A Prayer for My Niece, Siena Joy Stewart on the Day of Her Birth

Siena Joy Stewart. My precious niece.

Siena Joy Stewart. My precious niece.

My sister Valerie and her husband Shawn are two of my favorite people on the planet. So far, they have produced another one of my favorite humans, my nephew Jack. At 2:36 pm, after many hours of heroic labor, my sister gave birth to a little girl (20.5 in; 7 lb 11 oz.) who I’m quite convinced I’m going to be a big fan of: Siena Joy Stewart. Yes, she was a week late, but I’m sure that’s just a matter of the extra quality in preparation involved. She’s going to be a very special young woman.

When Jack was born, I wrote him a prayer because I realized, besides smashing cars with him, prayer is probably my main responsibility towards him. I’m going to do the same for Siena. My wife and I have been praying for her daily for some months now and I’m sure there are years of prayer to come, but these are just a few hopes and dreams, blessings and pronouncements on her.

Holy Father, thank you for your many gifts. Thank you specifically for this new blessing of a wonderful little girl, Siena Joy. Thank you for your providence that has brought her to us. Thank you for this grace on the life of Shawn and Val as parents. I anticipate that we will not stop giving thanks to you for her all of our days.

Thank you, gracious God, for the promise contained in her name for who this little girl will be one day. Already she is a deep joy to her family. I do pray that you make that a continuing reality. That Siena Joy would fill the lives of all she knows with that deep, cavernous joy that comes with being in the presence of one graced with the gifts of God. I also pray that she would live into her name, “Siena”, whose character reflects that warm, earthy depth of her mother and father.

Beyond that, I want to pray some specific things for her.

Salvation. As I prayed for Jack, God, you are her maker, I pray that you would become her Father in Christ; adopt her by your grace. Let her come to repent and believe the Gospel early and deeply, be united by faith to Christ, and given the gift of your Spirit. I pray that someday quite soon she could answer Heidelberg’s first question, “What is your only comfort in life and in death?” with the proper answer, from the heart:

“That I am not my own, but I belong– body and soul, in life and in death–to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven:  in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.”

Father, as much as I love having her as a niece, I want her as my little sister in Christ. Let this be the reality that forms the core of who she is.

Courage. It takes courage to follow the call to whole personhood out in a world broken by sin and evil. I pray that Siena Joy would be marked with a fearlessness that is grounded in her assurance that her heavenly Father is for her and keeps watch over all her steps as she seeks to follow you.

Mercy. We live in a graceless culture where judgment consistently triumphs over mercy. I pray that Siena Joy would be a woman of great mercy, whose tender heart towards the broken and afflicted by sin would be a sweet balm that blesses all she meets.

Holiness. Please, Father, set her apart. Set her apart all the days of her life, so that her life may shine with the beauty and glory of holiness. But not a holiness that keeps its distance, but the contagious holiness the draws others in to your arms of grace.

Insight. Give Siena insight by the Spirit–eyes to truly see. Give her vision through the veil of lies and deception that so often clouds the eyes of the heart and stops us from beholding your untamed goodness. May she live with a vision of her God, the whole of her life.

Assurance. May this vision then give her assurance. Both of her salvation, but also of her calling to glorify you in all the particular gifts that you have graced her with. She has been fearfully and wonderfully made, with eternal purposes in mind. May she plant her feet firmly and step forward in confident assurance.

Hope. May this assurance be the substance of a deeply hopeful character. I have no idea what our world holds, but I pray that Siena Joy would look forward and know that her future is determined, not by the powers of the world, but by the mighty, gracious power of her Lord Jesus Christ.

I ask these things with great faith and anticipation, grateful in advance for what you’re going to do, in the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria

Kevin Vanhoozer on the Crucified King

I don’t do the random quote and link post but, in this case, I’ll break protocol. Last year I endorsed Jeremy Treat’s The Crucified King as one of my favorite books of the year. Well, now you don’t have to take only my word for it. Zondervan Academic’s excellent “Common Places” series edited by Michael Allen and Scott Swain at their blog has asked senior scholars to endorse the words of young, up and coming scholars for the attention of the rest of us. Today’s post features the inimitable Kevin Vanhoozer’s summary and review of Treat’s work.

“Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.”
—William B. Yeats, “The Second Coming”

Yeats probably did not have the academy and church in mind when he penned these lines in 1919, but he could have, for theological things, and the gospel itself, have been coming apart for centuries. Theology itself has come apart: what God joined together—doctrine and life—has been cast asunder, into the academy and church respectively. And, within the academy, the disciplines of biblical theology and systematic theology go their separate ways, speaking different languages. Even worse, the story and logic of the gospel have come apart in both the church and the academy, with some Christians focusing on the significance of Jesus’ death with its promise of heaven (cross) and others on Jesus’ message about the reign of God with its promise of justice for earth (kingdom).

The Crucified KingBlessed are the peacemakers, for they seek to repair the center—and shall receive honorable mention in Christianity Today’s Book Awards list, as Jeremy R. Treat’s first book has done in 2015—no mean feat for a work that began life as a doctoral dissertation. Treat’s The Crucified King (Zondervan, 2014) works several important mediations: church and academy; biblical theology and systematic theology; penal substitution and Christus Victor theory of the atonement. His title signals his reconciling intent: rather than viewing the kingdom and the cross as themes that belong to different universes of discourse, Treat argues that they form a seamless whole, centered on the unabbreviated gospel. The subtitle provides further italicized fuel to the mediatorial fire: “Atonement and Kingdom in Biblical and Systematic Theology.”

Please do go read the rest of the review here. And then pick up the book if you haven’t already. It’s well worth your time.

Soli Deo Gloria