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Dr. Dominic Aquila Discusses Reformed Theology and the Family Caregiver

Hope for the Caregiver / Peter Rosenberger
The Truth Network Radio
October 25, 2020 9:18 pm

Dr. Dominic Aquila Discusses Reformed Theology and the Family Caregiver

Hope for the Caregiver / Peter Rosenberger

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October 25, 2020 9:18 pm

In this episode, I invited Dr. Dominic Aquila to the show to discuss the importance of solid theology to support the weight of our suffering and heartache.

Dr. Dominic A. Aquila is president of New Geneva Theological Seminary in Colorado Springs, Colo. At the present time, he is also serving as an interim pastor of Covenant Reformed Presbyterian Church in Ft. Pierce, Fla.

He is editor of The Aquila Report (, an independent web magazine for and about evangelicals in the Reformed and Presbyterian family of churches.

Peter Rosenberger is the host of HOPE FOR THE CAREGIVER.  Now in his 35th year as a caregiver for his wife, Gracie, who lives with severe traumatic disabilities, Peter draws upon his vast experience to strengthen fellow caregivers. 

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Or to see chickens and other animals to donate, go to Welcome to Hope for the Caregiver. I am Peter Rosenberger. This is the nation's number one show for you as a family caregiver. How are you holding up?

How are you doing? This is for those who are knowingly, voluntarily, willingly putting themselves between a vulnerable loved one and even worse, disaster. Maybe it's somebody that you take care of who's aging. Maybe it's somebody you're taking care of who has an addiction issue, who has an alcoholism issue.

Maybe you have a special needs issue in your family. My case, somebody who has to deal with the effects of trauma. Healthy caregivers make better caregivers.

And what does that look like? And that's what this show is all about. We are just grateful to have you with us. If you want to be a part of the show, 877-655-6755. 877-655-6755. This is the podcast part of the show. We do a broadcast every Saturday morning live on a couple hundred stations. And we are just enjoying so much the interaction we have with family caregivers who are now finding a place where they can come and draw strength and encouragement and find a path to safety. And be able to take a knee if they have to, catch their breath, and develop a better way of dealing with the very brutal challenges that they have in their life. And again, if you want to be a part of the show, 877-655-6755.

877-655-6755. Today is Reformation Sunday now. Reformation Sunday, some of you look at it and say, what in the world does that have to do with being a family caregiver? That happened over 500 years ago.

Why are we talking about this? Let me explain. I'm in my 35th year as a caregiver.

That's a long time. And everything that I do here draws upon my own journey with Christ and my own spiritual walk. No matter what we're talking about. We could be talking about dealing with a parent with dementia.

We could be talking about a child with special needs or whatever. But it's always going to be anchored in my own Christian journey, which has been through Reformed theology. And I was talking to my pastor back in Nashville. We live in Montana now, but I was talking to my pastor back in Nashville. We're very close friends. I said, you know what? I've had this privilege of sitting under some great, great teaching in theology. What am I supposed to do with this?

How do I be a steward with this? I'm not a theologian. And the people that I'm talking to, though, are struggling and are dealing with hard questions about God and about God's love for us and about the providence of God and the suffering that comes along in this life.

And what does this mean? Now we're dealing with a global pandemic and so forth. And Reformation Sunday is a time to reflect on something remarkable that happened that changed everything worldwide, not just in the church, but geopolitically.

But also now that still stretches 500 years later into the future of where we are now in dealing with the things that we're dealing with. And so I thought I'm going to invite somebody on the show here who's a lot wiser about these sort of things than I am. And we're going to have a conversation today about this. This is Dr. Dominic Aquilla, and he's the president of New Geneva Theological Seminary, Colorado Springs, Colorado. And he's also the interim pastor of Covenant Reformed Presbyterian Church in Fort Pierce, Florida.

He's also the editor of the Aquilla Report, and it's an independent web magazine for and about evangelicals in the Reformed and Presbyterian family of churches. And they have published several of my articles and we've got to know each other. And it's been a real treat for me to be able to have access to this man and bang around ideas. OK, is this am I hitting the mark here?

And to my knowledge, no one is speaking like this to the family caregiver. And so I wanted to come on today and just have a conversation with Dr. Aquilla. And let's talk about this. So, Dr. Aquilla, thank you so much for being a part of the show. We are glad that you're here. Peter, thank you so much.

It was wonderful to be with you and to be able to share from the scriptures and experience the things that God has taught me. Well, let's jump right into it. Reformation Sunday. Just give us a Cliff's Note version of what does this mean? What's going on with that?

Because some people are probably looking at their phone right now and they're listening to the show and on the podcast or whatever they're thinking. What in the world are you talking about? Give us a Cliff's Note version of that.

