Feeling the sting.

landscape photography of dried trees on snow covered ground
Photo by Simon Matzinger on Pexels.com

My grandfather died last Thursday. He was buried yesterday.

He was almost 90, ravaged for the last several years by Parkinson’s. Over the years, he has been losing the ability to communicate clearly, to understand, to care for himself. And in the end, his final decline was sudden and heart-breaking.

He was a good man, a godly man. He was a strong Christian, an ordained minister, and a faithful husband, father, grandfather, and church member. He loved and poured himself out for children; he taught school for more than 2 decades and taught Sunday School for longer than that. He would drive around the neighborhood every Sunday morning for years, picking up kids in the station wagon to bring over so that he and my grandmother could teach them Bible stories and songs, give them snacks, help them do little art and craft projects, and let them know that they are loved by God. I can’t imagine how many hundreds or even thousands of young lives my grandparents touched over the decades.

My grandfather’s hope in life and death was firmly and securely in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as his Savior. And now, my grandfather is enjoying the presence of his Lord, without pain or disease, without the encumbrances and restraints of mortality and frailty.

I miss him.

For almost my entire life, I’ve lived a thousand miles away from my grandparents, so I don’t have the “every Sunday” or “every holiday” memories with extended family that others do. But I have some very clear and very warm memories over the years of time spent with my grandparents. My favorite was how he used to give the biggest, tightest bear hugs. He wasn’t muscular, but he was as wiry and tough in physicality as he was tender and warm in spirit.

He had a playful sense of humor, which was often incredibly dry and subtle. He told good jokes. (That’s one of the things I love about my dad, as well: how he almost can’t contain himself when he tells a joke.) And I remember my grandfather’s laugh after telling a joke: silent, mouth open, bobbing up and down slightly.

(One of my touchstone “embarrassing” memories was when I misunderstood a joke he made and he had to explain himself; I was 10 and he probably forgot it immediately, but for some reason, that one memory sticks with me–one of those silly moments I cringe about from time to time, just to myself. I don’t know why that one memory sticks, but there you go.)

There is so much more to say about him, so many more memories to share. But that’s not why I’m writing this.

I’m sharing this for two very simple reasons this afternoon:

First, I wanted to emphasize that my family is mourning this week, but we don’t mourn as those who have no hope. It’s not some vague, “we-hope-we-see-you-again” wish, either. When my grandfather’s body was laid to rest in the ground yesterday morning, my family was planting him there with the full knowledge that one day, that very ground will break apart and his physical body will be resurrected and restored to life, when Jesus comes back to call His people to Himself. Our hope–our only hope–is found in Jesus alone: in His sacrificial death to pay the penalty for our sins, in His glorious resurrection to give us the promise that we too will be raised up to life. If you are afraid of death, or unsure of what happens next, I’d be happy to talk to you about the hope you’re missing. Please, please ask.

Second, I want to encourage you: reach out to the family members you haven’t talked to recently, especially the older ones. When I first heard that my grandfather passed away, what hit me most was a very palpable and deep regret that I didn’t keep in close contact over the last few years. He wouldn’t have the chance to hold my daughter as an infant or toddler. While I “knew” that he wouldn’t be around forever (at least in this life), I kept putting off regular phone calls and emails. I got busy with the “urgent” things in my immediate vision. Whenever I would be reminded that I haven’t talked to my grandparents recently, I would feel sincerely guilty, and say to myself, “Oh man, yeah, I should get on that. Maybe next weekend…” Now, that window has closed. It’s now incumbent upon me to make up that lost time with my Sweetie of a grandmother, for all the years we are blessed to continue having her here.

Can I encourage you to take some time this weekend and make that phone call you have been putting off, that video chat, that visit to a grandparent or aunt or even your parents? We don’t know how long we have in this life with the people we love. As long as we have a chance, let’s take those opportunities to check in, to share the family news, or just to say “I love you.”

Sorry to end this week on a bit of a downer, but that’s what’s going on with me.

I hope you have a great weekend, and that you have a chance to tell those closest to you (or perhaps distant from you) that you love them.

We’ll see you back here next week!

#FridayFive: Five Goals for 2019 (12/28/2018)

Happy Mid-Holiday Week, friends! (Or if you prefer, Happy Fourth Day of Christmas–hope you are enjoying your 4 French hens, preferably in a warm and delicious soup!)

