A Prayer For Our Nation

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us – sinners all.

We confess that you are rarely what we most desire, though your desire for us led you to a cross atop Golgotha. We want cleaner homes, better clothes, spouses more attentive to our needs. We want children who will sit still in church, and hymns that suit our tastes. We want our pastors to speak to our needs, rather than lead us in worshipping you. We want the driver in front of us to go faster, and the one behind us to slow down. We want jobs we enjoy, and family who won’t ask us for money.

Sometimes we want more righteousness, or more personal purity, or a better prayer life. We seek religious virtue, Lord, but we do not seek your Cross. We are afraid of what you will ask of us should we seek that Cross, and so we make you smaller and tamer. We make you an intellectual puzzle, or an emotional experience. You are an all-consuming Fire, and we have turned you into a Bic lighter.

Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy.

Forgive us that we approach your Holy Word like we already understand you.

Forgive us that we pray when it’s convenient, that we talk too much and listen too little.

Forgive us when we seek the company of those who please us, rather than those who need us.

Forgive us that we have sullied your name by attaching it to political ideologies and national pride.

Forgive us when we hold ourselves above our brothers and sisters because they are Baptists, or Catholics, or Orthodox; because of who they vote for; because their children are in public schools; because they do trick-or-treat or they don’t trick-or-treat or because they only pass out those butterscotch candies that nobody really likes.

Forgive us that we see unrighteousness everywhere but in our own mirrors.

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Oh Lord, we are a country founded in rebellion, and we have fallen into grave sin. We have made greed a virtue. We have borrowed until there is no grain left in the storehouse, and now we throw the costs onto our children and grandchildren.

 

We have cultivated a hyper-sexualized culture. We allow our children to reach their teens without knowing how to behave like men and women.

We have sanctioned the murder of millions of unborn children.

Amidst all this, we have the gall to proclaim this God’s most favored nation. We boast, oh Lord, when we should tremble.

If you, oh Lord, would count our iniquities against us, who could stand? We are shot through with sin, as a nation, a city, a church, as individuals.

But you are faithful where we are faithless, and you have promised that when we confess, and repent, and lay hold of your Cross, that you will cleanse us of all unrighteousness.

So we praise you, Lord.

Thine, oh Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and the earth is Thine.

Thine, oh Lord, is the kingdom, and Thou art exalted above all.

We praise you and we beg your mercy, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Tony Woodlief

The Work Is Not Finished

Years ago, far more than I was comfortable with when I realized exactly just how many years ago, I worked at a Montessori day school. We had a method of tracking the progress of our students that was pretty basic but effective. It involved a triangle…one side meant that the activity had been introduced to the student. Two sides meant that the student was actively working on that particular task or skill while a completed triangle meant the child was proficient at the task from beginning to end. They didn’t receive a completed triangle the first time they did the whole activity either but only after they showed themselves consistently completing the task. From beginning to end included a lot of steps. Like, a lot of steps. I think our dish washing station had something like seventy-five steps including choosing the work on the shelf, bringing it to their table, all the stuff involved in the activity itself, as well as the clean up, and lastly pushing their chair under the table.

I’ve tried to make the same effort in training our children in a similar way at home with chores in the sense that the job is not complete until, and unless, you have completed the whole task and not just part of it. If you have been tasked with cleaning the kitchen and dishes have been washed but are left drying in the sink then you really aren’t finished. You’ve done a good thing, certainly, but it isn’t done.

I feel much the same way right now viewing the political landscape, in particular on the pro-life front. I am surprised, shocked really, at how incredibly fast President Trump has moved to change things on the pro-life front. There is much to celebrate and rejoice over. Much to give thanks to God for.

But, I don’t want us to view it as a time to let up. Our work is not done. The laundry is getting washed but it will still need to be dried, folded and put away. And while the President may be turning the washing machine on it is our honorable task to complete the work. The White House can do their part moving legislation along in the right direction but it will be us, the people in the streets and on the ground as they say, that will be doing the rest of the work.