Very good. October 31, 1517, Martin Luther, who lived in the Hamlet village, maybe a small city, of Wittenberg, Germany, had after many years, wrestling with the question of how can I have peace with God? How can my spiritual life be right with him because of what he had been taught prior? He had come to a place where he realized that the only way he could have peace with God is to realize that God is the one who gives that gift of peace through his son Jesus Christ. And he centered it in one doctrine, the Bible doctrine, that then branches out to others known as justification by faith alone. Now, what that simply means is that the question is how can we have a right relationship with God? And he found out that it wasn't through what he did himself and all the good works and putting himself and his body and his mind, his circumstances through all sorts of contortions, trying to be as spiritual as possible, but to realize that God already did that for him and for all those who would believe through Jesus Christ on the cross.

And so how we made right with God, we're made right with God by God treating us as if we had never sinned because Jesus took our sin and he really did pay for them all. So that October 31, which we call Halloween, and the reason it's called that, it's All Hallows' Eve. That is, in some church calendars, mainly churches that follow a very strict liturgical calendar. November 1 is All Saints' Day, All Souls' Day. And so it was the day in which people would visit the cemetery and they would honor their family, their souls who had already passed. And so it was the eve of that. And so that had become quite a ritual. And some places it's called the Day of the Dead, the Dia de los Muertos in Latin America, for instance.

And quite a bit of celebration, quite a bit of pomp and circumstance. And the thought was that you need to make sure that you honor those who have gone before you because their spirits were thought to maybe hover their souls right over their grave. And on that day, they could sort of be let loose. And if you haven't really taken care of their grave, you haven't spoken well of them, then they might come after you.

That was the day they sort of were released. And so with that kind of thinking, he said, no, now come to see, that's not true. The only way that we can be right with God is by trusting him in the message he's given to us in salvation through Christ alone. So just to be justified is one person likes to break it up, just as if I had never sinned.

Not because we haven't sinned, because we have, but I'm treated by God as if I hadn't sinned because there was a real death on my behalf and that was the death of Christ. Well, okay, and thank you for that, by the way, because it's not easy to sum up the Reformation in about two minutes, which you did. So kudos to you for that. Now, here's where I wanted to go with this today on why this is important. I've got a chapter in one of the books I've written called Seven Caregiver Landmines.

And one of those landmines, number seven, is titled It's All Up To Me. And there's a point in my journey as a caregiver where I ran smack dab into that landmine so many times thinking this was all up to me and that spilled over, not just to take care of Gracie, but everything. And it spilled over into my theology and my everything. And I was astonished how Luther actually came to resent the very God he was serving as a monk with this whole idea of somehow thinking that he's got to, like you said, turn himself into all kinds of contortions so that he could please this frowning God that inflicts all types of demands on us that are impossible. And then all of a sudden it just broke with Luther and he realized, oh, my gosh, it's not all up to me.

This isn't about me at all. In fact, one of the things that came to Luther because of that, he really did have a sensitive conscience. And even way before he would count himself as what we'd call a true believer, where he really understood that he was a sinner and under God's judgment, he had such a fear of God. And I think it was a healthy fear and a good one in that sense. But what he thought was is that if he didn't do what was right, then he could be stricken down at any point and he would face God's wrath and so forth. So he did have that fear.

And so the crisis moment, one of the crises moments in his life came when he was walking home. It was a big thunderstorm. He saw a large haystack in the field. So he said, let me run to that.

He got into that haystack. And the thing, the storm was ferocious. It was lightning and thundering, and he didn't know if he was going to survive. And he just was mortal fear for his whole life. And he then made that promise that most of us tend to do, bargaining with God. And he bargained with God. He says, if I get through this, I will become a priest, thinking that was a much holier status than what his father wanted him to become as a lawyer. And so he, of course, the thunderstorm passed.

He survived. And so he took that seriously. So he went home and told his father. His father wasn't very happy with him and had to sort of put up with his, you know, jumping on this case and saying, hey, this is not, I didn't raise you to just go be a priest.

Where's the money going to come from from that? And so he stood by it, though, because he bargained with God. That kind of fear is kept in his sensitive conscience, just drove him to explore more and more how he could do what was right. So the question that was sort of modernized out of that would be, if you were to die today, tonight, and you appeared before God, and he would say to you, fill in your name, why should I let you into my heaven? What would you say? Well, depending on where you would look at Luther's life during that period of time, he would say different things until the end, when he nailed the 95 Theses on the church door in Wittenberg, that he could finally say that it isn't what I have done.

