Your Very Life

Living where Life is

Month: July 2017

Change your Kid’s Life

When you think of your kids’ future, don’t you want them to be safe, happy, and feel fulfilled? Good schools, good spouse, good job, good life.

Parents are (mostly) right to think like this: it’s our instinct to want to provide for our children everything good. So, when/if we pray for them–that is, when we seek God’s power applied to their lives–the prayers we pray mirror our desires: we ask for safety, success and good choices.

A few years ago, it hit me that God might have better things for me to pray for my sons. Over time, he’s pointed me to the following requests. I use them one or two each day, rotating them depending on what’s going on. What do you think of them? Wanna join me in changing your kids’ lives?

1. Good Soil – I ask God to give them the soil that receives the seed and produces 30-60-100 fold. (Mark 4:8, 20). That God’s Word in their days wouldn’t fall on deaf ears, worried hearts, or shallow wills. “Lord, give them hearts, wills, ears like the good soil.”

2. That John 13 would be a way of life – in this chapter, Jesus shows us the full extent of his love by serving. He washed his disciples’ feet – it was the worst job. It was the night before he died – the worst time. The disciples included Judas his betrayer – the worst people. (I forget who first alerted me to those three “worsts”). I pray that my boys would always be willing to serve.

3. Zech 10:12 – “I will make them strong in the Lord, and they will walk in his Name.” I ask God to do this work in their lives. Strength in him, and conduct reflecting his character.

4. Deuteronomy 30:19 – After declaring God’s Word, Moses challenges the people, “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose Life…” I ask God to help them, guide them, make them choose FOR obeying his Word and living into it.

5. That they would bear fruit – Both the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23), and the fruit of righteousness (Phil 1:11). Also, John 15. Basically that their lives would matter for the Kingdom, and that they would leave a legacy that draws others to Christ. Good Fruit borne by a good tree.

6. That they would get caught in sin – There is nothing worse than when we get away with things! I pray that they would be caught in the act, or found out very quickly (while fresh), so that we can get them off of Sin’s stupid downward spiral, and back out into the open. One friend said, “what’s conceived in the dark, and kept in the dark has a hold on your until it is brought to light.” So true.

7. That they would be quick to repent – Back to the “good soil”… hearts willing to own their trash, confess it and reject it. Being caught is not enough, there has to be brokenness over sin. Godly sorrow leads to repentance. I ask the Lord continually to give them strong characters, but soft and tender hearts.

8. Proverbs 4:20-27 – “My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words… Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life…” and many other simple, proverbial instructions that will make or break a daily life.

 

Nothing magic about these 8 things. You can find 8 different ones in Scripture. But, what I’ve found in praying these is that I pray with great confidence because I know God is going to act according to his Word. Nothing hinders effectiveness in our prayers more than uncertainty in praying them: “should I really ask for this?” But, to abandon yourself to God on behalf of your children because you KNOW God will hold to his Word means that you will see answers.

One last thing. I don’t only pray these things for my sons. I pray them also for Susan and myself. And, yes, God graciously answers!

 

Robin’s Legacy

This week all I could do is think of this life and of the legacy of my dear friend Robin Wooten. [read about him here]

Robin said often this year that he had never encountered God so closely in all his life as he did with ALS. In all his great work and his love of family, friends and home, he said he had never really opened his life up to the fullness God has for each of us. Until ALS. Until he was forced to change course, change priorities, change outlook.

And now, all too soon, he is actually with the Lord. Seeing God’s glory face-to-face.

If only Robin could come back and talk to us, wouldn’t you listen? If he could tell you what it’s like with God, wouldn’t you hang on every word? If he could tell you what really matters out of all the things we do, wouldn’t we all take notes and change course?

Or would we?

Life-change is hard. Some would say impossible without help from the outside. The patterns, habits, desires we have are just so entrenched. It’s nigh on impossible to change them.

But surely if a friend came back, with a message from God’s presence… surely then we’d listen.

Let me ask you: how deeply do you listen to the One who did come from God’s presence, and who also went through death and came back again? The Bible calls Jesus the Word of God – that means God’s Message to us (John 1:1-18). It calls Jesus the First-Fruits of those who have died – meaning he’s risen from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20). It calls him the creator and sustainer of all things, and the center of all things on earth and in heaven, in time and eternity (Colossians 1 & Ephesians 1).

Jesus quite simply is THE fact of existence that every person has to wrestle with.

