Thursday, January 21, 2016

Husbands, It’s Time to Start Leading Family Worship --- 8 Reasons to Start

The worthiness of God to receive your family’s worship each day is reason enough to start practicing family worship today. But in addition to that, consider these other good motivations:

  1. What better way to speak the gospel into your children’s lives every day?
  2. What better way to provide a regular time for your children to learn the things of God from you?
  3. What better way to provide your children with an ongoing opportunity to ask about the things of God in a comfortable context?
  4. What better way for you to transmit your core beliefs to your children?
  5. What better way for your children to see the ongoing, positive spiritual example of their parents in real life?
  6. What better way to provide workable, reproducible examples to your children of how to have a distinctively Christian home when they start a home of their own?
  7. What better way for getting your family together on a daily basis?
  8. Isn’t this what you really want to do?
Why Do We Struggle?
Despite the desire that many men have to begin family worship, some simply lack the resolve. In his Thoughts on Family Worship, J. W. Alexander answers eight common objections to starting family worship, but then says that a “single reason operates with more force than all the others put together.” It is when a man says—most likely only to himself—“The truth is, I am ashamed to begin.” [1] 

This happens when a man awakens to his spiritual responsibilities in the home, but because he has failed to lead family worship for so long he feels embarrassed to begin now. Or he fears the sneer of some member of his family when he says he wants to begin daily family worship. Or he is afraid that he is not capable of leading in family worship. Or he is ashamed because, even though he has tried something like this before, he did not stick with it. For some men their reluctance may be nothing more than the embarrassment of not knowing what to say to their wives and children to get family worship started. 

Men, all you have to say is something like this: “I have come to believe that the Bible teaches I should be leading us in family worship, and I want to start today. I have a lot to learn about it, but I want to do what I believe God wants me to do. Will you join me?”

Be Resolved

Husbands, fathers—if you have been negligent in this duty and great privilege, repent by starting family worship today. Again, you may feel awkward about what to say to your wife or your children about starting, but simply say that God has convicted you of your responsibility to lead in family worship and you want to start at a given time today or tonight. Almost certainly your wife will be thrilled more than you can imagine to hear you say that. Your children may or may not be as enthusiastic, but that does not really matter. The less interest they show, the more your family needs family worship. The Lord will help you. He does not call his Spirit-begotten sons to this task without giving them the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish it. The same Father who gave you the gospel and who drew you to Christ will strengthen you by his Spirit to put on this badge of godly manhood. 

Family members—have the willing spirit of Jacob’s household. After he called them to follow his leadership in the family worship of God, Genesis 35:4 tells us, “So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears. Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree that was near Shechem.” Respond just as willingly to the call to family worship in your home. Encourage your husband or dad in his desire to bring the blessing of God upon you. Do not be a stumbling block in his efforts to obey God. 

Single men—resolve to begin a time of worship with your fiancĂ©e from the night you become engaged. Build your marriage from the start on the foundation of family worship. This is holy husbanding. And as married men will tell you, it is much easier to begin the worship of God together before your wedding day than after the daily habits and routines of married life have become established. Make family worship a regular part of your life together before you are married and you are much more likely to continue it after you are married.

Single women—resolve not to marry a man who will not pray with you and lead you in worship daily. For if he will not lead you spiritually in this way before you wed, it is very unlikely that he will do so after. If a man shows an interest in marrying you, talk to him about family worship before you commit your life and the lives of your future children to him.

Empty nesters—show your adult children by your newly begun practice of family worship that you can still learn the things of God, and also that you can still repent. Rather than grieving over what you should have done for your children in family worship years ago, begin family worship now and let that be an example not only of your continued growth as a Christian, but also of what your adult children can likewise begin to do. If your children are married, they can immediately learn from and follow your example in their own homes. Be sure to model family worship for them whenever they come to visit.

Remember the Gospel

Let us be clear: faithful involvement in family worship is not the gospel. We are not made right with God by practicing family worship, or by how well we love and provide for our families, or by anything else we do. The gospel—the message that can lead to being right with God—is the truth of what God has done for us through the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.

The most important way to respond to that message is not engagement in family worship, but first to repent of your sins against God and to believe that Jesus can make you right with God. But blessed is the family where the good news of what God has done through Jesus Christ is declared and discussed, day after day, generation after generation. 

Regardless of what anyone else does, let every husband, let every father, let every Christian challenged by these words commit himself to this: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” in family worship (Josh. 24:15).

Notes:
[1] J. W. Alexander, Thoughts on Family Worship (1847; repr. Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1998), 151.



Donald S. Whitney
is professor of biblical spirituality and associate dean at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He has written several books related to Christian spirituality, including Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Praying the Bible, and Family Worship. Don blogs regularly at BiblicalSpirituality.org.

