreme Lord and Lawgiver, and taking His Word as their only and sufficient rule of faith and practice in all matters of conscience and religion.” (Edward T. Hiscox, Principles and Practices for Baptist Churches, page 20) Hiscox’s wordy definition includes with it the idea of teaching and instruction. One of the main functions of the Church, then, is to teach individuals about the doctrines and practices of a Christian. (For a thorough treatment on the subject of the Church, see James Bannerman’s classic work, The Church of Christ: A Treatise on the Nature, Powers, Ordinances, Discipline, and Government of the Christian Church. Not only does he provide a detailed look at the subject, but he also provides an enormous amount of Scripture.)

The home, according to Scripture, is the very first institution which God created (see Genesis 1:26-30). In God’s initial creation, humanity was to procreate and cultivate the earth. Along with those two goals, the communication of God’s revealed truth existed as well. Notice particularly, God’s command concerning the tree (see Genesis 2:15-17). This would have been vital to pass on to Adam and Eve’s children. When we enter into the time of Abraham we see a commendable description given by God. God acknowledges that Abraham would transmit God’s truth to his children (see Genesis 18:19). During the Mosaic Law the home was to be the primary place of spiritual development (see Deuteronomy 6:6-9). Even the New Testament addresses the role of the home in the development of the spiritual life (see Ephesians 6:4).

Now, there are two statements that we can deduce from these thoughts:

The Church is not the home. The home is not the church.

These two statements seem to be self-explanatory. Most people that I talk with agree with each statement, at least in theory. Practically speaking, however, we do not believe either statements.

Today, the statements would read more like this, The Church is primary place of the spiritual development of my children.

Now, parents and guardians generally believe they are the primary developers of their children’s faith (for more detailed information about this, check out Barna). There are several reasons that parents do not engage in this life-changing endeavor. That will be the topic of our article today.

  1. Parents and guardians do not feel adequate to develop their children spiritually.

    The research of Barna concludes, “The survey data indicate that parents generally rely upon their church to do all of the religious training their children will receive. Parents are not so much unwilling to provide more substantive training to their children as they are ill-equipped to do such work.” (Barna) Parents and guardians may not have received the training during their own childhood, so the practical side does not exist. Churches have failed to help train and educate parents and guardians to develop their home into a greenhouse for spiritual growth. Parents and guardians have failed to seek out opportunities to learn more about this as well.

  2. Parents and guardians see the Church as the institution to develop their children spiritually.

    We return to Barna’s research yet again. When I mentioned that in practice parents and guardians believe the Church is the primary institution the research backs this up. Consider the following, “Related research, however, revealed that a majority of parents do not spend any time during a typical week discussing religious matters or studying religious materials with their children. However, about two out of three parents of children 12 or younger attend religious services at least once a month and generally take their children with them. Most of those parents are willing to let their church or religious center provide all of the direct religious teaching and related religious experiences that their children receive.” (Barna)

    Did you catch that? “The majority of parents do not spend any time during a typical week discussing religious matters or studying religious materials with their children.” (emphasis mine) This statement, besides being incredibly sad, reveals the truth that parents and guardians do not see their role to develop their children spiritually. The Church has accommodated to this by creating different classes, groups, and activities.

  3. Families are too busy to develop their children spiritually.

    One of the aspects of our culture today (I am speaking of the culture of the US) is busyness. We are constantly on the go, active, productive. Consider this paragraph from research conducted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

    “Did you know that over the past 20 years, children’s free time for play and unstructured activities has declined by 12 hours per week? During that same period, time in structured sports has doubled, and passive, spectator leisure has increased 5 times, to over three hours per week. The impact this has had on families is profound: a 100% decrease in household conversations, a 33% decrease in family dinners, and a 28% decrease in families taking vacations.”

