Listen, my son! Teaching Your Children the Christian Worldview

How do you teach your children? When they were baptised, you promised to teach them the doctrine of the Old and New Testament, to instruct them in a god-fearing life, not loving the world but putting off their old nature. It is a question we cannot evade – as parents we have a responsibility to train and equip the next generation.

But how to do that? Is it enough to give our children some boundaries and let them figure things out for themselves? Or should we have a content-rich curriculum in our homes, a curriculum that covers what a Christian approach to business looks like; how we are to think about western culture; the threats and opportunities provided by technology and how to use it in a God glorifying way; how to spend your money; the place and purpose of sexuality?


Before we delve into this, it is helpful to listen to the discussion going on in our society about education in the schools. A recent issue of the Inquirer section of The Weekend Australian decried the falling educational standards in Australia: children in Australia are not just falling behind children in other nations, but also behind when compared to children their own age in Australia a decade ago. Editor at large Paul Kelly writes:
“The issue is elemental. Schoolchildren have not been properly instructed in reading, maths, science and the humanities.”
The federal education minister, Alan Tudge, gives insight into the cause of this problem
“The real problem in educational theory is that we’ve had an approach essentially based on child-centred inquiry and so-called child-skilling which has been hostile to a knowledge-rich, explicit instruction method. This has been the triumph of progressive ideology over evidence-based practices. The evidence is clear that explicit teaching is far more effective than purely child-centred learning.”


Jennifer Buckingham, the director of a literacy instruction provider, contrasts the two approaches:
“Explicit instruction implies you are teaching something concrete. You have defined what you want the child to know. Explicit instruction tends to go hand-in-hand with a content-driven curriculum. … The other approach is a philosophy that we shouldn’t be filling children up with facts, that they learn better discovering things for themselves and they will discover things more readily if they see them as relevant for their own lives. This is a romantic notion of education.”


Kelly quotes Jenny Donovan, director of the Australian Education Research Organisation, a body created by state and federal education ministers, to show that explicit instruction is well-supported by the evidence:
“We need to focus on practices that deliver the most effective learning outcomes. We know what those practices are. The evidence is extremely robust, up there with the most evidence-based stuff there is. We know what works. We are talking here about explicit instruction, the teacher being responsible for the learning of students; teachers revisiting the content to ensure it is learnt and maintained. This approach is supported by cognitive science and our understanding of how the brain learns.”
These are some influential voices calling for explicit instruction in the classroom, because the science supports it. It is striking, then, that God’s Word calls us to engage in what is essentially explicit instruction as we train our children in God’s ways. Think of how the youth in Proverbs is told to hear the instruction of his father (1:8, 4:1), to receive his words and treasure his commands within him (2:1), to pay attention to his wisdom (5:1) and to not forsake the law of his mother (1:8, 6:20). Clearly, there is to be explicit instruction about serving the Lord. This instruction, as the rest of the book makes clear, has to do with daily work, communication, money, friendships, sexuality, politics, old age, conflict, recreation, and building.
This calling does not fall away in the New Testament, but is reinforced, particularly in Paul’s instructions to families in Ephesians and Colossians: “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4; cf. Col. 3:20,21). In both letters, Paul also teaches how broad the relevance of Jesus Christ is to all of life: “All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist” (Col. 1:16,17). All of life holds together in Christ and His work is relevant to every part of life. Serving the Lord in every part of life requires understanding how every part of life is connected to Christ, not just in terms of being created through Him and holding together in Him, but also in terms of His restoring work of redemption. These things need to be taught from one generation to the next, so that in all of life, Jesus Christ has the pre-eminence (Col. 1:18).


You could say that the content you need to pass on to the next generation is a full-orbed Christian worldview. Our children need to see and know what God’s word says about every part of life: how the fall has affected it and how it is to be thought about and lived as those who are restored by Christ. Christian living is rich and broad.
A curriculum is broken up into component parts. There are different subjects at school, and different modules within each subject. The Christian worldview has component parts too, and it is good to think about it in that way. It will have a biblical view on marriage and sexuality; a biblical view on business, where it fits in the big picture, how the fall affects it, and what redeemed business activity looks like; and so on.


In his book, 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You, Tony Reinke gives the Christian worldview perspective on the phone, and on technology more generally, as he discusses both the dangers they pose and the opportunities they give. In the introduction, he speaks about a “theology of technology” as he reflects on how to view technology in light of God’s word, and our calling to serve Him with the cultural mandate. Maybe the term “theology of” is a helpful way to capture other components of the Christian Worldview curriculum you need to pass on to your children – a theology of money; a theology of aesthetics; a theology of art and music; a theology of work. The word “theology” is used to capture the idea that we need to think about how this part of life is connected to God and His revelation and how it fits in to man’s service of God. And that would mean, for those who attended the Teachers’ Conference in July, that I gave “a theology of numeracy” in my speech.
Whatever we call the components, it is crucial that we pass on the full-orbed Christian worldview to the next generation, in an explicit instruction way. Our children need to hear clear instruction from us about all the different parts of life. We have a rich reformed heritage with many fruitful insights resulting from careful and deep thinking about how to serve God in every part of life.

The stakes are very high. We live in changing times, and our children need to be equipped as the storms of secularism, post modernism and cultural Marxism that are crashing down and wreaking havoc on our society also batter and shake the Church. Marriage and biological sex are redefined, identity is reduced to sexuality and race, there is a widespread rejection of authority and the past, the family is attacked from many angles, ethics is saturated by relativism, pornography spreads its tentacles into all parts of society, hedonism is promoted, and political activism is taught from a young age. The powerful and effective propaganda of the world means that we hear these ideas.

How we need to equip our children so that they can live as God’s servants in a changing world, as members of that Church of all times and places! How we need to pass on good habits, traditions and perspectives, some of which we have possibly inherited without knowing why they are important, but for which there are resources to help us figure that out. Rod Dreher, in his book The Benedict Option, issues the warning that “all it takes is the failure of a single generation to hand down a tradition for that tradition to disappear from the life of a family and, in turn, of a community.”

Parents, your children have been told to hear the instruction of their fathers, to receive your words and treasure your commands within them, to pay attention to your wisdom, to not forsake the law of their mothers. Do you have a theology of recreation and free time to pass on to them? A theology of housework? …

Rev Carl Vermeulen
FRC Darling Downs

Supporting Families where Children have left the Church

Some time ago I wrote an article about children leaving the church. I mentioned that we should never be comfortable with anyone, young or old, rejecting or denying Christ or His church. Leaving the church or turning one’s back on God is a slap in God’s face, a rejection of His promises.

