Difficult Questions

There was something incongruent in me, something perplexing that I couldn’t get to the heart of. I had not properly grieved for Samuel; the Lord was not through with the entire process and with letting me know of his loving-kindness and compassion as a Father. I had not learned to be weak so that God would be strong. Even as I write this now, I see waves of empty stares within many in churches who have not learned this either. Many men, particularly, struggle with this reality, and their hearts are deceiving themselves. Oh, let the Spirit wash over us and humble us.

I’ve alluded throughout this book that I have had three liver transplants. I’ve experienced a lot in life and actually was blessed to write a book about two of the transplants along with a host of other things. I’ve experienced the loss of family members, even a close brother a few years ago, performed funerals for close friends, and experienced the worries of life. I speak not as a person who understands fully the depth of God, and I write too on a journey with you to understand God more fully in the course of our trials.images

I want to see God’s glory break us free from the shackles of lies that we have believed when it comes to the Lord’s sovereignty in trials. But please understand that I speak from a place of experience, not giving me greater wisdom, but simply asking the reader to give me a platform of trust. I will not talk about pain and not having gone through pain myself. I hope you trust me in this. I have and will continue to struggle through these things; it takes great faith to believe. But praise God, faith is a gift, a treasure, that has been given to us. It is not something we muster in us. So with the faith that you have been given, let’s grapple with some of these issues.

It takes an act of God to carry us through difficult things, and though by no means have I completely understood everything, I seek humbly to reveal to you what the Word of God says about some of the issues I raised and struggled through. I wish I could wave a magic wand that would cause many of us to open our eyes to the reality of weakness and the freedom we have in being weak (which needs to be qualified), but alas, it takes the formation of the Spirit, not the formation of our flesh.

Samuel’s life would have been a waste, truly, if it were not for the person and work of Jesus Christ. It is indeed safe to say that God was glorified in the life and death of my son, particularly as I look back on it, yet I also know that some would still argue that God may have been more glorified in the healing of my son.

Perhaps the biggest question on my mind, and perhaps yours as well as you contemplate your own trials and pain, is this: Was the death of Samuel truly within the realm of the sovereignty of God? Is your disease, your sickness, your hurt, and your loss within the realm of the sovereignty of God? Is it in God’s control or providence? I ask this question because to me it is the fundamental aspect to understanding the safety net of weakness and strength that we can fall into. The implications run deep; if God is not sovereign, then indeed we are left with questions that will never be answered and a host of new problems that arise. If God was not in control of the events of Samuel’s life, then that would mean many of the things we find ourselves flung into are dependent upon our own wisdom, technology, or strength to endure. And if this is the case, what would be the point of the glory of God in our lives save to make a weak God stronger due to our faith? It would also imply that God would need us in some capacity to fulfill his will, that God is at war with a very strong and capable foe in the form of the devil, and the outcome, though bloody, would seem to be God’s. What security is there in this? God cannot be at the mercies of the situation, wholly dependent upon us, but is far beyond and above.

However, if Samuel’s death, my transplants, your pain and loss, addictions, and frailties are in the realm of God’s sovereign plan of redemption, then by faith don’t we understand that God is allowing these things as in the case of Job 2:3? Is it not our duty then to press this truth close to our hearts, not judging God based upon our limited view of our trials, hide it in our hearts, and allow the Spirit to show not only the truth of it to our minds, but our hearts as well? If this is the case, shouldn’t we seek to justify Christ in all of life’s circumstances as his perfect will is displayed throughout history for his glory in our lives? Is he not the author and perfecter and finisher of our faith? And since he is perfect in all his ways, shouldn’t all that is dealt to us be used to glorify God and cause us to run to him for security and refuge, even when we do not understand? Do we think God cannot take our questions, that he is insecure in any way, and that our demands in this life will somehow make him angry with us?

Excerpted From – Nineteen Days, Wrestling with God in the Death of my son, by Daniel Parkins

It’s Here

9781622954209C_F copyIt has finally arrived.  November 19th, 2013, almost three full years after the event of Samuel’s life, I finally get to share what the Lord did with him with the world.  Samuel’s life was tragic at times, blessing us more than we could imagine, and yet his story is much like many of ours.

