Passing on the Faith through My Trust and Last Will and Testament

For Lord’s Day, January 29, 2017

Dear Saints,

On the occasion of my daughter, Olivia Rose, taking her communicant membership vows before you this morning to be received into full communion and begin taking the Lord’s Supper this evening, wherein I will be charging her to Keep Picking Up and Passing on the Faith and to Keep Raising Up the Cup, I thought it fitting to share with you something personal in our family.

Recently, I took the children with me to attend a meeting with my lawyer’s team in Escondido where I signed my updated last will and testament and my new trust and advance health directive and choice of guardianship with other related forms. Due to our loss of Jennifer, I needed to update these forms and create a trust for the children, should anything happen to me. I intended for it to be a solemn occasion that they would always remember for how they live in the honor of their Mother’s name and for their father but most importantly for their Heavenly Father’s good name.

Before we began the meeting, I opened us in prayer and then charged the children to take this seriously. I told them they should feel safe and that this was taking care of them as minors and they should be thankful. Further, if when they come of age they were to deny Christ and abandon His Church by their word or works (Titus 1:16), I would update my will and take them out of it because I could not then trust them to be good stewards of Christ’s resources entrusted to me. I later told them that if they defected from the faith later on as adults literally or practically by neglect that I would consider myself a failure as a father and I wanted them to know that nothing else they may accomplish in their lives would matter to me at all if they were not doing all in and for Jesus Christ and His Church.

At the end of the meeting, the lawyer came in (an elder in a conservative Presbyterian church) and charged the children to take this seriously and live out their Christian heritage in honor of their father and mother and to trust only in the Lord Jesus Christ and live only for Him. Then he prayed for us.

Afterward, we were late for Abraham’s basketball practice nearby (another reason I took the children with me to this meeting). I apologized and asked if they thought this was worth attending. Abraham exclaimed, “That’s OK, I would way more want this meeting than basketball practice!” You see, when we take our children seriously for Christ and expect them to take Christ seriously, they will respond in kind in the context of the covenant family and be honored to do so.  God will honor them that honor Him and He will bless them that seek to bless His name with Himself, and this promise is also for our children.

By taking this all very seriously I had hoped it would help the children take their lives very seriously from an early age and not consider what I might leave to them later as a right to claim but a privilege of which to be good stewards or have it revoked. By so doing, I found myself even more impressed with my own duty to leave them a good and meaningful spiritual legacy by my own life and how I go about passing it on to them. I let the children know that I had remembered the church and another ministry in my will for a percentage of it if all other things were first taken care of for them, and that if I lived to their adulthood and they didn’t really need it I would adjust the will to give them only a percentage of my assets and upfront include the church and another charity for a percentage as other beneficiaries much in need of support to carry on (probably more than they would need it): they thought this made perfect sense. I want them to now be thinking of using their time, talents, and treasures as stewards for Christ, not themselves, unto and through their deaths.

I prepared a Christian preamble for my will that I then read to them at home. I said I did not want them to only be comforted and convicted by it at my death, but at the beginning of their lives to live for and up to it as I so will endeavor to do for Christ and His Kingdom, with this memory as a meaningful reference to look back on at the time they will gather again to review it later on. They said it was lovely and they were very thankful to have heard it now from me alive, not just later after my death, and that it did give meaning to their lives. I share this preamble with you here and encourage you to think about whether you are taking your lives for Christ seriously enough and whether you are challenging your children to do the same in such tangible, sobering, proactive ways. And whether you are willing to put it into writing.

I, Grant E. Van Leuven, a resident of the city of Chula Vista in San Diego County, California, do hereby testify that I am a Christian who serves the only and true Triune God. I want to remind especially my children, whom I here mainly address, that I have placed all my hope of life hereafter in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Way, Truth, Life, and Resurrection. His life, death, and resurrection have given my life meaning and make my death a purposeful passage into a greater degree of glory where Christ has prepared a place for me in His Father’s house and where He will stand and greet me as He did Stephen in Acts 7 and as we trust He so brought your Mother through the valley of the shadow of death while we sang her into heaven with Psalm 23. I am now more intimately and immediately experiencing my chief and final end to glorify God and fully to enjoy Him forever.

