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

Fear and Faith

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There’s a fear within me that something is going to happen to me.  My health has been a bit precarious in my life.  My liver function levels have been up and down lately.  I’ve lost so much weight lately due to an inflammation in my intestine as well as complications from my diabetes.  This is the time of year when I’ve experienced all of my trials and pain.  It holds too many memories for me to withstand at times; like a bucket trying to contain the waves of the sea during a storm.  It shows my weakness and need of Jesus, but it manifests in gripping even tighter on my loved ones.  Past trials make me see things clearer; pictures are sharper, memories more cherished, the present more appreciated.

The listening of my wife’s breath as it slowly goes in and out, dripping into my ears like a sweet symphony as the moon waxes through our window.  It is the small steps and pitter-patter of my youngest child running down the hallway, laughing as he plays with my oldest boy who just might be the best older brother in the world.  It’s the grace I see in my daughter’s eyes as she peeks up at me when my voice gets a little too loud and I near the line of going to far and too close to crush her little sweet spirit.  I hold her then, in my arms, longing for more of these moments, asking for promises from her that when I am old and gray, if I make it that far, that she will still let me hold her.  It’s the closing of her eyes when I say I am sorry, that instead of being mad, I am called to protect her and love her.  Her sweetness is my accountability; her grace to me is my motivation.

It’s the smells of Mia’s hair after a shower, all nice and clean, as she asks me to brush it so it won’t be tangled in the morning.  It’s both Noah and Mia running up to me asking me to brush their teeth or Noah grabbing his silky blanket and, almost at age seven, sucking his thumb as he nuzzles his nose and face into my neck at any time of the day.  It’s the focus of my son, longing for validation from me, as he kicks the ball during practice that I coach.  He loves me, I know he does, and wants so badly to do well in soccer, but wants even more for his daddy to say “good job.  I’m so proud of you.”  And I tell him.  And he beams.  And in goes to his thumb.  It’s these moments that are slipping through my fingers quicker than I can imagine.

So I take the time to get down in the dirt with Noah, dressed in our cub scouts uniforms.  It’s these moments that spur me to say “yes” to them and “no” to my own time.  It’s not about resting, it’s about them.  So of course I’ll be Noah’s pack leader in cub scouts.  Of course I’ll be his coach.  And when Mia’s asks, of course I’ll be the loudest who cheers at her gymnastics and of course I’ll hug the hardest after her dance recital.  Of course I’ll run first thing in the morning to get Christian out of his crib, or dance with him in the hallway to old VBS music.  Absolutely.  I’ll be the world to them, because in me, they see my Jesus.  It’s just the way of things.  In me, they see God, judge God, know God, love God, and experience God.  I may have a fear, and though there’s nothing to fear in God, I know God uses my weaknesses for His glory.  So I revel in my children, in my wife that is more than lovely, in the little fingers that grasp mine and the smiles that encompass my heart.

I may fear, but I’m okay.  I may be sick at times, but I’m okay.  In fact, I’m better than okay.  I’m exceptional.  I see things sweeter than most; I appreciate things more than most.  And for that, I wouldn’t change anything.

My Future Present

Words.

One of the disciplines that had been told me by a writing professor back in the day of collegiate craziness was to just begin by writing a page a day.  The content of it wasn’t important per se, but the style of writing was and the way in which words formed on paper needed to make sense to the common mind.  Cryptic words and useless phrases with enigmatic meanings were simple and easily done, but forming a cohesive thought, regardless of the thought itself, was important.  Or, very simply, I could have just made it up and assumed that somewhere along the lines my own presuppositions and insecurities needed to have more of a solid foundation for that statement rather than my own bizarre thoughts so I pushed it upon higher learning as the source.  Either way, it still holds true to me and from as far back as I can remember, I have told others to do the same; write a page a day.  Write about your favorite hat, the smell of leaves after it rains, the way your dog itches itself; anything and everything.  If you can make it seem interesting to someone, then perhaps you have a gift in writing.

Nine times out of ten, however, the person who found my writing most inspirational and most normal was the blinded love of my mother who read my heart on paper rather than the words themselves.  I cannot fault her; she is my mother.  But how unbiased can my mother be when at one time in my life she took joy changing my poopie diapers?  Let’s be honest here.

And now I’m faced with a dilemma.  I am no longer a pastor at Rolling Hills Covenant Church.  All I have left from that blessing of a profession is a bunch of relationships where I was their pastor, a few friends, and a host of memories made out of words.  Were you to ask me, I couldn’t write a page a day about my experiences there; I could write hundreds a day.  But again, let’s be honest.  Who really wants to read those words; who will think them important or inspirational?  Sure, there might be a handful who would continue to read, but the reality is, they are the people who loved me despite my weaknesses and transparency; they heard me preach and attempt shenanigans that made them laugh and cry.