Since we are fast approaching the start of a new year, everyone in the world is ready to post their resolutions for 2019, things they hope to accomplish in the next 12 months. Well, call me a bandwagoner if you like, but I also came up with a few goals for the next year that I hope to pursue (and would appreciate your encouragement for, if you don’t mind!). These aren’t quite set in stone, yet–they’re just some ideas I’m considering:

I want to kick the sugar habit. Y’all, I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs, but sugar and caffeine are my addictions of choice–and I’m not giving up caffeine anytime soon. I was doing pretty well on the ketogenic diet for about 5 months this year, but I used some life circumstances as an excuse to slide off the path. I quit working out, I started eating carbs again like I used to, and I’m probably staring at a gain of 15-20 pounds in the last 8 weeks. So I’m going to enjoy the holiday treats and sugary cereals for a few more days and then toss what’s left on Tuesday. It’s time to get serious again. I have a specific weight loss goal in mind for this year and next, and the clock is ticking. Cutting out the processed sugars and carby treats is a big, big part of that.

I want to pray every day. Last year was the first year that I read through the Bible between January and December, and while it would be neat to do that again, I think a better goal for me (besides daily Bible intake) is daily prayer. This is an area of my walk with Jesus that really needs to grow, especially considering the new ministry opportunities I may be stepping into next month. I know there is no tip or trick other than just doing it. I’ve downloaded the apps, I’ve read the books, but unless I’m willing to do it, really do it, nothing will change. So I’m praying for the desire to pray more.

I want to use Twitter to benefit others. Some of you may remember that many of us recently mourned the passing of Donna Guy, the “Kindness Ninja.” Her example of using social media to be a blessing to others has really stayed with me, and I want to make an effort to use my social feeds, specifically Twitter, to be an encouragement. I’m still trying to figure out what that will look like, but I want to make sure that anyone reading through my tweets comes away wanting to know Jesus better, not just wanting to win giveaways or read my online content.

I want to write a lot more than I did this year. I was able to get into a bit of a blogging groove toward the end of this year, so I’d like to keep that going, but beyond that, I want to get back to my first love of writing fiction. Part of the reason I’m kicking around this #100Stories idea is that I want to explore the short-story format and work on some short material that I can offer to you (via a mailing list or something like that) and/or compile and publish as an e-book. In any case, I’m looking forward to making writing a daily practice instead of a 2-3-times-a-week exercise.

(I think) I want to become an early riser. I’ve read over and over and over again that people who make a habit of going to bed early and getting up before the sun often find the time to accomplish their goals and become more successful. For years, I considered myself a “night owl” and found that staying up late seemed to work best for me. But now as a husband and father, I’m realizing that late nights are just not tenable when you have a toddler, and it may be better to claim a few extra hours at the start of my day to pursue my goals (like the ones above). My noted hesitation is that I know making this circadian shift isn’t easy or fun, but if it’s worth it, then I just need to push through until I get it right.

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Did you accomplish any 2018 resolutions? Do you have any goals for 2019? Any advice for my 5 goals above?

Let me know in the comments below!

Merry Christmas, Here’s to Many More.

Happy Christmas Eve, friends! I don’t have much to talk about today. We are now in the full-court-press of holiday preparation and festivities, getting ready to spend tomorrow morning with my folks. My toddler has been particularly rambunctious and playfully destructive around the house this week. We’re dog-sitting a very young and vocal pup for some friends of ours. All of this means I don’t have any deep or contemplative meditations on the holiday for you this year.

This year, I’ll just leave you with this:

I’m a Christian, which means this holiday is not about Santa Claus and stockings hung with care, talking snowmen and red-nosed reindeer. It’s not even about the fact that Die Hard is most definitely a Christmas movie, or that It’s a Wonderful Life is possible one of the best films ever made, period.

It’s about the fact–the historical fact–that Jesus the Christ was born in Bethlehem. It’s about the cosmic reality that Eternal God took on flesh and tabernacled among us. The Word became Flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, the glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

God came near. He is with us. And He did so not merely to teach us how to love one another or to encourage peace among men. The baby Jesus grew into the perfect and sinless man Jesus, who laid down His life (no one can take it from Him unless He lays it down) as a sacrifice to pay for the sins of all whom He would redeem. Jesus the God-man, the second member of the Trinity, the Messiah of Israel, died for His people, all His people from all the nations. He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement that brought us peace was upon him. By His stripes, we are healed.

