Thursday, January 26, 2017

An Inauguration Postscript

Human agency and God's sovereignty have always existed in tension. This I know because the Bible tells me so. Remembering that, of the two, God's sovereignty is the superior value leads to great peace.

Years ago, a dear friend got married. I was part of the inner circle and possessor of information. When she announced her engagement, and her other friends were doing high fives and happy dances, there I was, looking for all the world like a sour little thundercloud. "Don't do it, don't do it, don't do it," I thought. Then, "Ohhhh, you did it." Suddenly, all that information became irrelevant. He was God's man now, and I offered my warmest support. How could I do less? This was God's covenant.

I think I felt the same way on Inauguration Day. There I was, hoping against hope that God would, in His mercy, stay His hand. "Don't do it, don't do it, don't do it! Ohhhh, You did it!" And Donald Trump is God's man now. Some of us think he's a mercy, like King David; some of us think he's a judgment like Sennacherib. But that's largely irrelevant now. President Trump is God's man. I am throwing my support behind him because I am throwing my support behind God. How can I do less?

Sometime during the night on Inauguration Day, I awoke. And while I lay there, I thought about the prospect of this new administration being like an exile, a judgment, for God's people. And I wondered if God had any words of comfort for a people heading into exile. Jeremiah was the prophet of the exile. What did he say to the people on God's behalf? Here's what dropped into my mind:

Build houses. Plant vineyards. Have children.

The next morning, I looked up the verse in context. Well, lo and behold, it was Jeremiah 29:

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare, you will find welfare. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the Lord. For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed fro Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and pray to me and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. (Jeremiah 29:4-14)

IF this is an exile, THEN here are my marching orders:
1. This is God's doing. If I oppose this administration, I am opposing God. (I am rebuked by this.)
2. Join in what God is doing: build houses, plant vineyards, have children. In other words: Flourish; we're going to be here for a while. 
3. Seek the welfare of the city. I'm not sure what this looks like. Attend city council meetings? Find a literacy group and teach someone to read? Drive the speed limit? Keep my lawn manicured? March for life? But at the very least, it means what God says it means: pray to the Lord on its behalf.

God is the God of The Exile. And what was He doing during The Exile?
He was uprooting, and He was planting.
He was tearing down, and He was building.
He was bringing judgment on and planning good things for His elect.
I have one job: to bend my will to His and to do it joyfully.

So I prayed for President Trump yesterday. And it wasn't the stingy prayer wrapped in chicken liver that I thought it would be back on Inauguration Day. It was a privilege.

Whether you agree with me or think that I've lost my mind, please join me in praying for this man, God's man for this hour. Pray for President Trump. He is now arguably the most powerful man in the world. Pray for him to assemble a team of wise counselors who give godly advice. Pray for him to bear the burden and the pressure of leading this country. Pray for him to respect the Constitution and the rule of law. (This is a serious concern, as no one tells Mr. Trump what to do.) And, most importantly, pray for salvation to come to him and to his household.

I have not said that "God told me" any of this. And I will not say that now. There is nothing that shuts down meaningful debate among believers quite like, "God told me..." or "God is calling me..." I freely admit that I could be wrong. I freely admit that I might one day find out that a Trump Presidency was a boon from the Lord to this country.

Either way, he is God's man, and this is God's plan.
And I'm all in. And

Thursday, January 19, 2017

To Speak Plainly On Inauguration Day

Few friends have told me that they voted for Donald Trump. Lots have weighed in with general distaste, but few have shown their hands. This is definitely one of those occasions where ignorance is bliss. I am free to blog with impunity without blogging at anyone in particular. So. Here we go.
Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah, O my soul, Jehovah praise.
I will sing the glorious praises of my God for all my days.
Put no confidence in Princes, nor for help on man depend,
He shall die, to dust returning, and his purposes shall end.*

Meanwhile, back at the White House...
we are getting ready to install the Wicked Fool as Commander in Chief. Yesterday, I referred to the man as a gasbag. Some of my friends took issue with that. I admit that with barely 48 hours to go before the Presidential Oath was taken, I was walking right up to the edge of the cliff of sin, but I was still on the cliff. My conscience is clear on that point.