I asked if we sincerely admonish someone who is going in the wrong direction, on a destructive path? Do we take mutual discipline seriously? Do we ask him if all is well when we find his seat empty again on Sunday? Do we approach him, or would we rather not get involved? Would we perhaps rather not get into an uncomfortable situation and prefer to leave it to others to approach him? Many of us don’t want to get into such a vulnerable situation. It is much easier not to be confronting, and instead to be ‘nice’, isn’t it?

Leaving the church has disastrous consequences, not only for oneself, but for all those close to you, as well as in the communion of saints. Rev. Rob Schouten said this in the Clarion[i] a few years ago:

“It will probably affect your faith and your life with Christ for the rest of your life. If you have a family, your decision will also affect your children and perhaps many future generations.”

Leaving the church is worse than being excommunicated. At least when you go through the process of excommunication and the various admonitions that accompany such procedure, you are still under the protection and supervision of the elders. This protection is like an umbrella. If you leave the church on your own accord for whatever reason, then you throw that umbrella away. Then you are without that protection, and you are out in the rain. Then you are without the love and warmth of the communion of saints. Then you are out in the cold.

Encouragement

This time I would like to focus on our task of comforting and encouraging families where one or more children have gone astray. This is a most difficult task, for what can we say to these family members?

To be quite honest, most of us, including myself, will be speechless in such circumstances. Why? Because we cannot even begin to imagine how greatly parents suffer whose children have decided to go their own sinful way. This suffering and anguish are increased because parents often unduly blame themselves for having been poor parents. What do these parents do, for instance, with the words of Proverbs 22:6? There we read: “Train up a child in the way he should go. And when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

Some parents go through years of turmoil after one of their children has forsaken the Lord. They will continually ask themselves: ‘Where have we failed?’ They will wrestle with the question of how to deal with a problem of such gravity. They have put much effort and time into bringing up their child. Yet after many sacrifices they still do not reap the prayed-for rewards and think they have failed miserably. Some parents can become so overwhelmed with feelings of guilt and failure that they despair. They will continue to ask themselves: ‘What did we do wrong? What is God trying to teach us?’

Remember that the salvation of our children did not and does not depend on parents. They sow and water but God gives the growth. Sadly, children may reject the Lord and His work in their lives, His covenant and all it means. But that is an active choice made by them. It cannot be blamed on the sowing and watering. If they reject Him that is not the fault of the parents. If our children turn their backs on the Lord, it is a rejection on their part of His work and promises.

The words from Proverbs do not mean that parents have failed when their child goes astray. I believe that these words from Proverbs are to be understood as a general rule. We, also in our role as parents, are fellow workers with the Lord. He works through people He has appointed and whom He has equipped for their task. It is His work. With all our weaknesses, our sins and our failings, we work together with the Lord in bringing up our children.

Yet the reality is that these parents are faced with quite a significant struggle. Sunday is often the worst day of the week because that’s when they are confronted more deeply with their child’s rebellion and disobedience. That is when the reluctance to get ready for church becomes more evident. Their child might also refuse to go to Bible Study. Finally, they express his or her wish to leave the parental home, to enable them to do their own thing without interference from their parents, and to continue their life of sin. These parents suffer much anxiety because they find it necessary to disapprove of their child’s lifestyle choices.

I am very much aware that this is a sensitive topic, and it is with much trepidation that I approach this subject. However, we hear about more and more families who struggle with the problem of wayward children leaving the church and turning their back on the Lord. Therefore, I hope that this humble submission is edifying and encouraging, and above all God-honouring.

I am also aware that human words often fail in these situations. But as these parents continue to find ways to reach out to their wayward children, they will receive strength, courage, help and support from their heavenly Father. For He it is who has promised to be their Shepherd and Defender. So where human words fail, we may point one another to the comfort of God’s Word. God’s help and support are all encompassing and apply to all sorts of problems and disappointments, as we know from Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Says Spurgeon, “We may be as timid by nature as the coneys, but God is our refuge; we are as weak by nature as bruised reeds, but God is our strength.”

There will be anxiety, concerns and difficult times, but God’s promise is sure and reliable. We may respond to Christ’s call when He says in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Prayer

Because we feel so helpless in such tragic circumstances, we need to pray fervently and frequently, asking the Lord to intervene. “Pray without ceasing,”says the Apostle Paul to the Thessalonians (1 Thess 5:17). Parents need not give in to paralysing feelings of failure and hopelessness. They need to turn to God’s Word for guidance, comfort and encouragement. Let these words from Joshua 1:9 be bound on their heart: “Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” We need to remember that with God nothing is impossible, and that He is able to bring the wayward ones back to the fold. He will listen to our fervent pleas. Let us not underestimate the power of prayer when, humanly speaking, the situation seems hopeless.

Let us also pray for patience in these trying circumstances; I quote from Rev. R. Bredenhof’s book:

“Even in the times when we must wait patiently for God’s answer, or when we have not at all received what we have prayed for, God’s will is that we pray “without ceasing”. We keep praying, for the relationship between him and us has not changed: in Christ he is still our faithful Father in heaven, he still knows exactly what we need every day, and he is certainly going to keep his promise to provide.”[ii]

Indeed, God knows what we need and when we need it. Therefore, we never give up praying for there are spiritual lives at stake.

The Lord can perform miracles, as He has shown us so many times. If the Lord is able to save the criminal on the cross at the eleventh hour, then it is abundantly clear that with the Lord nothing is impossible. Our hope is in the Lord, our God: “For the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save” (Isa 59:1). Therefore, continue to pray for the wayward “for Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb 13:8). There will be great joy in the families and in the church community, as well as in heaven, when sinners repent and are forgiven and return to the Lord in joy and thankfulness. God’s grace is as wide as the ocean! So, pray for one another!

Leo Schoof

FRC Byford

(i) Una Sancta, 16th May 2020, 221

(ii) Clarion, August 11, 2017, 451 [1]

(iii)Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, Hallowed – Echoes of the Psalms in the Lord’s Prayer, 112.


Day 5: Soaring the Australian Skies

Then God said, “Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.” So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” So the evening and the morning were the fifth day. (Genesis 1:20-23)

I love the excitement that day five of God’s creation brought to my life. It is a joy to spend countless hours watching the antics of birds and sea creatures frolic in the habitats appointed to them.

Let’s take the common sea gull or silver gull, for starters. Who has not travelled to the coast with their children to have fish and chips on the beach? It’s almost guaranteed that you will be met by a flock of seagulls – especially if a child decides to throw a chip or two in their direction. Suddenly they become noisy, bold and aggressive creatures, squawking and squabbling over scraps. These actions, if duplicated by our children, would rightly fetch a swift rebuke.

