Saturday, June 25, 2016

G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown quote

What is the good of a man being honest in his worship of dishonesty?

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Thou God Seest Me

I was reflecting tonight on the many ideas and thoughts I have as I go about my day, the epiphanies that come as connections are made, and I suspect everyone has a similar life of the mind.  As devoted as Matt is, and as wonderful and patient as my friends are, all these thoughts would tax the energies of anyone, and I can't ask someone to be a constant sounding board for every thought and imagination.  I couldn't do that for someone else as much as I enjoy deep conversations with friends and drawing close through intimate conversations, I only have so much energy.  But I long to be known and to make myself known.  What satisfaction is there to only be known to myself? 

I do have a Person who can fill this felt need to be known, to have someone to pour my thoughts out to.  I have a heavenly Father who, in His infinite nature, never gets exhausted by my thoughts, by my endless musings and struggles to understand so much that is beyond me.  I do not have a sense of being alone.  I very much feel the benevolent presence of my everywhere-present God, and I pour out the minutia of my thoughts to Him.

But the thought of God being gone fills me with dread.  The absence of a benevolent, imminent God would leave an empty void.  No one to care about me enough, no one with the powers to fill the aching needs inside.  Is this why so many are numbing themselves with alcohol, frenetic activity, reality altering drugs, and mindless entertainment?  How would we, so small and insignificant, so vulnerable to the terrible forces around us in this awe-inspiring violent creation get through the day without a God who sees?  How does one face a gaping void with no meaning?

 "And she called the name of the Lord that spake unto her, Thou God seest me..."

Hager, the poor, despised Egyptian servant girl.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Unseen Charity

As I reflect on the recent persecution of Christians in Oregon and the atheist contention that Christianity is what is wrong in the world, I can't help but think about how much the haters fail to see. The problem is, Christianity teaches to do good in secret, to direct all glory to the God who made us and who calls us to love our neighbor as ourselves. So I run through the sacrifices my Christian friends make for others with no fanfare or publicity, in my mind, and it is more than I can number. But these are not people looking to build big charities with their names on them so everyone will praise them, these are simple people, living their lives quietly, adopting the broken children of others, feeding the poor in their neighborhoods, driving their neighbors to their court mandated classes, babysitting the children of single mothers, helping neighbors cover the rent they can't quite put together themselves, buying Christmas gifts and clandestinely giving them to a family hurting during the holidays, filling the freezers of those trying to feed their families with only food stamps, giving cars to students and families in need, making the repairs to cars of poor and single women, and I could go on and on beyond all this.
So to my atheist friends and family, think about what would happen if all these quiet, generous people are gone. Will the government really be able to meet all those needs that my brothers and sisters are sacrificing out of their own time and funds to meet now? Will the bureaucrats be there to cry with the abandoned wife and mother? Will they deliver the food stamps with hugs and kindness that continues day in and day out? Will you take their places? Will you put off your vacation, your dinner out, the time you wanted to use to watch your t.v. or play your video games? Will you shovel the walk of your elderly neighbors when you'd rather sleep in and linger over your coffee?
Our Christ, the One who bought us for His own to follow His example of sacrifice, teaches us that happiness comes from dying to our own desires and loving others sacrificially. This is the paradox that we live by, and you don't see it often times, or you are tricked by the hypocrites who take the name of Christ on themselves but don't actually believe anything Christ taught. This is what you think will bring utopia to your life? For all these Christians who would do all of this for you, too, to be gone? Placed in re-education camps, or simply massacred if they don't deny their God, as I've read many of you suggest?

Monday, October 5, 2015

From a Tract Written to Romans

“Be ashamed, ye Roman people everywhere, be ashamed of the lives you lead! . . . It is
neither the strength of their bodies that makes the barbarians conquer, nor the weakness of
our nature that makes us subject to defeat. Let no one think or persuade himself otherwise—it
is our vicious lives alone that have conquered us.”

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Great Power, Great Responsibility

Being born in the United States of America brings immediate advantages and privileges.  I was born into several communities all with their attached responsibilities and privileges.  I was born into the extended families of both my mother and father, into the rural state of Wyoming, and I was born into a church community.  I received wonderful rights merely by being born to the right man and woman.  The inverse is true, though.  Because I was not born to English or Canadian parents, I am excluded from many things children in those countries enjoy as a right of birth.  It is the nature of the world.  Inclusion in some groups means exclusion from others.

But as a young girl, the most important privilege I was anticipating was one I didn't get to exercise from birth.  Although I was not an outlaw, I'd broken no laws, and I was a citizen in good standing,   one wonderful privilege was withheld from me.  I didn't get to exercise that privilege until I had gone through extensive training, passed two tests administered by the state, and had proper insurance.  No one seemed to think this an unreasonable thing.  In fact, many thought children, with demonstrably poor judgment much of the time, should actually have to wait even longer than the law required.

