|The Biblical Examiner
An Examination of Biblical Precepts Involved in Issues at Hand
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A NEWSLETTER from DOUG PHILLIPS and THE VISION FORUM, INC.
Each year the Russian population decreases by about one million. With a 0.8 child-per-family average, a higher rate of abortions than births, and a systemic birth-control and anti-child philosophy, the Russian people are not only facing the extinction of their family life, but the loss of their culture to other groups with an aggressive pro-child philosophy. Russians, like Germans and other European peoples, are finding that Muslims increasingly govern the economic infrastructure of their nation. Why? Because Muslims can fill the jobs, then send others to fill more jobs, and eventually dominate the marketplace. They average more than four children per family and their faith emphasizes the necessity of strong family culture built on loyalty and shared beliefs -- thus ensuring the birth of even more Muslims to further populate and influence the nation.
When it comes to viewing children as a blessing, most Muslims are closer to the biblical paradigm than the typical professing Christian evangelical. This is not a vindication of Islam, just an observation that Mohammedanism is aggressively populating the world using a borrowed Christian doctrine, and proving that even a broken clock is right twice a day. The fact that many of their beliefs are Satanically inspired and completely foreign to the biblical notion of the family is beyond the scope of this newsletter. The point is, their religion and influence is spreading exponentially, while nations that once claimed a Christian worldview are dying in direct proportion to their philosophy of children.
Americans are not immune, and Christians tend to be the worst at concocting all sorts of reasons to reject children. Far too many have bought hook, line, and sinker into the contraceptive mentality. Even worse, they have rationalized twisted notions of personal freedom, "household order," and "self-fulfillment" as the basis for rejecting the second greatest gift after salvation which God gives to man and woman: a child.
The decision to prevent children because "they are too expensive" (as if God cannot provide for the living souls He places in your home); or that they are "too much of a burden" (as if the inconvenience of training children outweighs the blessing of nurturing souls which will live for all of eternity), is fundamentally a function of the selfishness of our age. I have actually heard Bible-believing parents make a "quality of life" argument that one should not have a child unless one can assure the ability to "send them to a good college."
Some have even argued that "it may be good stewardship of time and resources" not to have children. If this is true, please show me any clear pattern, precept, or principle in the Bible that links the notion of stewardship with the act of cutting off the godly seed (no out-of-context prooftexting, speculations, or bizarre analogies, please). Remarkably, those who make this last argument are usually typical Americans who, from a standard-of-living perspective, are fabulously wealthy compared to 99% of the people who ever lived. The fact is, God says to the rich and the poor: "children are a blessing" and "be fruitful and multiply." (A friend of mine has correctly observed that the Bible calls debt a curse and children a blessing, but in our culture we apply for curses and reject blessings. Something is wrong with this picture.)
Given the overwhelming admonitions and evidence found in Scripture that parents should trust God for children, the burden of proof for presenting a theological argument for not having children is squarely placed on the proponents of child-prevention -- not on those who see children as an inherent blessing.
In point of fact, the Bible knows nothing of the child-prevention philosophy. It teaches precisely the opposite. In Scripture, we are taught that having children (and lots of them -- "to be fruitful") is part of the prime directive for every parent. The book of Malachi even declares, "for this cause did I make the two one, that they would bring forth a Godly seed." The Bible explains that our children are our true riches, more precious than gold and silver; they are our inheritance, and a blessing from the Lord. The Bible is replete with examples of "poor" and "rich" men rewarded with many children, thus demonstrating that there is no correlation in the Scriptures between economic status and the blessing of children. Children help to define our God-ordained mission in life. God's commandment to families was that they were to be fruitful and multiply, and, with that as a foundation, would take godly dominion over the earth. Each of us are to pray for and prepare our children to know Jesus Christ, and to be faithful covenant-keepers, thus perpetuating the Church of Jesus Christ, and defeating the enemy with righteous population.