    In the past twenty years, free time has decline by 12 hours and structure activities have doubled. This, of course, has profound impact on the daily life of the family. If your child is involved in 3 or 4 extra-curricular activities, how will they have time to be educated in the truths of God? If you are involved with groups, book clubs, bowling, etc., every night of the week, how will you have time to educate your children in the truths of God?

These reasons are not exhaustive. They are also general in character. For example, a single mother working to provide for her children may not have a choice but to work extra hours in order to meet the needs of her family. I am discussing the family that consists of a father, mother, and one or more child.

 

In his book, Orange Essentials, Reggie Joiner notes the amount of time parents and guardians have with their children compared with the Church. He writes, “There are 8,760 hours in a year. The average parent has 3,000 hours in a given year to influence a life. The average church only has 40 hours in a given year to influence a life. (Reggie Joiner, Orange Essentials: Five Priorities for Building Faith in the Next Generation, pages 8-9)

Parents and guardians, do not shirk your responsibility to teach and train your children. The Church is a partner. We can work together for our children’s spiritual good. I have posted two other articles on how to conduct family worship. You can check them out here and here. This is the unique opportunity that God has given you.

How to Change the Life of Your Family: Part Two

In a previous post we looked at the biblical basis for Family Worship. It is my hope and prayer that you searched the Scriptures and found that God indeed wants our families to worship Him. Our God works through time, and as a result, history can become one of our greatest teachers. God thought history so important that much of the Old Testament, and a good deal of the New Testament, is recorded history.

Sometimes it is helpful to journey back through time and see how others lived. More importantly than cultural issues, our worship of God through our families is well-grounded in the history of the church. Tertullian and John Chrysostom, early church fathers, both believed and practiced the importance of Family Worship. Martin Luther, the Father of the Reformation, wrote, “Therefore such a house [in which family worship exists] is actually a school and church, and the head of the household is a bishop and priest in his house.” That is, the father is the ‘pastor’ of his ‘church’ (or home). Richard Baxter and Matthew Henry, both incredible men of God, were convinced that family worship was necessary for God’s glory. Jonathan Edwards, the greatest theologian produced by America, had this written about him, “Care for his children’s souls was, of course, his preeminent concern.” Edwards would ask his children age-appropriate questions about the Scriptures. Other men and women throughout history have invested in spiritual worship in their families.

I encourage you, as we work our way through the practical aspects of family worship in the future, to start praying and determining to begin Family Worship in your home. Make the care of your child’s soul your preeminent concern. Let it be said of us that, “I [God] have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice.” (Genesis 18:19)

How Worship Affects Everything

(Photo by Bryan Minear on Unsplash)

I recently finished Paul Tripp’s Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family. While I hope to provide a more in depth review of the book, today I want to focus our attention on one principle that jumped out to me. With the recent emphasis in the discussion of transgenderism, Teen Vogue’s article on anal sex, and the confusion surrounding human sexuality in general, I was again impressed with the relevancy of Scripture.

In the eleventh chapter, Tripp discusses the principle of ‘false gods.’ (Tripp, 2016) The principle is, ‘You are parenting a worshiper, so it’s important to remember that what rules your child’s heart will control his behavior.’ (Tripp, 2016)

The chapter develops how this principle fleshes out in our children. Tripp touches on a point that has profound implications: worship. He states, ‘Worship is a tricky word for most of us, because when we think of worship we tend to think of formal religion….But worship is not just a religious function; it is a human function. Worship is something everyone does every day.’ (Tripp, 2016)

Applying to our children, this enables us to understand why they do the things they do. Branching out from the focus on children, and this enables us to understand the state in which we find our country.

Think about it: we were made to be and are worshipers. Tripp wisely writes, ‘It’s the fact that we always live in service of something or that we always live in control of something.’ (Tripp, 2016) Why are individuals confused about their gender? (Let me state that there are some genuine issues underlying some instances of gender confusion and identity. I am discussing the willful abandonment of a gender at birth for the opposite gender.) Why are people desiring to be with the same gender, sexually? Why are magazines proving teenagers ages 12-17 how-to guides for anal sex? Because we are worshipers.

