Deep Wounds and Hello Kitty Bandaids

Hello Kitty bandaids work better than normal ones; this is scientific fact, indisputable. Ask my nieces. Given the choice between a plain beige bandaid and a Hello Kitty one, they will choose the Hello Kitty one 100 times out of 100. They’re medical miracles. They dry up tears, stop pain, and return a three-year-old to normal play mode as quick as a wink.

They also don’t work on a deep wound.

Everyone knows this when it comes to physical injuries. Your child slices her arm open, and you’re rushing for the car keys, not the bandaids, Hello Kitty or otherwise. Worse, your child is diagnosed with some chronic disease or illness, and you know that no amount of licenced products are going to help.

But reveal a struggle with depression, or anxiety, or panic attacks, or dark, spiraling despair, and suddenly the same people who would advise a 911 call and some prompt medical attention, or long-term medical treatment, are handing out bandaid answers like you just skinned your knee.

Today I read of a husband’s agony as he watched his wife struggle with post-partum depression. The comments section was character bandaids galore: make sure she’s getting enough B vitamins! one commenter insisted. Don’t forget to make confession of sin part of your daily life, said another. No, no, don’t use the Hulk bandaids, no one likes those. Have these bandaids instead!

All I can say to that is… don’t.

Just… don’t do that.

Friends, sin is not always, or predictably, the cause of suffering. Jesus rebuked the pharisees for thinking that a man’s blindness resulted from his sin or that of his parents. Suffering does not always seem to have a purpose; sometimes it doesn’t seem to have a cause, or a reason, or an origin. It’s not always taken away when we pray (2 Cor 12), or even when we treat it medically (Luke 8).

But for the Christian, suffering is always part of the hard providence of God, never escaping his notice or care, never catching him off guard. Satan himself must seek God’s permission to trouble us, and his power is always limited — how much more must the suffering we experience be controlled and limited by a loving and watchful Father!

True suffering defies and confounds tidy, pat answers. If the tools with which we approach it don’t go beyond a range of bandaids with superheros and cartoon characters splashed across them, we will have no comfort to offer those who desperately need it.

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Conversations With My Students

My poor little darlins… their brains are just fried from end-of-school craziness.  We were talking today about how our Kindergarten and 1st/2nd grade classes are almost full for next Fall, but there are only a handful of kids in 8th-10th grades.  Bless ’em:

Me: Well, y’all need to pray that the Lord sends us some families with older kids who’ve been classically educated so y’all can have some more classmates.

Boy: They have to be guys.  And they have to be athletic, so we can play basketball!

Girl 1:  And they have to be cute!  We’ll pray for cute guys.

Me (rolling my eyes): Yeah.  Why don’t you go ahead and pray that a couple families will move here and enroll at CCA with upper-school-aged boys who’ve been classically educated and are athletic and cute… and why don’t you throw in that they have Australian accents too?

Girl 2 (fists in the air): YEAH!!

Me (as their parents): Honey, I appreciate your newfound interest in prayer, but you’ve been kneeling there since you got home from school and it’s time for dinner.

Greatest Hits: Does God Change his Mind?

(Originally posted July 31, 2009)

Since I won’t be writing much while I’m on Spring break this week, I’ll be posting some of my previous articles.   I’ll be back at it on Monday, March 29th.

An email from my favorite theologically minded friend started this post. Recently, Craig Blomberg, a well-known New Testament scholar whose work on the historical accuracy and reliability of the Gospels has been of great help to many a student, pastor, and layman, wrote an article explaining why he is a “Calminian” — a jokey riff on the “Why I Am/ Am Not a Calvinist” books of recent years. Blomberg is basically trying to put himself clearly outside the Reformed mindset once and for all. I’ve read a few expressions of disappointment, and an article agreeing with his position, which is basically what I’m going to attempt to respond to today.

First of all, let me point out that Craig Blomberg is way smarter than I am. I don’t pretend that I can tangle with him intellectually. Despite that, I still think he’s wrong. Second, let me point out that Craig Blomberg is also a brother in Christ, in spite of what I think are his mistakes on this front. I’m not denigrating his faith or his commitment to the body of Christ, nor am I trying to write off his contribution to the Christian community. One of his books sits on my shelf, and it’s staying there! *does not throw baby out with bathwater*

At one point in his article, Blomberg refers to the story of Joseph’s brothers coming to him in Egypt for help during the great famine. Joseph’s famous line, “You intended it for evil, but God intended it for good,” Blomberg insists, is not a declaration of God’s sovereignty, but a mere statement of fact. He says: “Two separate agents, two separate wills, at cross purposes with each other, neither described as logically or chronologically prior to the other. Neither is said to cause the other; they occur simultaneously.” What’s really happening, he says, is that both wills operate at the same time, without one being over the other.

