Thursday, April 30, 2009

Out of the Depths

Here is a "Drabble" from my friend, Nicole McLernon. I think you will find this touching and encouraging.

Out of the depths

“I’m sorry.” The doctor looks into my eyes then back down to the floor. “It’s cancer. Your daughter has lymphoma.”

My world reels.

“But you can treat it, can’t you?” My daughter, my 14-year-old princess? Cancer?

“I’m sorry,” he says again.

This is not happening. I am an oncology nurse. I administer chemotherapy; I hold the patient’s hand when they are too weak to even speak; I call the doctor when the patient does not respond; I am silent with the family after they’ve said their last goodbyes.

“It’s progressed too far.”

“How long?”

“2 months.”

I cannot even cry.

Oh Lord, I cry to You

I stumble out of the room. There is my daughter, sitting there. Her eyes lock with mine. I try desperately to fill my eyes with hope, try to give some strength even in my gaze.

I fail.

Her eyes question me. Oh, God. How am I supposed to answer that question? How am I supposed to deliver my daughter’s death sentence? Nothing in my life had prepared me for the rush of love I felt when she was born, when I first heard her cry, when she was placed in my arms for the first time, when her life began.

When I am tempted to despair

Now, nothing in my life has prepared me for this. For the rush of love I feel for her as I search for words that speak of the end, of the grave, of the long goodbye.

I must sit down.

I walk slowly, haltingly. I lower myself into the seat next to my precious little girl. Her eyes have not left my face.

I take her hand.


Was it a minute? Ten seconds? An eternity?

She speaks.


A deep sigh wells up from within me. I strangle the urge to let it out.

“Piper?” I must do this.

Though I might fail to trust Your promises

“Piper. The doctor said it’s too late. We didn’t catch the cancer in time.”

I am calm. Or perhaps I am dreaming and I shall wake up momentarily.

“What does that mean?”

“It means we…” Oh, God. “We only have a little time left.”

“How long?”

“He said two months.”

Am I really having this conversation?

Only now does she look away. But just because she has flung herself into my arms. I wait for tears to start. For her heart-wrenching sobs that will surely shatter mine.

Here they come.

I stroke her hair, silently. There is nothing to say.

You never fail to hear my prayer

We start radiation, hoping not for a cure but just some comfort. Piper is the bravest of us all. She endures. Still, I do not cry.

I hold her hand, like I’ve held so many patients’ hands before. But this time, I am the weary family member. This time, it is my heart breaking.

I bring in chocolate fudge swirl ice cream one day. Piper smiles at me, her eyes alight with joy. She takes a bite. Her face twists in displeasure and shock. The radiation has changed her taste buds so that she cannot even enjoy her favorite treat.

In every trial and loss

“Mom?” She tries to cover up her disappointment in a brave effort to encourage me. “Thanks for bringing it in.”

She looks so small, sitting there in that hospital bed, wearing that ridiculous gown. We’ve laughed about the gown. We call it her “simply telling us people interesting dragons” or “stupid” for short. Piper has always loved words. She’s always learning new ones, sprinkling her conversation with vocabulary that she’s picked up over the years. She gets that from her dad.

Her dad. My husband. The man is exhausted. I finally sent him home last night to get some sleep.

My hope is in the Cross

We bring Piper home when it is clear that there is nothing more to be done. She said she didn’t want to remember her last days being in the sterile hospital environment. Her words, not mine.

The clouds are rolling in as we pull up the driveway. They are dark. Angry. Threatening.

Piper walks up to her bedroom, possibly for the last time. Weariness shrouds her body. Her shoulders stoop forward and she stumbles on the stairs. She makes no protest when Jack picks her up and carries her.

I cannot follow. I turn and run out of the house.

Where Your compassions never fail

“Are you listening?” I scream to the heavens.

As if in reply, thunder booms in the distance.

“How dare you do this? Are you truly all-powerful? All-knowing? Good or kind? What kind of sadistic monster does this to a child?”