Paul, in his masterful work of the book of Romans, captures this truth exquisitely:

 ‘For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature;  and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.’ (ESV, 2007)

There are several points worth noting.

  • Rather than creation impressing God’s truth upon their hearts, their unrighteous acts suppress the truth.
  • These individuals knew God but rejected Him.
  • Because we are worshiping beings, our need to worship something still exists.
  • Our rejection of the worship of God results in the worship of creation, including humanity.

Our need to worship something does not dissolve with our failure to believe in God. As a result, we worship something or someone. How does this look like in our society?

We are confused about sexuality. We are worshiping ourselves, our good, our pleasure, when we step outside the God-ordained boundaries for sexual gratification. You see, sex is a good thing. God created it for our enjoyment as well as the natural means of increasing the population of the earth (see Genesis 1:28, 31; 2:24; Proverbs 5:15-19; and Hebrews 13:4). However, when we forsake worshiping the one true God, our worship moves to another, and in our society, sexual gratification is near the top.

We have “exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25, ESV). We have forsaken the worship of our Creator for us, the creature. If I choose to be another sex, then I change it, because my desire overrules even nature itself.

How does this understanding help us? In several ways:

  • It should cause us to have an enormous amount of grace with each other.

    If God made us to worship Him, and by our nature we avoid Him (see Romans 1:18-25 and 3:10-20), then it is only the incredible grace of Jesus that changes us (see Ephesians 2:8-9). Those who receive grace should be the most gracious, as we know the depths of our sin and the absolute wonders of His grace. That means we should be patient, kind, and loving. 1 Corinthians 13, the ‘love chapter’, details how the grace of Jesus should look in our lives. Are we sharing grace with one another?

  • It should help us understand why people do the things they do.

    I have heard people say, ‘How can they do that? What are they thinking?’ They (and we too) do it because they were meant to worship! They (and we too) were created by a gracious Father to spend our lives in awe and service to Him. By the fall, they (and we too) ignored the truth of creation that should lead us to the Creator and instead place ourselves on the throne of sovereign rule. They (and we too) seek to serve their god, themselves. Whether that means we change our sexual identity, our sexual orientation, or even the ages when we offer advice for sexual acts, we worship something. In our interactions with others, knowing why they do certain things can help us minister from a position of knowledge rather than stupidity.

  • It should help us understand our own false worship.

    Sexual sins are not the only expression of our need to worship. Our jobs, positions, titles, money, rest, people, television, mobiles, and much more are all expressions of our need to worship. The question is not, “Do I worship sex? (or insert any other thing)” The question is, “Do I worship God and God alone (see Deuteronomy 6:4-5)?” It is so easy to see the splinter in our brothers and sisters eyes and completely ignore the telephone pole in our own (see Matthew 7:1-5).

  • It should help us to pray.

    God desires to restore Creation (see Romans 8:18-25 and Revelation 21-22). In fact, it was the motivation for Jesus’ incarnation (see Ephesians 1:3-10 and Colossians 1:15-20). Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). It is God’s desire to restore everything so that it will once again be ‘very good’ (see Genesis 1:31). We, as recipients of this incredible grace, should pray for others. We, who experienced the bondage of sin and Satan, should zealously pray for those within it and his grasp. Our hearts should ache with a desire to be tools to help place the God who deserves all worship into the hearts of those who are failing to worship their Creator.

It always amazes me, though it should not, just how relevant the Scriptures are. It also amazes me just how depraved we (I am in the list too!) are. Finally, I am overwhelmed at the grace of our Lord, who ‘shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ (Romans 5:8, ESV)

There are several good resources that are available if you wish to discuss this matter further.

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary provides a good article discussing Teen Vogue’s deplorable post.

For a good discussion on the topic of transgender, see Samuel James’ article on the Gospel Coalition.

Finally, check on the Christian Post’s article. You’ll find some helpful discussion there as well.

