Justice and Beauty

6a00d83452063969e20148c72da95a970cJonathan Edwards, in his book The Nature of True Virtue, argued that human beings will only be drawn out of themselves into unselfish acts of service to others when they see God as supremely beautiful. Here’s an example to illustrate what he means. If you listen to the music of Bach because you want people to think you are cultured (or because you want to think it yourself), then music is only a means to achieve some other end, namely the enhancement of your reputation. But if you play Bach because you find it not just useful but beautiful, then you are listening to it as satisfying in and of itself.

Edwards taught that if, through an experience of God’s grace, you come to find him beautiful, then you do not serve the poor because you want to think well of yourself, or in order to get a good reputation, or because you think it will be good for your business, or even because it will pay off for your family in creating a better city to live in. You do it because serving the poor honors and pleases God, and honoring and pleasing God is a delight to you in and of itself.

—Timothy Keller, Generous Justice, 182-3.

The Bible’s One Big Story

Did you know that one of the ways you can teach your child to read the Bible correctly is to read with them the right books? There are so many children’s resources out there, but most of what we find in Christian bookstores do not really tell us what the Bible is all about.

Contrary to the Marcionite thinking that the Old and New Testaments are not related to each other, our Savior Himself testifies that the whole Bible points to Him: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27) Yes, Jesus is in the Old Testament, too!

JSBThis is one of the reasons why I love the Jesus Story Book Bible (Zondervan) by Sally Lloyd-Jones, because it shows  children and adults alike the centrality of Christ in all of Scripture. Lloyd-Jones tells us what the Bible is not, and captures  the One Big Story––how God is redeeming a people for Himself through the person and work of Jesus––in the first chapter of the book:

Now, some people think the Bible is a book of rules, telling you what you should and shouldn’t do. The Bible certainly does have some rules in it. They show you how life works best. But the Bible isn’t mainly about you and what you should be doin. It’s about God and what he has done. Other people think the Bible is a book of heroes, showing you people you should copy. The Bible does have some heroes in it, but (as you’ll soon find out) most of te people in the Bible aren’t heroes at all. They make some big mistakes(sometimes on purpose), they get afraid and run away. At times, they’re downright mean. No, the Bible isn’t a book of rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a Story. It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne–everything–to rescues the ones he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life! You see, the best thing about this Story is–it’s true. There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling on Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them. It takes the whole Bible to tell this Story. And at the center of the Story, there is a baby. Every story in the Bible whispers his name. He is like the missing piece in the puzzle–the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together, and suddenly you can see a beautiful picture.

I truly believe that that the JSSB is a valuable resource that each family should own. I cannot recommend it enough!

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Other Jesus-centered children’s Bible story books that I can recommend would be Marty Machowski’s Gospel Story Bible (New Growth Press)––along with its accompanying family devotionals, Long Story Short for OT and Old Story New for NT––and The Big Picture Story Bible (Crossway) by David Helm. Crossway will also be releasing a children’s story Bible by Kevin DeYoung called The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden in August 31, 2015.

The burning bush. David and Goliath. Joseph and the coat of many colors. The Bible is full of classic stories that fill children with awe and wonder. But kids need to know how all those beloved stories connect to Scripture’s overarching message about God’s love for the world. In The Biggest Story, best-selling author and father of six, Kevin DeYoung, leads readers on an exciting journey through the Bible, connecting the dots from the garden of Eden to the return of Christ. Short and extremely readable, this imaginative retelling of the biblical narrative can be read in one sitting and features action-packed illustrations that will bring the message of the Bible to life for the whole family.

Now that is something to look forward to.

What Is Your Utmost Desire For Your Children?

