March 2007 New Horizons

Kids, Character and Catechism

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Kids, Character, and Catechism

"As a twig is bent, so goes the tree." Likewise, the character of our children is formed as we train them early in life. Certainly Solomon echoed the same thought when he said, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it" (Prov. 22:6 NKJV). What is this training, and what does it look like? Like fixing a car, this training takes more than one tool. There is one tool, however, that Presbyterians have always recognizes as basic: the catechism. Presbyterians have almost universally agreed that children should have their souls marked and shaped with the good theology found in the catechism. Character When we develop the character of our children, we mark their souls. This marking is actually part of what we mean by character. The etymology or word history of character gives us a rather vivid picture of what it is we hope to do in teaching the catechism to our children. Character is related to the idea of a distinctive mark impressed on something. When this ... Read more

The Lost Art and Practice of Family Devotions

In this environment, the idea of family devotions seems to be an anachronism from the "little house on the prairie" era of fireside family discussions. However, if one goes back to Bible-believing pastors who were concerned about the lack of "family worship" in their congregations in the mid-nineteenth century, here is what you would hear: Along with Sabbath observance and the catechizing of children, family worship has lost ground. There are many heads of families, communicants in our churches, and according to a scarcely credible report, some ruling elders and deacons, who maintain no stated daily service of God in their dwellings. ( Thoughts on Family Worship , by James W. Alexander, 1847) Pastor Alexander saw in a day much simpler than our own the need for family devotions, yet lamented that fewer and fewer households were taking it seriously. In his classic book quoted above, Alexander wrote lovingly of the benefits of family devotions on the individual preparing the devotions, the parents, the ... Read more

The Divines' Intent

We should never underestimate the value of the Assembly's work. In a day when theological precision is so desperately needed, we should praise God that he raised up the Westminster divines (ministers) to produce a superior compendium of biblical truth. By whom do you suppose the Westminster divines primarily intended their work to be used? It may surprise you to learn that they desired their work to be used primarily by the heads of households to instruct their families. This is evident from the original preface and the one written by Thomas Manton for the second edition of the standards in 1658. The Original Preface The title of the first preface is, "To the Christian Reader, Especially Heads of Families." This title shows that the Assembly wanted their work to be a resource for heads of households to use in family instruction. Parents, and especially fathers, reading this title, would have understood that the remarks in the preface were directed principally to them. The opening sentence ... Read more

Edification—not Provocation

Exam question: In what order would you arrange the following items: private devotions, corporate worship, family worship? Defend your answer. Your arrangement of these items will speak volumes about your theology (cf. WCF 21.6). Individual and family worship should flow out of corporate worship. Following corporate worship, family worship is more important than individual devotions. The reason: in a godly home, the blessings that God brings upon the family normally come through the parents. In our day, we have largely ignored this great means of influence that God has given to shape our children for his glory. When we take our vows at the baptism of our children, we promise "to endeavor by all the means of God's appointment to bring [our child] up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." Let us explore Ephesians 6:4 as a biblical directive for family worship. At first glance, it seems that the apostle Paul is giving two commands—don't do this, but do that. This is often how we understand this ... Read more

Helps for Worship #16: Prayer of Confession (Part 2)

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9 NKJV) Reformed worship is marked by its great use of the Word of God. Even the prayers in Reformed worship are formed by the Scriptures as the Word of God. That includes the prayer of confession , which usually follows a reading of Scripture. The biblical understanding of confession is "to say the same thing as ..." When we confess our faith, we "say the same thing" as God tells us in his Word regarding himself, the way of salvation, and what a true Christian is to be. When we confess our sins, we "say the same thing" as God regarding what sin is, how serious it is, and how much we desire to be delivered from it and its effects. In order to do that, we use the Scriptures as our guide. In preparing to lead the congregation in corporate prayer of confession of sin, the minister does several things: He asks how the Scriptures (and particularly the Scripture portion ... Read more