Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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A PRAYER FOR ADVENT

Advent is what we call the season leading up to Christmas. Each year, Advent begins four Sundays before December 25. This year it will be December 2 to December 24.  Advent means the coming of Christ.  It is the celebration of the first advent of Jesus, and the anxious awaiting of His second. During the next four weeks we will be preparing our hearts to remember the first coming of Jesus through reading, music, teaching, etc., while at the same time looking forward in eager anticipation to His promised second coming. The season is a time for remembering and rejoicing, watching and waiting, and a time to reflect upon the promises of God and to anticipate the fulfillment of those promises.
How are you going to prepare your hearts this Advent season when there is so much pressure – shopping, Christmas events (parties, concerts, etc.), sending Christmas cards or writing family Christmas letters, gifts buying, travel, family gatherings, house decorating – and on and on. We can get exhausted and defeated even thinking about it. Without a doubt, there are many things that can distract us from what most matters during this season.
My wife Tammy and I love the Christmas season. Over the past few years we’ve made it a practice to choose a book of Advent devotional readings each year. In year’s past we have read John Piper’s The Dawning of Indestructible Joy: Daily Readings for Advent and his Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent, Nancy Guthrie’s Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room: Daily Family Devotions for Advent, and last year we chose Paul Tripp’s Come, Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional. This year, we will read Sinclair Ferguson’s new book Love Came Down at Christmas: Daily Readings for Advent.  We also both love to listen to Christmas music, both Christian and traditional holiday favorites. My favorite Christmas song is “O Holy Night”. Songs such as that truly draw our hearts to the Lord.
Let’s pray:
Father in Heaven, we pause this morning as we begin the Advent season. We are so thankful for the sacrifice of your only Son, Jesus Christ. He willingly came to earth to humble himself by becoming a man and pay the price for our sins.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21

We are thankful for the price being paid once and for all.
Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow

Help us to focus on Christ this Advent season when there are so many things, even good things, that can distract us from Him and why He came to this earth.  He came once to save us from our sins and He will come again to gather His people into His Kingdom.
We pray that many – family, friends, neighbors, co-workers – will be drawn to Jesus this season. Prepare our hearts to remember His first coming as we anxiously wait for His promised final return.

In Jesus name,
Amen.

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Two New Excellent Advent Resources to Help You Prepare Your Hearts for Christmas

There are two excellent resources that have recently been released that I want to recommend for your use this Advent season. They are Sinclair Ferguson’s new book Love Came Down at Christmas: Daily Readings for Advent and Matt Maher’s new album The Advent of Christmas. Below are my reviews of each.
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Living a Life of Thankfulness


I’ve read a lot of books about prayer, including a few about “The Lord’s Prayer”. Probably the best book I’ve read on prayer is Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Tim Keller. In that book Keller states that there are many different ways to organize our prayers. I often use the ACTS method for my prayers. In ACTS, the “A” stands for adoration, “C” stands for confession, “T” stands for thanksgiving and “S” stands for supplication, or request. Many times I’ve found that our prayers jump right to supplication. I like the ACTS model because it starts with adoration.
I want to address the “T” in ACTS – thanksgiving. The Bible tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). I think being thankful is an aspect of prayer that we (or at least I) tend to overlook. I think thankfulness and contentment tend to go together, when we are thankful we are also content. What would it look like if we lived a life of thankfulness? Here are five great verses from the Bible about being thankful:

  • Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever! 1 Chronicles 16:34
  • And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15
  • And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Colossians 3:17
  • Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. Colossians 4:2
  • Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6

I recently enjoyed spending some time thinking about what I am thankful for, the blessings in my life. Here are a few of them:

  1. Being saved through Christ (salvation).
  2. My immediate family – wife, parents, brother, sister, and my extended family.
  3. State Farm for a nearly 38-year career and all of the wonderful people I worked with.
  4. Our dog Molly, an Alaskan Malamute.
  5. Our church, pastors, elders and deacons.
  6. Covenant Seminary.
  7. Our home.
  8. The Bible and other good books to read.
  9. Music to listen to.
  10. Watching movies.
  11. Good health.
  12. Friends.
  13. St. Louis Cardinal baseball.
  14. Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul.
  15. God’s creation.

Take some time and reflect on what you are thankful for in your life and click on ‘Leave a comment’ to let us know.


