#ThirtyThankfuls Day 9: Hope.

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I found out this morning that one of our church members passed away yesterday.

He was an older gentleman with some health challenges, but all in all seemed to be doing okay until last week. He and his wife had dinner at our house a couple months back, and his wife has been to our house a handful of times since then for small-group fellowship. (Her husband’s hearing and mobility challenges make group gatherings tough, so he tended to stay home.)

He went into the hospital for some sudden health issues this past week, seemed to come through surgery just fine, and then took a sudden turn for the worse in the last few days. Today is a rare mid-week day off for me, so I was planning to visit him this afternoon if I could.

I didn’t know him super-well, but I was getting to know him better. Now, that will have to wait.

Death is an enemy, an unwelcome imposition that has no right being a part of God’s good world but for the fact that sin has poisoned everything it has touched. However, because we know Jesus, we have hope. Jesus came to defeat sin, death, and the grave, and all those who turn from their sins and trust in Jesus alone for salvation have a share in that victory. He rose again as the first fruits of the great resurrection to come, and on that great day, my brother will rise up with a new body, a body with a greater strength and keener senses that he ever knew in this life, a glorified body free of all stain and infection of sin. Even now, at this moment, my brother is rejoicing with the saints in the presence of his Savior.

Meanwhile, his widow, his children, and his church grieve his death. But we do so with the hope and confidence that we will see him again–not because of some vague and gauzy notion of the afterlife, but the solid and certain promises of God found in His word.

I’m sad today. Death is sad. Our hope in the return of Jesus and the future resurrection of the dead doesn’t preclude our mourning–even Jesus wept at the grave of a friend (a friend He fully intended on raising up to life). But it does give our mourning context. “Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning,” the Psalmist writes.

So we embrace our grieving loved ones, wipe our tears, and wait for the dawn and the rising of the Son.

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
    O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

I Corinthians 15:50-58 (ESV)

#ThirtyThankfuls Day 6: Teaching.

I’m finishing up my notes for Sunday School, as I stop to jot these few thoughts down for Day 6. I have to admit, I didn’t want to take time to prepare for Sunday School at the end of a long and wearying day. But the truth is, I do love it.

I am thankful that God has granted me the privilege of teaching His word to my brothers and sisters on a regular basis. I’m thankful that I have been entrusted with this sacred duty.

Like Ezra, my life goals are to know the Law of God, to do it, and to teach His statutes and rules to His people (Ezra 7:10). For over 15 years, He has given me countless opportunities to do that. I only pray I have shown myself faithful to the task.

Today (as of when you read this), I will be talking to my church family about how God’s perfect word is sufficient, and how we have no need of man-made tradition or additional, subjective “revelation” in order to rightly understand God’s will. His inerrant, infallible, authoritative Word is enough!

I am thankful that I get to do this. God is good.

Let’s Read Some Watson!

Hey there!

Just a quick note to let you know that I’m reading along with Brother Kofi this month as we work through Thomas Watson’s classic book The Godly Man’s Picture (Drawn with a Scripture Pencil). That’s right, getting a head start on my #Booktober2022 list!

If you want to join us, it’s not too late! You can find PDF versions of the book for free online, but you should also go ahead and order a good copy from Banner of Truth. (#NotSponsored, though that would be cool, wouldn’t it? Maybe one day.)

Kofi’s reading plan can be found at that first link above, along with a link to a Discord server for conversation (which I admit will be the first time I will be using Discord, if I can figure the thing out). If you take part and jump into the discussion, let them know The4thDave sent you by!

I’ll post updates here from time to time when things jump out at me from the reading, because I expect this will spur some good contemplation. And if you’re planning on reading along with us, let me know in the comments! See ya!

#ThirtyThankfuls Day 2: My fellow elders.

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[Okay, jumped the gun in posting this, but since it already went out to my email subscribers, I guess I’ll just release tomorrow’s post now. Here ya go!]

Being an elder/pastor can be a challenging gig (even for a volunteer/lay elder like me). You are responsible for the spiritual care and well-being of a diverse group of believers at varying stages of life, which means you get to be part of their worst moments and hardest struggles. You have the privilege and responsibility of carrying the burdens of several others, often with little or no way to share that with anyone for the sake of the person’s privacy and reputation. You have to make decisions for the good of the entire body that some fraction of the church body won’t understand or agree with, and on any given day, your necessary actions upset one or another segment of the church family. You are sometimes accused or maligned, and you cannot respond in kind. Assumptions are made about you that you sometimes cannot refute without divulging confidences.

The under-shepherd of the flock helps to care for its wounded, chase down its straying, and bear with the biting and kicking of various unruly sheep. We must give an account to the Great Shepherd for how we cared for His sheep. It is a hard and glorious task. I love it and I’m grateful for it, though at times I wonder if I’m really up to it or if I’m doing it well at all.

It’s a hard and often thankless job. That’s why it’s a blessing not to have to do it alone.

I love my brother-elders. They are my dearest friends and confidants. They give encouragement and reproof when I need it. I trust their judgment and I heed their counsel. I have asked them regularly to call me out if I’m speaking or acting in a way inconsistent with my calling. I rely on them to watch my back and challenge me to run the race well. We spur each other on to obedience and good works.

