Something I’ll Never Say Again


Never say never. We all know the proverb. I, for one, hereby defy conventional wisdom. I will never say something again as long as I live.

“I can’t imagine anything harder.”

Why? Because every time I do something new comes down the pike that redefines hardness for me.

I said it when I broke free from the authority-cult like church I belonged to as a young follower of Jesus.

Then I had to quit my first church pastoral assignment due to chronic fatigue. That was harder. Couldn’t imagine anything more difficult. Wrong.

For reasons far too complicated to unpack, I resigned from the only church plant I ever founded back in 1998. We left Central Florida for Idaho. No way anything would be tougher than that. Guess again.

Head and neck cancer in 2005. Surgery, radiation, chemo. May I quote my medical oncologist? “We sent you to hell and back to save your life.” Indeed they did. What a miserable year. Hard, harder, hardest. Uh, not so fast.

“Josh is dead.” Six days from now will mark the one year anniversary of our great loss. Every day lately I find myself thinking something like this: one year ago today my son had a week left to live, ___________ days. It’s excruciating counting down the days to remembering the worst possible news. Or was it?

My bride with ovarian cancer. You’re kidding? It’s not possible. I don’t believe is. Oh, yes it it. You’d better believe it.

I give in. This is easily the hardest yet. Hardness to the nth degree. Uncle. I give in. I’ll never say it again. I don’t even want to imagine something harder than this baffling turn of events.

Alright, now that I’ve vented my lament, what is this man, husband, father, pastor, follower of Jesus to do? I have only one answer. It has always been the answer and it will forever remain the answer by God’s grace.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

How grateful I am today to have come across this Puritan prayer entitled simply “Refuge.” It corrals my runaway thoughts and emotions to send them heavenward:

O Lord, Whose power is infinite and wisdom infallible, order things that they may neither hinder, nor discourage me, nor prove obstacles to the progress of Your cause. Stand between me and all strife, that no evil befall, no sin corrupt my gifts, zeal, attainments. May I follow duty and not any foolish devicegod-is-my-refuge of my own. Permit me not to labour at work which You will not bless, that I may serve You without disgrace or debt. Let me dwell in Your most secret place under Your shadow, where is safe impenetrable protection from the arrow that flies by day, the pestilence that walks in darkness, the strife of tongues, the malice of ill-will, the hurt of unkind talk, the snares of company, the perils of youth, the temptations of middle life, the mournings of old age, the fear of death. I am entirely dependent upon You for support, counsel, consolation. Uphold me by Your free Spirit, and may I not think it enough to be preserved from falling, but may I always go forward, always abounding in the work You give me to do. Strengthen me by Your Spirit in my inner self for every purpose of my Christian life. All my jewels I give to the shadow of the safety that is in You—my name anew in Christ, my body, soul, talents, character, my success, wife, children, friends, work, my present, my future, my end. Take them, they are Yours, and I am Yours, now and for ever.

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.

Nothing for Which Jesus Cares So Much (Part 6)

Today’s message from John 14:15-24 is now on the web. You can listen to the audio here.

Here’s how I summarized the point of the text:

Jesus’ loving care in thoroughly preparing His own for their mission points yet again to His identity as Messiah that we might believe in Him. Indeed there is nothing He cares so much as our faith, genuine faith that treasures and keeps His commandments. And why are they not burdensome, to use 1 John 5:3 language? Because of the Trinitarian provision for our aid in obedience – the gift of the Spirit in helping us, the coming of the Son in the resurrection for assuring us, and next time, Lord willing, we will consider the indwelling of the Father, and not just the Father but the Son as well, both promising to make their home with us. Amazing!

Praise God for the Trinitarian provision for operation-saving-faith-resulting-in-obedience!

Nothing for Which Jesus Cares So Much (Part 5)

Today’s message from John 14:15-24 is now on the web. You can listen to the audio here.