 

How to Change the Life of Your Family

(Cover Photo by Ben White on Unsplash)

Family Worship

What is family worship? Family worship is a family gathering together to read God’s Word, sing His praise, and pray. Jerry Marcellino, author of Recovering the Lost Treasure of Family Worship, suggests the easy-to-remember Scripture, supplication, and song.

I want to share with you the biblical necessity of family worship. In the future, we will look at family worship throughout Church history, issues related to family worship, and finally some helpful suggestions toward that end.

I would also like to recommend heartily Donald S. Whitney’s book, Family Worship. This book is concise (it is only 67 pages), but extremely helpful in providing a biblical and historical foundation for family worship. I will review another book in the future involved with family worship. It is Catechizing Our Children by Terry L. Johnson.  It is a short book as well, but the content is priceless.

To begin with, family worship lives in Scripture. In Genesis 18:17-18 we read, “The LORD said, ‘Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he had promised him.’”

Did you catch that? “…that he may command his children and household…to keep the way of the LORD.” That is family worship. Alternatively, how about Deuteronomy 6:4-9? We read, “’Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, 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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.’” Moses, at the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, lists out almost every aspect of family life. The households of the ancient Israelites thrived with family worship.

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Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

What does the New Testament have to say about family worship? Paul, the famous apostle and incredible missionary, has much to say on the subject. In Ephesians 5:25-29 Paul connects the role of the husband and wife with the role of Christ and the Church. One aspect that I would like to highlight is in verse 26, “that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word…” with verse 28, “in the same way husbands should love their wives…” The husband, according to Paul, has the privilege and responsibility to provide the spiritual leadership in the home. This aligns perfectly with his exhortation in Ephesians 6:4, where Paul writes, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” The father instructed his children in God’s ways.

Why should we engage in family worship? Because Scripture, which is given for our spiritual well-being, is saturated with it. Don Whitney writes, “…more importantly, God deserves to be worshiped daily in our homes by our families.” (Whitney, 14)

For Donald S. Whitney‘s book, check out Crossway.

For Terry L. Johnson‘s book, check out The Banner of Truth.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.

Complementarianism Revisited

Families are essential part of society, and even more so of the Church. God created the family and uses it to teach the Gospel. We begin on the foundation of these two truths:

  • God created families- see Genesis 2:15-25
  • God uses the husband and wife relationship to teach the Gospel- see Ephesians 5:22-33

I love to study. Whether it is theology or not, I enjoy learning new things. I love contemplating deep thoughts as well. But one of the aspects of my personality is a drive for practicality. How will this change my life? And as a follower of Jesus, I want to know how this can help me love God more and love my fellow neighbors more?

With this background understanding, I studied the different viewpoints on the husband-wife relationship. In my studies, specifically of the family, I came across a different viewpoint from which I was taught. I attended a small Bible college, and though the name complementarian was not used, a form of it was taught. I think, in general, the view held by this institution and churches associated with it, it was more a radical approach. Perhaps an illustration will be helpful. The husband comes home after a long day at the office. He is tired, wearied by the day’s work. As a result, he desires to come home, sit down in his favorite rocking chair, and eat in silence while he watches the television. Thus his wife is to prepare the meal, have everything prepared for him, and keep the children quiet while the husband unwinds. Whenever the husband desires to have sex, the wife is not to deny him on the basis of 1 Corinthians 7:1-5. This king-of-the-castle approach to marriage is how I was taught the roles of marriage. During my time at this institution (as well as my interactions with other churches) I saw both positive marriages and marriages that functioned to the illustration above.

One thing I came to believe is that there had to be a better way. Why? Because the verse often left out was Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, as Chris loved the church and game himself up for her.” There was this lack of self-sacrificing love from the views of marriage taught by the institution and accompanying churches. As a result, and much to my own blame, I began to seek the opposite view: egalitarianism.

