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Archive for December, 2011

Friday morning I woke up with no heat in the house because the boiler had failed, Desiring God was still $200,000 from its year-end goal, and Paul had multiple seizures the day before.

I felt crummy.  The little darts and arrows of anxiety and doubt were multiplying.  Yet, I knew enough to say to Dianne, “I am commanded to live without anxiety.” To which she rightly replied, “yes, you are.”

So, the fight began.  And God provided, through something Pastor John had preached just this past Sunday.

This is a longer piece from Pastor John’s most recent sermon, but I encourage you to read it all:

And because we have peace with God because of being justified by faith, we can begin to grow in the enjoyment of peace with ourselves — and here I include any sense of guilt or anxiety that tends to paralyze us or make us hopeless. Here again believing the promises of God with a view to glorifying God in our lives is key.

Philippians 4:6–7 is one of the most precious passages in this regard: “Do not be anxious about anything [the opposite of anxiety is peace], but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God [in other words, roll your anxieties onto God]. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

The picture here is that our hearts and our minds are under assault. Guilt, worries, threats, confusions, uncertainties — they all threaten our peace. And Paul says that God wants to “guard” your hearts and minds. He guards them with his peace. He guards them in a way that goes beyond what human understanding can fathom. Don’t limit the peace of God by what your understanding can see. He gives us inexplicable peace, supra-rational peace. And he does it when we take our anxieties to him in prayer and trust him, that he will carry them for us (1 Peter 5:7) and protect us.

When we do this, when we come to him — and remember we already have peace with him! — and trust him as our loving and almighty heavenly Father to help us, his peace comes to us and steadies us, and protects us from the disabling effects of fear and anxiety and guilt. And then we are able to carry on and our God gets the glory for what we do, because we trusted him.

And God provided, again.  As I write this, I am at peace.  The house is still cold (repairman is on the way, Lord willing), I have no idea what donations will look like for Desiring God, and Paul’s doctor is off until next week so we must wait.

In all this, I know God is good.  I have a foreign righteousness supplied by Jesus that lets me come into the presence of the Lord of the universe to seek his help!  Amazing.

That is why I am optimistic about 2012, and I pray you are as well – not because of our circumstances, but because God himself is for us.  And we know how that story will end someday!

And for my friends who are weary this last day of the year, I also recommend a beautiful post by Jon Bloom, A Year-End Prayer for Weary Waiters.  Yes, come quickly, Lord Jesus – next year in Jerusalem!

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Of all the things I read or watched this year, the video below has stayed with me the most, I think.

God didn’t ask my opinion about having a son with multiple disabilities.  I’m grateful for that as I would have responded wrongly, and I did respond wrongly.  But somewhere along the way he changed my heart about that boy and his disabilities.

And I have a long way to go.  I’ve never met Dr. McQuilken, but the easy way he accepted his new assignment from God as his wife’s Alzheimer’s disease progressed instructs me about my heart and where I want it to be oriented.

Justin Taylor first blogged about Dr. and Mrs. McQuilken in February.  The three articles are devastating and beautiful.

May it be that God does as Justin asked in his post: May God make us men like this.

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I decided my office needed a good purge before we enter 2012, and I uncovered a gem of a little booklet by Paul Tripp, Suffering: Eternity Makes a Difference.

Trials and suffering explode the myth that the goal of life is to get as much as I can. They remind me that the best earthly situations and experiences can pass away, sometimes quite suddenly.

Trials also help me realize who God is and the meaning of the gospel of Christ. Rather than challenging the truths of the love and justice of God, trials and suffering preach them! It is because of them that God will not let me believe the lie that life is found in the things of this world.

God’s love calls me back from hope in the world to hope in him. And in his love he is preparing me for the real thing, eternal glory that far outweighs any pain in this present life.

Paul Tripp, Suffering: Eternity Makes a Difference, p. 23.

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I”m surrounded by prolific readers who make helpful recommendations.  So when I heard several recommendations for Tony Reinke’s book and then was given it, I looked forward to reading it.

But I wasn’t  expecting a book about books to knock me flat on my face to worship!

I can now see the magnificence of our Savior. He is fully God and fully man. He is the Lion and the Lamb – the Sovereign and the Sufferer. He is the Prophet, Priest and King – speaking, dying, and reigning. He is Light to the blind, Health to the sinfully sick, Strength to the spiritually weak, Food for the spiritually famished, Joy for the sorrowful heart, Comfort for the despised, Deliverance for lost souls, Drink for the thirsty soul, and Triumph for the abused. He is my Savior, my Shepherd, my Friend, my Lord, my Life, my Way, my End.

Tony Reinke, Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books, p. 35.

