Foundational Teachings on Church Associations from the 2016 ARBCA GA

I was blessed to attend the General Assembly (GA) of the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America (ARBCA) this year. It was hosted by Grace Reformed Baptist Church in Rockford, Illinois from May 26-28. The host church went above and beyond in showing hospitality. It was truly an excellent experience. Mike and I recorded a podcast in which I provide an overview of the GA. If you have not listened to it yet, please do.

Here I wish to set before you some of the preaching and teaching that we were blessed to receive at the GA. There were a number of devotionals, lectures, and sermons delivered. All of them were very good. They can be found at I have selected these particular lectures and sermons because they speak directly to the issue of church associations. What is the biblical warrant for local churches belonging to an association of churches? How should associations be formed? How ought they to be maintained? What is the purpose of forming associations? These questions are addressed in one way or another in the teachings I have selected.

Brothers and sisters, I would encourage you to listen to these if you can find the time. The leadership of Emmaus has grown convinced over the years of the importance of belonging to an association of churches that share the same view of the Bible and the same view of the mission of the church. We have been officially received into the Southern California Association of Reformed Baptist Churches (SCARBC) and we will be prayerfully considering ARBCA in the months (maybe years) to come.

Foundational Teachings on Church Associations from the 2016 ARBCA GA:

A Defense of Confessionalism  – Arden Hodgins –  4/27/2016

A Tale of Two Associations Revisited – James M. Renihan – 4/27/2016

Devotional from John 17:20-26 – John Miller – 4/28/2016

Associational Churchmanship: LBC 26:12-15 – James M. Renihan – 4/28/2016

Posted in Good Thoughts from Others, Theology, Church Life, Church Practices, The Church, Joe Anady, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Foundational Teachings on Church Associations from the 2016 ARBCA GA

From Your Heart, Forgive

It is true that it can be difficult to forgive someone who has wronged you, but forgiveness is the Christian way!

Jesus said, “Pray then like this… ‘forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.’” (Matthew 6:12, ESV)

In my short time in pastoral ministry I have noticed that Christians sometimes struggle to forgive. There are times when the unforgiving disposition is indeed due to a hardness of heart. But often I find that the Christian’s unwillingness to forgive is due, in part, to a lack of understanding concerning what forgiveness is, and what it is not, according to the scriptures.

May I encourage all of you, and especially those struggling with the issue of forgiveness now, to prayerfully, thoroughly, and thoughtfully read the attached article. It’s a bit longer than a Twitter post, but it presents the Bible’s teaching on this issue with the depth and breadth necessary to help move the Christian to a God honoring place when it comes to forgiving others from the heart.


Pastor Joe


Posted in Good Thoughts from Others, Forgivness, Forgivness, Life Issues, Joe Anady, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on From Your Heart, Forgive

Hope For the Broken by Burk Parsons

Hope For the Broken by Burk Parsons

Every home is dysfunctional because everyone is sinful. There is no perfect family this side of heaven, and if we were perfect parents, neither we nor our children would need a Savior. When we consider the state of the family at the beginning of the twenty-first century, our tendency is to reflect nostalgically on imagined idyllic days of generations past when families weren’t perfect but pretty close to it, or so we like to think.

As fallen people, born into fallen families, and living in a fallen world, the simple truth is that there has never been a time when families were not dysfunctional. To see this, we don’t need to look at the world around us or even at world history, all we need to do is look at the church and at every family in all of Scripture — from the murderous family of God’s son Adam, to God’s son Israel, to the overwhelming dysfunction of the families recorded in the genealogy of Jesus. We cannot, therefore, idolize families of the past or present, all of which are sinful, and we cannot make our own families or the families of others into earthly gods that can fulfill our every need and be the ultimate source of our joy, peace, and comfort.

This is not to say, however, that there are no examples of God-honoring families in Scripture and in our own day, for indeed there are, but it is to say there are no perfect families that don’t desperately need to know, believe, and apply the gospel of Christ. Although perfect healing will only exist in our eternal home, our present hope for our broken homes is the redeeming, forgiving, reconciling, and transforming gospel of God for God’s people.

We know the content of the gospel, but we fail to trust God’s promises in the gospel, and we fail to apply God’s gospel promises in our lives individually, affecting, in turn, our families. For example, as men, we sometimes think that all we need to do to raise good kids is simply be good dads, when, in fact, what every kid needs to see first and foremost is how his dad loves his mother with a repentant, patient, and sacrificial love that not only swears to die for her (which we’ll likely never have the opportunity to do) but that strives to live for her each and every day, which is precisely what Jesus did for us. Our Lord didn’t merely come and die, He lived for us as well. When we believe and apply the gospel, we will not need to pretend we are sinless but will instead be free to repent of our sins and ask forgiveness as we look to God’s true and faithful Son, Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

God showed His love for us by sending His Son to live and die for us, and as men we are to show our love for our families by pointing them to Jesus Christ whose love for us never changes. And though I hear it all the time, there’s no such thing as “falling out of love.” Christian couples don’t ever fall out of love, they fall out of being repentant. The gospel hope for our broken homes is our broken and contrite hearts that turn daily to Jesus Christ and His brokenness for us on the cross as our Savior and Lord.