I want my children to know that for me to live was Christ, and to die is now my gain, and to be absent in the body is now to be present with my Lord and Good Shepherd along with the cloud of witnesses, including your Mother, who went before us.

I want my friends and family to rejoice with me as I declare my completed faith in Jesus Christ my Savior. I am assured by faith in His Sovereign Grace that after my life of joy and sorrow, accomplishments and failures, I will live eternally in the presence of our Heavenly Father where there is fulness of joy—and at His right hand with Jesus, where there are pleasures forevermore. This is possible not because I have earned or deserved it, but because Jesus, the God-man, lived and died in my place and rose and ascended to the right hand of God in the true Holy of Holies to intercede for me as my only mediatorial prophet, priest, and king. Having enjoyed the first resurrection and endured the first death by the Holy Spirit’s comfort and empowering and enlightening guidance, I now live with Christ face-to-face looking forward to the second resurrection with the peace of being spared the second death.

I borrow these last words of David Dickson, co-author of The Sum of Saving Knowledge, on his death bed: “I have taken all my good deeds, and all my bad deeds, and cast them in a heap before the Lord, and fled from both to the Lord Jesus Christ, and in him I have sweet peace.”  Further, I adopt the words that Dr. J. Gresham Machen sent in a telegram to Professor John Murray shortly before he died: “I’m so thankful for the active obedience of Christ.  No hope without it.”

I encourage my children to go back and listen to my sermon series through Psalm 23 to be comforted and encouraged and to hold fast and overcome.  As well, as could have been said by your Mother in our presence had she been able to speak in her last moments with us, hear Paul’s words as hers and mine and as my grateful resolve having faith’s fruit (especially your fruit) to look back on, knowing that my labor was not in vain and that I shall receive my reward of the inheritance for serving the Lord Christ: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”  May these also be your sincere dying words and thoughts.

I ask my children, whom I dearly love, never to forget the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations, including bringing up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  May God bless you and yours through the same means as He did Abraham in Genesis 18:19.  Be good stewards of your time, talents, and treasures so that you leave your own covenant family legacy and heritage, material and and especially spiritual, to your seed.  And love and serve Christ’s Church, which is His Body, Bride, House, and Family, and the Pillar and Ground of the Truth—and out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation. May God grant you peace, love, and strength as he guides you through this life. Then at the end of time, we and your Mother and your three unborn siblings who went before her will be reunited in the New Heaven and Earth as a happy family with our new spiritual bodies.

I commit myself to God’s care, secure in his love for me and trusting in the salvation purchased for me through Christ’s suffering and death. I leave those who survive me the comfort of knowing that I have died in this faith and have now joined my Lord in eternal glory. I commend my loved ones to the protecting arms of God, knowing that He will continue to provide for you despite my absence; and I encourage you to place your faith and trust in Him alone and never in the world for your daily bread, comfort, and peace. I look forward to seeing you all who are truly in and with Christ again in our life hereafter, where we will all live with our Lord Jesus.

Do not sorrow without hope.  Remember what the Westminster Larger Catechism question and answer number 86 teaches.  Question: What is the communion in glory with Christ, which the members of the invisible church enjoy immediately after death? Answer: The communion in glory with Christ, which the members of the invisible church enjoy immediately after death, is, in that their souls are then made perfect in holiness, and received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies, which even in death continue united to Christ, and rest in their graves as in their beds, till at the last day they be again united to their souls …

Also, may all who read this be keeping sober guard of your lives and souls, watching for King Jesus’ return on a white horse and on the clouds of heaven, by the closing words of the above answer: … Whereas the souls of the wicked are at their death cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter darkness, and their bodies kept in their graves, as in their prisons, till the resurrection and judgment of the great day.

