Friday, August 12, 2016

A Prayer for Our Town

Every time I go to the local grocery store, or the library, or just about anywhere that isn't going back over the border into Virginia, I have to drive past a disturbing assortment of "gentleman's clubs" (oh so un-aptly named!) locally known as strip clubs, as well as the adult store, pubs and other questionable establishments. Giving thanks that my little ones in the backseat can't read signs yet, I also feel burdened to pray and to act toward our nearest town's great traffic in sin.

What can one tired, hands-full mama do? Praying is a lot. I asked the ladies at our small group to pray with me and listening to one of them pray, I realized that she was latching on to specific requests for different people involved, and that I needed to do the same. I started crafting a prayer, with a dream to print and post on every public bulletin board and church resource table in town. "Take one and pray with me wherever you are at 8pm" or something like that. But for now, it's starting right here with me.

A Prayer for Our Town

God, we confess that we are a people who follow our selfish desires more than love for our neighbor. We have thought, spoken and acted in ways that are unclean and dishonoring to you. We have not done what we should. We pray that you would cleanse us and change our hearts.

We pray that you would bring righteousness to this town, specifically that you would shut down the strip clubs in our town, where your glory and honor are despised. Turn the hearts of each club manager to do right, and to help our community instead of harming it.

We pray that you would provide club dancers and other troubled women in our town with good, better jobs, that you would cleanse them, restore them, and show them your mercy and love. Lord, deliver them!

We pray that you would turn the hearts of men to their wives and families, to love women instead of lusting for them, to build up what is broken in their lives and to seek you above all. Give us whole families who will love and serve you.

We pray that you would turn the hearts of every man, woman and child in this town to You.  

All this is a work that only You can do, so that is why we ask You to do it in the name of Jesus 


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Baby's Daily Lesson - 1 minute Bible Overview

Babies, even before they can speak or understand many words, beg with their sweet faces to be spoken to. In addition to the usual, "Aren't-you-just-a-sweet-lil-muffin-darling-baby?", I thought it would be good to incorporate a distinct mini body of truth into the daily chatter. A straight Scripture passage like Psalm 23, Psalm 1 or other texts are wonderful, as well as hymns, but I wanted something that comprised key points of the Bible's story without being a whole catechism, mostly comprised of key verses that I know from memory. Probably a dozen more combinations could be made that are good, but this is the one that I have started using. and it brings such joy and encouragement to my own heart as I get my daily gospel history fly-over.

Who made you, Baby?
God made me!

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 

God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his; 
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned - every one - to his own way, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day

For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has passed away, behold the new has come!

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away and the sea was no more.

And He who was seated on the throne said, "Behold I am making all things new!"

Genesis 1;1
Genesis 1:27
Psalm 100:3
Isaiah 53:6
Romans 3:23
Acts 10:40
John 3:16
2 Cor. 5:17
Revelation 21:1, 5

All Scripture from the English Standard Version

Monday, July 25, 2016

This Too Will Be For Good

When I was a freshman in college, I experienced the typical reaction to the first week of classes - often called "syllabus shock" - how would I ever be able to muster the time and mental resources to complete this enormous load of assignments just presented to me? Stressed and anxious, I took the matter to the Lord, praying for help. The truth that he opened to my fretful heart in those first weeks was that though I had trusted him for my financial needs, I had not learned to trust him for those less tangible matters of energy and time, yet these were just as much in his power to provide as the other. I was enabled to begin trusting that these too would be given to me for the asking - and they were.

This lesson often pictures to me what it is like to face a new lesson of faith. I must learn to trust my God in all things, and not just in the places where I have grown familiar with seeing His hand. I think this is a lesson that I and many of my fellow believers will have to learn as we look at our nation and are tempted to despair. 

I wonder how many of us are thinking something like, "Well, I know God is in charge, but this is going to be terrible"? Having a bad president may be terrible, but a dozen other things one may meet in this fallen world may terrible, while "through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God" This ugly scary state of things is the very place for us to firmly believe that God is good to His people. Do I believe that "In all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose" is more deep and solid than our nation's foundations? Do I believe that if the nation falls into the hands of unprincipled tyrants, despite all we can do as faithful citizens, it is just a new step in the lessons of faith our Father has for us between here and Heaven? 

There is a pervasive sense that we are entering bad times in our country. Maybe this is true. But I think there is a place for a bolder faith that can look straight in the face of the dreadful political reports and sing - 

"Ye fearful saints fresh courage take
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessing on your head!"

