Thursday, February 16, 2017

Lexi Rose...

Alexia Rose
Lexi Rose…

It’s taken me a very long time to get to a place where I can even begin to contemplate putting this post down on paper.  I’ve composed this in my mind over and over during the last three years, and I’m still not sure it’s going to come out right.

Three years ago today, our first grandchild was born.  We knew going in that she had a multitude of medical issues that threatened her survival, but her awesome, devoted, and loving parents were committed to giving her every possible chance to live.  That, despite the “advice” of the “medical professionals”, that they had “other options” (read: abortion) to deal with the situation.  When that was first broached as an “option”, Lexi’s parents made it abundantly clear that their daughter, who was still in utero, was God’s creation, that no one had the right to end her life, and that it was just not an “option”.  The “option” was not discussed further.

Three years ago tomorrow, our first grandchild was ushered into the presence of Jesus.  Lexi lived 13 hours, defying the doctor’s predictions that she would not make it to the NICU.  She not only made it to the NICU, but fought for life for 13 hours.  In the end, the diaphragmatic hernia on her right side prevented her right lung from developing, and she was just not able to get enough oxygen to live.  The other medical issues she had certainly did not help matters.

Lexi’s life—nine months in utero—as well as those precious 13 hours, impacted literally hundreds of people.  People saw how my two kids faced the most difficult situation a parent could face, how they faced it with a full and firm trust in the Lord, how they relied upon him to sustain them, how they depended on him completely.  They prayed…oh, how they prayed, as did my wife and I, our other children, and our friends and our church family.  Others who saw the Facebook page our daughter created for Lexi prayed with us too, including people we did not know.

Our theology informs how we live, how we “see” what happens to us and around us, it informs how we face difficulty, and how we rejoice in the good things of life.  We believe that God is sovereign over his entire universe, that “The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.” (Psalm 24:1-2, emphasis added)

Lexi is his. He knew her before the foundation of time.  She was his from the moment of conception, and she is his now in heaven.  We understand that the Lord loaned her to her parents for a short time.  In that short time, the Lord used her life for his own glory.  People’s lives were touched.  People saw my kids exercising their faith.  People were pointed to Jesus.  Pointing people to Jesus and glorifying God is why true believers exist.  It’s all about him, and not at all about us.  God’s glory is what matters.  Some might disagree with those statements.  But those would be people who just do not understand because they do not have a saving relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  Once the gospel of grace grips an individual’s heart, then and only then can one understand that God’s glory is paramount.  His glory is what drives my preaching and teaching.

Certainly, none of us ever conceived such a thing could touch our lives.  We’ve weathered many a storm, all the while resting on the Rock of our salvation, and this chain of events in our lives was no different.  We rested in the Lord and in him alone.  No one on earth can provide that kind of strength, courage, love, and encouragement.  Only the Lord can meet such needs in times of trouble (Psalm 37:39).  Our God does certainly reign and he sits on his holy throne! (Psalm 47:8)

The Lord has seen my family through so many trials—they are too numerous to count.  Always he was faithful.  Always he was gracious.  Always he was merciful. Always he is faithful, he is gracious, and he is merciful.  His steadfast love endures forever and forever.  (Psalm 86:15)

Grief is a constant visitor.  Grief invades our hearts and minds, threatening to take us down.  All the while, God is at work in us, providing the strength, love and encouragement we need to get through it all.  In the midst of the grief, his sanctifying work redeems our disappointment and anguish.  Our attention is turned—by him—to his steadfast love, his compassion, and his grace in our lives.

What happened with Lexi did not “just happen”.  There was no “coincidence”.  What happened was not “bad luck” or “a fluke”.  It was not something for which “Mother Nature” was responsible.  No, none of those worldly explanations.  What happened with Lexi was by divine decree.  God determined from before the foundation of time what would happen with her. 

Do we “hear” God’s decrees? No.  Do we understand the “why” of them?  No.  Can we wrap our heads around what God’s design was?  No.  Does God owe us an explanation?  Absolutely not. We walk by faith and not by sight—period.  (2 Corinthians 5:7)  Easy?  Certainly not always.  But because of what Jesus did on the cross our behalf, we are enabled by him to do just that—to walk by faith.

John Piper encourages true believers to allow pain to make us serious, vigilant, and humble.  I know from experience that we all need to recognize that the Lord is sanctifying us—with the trials as well as with the joyful things of life.  And we join with Paul, when he says,

18For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing 
with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18 ESV)

Soli Deo Gloria

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Grace Giving-Part I

Grace Giving: Part I
Motivation for Giving
2 Corinthians 8:1-15

For the next couple of weeks, we will be talking about giving…Never before have I been a part of a church where the people have said, “we not only want to hear about the church’s finances, but we want to hear about what the Bible says about our own finances and our financial responsibility from the pulpit”.  