God willing pregnancy centers will begin to see an uptick in client numbers as women who previously sought abortion now come to them for counsel and help. They are going to need more money and more hands than ever before. Rejoice that Vice President Pence will speak at the March For Life in Washington. But know that it won’t be his face that greets a confused, frightened, or overwhelmed mother-to-be as she walks into a pregnancy resource center.

We are beyond excited that our own Pregnancy Resource Center in Milton is making a long prayed for and anticipated move to becoming a medical resource where women will have access to an ultrasound. This is a big deal since we know that the odds of an abortion go way down when a mother can actually see her baby’s heartbeat. Be a part of that work. Find out how you can help that happen sooner rather than later by visiting their website.

But even giving your support to Milton PRC or Safe Harbor in Pensacola won’t close that triangle. We must be more than pro-birth.We need to be pro-life at all stages. One of the greatest arguments used against pro-lifers by pro-choicers is that we only care about the babies, not the mothers and not about people in general.

People, all people, are made in the image of God. It is cracked and marred by sin, but it is intrinsically stamped upon everyone of us. It is present on the baby in the womb and the street thug on the corner with the baggy pants. It is a part of the junkie, the whore, the refugee, the homeless, the mentally unstable, the protester, the political opponent, the crack dealer, the school teacher, the movie star, neighborhood kid, the grocery store clerk, and your bank teller.

Get involved in things that restore the dignity of humanity. Volunteer with a literacy program. Find out the needs of the women and children’s shelter in your area. Do you know that there are churches with clothes closets designed especially for people needing something to wear to a job interview? I heard of one church that hosted a car health clinic every couple of months in their parking lot. They would change the oil and check fluids and simple vehicle things for single mothers and the elderly. One church hosted a play day for foster families to come relax and have fun. You can bake a cake for your fire and sheriffs departments. Take your kids to the park on a sunny day and pass out popsicles to everybody. Hang out and get a basketball game going each week. Let people see your face enough that they recognize it and associate it with good things, with safety, with hope.

Although good things, really good things, are happening in some quarters of the pro-life movement we cannot act as if the work is done. Our task is far from finished and if we truly want to push back against those who oppose us then we must not give them room to say our way doesn’t work, that it isn’t enough.

Rejoice, but roll up your sleeves, because the dishes still need to be put away.

Not Enough

The deed is done and the die is cast. Donald Trump, of all people, will be the next president of the United States. For some there is great relief – not that he won necessarily, but that she didn’t. I’m glad she didn’t win, too. But I am angry this morning.

The abortion issue and it’s connection to the Supreme Court nominees was an incredibly important consideration during this election. For my friends that felt the weight of that during this election and voted accordingly, I commend your for your faithfulness to seek to protect unborn life, to be a voice for the voiceless.
So, how can I be angry this morning? How can I not see this as a victory? Because it is not enough. Because too many will think they have done their pro-life duty and, while they may keep a distracted eye on what follows as nominations are made, the urgency to be pro-life will ease. 
And really, it shows that mostly we are simply anti-abortion and not truly pro-life. We want abortion to be banned. We want Roe v. Wade overturned. But changing the law doesn’t change the heart. It doesn’t change the culture that sees death of the defenseless as an answer. Changing the law won’t invest in the lives of those who feel they have no other choice.
We absolutely should seek laws that reflect a high view of life. But to be pro-life means that we should, that we must, have a high view of all life. We can’t dismiss people as freaks and faggots. We can’t call them whores and junkies and just walk away.
We have to be a voice for those who can’t speak or are too afraid to speak…not just the unborn but the old and frail, the homeless, the orphan and yes, the immigrant, illegal or not. We should value nothing, absolutely nothing, more than the well being of those who bear the image of God, no matter how they act or live.
To be truly pro-life means that we afford everyone a common dignity no matter our differences. It means that soup kitchens should be over run with volunteers year round and not just during the holidays. It means that nursing homes and retirement centers are overflowing with people coming to sit and talk with residents. It means that we find out the needs that foster homes have and fill them. It means we find out how we can join ministries that help the countless kids that age out of the system get a strong start in the adult world. It means that we give our time, our money, our clothes, whatever we can to shelters and pregnancy resource centers. It means that we call and find out how we can help with the women and children’s shelter in our area. It means that we volunteer at prisons and halfway houses. It means meeting our neighbors down the street. It means saying please and thank you and letting people know we appreciate them. 
Now is not the time to rest, Christian, to think that we’ve dealt a body blow to death.  Now is the time to put our hand to plow like never before, to put action to our words and line up our behavior with our rhetoric. Now is when we become the hands and feet of Christ. Now is when we live the Gospel.

