Wednesday, November 25, 2009


(See Dr. MacArthur’s statement)

Anyone who knows me knows of my deep love and respect for Dr. John MacArthur. Since being a young twenty-something in the San Fernando Valley in the 1970’s who visited Grace Church on occasion and listened to and read John at every chance, I have been mentored from a distance by this man in so many ways. So this in no way would indicate a lack of respect for his views. There are in fact, very close and dear friends of John’s who have signed the Declaration and remain dear brothers with him yet. Signing or not signing this document is no test of fellowship.

I have been asked why I would not take the same stance as he on this issue, especially by some who know of my commitment to the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let it be said with no equivocation, in every way I agree with John on the Gospel. I agree that there are signers of the document who do not interpret the Gospel in the way that I do. I even agree with him that this document does not lay out the Gospel in clarity. In recognizing those things, I find the exact point of our differing views.

In a clearly secular analogy, The Manhattan Declaration is somewhat like The Declaration of Independence. In this birthing writing for our nation the signers called upon Nature’s God, the Creator, the Supreme Judge and Divine Providence. While there may be debate as to what each individual signer meant by those terms, a belief that this was a nation “under God” is indisputable. From that position they went on to firmly state their disagreement with certain practices of the governing authorities. They took their stand with what they believed to be “unalienable rights.”

I see The Manhattan Declaration in much the same way. It is a declaration of what we (the signers) believe so that there can be no doubt. Implicitly, there is (as there was with the Declaration of Independence) a personal willingness to bear the consequences this stand might bring.

This document, though put forth by those who claim to be Christian, is a call to all people in good conscience to heed these truths. The following excerpt from the Declaration sheds light on my position: "We call upon all people of goodwill, believers and non-believers alike, to consider carefully and reflect critically on the issues we here address as we, with St. Paul, commend this appeal to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God."

But this does not mean that I see this Declaration as merely a secular document. In fact, I believe it is a statement that says, in essence, if one claims to be Christian, one ought to hold to these truths. For me, that is a given. I’m willing to bear the criticisms of those who disagree and to love them no less. But there can be no ambiguity here. I want my family, my church, my friends, my neighbors and my enemies to know where I stand.

I do not agree that it “relegates the gospel to secondary status.” My interpretation of the written words sees them as flowing from the Gospel rather than to the Gospel. Again, it is saying if one claims to believe the Gospel then one ought to believe this.

So, I am comfortable signing a document with others who “claim” to be Christians but who do not hold to a biblical Gospel. I will proclaim the Gospel of Christ and I will stand strong against the erosion of these truths, even in this type of public format. As I have said earlier, I signed it with a resolute heart and with a sadness that the times make it necessary.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

If Suffering Were a Lollipop

The problem with suffering is the pain. Seems obvious, doesn’t it? But stop and think. Probably most believers would readily give verbal assent to the idea that suffering is used by God for good in our lives. We know enough verses to be cognizant of that fact. Often we find ourselves saying in the midst of deep trials that, though we don’t know why God is allowing this to happen, we do know that He has a purpose in it.
Somewhere deep in our storehouse of biblical knowledge we know that suffering is good for us. A few of the Scriptures we would point to would be:

1. Suffering points us to the glorious return of Christ. (1 Peter 4:13)
2. Suffering causes dependence on the grace of God. (2 Corinthians 12:8-9)
3. Suffering demonstrates the grace of God. (1 Peter 2:19)
4. Suffering produces endurance. (Romans 5:3; James 1:2-3)
5. Jesus was made perfect through suffering. (Hebrews 2:10; 5:8-9)
6. Suffering perfects us, as it did Jesus. (James 1:4)
7. Suffering brings the comfort of God. (2 Corinthians 1:5-7)
8. Suffering brings conformity to Christ. (Romans 8:28-29; Philippians 3:10)
9. Suffering causes us to long for heaven. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
10. Suffering gets us out of our comfort zone. (Acts 8:1)

If all these are true then why is it also true that we tend to dread suffering; we seek to avoid it in every way; we look at it, not as friend, but as a fearsome enemy? All too often we are like the kids in the old TV commercial who, when discussing a yucky, healthy food, said, “It tastes like it’s good for us.” We don’t like the taste of suffering. Why? The answer is the pain. Our focus is on the process and not the product.
What if suffering were a lollipop? What if, in God’s economy, He had foreordained that eating a lollipop would perfect the Lord Jesus Himself? What if God had decreed that licking a lollipop would lead us to the abundant grace that is all-sufficient? What if sucking on a delicious sticky lollipop would produce in us endurance and complete us in Christ-likeness? What if the tantalizing taste of a lollipop caused us to long for heaven with all our might?
Answer: we would be ecstatic. We would sing the praises of lollipops. We would longingly look for lollipops. We would encourage others to do the lollipop thing with great perseverance and diligence. We would have lollipop licking colloquies designed to teach the techniques and joys of lollipop delights.
So the problem with suffering is the pain. Would that God would grant the ability to focus on the goal, the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, and realize that God’s ways are perfect. Why does He bring suffering into our lives? Because He wants us to experience every aspect of His glory. His desire is for us to know His grace and comfort and power and peace. He wants us to taste and see that He is good. Look past the pain, past the process to the Perfect Suffering Savior!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Beauty Will Rise

Stephen Curtis Chapman's new album "Beauty Will Rise" will be released today. This album is composed of songs written in the aftermath of his precious daughter's death in the driveway of their home. Two months ago, Janet and I sat with our friends Marty and Jennifer Goetz and listened to amazing stories of the grace of God in the aftermath of that tragedy. Their daughter was a classmate of the Chapman's son. We wept as we listened. As I think back on that night, I realize I'll probably weep again as I listen to this album.
Here is the story of one song from Stephen himself:

One of the most affecting, affirming songs on the record is "SEE." In the hours after Maria left to be with Jesus, Steven fervently prayed for a sign that she was okay, pleading with God just to let him see. "I remember just saying, "We know it is true. We know she is with Jesus. She is safe in the arms of the God who made her. We know she is okay. We know it, but could we just see something?"" Steven recalls asking. "The next morning we went back to our house to get some clothes for the memorial service. We were not going to stay there and it was really hard to even go in the house because of the memories. We were walking through with friends who were holding on to us and we were going from room to room.

I walked into the kitchen and there is this little art table that Maria and Stevey Joy would sit at for hours. She loved crafts. She would cut out pictures. Scissors and glue were her favorite things. She would just cut and paste and draw for hours, and she often created cards for us. She would write the words she knew, "I love mom" and "I love dad" and then she would sign her name "Maria."

Everything was cleaned up at the table but there was one little piece of notebook paper lying on her side of the art table. It was a flower, a six-petal flower that was kind of her signature flower that she would draw all the time. Only one petal was colored in blue, and the rest of it was just the outline of the petals. It had a little stem and it had a little orange center of the flower and it had little leaves at the bottom of the stem. I had noticed something else kind of bleeding through the back of the paper where she had written something and I turned it over and it was a little butterfly and then she had written the letters S-E-E. She had never written that word before. All that she had ever written as far as we knew was "I love Mom," "I love Dad" and her name. Out of all the words that she could have written that day before the accident, she had written the word "see." I was already weeping uncontrollably and at that moment I just really, really believed that God gave us that sign and that was the gift that Maria left us to say "I know you are wanting to see something, but see I am okay and I am where you said. It is okay." That flower became so precious to us. It was my wife that looked at it and realized what we thought was an unfinished flower, was finished. Only one flower petal of the six was colored in. Then we realized we have six children there is only one that is colored in; there is one that is whole and the rest of us are still waiting for our color. It just became such a gift to us."