I know many of you prayed for him and Kelly and I during those difficult events.  Would you do me a favor now?  Would you tell “your” world about this book and encourage them about God’s story in Samuel and what it means to wrestle with God amidst tragedy and pain?  Do you know of anyone experiencing loss or hurt, a broken marriage or estranged relationships, or even disease and pain?  This book does not cure anyone; only Christ does through the cross.  But I believe this will help some as a catalyst to see God’s glory amidst their pain.  So please, repost this on Facebook, link this link on there, take a picture of this picture on your phone and post it to your instagram account, tweet it, and email people.  I know it may seem like a lot, but remember when you did that during Samuel’s life?  It was only through community and the power of the Holy Spirit that Samuel’s story went “out there.”  I am asking for that again.  Here’s the link:

NINETEEN DAYS 

Here’s what’s written on the back of the book:

What happens inside us as we experience the agony of the loss of a child? When the loss of it grieves you at first, and then, as time passes, doesn’t seem to go away but comes in waves upon waves? Tragedy befalls all of us, circumstances are beyond our control, and it is in these moments when God beckons us to the mat and wrestles us into submission out of His great love.

In Nineteen Days, Daniel Parkins gives insight into anyone who has ever experienced pain in this life. How do we cope when unmet expectations seem to surround us? How are we to navigate the rough waters of divorce, heart ache, loss, disease, or any kind of hurt? Nineteen Days is raw, but intensely real as Parkins reveals to all of us an honest portrayal of pain, yet in the midst of it, the undying love and sovereignty of a patient God who is still and forever good. Inside he challenges each person to look beyond the hurt, and see the love of Jesus Christ as not just a good idea, but truth that carries us forward for His glory.

Thank you!  Kelly and I are more than excited, and genuinely love you all!

Jesus Christ = Love

Today, I’d like to write and direct our thoughts to Christ.  Let’s be about Him today, and about Him crucified on our behalf.  Let’s look to Christ, the author and finisher of our faith, who, for the joy set before Him endured the cross.  We are His people, called out ones, set apart ones, who have been made holy purely by the work of Christ Himself.  We know this don’t we?  We are the body of Christ, the bride, the loved and cherished ones.  He is our husband, our priest who was sacrificed for us.  And in this act, don’t we see the incredible affection of Christ to us?  Weren’t we, as the act of Christ on the cross took form, absolute sinners?  That Christ should die was more than if all the angels had been turned to dust; particularly that Christ should die as a criminal with all the weight of men’s sins laid upon Him.  Even more so, that He should die for those whom hated Him, mocked Him, yelled out “crucify!” to Him.

Thomas Watson writes, “The balm tree weeps out its precious balm, to heal those that cut and mangle it; so Christ shed His blood, to heal those who crucified Him.  He died freely.  It is called the offering of Jesus’ body (Hebrews 10.10).”

And weren’t the sufferings of Christ beyond anything we could ever imagine; us in our creature comforts, our metal cars, our houses of ease?  They were so great that they made Him sigh and weep and bleed out in anguish.  He was tortured, but in all of that torturing, think on this: they could not make Him repent.  He would not be turned.  Christ’s sufferings on the cross was great beyond measure, but He does not think that it was pointless or that each drop of His perfect blood spilt for us was in vain.  No.  He sees redemption brought to a dead world.

Can you believe it?  We must un-callous our hearts and weep in thankfulness at the act of our Jesus who, beyond our understanding, underwent hell for our sakes; what man or angelic act could ever compare to this?  Oh what love the Father has lavished upon us, that we should be called sons of God because of the work of Christ!  Shouldn’t we be affected in our very cores with this intoxicatingly beautiful truth?  Shouldn’t our hearts rend like the veil that was torn?  Shouldn’t the very stoniness of our hearts break apart like the rocks on the day of Christ’s death?

To not be affected with Christ’s love in dying is to have hearts harder than rocks.  Let the truth of the gospel act break us today, send us to our knees in repentance and thankfulness, and cause us to worship Him in greater measures.

