DashHouse.com

The Blog of Darryl Dash

This blog is about how Jesus changes everything. He changes:

Our relationship with God

Our relationship with others

Our vocations - how we live and work in this world

Our ministries

This blog exists to explore some of the ways that Jesus changes everything. It provides resources and articles that will help you think about the ways that Jesus can change every part of your life.

The Lord himself invites you to a conference concerning your immediate and endless happiness, and He would not have done this if He did not mean well toward you. Do not refuse the Lord Jesus who knocks at your door; for He knocks with a hand which was nailed to the tree for such as you are. Since His only and sole object is your good, incline your ear and come to Him. Hearken diligently, and let the good word sink into your soul. (C.H. Spurgeon, All of Grace)

Filtering by Category: Christian Living

The Slow, Hard Work of Making Disciples

I've been thinking a lot about what Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 2:1-7:

You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

One command: to entrust the gospel to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Three examples of what it will take: we'll need to suffer like a soldier, follow the rules like an athlete, and work hard like a farmer. To top it off, Paul tells us to spend some time thinking about these things.

It's both simple and hard. Entrusting the gospel to others is slow, hard, painful work. But what else would you want to do with your life?

Kent Hughes comments on the last image, that of the hardworking farmer:

The farmer’s life involved: 1) early and long hours because he could not afford to lose time; 2) constant toil (plowing, sowing, tending, weeding, reaping, storing); 3) regular disappointments—frosts, pests, and disease; 4) much patience—everything happened at less than slow motion; and 5) boredom.

Some reflections, in no particular order, as I've been thinking about all of this:

  • What would it look like if we made Paul's command here — to entrust the gospel to faithful men who will teach others also — the centre of our ministries? How would church change if this became the central focus?
  • What "civilian affairs" are distracting us from the hard work of living this way? What are the particular ways that we're unwilling to suffer to carry this out?
  • Athletes are disqualified for breaking rules. What areas of obedience in my life need attention so I'm not disqualified from this task?
  • How long am I prepared to work with uncertain results? What can I learn from the hardworking farmer?

Hugh Halter said, "Disciple making in Western culture is slow and hard, but better than merely doing church." I heard Halter say last week that all of his good stories are three years in the making. I want to be ready to do this slow, hard work. Paul in this passage helps us understand what it's going to take.

Tested

The night before he was crucified, Jesus knew that he was about to be betrayed and arrested. It was an intense period of testing for both Jesus and the disciples. In Luke's account, Jesus began and ended by by saying to his disciples, "Pray that you may not enter into temptation" (Luke 22:40, 46). The word "temptation" is a word that's used for testing, for discovering the nature of someone or something. Jesus and the disciples went through a severe period of testing.

This was a watershed moment. This was when we find out what Jesus and the disciples are made of. The consequences are huge. If Jesus didn't pass this test, everything falls apart.

We Fail the Test

What was the test for the disciples?

Jesus gave the disciples one thing to do. He told them to pray that they wouldn't enter into temptation. Jesus recognized that the disciples are not up to what he's about to experience, and he encouraged them to cry out to God to be exempted from this test.

Instead, the disciples slept. Jesus gave them one thing to do — to request an exemption — and they failed at even this. This is the watershed moment, the climatic point in the Gospel of Luke so far, and they fell asleep. The disciples failed the test.

What's true of the disciples is true of us. We don't stand up very well under testing. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that we have a tendency to fail God when it counts. We're incapable of passing the test on our own.

Jesus Passes the Test

What was the test for Jesus? Jesus was abandoned by his closest friends, but that was just the beginning.

Jesus faced a test that nobody else in history has faced. From eternity he had enjoyed perfect communion with the Father, a relationship of absolute intimacy and love. At the cross, Jesus was for the first time cut off from his Father. At the cross, Jesus took on our sin and bore the wrath of God. In the Garden of Gethsemane, he saw what was coming at the cross, and it put him into shock.

New Testament scholar Bill Lane writes, "Jesus came to be with the Father for an interlude before his betrayal, but found hell rather than heaven opened before him, and he staggered."