Further, I refer my heirs to Deuteronomy, the eighth chapter, and charge you not to “… say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth …”  Remember how your Mother and I baptized and raised you as and to be Christians and peculiar people, and be no covenant breakers but covenant keepers. “But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day. And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the LORD thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish.”

I request that my heirs remember that everything they have is a trust from the Father of Heavenly Lights.  Take heed never to forget that you are merely stewards of what the Lord has given me and you, and that you will give an account of your stewardship of your Master’s things when Emmanuel returns at the Last Great Day. Be good servants and stewards of the faith and life legacy I now pass on to you in full by the gracious hand and in the mighty name of my faithful and true Master, Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.  Behold, He comes quickly. Prepare and endeavor to hear, “Well done good and faithful servant,” when He does.

I being of sound and disposing mind, memory, and understanding, do hereby declare this document to be my Last Will and Testament, hereby revoking any and all my prior Wills and Codicils.

Semper Reformanda,
Pastor Grant

PS: I borrowed much of the language for this preamble from free sources online. Anyone who may find this preamble helpful and want to adopt it for updating (or beginning) their own wills are welcome to use it.

Elderly Wisdom of Our Fathers

RussertWisdomOfOurFathersFor Lord’s Day, February 21, 2016

Dear Saints,

Considering that the Lord just reminded us in Leviticus 19:32 to honor those older than us (especially those with gray-haired crowns as reflecting the Ancient of Days), and considering part of this honor involves encouraging our elders to talk with us about their lives while we listen intently as eager to learn something from their life experiences, I thought it would be nice to share with you some “proverbs” at the end of Tim Russert’s lovely book, Wisdom of Our Fathers: Lessons and Letters from Daughters and Sons.

At the end of his book, he gathers some pithy and pregnant statements in a section he labels, “Father Knows Best”. Here are a few excerpts from that section by men I expect are no longer living (just as Mr. Russert entered eternity in 2008), but from whom we can still learn to live by what they left behind through their children’s letters:

The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.
—Herman Schayes, coach, hospital aide 

Do what you have to do first, and what you want to do second.
—Donald Jarvis, shop supervisor

Go for broke. What’s the worst that can happen? If they say no, you’re right back where you started. And they might say yes.
—Ray Hasson, TV producer

Don’t let other people’s actions govern yours.
—Jean Smith, railroad yardmaster

Choose good friends. If you walk past garbage, you will smell like garbage.
—Emilio Saporito, dye-house worker

Don’t brag. It’s not the whistle that pulls the train.
—Nat Landau, insurance salesman

Never replace just one spark plug.
—Lester William Dreyer, steamfitter

The fruit you reach for is better than the fruit that falls at your feet.
—Clyde Smith, transportation operator

Drive with care. Life has no spare.
—Bernard Gottlieb, businessman

Practice hard. You’ll play the way you practiced.
—Nick Cosmos, coach

A clear conscience is a soft pillow.
—Harry David LaVenture, shirt cutter

Be grateful that I’m still yelling at you, because that means I still care. When I don’t say anything—that’s when you should worry.
—William Pramberger, financial analyst

You’d be amazed what you can do when you have to.
—James Joseph Vaughan, operating engineer

Remembering that our purposes are established, rather than disappointed, for a multitude of counselors (Proverbs 15:22; 20:18) and that there is wise safety in a multitude of counselors (Proverbs 11:14; 24:6), may we meditate on these helpful life lessons from those who have gone before us and made an indelible impression on those they left behind, minding Proverbs 12:15: The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Wise, Discerning Discipline

SchwarzkopfFor the Lord’s Day, August 2, 2015

Dear Saints,

A blunt but discerning leadership and parenting nugget is mined from General H. Norman Schwarzkopf’s autobiography, It Doesn’t Take a HeroHe shares the following story during his time as second lieutenant in the United States Army with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky:

In the summer of 1957 we had a huge influx of draftees, and we were working fifteen-hour days to get them properly trained and assimilated into the unit.  The worst soldier in the bunch was a guy from upstate New York.  He insisted that he’d been in a motorcycle accident and had sustained brain damage that caused him occasionally to become catatonic.  Given that he’d passed his draft physical, this seemed improbable, and we soon noticed a close correlation between this private’s catatonic fits and the prospect of hard work.  We’d be camped fifteen miles from the base, getting ready to march home, and the private would pass out.  Each time we’d carry him to the dispensary, but he always revived just before the doctor examined him.