Egalitarianism is the belief of equality in marriage. The husband does not have any specific role to play, nor does the wife. If the wife decides to be the leader, she can be. Likewise with the husband. There are several passages of Scripture that those who teach egalitarianism utilize. Perhaps the most significant one is Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

So, I was taught a radical form of complementarianism, moved to egalitarianism, and am slowly making my way back to a biblical view of complementarianism.

How in the world did this happen?

To begin with, I love to study! You may be thinking, “Didn’t I just read that?” Yes, you did. But it is a matter of importance, the significance of which cannot be overstated. Because I desire to study and seek what Scripture states, I desire to be accurate, to achieve truth. Scripture is an open book, given by God for His glory and our good (see Deuteronomy 29:29). In the effort to be brief, I will provide bullet-points of the most significant reasons for this new transition.

  • Complementarianism pictures the Gospel in Marriage in a way that Egalitarianism cannot.
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    The role of husband and wife has the specific purpose of illustrating the love Jesus has for His Church (see Ephesians 5:29, 32). Complementarianism allows for the unique beauty, worth, and significance of both the husband and wife. Simultaneously, it also allows the headship of the husband (a picture of the headship of Christ) and the submission of the wife (a picture of the submission of the Church to Christ) without debasing either. Certainly, an abuse of the roles is contrary to Scripture as well as a distortion of the Gospel. Egalitarianism, however, is unable to paint the same picture. Mutual submission, yes. And this can be seen in Ephesians 5:21. But mutual submission cannot be a picture of the Gospel, and therefor complementarianism lends itself to the more biblical view.

  • Complementarianism, when properly practiced, is a picture of the Gospel in your home, community, and church.

    Because God ordained marriage between husband and wife to be the living picture of His incredible grace, it is used by God to reach others. I think about my children and hope that the love my wife and I share lead them to God. Our communities, constantly debating what marriage is or how one should define a family, need the rock of certainty found within the family as the Gospel. The Church, the “pillar and buttress of the truth” ( 1 Timothy 3:15), is to be the body of Christ (Romans 12:5, 1 Corinthians 12:12-27). That is, the Church is the Gospel Living. Egalitarianism is a reflection of our society more than of the Gospel. Certain aspects of it are appealing. That is why I was and still drawn to it. I love the teamwork atmosphere. However, Egalitarianism does not picture the Gospel in the way that Complementarianism does.

  • Complementarianism enjoys the breadth of Scriptural support.

    This one is a little more difficult, and one that I am in the process of working through. Scripture is written to individuals in specific places at specific times. The world of Scripture was a heavily male-dominated society. Today we enjoy more equality, with women enjoying many aspects of life previously unattainable. However, something must be said that it is within those times that God decided to provide His truth. From Genesis to Revelation, Scripture consistently places the husband as the head (please note head and not king) of the home. The issues faced by many who object to complementarianism (myself included) are not issues with God’s views, but mankind’s execution of it. The fact that Scripture solely functions within the complementarian view is astounding and must weigh heavily in our understanding.

So where does this leave us? Perhaps I will put together a small series on the topic. Either way, I am constantly thinking, constantly searching the Scriptures. Let us, as we search the Scriptures, seek God’s wisdom on every issue. Likewise, let us seek to practice the Scripture as God intended.

 

To Hell and Back: How Far Does Jesus Go for Us

In my recent preparation for a sermon in Hebrews, I came across a unique phrase that required further study. The verse is Hebrews 2:14. It reads, “Now since the children share in blood and flesh, he likewise shared in them, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil…” (NABRE)

Now, the phrase at once raises the question, “Does Satan have power over death?” The answer to that question, is “Yes and No.”

Take, for example, Psalm 90:3, “You turn humanity back into dust, saying, ‘Return, you children of Adam!’” G-d has the power of death, not Satan. Or Matthew 10:28, where Jesus warns us to fear his Father, and not human villains. He states, “And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” In a way, then, Satan does not possess power over death.

