Archive for October, 2010

On this Reformation Day, celebrating Martin Luther’s posting of his 95 Theses, I found this word on marriage and parenting from the great Reformer.  Please notice two things in these two paragraphs:  the arguments from ‘natural reason’ that Luther is addressing on suffering and pleasure are exactly the ones we hear today; and, he is writing about (and to) fathers!

Now observe that when that clever harlot, our natural reason (which the pagans followed in trying to be most clever), takes a look at married life, she turns up her nose and says, “Alas, must I rock the baby, wash its diapers, make its bed, smell its stench, stay up nights with it, take care of it when it cries, heal its rashes and sores, and on top of that care for my wife, provide for her, labour at my trade, take care of this and take care of that, do this and do that, endure this and endure that, and whatever else of bitterness and drudgery married life involves? What, should I make such a prisoner of myself? O you poor, wretched fellow, have you taken a wife? Fie, fie upon such wretchedness and bitterness! It is better to remain free and lead a peaceful, carefree life; I will become a priest or a nun and compel my children to do likewise.”

What then does Christian faith say to this? It opens its eyes, looks upon all these insignificant, distasteful, and despised duties in the Spirit, and is aware that they are all adorned with divine approval as with the costliest gold and jewels. It says, “0 God, because I am certain that thou hast created me as a man and hast from my body begotten this child, I also know for a certainty that it meets with thy perfect pleasure. I confess to thee that I am not worthy to rock the little babe or wash its diapers or to be entrusted with the care of the child and its mother. How is it that I, without any merit, have come to this distinction of being certain that I am serving thy creature and thy most precious will? O how gladly will I do so, though the duties should be even more insignificant and despised. Neither frost nor heat, neither drudgery nor labour, will distress or dissuade me, for I am certain that it is thus pleasing in thy sight.”

From Martin Luther. The Estate of Marriage, 1522. (Translated by Walther I. Brandt)

Some of us are called to deal with soiled diapers for a few years – and some for a lifetime.  Some are called to care for a child for 18 years – and some for a lifetime.  Martin Luther was right in this respect: we men are not worthy.  Nor are we smart enough or strong enough or righteous enough to be given this responsibility.

Except for God who gives us strength!

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” Mark 10:27

O, what a happy reality of life in Jesus!  Happy Reformation Day!

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Here in the United States there’s an election happening next week.

During these times I’m very grateful God wrote to us about his sovereignty over leaders:

The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will. Proverbs 21:1

Voting is one of those confounding things in my life.  The stakes, on the one hand, are very high as decisions our elected officials make have an impact on issues of direct consequence to those of us dealing with disability – healthcare, access to education, and parental rights just to name a few.

And there are the issues of literal life and death importance: abortion, infanticide, ‘mercy killing’ and ‘death with dignity.’

On the other hand, in light of eternity, every leader today will someday – soon – just be a footnote in a history book and every decision will have been changed, added to or discarded.

So, I would encourage you to pray, research and vote – and then trust God over all of it!  If God gives us Wednesday morning, no matter how our candidates fared on Tuesday, he will still be sovereign over everything.

Tim Tomlinson, President of Bethlehem College and Seminary, writes a weekly prayer email and always includes a meditation, reflection or devotion.  I found his thoughts this week on the election helpful (you can subscribe to the BCS prayer email here):

Next week the biennial election is upon us. As is usually the case, there is much at stake in this election at all levels of government. As I drive by the hordes of yard signs and billboards, I’m struck by several impulses. First, aside from the higher profile candidates and offices, I don’t really know much about many of the names I’ll see on the ballot on Tuesday–judges, mayors, city council members, county commissioners, etc. Second, I must fight the tendency to despair about the outcome of the election. Third, does it make any difference at all in the long run what I do? Fourth, should a Christian even be concerned about such things?