I summarized the flow of the argument this way:

We could spend multiple messages unpacking the doctrine of the Spirit, but I will resist that temptation for we will encounter His ministry nuymerous times to come in this discourse. But before we move on next time to the role of the Son of God, the second person of the Godhead, I do want you to see in verses 16-18, in addition to the identity of the Spirit as Helper, four other particulars that Jesus identifies about Him – His perpetuity, His priority, His exclusivity, and His intimacy. All of these contribute to the force of the advantage that comes to Jesus’ followers upon the loss of His presence in so short a time (John 16:7).

Praise God for the extraordinary help of the Holy Spirit in whom we find rest, are filled, and enjoy intimate relationship!

Nothing for Which Jesus Cares So Much (Part 3)

Today’s message from John 14:15-24 is now on the web. You can listen to the audio here.

Here’s how I brought the message home:

If you believe you do possess this priceless gift, then understand that the acid test of ownership comes with “owning” His commandments and keeping/obeying His words. Jesus put it this way in an exchange with the crowd on the Via Dolorosa in Luke 11:27-28 –

As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

Are you hearing the word of God and keeping it? Where must you repent today? Understand this. If you are blatantly and wantonly disregarding some command of Jesus that you know He requires of your in your ethics of life, you have no reason to be assured of a saving knowledge of Him. What idolatry or disobedience must you bring to the cross for pardon and plead to Jesus for gospel power based on your true identity as a beloved son or daughter of God. Don’t delay. Do business with God now. That is evidence of true saving faith for sure, no matter how many times you must do so.

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For more information on John Piper’s book The Roots of Endurance click here.

The Place of Unbelief in the Plan of God (Part 1)

Today’s message from John 12:35-43 is now on the web. You can listen to the audio here.

I summarized the message this way:

The causes behind Israel’s persistent rejection of Jesus challenge us to believe in Him as the Messiah. We’ve looked at two so far – prophetic prediction from Isa. 53:1 and sovereign preterition from Isa. 6:10.

Then I gave three applications from the doctrine of reprobation, the first for the unbeliever and the next two for the believer:

  1. Believe the gospel eagerly seizing the opportunity involved.
  2. Share the gospel confidently remembering the gravity involved (see 2 Corinthians 2:14-17).
  3. Glory in the gospel humbly acknowledging the sovereignty involved (see Romans 9:17-24). A complete glorying in the gospel in light of God’s sovereignty consists of two aspects of the doctrine of predestination – acknowledging His grace in election with untempered gratitude AND His justice in reprobation with tempered grief.

[33] Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! [34] “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” [35] “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” [36] For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

(Romans 11:33-36 ESV)

A Greek Guide to Getting Close to Jesus (Part One)

Today’s message from John 12:20-26 is now on the website. You can listen to the audio here.

My synopsis of the text was as follows:

The Spirit of God working through John wants us to go with the Greeks. He would have us express the same desire – we would see Jesus. He means for us to take our cue from them. He wants us to believe in Jesus in light of their example, as He does with everything else He shows us in the gospel from the signs Jesus did to the things He said (John 20:30-31).

Let me put it in the form of a theme as always. Follow the Greeks’ lead in seeking Jesus toward believing in Him as the Messiah. You will need four things from their example if you want to get somewhere close in proximity that their search brought them: deliberately focused intentions for Jesus, directly engaged connections to Jesus, dramatically altered perceptions of Jesus, and decidedly shared affections with Jesus.

I mentioned a link to an interview with Mark Dever of  9 Marks called Culture of Discipling that gives some great principles for doing the second of these things from the Greeks’ example. I highly recommend it. You can listen to that audio program here.

May this be a week where we draw closer to Jesus and help others do the same!

Faith’s Ultimate Display (Part Two)

Today’s message from John 12:1-11 is now on the web. You can listen to the audio here.

Here’s how I closed the sermon:

So, do we get it? Compared to Mary we have so much more to go on this side of the cross! If we do get it, if we understand the truth of what Jesus has done and it grips us such that we believe in Him as the Messiah, our Savior, it will lead to commitment marked like hers with even extravagant devotion – intensely personal, financially sacrificial, extremely deferential, publically unconventional, and spiritually insightful attachment.

