Satisfied. Waiting.

Grace satisfies our heart with answers to prayer while we wait for the ultimate answerby Greg Lucas /

One of the longest patterns of recurring intercessory prayer in my life has been directed at a single goal: that my teenage son might be able to speak. If I could heal just one aspect of his condition, if I could give just one gift to address his many ailments, it would be the gift of speech. Most of his frustration, and much of our collective family frustration, comes from Jake’s inability to communicate effectively on a regular basis.

Sometimes we don’t know Jake is sick until he is very sick. We don’t know how badly he is injured until bones show up broken on an X-ray. We don’t know he is sad until he begins to cry uncontrollably. We don’t know he is angry until the remote control, or his eyeglasses, or a soft drink flies across the room and crashes against the wall.

At home, these forms of miscommunication are burdensome and exhausting. Out in public they can be downright dreadful and even dangerous. So, for years, I have prayed that God would give my son a voice.

I long for my son to have peace in his frustrated heart. I also wish for tranquility in my sometimes discouraged household. But one of my greatest yearnings on earth is to have a deep conversation with Jake. This is just one of the things that, for me, will make heaven especially sweet. I have so many things I want to tell him and, more importantly, so many things I want to hear from his heart.

I have waited and waited for God to answer this prayer. At times it seems like heaven is brass to my plea. But the longer I live the more I realize that in God’s merciful ways and grace-filled applications he has sent me many answers, even as I wait for the ultimate answer.

I asked God specifically to give Jake words. God graciously granted five.

Jake’s entire spoken vocabulary consists of “Dah-dah” for Daddy, “Momma” for Mommy, “Maw-maw” for his grandmother, “Dad-dad” for his grandfather, and “Ho-ho-ho” for, you guessed it, Santa Claus. And yes, we hear about Santa Claus all year round, and we encourage and cherish this because it is an answer to my prayer.

Beyond those five vocal expressions there are no other words in Jake’s audible vocabulary. But there are some necessary signs. Jake can sign words like Jesus, Bible, shoes, play, please, sorry, candy, drink, and eat.

There is also some very beautiful singing. Jake loves to stand in church with an open hymnal—or anywhere, for that matter—and sing. His singing consists of one long baritone note that he can hold for a surprisingly long time. Over and over and over. It sounds a lot like Gregorian chant.

He also loves to carry a Bible and pretend he is reading, using the same long baritone sound that he sings with. Because he is standing and holding a Bible instead of a hymnal, perhaps he is preaching. God knows what’s going on there, even if I do not.

Then there are the precious ways Jake communicates affection physically. When he is happy and wants to show his love, he hugs. As our 4-year-old daughter would say, “He squeezes the choke out of me.”

For our daughter, being embraced by her much larger brother is more like a headlock than a hug. This can be confusing for a little girl who loves her disabled brother very much, but doesn’t completely understand why discomfort has to come along with his expression of affection. Actually, Jake intends for his hugs to be a sort of headlock, because his goal in wrapping his arms around your neck is to lower your head and finish the hug by placing his mouth directly on your hair in the form of a big, wet kiss. Jake has always had oral-sensitivity-stimulation issues with hair.

Wrestling With an Angel; A Story of Love, Disability and the Lessons of Grace, by Greg LucasSo while Jake’s hugs can be a little messy, somewhat confusing, often very loud, and even a little painful, when you leave our house with a sore neck and a big wet spot on the top of your head, you know you are loved.

Finally, there is God’s gift of electronic communication devices. Jake uses a handheld computer with a picture touch-screen that can communicate all kinds of phrases. When talking on the phone with him you might hear a mechanical voice saying: “I love you,” “I miss you,” “I want to go to Maw-maw’s house,” or “Is it almost time for Santa Claus to come?”

For me, all of this illustrates the difference between an answer to prayer and the answer to prayer.