Yet we have read the verse in Hebrews. Is this a contradiction? Absolutely not!

Scripture, when taken in whole, shows us that Satan is a tool of God. David Allen, a professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, writes, “It is because he was the instigator of sin through his temptation of the first couple in the garden. God, not Satan, holds the ultimate power of death, ‘but the power which he presently wields is also the power by which he is destroyed.’” [David Allen, The New American Commentary: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture, Hebrews page 219.] In his large work solely on the topic of the Devil, Paul Carus comments, “It is noteworthy that Satan, in the canonical books of the Old Testament, is an adversary of man, but not of God; he is a subject of God and God’s faithful servant.”

Now, in my preparation for the sermon, I began (and still am) looking into Satanology, the study of Satan. We must, when dealing with a subject as grave and dangerous, I believe balance is a key. For example, Paul states that we are not ignorant of Satan’s purposes (see 2 Corinthians 2:11), but we must also seek to be simple concerning evil (see Romans 16:11).

I endeavor, then, to keep these two admonitions in balance. As I stated, I have been researching (and continue to do so) the teachings of Scripture on Satan. Carus’s section, addressing the views of the Devil in early Christian quotes, at length, two chapters of the Gospel of Nicodemus.

Here it is,

1 Quarrel between Satan and the prince of hell concerning the expected arrival of Christ in hell.

WHILE all the saints were vv rejoicing, behold Satan, the prince and captain of death, said to the prince of hell, 1

2 Prepare to receive Jesus of Nazareth himself, who boasted that he was the Son of God, and yet was a man afraid of death, and said,  2 My soul is sorrowful even to death.

3 Besides he did many injuries to me and to many others; for those whom I made blind and lame and those also whom I tormented with several devils, he cured by his word; yea, and those whom I brought dead to thee, he by force takes away from thee.

4 To this the prince of hell replied to Satan, Who is that so-powerful prince, and yet a man who is afraid of death?

5 For all the potentates of the earth are subject to my power, whom thou broughtest to subjection by thy power.

6 But if be be so powerful in his human nature, I affirm to thee for truth, that he is almighty in his divine nature, and no man can resist his power.

7 When therefore he said be was afraid of death, he designed to ensnare thee, and unhappy it will be to thee for everlasting ages.

8 Then Satan replying, said to the prince of hell, Why didst thou express a doubt, and wast afraid to receive that Jesus of Nazareth, both thy adversary and mine?

9 As for me, I tempted him and stirred up my old people the Jews with zeal and anger against him?

10 I sharpened the spear for his suffering; I mixed the gall and vinegar, and commanded that he should drink it; I prepared the cross to crucify him, and the nails to pierce through Ibis hands and feet; and now his death is near at hand, I will bring him hither, subject both to thee and me.

11 Then the prince of hell answering, said, Thou saidst to me just now, that he took away the dead from me by force.

12 They who have been kept here till they should live again upon earth, were taken away hence, not by their own power, but by prayers made to God, and their almighty God took them from me.

13 Who then is that Jesus of Nazareth that by his word hath taken away the dead from me without prayer to God?

14 Perhaps it is the same who took away from me Lazarus, after he had been four days dead, and did both stink and was rotten, and of whom I had possession as a dead person, yet he brought him to life again by his power.

15 Satan answering, replied to the prince of hell, It is the very same person, Jesus of Nazareth.

16 Which when the prince of hell heard, he said to him, I adjure thee by the powers which belong to thee and me, that thou bring him not to me.

17 For when I heard of the power of his word, I trembled for fear, and all my impious company were at the same time disturbed;

18 And we were not able to detain Lazarus, 1 but he gave himself a shake, and with all the signs of malice, he immediately went away from us; and the very earth, in which the dead body of Lazarus was lodged, presently turned him out alive.

19 And I know now that he is Almighty God who could perform such things, who is mighty in his dominion, and mighty in his human nature, who is the Saviour of mankind.