Friday, January 1, 2016

What To Make of the New Star Wars Movie...

The appearance of a new episode of the Star Wars film series is an important moment for Christian witness. To be sure, we can shrug our shoulders, since Star Wars is old news. Or we can enthusiastically introduce our grandchildren to what we might think is a beloved, harmless yarn. Or we can—and should—discover in the series an occasion to sharpen our presentation of the gospel message and help our children and grandchildren, and anyone else who might be interested, to understand the culture in which they live.

In this famous and creative saga, which we must respect for its artistic value, we find many positive ideals—bravery, friendship, love, and spirituality, and others—which help explain the success of the series. However, in examining Star Wars’ account of the mystery and nobility of human life, the Bible’s answer, in comparison, emerges with incomparably more convincing power.

The Star Wars Phenomenon

Answering questions of morality and spirituality was the goal of George Lucas when he created Star Wars. In the 1970s, in the heyday of secular humanism, people were hungry for spiritual truth. Lucas realized that stories were more powerful than intellectual theories—especially for children. He intended to produce a children’s fairy tale set in outer space as a “teaching tool” for the re-creation of “the classic cosmic mysteries.” In so doing, he influenced audiences young and old and deeply affected the last few decades of Western civilization. The new films will no doubt extend that influence into the next generations.

Understanding Worldview

As millions of people stream, perhaps naively, into theaters this weekend to reconnect with the powerful Star Wars adult fairy tale, most of them will be unaware of the worldview that gives this saga its structure and coherence. The term worldview simply means the way we think about the world without stopping to think about it. The fish doesn’t need to think about the water in which it swims. I’ve spent much of my teaching and writing years showing that there are only two ways to see the world. I call them “Oneism” and “Twoism,” which is another way of describing what the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 1:25. He says that there are only two ways to be human—we either worship nature (in a thousand different ways) or we worship the Creator. If you can count from one to two you can understand worldview. Worship of nature is Oneism because nature is all there is and everything is made of the same stuff. “All is one!” This is the essence of a pagan worldview. Worship of the Creator means that in all of reality there are two kinds of existence: the uncreated Creator, and everything else, which is created. That is the worldview of Twoism.

By this standard, Star Wars is clearly Oneist. In spite of the fun elements we all enjoy, the message of the film is self-consciously pagan. If this sounds harsh, check out the following elements.

A Oneist Approach to Morality, Creation, Spirituality, Redemption, and Death

Here are some of the Oneist principles we find in the Star Wars movies:

  • Morality is what you make it. The Force is either good or evil, depending on how you tap into it via your emotions. There is no objective distinction between good or evil.
  • Existence creates itself. Obi-Wan Kenobi says, “The Force is an energy field created by all living things.” There is no Creator/creature distinction.
  • Spirituality is found within, not revealed from the outside. Luke Skywalker must trust his feelings, empty his mind of questions, and “feel the Force flowing through him” in order to create his own truth.
  • In redemption, Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader optimistically “saves” the galaxy and destroys the Emperor, though evil cannot ultimately be eliminated, because evil is an integral part of a Oneist world.
  • According to Yoda, death is eternal sleep.

Specifically, Star Wars Contains a Pagan View of God

Lucas said he desired to produce something spiritual, but the spirituality he proposes is clearly not based on biblical Twoism. This is most obviously the case when the constant pagan blessing “May the Force be with you” replaces the typical biblical blessing, “The Lord be with you.” For Lucas, God is a “force”—not a person. Nature, containing that “force,” is part of the Force. God the transcendent Creator, who is separate from creation, does not exist. This makes Star Wars, at the deepest level, Oneist.

But just how Oneist? To answer this question, we need a little background. You may want to watch the Ligonier teaching series Only Two Religions, especially part three, “Carl Jung’s Alternative Spirituality.” Very simply, Lucas’ terms “dark side” and “light side” come directly from Carl Jung. Jung was an anti-Christian Swiss psychologist of the last century. His enormous influence planted seeds of Oneist pagan thinking that now flower vigorously in our culture. Part of Jung’s legacy is Star Wars.

George Lucas picked up Carl Jung’s ideas from a man he called his “mentor” and “friend,” Joseph Campbell, who was a committed disciple of Jung. A highly influential thinker in his own right, Campbell rejected Christianity and became an expert in pagan myths. He produced a highly successful PBS documentary series, The Power of Myth (1988), filmed, in part, at Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch.

It was Jung who introduced the “spiritual,” pagan myths about joining the dark and light sides. For him, this meant the rejection of the biblical Christ and the worship of the Gnostic God, Abraxas, who was half-man and half-beast—a god who combines all opposites. This joining of the dark side and light side, of good and evil, of God and Satan (in his estimation), is what Joseph Campbell called “the monomyth” of “the ancient religion,” which he taught to Lucas. Thus, Darth Vader is “the balancer” of the light and dark forces.