Centuries ago Jonathan Edwards said:

The thing that Christ's mind was so full of at that time was...the dread which his feeble human nature had of that dreadful cup, which was vastly more terrible than Nebuchadnezzar's fiery furnace. He had then a near view of that furnace of wrath, into which he was to be cast; he was brought to the mouth of the furnace that he might look into it, and stand and view its raging flames, and see the glowings of its heat, that he might know where he was going and what he was about to suffer. This was the thing that filled his soul with sorrow and darkness, this terrible sight as it were overwhelmed him...None of God's children ever had such a cup set before them, as this first being of every creature had.

In the Garden, Jesus had a foretaste of what it would be like to be abandoned by God. He was abandoned by his closest friends, and also began to experience God's abandonment of him.

Incredibly, Jesus passed the test. The disciples failed, yet Jesus passed the most intense test that anyone has faced in history.

David Sunday notes that the story of Scripture can be presented as a tale of two gardens. In the first garden (the Garden of Eden), and in this garden (the Garden of Gethsemane), humanity failed. But in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus passed.

Where we failed the test, Jesus passed.

Jesus' Pass Becomes Ours

This is not just a story of how Jesus passed the test that we failed. Incredibly, his pass became ours. On the cross, Jesus bore the weight of our failure. His obedience was credited to our account, so that we passed through Jesus even though we failed. In the garden, and on the cross, Jesus passed the test on our behalf.

Tim Keller says: "The Bible's purpose is not so much to show you how to live a good life. The Bible's purpose is to show you how God’s grace breaks into your life against your will and saves you from the sin and brokenness otherwise you would never be able to overcome." The Bible is not about our need to pass the test. It is about our failure to do so, and how God has overcome our failure through Jesus Christ, who passed on our behalf. It's a call to turn away from our own failed attempts and to rely on what only Jesus could do.

Come Celebrate What Jesus Did

Good Friday is coming up in a few weeks. It is the day that we mark what Jesus has done for us, remembering that he accomplished what we could never do for ourselves. It's a day that honestly recognizes human failure, but that takes us to Jesus' provision for our failure. He passed the test on our behalf.

If you are in or near the Greater Toronto Area, would you consider joining our church and several other Toronto churches as we celebrate the death of our Savior together? Will you come with all your failures and look at the one who passed on your behalf?

We will gather at Convocation Hall, University of Toronto, on April 18 at 7:00 p.m. I hope to see you there!

adapted from a sermon I preached in 2012

The Legacy of Bob Shaker

When I was a teenager, my brother would occasionally drive me to Avenue Road in Toronto to a small basement bookstore called Reformation Book Service. Even the address was funny: 2045 1/2 Avenue Road. There we would find the owner, Bob Shaker, an older gentleman who would inevitably be reading, but would but the book down and prepare to visit. I remember these visits lasting hours — unhurried, pastoral, insightful hours.

This was long before Calvinists were a thing. There was no ministry called Desiring God. Tim Keller was not a household name. The YRR (Young, Restless, Reformed) were not in vogue, and Bob Shaker was probably one of those men who would be horrified to find himself on the trendy side of any movement.

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I don’t remember coming to his store with any particular book in mind, but I don’t think I ever left empty handed. Inevitably our conversation would take some turn, and Shaker, like an old apothecary, would remember some long-forgotten cure contained in a book two rows over on the bottom shelf. His was the best kind of bookstore. There were no books from the bestseller list: no books promising your best life now, or recounting a little boy’s trip to heaven. I have a feeling that most of the books were written by people long dead. There were books there you couldn’t find anywhere else. You could have told me that his many of his books were snatched from Spurgeon’s personal library and I may have believed you.

I don’t know how he stayed in business. How he made the rent or paid himself is beyond me. Of course, it never really seemed to be about money.

