Thinking Out Loud

August 26, 2017

Spiritual Alignment in Marriage

Yesterday I had a nearly one-hour conversation with a couple who belong to a denomination which I can easily say would be somewhat fringe, and one I had never heard of before. While we agreed on many things, we differed as to the terminology; and while many elements of our worship services would be similar, there were some that would no doubt be unfamiliar. It was interesting, to say the least.

I’m very hesitant to take this conversation and turn it into blog material, but there is one particular aspect to our discussion which struck me.

When this couple spoke about their doctrine and beliefs, they spoke as one voice.

That is to say, their depth of understanding was at the same level for both, and never once did they even hint at contradicting each other on the interpretation of what it is their church teaches.

The cynic in me would want to suggest that perhaps they have simply been programmed with the same ‘party line’ on these matters, but their passion was too intense for these to be rote responses. And their passion was indeed great.

They certainly left me thinking and wanting to explore some of these areas further. I wish I had recorded the conversation. I would be unlikely to sign on to the entirety of their Biblical approach, but they left earning my highest respect.

But it was the marital aspect I wanted to leave you with here. The husband and wife were as unified as any two people I’ve ever seen, especially in a discussion that was high intensity. The things they spoke of really mattered, and their desire wasn’t to hit me over the head with their hermeneutic framework, but rather they seemed to care that I also take what they said to heart. They also equally enjoyed spending the time together doing this; neither was more or less in a hurry to leave than the other.

So today’s question is for married couples: Do you speak with a single voice on matters of Christian doctrine, Christian ethics, and Biblical understanding? Or is one voice stronger than the other; does one defer to the other? Or do you differ on matters of doctrinal standing? Or are you perhaps in a marriage where one is a believer and one is not?

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August 7, 2016

Guys: Do You Deserve Respect, Or Earn Respect?

respect

Through an interesting series of circumstances, today we’re introducing you today to blogger Gene S. Whitehead who tells us that this 2015 article has been the top-performing item at his site. We even have permission to use this! (Well, sort of; it’s a long story…) You can also click the title below and read this at his site in a much nicer font than we have! You might even want to leave a comment…

Respect – Do You Deserve It or Earn It?

Gene WhiteheadMale Respect: Earned or Implied?

Men, put your boots on because I may step on some toes here. Guys: when was it decided that respect was an automatic thing? Who planted this notion into the male mindset that we, simply by being born male are due to receive respect? And whatever happened to respect being something earned and not simply given?

“And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” Luke 6:31

The more I interact with my fellow men, I begin to realize to what extent some of the fathers have failed the sons. When a man believes that by being in the position of leader, or head of household, respect is automatic. Not so.

Did you ever have a boss you didn’t respect? Why didn’t you, he was in a position calling for respect, wasn’t he? Did he demand it or expect it but not display the character deserving of respect?

You know the type of person I’m talking about, one who leads by authority and position rather than by character. Does this impact the integrity of that person? How much more so when that person is “leading” a family, when the impact and the fallout are absolutely beyond measure, affecting wives and children?

Now before you dust your Bibles off and start shooting verses at me like fiery arrows, let’s make this first distinction of what I am not talking about:

Positional vs. Earned Respect

“Sow an act and you reap a habit. Sow a habit and you reap a character. Sow a character and you reap a destiny.” – Charles Reade

True, being in a position of authority does imply some level of respect. That’s called positional authority, meaning absolutely anyone in that position would garner the same exact level of respect.

What you do, who you are, the character of your person while in that position defines whether you build on that respect or if you maintain the respect due to your position, which believe me, isn’t much no matter what you keep telling yourself. “But I’m the man.” Yes. Now act like one and earn what you think you deserve!

Earned respect exists in that place where you have sacrificially related to those whom you are leading, especially our wives and our children.

The irony is this: the less you expect and demand respect, the more you earn when you are present, involved and by character leading the way and learning from your mistakes, and don’t miss this: the more respect you are giving by serving others, the more you deserve and earn.

You see, respect is not automatic, for that is authoritarian. It is earned and that by the things mentioned above: sacrificial love, serving others, being present, giving of your time- all of which build your character.

