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April 2009

April 30, 2009

Today’s post comes courtesy of my good friend Ryan who offers some reflections on glorifying God through life’s trials. He wrote this article yesterday.

*****

I am writing this from the waiting area at the Trillium Hospital in Toronto, while my beautiful wife is undergoing a procedure to help bring closure to the miscarriage we first learned about last week. While this isn’t our first miscarriage, it is the first since the healthy births of our two children, and was an unwelcome and unexpected shock.

In contrast to the joys of learning that you’re being blessed with a new baby, when you can’t wait to tell everyone you meet (strangers or friends!), learning that your child has died in the womb leaves you with the unfortunate and awkward task of notifying your family and friends of your loss. As with the joyful announcement, the news is first passed to your close family and friends - in our case, a few church elders and family - and then repeated to ever-widening circles.

The range of reactions is quite broad, and probably worth a whole post of its own. Some people cry with you, some engage in heartfelt conversation based on their own experience, some display anger, while others look uncomfortable and try to avoid further discussion. I’ve found the reaction offered by a person when confronted with bad news to be very telling about their own beliefs.

Outside of our immediate family, church family and friends, we also had to inform our friends on an online forum operated by my company. It’s a cozy group of about 4,000 people from a niche industry and has been in existence for nearly 7 years. Over that time many of us have grown close, even when we rarely meet in person. A few weeks earlier I had joyfully announced that we were expecting, after dutifully waiting through the customary first 10 weeks of pregnancy in silence “in case anything goes wrong” during that early time.

When news of our miscarriage broke on the forum, we were quickly offered dozens of messages of encouragement promising prayers, good thoughts and positive energy sent into the cosmic consciousness (whatever that means ?!?). Surprisingly, one friend posted a strongly worded message accusing the “supposed protector” of being a fraudulent god, not keeping up his responsibilities and unjustly abusing “good people.” The author concluded his post by asserting that if there is a “dark side” then he was on it, casting aside his faith.

By God’s grace, I was able to answer out of our sorrow encouraging our friend to trust in Almighty God.

Please don’t despair - we are not! In fact we’re taking great comfort in God’s care for our family. When our situation was in question, we prayed hard that God may save our child. When it became evident that this was not His will, we made the choice to trust in His sovereignty. As Job says, “Will we accept blessings from His hand, but not troubles?”


Remember, God never promised anyone a life of peace or rest on this earth. While we are in the fallen creation, life will be difficult -all the more so for those who follow Christ against the current of this world. But we also have the “peace that passes understanding” given by the Spirit. 



Every moment we live is a blessing, every child - even for the shortest time - reminds us of the God who gives life, and will lead us to life incorruptible.

My dear wife also replied:

I know that things such as these are hard for us to understand, but God is always good. I know it, trust it and cling to it in times like these. My God loves me and will never forsake me. 


God was gracious enough to take this little one home to himself. I can’t think of a better place for my child to be, but with the Saviour and creator.



My hope is in Him who created me. 

I pray that you would not harden you heart to the clear truth of the gospel. 



Much love to all,

Since that time, we have received more thank yous that I ever could have imagined, from believers who felt encouraged, emboldened or even rebuked by our public defense of God’s sovereignty and our declaration of faith in His goodness. By request, our message was also posted to my blog, used as an example in a recent sermon, and now you’re reading this on the world’s most popular Christian blog. I don’t say this to boast or claim for even the briefest second that I am anything worth commenting on - other than that the work of God in our family may be glorified and that His name might receive praise.

I know my heart - I know my pride, my self-justification, my propensity for anger. I know how I would have reacted to our miscarriage without the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Both Janis and I have commented repeatedly about the profound sense of peace we have experienced even through our tears and sadness. We have been blessed by the amazing love of Jesus’ people, as our church united around us in love and so many entered into our sorrow and shared our tears. This is remarkable love that gives testimony to the power of Jesus and that we are His.

