Category Archives: God’s Sovereignty

Making Sense of This

I can’t. I can’t make any sense of this. My dear friend, Auline Platt, died yesterday. She leaves behind her faithful husband, Mike, who is a good man. And 11 children.

Michelle and I met Mike and Auline in 1994. I remember it like it was yesterday. The church I was serving as youth pastor in Dayton, OH was growing fast. My youth group was growing fast too. 8 kids at my first youth group meeting had turned into 50 in one year – and 150 in five years. I needed help. I got a phone call one evening from a guy named Mike. He told me that he and his wife were in the military and would only be in Dayton for a year. They had decided to attend my church and wanted to know if they could serve as youth leaders. I had just attended a seminar at a National Youth Workers Convention that had scared me straight about the potential risks of volunteer youth workers. In the seminar, I learned a 10-step process for vetting potential volunteers. I told Mike that night that he and Auline would have to go through all 10 steps. They were the only ones I made do this because after I put them through it, I saw how ridiculous it was. To this day, I laugh when I look at all the paperwork I made them fill out. So do they. I kept it all.

The first night Mike and Auline attended a youth group meeting back in 1994, we let our then 3 year old daughter, Emily, ride with them alone to a restaurant afterwards. We didn’t know them from Adam, but they had passed my 10-step vetting process, so I guess I felt like I could trust them – strangers – with my daughter. Auline reminded me of this often…and laughed. That night began what would become a lifelong friendship – a bond – that would stand the test of time and the test of miles. The Platts moved to Albuquerque in 1996. We had only a bit more than a year with them in Dayton, but our friendship had been solidified. They fell in love with our children there and became dear, dear friends.

A few years later, Mike called me and said that he had put my name in for the open youth pastor position at Foothills Fellowship – the church they were attending in Albuquerque. When he told me this, I told him that he was a jerk for doing it. I was happy in Dayton. Why in the world would he do such a thing? But over the next 13 months, God moved my heart and placed a calling on me and Michelle to take the position. So, by faith – and knowing that we would be reunited with our dear friends, the Platts – we left Dayton for Albuquerque in 1999…and had another year with them. Then they left – this time for multiple overseas military assignments. But our friendship grew nonetheless.

All this time, Mike and Auline loved on our children (and many others) while trying to have children of their own. Even back then, they talked of someday having a lot of children – biologically and through adoption. Ironically, for years, they couldn’t have children. And then along came Seth. And then precious Maggie – who passed away after only a few days on this earth. And then sweet Ava. Then, they set their minds and hearts on adoption, and along came 4 adopted children. And then, foster care…and 5 more children. 11 in all.

They returned to Albuquerque a few years ago specifically to be a part of our church plant in the International District of Albuquerque. They could have gone anywhere. They made deep friendships all over the world, but they decided to return here to move into one of the poorest areas of the city so they could minister to and live among poor and hurting people. They moved their entire family into an area of town that many people try to move out of.

In December of 2016, my church commissioned them and a few other families to begin a new church there – a church made up of people who had sacrificed much to move into one of the poorest and most dangerous parts of our city to bring the Kingdom of God there, and Auline was a key piece of this new ministry. Her ability to connect with and love people – regardless of who they are or what they had done – was unparalleled.

And yesterday, Auline died. And I can’t make any sense of this. And I may never…

It’s in times like these that I must enact my faith – regardless of how I feel or of what I understand or don’t understand. The Scriptures make it clear that God’s ways are higher than mine. It also makes it clear that death is not part of the ultimate and perfect plan of God. Death is part of the curse of sin that Jesus came to defeat. And He did. God’s Kingdom broke through on this earth at the coming of Jesus, but sadly, it’s not here yet in all its glory and perfection. Already but not yet – and as long as the not yet is not yet, we will suffer and we will die.

As Auline’s husband, Mike, walked through these last days with his precious wife, his faith astounded and encouraged me. He led his family in prayer a couple of different times, and through his tears, he proclaimed his faith to the Lord by saying things like, “Lord, even though we don’t understand this, what we do know is that you are good.” This is where I choose to be too. Confused, devastated, incredibly sad…yet still clinging to what I know of the Lord – that He is loving and good.

