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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Albert Mohler Quote

“I fear that there are many evangelicals today who believe that God spoke but doubt whether He speaks.  They know and talk about the fact that God spoke in the Old Testament but think that now that He no longer does so and that they must therefore invent new ways to convince people to love Him.  But if you call yourself a preacher of God’s Word, and you think that all of God’s speaking was in the past, then resign.  I say that with deadly seriousness.  If you do not believe that God now speaks from His Word-the Bible-then what are you doing every Sunday morning?  If you are not confident that God speaks as you rightly read and explain the Word of God, then you should quit.

But if you do believe that- if you truly believe that God speaks through His Word- then why would you substitute anything else in the place of the expository preaching of the Bible?” – Albert Mohler, “He is Not Silent” pg. 57-58

Friday, November 25, 2016

A Birthday Reflection: A Year of Restoration and 5 Recognitions

God will destroy us for our good.

It may sound counter intuitive to us, but love is always willing to wound.  A year ago I was wounded.  I was drowning in a sea of despair and barely skimming the surface.  I was gasping for breath.  Sure, I put on the face.  I attended all the social events.  I would even stand and preach the Word of God.  I would do everything I would normally do- but I was not the same.

In the course of the month I had lost everything I held dear: dear friends, a growing ministry, a girl I thought I was spending the rest of my life with, and my health was in a bad place.  I felt betrayed as all of them left.  To this day it doesn’t even seem real.  How does everything you love and pour two years of your life into just turn and walk away?  It began a year of spiral downward that echoed the words of David in Psalm 13, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?  How long will you hide your face from me?  How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” (13:1-2).  People of faith suffer real pain.  I asked the Lord every day for a year, “Why?”  I could hear nothing, whether due to my stupidity or His gracious silence.

In my pride I was pretended there was not a problem.  I viewed vulnerability as an enemy, forgetting that confession has always been the pathway to freedom (Psalm 32:5).  The victory I’d preached from the pulpit felt like a distant memory.  “Who am I fooling? Lord, I’m not cut out for this.  I’m throwing in the towel.”  I would try to form cohesive words in prayer as I sobbed.  I was asking for the Lord to not just take me out of ministry, but I often asked him to take me out of this life.

Look how David continues in Psalm 13,

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
    light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
    lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken
– Psalm 13:3-4

I need an answer, but little did I know He was not finished with me yet.

No matter how much I desired to let go of everything I knew, He was not letting go of me.  Jeremiah was put in stocks by the priests and he declared, “O Lord, you have deceived me, and I was deceived; you are stronger than I, and you have prevailed.  I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me” (Jeremiah 20:7).  But, in the midst of it, Jeremiah would also declare, “If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot…Sing to the Lord; praise the Lord! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hand of evildoers” (20:9, 13).

The good news has never been about how hard we hold onto God, but how hard God is holding onto us.  Jesus words in John 6 were warm sweet promises to me.  He had given me to the Father and I would not perish.  He has drawn me and He would raise me.  The will of the Father was that all who believed would be raised on the last day.  Jesus’ death absorbed all of God’s wrath toward me.  This suffering was not His wrath, it was for my good.  He was not inflicting me with Hell, but loving His child all the way Home.  He was keeping me, and sometimes keeping us involves taking things away.

Now, a year after my earth shattering heartbreak, I resonate with the words of Joel 2:25, “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten.”  He has down a miraculous work in showing me more about friendship in ministry, giving me a great set of accountability partners, brought me into a new ministry, and brought me together with a helper who is beyond what I deserve.  My health is even far better!

Friends, restoration does not always mean you will be brought back where you were.  God’s exile out is often an exodus into something new.  I would love to say the story went back into a happily ever after, but the story isn’t over yet.  Chapters end so others begin.  Our happily ever happy happens later, not in this life.  But, even as our story unfolds, a few things have be reaffirmed to me even in the face of heart-wrenching despair.

