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Archive for December, 2010

This year has been challenging on many levels.  Paul’s still undiagnosed issue has been hard on the family.  We’re grateful for the promises God has given to us.

And we’re grateful for many wonderful things God has supplied this year with regards to disability and the church!

  • Pastor John delivered one of the most helpful sermons I have heard on God’s sovereignty over disability when he preached Born Blind for the Glory of God in January.
  • Just the Way I Am: God’s Good Design in Disability by Krista Horning was released!  Pastor John added an encouraging trailer to why this is an important, helpful book in answering the question of suffering.  The testimonies that have come to me about its impact have been very sweet.
  • Wrestling with an Angel by Greg Lucas was released!  Having had the chance to meet Greg and understand a bit of his heart made this book even more precious to me.
  • They have existed for a few years, but I was introduced to The Elisha Foundation in 2010 and have been personally encouraged by the men who lead them (and that Matt Perman of Desiring God has joined their board!).

And there were others.  Lisa and Larry Jamieson’s book sits in my pile, begging to be read (Dianne has heard Lisa speak and says, “she’s the real deal!”).  There are new developments happening at church that, Lord willing, will help us serve more people.  There’s a young man who has recorded a song that I’m praying the Lord will use to encourage families in our situation.  I’ve heard from several churches that are beginning or expanding their ministries to those living with disabilities.

So, my heart lives ‘as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing’ (2 Corinthians 6:10) as we close 2010.

Happy New Year!  May we all experience the miracle of God’s peace and divine heart protection in 2011:

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

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David Powlison helpfully unpacks what trusting God means in Psalm 28:

Consider David’s Psalm 28. “To you, LORD, I call. My Rock, do not be deaf to me. If you don’t answer me, I will die. Hear the voice of my supplications, my cry for help to you” (vv. 1-2, AT).

This is an example of what it means to “entrust your soul” to the sovereign God. It’s not sedate. David does not mentally rehearse the fact that God is in control in order to quietly press on with unflinching composure.

Instead, trust pleads candidly and believingly with God: “This is big trouble. You must help me. I need you. You are my only hope.” Prayer means “ask for something you need and want.” Supplication means “really ask.” Frank supplication is the furthest thing from keeping everything in perspective so you can move on with life as normal.

The sovereign God does not intend that you maintain the status quo while suffering. Pain disrupts normal. It’s supposed to disrupt normal. It’s supposed to make you feel a need for help.

Psalm 28 is not an orderly “quiet time.” It’s noisy and needy. When you let life’s troubles get to you, it gets you to the only one who can help. As Psalm 28 unfolds, David specifically names the trouble he’s in, what he’s afraid of, what he wants (vv. 3-5). His trust in God’s sovereignty moves to glad confidence (vv. 6-7). Finally, his faith works out into love as he starts interceding on behalf of others (vv. 8-9).

David Powlison, “God’s Grace in Your Sufferings,” in Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, John Piper and Justin Taylor, general editors, pp. 160-161.

 

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For some reason, Google has been bringing me a number of articles recently that deal with disability and anger.  It is a grace to realize I don’t live in that constant, debilitating state of anger at everything, including God, any longer.  God is very merciful.  And he continues to help me fight it today.

In our circles dealing with disability, being angry with God over our circumstances is common.  I won’t say universal as I have met people who did not struggle with anger towards God.  But they would have to be in the minority.

Pastor John dealt with this issue some years ago, and I’ve always appreciated how helpful it was.  So, here’s an excerpt from his article, Is It Ever Right to Be Angry at God?

This is why being angry at God is never right. It is wrong – always wrong – to disapprove of God for what he does and permits. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Genesis 18:25). It is arrogant for finite, sinful creatures to disapprove of God for what he does and permits. We may weep over the pain. We may be angry at sin and Satan. But God does only what is right. “Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments” (Revelation 16:7).

But many who say it is right to be angry with God really mean it is right to express anger at God. When they hear me say it is wrong to be angry with God, they think I mean “stuff your feelings and be a hypocrite.” That’s not what I mean. I mean it is always wrong to disapprove of God in any of his judgments.

But if we do experience the sinful emotion of anger at God, what then? Shall we add the sin of hypocrisy to the sin of anger? No. If we feel it, we should confess it to God. He knows it anyway. He sees our hearts. If anger at God is in our heart, we may as well tell him so, and then tell him we are sorry, and ask him to help us put it away by faith in his goodness and wisdom. (Emphasis mine)

When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, he removed forever the wrath of God from our lives. God’s disposition to us now is entirely mercy, even when severe and disciplinary (Romans 8:1). Therefore, doubly shall those in Christ turn away from the terrible specter of anger at God. We may cry, in agony, “My God, My God, where are you?” But we will follow soon with, “Into your hands I commit my spirit.”

No, this is not easy, especially when the air we breathe in our American culture tells us that we have the ‘right’ to be angry.  I’m thankful God is so much bigger than that and is ready to help us!

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J.I. Packer on grace:

Grace is God drawing us sinners closer and closer to himself.

How does God in grace prosecute this purpose? Not by shielding us from assault by the world, the flesh and the devil, nor by protecting us from burdensome and frustrating circumstances, nor yet by shielding us from troubles created by our own temperament and psychology; but rather by exposing us to all these things, so as to overwhelm us with a sense of our own inadequacy, and to drive us to cling to him more closely.  This is the ultimate reason, from our standpoint, why God fills our lives with troubles and perplexities of one sort and another: it is to ensure that we shall learn to hold him fast. The reason why the Bible spends so much of its time reiterating that God is a strong rock, a firm defense, and a sure refuge and help for the weak, is that God spends so much of his time bringing home to us that we are weak, both mentally and morally, and dare not trust ourselves to find or to follow, the right road.