Our sovereign Lord has the ability to grant anything we ask at any time. He is generous and kind and loving and cares for us beyond our wildest imaginations. We can be assured that when we are genuinely hungry and ask for food, he will give us bread and fish, not stones and snakes. But sometimes, if we ask for steak and shrimp, bread and fish may not seem like the answer we were looking for.

I think the appetizer is meant to increase our desire for the main course. Such has been the case in my own prayer life. My heavenly Father, in his infinite wisdom, has answered all my prayers for Jake—with glimpses of the greatness to come. He has granted a foretaste of his glory by revealing the shadow of his coming blessings.

We still live in a fallen, sin-stained world. Even the best things here are mere silhouettes of what God has in store for us on that day when sin is no more. But we can be assured of this—he has more in store for us than we could ever think to ask for.

greg-and-jake-2015-blog-crop-for-webThe full answers to our prayers and the full glory of God’s blessings will only come in eternity—and then they will last for eternity. But for now, informed by Scripture, and full of godward faith and biblical hope, our anticipation of what’s to come protects us from trusting in the temporal things by keeping us longing for the eternal things. In this life it is vital and necessary that, to one degree or another, we remain dissatisfied. The tension is that, here, all our prayers are answered, but all our prayers also await ultimate answers.

Today I communicate with my son through a few important words, some necessary signs, a sophisticated electronic device, and some rather charismatic body language. God has given me an answer to my prayer.

But I dream of a day when Jake and I sit quietly and stare into each other’s eyes for a long, precious moment. Broad smiles flash across our faces in silent communication of overwhelming joy. It’s a smile shared only by the close bond and affection of fathers and sons.

Then the silence is broken by Jake’s voice, “Dad, there are so many things I have wanted to tell you.”

“I know, son. I know.”

This is the answer to my prayer. And it will be worth the wait.


Lucas

Greg Lucas is a husband, the father of four, a police officer in West Virginia, and a graduate of Boyce College. This post is adapted from chapter six of  his book, Wrestling with an Angel: A Story of Love, Disability, and the Lessons of Grace. He continues to blog about Jake and other subjects.

The Ingredients of Family Discipleship

THE INGREDIENTS OF FAMILY DISCIPLESHIP (3)

by Tad Thompson

Almost every evening around ten o’clock, I am drawn downstairs from the family room to our kitchen with a gnawing craving for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. This is one of my favorite moments of the day. Waiting there in the pantry, simply for my indulgence, is a homemade loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, a little bear-shaped squeeze-bottle full of honey, and a bag of potato chips. The other necessities await me in the fridge: an ice-cold carton of milk and cherry jelly.

Most evenings this ritual plays out perfectly, except for those rare, sad times when some key ingredient is missing. I can live without the chips or the honey, but every so often there is no milk, or we are low on peanut butter, and my hopes for the perfect PB&J vanish.

Some ingredients are simply necessary. This is one reason why I find cooking shows to be an exercise in frustration. When these chef-gurus prance out into their professional kitchens—the kind missing the one wall where the TV cameras go—all the latest high-end culinary equipment is at their disposal. They know things about preparing food that we mortals cannot grasp. Worst of all, they regularly cook with ingredients that have never once been on any shelf in my local supermarket. What is the point of showing people how to cook with ingredients they don’t have? Without the right ingredients, everyone knows that a recipe is useless.

Maybe you feel a similar frustration when you hear a pastor announce that it is primarily your responsibility to disciple your children. Perhaps you have inventoried your spiritual pantry of biblical knowledge and, if you are honest, it is not as well-stocked as it needs to be. You know you need ready access to fresh, useful spiritual ingredients if your children are to become, as the psalmist wrote, men and women who set their hope in God. But you’re not quite sure what those ingredients are, where to get them, or how to prepare them.[Tweet “As parents, the call to family #discipleship only ends when we die. #parenting”]

Tell you what, let’s go to the supermarket—a really nice one. It’s a supermarket of biblical truth. As we stroll the aisles and review the wares, you are probably going to feel overwhelmed. There is so much your children need to be taught! That’s OK. Embrace that feeling. Your sense of helplessness will push you to rely on the grace of God as you take the exciting journey of family discipleship.