Titus 2:7 says that we should show ourselves “in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity…”

There Was a Time…

I married young, it was 10 days before my 20th birthday. Admittedly, I was immature and not ready for the position of authority I had found myself in, and much less that following year when my first daughter was born.

Guys, I’m writing this because I was that guy, thinking that I would somehow be miraculously endowed with leadership capabilities deserving of respect. Would you be surprised to know that is not at all how life happened?

That is not to say that there aren’t twenty year old men out there who are ready and able to do what I could not, just as there are men in their thirties, forties, fifties and beyond who still are not ready!

I share this to say that I have been at both ends of this pool, in one end expecting respect and in the other having earned it, and the message is that you do not want to sit in that shallow end of this pool for years like I did.

Men, We Can Do Better

Guys, it doesn’t matter how well or how poorly we may have taught or what kind of examples we have looked to and learned from. We can do better. We must do better.

Everywhere we turn in today’s world, leadership is failing. We see it in governments, schools, journalism, churches and in our very own homes, everywhere around us male leadership is failing. It’s time to stop that ride.

How do we do it?

I can’t tell you there is any single answer to this, there is no magic bullet. but there are most definitely steps I have taken in my own journey.

And because I don’t have all of the answers, I have much more to learn and many more steps to take, but here’s a start:

  • Serve. All the time. You don’t earn (or deserve) respect by being served but by serving and setting examples.
  • Be quick to admit when your at fault, then proceed to make things right.
  • Be even more quick forgiving others of their faults.
  • Be a giver; a giver of your self, your energies and especially your time. There is nothing more valuable that you could give.
  • Speaking of time, value the time you are given to spend with those you love. It can disappear in a flash.

If you are married:

  • Treat your wife as the absolute one of a kind, irreplaceable treasured gift that she is. Even when she’s not acting like one.
  • Be the decision maker but above that, consider carefully the ideas, opinions and especially feelings of your wife. Marriage is a team sport and the decisions we make, men, do not simply affect us. But they do reflect on us.

December 8, 2015

When Should Young Children Start Receiving Communion?

At what age should children first participate in The Lord’s Supper?  This article first appeared here in 2011 as part of a commitment to a publisher to review a certain book* and brought a number of comments. For that reason, I decided to run it again today**.


The two children sitting next to me — a boy about six and a girl of four or five — were fidgeting during the entire service. They spent most of the sermon time drawing pictures and there was a mild shoulder punch fight that took place during one of the worship songs where I thought the mom was going to split the kids up by sitting between them, but apparently opted not to. When the communion elements were passed across our row, without hesitation the kids helped themselves. The mom definitely saw the kids each take a piece of bread and the small cup of juice, and wasn’t the least concerned.


I grew up in a tradition where receiving The Lord’s Supper, partaking of Communion or Eucharist, or whatever name your faith family chooses to call it, was reserved for adults and those entering adulthood. I was eleven years old the first time. Anything younger, for me, would have been too young.

So when Christian Focus Publishing offered me a chance to review Children and the Lord’s Supper, I had hoped this book would address the question in clear and unmistakable terms. I believe this topic is important as it bears on so many issues: church, doctrine, worship, parenting, the spiritual nurture of children, the Christian education of our youth.

Make no mistake about it, this is an excellent book. If you want to cover this topic in great detail, I can think of no better resource, and I will be most grateful to have this paperback in my library for any time that this topic surfaces. However, for all that, there are reasons why I think this is the wrong book for the majority of readers here.

First, this is a very academic reference work that would cause most of my friends to glaze over after the first dozen or so pages. The book is a collection of eight essays an introduction by editors Guy Waters and Ligon Duncan, which defines paedocommunion as “the admittance of a covenant child to the Lord’s Supper on the basis of his (sic) descent from at least one professing Christian parent.” (p. 11) Persons looking for a simple answer to the question, ‘Daddy, may I take communion?” — which is also the title of an existing book — would find 214 pages of answer to what they perceive as a simple ‘yes or no’ question; not unlike the uncle at the Christmas gathering who recites the entire workings of the internal combustion engine, when all you asked was a simple question as to the frequency of oil changes. Mind you, there are no simple answers here.

