January 2012


For years the Westminster Shorter Catechism has been used by many as a preliminary teaching tool to teaching children and new believers the doctrines of the Christian faith as explained in the Westminster Catechism. While the print version of the WSC is lends itself to easier memorization, educators know that putting words to music makes for much easier and lasting memorization.

That is why Reformedmusic.com has put to music the WSC for children. Each question and answer are put to music that services the memorization process for children.

You can purchase the entire 4 Vol. CD set or each one individually from Westminsterbooks.com:

  1. Complete 4 Vol. CD Set – $38.00
  2. Vol. 1 – $10.00 (Q&A 1-28)
  3. Vol. 2 – $10.00 (Q&A 29-56)
  4. Vol. 3 – $10.00 (Q&A 57-85)
  5. Vol. 4 – $10.00 (Q&A 86-107)

These are a must have for parents and teachers and would be a great gift for the kids of friends and family!

Over the last 40-50 years we have seen the decline of the family unit. The family is the foundational social unit of society and the church. When the family goes they go. Among many other reasons, the primary reason the health of families is on the decline is because the leaders of those families – men – are not leading their families. Unhealthy men produce unhealthy families which produce an unhealthy society and church.

Amidst the decline of men leading their families Voddie Baucham Jr. has written a new book titled Family Shepherds: Calling and Equipping Men to Lead Their Homes. Family Shepherds is a clarion call for men to lead their families as shepherds. It is a book about “the transcendent truths that govern Christian fatherhood (p. 13).” This is a book about calling men to shepherd, thus spiritually lead, their homes and not to abandon this responsibility to the pastors/elders of the church.

Shepherding Foundations

Taking cue from Deut. 6 and Prov. 4, Baucham rightly states that the discipleship of children by their parents, and fathers in particular, is primary over the discipleship ministry of the church in their lives. This home based discipleship model continues into the NT in verses like 2 Tim. 1:4-5; 3:15 and Eph. 6:1-4. In order for healthy and productive home based discipleship to take place it must stand on something. From Titus 2, Baucham utilizes a three-legged stool approach to a healthy church and home discipleship: (1) godly, mature men and women, (2) godly, manly leaders and (3) a biblically functioning home. Baucham states, “There is thus a synergy between strong Christian homes and strong churches, with the ministry of the family shepherd serving as an indispensable element in the health, well-being, and future of the church (p. 36).”

Four-Fold Role of a Family Shepherd: Discipler, Evangelist, Trainer & Disciplinarian

With the father as the families primary shepherd (with the help of the mother as well) there are four main areas in which he carries out his responsibility. First, he is an evangelist before he is a disciple. As the shepherd of the home, fathers are to constantly seek ways to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ upon the lives of their children in a loving and winsome way.

Second, he is a discipler of his children. In response to the leave-it-to-the-church and its professional’s attitude towards discipleship, Baucham rightly argues that discipleship of the family begins at home and the father is the leader. To this Baucham writes

As a result of this growing professionalism, there’s a general idea that anything that needs to be done for the advance of the mission of the church has to be done by a paid specialist. The consequences of this attitude are myriad. And there’s perhaps no area of the Christian life that has been affected more negatively than the ministry of the home (p. 68).

The primary means through which this discipleship is to be accomplished is the catechism as the “means of teaching Christian doctrine in a concise and repetitive manner (p. 64).” In conjunction with catechism is the practice of family devotions (prayer, Bible reading and song). “Those who neglect the spiritual welfare of their families are therefore derelict in their duties in the same way a hired hand would be if he were caught sleeping on the job (p. 76).” It is through catechism and family worship that family discipleship takes root and development.

Third, the family shepherd is a trainer. Baucham goes hard after what he believes to plague modern theology of child rearing – a Pelagian view of the nature of man. Pelagianism believes that man was created morally neutral and so is each person since Adam. We are not inclined to good or evil. “Starting with a right understanding of our child’s problem will lead to a right assessment of our child’s need (p. 119).” To Baucham, and I would agree, Pelagianism is theologically unsound and detrimental to biblical child training and discipleship.

