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!

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.

Nineteen Days in Production!

To celebrated the fact that my book, “Nineteen Days,” is closer to being finished (the story of my son, Samuel James Parkins and his battle with Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia), I wanted to include an article I wrote for a magazine recently.  It is called “God Wrestling with Us”:

Genesis 32.22-32 gives a strange account of our Patriarch Jacob and his wrestling match with God all through the night.  The thing to note first and foremost in this story is that it is terrifying.  Terrifying in the fact that the Lord became something holy different than anything Jacob had known before.  At this point at least, we can see the Lord was not wrestling with Jacob to have a good time; the Lord was Jacob’s opponent.

Throughout the course of Jacob’s life we see him having multiple enemies; particularly in Laban.  He anticipated an enemy to be his older brother Esau and was completely frightened by him.  But the Lord?  God was no enemy to Jacob; one can make an argument that Jacob viewed God as simply friendly, almost a benign figure whom Jacob could manipulate or turn to his advantage when things got difficult.

I wonder how many of us view God in this same capacity?

The Lord is the great Physician, the great Healer of our souls.  He is the Provider, the Resting Place, our Righteousness and our Victory.  He sent His only Son to die for us, and without a healthy fear of God, we can see that God is more for us than for Himself. But God is more passionate for His glory than for ours; and like Jacob, we oftentimes use God for our own gains in life and our own wants.  Now, in this wrestling with God, Jacob finally realized that God cannot be used for our means.  He discovered quite suddenly that the Lord is to be feared, that like Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia, He is terrible and He is lovely.

Perhaps this incident proved in the life of Jacob a true understanding, for the first time, that God is God, and the he was simply a child of the Most High.  Jacob is seen to have a profound change in his life from this moment on; so much so that his entire name changed as well.  Yet before the match, life’s circumstances had reduced him to helplessness.  He needed God to intervene.  The eleventh hour had arrived and God has still not delivered him.  It was a crisis of faith, and he was at his wits end.

I’m sure many have felt this way before, when all hope seems lost.  Perhaps it comes after a great victory or a terrible event.

Enter God into the mess of our lives.

We find in Genesis 32 that this Man wrestled with Jacob, not the other way around.  We have to realize by this passage that the Lord was the instigator of the wrestling; Jacob no doubt was not in the right frame of mind to wrestle!  James Montgomery Boice states, “It is not that Jacob was seeking God so earnestly that when God, as it were, got close to him, he grappled with him and refused to let him go until he blessed him.  It is true that Jacob later begged for a blessing.  But at the beginning it is not Jacob who seeks God to wrestle with him; rather, it is God, who comes to wrestle with Jacob to bring him to a point of both physical and spiritual submission.”

The Lord is not a God to be manipulated, but a God to be worshiped.

A.W. Pink writes, “Jacob was not wrestling with this Man to obtain a blessing; instead, the Man was wrestling with Jacob to gain some object from him.  As to what this object is the best of the commentators agree—it was to reduce Jacob to a sense of his nothingness, to cause him to see what a poor, helpless and worthless creature he was; it was to teach us through him that all important lesson that in recognized weakness lies our strength.”  That’s one of the main points we see in this wrestling with God.  Weakness is broken into submission, and submission is where there is strength.  Submission to God’s leading and God’s control, realizing that there’s nothing stronger or more determinant that this.

The Lord of the universe, the one in whom we see the majesty of his handiwork in the heavens and starry host, is perfect in every way.  He does no wrong.  Regardless of how we see the circumstances played out, He does no wrong.  Regardless if we are injured deeply, He does no wrong.  He alone is the sovereign Lord and He alone has His will done and accomplished.  God will always win the wrestling match; if we were smart, then the sooner we submit, the better.

My life was put out of joint when my son died two years ago.  I wrestled with God till the very end, even blowing into my dead son’s lungs, praying for healing, wrestling.  God used this situation with my son to bring me to the end of myself and turn me back to Him.  He did it in such a profound way; though He allowed me to wrestle with Him, to complain to Him, to be angry at Him, He nonetheless had His way because His way is always best.  I am not suggesting that the Lord does this in every pain; sometimes He has other purposes.  It is much too beyond us to understand the full breadth of the purposes and sovereignty of God.  But oftentimes He uses the hurt in our lives to bring us back to Him, to put us in our proper place, so that we cling to him in our weakness so that He shines through.

In the upside down Kingdom where to be poor is to be rich, to mourn is to be comforted, we see the profound reality of the gospel in Genesis’ account of a wrestling match.  Having come into contact face to face with the Lord of hosts, with the ever patient and faithful one, we see at long last a broken and contrite Spirit humbled to his core.  We see a man dependent upon God, rather than dependent upon himself.  We see in Jacob a picture of a man renewed by the power of God, now remade in His own image, finally surrendered to the will of God for his life.  We see in no small measure great faith worked out.  It is beautiful to behold indeed; it is something we all must surrender to; to find our lives, we must lose them.