It isn't what I might do. The only thing that I would have to offer to God is you have no right to let me in your heaven, other than you made an offer in your son Christ that if I trusted him, believed in him, that I would have eternal life. And that's the only basis on which we can get into heaven. Now, that has ramifications for some of what you and I are going to be talking about, the implications for where we are now as we live through this life. And with the different types of sufferings and the caregiving that we provide, because there is the application to that fits every category of our various life experiences.

Well, it does. And you said a couple of things that I want to circle back to. One of them is that bargaining with God. And I remember, and I'm going to say things that may get me emotional, you'll just have to be family with me. But I remember one time, Gracie was groaning. I mean, groaning. And you've been a pastor for a long time. You've been around suffering. You are no stranger to seeing this, and observing and watching suffering is a hard thing to do. And I was so angry with God. And I was in a hospital with her, and I remember feeling her legs. This is when we were trying to save her lower legs, which eventually were amputated. And I remember putting my hand on her leg, and she was straining so hard that it just felt like a piece of concrete. And she just groaned and groaned and groaned. And I was alone in the hospital room with her, and I looked up at the ceiling tiles, and I said, and I didn't say it respectfully, and I'm ashamed of it, but I'm just, this is who I am. And I said, why are you doing this?

Give her a moment's relief, and I won't tell anybody, so it won't thwart your will. That was one of my lower points in bargaining with God. I was throwing it in his teeth.

I was throwing his provision and his sovereignty and so forth, all those things in his teeth. And along the way in my journey as a caregiver, and I've had the privilege of having just such good, gentle people come alongside me to walk me back from that cliff. And I had been just determined that I was going to help as many other caregivers and speak to them in that place with clarity in a way they could understand, because I understand how painful that is. And along the way, I've come to understand, wait a minute.

First off, he's not ready to hurl a thunderbolt at me for even asking the question. The question was important. It was important for me to get to that place. And then I came to understand that his sovereignty and his providence are not things to be afraid or fear or bargain with, but to run to and to fall onto and to cling to and grasp to when things look crazy.

And I've talked to so many family caregivers in that situation when a special needs child is born. When Gracie first had her accident, Dr. Quillen, a woman came into her hospital room. Gracie's intraction, 17 years old, led to the Lord by Corrie 10 Boone. And this woman looked at Gracie and said, what did you do that God would do this to you?

This is what I want to speak to, and this is why I wanted to take the message of Reformed theology, of what Luther himself wrestled with, that he came to this understanding that something had to give, that you can't live like this. Did you ever read Peanuts, Charles Schulz's comic strip? I'm sure you did. There was this one scene, I don't know if you remember this one thing, where Lucy was looking at it raining. And it was pouring down and she said, oh my goodness, what if there's going to be another flood? And Linus explains to her why there will never be another flood. And she said, that's very comforting. And Linus responded, good theology does that.

I was using that, so I'm glad you did. It is. And good theology is not something that causes you to wrap yourself into pretzels, but that you can just, you can breathe.

I know so many caregivers who are so wound so tight that they can't even hardly breathe. And so by the end of today's show, I want you to walk us through some of these things so that some of these people can breathe as they look at their special needs child, as they look at that loved one who's an alcoholic who is just circling the drain, that they can breathe and trust in a loving God who is not inflicting, but is providing through. Right. Well, that's good. And that statement from Linus, who was the resident theologian on Charlie Brown, that is what good theology is intended to do, is the comfort. And now the comfort doesn't come in that the difficulty is taken away.

That's what we normally look, you either have it or you don't have it. You either have pain or you get rid of the pain. And that's where we wrestle and why we come up with it over and over again, why the scripture repeats that theme over and over again. And it goes back to something else that Luther finally came to grips with that speaks to this, both in the spiritual dimension, which has then it spill over an application into our everyday physical and emotional life.

And that is the what happened and what are the effects that took place with the fall? What's the spill out and spill over of that historical event when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and began what we call original sin or the fall? And he followed Augustine, so you go further back in history now, with a theologian who spoke to this and who was very sensitive and careful and wanted to produce a theology that would bring comfort. And Augustine basically said that when Adam and Eve sinned, when they disobeyed God, that sin entered the world and it had an effect on them. So what did God say?

It says the day you eat of this fruit, if that's what you do, then you will surely die. Well, two things happen. One is they died spiritually immediately. And so if you want to speak about suffering because they made that choice, suffering actually began right there internally and it actually began spiritually. But the second thing that happened was that it wasn't that the our bodies became sinful, is that they were the God cursed the creation of which our body was a part. Because remember, Adam was created from the dust of the earth, the dirt.