Still...I like my friends. So this is my olive branch. It's not much, but it's the best I can do. If I read the Word of God with Donald Trump in mind and evaluate him by Biblical standards, I find that God would have this to say about him: He is wicked, and he is a fool. So to look at a man like Donald Trump with Biblical eyes is to see him as a wicked fool. If Donald Trump were listed in the book of Two Chronicles, it would say this: Donald Trump did evil in the sight of the Lord. 
We all good?
Okay. Good. On to my next point.

He's certainly not the first wicked fool who has taken up residence in the Oval Office. That would generate nothing more from me than a shrug. But he's easily the first wicked fool to be installed largely by the hand of the Bride.  A jubilant Bride. That makes me shudder. A timid Bride who was afraid of an evil little woman from Arkansas. As if God needed Donald Trump to ward off Hillary Clinton and the pro-abortionists.

Happy is the man who chooses Israel's God to be his aid
He is blest whose hope of blessing on the Lord His God is stayed
Heav'n and earth the Lord created, seas and all that they contain
He delivers from oppression, righteousness He will maintain.*

Anywho, the deed is done. And this damned spot now stains the fabric of our national history and worse, our resume as American Christians. So what's a God-fearing girl like me to do?

Rest in God's providence. For good or ill, this is now God's man for this time. Personally, I think he's God's man like Sennacherib, not God's man like David.
And pray.
Pray for President Trump.
My president.

Now before you jump up and down and clap your hands in victory, let me explain some things. I wrote for the last Inauguration Day that it is our gospel duty both to vote and to pray, that God took evil men like Manasseh and Nebuchadnezzar and made them His own, that it's never okay to hate the president.

It was my privilege to pray for Barack Obama. He was hostile to everything I believed in and said so. I warmed to the challenge of praying for him. It doesn't seem that, to date, God has answered my pleas, on behalf of Mr. Obama for his salvation, but it really was an honor to pray for the guy. I'll miss that.

Not so with Donald Trump. I dread it.
Praying for President Trump will be like eating sardines dipped in castor oil and wrapped in a chicken liver. I'm darn near nauseous at the thought
And why? Because he's hostile to everything I believe in but says he's not. Do I look like I was born yesterday?

Food He daily gives the hungry, sets the mourning pris'ner free,
Raises those bowed down with anguish, makes the sightless eye to see.
Well Jehovah loves the righteous and the stranger He befriends
Helps the fatherless and widow, judgment on the wicked sends.*

I realize this is the part where I'm supposed to write the gut-wrenching twist where God brought me to my knees and softened my heart towards Donald Trump. I also realize that that would earn me friend points.

Alas no.
I am many things, but I am neither pandering nor dishonest. I'd love to win the "Oh Noel, your blog post just moved my heart; wish I could like it a thousand times; I'm so sharing this" award. But not by lying.
My heart is not moved. Not a smidge. The only thing that makes me pray for this bloviating bully is the fear of God and of displeasing Him.

Who can know the mind of God? But for what it's worth, I think He shares my view.

Hallelujah, praise Jehovah, o set my soul, Jehovah praise;
I will sing the glorious praises of my God for all my days.
Over all God reigns forever, through all ages He is king.
Unto Him, your God, O Zion, joyful hallelujahs sing.*

*Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah, Scottish Psalter

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Poof! My 2016 Reading List

In terms of people, 2016 brought a new grandson and a new son-in-law; that's the good news. It also brought a new president; that's the bad news. In terms of books, I have sixty-eight reads to document.

In school, my high schoolers hit their government year--which is always fun when it coincides with an election. We read God and Politics: Four Reformation Views on Civil Government, which I was really looking forward to and which I was colossally disappointed by. The Anti-Federalist Papers, on the other hand, was nigh on prophetic.

Secrets of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield and Same Sex Attraction and the Church by Ed Shaw offer compassionate gospel answers without compromise to same sex issues. I haven't given either of them to my kids, but I think any upper high schooler could (should?) handle both. And if the kids are moving away to college, then these would be required reading.