The doctor was mystified; he couldn’t say what the problem was, but he also couldn’t say there was no problem.  Sergeants Montoya and Gonzales, Korean War veterans who supervised the recruits, did not think very much of this at all.  “Sir, that [guy] is getting over on us!”

I was concerned that if he did have a medical condition, the man could die: “Look, Sarge, he may be or he may not be.  We just don’t know and we can’t take a chance.”

So the sergeants improvised their own cure.  The troops lived on the second floor of the barracks, and every Friday night they had what was called a GI party–which entailed scrubbing the floor, waxing it, and buffing it to a high shine.  One Friday I heard screaming and raced upstairs and burst into the squad bay.  Montoya and Gonzales had the private hanging out the window upside down by his ankles.  He was in a panic, and Gonzales was yelling, “… It didn’t take you long to wake up this time!”  After that the private had no more catatonic fits, although the Army discharged him anyway, a few months later, as unfit for duty.

Sometimes you just have to get terribly and creatively direct to ferret out lazy, destructive, undermining, varmint-like tendencies.  Does this illustration seem extreme, non-pastoral, non-parental, and unscriptural?  Well passing over Hebrews 12:5-11 and Nehemiah 13:23-28, let us venture back in the Bible to consider King Solomon’s first wise and disciplinary tactic as a tough act to follow:

Then came there two women, that were harlots, unto the king, and stood before him. And the one woman said, O my lord, I and this woman dwell in one house; and I was delivered of a child with her in the house. And it came to pass the third day after that I was delivered, that this woman was delivered also: and we were together; there was no stranger with us in the house, save we two in the house. And this woman’s child died in the night; because she overlaid it. And she arose at midnight, and took my son from beside me, while thine handmaid slept, and laid it in her bosom, and laid her dead child in my bosom. And when I rose in the morning to give my child suck, behold, it was dead: but when I had considered it in the morning, behold, it was not my son, which I did bear. And the other woman said, Nay; but the living is my son, and the dead is thy son. And this said, No; but the dead is thy son, and the living is my son. Thus they spake before the king.

Then said the king, The one saith, This is my son that liveth, and thy son is the dead: and the other saith, Nay; but thy son is the dead, and my son is the living. And the king said, Bring me a sword. And they brought a sword before the king. And the king said, Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other. Then spake the woman whose the living child was unto the king, for her bowels yearned upon her son, and she said, O my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it. But the other said, Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it. Then the king answered and said, Give her the living child, and in no wise slay it: she is the mother thereof. And all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had judged; and they feared the king: for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him, to do judgment. (1 Kings 3:16-28)

Notice that this extremely shrewd yet incredibly bold getting at the truth was King Solomon’s first wise judgment after God granted him the gift of wisdom for which he asked earlier in the chapter.

Am I saying to dangle disrespectful, deceitful, defiant deviants over balconies or to threaten to slice someone’s infant down the middle?  Of course not.  But the illustrated principle remains: sometimes moronic, incompetent, inferior nonsense must be squelched by morally responsible and effectual superiors.

Discerning when such daring measures are called for by similarly deplorable times takes great insight, so let us ask God for wisdom in leadership and parenting noting that there is a time for everything under heaven (including breaking down, as Solomon wrote elsewhere).