The Post That I Probably Shouldn’t Write But I Am Anyway

I am in a love hate relationship with my blog right now. I love blogging and in the past it has been one of my favorite things. There were the occasional dry spells but for the most part words and thoughts flowed easily. I enjoyed having a platform to share my thoughts and opinions and pictures. And I really enjoyed the interaction either here in the blog comments or on facebook.

But lately it has been so hit and miss and part of that is just the season we’re in. You know, the election season.

My own thoughts crowd out civility in my head sometimes so I am not surprised at how full of vitriol conversations become.

Vitriol: cruel and bitter criticism

It’s not just that we are critical of one candidate or another. The criticism of both is full of ugly fear and hatred and turns easily on to anyone who disagrees.  In my world if you aren’t on the Trump bandwagon then you must not really love Jesus and unborn babies. And I am so over it. You do not get to make that judgement. Just like I don’t get to call into question your love for God if you plan to vote for Trump. Or in some cases, Hillary.

I don’t know for sure exactly what I am going to do come election day but I know what I am not going to do.

I am not going to let fear guide my actions.

I am not going to let hate for one candidate push me into the ungodly arms of the other.

I know who she is and what she stands for and what she has done.

I know the man that he really is and what he truly stands for and what he has done.

There is no lesser of two evils here. Evil is evil and most of us are just deciding which evil is easier to swallow.

They are us.

I will go into the voting booth and I am going to mark a ballot in such a way that I can stand before God and give it to Him as an offering. If I can do that by voting for one candidate or the other or neither one then that is what I will do.

And you should do the same. Your vote is your offering before God.

In the meantime I will bow my head in the face of my own sin staring at me from a national level and seek repentance. I am going to ask God to dig a little deeper and probe a little further in my mind and in my heart to root out my own hypocrisy, evil, and wicked ways.

And I am going to outright reject the bumper stick slogan I saw the other day because friends, it’s not that Jesus wins, it’s that Jesus has won.

We should live like it.

Well Informed Insanity

Various favorite quotes from friends and others around the www this week.

Upon hearing Trump say he is audited by the IRS because he is such a strong Christian ~

“And my eyes rolled so far back in my head that I could see my brain cells imploding from the insanity of it all” ~ Becky Johnson. 

There is no better reaction to such a ridiculous statement than hers.

From a letter my friend Susan penned to Senator Jeff Sessions after he endorsed the Donald ~
“Your endorsement of Drumpf at yesterday’s rally was garbled, I assume from chocking on your honer in lending your name to such a morally deficient and leightweight speller such as Drumpf. Did your cheeks burn when you heard he tweeted a Mussolini quote?”  

Ouch! I love how she used Trump’s own misspellings to further emphasize her point.  Chocking on your honer indeed.

There has been no shortage of memes this morning after Chris Christie’s pitiful why-is-my-world-on-fire-somebody-please-help-me look last night. My favorite tweet accompanying the picture was someone announcing a kick starter campaign to buy back Christie’s dignity.

Google searches for “how to move to Canada” spiked after the results of Super Tuesday were in.

And I really liked this cartoon:

It really is mind-boggling. Just, literally, unbelievable. But then I also saw this quote and it explains so much of why we are where we are.

“The first question with regard to the problem of culture is not the state of the world but the condition of the church.” ~Martin Lloyd-Jones

Should we be surprised that a man such as Trump has garnered the support of many evangelicals when for years the Gospel and what it truly means to live as Christ has been diluted down to an unrecognizable pale facsimile that is tasteless and ineffective?

