Man’s Infinite Concern

IMG_20140804_114324On a recent trip to Boston, MA my family visited the graveyard in Salem, MA. The big draw of this graveyard is the memorial to the twenty people who were executed in connection with the famous witch trials in Salem. As we walked between the rows of gravestones, the grave of Alice Orne caught my attention. She died in 1776 at the age of 30. The distinguishing feature of her gravestone was this rhyme:

This stone has something great to teach, and what you need to learn
for graves my friends most loudly preach man’s infinite concern.

How does a gravestone teach “man’s infinite concern?” Few things will give you a sobering sense of your own mortality like a slow stroll through a graveyard. The gravestones tell the story of all kinds of people. Husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters are there. Soldiers, doctors, lawyers, sailors, clergymen, merchants, and housewives are all there. The rich and the poor are there. The young and the old are there. But all have one thing in common – they are dead.

Man’s infinite concern is to prepare for the great equalizing experience of death. It is an infinite concern because the soul lives forever in eternal joy or eternal sorrow. The infinity of God will be experienced by all who die. Those who die in Christ will experience the infinite love of a Redeemer. Those who die without Christ will experience the infinite wrath of a Judge.

The gravestone reminds us that our opportunity to prepare for death is limited to the days of our life. As the writer of Hebrews says, “It is appointed to man once to die and then the judgment (Heb. 9:27).” As I walked through that graveyard, the graves did indeed “preach” to me the importance of trusting in the One who is himself the resurrection and the life. Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live (John 11:25).”

When Your Mind Wanders, Where Does It Go?

A text message from my son was an unexpected, unintended (by him anyway), and gentle rebuke from God. I am sitting in my office doing prep work for a men’s study that meets later in the week. I hear a familiar “pop” from my smart phone signaling a text has arrived. It is from my son. He’s riding in a truck with the bridge construction crew on the way home from the job site. Here’s the text conversation.

Jared: Someone needs to do a discipleship class on the Trinity.

Me: Why do you think so?

Jared: Well I think everyone knows the big roles of each member but maybe not the detailed roles or complexities of how they interact, or at least I don’t to a degree.

Me: What got you thinking about that?

Jared: Just riding home when everyone’s speaking another language your mind wanders lol.

Me: Got it. It’s a good subject to ponder.

Jared: I was just thinking that the Holy Spirit is responsible for the action of sanctification but does Christ play a part and if so what and then I thought that would be a good class to go to.

The blessed person delights in God’s law and meditates on it day and night (Psalm 1). The Lord instructed his people that his word should be on their hearts and in their conversation throughout the ebb and flow of their daily routines (Deut. 6). Paul exhorts us to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly (Col. 3:16). We are to set our minds on things above (Col. 3:2).

Now I know that my son’s brain doesn’t spend all its free time pondering the complexities of the interpersonal relationships of the Godhead. But the virtual conversation did make me think about where my mind goes when it is not occupied with a specific task or project. During drive time it is easy to listen to sports talk or music. Why not think about God? Why not meditate on Scripture? Why not ponder the Trinity?

A Wise Perspective on Dealing with the Times

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 may have the distinction of providing the most ancient lyrics ever to hit number one on the Billboard charts. These verses form the bulk of the song “Turn, Turn, Turn” recorded by the Byrds in 1965. Popular acclaim notwithstanding, the author of Ecclesiastes gives us a perspective on the ever-turning experiences of life. With 14 pairs of opposites, he presents us with the times which are common to humanity. There are times to be born and die, heal and kill, plant and pull up, dance and mourn, and so on. It is a poetically stated commentary on reality. 

As the writer continues, he gives us some important insights related to his catalog of our turning times. First, he tells us that God makes all things beautiful in its time (3:11). In other words, God is up to something through the twists and turns of our times that will result in his beautiful purpose being fulfilled. Second, he tells us that God has put eternity in our hearts. There is a kind of innate sense that there is more going on in our multi-faceted experience than just the passing of time and events. There is an echo of eternity in our hearts. What is happening is in some way related to eternity. But, he continues, the echo doesn’t give us a play-by-play understanding of what God is doing. We don’t see clearly what God is accomplishing from beginning to end. This is the mystery of God’s providence. He is at work. Of that we can be sure. But we don’t always see exactly what He is doing.