A few years back — I can’t remember exactly how many — I happened to see a large table full of books for sale at Toronto Baptist Seminary. These, I learned, were what was left of Reformation Book Service. The store had closed, one of the last of its kind. Bob Shaker was not there, which is funny, because I have a memory of him sitting sadly to the side in an armchair watching as students picked over his legacy. The imagination is a funny thing.

Of course, the books were not really his legacy. I learned last week that Bob Shaker passed away, just shy of his hundredth birthday. Church historian Michael Haykin writes:

He was a friend and mentor to hundreds of pastors who came to his bookstore not simply to buy books but to spend time with Bob. Here many well-known preachers visiting Toronto would come … In his latter years I went to see him regularly at the bookstore, where he dispensed nuggets of practical Christian wisdom about Reformed theology, how to work with other evangelicals, the need for a solid Canadian evangelical witness, his love for T.T. Shields (he never ceased to admire him) — and then after an hour or two we would pray together. What a rich prayer life he had.

I've read many comments the past few days that have revealed the depth of Shaker’s impact.

A man who loved the Lord set up a bookstore with some of the best books available. He used his humble bookstore as a front of sorts for mentoring countless numbers of pastors, professors, and ordinary Christians. He invested his life and prayed like a man who understood what’s at stake. He did all of this well under the radar. I can’t help but think of Hebrews 11:38: he’s the kind “of whom the world was not worthy.” His life is over; his impact isn’t, and I look forward to seeing him again.

Read more about Bob Shaker by Ian Clary, Margaret Sharpe, and Michael Haykin. Shaker's church held a tribute to him almost five years ago; some thoughts by his pastor, and pictures, are posted here.

Lessons Learned in the School of Suffering

A year ago today, I posted these words:

It’s not a secret that the past few years have been among the most difficult in our lives. Right now it seems that we’re entering another tough season, facing some health struggles that are very serious. It’s hard when there aren’t any easy answers, and when the suffering seems more than one can handle…

I sat in a room last night with others who are going through what we are, and realized that I am one of them. I’m not ministering to them; I am them. I would never choose this, but here I am, and there’s no turning back.

I spoke at an event last night about our experiences last year. It’s humbling to look back and reflect on what we were going through a year ago.

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Here are just four of the lessons I learned.

Suffering is real, and it is a very good teacher. Okay, I knew this, but I knew it in a new way last year. There is something about experiencing an intense period of suffering. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but I’m the better for it. What Spurgeon said is true:

Do we not profit most in stormy times? Have you not found it so -- that your sick-bed -- your bereavement -- your depression of spirit, has instructed you in many matters which tranquility and delight have never whispered to you? I suppose we ought: to learn as much by joy as by sorrow, and I hope that many of my Lord's better servants do so; but, alas! others of us do not; affliction has to be called in to whip the lesson into us.

Christianity has rich resources for suffering, but Christians often don’t. The Psalms and other writings became real to me in new ways. My prayer life was deepened even as my prayers contained fewer words. The consolation from knowing that Jesus was no stranger to suffering became even more precious.

At the same time, I found that there’s a stigma to certain kinds of suffering in the church. We aren’t always comfortable when the answers aren’t easy. Perhaps it’s an over-realized eschatology (complete victory is ours now!) or a lack of experience, but I wish we were better equipped to stand with those who are suffering.

There’s a secret group of sufferers. Begin to speak about your suffering and you will find a lot of people who say, “You too?” I was amazed by the number of people who understood what we were going through, because they’d been through it too.

Weakness is the way. One of the things I’ll never forget is Charlene’s reminder that weakness isn’t a distraction from ministry; it’s often in our weakness, not our strength, that God most powerfully works. God seems to love using weak people. As J.I. Packer writes:

For all Christians, the likelihood is rather that as our discipleship continues, God will make us increasingly weakness-conscious and pain-aware, so that we may learn with Paul that when we are conscious of being weak, then— and only then— may we become truly strong in the Lord. And should we want it any other way? (Weakness is the Way)

At some level, the suffering continues, as do the lessons, although at a completely different level. I pray I’ll never forget the lessons I’ve learned in the school of suffering.