A Prayer for the new School Year

As the students in our community return to school this week, and our college students head off to new adventures, I wanted to share this prayer for the upcoming school year.

God, most Holy, sovereign, and wise: Your creation sings your praises; the heavens declare your glory; and all your works reveal your power and might.

You have spoken: calling everything into existence, and all that exists thrives as it hears and responds to your Word.

We thank you: because you speak; calling your people, first to obedience, then, after the fall, to faith in your saving grace.

We thank you: that your Word became flesh in Jesus Christ, who was full of grace and truth, and in Him we find the words of life, the revelation of the wisdom of the almighty.

We thank you: that your Holy Spirit has provided for us the Scriptures, which are breathed out by you, and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that we may be competent and equipped for every good work.

Forgive us, merciful God: for our ignorance of you; for exalting in the wisdom of this age which is folly in your sight; for being filled with knowledge without love, for you or for one another; and for having an appearance of godliness while denying its power in our lives.

We pray for the students: that their eyes may be opened to the wonders and mysteries of this world and be filled with a desire to learn and grow; that their schools would be safe from acts of violence, from unwholesome speech, from lies and deception that would blind them from your truth, from the perversion of this age, which would put truth and falsehood on the same level; we pray that they may know, in their schools and their homes, that they are loved; and that the church may stand ready to present them with the truth of the gospel, and lead them to a saving faith in Jesus Christ our Lord.

We pray for our college students: that as they venture out from home, they may be surrounded by godly influences; that the faith modeled in their homes and churches would be the faith in which they continue to walk; that their pursuit of a degree would go hand in hand with their pursuit of a life of faithfulness before you; that they would not be overwhelmed with anxiety and worry, but that your grace would sustain and support them as they walk with you.

We pray for the teachers: that they may be honored and respected by their students and the community; that they may know the support and encouragement they need from day to day; that as they teach, may they be guided in the truth of your word, so that they may teach well, with patience, grace, joy, and love.

We pray for the staff of the school: their service as support staff and para-professionals often goes unnoticed; we thank you for their faithful work; for their care for students and teachers; and pray that their service would be full of compassion, diligence, and kindness.

We pray for those who serve as administrators of our local schools: that they may be guided by your sovereign hand; that they may provide a safe, healthy, and encouraging place of learning for all students; that they may maintain fair and measured discipline when necessary; and that they may be treated with the honor and dignity that their positions deserve.

In all things, we pray, O God, that you would be glorified. As this new academic year begins, we know that we will never exhaust the “depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are your judgments and how inscrutable your ways! For from you and through you and to you are all things. To you, o God, be glory for every. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

From the Pastor’s Desk – Some interesting articles I’ve come across this week:

JEREMIAH 29:11  This is from the current issue of Tabletalk, which  in addition to the daily devotionals, has a tremendous resource of articles each month. August’s issue presents articles that are usually taken out of context, or the meaning is difficult to understand.  The Jeremiah 29:11 passage is usually cited to show that God has a happy and wonderful plan for us, we just have to figure out what it is. This article helps us to see how this passage applies to Christians today.

HOW TO PRAY IN SPIRITUAL WARFARE – This article really came at the right time.  Iain Duguid explains how to pray in times of spiritual warfare. Of course, “According to Paul in Ephesians 6, all of life is spiritual warfare. In that conflict, he reminds the Ephesians that—important though it is—the Christian armor is not enough. You and I also need to be in constant contact with God, and the means by which we stay in contact is by prayer.”

The Relentless and Exhausting Attempt to Get it Right – Thinking still about worship and the way we worship together, I remembered this article from 2001, over 18 years old, and still very much relevant to the conversations we’re having today.  Here’s the question at the heart of the article, ‘Could it be that we’ve spent so much time trying to get it right that we’ve lost a genuine sense of connection to God?”


Missing the Heart of the Matter

I have purposely stayed out of the current political and cultural conversations that have carried the headlines since the latest school shootings.  I’ve been heartbroken at the pain that the families and survivors of this violence have felt, and heartbroken over the levels of vitriol and derision that have escalated in our “debates” about the solution to our cultural crisis. I sympathize with those who are frustrated by the empty promises of “thoughts and prayers” when thoughts and prayers don’t lead to compassionate and sensible responses.  And at the same time, I am dismayed when genuine “thoughts and prayers” are ridiculed and rejected.

I’ve stayed out of the conversation because I haven’t had much to add. Then today, in studying for a lesson from 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, I read the following from John MacArthur*.  I think he summarizes what’s really wrong in our culture, and what we need most.

How much closer to peace is man than he was a century ago – or a millennium ago? How much closer are to we eliminating poverty, hunger, ignorance, crime, and immorality than men were in Paul’s day? Our advances in knowledge and technology and communication have not really advanced us. It is from among those who are intelligent and clever that the worst exploiters, deceivers, and oppressors comes. We are more educated than our forefathers but we are not more moral. We have more means of helping each other but we are not less selfish. We have more means of communication but we do not understand each other any better. We have more psychology and education, and more crime and more war. We have not changed, except in finding more ways to express and excuse our human nature. Throughout human history wisdom has never basically changed and has never solved the basic problems of man.

“Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age?”

Where have all the clever arguments and impressive rhetoric brought you? Are you better off because of them – or simply more self-satisfied and complacent?  Don’t you see that all the wisdom of your wise men, your scribes, and your debaters is folly? Nothing really changes. Life has the same problems; men have the same struggles.

Could the apostle have written anything more appropriate for our own day? Where have our great thinkers – our philosophers, sociologists, psychologists, economists, scientists, and statesmen – brought us? Never before has mankind been so fearful of self-destruction or been so self-consciously perplexed, confused, and corrupt.  Modern human wisdom has failed just as ancient human wisdom failed, except that its failures come faster and spread farther.  The outer life improves in a material way, while the inner life seems to have correspondingly less meaning. The real issues are not solved.

Human wisdom sometimes sees the immediate cause of a problem but it does not see the root, which is always sin. It may see that selfishness is a cause of injustice, but it has no way to remove selfishness.  It may see that hatred causes misery and pain and destruction, but it has no cure for hatred. It can see plainly that man does not get along with man, but does not se that the real cause is that man does not get along with God. Human wisdom cannot see because it will not see.  As long as it looks on God’s wisdom as foolishness, its own wisdom will be foolish. In other words, human wisdom itself is a basic part of the problem.

Peace, joy, hope, harmony, brotherhood, and every other aspiration of man is out of his reach as long as he follows his own way in trying to achieve them. He who sees the cross as folly is doomed to his own folly… The more man looks to himself and depends on himself, the worse his situation becomes. As his dependence on his wisdom increases, so do his problems.

This is God’s plan, as the words “in the wisdom of God” indicate. God wisely established it this way, that man could not know Him by the wisdom of the world. Man cannot solve his problems because he will not recognize their source, which is sin, or their solution, which is salvation.  Man’s own sinful nature is the cause of his problems, and he cannot change his nature. Even if human wisdom could recognize the problem it does not have the power to change it. But God has the power. God was well-please through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. He chose to use that which the world’s wisdom counts as moronic, as foolishness, to save those of the world who would simply believe. Believing implies complete assent to all the truth of the saving gospel. For those who will exchange their wisdom for His, God offers transformation, regeneration, new birth, and new life through the power of the cross of Jesus Christ, His Son. This “foolishness” is man’s only hope.

* MacArthur, John F. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1 Corinthians (Moody Press, Chicago. 1984) pg 42-44.