Lightening illuminates the sky, causing the hair on the back of my neck to stand up. The wind swirls around me, whipping my hair around my face, into my eyes and open mouth. Thunder crashes, as if it is trying to frighten me. I am not afraid. I am furious.

“Can you hear me?” I shout again, expecting no answer.

So more than watchmen for the morning

The rain is pouring now. The trees and clouds perform a wild dance in front of me, driven by a relentless wind. I consider going back inside but I am too angry.

“Do you have any idea what it’s like to watch your child suffer and die?” I can still be heard, despite the thunder.

There is a brilliant flash of lightening. The thunder rumbles, far in the distance and suddenly, the tempest is over.

The rain is falling gently now. It looks like heaven itself is crying.

Then I hear it, not with my ears, but in my heart.

I will wait for You, my God

“I killed my Son for you.”

That is all. I hear nothing else.

That is all I need to hear.

Tears begin to well up in my eyes. Tears that have not been shed since Piper was diagnosed. Healing tears for my parched soul.

He killed His Son. For me.

I turn, slowly, and walk back into the house. Up to the second floor. Into my daughter’s room.

She sleeps the exhausted sleep of the very ill. I sit down next to my beautiful, dying daughter and take her hand in mine, gently, softly.

“I love you, Piper.”

I wait.

© Nicole McLernon 2009

HT: Bob Kauflin

How Long, O Lord?!

"All we have to do is live long enough, and we will be bereaved.

All we have to do is live long enough, and we will die"

So writes D.A. Carson in his book, "How Long, O Lord." This is an outstanding book addressing the reality of suffering. I have been thinking a lot about this topic. Although incomplete, here are some "pensees".
  • Suffering is unavoidable - whether loss of health, wealth, friends, favor, comfort. It will happen to us all.
  • Suffering tests our foundations. When all else is removed from our lives what remains?
  • Faulty thinking, faulty being, faulty doing will not long endure suffering.
  • It is best to prepare your foundations before you suffer, you may be too troubled in suffering to repair them.
  • The fundamental problem is that our foundations are based on or corrupted by self-reference and relativism. If our foundation is not built on something absolute and enduring then it will fail us.
  • Only God is absolute and enduring and therefore offers a foundation that will endure suffering.
  • The biblical view of God answers us at the most fundamental levels in regards to suffering and offers us an unshakable and verifiable foundation.
Among these biblical answers:
  1. The nature and character of God: all-powerful, sovereign, absolutely good, fully compassionate, all-wise, infinite, eternal, all-glorious.
  2. He himself has suffered the most of any and all in Christ's death on the cross for sin.
  3. He has risen victorious over sin, suffering and death.
  4. He invites us to entrust our lives, our hopes, our sufferings to Him in Christ.
  5. He promises to use our sufferings for good in Christ.
  6. He uses our sufferings to refine our faith, hope, love and joy in Him, purging us of faulty foundations.
  7. One day soon, suffering and sorrow will be resolved and ended in Christ's return.
Hope this helps.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

One of My Heroes

My good friend Jonathan Mark has been struggling with cancer. Last summer they found a tumor in his intestinal track and removed it. They then started chemotherapy for two different types of cancer - stomach and small cell cancer. This past Monday night they performed an intestinal bypass operation at Mass General to allow Jon to eat. They found a large tumor in his abdomen. The doctors don't seem to think Jon has too long to live.

I have known Jon since early 2002. He was a faithful member of Covenant Fellowship Church but decided to leave his wonderful church home and family to serve us as we planted King of Grace Church in fall, 2002. Jon has worked hard to serve the church faithfully as our sound tech guy and just as a good brother. It was my joy to see him meet and later marry his lovely wife Julianne in April 2007.

I have many great memories of Jon but what comes to mind more than anything is how faithful he has been. Jon has been faithful to serve our church amidst a life-disrupting relocation to Massachusetts. He has been faithful to support and pray for our church through the many trials of church planting. He has been faithful to care for his wife as she dealt with some serious health challenges. Faithfulness characterizes my friend.