Take food out of the equation, however, and silver gulls take on a very different personality. They are content to perch quietly on a pole for lengthy periods of time. They are stunningly beautiful birds with the white and silvery coloured feathers contrasting elegantly with the red feet, beak and eye ring. They appear quite tolerant when their space is invaded for the benefit of a photo or two. And, when pushed too far they gracefully rise into the air currents with only the slightest flap of their wings. Their opportunistic behaviour for an easy meal has unfortunately tainted their reputation.

Food and water are always a dominant issue for our native birds, especially in the Australian inland regions. Here, away from human habitation, all birds need to fend for themselves and are heavily impacted by our Creator’s cycle of drought and rain. Yet God does provide for them, as we are reminded in Matthew 6:26.

Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them.

After good rainfall, the normally arid regions burst into life. Grasses and plants flower and set seed, providing a critical link in the food chain, not just for birds but also for mammals, insects and reptiles.

This past season has been one of plenty in most arid regions and the impact is amazing. Overflowing water holes and abundant grasses amount to a proliferation of bird life, especially zebra finches and budgies. Both breed quickly under these optimal conditions.

As you travel the inland routes this year, keep an eye open for them because budgies will reward you with dazzling displays of yellow and green as they swarm and dance through the sky by the thousands. Zebra finches prefer the safety of shrubbery near water holes, but if you sit quietly near these holes or dams, they seem to forget your presence and become bolder. At times like this the photographer in you can enjoy the challenge and hopefully rise to the occasion with some good snaps.

With the current abundance of food and water in the outback, our attention is drawn to the another highly prized bird family: raptors. Australia’s arid skies can see an amazing range of kites, falcons and eagles taking advantage of the growing food chain. These desert hunters soar aloft for lengthy periods making use of the warm air currents in search of a tasty morsel.

Birds of prey are particularly abundant in the Kimberley region compared to elsewhere in Australia, not only in numbers but also in variety. I’ve read that at least 22 of the 24 different birds of prey (not including owls) call the Kimberley home. The whistling kite is probably the most common, while the wedge tailed eagle is definitely the largest and most majestic.

It is of interest to note how Scripture speaks about many of the bird species found so abundantly in Australia. In Old Testament time all birds of prey were considered an abomination to the Israelite people. Other bird species that fall into this same category include our pelicans, silver gulls, cormorants and herons. Even the stork, which is commonly known up north as the Jabiru, is part of the list. While these examples are not exhaustive, we do appear to have a wide representation of the list found in Leviticus 11:

And these you shall regard as an abomination among the birds; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, the vulture, the buzzard, the kite, and the falcon after its kind; every raven after its kind, the ostrich, the short-eared owl, the sea gull, and the hawk after its kind; the little owl, the fisher owl, and the screech owl; the white owl, the jackdaw, and the carrion vulture; the stork, the heron after its kind, the hoopoe, and the bat.

Today we don’t view these birds as an abomination and tend to observe them with considerably more intrigue and enjoyment.

There are many places where one could observe a variety of birdlife without travelling far. Most water holes during the summer and autumn become bird magnets. Let me just share one waterhole not far from Perth which is home to at least a dozen species of birds during a recent two day stay.

Situated about 17 kms southwest of Mullewa lies a little dam called Tenindewa Pioneer Well that was dug many years ago. It is no longer used for any obvious reason, and the powers that be decided to leave it as it is. Over time a few trees grew on the mounds surrounding this little dam, and it has remained relatively undisturbed since. If you have the patience to sit quietly under the shade of your awning, camera in hand of course, you will possibly see swallows dive bombing over the dam, sipping water and playing dodgem with each other in the process. Their amazing agility in the air is a beautiful reminder of how God created birds so differently. Pink galahs pop around for a visit as does a pair of wieros. Drifting high overhead, a hawk or two appear to survey the scene below looking for a snack. Many brightly coloured parrots also appear to have adopted this little dam as their drinking hole.

So, if you are heading north to appreciate the abundant wildflowers this spring, why not stop by this little dam for a day or two to relax and appreciate the diversity of our Father’s creative work.

I might see you there.

Jack Swarts
FRC Rockingham

When God Doesn’t Give Children – 2

The previous article discussed the reality of infertility and gave some insight into the grief that people experience when the longing for children is unfulfilled. Included was an encouragement for all of us to open our eyes to those who are suffering, to be willing to share their pain and be ready to encourage them in the Lord. In this issue I speak directly to those struggling with infertility, although much of what is said applies to suffering in general.

One of the challenges when suffering pain, loss and grief in this life is to have a proper perspective of God, and how we should relate to him. It is often tempting to give in to anger or resentment, whether that is directed to God or others. There are many conflicting emotions to deal with. Travelling the road of infertility forces you to examine what you believe about God and about yourself, and it causes you to become a person who must rely on faith, and learn to put total trust in God as the one who truly sustains.

The Grief is Legitimate

It is important, first of all, to realise that feelings of sadness and loss are not sinful emotions.  God creates us with these emotions and they are a human reaction to the brokenness in this world. Even Jesus wept because of death and agonised because of suffering. To those feeling the pain of infertility is the added complication of grieving something that never was, and to those I say:

It can be a hard thing to believe that the pain you are feeling is justified, that the loss of something you never had can be so difficult. But your pain has merit. For those who never had a pregnancy, it is hard. For those who lose children before birth, it is hard. Don’t be tempted to minimise your loss because it seems someone else’s loss is worse. The grief is gut-wrenching. What you feel is really as terrible as it feels. Please don’t feel burdened to ‘get over it’ because people don’t know, or people don’t understand. 

The Bible teaches us to truly lament, to cry out to God out of the depths of sadness, to cry out to the God who knows us. God invites us to be honest with him. God meets us where we are, not where we think we should be. We do not need to pretend with God. Lamenting over our grief and pain is not a sign of weakness or a lack of faith. It is an expression of faith because it says, “I trust you God. I know you are sovereign, and that is why I am taking my disappointment and confusion and tears to you. Because I know you are the only one who can do something about this.” [1]

You lament. You grieve. But what do you believe about God in all this? Unfulfilled desires give rise to questions and doubts. Do I really trust God with my life? Does God really know what he’s doing? If God doesn’t grant this child to me, is he worth trusting? Is he really good? Or is it me? Am I defective? Am I unworthy? 

Insidious questions creep into your mind: why does God allow children to others and not to me? Why to that couple who don’t parent their children well, to that couple who aren’t even married. To that couple who already have five children. To that couple who shared their struggle of infertility with us, but now God has given them a child. Why not to me? These are real, honest questions.

