Devotion in Motion: The power of a praying mom

14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.  ~ Acts 1:14 (NKJV)

By Bro. John L. Cash

Dear Anne,

I wanted to write once more to finish up what I’ve been saying in my previous two letters about the nature of adolescent faith. Did you know that your mother worried about your faith when YOU were in middle school? She wanted you to go to some kind of youth meeting on a Saturday morning, and you weren’t having any part of it. So she called me (the local seminarian/youth minister) and told me to come early to the house and wake you up to make you go. She later told me that you said, “That was wrong, Mom. You trapped me into going into the youth rally. You knew I wouldn’t tell John I wasn’t going to go.”

So you see, Anne, over the years, not much has changed with middle-schoolers or moms. And it’s not just that mothers are concerned about the spiritual condition of the children. Mothers exert a tremendous amount of influence on their offspring. I think sometimes they might exert the most powerful human influence of all.

Anne, you know I’m a sucker for a good story out of Christian history. I’ve found that they’re epic lessons for the Christians of today, if you tell them realistically and not spiritualized like the church lady from SNL would tell them. One of my favorite stories is about the boy who grew up to be Saint Augustine (about A.D. 400). You can look up the details for yourself, but Saint Augustine is considered to be one of the most important theologians in all of the Church.  What’s amazing is that when he was young, he wasn’t much different than so many of the kids I meet today.

And (as I tell it) the story goes like this: Once there was a Christian woman named Monica. She had a son named Augustine, and Monica wanted Augustine to love the Lord Jesus as much as she did. Unfortunately, Augustine had his mind on the things of this world. He was arrogant and flippant. He once stole fruit—not because he wanted to eat it but to waste it and to throw it to the pigs.

Augustine loved to mock holy things. And when he was a teenager, he took up with a girlfriend that his parents didn’t approve of and he got her pregnant. The guilt of her son’s illicit union broke his mother’s heart, but Monica began to pray that her son might be converted. Night and day, with many tears, Monica prayed.

Augustine had a friend who was very dear to him.They loved to laugh and make jokes—especially jokes that ridiculed Christians and the Church. (Meanwhile, Monica continued to pray.) One day Augustine’s friend became ill with a terrible fever. His family feared that he was near the point of death, so they called their pastor to baptize the young man on his deathbed.

And, you guessed it. Monica continued to pray.

augustineSometime later, Augustine’s friend began to recover from his sickness. Augustine teased his friend about how ridiculous it was that his parents had him baptized when they feared he was dying. Augustine thought his friend would join in with his coarse jesting (as he always had in past).

But instead he rebuked Augustine and told him that baptism was nothing to joke about. He said God was to be praised and that He had worked a remarkable work in his life. He told Augustine that, if he continued to joke about these holy things, he did not wish to ever speak to him again!

And meanwhile, Monica continued to pray….

Augustine was shocked and puzzled at his friend’s admonition. A few days later (before the two could discuss the situation again), Augustine’s friend was stricken again with the fever. And then the young man died.

Augustine was inconsolable at the loss of his friend, and his friend’s dying words made him aware of his own wretched spiritual peril. Augustine turned to the Saviour. He served Him faithfully all the days of his life. Monica’s prayers had been answered.

Dearest Anne, at one time or another, parenthood is the most worry-inducing job in the universe. But it’s a comfort to know that so many of the stories in Christian history have happy endings. So don’t ever give up—because God never gives up on any of us. Just keep on being the great mom that you are.

And while you’re at it, don’t forget to be a Monica.

Blessings,

Brother John

john l cashDr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 29 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days has a desk-job at a public school, where he used to teach Latin on closed-circuit-television.) He and his lovely wife, Susan, live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where the Preacher had to cancel a trip to a meeting this week because the roads iced over.) Their kids include Spencer (age 23), his wife Madeline (age 23), and Seth (age 20).

Devotion in Motion: Open letter to a middle-school mom, Part 3

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,

9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.                                  

Ephesians 2:8, 9 (NKJV)

By Bro. John L. Cash

Dear Anne,

In this, my third letter, I want to continue with my comments about nurturing “the faith of adolescents.”  And I’ve been thinking;  perhaps the best way to do that is to write a bit about the nature of faith in general.

Take a look at today’s Scripture text (at the top):

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,

9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.  Ephesians 2:8, 9 (NKJV)

Now, that statement seems easy enough on the surface.  But when look at it a little more closely and take it apart, you’ve got some important theological decisions to make.  I think that the easiest way to show what I’m thinking about is to turn it into a multiple-choice test question.

In this passage, St. Paul says “for by grace you have been saved through faith, and THAT not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” In this sentence the word “THAT” refers to:

GRACE

SALVATION

FAITH

ALL OF THE ABOVE

[Now, go and fix a cup of coffee, and think about that question for 45-minutes before you answer it. I’ll wait.]

OK, you’ve thought about it, and you’re back again? Good.

