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Archive for December, 2009

Last week Pastor John tweeted this:

Wave 1: Catholics say No to abortion. Wave 2: Evangelicals flood the land with CPC’s.  Wave 3: Blacks and Latino’s bring it down.

Which prompted this excellent post by Jon Ensor: The Third Wave of the Pregnancy Help Movement. That post will help make sense of Pastor John’s tweet.

Mr. Ensor references the good that came through an ultrasound, and I agree that is a good thing in the evidence of thousands and thousands of unborn children who have been spared destruction because of ultrasounds.

But I will continue to raise this caution: when disability is found through ultrasound, babies die, including when the parents are Christians.  We must bring the clear message of God’s sovereignty over all things into the ultrasound room when hard things are discovered.  Parents deserve to know who God is in the midst of what many people believe are hopeless futures, for their children and for themselves.

That is why I pray there will be a fourth wave that buries the abortion industry for good.  And I can see it possibly coming through the community of people with disabilities, their families and their churches that God uses to demonstrate his sovereignty and goodness and care in all things, including disability and disease, for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ.

Lord, please make it so!

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Lord willing, my family will be in South Dakota today (Sunday) as we visit extended family.  One of the great blessings of being in South Dakota is attending a really good church, Central Valley Community Church, in Hartford, South Dakota.

What makes it so good?

  • God-centered preaching.  Pastor Chris Gorman just gets better and better over the years we’ve visited.  He takes God’s word seriously, obviously spends time in study and meditation, and demonstrates personal affections for Jesus Christ.
  • Commitment to missions and church planting.  They didn’t even wait to have their own building before they planted another church in a nearby community.  I love that!
  • Elders committed to leading well.  Chris brought his entire elder board to a Desiring God Pastors Conference so they could learn what he was learning and so they could, together, consider how to best lead that church.  Then I met another elder at the most recent Children Desiring God conference.  These men are serious, and joyful, about their leadership roles.

And, equally important to me:

  • They are a kind, welcoming community for my multiply-disabled niece and her parents.  That young woman is known and accepted.

It is a joy to be with God’s people and to soak in his word when away from home.  May God grant you that same blessing this season if you are traveling!

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I first became aware of Matt Chandler when he spoke at the 2009 Desiring God Conference for Pastors.  I have come to deeply appreciate his church and his preaching.  When he first experienced a seizure a couple of weeks ago, his response in the face of uncertainty was God-centered and God honoring.

As I write this on Wednesday afternoon, I just read the post from the Village Church that Pastor Matt Chandler’s seizures were due to a malignant brain tumor.  You can read the Village Church’s statement here.

God is doing an amazing thing in this.  Because Matt Chandler is a ‘rising star’ amongst preachers, people are paying attention to what he is saying about what he is experiencing.  A great deal is already passing around the internet and even some media about how Pastor Chandler is responding: with confidence in his savior and a future hope that is secure.

That tends to be the case – people pay more attention to a person’s faith when things are hard than when things are going well.

It is a good response, and one we should pray God would continue to hold up as we also pray for Pastor Chandler’s health and for his family.

And it reminds me of how Pastor John helpfully wrote about hoping in God in his book, Future Grace:

The grace and kindness of the Lord comes to us in accord with our hope in him: “Let thy lovingkindness, O Lord, be upon us, according as we have hoped in Thee” (Psalm 33:22). We are told, “Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the Lord” (Psalm 31:24). The reason those who hope in the Lord can take courage is that they are the beneficiaries of the promise of future grace: “The eye of the Lord is on. . . those who hope for his lovingkindness” (Psalm 33:18). The radical lifestyle of strength and courage in the cause of righteousness flows from hope in God’s lovingkindness, that is, from faith in future grace.  John Piper, Future Grace, p. 245.

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After watching John, Noel and Talitha Piper dance, I went to the website and created a video of my four children doing the same thing.

I half-thought as I was sizing my disabled son’s ‘elf’ photo that it might be depressing.  To my surprise, watching my Paul ‘dance’ was incredibly encouraging.

Someday, all his limitations will be gone, and mine.  Someday, he will be free to dance and sing and rejoice.

With Jesus.

Forever.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 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 21:1-4

Amen!

