why me?

These are questions we tend to ask when things aren’t going the way we would desire for them to go.  Why me?  Why this? Why now?

Justin Taylor posts an answer tree from David Powlison, “God’s Grace and Your Sufferings,”  in Suffering and the Sovereignty of God (pp. 172-173)..

here is a paragraph from the middle, but you really have to go read and perhaps meditate on the whole thing

As that deeper question sinks home, you become joyously sane. The universe is no longer supremely about you. Yet you are not irrelevant. God’s story makes you just the right size. Everything counts, but the scale changes to something that makes much more sense. You face hard things. But you have already received something better which can never be taken away. And that better something will continue to work out the whole journey long.

I have the Kindle version of Suffering and the Sovereignty of God on my iPhone. Obviously, I need to read past the introduction.

Fuel for the Christian Life

Tullian Tchividjian explains that the Gospel is the power of God for salvation as well as fuel for living the Christian life.

HT to Timmy Brister

Brian McLaren’s new book

Kevin DeYoung thoroughly (pdf 12 pages long) reviews all ten premises of Brian McClaren’s new book A New Kind of Christianity here. Kevin’s describes his approach at the outset:

I want to be fair with McLaren. I want to understand his ideas and evaluate them based on their merits. If I misunderstand a point or misconstrue what McLaren teaches I want to be corrected. Further, I have no desire to engage in ad hominem attacks. I want to discuss McLaren’s theology without vitriol or sophomoric putdowns. I will not assume the worst about Brian McLaren. I will try not to say anything in the cozy confines of the blogosphere that I would not say sitting across from McLaren over a beverage of his choice.

It’s not wrong to ask a reviewer to be charitable, so long as the love does not have to be devoid of the truth.

So what I will not do is pretend that the issues McLaren raises are non-essential issues or that his mistakes are little mistakes. I will not refrain from serious critique because this is only a “quest” or merely an attempt to raise questions. Moreover, I will not attempt to find a middle ground with teaching that I believe to be heterodox. I will not look for a third way when I see Christianity going down one path and McLarenism going down another. I will state my disagreements with this book strongly and warn other Christians strenuously. I am not ashamed for having convictions, and I am not afraid to write as if I understand (truly though not exhaustively) what the Bible teaches and understand that what it teaches is incompatible with A New Kind of Christianity.

No one deserves to reviled. But some books deserve to pilloried.

and then he promptly and calmly proceeds to pillory what needs to be pilloried.

Tim Challies also reviewed the book. His review is shorter and more brutal.

It wasn’t too long ago that I wrote about Brian McLaren and got in trouble. Reflecting on seeing him speak at a nearby church, I suggested that he appears to love Jesus but hate God. Based on immediate and furious reaction, I quickly retracted that statement. I should not have done so. I believed it then and I believe it now. And if it was true then, how much more true is it upon the release of his latest tome A New Kind of Christianity. In this book we finally see where McLaren’s journey has taken him; it has taken him into outright, rank, unapologetic apostasy. He hates God. Period.

Both of these men have done us a service. Books such as McClaren’s need to be deconstructed and called out for the heresy that they are. As Mark Driscoll says, we have a duty to shoot the wolves.

interview

here is an interview with a man that will likely not be alive at the end of this year. fascinating difference in perspective even though any of the rest of could die this year too.

There is a tendency that’s especially strong in Calvinist circles to read Romans 8:28, “All things work together for the good,” as though it says that “All things aregood.”  I heard some of that, and that hurt me too.  I am not blaming anyone else; I am sure this is more my fault than anyone else’s.  These are honest opinions, if (I think) probably misguided, and they were delivered by completely well-meaning people.  But hearing repeatedly that suffering is discipline from a loving Father, and that my circumstances are all gift — no curses, they are all blessings — made me feel sometimes as though God were coming after me with a baseball bat.

It’s impossible for me to hear and absorb those messages and then also think that the God of the universe actually loves me.  I got close at some points to losing my faith, to seeing God as having declared Himself my enemy.  It’s hard to worship your enemy.

The pain and the cancer in themselves are not good, then, and yet we as Christians believe that God can bring good out of evil.  Not to paper over the negatives, but what good has God brought out of it?  What lessons has God taught you, or how has He shaped you?

My experience of cancer especially is that God is just so eager to bless.  I find blessing all over the place, not in the cancer itself but all around it.  It would almost be easier to answer what blessings I have not found.

…..

Many people wonder what it will be like when they learn that their death is drawing near.  Is there anything that surprises you?

Yes, absolutely, but I think that this is just another one of many, many pieces of divine mercy.  One thing that has certainly surprised me is just how easy it has been to absorb that message that I’m going to die soon.

I will probably not survive 2010.  Yet that message is much easier to take than I would have expected.  I don’t fully understand why.  I would have thought that the knowledge that I am very likely in my last year of life would lead me to dwell on the dying.  A certain amount of that is unavoidable.  Death hangs in the air.  It’s as though I am living with an hourglass right in front of my face.  You cannot look away from it.  You cannot close your eyes to it.  It’s always there.  But actually I think it has led me to dwell more on the living.  It sounds really trite to say that things that seemed like very small matters seem really precious to me now.  It’s no novel thought — but, in my case, it really is true.

handling criticism

Tim Keller has some useful insights into handling criticism.