My father paid for me to attend driver's training courses, and he spent hours upon hours impressing into my psyche (much to the irritation of my husband at times) the hugely dangerous business driving is.  My father, fearing the consequences of the misuse of this privilege, invested a LOT into training me to drive safely and responsibly.

But driving held out so many benefits.  I would have access to greater community, I could get a proper job beyond babysitting occasionally, and freedom!  Oh the sweet, sweet feeling of independence from my parents!  Why is it fair to make me wait so interminably long?  This should be my right, after all, as an American citizen!  Why should I be excluded as if I were someone outside the community?  Watching everyone drive while I have to wait for the proper training feels unbearable at 13, so exclusionary.

Well, sixteen is far, far in my past, and of course I have no squabble now with the government putting requirements on the privilege of driving.  A car is a lethal weapon and many a foolish youth has ruined his life and the life of others by failing to appreciate the dangerous privilege in his care.

But consider this:

"Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood[d] of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner[e] eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s[f] body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world."

Wow!  That is strong language.  That is strong warnings.  The Lord's Supper must be something powerful that the misuse of it can result in judgment and condemnation with the world, with those outside of the believing community.  

Presumably those leading churches today and administering the Lord's Supper have read these verses.  But I was told a story by my sister who happened to visit a large Calvary Chapel church when they were serving communion.  She and the friend who had brought her to the church sat at a table in a cafe of the church and were watching the service on a big screen.  There were families and various other couples seated at nearby tables.  When it was time to be served the Lord's Supper, sealed communion kits were placed at their table.  The children in the room opened their kits and began playing with the "bread" (some kind of cracker) and "wine" (grape juice.)  It was a very institutional, hygienic event, but not communal and not reverent.   The fact that there are pre-packaged communion kits that churches can buy in mass means this must not be an isolated incident.  How common is this in the broader Christian community? 

How many leaders of our churches are handing the keys of the car to those uninstructed in the faith, who have not been trained in how to eat the bread and drink the cup in a worthy manner?  How many pastors take little or no time to love those he has been given the care of, those so beloved to Christ He shed His own blood for them, by training them in the right use of the holy things of God?

Anyone who has taught little children know they are born with foolishness in them.  I often have to take time to instruct the children of my own home, and in my Sunday School class on how to handle the holy things of God.  They are naturally irreverent and going for fun and laughs over the proper use of God's name and Word.  But if I believe this warning, if I believe the Lord's Supper has real power, for great good but also for great harm, then I will take the time to carefully instruct my children in the faith, to train them to handle the holy things of God with reverence and love.

Not being able to drive a car did not make me feel excluded as a child from the community of Americans.  But the precautions placed around the privilege DID make me appreciate the responsibility that came with the privilege of driving.  So waiting to take the Lord's Supper until I was properly trained and of an age that could rightly understand the seriousness of the act I was engaging in, DID heighten my reverence and value of the privilege of the Lord's Supper.

My children are included in the community of faith by the fact God placed them in a believing household and He placed His sign upon them, the sign of baptism.  He promised them all the privileges and benefits of being born into His covenant community.  They are excluded only if they place themselves outside the community through rebellion and unbelief.  They were not placed in our family on accident.  God intended them for Himself.  While salvation is through belief in Jesus Christ alone, they are born into the body that contains the gospel and proclaims it to all the world.  But the Lord's Table keeps us from presuming on our birth.  I am never to presume that I am saved merely because I am born into the church, the mistake most of Israel made.  The Lord's Supper teaches me that I must believe all the promises proclaimed from the preaching of the Word FOR MYSELF.  I can never say, I am a believer because I was born into this Christian family.  Participation in the Lord's Supper is taking on the benefits of adult participation in the church, as well as the risk of curses if I fail to believe in the salvation of Christ and despise His body.

The Reformed churches take this very seriously.  So seriously, we take a lot of care in the training of our children for this privilege.  Our churches use the great Heidelberg catechism, a catechism children have been memorizing and studying for generations.  A document so clear and beautiful in its exposition of the gospel, it brought Abraham Kuyper, the great Dutch leader, to his knees in repentance and faith.  An exposition of the gospel so comforting that adults come to tears at the common recitation of the very first question and answer.  It is just a tool.  It is not the Bible. But it is a faithful exposition of the gospel and clear instruction on the  believer's response to the gospel.  It is a good gift that God gave His people through the providences of history. 

In addition to the systematic teaching of the Heidelberg, our ministers and elders train the youth in the knowledge of God's acts toward His church through history, and they cultivate relationships through this process that often forge great loyalty and care between the leaders and the children of the church.  I have heard it said that children always have a fondness for their catechism instructor, even years into adulthood.  This is certainly true of me.  What a privilege to teach children the faith and to be taught by men of faith.