To the deepest questions of your heart, God comes to you with very real answers. When you look at the character of God and when you focus on his promises, you have answers that give true and meaningful help. While emotions are normal, and even good, emotions can also cloud your thinking and prevent you from seeing God. Acknowledge your feelings, but remember that feelings come and go. Choose to act on what God says in his Word and let that be your guide for what you believe and how you live.

You need to think theologically, to force yourself to look outward and upward, to actively search for God’s truth in the middle of all the spiritual questions and personal uncertainty. This does not come naturally or easily – it takes self-discipline and perseverance. But the results are peace in the middle of sadness, comfort in the absence of answers and confidence when faced with uncertainty.[2]

Believe the Truth

Believe that God is sovereign.  That can be challenging when your desires seem unfulfilled, yet believing in God’s sovereignty comes with the comfort that God has a purpose and plan for your life. It is a source of great hope. God has a unique plan for your life and has your life’s path outlined for you. 

Believe that God is good.  He is the only source of good, the only reason why there is any good in this world. It does not mean that things will always be good in your life, but that God is good. It does not mean that your life will be easy… but God is good. It does not mean that there will not be times you will be so overcome by sadness that you must go and find a place to be alone and just cry… but God is good. The circumstances of your life may not be good, but God himself is always good, and so while there may not always be happiness, there is always hope.[3]

Believe that God loves you.  He made the ultimate sacrifice for you to demonstrate his love for you. Believe that if God gave you the greatest gift possible by giving up his Son, he will not deny you anything that is good for you.

Resolve to trust him.  This is the only way to perfect peace. You will have many thoughts that go through your mind each day, but resolve to keep returning to the truth of the Word, to what you know about the character of God. He is faithful, he loves you, he is merciful, he never changes. No matter how bad things seem, believe that God is trustworthy. God is worthy of being worshipped, of being trusted, regardless of circumstances. It’s not that you are not hurting, but even in your hurt, you can say “God is good, and I can trust him.”

Believe that God understands your pain.  Without doubt. When you read in the Bible in 1 Samuel 1 about Hannah’s cry to the Lord, realise that God has recorded her words of anguish for your benefit, because he understands her pain, and he understands your pain. God is near to the brokenhearted. When even those closest to you do not understand, believe that God’s understanding is without limits.

Remember Jesus.  Fix your heart and mind on Jesus. “When Jesus says, ‘My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death,’ we are comforted in knowing that Jesus understands the intensity of our sorrow. When we hear him say, ‘My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine,’ we realise that Jesus is showing us what to do when God doesn’t give us what we desperately want. When we hear him answer the questions about why a man was born blind saying, ‘This happened so the power of God could be seen in him,’ we begin to believe that God might actually have a good purpose in our pain.”[4]

Jesus does not always give us answers but he does give us himself. He will not necessarily take the fiery trial away, but he will walk through the fire with us and make us emerge unharmed. He gives us the promise that he walks through the valley of darkness with us, and the assurance that we will reach the place where we will experience the peace he died for.

Satisfied in God

Psalm 139 says “we are fearfully and wonderfully made.” People often use that when speaking of babies. But, dear child of God, you who experience infertility are also fearfully and wonderfully made. God knows you, he made you, and his way with you is perfect. You are not a failure. You are not less than others. You are his child, made in his image, made for his purpose, according to his perfect plan. You are loved.

The road of infertility is difficult, sometimes heartbreaking. It can feel impossible to be content while walking this path, or to be happy without the fulfillment of your deepest desire.  But the way to living a life of contentment does not depend on receiving sympathy and understanding from others. It does not even rest on receiving the deep desires of your heart.  Contentment comes from the power of God, worked in us, from the depth of the love of God revealed in the sending of his Son. It rests on Jesus, who wept and agonised in the garden of Gethsemane. It rests on the one who never forgets the sorrows carried by the hearts of those he suffered and died for. He was tempted in every way, he was rejected, despised, abandoned. He knows, he understands in a way that the most loving friend can’t, and he gives the strength we do not have in ourselves. He is the one who can give us peace and contentment in this life. Trust him with your life.

We have desires in this life, great, good, godly desires. But pray that God becomes your greatest desire, and that he gives the gift of being truly satisfied in him. May he be the one that fills your soul with contentment because of who he is, and because of the great hope that all children of God have.

Christine Schoof

FRC Albany


[1] Adapted from GriefShare DVD series

[2] Lois Flowers, Infertility, finding God’s peace in the journey, Harvest House, 2003

[3] Michael R Phillips, Heathersleigh Homecoming.

[4] Nancyguthrie.com. Nancy Guthrie is the author of Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow.

Reformed Education: Responsibility of the Parents

To whom belongs the child?
In 1996 Rev. G. Van Popta delivered a speech at a teachers’ convention which was published in Clarion , in which he addressed this question. In it he summarises and evaluates an extensive discussion which our Canadian brothers and sisters had in that time about this question, in which he also addressed the position of the schools.

We now live in a climate in which the state is more and more inclined to claim the authority to teach our children what to believe and how to behave with regards to all kinds of moral issues. It is to be expected that in the coming few years, the state government in Western Australia will be trying to exert its influence more and more on what is being taught in Western Australian schools, how it is being taught, and by whom. It is important to consider the question: where do we stand as Christians? But also: what are the practical implications of this for our schools?

In this article I will look at what the Bible teaches us, and how throughout the history this question has been dealt with. In a second article I hope to come to some conclusions relevant for our own situation.

Bible
The education of the children was the task of the parents. During the early childhood years, this was mainly done by the mother. When children grew up, the sons were entrusted to the fathers and the daughters to their mothers. It is one of the most important duties of the father to instruct his children, both regarding the religious education (Exod 10:2; 12:26; 13:8; Deut 4:9; 6:6-9; 20-25; 32:7-16; Josh 4:21-24; Ps 78:5) and the general education (Prov 1:8; 6:20). References from apocryphal books show the same (see Sirach 30:1-13). The fifth commandment emphasises that children must obey their parents, for their own benefit.

It was the responsibility of the father to instruct his children in the ways of the LORD. It was also the father who instructed his sons in the trades. As a result, many sons followed in the footsteps of their fathers in their choice of a trade. In addition, Israelite children often had opportunities to learn from traveling merchants and caravans (Judg 5:10-11), by witnessing the meetings of the elders in the gates, and from the occasions that their families travelled to the holy places (Shiloh, Jerusalem) for the feasts and other important occasions.