I ventured back into sci-fi for the first time in years. While Ender's Game was a dud,  The Book of Strange New Things was...interesting. I don't think I need to read it again, but at least I cared about the characters. Enchantress from the Stars was a page-turner. CS Lewis's Perelandra improved upon closer acquaintance. I didn't like it in high school, but I really enjoyed it this past fall. In fact, I liked it well enough to pick up Out of the Silent Planet, too. Unfortunately, that one dragged a bit.

Spiritually, the wolves were real, and the cubs were threatened. After many tears and much teeth gnashing and fist clenching, I finally did what I should have been doing anyway. I hit my knees, and I hit the books. Let's call it Mama Grizzly Goes to the Library. Several of the books come as a result of that crisis. Just when I was wondering if I was dying on a mountain or a molehill, the books I read by trusted authors convinced me that this was a hill worth taking. And that's all I am free to say about that.

The real gems, though, were across genres. Once and Future King by TH White has been one of my favorites since junior high. I read it a fourth time (at least--I've lost count) this year, and I saw themes in there I hadn't picked up on before. Delighting in the Trinity was just...delightful. Kris Lundgaard's The Enemy Within should be read by every Christian at least once a decade. And Fidelity, a collection of short stories by Wendell Berry, was nothing short of breath-taking.

You may notice that two of the listed books have asterisks*. That's because they are really booklets. In terms of pages or word count, both Word Made Flesh and No Adam, No Gospel were tiny. But in terms of content and ideas, they each easily rival any other book on my list. So I counted them.

Here they are, my 2016 books, all 68 of them.
(You may be wondering why stuff like Winnie the Pooh is on my list. Hey, you're too old for AA Milne or E. Nesbit only when you're dead.)

Radical by David Platt
The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber
The Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Debates
Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves
Duncan's War by Douglas Bond
The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh by AA Milne
Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield
The Man in the Queue by Josephine Tey
The Westminster Catechism by GI Williamson

Rejoicing in Christ by Michael Reeves
Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin
Ink on His Fingers by Louise Vernon
Becoming Conversant With the Emerging Church by DA Carson
Enchantress from the Stars by Sylvia Engdahl
Jack's Life by Douglas Gresham
The Incredulity of Father Brown by GK Chesterton
In My Place Condemned He Stood by JI Packer, Mark Dever
The Hawk That Dared Not Hunt by Day by Scott O'Dell
Are We Together? by RC Sproul

Praying With Paul by DA Carson
Going Solo by Roald Dahl
White Stallion of Lippizza by Marguerite Henry
Children and the Lord's Supper edited by Ligon Duncan and Guy Waters
The Game by Ken Dryden
Holy Ground by Chris Costaldo
The Painter's Daughter by Julia Klassen
The Ever-Loving Truth by Voddie Baucham
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

Family Baggage by Monica McInerny
Thunder and Rain by Charles Martin
And So To Bed by Adrian Reynolds
Perelandra by CS Lewis
The Invisible Heart by Russell Roberts
Covenantal Apologetics by K. Scott Oliphant
The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin
The Butterfly Cabinet by Bernie McGill
Words from the Fire by R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
Out of the Silent Planet by CS Lewis

Worship by the Book by DA Carson
The Chosen by Chaim Potok
My Antonia by Willa Cather
God and Politics: Four Views on the Reformation of Civil Government edited by Gary Scott Smith
Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson
On Writing Well by William Zinsser
Fidelity by Wendell Berry
How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler
One Child: The Story of China's Most Radical Policy by Mei Fong
Church in Hard Places by Mez McConnell

The Life of Christopher Columbus by Josephine Pollard
The Secret of Father Brown by GK Chesterton
Our Town by Thornton Wilder
The Black Church by Thabiti Anyabwile
Kings Arrow by Douglas Bond
Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard Atwater and Florence Atwater
Same Sex Attraction and the Church by Ed Shaw
Dear Mr. Knightly by Katherine Reay
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert O'Brien
Faith Alone by RC Sproul

The Treasure Seekers by E. Nesbit
The Enemy Within by Kris Lundgaard
The Word Made Flesh: the Ligonier Statement on Christology*
Once and Future King by TH White
Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier
No Adam, No Gospel by Richard Gaffin*
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by JK Rowling
Songs of Jesus by Timothy Keller