Jesus bled, Jesus died, and Jesus rose. It is finished. The war is won. The dragon is vanquished. And Jesus the King, the Lamb who was slain and is yet alive, walked triumphantly out of the tomb, carrying the crushed head of the giant He conquered.

Now, in the millenia since that stone rolled away, we must bear with the death rattle and the flailing gasps of a defeated devil. But the prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for Him. His rage we can endure for lo, his doom is sure.

This week, as you “rejoice, rejoice,” you sons and daughters of true Israel, take heart and have peace because Immanuel has come and is here and will return in triumph.

And if you are still reading, and all of this talk of Jesus’ death is strange and awkward and weird to you, know this: my hope and prayer for you this Christmas is that you would meet Jesus, truly meet Jesus, and come to know Him as Savior and Lord this year. If you want to talk to me about that, I would love that. Hit me up on Twitter (@the4thdave) or email me (the4thdave at gmail dot com) with any questions you have. It would be a gift to me to get to talk to you about this.

(Okay, I guess I had more to say than I thought!)

Merry Christmas, fam. God bless you.

Rejoice! Rejoice!

black and gray angel statue decor
Photo by Anastasia Zhenina on Pexels.com

Growing up, my family never had any “Advent” traditions. We never went to churches that celebrated or even really acknowledged the season of Advent (other than the pun of “The Christmas ADVENTure” children’s activity event a week or so before Christmas). While my current church doesn’t have any set Advent teaching or programming, we have been singing Christmas songs more regularly during worship over the last month, but that’s about it.

I haven’t been in much of a Christmas mood this year, to be honest. I know the day is just around the corner, but it just hasn’t felt Christmas-y. We hardly decorated around the house this year, and it’s just…I don’t know. We’re busy. Tired. Fighting off winter illnesses. We even missed going to our church’s “Christmas celebration service” because the kiddo was sick and my wife and I were both wiped out as well. On top of that, work has been a bear this season, and it’s just… *shrug* Anyway. No matter how much “holly jolly” music I listen to in the car or around the house, I haven’t felt all that merry and bright–with one exception.

A few weeks ago, we sang “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” in church. As soon as I uttered that first line, my heart thrilled and I felt chills up and down my spine. My spirit resonated with that longing. I felt that ache. No, I haven’t suffered under the cruelty of foreign occupation or strained against economic oppression. The circumstances of my life are extremely blessed, and I have it very easy in many respects. But nevertheless, my heart feels weary this year. My mind is taxed. I am longing for the Kingdom of God and the end of the darkness.

And yet.

The Kingdom is here. Now. The wriggling form of a baby in a manger, the agonized moans of an innocent man nailed to a wooden cross, the charged and energized stillness of an empty garden tomb are all evidence of this good news.

The Kingdom invaded earth. The revolution has already begun. And the petty little conflicts I face every day are actually part of a war against the darkness that has already been won, as the Champion of Heaven has slain the bloody giant and redeemed for Himself a people for His own possession.

The good news that I have been given the privilege to proclaim is that God-with-us has ransomed us. Unholy rebels who have sinned against their Creator have been offered forgiveness and adoption as sons and daughters. Because of the great love of God, we who deserve destruction may instead have life.

Sometimes, that proclamation begins by reminding the man in my mirror that there is hope. There is hope. There is hope.

We are not alone. God is with us.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel has ransomed you, sons and daughters of the true Israel.

#30ThankYous “Day 25”: William Tyndale.

Brother William,

Not enough people know your story, even among the Church. Not enough people appreciate what you sacrificed, and what gifts you gave to your brothers and sisters.

I must confess (to my great shame) that in the ease and comfort of my 21st century life, I take for granted that I can look across the room and count almost a dozen copies of the Scriptures in my own language on my bookshelf. I even have copies of the Greek and Hebrew texts (though I have yet to learn how to read or use them!). I even walk around all day with a digital copy of the Scriptures in my pocket, yet almost never open it. (I’m all too quick to open up Twitter, on the other hand.)

And yet with all these options available to me, I’m ashamed to say that it is only in my 38th year of life that I will complete a full read-through of God’s Word within the calendar year. Point of fact, there were some sections of the Old Testament that I don’t believe I’ve ever read before this year.

