Chronic Pain & Deeper Healing

I dealt with considerable pain from my tongue cancer and its treatment back in 2005. But it doesn’t compare with my experience these days enduring a pathological fracture of the jaw. Pain which never lets up brings a whole new series of challenges to redeeming suffering as a follower of Jesus.

Knowing I would have hours of windshield time to and from Miami last week for the consult with the surgeon there, I did a search online the day before I left. I wanted to download some resources/messages on the subject of pain. The Lord reminded me of Joni Eareckson Tada along the way. If anyone would have words of wisdom about dealing with chronic pain, she most certainly would. I had no idea just how right that impression from the Lord would prove to be.

Of the half-a-dozen or so talks to which I listened on the road last Monday and Tuesday, this one struck home with the most Holy Spirit force. Nancy and I just finished watching it together prior to my writing this post. Whether your story involves protracted suffering or not, I cannot commend more strongly this teaching from a woman who testifies authentically with the poet, “My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees” (Psalm 119:71, NLT).

Please, I plead with you, do your soul a mega-good. As soon as you possibly can, invest the mere thirty minutes it will take to view Joni’s message. My prayer is that every one of our covenant members at Orlando Grace would do so. Beyond that, of course, all the better.

Envy’s Everywhere

envy

I can think of a lot of sins of the flesh which seem more prevalent in the body of Christ than the green monster. Perhaps that has something to do with its capacity, more than some, to fly under the radar in our churches. Other faults tend to rear their ugly heads publicly; envy hunts its victims within the private recesses of their concealed hearts. Not to God, of course.

Alexander Strauch continues to challenge me with his book Leading with Love. He treats First Corinthians 13, the so-called love chapter, through the lens of a Christian leader. I keep coming back to this read. It sobers me about how far I have to go in terms of shepherding God’s people from a heart of love. It doesn’t take more than the third characteristic of love, framed negatively, to go after this sneaky thing, “Love does not envy.”

Strauch admonishes:

We need to be aware that envy is a prevalent sin among the Lord’s people and Christian leaders. Pastors can go to bizarre leading with loveextremes to eliminate from the church gifted people who threaten them [not this pastor]. Churches can envy other churches that are larger or are growing rapidly [not OGC]. Missionaries can envy other missionaries who are more fruitful or better supported [not my missionaries]. Bible study leaders can envy more popular Bible study leaders [not my community group leaders]; singers can envy other singers who sing more often or receive louder applause [not my worship team]; elders can envy fellow elders who shine brighter in leadership ability and knowledge [not my elders]; and deacons can envy fellow deacons who serve more effectively or are sought out for help more frequently [not my deacons] (p. 50).

Can anybody spell “Denial’s not just a river in Egypt?” At least about the “not this pastor” protest.

So what’s the antidote? Adopt the spirit of John the Baptist who pleaded this when Jesus’ popularity outstripped his own and envy hunted his soul:

“A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:27-30 ESV)

I’ve got what I’ve got because Jesus gave it to me. If someone has more in my often distorted opinion, so be it. May He increase and I decrease. No better cure for envy than that.

The Grand Canyon of the Gospel

Have you ever visited the Grand Canyon? I have. Twice. The view from every vantage point takes one’s breath away.

As stunning as that vista is, it doesn’t compare to the scene of God’s love on display in the gospel of Christ. Greg Gilbert capitalizes on that illustration in his book What Is the Gospel?

How long has it been since you looked up from the earthly details of life and came face to face with the Grand Canyon of what God has done for us in the gospel—his unfathomable grace in forgiving people who have rebelled against him, his breathtaking plan to send his Son to suffer and die in their place, to establish the throne of the resurrected Jesus over a kingdom of perfect righteousness, and to bring those who are saved and redeemed by his blood into a new heavens and new earth where sin and evil will be forever conquered!

How is it that I let the beauty and power and vastness of that gospel be crowded out of my mind so often and for so long? Why is it that my thoughts and emotions are often dominated by silly things like whether my car is clean, or what’s happening on CNN right now, or whether I was happy with my lunch today, rather than by these glorious truths? Why do I so often organize and think about my life as if I were wearing blinders, rather than in the light of eternity? Why does this gospel not permeate, all the time and all the way to the bottom, my relationships with my wife and children, my coworkers and friends and fellow church members?

I know exactly why. It’s because I’m a sinner, and worldliness will continue to linger in my heart and war against me until the day Jesus comes back. But until then, I want to fight against that. I want to fight against spiritual laziness—against the drugged stupor this world constantly threatens to put me in—and I want to embrace this gospel hard and let it affect everything—my actions, affections, emotions, desires, thoughts, and will (p. 114-15).

