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GPS – A Light to the Gentiles

GPS – A Light to the Gentiles

by Rick Shrader

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Mary and Joseph had brought the child Jesus to the temple at Jerusalem to be presented and redeemed as the first-born, with a sacrificial offering of the poor. This first month had been full of amazing events surrounding the birth of this Savior-child. Angelic appearance and announcement had been made; shepherds had given word that they would find the babe in Bethlehem; wise men from the Orient had come with expensive gifts; Cousin Elizabeth and Zacharias had given inspired verse concerning Jesus; and awfully, king Herod had ordered the death of young male children hoping to destroy any personal rival.

Yet, knowing the danger of bringing the child to Jerusalem, Mary and Joseph desired to keep the law of God at the house of God. Here they would find two more heaven-sent visitors, the last of the inspired testimonials, two senior saints waiting for the promise of seeing the Lord’s Messiah. Anna, one of only four Old Testament prophetesses, lived within the temple walls due to her “great age.” She had no doubt married at fifteen or sixteen years of age, had lived with her husband only seven years, and had remained a widow for eighty-four years. She did not leave the temple area but spent her centenarian years in “fasting and prayers night and day.” The Lord had graciously revealed to her that she would see the redemption of Israel before she died. And having seen Jesus, she “spoke of Him to all those who looked for the redemption in Jerusalem.”

Simeon was more able to travel from without the temple area. He was also “just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel.” Being guided by the Holy Spirit, he came into the temple area as Joseph was presenting Jesus to the priest according to the law. Not being a prophet himself, “it had been revealed to him that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” And so upon being led to the child, and interrupting the lawful ritual, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said:

Lord, now You are letting your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all people, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.

The redemption for which Anna looked, and the consolation revealed to Simeon, the “glory of your people of Israel,” will eventually come when this Child reigns on David’s throne in this very city of Jerusalem as the angelic host had proclaimed, “on earth peace, good will toward men.” But Luke’s greater point, and the blessing to us at this Christmas time, is that this Child would be a light to the Gentiles. This light is said to come first and then will come the glory to Israel. Though the Jews of that day crucified their Messiah, it is the Gentiles who will respond in faith to the light of the gospel. Luke will later record Peter’s words, “God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life” (Acts 11:18).

 

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!

Hail the Sun of Righteousness!

Light and life to all He brings,

Ris’n with heal – ing in His wings.

Mild He lays His glory by,

Born that man no more may die,

Born to raise the sons of earth,

Born to give them second birth.

Hark! The herald angels sing,

“Glory to the new – born King.”

 

Book Review

Various Statements Defining Marriage

We will take time from our normal book reviews to give some recent statements about the definition of marriage. These are in direct contrast to the U.S. Senate’s “Respect for Marriage Act,” passed November 27, 2022, which undermines all respect for biblical marriage.

Elisabeth Elliot: “God might have given Adam another man to be his friend, to walk and talk and argue with if that was his pleasure. But Adam needed more than the companionship of the animals or the friendship of a man. He needed a helper, specially designed and prepared to fill that role. It was a woman God gave him, a woman, ‘meet,’ fit, suitable, entirely appropriate for him, made of his very bones and flesh.” Let Me Be a Woman, 13

Andreas Köstenberger: “Equality and distinctness, complementarity and submission/authority must be held in fine balance. The man and the woman are jointly charged with ruling the earth representatively for God, yet they are not to do so androgynously or as ‘unisex’ creatures, but each as fulfilling their God-ordained, gender-specific roles.” God, Marriage, and Family, p. 26

Albert Mohler: “God enshrined in the marriage union the concept of complementarianism, which upholds the equal dignity of man and woman as both created in the image of God but complementing one another through different gender roles.” The Gathering Storm, p. 69.

John Stott: “Marriage is an exclusive heterosexual covenant between one man and one woman, ordained and sealed by God, preceded by a public leaving of parents, consummated in sexual union, issuing in a permanent mutually supportive partnership, and normally crowned by the gift of children.” “Marriage and Divorce.”

Christopher Ash: “Marriage is the voluntary sexual and public social union of one man and one woman from different families. This union is patterned upon the union of God with his people his bride, the Christ with his church. Intrinsic to this union is God’s calling to lifelong exclusive sexual faithfulness,” Marriage, p. 211.

Kevin DeYoung: “Marriage must be, and can only be, between a man and a woman, because marriage is not just the union of two persons but the reunion of a complementary pair.” Men and Women in the Church, p. 30

John MacArthur: “Families are the building blocks of human society, a society that does not protect the family undermines its very existence. When the family goes, anarchy is the logical outcome.” Divine Design, p. 65.

Statistics

“A Growing share of Americans see the Supreme Court as friendly toward religion” says a November, 2022 Pew Research poll.

“Although growing shares across a range of religious and demographic groups say the court is friendly toward faith, groups vary in the extent to which they feel this way. About half of religiously unaffiliated (51%) and Jewish (53%) adults in the new survey say they believe the court is friendly toward religion, while a much smaller share of Christians (27%) say the same. Self-described atheists are especially likely to view the Supreme Court as friendly toward religion: 74% now say this, up sharply from 43% a few years ago. A majority of Christians (57%), meanwhile, say the Supreme Court is neutral toward religion.”

A Quotable Quote

“What marvelous grace we behold in that wondrous descent from heaven’s throne to Bethlehem’s manger! It had been an act of infinite condescension if the One who was the Object of angelic worship had deigned to come down to this earth and reign over it as King; but that He should appear in weakness, that He should voluntarily choose poverty, that He should become a helpless Babe—such grace is altogether beyond our ken; such matchless love passeth knowledge. O that we may never lose our sense of wonderment at the infinite condescension of God’s Son.” Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, p. 41.

On the Lighter Side

Two young boys were spending the night at their grandparents’ house the week before Christmas. At bedtime, the two boys knelt beside their beds to say their prayers. The younger one began praying at the top of his lungs, “I PRAY FOR A NEW BICYCLE…I PRAY FOR A NEW NINTENDO…” His older brother leaned over and said, “Why are you shouting? God isn’t deaf,” to which the little brother replied, “No, but Grandma is!”

 

GPS – Four Phases of Parenting

GPS – Four Phases of Parenting

by Rick Shrader

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Life is a long time. That’s what I’ve said to my children as they planned to marry. Life is a short time. That’s what I think when I look back over married life. The periods of parenting are like a telescope that keeps opening and stretching into long and thankful years. These stages each have their own developing stages.

Pre-Parenting

Being single is that time of anticipation and seeking God’s will. Some remain single for life (1 Cor 7:7) and singleness can be a devoted life. Most will become engaged and marry. This is a time to be choosy and longsuffering. Marriage is a covenant among a man, a woman, and God. The newlywed stage comes quickly and is a time for building the home to seek and honor God, a time for husband and wife to arrange the home to last a life-time.

Parenting

Children come and the home transitions from quiet and orderly to noisy and exciting. Life begins at conception and the announcement of a new family member is a wonderful time. The growing years follow quickly from infants to toddlers to kindergartners. Mother and father are putting their parenting philosophy to the test, training up a child in the way he should go, bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, leading them to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, hearing their witness and watching their baptism. The teenage years can be glad and rewarding if the earlier years have been honoring to God but they aren’t easy. They are busy and stressful and prayerful. Young adults who love the Lord are worth all the tired and sleepless nights. Still, one by one they leave and start their own families.

Post-Parenting

There is that odd time when the house seems so empty, between the hustle and bustle of students to the empty-nest of reflection. Parenting is supposed to be a temporary job. You raised them to do this whole process again themselves. You can wait for the grandchildren because in the meantime your children need you to be godly examples of the home they are trying to build in God’s will. They will parrot your earlier instructions, they will call and seek your godly advice on life’s matters, they will face new and odd challenges from their own generation, and, most important of all, they will need parents who pray and whose prayer avails much.