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A helpful word from Charles Spurgeon about using the gifts we have for God’s glory and for the sake of other people, like the four men who brought the paralytic to Jesus:

After all, the method which the four friends followed was one most suitable to their abilities. They were, I suppose, four strong fellows, to whom the load was no great weight, and the work of digging was comparatively easy. The method suited their capacity exactly.

And what did they do when they had let the sick man down? Look at the scene and admire? I do not read that they said a single word, yet what they did was enough: abilities for lifting and carrying did the needful work.

Some of you say, “Ah, we cannot be of any use; we wish we could preach.” These men could not preach: they did not need to preach. They lowered the paralytic, and their work was done. They could not preach, but they could hold a rope. . .

O hearts that love sinners lay their lost estate before Jesus; bring their cases as they are before the Savior; if your tongues stammer, your hearts will prevail; if you cannot speak even to Christ himself, as you would desire, because you have not the gift of prayer, yet if your strong desires spring from the spirit of prayer you cannot fail. God help us to make use of such means as are within our power, and not to sit down idly to regret the powers we do not possess.

Charles Spurgeon, Carried by Four, delivered March 19, 1871.

It is also a good reminder – our family and friends with disabilities may not be able to do many things, but God has given them something to do for his glory.  Let us work hard to prepare everyone to use the gifts they have, and not simply grieve what we think is lacking.

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Mark Talbot is a gift to Christ’s church.  He uses his massive intellectual gifts for the sake of the church, and God has shaped those gifts through Dr. Talbot’s disability.  I pray you’ll get to know him better in 2012:

I have come to realize that God is protecting me from idolatrous self-sufficiency by taking various goods away from me so that I am not tempted to rest satisfied in them.  Each morning as I get up, my disability prompts me to trust God rather than to rely on my own strength.  And so, in this second stage of my coming to understand how God works in and through our difficulties, I came to realize that some things that are really evil – Christians are not Christian Scientists who say that evil is illusory – are also really good and that, as such, these evils are actually ordained by God.

What does it mean to say that God ordains something? It means that he has eternally willed it to come about.

Mark Talbot, “True Freedom: The Liberty that Scripture Portrays as Worth Having” in Beyond the Bounds: Open Theism and the Undermining of Biblical Christianity, edited by John Piper, Justin Taylor and Paul Kjoss Helseth, p. 88.

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I really like Matt Hammit of Sanctus Real.

His youngest son was born in 2010 with a serious heart defect.  God provided excellent care, and today he’s growing – with half a heart.

It also did something to his father, making him both more serious and more joyful.  I’ve enjoyed watching this happen, and also seeing how God has continued to fuel his passion for suffering families experiencing what he did.

Earlier this year, Matt created his first solo album which I have enjoyed a great deal.  And this particular song has special meaning.

Merry Christmas, all my friends!  May we bask in the immeasurable grace God has extended to us this day!

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On Christmas morning my three younger children will slide out of bed and rush to look in their stockings.  They will happily compare their little gifts, then not-so-happily wait until everyone is up and breakfast is served, eaten and table cleared before we open presents.

They live with excitement about receiving gifts, and increasingly with joy at giving gifts.  I enjoy that.

And my oldest son will not care about any of it.  For him, it is just another day.  With heavy coaxing and much help, he will ‘open’ a present.  He may like it, or he may not.  He might like it in six months.  Or never.  Or if his sleep cycle is off again, he may just want to sleep in his chair all day.

At some point, I’ll feel that ache in my heart that wants him to enjoy something, anything, with the enthusiasm of his siblings.  I will feel like crying.  After 16 Christmases, I’m pretty sure about this.

Then, something will happen.  It always does.  Whether from a child, or a piece of music, or during a family prayer, God will remind me that this really is a happy day.

We celebrate because of Jesus.

The Messiah has been born.  Angels will tell about him to shepherds and pagans will follow a star to worship him.

He will grow up and say radical things to people with broken hearts:

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
(Matthew 5:2-8 ESV)

He will let little children come to him.  He will cast out demons, heal the sick, cleanse lepers and reverse disabilities.  He will speak harshly to those who are arrogant and gently to those who are forgotten or ignored or marginalized.

He gives meaning to disability:

Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents (that he was born blind), but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
(John 9:3 ESV)

He proves his authority through disability:

But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose. . .
(Mark 2:10-12 ESV)

He will live a perfect life.  And he will die, but only at the right time and only because he allows it to happen:

For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
(John 10:17-18 ESV)

And he would take it up again!  He would teach us that he didn’t do it out of reluctant obligation – but for JOY!  He endured not simply for the sake of endurance, but for the sake of eternal joy that he freely shares with his elect!

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
(Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)

Not one of us who cling to him will be lost – not a single one!  No one can snatch us out of his hand!

