How Should Christians View Death?

Last week I was published on Deeply Rooted with this piece on death, fear, and hope.

Is there any subject scarier than death?

I don’t mean the death that’s played up in the movies or sugar-coated in story books. I mean death in real life. Am I the only one who struggles with a fear of death? I don’t think so. Of course, it doesn’t help that we live in a culture which, in a sick twist of irony, delights in force-feeding us death daily in headlines and sound bytes, but is too afraid to talk intimately and honestly about the subject. It’s too vulnerable. It’s too painful.

Yet as a Christian, I’ve had to ask myself: is this really a godly way to engage with the idea of mortality? Hide from it? Pretend it doesn’t exist? Mask it with makeup and graphics? My answer is simple: no. So what is the Christian response to it? I believe we should embrace a unique tension—hate death yet be unafraid of it. Even more, contemplate death, but ultimately rest in hope. 


The instinctual and absolutely appropriate response to death should be hatred—not of people, but death itself. Decay and corruption are not natural, nor are they good. The Bible makes it clear, death is a cursed result of sin. We can still believe the truth that God is in control and that he is using everything for our good while simultaneously despising death (Rom. 8:28).

That’s a model we get from Jesus. If you remember in John 11, Jesus’ friend Lazarus had just died. And in a striking display of grief, Jesus shows up angry (“deeply moved”) and sad. Even though he knows he will soon raise Lazarus from the grave, Jesus mourns. As Michael Horton comments, “The Lord of Life . . . now found himself overtaken by grief. More than grief, in fact—anger. And why not? There he stood face-to-face with ‘the last enemy’ he would defeat in his crusade against Satan. And ‘he wept.’”

For the Christian, death is no friend. It is an enemy to the end. 


Yet, although death is a fierce enemy, we should not fear it. Why? Because it’s a defeated enemy. A crushed enemy. An eternally powerless enemy. The apostle Paul certainly clung to this truth. He hearkened back to the Old Testament with a sense of unwavering confidence when he wrote: “‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’” (1 Cor. 15:54).

Christians need not, must not, fear death, because it has been ultimately conquered. The king of life, Jesus Christ, tasted death and then was resurrected, winning permanent victory over death. In that work, he secured death’s final end, an end that’s coming soon. Truly, a day is coming where death will cease to exist. What precious comfort!

So we can still hate death and grieve for those cut down by its sting, but we should face it as we would a tame beast. It is evil on a leash—temporarily active but finally doomed. Because of Jesus, life is victorious. 


That means death has no power over us. In that case, instead of ignoring it, we are set free to actually contemplate it. The Bible frequently displays this example. That’s not because Christians are obsessively morbid. It’s because we’re people who recognize that since time is short, we can use death as a motivation to maximize our lives for God’s glory. Keeping a keen eye on mortality allows us to embrace living intentionally and taking every opportunity we’re given for greater godliness. Death is inescapable, but Christians should use it as a consistent mark for godly living.

This idea is shocking to the world. It persistently pushes us to dwell on youth, to mask death’s approach with cosmetics and pills and surgery—to live quite literally like death does not exist. And when we encounter it, when it inevitably slices into our real lives, we’re to keep quiet, isolate ourselves, and hide its horrors in the closet.

Christianity offers a more compelling way: let death fuel life. Use it as a holy motivation. 


Don’t just be unafraid of death, though. Embrace hope. The last glorious truth is that our stories do not end with death. Happiness will win the day. God promises that. So we ought to embrace hope with everything we’ve got. Boundless hope. Crazy hope. Hope that seeps into our lives and affects every nook and cranny. Hope in the midst of terrorism. Hope in the midst of violence. Hope in the midst of sickness. Hope in the midst of pain. Hope in the midst of grief. Hope spilling everywhere, flooding and flowing all over our lives. Soak your heart in hope. Jesus wins. And that means, so do his people.

So hate death, yes. But do not fear it. Never fear it. Instead, consider how it motivates precious and intentional gospel-centered living. And embrace hope with open arms, fully and outrageously. Remember that everlasting happiness ends the day.

N.D. Wilson says it beautifully, like only he can: “To [God’s] eyes, you never leave the stage. You do not cease to exist. [Death] is a chapter ending, an act, not the play itself. Look to Him. Walk toward Him. The cocoon is a death, but not a final death. The coffin can be a tragedy, but not for long. 

There will be butterflies.”

Photo courtesy of Deeply Rooted.

3 Mistakes to Avoid When Helping the Hurting

Dave Furman hit it out of the ballpark on his TGC article, "3 Mistakes to Avoid When Helping the Hurting." I just kept reading and nodding and thinking, "Yes yes yes."

We all will have the opportunity to minister to hurting people throughout life. That's an inescapable result of living in the fallen world.

Read this post to gain beautiful insight into how you can do that better.

Read "3 Mistakes to Avoid When Helping the Hurting" here.