PARENTHOOD as a LIFE MISSION
The view I have just articulated is not popular today. It is rarely preached from the pulpit. But once upon a time, it was an unquestioned assumption of orthodox Christianity, as is evidenced from Christian writings ranging from the Church Fathers to the Reformers. Each of us needs to be reminded of the rich pro-child philosophy from past centuries, which is why we must read the right books. This year, a number of the families of the Vision Forum have been reading HOME-MAKING, a remarkable book written in the 19th century. With theological precision, but also passion and poetry of expression, the author communicates the joy and significance of children and parenthood. The book is my top recommendation from our catalog for this year. Following is an excerpt:
"God has so constituted us that in loving and caring for our own children the richest and best things in our natures are drawn out. Many of the deepest and most valuable lessons ever learned are read from the pages of unfolding child-life. We best understand the feelings and affections of God toward us when we bend over our own child and see in our human parenthood a faint image of the divine Fatherhood. Then in the culture of character there is no influence more potent than that which touches us when our children are laid in our arms. Their helplessness appeals to every principle of nobleness in our hearts. Their innocence exerts over us a purifying power. The thought of our responsibility for them exalts every faculty of our souls. In the very care which they exact, they bring blessing to us. When old age comes, very lonely is the home which has neither son nor daughter to return with grateful ministries, to bring solace and comfort to the declining years!
"It is a new marriage when the first-born enters the home. It draws the wedded lives together in a closeness they have never known before. It touches chords in their hearts that have lain silent until now. It calls out powers that have never been exercised before. Hitherto unsuspected beauties of character appear. The laughing heedless girl of a year ago is transformed into a thoughtful woman. The careless, unsettled youth leaps into manly strength and into fixedness of character when he looks into the face of his own child and takes it in his bosom. New aims rise up before the young parents, new impulses begin to stir in their hearts. Life takes on at once a new and deeper meaning. The glimpse they have had into its solemn mystery sobers them. The laying in their hands of a new and sacred burden, an immortal life, to be guided and trained by them, brings to them a sense of responsibility that makes them thoughtful. Self is no longer the centre. There is a new object to live for, an object great enough to fill all their life and engross their highest powers. It is only when the children come that life becomes real, that parents begin to learn to live. We talk about training our children, but they train us first, teaching us many a sacred lesson, stirring up in us many a slumbering gift and possibility, calling out many a hidden grace and disciplining our wayward powers into strong and harmonious character.
"'Children are God's apostles, day by day Sent forth to preach of love, of hope, of peace.'
"Our homes would be very cold and dreary without the children. Sometimes we weary of their noise. They certainly bring us a great deal of care and solicitude. They cost us no end of toil. When they are very young they break our rest many a weary night with their colics and teethings, and when they grow older they well-nigh break our hearts many a time with their waywardness. After they come to us we may as well bid farewell to living for self and to personal ease and independence if we mean to do faithful duty as parents. There are some who therefore look upon the coming of children as a misfortune. They talk about them lightly as 'responsibilities.' They regard them as in the way of their pleasure. They see no blessing in them. But it is cold selfishness that looks upon children in this way. Instead of being hindrances to true and noble living, they are helps. They bring benedictions from heaven when they come, and while they stay they are perpetual benedictions.
"'Ah! what would the world be to us
If the children were no more?
We should dread the desert behind us
Worse than the dark before.
"'What the leaves are to the forest,
With light and air for food,
Ere their sweet and tender juices
Have been hardened into wood,--
"'That to the world are children;
Through them it feels the glow
Of a brighter and sunnier climate
Than reaches the trunks below.'
"When the children come what shall we do with them? What duties do we owe to them? How may we discharge our responsibility? What is the parents' part in making the home and the home-life? It is impossible to overstate the importance of these questions.