It’s been said that we don’t pray to change things, we pray to change us. Prayer draws us closer to God, and we pray most effectively when we pray His will, especially as it is revealed in the scriptures. We have truly felt that “peace that passes understanding” even as we recalled God’s recorded faithfulness to the barren, helpless, sorrowful and humble throughout the Bible. Looking back on the past year I can see how God has been preparing us for this moment: sermon series on joy from Galatians and active faith from James last summer; series from Mark Driscoll on doctrine, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes that elevate my view from the temporary in this life to the God eternal; our pastor’s illuminating study of Jesus’ ministry and love in John; and a seemingly randomly selected sermon on glorifying God through trials from John 17 heard just 2 days before the loss of our child.

We serve an awesome God, and I’m amazingly blessed to know Him. When unbelievers claim it’s “unfair” for God to take our child, I can say it’s truly unfair for me even to be drawing breath as a sinful rebel against the holy God. Yet that God didn’t spare His own perfect Son, sending Jesus to die in my place. If the loss of our baby can be used to bring glory to that God in our lives then so be it, and may God be ever praised.

April 30, 2009
T4G and TGC
Ligon Duncan is taking a couple of blog posts to explain the differences between Together for the Gospel (registration for 2010 opens in a day or two!) and The Gospel Coalition.
Twitter Retention
“We’re hearing some pretty amazing statistics about Twitter (Twitter reviews) these days: growth from February 2008 to February 2009 was reportedly 1382%, with the incline increasing yet further in recent months. But like many social networks, it seems many people lose steam with the service. Stat tracking firm Nielsen reports today that a full 60% of users who sign up fail to return the following month.”
Just Put a Ring on It
Carolyn McCulley looks to a pro-marriage article in The Washington Post. “It’s a piece about trends, so please don’t be tempted to despair if you (or someone you love) are no longer twenty-something and still hoping for marriage. I posted this because I think it’s good that we as a society rethink the value of marriage and reconsider the benefits of this God-ordained institution.”
Pastor and Scholar Media
All the audio and video from The Pastor As Scholar and the Scholar As Pastor (featuring D.A. Carson and John Piper) is now available.
Sexual Intimacy and the Rights Over a Spouse’s Body
John Piper looks to 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 and offers some wise application. “What is paradoxical and delicate about this text is that logically it doesn’t work. What it does is call the couple to a profound effort to please the other without settling who will wind up getting the most pleasure, especially because each person will get pleasure in not asking the other to do what the other finds unpleasurable.”
April 29, 2009

A couple of weeks ago I spoke at a Families & Technology seminar in Auburn Hills, Michigan, and enjoyed the opportunity to spend some time focusing on how technology is changing the world and perhaps even changing the Christian faith. I was surprised during my research to see just how much technology has changed, well, everything! I gave two talks and thought I’d share my introduction to these seminars. In the days to come I may spend a bit more time reflecting on technology and the Christian life. I’d love to get some thoughts from you on what topics related to technology, media and Christian living may be of interest to you.

In the meantime, here is something to get us started…

In his account of the Lewis and Clark expedition, historian Stephen Ambrose notes “A critical fact in the world of 1801 was that nothing moved faster than the speed of a horse. No human being, no manufactured item, no bushel of wheat…no letter, no information, no idea, order, or instruction of any kind moved faster. Nothing ever had moved any faster.” For all the benefits and greatness of American society it was “a society whose technology was barely advanced over that of the Greeks. The Americans of 1801 had more gadgets, better weapons, a superior knowledge of geography, and other advantages over the ancients, but they could not move goods or themselves or information by land or water any faster than had the Greeks or Romans.” Though they lived 1800 years after Jesus, they could make their way across America no faster than Jesus had made his way across ancient Palestine.

A radical transformation was afoot.