Grand-Parenting

Life begins again, it becomes grand, when you see your children’s children. You are the proud onlooker who now vividly witnesses what life is all about, how God has designed it to multiply and have dominion as believers in a sinful world. All of your effort is now more than worth it. You will be the gray-champion for a while because those little feet come running to you and you gladly gather them into your arms. But you will soon have to let them go and grow. You will watch from afar as your own children raise their own children. That gray champion needs to become the godly example and counselor. The senior years are the culmination of all that has gone before. Wear them both humbly and proudly. Your life has never meant so much. Be thankful.

“Both young men and maidens; old men and children. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for His name alone is exalted; His glory is above the earth and heaven” (Psa 148:12-13).

Book Review

Biblical Foundations for Manhood and Womanhood

Wayne Grudem, Editor

It was in 1991 that Wayne Grudem and John Piper edited Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. This book, edited only by Grudem, written in 2002, is a compilation of addresses given at a conference in Dallas, TX by various authors. The major messages in the book are done by Grudem and Bruce Ware with single chapters by five other authors. These are an update on the ongoing issues of family life relating to submission, headship, and complementarity. Although the writings are now 20 years old, these issues continue to be central in family and church life. Grudem does a long chapter on the Greek word for “head” (kephale) showing that the word never means “source” alone (feminism’s long-standing contention) in the New Testament and is always used of a person who has leadership over another. Grudem also does a chapter titled, “The Myth of Mutual Submission as an Interpretation of Ephesians 5:21.” He shows that “submission” (hypotasso) is never used of a husband’s submission to the wife. In addition, “one another” (allelous) in 5:21 must take the meaning of “some to others” and not “everyone to everyone.” Bruce Ware’s contribution relates to the headship within the trinity and its relation to complementarity. He writes, “Arguments will be weighed, and support will be offered for the church’s long-standing commitment to the trinitarian persons’ full equality of essence and differentiation of persons, the latter of which includes and entails the eternal functional subordination of the Son to the Father, and of the Spirit to both Father and Son.” Submission then, as seen in 1 Cor 11:3, always flows one-way from the head. (Note: I’m not always theologically aligned to Grudem or Ware, but they are very helpful in these areas of complementarity and headship.)

Statistics

A Pew Research Center Analysis in February 2021 titled, “Boomers, Silents, still have most seats in congress, though numbers of Millennials, Gen Xers, is up slightly.” Their results showed the changes from the 115th Congress to the 116th, to the 117th (current) Congress. The Silent generation (born 1928-1945) decreased from 10% to 9% to 6% over those three Congresses. They now have the least number of seats in the House of Representatives. Boomers decreased also from 62% to 54% to 53% but they are still the largest group in Congress by far holding 230 seats in the House and 68 seats in the Senate. Gen Xers rose during these three Congresses from 27% to 32% to 33%. Millennials rose from 1% to 6% to 7%. “When comparing the ages of new and continuing House members, the gap is widest among Democrats, who as a whole have a median age of 60.6. The median age of the 206 Democrats who were reelected is 61.9; the 17 newly elected Democrats have a median age of 50.7. . . The 165 Republican House members continuing into the 117th Congress have a median age of 58.7, while the 44 new GOP representatives have a median age of 53. For all Republican House members, the median age is 57.3.” Accessed 10/27/22.

A Quotable Quote

“At the age of 83—after having traveled some 250,000 miles on horseback, preached more than 40,000 sermons, and produced some 200 books and pamphlets—John Wesley regretted that he was unable to read and write for more than 15 hours a day without his eyes becoming too tired to work. After his 86th birthday, he admitted to an increasing tendency to lie in bed until 5:30 in the morning!”  (2022 Family Times)

On the Lighter Side

I have never been able to tell the difference between an alligator and a crocodile. One has a fatter snout, but I can’t even remember which one does. They say they are of slightly different color, one species is usually larger than the other, one is faster than the other, one is more aggressive than the other. But I read the other day a difference between the alligator and the crocodile that made sense to me. One will see you later, and the other after while. That, I can remember!

 

 

GPS – Grandparents as Figure-Heads

GPS – Grandparents as Figure-Heads

by Rick Shrader

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The primary headship of the family is in the fathers (as parents over children), but the figure-headship of the family is in the grandparents. A “figurehead” is one who is in charge “in name only,” or as a “representative of another.” As the parents, we were the ones in charge, the “hands-on” authority over our children. As life progressed we went from commanders of young ones to advisors and counselors of older ones. Yet the Scripture still presents the grandparent as having a certain headship, not primarily but in symbolic importance in a number of ways.

A Godly Heritage. “For You, O God, have heard my vows; You have given me the heritage of those who fear Your name” (Psa 61:5). Our heritage is the faith and history of our forefathers entrusted to us for transmission to our own posterity. Solomon said, for a man “to receive his heritage and rejoice in his labor—this is the gift of God” (Ecc 5:19). These are responsibilities only the elders, those connected to past generations, can fulfill.

A Godly Inheritance. “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children” (Prov 13:22). I’ve never liked the bumber-sticker that reads, “I’m spending my children’s inheritance.” Paul warned, “For the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children” (2 Cor 12:14). Houses, lands, and riches matter not compared to eternal things. David said, in light of his faith in Christ’s resurrection, “The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; yes, I have a good inheritance” (Psa 16:6).

A Godly Posterity. “A posterity shall serve Him. It will be recounted of the Lord to the next generation” (Psa 22:31). More than an inheritance, a posterity of people, of the Lord’s servants, will rise up after us and call upon the Lord. My daily prayer for each of my grandchildren is that they would give their lives to the Lord’s service. I pray for their future spouses that they would join together in this great endeavor. “The posterity of the righteous will be delivered” (Prov 11:22).

A Godly Memory. Moses warned the elders of his day, “Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren” (Deut 4:9). Many times at funerals I have watched the tears in grandchildren’s eyes as they remembered the wisdom of their grandparent. They had not seen what grandpa or grandma had seen but they often listened with respect as they were told of the biblical faith being passed down to them.

A Godly Testimony. “For He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children; that the generation to come might know them, the children who would be born, that they may arise and declare them to their children, that they may set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments” (Psa 78:5-7).

The most important responsibility for the figure-head of the family is to pass on the testimony of faith in Christ. When Moses sang his song of deliverance after crossing the Red Sea he said, “The LORD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; my father’s God, and I will exalt Him” (Exod 15:2). Wouldn’t any grandparent love to hear those words from his or her children and grandchildren?

Book Review

On Death by Timothy Keller

I am not necessarily a Tim Keller fan. I don’t align with much of his ecclesiology. Since, however, I deal with death and dying, I wanted to read this small booklet. I found it informative and helpful. Keller has only two main sections: The Fear of Death, and The Rupture of Death. The first section is made up of four reasons why people today don’t face death well. 1) The blessing of modern medicine. He means that medicine is a great blessing but it has removed the presence of dying loved ones from the home and family. 2) This-World Happiness. He writes, “Modern culture, then, is the worst in history at preparing its members for the only inevitability—death.” Everything in life seems to be more important than preparing for the next one. 3) The Sense of Insignificance. Modernism and postmodernism have reduced life to the few years we have with nothing beyond. Death, then, highlights the meaninglessness of life. 4) A Fear of Judgment. By this he means we have lost the “categories of sin, guilt, and forgiveness in modern culture.” All of this “triggers a crisis for modern people in the face of death.”

