The Pilgrim's Pen


“And he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.”            1 Corinthians 5:15

The gospel is not a way to get people to heaven, it’s a way to get people to God.  As I’ve been reflecting this Easter season on the importance of Christ’s death and resurrection, this truth has once again made itself clear through the verse from 1 Corinthians 5:15.  Christ died and was raised ultimately so that people (us) would “no longer live for themselves, but for Him.”  This means that God has done everything through Jesus to enthrall us with what would make us happy:  Himself!

And what has Jesus done to bring us to this end?  Well, it was Jesus “who for their sake died and was raised.”  Why did this have to happen?  You see, before we could ever come to God as the all-satisfying fountain of joy, there is a problem.  That problem is us.  First, God’s just judgment and wrath is on us because of our suicidal exchanging of the glory of God for the brokenness and emptiness of created things (Romans 1:18, 23).   Second, our rebellion against God is so deep that it affects our heart.  We don’t want God to be Lord or master of our lives, and we don’t like having to admit that we need a Savior.  We’d rather earn our acceptance before God in some way that doesn’t make us look so helpless or weak.

Of course, we are helpless and weak.  It is for this reason that Christ “died and was raised”.  The two most basic roadblocks (God’s wrath and my rebellion) that prevent us from entering into a relationship of joy in the presence of God were dealt with in Jesus.  It’s important to understand that God’s wrath and our sin obstruct us from seeing and savoring the infinite value of God.  You can’t enjoy God as supremely satisfying while in rebellion against Him and His wrath is on you.  The gospel removes both, so we can seek Him, and rejoice in the greatness of God!  Oh, what love!  As the psalmist says in Psalm 70:4, “May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you!  May those who love your salvation say evermore, ‘God is great!’”

Loving the God of our salvation with you this Easter,

Pastor Dave

P.S.  For a great book to read with your kids, check out Paul Maier’s The Very First Christmas.

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The following below is an excerpt from an online article by John Piper on the eve he found out he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2006.  It is titled “Don’t Waste Your Cancer”, but I believe it’s applicable to all who have an illness of any degree.  This article was brought to mind in light of the number of illnesses our congregation is facing, and appeared in a Pilgrim’s Pen bulletin insert.  The bulletin insert is broken into two parts, but you will find the whole thing below.

1. You will waste your cancer if you do not believe it is designed for you by God.

It will not do to say that God only uses our cancer but does not design it. What God permits, he permits for a reason. And that reason is his design. If God foresees molecular developments becoming cancer, he can stop it or not. If he does not, he has a purpose. Since he is infinitely wise, it is right to call this purpose a design. Satan is real and causes many pleasures and pains. But he is not ultimate. So when he strikes Job with boils (Job 2:7), Job attributes it ultimately to God (2:10) and the inspired writer agrees: “They . . . comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him” (Job 42:11). If you don’t believe your cancer is designed for you by God, you will waste it.

2. You will waste your cancer if you believe it is a curse and not a gift.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). “There is no enchantment against Jacob, no divination against Israel” (Numbers 23:23). “The Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11).

3. You will waste your cancer if you seek comfort from your odds rather than from God.

The design of God in your cancer is not to train you in the rationalistic, human calculation of odds. The world gets comfort from their odds. Not Christians. Some count their chariots (percentages of survival) and some count their horses (side effects of treatment), but we trust in the name of the Lord our God (Psalm 20:7). God’s design is clear from 2 Corinthians 1:9, “We felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” The aim of God in your cancer (among a thousand other good things) is to knock props out from under our hearts so that we rely utterly on him.

4. You will waste your cancer if you refuse to think about death.

We will all die, if Jesus postpones his return. Not to think about what it will be like to leave this life and meet God is folly. Ecclesiastes 7:2 says, “It is better to go to the house of mourning [a funeral] than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.” How can you lay it to heart if you won’t think about it? Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Numbering your days means thinking about how few there are and that they will end. How will you get a heart of wisdom if you refuse to think about this? What a waste, if we do not think about death.

5. You will waste your cancer if you think that “beating” cancer means staying alive rather than cherishing Christ.

Satan’s and God’s designs in your cancer are not the same. Satan designs to destroy your love for Christ. God designs to deepen your love for Christ. Cancer does not win if you die. It wins if you fail to cherish Christ. God’s design is to wean you off the breast of the world and feast you on the sufficiency of Christ. It is meant to help you say and feel, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” And to know that therefore, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 3:8; 1:21).