 

Have you? The way Jesus changed Robin’s life is this:

  • When we are born into this world, we are born separated from God. (Rom 3:23)
  • This great and generous God who would be our Father. (John 3:16, 1:12)
  • God sent his Son into the world to rescue us from that separation, and to adopt us into his family; the Son enables us to be sons & daughters of the King! (Gal 4:4)
  • Jesus rescued us by means of his blood: his death on the cross was the death we should have died. He received the punishment due to us for our sins, and we receive his life and right-standing with the Holy God. (2 Corinthians 5:21, Isaiah 53:4-6)
  • Jesus was also raised from the dead, and that’s how God proved to us that Christ’s death is sufficient: he broke death wide open. (Rom 1
  • He pours out the Holy Spirit into every person who surrenders to Christ–in humble willingness, who asks God to forgive our sins/wrongs. (Rom 5:1-5)
  • From that moment on, God makes us new – a new heart, new creation, new life, new future, new inheritance, new hope, new citizenship, new home. All because of Christ–his death and resurrection. But only if we humbly give ourselves to him… who gave himself for us. (2 Cor 5:17, et al.)

This is the outline of the story of Robin’s life. Is it the story of yours? This is the Good and Great News (the “gospel”) that Jesus came back from the dead to call you to. This is what the reality of ALS led Robin to live into like never before. This is the sum total of life.

Let Robin’s legacy in your life be that you finally and fully call out to Jesus to rescue you, adopt you, renovate you, and make you completely new.

You can pray like this: “Father in Heaven. I recognize that You alone are the center of all things. So long I’ve lived as if I were the center–my dreams, my hopes, my future, my family. But now I see that you are. Please forgive me for my self-centeredness. Please pardon the things I’ve done that dishonor you. You call them sins… but our culture doesn’t like that language… I’m sorry; please pardon me, from top to bottom. And, please give me the hope of Jesus, the life of Christ, the future–like Robin–to re-order everything under your leadership & Lordship. I see now that my life is yours, not mine. Thank you for wanting me, and for being gracious to forgive me. I’m yours. I ask this in the Name of Christ. Amen.”

If you prayed that, contact me here in the comments, or at gracekinston.org.  I’d love to help you walk this journey.

Robin’s Letter

Before he died, Robin Wooten took the time to write what he wanted to say to friends and family after he was gone. He asked if I would read them at his memorial service. It was my privilege to do so yesterday.

He was diagnosed with ALS last summer. As he says in his letter, at that moment he truly began to live. For this past year, Robin & Elizabeth lived, really lived. They laughed, loved, forgave and prayed. They spent time with family and friends. And they adopted Henry the Golden Retriever!!

And in this God met them, carried them, and has brought life and hope to thousands.

Many have asked for a copy of his words. One friend of his said, “I want to put that letter in my night stand, and read it often to remind me what life is really about.” True that. Click the following to download them. Robin Wooten Letter

On a personal level, it has been an absolute privilege to walk with Robin and Elizabeth. We live just about 10 houses away from each other, and I’d pop over a good deal. My sons did some yard work here and there. We’d see Rockin Robin go by on his scooter (Elizabeth hoofing it to keep up), and later in his wheelchair (I think that thing was stick-shift!). As elders from Grace, we spent a moving evening together just last month. Neighbors, friends, fellow pilgrims on this journey.

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” (Ps 116:15). These days are so precious to God – we are all so real about what’s important, so tender about life and loss, so willing to pitch in and help in any way we can, so quick to call out to him for help. No wonder these days are precious to our God and Father… it seems we are truly being the body of Christ!

Click here to see his service. Hit the “Archive tab” and play the service.  (I read the letter beginning at about 43:30.)

Eugene Peterson, Take 2

Eugene Peterson lectures at University Presbyterian Church in Seattle, Wash., in May 2009. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Today, Eugene Peterson retracted his support of gay marriage. This blog is not meant to be “all hot-button issues, all the time”. But, in light of the news, here’s what I put on my Facebook Status today:

“Thank the Lord for EP’s retraction. So sorry for the need for it. Reminds me of World Vision’s mis-step and change-back a few years ago. Caused damage to the witness of the church, left some people confused & others solidified in their suspicions (and engendered cynicism).
Couple of thoughts:
1. Those who wrote uncharitable things or in an uncharitable manner about this brother should also retract them. (don’t you think?)
2. Yet another reminder to think clearly before you speak so that you don’t need retractions.
3. You can’t put Humpty together again. This will affect how folks read EP. And it should.
4. The dynamics surrounding this one issue will continue to trip people up if they don’t think clearly. If you do think clearly and are out of step with culture, get ready for a pile-on.
5. We all need to go get some ice cream.”