Are You Happy Today?

It's easy for me to say that I'm happy in God when I'm actually just happy in circumstances.

It's the most elementary of Christianese, and it sounds enormously spiritual. "I find my happiness in God." So we say it or think it when we actually don't believe it.

When you woke up this morning, were you happy? Maybe you were for a moment and then reality came tumbling in. Or maybe you were and still are. Or maybe you just weren't.

In each of those scenarios, ask yourself: why do I think and feel this way? Is it because I am fixing my identity on God or my own immediate comfort? Is it because I'm gazing on God's beauty or social media? Is it because I'm pouring myself out for the kingdom of God or fighting for personal glory and achievement? Is it because I'm making life about God or me?

And right there, that's my problem. I make life about me. And so my happiness waxes and wanes based on the fickleness of my heart. Life is great, so I'm happy. Then life is not so great, and I'm filled with despair. (And I'm not talking about the grief and sorrow that are natural parts of the Christian life.)

True and authentic happiness in God starts with God, not with us. See, we're subjective. We're moody and motivated by feelings and flimsiness. If we want lasting and soul-deep satisfaction, we need an objective source of happiness outside of ourselves. Once we remove our feelings from the picture, we're free to fix our hope on a rock.

God never changes. He is eternally happy and unfailingly joy-giving. If we base our happiness on Him, nothing can shake it.

When I woke up this morning, the sky was very blue, and I thought, "It's going to be a good day today." And then I thought about my to-do list and ordinary troubles, and my mood dampened. So I asked myself: "Why do you feel and think this way?" Which led to this piece.

I want you to do the same. Why are you happy or unhappy today? And what are you going to do about it?

An 18-Year-Old First Time Attendee Recaps TGCW16

This time two weeks ago I was sitting near the back of a very full room. Two moms and a baby sat on one side of me. A girl with glasses in her twenties sat on the other side of me. Sandra McCracken stood on the stage with her guitar and led 7200 women in worship. It was day 2 of The Gospel Coalition Women's Conference. 

Two weeks ago I attended my very first big conference, and it was marvelous. The only thing lacking was the circumstances. At the beginning of the conference, D.A. Carson commented how delightful it was for him to see so many moms and daughters attending this conference together. That stung a little, because my mom was supposed to be at the conference but was instead at home, sick. So I attended the conference by myself. While Dad drove me down to Indy, walked me to each session, and was basically Superdad, I actually went to the conference by myself.

And in the midst of unfortunate circumstances, I was overwhelmed with great joy.

The Joy of Hearing Women Teach
I frequently read books by Christian women but infrequently have the opportunity to hear them teach in person. To soak in the faithful exposition of 1 Peter by so many godly and articulate women was an immeasurable blessing. Kathleen Nielson, Jen Wilkin, Carrie Sandom, they were all rich with insight and grace. (I unfortunately missed Mary Willson, but I heard she was one of the best.) 

Coming to God's Word hungry to be fed with over seven thousand other women was a delight. 

The Joy of Hearing Women Sing
There's not much like singing praise together in a room of thousands of women. Keith and Kristyn Getty led worship like I've never seen done before. What gifted and humble and lovely people they are. There were moments I was led to tears by the utter joy of the gospel on display in the songs we sang. It was magnificent.

The Joy of Tasting Heaven
Since I went to each session alone, I tended to make friends with people I sat by. There was the young mom from Georgia, the single lawyer from Manhattan, the sweet Texan named Kelly, the foster mom from Iowa, and so many others. It was one of them who said to me, "Don't you just love this? All these Christian women together? It's like a taste of Heaven." And it was. The place was ripe with encouragement, with unity, with worship, with teaching, with growing, and with fellowship. 

But even more, I knew that image of Heaven was incomplete -- because a part of me longed for the diversity of both men and women worshiping together. Dad and I are making plans to attend CROSS conference in Indy in December, a missions conference for college students, and I'm eager to join with a great group of diverse young people of both genders. I'm eager to learn and worship together

I dearly hope I get to attend the next TGCWC, especially with my mom. TGCW16 was a treasure and a gift. I was fed full and came home fit to bursting. It was a privilege to be edified by women and with women and enjoy sweet fellowship. It was indeed a throbbing blot of joy in the midst of this life. I am grateful.

If You Want to Know About the Persecuted Church, Watch This

As I mentioned last week, I was privileged to attend The Gospel Coalition Women's Conference in Indianapolis from June 16-18. My mind is still flipping and flopping with all the heavy truths, rich worship, and striking joy I encountered, and a post is brewing in my mind on all that the experience was for me.

One of the most unexpected moments of blessing and enlightenment came during a panel on the persecuted church. Led by Nancy Guthrie, four people sat on it: D.A. Carson, K.A. Ellis, Mindy Belz, and Nastaran Farahani. Together they discussed the persecuted church. It was horrible and wonderful all at once. The persecution they talked about was horrible, but the hope they highlighted was wonderful.