So our constituent nature physically is very dirty, you know, it's of the dirt. And so when God cursed, God said at the end of each day of creation, except one, you know, it is good. And it's good, including when he had made man and created him in Genesis 1. So God cursed that which was good. Now, he didn't, though, lower the importance of it. It's still significant and to the point where the resurrection of Christ really points not only to the reality that God accepted his death and raised him from the dead, but also points to our resurrection that in the midst of all of our suffering, the day will come when the curse will be lifted and we won't be suffering and there won't be any suffering any longer.

The tears will be gone and the angst and the worries and the so forth that come along with it. So now that's a theological statement, but now we need to flesh that out so that it speaks to us in the context of why is there suffering. So for someone to say that the reason why, you know, you're suffering is because you really kicked God off is really a bad thing to say because we don't usually know the reason.

And there can be any number of reasons that are going on here that have nothing to do with our ethical behavior, our practices and so forth. Sort of like John 9, the man who was born blind, what did his parents do that caused this baby to be born blind? And Jesus responds very assertively, now this didn't happen for anything.

They didn't do anything. It happened in order that God's glory will be manifested. Now that really sticks in our craw because women, if God was a really caring, loving God, then he's going to get glory out of allowing a little baby to be born blind. And the answer is yes, because of the overall practice. And that's a tough, tough statement to have to say, but it wasn't because there was a quid pro quo. There wasn't a this for that.

There are instances when there is a this for that for various reasons, but that's not the case. And so we don't try and dig into our hearts and just break ourselves down to say, if only I and you could, if I would have could have yourself to death. Well, and this is what Luther did in the confessional booth.

I mean, he would spend hours going over minutia. And finally, a priest, I think, told him, said, hey, look, come back when you've done something. And and I and in this case and the way this applies to where we are is that I see so many family caregivers, particularly parents of special needs children who who bear such tremendous guilt for bringing this child into the world.

And what did we do wrong? Or did we take the wrong medicine or did this or that? And they and what my hope and my prayer is, is that but as they walk with us through this program today is that they will start to unravel some of that. You know, one of the things that I tell people that when when Lazarus was called out of the tomb, Jesus called him back to life.

Lazarus was alive and he didn't stink anymore, but his grave clothes did and his friends had to lose him. And that's part of our journey. I think it's believers for each other is that we help loose these these terrible bondage things that are holding us from being. So that so that I'm not that angry young man in that hospital room watching his wife groan and shaking my fist at God, but saying, you know, but we're going to groan. We're going to groan. We're going to weep.

We're going to mourn. That's part of it. But but we don't groan without any hope. Yeah. And that's the part when make a distinction between is there this for that kind of action, which may be the case at times. But the point is this. The reason they're suffering in the world just in general, because everyone suffers at some to some degree, is because of what happened with Adam and Eve and their disobedience so that it brought pain and suffering into the world in general. Now, we we we experience it at different levels in different ways, but there's no way to get around to it. And so the way I put it this way, Paul seems to say in the Book of Romans that that sin led to death. Well, death is the ultimate result of the fall. And that is the ultimate pain, if you would, that we will experience. So the question is, when we arrive at that, that ultimate, what will we do then?

How will that be handled? And one of the things the gospel says is that if you come got the remedy, God's remedy, I should say, for this is that instead of just looking to that with bleak eternity, here's what I will do. And I'm going to provide my son who will give himself a death and he will suffer because he's a suffering servant, as Isaiah refers to him. And he will suffer on behalf of sinners in order to remove the that part of the curse that we will not have to experience it for all eternity.

So there's just that general principle. Then there's the fact that we live in a fallen world. And then this fallen world, we will go through the suffering and just living life normally without any other problems, whether they're accidents, whatever is just very difficult by the sweat of your brow, you're going to bring forth food.

That's going to be part of the curse. So it's good to work the land. It's good to provide food for yourself. So assuming that nothing else happens, you still are breaking your back to make ends meet. That's a part of suffering. Now, some of it is more.

But well, and we're not and we're not going to escape it on any level. And I used to think, gosh, I'm going to be mad at Adam and Eve when I see them. And then Paul goes and says, look, for an Adam, everyone did this. We all did this. We are all guilty of this. But the good news is, and that's what's coming up, is that in one man, we're all redeemed. And this is what brings us to this place today. We've got to go to a break. We're talking with Dr. Dominic Aquila, president of New Geneva Theological Seminary.

Today's Reformation Sunday. And I wanted to talk about this, why this is important to us as caregivers for those of us who watch someone suffer. This is Peter Rosenberger. This is Hope for the caregiver. Don't go away. We'll be right back.

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Isn't it about time someone started advocating for you?, an independent associate. Welcome back to Hope for the Caregiver.