Posted in Good Thoughts from Others, Phil Anady, Posted by Phil. Comments Off on Hope For the Broken by Burk Parsons

The Ordinary Christian Family by Tedd Tripp

Tedd Tripps wonderfully explains that when the family dynamic is in proper biblical order it acts as a school of theology, school of social relationship, and school of the gospel.  I appreciated the article and thought you might as well.

The Ordinary Christian Family by Tedd Tripp

One of my adult sons recently commented to me that the traditional family is toast. I understand what he meant. The ordinary Christian family is nearly extinct. Contemporary culture is redefining family—gay marriage, a range of creative living arrangements, and the pressure to accept polygamy are all assaults on the Christian family. The notion that parents, whose love produced children, should live together in marriage, working together to provide a godly home and stability for their children, has all but vanished as a cultural ideal.

The ordinary Christian family is simply ordinary Christian people, living in the ordinary circumstances of life, out of the extraordinary grace of the gospel. And this is not just two-parent families. There are scores of single parents who are honoring God in their homes and many grandparents who are valiantly raising their grandchildren. I have a daughter-in-law who was blessed with a mom who, as a single mother, raised three children who are now Christian adults raising their own children. She continually reminded her children of the biblical norms for family: “If you had a dad, he would be doing this, but since you don’t, I am.” In the absence of a husband, she taught her children to understand the role of a husband and father in the family.


Ephesians 5 describes the ordinary Christian family. Husbands are called to exercise loving leadership. In 1 Thessalonians 2, Paul uses fatherhood as a metaphor for pastoral ministry. He reminds them of his toil and hardship, how he preached by day and worked by night so he would not be a burden to them. This is a wonderful window into godly leadership. Paul laid down his life as a living sacrifice. Godly authority is not seen in making servants of others. Godly authority is seen in serving, in laying down one’s life as a living sacrifice.

Ephesians 5 has an equally compelling picture of the wife. Just as the church submits to Christ, the wife lives under the leadership of her husband. She helps him to be a successful leader of the family. It is no easy thing to subordinate one’s life to the headship of another, but Ephesians 5 represents it as an ordinary calling for a wife. Ultimately, a wife entrusts herself to God, looking to God to bring blessing to her as she lives under her husband’s authority.

Similarly, God promises in Ephesians 6 that it will go well with the child who honors and obeys his parents. Wise parents present the necessity of obedience in winsome ways. They encourage their children by saying that the reason for obeying is because God has given authority to parents. Obedience is not because of parental demands, but the will of God for children. In the context of obedience, things go well with children. God blesses their obedience.

It is beautiful when children and young people embrace the truth that God’s ways are good. It has been my joy to see grandsons and granddaughters, ordinary children and teens, who enjoy their parents and who embrace having authorities who love them enough to wisely provide boundaries.

I smiled recently while watching an interaction at our table.

Teenage boy: “Dad, may I have some coffee?”

Dad: “Sure.”

Preteen boy: “Can I have some?”

Dad: “No, son, I don’t think so.”

Preteen boy: “That’s not fair; he gets to have coffee.”

Dad: “Son, I don’t have to be fair; I have to be wise.”

It was a pleasant interchange that passed quickly. I smiled because the younger boy accepted his dad’s judgment without complaint. He has learned to joyfully accept his father’s authority. Someday he, too, will be a kind and wise authority.

Once the relationship dynamics are in proper biblical order, there are three callings for the family: The family is a school of theology, a school of social relationship, and a school for understanding the gospel.


God’s call for ordinary living is summed up in the two tables of the law: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ ” (Mark 12:30-31). Loving God and loving others is a good description of the ordinary Christian family.

The family as a school of theology is the first table of the law. The family is the place for being mesmerized by the wonder of who God is and for instilling in children a profound sense of the glory of God. The psalmist puts it like this: “One generation shall commend your works to another” (Ps. 145:4). What does this look like? What do you talk about as one generation commending God to the next? Psalm 145 tells us. It means meditating on the glorious splendor of God’s majesty; speaking of God’s majestic deeds; declaring His greatness; pouring out the fame of His abundant goodness; singing of His righteousness; speaking of the glory of His kingdom; talking of His kindness; speaking His praise (145:4-20). Love for God is instilled as we meditate on His glory and goodness. Children cannot be brought to delight in God in a conceptual vacuum. And if parents are to show their children God’s glory, they, too, must be dazzled by God. The family is a school of theology.


Loving others is the second table of the law. This also is family business. Family life affords marvelous opportunities to show the love of Christ to others. Why? Because family living provides the greatest occasions for relational conflict. James 4 addresses social conflict with the perceptive questions: “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not your passions that are at war within you?” (4:1). We typically look outside of ourselves for the reason for conflicts—“he makes me so mad”; “she laughed at my mistakes.” James turns the tables on us. He says that relational conflicts come from desires that battle in our hearts.

Our passions and desire produce conflicts. The family is the place to gain insight into the desires that wage war within and bring us into conflict with others. It is the place to identify the ugliness of self-love. Family living provides the opportunity to learn the excellence of sacrificial love for others. It is an excellent place to learn to truly seek the interests of others.

Family conflicts are not unwanted interruptions to the business of life. They are a vital part of learning to live in love. Family is a place for loving others.