Well, hold up. Joseph says to his brothers, “You sold me into slavery out of a wicked intention, but God’s power trumped your evil desires!” In fact, God’s purposes to preserve his people included the brothers’ evil plans and actions. God is so powerful that he can even use human evil — the condition of our fallen nature! — to accomplish his purposes. That’s comprehensive sovereignty! Blomberg’s a great guy, but he just does NOT want to be in the “God is totally sovereign” camp AT ALL. (Plus, calling himself a “Calminian” is cute, but the fact is that there isn’t a responsible Arminian on the planet who wouldn’t totally acknowledge God’s sovereignty in human history. So he’s really a Cal-Open Theist-ian. Which isn’t quite as cute.)

Moving on to broader arguments about God’s sovereignty, I often encounter people who point to the word “relent” in the Scriptures and say, “See? That means that God goes back on his word! If he really is completely sovereign over everything, how can he appear to be influenced by the prayers of his people?” I used to use this argument myself! Well, yes, “relent” means that he will not do what he said he would do, out of a gracious desire to preserve and defend his people. But a couple things:

1) This DOES NOT MEAN that God changes his mind or that he’s fickle or doesn’t know what he’s ultimately going to do. The problem with the argument here is that, while they’re trying to just draw a line around the Reformed understanding of God’s sovereignty, they END UP basing their whole view on the idea that God actually changes his mind. Listen up: this is where guys like Greg Boyd and Clark Pinnock got started, and where they end up is saying that God takes risks, that he doesn’t even KNOW the outcome of certain events, and that in some cases WE have more sovereignty over circumstances than the creator of the universe. That’s a pretty stupid place to end up and still call yourself a Christian. It’s just like how the Mormons use the theories of 19th century German liberal philosophers (especially the evolutionary view of history — that all history moves from the simple to the complex and that doctrines aren’t revealed but evolve over time) to convince people that the Book of Mormon is true.  That argument might convince people, but you’re cutting off the branch you’re sitting on!

2) Check out this article. There’s some uncool argumentation happening here, and this isn’t the only place I’ve heard this line of reasoning, not by a long shot. You ever hear of “weasel words”? They’re little words or phrases that a speaker or writer slips in, sometimes without even knowing it himself, that unfairly denigrate the other position — it’s like straw man + ad hominem all at once. The one that popped out to me was “real relationship.” Yates and others imply that, unless God limits his own foreknowledge or sovereignty in some way, it’s impossible for him to enter into “real relationship” with his creation. This is nonsense. We don’t get to make up the rules for how God interacts with us based on our experiences with each other. The scriptures are full of the truths of God bringing the dead back to life both literally and figuratively. But does that one-sided interaction, that ultimate demonstration of total sovereignty, mean that God has some kind of counterfeit relationship with those he raises to life? Did Jesus have a more or less “real relationship” with Lazarus when he raised him, single-handed, from death?

3) There’s also some plain old ridiculousness that gets shoveled around. To quote Yates, who is taking up a common anti-sovereignty argument: “The statements that Yahweh will harden the Pharaoh’s heart at the beginning of this process (cf. Exod 4:21; 7:3) are an expression that Yahweh’s purposes will ultimately prevail in this struggle but not that he dictates or determines the Pharaoh’s responses.” Uh… what? What part of “I will harden his heart” is the tough part to interpret? “I will” meaning it’s gonna happen… right?  And “harden his heart” meaning that’s what he’s gonna do… Yup. You have to do some pretty sexy contortionism to get around the plain meaning of that sucker.

4) The kicker is the “only a really sovereign God could accomplish his purposes in a universe where he has limited his sovereignty,” also known as the “it’s true because it ain’t” argument. A God who can accomplish his purposes in such a give-and-take, unresolved universe that anti-sovereignty folks try to set up, is truly sovereign? Huh? So only a God who is truly sovereign and omniscient could operate in a universe where some things are outside his sovereignty and beyond his omniscience? Yeah, that makes sense. What’s the purpose of prayer if the God we’re praying to has chosen this event to be one of the hands-off parts of world history? How are we to know the difference? Or does he wait until we pray and then decide to re-institute the sovereignty he’s chosen to put on hold?

Unlike Blomberg and lots of other people who use these kinds of arguments, I’m happy to live knowing that my choices are BOTH really choices that I really make with my time-bound will and mind AND are mysteriously part of God’s plan. It’s called paradox, and we have to embrace it, largely because our finite brains can’t fathom the depths of God’s will. Let’s not try to eliminate paradox by making God more like us. That’s a pretty dumb Bible study method. Dig?

From "The Valley of Vision"

Jehovah God,

Thou Creator, Upholder, Proprietor of all things,
I cannot escape from thy presence or control,
     nor do I desire to do so.
My privilege is to be under the agency
     of omnipotence, righteousness, wisdom, patience, mercy, grace.
Thou art love with more than parental affection;
I admire thy heart, adore thy wisdom,
     stand in awe of thy power, abase myself before thy purity.
It is the discovery of thy goodness alone that can banish my fear,
     allure me into thy presence,
     help me to bewail and confess my sins.

