Monday, November 17, 2014

Funeral Meditation for Charles Ray Stauffer – November 10, 2014, Lethbridge, Alberta

For family and friends that were unable to be at the funeral, here is a summary of my message. If you were at the funeral, you may notice some differences and omissions. I speak from an outline, so much of what is written here is rewritten from memory. 

I learned on Saturday that my brother Charles had a favorite verse. It is 2 Corinthians 12:29, which includes the promise from the Lord Jesus Christ, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Are you feeling weak today? Weak with grief? Weak with thoughts of your own mortality and the shortness of life? Weak in comfort as you don’t know what to do about the hurting people around you?

Perhaps you are here today weak with unbelief – thinking that maybe nothing has an ultimate purpose and that God, if there is one, really doesn't care.

Standing before God, before death, before eternity, even the strongest of us are very weak. Being weak is not a problem. Refusing to admit weakness is a problem.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Mighty King David was struck low with guilt when he faced his sin and confessed it before God. He knew at that moment that the only acceptable sacrifice before God is, “a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart.”

If we are feeling week and helpless today and don’t know what to do, we are in a good place before God.

In fact, if we don’t feel small and weak and powerless, we haven’t been paying attention. There is so much evil and hurt in the world – violence, injustice, pain and grief. We should also take a good long look at the remaining sin in our own hearts as we stand before our Holy God and admit our need for His help. It is freely offered. Consider Jesus' invitation in the Gospel of Matthew:

25  At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26  Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. 27  "All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28  "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:25-30).

The way to God is through Jesus Christ alone. That way is barred to the self-righteous, those who are strong and wise in their own eyes. The Kingdom of Heaven is open by invitation only – invitation from God the Father. The Narrow way of entrance is through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, but this way is for those who come as little children.

Why should we want in? Because Jesus promises rest. Sweet, holy, everlasting peace, security, joy and significance are all wrapped up in this Promised Rest. Our souls are restless until they find their rest in God. Jesus and Jesus alone holds the keys to that rest.

This invitation to rest is given to “ALL who labour and are heavy laden.” If they will come on God's terms, anyone an everyone may come. This invitation is not given to those who have it all together, the carefree and light-hearted. It is offered to those who know they need rest for their souls.

This theme of finding God’s rest is found in many places in the Bible. The restlessness that we all experience from time to time is only satisfied by finding peace with God.

One of the anchor points in the history of God’s people is the Exodus – God’s deliverance of the Children of Israel from slavery in Egypt through Moses. Their destination was the Promised Land.

This deliverance from Egypt to the Promised Land has become a picture of salvation. Our Egypt is sin and evil. Our Promised Land is the New Heavens and New Earth of Eternal Joy with Christ.

In the book of Hebrews, the big theme is, “Jesus is better – so don’t fall away.” Don’t turn back to empty man-made traditions and “mere” religion. There is no life in these paths. Life is found in the Risen Saviour, Jesus Christ.

The author of the book of Hebrews takes two chapters near the beginning of the book (Hebrews 3-4) to describe the rest of God and the danger of losing it. With all of God’s signs and wonders during the Exodus and all of His supernatural help, most of the Children of Israel failed to enter God’s rest.

The author of Hebrews warns Christians that were tempted to turn away from Jesus to empty religion that entering God’s rest was their urgent need.

He says in chapter 4:11, “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience” (English Standard Version). The King James Version says, “let us labour, therefore to enter that rest.” The New International Versions says, “make every effort to enter that rest.”

When we think of rest, we might find it strange to hear these action words “Strive,” “Labour,” “Make every effort.” Isn't rest just the opposite?

When it comes to trusting God with the most important things, simply believing God’s Word and receiving His grace is really hard work. We want to be strong. We want to earn our acceptance before God and prove ourselves to others by our performance. Trusting the free gift of Christ’s offer of rest in God’s grace is very difficult.Grace is free, but it kills our pride to receive it. 