The final role of the family shepherd is that of a disciplinarian. Baucham relies heavily on the work of the Puritan Cotton Mather and puts forth two kinds of discipline. First, there is formative discipline. This is the act of impressing upon the child the need for salvation and what it entails. This includes the need for salvation from sin, the consequences of sin and the only hope of salvation from sin through Jesus Christ. The second type of discipline is corrective discipline. This is the kind of discipline that seeks to restrain a child from doing wrong. Corrective discipline is both verbal through loving rebuke and physical through wise spanking.

Family Shepherds Marriage

Not only is it important for family shepherds to disciple their children, it is also necessary to disciple their wives by loving them as Christ loved the church. The key to a healthy family and children is a healthy marriage. Baucham focuses on three things for marriages: purpose, primacy and male headship. The purpose of marriage is not for happiness but holiness. Loving your wife as Christ loved the church is seen primarily through self-sacrifice (Eph. 5:25-33). The primacy of marriage is seen when a husband identifies himself with it and not his temporary career. Financially providing for your family is a man’s responsibility but when it gets in the way of fulfilling your discipleship role at home then you need another job. Finally, male headship is important to the role of a family shepherd. Here Baucham touches on some of the arguments in favor of egalitarianism (male headship is cultural, a result of the curse and was a temporary injunction, a display of inequality and fosters abuse) and shows why they are false. Baucham connects male headship as necessary for the logic and mandate for family shepherds:

If male headship is merely preference, we have no right to argue for it as an essential element of family shepherding, we have no right to argue for it as an essential element of family shepherding. It, however, it’s a truth based on God’s decree and design, we have no right to argue for anything else (p. 101).”

Making Changes

A change in the direction and focus of your life is never easy but it also requires a change in the habits of your life. Taking serious the biblical injunction for men to shepherd their families requires a change of habits as well. This begins by being a member of a healthy church where the whole family can be involved in the life and ministry of the church. This will also require a person to reevaluate the use of their time. You may have to play less golf, watch less t.v. and go to fewer guy’s weekends. This is a change in priorities. This shift in life direction will also change the way you see your work in this world.

Conclusion

This book is a gut check for all family shepherds. That statement implies that all married men are by definition family shepherds whether or not they are exercising their responsibilities. While there is much to like in this book there is one omission and one concern.

First, while I recognize that this book is primarily about the role of the man in the home it would have been beneficial to have a chapter on how a woman helps the man shepherd his family. From Titus 2 there is mention of the role of women to disciple the younger women but more needs to be said in how they work together. The leadership of the man must be balanced with the help of his wife.

Second, Baucham makes it clear early on that he is writing to combat the wrong assumption of much of the church, and many fathers, that the church is the primary discipler of the family and that it takes place within the framework of Sunday School, children’s programs, youth ministry and nursery (p. 17, 35). Baucham is clear, “It is fathers – not youth ministries, children’s ministries, or preschool ministries (none of which find warrant for their existence in the pages of Scripture) – who are charged with this duty of discipling the next generation (p. 35-36).” In a section called “Separation at Church”, Baucham argues that the age-segregation in ministries that takes place in church is the cause for usurpation of the spiritual authority of family shepherds. This is the result of the influence of how we live our lives at home. Bauchman believes that this segregated discipleship model determines “the trajectory of their spiritual development completely independent of their parent’s input of knowledge” which results in the fathers “complete absence in the spiritual development of his children (p. 43).” Thus, it is not the fathers, “but the children’s minister and youth minister who decide what direction his children’s discipleship should take.” The “father did not catechize his children, or lead them in family worship, or communicate a clear vision for their spiritual development (p. 43).” Yes and no. Baucham bases this on the assumption that most churches have multiple services where each family member attends a different time slot and they are also serving in some way such that no two members of the family can worship side by side. While this can happen in a mega church in which more than one service is held this seems like an overstatement of experience for many church goers when the average church size is less than 2000 with one Sunday morning service. Yes, there are churches and pastors who teach that they are the primary means of discipleship in the life of its members. But, it is not implicit within these structures and positions that this has to be the case. Baucham himself notes that there is a synergistic relationship between the church and home so why can’t this happen within these ministries and positions? Why does their existence imply the forfeiting of the fathers shepherding role in his home? It doesn’t. That would be the primary fault of the father. All ministries within the church and home should be working together for the discipleship of the whole body. Speaking specifically to youth pastors, many churches are switching to family pastors who still have a youth ministry but also focus a lot of their attention on pastoring families to disciple their children. They work side by side. There is a dual responsibility to the task of discipleship at home. The church is to teach it, preach it and disciple men to accomplish it. Men are to do it and seek the help of the church to accomplish it.