When I review my past guilt
     and am conscious of my present unworthiness,
          I tremble to come to thee,
          I whose foundation is in the dust,
          I who have condemned thy goodness,
               defied thy power,
               trampled upon thy love,
               rendered myself unworthy of eternal death.

But my recovery cannot spring from any cause in me;
     I can destroy but cannot save myself.

Yet thou hast laid help on One that is mighty,
      for there is mercy with thee,
      and exceeding riches in thy kindness through Jesus.

May I always feel my need of him.
Let thy restored joy be my strength;
May it keep me from lusting after the world,
     bear up heart and mind in loss of comforts,
     enliven me in the valley of death,
     work in me the image of the heavenly,
     and give me to enjoy the first fruits of spirituality,
     such as the angels and departed saints know.

Does God Change His Mind?

An email from my favorite theologically minded friend started this post. Recently, Craig Blomberg, a well-known New Testament scholar whose work on the historical accuracy and reliability of the Gospels has been of great help to many a student, pastor, and layman, wrote an article explaining why he is a “Calminian” — a jokey riff on the “Why I Am/ Am Not a Calvinist” books of recent years. Blomberg is basically trying to put himself clearly outside the Reformed mindset once and for all. I’ve read a few expressions of disappointment, and an article agreeing with his position, which is basically what I’m going to attempt to respond to today.

First of all, let me point out that Craig Blomberg is way smarter than I am. I don’t pretend that I can tangle with him intellectually. But despite that, I still think he’s wrong. Second, let me point out that Craig Blomber is also a brother in Christ, despite what I think are his mistakes on this front. I’m not denigrating his faith or his commitment to the body of Christ, nor am I trying to write off his contribution to the Christian community. One of his books sits on my shelf, and it’s staying there! But anyway, here goes.

At one point in his article, Blomberg refers to the story of Joseph’s brothers coming to him in Egypt for help during the great famine. Joseph’s famous line, “You intended it for evil, but God intended it for good,” Blomberg insists, is not a declaration of God’s sovereignty, but a mere statement of fact. He says: “Two separate agents, two separate wills, at cross purposes with each other, neither described as logically or chronologically prior to the other. Neither is said to cause the other; they occur simultaneously.” What’s really happening, he says, is that both wills operate at the same time, without one being over the other.

Well, hold up. I get what he’s saying. Joseph says to his brothers, “You sold me into slavery out of a wicked intention, but God’s power trumped your evil desires.” In fact, God’s purposes to preserve his people included the brothers’ evil plans and actions. God is so powerful that he can even use human evil — the condition of our fallen nature! — to accomplish his purposes. That’s comprehensive sovereignty. This is a copout. Blomberg’s a great guy, and his work on the historical reliability of the Gospels is priceless, but he just does NOT want to be in the “God is totally sovereign” camp AT ALL. (Plus, calling himself a “Calminian” is cute, but the fact is that there isn’t a responsible Arminian on the planet who wouldn’t totally acknowledge God’s sovereignty in human history. So he’s really a Cal-Open Theist-ian. Which isn’t quite as cute.)

Moving on to broader arguments about God’s sovereignty, I often encounter people who point to the word “relent” in the Scriptures and say, “See? That means that God goes back on his word! If he really is completely sovereign over everything, how can he appear to be influenced by the prayers of his people?” I used to use this argument myself! Well, yes, “relent” means that he will not do what he said he would do, out of a gracious desire to preserve and defend his people. But a couple things:

1) This DOES NOT MEAN that God changes his mind or that he’s fickle or doesn’t know what he’s ultimately going to do. The problem with the argument here is that, while they’re trying to just draw a line around the Reformed understanding of God’s sovereignty, they END UP basing their whole view on the idea that God actually changes his mind. Listen up: this is where guys like Greg Boyd and Clark Pinnock got started, and where they end up is saying that God takes risks, that he doesn’t even KNOW the outcome of certain events, and that in some cases WE have more sovereignty over circumstances than the creator of the universe. That’s a pretty stupid place to end up and still call yourself a Christian. It’s just like how the Mormons use the methods of 19th century German liberal philosophers to convince people that the Book of Mormon is ok — the argument might convince people, but you’re cutting off the branch you’re sitting on!

