Archive for March, 2012

Back of all, above all, before all is God; first in sequential order, above in rank and station, exalted in dignity and honor. As the self-existent One He gave being to all things, and all things exist out of Him and for Him. “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”

Every soul belongs to God and exists by His pleasure. God being Who and What He is, and we being who and what we are, the only thinkable relation between us is one of full lordship on His part and complete submission on ours. We owe Him every honor that it is in our power to give Him.

A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (pp. 66-67). Kindle Edition.

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In the account of the healing of the paralytic in Mark 2:1-12, Jesus first forgives the man his sins.  Then he addresses the thoughts of the scribes directly:

And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? (Mark 2:8-9 ESV)

Let’s consider which is easier.

To heal the man he spoke a sentence:

“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” (Mark 2:11-12 ESV)

As the one who would bear every sin, even thinking about what was required brought extraordinary stress:

And (Jesus) took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” (Mark 14:33-34 ESV)

And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.  (Luke 22:44 ESV)

He would be mocked, beaten, spit on, whipped, and crucified.

And he died:

Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. (Luke 23:46 ESV)

Because he suffered and died – and ROSE! – our sins can be forgiven:

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:27-28 ESV)

Lord, please help me to never forget that healing of bodies is easy for you, but forgiveness of sins was unfathomably costly.  Please help me to remember that these days are short and eternity is very long. Thank you, Father, for Jesus.

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The Thorn revisited

My middle son was memorizing a poem for school by Martha Snell Nicholson. I could not remember why that name was significant – until Dianne reminded me that she was also the author of The Thorn.

It is past time to bring it here again.

The Thorn

(a “mendicant” is a beggar)

I stood a mendicant of God before His royal throne
And begged him for one priceless gift, which I could call my own.
I took the gift from out His hand, but as I would depart
I cried, “But Lord this is a thorn and it has pierced my heart.
This is a strange, a hurtful gift, which Thou hast given me.”
He said, “My child, I give good gifts and gave My best to thee.”
I took it home and though at first the cruel thorn hurt sore,
As long years passed I learned at last to love it more and more.
I learned He never gives a thorn without this added grace,
He takes the thorn to pin aside the veil which hides His face.

–Martha Snell Nicholson

God is kind to give us writers who help us understand one of the purposes of our pain is to reveal more of Jesus – the greatest gift of all.

(Note: This poem was read during Pastor John’s 2001 Sermon, “To Be a Mother is a Call to Suffer.“)

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You’d think I would know Don’t Waste Your Cancer existed as an online book, but I just discovered it on Tuesday.

I highly recommend it.

From the Preface by Pastor John:

I originally wrote this on the eve of prostate-cancer surgery. I believed then, and I believe now, in God’s power to heal—by miracle and by medicine. I believe it is right and good to pray for both kinds of healing. Cancer is not  wasted when it is healed by God. He gets the glory, and  that is why cancer exists. So not to pray for healing may  waste our cancer.

But healing is not God’s plan for everyone in this life. And there are many other ways to waste our cancer. As I prayed for myself, and continue to do so, I also pray for you that we will not waste this pain.

John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Cancer, p. 3.

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Tonight (Tuesday), the elders of Bethlehem Baptist Church will be seeking consensus on whether to recommend an applicant to the congregation to succeed Pastor John as the Pastor for Preaching and Vision.  It is actually a two-step process, the first being congregational approval of the applicant to serve alongside Pastor John during a transition time, and then at some future point another affirmation of this person as the Pastor for Preaching and Vision.  At least that’s my understanding of the process.

If they reach that consensus, the applicant will be introduced tomorrow as a candidate for the position.  The congregational vote will be in May.

Pastoral leadership means a great deal in a church.  As I’ve said before, I’ve only known of one healthy disability ministry in a church that did NOT have the support of its senior pastor.

And I also know enough of the elders to know these are Christian hedonists who love the Lord and love the church.  I have lived with a remarkable lack of anxiety about this entire process knowing how seriously these men take their responsibilities to the church and lean on God for help.

Bethlehem belongs to Jesus; he will do what he deems best.

And I know that God listens to the prayers of his elect.  So, if you would, please pray for Bethlehem’s elders today as they consider God’s leading.

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A.W. Tozer on why it is better for us to change than to even want God to change (paragraph formatting and emphasis in bold are mine):

Much of our difficulty as seeking Christians stems from our unwillingness to take God as He is and adjust our lives accordingly.

We insist upon trying to modify Him and to bring Him nearer to our own image. The flesh whimpers against the rigor of God’s inexorable sentence and begs like Agag for a little mercy, a little indulgence of its carnal ways.

It is no use.

We can get a right start only by accepting God as He is and learning to love Him for what He is. As we go on to know Him better we shall find it a source of unspeakable joy that God is just what He is.

Some of the most rapturous moments we know will be those we spend in reverent admiration of the Godhead. In those holy moments the very thought of change in Him will be too painful to endure.

A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God , p. 66.

By the way, there is a free version of this book available on the Kindle right now.

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Michael Lacher lives a complicated life because of his disabilities.  That means his entire family lives a complicated life. They have chosen to live that life in the community of Bethlehem.  Michael is well known and regarded at the North Campus of Bethlehem.

Today (Sunday) is Michael’s tenth birthday.  God gave his mother, Jan, a glimpse into how he is using Michael to build up his church.

Jan sent me an email this week after the Wednesday Connection at Bethlehem, and then gave me permission to post it for your benefit and for God’s glory:

Michael celebrates (Lord willing) a decade of life on Sunday.

Last night,  I brought two Costco, chocolate (of course) cakes, along with small bottles of water to his Wednesday night connection class. I have done this over the past several years in attempts to celebrate Michael’s birthday with his peers.

At one point during the class, the team leader led the children in singing “Happy Birthday” to him.  At the end of the song, there was much gaiety and hoopla.

With much excitement, one boy raised his fist bolt-upright, and shouted, “MANY MORE YEARS, MICHAEL!!!”

I was touched.  But even more, I was taken back at his understanding of Michael’s fragility. I am ever aware of it, but 10-year-old children?  Maybe I am reading into it, but that is how I understood it.

Michael seems to have more friends than we (Mark and I) do. And I do not think it is because of delicious chocolate cake.

It is a work of God and a blessing to Michael.

This is not the first time a boy or boys at Bethlehem have done things to recognize Michael’s God-given dignity and value.  Every time I hear of such a story, I think of God’s faithfulness to his church to every generation – and this generation of boys is being prepared in ways that require a boy like Michael.  What might God be pleased to do through Michael’s life?  What courageous things might God be preparing these boys to do in faith because they knew a real boy named Michael Lacher?

Michael’s participation with his peers didn’t just happen.  Every step needed to be intentional.  Every opportunity required thought and preparation.  Jan and Mark can’t just drop him off and walk away.

But God loves his church so much he gave Bethlehem this boy and this family.  And God gave Jan and Mark (and Michael’s siblings) such a love for God’s church that they have paid the price to include their son in the life of Bethlehem.

And I, for one, am grateful to God for Michael’s life and count it a privilege to know this family.

Happy Birthday, Michael!  You are indispensable!

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