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The Pouty Princess Problem

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Remember that old Waylon Jennings song, “Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys”? I’ve had another version of the title running through my head lately: “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Sons Grow Up Treating Their Sisters Like Princesses”.

Now, I realize it doesn’t have nearly the same flow, rhythm or catchiness that Jennings’ title does, but I think some enterprising young songwriter could get somewhere with the concept. Just describe a few scenarios of young ladies who feel entitled to be treated like royalty — of which there are plenty (call me if you need some good material here), add in some threats that boys will prove their ability to cherish their future wives by how well they treat their sisters, and provide a dash or two of selective blindness when the sweet little girls demonstrate remarkable ability to manipulate and coerce every male that comes within a mile of their wiles, and voila! You’ve got a song!

I’ve seen it more in Christian homeschooling circles than anywhere else, but I wasn’t sure what to call it until my son muttered his frustration with his friends’ catering to their sisters’ every whim. Obviously, it’s the Princess Problem.

Let’s take a moment here to address what I think is entirely appropriate. Young men should be embued with a healthy respect for ladies of all ages. This would naturally include their sisters. This does not, however, include behavior that lead these same young ladies to the very erroneous belief that they are to be catered to and regarded in every wish and desire. I have seen this princess delusion permeate a classroom, obliterate many a guy-bonding moment, and set wheels a-turning in the minds of younger female siblings. It’s not pretty. And it’s not biblical.

I get that the “We are daughters of the King” mantra yields therefore that we are all princesses in God’s economy. Well, no, not exactly, although it might be derived. God in His Word never once calls any of us lady Christians princesses. He says that we are co-inheritors with Christ, His first born Son. He says that we will rule with Him in heaven, and while that speaks to some position in regard to our relationship to our Father, the King, that does not make us princesses in regard to one another. The title is conferred by the King and not to be assumed by the crowned as an entitlement to certain lording-it-over-one-another behavior.

This is what I’m talking about. Dads, if you want your little girl to feel special, then by all means, call her your little princess. Mamas, if you want your son to grow up respecting women — and as the mom of three daughters, I would really appreciate this — encourage him to consider all people as image bearers of God and especially believers as being brothers and sisters in Christ. Not just girls, but all. It will naturally follow that the girls in his life — whether sisters, cousins, friends, coworkers, bosses, teachers, etc. — will be treated respectfully.

But if the atmosphere in your home is one where the sons must cater to all that the daughters want, you are not only creating a tribe of little sparkly-crowned monsters, you are doing no favor to those girls of yours. They might find the title that is most often referenced in Scripture for believers — SERVANT — a hard one to assume if they have become used to brothers always giving up their seats, taking blame and running errands for, and jumping to the crooked little pinkies of the household princess.

Grace falls from heaven on us, and graciousness flows forth when that heaven-grace transforms the heart from stone to flesh. It’s irresistable.

And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” Mark 9:35

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace. 1 Peter 4:10

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:12-13

It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant. Matthew 20:26

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Phillipians 2:3

Just a little something I was thinking about while I waited for my crown.

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Written by mrsdkmiller

October 29, 2014 at 1:47 pm

The Lowliest Are Expendable

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via 3RG.
dirty feet
It’s not something we easily relate to in our culture and time. Footwashing.  Without a context, it’s even harder to explain to children. And if you have children who, like the Wicked Witch of the West, seem to view water as a weapon of mass destruction, the likelihood of them “getting it” decreases significantly.
In the culture that Christ and his disciples lived, however, footwashing was an everyday necessity. Standard footwear fashion was sandals, and infrastructure in the Roman world, while improved and improving, had resulted in still only a few roads being paved. Thus, the daily journey to the market, the fields, the workshop or the temple built up layers of dirt on the feet. Moms then, being not much different than moms now, did not want that dirt tracking into their homes, so a basin of water sat at the entrance of every home for footwashing. Now, as most households employed servants or kept slaves, obviously this demeaning and dirty job was given to the most menial of servants or slaves, particularly when guests arrived.

After a long journey to Jerusalem, the group arrived at the home where they would be taking the Passover meal together.  Jesus had recently rebuked them for obsessing about places of honor in the Kingdom. He had just been received into the city as a King by fawning mobs hoping to stir up anti-Roman, pro-coming-earthly-Jewish-kingdom-ruled-by-legendary-Messiah sentiment. We are not told whether the routine footwashing had not taken place when he and the disciples entered the home, but at some point during the meal, Jesus took up the elements and donned the garb of a servant and began washing the feet of the disciples.

Philippians 2:6-7 tells us that Jesus “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant.” This is evidence of that nothingness that Jesus made himself to be. The experts in the law of the Old Testament had drummed phobias about the spiritual disaster that accompanied germs and everything carnal into the minds of the Jews that it was unheard of for anyone other than the lowliest to touch dirty feet. The lowliest were expendable, you see.