In the second section, The Rupture of Death, Keller deals with how a Christian should grieve in light of biblical promises. Here he builds on Paul’s statement that “we sorrow not as others who have no hope” (1 Thes 4:13). The best part of this section is on the Beatific Hope, i.e., the Christian hope of one day seeing the glory of God. This has historically been called The Beatific Vision. It is an emphasis that even many Christians have missed.

Statistics

Josh Mulvihill, in his seminal work, Biblical Grandparenting, gave the following four “Perceived Roles of Christian Grandparents” from his own research. His intention was to encourage grandparents to be disciple-makers.

The Encouraging Voice (16%). “A cheerleader who loves grandchildren for who they are and the unique gifting they possess. This grandparent sees the positive and desires to bring out the potential in their grandchildren. One who seeks to help a grandchild accomplish goals and has a natural tendency to ask questions.”

The Supportive Partner (32%). “A helping hand with the day-to-day tasks of parenting. This grandparent operates as a co-laborer who comes alongside their adult children in a variety of ways. Oriented toward seeing a need and meeting a need. An agreeable grandparent who reinforces their children’s parenting practices and philosophies without interfering.”

The Loving Friend (28%). “A companion whose focus is building a strong relationship with grandchildren and having fun together. Often avoids difficult conversations or disciplinary matters. An activity-oriented grandparent who likes to create memories, communicate affection, and occasionally spoil grandchildren.”

The Disciple-Maker (24%). “A mentor who intentionally attempts to pass faith in Christ to future generations. Desires to see their grandchildren know Christ and grow in Christ. Seeks to live as a Christlike example and share godly wisdom with grandchildren.” (Josh Mulvihill, Biblical Grandparenting, p. 134)

A Quotable Quote

William Law on growing old. “Delight in its service and beg of God to adorn it with every grace and perfection. Nourish it with good works, give it peace in solitude, get it strength in prayer, make it wise with reading, enlighten it by meditation, make it tender with love, sweeten it with humility, humble it with penance, enliven it with psalms and hymns, and comfort it with frequent reflections upon future glory.”  (from, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, 1729)

On the Light Side

An out of shape person was working out at the local health club. The trainer said, “You should try to communicate with your muscles more often.” The trainee replied, “I don’t like to talk to strangers.” The trainer persisted and said, “You have to listen to what your body is telling you.” The trainee replied, “But I didn’t come here to be insulted.” (Thanks to Bro. Bernie Augsburger for this funny in the Trumpet Notes)

 

 

GPS – Headship in the Human Family

GPS – Headship in the Human Family

by Rick Shrader

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From the beginning God created men and women to be in a marriage relationship with the man as the head of the woman. This was never a master/slave arrangement but rather a complementarity of assigned roles among equals. The Bible gives examples of what this relationship looks like.

In the Godhead.  “The head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor 11:3). The Father and the Son, though equal in essence, are complement in function or person. “Priority is not necessarily superiority.” Two can be equal with one as the head. Jesus said, “I always do those things that please Him” (John 8:29).

In the Garden. Adam and Eve were both created in the image of God and thus of equal worth as human beings (Gen 1:27; Gal 3:28). Yet the man is the head as the spiritual priest of the new family, having been created first and from the ground; having named the woman as Eve and mother (Gen 2:23; 3:20), being responsible for the tree and for Eve’s first disobedience (1 Tim 2:14). We sinned in Adam, not in Eve.

In the First Marriage. “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him  . . . Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife” (Gen 2:18, 24). Now Adam had a helper in his dominion mandate. “Then God blessed them, and God said to them . . . Have dominion’ (Gen 1:28). It is not the woman who leaves father and mother but the man. He will begin a new family with her as his partner. He will be the tiller of the ground (from which he came) and she will be the filler of the earth (responsible for the body out of which she came). Complementarity is not a result of the fall but of the sinless creation of man and woman.

In the Fall. Paul makes it clear that though Eve was first deceived (1 Tim 2:14; 2 Cor 11:3) we sinned in Adam not in Eve (Rom 5:12). The human race was in Adam (Heb. adam, “man,” Gen 2:7; “mankind,” Gen 5:2; “sons of men,” Prov 8:31) and therefore the sin is truly ours as a member of the race of “man.” In the punishment meted out by God, Adam would still till the ground but in sweat and Eve would still bear the race but in pain. Both would do their part in the dominion mandate and the complementary responsibilities would remain the same.

In the Family. Now when we are told that “the head of woman is man” (1 Cor 11:3) we understand the nature of that headship. Submission is not inferiority and headship is not superiority. Headship is leadership and submission is followership. This arrangement was ordained by God in humanity’s innocence in the garden. Husband and wife find their God-given purpose in the family relationship. Children also find their purpose in their submission to parents (Eph 6:1-3).

In the Church. “There is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). All Christians are equal as children of God. Yet in the preaching of the gospel and the pastoring of the church, only men are found in the New Testament (1 Tim 3:1-7, Tit 1:5-9). Women find their fulfillment in a complementary role (1 Tim 2:12; Rom 16:1-3) as has always been the case in God’s world.

And so. We will come back to the subject of grandparents in this arrangement. Children grow up and start their own home. A grandparent’s role changes but never loses a spiritual influence. “Wisdom is with aged men, and with length of days, understanding” (Job 12:12).

Book Review

Men and Women in the Church  By Kevin DeYoung

I have read Kevin DeYoung on a variety of topics and have always found him helpful. This paperback book (of about 150 pages) is one of the best things I have read recently on the family and which closely aligns with the article in this paper. He writes, “So what is this book about? In simplest terms, this book is about divinely designed complementarity of men and women as it applies to life in general and especially to ministry in the church.”  Of creation DeYoung writes, “The man’s primary vocation is ‘naming, taming, dividing, and ruling.’ The woman’s primary vocation involves ‘filling, glorifying, generating, establishing communion, and bringing forth new life.’” Of the effects of the fall he writes, “The marriage relationship, which was supposed to be marked by mutually beneficial headship and helping, becomes a fight over sinful rebellion and ruling. God designed sexual difference for one another; sin takes sexual difference and makes it opposed to one another.”

DeYoung wrote this book in 2021 so it is up to date on marriage and church issues. In this volume he will also cover the headship issues in 1 Corinthians chapter 11, the marriage of Christ and the church in Ephesians chapter 5, and the preaching/teaching order in 1 Timothy chapter 3. For solid biblical information on these issues as well as gender and complementarity, this book will be a great read.

Statistics

The multi-generational household (where more than one generation of families live together) has been fluctuating back and forth for a century. The Pew Research Center points out that in 1900, 57% of adults 65 and older in the US lived in multi-generational households, whereas by 1990 only 17% did. That dramatic drop was due to the mobility of seniors created by retirements, Social Security and Medicare, and post-war prosperity. This created what is called “the social contract,” the so-called agreement between generations, “you leave me alone, and I’ll leave you alone.”

Pew Research is reporting that recently, beginning in about 2008, the multi-generational household is making a comeback with over 6.6 million seniors living with children and grandchildren. This is due to the down-turn in the economy but also to the fact that Boomers have a whole generation of children who are now able to provide for them in their senior years. A real question becomes, who is the “head” of the multi-generational household? 58% of the time it is the grandfather, in 42% of the time it is the son (depending on who moved in with whom!). Pew Research Center, “The Return of the Multi-Generational Family Household,” accessed 8/29/22.