The truth is that in most churches, people do not want to hear about giving; they do not want to have a “guilt trip” laid on them.

But there’s the rub—we are not to give to the Lord’s work out of guilt.  No, there is a greater motivation to give and we will talk about that this morning.

God opened my eyes to “grace giving” a very long time ago and it has made a great difference in my life.  No longer under the Law as manifested by the “tithe”, grace giving is freeing, it is joyous, it allows us to really be generous.  I know this view may be new for a number of you—but don’t call me a heretic until you’ve heard me out. 

While 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 addresses giving to relieve the needs of the Jerusalem church, it is also the most extensive treatment of giving to the Lord’s work in the NT.  It is not being ripped from it’s context this morning, but provides us with the guidance we need from God when it comes to giving to the Lord’s work.  Before we dive in there, we need to lay a little foundational background…

Now, we often hear the word “stewardship” used in church—it does not mean “giving” or “tithing”.  The word stewardship conveys the idea that we are responsible for the proper use of what God has given to us.  After all, it all belongs to him—time, treasure and talent.  None of it—no matter how much we try to convince ourselves of it—belongs to us.  Psalm 24:1 tells us, “The earth is the LORD's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein…”  That includes you and me!  Paul echoed the same sentiment in 1 Corinthians 10:26. 

So what we have belongs to God, who we are belongs to God—he lets us use the things we have, and we have the responsibility to manage those resources, to manage our very lives for his glory.   Get this:  despite the fact that so many people tie their identity to what material possessions they have, our money is not ours, and our money is not us!  It does not define us!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

COMFORT IN AFFLICTION 2 Corinthians 1:3-11

Affliction.  Suffering.  We’ve all been there, or we will be.  Suffering is an inevitable part of the Christian life.  The more I explore the Scriptures, the more often I see God’s Word addressing affliction and suffering and pain.  Each of the difficulties we face is an opportunity to observe just how our merciful God meets our needs—our every need—through the gospel of grace.

There are many types of affliction that come to the lives of believers in Jesus…it can be affliction resulting from simply believing in Jesus, affliction resulting from living out our faith, affliction that results from our own bad choices—our own sin—or suffering that results from relationship problems or the sin of others.  Our children may walk away from us.  Our spouse may have a problem they are struggling with.  Our boss at work may have a goal of making us as miserable as possible. 

Then there is the affliction that comes seemingly randomly.  That is, affliction that comes to our lives that in our view has no apparent reason; affliction that comes to our lives only because it is part of God’s overall plan for our lives.  And no, we will not necessarily understand the “why” of it.  We will not necessarily understand God’s purpose.  In fact, more often than not, from a human perspective, we will see no good reason for the random suffering that comes to our lives—period.

Even though what we will be examining this morning applies to all forms of affliction, I would like you to be thinking about affliction that seemingly comes out of nowhere, suffering that is not the result of the sin of others, affliction that is not a consequence of our own sin.  Comfort in that affliction is an important part of that discussion. 

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  5For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.  6If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.  7Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.  (2 Corinthians 1:3-7, ESV)

How does Paul start out this section of his letter to the Corinthians?  He intentionally praises God, even though, as we will see, he had gone through an extremely difficult time in his life.  He made the time to praise God, thereby demonstrating his confidence in God.  Again, he had gone through an intense time of affliction, but he knew for certain that God was with him through it and that God would never forsake him, no matter what!  God gives you and me that same assurance in the midst of our affliction…

Paul knew that praising God in the midst of trouble causes us to focus on him, rather than on our affliction.  Doing so will tend to keep us from replaying in our minds, over and over again, the difficulties we are experiencing.  I have observed that praising God enables us to see, as Spurgeon talked about, the fact that God uses our troubles for our good and for his glory.

In v. 3, Paul referred to God himself as the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.  He saw God as full of compassion, as a God who felt pity at the sight of the affliction of one of his people.  He knew that only God is the source of all mercies, the source of all compassion.  God alone can provide divine deliverance from our troubles and difficulties.  Remember that—we’ll come back to it in a few minutes.

It is worth noting that Paul mentions the mercies of God before he dives into the afflictions we experience.  He also refers to God as the God of all comfort—the word for “comfort” has the same root as the word for Holy Spirit and conveys the idea of encouragement.  Comfort here is not referring to mere support or some kind of inspiration.  Instead, it refers to God’s transformative compassion.  His love for us and his kindness to us comes in the form of encouragement, and it changes us.  It changes how we view the suffering we are in.  It causes us to understand and recognize that only his compassion can have any impact on the affliction we experience.  It results in us being able to do what Paul talks about in v. 4, comforting, encouraging others with the same comfort God has provided to us.  In Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, David Powlison wrote, “What we learn from God in our particular affliction becomes helpful to others in any affliction.”[1]

Finally, understand, God is not only the God of some comfort, but the God of ALL comfort.  He is the one who encourages us in the midst of our afflictions.