The first impulse is real, and a challenge to overcome. Even in the Internet era, finding the kind of information which might be helpful (candidates’ stand on key issues–especially local level candidates) is still difficult, as many political candidates have learned the fine art of being vague on controversial issues. However, interest group sites (National Right to Life, etc.) can often be helpful.

The second impulse is harder to overcome because its cause is my momentary lack of faith in the sovereign God of the universe. I need to remind myself regularly that Jesus Christ is the one who holds all authority in his hands.

“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him” (Colossians 1:16).

The third impulse is like the second, only more subtle. The answer, of course, is that it does make a difference what I do. The outcome of any given election may not be the one I hoped and voted for, but my participation may affect an election–especially at the local level.

The fourth impulse is clearer, but Christians are divided over this nonetheless. We know that the outcome of an election isn’t going to alter God’s plan for the culmination of history; that isn’t our business–it’s his alone. Instead, we are called to be faithful members, citizens, and participants in this temporary home we call life on earth. This is part of what it means to be in the world, but not of the world. We know the ultimate outcome of all things is in the Lord’s hands. In the meantime, we must be faithful witnesses–even through our voting in elections–to the glory, worth, beauty, and righteousness of Christ Jesus.

May we all put our faith in the sovereign God of the universe, and be at peace in this world.

Amen, Tim.  Thanks for the good word.

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If you are anywhere near the Twin Cities in mid-November (and are a mom), please plan on attending a special event at Grace Church Eden Prairie.

Bethlehem’s own Mary Horning will be speaking on “Healing Through the Journey” and then participating in a special panel discussion with other mothers.

If a Horning (Mary, Bob or Krista) is speaking, I recommend it!

Special Mom’s Retreat
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Keynote speaker: Mary Horning, co-author of Just the Way I Am: God’s Good Design in Disability
9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. (lunch included)
Cost: $5.00 To register or for further information, contact Sue Hume at shume@q.com or 952-470-6181.

The registration deadline is November 5.

I know Mary would appreciate our prayers as she prepares for this event.

The Barnabas Disability Ministry at Grace Church is one of the best around.  Every one of their volunteers I’ve met (most of whom have a family member with a disability) loves Jesus, loves the families involved in their program, and want to proclaim the goodness of God.  I’m grateful for their friendship to Bethlehem, and for their making possible this opportunity for Mary to share her story of God’s sovereign goodness in her life through much difficulty and suffering.

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Tim Challies and David Murray conducted a great interview with Greg Lucas, author of Wrestling with an Angel, yesterday.  It was the fastest 24 minutes of my day!

There is an incredible story he shares at about the 17:50 point of the interview – if you only have a three minutes, start there and be blown away by God’s mercy.

But, if you can, listen to the whole thing and be encouraged at how God has brought and worked through suffering to increase Greg’s love for and trust in him!

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October is officially National Disability Employment Awareness Month.  President Obama included in his official declaration:

Individuals with disabilities are a vital and dynamic part of our Nation, and their contributions have impacted countless lives.  People with disabilities bring immeasurable value to our workplaces, and we will continue to address the challenges to employment that must be overcome.  This month, let us rededicate ourselves to fostering equal access and fair opportunity in our labor force, and to capitalizing on the talent, skills, and rich diversity of all our workers.

I agree whole-heartedly.

But I would also suggest the President, in wanting to make a generous statement about people with disabilities, did not use the word ‘immeasurable’ accurately. The Federal government measures value all the time: gross national product, employment levels, investment in capital and personnel.  We watch these measurements with great interest.

By contrast, God, who creates out of nothing, knits together little human beings for his glory who will have an eternal existence.  Eternity would seem to be more appropriately connected to ‘immeasurable value’ than productivity in any workplace.

In fact, it is that connection to productivity in the workplace that leaves me unsettled.  I know quite a few children who will never be ‘productive’ in terms of their ability to produce an economic benefit to society.  This lack of future benefit combined with alleged certainty about the ‘quality of life’ a child will experience results in some horrendous things – like abortion rates of more than 90% for some disabling conditions.