Those concerns laid, there is much in Family Shepherds that is necessary for men to read and do. This book is for all men and would provide a great tool to use to help them see the necessity of exercising their God given role as shepherds of their families.

NOTE: I received this book from Crossway and was under no obligation to provide a favorable review.

Lately there has been a resurgence of books seeking to define and flesh out the implications of the gospel. Some of the more recent ones have been as follows: What is the Gospel?, Counterfeit Gospels, Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary, Jesus + Nothing = Everything, The King Jesus Gospel, King’s Cross, What is the Gospel (TGC Booklet) and the list could go on.

These are all great books that are pressing the same point. Because the gospel is so multifaceted there are is an endless number of things to say about it and therefore books to write. That being said, there are a number of new books coming out this year that are seeking to continue to press the necessity and centrality of the gospel for the church.

The Gospel as the Center: Renewing Our Faith and Reforming Our Ministry Practices ed. by D.A. Carson & Tim Keller

The Gospel as Center: Renewing Our Faith and Reforming Our Ministry Practices

The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler and Jared C. Wilson

The Explicit Gospel

Gospel-Centered Discipleship by Joanthan K. Dodson

Gospel-Centered Discipleship

God’s Good News: The Gospel by Bobby Jameison

God's Good News: The Gospel

This month Zach Nielsen is giving away three Crossway titles at Take Your Vitamin Z blog. You can enter to win here and here is a list of the books to win:

  1. Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons by Thabiti Anyabwile
  2. Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches by James Hamilton Jr.
  3. Keep Your Heads Up: America’s New Black Christian Leaders, Social Consciousness, and the Cosby Conversation Ed. by Anthony Bradley

Monday I posted my review of Die Young: Burying Yourself in Christ by Hayley and Michael MiDarco. Today I wanted to post a number of great quotes from the book in chapter order.

Death is the New Life:

His death (Christ), then, allows for your death….His death is the one and only thing that allows you to no longer live for yourself (p. 24).

The trials and suffering of your life offer you the opportunity to die, and sometimes they make you want to die. But suffering is senseless and so is the pain that goes along with it if it serves no other purpose than to destroy you….Will suffering destroy your hope and your faith, leaving you with nothing solid to stand on,, alone and empty, or will your suffering destroy the parts of your life that tie you to the things of this earth and keep your focus off the God of heaven? If you believe that death is the new life, then you have to know that you will face trials, you will suffer (p. 27).

By the process of dying to yourself and your old way of life, you are brought into a new creation, one that is not only a grain but also an entire tree filled with the fruit of righteousness (p. 33).

There is a death that comes that isn’t meant to destroy you but to destroy that in you which was never meant to replace the hand of God in your life (p. 33-34).

Down is the New Up

It’s from a lowly position of self-awareness and sin that we are saved because God reaches down and touches us in our need…..The bottom isn’t such a bad lace because it is only from the perspective of your own lowest point that you are able to see your sinfulness and need for a loving Savior and to be saved (p. 45).

The counterintuitive nature of taking last place is actually the remedy to all our anger, frustration, and bitterness (p. 43).