I praise God that I’m developing more of a hunger to read His word. And I thank God for the work of men like you, who have labored and studied (even at the risk of their own lives) to make it possible for me to satisfy that holy hunger by feasting on the Word of God in my own language, along with the notes and comments of faithful preachers and scholars to aid my understanding. I don’t need to rely on a pastor or priest or pope to tell me what God has said, because I can take up and read it myself. What a privilege this is!

Thank you, William. I look forward to shaking your hand and thanking you in glory. Until then, brother, I join all the generations of believers who have come after you in thanking God for your life and work.

–Dave

#30ThankYous Day 14: Dr. John MacArthur

Dr. MacArthur,

It’s hard to express how much your ministry has meant to me. I have been challenged by your preaching, aided by your commentaries, chastened by your books, and emboldened by your public comments. Your history of ministry faithfulness stands in stark contrast to generations of younger pastors who have shipwrecked their ministries in personal sin, public foolishness, or prosperity-gospel sell-outs.

If I were to consider the two or three theologians and pastors of the last century whose work has done the most good for the church, your name would be in that list. Your stalwart position during “lordship salvation” controversy would alone be enough for that honor. Beyond that, you have given the church dozens of books and commentaries that have been and will continue to be a blessing and a light for pastors and teachers (like myself) seeking to preach the Word faithfully and cut it straight.

Looking to the future, as the Christian church faces threats from within and without, books like The Truth War and Strange Fire will grow more and more relevant, as post-modern spiritualism and charismatic mysticism continue to spread. With each passing year, the people of God need pastors and teachers and writers to call them back to the Book, again and again. This is the hallmark of your ministry, and we praise God for you.

May God continue to bless you and guard you, so that you may finish strong. And by the grace of God, may you have many more years of faithful ministry before you step down from the pulpit for the last time. When that day comes, one fact will be undeniable: the church of Jesus Christ has been helped beyond reckoning by your work, and God will have used you mightily in the lives of thousands, if not millions. of believers. There is an entire generation of pastors who have been prepared to proclaim the Gospel boldly as they ought, because of your witness–following your example, as you follow Christ.

God bless you, Dr. MacArthur. Thank you so, so much for your faithfulness to our Savior.

–Dave Mitchell

#30ThankYous Day 11: Jared C. Wilson

Jared,

When I started coming up with names for this list, yours was one of the first few I wrote down. Your writing has been a continual blessing to me over the last several years. I’ve not only enjoyed your books myself, but have given them away regularly to bless others. Your words have been useful to me for Sunday School lesson writing, for sermon prep, and most often for daily devotional reading as I seek to be a better disciple of Jesus.

I’ve also had the blessing to sit under your teaching at a few different conferences. There, you shared your heart in a way that was courageous and honest. Rather than put on a front or try to carry off a persona of strength and accomplishment, you’ve sought to glory in your weaknesses. The deep and genuine humility I have seen in you is refreshing in a world of platform-building and name recognition. Please, please don’t ever lose that.

Every interaction I’ve had with you has left me encouraged and strengthened. I have been struck by your sincerity and kindness. I have described you more than once as “a legitimately good dude.” Thanks for being that.

As you have detailed in books and talks over the years, God has taken you on a pretty rigorous and challenging path. In recent months and years, that seems to have continued. I want you to know that I pray for you when you come to mind, that God would strengthen your heart, protect you from the Enemy, and remind you of His mercy.

In recent weeks, it seems like you’re taking a lot more flak than usual online. And truth be told, there are places in the current cultural conversation where you and I would probably disagree on how to address certain issues or which teachers or speakers to take seriously. My hope and expectation is that, should we have the chance to interact again, we will continue to do so with gentleness and respect.

Thank you for your ministry, and all the ways it has blessed and challenged me. I pray for the peace and grace of God over you, sir. God bless you.

–Dave

#30ThankYous Day 7: Team Pyro

Gentlemen,

It’s not easy being a Christian blogger, especially if you are actively seeking to teach and correct through your writing. People assume the worst possible motives in your words, misread your tone, take you out of context, and otherwise seek to condemn you for being judgmental or hypocritical. That’s what you get for kicking over hornets’ nests and tipping over sacred cows, I guess.

When the Pyromaniacs blog was in its heyday, every post’s combox became a bit of a rhetorical brawl, as the usual suspects showed up to lob accusations and misconstrue what should be PLAINLY OBVIOUS IF YOU READ THE POST. Nevertheless, you all handled these volleys with aplomb, often by logically and carefully responded to the fool so that he did not continue in folly, without stooping to foolishness yourselves.