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Children Reflect Their Parents

DSC_0032 copyFor Lord’s Day, April 12, 2015

Dear Saints,

We had a hearty chuckle yesterday afternoon as I was getting ready to mow the lawn.  Isaac (nearly 2, going on 22), became hilariously excited, making driving motions with his arms and uttering engine noises with his voice to indicate that HE too was going to be cutting the grass!  He hadn’t even seen me get the mower out yet — he just knew what was about to take place watching my ritual of putting on work clothes and boots, and he wanted in!  No doubt about it, Daddio!  Step aside or lead the way!  So we brought out his personal machine of choice to join me in the labor. He was so funny, pushing that little plastic thing all around with purpose and pride (with its and his engine noises mixed with ecstatic, giggly cackles).  Jenn snapped a picture to document the fun.

This little tike’s merry antics reminded me of how much our children observe us and reflect us. They watch and listen and imitate.  It is the way they are wired, and in a covenant home, this is especially priceless if we are purposeful.

Isaac continued to impress his lesson upon me as we had family worship later that evening.  He clung to one of our little, black Scottish Psalters on his highchair tray like a treasured treat, and even though he had it opened upside down, he sang along with gusto (it was at least a joyful noise!).  By our example and patient coaxing, Isaac also has begun to pray his version of “Amen” and to say “Jesus”.  Praise the Lord.

The older children got a kick out of Isaac’s zeal for worship (he insisted on getting his psalter back to hold onto during our readings and discussion, and he pointed to Olivia’s empty chair with great concern for the covenant community as he hollered for her return from “powdering her nose” while we later sang another Psalm).  I told his brother and sisters that their little brother was copying them. He watches their example too, and they must continue to set a good one. It was a reminder for us all to lead this wee lad in the ways of righteousness, for he learns from all we do and say (and all that we do not do and say).  As well, he still likes to fling his arm around and “precent” during the singing of the Psalms, and this of course is his mimicking Mr. Kevin Huffmaster helping us sing in public worship together as Christ’s Church.

Our children do what we teach them by deliberation or default.  We are their models and they reflect us.  This reality is no different with our own Lord, Jesus Christ, who said:

… Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise … I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. (John 5:19, 30)

Like Father, like Son.  Beloved, may we copy Jesus. That is, may we too reflect His Heavenly Father and Our Father Which art in heaven.  And thus, may we teach our children well (young and older), for they always reflect us.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Learn to Appreciate God’s Discipline as Fatherly Faithfulness

iStock_000019839795LargeFor Lord’s Day, January 25, 2015

Dear Saints,

In his chapter on the doctrine of adoption, Dr. R.C. Sproul writes:

The great lie of Satan is that if you really love a child, you won’t discipline him. In fact, normal discipline is often considered ‘child abuse.’ But the greatest abuse you can give a child is to let him do whatever he wants without any correction, chastening, or discipline. A truly loving and caring father will rebuke, admonish, and chasten his children. Similarly, God says that he chastens or disciplines his children because he loves them … The Father never writes us off. (Truths We Confess: A Layman’s Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith, vol. 2,)

This is a very important truth to swallow: not to discipline our children is the worst form of child abuse.  What is too often excused as loving patience will actually be exposed as selfish indifference.  When we neglect parental discipline, we actually are writing off our children.  And deep down, they know it and act out on it.  God’s Word says:

But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. (Hebrews 12:8)

There is a wonderful truth here to be embraced.  We are NOT bastards, we are adopted children.  God proves His faithful fatherhood over us by His chastisement and discipline.  So we are told in Hebrews 12 to appreciate His “tough love” to us as a sign that He has not written us off, and as evidence that He never will.