Matthew Henry comments upon this passage:

Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, that he might teach us to think nothing below us, wherein we may promote God’s glory, and the good of our brethren. We must address ourselves to duty, and must lay aside every thing that would hinder us in what we have to do. Christ washed his disciples’ feet, that he might signify to them the value of spiritual washing, and the cleansing of the soul from the pollutions of sin. 

Peter reacted (let’s say it together) as only Peter could. “You shall never wash my feet!” Well-intentioned Peter missed the point. I would have, too. Jesus said, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” I can just imagine the scores Peter would get on the myriad of social network quizzes out there: always swinging from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other. “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!” Jesus replied, “’The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.’ For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’” (John 13: 10)

Again, Matthew Henry:

All those, and those only, who are spiritually washed by Christ, have a part in Christ. All whom Christ owns and saves, he justifies and sanctifies. Peter more than submits; he begs to be washed by Christ. How earnest he is for the purifying grace of the Lord Jesus, and the full effect of it, even upon his hands and head! Those who truly desire to be sanctified, desire to be sanctified throughout, to have the whole man, with all its parts and powers, made pure. The true believer is thus washed when he receives Christ for his salvation. 

Peter’s words were the ones recorded for Scripture, but I imagine others protested. I wonder what Judas thought. I wonder if he said anything. We know that as the keeper of the money for the group, he was already critical of Jesus’ priorities and care for the souls of others, not approving of monies wasted on ceremonial attention to Him. On this, Matthew Henry says:

[W]hen hypocrites are discovered, it should be no surprise or cause of stumbling to us. … When we see our Master serving, we cannot but see how ill it becomes us to domineer.

The children in the catechism class this past Sunday expressed a wide range of reactions to having their “feet” washed by their revered and dear teacher Miss Chris. As she knelt with a mock up of basin, cloth and water (shoe shine kit and brush) and proceeded to wash their feet (shine their shoes), they looked perplexed and a little uncomfortable. Some giggled, “It tickles!” But as she lovingly served them, her message was clear: “Jesus is the King, but he is also the greatest servant of all. I am offering to wash your feet in a way that is similar to His offer of Himself on the cross to cleanse us of our sins.”

How easy it is to focus on ourselves! But in the shadow of the devotional posture of Jesus and how it warms our hearts, let us not forget that it was no burden for our King to take on the lowliest of tasks for us. He became the expendable so that we would be saved and made new. And as it was a task that we cannot even provide for ourselves, let us devote ourselves to Him who performed it for us, for only in Him can we be washed and cleansed of our guilt and made presentable for service to God and others.

“It is not humility, but unbelief, to put away the offers of the gospel, as if too rich to be made to us, or too good news to be true.” (Matthew Henry)

Written by mrsdkmiller

April 24, 2014 at 8:17 am

Gospel Talk and Dollar-Store Dross

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A snippet of a song kept going through my head the other day.

“Let your conversation be acceptable in the sight of the Lord.”

It goes way back into my youth group days (waaaayyy back), and I can only remember part of it. I tried to Google the line for the rest of it, and couldn’t find any hits, but I did hit on some Scripture verses it aligns closely, but not exactly, with.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)

That sent me on another search for an article that I wrote several years ago for Tabletalk magazine where I examined the concept of gospel conversation, which was itself laid out in a series of sermons by Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs, compiled into a book by the same name.* Burroughs, in his winsome and dialectic style, addressed not simply conversation as speech, but also, as only a thorough Puritan could do, all the ways in which Christians display the gospel in the give and take of life – in the church, in the marketplace, in the home, etc.. We speechlessly talk up what we believe in every sphere by our decisions, actions and reactions, stewardship, friendships, good works, childrearing, buying and selling, love lives, sex lives, because we are, in a way, conversing in all these circumstances.  The full compendium of the doctrines of grace can be at the forefront of those spoken and unspoken conversations if we make a point of it.

All of these musings and memories have a thread running through them, and that is that our gospel conversation, the words of our mouth, must be rooted in meditations of the heart, or else they are nothing more than flat, shiny distractions from the day to day living we experience. Christmas is coming, and we can all tell the difference between the cheap, drossy décor we can pick up at the Dollar Store and that which reflects the beauty of quality materials, a slow and steady refining fire, and the skill and creativity of the craftsman. I think the same is true with our words and whether they are formed from hearts of dross or hearts of true gold.

I faced dross earlier this week and there was much more of it in my heart than I expected to find. A sudden increase in lumbar pain landed me at the surgical center on Tuesday for my first ever steroid injection. Blessed with a high pain threshold, I’ve been through medical events that challenged those thresholds: a dislocated knee that had to be popped back into place, a med-free delivery, a spinal injection for another delivery, so this should not have been an unsettling experience, right?