Self-loathing would not exist if we had replaced our own interests with God’s interests; but it does exist not solely because of our self-hatred, but because of the mostly subconscious notion that we are so significant that we ought to be doing better than we are, to be more successful than we are, to be thinner than we are, or to be in any way better than we have been. The deep-seated and camouflaged pride in us screams, “It’s all about me! My pain, my suffering, my stuff! And because of that all of my energy is going into fixing me, even through torture or starvation, punishment and hatred.” What happens is the punishment of self is really an elevation of self to the center of our minds (p. 55).

Complaint simply elevates the one who complains, making that person the assayer of all goodness and the authority on all badness (p. 62).

The whole world is turned upside down when you die young and determine to live for the one who died for you (p. 73).

Less is the New More

While stuff isn’t inherently evil, the position we give it in our hearts can be (p. 75).

For everything that we want more of there is an accompanying danger in the more. The danger really isn’t even with the stuff but the position that our hearts give the stuff (p. 78).

The less we allow ourselves to follow our desire and passion for the more of this world, for the more that sin offers, the more we have of God himself (p. 80).

As long as we continue to hoard the things God has given us, we keep those things from changing the lives of those around us (p. 82).

This saving of your life through the stuff you put into it is then turning away from God and his saving grace towards the saving grace of stuff. And this is the essence of idolatry (p. 84).

To deny yourself something, anything, even if it isn’t something bad for you is to teach yourself that you will not be controlled by your passions. Less is more because the continual practice of less keeps your wants from becoming your needs…. When less is offensive, when less makes you uncomfortable, God becomes less important than your need for more (p. 87).

We know the word “covet” is bad, but when we see something we really want, complain because we don’t have it, or do all we can to get it, we give it a completely different definition. “Need,” “deserve,” “meant for,” are the terms we use to define the desires of our hearts (p. 91).

Weak is the New Strong

It can be a horrible feeling, your own weakness, your own wretchedness, but it isn’t mean to be the end of hope but he end of you, and that comes when you surrender the idea that you can do it all in your own strength (p. 103).

In the moment when everything is stripped away, when the pit seems like it can’t get any deeper, when all you love is lost, then can you truly see heaven reaching down to grab your hand to pull you up (p. 109).

When you become so certain of your need for him that each moment you look to receive all that you require from him,  then waiting becomes the highlight of your day, the source of all your hope (p. 111).

Slavery is the New Freedom

When a man demands the freedom to make his own choices, to do whatever he pleases and to be subject to no one, he deceives himself into thinking that freedom is a possibility….the man devoted to freedom becomes a slave to whatever freedom he enjoys (p. 120).

The believer is no longer his own, so to demand freedom is to demand to be set free from God, free to be your own god or to find another that serves you better. This ends up being no freedom at all (p. 122).

To reject the freedom of Christ for the freedom of the world it to submit yourself again to the yoke of slavery (p. 122).

Slavery is the new freedom because slavery to God gives those of us who embrace it freedom from all other gods which express their hold on us in the form of struggles, addictions, fears, worries, and all other sins in our lives (p. 123).

…Here is the single most critical verse in the life of the sinner, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). This is the message of the gospel for a sinful world. And this is the slavery that freedom brings, freedom from the condemnation that ought to come from sin but doesn’t because of the blood of Jesus (p. 123).

The only man who is truly free is the one who not only believes that slavery to God is what is best for him, but who trusts his master enough to believe that he made arrangements for his complete freedom and not a partial freedom. You cannot be a part-time slave (p. 127).

Slavery empties itself of all its self-will and determines to please God and to crucify self. The life that doesn’t die to self denies the master, refusing to entrust itself as slave, and thereby misses out on freedom (p. 129).

Freedom is yours when you submit to the only slavery that you were meant to be under (p. 137).

Confession is the New Innocence

Without confession of guilt there is no innocence for the sinner (p. 139).

Our resistance to confession does two things: it keeps us from the forgiveness our sin needs, and it also calls God a liar because to fail to confess is to say “I have not sinned.” (p. 140).

Many times our confessions to God might be more statements we make to ourselves about being better next time and thankfulness that God is forgiving. They might never get to the heart of a confession that states the sin and accepts the responsibility for it (p. 145).