Beginning in the middle part of the 19th century the steam engine forever transformed travel. For the first time in human history, people could move faster than the horse. The “iron horse,” as the locomotive was known, began to tirelessly take people across the nation far faster than a horse could run. Even the first locomotives were capable of running at twenty or twenty five miles per hour. While the United States boasted only 40 miles of rails in 1830, just ten years later it had increased to almost 3,000 miles and, ten years after that, it was narrowing in on 10,000 miles. By the end of the century America well over 160,000 miles of rails, and this in a nation that is 3,000 miles across. Goods, people and information could now move at unprecedented speeds, but information was about to catapult further ahead.

In 1844, Samuel Morse, using a telegraph, famously sent the words, “What hath God wrought” through 37 miles of cable stretching from the Old Supreme Court Chamber in the Capitol in Washington to Mt. Clare Depot in Baltimore. As he did so, he inadvertently kicked off the Information Age. Within two decades, almost all of America was wired and cables stretched across the Atlantic ocean, linking whole continents. India was connected by 1870 and Australia by 1872. Families, friends, nations, continents were bound together in a completely new way. It changed everything.

After thousands of years of near stasis—all of human history to that point—the world very suddenly became radically smaller. Military commanders who once had to send orders by horse could now communicate instantly with troops a continent away. Local newspapers that had once written of little more than local news with occasional bits of stale national news, were able to report on international events almost as they happened. It is little wonder that Associated Press was founded just four years after Morse sent his telegram. The speed of transformation is breathtaking. In the span of a century the horse, once the mainstay of both transportation and information, was reduced to a form of entertainment. The world was never the same again.

Incredibly, I think we could safely and rationally argue that this transformation was minor compared to the digital revolution we are in the midst of today.

April 29, 2009
How Much is Watching TV Costing You?
“To put it into perspective, if you watch an average of 31.5 hours of TV each week (which the average person in the US does) and you value your time at minimum wage of $5.85 an hour, you are spending nearly $800 a month ($798.53) to watch TV. That comes to nearly $10,000 ($9582.30) a year.”
An Interview at Gospel Coalition
Dr. David Murray of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary took a few minutes recording this video interview with me at the Gospel Coalition Conference.
Like Father, I Pray Like Son
Patrick Schreiner, son of theologian Tom Schreiner, shares a tribute to his father. “I want to encourage imitation of my Dad by telling three stories. I could praise him for his knowledge of Greek, or his numerous books, or his pastoral heart, or his hospitality, but I want to focus on things that few people know. I want to focus on the things that happened after he came home from work. The things that are done at home, these things make men who they are. ”
A Pro-Life Pastor Chooses Jail
Z shares the story of a pastor who, by all accounts, was unfairly accused and convicted of a crime and who chose to serve time in jail. “On Feb. 19, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Stuart Hing sentenced Walter Hoye, a Missionary Baptist minister, to 30 days in jail after Hoye refused a plea deal that included three years’ probation, a small fine, and an order that he stay at least 100 yards away from Family Planning Specialists, an Oakland abortion clinic.”
Inside a BSL-4 Lab
Popular Mechanics has an article about what you’d find inside a Biosafety Level 4 Lab (where they study the most contagious diseases and viruses in the world).
Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference
The annual Banner of Truth Ministers’ is coming up. Registration increases in just a few days, so if you are going to go, register now. Speakers include Sinclair Ferguson, Alistair Begg, Walter Chantry and others.
April 28, 2009

Calvin Pilgrim and PastorThere are not too many men whose five hundredth birthday is a cause for remembrance, not to mention celebration. Yet here we are, five hundred years after the birth of John Calvin, witnessing widespread celebration of his birth. This year we see many conferences dedicated to understanding Calvin’s impact on the church and on society, even centuries later, and we see the publication of many books looking at the man and his theology. It strikes me as a strange oversight that we do not yet have a definitive biography of Calvin (as Marsden has done for Edwards, as Dallimore has done for Whitefield, as Murray has done for Lloyd-Jones, and so on) and I am hoping that this year will end the drought—that by year’s end we will have that one biography that will stand for many years as the definitive life of Calvin. With several biographies set for release in 2009, one would think this ought to be the year.

