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!

Throw Away Love Part IV

1 Corinthians 13.2, “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.”

In continuing the series on Love, I wanted to systematically go through the first few verses and talk about what “love” often looks like from Christians today, and how there is a massive deficiency of love.  Like a root without water in the midst of the desert, alone, trying to survive on it’s own strength, so too we find love today.  Paul, as I wrote yesterday, made a very strong case, explaining that doing one of the most important things in the church without love could be considered the same as nothing.

Paul then begins in the second verse with prophecy and prophetic powers.  We see “prophecy,” or better translated as “preaching” here, under scrutiny.  Even the most gifted man or woman of God is not exempt in ministering in love.  All we have to do is consider Balaam in the book of Numbers. Here was a prophet of God who knew the truth; and though he knew the truth of God’s word, he had absolutely no love for the people of God.

When he was asked to curse God’s people, did he hesitate?  Absolutely not, but did so with money as the contributing factor by Balak, king of Moab.  Rather than writing the entire passage out, I ask that you look it up in your bible with me.  In Numbers 22.16-34, we see that God who does not control us like robots, chose instead to send an angel to control Balaam’s donkey.  Several other times we can read in Numbers that Balaam would have continued to curse God’s people Israel were it not for God preventing him to do so.

Ultimately, Balaam led the people of Israel into idolatry and was put to death for this in Numbers 31.8,16.  Here, in Numbers 22, we see that the prophet knew God’s word, spoke God’s word and feared God in a self-protecting way.  But, he had no love for God and no love for God’s people.  With all of these things that we will read about in Chapter 13, specific characteristics of God’s love in agape, they are not adjectives.  And if you remember, an adjective describes a noun; these are not adjectives but verbs.

Love is an action, which we will see in next blogs over and over again.  But here, we see that the motive behind what we do is important.  If we have self-interest, praise, promotion, or advantage of any sort, our influence for the Lord will be undercut to that extent.  No matter how relevant our words are to our friend, particularly no matter how true the gospel is we are presenting, if it isn’t done in love, it will fall on deaf ears.  That’s why there’s very little fruit to the street evangelism today.  We must lead with our hearts before we lead with our hands.

In stark contrast to Balaam, we see Jeremiah who was the weeping prophet.  But he didn’t weep because of his own problems, but because of the wickedness of God’s people.  He wept over them just like Jesus did in Luke 19.41-44.  Look at the heart of Jeremiah in 8.18, “my joy is gone; grief is upon me, my heart is sick within me.”

Or Jeremiah 8.21, “For the wound of the daughter of my people is my heart wounded; I mourn, and dismay has taken hold on me.”

Or Jeremiah 9.1, “Oh that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!”

Jeremiah was a prophet with a loving heart, an aching heart, a spiritual heart and Paul was exactly the same way.  Acts 20.18b-19, “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews.”

Romans 9.1-3 says much the same thing, “I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit—that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.  For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.”

Paul ministered with incredible power much because he had incredible love.  MacArthur adds, “To proclaim the truth of God without love is not simply less than you should be, it is to be nothing.”

As we continue studying these things, we have to have the courage to ask ourselves, “am I acting, behaving, and even doing things for the glory of God without love?”  Do I speak to my loved ones with love?  You see, it is not optional for Christians, it is mandatory as we understand who Christ is and what He alone has done for us.  Everything, even the most “important” things we do for the Lord, must be done from the place of love.  If we don’t, it is considered as nothing.  How important than is it that we love?  Oh let us love!

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!

Upside Down Part II

Mark 9.35, “And he sat down and called the twelve.  And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

This verse is so incredibly powerful.  It turns the world’s culture on its head and brings the philosophy of our age down into the mud in which it belongs.  The attitude of Christ is in direct conflict with the world; and so should the minds of us, His disciples.  The world’s idea of greatness is to rule, but Christian greatness consists in serving.  The world’s ambition is to receive honor and attention, but the desire of a Christ follower should be to give rather than to receive.  It should be to attend upon others rather than have others wait upon us

In short, what Jesus says here is this:  The person who lays himself out most to serve his fellow men, and to be useful in his day and generation, is the greatest person in the eyes of Christ.  We are so focused on self-pleasure right?  We are self seeking, self-indulgent.