Take just an hour out of your day and watch (or listen to) this deeply moving and enlightening panel.

*Also, all the media from TGCW16 is now available here. You can watch every plenary session and listen to every breakout.

The Short Half-Life of Online Empathy

This is an intensely thought-provoking article from The Washington Post. With #PrayforParis virtually scrubbed from everybody's current social media pages, we've gone back to "regular life" - whatever that is, leaving nothing but red, white, and blue tinted profile pictures in its wake.

Caitlin Dewey reflects on this phenomenon.

Everything’s accelerated these days, and the same must be said for grief online. The Internet cycles through all five stages in as many tweets. We find it hurtling toward us: unavoidable, wall-to-wall. 

And then, before we’ve processed it, the grief’s already gone. 

In the four days since extremists slaughtered 129 people in Paris, millions of witnesses — present only through their computer screens — posted prayers and pictures and promised solidarity. For four hours, then five, then six, they trended Twitter hashtags like #PorteOuverte and #PrayforParis. They laid French flags over their Facebook photos and shared images by artists like Jean Jullien. And just as quickly, their posts reverted: back to quips about sports teams, viral videos, pictures with friends — now posted by little avatars striped in the French blue, white and red. 

These posts feel inappropriate — indecorous, somehow. As if their posters were telling jokes at a very somber funeral. The world must move on, of course; no one’s saying it shouldn’t. And social media makes an imprecise weather vane for our collective conscience. 

Still, it makes one wonder: Is there a half-life to grief? And has the Internet shortened it, as it has all other things?

Read the rest here ->

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons and Loic Lagarde.


There have been a lot of good pieces swimming in cyberspace in light of the tragedies in Paris on Friday night. Here a few that I've found most helpful and hopeful.

France: A Fabric Torn by John Piper - "In France the fabric of family and nation is torn, and ten thousand human fibers are frayed with anger, and wet with grief. Millions more are woven in among the stricken strands, and taste the bitter salt of tears. And from the unsafe distance of four thousand miles, we feel the human fibers pulling on our hearts."

9 Things You Should Know About Islamic State by Joe Carter - November 14: "Islamic State claimed responsibility today for a series of attacks in Paris yesterday that killed 127 people. In a statement the group said the purpose of the killings was, 'To teach France, and all nations following its path, that they will remain at the top of Islamic State's list of targets, and that the smell of death won't leave their noses as long as they partake in their crusader campaign.' Here are nine things you should know about this Islamic terrorist group."

How to Pray for Paris by Mike Evans - "How should we react as Christians?"

We Are All Parisians Now: A Christian Response to Global Terror and Radical Islam by Ed Stetzer - "I believe there are things Christians can and must do to respond to this, and so many other, terrorist attacks."

God Does Not Hide Himself in Times of Trouble by Aaron Armstrong - "Between suicide bombings in Beruit and terrorist attacks in Paris, there has been no shortage of tragedy in the last several days. ... To sit and see wicked people get away with evil—to watch as human institutions fail us and evil continues unabated as those given over to futility and pride fulfill the desires of their hearts (Romans 1:21)—I wouldn’t blame anyone for being at the end of their rope. And yet, we cannot abandon hope."

Photo courtesy of Klovovi and Flickr Creative Commons.

10 Reasons Racism is Offensive to God

Though it's been almost a month since Charleston, the issues that undercut the racist shooting are still very prevalent. I found Kevin DeYoung's article, "10 Reasons Racism is Offensive to God" incredibly helpful in processing so vile and hateful a sin. Here is an excerpt.

Kevin DeYoung:

