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Archive for April, 2012

As I write this, Chen Guangcheng is still reportedly at the United States embassy in China.  He is famous because he has stood against a great evil in China:

A self-taught lawyer, he has called attention to human rights abuses against the disabled and women who have been forcibly sterilized.

In Crisis Over Dissident, U.S. Sends Official to Beijing, The New York Times, April 29, 2012.

And he is blind.  I have yet to read a story that doesn’t make mention, usually multiple times, to his blindness.

Obviously, God has gifted him with both intellectual gifts and with courage.  We value those gifts a great deal, especially when applied to helping others who are weak.  And since we consider him inherently part of the weak because of his disability, we are doubly amazed.

It does not appear his life has been easy at any point. If I am reading his history correctly, Chen Guangcheng couldn’t even read until he was 23 yet by the time he was 34 he was bringing a lawsuit against the Chinese government in Shandong  Province for their brutal enforcement of the one-child policy.

The man born blind lived with such a problem of lack of opportunity.  He was only allowed to beg in his adulthood (John 9:8).

But when given the opportunity, he spoke truth to authority:

So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”  (John 9:24-25 ESV)

Those in authority gave him another chance, and he refused to back down or be caught in their political games:

They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” (John 9:26-33 ESV)

The result: he was cast out (John 9:34).

Chen Guangcheng and the man born blind had unexpected gifts of insight, articulation and courage – and it appears both were underestimated until it was impossible to ignore them.

Are we doing the same with our church members with disabilities, missing the gifts and the opportunities for their expressing those gifts for the benefit of others?

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Let us stand like this man

I had the pleasure of joining a group of people on Friday that included a Christian man from Ghana.  He loves Jesus and he holds tightly to the promises of God in ways that are beautiful and humbling.  He has been evangelizing, mentoring and teaching for years in Western Africa, including in some very dangerous places.

Last year he lost his daughter to an illness of some kind, a beautiful 21-year-old young woman about to finish college.  He and his wife suffered greatly.  The response from some of the Christian ‘leaders’ he knows made me sick: ‘confess your sins to me and she will be made well’ or ‘I have received a prophetic word that God has heard your prayers and she will leave the hospital.’  So little compassion, so much presumption, and so little Bible.

Yet, he knows that God is sovereign and good.

In fact, he spent most of the time talking about the dangerous advance of the health, wealth and prosperity gospel.  Too many ‘pastors’ are selling God as little more than a robot programmed to respond to certain actions: if you need money, give the church more money and it will be returned to you in blessing; if you experience sickness, it is your fault because you don’t have enough faith, or you have unconfessed sin, or you have not been generous enough with your church.

No talk of the suffering Jesus told us to expect.  No talk of Jesus being of greater treasure than all earthly goods.  No mention of seeking God above all things.  No hope in future grace.

We spoke a bit about disability and the news was the same: it is presented as God’s curse and families are given a terrible, hopeless picture of God.  There is no talk among the prosperity preachers about disability serving a greater purpose for the glory of God and the benefit of his church. There is no trusting in the Word where God takes full responsibility for disability in this present age.

Yet, this man stands on promises and clings to Jesus and talks of God’s mercy and grace and peace even in the hardest of circumstances, like the death of his much-loved daughter.  I want to be like him.

And I want the cruel, inhumane, unbiblical, Satanic prosperity gospel to go away, forever.  Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

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Who does the church need?

Every Christian community must know that not only do the weak need the strong, but that the strong cannot exist without the weak. The elimination of the weak is the death of the community.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, p. 94.

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I had the pleasure of meeting Melinda Delahoyde a couple of weeks ago when she passed through town.  She is the president of Care Net, a network of more than 1,100 pregnancy centers across the United States that are dedicated to helping pregnant mothers and saving babies from abortion.

She also happens to be the mother of a child with a disability.

Her oldest son, William, lives with Down syndrome.  Together, they made the two-minute video below.

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Something a little different today.

I’m very grateful for Bethlehem.  In addition to the preaching and teaching, which has changed everything in how I think about and view God’s sovereignty over disability in this present age, they also help me be a better father and husband, sometimes in very specific ways.  One example was this past Saturday where Hannah and I enjoyed the annual Father-Daughter Tea.

My daughter is a great gift to me, and for my church to encourage special investment in her life was more than helpful – it was also a joy!

