Our Children Belong to the Covenant of Grace

Why should our children be with us in worship? They belong to the covenant of grace.

Our children belonging to the covenant of grace and receiving the blessings of it is like belonging to a family. As members of a family, everyone from the oldest to the youngest receives the blessings of the family such as love, shelter, and guidance. We do not regard our children as outside our family any more than we should regard them as outside God’s family, the church. As one writer stated, why would the Apostle Paul go out of his way to address the children of the congregations of Ephesus [Eph 6:1-4] and Colossae [Col. 3:20] if they were not part of the covenant of grace?

This is from the excellent little book, The Nursery of the Holy Spirit. 

Bored Parents, Bored Children

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Pastor Danny Hyde on why some children are bored in public worship

Another practical point you need to consider is that the greatest stumbling block for your children in worship is not that they are bored or because nothing is “at their level,” but that you as their parents do not convey in words and deeds that your cherish holy worship. Keep this saying in mind: worship is better caught than taught. What does this mean?  It means that our children learn by participating in worship more than by our explanations of worship. Therefore your children feel the difference between duty and delight. They will pick up from you a dour attitude if you have a dour attitude. They will come  to believe that worship is not important if you do not show them it is important. As a parent, you are the greatest example to your children of the meaning and value of worshipping the Lord. Having your children with you in worship allows them to be taught about by what they have caught in worship as their eager eyes watch you model this Lord’s Day after Lord’s Day…You must love to worship your God so that your children will learn to love him through the liturgy [order of serve] your church utilizes. After all, you cannot preach what you do not possess or have not first preached to yourself.

I have nine children ranging in ages from 1 to 17. I have a tenth child on the way in December. I have been getting kids ready for church, getting them into various vehicles, walking with them into church, rounding them up before worship, sitting with them in worship, and watching them after worship for over fifteen years. I know how hard Sunday mornings can be, especially when there are little ones. How can a parent maintain joy, wonder, and gratitude when Sunday mornings can be so difficult?

The answer, as usual, is faith. As parents we must believe that the most important and beneficial event in our lives and the lives of our children is Sunday morning worship. No matter how messy, tired, and hard getting there and being there is, God meets us and our children on Sunday mornings in a way he does not during the week.  Our spiritual lives depend upon Sunday mornings as our physical lives depend upon food. We need it. And God is worthy of our time, attention, and effort and that of our children’s. He is the one who made us, saved us through His Son, and makes us holy through His Spirit. While we know this from Monday through Saturday, Sunday morning reminds us Who we worship and why. If we believe and make our lives conform to these two great truths, that God meets us in worship and he is worthy of our worship, then we will find ourselves teaching our children not just by words but more importantly by our example that worship is a delight.

Calvin’s Reason for the Reformation: Worship

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The Reformation was one of the great events in Western history. It began long before Luther and Calvin with men like Huss and Wycliffe. But it culminated in a large group of Christians leaving the Roman Catholic church because it had left the teaching of Scripture. It is always good to go back to primary sources and get their reasons for doing what they did. What led these men to break with Roman Catholic church?

Calvin in his excellent book The Necessity of Reforming the Church, lists two main reasons for the why the reformation was necessary:

If it be inquired, then, by what things chiefly the Christian religion has a standing existence among us, and maintains it truth, it will be found that the following two not only occupy the principal place, but comprehend under them all the other parts and consequently the whole substance of Christianity: that is, a knowledge, first, of the mode in which God is duly worshiped; and secondly, of the source from which salvation is to be obtained. When these are kept out of view, though we may glory in the name of Christians, our profession is empty and vain.

At the center of the Christian faith is proper worship of God and proper understanding of justification by faith in Christ alone. Calvin felt reformation was necessary because these two foundations of the faith had been compromised.

Calvin then goes on to briefly explain how these two areas have been corrupted by the church (Roman Catholics). Here are some quotes about worship. Regarding worship he touches on public prayers, which he says are “stained with numberless impurities,” adoration of and praying to the saints, numerous rites and ceremonies not found in Scripture, and people who “devote their whole attention to abstinences, vigils, and other things, which Paul terms ‘beggarly elements’ of the world.”