I am Peter Rosenberger. That is my wife, Gracie, from her record, Resilient. And she is indeed. He knows the plans he has for you. And this is comforting to us as caregivers.

And today's whole conversation is about that. That providence, that sovereignty, that provision of God that envelops us as we suffer and as we watch someone suffer. And I know so many of you who are doing this, who are watching things, and your fists are as tight as they can be. And so I brought in someone today to just walk us through what the gospel means in this. What does it mean when you look across the hospital bed at your pastor? And the pastor wants to say something to you and you desperately want to hear it. What is going to sustain you? And as I told Gracie earlier just this afternoon on the way home, her theology, it sustains the weight of her suffering because she hangs on to Christ in this.

What does that look like? How do we flesh that out when we're looking at someone we love decline and go down the drain? Or they're mentally ill or they have a traumatic brain injury or you've got a special needs child. It's all falling apart. There's so many different scenarios. And we caregivers watch this and we bargain. We rage against this. And I've done it.

Listen, I'm the crash test dummy of caregivers. If you could fail at it, I've failed at it. But along the way, I've had great people come alongside me who have strengthened me and helped me understand for me from a true biblical point of view what this means. And on Reformation Sunday, a Sunday where one of the most famous people in history had some of those same feelings of how do I make this work? How do I reconcile this was Martin Luther.

Any any any little match that exploded across the world and changed everything forever. He wasn't the only one doing it. And he had contemporaries with it. And I wanted to talk about why that was important and how we as caregivers can develop healthier theology that will support the weight of our suffering. And so I asked Dr. Dominic Aquila to be here. He's the president of New Geneva Theological Seminary. And he's also the editor of the Aquila Report, which I would highly recommend you going out to.

It's the and we'll link to it in this podcast as well. And so, Dr. Aquila, thank you again for being with us. And so as we we explore this journey of developing an understanding of a of a loving, providing God in the midst of this great suffering who was not just arbitrarily inflicting suffering on people, even global pandemics. And I I look at John Calvin when he got married to his wife. She she caught the plague, which we're in the middle of a global plague right now. And she caught the plague.

She had a couple of children that died. And as he was wrestled with the same concepts. His critics would say to him that his children were dying because of his heresy. And he was a caregiver for his sick wife. And he said, one of the greatest quotes that I use of his that I love of his is where scripture is silent.

We should be silent as well. And I often tell people that where it goes off the rails theologically for Job's friends is after Job two, verse 13, they sat there silent for seven days and then they started talking. And God allowed 30 something chapters of bad theology in his scripture to be on parade so that we could see what the wrong way was and see a whole different side of God's provision. Talk a little bit about that. Did I get that wrong? Or did I did I did I get close to the mark on that? Oh, yes.

No, you're you're spot on. See, you know, this you know, the big word that's used here is where the evil come from. And that's called theodicy. And that is never to you just a pure human desire of having nice the wrapped up answer. We don't have it. We get close. We almost feel it.

But then it seems to elude us, especially when we're going through pain. One of the ways I like to resolve it and I've used it many times in my pastoral counseling and trying to encourage people who are going to start trying to make sense of it is what happened to Abraham in Genesis 18. When God visited him, Christ visited him in his pre-incarnate form, along with two other angels, two angels. And he said, God, Jesus said or the Lord said, this is Genesis 18, 20. The outcry against someone you more is so great and their sins so grievous that I will go down and see if what they were done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. In other words, they were their sin was so offensive that it was yelling to heaven, if you would, and God is going to go check it out. Now, what was concerning here was when Abraham heard that, he said, oh, my nephew lot lives down there. And he was concerned, and verse 22 says, the men turned away, that is these two angels from Jesus, and towards Psalm, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord. And then Abraham approached the Lord, will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?

In other words, if there's somebody that's good there, will they have to face punishment? Will they have to suffer along with those who are doing wicked things? Verse 24, what if there are 50 righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of 50 righteous people?

Now, that's a fair question. And as he began negotiating with God here about that, and then the verse 25, far be it from you to do such a thing to kill the righteous with the wicked and treating the righteous and the wicked alike, far be it from you. And then he says, will not the judge of the earth do right? That statement there has probably carried me through more of my own pain and my own suffering, and others have adopted it as well, yet to recognize that the judge of the earth knows exactly what he's doing. He is not human like we are.

He is God, and he knows how to put all the pieces together, even if we don't comprehend it. Will not the judge of the earth do right? And so on that basis, Abraham negotiated with him. He looked, he did a census. He said, well, there are 50 righteous there.