The comfort or encouragement that God provides us is comfort that is accomplished by God presently, that is, currently and actively, in the midst of whatever difficulty we face—and it is not something that we can cause to happen.  Not only that, but God encourages us through our afflictions, through our tribulations.  Nowhere are we told as believers

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Our Hearts...and the Gospel

"Once a man gets to know himself & the blackness & deceitfulness of his own heart, he knows that he has to fly to Christ" D.M. Lloyd-Jones

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Gospel Renewal and Roadblocks (#4-6)

This is the final installment on this subject.  Last time, we looked at the first three roadblocks to gospel renewal.  Now we will consider three others--bearing in mind that the list is not at all exhaustive.

4.     Religion [AKA Moralism AKA Legalism]
Religion, moralism, legalism—they all are referring to the idea that “we must obey the truth to be saved” and/or “we must obey the truth to maintain God’s favor”.  This is probably the biggest roadblock to gospel renewal faced by believers in our age.
Moralism (legalism, religion) is an absence of God’s grace—instead, it is a dependence on one’s ability to obey.  It also includes man made, extra-Biblical rules and regulations (think: Pharisees), resulting in condemnation by the moralist of those who do not “measure up”—the idea is just like the Pharisee who prayed “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector”.  [Luke 18] 
The Apostle Paul, prior to his conversion, is a perfect example of one who was “religious”, one who performed out of guilt, one who was a legalist when it came to his religious life.  In Galatians 1 and Philippians 3, Paul talked about his life before Christ, how he put his confidence in the flesh—his own performance and accomplishments—about his Jewish pedigree, and how zealous he was for the traditions of his fathers.
Church historian Richard Lovelace wrote that many believers “below the surface of their lives are guilt ridden and insecure…[and] draw the assurance of their acceptance with God from their sincerity, their past experience of conversion, their recent religious performance or the relative infrequency of their conscious, willful disobedience.”[1]
Obedience and good works are important to our lives as believers, but they do not earn us one doggone thing!  Obedience and good works do not earn eternal life, they do not earn God’s approval, and they do not maintain God’s approval!  That is such an important concept to “get”! 

Monday, November 4, 2013


 What are the Roadblocks to Gospel Renewal?
There are a number of roadblocks to gospel renewal, too many to cover here.  However, there are a few that seem to pop up quite frequently.  They are:
1.    The false assumption or belief that we have anything to do with our salvation
2.      A false understanding of just what saving faith really is
3.      Uncertainty regarding our relationship with God

1.     The false assumption or belief that we have
anything to do with our salvation

Many folks today believe that they had something to do with their salvation, or that someone else had something to do with their salvation.  That is a typical man-centered observation.  After all, like I mentioned before, most of us were raised to believe that we make our way in the world, we accomplish the things we go after, we are responsible for all that takes place in our lives.  Therefore, it follows that we made a decision for Christ, we are the ones that chose him, and we are the ones that maintain our relationship with him; further, that continuing to keep his approval is all up to us.
Without getting into the whole discussion of “man’s responsibility”—which is an important doctrine to understand—it is important to see that the fact of the matter is, there are no human fingerprints on our salvation—our salvation is all of God.  Yes, God uses people in the same way he used Paul and Apollos to plant and water, but remember, it was God who caused the growth [1 Corinthians 3].  It is God who:
·   Chose us  [Ephesians 1, Romans 9]
·   Who paid the penalty for our sin [Galatians 2, 1 Peter 3]
·   It is God who calls us  [John 6, Philippians 3]
·   It is God who brings us to life spiritually [John 3, 1 Peter 1]
·   It is God who gives us faith to exercise [Ephesians 2]
·   It is God who causes us to exercise that gift of faith [Ephesians 2]
·   It is God who justifies, sanctifies, and ultimately will glorify us. [Romans 8, Galatians 2]
Again, salvation is all of God.  We do absolutely nothing to earn it, and we do absolutely nothing to bring it about and we do absolutely nothing to maintain it.

2.     Uncertainty regarding our relationship with God
Being uncertain about our relationship with God is another roadblock to gospel renewal.  Many things can cause this uncertainty:
·   Questioning whether or not we really believe
·   An ever-increasing awareness of our own sin
·   Dependence on our own good works (more so than an awareness of a lack of good works)…wondering if our good works are “enough”
As far as questioning whether or not we believe goes, know this: 

Sunday, October 27, 2013


11In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.  (Ephesians 1:11-14, ESV)

       Gospel renewal is a work of the Spirit of God in the lives of his people.  It is all about the Holy Spirit continually renewing the spiritual remembrance of our salvation.