Another awkwardness for the North American reader is the use of the UK construction paedocommunion rather than the American which would favor the use of pedocommunion (only occurring 195 times in a Google search as opposed to over 28,000 for the UK spelling; which suggests something right there) just as we tend not to speak of paedobaptism (46,000 on Google) preferring the spelling pedobaptism (a more balanced 17,000). This preoccupation with spelling is not a deal breaker, but is mentioned in passing here to highlight how North American readers would find this volume inaccessible at different levels. (When the absolute central focus of a book is a word that is spelled differently in both countries, perhaps it is time to consider a North American edition.)

More relevant is the Reformed perspective of the book. This book raises all the right issues, but does so in the context of a growing movement among some Reformed denominations to include younger children in the Lord’s Supper — some already do — to which there is apparently much consternation. We share the same scriptures of course, and everything presented in this volume is entirely relevant to all our churches, but one must first decide to get past the denominational perspective of the writers. In fairness, I should state that a couple of the writers do address the doctrinal understanding of the Lord’s Supper that is unique to the Roman Catholic mass, though this is done primarily for comparative purposes with the Presbyterian or Reformed view. And one writer views as inconsistent those Baptist groups which baptize children, but do not permit them access to the Communion table.

Which brings us to the meat of the book.

As it turns out, the issue of children of partaking of the communion elements is almost symptomatic to a deeper causal issue, namely our understanding of the relationship between the Lord’s Supper and Passover. This is the true focus on which many of the arguments — mentioned or alluded to — hinge. Certainly Jesus instituted this sacred meal in the context of a passover meal, but how strongly does the parallel run? Children are allowed to participate in the modern passover — though some doubts arise as to, for example, the first such meal in the years immediately following the Exodus — so why not permit children at our New Covenant equivalent? And some even argue that point, as to whether or not there is a tacit understanding that the youngest of children do not truly partake of the passover meal since they are too young to ask the questions (or you could say, be active in the liturgy) that is required of the youngest; even arguing the obvious point that the very youngest would be too young to chew food.

One writer suggests that in Passover, Jesus was instituting something that fulfills or completes the entire sacrificial system (p. 32). Several of the writers point out that the Westminster Catechism (part 177) requires that the children be old enough to examine themselves, alluding to the words of institution in I Cor. 11, something I would term, if I may, the presence of “spiritual sentience,” a term which, as long as we’re quoting Google, occurs elsewhere 283 times.

Indeed, the book’s strongest premise is that we best remember the Lord’s death and atonement through the Lord’s Supper combined with active faith. (pp. 72-73) The book also considers the various warnings that the apostle issues addressing the situation of those who would be receiving the communion elements in an unworthy manner.

…This is a book review, and book reviews are highly subjective. I said at the beginning that this is indeed an excellent book, it’s just not going to fulfill the expectations of the average browser in the average Christian book shop, especially here in North America. But subjectively, my personal reward for studying this book was a deeper understanding of passover, admittedly not the book’s stated purpose. I am much richer for reading Children and the Lord’s Supper, but I am clearly not the typical Christian book consumer.

And if I’ve caused your eyes to glaze over today, may I suggest that as parents of young children you err on the side of caution. The children in the example I cited at the outset certainly had no sense of reverence for what was taking place, and may I suggest that by that lack of reverence they profaned the moment or occasion as it took place in their part of the auditorium.


“Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35 NIV


*The book is still available in both the US and UK. ISBN 9781845507299

**This article, combined with another one on the same topic, is also available at this link.

June 28, 2015

This Blog’s All-Time #1 Post

This weekend we’ve focused on this blog’s top three all-time posts, of which #1 is The Eight Things Destroyed Our Marriage by Justin and Trisha Davis. On Friday and Saturday I re-posted the entire texts of the other two top traffic generators here, but today we’re not doing this because (a) it’s very long, and (b) I’ve always felt guilty about any traffic this might have diverted from the authors’ blog over the years, though it obviously is meeting a real need. Like Friday’s, this one was deemed as special from the very beginning and existed as a page rather than a post. You can read it by clicking here.