And now - he has been faithful to keep his eyes on Christ and His glory through a life-threatening disease. Monday night as they wheeled Jon into his room after surgery and as he experienced some serious post-operative pain his words were not about his pain nor did they contain any hint of complaint. He was focused on others. He was trusting in Christ. It was actually pretty funny as he lay half asleep and interjected technical advice for us as we discussed how to get an internet connection in order to find a hotel. We had some sweet time together in prayer.

Jon and Julianne are my heroes. They have continued to pray and look to the Lord, asking for healing and receiving whatever God deems right for them. They have made the most of many opportunities to tell family, friends and chance acquaintances of God's goodness and their hope in Christ.

We are asking God to heal Jon. We have seen Him do this sort of miraculous healing before, we know He will do it again. Please pray with us for healing and for strength to continue to trust Christ and shine for Him. But whether God chooses to heal Jon or take him home we will trust God in his wisdom and bless His name together.

And I know, by God's grace, my friend will continue to shine for Christ and will remain one of my heroes.

Read Good Books II

Here are some recommended books to start reading. First, 7 books that are fairly easy to read:
  1. The Cross-Centered Life - CJ Mahaney
  2. The Dangerous Duty of Delight - John Piper
  3. The Enemy Within - Kris Lungard
  4. When Sinners Say "I Do" - Dave Harvey
  5. Christian Beliefs - Wayne Grudem
  6. Knowing Scripture - R.C. Sproul
  7. Stop Dating the Church - Josh Harris
Next, expand your library. Monergism Books is a great place to read about good books and order good books. They have an excellent recommended reading list - check it out.

A Monergism Books READER’S GUIDE for the Christian Life:

Christianity is not about knowing a lot of things. It is about deeply knowing the one true God in order that your whole person may be conformed into His image:
· Basic Christianity | John Stott
· Bible Overview | Steve Levy
· Christian Beliefs | Wayne Grudem
· Christian Life | Sinclair Ferguson
· Concise Theology | J. I. Packer
· God’s Big Picture | Vaughan Roberts
· Truth for All Time | John Calvin

Grow deeper in the knowledge of God by studying how the Gospel trains us in every area of life:
· Attributes of God | Arthur Pink
· Church History in Plain Language | Bruce Shelley
· Finally Alive | John Piper
· Holiness of God | R. C. Sproul
· In Christ Alone | Sinclair Ferguson
· Just Do Something | Kevin DeYoung
· Knowing God | J. I. Packer
· Knowing Scripture | R. C. Sproul
· Living the Cross Centered Life | C. J. Mahaney
· Prayer and the Knowledge of God | Goldsworthy
· Putting Amazing Back Into Grace | Michael Horton
· Seeing with New Eyes | David Powlison
· Today’s Gospel | Walter Chantry
· Whatever Happened to The Gospel of Grace? | James M. Boice
· When Grace Comes Home | Terry L. Johnson

Some things God has revealed about himself are difficult to understand. Careful study of these works will be greatly rewarding:
· Chosen for Life | Sam Storms
· Christless Christianity | Michael Horton
· Courage to Be Protestant | David Wells
· Desiring God | John Piper
· Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God | D. A. Carson
· Doctrine of the Knowledge of God | John Frame
· Systematic Theology | Wayne Grudem

Following Christ’s example, believers have always labored to bless the generations which would come after them. These are some of the finest fruits of that labor:
· Bondage of the Will | Martin Luther
· Bruised Reed | Richard Sibbes
· Christian in Complete Armor | William Gurnall
· Confessions | St. Augustine
· Crook in the Lot | Thomas Boston
· Freedom of the Will | Jonathan Edwards
· Institutes of the Christian Religion | John Calvin
· Mortification of Sin | John Owen
· Religious Affections | Jonathan Edwards

Strengthen the young minds under your care early with gospel-centered resources:
· Big Truths for Little Kids | Susan & Richie Hunt
· Jesus Storybook Bible | Sally Lloyd-Jones
· Training Hearts, Teaching Minds | Starr Meade

Not a secondary matter, sharing the good news is a necessary part of believing the good news:
· Always Ready | Greg Bahnsen
· Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God | J.I. Packer
· Gospel and Personal Evangelism | Mark Dever
· Let the Nations Be Glad | John Piper
· Reason for God | Tim Keller
· Tell the Truth | Will Metzger