Let’s work through the answer together.  Clearly, GRACE is “the gift of God,” because by definition, that’s what GRACE is.  And, clearly SALVATION is “the gift of God,” because Romans 6:23 says so.  And according to your English teacher, FAITH is the “the gift of God” because FAITH it is the closest antecedent; that’s how grammar works.

So, in my opinion, the correct answer is Letter D, “ALL OF THE ABOVE.”

It’s pretty plain to see (at least to me) that GRACE, SALVATION, and FAITH are all gifts that are given by God.

So why is that  important?  Because if grace, and salvation, AND faith are all gifts from God, we can ask our loving Father for all these things.  And since FAITH is a gift of God, we can ask the Lord to give this “gift of faith” to our children.

As we’re raising our kids, it’s great to know that Jesus makes us a wonderful promise:  “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”  (Luke 11:13)

So, Anne, take this message of comfort to heart.  We don’t have to worry.  We just have to ask.

(More next week…..)

Love and blessings,

Brother John

john l cashDr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 29 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days has a desk-job at a public school, where he used to teach Latin on closed-circuit-television.)  He and his lovely wife, Susan, live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where the Preacher and his wife are glad that Monday is a vacation-day.)  Their kids include Spencer (age 23), his wife Madeline (age 23), and Seth (age 20).

Devotion in Motion: An Open Letter to a Middle-School Mom

least of these

11 ¶ Even a child is known by his deeds, Whether what he does is pure and right. ~ Proverbs 20:11 (NKJV)

By Bro. John L. Cash

Dear Anne,

I hope you and Atticus have had a good week since my last letter. I’ve re-read it this morning, and I think my advice still stands: “When it comes to the developing faith of your children, PRAY—don’t panic.”

And after giving it some more thought, I’ve reached a conclusion. As parents, we are usually very poor judges of where our kids are in their relationship with God.  I have a good reason to believe that, because that is what the Bible teaches. Jesus said that individuals are not even good judges of their OWN relationship with God.

Take a look at this passage:

Matthew 25:31 ¶ “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.

32 “All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.

33 “And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

35 ‘for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;

36 ‘I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?

38 ‘When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?

39 ‘Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’

40 “And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:

42 ‘for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink;

43 ‘I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’

44 “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’

45 “Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’

46 “And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

You’ll have to admit, it’s kind of an eye-opening story. The way I read it, there are a lot of people who are going to be surprised on the Day of Judgment. Some people will think they were awesome Christians in this life, and the Lord says He never knew them. And others who thought they never did anything for God will find out that they loved and served Jesus every day. What a nice surprise!

Whenever I read this passage, it always makes me want to re-think my relationship with Jesus Christ. Is showing compassion to others the habit of my life?

And there’s a wonderful flip-side to the story. Maybe our kids are just the kind of people that our God is looking for. Maybe their spiritual condition is better than we ever imagined.

Isn’t that a wonderful, comforting thought?

More next week,

Brother John

john l cashDr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 29 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days has a desk-job at a public school, where he used to teach Latin on closed-circuit-television.) He and his lovely wife, Susan, live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where “Kissie” the pastorium-Siamese-cat has been making a lot of noise during the middle of the night and waking folks up this week.) Their kids include Spencer (age 23), his wife Madeline (age 23), and Seth (age 20).

Letter to a Middle-School Mom whose kid sometimes “hates” church

33 “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.

Luke 21:33 (NKJV)

By Bro. John L. Cash

Dear Anne,

Thanks so much for bringing your middle school age son, Atticus, by to visit with me today. He is a joy, and I love him in the Lord so very much. He reminds square peg round holeme a lot of myself when I was his age; like me, he’s the “square peg” that’s never going to fit into the “round hole” of what passes for normal in junior high school. But that’s OK. He has a very good heart, he feels things very deeply, and he wants to do good things in this world. When you scrape it all off, you can’t ask for much more than that.

You seemed upset when Atticus told me that sometimes he “hates the Church.” Seriously, Anne, I’m not worried about him at all, but I’m quite worried about you. You flushed bright red, and you got that blotchy stuff on your neck that angry moms get. I think you misunderstood what Atticus was trying to tell me.

When he said, “Sometimes I hate the Church” he wasn’t talking about the holy-called-out-assembly for which Christ Jesus shed His blood. What he was talking about was his dislike for the over-kill and “bloat” that passes for Christianity, and which is inseparably connected with it in this present day. Atticus has no problem accepting Jesus and His gospel. People have just added too many (in the words of Bugs Bunny) “accoutrements.”

Anne, I understand what Atticus said. And, I must confess, I agree with him.

After all, we understand that kids are under a tremendous amount of peer pressure to fit in. In American teenage culture, you’re expected to be physically attractive, athletic, and to wear the right clothes and the right shoes. What parents are failing to realize is that there’s also a “peer pressure” in the Evangelical church movement.