Perhaps your children are not exactly children anymore. If so, remember that your call to family discipleship only ends when you die. You have a lifetime to cultivate truth in the hearts of your children. Even when they are adults with their own families, you should lovingly and prayerfully encourage your children in their walk with Jesus. The nature of the parental role changes as our children mature, but its essence does not, and we are called to steward faithfully all the days the Lord has entrusted to us.

As we walk through the supermarket of biblical content, I want to show you seven “aisles”—seven categories—of biblical truth. Thinking in categories helps us to understand and teach God’s Word clearly. Imagine a supermarket that stocked its shelves randomly. Trying to find a particular item in aisle after aisle of jumbled chaos would be a nightmare. In a similar way, approaching the Bible without appropriate categories will often produce a certain bewilderment. But categories help us think and teach far more effectively.[Tweet “Learn the 7 key ingredients of biblical #discipleship. #parenting”]

Theologians have worked for centuries to compile the biblical data into accessible categories. The seven key categories covered in Intentional Parenting are:

  • The Gospel
  • The Big Story (Biblical Theology)
  • The Big Truths (Systematic Theology)
  • The Great Commission
  • Spiritual Disciplines
  • Christian Living
  • Worldview

Yes, it’s a formidable list. Yet it helps create a manageable structure, ways of thinking about how and what you ought to pass along to your children. In fact, if you will commit to learn from each of these seven categories, you will have all the right ingredients at your fingertips for a lifetime of fruitful learning and teaching.

An adapted excerpt from Intentional Parenting: Family Discipleship by Design, by Tad Thompson. Click here to learn more and read another sample.[Tweet “This looks like a good way to create a structure for family #discipleship. #parenting”]  
Intentional Parenting; Family Discipleship by Design, by Tad Thompson

 

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Street-Level Apologetics

STREET-LEVEL APOLOGETICS

by Joe Coffey

There are two basic ways to discuss your faith with non-Christians. You can testify to what Jesus has done in your own life—how Christ has changed you through the gospel and what being a Christian has meant for you, your family, your church life, etc. That’s the “fruit” side.

The other way is to talk about why Christianity makes sense.

Almost any substantive conversation you might have with unbelievers about Christianity will touch on both topics. And the fact is that we would probably talk a lot more with unbelievers about how we have been changed if we felt we could talk more freely, confidently, and intelligently about why our faith makes sense.

What we need are some basic tools for use in street-level apologetics. After all, faith in Jesus really does make perfect sense, and you don’t need to be a scientist, an historian, an archaeologist, or a philosopher to understand why.

This was the “equipping mission” that pastor and author Joe Coffey took on when he decided to write Smooth Stones: Bringing Down the Giant Questions of Apologetics. He says the book exists for two reasons.

First, too many people think that believing in Christianity means blind faith, against all evidence, the way a child believes in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Second, every few years a new book intended to undermine Christianity becomes a bestseller and shakes the faith of many. Yet the arguments in these books are rarely compelling.

In Smooth Stones, therefore, Joe Coffey gives Christians a simple introduction to the plausibility of Christian faith. He examines six key questions:

  1. Is there a God?
  2. Does science disprove God’s existence?
  3. Is the Bible authentic and true?
  4. Why is there evil and suffering?
  5. Aren’t all religions the same?
  6. Is Jesus for real?

Joe acknowledges that the most important thing is to be able to discuss the “fruit” part of our experience, because that’s where the core of our faith lies. But most of us are especially weak the on the “makes sense” part. Again, why are we weak? Most often, it probably comes down to the fact that we don’t feel equipped to say anything intelligent—so we say nothing, for fear that our bumbling will just make things worse.