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Whenever  I see parents in discussion forums talk about when to start teaching their child their ABCs and 123s, I do ask myself if I’m doing the right thing by delaying formal instruction to my daughter. Time and again I have been pressured to drill letters and numbers on my little girl after seeing “milestone” posts from eager parents about what their child can now do or perform.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I have not tried teaching her ABCs and 123s. But my husband and I have made the conscious effort to delay formal instruction because, first of all, our daughter is not ready for that yet. K truly loves play—just like most kids her age—and I won’t take that away from her at 28 months. Second of all, we have committed ourselves as parents to prioritize rearing her up in the instruction of the Lord through catechism, while we seek, by God’s grace, to model a life of Christian conduct and character; but sinners still, saved only by the grace of God. So while I understand that education is very important, I have to constantly remind myself that in the long run, academic pursuits (and accumulation of wealth) are vain glories when compared to the surpassing riches of knowing Christ. The apostle Paul understood this rightly when he wrote in Philippians 4:3ff:

I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee;  as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.  But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

I’ve recently committed to take 30 minutes in a day to just read—on top of our bedtime stories—and sing with my little girl. But more than that, I’ve committed to be more active in helping her memorize her catechism while she is still quite impressionable. Yes, she may be behind in her ABCs and 123s when compared to other toddlers her age. But I know that she will eventually catch up, maybe even sooner than I think. For now, I take comfort in the words of John Angell James when he said (emphasis mine):

[T]he chief end of every Christian parent must be the spiritual interests, the religious character, the eternal salvation of his children. Believing that they are sinful and immortal creatures, yet capable of being redeemed through the mediation of Christ—his highest ambition, his most earnest prayer, his most vigorous pursuit should be engaged for their eternal welfare. His eye, his heart, and his hope, should be fixed on the same objects for them, as they are for himself, and that is, upon eternal life. This should be the nature and exercise of his concern—“I am desirous, if it pleases God, that my children should be blessed with the enjoyment of reason, of health, of such a moderate portion of worldly wealth, and worldly respectability as is compatible with their station in life—and with a view to this I will give them all the advantages of a suitable education. But above and beyond this, I far more intensely desire, and far more earnestly pray, and far more anxiously seek, that they may have the fear of God in their hearts, may be made partakers of true religion, and be everlastingly saved. And provided God grants me the latter, by bestowing upon them his grace, I shall feel that my chief object is accomplished, and be quite reconciled to any circumstances which may otherwise befall them; for rather would I see them in the humble valley of poverty—if at the same time they were true Christians; than on the very pinnacle of worldly grandeur—but destitute of true piety.” Such should be the views and feelings and desires of all true Christian parents; religion should be at the very center of all their schemes and pursuits for their offspring. This should be the guiding principle, the directing object, the great landmark by which all their course should be steered.

The Prince of preachers, Charles H. Spurgeon, also gave a stern warning to us parents:

Parents sin in the same way when they omit true religion from the education of their children. Perhaps the thought is that their children cannot be converted while they are children…

Let us expect our children to know the Lord. Let us from the beginning mingle the name of Jesus with their A B C’s. Let them read their first lessons from the Bible. It is a remarkable thing that there is no book from which children learn to read so quickly as from the New Testament! There is a charm about that Book which draws forth the infant mind. But let us never be guilty, as parents, of forgetting the religious training of our children; for if we do we may be guilty of the blood of their souls…

But these little ones with bright eyes, and prattling tongues, and leaping limbs—why should they come to Jesus? They forgot that in those children, with all their joy, their health, and their apparent innocence—that there was a great and grievous need for the blessing of a Savior’s grace. If you indulge in the novel idea that your children do not need conversion, that children born of Christian parents are somewhat superior to others, and have good within them which only needs development, one great motive for your devout earnestness will be gone.

Believe me, your children need the Spirit of God to give them new hearts and right spirits—or else they will go astray just as other children do. Remember that however young they are—that there is a stone within the youngest heart—and that stone must be taken away, or be the ruin of the child! There is a tendency to evil in every child—even where as yet it is not developed into act, and that tendency needs to be overcome by the divine power of the Holy Spirit, causing the child to be born again.

Dear Christian parent, what is your utmost desire for your children?