[Of course, everything is better with Ice Cream]

Click here for Christianity Today’s article in which Peterson retracts yesterday.

Click here for my blog post yesterday helping Christians think through how to engage with Peterson.

Seriously, go get some ice cream.

Eugene Peterson and You

Eugene Peterson lectures at University Presbyterian Church in Seattle, Wash., in May 2009. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

By now you will likely have heard that Eugene Peterson has endorsed gay marriage.  And, if you are on Facebook, you will have seen the comments ranging from “it’s about time” to “we knew it was coming”; from “Can’t trust anything he writes” to “he’s the best thing ever.”

A few comments for thinking Christians.

1. In his comments to Jonathan Merritt of the Religious News Service, Peterson only references experiences he’s had and people he’s known, and not Scripture’s teaching. He does not say if he changed his mind, wrestled with the text, or sought the Church’s doctrine. He only says that he’s OK with it, and would perform a marriage ceremony for two same-sex people, and that the debate is pretty much over. This is not right. Scripture must be the starting point and finish line of our thinking & discipleship patterns. We have to begin where Scripture begins, and land where it takes us. Peterson–who translated & paraphrased all 66 books–should know better.

2. He is still a very good thinker, and has brought great pastoral help through his writings. They ought not all be set aside. Christians ought not cast him aside hastily or call his salvation into question. All of us are fallen, and the Fall affects every part of us (including our minds, and our changes in thinking over time). I read one FB comment, “I’ve been warning about Peterson for years.” Granted I don’t know what this person was warning, but the implication to me is “stay away from him.” I disagree. The fact that he’s wrong on this does not mean he’s wrong on everything. If it did, we should stop reading Martin Luther, whose anti-semitic comments make us blush! No one argues that we throw aside Luther, only that we read him judiciously.  We see this principle in play again with a contemporary pastor: read judiciously one who gets things right and wrong.

3. Read him judiciously I will. There’s no denying that it makes me read with a little less “Ahh, I’m at home with an old friend”, and a little more “this is good… hmmm, is this good?” I will likely recommend his writings more carefully, and will have to add a preface any recommendation.  I will still be blessed by the pastoral insights (Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work) and exegetical nuggets (Run with the Horses). But I will also grieve some as I read.

4. We can’t get through life only reading Christian authors who get everything right, or with whom we agree 100%. For two reasons: a) No author gets it 100% right. Each of them is wrong on one or more things they’ve written. Again, start and end in Scripture; and the Fall affects all of us.

b) It’s not about becoming “fans” of this author or that thinker, scholar or preacher. When you begin to think someone is totally trustworthy, you are putting more freight on them than they can bear. There are no perfect thinkers, preachers or writers outside of Scripture. (Plus, even the human authors of Scripture demonstrate that we cannot trust the person… only the Spirit’s sanctifying work of inspiration!).

Be ready in life to read people with whom you disagree. Indeed, expect that everyone you read will have gotten something wrong, and watch for it.

5. Do your homework and learn from those who are faithful to the Gospel. Ask your believing friends, your Church leaders or Pastor what they think about author X; listen to their counsel. Moreover, with any author, when you find you disagree, the Lord will tell you when you should “hold-your-nose and keep reading for the good insights” or when you should set them aside. I’ve done both with various authors. You have to seek the Lord and the wisdom of the Body of Christ as you read.

God may lead you to set aside your reading of Peterson. Don’t do it because of knee-jerk Facebook blow ups. Do it because of a grief over his departure from orthodoxy over marriage, and his leading of others to do the same. Or, God may lead you to the “hold your nose” side. But you’ll do so with a new level of guard in light of this article.

It’s sad and it’s messy. But that’s what being alive in the world means. Christ is changing lives for God’s glory. I’m disappointed (though not really surprised). I’ve been blessed by The Message and many of Peterson’s writings.  He’s walking away from God’s view of reality, and I’m grieved. But I also know that, ultimately, the Lord will bring all things to his greatest glory, and I can’t wait to reflect back on that in this case.

Keep thinking and never lose hope!

(You can click here to read what Peterson said to the RNS).

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