Archive for April, 2009

The Flu, the Hospital, and the Hard Days of Parenting

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on April 27, 2009 by gospel2live

This morning, our youngest was released from the hospital after spending a day being re-hydrated.  Last week was spent being sick and caring for the sick around our house.  We had to take turns in both departments — at least between mom, dad, and the older kids.  Our 1 and nearly 3 year old have been hit especially hard by this flu, as they have had fevers, aches, and all sorts of tummy troubles. 

Late Saturday evening, I took Harper in because he had stopped eating and drinking and had not had a wet diaper all day.  After triage, they sent me out to finish registering while they prepared the room in the ER.  On cue, Harper vomited all over me, soaking my coat and the shirt underneath.  Then, while wearing the shirt dry, I held him down while the nurses tried to get an IV line into his tiny little dehydrated veins.  It took them two tries.

Life back home wasn’t a whole lot easier — in fact, I probably had the easier assignment.  Kim didn’t have nurses to help change soiled bedding and diapers.  Her favorite chair starred as a stunt double for my shirt and took the vomit duty.

When we agreed to adopt again, we knew there would be days (and weeks!) like this.  It’s one of the things that made us think twice about starting all over again with little ones.  However, even though we just came home today, there are already evidences of God’s grace visible through the difficulties.

First, what can I say about Jim?  My dear friend picked up clothes and supplies from Kim at home, brought them to the hospital, returned to my house bearing the carseat for Hudson, and snuck back into our hospital room with a treat and some cash for supper!  I know how he hates the thought of picking up illness from us “carriers,” which only helps me to appreciate the kindness of God in enabling Jim to show us such mercy.

Kim put together clothes for me, and threw in my absolute, most comfortable, long sleeve, camo hunting T-shirt.  (Then again, maybe she was secretly hoping it would get puked on!)  She came out in wet, windy and nearly freezing weather to hang with us in the hospital for awhile Sunday afternoon, and allowed me a chance to get some fresh air and a bite to eat.

The church in Side Lake was extremely gracious to me.  Even as I called early Sunday morning to let them know I couldn’t get out there to preach, their first concern was to pray for me, assure me of their love, and encourage me.  I count it a great privilege to be able to bring them the Word of God on a (nearly!) weekly basis.

God gave opportunities for great conversations with nurses and other staff at the hospital.  Even as we were preparing to leave, two nursing students who were doing an assignment by trying to practice getting vital signs off Harper began to kill time by asking questions about parenting, marriage and faith.  As a result, I had the chance to explain that ALL of us are under God’s wrath, unless we turn to Jesus as our substitute.  Therefore, it is important for us as pastors to let people know that we are NOT good enough for heaven, but saved only because God loved us enough to save us.

Truthfully, I would not choose to have my child get sick, just to get an opportunity to share the Gospel.  However, since God had placed us in that position, I had to decide how I was going to respond.  Getting upset, complaining about my lot, being impatient, or any number of other responses would come quite naturally to me.  However, by God’s grace, I hope that the nurses, doctors, interns, janitors, and others got a glimpse of a peace that passes understanding.  Hopefully, they saw a horizontal love towards my adopted child that in some small way images the vertical love my Heavenly Father has shown me.

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Mortification of Sin

Posted in Uncategorized on April 23, 2009 by gospel2live

“We must let men know that mortification [killing or putting to death of sin] is their duty, but in its proper place; I do not encourage men to come away from mortification, but to come to conversion.  He that shall call a man from mending a hole in the wall of his house, to quench a fire that is consuming the whole building, is not his enemy.  Poor soul!  It is not your sore finger but your great fever that you need to notice.  You set yourself against a particular sin, and do not realize that you are nothing but sin.”  John Owen, The Mortification of Sin.

For the last couple of years, I have been resisting the Puritans – largely because they have been so frequently recommended.  I have a bit of a rebellious streak when it comes to following the crowd!  However, I finally caved in and began reading The Mortification of Sin, by John Owen, over the past couple of weeks.

Owen would not have us see the killing of sin as the end in itself.  In fact, he points out dangers in mortification that takes part without the active participation of the Holy Spirit.  First, long term victory over sin is not possible in our own human strength.  The very success of killing one lust will usually give rise to any number of other lusts.  Second, whatever degree of success one may have apart from the Spirit leads to dangerous temptations to self-righteousness and pride. 