When you feel guilty after doing any of the things God forbids, then confession is your only exit (p. 148).

To refuse to be honest about our sin is to refuse to agree with God that there has never been and will never be a perfect person besides Jesus (p. 154).

Red is the New White

We have to beware the thinking that it was out of God’s kindness and love that he saved us. Certainly he is kind and he loves us, but it was out of the death of his Son that he saved us. We can’t rely on God’s kindness or love to gain us access to the throne; it is only through accepting the blood that we can be viewed as innocent and allowed entry (p. 165).

You must, in order to receive justification, believe that the blood is enough. You must die to the part of you that insists to do its part to participate in this salvation thing and to help out God (p. 168).

If you heart has a hard time believing justification by the blood, then consider killing the part of you that would argue against God’s gracious and necessary gift (p. 168).

For many of us, the sins of our past continue to haunt us, and we are unable to forget the terrible things we’ve done. We see Christ and then we look at ourselves and we cringe; how unholy are we, how ugly. But the point of the blood isn’t to keep you there; its to purify you from the stains of your sin, to move you forward. The blood is our bleach (p. 170).

Conclusion – But you can make today the turning point in your life – the point when you determine to completely bury yourself in Christ so deep that nothing can every really harm you again. When you do that…..there is no more death for you. It is all nothing but life. No one can kill you when you are already dead (p. 172-73).

This week Credo Mag is giving away three great books from IVP. You can enter to win here and here is a lit of the books:

  1. Reading Scripture with the Reformers by Timothy George
  2. Justification: Five Views Ed. by James Beibly & Michael Horton
  3. Galatians, Ephesians (Reformation Commentary on Scripture) by Gerald Bray

There is perhaps no other book in the Bible that has be subject to the most diverse and sometimes fanciful interpretations than the book of Revelation. Its content has left many confused. Even the famous theologian and commentator John Calvin did not write a commentary on it because he could not understand it. For a book that brings to close the whole of God’s written revelation concerning his acts in history for the salvation of man and his glory, the door is wide open as to how the church has interpreted it through the ages.

In an effort to help believers better understand the interpretations of the book of Revelation C. Marvin Pate has written his newest book on eschatology, Reading Revelation: A Comparison of Four Interpretive Translations of the Apocalypse published by Kregel. This book is a step towards clearing the often muddy waters in ones attempt to understand the views of others as well as help the reader better see how their own interpretation looks live in the text.

Reading Revelation is not a commentary but as the subtitle states it is an interpretive translation. A simple translation is the work of a person or persons who have translated the original text into another language and do so according to a specific translation philosophy. An interpretive translation adds the translators interpretation of certain portions of the text so the reader sees how the translator understands/interprets a certain word, phrase, verse or chapter. Reading Revelation is an interpretive translation of four major distinct interpretations of Revelation along with the GNT 4th Ed. and Pate’s English translation.

A Question Posed for the Interpreters

In order to get a taste for how an interpretive translation works with Revelation we will ask each interpretive method to answer this question: Since Revelation is typically interpreted within the events of history (whether past, present or future) how does your interpretation see Revelations relation to history?

The preterist interpretation (also known as postmillennialism) sees the events described in Revelation as having already happened in history at the time of the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The address and following comfort were to the churches that existed at the time of its writing and were meant to speak to their current situation of persecution. The preterist position roots the references in Revelation in the unfolding history of the life of the first century church. Postmillennialism prides itself as being an eschatology of hope. Hope that “as the church preachers the gospel and performs its role as the salt of the earth, the kingdom of God will advance until the whole world will one day gladly bow to the authority of Christ (p. 8).” One distinctive of the preterist position is that in order for its interpretation to refer to the history of the first century church it must have a written date before 70 A.D. As such the majority view is that Revelation was written during the time of Nero between 54-68 A.D. Another distinctive of the preterist position is that chapters 20-22 reveal to us how Christ has established his earthly rule in the first century. Thus, all of Revelation refers to the past and the end of the book is similar to the books of Acts in that it is left open to the future until Christ’s kingdom rule has been completed on earth.