Contentment and living within your means was given over to the American dream of having it all so the greed of Donald Trump does not phase us.

We have equated course talk with wit and sarcasm with intellect. No wonder his crude and unkind speech doesn’t give us pause.

His lack of faithfulness and honor in his relationships should be reprehensible only it’s not. Probably because relationships and marriages within the Church don’t look very different from those conducted outside of the Church.

His ability to talk and say nothing at all and yet cause people to shake their head in agreement as if pearls of wisdom have dripped from his lips is the political version of what is said from a lot of pulpits these days. It’s a tickling of ears and it’s what we have crafted for ourselves, demanded even, so that we can do our time each week and only feel slightly bad over the life we lead the other six days.

The other side of course doesn’t look any better. I mean, it’s Hillary. I don’t really need to say more, do I?

So what to do?

For many, it is panic mode time. Batten down the hatches, children, because the sky is about to fall and the world, the whole world mind you, not just ‘Merica, is about to explode. God is on His way to deal with this mess we’ve made and boy, is He mad!

Another quote I came across makes a beautiful counter argument for those who are wanting to give into fear.

“Fear is a good motivation to get people to finally do something. Fear is a poor motivation to get people to finally do something right.” ~ Thomas MacAnn

No matter how hopelessly idiotically ridiculous our country’s situation may look we are not a people that should be motivated by fear. George Grant, who posted the MacAnn quote also shared, “Lord have mercy. Church have courage.”

Have courage! God still sits on His throne and laughs, and my goodness is there much to laugh at!

Dr. Grant also shared this from Al Mohler ~ “As Christians wake up this morning, one thing is clear: we’re going to have to spend a great deal of time thinking and praying together about what faithfulness will look like in a way we never have before in terms of recent American presidential cycles. We’re also about to find out if Biblically-minded Christians are up to that task.”

This is far from over. But we need to be very careful how we move forward unless we find ourselves being used as weapons in the hand of the enemy.

God Shaped Victory

Last week there was a video going around Facebook that addressed the beheading of twenty one “followers of the cross” as they were called by ISIS.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake…

I remember watching and realizing that my fear of a situation such as that had little to do with me and more the idea of my children facing that kind of terror and not being able to do anything to stop it for them.

That is a parent’s heart…the heart of a mother. We want to protect our children from knowing that kind of relentless fear.

Then on Tuesday it was reported that ISIS had invaded a largely Christian populated village and kidnapped at least ninety people.

Including children.

My heart wept at the thought of the parents whose children are facing that kind of remorseless terror and they can do nothing to stop it. The reality is that death is close at hand for them in a way that I cannot completely grasp.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…

And as I prayed, asking God to hear the cries of His people and to pour out His mercy and judgement in overwhelming abundance of each, I questioned what victory would look like.

An opposing army of military allies who would step in and battle back the dragon? A force of protection stronger and as unrelenting in it’s defense of a people too vulnerable to defend themselves as the enemy that seeks to destroy?

I’m not arguing against this. Far from it. Please God may help come to these people!

For He who avenges blood is mindful of them; He does not forget the cry of the afflicted.

But is that the God shaped victory we should really be praying for…yearning for? And if it’s not, what does it look like?

I guess what I am asking is, is that enough? Do we call it a victory because we have stopped their suffering and put an end to the blood letting? Is it a victory because we can whisper quietly to ourselves that we ended it there so we must be safe here?

Maybe I am asking the wrong question though. Maybe it isn’t a question at all. Maybe it is a matter of seeking justice when and where we are called too but all the while knowing that the enemy will rail against the One who made them. They will gnash their teeth and seek to destroy the ones who follow in His name as if they can rid themselves of His presence.

He sits in ambush in the villages; and in hiding places he murders the innocent…

Though their task is futile they will rise up against Him. And they will be vanquished and no more. And then another will come and rise up as yet more of His people proclaim He is King over all.

But in this we have hope,

The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; 
He is their stronghold in the time of trouble.
The Lord helps them and delivers them;
He delivers them from the wicked and saves them, 
because they take refuge in Him.
Psalm 37: 39 & 40

Dear Melissa Harris-Perry

I am not interested in an apology from you over the statement you made in a recent ad in which you said, “We have to break through this private idea that kids belong to their parents. We have to recognize the collective idea that kids belong to the community.”