Will you relent? And so God said, yes, for 50 I'll relent. So he went and sort of did a survey and found out there really weren't 50 righteous there. So he said, how about 45, and then 40, and then 30, and 20. He got God down to do 10 on that. And verse 32, when he says, may the Lord not be angry with me and speak just once more. You know, he kept saying that because he kept speaking once more. What if only 10 can be found that are righteous there? And he answered, for the sake of 10, I will not destroy it. He did that. And then it says, then Lord had finished speaking with Abraham. He left, and Abraham returned home.

Nothing is said. Abraham said, will not the judge of the earth do right? Of course he will. He knows exactly what's right. He judges correctly and well, and he knows what he's doing. And Abraham quit negotiating at that point and says, I will accept that the judge of the earth will do right. To what better place... That's a hard place to be, isn't it, though? It is.

It is. And you negotiate it, you know, because we all bargain with God. I mean, we do that. That's just our nature.

I'll do this. You do that. And so, Abraham finally came to, in a real life experience, to care so much about his nephew Lot, that he said, is there some way that we can turn away from this? And God was willing to do that. But at the same time, he was allowing the reality of the ideas have consequences, actions have consequences, to go forward.

And so, I've warned the people. God gave us, slept us with our conscience. Even though we're fallen, we still have a conscience. So that even the most wicked person in the world who does just heinous, ugly things to other people to hurt them and to wound them for satisfaction of whatever, for whatever reason, even that person has a conscience. And at some point that conscience kicks in and they know down deep that what they have been doing is not right and they can't blame it on God.

Okay. So, you know, for example, on that, I remember when Gracie was wrestling with the decision to amputate her leg. This was her first leg. And it seemed like such a failure. It seemed like such a harsh thing. And I remember there were multiple people that came to her and said, one lady had even the brashness to say, look, you're not acting, this is long before I met good theological instruction.

Okay. And they said, this is a lack of faith on your part and this is in rebellion towards God. And I recoiled at that. I was so angry with that. And I didn't have the vocabulary to be able to respond back to it. Plus, I'm a second degree black belt now, so I would respond back differently to multiple levels. But I didn't have the ability to respond back to that. I would just remember seething with anger.

How dare you? We are wrestling with one of the hardest decisions we've ever made in our lives as a couple. My beautiful young wife is going to give up a leg and trust that God is going to be on the other side of that operating room door. And I was so furious with this type of thinking.

And that is what has propelled me into doing a show, not only the entire show I've done, but a show like this today to help people reorient their thinking to trust that, will not he do right? And finally, we had some good counsel that, look, this is not a moral decision. You sit down with your doctors, you look at what is the best thing, and sometimes the limb has to go.

And then we were able to be free in that. And people look at amputation as some type of God's displeasure. And I'm thinking, wait a minute, Hugh Hefner lived his entire life as a non-amputee. Explain that to me.

And so if God was in the business of handing out amputations for sinful behavior, prosthetists would be billionaires. And so this is what helped reshape this. And I said, OK, I'm not going to just stay here in this place.

I'm going to push deeper into this. And I had some people that took me by the shoulder, took me by the hand to do this. And one of them was my pastor in Nashville, Jim Bachman. And you're going to be speaking at his church here soon.

And next week, I think, as a matter of fact, we're trying to somehow live stream in so that Grace and I can sing. But Jim and I did a lot of funerals together. I would play the piano and he preached many of them. And I looked at that as quite an honor.

And he told me this. He looked at it as an honor to walk souls and their families, walk these people to the grave, to the cemetery. That was the role of pastor. And I never play weddings. I hate playing weddings. But I will play for pretty much any funeral that I'm asked to play, because that is my chance to minister to people who are in great distress. And my goal for my fellow caregivers is to help them get to that point where when they are standing at a grave, that they're not standing there with clenched fists at themselves, at their loved one, at family and friends, at doctors, at God. And when the caregiving stops and the grass is growing on the grave, there are still caregivers who are so angry with God over what they had to walk through. And I wanted you to just in the last few minutes that we have of this, speak to that.

Speak to those broken hearts and help them understand. One of the things that I see in this is of all people in the New Testament that was used in such a monumental way, of course, was the Apostle Paul. And once he came to faith, God used him.

I mean, you know, one third or more of the New Testament is written by Paul. He planted more churches, at least that we have record of during that period of time. He wrote the scriptures. He discipled all these people that he refers to. Look at the list in Romans 16 of all the people he's talking about. He, you know, gave counsel to church leaders and so forth. So, I mean, the man was important.

So when he gets there, he's in his first Roman imprisonment and he was not in a very comfortable setting at all. And he writes the Philippians and he basically puts it in this context. And the context was this, Philippians 1.21, as most people would know it. For me to live is Christ and die is gain. And just parse that for a moment. You have if I'm going to live, I'm going to live for Christ, whatever that means and whatever it takes.