20 Bring not therefore this person hither, for he will set at liberty all those whom I hold in prison under unbelief, and bound with the fetters of their sins, and will conduct them to everlasting life.

CHAP. XVI.

1 Christ’s arrival at hell-gates; the confusion thereupon. 10 He descends into hell.

AND while Satan and the prince of hell were discoursing thus to each other, on a sudden there was a voice as of thunder and the rushing of winds, saying,  2 Lift up your gates, O ye princes; and be ye lift up, O everlasting gates, and the King of Glory shall come in.

2 When the prince of hell heard this, he said to Satan, Depart from me, and begone out of my habitations; if thou art a powerful warrior, fight with the King of Glory. But what hast thou to do with him?

3 And he cast him forth from his habitations.

4 And the prince said to his impious officers, Shut the brass gates of cruelty, and make them fast with iron bars, and fight courageously, lest we be taken captives.

5 But when all the company of the saints heard this they spake with a loud voice of anger to the prince of hell:

6 Open thy gates that the King of Glory may come in.

7 And the divine prophet David, cried out saying,  3 Did not I when on earth truly prophesy and say, O that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men.

8 For he hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder. He hath taken them because of their iniquity, and because of their unrighteousness they are afflicted.

9 After this another prophet, 4 namely, holy Isaiah, spake in like manner to all the saints, did not

I rightly prophesy to you when I was alive on earth?

10 The dead men shall live, and they shall rise again who are in their graves, and they shall rejoice who are in earth; for the dew which is from the Lord shall bring deliverance to them.

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11 And I said in another place, O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?

12 When all the saints heard these things spoken by Isaiah, they said to the prince of hell, 1 Open now thy gates, and take away thine iron bars; for thou wilt now be bound, and have no power.

13 Then there was a great voice, as of the sound of thunder saying, Lift up your gates, O princes; and be ye lifted up, ye gates of hell, and the King of Glory will enter in.

14 The prince of hell perceiving the same voice repeated, cried out as though he had been ignorant, Who is that King of Glory?

15 David replied to the prince of hell, and said, I understand the words of that voice, because I spake them by his spirit. And now, as I have above said, I say unto thee, the Lord strong and powerful, the Lord mighty in battle: he is the King of Glory, and he is the Lord in heaven and in earth;

16 He hath looked down to hear the groans of the prisoners, and to set loose those that are appointed to death.

17 And now, thou filthy and stinking prince of hell, open thy gates, that the King of Glory may enter in; for he is the Lord of heaven and earth.

18 While David was saying this, the mighty Lord appeared in the form of a man, and enlightened those places which had ever before been in darkness,

19 And broke asunder the fetters which before could not be broken; and with his invincible power visited those who sate in the deep darkness by iniquity, and the shadow of death by sin.

(this is reproduced from http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/lbob/lbob10.htm accessed 23 June 2017)

This Gospel of Nicodemus is not canonical, and thus has no authority to provide us with any teachings on the truth. However, when coupled with Paul’s mysterious description of Jesus’s actions during his death, it provides a possible outlet of what Jesus was doing. Paul writes, “He ascended on high and took prisoners captive; he gave gifts to men.” (Ephesians 4:8). This is a quote from Psalm 68:19, where David writes, “You went up to its lofty height; you took captives, received slaves as tribute.” Jesus, as the Apostles’ Creed informs us, “descended into hell”. It is, as Mary Healy so beautifully expresses, “The great paradox is that Jesus conquered death through death—not by escaping it but by experiencing it, destroying death from within.” [Mary Healy, Hebrews, page 65]

Jesus went to hell and back for us.jez-timms-207948

There really is no end of his love; it is a sweet and fragrant flower, always blooming. May we relish, nay, worship Jesus for the great love wherewith he loves us.