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.
(John 10:27-30 ESV)

He holds everything together, including our children with disabilities:

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.
(Hebrews 1:3 ESV)

After he rose and just before he returned to the Father, he gave us a job:

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
(Acts 1:6-8 ESV)

So, we testify, and we wait.  But we wait with anticipation for a new day!  It is coming – just like the people had to wait before Jesus came the first time, we must wait until his second coming.  And it will be worth it!

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.”
(Revelation 21:5-6 ESV)

So, today our hearts ache.  But even here, we see God’s grace toward us as it increases our longing for him:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
(Romans 8:18-30 ESV)

Christmas is the signal that all our suffering and all our pain is coming to an end.  Not because of us, but because of Jesus.

Someday, my child and yours, who have never ‘enjoyed’ this day, will enjoy it purely, as it is meant to be enjoyed.  And they won’t feel like they have missed anything important on this earth.  Nor will we.

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.
(Revelation 22:20-21 ESV)

Amen and Amen!

Merry Christmas!

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One of the best things I’ve done for myself is to commit to read through the Bible in a disciplined way.  In fact, I was just wondering when I should blog about that again as the new year approaches when I saw Joni tweet her own invitation to read through the Bible in a year!

I know this is one of those things everyone knows they ‘should’ do, so I’ve just added a layer of guilt on top of everything else – and just before Christmas no less.

But if you try it, I think you might find something else – a daily help from God, a reminder of his care for you, a fresh insight into a promise, a glimpse into the purposes of God, a perspective into his character, new wonder at how amazing Jesus is, anticipation about spending eternity with him with ever increasing measures of joy!

The enemy of your faith and mine hates it when we get recharged like that, so he’ll make many attempts to make this entirely about duty rather than delight.  The fight is worth it.

And if January 10th (or so) arrives and you haven’t started yet, so what!  Don’t try to catch up, simply start on that day.  In a year (or two) you’ll get through the whole thing.  And it will have been entirely worth it.

Joni and Ken use the chronological schedule.  I’ve used the M’Cheyne One-Year Reading Plan that Crossway provides for free online.  There are others.  I haven’t decided what I’m going to use next year yet.

Justin Taylor provided some additional examples a couple of years ago, including how to use the M’Cheyne One-Year Reading Plan to read through the Bible in two years.

Since there are four readings each day, it’s easy to modify this one so that you read through the Bible once in two years, by reading just the first two readings each day for the first year and the second two readings each day for the second year.

The amount of time isn’t that important – take four years if that will help you get started!  Please, give it a try and see what God might be pleased to show you, for his glory and for your good.

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Another encouraging word from Jan Lacher.

Please note how much Jan invests in both the church and in Michael.  It isn’t always possible, I know.  I’m not even suggesting it is always wise.  That’s why every engagement in the church that needs to be different because of disability should be prayed for ‘without ceasing,’ asking and expecting God’s help.

But I love this example of God using this family to guide the hearts of boys.  What might God be preparing them for as men?

Here’s Jan’s update:

Here is a little update on Michael’s Wednesday night connection class to encourage you to press on dear brothers and sisters. As you know, we have “mainstreamed” Michael into his class for about three years. Currently, we are in Diane’s (team leader) Wednesday 3/4th grade class.  I attend the classes with the Fox to care for him.  I typically glean tremendous truths from the rich lessons that are taught.  I love seeing Michael’s peers and enjoy interacting with them.

God has done incredible work in the hearts of people to include Michael even when it is hard or uncomfortable.

Last night, before the class, Michael’s teacher, Mr. P asked me if he could call upon Michael and have us place a visual on the poster during the lesson.  We are currently studying the Biblical definition of a fool. I raised my eyebrows and agreed on Michael’s behalf to have him “do” it–that is if they can part the Red Sea of chairs to allow us access to the front of the class.

We usually sit in the back of the room.  It allows me to come and go with Michael as needed.

The lesson began.  At one point, Mr. P called upon Michael to place the visual.  The kids gasped–Michael, do it? Some exclaimed, “YEAH, Michael!”

I cautioned Mr. P, as we approached the front, to protect his computer that he uses during the lesson, as Michael would find it fair game to bang on the floor. Mr. P did so.

We made our way forward with Michael’s teacher asking the class,  “On which road should the foolish heart be placed?”  They answered appropriately.  We placed (I placed) the visual on the poster, and I turned to wheel Michael to the back of the room.  The boys in the room started to chant, “MICHAEL!” followed by clap, clap, clap; “MICHAEL!” clap, clap, clap.  Some of the girls joined in.  I was moved by their kindnesses to him.  Michael rolled side to side in the wheelchair with excitement.  My heart was swollen in gratitude.

I think that when people see how God uses all types of people–people like Michael–they are blessed and are more apt to take a risk and do that which is out of the comfort zone.   May God be honored and praised and glorified.

Amen, Jan.  And thank you for letting Michael lead us to God.

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