Let us come to worship tomorrow and pray, “Our Father” with a deeper reverence for His indefatigable parenting of us. And may we reflect His parental style and show our children that we will never write them off by our never defaulting to dismissive abdication, because we love them so much.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Responsible Parenting and Its Righteous Reward

Child prayingFor Lord’s Day, December 28, 2014

Dear Saints,

I have some very happy news to share with you as I have recently been given clearance by Mr. Allie to “go public” with some family news to further inform your prayers for them.  Please now add to your prayers the Lord’s blessing upon their new family addition, as Tim, Eunice, and Eli are expecting another child!  These verses always come to mind with such happy news:

Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.  As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them … (Psalm 127:3-5)

As I mentioned to Tim while celebrating the joys of raising Christian children, I have been collecting notes for some time on responsible parenting and its righteous reward that I only just this week put together and uploaded to our website (under Christian Parenting on the “Duties Required” link of our Resources tab) available here.  Following is a powerful quote we just read last week in family worship (from the Thomas Chalmers Sabbath devotional book the Maxwells gave us a while back) that I inserted at the beginning of the collection of quotes on parental responsibility:

I have no right to look for miracles of grace in behalf of my children—if myself I will not put into busy operation the means of grace … Is it not a presumptuous expectation that He, at my request too, will make up for my neglect of the solemn duties which belong to me both as a master and a parent?—My God, I pray not for exemption from these duties, but for boldness and faithfulness and energy to acquit myself thereof.”

The positive side of the above admonition is that God is faithful to use His means, and we can cling to and expect His blessing on our application of His rule and rules as we parent our covenant children:

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. (Proverb 22:6)

If I may, I’d like to share God’s confirmation of this parental promise to Jennifer and me even this afternoon at the oncologist’s office.  While I sat with Jennifer as she received her maintenance treatment for over an hour, the children did their school work (while watching their toddler brother) in the waiting room.  When we came out afterward to get them and return home, the receptionist said to me: “You should get a reward for ‘best behaved children’, because I rarely remembered your kids were there, they were so good and quiet.”  I was able to glorify God in response: “God is faithful to His promises.” And then, I remembered also to say, “Thank you.”  You see, it is all God’s grace, but He uses the gracious means of His Word in rearing His covenant children in our covenant homes and the household of His Church.  I knew I could count on my kids to behave. It is not that they are angels; rather, they are disciplined saints (sinners like us all who need God’s sanctified family discipleship structure).  I praised the children in the hallway for bringing such obvious honor to their parents and their heavenly Father, and pointed out to them how they gave a witness walking before the watching world to our mutual Master, Jesus Christ.

Beloved, may we all be responsible with what and whom God has entrusted to us, trusting that He will indeed bless us greatly with His little blessings to us when we steward and disciple them according to His Word.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Planting Trees While Not Missing the Forest

GT1For Lord’s Day, December 15, 2013

Dear Saints,

In the video Elder Renner began to share with us on Wednesday, Monumental, we learned about how the Pilgrims left our nation a monument so that we would remember how our nation will be great for our posterity; that is, by having Christ as our King: Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance. (Psalm 33:12).

Among many things that profoundly struck me in the video was the comment that the Pilgrims “had a 500-year plan”.  Not a “5-year plan”.  They had an enormously “long-sighted” perspective for the future of their families, and thus they risked everything, gave up everything, and lost much on earth in their short-term present. Why? Because they had the spiritual and eternal welfare of their children and their children’s children in view.

We have seen in the morning preaching through Genesis, and now in Exodus, that God always includes our children in His covenant; so He wants them to learn of His mighty works of salvation for the church and all the families within her by His covenant signs.  Thus, we have seen in chapters 12 and 13 of Exodus that God wants us to pass on the Christian faith to our children with redemptive memorials so that they advance in this world knowing who they are and where they are going; this is how they will remain heavenly pilgrims and make it into the Promised Land.  I imagine Deuteronomy 6:5-9 came to mind while we studied God’s commands with the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread recently (Exodus 13:9).

