Friday, October 22, 2010

God Trains His Servants By Breaking Their Hearts

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. (Colossians 1:24-29)

Over our years in ministry my family and I have had our share of heartbreaks in serving Jesus; we have seen the same in almost every pastor’s family. We have always found refuge in knowing God sovereignly uses our pains and sufferings to fulfill His divine purposes and plans – for our good and for His glory. Here is a recent post by Colin Hansen written by Rev. Joshua M. Knott which clearly reflects that truth.

James (Jay) Harvey is senior pastor of Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Newark, Delaware, and it’s an honor to serve under and alongside him. Recently, he’s been showing our church—as much by his example as by his words—how to suffer well. I was brand new to Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi, when our student body prayed for him in chapel. Their second child, their son Jacob, was born with cystic fibrosis. Years later when I came on staff to serve with him, I asked him about they dealt with what the Lord had given them in Jacob, and he responded in the words of his mentor and pastor Ligon Duncan: “Sometimes God trains his servants by breaking their hearts.” As those who have children with special needs can imagine, their life has a rigorous routine pock-marked with weeks at the hospital when the disease temporarily worsens. I know of no other man who has had to look his 6-year-old in the eye and talk to him about the very real possibility of dying and the need to have faith in Christ, grow in grace, and persevere in what the Lord has given him.

Nevertheless, two years ago, the Lord saw fit to bring another trial of incredible magnitude into Jay’s life. His wife, Melody (in her mid-30s, as Jay is), was diagnosed with RSD, a disease in which her nervous system overreacts to external stimulation. This meant that, as her condition worsened, the slightest handshake, hug from her (now four) children, or even a strong breeze would leave her body racked with pain for days. To save her life meant a costly, week-long, medically induced coma in Monterrey, Mexico. Countless brothers and sisters in Christ from all over the world helped raise the $75,000 needed for the procedure, which took place this past August. Her recovery was going well, but she recently incurred a new injury that will require her to receive another treatment and may mean another coma in Mexico.

And here is what we have seen as a congregation: Christ formed in our pastor and his family. Christ’s sovereignty exalted in Jay’s preaching and teaching, which did not suffer the least no matter how great his personal pain and suffering. Christ sustaining his broken-hearted servants in his word, by his Spirit. We’ve seen a pastor and his family whose hope is rooted firmly in glory and not in this world. I have no doubt there are dark “how long O Lord” moments, days, and seasons. I have no doubt that they have prayed fervently for relief and for restored joy in the midst of debilitating pain. I also have no doubt—none of us does—that they are leaning on the everlasting arms of their heavenly Father, entrusting themselves to his goodness and care.

God trains his servants by breaking their hearts. I praise God to serve under a dear brother who is leading his family and his church family to the cross in the midst of his heart-brokenness, leading a suffering people to the One who has suffered in their place, for their sins, that we might put our hope in him alone.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

In Prayer

O Lord, in prayer I launch far out into the eternal world,
and on that broad ocean my soul triumphs over all evils
on the shores of mortality.
Time, with its gay amusements and cruel disappointments
never appears so inconsiderate as then.

In prayer I see myself as nothing;
I find my heart going after Thee with intensity,
and long with vehement thirst to live to Thee.
Blessed be the strong gales of the Spirit
that speed me on my way to the New Jerusalem.

In prayer all things here below vanish,
and nothing seems important
but holiness of heart and the salvation of others.

In prayer all my worldly cares, fears, anxieties disappear,
and are of as little significance as a puff of wind.

In prayer my soul inwardly exults with lively thoughts
at what Thou art doing for Thy church,
and I long that Thou shouldest get Thyself
a great name from sinners returning to Zion.

In prayer I am lifted above the frowns and flatteries of life,
and taste heavenly joys;
entering into the eternal world I can give myself to Thee
with all my heart, to be Thine for ever.

In prayer I can place all my concerns in Thy hands,
to be entirely at Thy disposal,
having no will or interest of my own.

In prayer I can intercede for my friends, ministers, sinners, the church,
Thy kingdom to come, with greatest freedom, ardent hopes,
as a son to his father, as a lover to the beloved.

Help me to be all prayer and never to cease praying.

From "The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotion" edited by Arthur Bennett

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

They fought, and God won . . ."

Rescued miner saw God, devil during captivity
By Mariano Castillo, CNN October 13, 2010

(CNN) -- Having spent 69 days trapped inside the San Jose mine in Chile before being rescued, Mario Sepulveda says he is a changed man. "I buried 40 years of my life down there, and I'm going to live a lot longer to be a new person," he said in a video conference, hours after surfacing from half a mile underground.

Sepulveda, the second miner extracted from the mine, has advice for those who take undue risks in their lives.

"I think I have learned a lot of wonderful lessons about taking the good path in life," he said. "For those of you able to call your wives, or your husbands, do so."

During the time he was trapped inside the mine, Sepulveda said he saw both good and evil. "I was with God, and I was with the devil. They fought, and God won," he said. Sepulveda said he grabbed God's hand and never doubted that he would be rescued.

The read the who article - click here.

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Broken-Bone Theology - Paul Tripp

Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. (Psalm 51:8)

Yesterday Desiring God posted an article by Paul Tripp addressing the reality that God often allows and causes pain to come into our lives. Below is an excerpt from that posting - to read the whole article, click here.

Now, you have to ask, “Why would a God of love ever bring pain into the lives of the people he says he loves?” The difficult things that you experience as God’s child that may seem like the result of God’s unfaithfulness and inattention or anger are actually acts of redemptive love. You see, in bringing these things into our lives God is actually fulfilling his covenantal commitment to satisfy the deepest needs of his people. And what is it that we need the most? The answer is simple and clear throughout all of Scripture: more than anything else we need him.

Yet this is exactly where the rub comes in. Although our greatest personal need is to live in a life-shaping relationship with the Lord, as sinners we have hearts that have a propensity to wander. We very quickly forget God and begin to put ourselves or some aspect of the creation in his place. We soon forget that he’s to be the center of everything we think, desire, say and do. We easily lose sight of the fact that our hearts were designed for him and that the deep sense of well-being which all of us seek can only be found in him.

We very rapidly forget or ignore the powerfully addicting dangers of sin and think we can step over God’s boundaries without personal and moral cost. We think we are stronger than we really are and wiser than we actually prove to be. We assess that we have character, discipline and strength that we don’t really have. So God, in the beauty of his redeeming love, will “break our bones.” He will bring us through difficulty, suffering, want, sadness, loss and grief in order to ensure that we are living in pursuit of the one thing that each of us desperately needs—him.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Arrowsmith Baptist Church Men's Retreat - 2010

Rev. Barney Coombs and the men of Arrowsmith Baptist Church on the Canadian Princess in Ucluelet, British Columbia - September 24-26, 2010

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)