Rembrandt and The Cross of Christ

One of the truths that were recovered in the Reformation was the power of the Cross of Christ. The truth of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. It was during the time leading up to the Reformation there was a focus on our works what we could do in this life and after this life to be pleasing to God. On Good Friday we are reminded of the need for the Cross of Christ. Living in light of the Cross changes how you live because it changes why you live.

David Brainerd said it this way “I found that when my people were gripped by the great doctrine of Christ and Him crucified, I had no need to give them instructions about morality.” Living in light of the cross changes you because you see that Christ was crucified for your sin and by your sin.

The reach of the Reformation went far beyond Germany and began to shape culture. We see this in the life and work of Rembrandt (1606-1669). “Rembrandt had flaws in his life, but he was a true Christian; he believed in the death of Christ for him personally. In 1633 he painted the Raising of the Cross for Prince Frederick Henery of Orange.” Francis Schaeffer

The Raising of the Cross

In his painting, The Raising of the Cross Rembrandt painted Christ being crucified Rembrandt showed how the preaching of the Reformation had profoundly affected him. Rembrandt paints himself in his own painting. Rembrandt is the man in blue raising Christ upon the cross.

“He is stating for all the world to see that his sins had sent Christ to the cross. Rembrandt’s biblical base enabled him to excel in painting people with psychological depth. Man was great, but man was also cruel and broken, for he had revolted against God. “

Francis Schaeffer

Rembrandt saw himself as guilt. What is interesting to note is the fact that he not only painted himself as the one raising the cross in it’s place but he is also the Commander on the horse behind in charge and overseeing the death of Christ. What is striking is the commander isn’t looking at those carrying out the punishment he is staring at the person painting the picture. He is looking straight at Rembrandt as he is painting. He is looking at you and me as we are taking the painting in. He is looking to Rembrandt for orders. Rembrandt a child of the Reformation understood the weight of his sin and the power of the cross.

The last thing that stands out in this picture is the grave and the shovel in the bottom righthand corner. This grave is not for Christ because he was buried in a tomb this grave is the call to Rembrandt and to you and I to die in Christ to die with Christ and for our sinful man to be buried to await newness of life.

Good Friday is only as good as the promise of God. Rembrandt was well aware of his sinfulness. He was well aware that he was more than just “broken”. He was responsible for condemning Christ to the cross and for raising the cross in it’s place and his only hope was not to do better or try harder but to die to sin and be buried and experience a new birth new life the cross guarantees. May we this Easter season be aware of the depth of our sin and the greater depth of his grace.

Pastor PreachersNSneakers Should Concern You.

If you aren’t up on the latest Christian buzz there is a new site called PreachersnSneakers . It is a site calling out preachers for having expensive shoes and clothing items. It started off as a “funny” site and has clearly hit a cultural nerve gaining 60k followers on Instagram in four days.

As funny and as crass as some of the comments are, I think the content of the posts and the content of the comments are very telling and are deserving of more than a cheap laugh. I think the problem we have to ask ourselves as those who are a part of the evangelical world is – In our desire to relate to the world and connect with lost people has our message has been lost? When you are so immeshed in the images and artifacts of culture that you are inseparable from culture your message will always either be dismissed as hypocrisy or changed into another gospel.

Sites like this should make all Christians and especially Christian leaders look at their lives and ask themselves is there anything I am doing that is a hindrance to the gospel of Christ? What we as leaders must guard against is the pride of own hearts that says I would never dress like that or spend that kind of money on shoes. We must also be aware of who we are portraying ourselves to be online. Are we as leaders pointing people to Christ or drawing them to ourselves? Are we unintentionally stirring up in those who follow us the sin of envy?

A famous preacher once said that the dress and style of a pastor should be forgettable so that what you remember is his message, not his clothing. Any Christian minister that upstages the gospel in their methods or lifestyle needs to repent. I think a good guideline for every preacher is to avoid poverty and opulence so that what you say matters more than what you look like.