How could one not be moved by the events in Charleston last week? Indeed “moved” is hardly a sufficient verb. We need words like heartbroken, appalled, grieved, outraged, and disgusted. Nine brothers and sisters murdered, and after being so kind to the killer that he almost didn’t go through with his wicked machinations. How can this happen? In America? In 2015? In a church? And inspired by the kind of racist beliefs we’d like to think don’t exist anymore? 
But they do exist, even if (thankfully) not like the used to. 
Charleston is a beautiful city and there have been beautiful gospel scenes broadcast from that city in these last days. But obviously all is not beautiful in South Carolina, just like all is not beautiful in Michigan, and all is not beautiful in the human heart. 
I’ve grown up my whole life hearing that racism was wrong, that “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior” (to use one of the first definitions that popped up on my phone) is sinful. I’ve heard it from my parents, from my public school, from my church, from my college, and from my seminary. The vast majority of Americans know that racism is wrong. It’s one of the few things almost everyone agrees on. And yet, I wonder if we (I?) have spent much time considering why it’s wrong. We can easily make our “I hate racism” opinions known (and loudly), but perhaps we are just looking for moral high ground, or for pats on the back, or to win friends and influence people, or to prove we’re not like those people, or maybe we are just saying what we’ve always heard everyone say. As Christians we must think and feel deeply not just the what of the Bible but the why. If racism is so bad, why is it so bad? 
Here are ten biblical reasons why racism is a sin and offensive to God. 
1. We are all made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). Most Christians know this and believe it, but the implications are more staggering than we might realize. The sign pictured above is not just mean, it is dehumanizing. It tried to rob Irish and Blacks of their exalted status as divine image bearers. It tried to make them no different than animals. But of course, as a white man I am no more like God in my being, no more capable of worship, no more made with a divine purpose, no more possessing of worth and deserving of dignity than any other human of any other gender, color, or ethnicity. We are more alike than we are different. 
2. We are all sinners corrupted by the fall (Rom. 3:10-20; 5:12-21). Everyone made in the image of God has also had that image tainted and marred by original sin. Our anthropology is as identical as our ontology. Same image, same problem. We are more alike than we are different. 
3. We are all, if believers in Jesus, one in Christ (Gal. 3:28). We see from the rest of the New Testament that justification by faith does not eradicate our gender, our vocation, or our ethnicity, but it does relativize all these things. Our first and most important identity is not male or female, American or Russian, black or white, Spanish speaker or French speaker, rich or poor, influential or obscure, but Christian. We are more alike than we are different.

Read the rest here ->

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons and Aaron.

Ding Dong the Wicked Witch is Dead

Last week I shared a review of Mez McConnell's heart-breaking and grace-pervading testimony, Is Anybody Out There? This week I wanted to share with you a bit more into his story by sending you to this article he wrote not quite two weeks ago when he found out that his childhood abuser was dead.

Mez writes:

"Some children of a recently deceased mother wrote this startling obituary for their local press:

Marianne Theresa John­son-Reddick was born Jan. 4, 1935 and died alone on Sept. 30, 2013. She is sur­vived by her six of eight children whom she spent her lifetime torturing in every way pos­sible. While she neglected and abused her small chil­dren, she refused to allow anyone else to care or show compassion towards them. When they became adults she stalked and tortured anyone they dared to love. Everyone she met, adult or child, was tortured by her cruelty and exposure to violence, criminal activity, vulgarity, and hatred of the gentle or kind human spirit.  

On behalf of her children whom she so abrasively ex­posed to her evil and vio­lent life, we celebrate her passing from this earth and hope she lives in the after­life reliving each gesture of violence, cruelty, and shame that she delivered on her children. Her surviv­ing children will now live the rest of their lives with the peace of knowing their nightmare finally has some form of closure.

I just heard several hours ago that my stepmother of almost 13 years is dead. Of what and how I do not know. She was young. I know that. So painful is it to even think of her name I refer to her as “she” throughout my autobiography [watch Mez’s testimony].

It’s 1:30 a.m. and I can’t sleep. I don’t know what to think or feel. The above is pretty much what I would like to express to the world. I would like to go to her funeral, stand, and let everyone know what this person was truly like and how much damage she did while alive. I want her to get her just deserts even though I know, thanks to Christ, I will never get my own.

I am a pastor. I should know better. I do know better.

I know, deep in my soul, that Jesus experienced every form of suffering when he was in the world. “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3). Jesus was betrayed and tortured. He is well acquainted with your grief, and he will never leave you (John 14:18). I know, therefore, that perceived wisdom (my own included) demands I forgive this woman who caused me such pain. I know it’s the Christian thing to do. I know he who has been forgiven much ought to forgive much in return (Luke 7:47).

I know.

Yet I want to make public my frustration toward crimes she never paid for. At the same time I want to be magnanimous in my forgiveness as Christ has been in his for my sin.

I feel conflicted."

Why I'm Grateful for Library Flowers

Yesterday it was raining and I was walking up the path to the library and I just stopped. For on the branches of a tree looping over the path bloomed flowers. I'm no horticulturist so I don't know what kind they were. I know that they were snow white and smelled like soft perfume and were breathtakingly beautiful.

And I smiled there on the rainy path, just grateful for the those May flowers.

See, normally I wouldn't have noticed them. Normally, I would be surrounded by May flowers and oblivious to their complex beauty.

But this year is different. My city had a crazy winter. It was only about a week ago that the seemingly permanent snow-plowed mountain of snow in the driveway of our local pizza place finally disappeared. May flowers are still rare here.

Waiting so long for those flowers multiplied my appreciation of their beauty.

In a culture of instant gratification, I think we've forgotten about the joy in anticipation. There is a sense of pleasure in waiting for a good thing. Yes, there is a longing but there's also an increase of joy and gratitude at a thing.

I would not have taken as much joy in those library flowers if not for a cruel winter.

This life here is a sort of permanent waiting room. Along with creation we groan in anticipation (Rom. 8:19) of something better. We live in winter, but spring is coming.

C.S. Lewis uses that picture in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The land was under the rule of evil and it was "always winter but never Christmas." But when the King, Aslan, returned, he brought spring.

