Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Baby's Daily Lesson - 1 minute Bible Overview

To be recited to baby daily.

Who made you, Baby?
God made me!

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, His love endures forever!

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!"

“Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

Genesis 1;1
Psalm 136:1
Psalm 100:3
Isaiah 53:6
Romans 3:23
Acts 10:40
John 3:16
2 Cor. 5:17
Revelation 21:1, 5
Revelation 22:20

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.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Methodist Hymnal

On this dreary fall afternoon, I took my new old Methodist Hymnal down from the shelf to have a first perusal at the keyboard. I hadn't really played from it since I bought it - and I bought it on the day we moved two months ago. What a crazy day that was. Pouring rain, drop-dead exhausted pregnant, toddler into everything. At one point there was a break in the weather, and I took Walter for a walk in the stroller to keep him out from underfoot, and maybe even catch a last cherished sighting of the train crossing Main Street.
The break in the weather didn't last long, and by the time we were around the block, we were caught in another sudden downpour. I ran with the stroller into the nearby Methodist church which was having a rummage sale. After finding a shirt for Walter three sizes too big but at least dry, and putting it on him to buy later, I browsed the tables.
I found so many funny and memorable things that the watermelon magnets just like my grandmother used to have on her refrigerator, and the nifty peanut butter stirring lid that I'd always wanted, and the old lacey tablecloth that ended up being curtains for our bedroom in the new house. Then I discovered the treasure trove of ten cent books. Stuffing my hands and stroller with works of Lewis, Tolkien, Alcott and Wodehouse, I paused to peer further under the table in the dim corner and spied an old church hymnal. The Methodist Hymnal. I am not exactly a fan of modern United Methodism, but I had to have this hymnal, stamped with the Duncan Memorial church label. This was the church that played bell hymns over our block every noon and evening, speaking truth and cheer into my heart many times. On our last day in Berryville, I could not take the church chimes with me, but I could take the memory of them in this book - a reminder of the importance of encouraging the heart with song.
This evening I opened it and played "O Thou in Whose Presence My Soul Takes Delight", headphones plugged into the keyboard since Walter was napping and singing only in my heart since I have bronchitis. Why do I wait so long to do this? Music and truth together do so much good. Even if you don't have church bells to remind you, don't go too long without song - for the Lord is good and His mercy endures.

"Dear Shepherd, I hear and will follow Thy call;
I know the sweet sound of Thy voice.
Restore and defend me, for Thou art my All,
And in Thee I will ever rejoice."

 - Joseph Swain, 1791