April 28, 2009
Is Pornography the New Tobacco?
Several things are trying to lay claim to the “new tobacco.” This author says it is pornography (and I’m inclined to believe). “Imagine a substance that is relatively new in the public square, but by now so ubiquitous in your society that a great many people find its presence unremarkable. Day in and day out, your own encounters with this substance, whether direct or indirect, are legion. Your exposure is so constant that it rarely even occurs to you to wonder what life might be like without it.”
You Are Here
A great little video that kicked off the Catalyst West Coast conference.
Snapshots of Religious Life
John Ortberg offers a series of snapshots of contemporary religious life.
D.A. Carson in Themelios
As always, Dr. Carson’s editorial in Themelios is well worth the read. “In blogs, journal essays, and books, there has been quite a lot written recently about what “the gospel” is. In the hands of some, the question of what “the gospel” is may be tied to the question of what “evangelicalism” is…”
To Be Changed
I always enjoy Monday with Mounce. This week he looks to his personal mission statements and the Greek that lies behind it. Every time I read his column I find myself wishing that I had paid more attention in Greek class!
Deal of the Day: Mother’s Day Deals
From The Ardent Sparrow (handcrafted jewelry) comes this offer: “Free Air Mail shipping on all orders over $30 (before shipping) when you mention challies.com in the ‘Message to Seller’ during checkout. Offer valid from Tuesday, April 28th to Friday, May 1st.” She crafts some great jewelry and I’m sure you can find something there for mom…
April 27, 2009

“As [Jesus] passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him’ (John 9:1-3).” And, of course, Jesus spits on the ground, creates mud, has the man wash away the mud and performs a miracle so that this man, blind from birth, finally sees. I love this little story—just a very brief episode in the life of Jesus and one that could so easily pass us by. The disciples asked a simple but misguided question; Jesus mercifully answered with wisdom that has comforted so many of his people.

Two years ago the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada recommended that all expectant mothers undergo screening for fetal abnormalities such as Down’s syndrome. This was a break from common practice in which only women who are thirty-five and older receive such screening.

Dr. Andre Lalonde, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Ottawa and the executive vice president of the SOGC, said the society decided to issue the recommendation so that a greater number of women would have the option to terminate their pregnancies should fetal abnormalities be detected.

“Yes, it’s going to lead to more termination, but it’s going to be fair to these women who are 24 who say, ‘How come I have to raise an infant with Down’s syndrome, whereas my cousin who was 35 didn’t have to?’” Dr. Lalonde said. “We have to be fair to give women a choice.”

“How come I have to raise an infant with Down’s syndrome…?” Amazing words, those, and shockingly selfish. They are ones that perhaps any parent may wonder at his or her worst moments, but ones that we would hope not to hear as justification for a matter so serious, so devastating, as abortion. But even this is an old-school argument when it comes to abortion. In recent years the issue of abortion has evolved from “Is this what you want?” (a matter of personal inconvenience) to “Is this what you want for your family?” (a matter of wider inconvenience) to “How can you do this to us?” (a matter of societal inconvenience). Those who learn that their child may be born with Down’s syndrome or another condition will feel pressure to abort this child for the good of society. They will be told, even if only tacitly, that to bring a disabled child into the world is unfair to everyone in society. It is, after all, my tax dollars that will need to support this child through special education and special vocation, and my children whose tax dollars will pay for his retirement.

Not many parents today would wrestle with the issue of who sinned that a child was born blind (or with weak eyes—a condition deemed sufficient by some to abort a child in the United Kingdom) or with Down’s Syndrome. Neither would they wrestle with whether this child should even be born. Blindness would be sufficient cause for many parents, and perhaps even most parents, to abort the child and try again, hoping for a better result the next time. And yet this particular blind man, the one Jesus met, was to serve a purpose that had been sovereignly ordained since before the dawn of time.