Given the turns of our times and God’s providential working through them to accomplish his beautiful purpose, how should we live? What is our posture toward the turn, turn, turning of our times? He states three things we should do which are supported by the scaffolding of the doctrine of God’s providence (3:12-15).

  • We should be joyful and do good. We should not allow the mixture of pleasant and unpleasant times (birth vs. death, dancing vs. mourning) to make us sour in spirit and apathetic. Rather, because we know God is at work in our times, we should be joyful and do good. An active spirit of glad goodness is the proper response.
  • We should take pleasure in God’s gifts. The writer says we should eat, drink, and take pleasure in our work. A good cheeseburger, a cold glass of iced tea, and a hard days work are gifts to be enjoyed (along with many other things). 
  • We should stand in awe of God. God’s purpose is enduring and unchangeable. We can’t make it better. We can’t thwart it. God’s providence in all the turns of our experience is cause for us to still ourselves in worshipful awe.

We cannot predict or control with certainty what will happen to us in this new year. Will it be life or death, planting or pulling up, dancing or mourning, or all of the above? We don’t know. But we do know that God is working out his purpose in all these things for His glory and the good of His people. So, we determine to serve Him and do good, to enjoy His gifts to us, and to worship Him no matter how our times turn, turn, turn.

God Loves Re-Gifters

Imagine piles of gold, silver, bronze, and gemstones. Think of a lumber yard full of wood and iron materials. This is what the Chronicler describes in 1 Chronicles 29. King David and the people of Israel had given vast amounts of these materials for the construction of the temple. The monetary value of these materials has been estimated in the billions of dollars. This cache of wealth had been given freely and joyously.

David offers a dedicatory prayer for all these materials which had been given for the temple project. One of the notable emphases of this prayer is how David and the people gave to God what God had already given to them. David prays:

“But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you. (1 Chronicles 29:14 ESV)

O LORD our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a house for your holy name comes from your hand and is all your own. (1 Chronicles 29:16 ESV)

In other words, David and the Israelites were re-gifters. Re-gifting is considered a faux pas, especially if you get caught. You know, that awkward moment when you open a gift from a friend or relative and realize you gave them that same gift last year. Embarrassing.

But, when it comes to our giving to God, re-gifting is our only option. As David reminds us in his prayer, everything we have belongs to God. All we have come to possess was given to us by God. He owns everything and rules over everything. So, the only gifts we can give to God are those he has already given to us. Far from being a spiritual faux pas which God would deem unacceptable, God delights in such re-gifting.

Essential to a life of real stewardship is the realization that our time, talent, and treasure is a gift from God entrusted to us during our brief stay here on earth to be used and invested for God’s glory. So, let’s re-gift freely, unashamedly, and generously.


This is a bit of poetry I composed while meditating on the coming of Jesus to be our Savior.


Undeserving was the world into which the King was born,
a world that he himself had fashioned, all it gave to him was scorn.

Undeserving were the eyes that saw great works of pow’r and might,
though these wonders showed his glory, we liked darkness more than light.

Undeserving were the ears that heard his words of truth and grace,
words that bring us life and beauty, in our hearts they found no place.

Undeserving are we all of such a King who left his throne,
like the ones who heard and saw him, we have hearts of native stone.

Undeserving was the back that felt the whip with searing pain,
every lash an ugly payment for the price our sin had gained.

Undeserving were the hands by nails fixed coldly to the tree,
holding wrath and death for sinners, suffering so they could be free.

Undeserving of the life that shattered bonds of death and grave,
when the King broke through the darkness, ever-living now to save.

Undeserving when one day we sing triumphant at his throne,
knowing in our hearts we stand there by no merit of our own.

Undeserving is the theme of every heart renewed by grace,
all the joys our hearts can fathom giv’n by One who took our place.