God gave us two sacraments.  Both teach us very necessary things about the nature of His covenant body.  With great power comes great responsibility.  Participation in the Lord's Supper is a powerful thing.  In teaching our children their heavy responsibility we so teach them their great privilege.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Wonder of God's Condescension!

Psalm 139:1-6
"O lord, thou hast searched me, and known me.
Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.
Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether.
Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it."

As a child I was fascinated by adults.  I enjoyed sitting quietly in the room when adults were talking, and I longed for the day when I would have a seat at the table.  I thought they were so interesting, but they seemed so far off and unapproachable.  Apart from my parents, one of my dear aunts and my Grandma Hager, I didn't feel particularly noticed or important to adults.  When an older woman would take an interest in me, it seemed such a remarkable thing, and I was always very grateful.

In our church in Limon, CO there is a woman who instantly wins the heart of every child she interacts with, and the joy of going to her home for my children was just as much about seeing Miss Tammy as playing with her ridiculously fun children.  As I watched her with children I noticed several things.  She genuinely liked children, not just because they were cute and little, but because they were unique souls.   Since the children couldn't reach up to her she would go to them; she would always kneel and look them in the eye and engage them with as much interest and joy as she did adults.  And she had great sympathy for them, not huffing at them when they were naughty or inconveniencing her, but understanding the difficulties of childhood, she dealt with them in kindness and patience. 

The God of the whole universe, the God who set the stars in the sky and determined the system by which our solar system would work, the God who sets kings up and casts governments down, the God who can part the Red Sea and stop the sun in its place, kneels down, looks me in the eye, and engages me in my little insignificant thoughts.  It is "too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it."


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Tutor of Prophets, Priests, and Kings

I've been thinking a lot lately about the implications of my children's baptisms.  Some of the symbolism folded into the New Testament baptism from the Old Testament is the anointing of prophets, priests, and kings.  My children are born into a people where every single individual bears each title.  Just as the Old Testament priests were commanded to consecrate, or set apart from common service, the items of the temple to service to God by sprinkling them ceremonially, so our children, when they are born into the holy people of God, are sprinkled and consecrated to the service of the Lord.

Our children are not for common use.  They are not meant to please themselves or live a life mindless of duty and privilege.  Just as the son of a king is raised differently than a son of a peasant, so our children are raised with the duties God's consecration entails.  I should be raising each child with their special calling in mind.  This idea has been transforming and shaping my approach to parenting. 

So I was very interested when our Heidelberg catechism reading this morning said this:

31.    Why is He called “Christ,” that is, Anointed?
Because He is ordained of God the Father and anointed with the Holy Spirit to be our chief Prophet and Teacher, who has fully revealed to us the secret counsel and will of God concerning our redemption; and our only High Priest, who by the one sacrifice of His body, has redeemed us, and ever lives to make intercession for us with the Father; and our eternal King, who governs us by His Word and Spirit, and defends and preserves us in the redemption obtained for us.

32.    But why are you called a Christian?
Because by faith I am a member of Christ and thus a partaker of His anointing, in order that I also may confess His Name, may present myself a living sacrifice of thankfulness to Him, and with a free conscience may fight against sin and the devil in this life, and hereafter in eternity reign with Him over all creatures.

Notice that we partake of  Christ's anointing as prophets, priests, and kings.  Question 32 teaches us that we act as prophets when we confess Christ's name, proclaiming God's Word as the Old Testament prophets did.  We act in our priestly function when we present ourselves living sacrifices of thankfulness, and we exercise our kingly duties when we fight against the power of sin and the devil, preparing for our eternal reign with Christ.

Every important office is preceded by preparation.  The father of a child destined for a great office would be remiss in not preparing his child for his duties.  My children were not given to serve me, to raise my importance or validate my existence, but they were given to me to serve them.  It was a high honor to be the tutor of a future king, but one with great responsibility.

Yet I feel so inadequate to fulfill such a function. How do I give my children what I do not possess myself?  How do I train them in self-control fitting a son of the King?  How do I train them in the pure devotion to our holy God that our priesthood calls us to?  How do I train them in the knowledge of the God-who-is to the level necessary to be a prophet of the Most High God?  And then I remember one of those powerful insights that good fiction provides:  A father, observing his grown son and contemplating his many failings in the boy's childhood, reflected inwardly, "I am not what he needed me to be." 

And that's when my hope turns away from myself and to the Father who is what my children need Him to be.  I will train these children as well as this fallen, weak sinner can because God has given me the great privilege, but I am so thankful that there is Another who is sufficient, and it is He to whom I must turn the hope of my children.