But perhaps the greatest danger is that a person who has not been regenerated may be able to find an appeasement of conscience through the process of mortification that will keep him from coming to the cross.  Instead of a sinner who is utterly dependent on the cross of Jesus, we end up with a self-righteous person who is content in his efforts to uphold the law.

Owen gives a word to pastors and teachers that we must be very careful not to merely content ourselves with a call to mortify specific sins, but that we must urge our listeners to drive straight through to the heart of the matter.  If we do not deal with the lusts of our hearts, then we have gained no benefit, at least not an eternal one, from having eliminated the external signs of our inward depravity.  It is still there, and it WILL eventually spring back to life.

While mortification is not the means by which we achieve spiritual life, health, strength and joy, failure to mortify our sin can steal our spiritual benefits.  Our tucking away “small sins” and protecting them, rather than putting them to death, can steal the joy we should experience in having been adopted by God the Father. 

The key to this battle is that we must fully embrace the Gospel, or good news, that Jesus dies for our sins.  When he opens our eyes to the beauty of this news and causes us to be born again, we die to our old man, and a new man is born.  Once we have embraced the Gospel and been adopted by the Father, it is our duty to wage war on every sinful lust that remains.  Maintaining the joy of our salvation rests on it.

A Strange Favorite Verse…

Posted in Uncategorized on April 9, 2009 by gospel2live

They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it before them.  Luke 24:42-43

My friend, John, was talking to me recently at church and he pointed out that this passage was one of his favorite verses.  He must have noticed my puzzled look and went on to explain that when he was deeply involved in the New Age movement, that he was taught that Jesus was a vegetarian.  When he read this passage he realized that Jesus ate meat.  He had a real, physical body and needed to eat to sustain himself.

As we are remembering the week during which Jesus was tried, crucified, buried, and resurrected, it is good to remember that Jesus was a fully incarnated human being.  We tend to focus more on the incarnation during the Christmas season, but there are several reasons for us to remember the incarnation during Holy week as well.

1 Timothy 2:5-6a — “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ, who gave himself as a ransom for all,…”  In order for Jesus to bridge the gap as a mediator between God and mankind, he needed to become a man.  He became the second Adam, who is able to bring us righteousness through his perfect obedience.  He has modeled for us the perfect life lived under the complete control of the Holy Spirit.

Along similar lines, Hebrews 4:15 states, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”  Jesus stands before the Father and intercedes for us as one who understands our frailty and temptation.  This allows us to draw near to the throne of grace with confidence, rather than terror, to receive mercy and grace.

Also, as we contemplate his death, and the events leading up to it, we should not lose sight of the intensity of his suffering.  Too often, the cross and crucifixion is sanitized to the point that we do not grasp the physical pain and torture that Jesus endured to finish the work given to him by the Father.  The stripes that bring us healing were created through having the flesh ripped off his back by the whips of the Romans.  The blood that was shed for our sin came from a real man who endured real pain and suffering as he gave his life for us.

Our response to this should be that of Hebrews 12:3-4, “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you do not grow weary or fainthearted.  In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”  If Jesus could endure so much undeserved suffering for our sake, how then should we react to the light and momentary afflictions that we must face?  Certainly, there are many difficult  trials that we face in a lifetime, including sever physical suffering, but how does our perspective towards it change when we contemplate the perfect, righteous Son of God’s physical suffering on our behalf?  Hopefully, it helps us to gain eternal perspective and keep on fighting the good fight.

Finally, we are commanded to remember the physical body of Christ that was broken for us everytime we participate in the Lord’s supper.  As we take the broken bread, it is to remind us that he was a real, physical person, and that his body was broken for us.  Even as we chew the bread, we should be reminded of the agony that our sin brought upon his physical body as God’s wrath was poured out on Jesus on the cross.  

I pray that you will take time to ponder the physical body of Christ as you remember his death this week.  May God grant you an eternal perspective towards whatever trials you may be currently experiencing.  No matter how difficult your current situation, it is far less severe than the suffering you would have had to endure if Jesus had not bore God’s full wrath in your place!  May God encourage you to persevere in hope, knowing that if we follow him in his suffering, surely we will follow him in the resurrection as well!