I just wanted to take a moment and say thank you, gentlemen. Thank you for caring deeply about the Church, and spending time and effort to proclaim and defend the truth. Thank you for being willing to interact with people, confront ideas, even challenge foolish arguments. It was instructive for so many of us who were watching and growing from the interactions. Thank you so much for the edifying and challenging Sufficient Fire Conference. (I’m still holding out hope for a Sufficient Fire 2 someday. If you announce it, you can count on me being there!)

Most of all, thank you for the example each of you set:

  • Phil, thank you for not shying away from controversy, but being willing to continue standing up and speaking out about issues in the wider evangelical church. Your appearances on Wretched Radio are always instructive and beneficial, and of course your contributions to the ministry of John MacArthur and GTY continues to bless countless thousands.
  • Dan, thank you for your books, which continue to be a blessing to me. Thanks also for your example of faithful local ministry at CBC. You exemplify the day-in, day-out pastoring that Paul and Peter describe.
  • Frank, thank you for your wit and wisdom online, and also for your wise example in pulling away from social media engagement when you found it to be too destructive. And that’s not a back-handed compliment, either. There is so much discernment in stepping away when engagement begins to tear down the user. Too many people lean in despite these dangers and shipwreck themselves. Thank you for setting a good example in this.

In the world of Christian blogging, particularly discernment blogs of a reformedish nature, there are some real jokers and seedy characters. You guys have managed to be one of the few that not only didn’t go off the rails but continues to set the standard for how such writing should be done. Thank you for staying faithful to the task, in whatever context each of your finds yourself.

May God bless you as you have blessed (and continue to bless) His people.

–Dave

#30ThankYous Day 4: Baptist Church of the Redeemer

Family,

Coming to BCR three years ago was a breath of fresh air for my wife and I. Here, we found a faithful community of believers who loved the Lord and loved His word, and who welcomed us in from the first time we walked into a church service or visited a Care Group meeting at the Hamilton’s house. BCR has become our family in a way that none of my past churches have been. We are known, we are loved, and we are challenged to walk out our faith sincerely and consistently.

Thank you for your commitment to meaningful membership. Every member of the church is expected to take their membership seriously and to live by the covenant we signed. You walk out that commitment every day. That is a blessing (and sometimes a challenge, on the days when I want to be invisible!). Thank you for not letting me hide.

Over the last year and a half, we’ve also experienced first-hand how generous you are as a people. When our daughter was born, you not only brought us meals, but you were eager to share your baby items with us. We have been blessed to take part in the “giving culture” of BCR, as God has provided us with baby items exactly when we needed them, from friends who were open-handed and eager to share what they no longer needed.

It is our honor and joy to love you, to serve you (and with you), and to grow together with you in the Lord. Whether it’s cook-outs over holidays, or one-on-one encouragement over coffee, our lives are richer with you in them.

So thank you, church family. God bless you. And we look forward to being part of this community for (Lord-willing) decades to come.

–Dave

#30ThankYous Day 3: Nate Pickowicz

Dear Pastor Nate,

I’m gonna go ahead and admit this: There are some people I have interacted with on social media that make me glad there’s a couple of screens and hundred of miles between us. Then, there are others who make me wish we were close enough to hang out at the local Starbucks and chat. But then there is a third group people who I’m sure would be totally cool with hanging out, but I’d be too afraid of embarrassing myself in front of them to suggest such a thing, even if it were possible. You may be in Category 3 for me.

Okay, that makes me sound like a fanboy. Don’t worry, I’m not. But I am thankful for your influence. Your books continue to be a blessing to me, and my iPod became sadder when you and Landon retired the Entreating Favor podcast. But the way you have blessed me the most has been on Twitter. Yes, Twitter–the scourge of so many believers. The way you seek to use social media has been a challenge and a blessing to me.

I revisit your Twitter Resolutions from time to time, and I’m always convicted. I learn from your interactions with others, even those who disagree with you. Your social media conduct is often dignified and gracious. In this, you provide an example for other believers to follow. You are not perfect in this, of course, but the quality of your interactions stands out.

I struggle with how to use social media well, but I’m glad there are men like you on these platforms who can set the right tone for the rest of us to imitate.

God bless you in your ministry, in your community, and in your family. May He raise up many more faithful New England pastors to join you in the work.

And if, by some chance, we run into each other at a conference in the future, I’ll do my best to be cool about it.

–Dave