Though Lucas doesn’t go as deeply into such ideas as did Jung and Campbell, he popularizes their ideas effectively. We see the joining of opposites in the following areas:

  • everything is relative;
  • there is no distinction between animals, humans, and machines;
  • there are no moral absolutes;
  • there is no unique divine/human mediator;
  • there is no God, separate from us, who is creator and redeemer.

How Has Our Worldview Been Transformed?

Sir Isaac Newton (1643–1727), one of the West’s greatest scientists, said many years ago: “This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful being… . This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all.” Thanks in part to Lucas, many now believe that humanity is that intelligent and powerful Being, empowered by the Force, and that we will save ourselves.

Will the ‘Force Awaken’ with the Same Force This Time?

Doubtless, The Force Awakens will attempt to capture a new generation of naive myth lovers. The trailer declares: “The Force is calling to you. Just let it in.”

With enough money and imagination, there is every reason to think that the Force will reawaken pagan thinking in a new generation of Western believers who have already bought $50 million worth of tickets for the December release. Moreover, the appeal of paganism has certainly not diminished since the ‘70s and ‘80s. The movie is bound to catch the imagination of those who now call themselves “spiritual but not religious.” Our contemporary world now embraces Eastern pagan spirituality:

  • In Iceland, even atheists are joining the fastest-growing religion, Zuism, which is a pagan faith from ancient Sumeria.
  • Faerie Magazine (for people who believe in fairies) is the nineteenth most popular lifestyle title of the 157 sold at Barnes & Noble.
  • Millions of Americans practice forms of Eastern meditation and yoga to be released from the bondage of opposites and to succeed in joining the dark and light sides of existence.
  • In rediscovering “the Force,” these eager spiritual ticket-holders believe they will find themselves “in heaven,” as one fan recently said.

A Christian Response

A large part of my life has been dominated by Star Wars imagery, as I have published a trilogy responding to the pagan phenomenon that it represents. Thus, I wrote The Gnostic Empire Strikes Back, Spirit Wars, and Return of the Rabbi (as an ebook—in printed form, Capturing the Pagan Mind). These “wars of the spirit,” popularly revived by Lucas, represent, as noted above, the only two spiritualities offered: the “monomyth” of pagan Oneism or the historic gospel of biblical Twoism. With Stars Wars, we find ourselves at the very center of this timeless spiritual struggle.

To Go or Not to Go

I believe there are good reasons for viewing this film. We can certainly respect its artistic and entertainment value. Galactic battle scenes and human drama are entertaining. But also, by seeing this movie, Christians can sharpen their understanding of both contemporary culture and their appreciation of the Christian faith, allowing them to see in antithetical clarity both the Christian message and the message of Star Wars in order to present the gospel in a fresh way for our time.

In doing this, we follow what Christians have done throughout the ages. We need to realize that when Obi-Wan Kenobi instructs Luke to follow “the ancient religion,” this is a clear technical reference (for those in the know) to “pre-Christian paganism.” The gauntlet is thrown down in a call to theological confrontation. But this ancient, modernized “religion,” while implicitly claiming to be true, creates immense problems and gives no satisfying answers to the major mysteries of life:

No impersonal force or “it” can meet the deep affective and moral needs of human persons.

No human or impersonal source can give an adequate account of origins, since such an account fails to provide a convincing explanation of either personhood or of intelligence, on which the universe, and this movie, in particular, are based—including the love between Luke and his father and the technological wizardry that makes Star Wars so much fun.

Only a transcendent, personal, triune Creator can do that. Only the truth of such a personal God can meet our deepest needs.

At this relaunch of the seductive Star Wars myth, with its declaration that “all is finally well because all is one,” the world needs to hear not a clever myth. It needs to hear a bold proclamation of an historical fact—the fact that in Christ God defeated the darkness of the evil empire of human sin. He now grants real deliverance to needy human souls and a real promise—not of impersonal “eternal sleep”—but of a future eternal resurrected life and a face-to-face meeting with Him, our Maker and loving Redeemer.


Dr. Peter Jones is executive director of truthXchange, a ministry that exists to recognize and respond to the rising tide of neopaganism. He has authored several books and is the teacher on the series Only Two Religions  -- December 16, 2015


YouTube Video on Dr. Jones and his article - HERE





Thursday, December 31, 2015

Top Books for Men in 2015

Below are a dozen books published in 2015 that we think can help you better understand and live out how God has uniquely wired you and called you to be a man of God. They offer wisdom, encouragement and challenge to live boldly, courageously in light the gospel of God. Check out the highlighted links to Amazon for previews, summaries and reviews: