Tuesday, April 27, 2010

If God wants me to be happy, why do I suffer so much?

If there is one question I have heard over and over the past few weeks it is the question: “why does God allow his people to go through so much suffering?” In the avalanche of e-mails, letters, and phone calls I have received, many good quotes about suffering have come into vision. I would like to share some of them with you:

John Bunyan (Author of Pilgrims Progress), from his work Advice to Sufferers, England, 1684:

Why then should we think that our innocent lives will exempt us from sufferings, or that troubles shall do us such harm? For verily it is for our present and future good that our God doth send them upon us. I count therefore, that such things are necessary for the health of our souls, as bodily pains and labour are for [the health of] the body.

We should be overgrown with flesh, if we had not our seasonable winters. It is said that in some countries trees will grow, but will bear no fruit, because there is no winter there. The Lord bless all seasons to his people, and help them rightly to behave themselves, under all the times that go over them.

Samuel Rutherford, 1638, England:

“If God had told me some time ago that he was about to make me happy as I could be in this world, and then had told me that he should begin by crippling me in arm or limb, and removing me from all my usual sources of enjoyment, I should have thought it a very strange mode of accomplishing his purpose. And yet, how is his wisdom manifest even in this! For if you should see a man shut up in a closed room, idolizing a set of lamps and rejoicing in their light, and you wished to make him truly happy, you would begin by blowing out all his lamps, and then throwing open the shutter to let in the light of heaven” (From the Letters of Samuel Rutherford)

God through Paul in Romans 8:35-39 (ESV)

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

May God bless us with His sustaining joy as we endure suffering!

- Bro. Dave

Monday, April 26, 2010

How Do We Move Away From "Worshiptainment"?

This question came from a gentleman who works at a Christian school. Every Friday a 4-5 piece band has been leading the 6th through 12th graders in a time of "praise and worship." However, most of the students aren't Christians. The leadership is changing so he wrote in:

"This year the students have really got into creating motions akin to "Christian line dancing" in a very "worshiptainment" atmosphere. I don't like it but have been powerless to change it. There has been a lot of disagreement over the years as to the proper focus of our Friday service. Do we try to have a worship focus or, because so many of our students are lost, do we have a Christian concert/evangelism approach, or is it possible to do both?"

Thanks for recognizing that the current situation hasn't been glorifying to God, helping the students, or exercising good leadership. I'm grateful that you want to do something to bring change.

The role of your leaders is to exalt the glory of God in Christ in the minds and hearts of the students. At this point, they think the world is more satisfying than a relationship with the Savior. They're more impressed with the newest IPOD than the word of God. They believe sin has no consequences. How do you reach them? I know this. If you simply provide an entertaining, fun, dare I say, mindless environment, that's exactly what they'll take away. "What you win them WITH is generally what you win them TO."

You have an opportunity every week to persuade these students that God's Word is relevant to their lives, and that God is more holy, righteous, and awesome than they could ever imagine. You also have a privilege of helping them understand that Jesus Christ is more glorious, amazing, and beautiful than they could ever imagine. Notice I didn't say more "fun." I haven't found any Scripture that tells us we have to convince non-Christians that God is fun.

In one sense, I've had more fun as a Christian than I could ever possibly have as an unbeliever, but that's because I'm more aware of how sin deceives, defiles, and destroys my life. The fun I experience now is largely different from what I used to know because I don't have to fear any consequences! I know that my greatest problem has been solved and fun isn't an escape from the truth. It also has a purpose – to serve others by bringing joy to their lives.

Christians should be the most joyful people on the planet. But it's because of our relationship with the Savior – "Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory" (1Pet. 1:8). That's what we want to introduce them to, through the power of God's Spirit working through His Word and our lives.

-from Q&A –How Do We Move Away From "Worshiptainment"?

Bob Kauflin, Director of Worship Development, Sovereign Grace Ministries

Monday, April 19, 2010

I Asked the Lord

This past week Brother Dave and I had the opportunity to go to a conference called Together for the Gospel. It was a pastor's conference that drew over seven thousand pastors from all over the world. As you can imagine, the preaching was amazing, but what struck me, naturally, was the singing. The worship leader was a man named Bob Kauflin (a big hero of mine) and I was struck by how simple the music was, accompanied by him alone on the piano. What struck me more than that, however, were the texts we sung. I learned a new hymn by John Newton (Amazing Grace). I wanted you to know it too.