Smooth Stones can unmuzzle you to start to speak freely about your faith with confidence and clarity. Click here to read the Introduction and all of Chapter 3: “Is the Bible Reliable and True?”

Smooth Stones; Bringing Down the Giant Questions of Apologetics, by Joe Coffey

 

 

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(This article was adapted from one that originally appeared on challies.com.)

The Freedom of Personal Delights

The Freedom of Personal Delights (2)

The Freedom of Personal Delights

The atoning work of the Son of God gives God’s adopted children great freedom: we come alive to God’s lavish love through a new legal status as adopted sons and daughters of the living God. But through adoption, we also receive personal delights that propel us forward into a missional way of life.

The Freedom to Delight in Subjective Wonder

Our objective status as adopted children should lead us to subjective (experiential) wonder, as we saturate ourselves and marinate in these great truths of how much God loves us. Our legal rights are intended to become personal delights. Adoption is not just a great doctrine to be intellectually understood as a part of good systematic theology. It’s meant to rock our world, to move us to “palm up” adoration and worship of such a God who would love such a people like you and me. The objective reality of our adoption should generate within us an unspeakable joy—one that brings much glory to God.

Paul shows us what this looks like in Ephesians 3:14-19. In this text we discover how adoption brings us into a process of being re-parented by the only perfect Father. In the original Greek, the passage begins like this, “For this reason, I kneel before the Father, from whom all Fatherhood derives its name.” Paul literally says that adoption is critical because there is only one Father who can deconstruct every earthly illusion about fatherhood. No human father can ever fill the Abba-shaped vacuum in our heart. And no human father can ever abuse, ignore, abandon, or wound us so badly that we cannot become alive and healthy through relationship with God as our Father. There is only one perfect Father, and we get to know him only through the gospel of his grace.[Tweet “Divine adoption yields personal delights that propel us into missional living. (@ScottyWardSmith)”]

Sigmund Freud said we created the notion of “father” and projected it upon God, but Paul says exactly the opposite, that the very category of “father” comes from God to us. Our heavenly Father is the Father from whom all Fatherhood derives its meaning. And this Father loves us so much that he has given us his only begotten Son to make us his adopted sons and daughters.

As Paul pondered the greatness of our Father and the glories of our adoption in Christ, he broke into a prayer in which he asked God to give us the power we need to experience the multi-dimensional love we have been given in Jesus—a love, Paul says, that is so great it surpasses knowledge. Even throughout eternity we will never exhaust our knowledge of God’s love, and yet we are called to grow in our experience of this love on a daily basis. As we come alive to the Father who loves as no other father does, we are re-parented into that knowledge.[Tweet “Freud: we created “father” and projected it on God. Paul: that’s backwards! (@ScottyWardSmith)”]

The Freedom to Delight in Gospel Transformation

Indeed, adoption grants us the freedom to come more and more alive to our Father’s lavish love. But this is no mere selfish experience or religious high. God’s love is a transforming love. Consider 1 John 3:1-3, where the apostle John positions himself like Paul, with astonishment, and bids us join in his astonishment:

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.

We must read these words with a certain degree of humble incredulity, because who could be more unlikely to be called the children of God but you and me? But that’s just the point: we are declared to be God’s children legally. It’s something God has done for us in full view of our ill-deserving condition. But now, as we come alive to the radical implications of our adoption, we begin to live a whole new life. Such lavish love propels us into godly living. The indicatives of our adoption lead to the imperatives of transformation. Only the gospel gives us the motivation and power to please God from the heart—to offer our Father the obedience of faith and love. Only gospel astonishment will lead to gospel transformation.[Tweet “Christians are the only people who don’t have to pretend about anything. (@ScottyWardSmith)”]

The Freedom to Delight in Safe Vulnerability

Lastly, we consider a freedom that binds all these personal delights of adoption together: the freedom of never having to pose or pretend about anything before God. We are given the freedom of crying “Abba, Father” in our brokenness, our joy, our sadness, our suffering, our prodigality, our elder-brother self-righteousness. Christians are the only people on the planet who do not have to pretend about anything.