What’s involved in finding this rest?
  • Repentance. Repentance is a total change of mind that results in a 180 degree change in direction. It is to admit that I am under God’s judgement as a sinner and that I need to turn from my sin and turn to God in faith, anticipating his promised mercy. Repentance is not a work that we get credit for before God, but an honest admission of our sin before our Holy God.
  • Faith. Believe God’s Word. Take it all. Don’t pick and choose to fit in with our culture. This faith is simply believing like a little child. It is a rest in the wisdom and goodness of God, but it puts us at opposition to the world around us:
    • Be willing to believe in the face of ridicule and even persecution.
    • Adopt God’s perspective on morality and truth. Take God at His Word.
    • This is a fight – the fight of FAITH.
    • Compare Romans 1:5 and Romans 16:26: The gospel is for the “obedience of faith” among the nations. Taking God at his Word and following Christ as Lord is at the heart of this fight of faith.
  • Confession. “… if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” Romans 10:9-10
  • “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” – 2 Peter 3:18
    • Who is this Jesus? Matthew 11 – He holds the keys of access to God the Father. He is greater than the greatest of men. John the Baptist was commended as the greatest man because he pointed to Jesus and said, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). In Matthew 11 we also read Jesus’ warning that to reject the Son of God is to store up greater judgment for yourself than the notorious cities that were destroyed long ago.
    • Our need for rest from God in Jesus Christ does not end when we first confess faith in him. We must keep coming back to Jesus’ offer for help time and time again. The gospel is for Christians, too! It is through him that we come to God for the help that we need.
Listen to this glorious invitation from the same chapter of Hebrews, soon after we are told to "strive to enter that rest." This is what it looks like: 

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16).

These are the things that we need to fight for. It is hard work to confess that someone else is your Lord. It is even harder to admit that you need a Saviour. In fact, this is impossible without the work of God in you.

Are you weak? Are you burdened? Are you restless? Jesus invites you to come to Him and, though Him, right into the presence of God to find mercy and grace in your time of need.

The eternal Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, left His Father’s side and took on flesh to live among us. This is how we know that God is good, even though the world is full of pain and evil. God did not ignore our need. God came down.

Jesus lived a life of perfect righteousness, keeping the law perfectly when we failed.

Jesus died on the cross for our sins. That means that He died in our place for us. He is our substitute – “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” There is now no CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).

Jesus rose again from the dead in his body – not just spiritually. He is the first-fruits for all who believe. The way He rose, we will rise if we believe this good news.

Christ now prays for His people in Heaven. He sent the Holy Spirit to us so that we will believe and keep on believing and growing in holiness for God’s glory. “… he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God though him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).

If you are here today and you are in need of rest for you soul, you are invited. Turn to Jesus. Ask Him to receive you and give you forgiveness and life everlasting. He is the Good Shepherd. He will take care of you!



Friday, April 18, 2014

The Sure Hope of Good Friday

The people of Calgary and surrounding area have been shocked at the stabbings near the University of Calgary. We ought to pray for the families and friends of the victims. But what should we pray? How should we think about this tragedy? How should we talk about this horror with our friends and family? The stark reality of evil is staring us in the face once again this week. 

We should not speculate about the details. The Bible (and life interpreted through good, gospel theology) teaches us that sin and evil are capable of profound harm. This same theology teaches us that every human being is made in the image of God and is incredibly valuable. God’s creation still bears the marks of His goodness, but it is a fractured, twisted image. We must keep this tension in mind. God is sovereign. He is good. The time for ultimate judgment is not yet. Don’t try to sort out the motives of the perpetrator or any of the other details of that terrible night. Grieve for those whose lives are permanently changed. Pray that those left behind will run to God and “Ask, seek and knock” until He answers them. 

We should talk about this tragedy, however.  Christians, of all people, should be able to face evil and talk clearly about it. Every religion and every human being faces the problem of evil. God’s Word, particularly as it reaches its summit in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, teaches us about evil and about God’s ultimate response of Good. Tomorrow is Good Friday. What does Good Friday have to do with the untimely death of five young people? 