Finally, ordinary Christian family life is a school for the gospel, a place for living out the grace of the gospel. Conflicts that arise as we strive to live together in love show our profound need for the grace of the gospel. We cannot love God and others without grace. Christ lived in human flesh without sin to provide us with righteousness that we can have no other way. He died to pay the guilt of our sin, fully satisfying the demands of God’s law. Even now, He intercedes for us so that we might experience His grace and live as people who have known forgiveness and can extend forgiveness to each other.

The ordinary Christian family is not a place of perfection. We sin and are sinned against. Our children sin and are sinned against. We are tempted to resolve conflicts through human wisdom, but we lose the benefit of our conflicts if we try to resolve them without reference to the gospel. The inevitable conflicts of family living afford excellent opportunities to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32).

Parents who understand that they, too, are sinners who get carried off by passions and desires can empathize with their children who sin. The parent who both understands the problem of sin and the grace and power of the gospel is able both to understand and to truly help children who sin. The experience of being a sinner who has found grace enables parents to bring the power and grace of the gospel to their children.

Christians love the idea of families where people love and honor God and live together growing in grace, but Christian families—who love God and others—do not exist as an abstraction. They are not an ideal in the world of ideas. Ordinary Christian families exist only as real flesh-and- blood people lay down their lives as living sacrifices. Such families are powerful arguments for the truth and beauty of Christian faith.

Posted in Good Thoughts from Others, Family, Phil Anady, Posted by Phil. Comments Off on The Ordinary Christian Family by Tedd Tripp

“Broken Homes in the Bible” by Richard Pratt Jr.

The article titled, “Broken Homes in the Bible” by Richard Pratt Jr. is very insightful and has great application for all Christians, “broken home” or not.

“Unless you live in complete isolation, you have seen a broken home. Maybe it’s the family of a friend or a relative; maybe it’s your own home. Families fall apart in ways that are short-lived and lifelong, hidden from view and out there for everyone to see. Whatever the case, hardly anything perplexes and discourages us more than broken homes.

Why Are So Many Homes Broken?

The Scriptures teach us that the pandemic of damaged families we see today is nothing new. Many of us attribute the problem to recent cultural shifts — the decline of religion and morality — but the Scriptures point in a different direction. Broken homes actually appear very early in the Bible. They come into view when God pronounced judgment against our first parents, Adam and Eve.

When God made humanity, He blessed us with the privilege of being His royal and priestly images. God first ordained that we should “be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” to prepare the earth for the fullness of His glory and eternal praise. God also established the family as the main social unit by which this multi-generational mission would be fulfilled (2:19–24). This is why, in most circumstances when family works well, we move forward in the purposes for which God created us. When it does not, we are severely hindered in our service to Him.

Of course, it was not long before Adam and Eve sinned and fell under the judgment of God. When most of us think about the consequences of humanity’s fall into sin, our minds turn toward the physical and spiritual death that came to our first parents and to all of their descendants (Rom. 5:12). We also recall God’s curse on nature and how it makes human life difficult until Christ returns in glory (8:18–25). As important as these features of our fallen condition may be, the opening chapters of Genesis emphasize something else. The Scriptures stress how God’s judgment against our first parents was directed toward the family. God indicated as much when He said to Eve: “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing” (Gen. 3:16). Eve’s reaction to Abel’s death indicated that her maternal pain not only included physical childbirth but also the emotional grief caused by the waywardness of her children (4:25). The familial focus of God’s judgment also becomes evident in the disharmony that grew between Adam and Eve: “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (3:16). Moreover, God warned Adam “in pain you shall eat” (v. 17), indicating that providing for the physical needs of his family would be riddled with hardship. The early chapters of Genesis explain that the brokenness of nearly every facet of family life stems from God’s judgment against our first parents.

Unfortunately, very few people acknowledge how long and how deeply the human family has been broken. When troubles come to our homes, we almost always pin the blame on someone’s personal failures. “My family was fine,” one mother told me, “until my son became a teenager.” “We were without problems,” a husband once commented, “and suddenly my wife was unfaithful to me.” “We were a great family,” a child confided in me, “but then Dad just got up and left.” Of course, we all have personal failures, and there is plenty of blame to go around for the problems our families suffer. But statements like these reveal how much we need to look more carefully at the root of our problems. No family is “fine,” “without problems,” or “great” until someone destroys it. Every home is broken from the day it begins.

If you and I were to believe what the Bible says about the origins of our family problems, our attitudes and actions would be very different. We would be more sympathetic with others going through hard times, more vigilant about keeping our own families on track, and more devoted to pursuing help from God rather than simply assigning blame. Wouldn’t that be a welcome change?

But Hasn’t God Promised?

But hasn’t God promised that Christian families can overcome their brokenness? It is true that followers of Christ will receive full relief in the future. The New Testament teaches that at Christ’s return, “the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption” (Rom. 8:20–21). Although “in the resurrection [we] neither marry nor are given in marriage” (Matt. 22:30), when Christ appears He will reverse every harm sin has caused, including the breakdown of our families. But what about now? Can we overcome the brokenness of our homes in the present age?

In recent decades, Christian television has spread what many call the “prosperity gospel” — the misguided belief that if we have enough faith, God will heal our diseases and provide us with great financial blessings. Of course, most people reading this article scoff at the thought that faith can yield such benefits. But don’t laugh too hard. We have our own prosperity gospel for our families. We simply replace having enough faith with having enough obedience. We believe that we can lift our families out of their brokenness if we conform to God’s commands.