Ask yourselves this:  Is there any service that you can perform today or tonight or tomorrow for your fellow Christian?  Is there any kindness you can do to them?  Is there any way to help them or promote them or to make them happier?  If the answer is yes to any of this, then we should do it without delay.  Yet there are so few in the church today who have this heart.  The people who are willing to do good, to break down prejudices, and who shake the very foundations of the world are these people.  They are the people who are willing to be last of all, servants of all.

All for the glory of Christ and not their own glory.

Let us rekindle what it really means to live in an upside down kingdom.  Take our passion for money and our use of it:  John Blanchard writes, “Few things test a person’s spirituality more accurately than the way he uses money.” This hurts my pride in a good way; it causes me to take stock in the fact that generally I use my money for myself only.  There are hundreds of other examples.

Mark 9.36-37, “And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

I believe this section needs to be taken by faith.  Jesus teaches this lesson in a very touching manner.  He takes a child, after the disciples had been arguing and says, “Whoever receives one such child in my name and receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”  Such a profound statement!

This is foolishness to the natural person.  David Garland writes, “The point of comparison is the insignificance of the child on the honor scale.  The child had no power, no status, and few rights.  A child was dependent, vulnerable, entirely subject to the authority of the father; yet Jesus chooses such a one to represent those who are needy and low.”  If we want to be great, we must shower attention on those who are regarded as insignificant.

And Jesus follows this up with another paradox.  If we want to receive Jesus, we must receive those without status.  When we do this, we receive Jesus.  Imagine the implications of this!  It means that the greatest thing we can do is serve those who are forgotten and regarded as not important!  Those who have no influence, no titles, not priority and no power, they are those who have no importance in this world except to God.  This is foolishness to the world.

When you have a party, you want those who are closest to you, who have the most to give back, to come to your house.  Flesh and blood can see no other way to greatness than to serve kings and queens, people of high rank or wealth, or those with high positions.  JC Ryle states, “The son of God declares that the way lies in devoting ourselves to the care of the weakest and lowest of His flock.”

Those who serve like this will be honored, so Christ says.  Their work may often be hard and discouraging.  They may be mocked for what they do or ridiculed by the world.  But let them know that the Son of Man, Jesus Christ himself, remembers all that we do and is well pleased in this area.  Whatever the world may think, those who serve like this are they whom Jesus will delight to honor at the last day.

Now let me end this by saying a few things about Jesus here.  He is creating a team of disciples, pouring into them intimately with no one else around.  They are in the intimacy of Peter’s own home in Capernaum.  Jesus here talks about the fact that he will be delivered up to authorities, that he will suffer, and that he will die; BUT that he will be raised again into life.

It is the blood of Jesus Christ that makes all of this possible; it is the gospel of Christ that must, BY FAITH permeate all that we have been talking about.  You see, the temptation is to go and TRY HARDER to do these things.  But that’s not the way of the cross.  By faith we have to understand that Christ has already done it.  His blood, by faith, has cleansed us from our power trips and desires for self.

The disciples’ idea of Jesus was wrong; he was not going to give them everything they wanted in life.  He was going to give them everything they needed in DEATH.  That’s what’s so upside down about all of this.  It would make sense to anyone that Christ’s life would enable them the things they needed.  It is not so with Christ; His death and resurrection is the only thing that would give us what we need; reconciliation to God by the forgiveness of sins.  Help us Lord!  Help us see the upside down Kingdom and follow hard after you because we love you!

Upside Down

Mark 9.31-32, “for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him.  And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.”  But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.”

Jesus here passes through Galilee but does not want anyone to know about it.  He leads the disciples from Caesarea Philippi along by paths and less frequented roads.  He is taking special care to pour deeply into his disciples because He knows his public ministry is coming to a close.  The end of His life, the purpose of His life, is coming to a head.

