Help, Daddy, get me out of here!

Have you ever seen such beautifully expressive and eloquent eyes?

They belong to Martin Lee, the 2-week-old son of Steven and Jamie Lee. If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you’ve probably been blessed by Steven’s website ministry,, of which he is the President.

Steven and Jamie have known for a while that Martin was going to be born with some serious health problems, and, sure enough, within days of his birth, he required a nine-hour open heart surgery, the first of many he will require in the years ahead (D.V.)

Steven’s a dear friend of mine and he gave me permission to post these pictures and point people to his blog, where he’s been been posting updates for the tens of thousands of Christians around the globe who are prayerfully concerned for his family, a family that has been such a blessing to the whole world for so many years.

I love Steven’s blog posts and updates; they are so real, so human, and yet so full of spiritual maturity and stability throughout all the traumatic ups and downs of these weeks. They also have some moving pictures. I mean, who could not pray after seeing such eyes?

They seem to say “Daddy, can you get these tubes off me and take me home!” Yet they are what’s keeping little Martin alive.

We often feel like little Martin, don’t we. There are things in our lives we so want to be rid of and free from. They make us so uncomfortable and unhappy. We look up to our heavenly Father and plead plaintively, “Father, will you please take these things away?”

But He knows they are essential for our spiritual health. No matter how uncomfortable, upsetting, or intrusive, our heavenly physician will not take them away while we need them.

I’m sure He’d love to take them away, just as Steven and Jamie at times would love to pull out all these pipes, sweep up little Martin, and run away home with him. However, God loves us too much to save us short-term pain at the expense of long-term gain.

We keep on praying that the day will soon come, when little Martin will be free of wires, cords, lines, etc, and be safely ensconced at home in the loving arms of his parents.

But the joy of that longed-for day is a mere shadow of the eternal day when the Lord will remove all that discomforts and distresses us, sweep us up in His arms, and take us home to be ensconced in His love forever. Then we’ll look back and say, “Father, thank you for every tube, every cord, yes even every tape removal!”

Please pray for the Lee family, and keep updated with Martin’s progress via Steven’s blog.

Check out

Common Grace and the End of the World
Justin Taylor with a helpful summary of Sam Storms’ article on this subject.

A Handbook on being a Model Internet Citizen
Recently I’ve been especially convicted about #2 “Don’t fall for negativity.” There’s one well-known blog that I recently decided to stop reading because it’s ratio of 9 to 1 negative to positive posts was taking me down with it.

A godly man’s reading program
In yesterday’s PRTS chapel address, Pastor Al Martin spoke on the place of a disciplined reading program in the life of a man of God.

Woman gets jawbone made by 3D Printer

Lessons from the cancer ward

“Mom, what have you learned from this trial?” 

Here’s a how friend’s wife, who is fighting cancer, recently answered this question:

1. We must listen. Real listening is so important. Let the patient express all his/her feelings without giving advice—unless asked for.

2. When you say, “I’ll pray for you,” make it truly a priority and continue to intercede. (Sometimes we say it so easily, and then forget to do so.)

3. Practical help is important too. Visit the person and give the caretaker a break. Provide meals, rides to doctor’s appointments, etc. Offer to sit with the patient while the caretaker goes out on errands.

4. Don’t judge! We have a plaque with an Indian prayer, saying, “Don’t criticize your neighbor, until you have walked a mile in his moccasins.”

5. If the illness is of long duration, remember to continue to pray, visit, call, and/or send encouraging notes. Those who are chronically ill need to know that they have not been forgotten as time goes on. Your life continues as is, but their lives have often changed very dramatically. Do not become weary in well-doing.

6. Start your day with God. One of our forefathers said that he would not speak with anyone in the morning until he had first spoken with God. Sometimes in our busy lives we put off our devotions till “later.” How foolish we are! We need Him every hour. Once, as my mom was at the end of her life and suffering, we sang the hymn to her, “We need Thee every hour.” She shook her head, and therefore I said, “Mom, what’s the matter?” She whispered, “Every minute!” The truthfulness was evident to me as I lay on the radiation table—so frightened by all these intimidating machines. I realized that I needed the Lord even during the 30 second treatment—during which I prayed, “Lord, help me through this. Bless these means so that the lesions may shrink. Please heal me, O God!” And so begin your day with God. He is so worthy that we should make Him the priority of our day!