-Mark Whitaker

I Asked The Lord

1. I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith and love and every grace
Might more of His salvation know
And seek more earnestly His face

2. Twas He who taught me thus to pray
And He I trust has answered prayer
But it has been in such a way
As almost drove me to despair

3. I hoped that in some favored hour
At once He'd answer my request
And by His love's constraining power
Subdue my sins and give me rest

4. Instead of this He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart
And let the angry powers of Hell
Assault my soul in every part

5. Yea more with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Cast out my feelings, laid me low

6. Lord why is this, I trembling cried
Wilt Thou pursue thy worm to death?
"Tis in this way" The Lord replied
"I answer prayer for grace and faith"

7. "These inward trials I employ
From self and pride to set thee free
And break thy schemes of earthly joy
That thou mayest seek thy all in me,
That thou mayest seek thy all in me."

The True Nature of Repentance

This past Sunday Night we looked briefly into the nature of true repentance. The topic of repentance has come up many times during our Sunday Night services. One observation that we have discussed is how modern definitions of repentance do not have any mention of Godly sorrow over sin. The older definitions of repentance highlighted Godly sorrow and contrition over sins.

To prove my point, observe the following definitions of repentance from Baptist history:

Baptist Faith and Message 1963&2000 – “Repentance is a genuine turning from sin toward God.”

Baptist Faith and Message 1925 – “We believe that repentance and faith are sacred duties, and also inseparable graces, wrought in our souls by the regenerating Spirit of God; whereby being deeply convinced of our guilt, danger, and helplessness, and of the way of salvation by Christ, we turn to God with unfeigned contrition, confession, and supplication for mercy; at the same time heartily receiving the Lord Jesus Christ as our Prophet, Priest, and King, and relying on him alone as the only and all-sufficient Savior.”

Baptist Catechism (1813) - Q. What is repentance unto life?
A. Repentance unto life is a saving grace (Acts 11:28), whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin (Acts 2:37, 38), and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ (Joel 2:12; Jer 3:22), doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God (Jer 31:18, 19; Ez. 36:3 1), with full purpose of and endeavour after new obedience (2 Cor. 7:11; Isa.1:16,17).

Thomas Watson (1620-1686): Repentance is a grace of God's Spirit, whereby a sinner is inwardly humbled and outwardly reformed. For a further amplification, know that repentance is a spiritual medicine made up of six special ingredients:

1. Sight of sin 2. Sorrow for sin 3. Confession of sin 4. Shame for sin 5. Hatred for sin 6. Turning from sin

May God grant us true brokenness over our sins, that we may grow in true Godliness.

- Bro. Dave

Monday, April 12, 2010

Story of the Doxology


The word doxology comes from two Greek words, doxa, which means glory, and logos, which means word. So a doxology is literally "a word of glory." We sing doxologies to give glory or praise to God.

There are a number of doxologies. Among the more familiar doxologies is one traditionally used in Roman Catholic worship. It begins "Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth."

Another familiar doxology, The Gloria Patri, begins "Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost."

The doxology under consideration here is only four lines:

Praise God from whom all blessings flow;

Praise him, all creatures here below;

Praise him above, ye heavenly host;

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

But these four lines just might be sung more frequently than any other Christian music.

This doxology was written by Thomas Ken, an Anglican clergyman. Ken was born in 1637, and was orphaned at an early age. He then went to live with his half-sister, Anne, and her husband Izaak Walton. You might recognize Izaak Walton's name, because he was the author of The Compleat Angler, a book on fishing that quickly established itself as a standard work and ultimately became a classic. It was first published in 1653, and you can still buy a copy of it on Amazon.com today.

When Ken was fourteen years old, he entered Winchester College, and four years later began studies at Oxford. He later returned to Winchester College as the chaplain to the bishop. While there, he wrote his Manual of Prayers for the use of the Scholars of Winchester College, which he first published in 1674. It was a book of prayers for all occasions, and included (among many others) a Morning Prayer, an Evening Prayer, a prayer to use after committing a sin, a prayer for use when tempted, a prayer entitled "Acts of Shame" and another entitled "Acts of Abhorrence."

Ken also wrote hymns for the students to use to mark the passages of their days, including Morning Hymn, Evening Hymn, and Midnight Hymn. Both the Morning Hymn and Evening Hymn end with the doxology that begins, "Praise God from whom all blessings flow." That was the origin of this doxology.

Ken established an excellent reputation at Winchester, and was eventually appointed chaplain to King Charles II. When the king decided to visit Winchester, he sent word to Ken that Nell Gwynne, the king's mistress, was to be lodged at Ken's house. Ken not only mounted loud objections, but also hired workmen to remove the roof to his house so that the king could not enforce Nell's lodgment there. In that time and place, an act of rebellion against the king could cost a person his head, but King Charles was impressed with Ken's courage. Not only did he allow Ken to live, but he even appointed him sometime later to be the Bishop of Bath and Wells.