Often the first reaction when something awful happens to people who believe in God is a loss of faith in the goodness of God. They believe that God exists, but they feel that they can’t trust him. They don’t believe that He is good. There are many people who are very conscious of the reality of God but because of some bad thing that happened, they shake their fist at him and will not worship or follow Him. This is why a generic belief in God is not enough. It will not withstand the storms of life. 

The rock under the feet of Christians is the Gospel. When we doubt God’s love, when we question His goodness, we must look to the cross. When the evidence in our own experience suggests that evil is winning or has won, remember that God came down. The Eternal Son did not have to leave the glories of Heaven and perfect, immediate fellowship with the Father and the Spirit, but He did. He took on human flesh out of love. 

What did it cost our Lord to come and not only face evil, but to take up the curse that rests on creation and bear God’s holy wrath in our place? What did it cost the Father to send His only Son as Saviour of the world? What Christ suffered on the cross is not only an answer to the problem of evil, it is the solution to the problem of evil. It is in Christ’s atoning death as the substitute for sinners and through His bodily resurrection on the third day that suffering, death and evil are finally vanquished. It is only through the finished work of Jesus Christ that we can confidently say, “God is Love. God is Good.” If we understand this, nothing can shake this sure hope that we have for all eternity. 

As we talk to people about the terrible events in Calgary this week, pray that God will give us opportunity and courage to declare this truth. There is no hope without it.  


Friday, September 27, 2013

Five Years

We didn't do anything special today -- not in relation to the anniversary that September 27th marks, anyway. Juanita went to a piano teachers' conference in Red Deer. I took the day off work to use up my last holiday day before the end of September (a new holiday schedule begins in October). Petra and Anne did their school work and routine Friday activities. Josh is in Toronto at school for his fourth year at Toronto Baptist Seminary, though he took the train to Gatineau for a visit this weekend.

For all of us, though, this sober anniversary is very present. We miss Emily. We are all doing well, by God's grace. We are thankful for the many good things in our lives and we are content. We don't walk around in a fog of grief -- not at all. However, there are reminders - like anniversaries - that get us all thinking. There is a sorrow that returns. Emily should be here, though we trust God that He is working out the best for all of us.

I am reminded today that this world is not our home. There is sin and evil in the world, yet there are glimpses of future glory here and now. God is good. He has proven that to us more than anyone could anticipate or demand. How? By intervening in this sin-soaked world by coming to redeem us. More than that, Christ came to defeat death and Satan. He has already done that by His life, death and resurrection. We have a Sure Hope that Christ will return to make all things new. All will be well.

One of the lessons that I have learned in the last five years is that there are a lot of suffering people out there. There are many reasons: relationship difficulties; loneliness, disease; depression and other mental illnesses; addictions; abuse and the list goes on and on. Even people with the best lives get old, sick and die. We can't hold on too tightly here.

We can't ignore evil and trouble in the world, yet we must not despair. We must look up. We must look to Christ's sinless, righteous life, His atoning death and bodily resurrection. If you don't know what this all means, please ask! Ask God to teach you, ask a Christian that you know to explain this to you. This is where true, everlasting life is found. You can't do an end-run around suffering and evil, but you can be reconciled to God and find forgiveness and eternal life in Christ.

It is such a gift to be given eyes to see - to be granted the "upward call" in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14). This is our comfort. Jesus is our life, our hope, our all.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Are the Dead Raised?

1 Corinthians 15 is the Resurrection Chapter. Nowhere in Scripture do we find such an extensive treatment of the importance and extent of the resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of believers. However, this second aspect, the resurrection of believers, is often given less emphasis than it deserves.

How could I criticize anyone for holding high the resurrection of Christ - which is indeed writ large in this chapter? I would not do that. Our accent should be upon our Lord's historic, bodily resurrection. For example, Tim Challies just posted on this passage today (his excellent piece prompted me to write this post). I commend his article to you and have no complaint against it.