Since we already ‘borrowed’ so much from material from Justin and Trisha, I thought we might as well go one step further and share their story in this space instead. But again, we encourage you to read it directly at source, because there’s a video at the end of their story as shared with Cross Point Church (Pete Wilson) in Nashville.

Justin and Trisha DavisHey there. We are Justin and Trish… Here is a little bit about us. Our hope is that as you learn more about us and our story, you allow us to learn more about you as you become a part of the RefineUs community.

Our return to ministry is the result of a victorious battle for our marriage and family. After successfully planting our first church, Justin had an affair with a staff member, who was also Trisha’s best friend.

What followed was a 4-year journey of pain, grief and ultimately the restoration of our relationship by the grace of God. This experience left a watermark on our marriage of what it really means to experience grace, love and redemption firsthand—both individually and as a couple.

In 2009 we founded RefineUs Ministries using their story of failure, loss, and transformation to guide individuals, couples, churches, pastors, pastor’s wives and church planters towards a healthy marriage and family.

We currently wear a lot of hats. We are bloggers, authors, and teachers and we live in Nashville, TN with our three boys.

Justin is on staff part-time as a pastor of Cross Point Church, recently named the 6th fastest growing church in the country.* We both attended Lincoln Christian University in Lincoln, IL where we met and fell in love (with Justin adamantly asking Trisha out twice a week for 6 months before she said yes.)

Justin received his BA degree in Christian Education in Lincoln and Trisha later earned her degree from Indiana University.

With the rare free time that we can scrounge up, you will find us going on walks, eating at PF Changs, or having coffee together; and sometimes all three at once. We believe the resurrection of our marriage to be a great gift and we know it is a privilege to use RefineUs to help others towards that same healing.

Our first book, Beyond Ordinary: When a Good Marriage Isn’t Good Enough from Tyndale House Publishers, is available now. You can order from a number of places today. Click here for more info.

We are passionate about sharing all that God has done in our life, marriage and family. If you would like more information about booking us for your event, your church service or a conference, please check out our speaking page… [continues to video introduction]

In preparing this, I have just noticed that the links within the eight sections are broken, if anyone wants to send us updated ones we’ll edit that post. (I know part six exists still.)

Again, I am in awe at the traffic this generates and the needs in marital relationships that probably represents. To J. and T., thank you that we were able to steal borrow the eight individual blog posts that made up this article; I know it is blessing many people.

I want to encourage you to read the authors’ blog, RefineUs.org


*Even as we’re publishing this, Justin is completing his time on staff at Cross Point and they are moving on to a new adventure in Indianapolis. Follow them on Twitter @JustinDavis33 and Trisha @TrishaDavis23


Here again is the link to the article as it appears at Thinking Out Loud.

February 3, 2014

Kids and Communion: Sacrament or Snack-Time?

This is a topic that was covered here twice before, in February of 2011 and December, 2011. I’m presenting both complete today, but including the links because the December one attracted a number of comments. You can join that old comment thread or start a new one here that might get seen by more people.  The first article is more practical, the second more doctrinal. The first article also appeared on the day after a piece about children and (immersion) baptism, which is why it begins…

Continuing where we left off yesterday…

I like the story of the little boy who wanted to take part in the communion service that followed the Sunday morning offering. When told by his mother that he was too young to take communion, the eager participant whispered loud enough to be heard five rows back, “Why not? I just paid for it, didn’t I?”

~Stan Toler in Preacher’s Magazine

Last week was Communion Sunday at our home church. We attended the 9:00 AM service so that we could actually get to a second service at 10:30 at our other home church. The 9:00 AM service is attended by families with young children who wake up early, and I was horrified to glance and see a young boy of about six or seven helping himself as the bread and wine were passed. Maybe this story describes the kind of thing I’m referencing:

At my church, we had a special Easter night service, and we took communion. My brother was in there, and he’s only 6, so he doesn’t understand the meaning of it. When he saw the “crackers” and “grape juice” being passed around, he said “mommy! Its snack time! I want a snack too!” Obviously, he’s too young to take communion. But for those of us who do take it, do we see it as “snack time”? Communion is great. I love to hear Pastors words describing the night when Jesus and his 12 apostles took upon the 1st Holy Communion. I think since we do take communion regularly in church, we overlook the importance there is in it.