Actually I think the American Church should offer you an apology. How are you supposed to know that the belief system you hold to is so contrary to what we say we believe when we don’t hold to it with the same faithfulness and fervency that you do to yours?

We undermine what we say we believe by what we actually practice.

We make big statements about God and who He is; we say that the earth belongs to Him and is His creation but that doesn’t make much of an impact on how we are raising our children.

We educate them the same way you do. We send them in droves to a public state institution that has made God completely irrelevant but somehow are horrified when you actually say that our kids belong to the same state.

We are equally horrified to hear the callous disregard you have for the beginning of human life and we’re disgusted to hear it reduced down to a question of economics and choice. But last year a video released by the National Association of Evangelicals said that 80% of church going teens are having premarital sex and one third of their unintended pregnancies also end in abortion. No wonder you roll your eyes at our hypocrisy.

We allow our children to date and enter in and out of relationships the same way and allow our daughters to dress just as provocatively and expect different results. Our marriages look no different, our families are just as likely to fall apart and end in divorce.

Instead of being an enemy to our sin, which is also the same as your sin, we’ve dressed it up and tried to make it look different but our words are a fragile glass wall that cracks easily under the weight of honest soul searching repentance.

But some of us are eagerly shattering that wall. Some of us want you to see the life changing difference between the community you live in and want us to give our children over to and the one that is ruled by and subject to Christ and His word. We want to show you a living breathing Gospel centered community and not the one that has pretty religious words as decorations but still looks a lot like yours. It’s a community that looks a lot like what Tim Keller talks about.

Take moralistic religion into the center of your life, and you’ll feel superior to the secularists. Take secularism into the center of your life, and you’ll feel superior to all those stupid religious people. Take the Gospel into the center of your life, and you’ll be humbled before people who don’t believe what you believe, you’ll seek to serve the people who don’t believe what you believe, and you’ll know that a Man who loves people who don’t love Him is what your whole life is built on.” 

You think our children belong to the community but the truth is that the community belongs to our kids. It belongs to us. And it is our responsibility and honor to create and shape one that accurately reflects God. You won’t like it. Not even a little bit. But that’s okay.

Because that kind of community isn’t just for our good. It’s also for yours.

Story People & Politics

If we see God as the ultimate Storyteller, we also know there is one dissatisfied with the original story. Frustrated because he can only copy the first story, he seeks to edit and spin the dialogue between the Author and His creation.

Did God really say…

The problem of course is that he has no story to tell. Try as hard as he might he cannot craft another story…a different story…because he himself was created and written into the first story.

So he lies. And he tries to color the way we read our story and the stories that are being told all around us.
He calls good evil and evil good and desperately seeks to cause us to do the same.

He’s waiting to read the new chapter unfolding in a voice edged with fear and panic.

Today people will be stepping into the voting booth. And it won’t take long before the shouting will start as each side tries to tell the story. But I urge you to listen with a careful ear and filter the words through the voice of the Author. The One who raises up kings and princes. The One who sits in the heavens and laughs. Hear the story read by the One who says He has appointed the rulers. Screen their dialog remembering that Christ alone is the hope of the world and He says He hasn’t given us a spirit of fear.

Come Wednesday morning there may be some pseudo change but the truth of the matter is that the earth is the Lord’s and His plans have not be foiled. Somehow, in every way imaginable and unimaginable, He is working all things together for His glory and our good.

Trust in the LORD, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Psalm 37:3 

This is our task regardless who is elected president.

Trust God. Don’t wring your hands in dismay or resign yourself to the world going to hell in a handbasket. It’s not. Christ is King and the victory has been won. Live like it.

Do good. Don’t hunker down and wait it out for the next election and hope for something better. Present yourself as a living sacrifice and let God transform the world with the Gospel in such a way that in four years we aren’t stuck choosing between the lesser of two evils but better choices.

