Some years ago the city of Houston Texas waged an ad campaign to deter juvenile crime. The Houston Police Department distributed “Twelve Rules for Raising Juvenile Delinquent Children”
- Begin with infancy to give the child everything he wants. In this way he will grow up to believe the world owes him a living.
- When he picks up bad words, laugh at him. This will make him think that it is cute.
- Never give him any spiritual training. Wait until he is twenty-one and then let him “decide for himself.”
- Avoid use of the word “wrong.” It may develop a guilt complex. This will condition him to believe later, when he is arrested for stealing a car, that society is against him and he is being persecuted.
- Pick up everything he leaves lying around. Do everything for him so that he will be experienced in throwing all responsibility on others.
- Let him read any printed matter he can get his hands on. Be careful, that the silverware and drinking glasses are sterilized, but let his mind feast on garbage.
- Quarrel frequently in the presence of your children. In this way they won’t be shocked when the home is broken up later on.
- Give a child all the spending money he wants. Never let him earn his own.
- Satisfy his every craving for food, drink and comfort. See that every sensual desire is gratified.
- Take his side against neighbors, teachers and policemen. They are all prejudiced against your child.
- When he gets into real trouble, apologize for yourself by explaining, “I never could do anything with him.”
- Prepare for a life of grief. You will definitely have it.
(Chuck Swindoll, “Shaping the Will with Wisdom,” Part 1, April 9, 2013
History has a way of saying it like it is. The citation below is a historian’s reflection on a time of comfort for the Christians in Rome after intense persecution. The time of repose from severe Roman persecution lasted just over 40 years, from AD 260-303. The longer a church is free from times of purification the more likely it will become a frighteningly complacent, comfortable, and worldly church. May we be faithful unto death, even in times of religious liberty.
§23. Temporary Repose. A.D. 260-303.
During this long season of peace the church rose rapidly in numbers and outward prosperity. Large and even splendid houses of worship were erected in the chief cities, and provided with collections of sacred books and vessels of gold and silver for the administration of the sacraments. But in the same proportion discipline relaxed, quarrels, intrigues, and factions increased, and worldliness poured in like a flood.
Hence a new trial was a necessary and wholesome process of purification.
(Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 2:63)
Mark Dever recently cited (44:30-45:13 in the video) John Brown, a 19th-century Scottish Pastor, in a letter of paternal counsel to one of his pupils newly ordained over a small congregation:
I know the vanity of your heart, and that you will feel mortified that your congregation is very small, in comparison with those of your brethren around you; but assure yourself on the word of an old man, that when you come to give an account of them to the Lord Christ at His judgment seat, you will think you have had enough.
Here’s a wonderful excerpt from a prayer in The Valley of Vision, “Need of Grace.” The weaving together of the dreadfulness of sin mingled with the believer’s longing for grace makes for a biblically rich aspiration and meditation.
Thou makest me possess the sins of my youth,
and the dreadful sin of my nature,
so that I feel all sin,
I cannot think or act but every motion is sin.
Return again with showers of converting grace
to a poor gospel-abusing sinner.
Help my soul to breathe after holiness,
after a constant devotedness to thee,
after growth in grace more abundantly every day.
O that all my distresses and apprehensions
might prove but Christ’s school
to make me fit for greater service
by teaching me the great lesson of humility.
(The entire prayer can be found in Arthur Bennett, ed., The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions [The Banner of Truth Trust: Carlise, PA, 2005], 99).
These are necessary and challenging words for every pastor from Paul Tripp. I needed this. Here are two snippets from the article.
I am very concerned about acceptable Sunday morning mediocrity, and I am persuaded that it is not primary a schedule or laziness problem. I am convinced it is a theological problem. The standards you set for yourself and your ministry are directly related to your view of God. If you are feeding your soul every day on the grace and glory of God, if you are in worshipful awe of his wisdom and power, if you are spiritually stunned by his faithfulness and love, and if you are daily motivated by his presence and promises, then you want to do everything you can to capture and display that glory to the people God has placed in your care. It is your job as a pastor to pass this glory down to another generation, and it is impossible for you to do that if you are not being awe-stricken by God’s glory yourself . . .
. . . Pastor, has familiarity caused you to settle for a mediocrity that keeps you from putting God’s shining glory before the glory-blind week after week after week? To these beaten-down ones, you have been called as an ambassador of glory. You have been called to rescue those who are awe-discouraged and awe-confused. You are called to represent the One who is glory to people who by means of suffering and disappointment have become glory cynics.
Take a moment to read the entire article, “Ambassadors of Glory for a Beaten-Down Church,” at the Gospel Coalition. It will be several minutes well-spent.
The Lord’s Day has become the Lord’s morning for many believers. There are many reasons for this and not many of them are particularly good or healthy. Marva Dawn points to how technology has impacted our approach to the Lord’s Day in 1995—you know, in the dark ages before Facebook and Twitter. So what she said has only been exacerbated. While we might quibble with some of her terminology, don’t miss her larger point.
Above all, the technological society’s push for efficiency has robbed most congregations of the Sabbath rhythm, the setting apart of one day in every seven for ceasing, resting, embracing, and feasting, a whole day set apart for God and for each other, a day of delight and healing. Consequently, Christians mimic the frantic lifestyle of the world around them and have no understanding that God has designed a wonderful rhythm of rest and work, of refreshment and then response. In that rhythm, we don’t have to rush out of the worship service at precisely noon, since there is no work to do on Sunday. The day is set apart for worship, for relationships, for growing in our sense of who God is and who we are as individuals desiring to become like Jesus and as a community of his people displaying his character to the world (Marva Dawn, Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down, 43).