However, I think that there is some background to Paul's address to the Corinthians regarding the resurrection of the believer that is often overlooked, and it points to a bigger problem in many churches than many pastors know.

I really don't think many people in the Corinthian church were overtly denying the resurrection of Christ, nor were they denying the immortality of the soul. Some flying the banner of "Christian" will always deny Christ's resurrection -- these are impostors that the Apostles warn about elsewhere. However, what prompted Paul to write primarily was faulty doctrine concerning the future bodily resurrection held by some in the church. Of course, Paul addresses other crucial doctrines in this chapter - chief among them being the absolute necessity of Christ's resurrection. However, I can imagine people in the church saying, "You don't really think that these bodies of ours will be raised?"

Consider how Paul writes:
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised (15:12, 13). And in case we missed it,

For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised (15:16).

It appears that Paul is arguing back to the resurrection of Christ from the necessity of the resurrection of everyone else. In other words, if the resurrection is not true, then it can't be true that Christ has bodily risen from the tomb. The proclamation of Christ risen from the dead was and is essential Gospel doctrine (15:1-4), but if Christians fudge on the doctrine of the resurrection going forward, they are effectively - even if unwittingly -- jeopardizing the truth of Christ's "first fruits" resurrection in the past. 

Is a denial of the resurrection a real problem in the contemporary evangelical church, or am I just doing theological nit-picking? I do believe that there is confusion in evangelical churches among regular attenders regarding the future bodily resurrection of believers. Pastors need to be explicit in their teaching regarding the resurrection of believers because it is dangerous to assume that people understand and hold on to this doctrine. I have heard upstanding church members mock the idea that we will be raised literally. I've heard more than one professing Christian say, "This body? I don't want this one back!" I've heard others say that they hadn't really thought about the future resurrection, even though they'd attended church for decades.

I don't think there is an area that Christians are more tempted to drift into Gnostic (matter bad / spirit good) heresies than in this matter of the future bodily resurrection and the coming New Creation.

Yes, by all means, we must proclaim the reality of Christ's historic resurrection! Soberly consider the consequences of denying this doctrine and shudder. Celebrate the glory of this life-giving, justifying miracle of our Risen Lord. However, don't neglect to trace out the cosmic and personal consequences of our future, bodily resurrection as well.

There is so much more urgent teaching regarding the reality of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 than I have mentioned here. Go and read it carefully. Listen to some good sermons on it. Read the Challies article. All I wanted to do in this post was prompt you to think about the resurrection in a personal, urgent way and think about the consequences of failing to do so.

As Paul argues, if we get the resurrection of believers wrong, we will also distort the reality of Christ's resurrection. Then we will indeed be the ones most to be pitied.






Saturday, March 30, 2013

Gospel Resources

When I first started this blog, I was amazed at the rich Gospel resources available online. Since then, it has become impossible to keep up. I would like to highlight a couple of messages that are about six years old -- ages ago in the internet economy. They are the opening two plenary sessions from the inaugural Gospel Coalition Conference. I thought they would be appropriate to post on this Resurrection Sunday eve as they are clear, essential presentations of what the Gospel is all about: I have recommended these two messages many times over the years. Even if you have seen them, they are worth reviewing.
- Dr. D. A. Carson, What is the Gospel?
- Dr. Tim Keller, What is Gospel-Centered Ministry? (video only, the link for the audio didn't work at the Gospel Coalition site). 

Resurrection Sunday Update

Wow. It's been almost a year since I've posted anything here. All is well, but the blog has not been a priority, obviously. I have been wondering what to do about this blog. I thought that before I jumped back in I would create a new blog with a new name, maybe a custom URL. That was ambitious enough that it only contributed to my neglect of this old place. I also thought that I might do more on Twitter and Facebook, but  if I'm going to write anywhere, it'll be here at good old New Lumps.

So, for good or ill, I'm back.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

A Forever Body

Other people have risen from the dead. Even Lazarus was in the tomb for longer than Jesus. What makes Jesus' resurrection unique?