Content likes that makes me eager to sit under Greg’s teaching this Friday night and Saturday morning in our Living in the Grip of the Gospel Conference at OGC. Oh for a people who embrace the gospel hard and let it effect everything!

By the Grace of God I Am What I Am

One of the great liberating texts of Scripture in my life comes from 1 Corinthians 15:10.

By the grace of God I am what I am.

In spite of Paul’s horrific resume as a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent (1 Tim. 1:13), he counted himself among those who witnessed the resurrected Christ first-hand and became the hardest working apostle of all. And he attributed it all to grace and nothing but grace.

John Bunyan, author of the classic Pilgrim’s Progress, offered this response on an occasion of hearing this verse of divine writ:

I am not what I ought to be. Ah, how imperfect and deficient!

I am not what I wish to be. I abhor what is evil, and I would cleave to what is good!

I am not what I hope to be. Soon, soon shall I put off mortality, and with mortality all sin and imperfection.

Yet, though I am not what I ought to be,
nor what I wish to be,
nor what I hope to be,
I can truly say, I am not what I once was;
a slave to sin and Satan;
and I can heartily join with the apostle, and acknowledge,
‘By the grace of God I am what I am.’

Though none of us is what we ought, wish, or hope to be, and won’t be until we reach glory, truth is we aren’t what we once were.

May we heartily join with the apostle and declare, By the grace of God I am what I am.

When Sinners Say I Do – March 10th!

A proper understanding of God’s purpose in marriage, the problem in marriage, and discovering the power of the gospel in marriage is vital to everyone whether single, preparing to be married, newly married or married for decades.

Our friends at Crosspointe Orlando are hosting Pastor Dave Harvey, author of When Sinners Say I Do, in a day long seminar on understanding God’s plan for marriage, EVERYONE’S problem in marriage and how discovering the POWER of the gospel will result in a thriving marriage. Click here to register.

I want to convince you that dealing with the sin problem is key to a thriving marriage. When we apply the gospel to our sin, it gives us hope in our personal lives and in our marriages. Bad news leads to great news. It’s the story of the Bible, and the story of our lives. -Dave Harvey, When Sinners Say I Do

This is the text I am now using for premarital counseling and marital distress counseling. If there is any way you can make your way to fit this into your schedule, I highly recommend it!

Childcare

Email laila@xpointe.com if you need childcare (include how many and age of children). Note there will be an additional fee for childcare.

More information about When Sinners Say I Do

The Fountain of a Thriving Marriage

I shared this quote from Dave Harvey’s terrific book When Sinners Say “I Do” a couple of weeks ago in one of my messages.

It packs such a punch that I decided to feature it today in my blog post.

The gospel is the heart of the Bible. Everything in Scripture is either preparation for the gospel, presentation of the gospel, or participation in the gospel. In the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, the gospel provides an ultimate solution for our sin—for today, for tomorrow, for the day we stand before God, and forever.

There really is no end to the glories of the gospel, which is why we will spend eternity marveling that the Holy God would choose to crush his only Son for the sake of sinful man. The gospel explains our most obvious and basic problem—sin has separated us from God and from each other. Thus we are objects of God’s wrath. A Christian understands the necessity of the cross; our sin was so bad that it required blood, the blood of God, to take it away! Without the cross we are at war with God, and he is at war with us.

The gospel is therefore central to all theological truth, and is the overarching reality that makes sense of all reality. Never make the mistake of thinking that the gospel is only good for evangelism and conversion. By the gospel we understand that, although saved, we remain sinners. Through the gospel we receive power to resist sin. Accurately understanding and continually applying the gospel is the Christian life.

This also means that the gospel is an endless fountain of God’s grace in your marriage. To become a good theologian and to be able to look forward to a lifelong, thriving marriage, you must have a clear understanding of the gospel. Without it, you cannot see God, yourself, or your marriage for what they truly are.

The gospel is the fountain of a thriving marriage (pp. 24-25).

If you plan to get married or already are married, I wholeheartedly recommend this resource.

The Grace of Exhorting

Yesterday’s message in Hebrews 3:1-14 is now on the web. You can listen to the audio here.

As promised, here are my bullet points on the qualities of the godly exhorter and exhorted:

Seven Qualities of a Godly Exhorter

First, gripped by biblical necessity.

Prov. 27:5 – Better is open rebuke than hidden love.

Proverbs 28:23 – Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with his tongue.

Second, committed to relational proximity.

Prov. 18:24 – A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Third, known for spiritual dependability.

Prov. 17:17 – A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

Prov. 27:6 – Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

Fourth, strengthened through vertical security.

Prov. 29:25 – The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.

Fifth, clothed with personal humility.