2) Check out this article. There’s some uncool argumentation happening here, and this isn’t the only place I’ve heard this line of reasoning, not by a long shot. You ever hear of “weasel words”? They’re little words or phrases that a speaker or writer slips in, sometimes without even knowing it himself, that unfairly denigrate the other position — it’s like straw man + ad hominem all at once. The one that popped out to me was “real relationship.” Yates and others imply that, unless God limits his own foreknowledge or sovereignty in some way, it’s impossible for him to enter into “real relationship” with his creation. This is nonsense. We don’t get to make up the rules for how God interacts with us based on our experiences with each other. The scriptures are full of the truths of God bringing the dead back to life both literally and figuratively. But does that one-sided interaction, that ultimate demonstration of total sovereignty, mean that God has some kind of counterfeit relationship with those he raises to life? Did Jesus have a more or less “real relationship” with Lazarus when he raised him, single-handed, from death?

3) There’s also some plain old ridiculousness that gets shoveled around. To quote Yates, who is taking up a common anti-sovereignty argument: “The statements that Yahweh will harden the Pharaoh’s heart at the beginning of this process (cf. Exod 4:21; 7:3) are an expression that Yahweh’s purposes will ultimately prevail in this struggle but not that he dictates or determines the Pharaoh’s responses.” Uh… what? What part of “I will harden his heart” is the tough part to interpret? “I will” meaning it’s gonna happen, “harden his heart” meaning that’s what he’s gonna do. Yup. You have to do some pretty sexy contortionism to get around the plain meaning of that sucker.

4) The kicker is the “only a really sovereign God could accomplish his purposes in a universe where he has limited his sovereignty,” also known as the “it’s true because it ain’t” argument. A God who can accomplish his purposes in such a give-and-take, unresolved universe that anti-sovereignty folks try to set up, is truly sovereign? Huh? So only a God who is truly sovereign and omniscient could operate in a universe where somethings are outside his sovereignty and beyond his omniscience? Yeah, that makes sense. What’s the purpose of prayer if the God we’re praying to has chosen this event to be one of the hands-off parts of world history? How are we to know the difference? Or does he wait until we pray and then decide to re-institute the sovereignty he’s chosen to put on hold?

Unlike Blomberg and lots of other people who use these kinds of arguments, I’m happy to live knowing that my choices are BOTH really choices that I really make with my time-bound will and mind AND are mysteriously part of God’s plan. It’s called paradox, and we have to embrace it, largely because our finite brains can’t fathom the depths of God’s will. Let’s not try to eliminate paradox by making God more like us. That’s a pretty dumb Bible study method. Dig?

Praying and Waiting!

UPDATE! She’s here! Olivia Kious Jolly, born today (Eastern Standard Time), but 7:20 a.m. February 16th in Hobart, Tasmania! Congratulations!

Just a quick update to ask you to pray for my dear friends Mike and Christine in Tasmania, who just headed to the hospital where they are hoping to meet their baby girl, Olivia! Pray that it’s not a false alarm, that the labor and delivery go smoothly, and that Olivia enters the world in perfect health!

Yes, But the Real Question is, Can She Survive The First Day?

7:30 – Doors open
8:00 – Recitation
8:20 – Planning time
9:00 – Bible
9:30 – History
10:00 – Recess
10:15 – Literature (third grade)
11:00 – Literature (fourth grade)
11:45 – Mid-Day Prayer
12:00 – Lunch
12:45 – Omnibus (eighth grade literature, theology, history)
1:45 – Latin I
2:30 – P.E. (Monday and Friday), Chorus (Tuesday and Thursday) or Study Hall (Wednesday)
3:00 – End of Day

An Idea So Crazy It Just Might Work


This is Australia. Duh.

It also is a cartographic representation of what might be my Spring/Summer (or, Fall/Winter, for you Aussies) activity this year. What a strange turn of events. Christine and I were chatting last night, when I told her about a funny comments-conversation I had with Neil and Craig, in which they jokingly said we ought to start a “bring Laura to Oz” fund, har har har, wouldn’t that be cool? Christine, ever practical, replied, “Well, why not?” After a bit of a stunned pause, I thought, “Why not indeed?”

So, it would seem, there are three things that must happen before I could be on my way to Australia for six weeks (apart from finding my doggone passport, of course):

1. Secure a teaching job for the fall.
2. Find a girl who needs a place to live for 3 months (since I would be spending another six or 8 weeks at home in Colorado in addition to the six weeks I’d be in Australia).
3. Get enough fundage to purchase airfare for me from Denver to Sydney/Hobart and back. And back, Christine (who is currently trying to apply for a spouse visa on my behalf, just in case)!!

Christine says that I am only responsible for 1 and 2, and that she is taking full responsibility for number 3; to that end, she has even started a Facebook group called “Bring Laura Down Under” to help get the word out! Ha! Don’t I have the world’s greatest friends? I keep telling you all this but I’m not sure that you get it yet.

Well, check out the Facebook group if you like. Even throw some money Christine’s way if you like! And most of all, pray that 1 and 2 would fall into place so that I can go see my dear dear friends in their far-away home!

Solitude (Or, "Wow, I’m really being honest to the point of over-sharing today.")