Some years later, Ken was one of seven bishops who refused to sign King James' Declaration of Indulgence. For this act of rebellion, he was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London –– but he was later tried and acquitted. He died of natural causes in 1711.

Don't Waste your Cancer

I want to thank everybody for your prayers for my family and I during what is the darkest trial of our life (so far). We are truly experiencing the “peace that passes all understanding,” as we now await the report on my cancer. Many of you have even read up on the rare form of cancer known as “Dermatofibrosarcoma Protuberans” and have told me through letters, e-mails, and personally that I am in your thoughts and prayers. Many of the cancer survivors from our church and town have contacted me this week offering their wisdom and encouragement. Thank you so much for showing me the love of Jesus and for your prayers!

A pastor friend e-mailed me a link to an article from John Piper about not wasting my cancer. Piper survived cancer and wrote out some insights from his journey. Piper’s insights always cause me to think hard and wrestle with his perspective on things. Of his ten reflections, I chose the following two to share with you in this week’s article:

You will waste your cancer if you do not believe it is designed for you by God.

It will not do to say that God only uses our cancer but does not design it. What God permits, he permits for a reason. And that reason is his design. If God foresees molecular developments becoming cancer, he can stop it or not. If he does not, he has a purpose. Since he is infinitely wise, it is right to call this purpose a design. Satan is real and causes many pleasures and pains. But he is not ultimate. So when he strikes Job with boils (Job 2:7), Job attributes it ultimately to God (2:10) and the inspired writer agrees: “They . . . comforted him for all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him” (Job 42:11). If you don’t believe your cancer is designed for you by God, you will waste it.

You will waste your cancer if you seek comfort from your odds rather than from God.

The design of God in your cancer is not to train you in the rationalistic, human calculation of odds. The world gets comfort from their odds. Not Christians. Some count their chariots (percentages of survival) and some count their horses (side effects of treatment), but we trust in the name of the LORD our God (Psalm 20:7). God’s design is clear from 2 Corinthians 1:9, “We felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” The aim of God in your cancer (among a thousand other good things) is to knock props out from under our hearts so that we rely utterly on him.

Ginny and I both feel Jesus walking us through these days. He is our ever-present help in our time of trouble!

May God use my cancer for his glory and purpose, and may we all sense his presence in our lives!

- Bro. Dave

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Easter Egg Hunt

I want to thank everyone for working hard on our recent Easter Egg Hunt! We had a record 200 plus attendance and more than 4000 eggs! The Gospel message was shared and the kids all got to hear the true meaning of Easter. I want to thank all of the section leaders, all of the church members who donated candy, the food servers, the setup crew, the welcoming and registration crew, and those who stayed to take down our equipment.

The hardest work was done by our egg-stuffing crew that included Ginny Crowe, Sherry Peavler, Scarla Hahn, Denise Edwards, Wendy Whitaker, Margaret Lowe, Lyric Brown, Loren Hahn, Abi Camic & Megan Williams and their discipleship class. Thank you all for the countless hours spent stuffing the eggs. I praise God for the 36 new church prospects that were gained as a result of this outreach!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Hymn Story: Blessed Assurance

It might seem unlikely that a blind writer of hymns living in a slum and a wealthy woman living in a mansion would have anything in common –– but Fanny Crosby, the blind hymn writer, was a humble woman with a number of distinguished friends. Grover Cleveland, who later became President of the United States, met Fanny Crosby as a young man, and they became lifelong friends.

The friend in the mansion was Phoebe Knapp, the daughter of a Methodist evangelist. When she was just sixteen years old, Phoebe married Joseph Fairchild Knapp, a young man who went on to found the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. The Knapps worshiped at the John Street Methodist Church in lower Manhattan, which is where Fanny Crosby also worshiped –– and so a friendship was born. Phoebe, the wealthy matron, often invited Fanny, the blind hymn writer, to her palatial home.

Phoebe enjoyed music, and had a music room furnished with a collection of musical instruments. During one of Fanny's visits, Phoebe invited her to the music room, where Phoebe sat down at the keyboard and played a tune that she had written. "What does that say," she asked? Fanny clapped her hands in delight and said, "That says, 'Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!'" And so a hymn was born.

During her lifetime, Fanny Crosby wrote eight thousand hymns, many of which became famous –– but "Blessed Assurance" just might be the most famous of all.


All the Way My Savior Leads Me

Jesus Is Tenderly Calling You Home

I Am Thine, O Lord

Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior

Praise Him, Praise Him

Rescue the Perishing

Tell Me the Story of Jesus

To God Be the Glory