Even when we violate our peace with God through selfishness, we have freedom to cry out to him, to crawl into his lap, to be made whole. This is why we must continually preach the gospel to our hearts and to one another. Only in the assurance of God’s love for us as Abba will we surrender all the chaos, weariness, brokenness, and longings of our hearts to him.


An excerpt from Chapter 6, “The Freedom of Adoption,” by Scotty Smith, in Reclaiming Adoption: Missional Living Through the Rediscovery of Abba Father, Dan Cruver, Editor.

Reclaiming Adoption; Missional Living Through the Rediscovery of Abba Father, by Dan Cruver

Anchored in Grace: Help us choose the book cover

anchored compressed 1

by Kevin

The cover contest is now closed, but you’re still welcome to comment. We ended up choosing C, and we really appreciate everyone’s opinion. Wish we could make all of you happy… Congrats to Barry Standley for winning two free ebooks!

Jeremy Walker is a blogger with Reformation 21, a pastor in West Sussex, England, and a writer who has clearly marinated his heart and soul in Scripture and the works of the Puritans. He has also written a wonderful little book for us that together we have decided to call Anchored in Grace: Fixed Truths for Humble Faith. It’s coming out in June (there was supposed to be a May book but getting this website in shape threw us off track a little), and we could use your help finalizing the cover.

Here are the three leading candidates, in quick mockup form, using watermarked (no pun intended) images.

These images may seem small, but the fact is that with the prevalence of online retailing, if a cover doesn’t work at 2 inches high it doesn’t work at all. So, which one do you think we should go with, and why? Please leave your comments and your vote. We may not end up choosing the cover that gets the most votes, but we are very interested in your thoughts. Also, after a couple of days we will pick one of you at random and offer you your choice of any two ebook titles, in either Mobipocket (Kindle), EPUB (iOS), or PDF.[Tweet “Help pick the cover for @Reformation21 blogger Jeremy Walker’s book. Might win 2 other books!”]

While you’re here, you might like to get a sense of what this book will be like. So feel free to take a look at the draft introduction below, complete with British spellings (for now). Or visit the book page, where you can also preorder.

Click read the draft Introduction

INTRODUCTION

In his great treatment of spiritual warfare, The Christian in Complete Armour, the Puritan author William Gurnall speaks of what he calls “catechize-points.” These, he says, are “truths necessary to be known and believed.”[i] The truths upon which I wish to focus in this short book provide us with a stunning display of grace. They are truths which with Christians need to be thoroughly acquainted, truths with which pastors must thoroughly acquaint the people whom they serve. These are the paths to walk so that you do not miss your way to heaven, nor fail to honour the Lord God along the way. These are the anchor points of the faith that mature Christians need to point out to the generations following us. These are spiritual realities to reckon with. These are the gospel verities that must be defended against the errors and heresies that repeatedly threaten to undermine or overwhelm them, either by force or by fraud.

These are central truths. They cannot be pushed to one side or downplayed without restricting our views of God and twisting our views of self. They are determinative, in large measure, for our views of Christian experience, life, duty and joy. They help to define our gospel witness as the church of Jesus Christ. Get these wrong and so much else will be immediately and persistently skewed.

These are humbling truths. They strip away all the boasting to which proud and rebellious man is inclined. With searing honesty they make us face the facts about our own sinful hearts, our spiritual need and our utter dependence on the mercies and favours of God acting freely and graciously in accordance with all his glorious character and infinite being. They are truths that necessarily empty us of self before they fill us with Christ.

These are saving truths. These things are the ground of our hope. Fail to reckon with these things, and there is no deliverance for our souls and bodies. Again, there is a holy progression and a divine logic at work. Like a sick man, we must acknowledge the disease and accept the diagnosis in order to pursue the physician and obtain the medicine. With regard to our souls, we will not flee to Christ as Saviour until we are brought to acknowledge the salvation that we need as found in him alone. Then, and only then, do we run to him and hide ourselves in him and find all our joy.