I read a beautiful article on the art of solitude yesterday, and was reminded of the sweet hours I once spent sitting on the porch of the conference center of the camp I attended, tea steaming, swallows dancing on the dawn-gray air, Bible open on my lap. Mornings in a cabin full of girls were not peaceful, nor conducive to my patience or joy as their cabin leader, so I would rise in the dark, get ready quietly, and wake the most responsible girl in the cabin before I headed out the door and over the hill. The woods were just waking up as I walked to the conference center, the light changing to pink as I sipped my tea and looked out over the field and the pond and the distant mountains.

The mornings are cold in the Rockies, even in midsummer. Many days, I could see my breath coming in short puffs as I hiked up the steep hill from Cabin 5, the crunch of my shoes on the gravel road the only sound to be heard. The dew that fell occasionally when the temperature dropped into the 40s encouraged the mule deer out into the thickets of tall grass and brambles that marked the edge of the hill down to the pond. Early summer meant fawns, still spotted and tenuous, staying close to their serene, unhurried mothers; the adults were used to seeing us, and only ran if we hurried close to them.

Those mornings, I practiced solitude out of necessity, and loved each quiet moment with the Lord in the chill morning air. Now, too often, I fear it. I fear the silence of my room. I fear my upcoming 26th birthday — an acute reminder of just how many evenings I have spent alone, and how many more I fear will be spent alone. I have failed to differentiate between solitude and loneliness. Pray for me, friends, as I work out what it means to be still in the presence of God, to think His thoughts after Him in the quiet of the end of the day.

Ouch AGAIN!

OK, OK, Lord! Geez, let it go, will ya? I get it!

Those of us who have very young children know how difficult waiting can be. We live through their annual anguish of waiting for birthday parties. Each day of the week—or, in some cases, the month—before their birthdays roll around, they wake up with the question, “is it my birthday yet?” Finally, the great day arrives, and you immediately have to convince them that 6:30 a.m. is not the ideal time of day for a party. By 6:45 a.m. they are thoroughly convinced that you don’t love them, and that all this talk of a party is nothing but a cruel hoax. At this point, you know it’s going to be a long day!

Don’t we often act toward God like little children? We kick and fuss and scream because we want what God has promised, and we want it now. Never mind that preparations need to be made and that other people need to be invited. But, like a patient and long-suffering parent, God bides his time, neither delaying nor hurrying, until everything is in place. Then—and not a moment sooner—he gives us the good things he has promised.

Psalm 119: A love letter to God’s word

I talked with a couple of people (namely Jordan and my mom) about my latest devotional project: praying/journaling through Psalm 119. It’s been really rich just to meditate on the Psalmist’s words as he meditates on God’s word.

My last semester of seminary I took Old Testament 1 with Dr. Peter J. Gentry, (noted Septuagint and Hexapla scholar) who, in his inimitable style (i.e., giant beard and Canadian accent) spoke briefly about using Psalm 119 as a “controller” for the study of the entire Old Testament. What a beautiful thought: to use a love letter to God’s word as a tool for the study of God’s word!

I thought as I was thumbing through the psalm today, “I want this to be what my heart says about God’s word.” The Psalmist takes such delight in God’s word that he thirsts after it, longs for it, desires it. And God’s word is effective! It accomplishes what God desires (Isaiah 55:11). Let’s take verses 73-80 as an example:

73 – God’s word teaches us that God is our creator. It gives us understanding.
74 – It causes other believers to rejoice when they see our obedience to it.
75 – It gives us a proper understanding of God’s righteousness and faithfulness.
76 – It comforts us as we recognize God’s fulfillment of his promises to us.
77 – It gives us delight.
78 – It is a comfort when we are being slandered.
79 – It is a cause of unity among believers.
80 – It lays out the aim of our lives – to be blameless before the Lord.

Almost every verse can be meditated upon in two or three ways:

1. As a prayer for our hearts: “Lord, cause me to love your word in this way…”
2. As a record of the effectiveness of God’s word: “Lord, thank you that your word effects this change in me…”
3. As a reflection of God’s character as a God who reveals himself to his people: “Lord, thank you for revealing yourself in your word as a God who is…”

(Here are some other pointers from a previous post.)

One of the things I want to characterize me is a passion for God’s word. I want to come home at the end of the day and want nothing more than to hear from my Father. I want my children and grandchildren to glean wisdom from the things the Lord reveals to me as I earnestly seek him in his word. I want my Bible’s pages to be marked with “P” for “precious” and “T&P” for “tried and proven,” like the woman in Spurgeon’s classic story. I highly recommend doing this exercise as training in the love of God’s precious word!

Please Pray!