 

 

We Should Speak of God

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” – Deuteronomy 6.6-9

Christians, when we meet together, should use a sort of “holy conference” according to Thomas Watson.  In the beginning, what we read, is that Christians with a love for Christ and the glory of Christ “spoke often one to another.”  Our language in this conference is one of grace, and when we pour grace in, grace comes out.  Grace changes the language of any person and makes it spiritual.  But grace is not the goal, as that is not what is sweetest on our lips.  Christ is sweetest, and that is like a honeycomb dripping wherever He dwells.  The world should know our lips and tongues as the sweetest with love, and the most powerful with truth.

What do we talk about when we meet together as believers?  Is it really a question?  We proclaim Christ and Him crucified; at church, in the home, amongst friends and when we have times of recreation.  The country that we belong to, as many read this, is the country of the United States.  English, without the accent of Britain, states where we reside and shows us where we live and belong.  Likewise, the language of heaven, that is a “wellspring of wisdom” (Proverbs 18.4), means that every believer of Christ speaks wisdom and grace in full measure.

We are the temple of the living God, and as such, the tongue is the manifestation of the temple.  But it begs the question as we seek to conference with one another, what it is that fills our temple?  Is it smoke and incense from a burning world that saturates and putrefies the senses, or is the sweet smelling incense of the sacrifice of the life moved and placed upon the altar of God, living, holy, pleasing, as a spiritual act of worship?  What constitutes the aroma of your life?  Are you always carrying around in you the death of Christ, so that the life of Christ may be made manifest?

These are words to pray about, to ponder, to think over.  What am I speaking, what are others getting from my words?  My words, because of the grace of Christ and fact of His resurrection reality in my life, should be the sweetest, most potent words in this world.  My family should be edified by my tongue.  The church should be edified by my tongue.  My friends should be edified by my tongue.  The world should be edified by my tongue.  Everything should be edified, for by the grace of Christ, we are His ambassadors.

Speak Peace

photo copyThere should be a hush, and inward peace, a bell that does not sound when struck inside the heart of every believer.  Yet this is often not the case.  I am a pack leader for cub scouts; I’m supposed to help organize all the dens in our area once a month among other things.  I’m also a soccer coach for seven wonderful little boys whom many come from very broken families.  I’m pastor that oversees twelve to 30 year olds in our church.  I have three children, one startlingly beautiful wife, and a host of health issues to manage.  Yet amidst this chaos I know I am not lost or longing; I am wooed to hush and silence.  There is a beckoning from my first love, a simple word spoken to me that rings loudly.  Let us all let it ring loudly:  Peace.  Speak peace to your souls, oh people of the gospel!

Our garments in heaven are arrayed in white; so that the devils of life, the woes, the hurts, the gashes and wounds have not infused a shard of their putrescence.  The white garment, in all of Scripture, is the rejoicing garment; it is the garment of peace.  The black garment was the mourning garment, the garment of lament.  But we are not robed with black garments because of Christ, but shining, brilliant, white beyond white garments cleaned with the precious blood of Christ crucified.

And indeed, how can it be otherwise that we rejoice in this truth?  For don’t we walk with God, don’t we dine with God and don’t we converse with the Almighty?  Aren’t we acquainted with God on a daily basis, now reconciled to Him through the gospel of peace, akin to Job who beheld God in His glory amidst the travesties of life?  Aren’t we God’s children and don’t we have some special reserve and communion with Him?  Yes Indeed!  We have communion with God, and isn’t He the God of all consolation?

We have communion and fellowship with Christ, and isn’t Christ the Prince of Peace?  We have communion with the Holy Spirit, and isn’t the Spirit thus named as the Comforter?  And if I can go one step further, don’t we see that we are enabled to have communion with the Father, and the Son and the Spirit in and by the gospel?  And isn’t the gospel the word of peace, the actual good news of peace?  So we see, just from a logical progression, that the people of God, the redeemed, the called out ones, the chosen, the royal priesthood, the people belong to the Almighty, ordinarily and rightly have peace within.

Let your busy lives be silent for a moment and listen to the King of peace, the Father of truth, the Lord of it all who has redeemed us into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.  Slow down and listen to the whisper who speaks life into your hearts; Peace.  Peace!

