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Archive for August, 2011

I’ve heard Mark Talbot speak live on suffering and the sovereignty of God on two occasions and read chapters he has written in other books.  I am looking forward to a book he is writing on suffering.

He looks squarely at suffering through the lens of God’s word, and makes Jesus look beautiful:

In a glorious and mysterious way that is currently past our finding out and that in no way excuses our sin, all of this sin and suffering will make it undeniably clear that God’s grace—and God’s grace alone—is sufficient for us, and thus we shall indeed see that his power is made perfect in our weakness.

And therefore it will be our joy and glory in the eschaton to sing gladly of our former sin and suffering, so that Christ’s power and glory may be more apparent.

For God the Father has ordained that the melody of each of our everlasting songs will be how his Son, our glorious Lord, has saved us from all sin and suffering.

There the world’s broken stage will have been completely renovated, and all of our own badness and brokenness utterly removed.

Mark Talbot, “Bad Actors on a Broken Stage,” in With Calvin in the Theater of God edited by John Piper and David Mathis, p. 81.

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As D.A. Carson unpacks the story of Job, he ends with a focus on God’s questions to Job which cover Job 38-41.  Emphases in bold are mine:

God’s chapters are stunning because at the end of the day he provides no systematic answer that will sort out the entire problem of innocent suffering.  All of his rhetorical questions combine to mean one thing: we human beings are not always going to get explanations, but God is bigger than we are and sometimes we just have to trust him.  At the end, Job repents (see Job 42:1-6) – not of imaginary sins that his “friends” think he needs to confess in order to win back God’s favor, but of his rather presumptuous tendency to insist on answers rather than to trust.

God nevertheless insists that Job basically got the account right. Doubtless Job was becoming a bit pushy toward the end, but God’s displeasure is reserved for the three “friends” who think they have God all figured out.

At the end of the story God restores the fortunes of Job. This should not be surprising. After all, at the end of time, according to the Bible, not only will justice be done, but it will be seen to be done. The restoration of Job’s fortunes is a kind of microcosm of the bigger story of world history under God: justice will prevail in the end.

D. A. Carson, The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God’s Story, p. 99.

I struggle with that desire for answers over trusting.  Most of us will live without a specific answer to why disability has entered our lives.  The answer is always the same – we must trust God.

But the ending will be certain!  Everything we thought we had lost because of disability will be more than restored because we get to be with Jesus.  Every wrong committed against us (and by us) will either be dealt with through Jesus’ free sacrifice or through eternal suffering.

It will be perfect, and it will be seen.

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Did you see the stories about Oscar Pistorius, the man without legs below both knees who is running in the World Athletic Championship?

It is a great story of a remarkable athlete.  But some folks don’t like him competing because they feel his prosthetic legs or blades give him an advantage.

Isn’t that great – they’re concerned the guy without legs has an advantage in a running race!  Maybe technology will make that the case someday, but right now it seems like this guy is just a world-class athlete who needs prosthesis.

More importantly, those of us living with disability in our families really do have an advantage over those who are tempted to believe themselves strong and independent!

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

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Pastor Kenny was preaching on Saturday night from Colosians 1:3-14.

Verses 11-14 landed powerfully on me before he even started preaching:

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

We are surrounded by God in these verses:
  • God strengthens – according to his glorious might!
  • The Father qualifies us for the inheritance And delivers us from the domain of darkness AND transfers us to the kingdom of Jesus!
  • Jesus provides forgiveness of sins!

Put together, the endurance and patience WITH JOY and thankfulness make sense - God has surrounded us with all that we need for today and the hope of a glorious future with Jesus.

Then Pastor Kenny started preaching and I learned a whole lot more!  Plus, he mentioned the disability ministry a couple of times, and that always encourages me.

May your Lord’s Day be equally refreshing, emboldening and encouraging!

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It is one thing to talk about cancer and God’s sovereignty.  It is another thing entirely to talk about cancer and God’s sovereignty while it is attacking your body.

Dr. James Boice was the Senior Minister at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia for more than 30 years.  Upon learning of his cancer, which would eventually take his life, he made an announcement to the people he obviously loved.

And he didn’t just love them, he lead them by his own example.  I’ve included excerpts below:

If I were to reflect on what goes on theologically here, there are two things I would stress.

One is the sovereignty of God. That’s not novel. We have talked about the sovereignty of God here forever. God is in charge. When things like this come into our lives, they are not accidental. It’s not as if God somehow forgot what was going on, and something bad slipped by. It’s not the answer that Harold Kushner gave in his book, Why Bad Things Happen to Good People. God does everything according to his will. We’ve always said that.

But what I’ve been impressed with mostly is something in addition to that.

It’s possible, isn’t it, to conceive of God as sovereign and yet indifferent? God’s in charge, but he doesn’t care. But it’s not that. God is not only the one who is in charge; God is also good. Everything he does is good. And what Romans 12, verses 1 and 2 says is that we have the opportunity by the renewal of our minds—that is, how we think about these things—actually to prove what God’s will is.

And then it says, “His good, pleasing, and perfect will.” Is that good, pleasing, and perfect to God? Yes, of course, but the point of it is that it’s good, pleasing, and perfect to us. If God does something in your life, would you change it? If you’d change it, you’d make it worse. It wouldn’t be as good. So that’s the way we want to accept it and move forward, and who knows what God will do?

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Last week Dianne received a call from someone wanting to sell her nutritional supplements.  This person was an evangelist for that product and gave testimony to how ‘awesome’ these products have been in her life.  Dianne explored some of what she was saying and this woman freely shared that she couldn’t be happy without her nutritional supplements to give her the health she desired.

She couldn’t be happy without them.  That’s an idol.  God is clear about idols.

“You shall have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20:3

Dianne pointed out to her that eventually those supplements will fail her; her body will succumb, if not to disease then to the natural effects of time.  But this lady could not see it; her happiness was tied up in her product.   And it was more than her just representing the product – you can smell the difference between a salesperson and a true believer after awhile.

The temptation for all of us, of course, is that when we find something that ‘works’ for us – drugs, supplements, therapies, diet changes – we want to share it with everyone!  And that can come along with the unstated expectation that if you don’t do what I’ve done, you don’t really care about your family as much as you should.

We have friends in the disability community who are all over the spectrum with regards to the use or not of medicines, medical technologies or nutritional supplements to address disease and disability in our families.

Talk about an opportunity for emotional fireworks!

Fortunately, there is a respect amongst our group that each of our situations is unique and that God will help us address our situations as we discern best.  Sometimes that means looking for advice from friends in similar situations; sometimes it means exploring other ways to address issues.  We aren’t perfect at it and feelings can get hurt.  But I’m grateful when I think about how much God has helped us maintain relationships.

And the source of that help is God as the center of our hope.  When God is the center of our hope, we can be generous with each other and prayerfully dependent together even when we are attacking the physical suffering in our lives in different ways.

It also means we can be courageous when necessary.  Dianne shared with this woman that some of the things she was doing are sinful!  Like positioning the product as a cure for cancer or Down syndrome.

Or worse, like centering happiness and hope in a product that, at best, will make this vapor’s breath life a little longer when the reality of our own sin and eternity is staring all of us in the face.

No!  Rather:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13

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My sister forwarded this, courtesy of ‘Christian Quote of the Day – August 21, 2011,’ which also happened to be the day we finally got the formal diagnosis of seizures:

All our difficulties are only platforms for the manifestation of His grace, power, and love.

Hudson Taylor

Amen

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