The last 3 years have been a wearying and rewarding journey–one that I couldn’t have done alone. I thank my God for the men who are walking with me, the men with whom I serve and the men I get to help encourage and support as they lead well.

If you are a Christian, and your pastors/elders are leading well, please pray for them and please tell them what they mean to you. I know we’re technically past “Pastor Appreciation Month,” but I can guarantee you that your pastors have already gotten multiple emails this week from congregants telling them what they’re doing wrong or how they aren’t measuring up. It’s a breath of fresh air when a brother or sister reaches out just to say, “Hey, I see you serving well, and I appreciate it.” That’s better than all the coffee cups and bookmarks and other “appreciation” trinkets that pastors receive over the years.

(Though I have to admit, a thank-you note PLUS a sweet treat or some coffee is doubly delightful to a weary pastor.)

#OctTBR2022 Day 31: “Here I Stand” by Roland Bainton

[What is #OctTBR2022? I explain it here.]

What It Is: One of the most highly-regarded biographies of Martin Luther ever written.

Why I’m Reading It: OF COURSE, I’m closing out October with a Luther biography. It only makes sense. (Here I stand; I can do no other.) Bainton’s biography of the German reformer is far and away the most recommended I’ve seen, so I want to make sure I read this one.

Have you read this book? Do you have a favorite book about the Reformation? Let me know in the comments!

(And coming up tomorrow: the triumphant return of “Thirty Thankfuls.” See you then!)

#OctTBR2022 Day 30: “Expository Apologetics” by Voddie Baucham, Jr.

[What is #OctTBR2022? I explain it here.]

What It Is: A book about apologetics and evangelism from the man with the best beard in Reformed evangelicalism.

Why I’m Reading It: An area I always need to grow in and stretch is evangelism. And Voddie Baucham is a beast. I’m excited to be challenged by this one. (I think this book would be considered “presuppositional apologetics,” but I’m still not 100% sure what this means, so I don’t know if I’m fer’it or agin’it. But I’m absolutely for using the Bible as much as possible, so there’s that.

Have you read this book? Do you have a favorite book about apologetics and evangelism? Let me know in the comments!

#OctTBR2022 Day 29: “Adorning the Dark” by Andrew Peterson

[What is #OctTBR2022? I explain it here.]

What It Is: I think it’s a book about creative work and Christian faith, along the lines of Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water or Annie Dillard’s Bird by Bird.

Why I’m Reading It: Andrew Peterson has been one of my favorite multi-format “creatives” of the last 5-10 years. His Wingfeather books are stellar, his music is an absolute joy, and his “Behold the Lamb of God” concert series is a Christmas tradition for us now. I’d love to hear from his mind and heart about the process of creating art.

Are you a fan of Andrew Peterson’s work (in any genre/format)? Let me know in the comments!

#OctTBR2022 Day 28: “The Genius of Jesus” by Erwin McManus

[What is #OctTBR2022? I explain it here.]

What It Is: A book by the religious philosopher and futurist about the person of Jesus Christ.

Why I’m Reading It: McManus is someone who always raises some red flags in my mind when I read or hear his quotes. His vibe is very post-modern. I can’t cite for you exactly why I’m cautious with his work; he just never passed the smell test for me. However, I have multiple friends who think he’s the bee’s knees. I was sent an email with an offer to read and review his latest book, and I signed up and then promptly forgot about it. Several months later, a hardbound copy of this book landed on my doorstep. (Two, actually.) I’m interested in diving in and seeing what McManus is all about so that I have a clearer basis for assessing his positions. If nothing else, it will give me something helpful to talk about with my afore-mentioned friends.

Have you read this book or anything else by McManus? What do you think of his writing/speaking? Let me know in the comments!

#OctTBR2022 Day 27: “Holiness” by J.C. Ryle.

[What is #OctTBR2022? I explain it here.]

What It Is: A 19th-century Christian classic about what it means to live a holy life.

Why I’m Reading It: It’s good to read old books from faithful saints of the past (as already demonstrated in my list so far). This one is one I’ve been meaning to get around to for a while but never quite got past the first couple of chapters. Like the Puritans, Ryle is not one you can rush. You must read slowly and chew completely to get the full benefit. Well, it’s past time for me to start doing so.

Have you read this book? Do you have a favorite book from past centuries that has stood the test of time? Let me know in the comments!

#OctTBR2022 Day 26: “Everything Sad is Untrue” by Daniel Nayeri

[What is #OctTBR2022? I explain it here.]

What It Is: The memoir of an Iranian (?) boy transplanted to Oklahoma.

Why I’m Reading It: This book was released in 2021 and received a lot of positive buzz. Thanks to the kindness of a friend, I was able to get a copy for myself. The author’s story is not just about his experience growing up in a new culture, but the story of his mother who converted from Islam to Christianity and then fought to build a new life for herself and her son. I’m intrigued.

Have you read this book? Do you have a favorite memoir? Let me know in the comments!