"It is a great thing to take these young and tender lives, rich with so many possibilities of beauty, of joy, of power, all of which may be wrecked, and to become responsible for their shaping and training and for the upbuilding of their character. This is what must be thought of in the making of a home. It must be a home in which children will grow up for true and noble life, for God and for heaven. Upon the parents the chief response rests. They are the builders of the home. From them it receives its character, whether good or evil. It will be just what they make it. If it be happy, they must be the authors of the happiness; if it be unhappy, the blame must rest with them. Its tone, its atmosphere, its spirit, its influence, it will take from them. They have the making of the home in their own hands, and God holds them responsible for it."
Last two thoughts from me: First, for those that God has not blessed with children: be at peace. God has a plan for you as well -- perhaps even rescuing a child from abortion or abandonment through adoption. (My own bride was adopted and for this I am eternally grateful.) The point, however, is that all of us must have a child-loving, family-oriented vision -- this vision is not just for present parents, but also for the single, the barren, and the aged. God places the solitary in families. His plan for the elderly is not to be playing golf in Florida, but to speak into the lives of grandchildren. Each of us is to live in and around families, and to encourage families as foundational to the strength of the local church, the community, and society. Each of us has a role to play affirming the blessing of children to the body of Christ.
Second, if you are a parent, it is not enough to know that children are a blessing. You must passionately feel it. You must crave your children, rejoice in them, and long for their love as an all-consuming hope, second only to your love of Christ and your spouse. Every time you look at them, you must say to yourself "I am blessed. Thank you God." You must cry to Heaven: "Thank you God for this undeserved reward." The thought of these little ones must bless you as no earthly entertainment or comfort could ever bless you.
But this is not enough. Each of us must act must act upon this passion. It is not enough to be hearers, or even "feelers" of the Word. We must be doers. That means action, interaction, engagement, and involvement. And this for a lifetime with your progeny. After all, what shall it profit a man to gain the whole world, but to lose the souls of his children thanks to his own neglect and indifference.
"Dear Lord, bless us with a life-affirming, child-loving passion for our children, and for those children yet to be born."
President, The Vision Forum, Inc.
P.S. If you have not yet read HOME-MAKING, you must. The book is about the role of fathers, mothers, parents, and children in the family and is simply one of the best in my library of more than 3,000 books. This is one book that needs to be purchased and read. Don't leave it on the shelf gathering dust. Read it at devotions. Click here for details: http://www.visionforum.com/booksandtapes/productinfo.asp?number=34801
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The Lord knew what he was doing when He put Bettie and me together. Her husband had 59 hard back books in print, so she knows what it is like being married to a writer. We plan to do a book together dealing with the loss of a spouse and second marriages. I have found that the Lord puts us through these things for a reason, and we believe one reason is so we can be a help and blessing to others who are traveling the road we have been over. If you know anyone who has lost a spouse and remarried, please give us their names and addresses so we can contact them.
The Lord worked it out so we could go to Brazil with Fay when
she went home. Bettie had a doll collection she had gathered over
the years. She had her oldest daughter sell the dolls over e-Bay,
and they brought enough money to pay for three round trip tickets
to Brazil. There was also enough to pay for Christina to remain
down there until June 6th.
Bettie's parents were missionaries in Brazil, and her youngest sister, Becky, married a Brazilian man. They have one girl, and three boys, whom they homeschool in English. They live just outside of Anapolis. Christina is staying with them, and is taking Portuguese lessons a couple times a week. At 16, she is the oldest. Becky's girl, Jessica, is only a few months younger than Christina, and Christina is learning what it is like to have three "brothers."
We had planned to be there only three weeks, but the Lord worked it out so we could see my brother and sister-in-law. My brother and his wife (Richard [Dick] and Darlene) have been missionaries in Brazil since 1968, with 10 years back in the states for medical problems with their next to the oldest boy, and their children's schooling. They are with Wycliffe in the Amazon region. Dick is an electronics technician. When he first went down, he had a radio shop that serviced aircraft radios. His was the only licensed shop within a thousand miles, so he is well known among those who have flown down there with missionary services. They are coming back to the states at the end of March because of his breathing problem, which is so bad, he has been in the hospital several times close to death. This will probably be their final departure from Brazil because of that problem. Their children live in California, so they will no doubt settle there.