So I moved my office to my garage.  I have set up a nook of a reality that is entirely and utterly new to me.  I sit on my desk chair that once had a home at RHCC, now on a cheap piece of carpet on my cold cement floor smelling a bit like old car oil.  My plethora of books all boxed up with a handful displayed on my desk for easy reference.  Two lamps light the inside of this dusky home, illuminating something, giving off a sense of homeliness, yet only discoloring the coldness of old useless junk.  What am I doing?

I am not preparing any sermons right now; I don’t have any planned that I will be giving and this is extremely bizarre for me as I’ve been doing weekly sermons, with an occasional break due to my third transplant, for almost twelve years now.  I have four children, one in heaven, and I am extremely blessed because of this but I have no known future besides pouring into these precious souls.  And this I will do gladly.  But I have been so entirely used to pouring myself out into hundreds of lives, that a part of me is taken aback by the stark reality that this is not my role right now.  It will be again, but it is not right now.  Now, I am to write with words.

My audience is a God who has not only changed my poopie diapers, but has cleansed the darkness of my heart.  My audience is not a bunch of college students or an adult ministry at Life on the Hill, those whom have heard me and have laughed and cried, but to a God whose heart breaks for me with compassion and goodness.  And so Father I will write for the sake of interacting with You, with Your Word, and with Your truth that You show me.  I have no idea what is in store, but I pray I will be faithful in writing.  You must be with me in this coldness that is the new office to me, and You must, I beg You, speak to me and validate me as only You can.  I am a bit at a loss right now, for I have no idea what writing will do; but I trust you.

You are my Moby Dick, and though I do not seek to kill you, I am obsessed with You.  You are my black knight, my champion king who returns.  You are my Ivanhoe, wounded, yet victorious for me.  You are my audience, and with these words that will be from my heart, I pray You use them for Your glory.

The Weeds of Sovereignty

“He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away.  So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also.  And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field?  How then does it have weeds?”  He said to them, “An enemy has done this.”  So the servants said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?”  But he said, “No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them.  Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into the barn.” (Matthew 13.24-30)

I believe the parable of the weeds expresses the sovereignty of God in a profound way.  Christ explains the parable to us in verses 37-39,  “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.  The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom.  The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil.  The harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels…”

We can note several things about the reality of God’s Kingdom here.  First, the good seeds were good from the beginning; though some of them had not ripened or ripened at the same time as others, nonetheless, the good Sower had chosen the seeds himself and placed them specifically for the bearing of good fruit.  This much is clear.  We can note from this too the opposite is true; the bad seeds were not originally good and became bad, nor did they even have a chance of becoming good; they were inherently bad.

We can also see the field itself, considered to be the world, was in the realm of the good Sower’s care; it was his field.  I think that is crucial to understanding this parable.  The world is under the compassionate care of our wonderful Creator; there is no scope or situation beyond the great Caretaker.  This is inherent in our understanding of God as our Father and we, the good seeds, as the children of this amazing God.

But the greatest encouragement that I find from this, as well as the thing that should illicit a holy fear within us, is the reality of the seeds.  Whether good or bad, the seeds themselves could not make a choice as to what category they found themselves in.  It is not up to the seeds of the field on whether they are weeds or wheat that bears good fruit; it is according to the will, plan and providence of the Sower.

This is such a clear indication of the sovereignty of God in all aspects of salvation.  Those whom are good, will continue being good until the end.  Those who are bad, though sometimes confusing to the workers in the field, will turn out to show the truth of their lives in the end.  It also shows me the reality of the enemy of our souls trying to work and ruin the work of God in our lives.  Yet, and yet!  Oh if we could just understand this truth.  There is not fruit from the enemy; there is no victory!  The good seeds are good seeds; there is no changing in them.  Though the bad seeds come and choke up and surround the good seeds with their weeds, nonetheless, we see that ultimately and finally the work of the enemy is all for naught.

I am so incredibly encouraged by this parable.  My security rests in the good Sower, the Son of Man, who loves me and places me in His field from the very beginning.  I can look at my life, and I can see some bad things within it. I can even notice around me all of these horrible situations that seem to drag me down, causing me to fear and lose hope.  Yet the everlasting God has planned from the very beginning that I am a good seed; I know this from the profession of faith within me and my desire to honor the King and have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  I know this because I have placed the trust of my life, the salvation of it, upon the shoulders of Christ and not upon my own works.  I throw myself on this reality; it is the only thing that remedies.

So take heart.  This is a proclamation from the rooftops of our hearts into the streets of our lives; we are in the loving care and hands of our intimate Lord through Jesus Christ.  We are in the world, but we are not of it; we have been sown, according to the sovereignty, providence, will and plan of the Father as good seeds.  There’s nothing that can now separate us from the love of God.  Nothing.  God will see us through to the end, as the Spirit insures this.  Our strength in life is that God has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world that we would bear fruit; fruit that lasts.