Oswald Chambers, in My Utmost for His Highest, said this:

There is only one relationship that matters, and that is your personal relationship to a personal Redeemer and Lord. Let everything else go, but maintain that at all costs, and God will fulfill His purpose through your life. One individual life may be of priceless value to God’s purpose, and yours may be that life.

Let everything else go, but maintain your personal relationship to Jesus at all costs.

How Read You the Signs?

Today’s message from John 11:45-57 is now on the web. You can listen to the audio here.

Here’s how I closed the sermon:

The divided reactions to Jesus’ signs challenge us to examine our own that we might believe in Him. Many believed. Some rejected. Jesus withdrew. Others reflected. Where do you see yourself in these closing paragraphs of John 11? Are you like the many who believed? Have you seen the Son of God in His works and words and come to Him to do His bidding like Lazarus, Martha, and Mary? Or are you more like those who rejected, even conspired against Jesus? Either way He will use you. One way or another He will accomplish His purposes through you. Do you want it only to occur unwittingly? I hope not. Trust in Christ today that He might work in partnership with you as opposed to sovereignly in spite of you. How read you the signs?

O to grace how great a debtor that the signs would point us to Christ and that we might believe in Him as the Messiah, God’s Son.

When Deity Dissolved Over Dying

Today’s message from John 11:28-37 is now on the web. You can listen to the audio here.

Here is the quote by B. B. Warfield characterizing the depth of emotion displayed by Jesus as fundamentally rage.

It is death that is the object of his wrath, and behind death him who has the power of death, and whom he has come into the world to destroy. Tears of sympathy may fill his eyes, but this is incidental. His soul is held by rage: and he advances to the tomb, in Calvin’s words again, “as a champion who prepares for conflict.” The raising of Lazarus thus becomes, not an isolated marvel, but — as indeed it is presented throughout the whole narrative (compare especially, verses 24-26) — a decisive instance and open symbol of Jesus’ conquest of death and hell. What John does for us in this particular statement is to uncover to us the heart of Jesus, as he wins for us our salvation. Not in cold unconcern, but in flaming wrath against the foe, Jesus smites in our behalf. He has not only saved us from the evils which oppress us; he has felt for and with us in our oppression, and under the impulse of these feelings has wrought out our redemption.

Praise God for Jesus our champion who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel (2 Tim. 1:10)!

Why We May Safely Believe Jesus' Claim to be the Light of the World

If you missed this morning’s message, here is the summary. The sermon should be posted on the audio portion of our website in the next day or two.

The text of the message was John 8:12-20.

12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 13 So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” 14 Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. 16 Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. 17 In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. 18 I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.” 19 They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” 20 These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.

We may safely believe Jesus’ claim to be the light of the world because of His knowledge of self as one who came from God and went back to God, because of His oneness with God – He does not judge alone but the Father who sent Him, they judge together, because of His witness of two – Himself and the Father, thus fulfilling the requirements of the law in a most superior way.

So how are we to apply this challenging section of Scripture? Let me suggest a few things. First, Jesus claims to be the light of the world. Without Him you are trapped in darkness and subject to eternal death. Believe and follow Him, trust His death on the cross for your sins and you will have the light of life. Second, maintain a healthy suspicion of fleshly capacities to judge. Rely on the Spirit to help you make judgments not according to human appearances, superficiality, and sinful distortions, but according to the things of the Spirit and the word. Third, given who Jesus is and what He claimed, hang on His every word and seek to follow him in obedience. Beware the most dangerous activity found among men, hardening the heart to Jesus’ word which results in total blindness and ignorance. Fourth, remember that unbelief never has enough evidence. These men didn’t know God because they didn’t know Jesus and refused to follow Him. Fifth, rest in God’s providence as evidenced in the hour to which Jesus was subject. Nothing can befall you at any time apart from God’s sovereign appointment and timing. Sixth, if you follow Christ, the light of the world, that makes you a light to the world. Let it shine in your good works and gospel words as you engage people where you live, work, and play.

Jesus is the light of the word. Believe, follow, and you most certainly will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life. Amen.