A Short Word Study

Most people are afraid of dying. They kid themselves about what’s on the other side of death. The believer has assurance that death is just the door to a far better existence, that to be “absent from the body” is to be “present with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8). The Psalmist said, “You will guide me with your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you?” (Psa 73:24; see also 49:15). The word “receive” (laqach) is used of Enoch in Gen 5:24, “And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took (received) him.” It is also used in 2 Kings 2:10 of Elijah, “If you see me when I am taken (received) from you, it shall be so for you.” Paul knew that to die and be separated from our body is to be immediately taken into God’s presence. One day, however, the trumpet will sound for the whole church and living believers will be “caught up” (received)together to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thes 4:17), body and soul together! In either case, as the Psalmist expressed, “Whom have I in heaven but You?”

On the Light-Hearted Side

Jacob was 92 and Rebecca was 89 and they were engaged. As they were walking they passed a drug store and went in. “Do you have heart medication?” they asked. “Yes, of course” was the answer. How about for rheumatism?” “Yes, of course.” “Arthritis, jaundice?” “That too.” “What about wheelchairs and walkers?” “All speeds and sizes” was the answer. “Great,” Jacob said, “We’d like to use this store as our bridal registry.”

 

The Shrinking Ministry

The Shrinking Ministry

by Rick Shrader

There have been a number of articles, books, and statistics shared recently that have highlighted the fact that the number of pastors, missionaries, and full-time Christian workers is declining in the 21st century. Churches find it difficult to locate or call new ministers. Mission agencies report that their numbers are shrinking every year. Schools at all levels are smaller with fewer students in each one. George Barna published an article titled, “The Aging of America’s Pastors” in which he showed that there are more pastors over the age of 65 than under the age of 40. In 1968 55% of pastors were under 45 years old, but by 2017 only 22% were under 45.

In the Spring ’22 edition of The Baptist Bulletin, Mel & Kristi Walker gave 6 reasons for the decline including the price of theological education, Covid burnout, inward-focused churches, a lack of motivation, family opposition to ministry, and the difficulty of ministry. In the Summer issue, Brandon Crawford also gave 6 reasons adding the demographic challenge of waning veterans and veteran benefits, and the ecclesiastical challenge of smaller churches with smaller salaries and opportunities. Each of these articles referenced Woodrow Kroll’s 2002 book, The Vanishing Ministry in the 21st Century (the 1991 edition was about the 20th century). After reading the book, I was impressed by Kroll’s insight and predictions of a vanishing ministry from so many years ago. During these years Kroll was president and teacher of Back to the Bible Radio Program and former president of Practical Bible College (now Davis College, Binghamton, NY). Kroll lays much of the blame on the increasing secularization of Bible colleges, the lack of emphasis for commitment at Christian schools, and the “upward mobility” of Christian families which discourages youth from ministry.

I found these and other concerns about the shrinking ministry very helpful, insightful, and concerning. I am 72 years old and have been in ministry for about 50 years. When I entered Bible college in 1968, all Bible colleges were full with not enough housing and classroom space to meet the need. When I entered seminary in 1972, there were 100 male students (plus 2 girls, one of whom I was fortunate to marry) of which the great majority entered full-time ministry. As a seminary student there were many opportunities to serve in local churches and I served as a youth pastor and interim pastor during those early years. Throughout my years of ministry I have been privileged to teach in Bible colleges and serve on Bible college and seminary boards. I have been pastoring since 1985. I’m simply saying that my generation has seen a lot come and go. I want to add a few of my own observations about the problem of shrinking ministry and then join these men and others with some possible solutions.

What are some reasons? 1) The cost of college or seminary education is an obvious deterrent to ministry but it also is unavoidable in the 21st century. Nevertheless, if a student leaves his education years with huge debt, it is very difficult or impossible to live on a minister’s salary, especially as a new or young pastor. Associate positions are even more difficult to afford. 2) The rise of para-church (and related) ministries has pulled many of our potential ministers away from local church work to greener grass in other places. We seldom get these workers back into our local church ministries. 3) I also think that the dissolving of our denominational names and the weakening of our fellowship and associational ties causes many of our men to be pulled away from our churches. As a young man myself I bristled at the feeling of being a cog in a fellowship machine. Then I realized that Sunday schools, youth groups, youth camps, Bible colleges, seminaries, mission agencies, church planters, all complete a necessary cycle for keeping like-minded ministry going. As these connections became looser, schools, churches, and mission agencies have suffered. 4) I agree that the Covid years have hurt churches and schools. The necessity of live-streaming and zooming has resulted in less in-church attendance in-class enrollment. Our services and schools may be available to people and students all over the world (and praise the Lord for it!) but those good men are not available to our churches or mission boards. 5) Kroll has a chapter called “WAGAPS School Teachers.” That stands for “We’re As Good As Public Schools.” He even says, “In his effort to provide a superior education, the WAGAPS Christian school teacher drives his students as far from life-time ministry as possible.” Kroll’s point is that many times our schools (and I would add our churches) have tried so hard to keep up with the cultural Joneses that we have unwittingly pushed our young people away from ministry which appears less acceptable. 6) Lastly, I will combine a few concerns. Pastors, teachers, and church parents have not raised up a generation for ministry. Our own children may be discouraged from ministry; our associates and assistants do not follow through into further ministry; we have often cursed our own cause to the point that young men do not want our conservative churches; and we have pushed an “upward mobility” mindset to the point that young people either cannot or will not “consider the cost” of ministry. I only add these few possible reasons for a shrinking ministry to the observations of others.

Are there solutions? Taking the four sources I’ve mentioned, there are some 19-20 “reasons” (many overlapped) given for the decline. Also, from these sources there are some 17-18 “solutions” offered. Space does not allow me to list them but they are easily accessible. I will add a few of my own. 1) I concur with the need often mentioned for better mentoring of young men and more intentional presenting of the “call” of God to ministry and the “surrender” of a man to God’s call. Kroll added the “burning of the bridge” behind a man who answers God’s call. This is a proper emphasis for youth camps and mission trips, but why not for our pulpits and classrooms as well? 2) With so many churches on the verge of closing or giving up, I believe we need to be more open to accepting men of varying educational backgrounds for varying levels of ministry opportunities, even godly and intelligent laymen. There are many churches and ministries where a seminary education is necessary, but there are many ministries where college level or institute level preparation would be welcomed. After all, most of our theological schools started as Bible institutes (including Spurgeon’s and Moody’s) when other schools could not supply the need and then they grew into their current status. Today, a young man accepting a position in a needy church can easily further his education online while gaining valuable experience. 3) We have many good and qualified men serving in associate roles who could and should move on to leadership roles. I realize there are many obstacles for such a man and his family including finances and location, but the churches have needs and these men are able to fill those needs. I know of single men and women who have moved to far-off locations just to find a church to which they could be of some help—and they are warmly welcomed. 4) There are many small rural churches that are being ignored by young men due to various reasons. Perhaps it would require a by-vocational situation for a while (not always) and would bring little or no personal recognition. Perhaps a man would have to be more traditional than he would like. I believe these churches afford a great place to learn to preach, administrate, love people, marry them and bury them. Isn’t that ministry? In addition, these situations allow a man to study, grow, even continue his education and these churches would love to have them. 5) All of our fundamental and conservative churches and ministries need to re-evaluate where we came from and why we are here. The church at Ephesus was scolded by Jesus for leaving her first love. The solution was to remember, repent, redo, or else be removed (Rev 2:5). There was no more strategic church in the first century than Ephesus. However, in 30 years, with such leadership as Paul, Timothy, and John, it had lost its way and needed to go back to the basics. The pull from culture today is worse than it was then. Churches and movements often lose their way in a generation or two. Perhaps it is time for us to remember where we came from, repent of where we are headed, and redo our purpose before we are removed due to ineffectiveness. Our ministry may be shrinking and the laborers few, yet the fields are still white unto harvest. Ministry is not a career opportunity nor a path to success. It is service. Our rewards come in the next life. There are still plenty of places for service for the one with the servant’s heart.