Yes, our God is "He who disciplines the nations" (Psalm 94:10 ESV), which is a fearful thing for America. But God has also promised His children regarding the painful discipline they undergo (surely even if they must pass through the discipline of their nation at large) - "later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." (Heb 12:11 ESV). For a nation it may be judgment, but for the believers in it, it may be a wholesome training with sweet fruit. This is a good thing.

So here's to faith in 2016 - faith that God's promises are better than the U. S. Constitution, and more sure and everlasting - faith that loving and obeying God will still be the path of ultimate blessing for His children, whether or not God blesses America nationally. Faith is God's great gift to us on the way to Heaven - and that is our better country.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Impossible Goal

I realized keenly yesterday, that my ultimate goal in parenting is utterly impossible for me to achieve. Perhaps I knew it before in theory, but I now I feel it to be true, because I have seen it in reality and have been freshly confronted with it from Scripture. Training, discipline, consequences and all the structures I build into my children's daily routine are good and necessary for molding their behavior, but none of it can give them what I desire for them - a regenerate heart. 

This struck me while I was listening to a recording of J. C. Ryle's thoughts on Matthew 22:34-46, in which Jesus answers the question, "What is the greatest commandment?" by giving the commandment to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and our neighbor as ourselves. Ryle applied this to teaching children:

None work so well as those who work out of love. The fear of punishment, or the desire of reward, are principles of far less power. They do the will of God best, who do it from the heart. Would we train children right? Let us teach them to love God.
Love is the grand secret of right behavior towards our FELLOW MEN. He who loves his neighbor will scorn to do him any willful injury, either in person, property, or character. But he will not rest there. He will desire in every way to do him good....Would we teach children to behave aright towards others? Let us teach them to love everybody as themselves, and do to others as they would have others do to them.
But how shall we obtain this love towards GOD? It is no natural feeling. We are born in sin, and, as sinners, are afraid of God. How then can we love Him? We can never really love Him until we are at peace with Him through Christ....Faith in Christ is the true spring of love to God. They love most who feel most forgiven. "We love him because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19.)
And how shall we obtain this love towards our NEIGHBOR? This is also no natural feeling. We are born selfish, hateful, and hating one another. (Titus 3:3.) We shall never love our fellow man aright until our hearts are changed by the Holy Spirit. We must be born again....
Let these things sink down into our hearts...We cannot have love to God and man without faith in Christ, and without regeneration. The way to spread true love in the world, is to teach the atonement of Christ, and the work of the Holy Spirit.
 - Expository Thoughts on the Gospel According to St. Matthew by J. C. Ryle, accessed on 
Awhile ago, I posted on that one essential tool for parenting - the Word of God. Now the other necessary tool is becoming an even stronger reality to me - prayer. Teach my child to love God? Wonderful aim, but would that I could! I can teach my child about God and the gospel - I must! - and seek to direct his behavior according to Scripture, but I cannot ultimately change the heart. Nearly all the usual training of a child's behavior is built upon one thing - self-interest. I use my child's self-interest as a lever to push him toward right behavior when I discipline for wrongdoing and reward well-doing, because that is the heart material I have to work with, and I am told that with perseverance I will see results. I do want these results! But they are not enough. My child will not be right in any way until he loves God, and I cannot make him do that. Only God can do that. This is why prayer is the parent's other most essential tool, because through prayer, I can see the impossible thing done. "God give my child a new heart, because you are merciful and able to do it! God, give my child a new heart, or my labor is in vain!" Then, believing, let me be his faithful instrument, and labor until I see the thing accomplished.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

"The Held Soul" - Six-Year's Past Writing Refreshed

Lying in bed this morning, too early to get up and too late to get back to sleep, I started thinking about a poem I wrote in college, based on beloved verses in Romans 8. I came to the end of it and then put together a final stanza which pulls in more of the text, and which I then had to get up and type! [I thought of changing the King's English style of the divine pronoun, "Thee" and "Thou", but really still prefer its use, as it is easier to pronounce and more beautiful than the modern "You"]

My heart is faint and cannot hold
My Savior for my strength is small
My love grows feeble, waxes cold
A hopeless voice says, "You shall fall"
Unto my weary soul.

If my endurance rests on me,
O God, no hope have I,
But woefully to wane from Thee
With hollow sighing, till I die -
Unless Thou holdst my soul.

My Lord! My God! Thou Sovereign One,
Help me see those mighty bands
That bind me to Thy righteous Son
Fastened by Thy mighty hands -
In this may rest my soul.