~Summer, a 15-year old in Illinois

But not everyone agrees with this approach:

I have allowed my children to take communion ever since they have told me that they love Jesus. I think 3 was the age they were first able to verbalize that.

We explain it to them each time as the bread and wine come around, and while they dont get it all, they know they are considered ok to partake.

This would not have happened in the world I grew up in.

~Andrew Hamilton at Backyard Missionary (no longer available)

The latter view is the one currently gaining popularity among Evangelical parents. And there are often compelling reasons for it. A children’s ministry specialist in New Zealand only ever posted four things on his or her blog, but one of them was this piece which argued for including all children because:

  • The historical reason: Children would be included in Passover celebration;
  • The Passover parallel: It is a means of teaching children about Christ’s deliverance for us;
  • Salvation qualifies them: If they have prayed to receive Christ, which is not exclusive to adults, they should participate;
  • The alternative is complicated: The age at which a child would be considered “ready” would actually vary for each child, and setting a specific age adds more complication;
  • Communion is an act of worship, something children should be equally participating in.

Having read that, it might be easy to conclude that this is the side to which I personally lean.

That would be a mistake.

Despite the arguments above, I really think that Summer’s comment adequately describes the situation I saw firsthand last Sunday. As with yesterday’s piece here — Baptism: How Young is Too Young? — I think we are rushing our children to have ‘done’ certain things that perhaps we think will ‘seal’ them with God.

I thought it interesting that one of the pieces I studied in preparation for yesterday’s post suggested that the parents of children who would be strongly opposed doctrinally to infant baptism have no issues with their non-infant children being baptized very young. Another article described a boy so young they had to ‘float’ him over to the pastor, since he couldn’t touch the bottom.

I’ve often told the story of the young woman who told me that when she was confirmed in her church at age 14 — confirmation being the last ‘rite’ of spiritual passage for those churches that don’t practice believer’s baptism by immersion — she stopped attending because she ‘done’ everything there was to ‘do.’ She described it perfectly: “The day I officially joined the church was the day I left the church.”

Are we in too much of a hurry here to see our children complete these things so we can check them off a list? Are parents who would be horrified to see their daughters wearing skimpy outfits because that constitutes “growing up too fast” actually wanting their sons and daughters to “grow up spiritually too fast?”

I was eleven when my parents deemed me ready to take communion. While I question my decision to be baptized at 13, I think that this was a good age to enter into the Eucharist. I know that Catholic children receive First Communion at age seven, therefore I am fully prepared to stick to this view even if I end up part of a clear minority.

(more…)

September 2, 2012

Happy Father’s Day

…to all our readers in Australia and New Zealand

So perhaps that should read:

No, that doesn’t work.  How about:

Either way, it’s appropriate because today I want to post a blast from the past, a song that I sung at the dedication of our oldest; which is also appropriate today because this week both boys are off to university. [Grab box of tissue here.] Where did those years go?

The artist is Mike Johnson, and the album is The Artist/The Riddle on NewPax Records from 1976. It’s an old song. But I still love what this has to say, and I’m proud to pass it on to a new generation of fathers, both “down under” and “up over.”

Here are the lyrics (the lyric sheet has been chewed by mice; seriously!)

When you grow up
What will you remember
Daddy had time to show his love
When you were needing
His love and affection
Daddy made sure you had enough

Little boy, Jesus loves you
More than I am able to
I am learning to be a father
By my love show that He loves you

Will you remember
Daddy took you fishing
Having fun, sharing candy bars
Reading you words of love from the Bible
Telling you about
The one who made the stars

Little boy, Jesus loves you
More than I am able to
I am learning to be a father
By my love show that He loves you

When your mommy
And daddy did argue
Did you see that we had learned to forgive
Or did our words simply confuse you
Did you see the truth
By the lives that we lived

Little boy, Jesus loves you
More than I am able to
I am learning to be a father
By my love show that He loves you

Little boy, speak the truth of Jesus
Speak His words until He comes
We have learned by our little family
What it is to be called God’s sons

Little boy, Jesus loves you
More than I am able to
I am learning to be a father
By my love show that He loves you

June 12, 2012

Hanging Out Time

There are a number of areas where I would like a ‘do-over’ and those that were a test of my parenting skills are no exception. But one thing I did right was establish a nightly Bible story and prayer time which I’m told has also been an inspiration to some other families.