1) Jesus is Lord.  He is Lord of salvation.  He is the Lord of life.  He promises that from beginning to end all His intentions will work toward His purpose.  He is gracious and is going to conform me into His image.  This is going to involve suffering.  God is passionately dedicated to blessing his people, but God blesses the bankrupt in spirit, but the banker (Matthew 5:3).  But in the gospel, suffering is a servant, not a serpent (Romans 8:28-39).  This truth has become even more precious to me.  John Piper says this, 

Outside of this promise of all-encompassing future grace there are straw houses of drugs and alcohol and numbing TV and dozens of futile diversions.  There are slat walls and tin roofs of fragile investment strategies and fleeting insurance coverage and trivial retirement plans.  There are cardboard fortifications of deadbolt locks and alarm systems and antiballistic missiles.  Outside are a thousand substitutes for Romans 8:28….The confidence that a sovereign God governs for your good all the pain and all the pleasure that you will ever experience is an incomparable refuge and security and hope and power in your life.”  - John Piper, Future Grace 122-123

      2) The doctrines of grace remain the only bed rock for deep suffering.  To know that my salvation is rooted in the sovereign election of God, the effectual calling of the Spirit, and the particular death of the Son is a firm foundation when you feel as if you don’t control anything.  Because, in honesty- we don’t.    The scandalous grace of God is the only answer for scandalous heartbreak.  Sure, our actions have consequences, but God is control of everything that occurs.  My salvation is never grounded in how I’m feeling from day to day, but in the work of the Triune God- and Him alone.  To the praise of His glorious grace (Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14)

            3) Suffering is good for the stubborn.  The Lord has given me a much more vulnerable and pastoral heart through this suffering (something my stubbornness caused me to lack).  People hurt.  Life is far more complicated than I originally lived like it was.  God comforts us, so that we might comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:4).  This means that God will wound us, but never without a purpose.

         4) The church will let you down, but don’t give up on her.  Jesus didn’t.  In fact, nothing that Christians have ever done to me has ever been as bad as what Christians did to Him.  Jesus pursued a wandering bride.  He endured her spitting in His face, pushing Him away, but He still pursued her- even to death.  Most grooms wed their brides with a ring on their finger, but Jesus pursued His bride with two nails in His hands.  Don’t give up on the church, Jesus has not and will not.

      5) The mission of God is not about me.  His mission will be complete whether I am face down in the dirt, or whether I am out on the front lines.  God doesn’t need me.  He could raise us rocks to replace me (Matthew 3:9).  But, God has graciously invited us in and sent us out.  Why not give everything for the sake of the gospel?  It will involve this kind of heart-wrenching, soul-emptying, life-altering suffering I have described, but in the end those who mourn will be comforted (Matthew 5:4).  We will see His face (Revelation 21) and His mission will be accomplished.

In the end, God destroys us for our good.  He builds us up, or moves us away, or leaves us to taste mud with the pigs- all with the goal of building us up and bringing us back (Luke 15:11-32).  Life hurts.  God is good.  The gospel is true.  His mission is urgent.  He may take what is most precious to us to show us that He should be more precious than all of it.  Why should we delight in the gifts when the Giver is so much more satisfying?  In the end, God never answered David’s question.  God’s response in our suffering is not an explanation, but revelation.  God is giving us more of Himself.  In our midst of our questions, answers will not satisfy us, He will.  Even in the midst of devastation, may we find joy in Him more and more each day.

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
    my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
    because he has dealt bountifully with me.
– Psalm 13:5-6

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

“We look to the professor leader with his big library and quick answers, and we think he’s the definition of biblical conviction.  In reality, he’s a distortion.  Our Christian solutionism is dangerous, because, like the Silicon Valley version, it’s permeated with misplaced eschatological hope.  The buzz about the latest conference, book, and blog is that they’ll help us “reach up to the heavens.”  But that’s not the message of the Bible.  It’s the message of Babel (cf. Gen. 11:4-7).  We somehow believe that having the right information will bring salvation.  But, while solutionism may work in principle, it fails in practice.  Ministry doesn’t function as simply as we hoped, so we just get angry, frustrated, and overwhelmed.  Like the Pharisees, we think that life is about mastering the Bible.  Convictional leaders haven’t master the Bible.  The Bible has mastered them.” – Daniel Montgomery.  “Leadership Mosaic” pg. 47-48