 

GPS – The Junctions in the Road

GPS – The Junctions in the Road

by Rick Shrader

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Life is a series of intersections which demand a choice of one direction over another. Paul found this true on the beginning of his second missionary journey in Acts 16. He wanted to turn left to Asia but was “forbidden by the Holy Spirit” (vs 6). Then he wanted to turn right toward Bithynia but “the Spirit did not permit them” (vs 7). He ended up in Troas until God called him to Macedonia (vs 10). God knew that the right turn at the right time would make a world of difference in Paul’s ministry. It would be nice if we all had the advantage the apostles had of direct revelation from God for even the smallest decisions. But we don’t.

The greatest junction in any person’s life is the decision to accept Jesus Christ as Savior. This, of course, will change everything in a life. The second greatest choice is the choice of whom we marry. Young people cannot see all the changes and directions that being married to this person will bring. Your children will be the life-long image of you and this person. The relatives with whom you spend the rest of your life will be determined by this person. Where you live, the occupation you have, the life-style you choose, even the way you worship, will be determined by this choice of a marital partner. Choose wisely!

Robert Frost began his famous poem by writing, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both and be one traveler, long I stood and looked down one as far as I could to where it bent in the undergrowth.” We can stand at the junction in the road and look a little ways down that road but we cannot see past the first turn. Beyond that is the unknown. Fortunately for the believer, God sees it all and knows which way is best. But we must be in proper fellowship with Him if we are going to know His will for this choice. God can work things out for good wherever we go, but there is still that “good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God” (Rom 12:2). The job of parents and grandparents is to advise and counsel our children through these turns in the road. Even if we made mistakes ourselves (and who hasn’t?), we have learned and become wiser. We cannot make the decisions for our adult children, but by keeping the communication lines open we can be the help that makes  the difference.

Once we start off down the chosen path, there is a point where we cannot go back. This can be a blessing or have difficult consequences. Choosing the right partner in marriage, answering God’s call to ministry, going to the right school for education, are examples of blessings in our choices. A deserting partner in marriage, an offer of a drug or drink, a conviction of a crime, are choices that carry life-long consequences or an un-reversable change of direction.

But I also believe there is a point where the decision of a certain direction can be reversed. In the Bible it is called repentance. God can bring immediate conviction and discomfort to your heart that warns you of a wrong direction. He may bring someone into your path with good advice that warns you and changes your mind. Jesus told the church at Ephesus that they should remember where they took the wrong turn and then repent and go back to that point and start again (Rev 2:5). Part of our job as parents is to catch the child in a wrong direction while there is still time to turn around. This can require tender or tough love because our child cannot see very far ahead. You can. You’ve been there. If any of us lack wisdom, let us ask of God, Who gives it to all of us liberally.

 

Book Review

The Vanishing Ministry in the 21st Century.  By Woodrow Kroll

I have been following a series of articles on the shortage of ministers needed to fill ministry positions. These articles referenced this book by Woodrow Kroll, the former president of Back to the Bible Radio Program and former president of Practical Bible College (now Davis College). Kroll wrote a first edition in 1991 on the 20th century need, and followed that by this second edition in 2002. Kroll, being a college man himself, spends a lot of time in the book relating the history of college trends that have hurt ministry rather than helped. The foremost of these is the watering down of “vocational” ministry majors with non-ministry majors. This has been primarily due to the need of tuition income but it has also caused the percentage of ministry majors to decline. Kroll devotes chapters to his reasons for a decline in ministry-minded men: Secular self-interest; upwardly mobile parents; misguided Christian school teachers; social mission work rather than gospel work; false calls to the ministry as well as call to ministry without follow-through. Among his few solutions is the return to preaching the call of God on a young man’s life and the challenge of ministry as a vocation to our young people. At the end of the book (in 2002) he presents the new millennial generation as a bright hope for the future. Sadly, Kroll’s optimism at this point has failed to materialize. In fact, Barna points out (in 2017, see below), “The lack of leadership development among millennials and Gen-Xers and the lack of succession planning among Boomers” have contributed to the lack of ministers today.

Statistics

George Barna’s article “The Aging of America’s Pastors” (March 1, 2017) gave some interesting statistics on the diminishing ministry. There are currently more pastors over the age of 65 than under the age of 40. In 1968 55% of pastors were under 45 years of age, and in 2017 only 22% are under 45. When Barna did his first study on this in 1992, only 6% of pastors were 65 or older but 25 years later 17% are over 65. Barna attributes the rising number of senior-aged pastors to longer life span, economic need, and to “second-career clergy,” i.e., men entering the ministry later in life, and also to the lack of younger men taking their place. In addition to these declining numbers, Brandon Crawford (Baptist Bulletin, Su ‘22) relates that 80% of college and seminary ministry graduates will quit within 10 years.

Kroll cited a number of statistics in his book concerning the “vanishing ministry.” In giving a history of the problem he quotes Higher Education in Transition, “While the majority of college graduates of the 17th century entered the ministry (as preachers or missionaries), this percentage dropped to 50% in 1750, 22% in 1801, and 6.5% in 1900. This trend continued throughout the 20th century. Among freshmen who entered college in the fall of 1980, for example, less than half of 1% indicated ‘clergy’ as their probable career occupation.”

What Can Seniors Do?

Most solutions for the reduction in ministers available to churches have to do with schools, finances, and mentoring young men. These are all important. We have a growing percentage of seniors in our churches as well, so some of the responsibility falls on us. 1) We can encourage our older pastors to remain longer or be more proactive in guiding the church through the transition period. 2) We can welcome the ministry offered to us by younger men in the church. Younger men might see the call of God on their lives if they had opportunity to minister in various ways within the church. 3) We can also rely more on ourselves for lay leadership from within the church, even in the area of pulpit supply, visitation, and teaching. The immediate future may demand that the older, godly saints do many of the things paid staff once did. 4) Finally, we can encourage our own children to encourage their children to listen for God’s call on their lives. This will take living as examples in ministry, believing that a life in ministry is greater than an upwardly mobile secular life, and praying specifically and diligently.

Give of thy sons to bear the message glorious; Give of thy wealth to speed them on their way; Pour out thy soul for them in prayer victorious; And all thou spendest Jesus will repay.

 

GPS – Two Deadly Inheritances

GPS – Two Deadly Inheritances

by Rick Shrader

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One of the blessings of our lives is the inheritance we received from our parents. “The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yes, I have a good inheritance” (Psa 16:6). “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children” (Prov 13:22). Sometimes there are family heirlooms and other material treasures that we pass from generation to generation. Sometimes there is monetary inheritance left from parents or grandparents. The best kind of inheritance is a godly inheritance. “Our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from our children, telling to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and His strength and His wonderful works that He has done” (Psa 78:3-4). Every Christian parent and grandparent should store up such treasure to leave for the generations to come.

Sometimes the good things we leave behind can be used in wrong ways. Obviously riches or fame can spoil a child and even lead to ruin The lists of the kings of Israel and Judah are filled with fathers and sons (and sometimes mothers) who passed on the throne only to see it ruin the next son in line. Good king Hezekiah’s son was the evil Manasseh. Josiah’s son was the evil Jehoahaz. Samuel’s sons did not serve the Lord, nor all of David’s sons, nor Solomon’s.

One sad story is the son of David named Adonijah in 1 Kings chapter 1. As David was dying, Adonijah (from David’s wife Haggith) proclaimed himself the new king of Judah. We know, however, that Solomon (the son of Bathsheba) was David’s pick to be  king. Adonijah’s usurpation didn’t last long as David and Bathsheba quickly anointed Solomon the rightful king. Adonijah had to flee for his life and was eventually killed by Solomon for his rebellion.