Isaiah 57.18-19, “I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners, creating the fruit of the lips.  Peace, peace, to the far and to the near,” says the Lord, “and I will heal him.”

Love Like Men

photo copy 161 Corinthians 16.13-14, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.  Let all that you do be done in love.”

A lot can be said as we stand on the cliffs in our lives, as we done the armor of soldiers readying for battle, our cleanly polished shoes, our conquering sword, our truth we hold within our hearts.  Let now you men ready for battle Lord, but as we first fight in our homes for your glory and purpose and truth, let us hold to this truth and never forget.  All of it, every single action in our lives, is meaningless, a resounding gong, less than dung, if we have not love.

James MacDonald stated, “all truth and no love is brutality…absolute truth in the hands of absolute sinners is absolute brutality.”  He also said, “All love and no truth is hypocrisy.”  Men all over the world, in too many homes, come down upon the world and those closest to us with this brutality or hypocrisy.  We say “I love you Lord, and I would give my life for you and your service,” to stand firm in the faith and champion the truth, acting like men who are strong.  Or we love with reckless abandon, and perhaps the world will notice this, and our fame becomes a stench in the nostrils of God because it is about our glory and not His for His truth is not evident.  But, and please listen to this:

If we are not the most loving people the world has ever known, we have failed.  If a homosexual, transgendered person, an adulterer or a murderer, a sex offender or an addict, can look down an isle of people, and see a follower of Christ, and not say that they are the most loving person in the world, then no amount of truth will amount to anything.  We never celebrate, accept, or condone sin in any capacity, but we never trample them with the truth of God without the love of God.  We are to never hammer people down in the earth where they are at, we are to push them to the cross where Jesus is at.  Paul says we could have the tongues of angels, and yet, if we have not love, we are failing.  Oh church, we are failing.

The truth becomes our mantra, our call, our banner that we wave.  Have we become so brutal in truth that we care not for the love to which we are called and to which binds truth and makes it powerful?  What are some ways in which you know you are all about truth and lacking in love?  Again, MacDonald had some poignant statements here.

First, you know you are all truth and have no love if you see passive resistance around you.  If people are afraid to approach you then guess what, you need to work on your love.  Or, if people say you don’t listen to them.  Are you one of those people who always finishes other’s statements?  You think you know what they are going to say so you cut them off.  Guess what?  Maybe they NEED to say what they are going to say to you, maybe they NEED to express it, and maybe you NEED to just be quiet!  Or, perhaps you are one of those people who pride themselves in being a “realist”.  You always have to be right don’t you?  Is this you?  Search your heart and think back, when was the last time you were wrong and you freely admitted it?  Perhaps you need to love in your life a lot more.  Not perhaps; you do!  Who cares if you are right?  Do we think in our arrogance that we are moved up in the ladder of life if we are always right with our wife, that somehow it makes us a better person, better husband, or better father?  Men we are failing!  If being the head of your family, and leading this gift from above the Lord has given you, means getting your way in everything than you are failing.  We must love better.  Everything must be done in love.

Or what about this:  when people disagree with you, do they have to separate from you?  What if your sister disagreed with you on something, and wouldn’t budge?  Has it been months, years, or even decades since you talked with them?  Guess what, you need to work on love.  These are all tell tale signs that you are all truth, and no love.  We must grow in our love!  In all things:  Love.

And guess what, according to MacDonald, he would say, that if you disagree with any of this and are forming an argument in your mind against these things, than you are all truth and no love.  But we don’t swing the pendulum too far from the middle, for love without truth is just hypocrisy and is JUST as meaningless.  One can even make the case, however harsh this may be, that if you are not growing (men or women) in love, than you are not God’s man or woman.  Think about that.

Self-righteousness melts in the face of true love.  Self-vindication vanishes when true love is present.  And the glory of God—that which we seek to lift high above everything—will affect change to the world when they see love coupled with truth.  According to Christ, this is the way the world will see Christ, by the way we love each other.

I will end on a few points that MacDonald gave, as well as give a few of my own:

On the Major things in life, we are called to action.  Ask yourself, is this a critical path that I need to intervene in?  What if I don’t take action here in this situation?  Is it a chronic problem that is recurring and painful and you need to step in?  Does its proximity bring it to your attention.  We do indeed need to enter in and lay heavy the truth coupled with love; but love must be present.  Most things in life, just to help you out, are not majors.