Check out

The Cruelty of Inclusivism
Michael Reeves gives a UK perspective on pluralism and says: “More than no evangelism, it means no real evangel. Quite simply, that is because if ‘salvation’ is thought of as something other than being brought to know Christ, then that ‘salvation’ is something quite different to what Christ himself offers.”

The dangerous pursuit of pastoral fame
“Over the last few years, I’ve thought long and hard about “my platform” as a pastor, a writer, an occasional speaker. And as I’ve done so, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a danger to my soul in pursuing more exposure, more name recognition, more money to be made from thinking, writing, and speaking about ministry issues. Especially while I am still in full-time, paid ministry to a local community.”

Help my unbelief
Here’s a prayer we can all identify with at times.

The glory of God in the valley of disability
Greg Lucas, author of Wrestling with an Angel, speaking at the Near His Heart dinner for families of children with special needs.

30 Life Lessons
I liked a number of these modern proverbs from Ron Edmondson.

CK Short: Introverted

Download here.

This week’s episode of the Connected Kingdom Podcast (another of our new, shorter episodes) has Tim Challies discussing introversion. You’ve got two options. A partial transcript is below.

Introverted by Tim Challies

I am an introvert. Whatever an introvert is, I know it is a description that applies to me. The classic definition of an introvert pretty much describes me to a T. The problem is that it’s not a label I am comfortable with.

We are taught today that there is a kind of binary distinction between people—some are introverts and some are extroverts. If you’ve ever taken a personality test or aptitude test, you have probably been diagnosed as one or the other. Or more likely, you’ve been told that you are somewhere along a single continuum that extends from the greatest introvert to the greatest extrovert. It is a line and all of us fall along it somewhere. When I was in the workforce there were a few occasions that I had to take the Myers-Brigg Type Indicator test and I was always shown to be pretty far along that scale. That’s just who I am. Or is it?

What people mean by this personality distinction is that some people are naturally shy and inward-focused while others are outgoing and other-focused. Some are introspective while others are assertive. Introverts tend to need to get away from people in order to rest and recharge; extroverts tend to need to get together with people in order to do the same. This kind of distinction impacts all of life, it describes each one of us in a really basic, foundational way. It’s an attempt to answer the question, Who am I?

But here is my concern: introvert is not a biblical word and, as far as I can see, not even a biblical concept. This doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily unbiblical or anti-biblical; just that it’s not a term the Bible uses to describe me, to describe the way I am, to describe my identity. It is a-biblical, unknown to the Bible. Yet it clearly describes some kind of a reality, that there are different kinds of personality.

So what is it? Is introversion like gender or race, things that are given to me and over which I have no say, just who I am? Or are they things that I can control or things that I can choose? Will we all be introverts or all be extroverts in heaven? Are these real distinctions or could it be that the are ways we excuse our sin? What I don’t want to do is excuse sin or weakness by using respected or respectable terms that have no biblical basis. There are some ways that psychology offers some truth, but there are also ways in which it will inevitably lead us astray.

So how do I look at introversion through a biblical lens?

I’ve been helped by Ed Welch and CCEF here. Speaking on behalf of biblical counsellors he says “Terms that stay isolated from Scripture end up in the bin of ‘psychological problems.’ Our mission: empty that bin.” The skillful biblical counsellor will want to look for ways people self-diagnose and explore those things—all of those things. That’s true of psychological conditions and true of labels. If I say, “I am schizophrenic” or “I am depressive” or “I am introverted,” the biblical counsellor needs to dig deep and see how and why I make that kind of distinction and how it will play out in my life. What is it that I am really saying about myself? What does it reveal about me?

Welch says that when I define my personality, when I say that I am introverted, I am actually describing and combining two things: character on the one hand and strengths and weaknesses on the other. When I say that I am introverted, I am revealing my character and revealing both strength and weakness, or perhaps either strength or weakness.