Except, it was, and I found myself with only rote words of comfort on my lips. Somewhere between the forging of joyful meditation and trudging through the pain, I had forgotten the higher truth behind that casually spoken phrase, “Blessed with…” and had settled into a dependency upon the speech part of gospel conversation to get me through the trials rather than the supernatural grace that leads to glory. When the affliction came, the words were not enough. In fact, I shuddered, lying there on the exam table, as I realized that my words sounded like a mantra!  

Okay, okay, I thought to myself. This isn’t working. Muster up the feelings, recall the truths, glory in the hope.

Thankfully, the Lord in His goodness and mercy saw me through.

Philippians 1:27, the text of Burroughs’ messages, says: “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.”

I can’t say my manner was worthy of the gospel of Christ. It took me almost a whole day before I remembered that an abundance of good things had been mine over the past 24 hours:  a doctor with a sure hand, a nurse who seemed to sense my soul distress and rested a hand on mine, a son who was willing to drive me there and wait for two hours, the relief from the injection. I didn’t deserve any of it, and yet the Lord provided. John Piper applies his gentle icepick to thanks-oriented distinctions in his Desiring God blog post this week:

Authentic heart-feelings are not in our control. We can’t make ourselves feel thankfulness. …Thankfeelings are a work of grace. Therefore, as fallen sinners whose hearts are often dull, we should regularly pray for God to overcome our sinful hardness, and cause us to see his goodness and feel thankful. (Psalm 51:10-12) [John Piper,”Thanksgiving, Thanksfeeling and the Glory of God”]

Cultivating a language of thankfulness begins with more than rehearsed self-talk. When the soul-ground is turned over in recognition that all good things come from God, when showers of grace quench my thirsty, arid heart-soil so that seedlings flower into authentic gratitude, then my lips and my heart overflow with thanksgiving! Yes, this adversity is worth it for the sake of His glory!

So the sacrifice of thanksgiving that glorifies God is the offering of contrite and broken-hearted thankfulness for undeserved mercies. This makes God looks glorious – it glorifies him. [Piper]

I lost an opportunity to glorify God in the conversation of getting an injection in my back. May my manner of life be more worthy of the gospel of Christ in what I do tomorrow and the day after. May the Lord do that daily work of grace in me to overcome my sinful hard-heartedness. May my meditations on the adversity – and the words on my lips about it – be acceptable in your sight, O Lord!

*That article is now available in digital form only through Logos Bible Software.

Written by mrsdkmiller

November 28, 2013 at 8:52 pm

What grace can do for a man!

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by J.R. Miller

“He appointed the Twelve: To Simon, He gave the name Peter” Mark 3:16

by Alberta Rae Richards

In an art gallery in Europe are shown, side by side–the first and the last works of a great artist. The first is very crude and most faulty; the last is a masterpiece. The contrast shows the results of long culture and practice.

These two names–are like those two pictures:

“Simon” shows us the crude fisherman of Galilee, with all his rashness, his ignorance, his imperfectness.

“Peter” shows us the apostle of the Acts and the Epistles; the firm and secure rock; the man of great power, before whose Spirit-filled eloquence, thousands of proud hearts bow; the gentle, tender soul whose words fall like a benediction; the noble martyr witnessing to the death for his Lord.

Study the ‘two pictures’ together–to see what grace can do for a man!

It is not hard to take roses, lilies, fuchsias, and all the rarest flowers–and make forms of exquisite beauty with them. But to take weeds, dead grasses, dried leaves, and trampled and torn and faded flowers–and make lovely things out of such base materials–is the severest test of skill.

It would not be hard to take an angel–and train him into a glorious messenger. But to take such a man as Simon, or as Saul, or as John

by Rembrandt

Newton, or as John Bunyan–and make him into a holy saint or a mighty apostle–that shows great power and ability!

Yet that is exactly what Christ did with Peter–and has been doing ever since. He takes the poorest stuff,

despised, worthless and vile–ofttimes the outcast of men; and when He has finished His gracious transforming work–we behold a saint whiter than snow!

The sculptor beheld an ‘angel’ in the rough, blackened stone, which had been thrown away. And when he was finished–behold! men saw an angel cut from the rejected block!

Just so, Christ can take us, as rough, as unpolished and as vile as we are–and in His hands, our lives shall grow into purity and loveliness, until He presents us at last before the celestial throne, faultless and perfect! “For those God foreknew–He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son!” Romans 8:29

(J.R. Miller, “Daily Bible Readings in the Life of Christ” 1890)

via Grace Gems

Written by mrsdkmiller

September 28, 2011 at 10:01 am

Posted in Quotes

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