You’ve probably encountered this outlook at one time or another. Teachers and pastors tell wives that they will enjoy wonderful relationships with their husbands and children if they will become “an excellent wife” (Prov. 31:10). After all, Proverbs 31:28 says: “Her children rise up and bless her; her husband also, and he praises her.” At men’s conferences, fathers recommit themselves for the sake of their children because “the righteous who walks in his integrity — blessed are his children after him!” (Prov. 20:7). In much the same way, young parents are led to believe that the eternal destinies of their children depend on strict and consistent training. You know the verse: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). Passages like these have been taken as indicating that Christian families experience blessings and loss from God,quid pro quo. We believe that God promises a wonderful family life to those who obey His commands.

Now, we need to be clear here. The proverbs commend certain paths to family members because they reflect the ways God ordinarily distributes His blessings. But ordinarily does not mean necessarily. Excellent wives have good reason to expect honor from their husbands and children. Fathers with integrity often enjoy seeing God’s blessings on their children. Parents who train their children in the fear of the Lord follow the path that frequently brings children to saving faith. But excellent wives, faithful husbands, and conscientious parents often endure terrible hardship in their homes because proverbs are not promises. They are adages that direct us toward general principles that must be applied carefully in a fallen world where life is always somewhat out of kilter. As the books of Job and Ecclesiastes illustrate so vividly, we misconstrue the Word of God when we treat proverbs as if they were divine promises.

Quite often, there are correlations between obedience and blessings, as well as between disobedience and loss. But never be fooled into thinking you are able to figure out what God will do next in someone’s family. The Scriptures acknowledge a great deal of mystery in the ways God deals with us. Throughout the Bible, God withholds and pours out both temporal and eternal blessings and losses on families in inscrutable ways. Who would have expected God to protect Cain and bless his family with sophisticated cultural development (Gen. 4:17)? Why did God reject Saul’s family from kingship because of Saul’s sin but maintain David’s family on Israel’s throne despite David’s sin (2 Sam. 19:11–43)? The same kinds of things happen in the modern world. Why does one family lose a child and another doesn’t? Why does one unfaithful spouse repent and seek restoration and another unfaithful spouse disappears? To tell the truth, we often simply do not know. God’s ways are not arbitrary or capricious; we trust that all He does is wise and good. Yet, His ways are often unfathomable.

What Hope Is There?

If all of this is true, what hope is there? To understand the hope that the Scriptures offer us, we have to come to grips with some good news and bad news. The good news is that you cannot be bad enough to ensure God’s condemnation of your family. You might have been the most unfaithful spouse and the worst parent in human history, but you cannot be wicked enough to put your family beyond the possibility of redemption. The bad news, however, is that you cannot be good enough to ensure God’s blessings on your family. You might be the best spouse and parent that has ever walked on the planet, but you cannot be righteous enough to protect your family from terrible trials and suffering. The future of your family, for good or ill, is in the hands of God.

Without a doubt, we should look to Scripture for guidance in our homes. It addresses the familial responsibilities of men (Eph. 5:25–336:4Col. 3:19211 Peter 3:1–6), women (Eph. 5:22–24Col. 3:181 Peter 3:7), and children (Eph. 6:1–3Col. 3:20). It also offers family stories that provide rather obvious guidance. For instance, the relationship of Boaz and Ruth (Ruth 2–4) is as positive an example as David’s adultery with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11) is negative. We should do our very best to follow all the teachings of Scripture. But we shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that the future depends on us.

I recently heard a pastor preach on Christian fatherhood in this way. He noted how both of the brothers Jacob and Esau lacked integrity (Gen. 25–36). With strained biblical evidence, he then explained how their lack of integrity resulted from the ways their parents split their love between the two brothers. Next, he blamed the waywardness of Joseph and his brothers on Jacob’s favoritism toward Joseph (Gen. 37). Abimelech rebelled against God because Gideon spent too much time in public service and neglected his son (Judg. 8:33–9:57). Rehoboam’s brash behavior (1 Kings 12) was caused by Solomon’s failure to spend enough time with him. Then the pastor concluded, “If we follow these bad examples, we are condemning our homes to destruction. But if we reject these examples, we will ensure God’s blessings for our homes.”

But the Scriptures make it clear that it just doesn’t work that way. Jacob and Esau were scoundrels, but God displayed His glory by transforming Jacob into the patriarch after whom the nation of Israel was named (Gen. 32). Jacob gave his sons opportunity for jealousy by favoring Joseph, but God also favored Joseph and used these family dynamics to establish order among the tribes of Israel in later generations (Gen. 49). The generation of the Exodus from Egypt failed miserably, but God mercifully enabled the second generation to overcome their parents’ infidelity (Josh. 1). David fell into serious sin with Bathsheba, but in God’s kindness Bathsheba gave birth to Solomon (2 Sam. 12:24–25).

The same is true in modern life. We all know parents who raise their children to be followers of Christ, but their children reject the Christian faith. At the same time, many of us know parents who came to faith late in life. Despite the fact that they had trained their children to mock everything holy, their adult children soon trusted Christ as well. We all know innocent victims of divorce who suffer their entire lives with the pain of loneliness and guilty parties who repent and find peace with God and happiness in another marriage. These scenarios may not make much sense to us, but they demonstrate one thing very clearly: the future of our families depends on God, not on you and me.