If you are going through difficulty or discouragement or suffering, take heart. One day soon perfect joy is coming. One day soon, Jesus is returning to right the wrongs here, to take His bride to everlasting, undiminishing glory.

And right now we have the privilege and the pleasure of waiting in anticipation for that day. It's winter, but May flowers are coming.

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons and Susanne Nilsson.

Five Truths to Give You Joy Today

Some days it's harder to have joy than other days. When you wake up and the trying and the tedious loom before you, it's easy to grow gloomy.

But joy is a command (Phil. 4:4), and that means it's worth fighting for. When you don't feel joy, preach the gospel to yourself. Immerse yourself in truth.

This is a post I wrote for me. Soul, here are five truths to give you joy today:

1. You are not in control, but God is. Our most perfect plans are likely to go awry. Unexpected disappointments will come up today. It is a truth I need hammered desperately into my thick, thick skull: I am not in control. 

But God is. And that's where the joy comes from. He is sovereign. He knows every itty-bitty detail of your day. He is at the beginning and the end. And He holds the whole world in His hands.

2. You will mess up, but God is faithful. We will sin a lot today. When we're already lacking joy, the temptations to other sin become fiercer. Anger, frustration, depression, lashing out, bitter words, gossip, self-pity, love-lessness, pride - the list tracks on and on.

But God is faithful. He will not sin, He will not go back on His promises. He is faithful. You will sin, but God is perfect. That is who I want to put my trust in.

3. You will doubt, but God is with you. You will want to believe that you're alone. You'll want to convince yourself that you're trekking through the mires of the miserable on a solo quest. Lacking joy will lead you into a spiral of self-pity.

But God is with you. In the doctor's office and at the break room, in class and your cubicle, at the breakfast table and the red light - He is there. Why do we doubt?

4. You will want to ignore it, but God is speaking to you. My dad has said before that if people were told that God was on the telephone with a special message for them, they would jump at the chance to talk to Him.

But God does speak to us - through His written Word. "But I want to hear the actual voice of God," some might say. My dad would respond: "Then read the Bible out loud." You will be tempted to ignore the Word today; don't. Our heart's deepest encouragement will come from those sacred words.

5. You will feel this will never end, but God is bringing a better day. Sadness, joylessness, loneliness - all of it feels like it will last forever. It clings to us like a sickening weight.

But God is bringing a better day. One day, you will be thrust into eternal joy where you will never, ever, ever have a bad day. Look for that day with monumental anticipation! Read Revelation 21 and 22. Listen to great hymns of the faith that look toward that day.

And trust that God will bring you through this day. Preach the gospel to yourself, and fight for joy.

Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled: A Review

In 1951, a London pastor preached eight sermons on John 14:1-12 to his congregation. They had just endured two world wars and the threat of the Cold War loomed ahead. They were struggling with fear, discouragement, depression, unbelief, worry, and cultural confusion. This sermon series was counter-actively infused with hope, comfort, compassion, and strength. The pastor was Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and this sermon series has now been collected in a short, joyously encouraging book called Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled.

At eight chapters long, this book reflects the eight sermons that Lloyd-Jones preached. He patiently plods through the first twelve verses of John 14. The context of the passage is that Jesus is telling His disciples about His imminent death and they don't understand. They are confused and hurt by this, and Jesus addresses the tumult in their own hearts with compassion and encouragement. Lloyd-Jones breaks each sermon (and the editors, each chapter) into just a couple of verses.

This book has buckets of strengths, in my opinion. First off, it's richly encouraging. I read a lot of books, but this short work was like a breath of fresh air, a pure delight to read. While present day political circumstances are quite different from 1951, the core sins and discouragements that Martyn Lloyd-Jones addresses are starkly relevant. I was deeply encouraged by these sermons.

Secondly, it's immensely readable. If I wasn't well aware of the fact, I'd be surprised to find out these words were first spoken in the early fifties. Sure, in the grand scheme of things sixty years isn't that long, but it's long enough. Yet Lloyd-Jones speaks in a timeless manner, offering ageless encouragement. His style is conversational, and I could almost hear his voice (including the crisp British accent) as I read. All in all, it was very accessible.

Third, it's both theological and practical. Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled would be an excellent book for a new Christian, or even as a discussion springboard for an unbelieving friend. While this book is at its root simple exposition of Scripture lacking any sort of flashy or funny illustrations, it's engaging and extensively practical. It's rich with doctrine yet offers easy, practical encouragement.

Last, it's short. While this may not seem like much of a strength, its brevity would appeal to many. It is literally just like a breath of fresh air. It whooshes in, clearing cobwebs of doubt and fear and confusion and discouragement from one's mind, bringing sweet, fresh encouragement and joy instead.