Although much of it was done in the family, the religious instruction was often also done by the priests. They had the task to teach the Law to the people, which included the children. The priest was sometimes seen as a father (Judg 17:10-11). In Hosea 4:6, the priests were held responsible for the lack of knowledge of God’s people. Also the elders had a task in the instruction of the people, including the children (Deut 32:7; Ps 78:1-4). In the New Testament, the ministers of the Word (elders who labour in the Word and doctrine, see 1 Tim. 5:17) have received the special task to teach the people of God. With that, not only the preaching but also the catechetical instruction finds a firm basis in the Bible. The New Testament makes clear that the parents are responsible for raising and instructing their children (2 Cor 12:14). Paul emphasises the importance of the parents in the religious instruction of the children (2 Tim 2:3-5).

We can conclude from this that the education of the children is given by God to the parents, while the church also has a responsibility regarding the doctrinal instruction of parents and children.

Church Order
We will not find any mention in the Bible of the school as we know it. While the catechetical instruction is based on the Bible, the schools are not. Even though it is good and important that parents consider sending their children to Christian schools, we cannot argue from the Bible that children should attend school. For that reason, the Church Order of the Free Reformed Churches (article 53) stipulates that the elders shall see to it that the parents take their responsibility in providing their children education which is based on Scripture and Confession. It doesn’t speak about the elders sending children to Reformed Schools, or about parents having to do so. It only speaks about the responsibility of the parents, and the elders reminding them of it.

Here we must keep in mind that the Church Order uses the word ‘education’ and not ‘school’. Education is broader than only school and can include home schooling, or alternative forms, for instance if government decisions make it hard to maintain our own schools. At the baptism of the child, the parents make the promise to instruct their children and have them instructed in this Christian doctrine to the utmost of their power, not the congregation. The Christian church has always rightfully emphasised the responsibility of the parents towards the education of their children. We must maintain and strongly emphasise that and resist any push from the government or others to take that responsibility away from the parents.

History
The school system as we know it now, with primary, secondary, and higher education, already existed in the Hellenistic world in the time of the New Testament . However, it always was the decision of the parents to have their children receive education. In the Hellenistic time as well as in the Roman Empire, it was mainly the rich who could afford education for their children. After the fall of the Roman Empire the schools in Europe declined and it was mainly the church which established schools, by bishops and in monasteries. The church schools were important to prepare men for the clergy, but also lay people were being taught. Emperor Charlemagne was a great supporter of making education available more broadly, also for the poor, and he worked together with the church to establish as many schools as possible. However, after his reign, the invasion of the Vikings led to a decline again. In the second half of the Middle Ages, schools were established to prepare men for service in the church. Schools for lay people were mainly found in the cities and they always needed a license from the bishop to operate.

In the sixteenth century, church and state were often very much intertwined and as a result of the investiture controversy (1076-1122 AD) the church usually had the upper hand. After the Reformation, the power of the pope and the Roman Catholic Church decreased in many European countries and the ruler often determined the religion of his country. As a result, the state had the authority over the schools, but often left it to the church to run the schools.
That was the situation in the Netherlands when the Synod of Dort convened. This synod made some important decisions about the catechetical instruction of the youth of the church , but regarding the schools it left the situation mainly unchanged: the local governments usually had the authority to establish schools, and governments often left it to the ministers of the Reformed Churches to supervise the schools and the teachers. There was a strong bond between State (which was Christian), Church (which was state church) and School: a triangle of State, Church, and School.

No one was allowed to establish schools without the approval of the government, but it was usually not hard to get this approval and it happened regularly that people who could afford it sent their children to private schools. There was some freedom for the parents to determine how their children were educated.

Modern time
This situation changed dramatically during the French occupation of the Netherlands (1795-1813). The connection between church and state was severed and only the government had authority over the schools. That was the time that also in many other countries, the idea of separation of church and state, promoted by the French revolution and enshrined in the constitution of the USA was applied. Rousas John Rushdoony (quoted in the earlier mentioned article of Rev. Van Popta) shows the developments in the USA. It was a general tendency in European countries and their (former) colonies.

In 1848, a democratic revolution took place all over Europe. For the Netherlands that meant a new constitution, in which for the first time in the Netherlands freedom of education was guaranteed. However, the practical arrangements had to be worked out in separate legislation and it took nine years until this legislation was adopted by parliament.

In those days the results of the ‘enlightenment’ and all kinds of new ‘scientific’ ideas got more influence and the schools had to be ‘neutral’ (or secular) in their teaching. Christian morals could still be taught but no Christian doctrine. Then in the Netherlands and many other countries, a movement started which led to the establishment of parental schools. Finally, the responsibility for the education of the children had returned to the parents.

More about that in a following article.

Rev. Anthon Souman
FRC Kelmscott


1. Clarion, June 14, 1996
2. From: R. De Vaux, Hoe het oude Israel leefde, deel 1, p.
97, Roermond 1960.
3. For an overview of the history of education and the development of the school system, see the Encyclopaedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/topic/education ).
4. See my article in Una Sancta Vol. 67, no. 5, 4 April 2020, page 120: Synod of Dort, Catechism teaching in church, home, and school.
5. Thomas Jefferson introduced the idea of separation between church and state, which led to the inclusion of the clause in the constitution that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”.
6. Rousas John Rushdoony, The Messianic Character of American Education: Studies in the History of the Philosophy of Education, 1963, reprinted 1995, Ross House Books.



When God Doesn’t Give Children – 1

A quick Google search will tell you that more than 1 in 10 couples of child-bearing age will experience fertility problems. Some of these, with or without medical intervention, will receive children. Some will not.

You need to trust these statistics because many infertile couples struggle in silence. The reality is that in our churches there are people sitting in the pews who are struggling with the pain of infertility. In a church culture where marriage and children are expectations, most people fit in with that culture, and those who don’t – well, many of us do not know how to deal with that. Most of us don’t know if we should raise the subject, or what to say if we do. For those who do not receive children, suffering then comes with the added burden of silence and shame. For those who have not experienced infertility, I want to give some idea of what it is like.

Wanting to have children is a good desire. We know children are a great blessing. The Bible teaches that children are gifts from God. Births and baptisms are celebrated. But for those who long for children, and to whom God does not give children, dreams are dashed, hope is constantly deferred. It’s not for nothing that Proverbs tells us: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick”. Infertility is a brutal cycle that steps on hands gripping hope, a never-ending cycle of hope and disappointment. It goes something like this: [1]

Hope

Disappointment

Hope

False Alarm

Hope

Discouragement

Hope

Frustration

Hope

Despair

Those who expected children instead fell into an unexpected life of pain: suffering, unrelieved hope, envy, anger, resentment, isolation, loneliness, grief.