Like having a scholar read the Bible with you, study Bibles provide insightful notes and clarifying articles along the way:
· ESV Study Bible | Crossway
· NIV Spirit of the Reformation | Zondervan
· Reformation Study Bible (ESV) | P & R

Easy to find answers to all your Bible-related questions. These reference tools put historical and literal-grammatical details at your fingertips and make topical studies a breeze:
· Commentary on the N.T. use of the O.T. | G. K. Beale & D. A. Carson
· Introduction to the Old Testament | Tremper Longman & Raymond Dillard
· Introduction to the New Testament | D. A. Carson & Douglas Moo
· New Dictionary of Biblical Theology | T. Desmond Alexander & Brian Rosner

Hope this helps!

Read Good Books!

Recently I have realized I am not reading enough good books. I have also become concerned that others I love are not reading enough good books. I believe that our spiritual vitality, our love for God, our faith in His person and promises, our fruitfulness for Him and our joy in Him are very much tied to the enjoyment and study of good books. Listen to an excerpt from a sermon by Charles Spurgeon and let us with him and thousands of other Godly successful Christians - READ GOOD BOOKS!

Paul—his Cloak and His Books
A Sermon (No. 542) Delivered on Sunday Morning, November 29th, 1863, by the
Rev. C. H. SPURGEON, At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington

"The cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments."—2 Timothy 4:13.

We do not know what the books were about, and we can only form some guess as to what the parchments were. Paul had a few books which were left, perhaps wrapped up in the cloak, and Timothy was to be careful to bring them. Even an apostle must read. . . . A man who comes up into the pulpit, professes to take his text on the spot, and talks any quantity of nonsense, is the idol of many. If he will speak without premeditation, or pretend to do so, and never produce what they call a dish of dead men's brains—oh! that is the preacher. How rebuked are they by the apostle!

He is inspired, and yet he wants books!

He has been preaching at least for thirty years, and yet he wants books!

He had seen the Lord, and yet he wants books!

He had had a wider experience than most men, and yet he wants books!

He had been caught up into the third heaven, and had heard things which it was unlawful for a men to utter, yet he wants books!

He had written the major part of the New Testament, and yet he wants books!

The apostle says to Timothy and so he says to every preacher, "Give thyself unto reading." The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men's brains, proves that he has no brains of his own.

Brethren, what is true of ministers is true of all our people. You need to read. Renounce as much as you will all light literature, but study as much as possible sound theological works, especially the Puritanic writers, and expositions of the Bible. We are quite persuaded that the very best way for you to be spending your leisure, is to be either reading or praying. You may get much instruction from books which afterwards you may use as a true weapon in your Lord and Master's service. Paul cries, "Bring the books"—join in the cry.
Wondering what books to read? Check out the next post.

HT: Justin Taylor

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Parenting Teens

I don't know about you but Peg and I continue to learn and be stretched by God as we seek to parent our teens.

The teen years are often a struggle for parents as they find themselves overwhelmed with the struggles of their teens and their own hearts. Our teens say and act in ways that disappoint and shock us. They disrupt our plans for a blissful harmonious home life. They question their faith. They bicker with one another. They complain. We try gentle counsel, we try scolding, we try lecturing, we pray like crazy - we agonize, we cry, we plead, we despair. Sometimes we wish they were little still and we could just discipline them and be done with it. But it isn't that simple....

You see, God has other plans in mind for our children and for us!

Paul Tripp opens up this truth in his excellent book, "Age of Opportunity" . He lifts us up out of the slough of despond and gives us a God's-eye view of parenting teens. This book will transform how you understand and practice parenting of teens. This book will transform how you understand and practice life! We need the fresh biblical perspective brought by Paul Tripp if we and our children are to survive and thrive through and beyond the teen years. Read this book and reread this book!

Check out the video below as a sample of what you will get from Dr. Tripp and then get a copy of the book in your hands and prayerfully read it. It will change your life!