He ends with this:

Having observed that the word of God is the test which discriminates between true worship and that which is false and vitiated, we thence readily infer that the whole form of divine worship in general use in the present day is nothing but mere corruption. For men pay no regard to what God has commanded or to what he approves, in order that they  may serve him in a becoming manner, but assume to themselves a license of devising modes of worship, and afterwards obtruding [imposing] them upon him as a substitute for obedience.

If in what I say I seem to exaggerate, let an examination be made of all the acts by which the generality suppose that they worship God. I dare scarcely except a tenth part as not the random offspring of their own brain…God rejects, condemns, abominates all fictitious worship, and employs his word as a bridle to keep us in unqualified obedience. When shaking off this yoke, we wander after our own fictions, and offer to him a worship, the work of human rashness, how much soever it may delight ourselves, in his sight it is vain trifling, nay, vileness and pollution. The advocates of human traditions paint them in fair and gaudy colors; and Paul certainly admits that they carry with them a show of wisdom; but God values obedience more than all sacrifices, it ought to be sufficient for the rejection of any mode of worship, that it is not sanctioned by the command of God.

For Calvin the first reason for the Reformation was that God’s people had drifted far from the true worship of God as prescribed in the Scriptures.

Book Review: The Nursery of the Holy Spirit by Daniel Hyde

The Nursery of the Holy Spirit: Welcoming Children in WorshipThe Nursery of the Holy Spirit: Welcoming Children in Worship by Daniel R. Hyde

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a great little book on including our children in public worship! Pastor Hyde does a great job laying out the Biblical and practical reasons for putting our little ones on our laps or beside us on Sunday morning. He does so with cheerfulness and without being too harsh. He does not make this a hill to die on, as some in the family integrated church movement do. But he does clearly indicate its value. Along the way he carefully articulates the place of children in the covenant. Also it has a great bibliography, which us book lovers always like.

The only problem? The book costs too much. It is only 60 pages long and retails at $15.99 with used copies going for $8.00 plus shipping. Someone needs to take this book, fix a few typos, and bring the price down to about $5-8. If they did I would buy some for every family at my church.

I highly recommend this book for all pastors, elders, worship leaders and all those interested in children and their place in the church.

View all my reviews

Our Children Need Public Worship

I know a few good pastors out in California, including Pastor Dan Hyde. Every book I have read by him has been profitable. Right now I am reading his short book  on children in worship, The Nursery of the Holy Spirit.  Here is a great paragraph explaining why our children need to be in worship with us. All punctuation is his except brackets and I have removed footnotes.

With a renewal in biblical doctrine in many evangelical circles today, for example, among “New Calvinism,” it is a great time to reevaluate our practice [of excluding children from worship] and to ask how we can become more “children-friendly” as churches in the area of worship. This is also a great time to do this given the content [context?] in which we live, as our children are being assaulted in their faith more than ever before. Even before many children are born they are assaulted by “Pro-Choice.” Our culture is more and more seeking to allure children into a worldview of hedonism, materialism, and narcissism. The church, therefore, needs to be a refuge for children from the earliest age. One practical expression of this is  in welcoming our children to join us before the throne of God’s grace in worship, giving them a meaningful place in the church. As the church education professor, John Westerhoff III, has shown, the biblical example of three generations in the church’s worship results in interaction and sharing among generations as well as a sense of experiencing the whole community of faith. The children of believers, therefore, are children of the church and belong in the Holy Spirit’s most child-friendly nursery-public worship.

We Are All Freaks

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The sooner conservative Christians recognize how they are viewed by most of American culture the sooner we will be able to effectively  work and fight within that culture. Many Christians want people to like them. We want to be seen as upstanding citizens and good moral people. We believe we are a respectable lot that deserves to be tolerated. We want to be thought of as a little different, but not too different. We want people to like our children. We want to fit in.