What Makes Infertility So Painful

1.  Women were created to bear children and each month again there is a constant reminder of that. The Bible calls a childless woman ‘barren,’ an ugly word. Barren is a word used to describe a desert – dry, devoid of any life, a place of despair. You do not want to go there. A woman who desires children, and who lives with infertility, experiences this desert.

2.  We live in a church culture that is built on families. The couple without children feels left behind by the constant stream of pregnancy and birth announcements in the church. Seeing young families receive yet another child reminds infertile couples of their infertility with painful regularity and can leave them feeling isolated and alone, out of step with everyone else their age,[2] and struggling with discontentment and envy.

3.  Infertility is a long walk of unresolved sorrow. Even for those who receive one or two children, there are years of hoping, wondering and longing. Instead of dealing with the grief and moving forward, the grief can grow and intensify over the years. Infertility remains something that is fresh and very painful. Unresolved grief can lead to anger, discouragement and depression.

 4.  It is not easy to talk about infertility. We are talking here about something so bound up with issues of intimacy and sex that people are reluctant to bring up the subject. In addition, infertile couples can often wish to seek medical treatment of some kind and to avoid the possibility of being judged, or to avoid the possibility of embarrassing questions, may prefer not to share this information. Infertility becomes isolating.

5.  The grief of infertility is not like other griefs. What do you grieve when you have not actually lost anything? It is a grief that is unaccepted, unobvious, silent, a grief that feels wrong to mourn, because the loss isn’t clear or understood. Yet the grief is real. Hannah, Rachel and others in the Bible testify to the heartache and anguish that is felt. But the grief is misunderstood, minimised, or even dismissed. Then the life of the infertile couple is filled with times of agonising internal tears covered by a smiling face, as pain is hidden from those who don’t seem to care or understand.

6.  It is easier to celebrate joys than walk with someone in sorrow. People will congratulate parents with the birth of a child, but ignore the one watching from the sidelines who is grieving childlessness. That causes pain and isolation.

7.  Friends and loved ones do not understand the pain of infertility, and can often seem thoughtless, not realising that things they say cause more pain. Thoughtless comments or platitudes are deeply hurtful and indicate to the infertile couple that their pain is not noticed.

8.  Infertility often involves invasive medical tests and procedures that can put strain on the marital relationship. The beautiful gift of intimacy between husband and wife becomes focused on timing, and can be reduced to a chore to be produced on demand. A wife may wonder if her husband wishes he married someone who could give him children. A husband may wonder if his wife is disappointed with him. Husbands feel the call to support their wives, but are silently grieving their own pain.

9.  Where is God in all of this? Perhaps this is the greatest challenge in infertility, the questions and doubts that arise about God’s goodness and his love, leading to spiritual struggles.

10.  Closely connected to this spiritual struggle is the shame of not wanting to make children the focus of life, yet having the mind dominated by it. Knowing and believing that God is in control, yet having medical tests and tracking cycles to optimise the chances of conceiving.  Knowing that children are a blessing, but not an idol. Trying to work out how to live with active trust in God while doing all that is possible to have children. 

This is a bleak picture of infertility, but there is no way to ignore how painful it is. Infertility is so much more than childlessness. It affects nearly every aspect of someone’s life, from health, marriage and self-image to finances, view of the future and relationship with God.[3]

But this trial, like many others that we face, is an opportunity for all of us to demonstrate the love of God to those who suffer, to live out our calling to show comfort and compassion to those who mourn. 

How Can You Help?

I want to include some general points for those wishing to support those who struggle with infertility. Remember that everyone is unique, experiencing various emotions, responding in different ways. And so I emphasise the importance of not making assumptions, but asking questions in a spirit of love and gentleness.

1.  Infertility or childlessness is isolating and ignoring the issue makes things worse. Reach out to your loved one. Be willing to sit through confronting silences, stilted conversations, the weeping of a heart that is suffering. Do not feel you need to give all the right answers or provide solutions. Often there are no answers or solutions. God calls us to walk alongside each other in the valley of darkness. He does not expect us to fix things. Even God does not come to us to fix our problems. He comes to us and gives us Himself.

3.  Often we are afraid to enter into a difficult conversation because we think we will not know what to say. Don’t let your fear of saying the wrong thing stop you from reaching out. Before a conversation, pray to God for an understanding, sympathetic heart. Remember that it is far more hurtful to a suffering person if you ignore their pain than to say the wrong thing with a loving heart. Listen without feeling the burden to give advice.

3.  Be aware that certain events and situations (such as baptisms, baby showers, child’s birthday parties) can be difficult. Gently ask how someone is feeling and give them the opportunity to have their pain acknowledged. Ask, rather than assume. Continue to invite them to special events and be understanding if they choose to stay away. Don’t leave them out in an effort to spare their feelings.

4.  If someone does you the honour of being open and honest about struggles, please don’t judge or condemn. Listen. Ask questions. Listen. Ask more questions. For some people, it is an enormous step to open up. Asking questions will help them to keep sharing. It shows you really care about how they feel.

5.  Don’t take offence if the person does not want to share. That does not mean you can’t try again another time. Don’t underestimate the gift of what you do when you care enough to ask the question. You may think it went nowhere, but that person will remember you cared enough to ask.

6.  Do not give examples of other couples who struggled and then received children. Or those who adopted, and then miraculously became pregnant. Just because it happened to others does not mean it will happen to them. It is more likely to compound sorrow when hearing this.

7.  Remember the male partner in all this. They suffer in different ways, and in unique ways.  Often they struggle with both the burden of infertility, and the need to support their wife as well, leaving them less room to grieve themselves.

8. Remember the person or the couple who has experienced infertility for many years and continue to reach out to them. Infertility is an ongoing struggle, one that can gradually wear away a person’s confidence and hope.

9.  Ask if you can pray for them, and how they would like you to pray for them. They may not ask for prayer that God grants a child. They may ask you to pray for wisdom in making decisions, or for strength to accept God’s will or that they can experience God’s peace.

No matter how compassionate or caring you may be, you will never fully understand what it is like to experience infertility unless you have experienced it yourself.[4]  But that’s ok. You are not expected to know exactly what someone is thinking or feeling. People struggling to conceive just want you to love and care for them.

The most difficult questions in fertility struggles are not about medical issues. At the core, often what is most difficult are the questions about who we are, who God is and what our relationship with Him is based on. Physical and mental suffering and unfulfilled desires test our fundamental beliefs about God. In part 2, I would like to address the spiritual challenges of a child of God experiencing infertility.