What’s the bottom line? Do your best to be the kind of spouse, parent, or child God wants you to be, but never take your eyes off of the One who actually holds your family’s future. If things are going well in your home right now, don’t be fooled into thinking that somehow you have made it that way. Look again; your home is broken beneath the surface and able to disintegrate in a moment. So, give God the thanks He deserves and earnestly pray for His continuing mercy in the future. But if things are not going well in your home, don’t give up on the hope of redemption. God delights in showing His amazing saving power through people who have nothing left. Whatever the condition of your family may be, turn to the One who holds the future in His hands and ask Him to honor Himself through your broken home.

The Bible talks a lot about broken homes and we should, too. Rejoice when your family enjoys God’s blessing. Be sympathetic when you become aware of brokenness in other families. There will be times when you will face brokenness in your own family. But you have a God who is also your heavenly Father, and He loves you as a member of His family. God promises no easy fixes or simple solutions. There are no steps to follow that will guarantee healing and restoration. But your heavenly Father can and does heal families. He can turn mourning into dancing; He can create praise out of despair. He can bind the wounds of the brokenhearted and set free those imprisoned in darkness. God can restore families and use the tragedies that so deeply hurt us now to move us forward in the purposes for which He created us. So call out to Him as your Father, and pray for His mercy on you and your home. Trust in His love for you and never give up. Our Father sent His only Son to die and rise again to forgive our sins and heal our shame. He is our hope in all the brokenness we face in our lives.”

Posted in Good Thoughts from Others, Phil Anady, Posted by Phil. Comments Off on “Broken Homes in the Bible” by Richard Pratt Jr.

“A Child’s Call to Conversion: Faith as a Christian Mark” – Tedd Tripp

This is a very good article with strong implications on how we as parents shepherd our children.

“The clear desire of all Christian parents is the spiritual well being of their children. We want our children to be saved, to be part of the company of the redeemed. We yearn for the blessing of God’s covenant grace to be on our children.

While we recognize God’s sovereignty in salvation, this longing to see one generation follow another in knowing God motivates the training and instruction of our children. Psalm 78 captures it: “Things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders he has done. He established a testimony … which he commanded our fathers to teach their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and teach to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commands” (vv. 3–6). Because we long for our children to know the grace we have known, we declare God’s mighty acts to the next generation (Ps. 145). We teach God’s ways so that our sons and our son’s sons will follow God (Deut. 6).

We want our children to have faith in God. But what does it mean to have saving faith? Starting with Martin Luther and further explicated by Philip Melanchthon and others who followed them, Reformed theology has traditionally used a threefold definition of faith as notitia (knowledge),assensus (assent), and fiducia (trust). Our major confessions of faith show this understanding. The Westminster Confession of Faith 14.2 maintains that saving faith joins believing in God’s Word, accepting Christ’s claims, and “receiving and resting on Christ alone” for all that salvation provides.

The answer to question 21 of the Heidelberg Catechism — “What is saving faith?” — provides perhaps the clearest description of saving faith found in any confession: “True faith is not only sure knowledge, whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in His Word, but also firm confidence which the Holy Spirit works in my heart by the gospel, that not only to others, but to me also, remission of sins, everlasting righteousness and salvation are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.”

As a parent who desires his children to exercise saving faith, I am concerned with all three aspects of saving faith. Therefore, my shepherding must intentionally promote notitia, assensus, and fiducia.

Notitia. Our English word notice comes from this Latin word. It conveys the basic informational content of the Christian faith. Our children must understand the basic content of the gospel. That’s one of the reasons the practice of family worship is so essential. There is truth to be known. It is not possible to exercise faith without content. “How are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?” (Rom. 10:14).

We know that knowledge does not save, but faith must act on knowledge. Faith is not a “blind leap in the dark.” If our children are to put their faith in Jesus Christ, we must provide reasons for faith. They cannot trust in Jesus Christ without knowing truth about Him. There is a corpus of knowledge about themselves, God, and God’s created order that they must know and in some sense understand if they are to be children of faith. They can believe only in that which they know.

This was the burden that drove Paul’s concern for the communication of truth: “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you — unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:1–4, emphasis added).

Without knowledge, faith is not possible since we must know something of the One in whom we are to believe. It is not enough to merely be sincere. Correct knowledge matters, yet knowledge is not faith.

Assensus. The common English word assent comes from this Latin term. To assent means to believe something to be true. It is possible to know (notitia) something and not personally believe it (assensus). Our children must both understand the content of the gospel and believe it. To know all the historical facts about Jesus Christ, to possess thorough knowledge of the facts about salvation, will do our children no good if they do not believe those facts to be true.

Saint Paul, in his defense before King Agrippa, asserted that Agrippa knew and even believed the facts about Jesus Christ. “King Agrippa,” asked Paul, “do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe” (Acts 26:27).

Yet mere knowledge and even assent to the truth, while essential, are not sufficient for our children to have saving faith. Knowledge enables our children to say, “Christ died and rose from the grave.” Assent takes the next step: “I am persuaded to believe that Christ died and rose from the grave.” According to the Reformers, these two are not enough. These two, someone has said, qualify one to be a demon; demons possess both right knowledge and even belief in its truth. One thing more is needed for saving faith.