I wrote about it here almost three years ago.

Sunday night we had our last hanging out time (aka HOT) before Kid One left for his summer camp ministry, where Kid Too will join him in a couple of weeks. The ‘final’ of this event was more significant since Kid Too is off to university in the fall, one that doesn’t afford him the luxury of coming home on weekends as does Kid One.  So I suppose there will still be a few weekend editions with just two of us;  just as there have only been two of us present for the weekday editions the past few years.  But for the most part, what started nearly two decades ago with a copy of The Beginner Bible is about to enter the realm of history.

The robins are leaving the next.

Kid One returns in the fall to his second last year of electrical engineering. An engineer in the house. Who would have guessed? His parents tend to be a little more artsy. Kid Too is off to study with the aim of becoming a youth pastor. Not too scary until you consider that most youth ministry people end up ‘graduating’ to adult ministry.

I kept thinking we should do something special for the final night, but instead I was struggling to keep it together. It seemed like somewhere, a soundtrack should have been turned up, with Michael W. Smith singing “Friends;” except that we’re relatives not friends, and maybe without all the sappiness that critics think that song radiates.

Still the verse really applies,

Packing up the dreams God planted
In the fertile soil of you
Can’t believe the hopes He’s granted
Means a chapter in your lives is through
But we’ll keep you close as always
It won’t even seem you’re gone
‘Cause our hearts in big and small ways
Will keep the love that keeps us strong.

I keep thinking how much their nightly time in the Bible and Christian books, and in prayer has benefited me. I’ll have to work twice as hard this fall to keep discipline.

A chapter in their lives is through; and sadly, in ours also.

By the way, I mentioned this last year without too much success, but for those of you who want to support a couple of summer missionaries, the camp where they work offers a summer assistance program that supplements their rather meager base salary. If you are in Canada, you get a tax receipt. Just email me using this blog’s contact page for more info.

February 15, 2012

Wednesday Link List

First, two strongly related links:

  • Author Mike Breen guests at Verge Network with Obituary for the American Church.  He notes three factors responsible for killing the church, celebrity, consumerism and competition.
  • Rachel Held Evans guests at Relevant Magazine with a particular focus on the celebrity mindset in the church, check out When Jesus Meets TMZ.

Other links this week:

December 29, 2011

Mark Driscoll on Marriage and Sex: Candid as Usual

The man who doesn’t mince words, is not surprisingly equally candid when it comes to comes to marriage and intimacy in marriage.  In Real Marriage, Mark teams up with wife Grace and reveals much in the way of personal details of their own marriage, both in its early days and presumably as recent as yesterday.  It walks the fine line — without truly crossing it — of too much information; while at the same time making your marriage the focus of the book’s content.

The full title is Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship, and Life Together though a proper disclaimer would warn you that the book is divided into two parts, with sex being the theme of the second, and probably being the focus of much that will be written about the book both before and after publication.  The book does warn more conservative types — and less urban types — to sit down while reading the Q & A chapter on what types of sex are permissible within the bounds of Christian marriage.

First person narratives written by two authors can be as awkward to read as they are tricky to write, so there are sections of “… I (Mark)…” interspersed with sections of “… I (Grace) …” but beyond that the book flows well and Grace’s background in public relations means she was undoubtedly a gifted writer long before this.

Mark — no stranger to print with more than a dozen previous books and tons of online copy — is especially vulnerable here as he is brutally frank about everything from his own sex drive to various conflicts that have arisen in their married life.  As with so many pastors today, the availability of online audio and video means that you can almost literally hear Mark speaking as you read.