Why does some Celebraty pastor wearing 5,500.00 sneakers concern me? Because even if you do not wear such things you can be guilty of pride or envy. Pride because you feel that you are better than the person who is wearing expensive things and you do not. The other half of the population wishes they had these items for themselves, the sin of envy. So even if you were gifted items that are very expensive by people who hope you wear them so other people can see and desire them, should you? I don’t think you should. Not because the gospel is opposed to nice things, it isn’t, it views everything we have as a gracious gift. The gospel should make you more aware of inflaming the passions in others tha can not be fulfilled without sin.

One of the greatest problem with expensive and even good things flaunted on Instagram is what it does to the hearts of those who are weaker and are prone to the sin of envy (which is all of us by the way). In The Rule of Love J.V. Fesko says this about the tenth commandment.

The tenth commandment has much to say about motives. In this regard, it is a unique commandment, for few cultures have laws that govern motives. Recognizing that the tenth commandment targets heart motives helps us to see that Christ was not raising the demands of the law in His Sermon on the Mount. Rather, by connecting the demands of the tenth commandment to the rest of the Law, Christ revealed that merely dealing with external behavior was not enough; the Law also dealt with motives of the heart. That is because violating the tenth commandment is often the gateway to violating the rest of the Law.

 J. V. Fesko, The Rule of Love: Broken, Fulfilled, and Applied (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2009), 125.

Can you have nice things without nice things having you? I think you can. There are those who with pride say Christians shouldn’t have nice things I don’t think that’s true at all. The problem comes when you are defined by your things more than who you are in Christ. When you have to have certain things because of the crowd you run with. When you think that things and stuff, rather than the fruit of repentance, define your acceptance before God. As Piper famously said, “No one says Jesus is all satisfying because you drive a BMW” or wear Gucci. They say “Did Jesus give you that? I’ll take Jesus.” When we confuse giver and gift we proclaim to a watching world another gospel. Jesus plus nice things equal God’s acceptance. When we properly understand every good and perfect gift I have comes from God and I am a steward of the things he gives me for the glory of God. Stewards are aware of their master’s desire and design, owners are only concerned with their own desires. Servants want to please their master, owners feel they deserve what they have worked hard for. Stewards view what they have as gracious gifts, owners view what they have as entitlements they have earned. The gospel is not opposed to effort it is however opposed to earning.

Let us strive to guard our hearts from the sin of pride in our right judgments of fellow Christians. Let us also protect others as much as we are able from the sin of envy.

Training Kids to be Truthful and Kind

At the risk of sounding like a nerd. I remember reading the encyclopedia as a child. The encyclopedia salesman came to the door and sold us a set. I loved it. It was the internet before the internet was cool. I had something many kids didn’t have I had a private stash of information. What I thankfully didn’t have was a platform to share that information I had gathered about historic events, strange animals and various states. This generation more than any other has more information at their disposal and more opportunity to share their ideas than ever before. Knowledge plus platform minus the humility that failure and difficulty over time bring is a recipe for arrogance and self-reliance.

When I was growing up information was hard to come by now information is everywhere. Growing up sharing what you have learned was not easy now with the advent of social media everyone has a platform. The job for parents when I was growing up was helping lead your kids to information. Today parents are no longer curators of information but clarifiers of truth.

As a pastor and a father, I have come to realize that if I don’t teach my kids someone else will. What we teach our kids today is not primarily information that can be found elsewhere we need to teach our kids how to use the information they have acquired. We have to give them a grid that will enable them to interact on social media and other online platforms that don’t feed the ego and the subtle arrogance that knowledge and opportunity bring. We have to teach them what no one else will. If we want our kids to be a meat eater and a bone spitter we need to teach them clarity and charity.

What are meat eating and bone spitting? It is the ability to in every conversation and situation look for what you can learn, look for what is true rather than trying to win every argument. If you have been on social media we have a massive problem in our country that is more than Democrat/Republican we have informed or misinformed people who think they are right and are hell-bent on making sure they do not lose an argument. What we need more of is not information. We need more clarity and more charity.