Fiducia. The best English word for fiducia is trust. Our children must have knowledge, they must believe that it is true, and they must trust in it. It is one thing to know Christ died for our sins. It is another to add to that knowledge belief that Christ died for our sins. It is essential to take the next step, to place my trust in Christ to save me from my sins.

The difference is captured brilliantly by Charles Wesley’s hymn “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing”:

He breaks the power of reigning sin,
He sets the captive free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood availed for me.

The final phrase captures the idea of trust. Our children can know and even believe that salvation is found in Jesus Christ, but “His blood availed for me” expresses trust, trust that is essential to saving faith. Saving faith involves internal change — regenerating grace — that enables our children to trust Christ for salvation.

There is an element of saving faith that is not merely an objective embrace of truths about God. It is not enough to say Jesus is the Savior of sinners. Our children must be able to say, “He is my Savior.” They must trust Him for salvation. They must embrace Him and rest in Him as He has freely given grace through His holy life and sacrificial death.

Trust in Christ alone for salvation is described in scores of Bible passages. The prophets often describe it as “turning to” God (Ezek. 33). John 1 explains it as “receiving” Him. In the Bread of Life discourse, Jesus describes it as “eating” Him (John 6). The writer to the Hebrews says in chapter 6 that we are “to hold fast” to the hope. However it is expressed, our children must trust in Jesus Christ if they are to be saved.

How does this impact shepherding our children? We must always set before them the gospel truth. Every family should have some intentional and structured times in which the children are taught about what the Scriptures contain. We must faithfully urge them to believe the things we have taught. Some basic apologetics will inevitably be essential as we persuade them to believe the truth.

None of this will be enough unless they entrust themselves to Jesus Christ. If they are to be partakers of eternal life, they must trust in this Jesus Christ who saves. Our children must receive Him, turn to Him, hold fast to Him, and rest in Him alone for salvation. Ultimately, the work of the Holy Spirit must transform our children into people who rest in Christ alone for salvation. Our role is to bring them the gospel and urge them to embrace Christ the Savior.

I used to tell my children about the man who watched a tightrope walker crossing Niagara Falls pushing a wheel barrow. After seeing the feat performed repeatedly, he was asked by the performer, “Can I walk across the falls pushing this wheelbarrow.” “Yes,” was the answer (notitia). “Do you believe that I can do it again?” “Yes” (assensus). “Would you jump in the wheelbarrow and let me push you across?” (fiducia). This is the question of trust.

Our children must know that Jesus is the Savior who died for sinners. They must believe that He will save sinners who come to Him. But to cross from death to life they must believe that Jesus is their Savior. They must get into the wheelbarrow. What they will find is that He is willing and able to get them safely to the other shore.”

Posted in Good Thoughts from Others, Tedd Tripp, Phil Anady, Posted by Phil. Comments Off on “A Child’s Call to Conversion: Faith as a Christian Mark” – Tedd Tripp

“Why We Memorize the Catechism” – R. Scott Clark

The article, “Why We Memorize the Catechism” written by R. Scott Clark provides good insight into why our children should memorize the catechism. In addition, he articulates how the catechism can be used at the various stages of childhood.


Both children and parents in Reformed congregations often ask, “Why must we (or our children) memorize the catechism? If they must memorize anything at all, should they not memorize Holy Scripture instead?” These are fair questions, but they rest on dubious premises.

The first premise is that memorization is somehow out of date or a backward practice. Quite to the contrary, in most circumstances (there not being any significant developmental disabilities) memorization is a most valuable skill to teach our children and further, contrary to much modern educational theory it is exactly what they want at a certain stage of their development.

The second premise sounds pious but contains within it a sort of sugarcoated poison since it juxtaposes implicitly the theology and teaching of the church against Scripture. As a matter of fact, we understand our catechism to be a good, sound, and accurate summary of the whole teaching of Scripture. As a matter of history, all heretics quote Scripture. What makes us Reformed is how we understand Scripture and this understanding is summarized in the catechism. This is why we have a catechism.

If we thought that catechism was not biblical, we would not use it and, if anyone can show that the catechism is unbiblical, the church ought to revise it to bring it into conformity with Scripture.

We ought to memorize Scripture, it is the Word of God which he uses to bring our children to faith and by which they grow in that faith and in sanctity, but our children also need a framework in which to understand the Scripture they are learning. So Scripture and catechism memorization go hand-in-glove.

God’s Word is full of exhortations to “confess the faith” either by precept or by example. Deuteronomy 6:4 is perhaps the most fundamental biblical confession, “Hear 0 Israel, Yahweh our God, Yahweh is one.” This is a confessional formula to be memorized by all Israelites. John 9:22 and Matthew 10:32-33 teach a Christian duty to confess Jesus as Messiah. Exodus 12:26-27 reflects the ancient practice of God’s people of catechizing their children in the history of God’s saving acts. This catechesis was part of the process of covenant renewal for those who had been initiated into the covenant through circumcision. In I Corinthians 10 (all) the Apostle Paul says that New Covenant Christians continue that pattern with the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The Corinthian problem was that they did not regard sufficiently the holiness of the Supper as a feast of covenant renewal nor did they discern the presence of Christ in the Supper by the Holy Spirit.