We asked them if they would come down and see us, and they said they would. However, they live a 40 hour bus ride North of where we were, so they said it would not be worth the trip unless they could stay at least a week. We had to change our flight back, so we were there an extra two weeks, and did not get back to the States until January 14th. We got to spend a week with my brother and his wife, which is the longest we had been together since they went to Brazil. (A daily account of our trip and pictures are on the web site.
Admittedly, we did have much contact with the poorer people of the country. Fay's dad is a lawyer for a hospital, and her uncles are doctors.
Here were some things that stood out to us about the country, but not necessarily in order of importance:
First, the fruit was good. They had all kinds of tropical fruit: mangoes, passion fruit, pineapples, bananas, as well as watermelons and other things we are familiar with here locally. Becky's house had been owned by a state botanist, and he liked mangoes. Her yard had at least a dozen mango trees, which were in season. I told everyone my goal was to get sick of mangoes. I failed miserably in that goal.
There are road-side stands scattered throughout the country where fresh fruit and other goods are easily found.
Second, the people are very friendly and helpful.
Third, theft and corruption are rampant. Every house that is in town or close to town has a wall built around it. Some of the walls are topped with electric fencing and broken glass, and the homes are generally kept locked even when the people are home.
The government overlooks, if not sanctions, theft of clothing and videos: That is, name-brand clothing is copied for resale in one of the towns, and all the government does is collect the taxes from the manufacture of that imitation name-brand clothing. We wanted to rent a video one evening, and the videos in the store were obviously copies; they did not even try to put a "factory" label on the cassettes.
Fourth, labor is very cheap, and those who are able will have
at least one maid. They say that hiring manual laborers helps
the economy by giving a lot of people work. However, one wonders
if the system works to keep people in poverty in order to provide
an abundant source of cheap labor. In other words, the system
seems to be built on poverty.
Having a maid or a gardener to do all the manual labor can lead to a very destructive attitude in families. The children of families who can afford maids and gardeners are in danger of growing up feeling that "manual labor" is beneath them. The contrast is striking between the USA and Brazil concerning manual labor. Here all labor is seen as something of which to be proud, but in Brazil, labor is something upon which to look down.
Fifth, it is a Roman Catholic country, and the church seems to thrive by keep the people in ignorance and poverty. It is sickening to see the tremendous wealth displayed in the Roman churches while surrounded by poverty. It is distressing to see people praying to the saints. Romanism is idolatry, no matter how you cut it, as we saw the people literally worshiping (you could see them praying to) those graven images.
Sixth, the roads are terrible, to put it mildly. Bettie pointed out, however, that the roads are better now than they were when she was there 30 years ago. Though they seem to be attempting to upgrade their roads, corruption keeps the roads in "limbo." They will start a big road improvement project, get it part way done, and then there is a big corruption scandal where someone makes off with the money, leaving the improved road only partially improved. One road near Becky's home around Anapolis is cut for a four lane, and the road bed had been put in place, but before they could pave the road, someone made off with the money. Now the rains are washing out the new road bed for the lack of a surface on it.
Seventh, the country is a very rich country, with gold for those willing to work for it, as well as all kinds of crops: corn, soybeans, &c. However, the people would rather raise cattle, for cattle take very little care they can graze on their own. The cattle are raised without hormones, and the taste of their meat is something you don't find here. Also, Brazil forbids GMO corps, which alone would tempt me to go there. They have a unique corn dish that is very popular, but it takes a non-hybrid field corn to make it. So it cannot be made here.
A major problem is that Brazil was settled by those hoping to strike it rich in gold with a minium of work. In other words, it was not settled, as was these united States, with the Christian work ethic. It was settled by those hoping to avoid the hard work that went into this nation. And that spirit is still very prevalent in the land.