Hey everyone, one of our pastors, Robert Cheong, has been in the hospital since Wednesday, when he started experiencing chest pains. He’s had several tests and this morning they found some evidence of heart disease, so they are doing a heart catheter. If they find some blockage they will likely do an angioplasty. Fortunately, Robert did not have a heart attack, and he went to the hospital in time to head off major problems. He has a family history of heart disease, so they are being very vigilant.

Please pray for him, his wife Karen, and their three children. Their oldest daughter, Ashley, is getting married two weeks from today. Karen is a very gracious and loving woman, and they both love to help people and minister to them, but they’re having a bit of a hard time accepting help from the rest of us!

UPDATE: The doctors found only a 10% blockage in one of Robert’s arteries, so he will be able to manage his heart disease with proper diet and exercise. Karen is an incredibly active, fit, healthy woman who will be a huge blessing to Robert. He went home from the hospital on Friday afternoon to rest and be with his family. We are taking meals to them this week (leading up to Ashley’s wedding), and then the SBTS faculty wives care team will take over from there.

The “learning party” went really well yesterday, despite the fact that Robert and Karen were supposed to have taught two of the four sessions (!!). The guys did some rearranging, and Dr. Bruce Ware (author of God’s Greater Glory), seminary professor and former president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, graciously agreed to speak at the last minute. He gave an outstanding presentation on biblical gender roles, particularly focusing on defending male headship from creation.

Heavenly Father,

It was your eternal purpose to give all people life through mothers,
and to send your Son in flesh through a mother’s womb.

Bless our mothers as they follow you,
and guide them as they seek you.

Give them wisdom, that they may instruct their children faithfully.

Grant them discernment as they pray for their children;
shape their hearts that they might desire the gospel to shine forth in their children’s lives.

Lord, you know what we need even before we ask. We earnestly seek your perfect will for our mothers, so that they might raise up children whose lives declare the Gospel of your Son, by whose sinless life, perfect death, and glorious resurrection we come before you with our requests.

Amen

Will you?

I recently read an article about revitalizing your prayer life by changing the way you petition the Lord. The author sensibly pointed out that, when we ask our friends to do something for us, we rarely say something like, “And, Miss King, I ask that you would sit by me in church today, and I ask that it would be to the right of me.” Um, awkward! But we so often begin our requests to the Lord with, “Lord, we ask,” or, “Lord, I pray,” phrasing our questions as a statement!

The author of the article suggests that we ask our Heavenly Father in the same way we would ask our earthly fathers: “Will you?”

It’s a tiny change, but I’ve been amazed at how just changing a single phrase has increased my feeling of humility before a sovereign God, and my sense of dependence on His will. When I pray, “Lord, will you provide for my finances? Will you guide me as I look for a good job?” it’s easier for me to hear my loving Abba Father saying, “Yes, I will!” My prayer time becomes genuine communication between my Lord and me, rather than a recitation of needs.

Will you give it a try?

Why I’m Such a Cry-Baby

Many of my friends, and anyone in my family, can attest to the fact that I am a cry-baby. I prefer to say that my heart is easily touched, because it sounds better, but the truth is, it’s not hard to make me cry. In fact, all you really have to do to make me cry is talk about “the Nations,” and I’m a goner. So the reading I’ve been doing for school has been pretty rough on me the last week or so. First, I’ve been reading a book for Missiology called Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. It sounds pretty dry, and some of the readings are, but others are so full of passion and tenderness for the lost people of the world that I can’t help being moved. Second, I just finished a Faithful Witness: the Life and Mission of William Carey. Carey is the father of Baptist Missions, and the story of his struggle and success in India should be known to every believer. Third, I’m in the middle of reading Let the Nations Be Glad! by John Piper, which every believer really must read. The section on suffering… it was crushing. Let me give you an example of one true story that broke my heart.

An African man named Joseph heard the Gospel on a dusty road one day, and was so filled with joy and excitement that he couldn’t wait to share his newfound Savior with his own village. When he did, he was shocked to discover that they did not share his excitement; in fact, the men of the village held him down while the women beat him with barbed wire, then dragged him out into the bush to die. Somehow he survived, and days later came back to the village and pleaded with his kinsmen to come to the crucified and risen Christ. Again they beat him, and left him for dead. By a miracle of God, he survived this beating too, and after lying unconscious for several days, came again to the village to share this message of Christ’s forgiveness. The women beat him a third time, but, as he was losing consciousness, he saw the women beginning to weep. The next time he awoke, the same women were around his own bed, tending his terrible wounds and nursing him back to health. The entire village had come to Christ.

This is just one story in a series from the chapter on suffering. How small my own faith is! How little is my own trust in the sovereignty of God! How unwillingly I give up even the smallest convenience for the sake of the Gospel! How fearfully I approach evangelism, even when I know that my life and health are safe no matter how bold I might be!

I spent a lot of time crying as I read through that chapter, as I cried out to God for a faith so bold that pain would be a joy when compared to silence. And if that means I’m a cry-baby, I guess I’ll take the title!