Following the Apostolic pattern, catechesis of the children of believers (covenant renewal) and new converts has been the universal practice of the Christian church since the earliest days of the church. The pattern of Christian catechesis was to learn the Apostles’ Creed; the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments and the Reformation carried on this tradition.

The Plan

The ancient Christian pattern of instruction is summarized by Dorothy Sayers’ wonderful essay, “The Lost Tools of Learning,”‘ which is widely available in print and on the Internet. In this essay she distinguis-hed the three stages of childhood development as “parrot, pert, poet.” Of course, this was her way of explaining the traditional educational pattern of the Trivium, i.e grammar, logic and rhetoric.

In the “parrot” stage (circa ages 4-9), children take great delight in the accomplishment of memorization and are capable of memorizing most anything in small units. In our family we simply divided the longer catechism answers into smaller units until they were learned. I have found in church and at home that if we begin catechizing children (including memorization) at 4-5 they memorize with great joy. To be sure, they do not always understand what they are learning but they don’t need to understand everything yet. We are still preparing them to renew the covenant formally before the congregation.

In the “pert” stage (circa ages 9-12), children begin to analyze the raw data which they have memorized. Because they lack emotional maturity, the questions may be expressed rudely (hence “pert’), but in fact questions about the faith show that children are trying to make sense for themselves of what they have been taught. If properly catechized, children now have something interesting to discuss at Sabbath lunch, especially in the pert stage. They will also ask questions just before bed such as, ‘Daddy, how can God be one in three persons?” This will be a good stimulus for parents to learn the catechism for themselves!

In the “poet” stage (circa ages 12-14), children begin to apprehend that there is more to reality than what they can taste, touch, see, smell and hear They begin to learn how to express themselves more appropriately and to appreciate the finer things in life.

Much more importantly, however, if we begin catechizing our children early enough, by the time they reach this stage, we can expect them to begin to “discern the body” (1 Corinthians 11:29), to be ready for profession of faith, to take up the covenant for themselves and to be ready to be fed by Christ’s body and blood with Christ’s congregation. If we catechize our children early on, by the grace of the Spirit, they are able to develop their powers of doctrinal discernment, which they will certainly need.

The Problems

Covenant children may well object to this plan, but they also object to being taken to the dentist or physician and we do not normally listen to their objections because we know that if we do not take them to the dentist, their teeth will be the worse for it. As important as teeth are, we surely agree that there is much more at stake in catechism instruction. So, when our children object, we tell them, “I know you do not always like memorizing catechism now, but when you are old you will be glad we made you do it; (this is true! I have visited a good number of old folks who were glad to be able to confess their only comfort in life and in death when all sorts of indignities were being done to them)..

Therefore we tell our children “We are Reformed, We confess the Reformed faith and in order to commune in this congregation you too must confess the Reformed faith. Learning the catechism is the best preparation for the Reformed faith. How can you confess something with which you’re not intimately familiar?”‘

There are other things we can do to help our children to take up the covenant for themselves.

The first thing is to reclaim the Sabbath. One of the chief purposes of the Sabbath is Christian instruction of our children. Between morning and evening services the children have all afternoon to learn the catechism and to rest. If families follow this pattern from the start, their children will assume that is the correct thing to do and think it odd that others ignore Christ’s command.

Though the dentist might not approve, there is nothing immoral about encouraging young children to accomplish a finite task (e.g. one-half of a longer catechism answer) with the reward of a piece of candy. The Orthodox Presbyterian Church pastor Leonard Coppes wrote some years ago about “candychism.” It works because children value the candy as much as token of accomplishment and parental approval as for the sweet itself. Then, of course, there is the matter of duty. Sometimes it is necessary to use the same sort of approach we use with weekday schoolwork. Learning the faith thoroughly and intimately is a responsibility of a covenant child just as it is his responsibility to learn grammar and math. If they refuse, they should face appropriate discipline. Some parents have even been known to promise a talk with the “board of education.” This last resort is effective when used sparingly by parents.

To reluctant Christian parents I ask some questions. Do you want your children to be Reformed when they grow up and if so, how do you expect to achieve this goal apart from the catechism? Why would you by-pass the prime season for catechizing your children?

One of the great losses of failing to catechize children in the “parrot” stage is that in these years children have perhaps the greatest facility for memorization they will ever possess. As we grow older, it becomes progressively more difficult to memorize new material. Any adult who has endeavored to learn a second language knows the truth of this axiom.

Recently I was reading the minutes of a North American ecclesiastical assembly from the early 1920’s. Even then, they were establishing a committee to discuss the problem of children leaving the church. Eighty years later, we are still erecting such committees and asking the same question. Perhaps it is time to try something old fashioned? Rather than lamenting the fact that our children are leaving the church, perhaps we should try catechizing them again? As a minister on a Consistory (Session) I am bound to say that if parents will not catechize their children or bring them to church for catechism, they may not blame the church when their children come under discipline fifteen years later because they married a Roman Catholic or left the Christian faith altogether.