The historicist interpretation roots the references in Revelation to the unfolding of history in the life of the church from the first century to the return of Christ. Its major strength has been to “make sense of Revelation for the interpreter by correlating the prophecies directed to the seen churches of Asia Minor with the stages comprising church history (p. 9).” Thus, Revelation is a sort of church history book that is still being written.

The futurist interpretation takes the historical rooting of Revelation a step further removed from the first century and believes that chapters 4-22 are still future in relation to the present church. Within the futurist inperpretation there are two camps that divide on the events of the second coming of Christ. First, the Dispensational camp sees the lack of mention of the church after chapter three as indication that the church has been raptured before the events of chapters 4-18 take place as they deal with the Tribulation period (seventh week of Daniel 9). In great distinction to preterisms hopeful optimistic view of history, Dispensationalism is labeled as pessimistic since the world gets worse and worse right up to the rapture of the church. The second camp within the futurist position is known as Historic Premillennialism. It differs from Dispensationalism in that it believes the church has replaced OT Israel and will therefore go through the Tribulation period and not be saved (raptured) from it. For the futurist interpretation, Reading Revelation follows the Dispensational interpretation since it is the majority view of the two.

The idealist interpretation is the last interpretive school and sees the historical rooting of Revelation quite different that the other three. The idealist view interprets Revelation in a symbolic way. Pate describes this view as “representing the ongoing conflict of good and evil, with no immediate historical connection to any social or political events (p. 11).” Thus, the statements in Revelation are in no means predictive of actual historical events except for Christs final victory over evil at his return. This view is a combination of the Alexandrian school and the amillennial method and was the dominant view from the 3-5th centuries until the Reformation. This view has a strength in that it does not fall prey to seemingly force the text of Scripture into a specific historical event in order to either make sense of the text for the present reader or make sense of the readers situation from the text. On the other side, since there are no historical references to the events in Revelation the door of how it can be applied is wide open to abuse.

An Example

Now that we have a general idea of the four interpretive schools it would be helpful to see an example of how different the four schools can interpret a particular verse and get a real feel for what an interpretive translation looks like. We will use Revelation 1:19 as our example since ones interpretation of it sets the interpretive grid for the rest of the book – “Write therefore what you saw, and the things that are and the things that are about to be after these things.”

  1. Preterist – Write therefore what you have seen (Revb.1), and what is now (Rev. 2-3), and what will take place soon after these things (Rev. 4-22 = the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 as a result of Christ’s coming to destroy it).
  2. Historicist – Write therefore what you saw, both the things that are (Rev. 1-3) and the things that are about to become after these things (Rev. 4-22 = the seven periods of church history culminating in the triumph of the gospel).
  3. Futurist – Write therefore what you saw (Rev. 1), and the things that are (Rev. 2-3) and the things that are about to become after these things (Rev. 4-22 and the signs of the times that will begin after the rapture of the church into heaven).
  4. Idealist – Write therefore what you saw (the whole vision of Rev. 1-22), both the things that are(the “already” aspect of the kingdom of God) and the things that are about to become after these things (the “not yet” aspect of the kingdom of God, which awaits the return of Christ).

As you can see from one verse alone there is significant difference in the four methods of interpretation even with the idealist school though it finds no specific historical rooting. Many verses have to interpretive parenthesis but many of them do. You could read the book in one of two ways. First, you could read each column separately from beginning to end to get a fluid feel for the interpretation. I might be best to start this way. The second way this can be read is by reading each view side by side either chapter by chapter or verse by verse. This will really allow for the interpretive differences to shine through to the reader.

Reading Revelation is a fascinating way to read Revelation and a great way to gain a better grasp of each interpretive method. It will truly open your eyes to the text and cause you to pay more attention to what is being said. It will help the reader gain a better appreciation for other interpretations and allow one to see possible weaknesses in their own interpretive line of thought. This is a must have for reading Revelation.

NOTE: I receive this book from Kergel for review and was under no obligation to provide a favorable review.

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