People and Pain

This past week I had the opportunity to speak at a family camp in Forest Glen, Nova Scotia, Canada. While I really do enjoy ministering the Word of God through preaching I probably feel I make a greater contribution afterward in the “one on one” settings with people. It gets personal. We go deeper. People open up and tell their stories. And almost without exception their story is filled with pain, struggle, and the working of the grace of God.

As I think back on my own life, I cannot remember a time that I enjoyed any measure of growth without a significant amount of accompanying pain. It seems that pain is what really gets my attention. I think it is true for all of us. Pain sends us on a search for answers. Our first response is to escape. If that doesn’t work we try to “suck it up” and “endure to the end.” When it comes to be more than we can bear we are broken enough to take the first step in real spiritual growth. The only place things get resolved are in Christ and His super-abounding grace.

Honestly, I wish there was another way. It’s hard to hear stories that are told through tears. And yet this is the way that God has chosen to grow us and to communicate His grace to the world. You can hear it in Paul’s voice when he says, “… I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.” (2 Corinthians 12:7b, 8) I love Paul’s writings because so often I find myself right in the same place – then he helps me work through it. He doesn’t leave me hanging. “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in pesecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, 10)

I do hate pain. But it has become the stimulus that drives me to Christ and His grace and it is what sets the stage for Him to write “another story” that tells the world about HImself. So, I thank Him for the pain. And, I lift my eyes in hope.

I Feel Distant From God

Even though I cannot put my finger on the reason why, I find myself crying out with the Psalmist, “Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” I know, I know, it is not true and it is not reality. I know that as a child of God He is always “right there.” He is the omnipresent God and I have His Spirit in me—but still, at times, I’ve felt this way. How about you? And no matter what you say, when you feel distant from God it is much harder to live your life with joy and confidence. Charles Spurgeon said, “The presence of God is the joy of His people.”

So what do we do when we find ourselves in this condition? Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Pour out your heart to God. He already knows everything about you and your situation, so you don’t need to pretend with Him. Cry out to Him. Pour out your heart. He is there. He will hear and and He will answer. “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)
  2. Dive into the Word of God and let His Words wash over you and renew your mind to a thinking that is true and right. You are struggling with believing and “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” (Romans 10:17)  You cannot get enough of His Word.
  3. Obey what you know. There are a lot of things you don’t know, but you do know enough to take the next step of obedience—take it.  Believe and act on what you know to do. “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” My dad, often challenged by the writings of Oswald Chambers, used to say to me; “When you can’t see your way clear, obey your way clear.” (John 13:17)
  4. Give thanks to God. When you begin to praise Him for who He is and what He is doing you’ll soon find yourself in His presence and full of joy. “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalm 16:11)

The longer I live the more I treasure the Psalms. They find me where I am and take me to where I need to be. I hope these words encourage you when you “feel distant from God.”

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

Around the Web (June 17-22)

Joe Thorn | Rebuilding a Healthy Schedule

Our schedules are normally all out of whack. Joe Thorn serves us well with this piece on rebuilding a healthy schedule from The Resurgence.

Paul Tautges | One Pastor Confesses to Plagiarism

It is awesome to see the gospel at work and how the gospel wins! Read this post by Paul Tautges, one of the pastors that teaches in our Graduate program at Northland.

Christianity Today | Why We Should Reexamine the Faith of Barack Obama

I don’t normally get too political on this site, however, Owen Strachan wrote this excellent article for Christianity Today that talks about the faith, or lack thereof, of our president. It is a good read.

The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference

The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference starts today. It would serve the women that are there if you would stop and pray for them for a moment. Pray that God would refresh their souls while they are away and also pray for the many Dad’s that are home with the kids so that Mom could go to the conference. We will surely have some Northland alumni there.

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

Around the Web (April 29-May 4)

Trinity Blog | What’s Wrong with Feeling Sad?

Alumnus Dan Lerro posts for his church family and all that want to listen in on the topic of sadness.

 John MacArthur | Appearance is Everything?

At the Grace to You blog MacArthur hits on the idea of image and how that relates to a variety of areas in the church, such as discipline and hypocrisy. The thrust of the post is on secret sins in which he offers 3 reasons why these types of sin are especially abhorrant.

An Infant in a Cradle | Six Reasons to be Zealous in the Great Commission

A simple post…check it out for more explanation.

  1. because the Lord God is the hero of the story.
  2. because the Lord God has made you his authorized messenger.
  3. because the Lord God proclaims his salvation and judgment through you.
  4. because the Lord God works his judgment and salvation through your proclamation.
  5. because the Lord God uses the hard-hearts of his enemies to glorify his name among the nations.
  6. because the Lord God uses unexpected people in unexpected ways.

Owen Strachan | “I Wouldn’t Think So Much of the Gathering:” Engaging Francis Chan on the Church

Much like Owen there are things I’ve appreciated about Chan. However, this article does reveal some concerns on how the church should be perceived and why “the gathering” is important.

Set Apart for the Gospel of God

You might have noticed the subtitle for this site is “Set Apart for the Gospel of God.” I chose this as a title because in Romans 1:1 the Apostle Paul describes himself as “set apart for the gospel of God.” This statement resonates with every fibre of my being—theologically, personally, and vocationally. I believe the Gospel to be the “good news” of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. However, in the fullest sense it is His incomparable person and work from eternity to eternity. There is nothing better to believe in and there is no better way to live than set apart to the gospel of God.

Founder’s Day at Northland

It was good on so many levels to have Daniel Patz as our Founder’s Day speaker! For me, it was a meaningful connect with a very like minded brother who represents a wave of solid guys that were pouring out of Northland in the late ’90’s and early part of the new millennium. I would simply say that, “they get it.” They understand what is important and they are passionate about what really counts. It is fine if we differ on small stuff. More

Around the Web (April 22—27)

Dave Crabb | When, Where, & Why to Draw Boundries

This is an excellent, but lengthy, post on drawing boundries in the church derived from Wayne Grudem.

Trevin Wax | Adult Education Panel at T4G

One of the sessions I tried to get in on at T4G was this session on adult education. The place was so packed that I could not even get close enough to hear. Trevin has a post on it and links to the audio and video from the session.

The Gospel Coalition | Carson and Zaspel: Rest in the Gospel or Strive Unto Holiness?

Resting in the gospel versus disciplining ourselves unto godliness. Read about this as Carson and Zaspel go back and forth.

R.C. Sproul Jr. | 3 Simple Ways to Encourage Your Pastor

Pastor’s need encouraged too. This is an excellent article with some great practical advice on encouraging your pastor.

Tim Challies | Seven Ways to Pray for Your Prayer Life

Check out this great article from Tim Challies on praying for your prayer life. His list of seven includes:

  1. Pray that your prayers would be the expressions of a humble heart.
  2. Pray that God would remind you that he doesn’t want or need your eloquent prayers.
  3. Pray that you would remember what the really important requests are.
  4. Pray that you would remember biblical examples of answered prayer.
  5. Pray that God would give you confidence in his sovereign power.
  6. Pray that God would help you to persevere in your praying.
  7. Pray that God would encourage you that he is your loving Father and will give you only what is good.
I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.