This is a book to invest in for sure. If you are going through a particularly low point in your life or simply find yourself troubled by the world we live in, Martyn Lloyd-Jones has encouragement for you: Believe in Jesus. He has the answer to your questions, and He offers hope for your doubt.

“[Jesus said,] 'Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also'" (John 14:1-3).

*I received this book through Crossway's Beyond the Page review system. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

Image Credit: Amazon

When Trials Come

There will doubtlessly be many Christians today who will experience trials of various kinds. Some will be physical, some emotional, and some spiritual. There is a multitude of suffering that many will endure this very day. This song contains immense comfort for the hurting and great encouragement for all.

When trials come no longer fear
For in the pain our God draws near
To fire a faith worth more than gold
And there His faithfulness is told
And there His faithfulness is told

Within the night I know Your peace
The breath of God brings strength to me
And new each morning mercy flows
As treasures of the darkness grow
As treasures of the darkness grow

I turn to wisdom not my own
For ev'ry battle You have known
My confidence will rest in You
Your love endures Your ways are good
Your love endures Your ways are good

When I am weary with the cost
I see the triumph of the cross
So in its shadow I shall run
Till You complete the work begun
Till You complete the work begun

One day all things will be made new
I'll see the hope You called me to
And in Your kingdom paved with gold
I'll praise Your faithfulness of old
I'll praise Your faithfulness of old

You Are Not Strong

There are many moments when we are weak and our stark inability drags us to humility. We feel that our only recourse is to rely on strength not our own. When we are weak, we have faith and we lean on God for repose. We enfold ourselves in the everlasting arms.

But then we have another moment. And we are strong - or at least we believe that we are strong. And suddenly, suddenly leaning doesn't seem so necessary any more. Humility becomes a degradation. If weakness drives us to our knees, strength drives us to our feet, our tiptoes, at our tallest, where we think nothing, no one, can touch us.

Meet Rehoboam, king of Judah.

"When the rule of Rehoboam was established and he was strong, he abandoned the law of the LORD, and all Israel with him" (2 Chronicles 12:1).

The pride swelled within him, his own desperate self-trust, his magnanimous self-esteem. And then his strength crumbled and he learned the hard way that in the face of a holy, righteous, wrathful God, we are not strong.

"In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, because they had been unfaithful to the Lord, Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem. ... And he took the fortified cities of Judah and came as far as Jerusalem. Then Shemaiah the prophet came to Rehoboam and to the princes of Judah, who had gathered at Jerusalem because of Shishak, and said to them, 'Thus says the Lord, ‘You abandoned me, so I have abandoned you to the hand of Shishak’'" (2 Chronicles 12:2; 4-5).

And then Rehoboam thought that he got it and he humbled himself (v. 6) and said, "The Lord is righteous" probably because he didn't know what else to say. That day, the Lord extended mercy and did not let Shishak destroy him. Nevertheless, for his pride, Judah was forced to go into service for Egypt - as a reminder: we are not strong, and pride goes before destruction.

I am just as wont as King Rehoboam to pridefully deceive myself into self-importance and strength. I am just as wont to slip into idolatry, to lead others into sin with me, to feel self-righteous, proud, and strong. To feel like humility is beneath me.

Rehoboam's story did not have a happy ending. Shishak razed Jerusalem and put the nation in bondage, and Rehoboam lived out the rest of his days in disobedience to God. Our stories need not end so unhappily. Humble yourself before God. It is not a degradation; it is a right response in worship. Lean on the everlasting arms. Trust and obey.

Rejoice in your weakness, for then, you are strong.

The Intense Comfort of God's Non-Death

We will die. It is a plain fact, inevitable and undeniable. Everyone will die. And in comparison to the vast eternity that stretches before us, we will die soon. Our life is but a mist, a smoke, a breath, a blade of grass - here for a moment and then gone.

That's why I find the same deep comfort in God's non-death that the psalmist did.

"My days are like an evening shadow; I wither away like grass," he writes in Psalm 102. "But you, O Lord, are enthroned forever; you are remembered throughout all generations. ... They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away."

This psalmist has no name, he is simply called "one afflicted, when he is faint and pours out his complaint before the Lord." Death is troubling. It is painful, heart-breakingly so. That's why there is intense comfort in God's eternality, the fact that He has no beginning and no end, no birth and no death.

The Bible calls death a curse. Even though God redeems our suffering and uses it for His purposes, death is still a result of the Fall, of the curse that came with sin. That's why God's non-death is such good news.

When I was little, I hated to be the only one awake at night. I felt alone if everyone else was asleep - especially Dad since he was always up the latest. So a way that I comforted myself was with the thought that God never went to sleep. That feeling of strength and protection that I had when Daddy was awake I focused on God. God was always awake, He was always protecting me, and I felt safe and comforted.

In a way, that is how God's non-death ministers to us. When those we love pass away and we begin to feel alone, we have a Rock who never dies. Death is a bitter and lonely companion, but what a friend we have in Jesus. Even in our darkest times, we have a Father who never falls asleep. This is the intense comfort of our God's non-death.