Samuel and Christian

Today marks the 21st of March, or thereabouts, and I can’t help but be paralyzed by two realities very near and dear to me.  The first is that Christian is now sixteen days old and is cause for celebration.  His round face is beginning to become even more rounded with the added weight of a mother’s nutrients and his lovely eyes are becoming even more blue as each day passes.  His umbilical chord fell off which means we can begin to give him submerged baths, and his cries, however cute they may be, are growing seemingly louder and louder by the minute.  He also only woke up twice the night before, and gave Kelly and I some much needed rest.  He’s only sixteen days old, and already so much a part of our family.

I remember another boy who was sixteen days old, not too long ago, who was very much a part of our family.  But remembering when Samuel was sixteen days old, though his rounded face was framed by liquids unnatural and disheartening, gives my heart a sense of longing again.  I see Christian, and within Christian, I see Samuel at times.  But of course I do.  He only lived for nineteen days, but in those days we had loved so passionately.

Oftentimes Kelly and I, trying to comfort Christian, have called him Samuel because of varying reasons.  I can’t quit explain it, but Samuel will always be a small baby to us; we will never have the joy of raising him.  And knowing this, because Christian is still within the stages of his older brother when he passed away, still encompassed within the same images of Samuel, I think those images are just so close to us in memory.  For so many days and hours we stared at Samuel.  Now, we have what we believe to be a lifetime with Christian and as his face begins burning our vision, like an image too long on an old television, we continue forth knowing of the faithfulness of our God.  Christian is not Samuel by any means, and though we miss our son who passed over a year ago, we move forward with the joy of this new bundle of our hearts eager to see a future lived with him.

It is hard, but this is life isn’t it?  It will forever be marked with joy and pain, happiness and sorrow, and to ask for anything other than this in life is to ask for something beyond what the Lord has planned.  We grow through the pain, we grow through the trials, we grow through our own weaknesses in seeing that God is all in all.  God has taken all our fears, all our failures, all our heartache and all our pain, all our burdens, all our troubles and shame and tears and placed them within the very bosom of redemption through Jesus Christ.  This is our God; He is our hope, He is our healer, He is our freedom, He is our refuge, He is our justice and He is with us.  God is love, and we will forever praise Him.

All creation sings of your Glory God, all humanity is a display of your glory and each one of us, who have called on the name of Jesus Christ to be saved, are meant to worship and adore you.  I bless your name this day Father.  You are my song, my hope, and my everything; rich in so much love and mercy and unfailing in every way.

I am my Beloved’s, and my Beloved is mine.

We will forever praise You.

Throw Away Love Part II

This is a continuation off of yesterday’s blog, “Throwing Away Love” that still sets the scene for the entire series.  If you’d like to get these directly to your inbox, please subscribe to this blog and it shall be done!  Though I will not be going into the specifics of love yet, I will be going over the reality that we must throw away the love that we know or have learned from the world, and redefine it according to God’s Word and promises.

John 3.16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  Yes, we have heard it before.  Yes, we may have memorized it; but believe it.  Christ does not love us because we may be smart or gifted in sports, or because we may obey Him perfectly on the outside.

God loves us while we were His enemies with a radical and impossible love.  Romans 5.8-10, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since, therefore, we have not been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”

We see through this verse, as well as John 13.1, “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”  A more literal translation of Christ says that “he loved them to perfection or completion.”  Jesus loved to the fullest degree or measure, he loved to the limits of love for us.  Truly there is nothing greater.

And love is such an absolute for Christians; it is not a choice.  John 13.34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 15.9, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.  Abide in my love.”  Jesus left no doubt—agape love, self-sacrificing love—is the supreme mark of discipleship to him.  He both taught it, and demonstrated it on the cross.

What is more, Romans 13.8-9 states, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.  For the commandments, ‘you shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not murder, you shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

To not love means we are being disobedient to the Lord.  To love, then, is to have the root behind all obedience.  Loving is not optional, and nothing can substitute it.  Just because we may know all the bible, just because we may know every worship song and every songwriter or have memorized a thousand scriptures means nothing; if we don’t love, we are nothing.

What is more, we do not have an excuse that says, “its impossible to love that person, they have hurt me too deeply,” because of Romans 5.5, “because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

We do not have to create love, we simply have to share it

We do not have to learn it from any person either.

Just because our parents may not have loved us or our friends may not have loved us well, it is God who teaches us as 1 Thessalonians 4.9 states.  We are told to pursue love in 1 Corinthians 14.1

To put on love in Colossians 3.14

To increase and abound in love in both 1 Thessalonians 3.12 and Philippians 1.9

To be sincere in love in 2 Corinthians 8.8

To be unified in love in Philippians 2.2

To be fervent in love in 1 Peter 4.8

And to stir one another to love in Hebrews 10.24

1 Corinthians 13.1-3, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

For the next part in the series, I will begin talking about the specifics of life and the pitfalls of performing actions without love; only damage can ensue.  Blessings and see you on here tomorrow!