Friday, May 6, 2016

Living In the Light: Money, Sex, & Power - Book Review

John Piper's new book Living in the Light: Money, Sex and Power is short, sweet, and right to the point. Though he artfully expands the scope of all three of these potentially dangerous areas of life, he doesn't mince words or go over the reader's head. Furthermore, I was glad to find that his conclusions are spot on and backed up with Scripture.

In a world where these particular areas are often exalted to idol status, it is imperative that believers not compromise what God has revealed in His Word concerning them. The pull can be overwhelming at times, especially when we are accused of being unjust or unrighteous when faced with those compromises. And often times the seeming conclusion is to abandon these good gifts of God altogether. Yet, a swing of the pendulum to the other side is not the biblical answer either.

Mr. Piper is well known for his views on how sex, money, power, and other pleasures of life are essentially all good gifts from God meant to glorify Him and bring good to us and to others.[1] The problem, of course, is in how we use and abuse these good gifts. It can be a difficult at times to discern when one has stepped out of bounds. But, the writer brings us back over and over again to the center -- back to what must be central -- if we are to ever live in the true light of God. Not many Christian self-help books draw you into the focus of where true deliverance may be found, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is refreshing how Piper keeps returning to that focus.

I believe Living in the Light: Money, Sex and Power would be a perfect gift for a wedding or graduation. However, those who are in positions of leadership where these three areas are often a temptation would be especially blessed in reading this little volume. It is a small book at only 154 pages, which also makes it an excellent devotional reader.[2]

[1] See his booDesiring God, Revised Edition: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist.k
[2] This book was expanded from messages given at the Revive meetings held by Co-Mission in the summer of 2015 in Canterbury, England.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Mother's Day: It's Not About You

My beautiful mother:
Connie (Southerland) Litwiller

Mother's Day can mean different things to different people depending on either their relationship to their own mother or on their status of being or not being a mother. If you had a great mom or have been a mother who enjoyed her motherhood, all is well. But, for others, if they've had a painful relationship with their mother and/or children, if they lost their mother, or if they never knew their mother, it can be a little harder to celebrate. 

For women who have been unable to bear children, however, Mother's Day can be almost unbearable. The moment when the pastor has all the mothers stand to be honored is one of the worst tortures their souls endure year after year. Some even stay home from church on Mother's Day because of this practice. I have several friends and loved ones in this category with whom I grieve. Some have suggested that it would be best if pastors not perform this ceremony, and I know churches which have also foregone the traditional mother/daughter banquet for the same reason.

Another solution I have heard is to not set aside any days for honoring anyone in particular. Though honoring mothers has been traced back to Greek culture and there was the medieval British practice of observing Mother's Sunday on the fourth Sunday in Lent, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Grandparent's Day, and all the other "Days" -- which were set up at first by well-meaning people and later by florists and greeting card companies -- are largely a modern phenomena. I have written regarding the history of Mother's Day, and I believe it was begun with the best of intentions. And, since we are told in the Word of God to give honor to whom honor is due, I don't believe there is any reason to abandon Mother's Day as long as we focus on the purpose for it.[2][3]

It is interesting to note that the woman who was most influential in establishing a national celebration of mothers was herself an unmarried woman who never had children. 

Anna May Jarvis,
founder of Mother's Day
Anna May Jarvis, a graduate of the Female Seminary in Wheeling, West Virginia, left her career as a school teacher and spent most of her single adult life caring for her ailing mother and sister. In 1907, two years after her mother's death, Miss Jarvis gathered a group of friends and announced her idea to encourage a day for people to show appreciation for their mothers, both the living and the dead. [1]
Miss Jarvis never intended to slight others of her type who were never granted the joys of motherhood. In fact, she never intended for it to be a celebration of Motherhood at all. This concept of exalting Motherhood has almost become an idolatry in the modern conservative church and perhaps has led to the kind of misguided rituals practiced around that day in our services.

I believe the only solution would be to return to the original purpose for Mother's Day: to honor our mothers, both living and dead. Rather than having all the mothers stand in the service, perhaps it would be more in keeping with the intention of the day for ministers to simply offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God for our mothers and to pray He would bless and keep those who are still with us.