The temptation from the outset would be for those who have theological training, and/or have been believers for a long time, to zone out.  Understand, we are not merely looking at “the basics” here. The gospel is way more than “Jesus loves me” and “Jesus paid the penalty for my sin so I can go to heaven”.  Refuse to be satisfied with that!  There is so much more!

So, what IS the gospel?
A number of different people have coined great phrases to help us remember, including:

“The heart of the Christian faith is Good News (gospel), not good advice,
good technique, or good behavior.” Tullian Tchividjian

Religion: I obey therefore I am accepted.
Gospel: I'm accepted therefore I obey.

The gospel is that when we believe in Christ, there is now“no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1).

“…the good news that God has accomplished our salvation for us through Christ in order to bring us into a right relationship with him and
eventually to destroy all the results of sin in the world.”[1]

The Fall
Because of what happened in Genesis 3—The Fall—Adam and Eve deciding they wanted to be like God, man was separated from God, man was placed at odds with God.  Try as he might, man could not regain God’s favor in and of himself. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013


…so that the truth of the gospel might
 be preserved for you. (Galatians 2:5, ESV)

 In his dynamic letter to the Galatians, Paul makes clear that there is a distinction between “religion” and “gospel”.  Paul chastised the Galatians for accepting “religion” over gospel.  Were he here today, Paul would have been just as incensed at all of the “religion” that people are adhering to and depending upon rather than the gospel of grace. 

“Religion” is moralism, it is legalism, it is focusing on obedience to the law in order to be accepted by God.  It is avoiding God as Lord and Savior by developing one’s own moral righteousness.  It is characterized by self-salvation projects one may engage in, in order to secure God’s favor or to maintain God’s favor.  “Religion” focuses on one’s activity in the flesh, and puts great weight on the importance of that activity.

Gospel, on the other hand, is God developing and giving us—imputing to us—a righteousness through Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30 and 2 Corinthians 5:21).  It is God’s work in us.

What was the “religion” issue facing the believers in Galatia?  It had to do with accepting the false teaching that Gentiles had to become Jews before they could be Christians.  That was demonstrated in the requirement that they be circumcised—becoming Jews—before they could belong to Christ.  That was just false and Paul called it what it was.

Of course, the false teachers that had infiltrated the churches in Galatia (Galatians 2:4) presented their doctrine in opposition to what Paul had preached, necessitating Paul’s defense of his ministry, which he does at length in Chapters 1 and 2.

In Chapter 3, then, Paul lays it out for these misled believers:

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (Galatians 3:1-3, ESV)

Paul is laying out the difference between religion and gospel.  He is telling them that they, in fact, were sealed by the Holy Spirit by faith, not by works of the law.  He asks them, “so if you’ve begun your life with Christ by faith, by the Holy Spirit, are you really thinking you can be perfected by the works of the flesh?  REALLY?”

In verse 7 of Chapter 3, Paul clearly states that it is those who are “of faith” that are the true sons of Abraham.  He goes on to emphasize that it is faith, and faith alone—which is itself a gift of grace—that secures and maintains God’s favor.

So how does this play out in the church today?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Preserving the Truth of the Gospel—Part IV: Confessing With Our Mouth…

Much has been discussed and written about “belief”—and what belief really is all about.  For the true Christian, belief is much more than merely acknowledging something.  What matters is “saving faith”.  What do we mean when we talk about “saving faith”?

Well, when Jesus was dining at the home of one of the Pharisees named Simon [Luke 7], a “woman of the city”—a prostitute—ministered to him by washing his feet with her tears, drying them with her hair, and anointing him with very expensive oil.  Of course, Simon and the others were freaked out because Jesus allowed such a woman to touch him.  Jesus took it a step further, and, after teaching Simon and the others with a parable:

And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:48-50, ESV)

Yikes!  This really blew their minds!  They were thinking, “Who does this guy think he is, forgiving sin?”

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Preserving the Truth of the Gospel, Part III: A Question to Consider...

I've been reading The Gospel Driven Life: Being Good News People in a Bad News World by Michael Horton.

As I have been reading, a question came to mind:

If one claims to believe in Jesus--but at the same time, knowingly holds that they must contribute to their own salvation--does that belief negate saving faith?  That is, does holding to a works righteousness cancel out a claim to have been saved?

Paul's letter to the Romans (Chapter 4) and the entire letter to the churches in Galatia seem to answer the question.  I've had conversations with various friends, mostly coming to the conclusion that adding to the gospel is a false gospel that Paul so vehemently addressed in Galatians.

More later...