The following was at every father’s seat. Yes, we bless Jesus’ name together, for he is our joy and salvation!  May God delight in granting you such joy in his good gifts of children today.

A Father’s Prayer
 
Author of all existence, for my wonderful children’s sake do not keep silent, and for their sake do not be quiet, until their righteousness goes forth as brightness, and their salvation as a burning torch.
 
Let men see their righteousness, and women their glory, because You have called them by a new name that Your mouth has given. May they be as a crown of beauty in Your hand, and a royal diadem in the hand of their God. Let them be called My Delight Is In Them, for You delight in Your servants. Fill them with the joyful knowledge that You take pleasure in them, that as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so You rejoice over them. Please establish them and make them a praise in the earth. Let those who eat the grain and drink the wine of their houses praise the LORD, and exult in Your holiness.
 
My children, behold, your salvation has come; behold, His reward is Himself! Rejoice! For you are numbered among the Holy People, the Redeemed of the LORD; and you are called Sought Out, A Child Not Forsaken.
 
O Mighty One, help them to put their hope in You-You who are splendid in Your apparel, marching in the greatness of Your strength, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save. Thank you for sparing their lifeblood and bringing to them salvation by Your powerful arm. Thank you, that when they deserved to be trod in Your anger and trampled in Your wrath, You gave Jesus Christ to bear their punishment! We bless His name together, for He is our joy and our salvation. Amen.
 
adapted from Isaiab 62 & 63
©2010 Setting Their Hope in God by Andrew Case
 

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If you’re God’s child you don’t have to wonder about how your story will end because your future is sealed and secure in Christ.

Paul Tripp

God knows what he is doing, for his glory and for our good, for everybody of every ability. God knows the story of the lives of our children with disabilities. We can live free because of who God is and who we are in Christ!

I have set the LORD always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
(Psalm 16:8-9 ESV)

 

 

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Dr. Meyer, candidate for Associate Pastor for Preaching and Vision, was interviewed last week by Pastor Sam Crabtree.  The very last question dealt with suffering, and I found his spontaneous response helpful.  It is about five minutes.

You can watch the entire 75 minute interview here.

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I first heard Mark Talbot at the 2005 Desiring God Conference, Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, and was blown away with his personal understanding and articulation of the sovereignty of God.

This four minute video provides a great introduction into why Mark Talbot was invited to speak at Desiring God’s disability conference The Works of God: God’s Good Design in Disability.  I hope you will consider joining us to hear directly from Dr. Talbot.

Thank you to Justin Taylor who posted this interview last week at his blog.

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(S)uffering is nothing more than the taking away of bad things or good things that the world offers for our enjoyment—reputation, esteem among peers, job, money, spouse, sexual life, children, friends, health, strength, sight, hearing, success, etc. When these things are taken away (by force or by circumstance or by choice), we suffer. But if we have followed Paul and the teaching of Jesus and have already counted them as loss for the surpassing value of gaining Christ, then we are prepared to suffer.

If when you become a Christian you write a big red “LOSS” across all the things in the world except Christ, then when Christ calls you to forfeit some of those things, it is not strange or unexpected. The pain and the sorrow may be great. The tears may be many, as they were for Jesus in Gethsemane. But we will be prepared. We will know that the value of Christ surpasses all the things the world can offer and that in losing them we gain more of Christ.

John Piper, Called to Suffer and Rejoice: That We Might Gain ChristAugust 23, 1992.

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From Pastor John’s sermon, The Works of God and the Worship of Jesus.  Paragraph formatting and emphasis in bold are mine.

When Jesus says, the purpose of this blindness is “that the works of God might be displayed in him,” he assumes the manifestation of the works of God, has a value that outweighs years and years of blindness. Both for the man and his parents.

In order to embrace that, we have to value the manifestation of the works of God more than we value seeing. Indeed more than we value life itself.

Psalm 63:3 says, “Your steadfast love is better than life.” And Jesus said to the prisoners in Smyrna, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” Being loved by God, and being with God forever, is better than having eyes and better than being alive in this world.

If we don’t believe that, then saying that God has wise and good purposes in all our losses, will not be much comfort.

But if we do believe it, not only will God’s purposes comfort us and strengthen us, but they will make us able to patiently, and gently help others through their times of darkness.

John Piper, The Works of God and the Worship of Jesus, presented June 4, 2011.

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