God does not give us a standard of beauty — God gives us spouses.  Unlike other standards of beauty, a spouse changes over time. This means if your spouse is tall you are into tall. If your spouse is skinny, you are into skinny. If your spouse is twenty, you are into twenty. When your spouse is sixty, you are no longer into twenty, but rather into sixty. And if your spouse used to be skinny, you were into skinny, but now you are into formerly skinny. We are to pour all our passion and pursuit of sexual pleasure into our spouses alone without comparing them to anyone else in a lustful way.   (p. 108-9)

Mark’s take on this subject is born not just out of theory and research, but from thousands of interactions with individuals and couples as a pastor and conference speaker.  Just a page past the above quotation is this anecdote:

He had a beautiful wife but was never sexually satisfied.  His mind was filled with sinful fantasies from pornography he had viewed, as well as sexually experiences he had enjoyed before marriage. Some would have been sinful to do even with his wife, others were not sinful but she was opposed to them because they violated her conscience. Over the course of some years in their marriage, rather than killing these sinful desires, he occasionally nurtured them by daydreaming about what it would be like to make his fantasies realities.  One day he did — with another woman.

He decided to never tell his wife because in his flawed mind, it was better for her not to know the truth and be devastated. He actually considered his lying somewhat loving but she could tell something was different and so she pressed him for answers. Eventually he confessed.  As we met during their counseling session, while his wife wept continually, he tried to downplay what had happened by saying it was only one day of their life, he did not love the other woman, and similar inane efforts to make his sin seem less sinful.

Nothing seemed to get through to him until I (Mark) simply told him he was not only an adulterer but had become an adulterer because he was first an idolator. The first commandments are that we are to worship God alone. If we obey, we then do not worship other people and things as functional gods. When we disobey we then continue to worship but do so as idolators treating people and things as gods. His sin was not just sleeping with a different woman, but sleeping with another woman as a worship act to another god. Sex was his god, a bed was his altar, their bodies were their living sacrifices, and he was a pagan priest committing idolatry.  (pp. 109-10)

Again, I don’t know of anyone else who is a forthright as Mark Driscoll and who delivers a message with such passion and authority. With sections dealing with oral sex and masturbation, Mark (and Grace) face no question too difficult to deal with.

While I probably disagree with Mark’s doctrinal position in other books dealing with other topics, I was intrigued by how he would handle this, and I was not disappointed. The book has value to engaged couples, newly marrieds, and people like my wife and I who are a few decades in.  Real Marriage releases January 3rd from Thomas Nelson.

An advance copy of   Real Marriage was provided by Graf-Martin Communications, a Kitchener, Ontario firm which works with North American publishers and author agencies to provide additional promotion and publicity for books and book-related products.

Looking for more details? Check out Aaron Armstrong’s review of the book at The Gospel Coalition.

December 3, 2011

Should Young Children Receive Communion?

At what age should children first participate in The Lord’s Supper?


The two children sitting next to me — a boy about six and a girl of four or five — were fidgeting during the entire service.  They spent most of the sermon time drawing pictures and there was a mild shoulder punch fight that took place during one of the worship songs where I thought the mom was going to split the kids up by sitting between them, but apparently opted not to.  When the communion elements were passed across our row, without hesitation the kids helped themselves.  The mom definitely saw the kids each take a piece of bread and the small cup of juice, and wasn’t the least concerned.


I grew up in a tradition where receiving The Lord’s Supper, partaking of Communion or Eucharist, or whatever name your faith family chooses to call it, was reserved for adults and those entering adulthood.  I was eleven years old the first time.  Anything younger, for me, would have been too young.

So when Christian Focus Publishing offered me a chance to review Children and the Lord’s Supper, I had hoped this book would address the question in clear and unmistakable terms.  I believe this topic is important as it bears on so many issues:  church, doctrine, worship, parenting, the spiritual nurture of children, the Christian education of our youth.

Make no mistake about it, this is an excellent book.  If you want to cover this topic in great detail, I can think of no better resource, and I will be most grateful to have this paperback in my library for any time that this topic surfaces.  However, for all that, there are reasons why I think this is the wrong book for the majority of readers here.