Praying for Revival

Right now what is on my heart is revival.

I’m exhausted with the politics, and controversy, and maneuvering, and compromise, and fear of change, and factionalism, and apathy, and misdirected zeal that all seem at one time or another to characterize the American church. For pretty good examples of some of these things, check out Wade Burleson’s blog or Marty Duren’s website for the rundown on the tragically divisive and ungodly controversy swirling in the IMB.

It all makes me wonder.

What if — what if every Christian leader — hey, I’d settle for every leader in the SBC — would stop lobbying for public opinion, stop seeking political gain, stop trying to toe the line of typical Christian (or Southern Baptist) ideology, and started focusing on Scripture and training believers and preaching the Gospel? What would happen if the Holy Spirit moved in a new and unexpected way and pastors all over the nation began to get serious about confronting people with the cross of Christ and all that His bloody death entails for those He bought? What if churches got smaller and more plentiful, and we re-examined every way we “do church,” rejecting everything that gets in the way of the Gospel, without the fear that usually accompanies doing things differently?

How would our communities of faith look different if we quit thinking that every minister of the Gospel has to be a married, teetotaling, suit-wearing, clean-shaven, good-ol’-boy, cessationist, five-point, thirty-plus, Christian-lingo-using, glad-handing denominational yes-man? If we stopped leaving Gospel tracts instead of tips and started telling our neighbors about Christ? If we retired our “God hates fags” signs and our “Baby killers” banners and made the truth of Scripture be our only weapon and our first defense against sin? If we stopped letting truth and freedom be shut down in fear in our denominations, churches, and seminaries? If we got so focused on the fame of Christ that we forgot what it was like to let our petty, sinful squabbles escalate into huge rifts and walk-outs?

I think I’m going to go spend some time praying. I’m going to ask God for revival in the SBC, among Baptist churches, and in the American church. Please, I would ask you to do the same.

California Prayin’

Hey, all, get ready to pray! I got a phone call last night from a dear friend in California asking for prayer. As you may know, there is a wicked wildfire blazing near Los Angeles that covers almost 24,000 acres! As of today, the fire is about 40% contained, but still threatens many homes. Thousands were forced to evacuate, including the staff of the camp where my friend works. She was already safely at the camp’s other location on Catalina Island, but all of her possessions are still back at the primary site. Please pray for God’s protection of the camp and the staffers, and pray for strength and wisdom for the thousands of firefighters working to get the blaze under control. Also, pray that God would reveal Himself to people through this disaster, and that He would be praised for His provision and protection.

The New Job and God’s Power

OK, y’all, here is a practical way to be in the habit of prayer: add me to your daily prayer list! I’m starting a new job next week (that is, if I hear from my boss today!), and I’m a little stressed. Toward the end of last semester, I wasn’t sleeping much and spent most of my time working on papers and projects while trying desperately to keep my head above water with the readings which remained, and multiplied, inexorably day after day. So I’m wondering how this semester’s end is going to work out with the addition of 20 hours a week of extra responsibility!

I realize that God has graciously provided this employment for me, and I’m grateful. Please be in prayer that, empowered by the Holy Spirit, I will manage my time wisely, be a good caregiver for the kids I’ll be watching, be blessed and equipped by my seminary studies, and most importantly, glorify God in every area of my life. I can’t do it on my own, but Thank God that I have the Holy Spirit to carry me along, especially when I’m feeling overwhelmed.

Just one more reason 2 Corinthians 12:9 is one of my favorite Scripture verses!

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

How to pray when you feel like you can’t *

I know, I’ve been there. There have been times in my life that I felt like I just couldn’t pray — like my prayers weren’t making it past the ceiling of my room, or like I just couldn’t get the words out of my mouth. So what can we do? We know that prayer is incredibly important to a deep and intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father, so how do we break through the barrier? Here are ten ways that we can press on through a difficult prayer time into a rich, life-changing conversation with God.

1. Keep trying. Don’t give up! Your enemy, the Devil, would like nothing better than for you to quit praying. Pray, even if you don’t feel like it. God hears you even when you feel like He can’t. (Philippians 3:14)

2. Worship. Put in your favorite worship CD and sing along. Listen to the words. Sing them to God. Praise Him for the things around you — your house, your family, your friends. Praise Him for silly things like a good hair day or bubble gum. God’s Word says that every good and perfect gift comes from Him, and that includes chocolate ice cream and big shady trees. (Psalm 9:1-2)

3. Go to the Word. God’s Word is full of promises for your life. Worried about your future? God has promised that His future for you is full of hope (Jeremiah 29:11). Unsure of your salvation? God promises that everyone who says that Jesus is Lord and believes He was raised from death is saved (Romans 10:9)! You can find God’s assurance for every situation when you read His Word.