Christine Schoof

FRC Albany


[1] Natepyle.com, The disgrace of infertility, January 2014

[2] Jeff Cavanaugh, How the church makes the trial of infertility better (or worse), December 2013

[3] Lois Flowers, Infertility, finding God’s peace in the journey, Harvest House, 2003

[4] Lois Flowers, Infertility, finding God’s peace in the journey, Harvest House, 2003

Change Happens in Community

As we study what Scripture tells us about growth, change, and restoration, we learn more and more that the process of healing and restoration happens in the context of community. The New Testament is filled with commands for how we are to live in relation to one another because of the work of God that is happening in us.


The Body of Christ
Jesus gives his disciples the command to love one another (John 13:34; 15:12). A new command, not because loving one another is something new, but because the model for that love is new. John explains this further in his first letter: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16). We have the model of God’s love which spills out from our hearts into the lives of those around us: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

Sections of Paul’s letters are also filled with commands that describe the love that we should have for one another, the way that we should live because of the work of Jesus Christ in our lives. Passages such as Romans 12, Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 12 instruct us in how we are to live together as children of God, how we are to live as the body of Christ. Other passages contain commands for bearing one another’s burdens (Gal 6:2), spurring one another on to love and good works (Heb 10:24), encouraging one another (1 Thess 5:11), forgiving one another (Eph 4:32), looking out for each other (Phil 2:4), and so much more.
Our relationship with God is reflected in our relationship with others. The work that God is doing in us is shown the relationships we have with those around us. At the same time, God is using those relationships to restore and strengthen us. The change that happens in our lives doesn’t happen in isolation, it is deeply rooted in the context of community.


Created to Need God and Need Others
As we reflect on the passages above and how God has commanded us to be busy in the lives of those around us, it is very easy to divide ourselves into two categories, the helpers and the needy; those who support and care, and those who receive support and care. In his book ‘Side by Side,’ and in presentations from the ‘Growing Together’ program, Ed Welch shakes up our thoughts on this. He points out that there are not two categories but that each one of us is needy and each one of us is a helper. The line that distinguishes between the two goes straight through our hearts. We are all in need of help and we are all commanded to help those around us. He goes further to point out that is it only when we truly know our own neediness and dependence on God that we are able to minister well to those around us.
Being needy is not something many of us are comfortable with. The idea of being vulnerable and opening up about things that are happening in our own lives or the impact of that on our hearts is scary. For many, the idea of revealing some more of ourselves or things that we are struggling over is attached to feelings of fear and even shame. Without realising, many Christians associate being needy with the fall into sin. What we don’t realise is that it is our discomfort and shame around our neediness that is due to the fall. God has created us to need him and to need the people around us. We are created for deep interdependent relationship with God and with each other.
Paul Tripp outlines this in his book ‘Instruments in the Redeemers Hands.’ He uses Genesis 1 to illustrate that even in perfection, Adam and Eve were reliant on God. Created in God’s image, they were reliant on him to make sense of the world, and their role in it. In the following chapter, God says that it is not good for man to be alone. Part of being human is to find ourselves in community with those around us. Just as the persons of the triune God live in deep communion with one another, being created in the image of God means that we live in deep interdependence on God and on those around us.


Church as a Haven for Change
“We believe that that Church, when operating as Christ intended it to be, is the greatest treatment centre on earth.” As the body of Christ, the church is the best place for growth and restoration. As we follow God’s commands for us, the church becomes a haven for those who are hurting, a shelter for those that find themselves in the midst of the storm. As the body of Christ, we are called to reach out to the hurting, support those who are struggling, and nurture those in need.
This care and support merely begins with making meals, doing some housework or providing financial support. People’s needs are so much more than physical. Scripture calls us to care for each other’s souls as we build one another up (Rom 14:19; 1 Thess 5:11), exhort one another (Heb 3:13) and where necessary admonish one another (Rom 15:14). Our conversations become infused with the gospel as our love for God and our love for each other grows simultaneously.
It is through these gospel infused conversations that we learn to wisely connect the hope of Scripture to the details of our lives. We share more about what is happening in our lives, drawing closer to each other as we reveal the cares of our heart. The encouragement and strengthening that comes from brothers and sisters in Christ helps us to turn to God with our fears and burdens. As we pray with each other and for one another, we learn more of the work of the Triune God in our lives. Together we come to know and love each other more, and in that our love and knowledge of God is encouraged and strengthened.
The gospel infused conversations are not limited to a biblical counsellor’s office or a pastoral visit from your minister or elders. The gospel should fill all of our conversations. Each time we interact with each other, our love for God and for his people drives us to connect over more than the weather or sport. Guided by this love, we draw closer and share some more details of our lives as we talk after church. Our conversations over coffee move from the superficial, drawing deeper to some of the matters that are weighing on our hearts. The focus and nature of our Bible studies shift as we learn to move from talking about the passage to applying the passage to specific details in our lives. We learn to ask for prayer in new ways, growing in vulnerability and wisdom.


We Believe
Perhaps this does seem idealistic, a far-fetched dream of love, harmony and wisdom that seems unachievable. This is not a vision that is based on our achievements, or on how well we can listen, love, or care for those around us. The love that we have for one another is God’s love. He commands us to care for each other and promises that He will give us what we need to do so.
God is at work in his church. He is busy using us, and using those in our lives to restore, strengthen and heal. Through the work that He is doing, the church will continue to grow as the greatest treatment centre on earth. In the work that He is doing in each of us, we will grow in love, wisdom, and humility so that we may learn to connect Scripture with the details of our lives and the lives of those around us.


Camille de Vos
Executive Officer – Trellis Counselling

[1] Lee Lewis and Michael Snetzer in Biblical Counselling in the Church,Bob Kellemen (Editor.)

[11] This is not to take away from the role of professionals in supporting those who need specialist care. Instead, this is to orient the care that they provide within the church.

God’s Grace is Always Sufficient

God’s Grace is Always Sufficient

When thinking about depression I am reminded of William Cowper (1731-1800). This name might not be known by many. His loyal friend the ex-slave trader John Newton, though, will certainly be more familiar because he is the author of the popular hymn “Amazing Grace”.

Cowper was often plagued by doubts and melancholy. His depression was so serious that he spent time in an asylum, a place for people who suffered from mental illness. His friendship with John Newton proved to be an enormous blessing for him. John Newton was always at Cowper’s side whenever he needed him. Cowper said, “A sincerer or more affectionate friend no man ever had”.[i] To have true friends when you go through the valley of depression is a real blessing.

Both these friends made many hymns which were published in the hymnal “Olney Hymns,” named after the place where John Newton lived. Being occupied with this positive work of writing Christian hymns was of great benefit to Cowper in his battle with depression. It made him look away from himself to Christ. This proved to him time and again that God’s grace was always sufficient for him.

