Episode 37: The Novelties of Divine Mercy

I want to again thank all of you who have been patient through this last hiatus, and especially for those of you close to me who have been actively praying for and ministering to me during this time.  This was not a “I’m just really busy” hiatus.  I mentioned in the last episode that there was some turmoil ongoing, and unfortunately it ended in the worst possible way: my wife and I are no longer married.  I have no intention of divulging more information than that, but to answer the questions I know many of you concerned will have: yes, this is the end of a process that involved church elders and it is something that was not entered into lightly in any way.  I will not say more than that, out of respect for privacy.  Those of you who do know us, I appreciate your constant prayers and the loving support that you all have shared through this.

I’ve waited to continue this podcast and blog until after everything was officially finalized.  I plan to move forward continuing to trust God in my darkest times, continuing to pray for Jessica, and continuing to rely on the support of His people.  I am particularly grateful for the godly men and women who have gathered around me to minister to me through all this.

The fact is that this has been a deeply tragic event for me, and I have struggled with understanding it and with my own emotions, both in trying to figure out exactly how I should feel and think, as well as finding constructive ways to work through my deeper feelings.  I have been hurt down to my deepest parts, and I have lost my partner.  The pain I have had to endure, the sadness and anger, has been of a kind I can scarcely hope to describe meaningfully.

But as Paul said in 1 Thessalonians, I do not grieve as a person who has no hope.  Through all of this, God has held me steady and been true to His promise to provide a way of escape from the temptation to sin.  I picked this sermon because the chapter it is from, Lamentations 3, was a strength to me in this dark time.  It is a reminder that even though God ordains the darkness, it ultimately serves to the purpose of greater joy when the light comes.

I won’t say that the light has reached me yet, at least in this matter.  I will say that God is good, and God is gracious, and I will trust Him with each new step in life.  To my listeners who have similar struggles, I would say to you: Do the same.  Trust in the goodness and mercy of God.

I have had a few people talk with me about this that clearly expected me to have become embittered towards Jessica in particular, and towards the institution or concept of marriage in general.  But I have no intention of letting a root of bitterness grow down into my heart towards either, for several reasons: Firstly, because that would be an incredibly selfish position to take, that would make my marriage all about what I want and what I get out of it, rather than glorify God or honor my wife even in the aftermath of all this; secondly, because I am aware of the ways in which my own sinfulness has contributed to this regardless of other circumstances and such an attitude would be completely unrepentant and un-Christian on my part; and thirdly, because I have not become a different person as a result of this.  I still desire to represent Jesus with the way I live and work and speak.  I still want to grow in love, and in the grace and knowledge of God–even more now, I would say.  I still want to put my sin to death.

On a purely personal level…this has been the most tragic time I’ve walked through in my life.  I am deeply grateful to those who have gathered around me during this time, to hold me up in my weakness, to remind me of my true strength in Jesus, and to pour out love onto one who was feeling deeply unloved.  But this has been the darkest moment of my life, and I have had to continually turn to prayer and to the strength of my brothers and sisters to help me deal with the enormous weight I have felt upon my shoulders.  I have been wrestling day by day with the myriad ways I have sinned and contributed, and having to drag it to the foot of the cross each time.  There has been no time for self-pity.

All of this may seem very vague in a sense to many, and honestly it should.  Those who need to know more details of my and Jessica’s personal lives know them.  To the rest of the world, I would simply ask for prayer.  I intend to press forward into Jesus regardless of anything else.

To those listening who are facing darkness, for whom hard times come hard and fast, and who are feeling the weight of despair on their shoulders: I want to urge you, do not hesitate.  Do not hide in the dark, because there you will only find more of what afflicts you.  Turn to Christ, and run to Him.  Make yourself and your struggles known to His people, to those who can love you and gather close to minister to you in those times.  The reason the Scriptures are so full of good texts to apply to suffering is because suffering is something that all humans have in common as long as we live in this world.  Trust the goodness of God even in your darkest times, and do not hide your struggles.  Drag them to the light!  Leave them at the foot of the cross, and do it every day!  Trust to the renewed grace of God every morning, and never believe that God is tired of you, or that His church has better things to do.  This is what it is for: to weep with those who are weeping, and rejoice with those who are rejoicing.  We are called simply to trust Him in all things, and that is all I can do in this time of deep pain.

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Episode 25: Sovereignty and Salvation

Sermon text here

This week’s song: Truly You Are the Son of God by the Loverlies

I spend a lot of time thinking and talking about the truth of God’s sovereignty in all things, and in salvation in particular.  Honestly, it serves as a foundation stone of my worship of God.  I am compelled to kneel at the throne of a God who is truly, fully, the King of all creation.  And yet He is not just a distant monarch, some far off potentate who sends in messengers to remind us all that He’s in charge.  He is my King that knows me, that made me, and has His perfect purposes for me.

I talked last week about resting in the finished work of Jesus on the cross.  This truth of God’s sovereignty is the root of that work: because God is king of all things and because He is the one who gives purpose and motion to everything, He can use the most tragic and wicked event of man’s rebellion–regicide–to become instead the perfect payment for sin that covers all those who claim the name of Christ.

So what does that mean to me?  He still seems far off a lot of times.  That can be true, though personally I can only say that when I have been undisciplined in pursuing prayer and the Word, and instead toying with the foolishness of sin.  Yet even in that He hasn’t been far, and has never been slow in answering calls for help.  Day by day we all depend on God’s sovereignty, but how much do we take for granted?

We turn on the news and hear one distressing thing or another, and the temptation is to fret, to fear and worry, to complain.  For the believer this is deadly to our work as “ministers of reconciliation.”  I do not believe that we can both preach a bold and true Gospel that calls all people to turn away from their sin and look to Christ, to the healing and restoration that comes from trusting in Him and His perfect sacrifice, while at the same time engaging in hand-wringing about politics.  Don’t misunderstand: I’m not saying Christians shouldn’t be involved in politics.  But we can vote, and discuss, and disagree, without fearing.  What cause do we have to fear when we have a God who is truly over all and Who has no other who can hope to oppose Him?  We already know the truth:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.–Romans 8:28-30

This is work that is completed and fulfilled in the eyes of the Father, founded on the finished once for all work of the Son, and carried out in our lives through every circumstance by the Spirit.  The holy, just, loving, infinite-personal Trinitarian God of the universe really is in charge.  So, American voters: it’s true that it looks pretty likely that either way we’re going to end up with a wicked ruler.  I would agree with many that we are seeing the judgment of God coming on this land that has embraced so much wickedness.  But even in that we remember that God retains His remnant and cares for them perfectly.  We remember that His Word never goes forth without accomplishing His purpose.  And we remember the bold words of a man whose life ended under a Roman blade:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

 

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.–Romans 8:31-39

So we worship, we work, we rest, and we run the race set before us.  So leave the worry and fear behind, brothers and sisters, and let God’s sovereignty over everything–especially over you–be the constant reminder that leads you to worship and rejoice.