James D. Hunter has outlined some very significant, worthwhile concepts in his book that are worth considering by all. The trouble that he sees in our current cultural context is that we have relegated everything to the political realm of discourse, and have seen that as the only venue through which to affect cultural change.
Part of what Hunter then is arguing for is a presence in culture that takes on neither of the trappings of the religious right or the religious left, but instead argues for a mindset and practice that views the world through the lens of the scriptures, not just a political mindset. It is this theory of cultural transformation that he calls “faithful presence within”.
In faithful presence within, Hunter argues: “The practice faithful presence, then, generates relationships and institutions that are fundamentally covenantal in character, the ends of which are the fostering of meaning, purpose, truth, beauty, belonging, and fairness–not just for Christians but for everyone.”
Hunter goes on to further write this:
Many Christians would undoubtedly object to this broader understanding of faith, hope, and love and, even more, object to creating common space in which those outside of the Christian community can also appropriate meaning, purpose, beauty, and belonging. Why should their commitment to the world go beyond trying to persuade nonbelievers to convert in order to attain heaven? Beyond being a good in its own right, there are at least two reasons why Christians must move in this direction. The first is a political reason: Christians cannot demand for themselves what they would deny others. A right for one is a right for another and a responsibility for all. A right for a Christian is a right for a Jew is a right for a Humanist is a right for a Muslim is a right for a Buddhist, and so on. The second is a cultural reason: the very plausibility and persuasiveness of the Christian faith depend on a cultural context in which meaning, purpose, beauty, and belonging are possible. The viability of Christian faith and the possibility of sharing that faith depend on a social environment in which faith–any faith–is plausible.
I am so grateful for the faithful prayers of God’s people. Miraculously, we have gotten to week 32 (the mere utterance sends chills down my spine as I think about the fact that NO ONE thought we would be here). It is amazing to witness that God chose to answer his people in this way. And I am humbled. Here is a snapshot of some of Jen’s thoughts:
32 weeks! What a milestone and an answer to prayer! We are getting closer to the point where we might be able to take baby home when he’s born! 2 weeks till I go home! Stitch should come out at 37 weeks and he just might stay put till then.
There might be a much different end to this than we first thought. That is a miracle in and of itself. I hope to think (and thus, write) more about this in the future, but I wanted to take an initial crack at the most looming question of all (which, truth be told, I still don’t fully understand).
Why. Why? Why this, why us, why now?
Beyond the short answer (why not us, why not this, why not now), I find great encouragement from C. H. Spurgeon, in his devotional Faith Checkbook:
The yoke of affliction, disappointment, and excessive labor is by no means to be sought for; but when the Lord lays it on us in our youth, it frequently develops a character which glorifies God and blesses the church. Come, my soul, bow thy neck; take up they cross. It was good for thee when young; it will not harm thee now. For Jesus sake, shoulder it carefully.
So, would you pray this for Jen and I as we continue to wrestle, both with the uncertainty of the future and the reality of the present… that the answer to this question of why might be, for both of us, for Jesus’ sake and for his kingdom, that He would develop in us a character which glorifies himself and blesses the church?
We love you all. Thank you so much for your continued prayers with us.
In thinking about what a rediscovery of a “doctrine of vocation” might look like in our contemporary context, we must turn our attention to the notion of “building the kingdom of God” and the problematic trappings that come with the employ of that phraseology within the modern context of our evangelical ghetto:
It is also important to underscore that while the activity of culture-making has validity before God, this work is not, strictly speaking, redemptive or salvific in character. Where Christians participate in the work of world-building they are not, in any precise sense of the phrase, “building the kingdom of God.” This side of heaven, the culture cannot become the kingdom of God, nor will all the work of Christians in the culture evolve into or bring about his kingdom. The establishment of his kingdom in eternity is an act of divine sovereignty alone and it will only be set in place at the final consummation at the end of time… Perhaps it will be that God will transform works of faith in this world into something incorruptible but here again, it is God’s doing and not ours.
(James D. Hunter, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World, pp. 233)
And so why, then, would we come out of our evangelical ghetto, if what we are doing is not in the strictest sense “kingdom work”? More on that to come later.