F.F. Bruce makes an important point about this story: “This does not mean that God deliberately caused the child to be born blind in order that, after many years, his glory should be displayed in the removal of the blindness; to think so would again be an aspersion on the character of God. It does mean that God overruled the disaster of the child’s blindness so that, when the child grew to manhood, he might, by recovering his sight, see the glory of God in the face of Christ, and others, seeing this work of God, might turn to the true Light of the World.” John MacArthur summarizes “God sovereignly chose to use this man’s affliction for His own glory.”

I love Matthew Henry’s treatment of this passage. He draws out two applications for the fact that this man was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him. The first is that “the attributes of God might be made manifest in him.” Among the attributes of God seen in the life of this man are God’s justice in making sinful man liable to such grievous calamities and His ordinary power and goodness in supporting a poor man under such a grievous and tedious affliction. God’s goodness was specially and miraculously manifested in curing him. The second application is “that the counsels of God concerning the Redeemer might be manifested in him. He was born blind that our Lord Jesus might have the honour of curing him, and might therein prove himself sent of God to be the true light to the world. Thus the fall of man was permitted, and the blindness that followed it, that the works of God might be manifest in opening the eyes of the blind. It was now a great while since this man was born blind, and yet it never appeared till now why he was so.” This man had been born blind so that the power of God might be displayed in him.

Henry draws a final application: “the intentions of Providence commonly do not appear till a great while after the event, perhaps many years after. The sentences in the book of providence are sometimes long, and you must read a great way before you can apprehend the sense of them.” Those who abort their children do not read to the end of those long sentences. Rather, thinking selfishly and looking only a few words ahead, they make the terrible decision to end a life, destroying the gift of God. Henry also writes “Those who regard [God] not in the ordinary course of things are sometimes alarmed by things extraordinary. How contentedly then may a good man be a loser in his comforts, while he is sure that thereby God will be one way or other a gainer in his glory!” (You may, as I did, have to read that last sentence a few times to gain the sense of it.) Those who choose abortion are unwilling to lose their comforts that God may gain His glory. This glory may not be miraculous as it was in the case of the man born blind, but God is glorified in every life that enters this world. Every one of us testifies to the Creator’s wisdom, power, love and goodness. Countless millions have been destroyed and tossed away and we have never been able to rejoice in the gift of life God gave them. We have not been able to marvel in the attributes of God displayed so clearly in their lives.

When we abort those who are infirm, physically or mentally, when we choose not to read those long sentences in the book of providence, we destroy boys and girls, men and women, in whom we ought to see the works of God displayed. We miss out on marvelous opportunities to see the works of God displayed in their lives. We miss opportunities to see God’s glory increase, even if this involves a requisite decrease in our own comfort. This ought to be a small price to pay.

April 27, 2009
The Hobbit News
Here is some fantastic news about The Hobbit movies. Previously we had been told that the first movie would tell the story of the book while the second would be a new story that would bridge the gap between The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. New reports confirm that the movies will actually tell parts one and two of the original story.
Themelios 34-1
A new edition of Themelios is now available. It is available as a 155-page PDF or it can be viewed at the web site.
The Shack and the Skill of Discernment
Saturday morning I was a guest on The Christian Worldview radio program. The audio of that hour-long interview is now available. We also took a few calls from listeners.
When the Problem is Sexual Sin
This article from CCEF offers an interesting counseling method for dealing with sexual sin. “In this case study, John Bettler describes how to help someone struggling with sexual sin. He concludes: ‘If you just deal with outward behavior, you’ll have little success’. See what strategy he recommends instead.”
Deal of the Day: Monergism Books
Monergism Books has a couple of noteworthy deals today. Communion with God by John Owen is 50% off as is Shared Life by Donald Macleod.