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No, the 2010 Desiring God Conference for Pastors is not specifically on disability or starting a disability ministry.  It is actually entitled, The Pastor, the People, and the Pursuit of Joy: The Apostolic Aim of Pastoral Ministry.  But the implications of pastors being workers for their peoples’ joy are huge on this issue of disability, suffering, and the church. 

And Sam Storms is worth the price of admission by himself (by the way, admission is cheaper if you register by Dec. 31 or if you bring five or more people with you).

So, encourage your pastor(s) to attend.

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Thank you to pastor, author and blogger Kevin DeYoung for pointing to this amazing presentation on the human cell.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

Psalm 139:13-16

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Dr.Linda Treloar, writer of the the article, Disability, spiritual  beliefs and the church: the experiences of adults with disabilities and family members, presents a refreshingly positive view of Christian belief with some findings that pastors should find helpful.  Unfortunately the article is owned by a journal that only provides libraries and subscribers access, so I cannot link to it here.

She makes great attempts to be fair in her descriptions.  For example, here is how she describes Evangelical Christians:

Evangelical Christians recognize the Bible as the inerrant, inspired word of God in its original writings. Biblical scriptures, the active living word of God, provide direction for living (see National Association of Evangelicals 2002, Scottsdale Bible Church 2002).

No political references and no pejorative language.  The entire article is written the same way, through the description of the study itself to the recruiting process through the findings.  I do not believe that Dr. Treloar has any particular connection with or affection for Christian beliefs, but she is certainly sympathetic to her study participants.  Frequently she lets them tell their own stories:

One person said to me, ‘Don’t you hate God if He would do this to you?  That He chose you to have a child with a disability?’ Very strong words. Why, who am I? I don’t have a right to say to God, ‘Who are you to do that to me?’ I’m His child, so is Michelle. He’s doing what He sees best for us, even though we don’t necessarily see the big picture. Most of us have a limited perspective of who we are in relation to God, even people that go to church regularly.

Dr. Treloar appears to be most interested in what actually helped people put their experience of disability into perspective, so there is very little interpretting of whether the study participants are ‘right’ in their beliefs or not.  I believe that to be a weakness of the study, but it also allows her to go where the study participants take her rather than to pre-determined conclusions.

And she presents some very helpful advice for churches:

Several religious factors positively influenced the participants’ responses to challenges associated with disability. God was at the centre of the participants’ ultimate concerns. They used the Bible and their faith to provide meaning for their lives (emphasis mine). They experienced decreased spiritual distress for disability when their life circumstances were congruent with their spiritual beliefs. While high religious support by the church promoted positive adaptation to disability, it was not as important as the participants’ personal relationship with Jesus Christ (emphasis mine).

In other words, encourage the study of the Bible and a right understanding of Jesus Christ!  And a common outcome of such an understanding?

What the participants’ believed influenced their response to life. The participants chose to live with joy and thankfulness despite stresses associated with disability. This reflected their belief in God’s greater purpose and plan for their lives.

The study participants also made recommendations:

The participants emphasized the need for increased assistance by the church in establishing theological meaning for disability (emphasis mine). Lack of a biblical foundation for achieving meaning in disability promoted spiritual distress and movement away from God and the church for a few participants.

There are weaknesses to this study:

  1. It focused on Evangelical Christians, who would more naturally be oriented toward trusting in and granting authority to the Bible.  People who do not share these beliefs can easily dismiss the study conclusions as irrelevant to their experiences.
  2. The study was very small – less than 30 participants.
  3. Christianity is still presented as a means of coping, providing understanding and/or meaning for disability.  While sympathetic to the positive benefits for believing in Jesus Christ, there is no case made for him being the central authority in all the universe as he is described in the Bible: All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made (John 1:3).

And maybe I give this study too much credit because it reflects my own experience.  As I have written before, God-centered people were very helpful in pointing me to Jesus, but it was God’s word that has proven decisive over and over again, exactly where she is pointing.

But I find it very encouraging that a secular, peer-reviewed journal would seriously consider the positive benefits of Christian belief.  And the findings did not end on a note of developing new programs or counseling methods, but on providing a right theological framework.

And that is something everyone, disabled or non-disabled, should be pursuing in the church.

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