In his article, “T-t-talkin’ Bout my Generation”, Dr. Carl Trueman concludes with a strong challenge for any of us who have a Biblical, covenantal purpose in life for Christ and His Kingdom: “… count no church leader as being truly faithful until you can see what steps he took to leave a faithful legacy. And for the rest of us, while we tend to spend our time talking about this generation, perhaps we might devote a little more time to worrying and praying about the one after next.”  The point in the article was that we only know the effectiveness of a minister by looking at later generations of the church after he is long gone.  How has the pastor planted seeds and grown them for the life and longevity of the future covenant family?  Is he committed to raising weeds for his own short-term gain, or oak trees for our covenant seed? And how have the adults in the church followed his lead?

Proverb 22:6 promises us: Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

GT2Earlier in Genesis, while commenting on the Patriarchs raising their families in the Lord, Matthew Henry speaks of the ancient art of family worship.  More recently in Exodus regarding the Passover Feast commands, he speaks of the ancient art of catechizing our children in the faith.  Earlier in Exodus 11:1-10, A.W. Pink recognizes a call to commit ourselves to carefully raising our children as Christians:

The ‘training’ can not start too early. Just as a wise gardener begins, while the trees are young and tender to train the branches along the wall, so should we begin with our own children in their most tender years ... Children are, as a rule, very much what we make them.

Sadly, and sinfully, none of us do all that we can to make the best of our children, so these words from Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason Ministries about getting anything important started should encourage and motivate us: What is the best time to plant a tree? Answer: 20 years ago. What is the next best time to plant a tree? Answer: Today.

GT3Brethren, let us remember our Lord’s promise that even faith the size of a mustard seed is enough to grow into great things (Matthew 13:31ff; Luke 17:6.) And let us today plant anew in the garden of the church’s covenant family with generations after us growing in our mind’s eye.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Family Feasting

For Lord’s Day, January 27, 2013

Dear Saints,

First, a reminder we’ll be watching Sherwood Pictures’ “Courageous” tonight at the Church in the Fireside Room. Bring popcorn to share.  Remember, these Homemaker events are for fellowship for the WHOLE covenant family at PECA (youth, singles, young adults, etc.). Hope to see you all there.

Speaking of covenant homes, I’d like to share an email Elder Huffmaster sent to me this week for your family’s edification:

Thought you might like this. They say a family should enjoy at least 1 meal a day together. How much more important that they should have at least one spiritual meal a day together. I have found family worship to be so important because it allows the family to gather and have that spiritual meal.

From: “Grace Gems” <pilgrim@gracegems.org>
Date: Jan 21, 2013 2:07 PM
Subject: Family devotions
Today’s Puritan Audio Devotional:
Family devotions (J.R. Miller)

Hearts that are drawn together at God’s feet every day in family devotions–cannot drift very far away from each other. The domestic frictions of the day are forgotten–when all voices mingle in the same heavenly song. As the tender words of Scripture fall with their gracious counsels–all feeling of unkindness melts away. The family altar in the midst–wondrously hallows and sweetens the whole home. Besides, the family altar . . .

  puts new strength into every heart,

  comforts all sorrows,

  is a shield against temptation,

  smoothes out the wrinkles of care,

  inspires strength for burden-bearing,

  quickens every holy sentiment, and

  keeps the fires of devotion burning on every heart’s altar.

May your family feast on Christ together often:

  • And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.  And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. (Deuteronomy 6:5-8)
  • … Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him. (Genesis 18:18-19)
  • And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. (Joshua 24:15)
  • Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)
  • But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 19:14).

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Parenting “Shorter Catechism Boys”

For Lord’s Day, November 11, 2012

Dear Saints,

Are you a “Shorter Catechism Boy or Girl”?  Are your children?  The email I am forwarding you (below, and the source of the pictures in this post) ties nicely in with last Lord’s Day evening’s sermon, “Disciple Your Children”, based on Deuteronomy 6:6-7.

Notice what B.B. Warfield (renown “Old Princeton Seminary” professor) highlights about “Shorter Catechism Boys” in terms of how they handled the great earthquake in San Francisco in 1906.  Two strangers stood out to one another in passing for their mutual calmness (compared to many others who were frantic all around them).