I Kings 1:6, in a parenthesis, lists two characteristics about Adonijah, the son of David. “(And his father had not rebuked him at any time by saying, ‘why have you done so?’ He was also a very good-looking man. His mother had borne him after Absalom).” David succeeded and failed in raising his many children, but here is one in which he failed by giving him two deadly inheritances.

The first was a lack of discipline. David must have been an absentee father to many of his children. It’s obvious that he had too many wives and too many children and there was no way he could bring them all up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. He did better with Solomon who would later write that to spare the rod is to spoil the child (Prov 13:24; 22:15; 29:15). Adonijah received no such instruction.

The second deadly inheritance was that he was a handsome man, and who wouldn’t like to be! Yet the Bible writer lists this as one of his downfalls. Many young people find popularity due to their good looks that eventually leads them to trouble. Did you notice that Adonijah’s brother was Absalom who also rebelled against David? 2 Sam 14:25 says, “Now in all Israel there was no one who was praised as much as Absalom for his good looks.”

Too many children love to have a lack of discipline coupled with beauty or good looks (neither of which are their fault). But to these two sons of David they were a deadly inheritance. A handsome son or a beautiful daughter needs special care to not let that lead to sin. Every child needs discipline and should not be left with absentee parents when it comes to godly training. Let them also say, “Yes, I have a good inheritance.”

Book Review

Post-Christian: a contemporary guide to thought and culture. By Gene Edward Veith, Jr.

I have been reading Gene Veith since the 1990s when I first found his book, Postmodern Times, a topic that was almost unheard-of. This 2020 book expresses the sad truth about our culture—that it is basically “post-Christian” and beyond. Though we still live in a country with a Christian heritage and are surrounded with many Christian symbols and traditions, the general life and actions of Americans (and often Christian Americans) is anything but Christian. Part 1 is on Reality, covering topics of science and technology. Part 2 is on The Body. In this section Veith deals with sexual sins and also with gender, transgender, and transhuman issues. Part 3 is on Society, dealing with education and politics. Part 4 is on Religion. The chapter titles and headings tell the story. Chapter 11: “Spiritual but Not Religious: the religion of the nones.” “Nones” means no religion at all. Chapter 12: “Religious but Not Spiritual.” New religions today are not spiritual at all. Chapter 13: “Post-Christian Christianity.” While secular institutions seek to be “religious,” religious institutions are seeking to be more secular. This is especially true, Veith contends, “when evangelical Christians seek to emulate the world as a technique for evangelism and for growing the church.” The Conclusion: “Toward the Postsecular.” There is a “global religious explosion” because secular people world-wide increasingly have their own “private spiritualities and religious worldviews of their own.” Veith is saying that “secularism” as a descriptive is fading away and is being replaced by anyone’s personal religion. He says, “This has given rise to a new term that is gaining currency among scholars in multiple fields. It is another post– word. Not postmodernism. Not post-Christian. But postsecular. What is emerging or is already upon us is a postsecular culture.” Later in the conclusion he writes, “We need to realize that a postsecular society may still be post-Christian. We may be seeing a reversion to the religiosity that is natural to fallen human beings, that is, to a new pagan order.” Veith’s example of today’s postsecularism is transgenderism. “Rather, it is the gnostic view of the soul, the creation-denying, body-repudiating heresy that teaches the ‘transmigration of souls,’ which is similar to Hindu reincarnation.”

Statistics

A new poll shows something that has been common for generations. It reminds us that our responsibility to our parents never ends but also that this responsibility is not easy. “Americans in their 40s are the most likely to be sandwiched between their children and an aging parent. More than half in this age group (54%) have a living parent age 65 or older and are either raising a child younger than 18 or have an adult child they helped financially in the past year. By comparison, 36% of those in their 50s, 27% of those in their 30s, and fewer than one-in-ten of those younger than 30 (6%) or 60 and older (7%) are in this situation.”  Pew Research Center, 4/8/22, “More than half of Americans in their 40s are ‘sandwiched’ between an aging parent and their own children.” Accessed 6/18/22

A second poll shows that the discipline of our children is changing from one generation to the next. “Parents employ many methods to discipline their children. The most popular is explaining why a child’s behavior is inappropriate: three-quarters say they do this often. About four-in-ten (43%) say they frequently take away privileges, such as time with friends or use of TV or other electronic devices, and a roughly equal share say they give a “timeout” (41% of parents with children younger than 6) as a form of discipline, while about one-in-five (22%) say they often resort to raising their voice or yelling.  Spanking is the least commonly used method of discipline – just 4% of parents say they do it often.” Pew Research Center. “Parenting in America.” Accessed 6/30/22.

And Finally, Something I Read

My wife and I took a day to go downtown and wander through some of the local shops. When we came out of the last shop, there was a policeman standing in front of the car writing a ticket for illegal parking. I immediately started to question the officer, and he started filling out another ticket. While he was writing  that ticket for harassing a law officer, my wife said she thought it was a stupid law. He flipped his book to another page and wrote out a third ticket. Just as he was attaching all three tickets to the car’s windshield, our bus came and we got on.

 

GPS – The Date Palm Tree

GPS – The Date Palm Tree

by Rick Shrader

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Thomas à Kempis wrote, “Vanity it is, to wish to live long, and to be careless to live well.” The Bible is full of illustrations about older age that encourage us in our later years. One of those is the Psalmist’s picture of the palm and cedar trees in Psalm 92:12-15.

12 The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. 13 Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. 14 They shall bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing, 15 to declare that the Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.

The palm trees are an interesting landmark in biblical history. We see them in the oases of Elim and Jericho, on the walls of Solomon’s and Ezekiel’s temples, and its leaves used in the feast of tabernacles and at the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. The palm tree was actually a date palm that produced large clusters of dates each season. It was used, and is still used, throughout Israel for food, shade, material, fodder for camels, and even various drinks. The text describes seven unique features that the psalmist applies to older age.

It flourishes (12). The date palm lived from 150 to 200 years unlike the grass which comes and goes in a day (see vs. 7). In 2005, 2000-year-old date palm seeds were excavated at Masada and replanted. By 2007 one male seed had grown three feet tall. The scientist reported, “It’s a boy!” and named it Methuselah. Even Methuselah didn’t flourish for 2000 years.

It grows (12). Like the cedar, the date palm grows about 80 feet straight up and blossoms with huge arching leaves and clusters of dates. The psalmist must have been thinking of his forbears whose white hair is their crown and glory.

It is planted (13). “Those who are planted in the house of the Lord.” To grow and flourish in God’s house all of our lives is a blessing not only to ourselves but to all our posterity. The faithfulness of those years will be remembered by coming generations.

It flourishes (13). “In the courts of our God.” These trees provided shade in courtyards and also in the temple area. Their tap root was extremely long and deep and brought life and health to the house. “Our fathers have told us what deeds You did in days of old” (Psa. 44:1).

It bears fruit (14). “In old age.” Not only did these trees live 200 years, they bore large clusters of dates weighing hundreds of pounds every year until they died. The huge leaves that they shed were used for baskets, clothing, and other house-hold purposes. “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children” (Prov. 13:22).

It is fresh and flourishing (14). “Flourishing” could be translated “green.” The bark of the date palm tree was full of sap used to make wax, resin, oil, and sometimes a very potent drink. Even the camels could eat of the bark. Fibrous strips from the trunk were braided into rope and the huge leaves into baskets.

It declares the Lord (15). He is “upright” and “my rock” and there is “no unrighteousness in Him.” Just the physical presence of this stately tree reminded the psalmist and, no doubt, any who passed by in their caravans, of God’s glory.