Christ rose from the dead in the body that He died with, but, when He arose, it was with a glorified body - a body that would never die again. Jesus did not leave this body when He left the earth. He will return to earth in that same body.

At His return, all who are waiting for Him in faith will share with Him a glorified, forever body. We won't become someone different or an angel. This body will be us, our body, but new, restored, perfected, glorified and fit for eternity in God's presence.

He is Risen!

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
1 Corinthians 15:20

Because He has risen, we will rise.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Calvary Grace Conference 2012

We've had a great weekend with Dr. Carl Trueman of Westminster Seminary, Philadelphia. The audio for Friday and Saturday is up already. There is a Sunday School hour interview and a sermon by Dr. Trueman to follow, but the Reformation part of the conference is up. Here is the audio page for Calvary Grace.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

What are We Doing Here?

It is January the fifth. I've been at work for three months, I will be installed as an elder at Calvary Grace on Sunday (Lord willing) and it is the beginning of a new year. It is a good time for reflection - and an update for my friends and family who follow this oft dormant blog.

God has been very good to us. When I couldn't find and job and the house wasn't selling after several weeks, I was getting worried. I was convinced that this move was the Lord's leading, so my prayer back in September was, "Lord, I am looking forward to looking back at your provision for these things...." God has graciously exceeded that expectation. He has provided - more than we expected!

First, I knew Pastor Clint, and working with him was a key reason for wanting to come here, but I didn't know the other elders at Calvary Grace, Paul and Jeff. I have been very pleased with their wisdom, ability as preachers and teachers and their heart for God and His people. It will take a while to get to know people here, but it is coming along very well. We are thankful for our new church.

My job is a good fit. The company is great - really people friendly and the work is interesting. The schedule couldn't be better and the pay is better than I was hoping for when I was submitting all those resumes in the summer.

We love our house. It is great for entertaining, accommodating for our daily needs, and has some very nice details. It is an easy drive to the places we need to go and it is in a quiet neighbourhood.

A few big things and a whole bunch of little things add up to more proof of the kindness of God to us. We are thankful. I had big expectations for this adventure, even though I thought it was crazy at times, but God in His kindness has worked things out better than I could have planned them.

We continue to be thankful for our time in Edson, but what we are doing here is what God has led us to do. It will be very interesting to see how things develop in the months and years to come.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Touching Base

Wow, it's been a long time since I've put anything here! This won't be much, but we are much more settled now and I have been thinking about posting. I'm afraid the blog is near the bottom of the list (though playing Angry Birds or X-Box is lower).

The job is going well. I'm getting to know the system and I have had some very good conversations with my coworkers. I'm trying to not get too used to handling mega expensive jet turbine parts.

We're very pleased with Calvary Grace (www.calvarygrace.ca). We're getting to know people and our family is a good fit.

More later. We're heading to Edmonton for a Bible Quizzing meet tomorrow. We're looking forward to that, but the weather? Not so much.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

September 27

Today is the third anniversary of Emily's death. We are still so thankful to God for His grace to us in many, many ways. We miss Emily, but we know that we will see her again.

I never cease to be amazed at the people who tell us that they've been praying for us and have been thinking about Emily. As I've said many times, all of this is humbling.

So, dear readers, thank you for your prayers. We are doing well, by God's grace. We will keep on talking about Emily's legacy in our lives until we do see her again.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Rejoicing in God's Provision

This was a productive Friday. The house is officially sold and I signed a job offer. We have found a house we really like in Calgary, and a couple others that we could be happy with, so we are very thankful.

I won't say more about the job just yet (unless you ask me in person) because I do still have to do a medical exam before it is official. It looks very good, though.

In this relatively short time, I have had a taste of what being unemployed feels like. There are many people that have been looking and waiting for a decent job for a very long time. Economic conditions are quite good in this part of the world, but in many other places there are high unemployment rates and the "working poor" not quite making things work on too little income.

We do feel humbled and very blessed at God's good provision.