Precious Little on the Loss of Precious Little Ones

Whether referencing our confession of faith or the Scriptures themselves, that seems to sum things up.

We just don’t have a great deal of authoritative data to work from in forming our convictions about what happens to the infants of believers who die in infancy.

The confession takes a position, for sure, in chapter 10 on Effectual Calling, paragraph 3:

Elect infants dying in infancy are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit, who works when and where and how He pleases. The same is true of all elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called through the preaching of the gospel.

It lists only John 3:3,5, 6, & 8 as proof texts.

Honestly, I don’t find the statement all that helpful. Election lies within the sovereign decree of God. That Christian parents who lose their infants can only wonder whether or not their child falls under that category seems to me to offer little or even no comfort at all.

The Bible says more, but in some ways not as much as we might hope in specific to settle the matter. Rather we must draw theological inferences from texts that can help inform our thoughts and encourage our hope that someone like Annabelle went to be with the Lord on Saturday and that her folks will see her again some day in heaven.

I could rehearse those texts and thoughts in my own words, but frankly I have a memorial service message to write between now and Friday. Furthermore, Desiring God published a blog post some time ago that summarizes the question supremely well.

Here is a significant section from the article by Matt Perman:

It is important to emphasize that, in our view, God is not saving infants because they are innocent. They are not innocent, but guilty. He is saving them because, although they are sinful, in his mercy he desires that compassion be exercised upon those who are sinful and yet lack the capacity to grasp the truth revealed about Him in nature and to the human heart.

To read the entire post click here.

A memorial service for Annabelle Walton will be held at Orlando Grace this Friday, June 22, at 7 PM. Visitation with the family will take place from 5:30 to 6:45 PM. Refreshments will be served.

Please continue to pray for the Waltons and their extended family as they walk through the valley of the shadow and reckon that even in staggering loss Jesus is enough.

Gospel-Powered Parenting

Frankly, I want gospel-powered everything.

After all, the gospel and only the gospel, is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16-17).

However, every parent feels the stakes higher in the area of how they shape their children’s lives than in perhaps any other sphere of their existence. As a pastor, that makes me on the lookout for any resource that will help dads and moms look to the gospel of Christ for the basis from which they parent their children.

William Farley gets pretty good reviews in this regard with his book Gospel-Powered Parenting. I confess I haven’t read it yet, but it is on my short list. I suppose that’s because I keep having conversations with parents wrestling with the challenges of bringing up their children, particularly in their teen years, in ways that glorify God.

Tim Challies, in an interview with the author, shares this sentiment from Farley, a sentiment that further intrigues me:

The gospel also protects parents from “moralism,” the idea that well-behaved children are the main thing. New Birth is the main thing. The morality of Christ imputed to your children is the main thing. It is not what our children do for Christ but what Christ has done for our children that is the main thing. Ironically, without aiming at it, gospel centered parents get godly behavior from their children.

I want to be gospel-centered in everything I do as a pastor, including shepherding the parents of OGC effectively into gospel-powered parenting.

If you read this resource, or have read it, let me know what you think.

Preventing Provoking

This Saturday our Oxford Club for Men meets at 7 AM at the church office. We will continue our discussion over Richard Phillip’s book The Masculine Mandate.

Chapter ten deals with our keeping role of disciplining our children as godly men.

Here is a taste from the chapter, some excellent words relating to not provoking our children to anger as Paul prescribes in Ephesians 6:4

In order to avoid provoking our children to anger, we must be fair and judicious in placing demands on our boys and girls. We should not be personally abusive (agian, all abuse  undermines rather than enhances authority). I want my children to think of themselves with God-given dignity and self-respect, and this requires the proper praise and respect of their father toward them. Here’s a rule I try very hard to follow: I will always be on my children’s side, even if I am punishing. I will never be against them and I will never speak to them with contempt (pp. 117-18).

Lots more good stuff where that came from. Look forward to digging in with you on September 17 for breakfast, fellowship, and study.

Nursery Numbers Gone Wild

They have. Last Sunday, twenty six little ones. And we haven’t even occupied a building yet.

Wonderfully scary to think what having our own place might mean for growth in our ministry in all kinds of areas, let alone this strategic one.

Our leadership team is working on the present challenge in this regard as well as thinking ahead to what the future might bring.

Mike and Peggy and Joyce, along with the help of a corps of other faithful volunteers have worked heroically over the years to serve our body in this area. Praise God for them! What a fabulous job they have been doing.

But truth is, things are getting a bit unmanageable. The leadership team decided some time ago to pursue hiring a paid nursery worker to serve on Sundays from 8:30 AM to 1:30 PM to coordinate our team of volunteers week-in and week-out and to help us ensure the safety and excellent care of our little ones. All our attempts to acquire this person from outside the body, for various reasons, have not succeeded.