These are comforting truths. Here the soul—however stained or troubled in itself, however weak and feeble we know ourselves to be or fear ourselves to be, whatever challenges and obstacles we face, whatever trials and temptations lie before us—finds all that it will ever need. Here and here only we can rest in peace.

Finally, these are God-glorifying truths. They exalt God in Christ, they make much of him, they draw attention to his person and they shed light upon his work. Here his being and his doing are made manifest. Nowhere outside of salvation through the Lamb do we find such a high and clear revelation of who God is and what God is like. Here the glory of God shines in his grace as nowhere else, prompting lives of earnest service and songs of ardent praise.

My intention is simply to survey some of these fundamental truths—God’s display of his grace—in order that we might feel their sweet force for ourselves. In each instance, I will take what might be called an ‘epitomising text’—a short portion of God’s Word which encapsulates something of the truth in question. I hope to demonstrate that it is by no means the only Scripture that proves the point, and so to bring to bear something of the whole counsel of God upon the matter. My great concern is both to explain and to apply these truths. My intention is not first to be polemical, but I trust that as we see these truths springing from the pages of our Bibles it will be persuasive, to direct us and confirm us and encourage us in the things that God has made known. We must see that these are not dead letters, but spiritual realities that ought to grip our souls and govern our thoughts and deeds.

In so doing, I trust we shall be instructed, humbled, saved and comforted, and bring glory and honour to the God of our salvation as he holds before us in his word a display of his grace in Christ Jesus, his Son and our Saviour.

[i] William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour, 166.

[Tweet “”Fail to reckon with these things,” says Jeremy Walker, “and there is no deliverance for our souls and bodies.””]

 

The Return of Cruciform Press

The return of Cruciform Press (1)

by Kevin, Tim, and Bob

Welcome to our all-new website and the “return” of Cruciform Press!

No, we never actually went away, but having put up with our original site for much longer than we wanted, we are thrilled to finally offer you a clean and simple e-commerce experience, great new book-display pages, several exciting subscription options, and various other goodies…including this blog.

So here we are, five and a half years after launching with just two books: Sexual Detox, by Tim Challies; and Wrestling with an Angel, by Greg Lucas. Today we offer 37 titles, with five more slated to be released by the end of the year. Every one of them is explicitly gospel-centered, easy to read, and weighing in at right around 100 pages.

We insist on keeping our books short, clear, and to the point for a couple of reasons.

  • First, the internet has made us all accustomed to reading more, but at the same time we’ve been trained to want things quick, fast, bite-size. This isn’t necessarily a good thing, but neither is it going to change anytime soon. We decided to accept that reality and give people the theological truth they need in small, inspiring, accessible packages.
  • The second reason is partially related to the first: Even when you love reading books, most of us are so busy (with ministry, church, school, work, marriage, family, or all of the above) that it seems like we don’t have much opportunity. At the same time, many of the best Christian titles, whether from a few years or a few centuries ago, can be long and often repetitive, making it hard to commit to plowing through them.

That’s why we’re all about consistency. If a book is from us, you can be sure it’s not only the same dimensions and price as all the others, it’s also right around 100 pages in length and featuring solid, gospel-focused theology in writing that we strive to make accessible to everyday people. And just so it’s super-easy for you to get good material on a regular basis, we offer subscriptions that deliver you six books a year for the lowest possible price.

It comes down to this: with Cruciform, you can keep growing and deepening your faith and your understanding of the gospel with minimal expense and in small chunks of time, efficiently used.[Tweet “Cruciform Press is “back” with an all-new website and some great features!”]

So while you’re here, please take a look around. Get to know the great features and options we’ve made available for you on this website, and consider signing up for the newsletter or taking advantage of one of our subscription offerings.

Thanks for helping us celebrate the return of Cruciform Press!