Will everything be ok? I don’t know. Would it have been better if Auline had not died? I sure do think so, but I’m not all-knowing. Are all of her precious children going to make it through this tragedy ok? I don’t know, but I pray so. Is our church plant in its infant stage going to be as effective in reaching their community with her gone? I can’t see how, but I HAVE to trust the Lord and believe that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

I truly believe that for Auline, all things are better now. No more struggling with the curse of sin and the brokenness of this sin-stained world. I also truly believe that Mike will be ok too because He loves God and is one who is called according to His purpose. And our church plant will be ok too, because the birth of this church is an obvious call of the Lord.

I can’t make any sense of this, but I have no choice but to trust in the God who knows all, loves His people, and works in mysterious ways. My heart is broken, but my faith is strong. May yours be too.

Life and Death – All in the Same Day

IMG_4471

I am a proud grandfather once again as Melody Rose was born on Tuesday to my daughter Alexis.  What an incredible blessing she is to our family.

But Tuesday was a weird day.

The day started off early as I accompanied a family to Santa Fe to bury their mother at the Santa Fe National Cemetery.  I performed a short committal service, said good-bye to the family, and hopped in the hearse for the one-hour ride back to Albuquerque.

SFNC

While in the hearse – a vehicle that one can not think about death when riding in – I received a phone call that Alexis was in labor and being admitted to the hospital. The hearse dropped me off at my car, and I quickly made my way to the hospital – wearing the clothes I had just buried someone in.

Within 2 hours of my arrival, Melody Rose was born.  I mentioned the extremes of my day to someone at the hospital, and he said, “Wow. Kind of a sobering day for you, huh?” It was.

All I could think about that day were the words from the Old Testament book of Job: “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

One family was mourning that day, and my family was rejoicing.  The Lord took one away from one family, and the Lord gave one to my family. I’ve experienced both death and new life in my family over the past year, and I can say that I agree with Job. Regardless of whether the Lord gives or takes away, I will still say, “Blessed be His name.”

God’s Will and the Role of the Church

HowellI’ve been teaching our young adults each week about how to discern God’s will for their lives. One of the books I’m reading is The Will of God: Answering the Hard Questions by James C. Howell. He stresses the role of others – namely the church – in playing a vital role in helping us discern God’s will for our lives. Here’s a powerful quote about this:

To sharpen our perception, and become more adept at God’s will, we submit ourselves to the routines of the Church, where we find friends, good company, a treasury of habits we Christians have found useful, having shaped millions of the faithful so they might know and do God’s will together. We worship with others; Sunday by Sunday, we sing hymns together, we listen to Scripture and a sermon, we bow our heads, we shuffle forward for Communion with a holy host of others—and over time we are reshaped into somebody more like Christ, more attuned to God, not alone but together as the Body of Christ.

God is Jealous

In my sermon yesterday, I preached on the John 2 account of Jesus overturning the tables in the temple.  I stated that one of the reasons why He did this is because He is a jealous God who has an unquenchable and jealous zeal for worship.  I quoted Exodus 34:14 that says,”For you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”

I’m reading the book, Warfield on the Christian Life, which is a book written by Fred Zaspel that explores the theology and life of one of America’s leading theologians, B.B. Warfield, who lived from 1851-1921.  While reading today, I came across this quote from him on the “jealous envy” of God.  I thought I would share it as a compliment to my sermon yesterday.

God contemplates our dallying with the world and the world’s pleasures.  He envies the world of our love – the love due Him, pledged to Him, but basely withdrawn from Him and squandered upon the world.  The combined expression is, you will see, astonishingly intense.  God is represented as panting, yearning, after us, even unto not merely jealousy, but jealous envy.  Such vehemence of feeling in God is almost incredible.  Strain the capacity of words to the utmost and still they fall short of expressing the jealous envy with which He contemplates the love of His people for the world, the yearning desire which possesses Him to turn them back to their duty to Him.

 

Coincidence or Sovereignty?

My day job sometimes gets in the way of blogging, but it also provides some good blogging fodder from time to time.  Take for instance what happened to me and Michelle the other night.

God has called me to pastor the church I love.  One of our precious members suffered a stroke a couple days ago, and Michelle and I were called to the hospital.  We arrived at the busiest ER in the city around 8PM only to be overwhelmed by the mass of people waiting to be seen.  Sick and injured people were sprawled out from one end of the large waiting room to the other.  The medical staff seemed to be overwhelmed with the amount of people who needed their attention.  Getting someone’s attention so that Michelle and I could go into the ER was not an easy task.  We waited quite a while.