My challenge, and it is a challenge I face all the time, is to keep introversion from enabling or excusing sin. Introversion can quickly and easily become a way to validate sin. I can excuse selfishness, self-centeredness, escapism, lack of hospitality, rudeness. I can stay away from people and excuse it as being just the way I am, as being who I am. I can be shy and quiet when the Lord calls me to be strong and bold. Of course extroversion can also be a way to validate sin. The extrovert can run away from solitude, avoid spending time alone, validate himself by the amount of time he spends with others, doubt himself when he is alone. This introvert/extrovert distinction affects each of us in all kinds of ways.

I find it interesting that in my life right now I have two main spheres of public responsibility and influence. Blogging is an ideal setting for an introvert. I can stay in my office and tap away on my computer all day long. A shy and quiet person, I can appear strong and bold from behind a keyboard—the quietest coward can be a hero in the blogosphere. Blogging is an ideal means of communication for the introvert. But then I am also a pastor and in many ways it seems like extroverts have a natural advantage in ministry. The ministry offers a special kind of challenge for the introvert when it demands spending time with people, loving people, serving people; it is a people-oriented calling. And as a pastor this is one of my greatest challenges, not to retreat into myself, not to run away from people. I have had to learn not to avoid opportunities that are difficult for me but which bring opportunities to teach and serve the people I love.

In the end I see introversion as simply a descriptor, something that states the reality that at heart, in my natural state, I am a shy and quiet person. It is intensely difficult for me to be with a lot of people for a long time and it is incredibly draining for me to stand in front of a group of people. It can feel like death to preach a sermon. Being alone or being with just my wife is life to me. In this way introversion describes my natural inclinations and predispositions. I don’t expect this to ever change. But what I demand of myself is to ensure that I do not allow my personality, my introversion, to have a negative impact on my life and ministry. I want to emphasize and enjoy the ways that introversion is healthy for me and effective in ministry, and I want to work hard to deny what seems to good and natural when it will have a negative impact.

After interacting with Tim about this at the end of the podcast, Tim then challenged me to speak on “Entitlement” for next week’s podcast.

If you’d like to give us feedback or join in the discussion, go ahead and look up our Facebook Group or leave a comment right here. You will always be able to find the most recent episode here on the blog. If you would like to subscribe via iTunes, you can do that here or if you want to subscribe with another audio player, you can try this RSS link.

Desiring the God who desires sinners

It’s easy to theorize about preaching; it’s not so easy to put theory into practice. Thus, a few weeks ago, after I wrote some articles on preaching from the Song of Solomon, I kept hearing a little voice saying, “Well buddy, get to it!” So I did, and posted the sermon notes here.

I wasn’t surprised, therefore, when, after giving 7 Tips for Balanced Biographical Preaching, the little voice started up again: “How about it then, Murray?” When a few people channeled my inner voice in the comments section, asking for examples of preaching that balanced redemptive history lessons with personal application, I pointed people to some of Joel Beeke’s Genesis sermons, but also decided I really have to work harder at this myself.

So, last Sunday, I preached on 2 Samuel 6, where David’s ill-fated attempts to return the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem resulted in the death of Uzzah and blessing on Obed-edom. Originally I entitled the sermon “A Holy Home for a Holy God,” but as I meditated on the passage, the stronger message became, “Desiring the God who desires sinners.” I’ve posted the full manuscript here (pdf) and my summary notes here (pdf); and below you’ll find the introduction and first point in full. I tried to follow a three step process in each of the main points:

  1. The Original Story: An explanation of what’s happening in the text
  2. God’s Story of Redemption: What the story teaches about God and His plan of redemption
  3. Your Story of Redemption: How God’s story of redemption impacts and intersects with our own lives.

Hope this might help someone just starting out in the great calling of preaching the Gospel.

Desiring the God who desires sinners

Whatever else the Bible teaches us, it teaches us that God wants to live with men and women, boys and girls. He desires to enter our lives, our homes, and our hearts and to dwell with us.

Why else did He make our world and us? Look at Him in the Garden of Eden, visiting with Adam and Eve, regularly walking and talking with them. He loved doing that.

And even when they sinned and ran away from Him, He sought them out, found them, and announced a way He was going to recover the situation and make them His friends again (Gen. 3:15).

Time and again throughout Genesis we find God seeking out sinners, drawing near to them, walking, talking, and living with them. He’s saying repeatedly, “I want to share your life and I want you to share mine.”