The date palm tree is a beautiful biblical picture of the value of older age. “The silver-haired head is a crown of glory, if it is found in the way of righteousness” (Prov. 16:31).

Book Review

Parenting Essentials, by Andreas & Margaret Köstenberger

I have recommended Köstenberger’s larger book, God, Marriage and Family already. He and his wife Margaret, together, have also written a few books on the family. If I had to recommend a smaller, more readable book to fathers and mothers, I would recommend this one. It is built around three “R”s, Realistic (for the parent, child, and world), Relational (relating to God and one another), and Responsible (for character, education, and mission). The authors are strong on the traditional family, discipline, Christian education—especially home schooling, and viewing the home as our most important mission field. Though a respected theologian, author, and seminary professor, Köstenberger is a very practical, down-to-earth father. He relates this story about leading his son to Christ. “He was barely four years old, and he and I were in worship. He told me he needed to leave (for a restroom break), so I went with him. While there, he took the opportunity to ask me a spiritual question. One thing led to another, and by the time we left the bathroom, I had led him to a saving knowledge of Christ!” I think that is a wonderful story that needs to be repeated often.

“GPS” Groups

In May we met for our second GPS meeting at our church. The subject this month was leading children to Christ. For grandparents, this is something that we have all been through and are now watching our children presenting the gospel to their children. We went over the basics (the “irreducible minimum”) of what it takes to understand the gospel. It was easy to relate some of the warnings and also the blessings of children coming to Christ at an early age. There is obviously an “age of accountability,” or a time when a child understands, is convicted of sin, and is ready and willing to receive Christ. This varies from child to child and from situation to situation. Children that have grown up in a Christian family and a good church, understand the gospel message quickly and early. Testimonies of children being saved was also a blessing during our meeting.

Statistics

Last month a report was published by the Cultural Research Center of Arizona Christian University. George Barna is the Director of Research. Their report was the American Worldview Inventory 2022. The first headline I saw about the report was titled, “Poll Shocker: You won’t believe how many pastors actually have a biblical worldview.” Following that up I found Barna’s own article. He writes, “A new nationwide survey among a representative sample of America’s Christian pastors shows that a large majority of those pastors do not possess a biblical worldview. In fact, just slightly more than a third (37%) have a biblical worldview and the majority—62%—possess a hybrid worldview known as Syncretism.” The report also listed associate pastors at only 28%, teaching pastors at 13%, youth pastors at 12%, and executive pastors at 4%. No doubt this study was done from a broad field, but at least it was done by evangelicals. This research can be found at ArizonaResearch.edu/culturalreseachcenter/research. Barna’s article at https://www.arizonachristian.edu/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/AWVI2022_Release05_Digital.pdf

Lessons on Prayer

As I grow older I realize the advantage of prayer in new ways. First because I have experienced answered prayer many times in my life. Second because I am acutely aware that I cannot do as many things as I used to do and I find myself going to God instead. Third because I have a greater trust now in God’s providence than in my wisdom. And fourth because I see eternity clearer and know that an eternal perspective on things is much more important than earthly priorities.

Somewhere C.S. Lewis said that God has given man the “dignity of causality” in two ways: we can do things and we can ask God to do things. Though the things we do are sometimes amazing, they cannot compare to what God can do. Unfortunately, however, we spend much more time doing things ourselves than asking God to do them. In addition I would add, when we do get around to asking God to do things, our requests are seldom aligned with His will (Jas. 4:1-3; 1 John 5:14). But, oh, what power there is in prayer properly made!

 

GPS – A Biblical Picture of Long Life

GPS – A Biblical Picture of Long Life

by Rick Shrader

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Someone said, “Life is hard and then you die.”  But what if you didn’t? What if life was easier and then you lived a long time? What if you lived forever? Well, that is what God created us to do!

In the Garden of Eden

Adam and Eve were made in God’s image as eternal beings who have souls. We are not animals nor angels. We were created to marry and produce children, to work and produce things (Gen 1:27-28), and also to live forever near the tree of life (Gen 2:9, 3:24). However, Adam and Eve sinned which brought death and an eventual end to their physical life on earth (Gen 2:17).

After the Garden

For the first time Adam and Eve looked at a corpse. Their son Abel lay lifeless on the ground. God’s promised penalty was taking place. But life also was continuing. Another son, Seth, is born in God’s likeness and image (Gen 5:3). And even though death continued to place an end on life, men lived almost a millennium (Adam, 930 years, Seth, 912, Methuselah, 969). The earth was still conducive to very long life.

After the Flood

The earth’s atmosphere changed after the flood and life was harder and shorter. Though Noah would live 950 years, his progeny would live shorter and shorter lives. Shem would live 500 years (Gen 11:11), Terah, Abraham’s father, 205 years (Gen 11:32). Noah sinned by becoming drunk, causing his son and grandson to see him uncovered, and sin began to shorten life through violence and immorality (see their children and their cities, Babel and Sodom, 10:6-20).

Under the Mosaic Law

Most of the Old Testament concerns Israel under the law of Moses. At the very beginning, under the shadow of Mt. Sinai, God gave the 5th commandment to honor one’s parents, “That your days may be long upon the land” (Exod 20:12). The Shema, in Deut 6:4-9, instructs fathers to teach their children, “That it might be well with you” (vs. 18). Obedience and long life were vitally connected in the Old Testament time.

The Church Age

Paul reminds us that obeying one’s parents is still God’s will and the 5th commandment still contains the “promise” of long life (Eph 6:1-3). Pastors are described as “elders” and grandparents as “aged men” and “aged women.” The church must care for widows over 60 years old. Fathers are those who should have “known Him who is from the beginning” (1 John 2:13, 14). Most importantly of all, the gospel contains the promise of “the life that now is, and of that which is to come” (1 Tim 4:8).

The Kingdom Age

The millennial kingdom will contain those in physical bodies who live the entire time, 100 years old being considered a mere child (Isa 65:20). Many more will be there in resurrected bodies with amazing ability to navigate time and space. Israel will “possess their possessions” (Obed 17). Then we will all be transferred into the eternal state where all believers will be immortal. God’s purpose for human beings will be accomplished forever.

Want life to last forever? Regeneration brings inheritance “reserved in heaven for you” (1 Pet 1:4).

 

Book Review

My Grandfather’s Son. By Clarence Thomas

This autobiography of Justice Clarence Thomas takes his life from birth (1948) to confirmation as Associate Supreme Court Judge.  Thomas grew up poor on the back side of the tracks in the little town of Pinpoint, GA, not far from Savannah.  It was a time of racism and difficulty for black families in the south.  Clarence Thomas hardly knew his father and was raised (and his brother Myers) by his mother.  However, when he was about 7 he and Myers were sent to live with his grandfather and grandmother.  He called his grandfather “Daddy” and his grandmother “Aunt Tina.”  The whole book is dedicated to how his “Daddy” raised him by discipline and hard work.  Judge Thomas originally wanted to be a Catholic Priest but ended up going to Yale law school.  He became personal and life-time friends with MO senator John Danforth when he was Attorney General of Missouri and gave Clarence his first law job in Jefferson City.  The  book is politically interesting because it is about a poor black boy rising above his circumstances, fighting racism in the government at various levels, becoming a conservative and Republican when he was expected to follow the PC route for rising blacks.  Two interests that Thomas had that I liked were his love for Corvettes and his love of reading Louis L’Armour.  I can identify at least with the second.

“GPS” Groups

This month we will hold the second GPS group meeting at our church. In our first meeting we took the time to introduce the concept. We are trying to do more than just a lunch and fellowship though those are fun things to do. We want to dig deeper into the problems seniors, especially grandparents, face in the present culture with their kids and grandkids. Some of those challenges are, unwanted divorce, children out of work and needing help, social pressure from the “woke” culture, grandchildren walking away from church, and difficult situations such as immorality, substance abuse, and civil disobedience. None of us are experts nor excellent counselors. We’re grandparents who care about our kids.