It is profound the way that music ministers to us. "Anchor," this song by Beautiful Eulogy featuring Josh Garrels, has become a favourite of mine in the last few days. God is the anchor of our souls. When storms and suffering comes, He is still good. He is still sovereign.

Anchor of my soul, You sustain
When I’m in the storm, You remain, You remain
Good to me, good to me

When it’s a quarter past midnight, and the gray skies fade to black, the waves splash and set me off track.
So my vessel might crash or collapse when I’m attacked and start wrestlin’ in my head with these bad memories from my past.
I’m aware of my guilt, overwhelmed and the smell of my blood has the sharks that surround me cast under a spell.
They waited for me to fall, but when I fell the water got still, and the blood that was spilled protects me – it’s the same blood that cleansed me.
My only defense against my nemesis, now I can rest knowing that nothing can come against me unless the Father gives consent.
Evil intentions will not disturb God’s purposes or interfere, so who shall I fear if my anchor is secure?
Learning to consider it pure joy when I’m facing tribulations – praising God instead of complaining and getting overtaken with bitterness.
Looking at the pages of the book of James and seeing the ways that God works through the trials to make us more mature in our faith,
And it reminds me how desperate I am in this desert land, thirsty for Your mercy and plan while You give me the strength to stand.
You’re my greatest pleasure, yeah, no matter the weather I face, Lord. You never forsake my fragile life - I’m safe under Your sovereign grace.

At some point every human looks right in the eyes of agony, and through tragedy, asks himself, how can this happen to me?
You might be the type with enough insight to hold on for your dear life, but slipping cause your grip is not as tight as you might like.
You ain’t immune to it, naw, and if you’re true to yourself then you ain’t new to it, trusted and self lusted and lured to it.
So when the darkness overwhelms me, and a tide of lies rises and swells, it is well is what compels me.
When faced with adversity, Your truth constantly reminds me that You command the seas with ease and with words, You turn a wind to breeze.
Helps me understand that we stand on a solid Rock, not on sinking sand. Through the providence of pain You perfect Your plan.
Predestined, we test it when the works and words of God cooperate and educate men in a great gift of grace and faith,
That even though it’s obvious when my outlook’s ominous, You bound my heart and my conscious, and gave me a constant calmness.
So when the pain comes like rain from the parts of life that maintains its strain, I can put my trust in the hands that sustain.
It’s profound that with all these sinking ships around me, He surrounds me and He anchors me with His grace abounding. 
Oh Lord
Good to me, good to me
Good to me

Cowper, God, and Poetry: Part 4

Afflictions Sanctified by the Word is the final poem in this short series on William Cowper's gospel-centred poetry. Like God Moves in a Mysterious Way, it speaks of suffering, but a different kind. It speaks of the suffering that God uses through His Word to bring correction and salvation. It's a heavy poem, but for the Christian, one of great encouragement! 

Oh how I love Thy holy Word,
Thy gracious covenant, O Lord!
It guides me in the peaceful way;
I think upon it all the day.

What are the mines of shining wealth,
The strength of youth, the bloom of health!
What are all joys compared with those
Thine everlasting Word bestows! 

Cowper begins with a declaration of where he is now. He loves the goodness of the Word of God, the grace it gives him, and the peace it guides him in. The way that it consumes his mind echoes David's cry in Psalm 119:97, "Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day." Then Cowper goes on to contrast the worldly joys that people put their hope in, material things like wealth, or the fast-fading "strength of youth, [or] the bloom of health!" None of those seemingly great things even come close to the everlasting joy the Word of God gives. It's here where Cowper moves from where he is now to where he once was ...

Long unafflicted, undismay'd,
In pleasure's path secure I stray'd;
Thou mad'st me feel thy chast'ning rod,
And straight I turned unto my God.

What though it pierced my fainting heart,
I bless'd Thine hand that caused the smart:
It taught my tears awhile to flow,
But saved me from eternal woe. 

This could be argued about whether Cowper's referring to God's one-time saving conviction, or the multiple chastisements over the believer's life. I tend to lean toward the latter. This is written almost like a mini-testimony. Cowper was pursuing the pleasures of the world, and God "mad'st [him] feel thy chast'ning rod/and straight [he] turned unto [his] God." So Cowper rejoiced! For the pain that he felt at the punishment was nothing compared to the "eternal woe" or damnation that would have occurred if God had left him in sin. Cowper still had to make the decision, but when faced with a sovereign God, there was only one decision Cowper could make.

Oh! hadst Thou left me unchastised,
Thy precepts I had still despised;
And still the snare in secret laid
Had my unwary feet betray'd.

I love Thee, therefore, O my God,
And breathe towards Thy dear abode;
Where, in Thy presence fully blest,
Thy chosen saints for ever rest.