While we were waiting, we saw someone we knew – someone we hadn’t seen in years.  He and his brother were escorted quickly back into the ER, and we heard him mention that his father, Ted, was back there.  Ted used to be our neighbor, and we had interacted with him a lot over the five years we lived across the street from him.  He is an older, single man who has struggled with his health for some time.  We used to take him meals, help him with his yard work, and help tutor his son in math – all in the attempt to be good neighbors and to share the love of Christ with him.  After moving away and then returning nearly three years later to another neighborhood, we lost contact with Ted.  But as the Lord would have it, the night we were at the overcrowded ER to visit one person, it just so happens that Ted was there too.  Coincidence or sovereignty?

I ended up spending some precious time with the woman I had come to see that night, but Michelle and I were also able to reconnect with an old neighbor and his sons – all of whom are in need of the saving grace of Jesus.

I think I’ll keep my day job!

An Implication of the Lord Sitting on His Throne

engraved-throneIn Psalm 9, David tells us that The Lord sits enthroned forever. David was sure of it, and so should we be as well.  We should remind ourselves and others of this great truth often.  The Lord is still on His throne.  The Lord is still in control.

But there is a very important implication of this truth that we must also often remember.  David says that the Lord has established His throne for justice.  Literally, the Lord has established His throne in order to decide.  He goes on to say that the Lord is a righteous judge who judges us with uprightness (literally “evenness, equity”).

Knowing that the Lord is still on his throne and is judging the world with fairness and evenness should be a source of great hope for us believers.  But, it should also cause us to pause as well.

Psalms 11:4 says that “the Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test, the children of man.”  The word test literally means to search out or to examine.  The Lord is sitting on His throne, and He is searching and examining us to see what and who we really are.

So, if it’s true that the Lord sits on His throne and judges (he decides as He observes the world), then a question we must all wrestle with is: What will the Lord decide about us?

Oh, What A Night!

I have to admit that I’m a little bit giddy today. Something happened last night that has me really excited today. I sat up and watched the election coverage on Fox News and CNN for about 4 hours last night. I finally turned the TV off after watching Obama’s victory speech, and along with millions of other Americans, I let out a loud cheer accompanied with a powerful double-fist pump as our president-elect’s speech came to a conclusion. I was – and still am – really excited about what happened last night.

I woke up this morning with a renewed sense of expectancy and anticipation. Today truly does start a “new day” in our country. There’s a new president-elect, several new senators, and the congress will look a lot different in the days to come, but this is not what I’m giddy about.

I’m giddy, overjoyed, and excited not about the results of the election necessarily…but that Obama’s victory speech last night marked the end of an incredibly long and annoying election season. Let the prognosticating and predicting end. We now know who won, and now we can move forward. The airwaves will no longer be diseased with politicians spewing their rhetoric, mudslinging, and hollow promises. It’s safe again to watch television and listen to the radio without having to worry about being politically accosted.

All skepticism aside (which is hard for me to do), last night was also a good night because not only did the people of the United States speak with their votes…but the Lord of the universe spoke with the results. Romans 13:1 says that all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. What happened last night was not the result of millions of people voting for their favorite candidates, but the result of the God of the universe placing men and women into positions of authority in order to accomplish His purposes.

Yesterday, Michelle and I voted. Then we came home, grabbed some good food and drinks, turned on the television and watched the election results with our kids. It was a party atmosphere in our home. We were not partying because the candidates we voted for were winning. That wasn’t the point. Most of them lost. We were partying because we knew that no matter what happened last night, the almighty God of the universe was powerfully and perfectly placing the people He wants into positions of authority. So we watched and went to bed fully confident that what the Lord did last night was good and right.

As I was tucking Taylor and Alexis into bed last night, Taylor said something pretty profound. He is a pray-er, and he regularly prays through a long list of requests that he’s accumulated over the years. This list includes lots of family members and friends, but it also includes President Bush. Taylor regularly prays for him. As I was preparing to pray with the two of them before turning out the lights, Taylor said, “I guess I’ll have to add Barack Obama to my prayer list.” What an incredible statement from a 12 year old! In 1 Timothy 2:2, we’re told to pray for the people in authority over us, and Taylor takes that verse very seriously.

Regardless of how you feel about the election, remember that it was God who was in charge of the results. We voted, and He decided! The people that He has placed in authority over us as a result of this election are the people that He wants in those positions to accomplish His purposes. Our task as followers of Christ is to pray for them, so let’s follow the lead of my son and take some time to add names like Obama and Biden to our prayer lists.