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A Prayer for Thanksgiving Day


Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise!
For the Lord is a great God,
and a great King above all gods

Psalm 95: 2-3

 

Heavenly Father, we have once again come to the holiday season, beginning with Thanksgiving Day. As I get older, it’s incredible how fast time flies. And I’ve been told by many that life will just continue to move faster and faster! Help me to live each day for You and enjoy each day, not always looking to what is next.
For some, Thanksgiving Day is all about a few days off of work, eating turkey, watching football and stores opening early for “Black Friday” deals. Just thinking about all of the work to prepare a large meal, and the idea of all of the responsibilities and activities of the Christmas season ahead can be quite overwhelming. Help us Father to focus on those things that are most important, and not get pulled into all that the world expects of us during this time of year.
For some, there will be the joy of hugging beloved family members that we only get to see a few times a year. We pray for great celebrations as we share stories of what You are doing in our lives. For others, however, thinking of seeing family members may be stirring up feelings of anxiety because of past hurts and pain. We pray for renewed and healed relationships that only You can facilitate.
And yet for others, Thanksgiving may be a sad and lonely day because loved ones are gone and the day will be spent by yourself. We pray that they can reach out to other lonely people in kindness.  We acknowledge Father, that for some of us, the holidays are the best time of the year, and yet for others they are the absolute worst, and we can’t wait for them to be over. We pray for those for whom Thanksgiving and the Christmas season will be sad and lonely, and ask that You would provide divine opportunities for us to bless others during this time of the year.
For Christians, we know that we have much to be thankful for. At the top of that list is the gift of Your Son, who You sent to save us. May we use this season to prepare our hearts to celebrate his birth.
We are thankful for all that you have blessed us with, including our families and friends, health, jobs and homes.

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;
I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
Psalm 9:1

Thank you, Father, for all that You have blessed us with. We pray for safe travels for the many who will be traveling to see family over the coming days.
Please cultivate in our hearts a spirit of gratitude and contentment.
In Jesus’ precious name we pray, Amen.

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through Him.  
Colossians 3:17


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Baby Journey

This is the journey of our niece Jana and her husband Tony, in her own words.  We’re sharing it in hopes of encouraging other couples longing to be parents.  May God bless you with full quivers!

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lordthe fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!  Psalm 127:3-5

Four things:
1. Infertility sucks
2. We’re pregnant
3. With triplets
4. All boys

Yep, you read that right.

These last four years, Tony and I have been on a journey. It’s been a journey of hope, disappointment, renewed hope, more disappointment, a little less hope, more disappointment, even less hope…you get the idea. It’s been painful. But it’s taught us many things and grown us in unbelievable ways. Everyone waits at one time or another—we aren’t unique in that—but we’d like to think our story can help give others some hope, so we decided to share here.

We began trying for a baby 4 years ago. Since then, we’ve gone through 4 rounds of IUI (intrauterine insemination), 4 rounds of IVF (in vitro fertilization), 1 early miscarriage, and taken over a thousand medications. Here’s what we got from those four years of struggle:
· We learned our hope can’t lie in things here on this earth or in this life; our hope can only lie in our Savior.
· We learned patience… man, have we learned patience.
· We learned that money isn’t nearly as important as we thought.
· We learned to focus our time and resources on things that truly matter. Wasting either of those on insignificant things just isn’t worth it.
· We learned just a little bit about suffering. We hope it’s made us better equipped to deal with it in the future, and we also hope to be able to help others in their suffering as well.
· We learned the importance of surrounding yourself with good people. They’ll be the ones helping you over the hurdles of life. Lucky for us, we have THE BEST friends and family, and have had the best support system anyone could ever ask for.
· We’ve learned so much more about one another. But more importantly, we have deepened our relationships with Christ, who ultimately taught us to rely on him and trust that He has a plan for us.
If all that learning was all we’d gotten from those four years of struggle, it would have been worth it. And truly, at the end of those four years, we’d reached a place of contentment and acceptance.

But we decided we would take one last shot at having a baby before moving on to adoption. We put all of our energy (and money) into one last round of IVF at the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine in Denver CCRM, a clinic we’d been told was one of the absolute best (thanks Deana Jackson!). We didn’t want to have any regrets when we moved on. So we went to Colorado, and in September, we finally got the news that we were pregnant. We knew this time felt different than the ones before, but not wanting to get our hopes up, we anxiously waited the three weeks for the sonogram that would confirm there really was a baby in there. That’s when the sonographer shared the news that we had three (!!!) healthy babies. And in case that wasn’t wild enough, they’re all boys, one fraternal twin and two identical twins. As overwhelmed and TERRIFIED as we are, we are over the moon excited. During these last four years we have been abundantly provided for and incredibly blessed by the Lord and our support system (physically, emotionally and financially). We know that we couldn’t have gotten through it all without the prayers of our friends and family; we just wish maybe you all hadn’t prayed quite so hard. 😉 Kidding! But if there’s anything we’ve learned through this process, it’s that we can get through anything if we lean in to the lessons God has taught us and rely on the people he’s given us.#Thebigthree #thisreallyisus