Opportunities abound for those who are willing to work hard and sweat. But hard work and sweat is at the bottom of the social ladder. A common excuse seems to be, "It's too hot to work." And no doubt it is hot. However, the climate was very temperate where we were, but we were there in the ideal time of the year: 60s-low 80s. Moreover, the poverty class of people are expected to work whether it is hot or not.
One of the best messages I have ever heard was by a Brazilian man, a missionary, who was filling in for the pastor while the pastor was on a mission trip to Chili, I believe. (He assured the people he was taking plenty of pictures to show when he got back.) The man spoke to the very heart of the Brazilian culture he spoke on having a servant's attitude. Though he could speak no English, Bettie translated for me. The Brazilian culture looks down on those who, because of poverty, must be servants. The obvious result is that the servant's attitude required of Christians is despised .
Eighth, where we were, the scenery was beautiful. The lay out of the land permitted one to see many miles over valleys and hills.
Ninth, the cost of living is quite a bit less than it is here, probably half or less. One can rent a large 5 bedroom home with a bath on each bedroom (a common pratice) and one in the living area, pool and tennis court for $150-$200 US a month.
The folks we met built as they had the money. They would enclose and finish a couple of rooms and a bath, and move in. They would live in those cramped quarters, and build as they had the funds. They would start in something small, and would end up with very nice homes in 6-8 years. That attitude seems to be uncommon here folks generally want it all at once, so they sell their soul to the bank for 30 or more years, so they can have it all up front.
Tenth, the houses are all brick with tile floors. (Again, we were among the middle to upper middle class people.) They were termite proof, but had no hot water. Even the better houses where we were only had cold water pipe running to a single water fixture. However, they have elevated water storage tanks for their water pressure, so the tanks in the sun take the chill off the water. They then have "on demand" electric hot water heaters on the shower heads, so you can take a hot shower, if you can afford the electricity. (Most use LP gas for cooking, but they do not heat their homes.)
Electricity is scarce and expensive. It is not unusual to have outages that last for hours because of the shortage of electricity. There is generally no air conditioning.
Eleventh, everything is open to the outside, with no screens nor doors. Obviously, when they close up "shop," they have steel gates to lock up the shops, but otherwise, there is nothing. Even the grocery stores and restaurants have no screens, but there were surprisingly few flies and bugs, even on the buffet items in restaurants. At night, the mosquitoes can be bad, but we had very little problem with them.
Twelfth, the dress of the younger women is almost embarrassing. I do not know how they kept their pants on in public. There are very few overweight people, and the women are quite slim and they wear clothing to emphasize that they are slim. I saw some of the lowest cut pants I have ever seen on a woman. Their clothing revealed more skin than is decent to mention here, being far below "hip huggers." The women in the churches, generally, wore the same type of clothing. Though claimed to love the Lord, and their testimonies seemed sound, their clothing was only slightly more modest than the girls on the street.
Thirteenth, the health care where we were was as good, if not better, than here in the states. From what I understand, our area was about the upper northern region for good health care. The farther North from our stay the worse the health care. We found a dentist for Christina, and the dentist was quite distressed over the poor dental care Christina had been getting here in the states. (She had a tooth coming in through the roof of her mouth, so we had to get braces for her.) We also had to see a breathing doctor for her because of her asthma; we wanted to get something lined up for her before we left. He saw the medication the state side doctor has her on, and he immediately said that would cause calcium loss on her bones. We had read the same thing, but the doctor here did not tell us that. The Brazilian doctor told her not to use her inhalers unless absolutely necessary, whereas the doctor here told her to use them twice a day. (The Brazilian doctor had a new type of inhaler which combined the two Christina was on, which was supposed to do a better job.) The doctor down there also told her to go swimming to strengthen her lungs. The doctor here only knows to prescribe high priced medication.
I had heard that prescription medication overseas is cheaper than here, and I found that to be very true. The prescription (blood pressure) medication both Bettie and I are taking was about 1/3 the cost there as here (in US$), and the drugs were readily available without a prescription.
