Monday, November 29, 2010

A Prayer for Today

Over the past few months, since the beginning of the school year, I've been learning the hard lesson on my continual need to open each day in prayer for God's presence and provision, acknowledging his grace. If I don't do so, it's so easy to lose sight of what each day is really all about--glorifying God in a life of transformation and discipleship after Jesus--and instead fret and falter over my performance and acceptance at work. This morning I sat down and wrote out this prayer. While it was originally inspired by a prayer from Timothy S. Lane and Paul David Tripp's excellent book How People Change, some of you may notice it's largely a reflection on Galatians 2:20-21 and the introduction to the Heidelberg Catechism.

"A Prayer for Today"

Good Father, God Almighty,
I thank You for this day, whatever it may bring.
Today greets me full of hope,
Not because I am successful at what I do
Or because people near me appreciate me
Or because circumstances are easy,
But because I am not my own,
But belong--body and soul, in life and in death--
To my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.
He has freed me from a life of performance-based righteousness;
In Him I am freely accepted and loved by Your grace.
His life, death, and resurrection assure me
Of my forgiveness and eternal life.

By His Spirit within me I am set free from sin and my old self.
Christ now dwells within me,
And I am being transformed daily into His glorious image,
Created anew to live out my highest calling:
To glorify You and enjoy You forever.
Insofar as I do this, I am truly alive.

Instead of the futility of trying to perform for You and others
To win acceptance, love, and value,
Or of exalting myself or worshiping vain idols,
I am set free to serve others,
Who are created in Your image and are valuable to You.
I will therefore gladly and generously use all that You give me
Each day to work wholeheartedly for You,
Knowing that it is better to give than to receive.

Make me today, in all I do, a light to others,
Bearing Christ in truth, humility, compassion, and generosity,
And gladly and boldly sharing His gospel.

When I am anxious, I will not be dismayed,
But will turn to You in prayer with thanksgiving,
For You are near and above all earthly powers.
You promise to do all things for my good,
To enable me always to do Your will and to become like Christ.
To look at it any other way is to live a lie.
But to live in truth brings You glory,
And this is my highest form of worship.

Monday, November 22, 2010

"Every baptism is an infant baptism"

Last weekend the local RUF (Reformed University Fellowship, that is, not a ministry for canines) pastor at Virginia Commonwealth University, Peter Rowan, was ordained at our worship service. It was a beautiful and moving event to see a young man step forward to commit his life to guiding people to their Savior through the Word of the gospel. Then, in his first act as an ordained pastor, Peter baptized his infant nephew. Peter started his brief explanation of baptism with this provocative phrase: "In some sense, every baptism is an infant baptism." The sign of baptism, Peter explained, shows that we, like newborn babes, live entirely dependent lives before God, living entirely on what he gives us by grace alone in Christ.

I think this really is a beautiful picture we miss often by too quickly getting on with the business of responding to our baptisms by following Jesus' call to death-and-discipleship. No matter how zealously we follow Jesus and serve his church, we must recognize that every good and every blessing come to us not on account of our faith or our energy for God, but far prior to that. Baptism reminds us that it was "while we were still weak" and powerless like a little child with no strength or skill or virtue to offer, "Christ died for the ungodly" (Romans 5:6). Brennan Manning points out in his book The Ragamuffin Gospel that children are the model citizens of God's kingdom "because they have no claim on heaven. If they are close to God, it is because they are incompetent, not because they are innocent. If they receive anything, it can only be as a gift" (p. 28).