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A Prayer for Election Day

Father in Heaven, I come to you today, the day before the mid-term elections. I’ve been feeling a lot of anxiety about this election. It seems like it’s been talked about for a long time. I’ve been checking polls today and watching my cable news network of choice to get an idea of how things will go. There is so much at stake in tomorrow’s elections. I don’t ever remember such interest in a mid-term election. When I voted early last week, I heard that there was record turnout for early voting. Thank you for a country in which we have the freedom to vote.
Father, I feel strongly about certain issues, but I know that you have many who follow you that take the opposite side on issues that I do. Isn’t it interesting that believers can read the same Bible and be so divided on many key issues in our country? But isn’t that the same with your churches? We have the same Bible but so many different denominations and churches in our country.
Our country is so divided at this time, more so than I can ever remember. Father, help me to love friends, family and church members who will vote differently than I will in this election. Help me to guard my words, and grant me humility to understand that I don’t always have it right. Give me a teachable spirit. Continue to teach me to be obedient to you and not to any particular political party or agenda.

I know that I shouldn’t worry about tomorrow’s election results, or anything for that matter. Paul told us:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

We have no reason to fear what will happen to our country, or to us, if our political party is not in power. Isaiah wrote:
Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

Father, you are sovereign, all-knowing and all powerful. You are in control, not only of the election, but of everything.
Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. (Psalm 135:6)

Father, I know that I have no need to be anxious. Jesus told us:
Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:34)

In Jesus name, Amen.

 


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Much to Be Thankful for This Thanksgiving Season


Let’s face it, there is much to get down about these days. All you have to do is to turn on a cable news channel on any given evening to get you depressed or fearful about any number of things. For months there has been discussion about the upcoming mid-term elections. It seems that we are experiencing more frequent and severe hurricanes. As I write this, the top stories on all news networks is about a number of pipe bomb devices and suspicious packages delivered to those who align on the liberal side of politics and a caravan of thousands making their way to the U.S. border. 11 Jewish people were killed in a synagogue and many others injured.  And the list goes on. It will be something else tomorrow and the next day.
But we don’t have to look at national or global issues. Each of us has things that concern or worry us as well. You may be worried about a key relationship in your life. Perhaps you are worried about losing your job, or maybe you already have. Finances, children, health issues for you or a loved one, the list is almost endless.
So, as we approach the last two months of the year and enter into the holiday season once again, and Thanksgiving in particular, why don’t we take some time to focus on all we have to be thankful for.

Here are a few of the things we can be thankful for:

  1. For believers this list has to start with God and the gift of salvation He has provided for us through His son, Jesus. Even with life’s storms raging in your life, you can hang on to your faith and know that ultimately everything is going to be fine (Romans 8:28). We’re thankful the sun comes up every morning, and His mercies are new with every day dawning.  Lamentations 3:22-23 (quite ironic this uplifting verse is found in the midst of lament!)
  2. Family and Friends. Our families and friends come next. I know that certainly not everyone has had a pleasant experience with their family. Some have a difficult time embracing a heavenly Father when their earthly father was abusive, for example. I was blessed to be raised by wonderful parents who taught me values and made sure I went to church each Sunday. I have a brother and sister that I love dearly. God blessed me with a godly wife, and now I get to enjoy time with an incredible extended family. As an introvert, I’ve never had many close friends. But in my career, I had the opportunity to work with hundreds of wonderful people, many of whom developed into friends.
  3. Our churches are something else to be thankful for. My wife and I have been blessed to be a part of a Bible believing and Christ honoring church now for nearly 24 years. And believe it or not, we have had the same lead pastor for all of those years! A church is another place in which you can make some wonderful life-long friends.
  4. Our Callings. Another thing to be thankful for are the callings God has provided us. Each of us have a portfolio of callings. This would include not only our jobs, but would also include such things as being a spouse, uncle, grandparent, son, etc. We are each uniquely gifted by the Father.

There are many other things that we can be thankful for, not only during this time of year, but each and every day. For example, I’m thankful for good health, finances to provide for my family, God’s creation, Cardinal baseball and our dog Molly. The point of this article is not to ignore the very difficult issues we are facing, but for us to stop, take a breath, and think of the things that God has blessed us with and thank Him for those things.