Understanding or Misunderstanding

Perhaps many of us have difficulty understanding depression, and for that reason we are sometimes not very good in supporting those who suffer from this condition. That is no reason to say things like: “Get over it” or “Pull yourself together.” That is not very helpful and can have the opposite effect. Don’t we all experience occasional moments of low mood and sadness? That’s normal and nothing to worry about. Some people, however, experience these feelings more intensely, for long periods: weeks, months or even years. Depression is a serious condition that affects one’s physical and mental health. Read the quote from Beyond Blue which shows how serious it really is.

“Men are known for bottling things up. But when you’re feeling down, taking action to call in extra support is the responsible thing to do. Trying to go it alone when you’re feeling down increases the risk of depression or anxiety going unrecognised and untreated. Depression is a high-risk factor for suicide, and plays a contributing role to the big difference in suicide rates for men and women. On average, one in eight men will experience depression and one in five men will experience anxiety at some stage of their lives. Blokes make up an average seven out of every nine suicides every single day in Australia. The number of men who die by suicide in Australia every year is nearly double the national road toll.”[ii]

It is when these symptoms become severe and when they affect a person’s ability to function in daily life that help is needed. They need to turn to their pastor or elder or a brother or sister in Christ to be encouraged in the truth of God’s Word and receive care for their soul. They need the support network of family and friends to encourage them in everyday activities. 

There are times when the problem becomes so serious and severe that professional help is also required. When that happens, it is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, people who suffer from depression or anxiety need much courage to admit they experience these problems and to seek help. It would not be right to ever underestimate the seriousness of depression or anxiety. Where can a Christian go for understanding and help?

Biblical Support

Where can a person with anxiety and depression turn when everything seems bleak and hopeless? Wherever they look, they see the world through tinted glasses, dark, sad and hopeless. When their whole world falls apart and nothing seems to go their way, it can be so easy for their faith to falter. Where shall they go when the darkness of spiritual depression descends into their lives?

David felt that way and he says to God in Psalm 42:9, “Why have you forgotten me?” Sometimes he felt completely deserted by his heavenly Father. Fortunately, he knew the answer and encouraged himself by pointing to God: “Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.” In verse 4 of Psalm 43 he even speaks about the God of his exceeding joy and about playing the harp and praising God.

We might wonder how we can sing when we don’t feel like it. How can we possibly sing the hymn “It is well with my soul” when we are in a crisis like the author of that hymn? How can we sing when we feel totally crushed? Martin Luther had the answer: “When you are happy you will sing, and when you are not happy you will also sing, because singing makes you happy.” Isn’t that a wonderful advice?

Instead of listening to our soul when we wake up in the morning and are reminded of yesterday’s problems, we ought to speak to our soul like David did. We can preach the gospel to ourselves: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31). This is the gospel of joy, the gospel of life.

A World Full of Fear

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) addresses fear of the future as a contributor to depression. In a sermon on 2 Timothy 1:7 he says this:

“It is possible to be so gripped by fears of the future that we become ineffective in the present. Satan’s primary goal is to discredit Christ, therefore he attacks Christians. To do so, he tempts us to dwell on the future. If a Christian dwells on the future, fear of the unknown becomes paralysing. The result is depression in our present time. Our natural temperament, characteristics, and make up contribute to depression. Our inclinations do not disappear once we become a Christian. We must, therefore, recognize our fears and our tendencies, and strive to deal with them. Fear of the future, for some, is a specific fear. For others, the fear is general. For all who are gripped by this fear of the future, they must fight as a new creature, filled with new life. For God has not given a Spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind. The future may indeed be filled with sorrow, challenges, and suffering. Yet we trust the Lord and boldly step into the unknown with our confidence placed in Christ.”[iii]

These are comforting words in times of depression including times of uncertainty due to COVID. Depression and anxiety can be so overwhelming that it plunges us into immense darkness, so dark that it almost feels like death. But David shows us the way of deliverance in Psalm 130. From the depths of sadness, he pleads with God his Saviour to hear his humble cry. And he is confident about God’s willingness to hear him. Together with Paul he reminds us of God’s grace which is always sufficient, as it says in 2 Corinthians 12:9.

Look Away from Yourself

To look away from yourself and your own troubles is a good remedy and good medicine for people suffering from depression. In the church there are many opportunities for reaching out to others and to get actively involved in helping those in need. It’s not easy, but small steps in reaching out to others, one person at a time, one day at a time will be rewarded in blessings. Just like in the example of Cowper and Newton, it is also a real treasure having supportive relatives and friends. How rich we are to belong to the church of our Lord and to be surrounded by brothers and sisters in the Lord! They are a gift from the Lord.

May we all learn to look away from ourselves and focus on Christ, our Saviour.

Leo Schoof

FRC Byford


[i] William Cowper and the Eighteenth Century, 192.

[ii] https://www.beyondblue.org.au/who-does-it-affect/men

[iii] https://www.mljtrust.org/sermons-online/2-timothy-1-7/fear-of-the-future/

The First and Second Advent

The First and Second Advent

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

In the Old Testament times the people of Israel would have sung similar words in expectation of Christ’s first coming. This hymn speaks about the Son of God appearing, the Emmanuel Who was promised by the prophet Isaiah in chapter 7 verse 14: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel”. The New Testament church, that’s us, sings this beautiful hymn in preparation as well as commemoration of the birth of Christ, His first coming, but also in expectation of His second coming. He is the One Who has come, is coming, and will come. When He will come again we don’t know. No one knows the day or moment when the bridegroom shall appear. It’s a day on God’s calendar.

Continue reading “The First and Second Advent”

‘conversion therapy’ Laws

ACT and QLD ‘conversion therapy’ laws pave the way for Christian persecution in Australia.

In the last month, two Australian jurisdictions (Queensland and the ACT) have passed laws which are a serious threat to the Christian faith. While these laws may not seem dangerous at first glance, they have serious implications for religious freedom.

In mid-August, Queensland became the first Australian state to ban ‘gay conversion therapy.’ Health professionals in Queensland who are found guilty of trying to suppress or change a patient’s gender identity or sexual orientation through any form of therapy face penalties of up to 18 months’ imprisonment.

By the end of August, the ACT did the same, making it an offence to perform a “conversion practice” on a “protected person” (including children), irrespective of whether or not the person, a parent or guardian gives consent. Despite a last-minute clarification by the government that “a mere expression of a religious tenet or belief” would not be banned, more stringent amendments to specifically protect parents, teachers and counsellors as well as amendments to protect churches and faith-based schools were not passed.

Continue reading “‘conversion therapy’ Laws”