In addition, just as those who honored their mothers in Miss Jarivis' day, perhaps we could reinstitute the practice on Mother's Day of wearing a red carnation if one's mother is living and a white one if she has passed on. My own mother's people used to do this with red and white roses. It was a lovely emblem of the love and honor they had for their mothers.

But, you might ask, what about those who never had a good relationship with their mother or never knew their mother at all? This is where the Body of Christ may shine the brightest. In the family of God, no one is barren and no one is abandoned. Mother's Day is a perfect time to honor those surrogate mothers who have nurtured and blessed us in the absence of or in addition to our own mothers.

Because of this, I don't believe mother/daughter banquets need to be abandoned either. In my experience, the conundrum of either not having a mother or a daughter to take to the banquet was usually only a challenge to seek out a substitute who would be blessed by being invited. I remember some people bringing aunts, school teachers, neighbors, or friends who were like a mother to them growing up. If viewed this way, mother/daughter banquets need not be a source of pain for anyone but rather a celebration of the gift of nurture by the mothering women in our lives.

I truly believe that if we could only restore Mother's Day to its rightful purpose of honoring our own mothers and those who nurtured us like mothers, it would once again be a day of joy and blessing to one and all. Furthermore, it would be a day of giving glory to God for giving us these precious women who love and care for us. May the Lord bless us with clear understanding and wise discernment in the church for how to glorify Him in honoring our mothers once again.

[1] From my blog post of May 9, 2008, A Short History of Mother's Day In America.
[2] Romans 13:7
[3] A very good article regarding the history of the establishment of Mother's Day in America may be found here:

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Pitchin' a Fit - Book Review

When I first saw Pitchin' A Fit!: Overcoming Angry and Stressed-Out Parenting announced on the Family Renewal Facebook page, I knew I had to read it for several reasons. Though I have completed my years as a parent, I didn't want to make the same mistakes with our grandchildren I had made as a parent. Also, younger parents often come to me looking for godly counsel, and parenting is one of the main subjects on this blog. It is an awesome responsibility which I do not take lightly, so I knew I had to read this book.

Israel and Brook Wayne are a couple I have admired for a long time. In fact, I remember when their marriage was announced in his mother's magazine, Homeschool Digest. Learning from Israel's family, watching his life over these many years, and getting to know both him and his wife over the past few years through social media, I knew I could trust them to tell the truth in love. I was not disappointed.

Sure enough, as I worked through Pitchin' A Fit, memories flooded my mind of all my failures both past and present. I knew anger in parenting was something I had struggled with for a long time. I thought it was a necessary part of parenting, that it was good for kids to see an angry authority once in awhile so they would understand the wrath of God against sin. I blush to even admit that!

I have since learned and had it confirmed by reading this book that this way of thinking is not biblical at all. It was only foolish pride that made me think my sinful passions represented a holy and just God. And, to make matters worse, I was portraying an entirely wrong view of God to my children and grandchildren.

By the grace of God I had already been made aware of the culture of anger in which I was reared as a child prior to reading this book. I began to see that how others made me feel when they were angry was how I was making them feel when I was angry, and God broke my heart over it. Now He has used this book, Pitchin' A Fit, to continue that process of making me aware of my sin of anger.

I appreciate the humble and loving way in which Israel and Brook teach on this subject. They do so from experience, both in how they have struggled with anger and also how they have been affected by it in others. Truly, the testimony of Israel Wayne and his family as given in this book makes it worth reading for that alone. By all accounts, Israel should not be writing a book on Christian parenting at all, let alone on angry parenting. Were it not for God's grace in his life, he would be only another statistic in the number of angry, abusive parents who were abused by an angry, abusive parent. His testimony and Brook's examples of how God has worked in her own heart in this matter give hope to those of us who also struggle.

Yet, the authors not only give counsel from their own experiences regarding anger in parenting but also offer Scripture proofs. Israel and Brook have learned these truths from the Word of God themselves and use it thoroughly and accurately to bring them home to the reader in a gentle and loving way.

I encourage all parents, grandparents, teachers, and anyone else who has children in their care to read this little book with an open mind and a prayerful heart. It is never too late to begin afresh in the grace of God. So much damage in our homes and future homes could be averted if we would only take counsel from God's word.