First, you should look to see if there is a kernel of truth in even the most exaggerated and unfair broadsides. There is usually such a kernel when the criticism comes from friends, and there is often such truth when the disapproval comes from people who actually know you. So even if the censure is partly or even largely mistaken, look for what you may indeed have done wrong. Perhaps you simply acted or spoke in a way that was not circumspect. Maybe the critic is partly right for the wrong reasons. Nevertheless, identify your own shortcomings, repent in your own heart before the Lord for what you can, and let that humble you. It will then be possible to learn from the criticism and stay gracious to the critic even if you have to disagree with what he or she has said.

go check out the rest.

personal election

here is a beautiful essay by Tim Challies about Mary Magdalene at the tomb of Jesus and what it means for Jesus to have called us to life by name.

As I read these words, I think of the way Jesus called me and the way he has called countless numbers of men and women to himself. Like Mary I was once unable to see Jesus for who he is. I saw a man who may as well have been a gardener. He was a good man, a moral man, and maybe even a great man. But he was just a man. Only when Jesus called me by name was I able to see that him as the God-man. Only then was I able to see him as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Only then did I really and truly know him. And only then were my eyes opened so I could see and my ears unstopped so I could hear and my heart renewed so I could believe. Like Mary, he called me by name.

more reviews of The Shack

some big guns have turned their attention to Wm P. Young’s book, The Shack. Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian has read it and Dr. Al Mohler is concerned about the discernment ability of modern evangelicals in light of the fact that this book is so popular among them.

If you remember my main concern with the book was its false portrayal of God.

my summary is:

I am afraid that if someone reads the Shack and falls in love with Papa, then all they have fallen in love with is a fictional African American woman who likes to cook and give hugs. They have not been led to God. They have not fallen in love with the biblical Jesus.
They have instead been distracted by an anthropomorphic three headed idol created by Wm. Paul Young.

Therefore, I was pleased to see Tim Keller say:

But here is my main problem with the book. Anyone who is strongly influenced by the imaginative world of The Shack will be totally unprepared for the far more multi-dimensional and complex God that you actually meet when you read the Bible. In the prophets the reader will find a God who is constantly condemning and vowing judgment on his enemies, while the Persons of the Triune-God of The Shack repeatedly deny that sin is any offense to them. The reader of Psalm 119 is filled with delight at God’s statutes, decrees, and laws, yet the God of The Shack insists that he doesn’t give us any rules or even have any expectations of human beings. All he wants is relationship. The reader of the lives of Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and Isaiah will learn that the holiness of God makes his immediate presence dangerous or fatal to us. Someone may counter (as Young seems to do, on p.192) that because of Jesus, God is now only a God of love, making all talk of holiness, wrath, and law obsolete. But when John, one of Jesus’ closest friends, long after the crucifixion sees the risen Christ in person on the isle of Patmos, John ‘fell at his feet as dead.’ (Rev.1:17.) The Shack effectively deconstructs the holiness and transcendence of God. It is simply not there. In its place is unconditional love, period. The God of The Shack has none of the balance and complexity of the Biblical God. Half a God is not God at all.

I also very much enjoyed Dr. Mohler’s take. He points out the numerous serious theological concerns and wonders why so many people fail to see how the book contradicts Biblical theology.

here are some of the problems but be sure to read the whole article for others:

The relationship of the Father to the Son, revealed in a text like John 17, is rejected in favor of an absolute equality of authority among the persons of the Trinity. “Papa” explains that “we have no concept of final authority among us, only unity.” In one of the most bizarre paragraphs of the book, Jesus tells Mack: “Papa is as much submitted to me as I am to him, or Sarayu to me, or Papa to her. Submission is not about authority and it is not obedience; it is all about relationships of love and respect. In fact, we are submitted to you in the same way.”

The theorized submission of the Trinity to a human being — or to all human beings — is a theological innovation of the most extreme and dangerous sort. The essence of idolatry is self-worship, and this notion of the Trinity submitted (in any sense) to humanity is inescapably idolatrous.

The most controversial aspects of The Shack’s message have revolved around questions of universalism, universal redemption, and ultimate reconciliation. Jesus tells Mack: “Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans and many who don’t vote or are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions.” Jesus adds, “I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, my Beloved.”

Mack then asks the obvious question — do all roads lead to Christ? Jesus responds, “Most roads don’t lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you.”

Given the context, it is impossible not to draw essentially universalistic or inclusivistic conclusions about Young’s meaning. “Papa” chides Mack that he is now reconciled to the whole world. Mack retorts, “The whole world? You mean those who believe in you, right?” “Papa” responds, “The whole world, Mack.”

emphasis added.

I think the bit that I bolded above is why the book is so popular. self love and self worship has been honed to a fine art in our culture including our church culture. we like hearing ourselves say to each other “you’re good enough, you’re smart enough and doggone it, people like you.”

We very much would like to believe that God believes the same thing about us that we believe about ourselves.