A Difficult Message – updated

The original post was inadvertently published before it was complete earlier today.  It is now up to date with RC, Jr.’s message during Shannon’s memorial service displayed on the blog itself.  Check it out on the blog.  It’s amazing.

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A Difficult Message

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Can you imagine preaching the message at your own daughter’s memorial service?  That thought for me is daunting and spine-chilling.  What would you say?  How would you say it?  The most difficult message I ever gave was at the TD Banquet in ’08, four days after my “Mami’s” passing.  It has since been useful to several others coping with the loss of a loved one. (Click here to listen)

Less than a year ago, RC Sproul, Jr. had the unenviable task of preaching at his precious special needs daughter’s memorial service.  Jr. calls Shannon MacFarlane Sproul “the greatest theologian among all the Sprouls.”  Like Keren is in many ways Eunice’s spiritual tutor, so was Shannon to Jr.  I pray that you will read on, put yourself into Jr.’s shoes, and then watch in awe as I did, and let God strengthen your soul. – Arthur

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Shannon

It was always my contention, living with a special needs daughter who could be called home at any time, that it was not her health issues that determined when should go, but my spiritual health issues. When each seizure forced me to face her fragility, when each morning I checked first to see if she were breathing before trying to wake her, I comforted myself with this thought- God will not call Shannon home until Shannon is through with me. It was apparent rather early on in her life that she had a peculiar calling, that she was less the child I needed to teach, and more the child that needed to teach me.  I was the student, she the master.

My mistake was in thinking that her being done with me and her home going would coincide. She is gone, but she is not done with me. She is still teaching me in her absence. She is teaching me how to deal with pain. Shannon’s seizures were not demure affairs. She fell to the ground. Her legs shook violently. Her upper body jerked back and forth. Her breathing became noisy and labored, and fruitless as her skin would begin to turn blue from lack of oxygen. It might last thirty seconds. It might last ten minutes. When it ended, however, it ended always the same- with deep, unshakable sleep. Immediately after being terrorized by her own body being utterly out of her control, immediately after the electrical waves in her brain became a violent thunderstorm, immediately after not being able to breath, she did not look to me for an explanation. She didn’t look in panic for a place of stability and sanity. Wherever she was, she just slept.

My home was convulsed nearly a year ago when my bride, the love of my life, went on to her reward. It was convulsed again six weeks ago when Shannon went on to join her. And I can’t sleep. For months the routine of caring for my wife was my sanity. For the months after she was gone, the habits of caring for my daughter were my sanity. Now they are both gone. And I have lessons to learn.

For Denise I could be grateful that she went on to a better world, that she would no longer suffer. For Shannon, ironically, I’m not so sure. Oh I am quite confident she is in the arms of her Lord. I’m certain she will have no more seizures. But the thing is, Shannon never felt the weight of her weaknesses. And Shannon had a faith that saw through the veil. She lived on earth as if it were heaven. She was so full of love, joyful, peaceful, so filled with patience and kindness, so good, so faithful, so gentle and so self-controlled that she bloomed, bore fruit in God’s own garden. When she woke up able to walk and speak, when she woke to feel our Lord’s hand on her head, it was no great change for her. She always felt His hand upon her. She always beheld His glory. The gap for Shannon between earth and heaven was just one small, unsteady step.

Which is just the lesson I need to learn. Neither my wife nor my daughter, though they are now a higher order of being, having been glorified, are far from me. My Lord is not with them in some distant dimension. Instead I am there with them, seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). I have been lifted up by His grace. Because He is with me, I make my bed not in Sheol, but in paradise. For wherever He is, there is my treasure. I will lay down and rest, for so He gives His beloved sleep (Psalm 127). And Shannon watches, to see if I breathe, as we both look forward to that day when I finally wake.

I pray you will take the time to watch the sermon I was blessed to preach at Shannon’s memorial service. My hope was to preach the grace of God in her life, and the grace of God through her in my life.

Joni and Friends also produced an award-winning TV episode featuring RC, Jr.’s family (both wife and Shannon have passed on since then).  It’s a great episode.  Here it is:
http://www.joniandfriends.org/television/when-disability-hits-home/

The Pernicious Truth

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Spoiler alert! Spoiler alert!  Only read this essay all the way through if you want to know the Enemy’s plans of attack on you, and only if you want to know why you are stuck in spiritual mediocrity.  If you don’t want to know “what’s under the hood” and you want your relationship with God to remain as is, DO NOT CONTINUE READING!  You have been warned.

If you do continue reading, then please let me know your thoughts and responses are.  Thanks. – Arthur

Pernicious.  1.  Causing insidious harm or ruin; ruinous; injurious; hurtful.  2.  Deadly; fatal.  3.  Evil; wicked.

While the definition of pernicious is easy to state, it is not so easy to pinpoint in today’s postmodern mindset, where things once thought obvious no longer are.  Once you invoke terms like harm, hurtful, and evil, you invoke a moral reference point with which to measure one’s thoughts or actions by.  What is that point?  Says who?  This ultimately is a matter of truth, and truth, by definition, is exclusive.  British author GK Chesterton astutely noted that there are many angles by which you can fall, but only one angle at which you can stand straight.

Therein lies the challenge for God’s people living in an age with pluralism as its king; finding that truthful angle at which we can stand straight, and then committing and subjecting our very lives to living at that angle, the Angle of Truth.  Even the slightest tilt of the angle leads to a fall … even if that angle seems much “straighter” than other angles.  Though it is often difficult to discern a straight angle from a slight one, it IS possible, as long as all of life’s angles and options are measured against the one straight angle, the truth of God’s word.