The first thing we need to teach our kids is clarity. Is it true? Is what they are reading is what they are saying true? We have a generation that is ruled by their emotional response to any given situation yet they have failed to stop and ask “Is this true?” Truth is not relative there is objective truth. As Christians, we believe that objective truth is the Word of God. We have to teach our kids to check their ideas, information, and presuppositions against what the Bible tells us the truth is. We do this by pointing them back to scripture over and over again. We do this by personally showing them how we filter our political, moral, and spiritual decisions based on what the bible says over what someone tells us we should say or do as an “Evangelical Chrisitan”. Clarifying for our kids what is true will help them properly filter information that they are given or come across on their own. If they are not clear on what is true they will belive a lie. If they don’t have an external filter for the truth they will believe things about God and themselves that isn’t true.

We would rather be certain we are right than charitable with those we disagree.

The next thing parents have to teach their kids is Charity. Modern culture has traded charity for certainty. We would rather be certain we are right than charitable with those we disagree. In our online and offline interactions, we need more charity. Charity is achieved over time through the crucible of pain and the realization that we don’t know it all. Without charity, we will produce a generation that is convinced they are right and will never learn how wrong they are until it is too late. Charity is more than an attitude towards others it is manifested in neighbor love. When we no longer have to live to one-up our “enemies” on facebook we are free to learn from them and ultimately love them. Jonathan Edwards said this in his book Charity and her Fruits. “Do not make an excuse that you have not opportunities to do anything for the glory of God, for the interest of the Redeemer’s kingdom, and for the spiritual benefit of your neighbors. If your heart is full of love, it will find vent; you will find or make ways enough to express your love in deeds. When a fountain abounds in water it will send forth streams.”

If your heart is full of love, it will find vent; you will find or make ways enough to express your love in deeds. When a fountain abounds in water it will send forth streams.”

– Jonathan Edwards

The greatest gift you can give your kids and the kids you pastor is the twin girds of clarity and charity. Is this true and is this kind? Information is superabundant truth and kindness are not. May we raise kids who collect information and in an attitude of charity spit out the bones of untruth and cling to the meat of truth. May our kids grow in their knowledge but grow even more in kindness and truth.

Who is Responsible to Disciple my Kids?

Is it the church or me?

Discipleship is something parents and pastors need to take seriously and engage in together. When I first started in kids ministry over twenty years ago, the primary discipleship of children was the responsibility of the church. Over the past ten years or so the pendulum has swung from the church being primary to the church pushing parents to be primary in the discipleship of their kids and the church cheering them on. The result has been in my opinion less discipleship.

The answer to the discipleship of the next generation is not either or but both and. How can the church be intentional about discipline kids and how can parents make church an important aspect of their kids lives because of that. At the same time, how can parents disciple their kids more intentionally and how can the church resource and encourage that?

Why church discipleship is necessary

If you crush whatever initiative you set up for parents to do at home, you will only get at best 25% to 30% participation leaving 70% without the benefit of your discipleship resource. If we only view discipleship as parent driven and avoid things like VBS and other church driven initiatives many kids will miss out. Another issue we need to address is some kids come to church with grandparents or friends, and their parents will never be the primary disciplers of their kids. As kids grow, their friends will have more influence on them than their parents. As a community of faith, we need to provide a place where kids can grow in their faith even if it isn’t a value at home.

Why home discipleship is necessary

The modern America family is more transient than ever. People move to different states, different churches, different denominations like never before in history. We may never have them long enough to develop their kids and nurture their faith so we need resources they can take with them on the journey. Particularly early in life parents have more influence than anyone else on who their kids are becoming. Parents need encouragement and help.

Here are some things we try to do at our church to disciple kids.

  1. New City Catechism each week from preschool to college.
  2. Story-Based Discipleship class for Jr. High Kids.
  3. Small Groups
  4. Internship
  5. Worldview/Theology Immersion Week
  6. VBS

Here are some things you can try at home to disciple your kids.