I must admit, if I had the income, the area where we were would sure be tempting to retire to when I get to be 65 in 5 more years.
I did get to speak in a church one Sunday evening. The roofs there are tile or metal. This church had a metal roof, and there was an unbelievable rain storm as I tried to speak. (That was my second experience of speaking through an interpreter. The first was preaching for Fay's family on Christmas Eve her grandfather asked me to speak to all his children as they followed their family tradition and gathered on Christmas Eve.) It rained so hard that water was over the curbs in front of the church after the service. However, I was told that the noise of the rain on the metal roof caused people to have to listen closer. I spoke on salvation, of course, and after the service, a lady came up with tears in her eyes, and said that was the first time she had understood the gospel. I was told later that when she lived in Brasilia (about 2 hours away), she had had a Bible study with the ambassadors' wives, and she was now the one who read the missions report to the church where I spoke. "Pray this prayer for salvation" is as prevalent down there as it is here; the result is that though the preaching may be sound, the people still follow what is socially accepted, e.g., Ask Jesus into your heart, or Open your heart to the Lord.
BTW, Fay's granddad is as godly a man as one could meet anywhere. He is very concerned about his children and grandchildren. He started in poverty with nothing, worked hard, and with the Lord's blessings, became a very prosperous man. He had been mayor of Anapolis in the 50s, appointed by the governor of the state.
The trip was a great experience that we would like to share again, but the dolls are sold; Christina is still there with Bettie's sister, Becky, having the time of her life. No doubt she will come back a changed young lady.
The five weeks in Brazil put me five weeks behind in everything, including this publication. Lord willing, we can get back on schedule after this mailing. I am, however, working on my doctorate through Whitefield Theological Seminary <http://www.whitefield.edu/>, so time will not free up very much.
There is a daily account of our trip with a lot of pictures posted here.
My brother, Richard (Dick) and his wife, Darlene Need
Typical of the open fronts is this Post Office.
There is no way around it--the Roman Church is idolatry. The American face on the Roman Church is not its true character. Those who have seen it overseas have seen its true character of unbridled evil. Typical is this woman in Annapolis praying to an idol. Look at these Roman gods with the high fence for protection. It is as shame they cannot protect themselves. The powerlessness of these idols to change the heart is evident in the high walls around all the houses and the rampant theft. These are some idols in the National Cathedral in Brasilia (most of the Cathedral is underground; this is only the top). This is inside the Cathedral looking up. The small image on the pedestal inside is a broken doll found by some fishermen. It was then "ordained" as Brazil's "Patron Saint." The rampant idolatry is nothing but paganism, and it is sad.
Inside of Fay's Presbyterian Church.
"Fairs" are held daily in various places throughout a city where fresh fruit and other things are available. The mangoes are great, as is the home made candy. Bananas are by the bunch.
Typical of the restaurants, Buffet style. The food is set on a wood stove, and each person serves himself. There are supprisingly few flies and bugs, though there are no screens nor doors on the restaurants.
Fay and her father and mother (Weber & Amelia Fleury). Amelia, Fay and Christina at a road side stand.
The family Christina is staying with: Christina, Jessica, Ricardy, Becky, Jonathan, Michael & Christopher Oliveira.
The Presbertian Church Bettie's dad built - the people, not the building.
The scenery is beautiful. This is Christina, Bettie and me in front of a waterfall, which is several miles in the background.
This is a nature preserve where we ate "brunch" one morning. All of the food served was grown in the preserve. This is a public road going through the preserve. It was raining that day, so we did not get to go up the mountain.
Sunset in Brazil. 1 -- 2 -- 3 -- 4
Here is a picutre of our church in our small town. This is a small picture, easily loaded. Here is a large picture, which will take a while to download if you do not have a fast connection. We have the only hill in our town, so any snow brings out the kids to our hill.