And it's a good life because it's a full life. It's a hope of life now and eternal life. But you know what? If something should happen, here I am in prison and I may lose my appeal to Caesar and I'll die. What happens? Well, die is gain. Remember, death is the ultimate result of the fall. And so I die, but what happens is because of Christ's death, I am that death and no longer has its power over me. The victory of death is gone. The sting is gone because I'm in Christ.

So people could have said, Paul, Paul, Paul, please don't speak that way. You're too important in the life of the church. Look at all that you've done. You're the model of an apostle.

You're, you know, a discipler, a preacher, a teacher, evangelist, church planter. And so we need you. And he said, he just sort of said, you know what? I don't take my press clippings that seriously. I really don't.

I don't believe you're on press. You know, he says, look, if I die, God will take care, he'll fill the slot that I take. I have one sermon where I usually bring, don't take, use the water into the pulpit, but I have a full glass of water.

And at a certain point, I pull it up and I stick my finger in it and then I pull it out. I said that what Paul's view was and what the biblical view is that as soon as I pull my finger out of that hole in the water, it'll be filled up. I said as quickly as that fills up is how quickly God will fill the hole of me being called home to glory. In other words, I'm not that indispensable to God that therefore God can't replace me. And that's how what Paul is saying to live is Christ, so I'm going to be faithful to Christ. But if I die, God will fill the spot.

Isn't it interesting that he started off his career giving his resume, and by the end of his career when he's languishing in a prison, he's like, ah, none of that matters. Okay, another thing that I think really is critical is that, again, going back to the who causes and so forth, is that Paul sort of had that notion in 2 Corinthians 12 where he's wrestling with something that he calls the thorn in the flesh, something that was irritating, something that was hurtful, something that was painful enough for him to say it, and he even calls it a messenger of Satan. In other words, it wasn't that it was satanic, it wasn't that Satan gave it to him, it was just something that was so painful that he called it a messenger of Satan. And so he says three times, I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said, so God is speaking to him about it, he said to me, my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in that weakness that you're going through. So therefore, Paul then learns, he says, okay, I think I'm getting the message, Lord, I will boast more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ's power may rest on me. So what are you saying is, Lord, look at all that I've done, how you've used me to write scripture, be a disciple, church planner, evangelist, and so forth. Now, if I operate at 100%, Lord, I can turn this world upside down.

But right now, I'm operating about 50%, maybe 40%. So you let loose on this, and I'll be able to do all this, and God sort of yawns at him and says, no, that's not the way it goes. My power is made perfect and matured, if you would, in the weakness. So what does Paul say?

Oh, now I get it. I will then not be glad to have my weaknesses because, and operate at 40 or 50%, that Christ's power may rest, and that then he goes on to this 1 Corinthians 12, 10. That is why, for Christ's sake, notice this, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties, for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Wow, that turns everything and flips it up. And we're thinking, see, we think that life is valuable only if I operate at 100%. And if I'm less than 100%, I'm nobody, and I'm useless, and I'm just a castaway.

And that's exactly what the Bible says, no, you cannot think that way. You are significant. You're right, it does turn everything upside down, and that is the scripture that Gracie has clung to since I've known her. And she was hurt before I met her.

She had about 20 surgeries when I met her, but now she's gone through the 80 total that I can count and about another 150 smaller procedures. And she hangs onto that because she's comforted by boasting all the more gladly my weakness. And there's a point where you make peace with that and you realize, okay, he's using this and he doesn't need me to be at 100% because he's at 100%.

And I love that, and I appreciate that. In the last few minutes, I'm going to pivot just a hair. You've got your finger on the pulse of what's going on in the organized Christian church in this country and around the world through what you do through the Aquila Report and so forth. How are we doing as far as ministering to people that are struggling in these areas?

How are we equipping them? Where are we on that and what kind of grade are we giving ourselves or can we give ourselves any kind of grade? Can we see that we're moving in the right direction or are we moving away from it? Are we going back to, hey, if you do this, God will do this kind of thing? Are we equipping people to be strong and have fortitude and perseverance and endurance?

Are we doing that? Well, I really think it's a really hard question to answer in terms of just the numbers, so I'm going to take a guess that basically how we began this program and some of the things that you said are still true, and that is that we do not have a clear theology. And because of that, we think that God is the big bellhop in heaven, and so when we are in trouble, we sort of pull the rope, you know, ring the bell, and God is supposed to jump down and say, okay, I'm here, sort of like a genie in the bottle. And unfortunately, that's the way we think. And also, we do think in this, I'll do this and I'll be a good girl, good boy, and then God will – he's obligated to give me whatever I want. You know, sort of like, you know, he's like Santa Claus, you know.