  1. Family WorshipWe use this book at our house.
  2. New City Catechism Why Catechism? 
  3. Reading Classic Works with your kids – Leland Ryken has some great books to help you navigate the classics – Also Karen Swallow Prior’s new book would be helpful
  4. Spirit led conversations
  5. Student Discipleship Guide

The goal of discipleship is not what we do to be acceptable to God but rather how is our conformity into the image of God affecting our life and practice. How are we intentionally forming the loves of our kid’s hearts? James K. A. Smith says it this way

“Jesus is a teacher who doesn’t just inform our intellect but forms our very loves. He isn’t content to simply deposit new ideas into your mind; he is after nothing less than your wants, your loves, your longings.”

This happens on purpose, not on accident. Not overnight but over time. May we as pastors and parents be curators of hearts rather than only informers of intellects.

Looking For a Bible For My PreTeen

One of the things you have to do as a parent is to keep your kids in an age-appropriate Bible. For them to love the Word of God you need to give them:

  1. A Bible they understand.
  2. A Bible they can learn the discipline of reading alone
  3. A Bible that is comprehensive enough to paint a picture of the grand narrative of Scripture.

My favorite Bible for kids 3-6 is the Jesus Storybook Bible. But what next? My friends at David C. Cook have many options they are the go-to Bibles for our house when our kids grow out of the Jesus Storybook Bible. They have three options for kids 5-13 that do a fantastic job of visually illustrating the Bible without sacrificing truth.

The Action Storybook Bible invites families with children ages 8 and under to explore God’s redemptive story together. From the sleek and amazing creatures God created at the beginning of the world to the powerful kings who reigned over ancient Israel to Jesus’s gift of eternal life for you and your family—God has a beautiful and exciting plan for the world. Where do you fit into that plan? How are the truths found in God’s Word reflected in your life?

 

The Action Bible presents 215 fast-paced narratives in chronological order, making it easier to follow the Bible’s historical flow—and reinforcing the build-up to its thrilling climax. The stories in The Action Bible communicate clearly and forcefully to contemporary readers. This compelling blend of clear writing plus dramatic images offers an appeal that crosses all age boundaries. Brazilian artist Sergio Cariello has created attention-holding illustrations marked by rich coloring, dramatic shading and lighting, bold and energetic designs, and emotionally charged figures. Let this epic rendition draw you into all the excitement of the world’s most awesome story.
The NIV Action Study Bible helps preteens build a strong foundation of faith to last a lifetime. For fans of The Action Bible® who want to go beyond the pictures and deeper into God’s redemptive story, The NIV Action Study Bible is a full-text study Bible that takes preteens (ages 9 and up) further into the heart of God’s Word and connects His timeless truth to their lives today.

The Action Bible has introduced millions of kids to the stories in the Bible with its dramatic comic-book-style illustrations. Now they can go deeper with The NIV Action Study Bible. Designed to encourage a stronger connection with God, this essential study Bible includes the complete NIVÒ translation and brings preteens into the action with these features:

What About This? Insights to tough questions about faith
Unlock It! Who did what, when, where … and why it matters
Guess It! Person, place, or thing? Guessing fun with five clues
Find It! A distinct icon that appears whenever a story is included in The Action Bible
Activate Reflection on Bible themes and how they apply to life today
Ancient Archives Cultural history of ancient times—what were clothes, houses, weapons, food, celebrations, and traditions like?
Experience the Drama Comic book artist Sergio Cariello’s dramatic illustrations capture the imagination and transport readers to another time. Forty full-color illustrated pages throughout the Bible and over two hundred in-text black and white illustrations. Plus book introductions, maps, a dictionary, concordance, and more.

What I love about the people at David C. Cook is their desire to tell all the stories of the Bible to kids. They don’t leave out the problematic passages but rather present them in a biblically faithful age-appropriate way. There is a philosophy in the kid’s ministry world that says all the Bible is not appropriate for kids. I disagree. All of the Bible is appropriate for kids and yet HOW you teach them those difficult passages matters. The folks at Cook have a passion for the gospel and for kids understanding and living the Bible. If you have a child between the years of 7 and 13, please head over to Amazon and pick up an appropriate version of the Action Bible for you kids today.