First, this is a very academic reference work that would cause most of my friends to glaze over after the first dozen or so pages.  The book is a collection of eight essays an introduction by editors Guy Waters and Ligon Duncan, which defines paedocommunion as “the admittance of a covenant child to the Lord’s Supper on the basis of his (sic) descent from at least one professing Christian parent.” (p. 11)  Persons looking for a simple answer to the question, ‘Daddy, may I take communion?” — which is also the title of an existing book — would find 214 pages of answer to what they perceive as a simple ‘yes or no’ question; not unlike the uncle at the Christmas gathering who recites the entire workings of the internal combustion engine, when all you asked was a simple question as to the frequency of oil changes.  Mind you, there are no simple answers here.

Another awkwardness for the North American reader is the use of the UK construction paedocommunion rather than the American which would favor the use of pedocommunion (only occurring 195 times in a Google search as opposed to over 28,000 for the UK spelling; which suggests something right there) just as we tend not to speak of paedobaptism (46,000 on Google) preferring the spelling pedobaptism (a more balanced 17,000).  This preoccupation with spelling is not a deal breaker, but is mentioned in passing here to highlight how North American readers would find this volume inaccessible at different levels. (When the absolute central focus of a book is a word that is spelled differently in both countries, perhaps it is time to consider a North American edition.)

More relevant is the Reformed perspective of the book.  This book raises all the right issues, but does so in the context of a growing movement among some Reformed denominations to include younger children in the Lord’s Supper — some already do — to which there is apparently much consternation. We share the same scriptures of course, and everything presented in this volume is entirely relevant to all our churches, but one must first decide to get past the denominational perspective of the writers.  In fairness, I should state that a couple of the writers do address the doctrinal understanding of the Lord’s Supper that is unique to the Roman Catholic mass, though this is done primarily for comparative purposes with the Presbyterian or Reformed view.  And one writer views as inconsistent those Baptist groups which baptize children, but do not permit them access to the Communion table.

Which brings us to the meat of the book. 

As it turns out, the issue of children of partaking of the communion elements is almost symptomatic to a deeper causal issue, namely our understanding of the relationship between the Lord’s Supper and Passover.  This is the true focus on which many of the arguments — mentioned or alluded to — hinge.  Certainly Jesus instituted this sacred meal in the context of a passover meal, but how strongly does the parallel run?  Children are allowed to participate in the modern passover — though some doubts arise as to, for example, the first such meal in the years immediately following the Exodus — so why not permit children at our New Covenant equivalent?  And some even argue that point, as to whether or not there is a tacit understanding that the youngest of children do not truly partake of the passover meal since they are too young to ask the questions (or you could say, be active in the liturgy) that is required of the youngest; even arguing the obvious point that the very youngest would be too young to chew food.

One writer suggests that in Passover, Jesus was instituting something that fulfills or completes the entire sacrificial system (p. 32).  Several of the writers point out that the Westminster Catechism (part 177) requires that the children be old enough to examine themselves, alluding to the words of institution in I Cor. 11, something I would term, if I may, the presence of “spiritual sentience,” a term which, as long as we’re quoting Google, occurs elsewhere 283 times.

Indeed, the book’s strongest premise is that we best remember the Lord’s death and atonement through the Lord’s Supper combined with active faith. (pp. 72-73)  The book also considers the various warnings that the apostle issues addressing the situation of those who would be receiving the communion elements in an unworthy manner.

…This is a book review, and book reviews are highly subjective.  I said at the beginning that this is indeed an excellent book, it’s just not going to fulfill the expectations of the average browser in the average Christian book shop, especially here in North America.  But subjectively, my personal reward for studying this book was a deeper understanding of passover, admittedly not the book’s stated purpose. I am much richer for reading Children and the Lord’s Supper, but I am clearly not the typical Christian book consumer.

And if I’ve caused your eyes to glaze over today, may I suggest that as parents of young children you err on the side of caution.  The children in the example I cited at the outset certainly had no sense of reverence for what was taking place, and may I suggest that by that lack of reverence they profaned the moment or occasion as it took place in their part of the auditorium. 


“Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35 NIV

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