 

3 Tips for Avoiding Comparison

Introductory Thoughts

In 2 Corinthian 10:12 Paul writes, “Not that we dare to class or compare ourselves with some of those who recommend themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” (NABRE)

Comparing ourselves happens to us all. If you are a businesswoman, you may compare your dress to another. If you are mechanic, you may see your tools as old and dirty compared to another’s. A student may compare their aptitude for learning with another. A pastor may compare his congregation to another’s. The list could go on and on forever. We are all constantly being tempted with comparing ourselves with others.

I am reminded of James 1:14. In his letter to the “twelve tribes of the dispersion” (1:1) James provides a brief look at temptation. He states, “Rather, each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” (NABRE) This desire is fueled when we are lured and enticed. It is, in fact, when we see other possibilities that our desires are ignited. For a biblical example, see the interaction between Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:1-7.

Now, why bring all of this up? I recently read an article from The Banner of Truth magazine about a puritan preacher by the name of Thomas Boston. He was expounding on Romans 8:18, focusing on the suffering that we endure. Mr. Brooks refers to it as “crooks”. [Ian Hamilton, “The Crook in the Lot”, The Banner of Truth (April 2017, Issue 643), 2.]

These crooks are “unforeseen troubles (‘thorns’) that afflict, unsettle, or disturb us in any way.” [Ian Hamilton, “The Crook in the Lot”, The Banner of Truth (April 2017, Issue 643), 1.]movus-munay-52406

If you are still reading and wondering, “What does this have to do with comparing ourselves?” Hang on! It is coming. One final reference to Mr. Boston’s work. The difficulty of facing different crooks is that we see others and belief that they do not experience the same strains that we do. I provide Mr. Hamilton’s lengthy quote,

“It is one of the devil’s stratagems to try to persuade us that other people don’t have the crooks in their lot that we have. Comparisons truly are odious. You and I never really know what is going on in the lives of others (we barely know what is going on most of the time in our own lives!).” [Ian Hamilton, “The Crook in the Lot”, The Banner of Truth (April 2017, Issue 643), 2.]

So here they are…

3 Tips for Avoiding Comparisons

Tip #1- Avoid looking at the best of others’ lives

One of the sad repercussions of social media is the furthering of FOMO (fear of missing out). karl-fredrickson-34579.jpgThe negative result of seeing the best and happiest of times in others is that we believe our lives to be boring, or drab. The same can be said of clothing. When we post a selfie we are wearing our best clothes, or our hair is just right. Or our homes, jobs, school, etc. Or we see those Pintrest projects and try to emulate them, and the results are disasters.

The danger of this is that we don’t actually see what is going on behind the scenes! For example, if I post a picture of my beautifully children smiling and happy, you don’t see the struggles to get them to stay still, smile, and do it together. Often, when we carry this thought process through, it prevents us from making the comparisons of our imperfect lives with those of the picture-perfect lives of others.

 

Tip #2- Avoid forgetting about their problems

Along the same lines of tip number one, this tip requires empathy from us. As we look at the pictures, or hear the stories of others, one important aspect is that we remember people are going through similar issues, as are we. The fact is that others are going through difficult circumstances, and it is not a normal matter for us to provide everyone a recourse of the sorrows and struggles in our lives.

Taking a moment to contemplate the complications in others’ lives helps us from comparing ourselves with others.

Tip #3- Avoid looking at others

This tip may require a little more sacrifice on our behalf. Simply avoid opportunities to look at others! Perhaps an example will prove helpful. I really enjoy Facebook and Twitter. I love finding out about others’ lives, what is happening at various institutions, and keeping up with families who live at great distances. One thing about using these mediums is that it gives fuel to our comparing fires. Simply saying “no” to them prevents us from seeing only the positives in the lives of others.

The same can be said of going shopping. When we do not see all the clothing that we do not own, we don’t compare nearly as much. We also become more thankful for the clothing we do have!

Concluding Thoughts

So, how are we doing? Do we find ourselves comparing ourselves with others? Spend a few minutes and begin implementing these tips, and enjoy the freedom and peace that comes along with it.