Again Cowper springs into praise to God for conviction of sin and changing his heart to love the Word. But it is how Cowper ends the poem that I really love. He's touched on topics of God's wrath and love, His punishment and peace, the Word of God and worldly pursuits, but now he says Wait. Stop and don't dwell on past sin anymore. Look to eternity. If you get blinded by the joys of the world, if you get tired and restless and careworn, "breathe towards [God's] dear abode" where one day all of His saints will "for ever rest." Don't live a life bent by the material and temporal. Live a life of joy found in the hope to come. 

Revelation 21:3-4:

“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

Listen, Lord: A Prayer for Today

Psalm 86:1-12:

Listen, Lord , and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Protect my life, for I am faithful. You are my God; save Your servant who trusts in You. Be gracious to me, Lord, for I call to You all day long. Bring joy to Your servant’s life, because I turn to You, Lord. For You, Lord, are kind and ready to forgive, rich in faithful love to all who call on You. Lord , hear my prayer; listen to my plea for mercy. I call on You in the day of my distress, for You will answer me. Lord, there is no one like You among the gods, and there are no works like Yours. All the nations You have made will come and bow down before You, Lord, and will honor Your name. For You are great and perform wonders; You alone are God. Teach me Your way, Yahweh, and I will live by Your truth. Give me an undivided mind to fear Your name. I will praise You with all my heart, Lord my God, and will honor Your name forever. 


Yesterday was an important Sunday for two different reasons. Both involved remembering. Both involved suffering. And both involved life.

Remembered annually in churches all across the globe, it was Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. This Sunday fell just two days before the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the court case that legalized abortion in the U.S., paving the way for its legality worldwide. We remembered that abortion goes on every day. Children are thoughtlessly murdered, removed from the womb like they're simply an unwanted growth. It is a horrible tragedy, this crime of murder, where approximately 42 million little lives will be taken from us this year. Forty-two million little ones will never see the light and never have a chance to grow, to live, to play soccer or eat ice cream or do algebra or be given a hug or see a Christmas tree. And our governments will kill them. We need to celebrate the sanctity of human life. It is a gift, never a curse. We must remember.

The second thing we remembered was a Sunday annually recognized in November. But because of Dad's vacation time, our church remembers it in January. It was the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Again, we remembered those suffering - not unborn babies, but moms and dads and kids and grandpas and grandmas who live far away from our North American affluence. They are those who are persecuted for their Christian faith. In Sunday School we looked specifically at China and Iran, two countries who brutally oppose anyone who believes anything besides their government-sanctioned religion. In China, that's a secular sort of "faith," and in Iran it's Islam (98.6% of the population). Christians can be thrown in jail, beaten, exiled, refused or fired from jobs, have their churches destroyed, and even be tortured and killed - all because they profess faith in Jesus. We remember that they suffer for the same cause that we live for. And we remembered that God is sovereign over all, but we must pray. We must remember.

In the closing of his Colossian letter, Paul said,

Remember my imprisonment. Grace be with you.

And Hebrews 13:3:

Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.

We should not be surprised that the cause of Christ incurs suffering. We should not be surprised that evil flourishes in a society that commits idolatry every day - worship of self. We should not be surprised at sin, but we should never grow accustomed to it. Let it never feel natural. We can't get comfortable. And we can't forget suffering. Remembering in prayer is the greatest thing we can do for both of those causes - persecution and abortion. The Sovereign One has the whole world in His hands. He will judge with fairness and with equity. But that doesn't mean we don't have any responsibility. It means we have more responsibility. We must remember, and we must not keep silent.

Resources on Abortion:
Abort73 - This is a website I link to every year. It is an especially thorough resource, including practical facts, stories from women who've had abortions, videos, and more.
9 Things You Should Know About Planned Parenthood - This article coincided with President Obama's keynote address at the 75th Planned Parenthood gala.
Questions for our Pro-Abortion Friends, Church Leaders, and Politicians - This is a moving article by Kevin DeYoung on the reality of life.
Five Things We Can Do for the Unborn - John Piper is purely practical here.

Resources on the Persecuted Church:
9 Things You Should Know About the Persecuted Church - This chronicles extremely important facts that happened in just 2013.
Voice of the Martyrs - This is a non-profit organization that seeks to assist the persecuted church worldwide. You'll find many excellent resources on this website, like how to pray, how to give, overviews of different nations, and more.
Open Doors - This is also an important ministry helping the persecuted church.

Newtown, We Remember

This past Saturday marked the one year anniversary of the horrible Sandy Hook tragedy. John Piper shares these reflections on grief, remembrance, and the One who heals all hurts.

"Last year on December 14, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, twenty first-graders and six educators were killed by Adam Lanza, who then shot himself. This Saturday marks one year.  Most of these wounds are still open. Even where the gaping gash is closed, the surrounding flesh is so tender that the slightest bump brings tears. And in this, these empty arms represent millions."

Read the rest here ...