How does this quote strike you? Does it offend you, provoke you, or affirm you?
(Editor’s Note: this is a guest post from my sweet wife Jen, giving a fairly comprehensive roundup of where we are right now, and very specific ways that you can be praying for us. She will see any comment you post on this page)
We are so thankful to have made it to yet another milestone in the pregnancy! Words cannot express how gracious God has been to us throughout this entire pregnancy. If born this week, our baby’s survival rate is now over 90%, which is great, but he would still be at risk for many complications and would have to stay in the NICU for about 2 months.
I had an ultrasound today and baby is now head down resting on top of the “funnel” in the cervix. The funnel in the top opening of the cervix (which should normally be closed) is now almost as wide as the baby’s head and open right down to the cerclage. If he pushes his little head down into the funnel, he will be right on top of the stitch which will further weaken the membranes . The only thing keeping our child in is that 5mm wide cerclage band holding the bottom of the cervix closed and of course the hand of God! I was having contractions on Friday that were quite regular on the monitor (6 in 30 mins). I was given Ibuprofen for 48 hours which helped control them. Thankfully, none showed up on the monitor today (Monday). They were probably caused by the combination of baby kicking the cerclage, thus irritating my uterus, and/or the high level of amniotic fluid present (polyhydramnios). We are not sure why the fluid is so high. It was 29 cm today and the range should be 8-25cm. In most cases the reasons are unknown, though 20 percent of cases could mean a congenital defect of some sort. Please pray that this is not the case.
The following is taken from the March of Dimes website:
Polyhydramnios may increase the risk of pregnancy complications including:
*PROM: Premature rupture of membranes.
*Placental abruption: This is a condition where the placenta partially or completely peels away from the uterine wall before birth.
*Postpartum hemorrhage, which is severe bleeding after birth.
*Fetal malposition: The baby is not lying in a head-down position. This may mean that that the baby must be born by cesarean section.
I am already at risk for most of these because of the chorioangioma and almost nonexistent cervix. We would ask that you continue to pray for our little one to stay in as long as possible and that additional complications will not arise. In addition, I would ask that you please pray for my patience and sanity as I have been on bed rest 10 weeks and have not left this hospital room in 4 weeks! Also pray for David as he is juggling work and household responsibilities, traveling to see me every weekend, and trying to get some sleep now and then. We couldn’t do this without the prayers and loving support of God’s people, and we thank you so much for upholding us through this journey.
No news is good news. That is always a welcome saying in our house these days. But it is especially nice when it comes from the doctor.
Here is what we know right now.
- God is answering prayer. Our baby is still inside his Momma, which is exactly where he needs to be at this stage in the game.
- This past week was very hard… even the staff at the doctor’s office recognized this. As such, we were on many peoples minds after the last ultrasound. Apparently, the tenuous nature of our latest development was more than we realized, and the fact that nothing happened between then and now gave everyone (including the doctor) a small sigh of relief.
- No change means that things could go at any moment, still.
- He is head down at this point… this is OK, but if the head starts to go through the funnel and rest against the stitch, it could prove troublesome… and as our doctor said, that could be the signal that the end of gestation could be drawing nigh.
What this all means in reality is that we are begging the Lord to get us to July 19. 10 days. 10 days from now. 10 days opens the door (medically) to a shot at life for our son. 10 days means that medicine and faith meet, and together (for the first time) agree that there is hope for our son to be viable outside the womb.
Would you pray for July 19th? Would you pray for us as I (David) take some time off work this week to try and refocus my heart? Would you pray for Jen, that she would continue to rest, even though at this point, she is about to go stir crazy? Would you pray for our son, that he would stay stubbornly put where he is?
We have seen God moving in powerful ways all over the world because of our circumstance. People have been brought in to our lives, our’s (and other’s) faith has been stretched, and Jen and I have been brought in to new relationships with people we have not known well. So that leads us to the final prayer request. Would you pray that God would use this to lead others to the beauty, grace, and peace of the gospel, and that the non-believer would be brought to their justification in Christ, and the believer would be stirred towards love and good deeds because of this?
10 days. God can and does indeed work miracles. Thanks for holding us up in prayer. We couldn’t do this without you.
Love to you all, David & Jen