Theologian RC Sproul describes truth as that which corresponds with reality … as perceived by God, because God’s perception of reality is never distorted.  It is perfect.  Our problems arise when we set even the slightest gaze of our eyes upon other norms and standards in addition to God’s word.  It’s what I call “Christ AND … theology,” where we look to Christ AND this, where we want Christ AND that, instead of Christ alone.  In reality, as RC says, only God’s view of life is perfect and complete.  Any addition to it (or subtraction) at all, and you’ve got that tilted angle – no matter how much Scripture you have as a base.  God alone, and Scripture alone stand straight.

To the one whose values are not clear, this is more easily deciphered in concept than it is in practice, for Satan is masterful at blurring the lines of distinction, giving you nourishment, while at the same time diminishing you in the process.

It is said that if you drop a frog into boiling water, it will jump out instantly, but if you drop it into room temperature water and very slowly bring it to a boil, it will boil to death before it has a chance to figure out it’s being boiled.  The Bible warns us that Satan will come as an angel of light (2Cor. 11:14), not fire!  He will try to imitate light.  He will promote virtual light, if you will – illuminating but only so far, enlightening but incompletely, keeping our focus on the image and the visible, leaving out of sight the infrastructure and the foundation upon which the illuminated façade is built upon.

Aaahh, that is so Satan.  He aims to keep us entertained, tickled, and warmed, keeping us at eye level with incomplete, sensory, on-the-surface truths while boiling us within, deadening our senses, and making us dependent upon our feelings and insecurities for our decision making.  Little by little, step by step, we rely less and less on the sharpness and razor-like precision of the Word of God to carve out our paths.

Satan is no dummy.  If he’s going win his battle for our souls, he’s got to somehow find ways to neutralize our strongest weapon, the Word of God.  For the non-Christian and the “flimsy” Christian, that job is easy.  Discredit the veracity of the Bible at the hands of human brilliance and seemingly empirical science, pluralistic philosophy, or just plain doses of sensual hedonism (note that sensual is referring to being led by the senses – this is not only sexual).  The classic lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life. (1John 2:16)  Suck them in with pernicious lies.

But what about the serious and committed Christians; those of us who don’t fall for the obvious pernicious lies; the ones who recognize those ploys?  For that, Satan must neutralize the word of God WITH the word of God, substituting out the best for the good, fighting fire with fire.  He sucks us in with what I call … pernicious truth.  Pernicious truth?  It sounds like an oxymoron, but propositional truth that isn’t rooted in the Person of Truth is harmful, hurtful, and spiritually deadly.  It is pernicious truth.

Put on God’s lenses and you’ll see your enemy’s strategy. Make the living waters ever-so-slightly murkier.  Introduce a virtual word of God, which looks the same in content, but not in intent, and start creating micro-tears, slowly disconnecting the “strong” Christian’s biblical head from his sinful heart.  Subsume “committed” Christians to secondary “wholesome” and “harmless” forms of encouragement, edification, and entertainment.  Slowly but surely dull the razor’s edge.

When one begins to believe that things unreal are really real, we say he is going insane.  Yet, when the masses begin to believe in things that are not really real (i.e. virtual communities), we call it normal, and call it a cultural shift.  With whole-hearted thanks to God, we have His word preserved – the perfect, powerful truth –

“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12).  

There’s the rub.  Are we going to go under the knife and cooperate with the Surgeon of our souls as He completes the needed surgery of sanctification, right down to the deepest parts – changing all of our thoughts, all of our attitudes, all of our actions, or are we going to play doctor and just say we did?  It’s true that most people won’t even notice, but God will … and so will Satan.

– Arthur Hsieh

John MacArthur: Unleashing God’s Word One Verse at a Time

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My first exposure to serious world-class, soul-captivating Bible teaching came through the teaching of pastor/teacher, John MacArthur.  He was also an integral part of Sandra’s growth in Christ and love of His Word.  In fact, it was really through his ministry that Sandra and I first started having serious dialouges about the Christian faith. 

We look forward to concluding our Summer series, “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants,” by exposing you to one of the very finest and faithful Bible expositors in the world today, who took nearly 42 years at Grace Community Church to preach through every verse in the New Testament! 

He is a warrior who takes God at his word and who has courageously stood up for timelessness and and truthfulness of God’s Word against a compromising Christian culture.  He is definitely a hero of the faith. 

Please listen to the powerful message below before TD on Friday.  It’s called “True Worship, Pt. 1” and is the first of 8 messages on true worship, from John 4:20-24.  It’s a series I listened to as a young Christian.  If you want to hear more, go to www.gty.org.  I know you’ll appreciate it! – Arthur

True Worship, Pt. 1

John Piper: Desiring God

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In continuing our TD summer series this Friday, Standing on the Shoulders of Giants, Robert will lead us in studying the life and ministry of John Piper, one of the most influential Christian leaders of the last 30 years.  His ministry is powerful, God exalting, and satisfaction producing. Here’s what Robert has to say:

“The first serious Christian book that I read was ”Desiring God”, by John Piper. It has remained one of my favorites since then, because it opened my eyes to see how God-centered the Bible really is and how the God of Scripture should be desired, loved, and enjoyed, not just known intellectually. Come catch a greater glimpse of how ”God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him” as we learn about the life and biblical convictions of John Piper.”

We urge you to watch the message below, before coming to TD, explaining his most famous conclusion, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”  Also, the TD Year-End Banquet message, as well as the rest of the summer messages on the lives of RC Sproul, Joni Eareckson Tada, and Ravi Zacharias are now online on the TD website, under Messages. See you Friday! – Arthur