6. You will waste your cancer if you spend too much time reading about cancer and not enough time reading about God.

It is not wrong to know about cancer. Ignorance is not a virtue. But the lure to know more and more and the lack of zeal to know God more and more is symptomatic of unbelief. Cancer is meant to waken us to the reality of God. It is meant to put feeling and force behind the command, “Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord” (Hosea 6:3). It is meant to waken us to the truth of Daniel 11:32, “The people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.” It is meant to make unshakable, indestructible oak trees out of us: “His delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers” (Psalm 1:2). What a waste of cancer if we read day and night about cancer and not about God.

7. You will waste your cancer if you let it drive you into solitude instead of deepen your relationships with manifest affection.

When Epaphroditus brought the gifts to Paul sent by the Philippian church he became ill and almost died. Paul tells the Philippians, “He has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill” (Philippians 2:26-27). What an amazing response! It does not say they were distressed that he was ill, but that he was distressed because they heard he was ill. That is the kind of heart God is aiming to create with cancer: a deeply affectionate, caring heart for people. Don’t waste your cancer by retreating into yourself.

8. You will waste your cancer if you grieve as those who have no hope.

Paul used this phrase in relation to those whose loved ones had died: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). There is a grief at death. Even for the believer who dies, there is temporary loss—loss of body, and loss of loved ones here, and loss of earthly ministry. But the grief is different—it is permeated with hope. “We would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). Don’t waste your cancer grieving as those who don’t have this hope.

9. You will waste your cancer if you treat sin as casually as before.

Are your besetting sins as attractive as they were before you had cancer? If so you are wasting your cancer. Cancer is designed to destroy the appetite for sin. Pride, greed, lust, hatred, unforgiveness, impatience, laziness, procrastination—all these are the adversaries that cancer is meant to attack. Don’t just think of battling against cancer. Also think of battling with cancer. All these things are worse enemies than cancer. Don’t waste the power of cancer to crush these foes. Let the presence of eternity make the sins of time look as futile as they really are. “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:25).

10. You will waste your cancer if you fail to use it as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ.

Christians are never anywhere by divine accident. There are reasons for why we wind up where we do. Consider what Jesus said about painful, unplanned circumstances: “They will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness” (Luke 21:12 -13). So it is with cancer. This will be an opportunity to bear witness. Christ is infinitely worthy. Here is a golden opportunity to show that he is worth more than life. Don’t waste it.

Remember you are not left alone. You will have the help you need. “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). 

The following below was for a bulletin insert I write at our church called The Pilgrim’s Pen.  Enjoy!  …

In the flavor of C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, the following is a letter, from a senior demon to his demon nephew concerning an important Christmas topic… Santa Claus.

My dear Wormwood,

We really can make a mess of Christmas.  Of course, it’s a horrid thing to use that word.  I shall refer to it as the “Season” instead.  You mentioned in your last letter that the patient, who has become a follower of the Enemy, is continuing to attend a local church.  But, you have failed to see the opportunity that is upon us.  I tell you to pay attention to the details!  Your patient is the father of two young unregenerates (more on our plan with them in another letter), and naturally he will be dealing with the subject of “Santa Claus”.  Oh, how us senior demons have fun with him in this Season!

Now, there are two ways to go about this:  First, use Santa Claus as our “distracting” tool.  We don’t want them to focus on the Enemy, or anything concerning what happened on that despicable day over 2,000 years ago!  Distract them.  Get your patient in an argument with his spouse, who seems to be adamant about leaving Santa Claus out of the whole Season all together.  Get him to think that it’s “no big deal” to believe in Santa Claus.  It’s wonderful isn’t it?  Our fictional man steals the very attributes of our Enemy.  “He knows when you are sleeping” or awake, as the song goes, “he knows if you’ve been bad or good”… it’s wickedly perfect!

However, if your patient happens to realize that there was a real historical person named St. Nicholas, and that Santa Claus comes from the Dutch name Sinterklass, you need him to become the sort of person that looks down on those who keep Santa Claus in their seasonal traditions.  Not only do we want to cause distraction, or confusion, but our aim is division!  What an opportunity to divide those within their local church.  Make your patient and wife the snobbish sort that they are better than those who have fun with Santa Claus.  Make them believe in their own righteousness.  I drool over the thought!

It’s a win-win my nephew.  Either make them believe in Santa, so the Enemy is never even mentioned, or get them to be self-righteous snobs, who look down on everyone.  Because, above all, we don’t want them focusing on the Enemy and what he really came to do.  And we don’t want them knowing the real historical story about St. Nicholas, who actually was an ardent follower of the Enemy.  No, no my nephew.  Remember three important words… distract, confuse, and divide.  If you succeed at this, of course, you’ll have to give me all the credit.

Your affectionate uncle,                                                                              

Screwtape