I have no power - Thou hast all
And all my strivings turn to dust
And in my dust-bound self I'd fall
But thou hast promised and art just
By grace to hold my soul.

I rest in Thee. In Thee I trust
Predestined, Thou hast called me,
And in Christ Jesus made me just,
And thou shalt glorify me,
And never loose my soul.

These are the strong eternal bands
By sovereign grace bound iron-fast.
By great and, never-failing hands
That shall uphold me to the last.
Believe Thy God, my soul.

If God be for me, who can be
against me, or can sever
The love which gave its all for me
and gives me life forever
Oh, bless the Lord, my soul!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

"Bid her be cheerful"

In a collection of Oliver Cromwell's writings, this word to his daughter in a letter to his son-in-law was a word in season for me this afternoon:

" Bid her be cheerful, and rejoice in the Lord once and again: if she knows the covenant thoroughly, she cannot but do [so]. For that transaction is without her, sure and stedfast, between the Father and the Mediator in his blood; therefore, leaning upon the Son, or looking to him, thirsting after him, embracing him, we are his seed and the covenant is sure to all the seed. The compact is for the seed: God is bound in faithfulness to Christ, and in him to us; the covenant is without us, a transaction between God and Christ. Look up to it. God engageth in it to pardon us, to write his law in our heart, to plant his fear [so] that we shall never depart from him. We, under all our sins and infirmities, can daily offer a perfect Christ; and thus we have peace and safety, and apprehension of love, from a Father in covenant, who cannot deny himself. And truly in this is all my salvation, and this helps me to bear my great burdens."

Truly, if we do not know how to give one another, especially those nearest to us, encouragement in the gospel, how shall we be really fortified? No "Keep up the good work, you're a wonderful woman" stuff here. Instead it is an exhortation to an already faithful godly woman to believe the gospel, and thus she is is strengthened to go on from faith to faith. So may I believe, so may I speak, and so may I return with the burden of my daily weakness, failure and sin to the sweetest of truths which can bid the most weary woman be cheerful.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Pop Stars in the News and Thinking Like a Christian

A little while ago, a friend of mine posted to Facebook a video of an interview with the newly-spiritual Justin Bieber. I was intrigued and hopeful as I watched, but was disappointed to see that in all this troubled young man's reaching after God, he had never grasped the real gospel, true repentance and faith in Christ. (I also wished that someone would muzzle the incredibly banal interviewer.) How good it would be for someone come into his life and build sound doctrine on the few things he's grasped.

But that wasn't the end of my thoughts on the topic. If it was, the thoughts wouldn't be nagging me to write about this Bieber thing instead of taking a nap on the couch. There are lots of videos out there of people with shallow doctrine on which we could make judicious comments for the rest of our free time. But there was something deeper. What won't leave my mind is what this video did to my feelings about pop stars and the crazy world out there in general.

First, I have to say that I believe it a waste of time and compromise of pursuing holiness for believers to try to keep up with pop stardom. We have better things to do. But while living a normal life, we do end up hearing or seeing something about the most notable in the limelight. And how do we respond? I was thinking about this especially in regard to the young and dissolute Justin Bieber, who over the past few years became among the most despised, ridiculed figures in conservative America. Who among the 20-something generation hasn't heard at some point a humorous comment which referenced Bieber?

But when I watched this video, I was struck by this one thing. While we were continuing to mock Justin Bieber for his follies, the young man himself was feeling his misery and seeking help. And who of us were praying for him? Again, I'm not hoping that Christians will start reading People magazine to find prayer requests - I'm thinking about our general attitude to things we hear. It doesn't take the Holy Spirit to despise an immoral pop star. It does take the Holy Spirit to be grieved that another person is sinning (so publicly especially) and falling short of God's glory, and yet, yet they may be justified freely by His grace in Jesus Christ. I don't think Bieber reached this point - and yet, he could, and so could any other by God's grace.

Christians with the Holy Spirit should be glad to know as little as possible of the vain doings of the world, but what we do hear should not make us smirk. It's fun for our pride to lift itself up on the rubble of the popular. That's why we enjoy laughing at them, and in one sense it is good to keep a perspective that the world's pursuits are vain and empty ("the world is passing away along with its desires"- 1 John 2:17). But Christ looked at the rich young ruler and loved him (Mark 10:21), and he calls us to die to self and follow in His steps. We may not be acting Christianly every time we laugh - perhaps we ought to hope, pity and pray.