Of God and Platforms

I don’t post much on political things but the recent kerfuffle over the DNC platform prompted me to offer a couple of observations. Right-leaning pundits were making a big deal out of the DNC leaving the word “God” out of their platform. Now I learn that the DNC has amended their platform to include “God.” How nice.

It irks me to see God becoming the latest political football in the quest to garner votes. Not that this is a new development, but it seems to have reached a particularly deplorable low. I have a sneaking suspicion that a legitimate view of God in a political platform can be a lot like the biblical book of Esther – the word God is never mentioned but his presence is pervasive in the story line. Just because you mention “God” in your platform language doesn’t mean that you actually honor him or even think much of him. Just because you don’t mention him doesn’t mean he doesn’t figure into the views actually stated in the platform. Both parties would do well to remember this.

If either party really wants to acknowledge God in a meaningful way, then let them propose policies and plans that demonstrate they actually care about governing in a way that takes his words and plans into consideration – much like those who founded this country. They didn’t found a theocracy. They founded a representative republic. But the founding documents do show that they believed that government should be informed by ideas given to us by God. They do mention a Creator. But just because they don’t say “God” on every page doesn’t mean that those documents don’t demonstrate a world view largely informed by things God said.

God-talk doesn’t impress God. Using him as a ploy to get votes probably doesn’t sit well with him either. He’s not lobbying to be included in anyone’s platform. He’s not endorsing anyone’s platform. He’s not running. He’s already King of the Universe. Rather than treating God as a lesser planet orbiting around the sun of republican or democratic politics, those who are serious about honoring God should endeavor to bring every area of life – including their politics – into orbit around him.

The Blessing of Affliction

It was good for me to be afflicted that I might learn your decrees. Psalm 119:71

A recent bout with pneumonia “clothes-lined” me and then side-lined me. I have been blessed with great health all my life. Rarely have I contracted a sickness that lasted more than a day or two. Rarely have I missed more than a day of work because of illness. But this illness has knocked me down for a week.

Compared to some of the things that many people have dealt with, it is still a small thing. Lots of people have had life-threatening diseases, or still struggle with chronic problems that require daily attention. The last thing I want to do is sound like a light-weight whiner by making any illegitimate comparisons. That is not my aim.

But, though my bout with illness is small in comparison with many, it has still been a time of learning for me. The Psalmist said something that sounds so strange to our ears – it was good for me to be afflicted…It doesn’t seem natural for us to look upon affliction as something good. But the truth is that some of our biggest steps forward in spiritual growth take place during times of affliction, including sickness.

Puritan Thomas Watson said, The sharp frosts of affliction bring on the spring flowers of grace. Sickness does several things to promote the growth of those flowers of grace in our lives. Let me share a few things that I have been reminded of recently.

I am weak, vulnerable, and dependent. Sickness is a reminder of our creaturely status. We are not invincible. We are dependent on God for our very breath. We are also dependent on others around us like doctors who give us medicine to promote healing, family members who care for us in our sickness, and coworkers who take up the slack when we cannot fulfill our duties. Sickness reminds us to lean hard on Christ with a humble heart.

I am a sinner who needs to examine myself. Sickness is not always a discipline from God but it can be. I have been trying to search my heart and life and check myself spiritually to see if God is disciplining me. I want to be teachable.

I am thankful. I am thankful to be surrounded by people who love me and assist me in such times. My wife has cared for me and served me. My coworkers have stepped in and covered for me. My church family has encouraged me with their prayers and words of love. I am thankful for medicine that is helping my body mend.

I am longing. I long for the day when my body will be transformed to be like Jesus’ glorious body. Then sickness will be done forever. Pain will be gone. The effects of sin will be totally reversed. I will be with my Savior along with all who know Him. Sickness makes us long to be with Christ.

I pray that the flowers of His grace will continue to bloom in my life. We must not forget that He will sometimes use affliction to cultivate these graces in us. Let’s learn to say with David, it was good that I was afflicted.


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