But the reality is far different from this utopia we imagine in our heads. If you hold to a few basic tenets of Christian ethics, such as sex is for one man and one woman within marriage,  homosexual practice, unless repented of and turned from, will send you to Hell, wives are to submit to their husbands, children are a blessing from the Lord, and Jesus is Lord of all, including the bedroom and the White House, you are a freak, an outcast. Imagine going around wearing a sign, “Transgenders, unless they repent, will burn.” Now I know we would not say it like that. We would qualify it in various ways. But the world will not usually hear our qualifications. The world hears, “You hate us and want us to burn in Hell. You are a threat to our happiness, you intolerant bastard.”

At first I considered comparing us to the Amish, an odd group whom others look at with apathetic curiosity. “Oh look, there is one of those funny carriages.” But conservative Christians are not looked at like this. We are not viewed as odd, but harmless. We are a threat. Our views are not just old and outdated. Our views undermine the freedom of the individual to pursue their own happiness. No we are not like the Amish. Not all will see us this way of course, but many will, especially those among the elite, such as the movie industry, music, journalists, the media, and universities.

We are citizens of another kingdom. We are soldiers fighting the principalities and powers that rule this world. We are hear to declare freedom to captives. We are loyal to Christ and His Word above all else.  We believe that right and wrong is determined by Scripture, not by what we feel in hearts.  All of this sounds innocent. But the details tell a different story. We do not operate with the same values as the world around us. We have different basic principles and different goals. Our lives, even if we live them quietly, tell the world they are wrong. While we know we are for the world, the world increasingly views us as a grave threat.  The world views us as dangerous freaks. The sooner we understand this the better. How then shall we live?

First, don’t fear. There is nothing of lasting consequence that the world can do to us. It can take our money, jobs, reputation, and life, but it cannot take Jesus. And if we have Jesus we have everything.

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:5-6

Second, guard your heart against the love of the world and the desire to be loved by the world. I am convinced that in the coming years most Christians will not leave the faith because of theological problems or because of being hurt by someone in the church. They will leave because they love their reputation more than they love Jesus. They will turn their backs on Christ rather than be made of fun of and laughed at by the world.

Third, we shouldn’t whine about how the world treats us.  Christians are terrible at developing a martyr complex. We walk around grumbling and complaining about what was said about us on that blog or in that newspaper. Friends reject us for our views and we pout. It looks bad. Christ said rejoice when we are persecuted for our faith. Don’t walk around feeling sorry for yourself when the world hates you.

Finally, our worship and our homes should be overflowing with joy.  We are children of the King. Our inheritance is sure. When we are reviled by the world that means we are being counted with the prophets and men like Paul. In contrast to the world, where joy is slowly eroding, let us rejoice and be glad.

Each generation of Christians must fight the battle the Lord gives them in that age. We don’t get to pick and choose. Part of the good fight in our age is the willingness to be thought of weird, out of step, odd, outdated, freaks, and threats in order to follow after Christ.

The Dangers of Liturgical Hypocrisy

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The Prophet Jeremiah

I love our liturgy and worship service. We sing the Psalms. We kneel to confess our sins. We read several portions of Scripture. We eat at the Lord’s table every week. We bring our tithes and offerings to the front while we sing. We sit under God’s Word. Perhaps nothing has changed more in the last ten years of my life than my approach to worship.

But men and women love to hide in a liturgy They love to have rituals that say, “I am holy” without actually striving for holiness. It works like this. We go the Lord’s house every week. We hear his word preached. We sing and pray with his people. We eat at his table. We fellowship with his people. But our lives do not change.We do not amend our ways. Sin is not put to death. Righteousness is not growing in homes and hearts. The liturgy becomes a way of pretending, a way of hiding from God, instead of a way of drawing near to Him and becoming more like Christ.  Worship, not matter how high, beautiful, or Biblical, becomes a sham. The prophet Jeremiah spoke to this problem in Jeremiah 7:1-11

The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: “Stand in the gate of the LORD’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the LORD, all you men of Judah who enter these gates to worship the LORD. Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.’ “For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever. “Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—only to go on doing all these abominations? Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the LORD.

Israel thought that the temple, the sacrifices, the priesthood, and her worship were enough. She thought that she could come to the feasts, worship at the temple, and still live in sin. She praised God. She sang the Psalms. She talked about the priesthood. But she did not “amend her ways.” So it was in Jeremiah’s day so it is in our day. Continue reading