4. Write it down. If you’re stressed out, sometimes your thoughts can be so jumbled that you can’t focus on a train of thought long enough to pray. Writing or typing out your prayer can help you express to God how you’re feeling, and can really give God a chance to speak to you to help you know what to say. David the Psalmist wrote down his prayers in song form — and if it’s good enough for someone God’s Word calls “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14), it’s good enough for us!

5. Look up. When was the last time you took a minute to look at the sky? God’s word tells us that the sky shows us God’s glory and creativity (Psalm 19:1) — this can help us gain a little perspective. I sometimes forget that the things that are problems to me are not problems for God. He made the whole Earth and everything in it!

6. Get outside the situation. When I’m angry, I have a pretty tough time praying for the person or situation I’m angry about, but God has commanded us to pray for people who have hurt us (Luke 6:28). Remember that God’s love isn’t just for you, it’s for everyone! Remember that the purpose of your life is to glorify God in every situation, and to show Jesus to the people around you. Keeping this kind of perspective can help you to pray — pray for your own reaction, or for the other people involved.

7. Fast. No kidding. You all know what this means, right? It means giving up something you want, in order to spend time with God. Think outside the box with this one. It’s not smart for growing kids to skip meals, but what about the TV, internet, or Playstation? Do you come straight home and turn on the TV? Consider a week-long TV fast where you come home and open your Bible instead. Do you stop by the coffee shop on your way to school or work every day? Try giving up that time and money to God for a week or two. When you show that you’re willing to give up things you enjoy because you realize that God is more important than those things, He will reward you with His presence!

8. Let it all out. Sometimes you can’t pray because you’re so overwhelmed with emotion that you can’t even get the words out. It’s OK! Paul tells us that, when this happens, the Holy Spirit prays on our behalf (Romans 8:26). Some human emotions are too deep to express, and God hears our hearts even when we can’t tell Him how we feel or what we want.

9. Say thanks. God’s word tells us to give thanks in every situation, whether good or bad (1 Thessalonians 5:13). Even when you don’t feel like it, you need to do what God says and thank Him. He can change your attitude and your heart when you begin to thank Him.

10. Spread it around. There will be times when you’ll feel so overwhelmed that you can’t pray at all — these are the times when you need a close friend around to support you and pray for you. Ask your friends to pray with you and for you, and give them permission to call and ask for your prayer help too. God doesn’t intend for us to live out our Christian walk alone — in fact, Jesus promised to be with us in a unique way when we gather in His name (Matthew 18:20).

*Adapted from “Ways to Pray When We Cannot Pray” by Cindy Hyle Bezek

What is Prayer?

prayer1 (prâr)
n.

    1. A reverent petition made to God, a god, or another object of worship.
    2. The act of making a reverent petition to God, a god, or another object of worship.
  1. An act of communion with God, a god, or another object of worship, such as in devotion, confession, praise, or thanksgiving: One evening a week, the family would join together in prayer.
  2. A specially worded form used to address God, a god, or another object of worship.

[Middle English preiere, from Old French, from Medieval Latin precria, from feminine of Latin
prec
rius, obtained by entreaty, from precr, to entreat.]

So, this is what the dictionary has to say about prayer — not very exciting, is it? I mean, a “reverent petition”? What does that even mean? As Christians, we can sometimes get caught up in a mental definition of prayer, or in a formula for prayer (like “God is great, God is good, and we thank Him for our food” or the Lord’s prayer), and it can really keep us from experiencing God’s blessings in our prayer lives! It’s not that the Lord’s prayer is a bad thing, or that the bedtime prayers that we learned as children are evil, it’s just that our creative God expects us to turn our brains on when we talk to Him — and that’s what prayer is really all about. Whenever you talk to God, whether out loud, or in a song, or inside your head, you’re praying.

When we love people, we tell them so. When we get a gift, we say thanks (at least I hope so)! When we’re frustrated or afraid, when we want or need something, when we can’t get through a situation on our own, we talk to someone about it. Maybe our friends can’t help or understand our problems, but we tell them anyway because it brings us closer to them. It’s the same with our Heavenly Father: prayer builds our relationship with Him because we are taking time to focus completely on Him, even for just a moment. And when we pray, we can have the confidence that comes from knowing that God loves us, has a good plan for our lives, and wants us to experience the joy of living with Him every day.

But I have a question for you all: what is prayer in your life? Is it something that happens at meals occasionally or at bedtime with your younger brothers or sisters? Do you remember to pray when you’re not at church? God wants us to talk with him all the time and about everything, not just on Sunday mornings or during mealtime.

So what do you need prayer for? Are you nervous about school this fall? Do you wish you and your siblings got along better? Do you need help with a decision you know you need to make but have been putting off? Stop worrying, stop wishing, and stop procrastinating. God loves you, and He wants you to climb up into His lap and tell him all about the things you care about. And we will come alongside you by praying for you, too.