Prov. 11:2 – When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.

Gal. 6:1 – Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

Sixth, aware of situational sensitivity.

Prov.15:4 – A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.

Prov. 20:5 – The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.

Seventh, anchored in gospel reality.

Prov. 18:24 – A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

The Singular Quality of the Godly Exhorted

Committed to favorable receptivity.

Prov. 9:8-9 – Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.

Prov. 12:1 – Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

Prov. 13:18 – Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is honored.

Prov. 15:5 – A fool despises his father’s instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is prudent.

Prov. 15:31 – The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise.

Here is the video about the persecuted church that we tried to play at the beginning of the message:

The Season of "Lusting Events"

I struggle with summer in Central Florida for more reasons than one.

Yes, the heat and humidity score high on my displeasure meter for sure. But the physical discomfort that comes with temps in the nineties takes a back seat to the spiritual angst of increased temptation to lust complicated by immodest dress amongst the fairer sex.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not blaming women for any of my battles with impurity. Lust, if entertained, shows my heart and its sin and not that of anyone else .

However Jesus issued stern warnings to His followers about the risk of acting as an accessory to sins like lust by becoming a stumbling block. For example, Matthew 18:7-9 says:

[7] “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! [8] And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. [9] And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.

Jesus emphasizes the necessity of forceful elimination of stumbling blocks in our making war on sin, but in so doing pronounces woe upon those who wittingly or unwittingly function as conduits for temptation.

Dear sisters in Christ, may I humbly and earnestly entreat you that your wardrobe choices can and do make a significant difference in this regard for the godly man who wants to please Jesus with the thoughts of his mind and the trajectory of his eyes?

Robert G. Spinney, in an article in this quarter’s Free Grace Broadcaster entitled Modest Apparel, called “Accessories to Adultery” asks:

Why do some Christians dress so as to make themselves “lusting events”? Often it is due to innocent ignorance. Many believers simply do not realize that other Christians are easily tempted to sin by immodest clothing. This is especially true for Christian women: they often do not understand that many Christian men experience great anguish of soul as they fight with sexual temptation. Without intending to, they wear clothing that is a stumbling block. Be mindful that Christian men are saints, not angels! Sisters, please love your brothers enough to avoid tempting them to sin. Margaret Buchanan is right when she writes, “By dressing in a provocative way, girls and women are actually sexually harassing men.” This is true even when there is no deliberate intent to promote sensuality with one’s clothing.

Again, by no means do I mean to hint even remotely that any of this excuses men for our various and egregious sins of sexual harassment toward women. But I would remind, especially women of God, of Paul’s appeal in 1 Timothy 2:9-10 – women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, [10] but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.

Godly men, let us wage war with drastic action this season of “lusting events” against sin through the power of the gospel and our accountable support of one another. And may our godly women join the fray by coming to our aid with their adornment of respectable apparel.

Ladies, we who too often sin against you with our lust, thank you for this most beneficial assist.

Only One Hero

Every kid hero worships. I did. Zorro was my man. Dressed in black. Magnificent with the blade. Astride “Tornado” his steed. Champion of the oppressed. I never missed a Zorro movie or TV show growing up.

Christians can tend to do the same with characters in the Bible. Most of us have our favorites. Abraham for his faith. Moses for his humility. Joshua for his leadership. David for his courage. Paul for his missionary zeal. Just to name a few.

I have been reminded recently by Dr. Bryan Chapell in some messages I’ve been listening to that most of our Bible heroes suffer from some pretty ugly blemishes on their resumes. In fact almost all of them do apart from the rare exceptions like Enoch, Caleb and maybe one or two others.

Our heroes didn’t always act so heroic. Abraham gave away his wife, not just once but twice for fear and cowardice. Moses murdered an Egyptian and lost his temper (that kept him out of the promise land). Joshua got duped by the Gibeonites. David committed adultery and arranged for a man’s murder. Paul seemed to have gotten testy over John Mark in a dispute with Barnabas. On and on I could go.

What’s the point? The Bible doesn’t whitewash the faults of its characters. Some are downright scandalous. There are no human heroes. God is the only hero. What makes Him heroic is that by His grace He can and does use the likes of us, weaknesses, sins, et al, to accomplish His purposes.

Feeling like you don’t measure up. Guess what? You’re in good company. You don’t, any more than the litany of characters in the Word of God. Wondering if God can use you in spite of what you’ve done, where you’ve been, how your resume reads? No question about it. He can, He does, and He will.

Whether we’re Rahabs or Mary Magdalenes, Samsons or Peters, we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us (2 Corinthians 4:7).

Look relentlessly to the only Hero in the book and the God-Man He sent to rescue us from our resumes.