Sunday, September 28, 2008


God is carrying us. He is using our family, church family and friends. God is also carrying us by His promises which were precious last week and tested and precious this week.

So many people say to us, "I don't know what to say...." We understand that, but calls, notes and visits are eloquent all the same. We don't know how to begin to thank everyone for their expressions of love and support. Thank you, anyway.

I have been keeping some notes in a journal, but I won't be blogging much here until next week, at least. Some of you may see strength when you see us and hear from us, but please know that we are very human. We run through the full range of emotions, but God is our refuge and strength. If you see any strength in us, understand that the glory is God's alone.

He, most of all, is carrying us.

P.S. For those of you that notice such things, I changed the date of this post. It is actually Wednesday at about 10:40, but I want to keep Emily's picture up top. If anyone knows how I can do this more elegantly, let me know in the comments.

It Is Not Death to Die

In August we bought a CD from Sovereign Grace Music, Come Weary Saints. I posted a brief recommendation back in the beginning of September. This album, along with Valley of Vision and other Sovereign Grace albums have been a lifeline for our family since we received the news of Emily's death. Our little girls, 7 and 9, have gone to sleep listening to these songs the last two nights.

My wife Juanita commented that one song, It Is Not Death to Die, gripped her from day one. I remember her saying that when we first listened to this album. Now we know why.

We have mentioned the significance of this song to a few friends and family, but just a few minutes ago, we received another confirmation that this song is "for such a time as this." Bob Kauflin, Director of Worship Development for Sovereign Grace Ministries, posted a comment on my post announcing Emily's death and he quoted from this song (Bob wrote the music, chorus and alternate lyrics for this song). Thank you, Bob!

John Piper (and others) stress the need for Christians to build a foundation in good theology in preparation for suffering, for suffering will indeed come. Juanita and I have lived an easy life in so many ways - blessed with healthy children, a great church and a sweet marriage. God was good then, and God is good now.

Death is the last enemy. We are still living in a fallen world. We do not grieve as those who have no hope, but we still grieve. The funeral for Emily will not be a celebration of her life, though she will be appropriately honoured. We desire this service to be Gospel-saturated and glorifying to Christ our Redeemer. I can honestly say that's the way Emily would have wanted it.

It Is Not Death to Die
It is not death to die
To leave this weary road
And join the saints who dwell on high
Who’ve found their home with God

It is not death to close
The eyes long dimmed by tears
And wake in joy before Your throne
Delivered from our fears

O Jesus, conquering the grave
Your precious blood has power to save
Those who trust in You
Will in Your mercy find
That it is not death to die

It is not death to fling
Aside this earthly dust
And rise with strong and noble wing
To live among the just

It is not death to hear
The key unlock the door
That sets us free from mortal years
To praise You evermore
O Jesus, conquering the grave
Your precious blood has power to save
Those who trust in You
Will in Your mercy find
That it is not death to die

Original Words by Henri Malan (1787-1864). Translated by George Bethune (1847).
Music, Chorus and Alternate Words by Bob Kauflin.
© 2008 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI). Sovereign Grace Music, a division of Sovereign Grace Ministries.
From Come Weary Saints. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
North American administration by Integrity Music. International administration by CopyCare International.

Emily Joy Stauffer

May 8, 1994- September 27, 2008

Last night at about 4:45 our precious 14 year-old daughter Emily was attacked and killed as she was out for a walk. We don't know a lot of details, but we know that two young men came upon the scene right away, but it was too late for Emily.
I will write more as more details come available. Please pray for us, for our church family who are meeting without us right now, and for family that is travelling.

We are realizing from the inside the value of good, Gospel theology right now.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Desiring God 2008 Messages Arriving!

I was watching hockey with Josh the other day (first televised Oilers game!) and I made a comment about a routine, cross-ice backhand pass. I remarked that I sometimes try to notice - and be amazed at - the little, "ordinary" things that NHL players do. I put myself in their shoes with things I can almost identify with and have to admit that I could never do that. The spectacular stuff is fun to watch, but way beyond my ability to identify with.

I think it's a good discipline to be freshly amazed at the extraordinary / ordinary things - flowers, stars, sunsets, the regular work of gifted and disciplined people. We could all add to this list all day. The ability we have to see, touch, hear; music and good writing, humour - on and on.

I'm reminded of another wonderful "routine" - the practice of the Desiring God Ministries folks to get their conference messages (audio and video) up within minutes of the conclusion of talks and panel discussions. You can find them here. They are all free, high quality and easily accessible - not to mention the excellent speakers.

I would have loved to have been at the conference, but it is a blessing to have such quick access to these resources. Thank you Desiring God folks!

Tomorrow is Sunday. Follow C.J. Mahaney's advice to recognize and celebrate evidences of God's grace in your church family. Take time on the Lord's Day to thank God for His gifts that are evidenced in the small stuff!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Koinonia Blog

I've really been enjoying the Zondervan Academic blog, Koinonia. A post that I read today relates nicely to my last post here. Psalm 139 has more to it than meets the eye.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Wisdom from Job

I've been reading the book of Job lately. It never ceases to amaze me how many times you can read a book of the Bible and find new things in it. I remember my dad saying that when I was a kid, and the older I get, the more I know it's true. I'm particularly seeing parallels between Job and Psalms and Ecclesiastes.