On Thursday night we agreed as a team to bring on, on an experimental basis for the next four months, someone from within our own body to attempt to address this area. Beginning tomorrow morning, Katie Fairey will assume the post. We praise God for her willingness. We will make every effort to make sure she gets to be in most of the service each week, but for set up, the 9:30 hour, drop off for and pick up after the service, and take down, she will be present in the nursery. Please pray for her and us as we give this strategy a shot and see how things work out.

One other item has come to our attention as we have sought to address this area of need in our ministry. The load of care is falling on too few servants. Some simply aren’t willing to serve. Others call at the last minute or fail to show up as scheduled at all.

Please, I beg of you, dear sisters in Christ, for the sake of the gospel, the love of Christ’s family and the care of our little ones, let’s rally around Katie and one another and do better in this regard. I realize it isn’t everyone’s favorite ministry and nobody wants to miss the service. But if everyone pitches in no one has to serve more than once every six weeks or even more. And I see that the message of the day gets posted on the website that very afternoon so folks don’t have to miss the feeding of God’s word.

If the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these, let us show our affirmation of that by working together to have the best of all possible nursery environments for our children of today and tomorrow.

Another Token for Good Is Born

I am pleased to announce the birth of Lawson Elizabeth Rex to her delighted parents, Aaron and Stephanie Rex.

Miss Lawson was born at 6:15 this morning, August 7, at Winter Park Hospital. She weighed in at 6 lb. 9 oz and was 19 and 3/4 inches long. Mom and Dad are resting well after a long night!

I got to hold the newest addition to our congregation and pray over her after reading Psalms 127 and 128 with her folks.

There the Bible calls the fruit of the womb a reward. Spurgeon called babies a token for good in his treatment of Psalm 127:3 in the Treasury of David:

Children are a heritage which Jehovah himself must give, or a man will die childless, and thus his house will be unbuilt. And the fruit of the womb is his reward, or a reward from God. He gives children, not as a penalty nor as a burden, but as a favour. They are a token for good if men know how to receive them, and educate them. They are “doubtful blessings” only because we are doubtful persons. Where society is rightly ordered children are regarded, not as an incumbrance, but as an inheritance; and they are received, not with regret, but as a reward. If we are over crowded in England, and so seem to be embarrassed with too large an increase, we must remember that the Lord does not order us to remain in this narrow island, but would have us fill those boundless regions which wait for the axe and the plough. Yet even here, with all the straits of limited incomes, our best possessions are our own dear offspring, for whom we bless God every day.

Congratulations Aaron, Stephanie, and Zeke.

We look forward to meeting Lawson some Sunday morning soon!

12 Ways to Love Your Wayward Child

Back before Father’s Day when I was preparing the sermon on Proverbs 23:12-28, someone sent me a blog post by Abraham Piper from Desiring God about ways to move in redemptively to the life of a prodigal son or daughter. I’ve meant to post it on our blog as a follow up to my message on the best gift you can give your parents, but until now have not had the opportunity.

Mr. Piper explains his intent this way:

Many parents are brokenhearted and completely baffled by their unbelieving son or daughter. They have no clue why the child they raised well is making such awful, destructive decisions. I’ve never been one of these parents, but I have been one of these sons. Reflecting back on that experience, I offer these suggestions to help you reach out to your wayward child.

He covers ideas like point them to Christ, welcome them home, plead with them more than you rebuke them, take an interest in their pursuits, point them to Christ and more. It’s worth the read, especially if you have wayward children that you pray for and long for to come to faith.

You can read the entire post here.

The Best Possible Gift You Can Give Your Parents

My Father’s Day sermon is now on the web. You can listen to the audio here.

I ran out of time before I could cover these items of application following a brief summary.

So these are some thoughts this Father’s Day for the best possible gift to give your parents – their joy in your heart’s desire to go the way of the wise all your days. Do all you can to get and keep their wisdom. Always treat them with respect. Take care with whom you associate. Let me finish with some thoughts for application.

First, become an expert in the state of your heart. Don’t neglect it. Be rightly suspicious of it and ask others you trust to tell you what they see in your heart and listen carefully.

Second, beware pride and the all-too-easy tendency to be wise in your own eyes, particularly when it comes to dismissing your parents’ judgment and wisdom in a situation. Understand that humility and submission are prize virtues in the way of the wise.

Third, regularly appreciate and praise your parents with genuine affirmation not insincere flattery. Write them a tribute at some point. Get Dennis Rainey’s book. You won’t regret it.

Fourth, heed the sober warnings of the Scripture about dishonoring and despising your parents. If you have done so, go humble yourself and ask forgiveness.

Fifth, if you are hanging out with the wrong crowd on the path to destruction realize what that says about your own heart and determine to get yourself out of there as fast as possible and start hanging out with the wise. Remember the blessedness promised in Psalm 1:1 -2. If you need help getting untangled from bad associations ask for it.

May we be a cause of great gladness to our parents and certainly no “life sentence.”