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!

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.

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.

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 V – God’s Passion for His Glory in Love

I have been discussing primarily about society’s version of love versus God’s concept of it. Though we have only begun to scratch the surface of it, nonetheless I hope you guys are getting a better idea of what it means and how we have believed it to be something else.

To reiterate, the two main points were thus; Words without love are hurtful, and teaching without love is pointless. We are beginning to understand how important love is in our actions and intentions, for it is foundational to our obedience to Christ.

John Calvin writes, “All excellencies are of no value without love; for nothing is so excellent or estimable as not to be vitiated in the sight of God, if love is wanting…it is not then to be wondered, if all our deeds are estimated by this test—their appearing to proceed from love. It is also not to be wondered, if gifts, otherwise excellent, come to have their true value only when they are made subservient to love.”

To me, this is a very powerful quote, but also begs the question, in the actions that I do, if love is the culprit, then am I excused? In other words, if I just say that I am doing something because I love, then am I excused from all behavior? When I preached, I used the example of a student, if he had feelings for a girl in the room, just because he wanted to express love to her, would he be excused from all behavior and would he be able to do whatever he wanted as long as he was “loving?”

By no means; love is only love when it is wrapped up and centered in Christ. If it is centered on ourselves and our own needs and pleasing our own appetites, these actions cease to be love and become evil and self love. Yet God is different, if I can focus on philosophy for a second, for He must love Himself. God loves us with a powerful self-love, and this is a good thing. God is passionate for his glory, and loves us for His glory.

Why is this?

If God were to glory or love anything besides Himself as the primary, as He is the supreme of everything, then He would be committing adultery on Himself. When we worship anything less than God, we are in idolatry, we are exchanging the truth of God for a lie. We are serving something created rather than serving the highest most supreme. And God is no different; His perfect character demands that He be passionate for His own glory and for himself. But this is a good thing for us! Because His love for us is contingent on this good reality.

He is passionate in His love for us because it is wrapped up in His character and in His passion for His own glory! That’s a solid love, beyond anything we could understand. And catch this, God is most glorified when His greatest creation, namely us, enjoys Him and loves Him. So you better believe, if this is God’s way of getting the most glory, that He is going to be passionate about loving us. Not only is it right, but it is good, it is strong, and it is unchanging.

God will forever be passionate for His own glory, and therefore He will forever be passionate for us in love. I would not want to worship a god that did not do the greatest thing but settled for less than perfection. That’s what God would do if He didn’t glory in Himself.

Or have we forgotten that He is a jealous God? Exodus 20.5 says specifically, along with Joshua 24.19, that He is a Jealous God.

Exodus 34.14 says that his NAME is Jealous.

Deuteronomy 4.24 says that He is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

Deuteronomy 32.16 says that He is stirred to jealousy with our worship of stranger gods.

Psalm 78.58 says that God is moved to jealousy with the idols in our lives.

Song of Solomon 8.6, “Set me as a seal upon you heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord.”

1 Corinthians 10.22, “Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?”

God’s passion for His glory is a powerful truth, He will not share it with anyone or any thing. And His love for us is based upon this reality. And that is extremely powerful. Yes, there is wrath in God; but the Bible never says, “God is wrath.” We have to provoke him to wrath, but we do not have to provoke him to love.” – Ray Ortlund. Love from the undeserving flows from who God is; this is why our deep love for others is so important.

And in a comment by Joel Beeke, “What is love? How do you know if you are keeping Christ’s commandment to love your Christian brothers and sisters? How does a loving person treat others? Popular media often present love as feelings of attraction and pleasure, but such feelings rise and fall like mercury in a thermometer. We need love that is less like a thermometer and more like a thermostat—controlling our reactions rather than being controlled by them.