On the Minor things in life, we are called to acceptance.  We must let go of our preferences.  So what if things around you do not always make sense.  There’s no “sense judge” or “logic dictator” in your household is there?  Do not boast in this; accept the minor things and let them be.  Let your wife keep the bathroom the way she keeps it.  Let your friend put his feet on the dashboard.  Let your husband leave his hair in the sink after he shaves.  Let it go.

In everything, love.  And in this, if we find that we are not loving, if truth is more important to us than Christ’s love displayed through that truth, than we have failed, and the truth is not in us.  And if this is the case, repent.  We have work to do with the Lord, and it begins on our knees before the loving God who calls us to Him, and before those whom we have crushed and damaged.  Engage them with the Love of God.  For the love of God, love God, by loving others.

Do You Have Hope?

This past weekend I was incredibly blessed to speak at a church up in Mammoth called “Mammoth Christian Fellowship.”  I’ve never preached in a jacket before and still remained cold, but as I exited the building that first night, the thermometer read 11 degrees, and I knew I was in for something.  I’m not exaggerating.  It was eleven ungodly degrees.  I had no idea, however, that not twenty four hours later I would say to my wife, “Honey, we could live here.”  Though the Lord is not calling us up there at this time, it was nonetheless a real treat full of surprises that lead to rekindled relationships from when I lived up there myself, all the way to cold feet as we tromped around in clothes not meant for the snow.  Mammoth Christian Fellowship saw new relationships formed in the lead pastor’s family and my own, as well as being involved in further strengthening and encouraging hearts with the Payne’s and Higerd’s.  As I shared how the Lord, through Jesus Christ alone, has enabled our messes to become messages of glory and truth, my wife and I realized with greater clarity the road marked out for us in the future.  We know where we want to be, for the Lord has given us a voice into the Church these days as a message of hope.

Don’t we all need hope?  Hope that our bills are going to get paid, that our loved ones are not going to die from disease, that our lives have meaning outside of the chaos we see?  Isn’t hope that all important reality, from the heart of a Father to His children, in which becomes our enabler to live a life offensively in love rather than defensively in self defeat and hidden pride?  I know where I want to be.  I know what I want to do.  I want to encourage everyone, this entire world, of the Great Hope we have in Jesus Christ.  Oh for the glory of God, this rich and timely truth that speaks to me in the quiet recesses of my mind.  There was a man by the name of Edward Mote around 1836 who penned these now famous words:

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

Many of you know perhaps that I have written a book called “We Have Hope.”  In it I write this:  “That’s the secret.  It is not intelligence, outstanding education, or academic degrees.  It is time spent with God.  There is the story of a Philosopher named Rene Descartes who felt that there was something beyond what God had revealed to us in His word, and so spent a very long time in isolation, removing all the trivialities of life and locked himself up.  How opposite to how God calls us to community and experiencing Him in community, yet this man believed that he needed to search his own heart, as if the divine truth were hidden within rather than revealed outside from God’s word.  There is no truth within us, there is nothing we need to conjure, no secret society we need to form, no desert we need to retreat to in order to find the power of God and the hope that is revealed.  That’s the simplicity of it, and that too is a stumbling block to us Gentiles who insist there is something beyond what God has said that we need to “do.”  It is to people who sit at Jesus’ feet that God opens His heart to and reveals supernaturally through His Spirit, an intimate reality nonetheless, by the medium of the word of God, bespeaking of the greatness of God and the power of experiential knowledge that leads to hope.”

Our Hope, the only hope, is based upon the person and work of Jesus Christ, who, for the joy set before him, endured the cross for the glory of God.  Actually, our Hope, IS Jesus Christ.  Do you have hope?  I want to encourage you to download my ebook for free this weekend.  I want to give this resource away as much as possible, and will be making the book available for download for free.  If you know of anyone, and we all know of people, who are in need of hope and encouragement, point them to Christ who alone is our hope.  Encourage them to download the book, a truly find the Anchor to our souls.  Go HERE.