He needs privacy to teach them; success hinges on training these few men, who will carry the gospel to the world.  His success does not depend on the approval of the thousands or the ovation of the crowds as he performs miracle after miracle.  He does not need them; He does not need to perform another sign for that is not the point.  The point of it all is His glory, and they will soon come to understand this.  It’s not their glory!

He taught them expressly all that lay before Him in the suffering, death, and resurrection that was to come.  And they listened to him, but still did not understand.  The dullness of the disciples appears again to us in understanding spiritual things.  But notice that there were good things as well as bad things that Jesus mentioned.  He will suffer, but he will be victorious.  He will die, but he will be raised again.

But it was all very confusing to them.  Verse 32, “But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.”  Their minds were obviously, as we see in the next section, set on earthly things.  They were still set on the mistaken idea that the Messiah would have his initial reign on earth; they thought this was going to appear very soon.

This is interesting; JC Ryle states, “Never are we so slow to understand, as when prejudice and pre-conceived opinions darken our eyes.”  The immensely important statement about Jesus death comes out again.  He does this very specifically and intentionally.  He would have his disciples, and us therefore, know that His death was the Great End for which he came into the world.  It is only through the death of Christ, THIS death that he speaks of, that accomplishes and does away with the great problem we all face daily: that of Sin.  He reminds us how God can be just, and still justify sinners through the perfect sacrifice of His Son.

It reminds us that Christ didn’t merely come to earth to show a way to live, to teach a few things, or to work miracles.  He came to make satisfaction for our sin.  And that’s exactly what He has done in His death.  Let us never forget this!!

The great object that we fix our attention on is His death at Calvary.  We do not fixate on our own desires, we do not fixate on our own problems, and we do not sit in daydream realities where we lose ourselves in our own little worlds.

Mark 9.34, “But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with on another about who was the greatest.”

What had they succeeded in that gave them this idea of greatness?  They had argued amongst themselves over who forgot the loaves in 8.16.  They had argued with the teachers when they failed to exorcise an unclean spirit in 9.14.  They will argue with successful exorcists who do not follow men in 9.38.  They will mock a woman who shows extravagant love to Jesus in 14.4-5.  This competitive spirit even carries on in 14.29 during the last supper when Peter boasts more than others that he will remain faithful even if the others do not.

The disciples should worry on who it is that will betray Jesus, but instead they argue with one another about who ranks the highest in the Kingdom of heaven.  They are jockeying so to speak, for the position of highest honor next to their powerful liberator and Messiah.  Yet we see here as they do this, that Jesus walks ahead in silence, heading to his known death while his disciples push and shove each other on who would be the best.  Yet we see in his willingness to go to the cross that He was least.

The disciples still have visions of grandeur and do not romanticize about becoming servants.  They probably had images of power as they never had experienced it before.  Everybody would be their servants in this new system in their minds.  It seems they will never be able to take up a cross and follow their suffering Master who would be the redeemer of mankind.

They want redemption on their terms; not God’s.

Doesn’t this sound strange?  Who would have thought that a bunch of fishermen and a few tax collectors would have succumbed to such strong desires for supremacy?  Yet it is here plainly for us to see and apply to ourselves.  Though most of us are simple, yet we are all born a Pharisee.  We all naturally think far better than ourselves than we should.  We all naturally think that we deserve something far better than what we have; in fact, most of our lives are spent like these disciples…dreaming of it.

Pride is the source of it; pride says we deserve better.  Pride says we should have more money, more power, more freedoms.  It began in the garden of Eden when Adam and Eve thought they hadn’t received everything that was their due and it continues in us today.

But Christ calls us to a different way; an upside down way of looking at things.  We must become like children; we must serve radically out of obedience and love of our Great King.  We are in the service of the King now, chosen vessels to carry His banner of truth forward.  Let us stop and take notice of this.  The way down is the way up.  The way to lead is to serve.  The way for wealth, is poverty in Christ.  Oh when will we get this?  We live not for our own glory, but for the glory of Jesus Christ.