Think about it: If a young person in youth group said he didn’t like monastic Gregorian chants or bluegrass gospel music, nobody would say he wasn’t a Christian (even though these are both prominent types of Christian music.) However, if the same young person said he didn’t like the church praise-and-worship band, he’d probably be labeled as some kind of freak. Worse than that, I’ve known youth groups that have said that such a teen “isn’t right with God.”

So, you should be proud of Atticus, not upset with him. He’s smarter than most kids and is more perceptive than many adults. He’s not going to have non-essentials forced upon him. And, face it. A lot of things that Christian kids have forced upon them are fads. They were created by corporations to make money. And like all fads and fashions, they soon go out of style.

Nobody is wearing a “WWJD” bracelet any more. No church group is watching “The Passion of the Christ.” No church is leading a study on “The Purpose Driven Life” or “The Prayer of Jabez.” These things were very good and popular in their heyday. But now these fads have run their course and can be purchased from a bin at the ninety-nine-cents store.

stain glass windowSo if Atticus isn’t bowled over by all these “temporary” things, don’t get so bent out of shape. You see, Anne, the only thing that matters in life is what we do with Jesus Christ. Most of what gets tacked on to Him is popular for only a short time.

In my way of thinking, if your kids believe all the things listed in The Apostles’ Creed, they’re off to a smashing start. Atticus believes those things. He’s made a decision on his own to be baptized into Jesus Christ. Just start there, and build on.

So rejoice and be glad. Always encourage your son in his most holy faith. Pray and relax. As my theology professor used to tell me, “God doesn’t lose too many of His own.”

I have more to write to you, but it’ll have to wait until next week. Have a great one.

Blessings,

Brother John

john l cashDr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 29 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days has a desk-job at a public school, where he used to teach Latin on closed-circuit-television.) He and his lovely wife, Susan, live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where the weather has been sunny and beautiful this week.) Their kids include Spencer (age 23), his wife Madeline (age 23), and Seth (age 20).

Devotion in Motion: “Lord, please let them see.”

Today’s Scripture Verses:

22 “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light.

 23 “But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! “”

Matthew 6:22-23 (NKJV)

By Bro. John L. Cash

I read somewhere that the late Fred Rogers (the children’s saint from “Mister Rogers Neighborhood”) often prayed for others. He said he always prayed the same prayer: “God, encircle this person with Your love.” That’s pretty much a perfect prayer, don’t you think? The abiding love and presence of God is what we all need in every situation we could ever face. Since reading of this, I’ve borrowed Mr. Rogers’ prayer on many occasions.

As I’m getting older as a country preacher, I’m often asked to pray for the concerns of others. And as I pour out my heart before God, more and more I find I’m pleading for them with “all purpose prayers.” I have several such prayers, but today I want to share with you only one. Here it is: “Lord, please let them see.”

I’ve never really understood today’s Scripture lesson (at the top). Perhaps I still don’t understand it fully, but clearly it’s about “spiritual eyesight.” Jesus was always restoring the sight to those who were physically blind. And the Scriptures promise that He loves to bring sight to those who are unable to see spiritually.

So that’s I why I offer up so many prayers that the Lord will grant spiritual sight.

glasses-415256_1280 (2)For those who are downcast, may the Lord heal their blindness that they may see all the blessings that are theirs.

For the rebellious teen, may the Lord heal his blindness that he may see his parents’ love.

For the doubting Christian, may the Lord heal her blindness and let her see the reality of His care.

And so on and so on it goes….

I’m going to talk “out of school” right now. Not very long ago, Susan went through a time of discouragement. (Please know that discouragement is not too uncommon in the work of the ministry. Usually it’s me who is down in the dumps, but Susan and I take turns. Don’t worry, it’s very commonplace. You don’t need to call her or anything.)

But when I noticed she was feeling low, I began to pray every morning, “Lord, please let Susan truly see.” I didn’t tell the Lord what Susan needed to be able to see because I’m not smart enough to know that. God knows what we need to see. And whenever we are truly able to see, the answer to our situation becomes crystal clear.

iphone-410311_1280 (2)Well, a few days later Susan sent me this text:

“I’m so thankful for our boys and how God is helping them to succeed in their lives. I’m very grateful for His blessings. I’m so glad to be on this journey with me and you, us two.”

Well, I am in full agreement with her sentiments. And, I think the Lord answered my prayer.

You need to know that I have a rule about praying for my wife and kids, though.  I don’t pray anything for them if I am not first willing to pray it for myself.

So, that’s why I’m praying this morning that the Lord will enable me to see.

Because without Him, I am the blindest one of all.

john l cashDr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 29 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days has a desk-job at a public school, where he used to teach Latin on closed-circuit-television.) He and his lovely wife, Susan, live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where the Preacher is tired tonight because he did a funeral today.) Their kids include Spencer (age 23), his wife Madeline (age 23), and Seth (age 20).

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