In 7:17-18, we read, What is man that you make so much of him, and that you set your heart on him, visit him every morning and test him every moment? In previous readings, I hadn't made the connection with Psalm 8:4 before: ...what is man that you are mindful of him...(?). There is a very different application, of course, but it bears reflection. Sometimes, God's presence and care is a blessing. Other times, it seems oppressive (compare Psalm 139 - I have been known to use selected verses from that Psalm as a Scripture reading of confession in church). This should also make us think carefully about Matthew 28:20.

Regarding human pride - particularly in the "good advice" category - I love 12:2: No doubt you are the people, and wisdom will die with you. I do need to apply the point to my own heart and not think of other people (though the temptation is strong).

I have met people who think that since chapter 1 says that Job was a righteous man, that he didn't have any sin in his past. Of course, Job was quite conscious of his sins: 13:23 How many are my iniquities and my sins? Make me know my transgressions and my sin (note the plural "sins" and the singular "sin" in that verse. That's a study all on its own). 13:26: For you write bitter things against me and make me inherit the iniquities of my youth. That is an interesting one, for although Job is made to feel the sins of his youth because of the irritation of his miserable comforters, he knows that he does not carry their guilt because he is forgiven. Can you identify with that tension?

There is so much more that can be said about Job - the Mediator of 16:19 and the resurrection passage of 19:25-27 and of course the conclusion of chapters 38-40 - but the verses above were some of the truths that I had not really considered in previous readings.

It is really delightful to know that the next time I read through Job, I can count on new insights and applications. Of course, this is true of all of the Bible. This is not because I am a good reader, but that God's Word is living and active. That's the exciting part!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Come Weary Saints

What music plays on the tracks in your mind? If I stop and think about it, I can usually tell you what song has been running around in the background - usually it is an irritating song I want to get out of there! Lately, however, the tracks from a new album I really like have been playing - not just one or two, several of them.

We bought Come Weary Saints a month or so ago and it is excellent. Follow the link and check out some samples. Look at some of their other albums, too. Sovereign Grace Ministries has been putting out some great music lately. Valley of Vision and Savior are must haves, in my opinion.

Music is a subjective thing - you're allowed to not like them - but these albums appeal to a wide range of folks. The best part is the theologically rich, biblical lyrics.


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

What I Did This Summer

We’ve had frost on the pumpkin, Labour Day is behind us and the kids are back at their schoolwork. The summer is over. This is sad but true (the bit about the pumpkin isn’t true, though, because we don’t have any pumpkins). It is time for some reflection on the warm months that are behind us.

We were away for four Sundays this summer, and our people were in and out over the holidays, so I did a mini-series on The Unfolding Mystery of God’s plan of redemption. Here’s the outline:

July 6 – The Mystery of Revelation: Romans 16:25-27. What was hidden has now been revealed in the Gospel. God’s Word from the very beginning contained the promise that is now made manifest in Christ.

July 13 – The Mystery of Redemption (Communion Service): Leviticus 16

July 20 – The Mystery of Evil: Romans 8:20. It was God who subjected the creation to futility. In hope! I preached this heavy message and then ran away to family camp at Sunnybrae in B.C. for a week.

July 27 – The Mystery of Providence: various (Genesis 15:16, 50:20; Acts 2:24, etc). More of a topical message. I do those a couple times a year.

August 3 – The Mystery of the Gospel (Communion Sunday): Romans 1:16-17. Could there be anything more basic yet more mysterious than the power of the Gospel?

August 17, 24 and 31 – The Mystery of the Future: Revelation 21-22. This was only supposed to be two parts, but the second message spilled over into last week. The first message was more topical as I sought to build a framework of “what’s next” so that the messages on Revelation 21-22 would fit.

I was surprised by reaction to the Revelation messages. People had a lot of questions, and some said that the messages cleared up some misconceptions about the future. I love the book of Revelation, but I haven’t done a sermon series on it yet. It won’t be coming for the foreseeable future either. However, I must say I’m not opposed to preaching through it sometime. I am less bothered than I used to be by the people who accuse me of not taking the Bible literally because I don’t see the locusts of chapter 9 as Cobra Attack Helicopters.

Last September I began a sermon series on the book of Ephesians. This September I’ll be picking up at chapter 5:22 (after a review on Sunday) and finishing sometime before Christmas (my usually optimistic outline says November 19). I’m looking forward to getting back to this book and doing sequential messages again.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Free Not Free Good Not Good

You're right, it does sound like I've been reading Calvin.

This is right, though. We are free in the sense that we do what we want to do. Our will is free to follow our reason and our senses, but both of these are corrupted by the fall. If we follow the Apostle Paul - who was carried along by the Holy Spirit, unlike Calvin - then the root sin of humanity is failure to glorify God and give Him thanks (Romans 1:21). We are free to do as we wish, but what we desire in our old nature is not to give God thanks and glorify Him as our Creator, but to credit ourselves and glorify created things. Add to this the catalogue of evil in Romans 3:10-20 and you have a hopeless situation for natural man. So then, free to follow our hearts, but not free to worship God as He requires.

Free, but not free. But are we good? Who denies that man can do good to his fellow man? I am thankful (as is Calvin) for the abundant good that unregenerate man can do, but is this goodness good on the vertical scale of goodness? Jesus said to the Rich Young Man, "there is only one who is good."

If we trust Christ, then true, full freedom and goodness awaits that day when we see Christ face-to-face. For now, we live by faith in the righteousness of Christ credited to our account. We have a measure of freedom and goodness now because Christ is in us and we are in Him.

Free not free, good not good. That's not so complicated after all.