Statistics

Familiar with your family tree? There’s a good chance you’re not. More than half of Americans don’t know the names of all four of their grandparents.  A recent survey of 2,113 U.S. adults, including 1,911 from the top 10 Nielsen market areas and 202 from Salt Lake City, found that there is a massive knowledge gap when it comes to recent family history. Knowledge of past generations varied by city, as 66 percent of Boston residents could name all of their grandparents, compared to only 26 percent of those in Philadelphia. San Francisco residents weren’t much better at 34 percent, while people in Chicago and Dallas only slightly higher at 36 percent.  Study Finds, “Family tree stumped: Most Americans can’t name all 4 of their grandparents!” April 6, 2022.

Lessons on Prayer

One of the most difficult ingredients in prayer is consistency. How often has better prayer been a new year’s resolution that failed? We may start out strong but in a few days or weeks we seem to be skipping regular times and then they get dropped altogether. The apostle Paul doesn’t write a letter without addressing prayer. I don’t think anyone was as busy as he yet he stressed consistent prayer constantly. In his last letter addressed to Timothy, while in the dark prison, he wrote, “I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day” (2 Tim. 1:3). In the earliest book of the Bible, Job, being an industrious man, would rise early and offer sacrifices for his children every morning in case they had sinned. Verse 1:5 which describes those sacrifices and prayers says, “Thus Job did regularly.” We are never too busy for the things that matter to us most.

Greatest Need in the Church?

One missionary answered, “Godly Grandmothers, who have lived out the principles of the book, who have reared their families, who have known a measure of success, having faced the challenges and the disappointments and the failures, who provide necessary instruction to young women.” Wm. Barclay, Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, 248.

 

GPS – Our Children’s Children

GPS – Our Children’s Children

by Rick Shrader

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Our eleventh, and last, grandchild came to Christ last month. This completes that specific prayer I have always had for each grandchild. But my prayers have only just begun, of course, as now there are eleven lives ahead that will take many twists and turns. In thinking of these eleven lives brought into the world by the four children my wife and I brought into the world, I want to remind young parents of five important truths about children.

Children are born with parents. “Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us” (Heb 12:9). It is a sad day in which grown people with brains think that children can come from two men or two women. Genesis says, “He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:27-28). Children are offspring of a man and woman and are the specific responsibility of a husband and wife.

Children are born with God’s image. “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them” (Gen 1:27). Human beings are the only part of God’s creation that are made in His image and after His likeness. We are not animals nor are we angels. That little one in the crib is an image bearer in this sinful world of a holy God, the imago dei in an untoward generation.

Children are born with gender. Even Jesus was saddened by the ignorance regarding gender and said, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning made them male and female?” (Matt 19:4). I believe that the worst blasphemy toward God today is the self-denial of one’s gender, as if God made a mistake, or as if we know better than God, or as if our will matters more than God’s will for us. We still identify so-called transgender people as “biological males” or “biological females.” That is because neither their DNA nor their chromosomes, XY or XX, can change or be changed by mutilation. Gender is a gift from God specially designed for a purposeful life.

Children are born with sin. David admitted, “I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Psa 51:5). We may laugh when we look at a new-born baby and say, “He’s a cute little sinner,” but that is more serious than we think. As Christians, we are realizing that this human being has an eternal soul that is lost. Without salvation from God this little one will spend eternity in hell. There cannot be a more serious prayer for a soul than a parent’s prayer. Not only that, but this little cherub can become a little demon if that sinful nature is not taken seriously. Children must be taught to “abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul” (1 Pet 2:11).

Children are born with responsibility. A child cannot be left to himself and be expected to grow into a proper adult. He needs discipline and love and instruction in God’s Word. I believe there are two areas in which a child must grow if he or she will be a godly adult. One is love and respect for parents. “Disobedience to parents” is mentioned among the worst of sins in the Bible (see Rom 1:30; 2 Tim 3:2). It is given in the 5th commandment as the key to long and healthy life. The second area is the love for God’s church. How can a person love God but not His family? Or how can a person love a Savior but not His bride? John said, “We know we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren” (1 Jn 3:14).

These and more make those little ones we bring into the world our joy and crown.

Book Review

God, Marriage, and Family. By Andreas Köstenberger with David Jones.

This rather large book is done almost entirely by Köstenberger with Jones contributing. Köstenberger is a Southern Baptist author and has been writing on the family for many years (In another volume, Equipping for Life, 2019, he co-authors with his wife Margaret). This large volume (2010) is a great help in areas of life such as God’s image, abortion, marriage as a covenant, divorce, adoption as an alternative, the biblical view of sex in marriage, singleness as a calling, and many related subjects for parents, old and new. He writes concerning God’s creation of male and female, “Thus equality and distinctness, complementarity and submission/authority must be held in fine balance. The man and the woman are jointly charged with ruling the earth representatively for God, yet they are not to do so androgynously or as ‘unisex’ creatures, but each as fulfilling their God-ordained gender-specific roles” (p. 26). This is a message badly needed in our mixed up generation.

“Conscious Co-Parents?”

Broadcast journalist Van Jones recently announced the birth of his third child by his recent girlfriend. He said that he wanted a child and so did she, so they “decided to join forces and become conscious co-parents.” This is a growing trend among celebrities as the article reports (WHAS11, ABC). Jones used a term (“co-parents”) that is usually reserved for divorced couples and applied it to any two people or group of people who want to have or raise children together. Ken Ham, in commenting on this arrangement, wrote, “Our culture says the makeup of a family doesn’t matter. Children can be raised by one parent, two parents (two moms, two dads, or a mom and a dad), three or more parents—it doesn’t matter as long as the parents love (however they decide what love means) the kids.  Science confirms that God’s design is what is best for kids! Children don’t thrive under just any family structure, as long as they are ’loved.’ Study after study confirms that there’s nothing better for children than living in the home of their biological father and mother, who are married to each other. That’s the very best family design.” (AiG, 2/28/22)

Statistics

The Barna Group posted a 2019 survey of Christian teenagers, asking them who influenced them the most during their teenage years. Of those who influenced them (mother, father, sibling, grandparent, friend, other relative, non-relative), when asked about going to church, setting an example, God’s forgiveness, and the Bible, in every category the most influential person was the mother and the next was a grandparent followed closely by the father. In only one category was the grandparent not second, teaching them about important Christian traditions. In that the grandparents were first.  Barna Group: What will it take to disciple the next generation?” Accessed 3/28/22.

Lessons on Prayer

“Likewise you husbands, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Pet 3:7).  It is a sobering thought to realize that our prayers can be hindered! My wife and I are heirs together of the grace of life. We have a posterity of grace given to us and a progeny to whom grace must be given. As one writer put it, “We have a rich composted family history.” Rather than looking at one another critically, we must see how God has brought us together through generations of faith that we might serve Him together in our own time. We pray as husband, head, protector, provider, and wife, a “helper comparable to him,” that our prayers are not hindered.

The Last Paper Towel

From an entry on Facebook: The last paper towel on the roll. The one nobody wants. Some say it serves no purpose with all that glue on it. It was the foundation for all the other paper towels on that roll and now it has no purpose. Now think of a family member. A grandparent perhaps. For some they’re like the last paper towel on the roll. We think they have no purpose yet they have been the glue that’s held the family together for many years. They were the foundation for who we are. Hold on to those grandparents and make sure they know their importance. Without the last paper towel of glue……we’d all be napkins.