Reformed catechesis, however, is not mere obligation. It is a joy and a gift from our covenant Lord. If we do make catechesis a regular part of the religious life of our children, if we make regular use of the ordinary means of grace (Shorter Catechism 88), if we pray and read with our children, we may expect them to make a credible profession of faith in the congregation. Watching our children make profession and come to the table of the Lord, these are the answers to the prayers of all Reformed parents. May God grant us such graces.

Posted in Good Thoughts from Others, Phil Anady, Posted by Phil. Comments Off on “Why We Memorize the Catechism” – R. Scott Clark

“The Benefits of the Catechisms” – A Personal Testimony

Recently, I came across a blog post by Tim Challies titled, The Benefits of the Catechisms. Since very few ,if any of us, were raised with a catechism, he provides glimpses into the benefits he has received from the catechism instruction as a child.

“Catechisms were an important part of my life when I was a child. I grew up in a Reformed tradition that placed great value in the Catechisms. Some would argue they placed too great an emphasis on catechetical instruction. From a young age I was able to recite large portions of the Heidelberg Catechism and eventually learned every one of the questions and answers. Many of them are still fresh in my mind while others reside in the deeper recesses, able to be drawn out with just a little bit of coaxing. Every Tuesday evening, from the time I was in sixth or seventh grade to the time I was ready to make a public profession of my faith, I sat in the church and received instruction from a pastor or elder. We went through the Catechism several times in that span, learning the framework of Reformed, biblical theology. Sunday evening sermons at church were also usually dedicated to the exposition of Scripture drawn from a particular question and answer. On many Sunday afternoons my father would gather us around him in the living room and we would be taught from the Shorter Catechism, memorizing many of those questions and answers. Truly as a child I was soaked in Scripture and sound Reformation theology.

I despised Catechism classes and almost always dreaded Sunday afternoon instruction with my father. Tuesdays became an occasion to see which of us in the class could memorize the least, so that when it came time to recite our answers, we would either read them from a hidden crib sheet or have them whispered to us from a friend while avoiding the glare of the instructor. Many Sunday afternoons my parents lamented how little we cared about what was so precious to them. But despite my best efforts I did learn the Catechisms and I did learn a great deal of theology. When I reflect on all that I might have learned in those occasions I am sorry and ashamed that I did not learn more. But when I reflect on all that I did learn, I am profoundly grateful that my parents, pastors and elders were far wiser than I was and persisted in this instruction. I am convinced that this instruction has played a very important role in my life and formed a theological foundation that is still firm today.

There is no substitute for investing in children when they are still young. The catechisms that have survived to this day and have stood the test of time are worth knowing. They are worth teaching to our children. They are worth teaching to ourselves.

Later in I began to examine Christianity outside of the Reformed fold. I was faced with terms and theology that were foreign to me…One of my greatest surprises, and one I found most disconcerting, was the constant discussion in mainstream Protestantism about knowing God’s will and receiving guidance from Him. Before leaving Reformed circles I had never heard anyone claim to hear from God nor had I really seen people wrestle with issues of God’s guidance. These were foreign concepts to me.

It took me some time to figure out why this was not a struggle for me. I did not wrestle with issues of God’s guidance because I had been taught firm principles from my years of catechetical instruction. Read these words by Sinclair Ferguson (taken from his book Faithful God):

Christians in an earlier generation rarely thought of writing books on guidance. There is a reason for that (just as there is a reason why so many of us today are drawn to books that will tell us how to find God’s will). Our forefathers in the faith were catechised, and they taught catechisms to their children. Often as much as half of the catechism would be devoted to an exposition of the answers to questions like the following: Question: Where do we find God’s will? Answer: In the Scriptures. Question: Where in particular in the Scriptures? Answer: In the Commandments that God has given to us.

Why were these questions and answers so important? Because these Christians understood that God’s law provides basic guidelines that cover the whole of life. Indeed, in the vast majority of instances, the answer to the question ‘What does God want me to do?’ will be found by answering the question: ‘How does the law of God apply to this situation? What does the Lord require of me here in his word?’

I think Ferguson is exactly right. I have seen Christians wrestle and fight almost to the death with issues of guidance. More often than not, they finally take refuge in some type of circumstance or irrelevant detail that provides only brief comfort or assurance. I know of a person who made a major, critical decision in life based upon tossing a Bible in the air three times and randomly placing his finger upon a verse on the page which the Bible had fallen open to. I know of people who have made decisions based on hearing a particular person on the radio at a particular time or based on stirrings, feelings and emotions.

The catechisms, based as they are on firm Scriptural principles, do not allow for any of this. They are firm: we find God’s will in the Scriptures, particularly in the commandments. We listen and obey. God gives us great freedom to know and do His will within the situations in which He has placed us and by using the gifts and talents with which He has blessed us. Making decisions should not be difficult. Hearing the voice of God and receiving guidance from Him is as simple as opening the Scriptures.

This is just one of many examples in which I know that years of catechetical instruction have been a blessing to me and have helped me avoid the trappings of poor theology. I am grateful, now and always, that my father and theological forefathers were faithful in teaching and applying Scripture through the catechisms. I hope and pray that I will so bless my children.”

Posted in Good Thoughts from Others, Catechism, Phil Anady, Posted by Phil. Comments Off on “The Benefits of the Catechisms” – A Personal Testimony

"Him we proclaim,
warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom,
that we may present everyone mature in Christ."
(Colossians 1:28, ESV)

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