Dwell. It means to abide or remain for a time. Don’t be so heavenly minded that you are of no earthly good. Be active in your community. Let your church be a faithful presence in your area.

Befriend faithfulness. Stand fast and don’t give up. It may seem that we’re losing the battle but we aren’t. There are more believers now than there have been at any other point in history. In places where it is under the most serious oppression the Church is flourishing. When you think of Christianity think globally and expand your borders. The Church is not confined to the USA.

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
Hebrews 12:12-14

In Which I Get Political

Politics is ugly business and, really, who has ever seen a blog post, tweet, or facebook status and had their views changed? But I have been musing on some things lately and I am going to lob them out there as food for thought or liner for the litter box~whichever you think best. (I will leave comments open but if anything gets mean or out of bounds I’ll be shutting her down, CoCo. I’ll also delete any long winded comments…if you have that much to say start your own blog 😉

I have seen Proverbs 29:9 posted on a lot of Facebook statuses in response to Thursday night’s VP debate:

      If a wise man has an argument with a fool,
the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet.

I understand the sentiment-I watched the debate. My objection comes from making Ryan the voice of wisdom. With regard to the abortion issue, both sides missed the mark. Both sides have failed to represent the wisdom of Scripture.

I am so tired of hearing this…

But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews, and I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the — the congressman. I — I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people that — women they can’t control their body. It’s a decision between them and their doctor. (Joe Biden)

In a word: Malarky (also Joe Biden – see what I did there?).

Because guess what? Abortion is not just an issue between a woman and her doctor. What about the father? Not to mention the fact that with all the healthcare reforms everybody is paying for it.

Here’s the cold hard truth. There is going to be an imposition of a view on somebody. There’s no way around it. Somebody’s will is going to be imposed upon someone else’s will. Either a woman will be allowed to exercise her will over her body to the point of someone else’s death, or the extent of her will is blunted to allow protection of a human being. Regardless of how that child was conceived. And that is where the right falls on it’s own sword. Because they are only willing to impose so far and the left knows it, sees it and calls it the hypocrisy that it is. Paul Ryan thinks fetuses are people, but people who can be legally murdered if their mom was raped. LOGIC!).  Quote from someone obviously not a fan of Ryan.

Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile and the Gospel Coalition posted this clip by Voddie Baucham which should be watched by every Christian if they have ever uttered the words: “except in the case of rape or incest.” (I’m pretty sure that posting a Voddie Baucham clip four years ago is what caused the explosion four years ago so this may be where the fat lady starts singing.)

So what am I saying? We should just throw our hands up in the air or wring them in despair? Absolutely not. But it should give the Church great pause when Christians are clamoring for a president that denies the deity of Christ and believes that he, himself, will one day be a god.

If we think the answer to Obama will be found in a political savior than we are asking the wrong question. Our world will not be changed from the top down and if we think that by simply electing the lesser of two evils will fix the mess we find ourselves in then I’m afraid we’re going to reach up and touch the ground.

The answer is found in imitating Christ. He came and served the world that hated and rejected him. He didn’t create a perfect little religious bubble to live in isolated from the poor, the hungry, the sick, the needy, and the lost and unlovely. He lived with them. He loved them. He died for them.

The world will be changed when the Gospel is lived out everyday in every part of our lives. The weapons of our warfare are not the same as the world uses. So come November, step into the voting booth; but do not think that your work is done because you’ve marked your ballot. Our real work happens in our homes between husband and wife, parent and child. It happens in the public square between sinner and saint, employer and employee, teacher and student, human being to human being. Our real calling is to love our neighbor as ourselves.

And regardless of the outcome of an election we trust God. Knowing that His ways are not our ways and sometimes victory looks an awful like defeat.

Jesus suffered, bled, and died with our nation, our families, our cities in mind. He knew their names. He knew our names. His blood was shed for our sorry land and all our sick, disgusting sin. And the good news is that we’re on the way down. This ship is sinking. And that’s good news because we serve the God of the sign of Jonah. We need to be born again, we need to die so we can live, we need to see our cowardice so we can cry out for courage. ~ Toby Sumpter