In Exodus, God made the clearest statement yet of this desire. He orders the construction of a Tent-palace by which He would dwell in the middle of the Israelites. And in a special holy section of the tent, at its center, would be a golden throne, a gold-covered box (4×2.5×2.5 ft), with a heavy golden lid, also known as the mercy seat, bracketed on either side by golden cherubim looking towards the mercy seat.

This golden throne was called the Ark of the Covenant, partly because it contained a written copy of the covenant arrangements in the box, but mainly because it was the central expression of God’s covenanted commitment to dwell with men on the earth. It was the place God specially dwelt, often demonstrating that presence through a bright fiery cloud that hovered above the mercy seat, between the cherubim.

This is how God puts it in his building instructions: “You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the Testimony that I will give you. And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim” (Ex. 25:21-22).

And that’s the phrase that greets us right at the beginning of this chapter (2 Samuel 6:2). David and multitudes of people decided one day to go and bring back to Jerusalem the “ark of God, whose name is called by the name of the Lord of hosts that dwelt between the cherubim.” They desired the God who desired them.

The theme of this chapter and of this sermon is: Desiring the God who desires sinners.

1. Desiring God (vv. 1-2)

a. A Lost Ark
Why was the ark not in Jerusalem? Well, about 65 years previously, Israel lost the Ark because of their sin. In 1 Samuel 4, when the backslidden Israelites had tried using the Ark as a kind of lucky charm in battle, the Lord gave the Israelites over to the Philistines, who also took the Ark. A modern-day equivalent might be Islamic terrorists capturing the Liberty Bell, or perhaps taking the British Queen’s crown. But remember, Israel had lost far more than just a patriotic symbol; they had lost God’s throne, God’s dwelling place, the way God lived among them.

b. A Lost Desire
You would think that Israel would try to recover the ark at the earliest opportunity. However, they didn’t seem to be that bothered. Though God desired to live with them, they really had no desire to live with God.

But God continued to express his desire to live with the Israelites by chastising all the heathen who came into any contact with the Ark. So much so that eventually the Philistines and others got rid of the ark, sending it back to Israel where it arrived in the house of Abinadab of Kirjath-jearim. And there it stayed for 20 plus years, about 7-8 miles NW of Jerusalem, and virtually no one enquired after it (1 Chron.13:3). Few if any desired God. What an indictment of Israel! God desired to live with them, God ensured the Ark’s return among them, but virtually no one wanted God to live with them nor they with God.

c. A Renewed Desire
This poor state of spiritual affairs clearly vexed David, as we can discover in Psalm 132. His first thought, therefore, after his enthronement was the enthronement of God above the Ark of the Covenant (1 Chron.13:1-4). He gathered 30,000 of the best men in Israel and marched to Kirjath-jearim to the house of Abinadab to bring back the Ark of God. God is at work stirring up in David and in others a desire for God

God’s Story of Redemption

The Ark was a picture promise of what God was going to do on an even bigger scale. Old Testament believers looked at the Ark and hoped for something more, something even closer, something even more accessible, something even more personal, something even more beautiful.

Jesus is the fulfillment of that picture promise; the satisfaction of that Old Testament faith and hope; the ultimate, emphatic, and enthusiastic expression of God’s desire to live with sinners. He was made flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).

Your Story of Redemption

1. Respond to God’s desire for you with desire for Him. Many Israelites came to faith through believing the message of the Ark. Priests and prophets and other believers would point fearful, guilty sinners to the Ark and say: “Look, despite all that you are and all you have done, God desires to live with you. He sits on a mercy seat and promises to meet with you there.” What an encouraging sermon! Who could not but respond to that with desire for God?!

But we have an even louder and clearer message. Jesus said He was greater than not just the Ark, but greater than the whole Temple (Matthew 12:6). He is our throne of grace and mercy to come to in our time of need (Hebrew 4:15-16). Respond to God’s desire for you with desire for Him.

2. Re-kindle your desire for God by meditating on his desire for you. Perhaps you used to desire God. But now your heart has grown cold. You’ve neglected and ignored Christ for too long. You don’t have much appetite or longing for God. How can you re-kindle that? The same way that David and the Israelites did after decades of neglect. Back to the Ark! Re-kindle your desire for God by reminding yourself of God’s desire for you, Christ’s desire for you, the Holy Spirit’s desire for you.

Read the rest here.