I encourage you to take advantage of our weekly teaching with the Westminster Standards in the evening, especially with the Shorter Catechism and memory verses.  The catechisms were made to train your children over time in the main truths of Scripture to be able to handle life like the men in the story below (rather live like those criticized in James 1:6-8).

Teach yourself and teach your children well.  For Christ and His Kingdom.  To glorify God to the full.  To enjoy the Christian life abundantly standing on the Rock, no matter what disasters come your way (Matthew 7:24-27).

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

PS:  We have the complete works of B.B. Warfield in our library.  Worth looking into.

November 5: Birth of Benjamin B. Warfield
by archivist
This Day in Presbyterian History:

Birth of Benjamin Warfield — November 5, 1851.

For God-fearing parents, every birth must bring some small trepidation, along with great hope and promise. We trust the Lord, we seek to live exemplary lives and strive to diligently do our part to raise our children, that they might never know a time when they did not trust in Christ Jesus for their salvation and rely upon Him completely. Child-rearing truly is a humbling thing, casting us upon the Lord, praying for His grace and mercy.

At the same time, some children, even from a young age, show great maturity and promise.  You can see it in their face. Such a child, I think, was Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield.

All of the Warfield children were patiently led to memorize both the Shorter and Larger Catechisms, as well as the associated Scripture proof texts. In 1867, at the age of 16, he became a member of the Second Presbyterian church in Lexington, KY. It is tempting to think that the photo at the left, from that same year, might have been taken in conjunction with that event.

In 1868, he began the Sophomore year at Princeton College, graduating in 1871, with a strong interest in the sciences and a desire to pursue further studies in Scotland and Germany. But it was not until he returned home in 1872 that he announced his intention to explore a call to the ministry. That had long been his mother’s prayer for her sons, that they would become ministers of the Gospel. In 1873, he began his preparation for the ministry at the Princeton Theological Seminary.

Years later, Warfield wrote a brief article on the  value of the Shorter Catechism. I strongly suspect that the Army officer in this story was Warfield’s own brother, who was stationed in San Francisco at the time of the great earthquake there, in 1906. Warfield writes:

What is ‘the indelible mark of the Shorter Catechism’? We have the following bit of personal experience from a general officer of the United States army. He was in a great western city at a time of intense excitement and violent rioting. The streets were over-run daily by a dangerous crowd. One day he observed approaching him a man of singularly combined calmness and firmness of mien, whose very demeanor inspired confidence. So impressed was he with his bearing amid the surrounding uproar that when he had passed he turned to look back at him, only to find that the stranger had done the same. On observing his turning the stranger at once came back to him, and touching his chest with his forefinger, demanded without preface: ‘What is the chief end of man?’ On receiving the countersign, ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever’ — ‘Ah!’ said he, ‘I knew you were a Shorter Catechism boy by your looks!’ ‘Why, that was just what I was thinking of you,’ was the rejoinder.

It is worth while to be a Shorter Catechism boy. They grow to be men. And better than that, they are exceedingly apt to grow to be men of God. So apt, that we cannot afford to have them miss the chance of it. ‘Train up a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old he will not depart from it.’

[B.B. Warfield, “Is the Shorter Catechism Worth While?” in The Selected Shorter Writings of Benjamin B. Warfield, Vol. 1 (Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed), 1970), pp. 381ff.]

Words to live by: God bless faithful parents! May He equip, encourage, sustain, and support those loving parents who know that they must daily rely completely upon the Lord in the raising of their children. Child-rearing is entirely a matter of trusting prayerfully in the grace of God. Patiently love them, spend sacrificial time with them, live exemplary lives in front of them. But above all, pray daily for them, that God by His grace would save them to the uttermost. You never know when a child will grow up to be greatly used in the advance of the Lord’s kingdom.

Image sources : Original photographs preserved at the PCA Historical Center. Scans prepared by the Center’s staff. Photo 1, Benjamin B. Warfield, 1864, age 13. Photo 2, B.B. Warfield, 1867, age 16.