How can we even begin to make statements about ‘immeasurable value’ in one area of life when these future workers aren’t allowed to be born?

Yes, I’d feel much better about this declaration if the President took a stand on pre-born babies with disabilities having intrinsic value and inherent, God-given dignity.

Please, Mr. President, do more than make declarations about employment for people with disabilities.  Do more than talk about abortion being ‘safe, legal and rare‘ in this country.  Please, tell people to let the children live.

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Fanny Crosby knew suffering

Fanny Crosby, who became blind at the age of 6 weeks due to medical malpractice, is famously known for the more than 8,000 hymns she wrote during her lifetime, including Blessed Assurance, Rescue the Perishing, Pass Me Not O Gentle Savior, and Saved by Grace.

Her faith in a good and sovereign God is well documented, even over a doctor who caused her blindness:

But I have not, for a moment, in more than eighty-five years, felt a spark of resentment against him; for I have always believed that the good Lord, in His infinite mercy, by this means consecrated me to the work that I am still permitted to do. When I remember how I have been blessed, how can I repine?

She and her husband had one child, Francis, who died as a baby.  One biographer said the death of that child was the inspiration for the hymn, Safe in the Arms of Jesus.  Another documents a different reason.  Regardless, it is a beautiful testimony that Jesus is trustworthy in the midst of great suffering.  I hear echoes of Paul’s ‘light momentary affliction‘ in Fanny Crosby’s ‘only a few more trials, only a few more tears!’

  1. Safe in the arms of Jesus,
    Safe on His gentle breast;
    There by His love o’ershaded,
    Sweetly my soul shall rest.
    Hark! ’tis the voice of angels
    Borne in a song to me,
    Over the fields of glory,
    Over the jasper sea. 

    • Refrain:
      Safe in the arms of Jesus,
      Safe on His gentle breast;
      There by His love o’ershaded,
      Sweetly my soul shall rest.
  2. Safe in the arms of Jesus,
    Safe from corroding care,
    Safe from the world’s temptations;
    Sin cannot harm me there.
    Free from the blight of sorrow,
    Free from my doubts and fears;
    Only a few more trials,
    Only a few more tears!
  3. Jesus, my heart’s dear Refuge,
    Jesus has died for me;
    Firm on the Rock of Ages
    Ever my trust shall be.
    Here let me wait with patience,
    Wait till the night is o’er;
    Wait till I see the morning
    Break on the golden shore.

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I have a hard time NOT looking at the books people keep around their homes.

While visiting my mother-in-law I picked up a little pamphlet she had saved from her uncle’s home after he died some years ago.  Titled, Twenty Choice Messages by J.D. Carlson, it was compiled by friends of his who dedicated it “to those who have received rich blessing and spiritual benefit through 48 ½ years of his loyal labors for the Lord as pastor, evangelist, radio minister, and author of many hymns and sermons.”

48 ½ years!  That got my attention.

In one little essay entitled “Is Anything Too Hard for God?” Pastor Carlson unpacks Genesis 18:14.  I’ve included just the headings of his sections here:

  1. First of all there is no promise too hard (for God) to fulfill.
  2. There is no prayer too hard for Him to answer.
  3. There is no problem too hard for God to solve.
  4. Then, no person is too hard a case for God to save and bring to himself.
  5. There is no church too hard for God to revive.

That last one hit me squarely between the eyes. I’ve been guilty of thinking certain churches and denominations are just too far gone.  God is not constrained, ever!  And might he be pleased to use his chosen ones with disabilities to call them back?

I had never heard of J.D. Carlson, which is a reminder that someday few will remember those who labor for us today – like Piper, Keller, Carson.

But, Lord willing, their books will remain, and God-honoring books – or even little essays – can encourage hearts decades later. And I’m grateful God preserved that little collection of messages for me to find in October 2010.

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