J.I. Packer, Knowing God, InterVarsity Press, 1993, p. 250.

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He came sent by the Father.

Those who live with disabilities (and those who don’t) are assured he will act.

He is the fulfillment of scripture:

And (Jesus) came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read.  And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.  And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Luke 4:16-21

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Isaiah 60:1-6

Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
and his glory will be seen upon you.
And nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your rising.

Lift up your eyes all around, and see;
they all gather together, they come to you;
your sons shall come from afar,
and your daughters shall be carried on the hip.
Then you shall see and be radiant;
your heart shall thrill and exult,
because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you,
the wealth of the nations shall come to you.
A multitude of camels shall cover you,
the young camels of Midian and Ephah;
all those from Sheba shall come.
They shall bring gold and frankincense,
and shall bring good news, the praises of the Lord.

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“Mama, shall we pray?”

Paul never talks like that, using the appropriate pronoun in context. He has little language.  He had Dianne’s full attention on Wednesday.

“What shall we pray, Paulie?”

His reply, “Dear Jesus. Thank you for Paulie.”

I know that sounds self-serving, his thanking God for himself.  But it isn’t at all.  When he wants something, he says, “do YOU want a drink?”  And that means he wants a drink.

So in Paul’s unusual speech, I believe what he was saying was, ‘I thank you, dear Jesus.’

It was a very good prayer.

If you are imagining tears of broken-hearted gratitude, you are correct.

Yes, Lord, thank you for Paulie.  Thank you for letting this praise come from his lips.  Thank you for the many unusual words that have come from this boy these past, hard months.  He is all gift.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.  Ephesians 3:20-21

May you all experience such a blessing from the hand of God this season.  Merry Christmas!

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On Christmas eve, sometime after 11pm, my ten-year-old son will take the podium at Bethlehem and read this:

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.  And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”  Luke 2:8-14

Pastor Chuck, full of his usual exuberance, instructed my Daniel to read that passage with life and energy and joy!  “The glory of the Lord shone around them!”  With each reader who was proclaiming good news for us, Chuck kept coming back to joy – we should ‘rejoice exceedingly’ (Matthew 2:10) at this news!

I love this type of instruction, because it is not just for the sake of the audience having an entertaining evening.  This really is good news!  Proclaim!  Rejoice!

These are the building blocks that lead to authentic expressions of confidence in God during the hardest of times.

If this story of the coming of God himself is simply a routine, boring, obligatory, ‘nice’ annual program put on for the children and their grandparents, then what will people have to hang on to when the hurricane winds of suffering and sorrow show up?

Pastors, help your people rejoice!  This is the story of God conquering sin and death.  The God-man, the central actor in the central act of all history, has arrived.  The one the prophets foretold.  The one who would heal every disease (Matthew 4:23-24), tell a paralytic to walk, instruct a blind man to wash, call a dead man to come forth!  The one who would rise from the dead!

He is the Lion of Judah:

Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” Revelation 5:1-5

He is the one who conquers every sorrow and wipes away every tear:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:3-4

This is the story of the God who will help us through every trial, will supply every need, and will work all things together for good.  No disability, no disease, no calamity can ever separate those he has called from their God.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

From the hymn, It Is Well with my Soul, by Horatio Gates Spafford

Thank you, Pastor Chuck, for taking every opportunity, even a rehearsal, to remind us to REJOICE!

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On the cross Jesus stands in the place of his people by undergoing the suffering they as sinners deserve, and then in the resurrection manifesting the exaltation that he as the righteous sufferer deserves. The words of Jesus must impact the way we view suffering.  Suffering – the suffering on the cross (and resurrection) of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – is the most important event in human history.  God does not exempt himself from suffering but enters into it fully in the person of his Son.  And, mysteriously, the suffering of God incarnate accomplishes our salvation!  As a result, it is no wonder that our worship as the people of God is consumed with Jesus’ suffering and vindication. We worship the crucified and risen One. How can we, as his beloved people, saved by his suffering, refuse to drink when he offers us the cup of suffering?

Dan G. McCartney, “Suffering and the Goodness of God in the Gospels” in Suffering and the Goodness of God, edited by Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson, p. 93.

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From Where is God? The Supremacy of Christ in an Age of Terror delivered by John Piper on September 11, 2005:

One of the truths of the Bible that we embrace with trembling joy is the truth of God’s supremacy in all things. The mission of our church is that we exist to spread a passion of the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ. When we say that, we do not mean: “except in calamities,” “except in war,” “except when Al Qaeda blows up a building or a train,” “except when cancer takes a mom or a child is born with profound disabilities.” There are no “except” clauses in our mission statement (emphasis mine).

We did not formulate our mission in a rosy world—and then get surprised and embarrassed by the reality of suffering. We did not have our head in the sand. We formulated our mission in the real world of pain and suffering and evil and death. We have seen even among our own people, some very peaceful, but also some very terrible deaths. We exist to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things—all things—for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ—all the time. A passion for God’s supremacy—Christ’s supremacy (for he is God incarnate)—in all things, all the time.

Pastor John ends this sermon answering this question:  “Why, Lord? Why is the world you made like this? If you are God—if you are the Christ the Son of the living God—why is this world so full of terror and trouble?”

Whether you know the answer already or not, it was a great comfort to me!  I encourage you to watch or read this sermon.

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