He's making a list, checking it twice whether you've been naughty or nice, and that really sticks. I mean, that's deep and deeply embedded in our psyche as people. So we need to chuck Santa Claus theology for biblical theology, and the biblical theology is that God is the sovereign of the universe. He knows exactly what he's doing in the context of a fallen world, that he is still at work doing great and mighty things, and that he uses all things for his own glory.

So that while we have difficulty believing that, that's exactly what he's doing. And so what brings glory to God is the thing that we should desire more than anything else, because that is what God is seeking. And when we have that good theology, that gives us a firm foundation on which to stand and to be able to see how God is at work in a good way. So my sense right now is that we probably lean more towards the negotiation with God like Abraham did, the Santa Claus view of God, the sort of the butler jives in heaven that is there for our purpose, and if he doesn't, then I have a right to be angry with him, as opposed to seeing him as the sovereign who knows what he's doing, and having the view that Abraham came to will not the judge of the earth do right. By the way, I love that, that Abraham landed on that, and God doesn't feel this. Do you sense that we have as believers this burning desire to somehow wash God's hands?

Do you ever sense that? Because it's just that people see these things, well what about this, and what about this, and they use these as exhibit A and B and C against the Almighty, and they miss the complete picture of, wait a minute, are you even looking at the cross? Do you understand what that means in the context of your suffering? It comes back to, again, what Paul deals with a very difficult thing about the whole process of how God redeems us in Christ as he's dealing with the question of how he saves some, that he uses the example, you know, who is the creator? Well, God is. And then he uses the example of the potter and the pot and the clay, and the potter then mixes the clay and he passions it, and he says, I'm going to make a pot here that's going to be an ordinary water pot. Another one, he's going to do a Ming vase, and he chooses what he chooses to do. And when we hear that, we're saying, well then, are we just robots?

No. It's just that when we're putting all the pieces together, we have to start from the position of who God is. And we can't define him, he is the one who defines us.

He's the creator, he's the one made in his image, and we have to say, come alongside of it, align our thinking with him, as opposed to him having to align his thinking with us. I played that this morning, by the way, that hymn, have thine own way, Lord, have thine own way, thou art the potter, I am the clay. That's a hymn that is familiar, but it's not an easy hymn to play if you've watched some of the things that we as caregivers have to watch. You have to make peace with a lot of things, and then once you do, then you go back to that hymn and you're like, oh, oh, and it becomes like a warm blanket around you. I mean, Peter, just think of it this way, you and Gracie have opened doors to people that I don't have because of the, where you all are and the things that you have gone through, and what will it do in terms of counting for now as well as eternity.

And that sounds like a very utilitarian, but it isn't. It's a very reality that God, just like Paul said, that now that I realize what God's business is, I'm willing to say that through that what appears to be weakness really is strength, and therefore I'm going to live with that weakness in order to be strong in the things of Christ and allow grace to be manifested in the things that God's going to be done. You have touched more lives, you and Gracie, than in this area. I mean, you have this program, you have this ministry in Ghana with the limbs and so forth, just amazing, okay, that nobody else is doing. I mean, it didn't even cross my mind because that's not my experience, but God used you to develop this ministry, and people give a hearing to you out of that because the reality of that experience, and not only the reality of the experience, but also that you're living out the truth of a good biblical theology that gives you that strong foundation so that you can speak with comfort and power and authority to the people who are hurting.

Well, that is very gracious of you, and I am the recipient of a lot of that from your students, so we're all in the mutual admiration society of what God is doing in us, and one of your students, Larry Farris, my dear friend, has a phrase that he uses to me a lot, because sometimes there's nothing else to say. You can't say things, and we tend to kind of blather on when we come across some suffering, and sometimes we just need to sit and groan with people, and Larry just says, we run to Christ. We just run to Christ. We fall into Christ. There's no other place to go.

You go to Christ. And whatever good theology I've developed, I've developed because I've had people alongside me who've said, I see your suffering, I see the magnitude of it, and I want to walk with you through it. And today, Dr. Aquilla, you walked with me through this, and our listeners here, I hope that they are encouraged and strengthened. We've just scratched the surface. Can we do it again? Well, you are very gracious. Dr. Dominic Aquilla, New Geneva Theological Seminary, and go to,, and let's journey this together, okay? Let the good theology support the suffering that you're carrying, and I promise you, you'll run to this Christ, and you'll hold on. That's the place to go. That's where we become healthy.

Healthy caregivers make better caregivers. We'll see you next week.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-24 21:30:45 / 2024-01-24 21:52:26 / 22

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