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.

Matt Chandler

Matt Chandler’s surgery to remove a mass from his frontal lobe begins in about 20 minutes. Be in prayer for him during the surgery and for a complete recovery.

Here is a post from Matt going into surgery about the things for which he is thankful.

The beginning:

The last seven days have been some of the most interesting of my life. I have felt anxiety, fear, sadness and a deep and unmovable joy simultaneously and in deeper ways than I have felt before. I am grateful for this heightened sense of things. Today at 10:45 a.m. CST I will have a good portion of my right frontal lobe removed. I head into that surgery with a heart that is filled with gratitude and hope.

Here are some of the things I am thankful for in no particular order:

  1. I am thankful for the thousands of you who have prayed and fasted for my health. It has brought far more tears to Lauren’s and my eyes to receive this kind of attention from the Church universal than this tumor has.
  2. I’m thankful for health insurance because I’m guessing they aren’t doing my five-hour surgery for free!

God’s Glory

An interesting twitter discussion has arisen between Mark Lamprecht Wes Widner and Jacob Hall.

Friends of Mark’s have a six year old son who has developed a brain tumor and on his blog, Mark posted John’s facebook entry about Faith, Sovereignty, and God’s glory. Go take a look at John’s response to this situation and the thanks people are expressing for the faith that he and his wife are showing in this trial. here is some of it, but go read it all.

First of all, I’m unsure about what kind of faith is being talked about. I’ve never been sure that it is God’s will that our Gideon be brought back to full health.

Now, when I say that, I’m not saying that I don’t think God could do that nor do I want you do think that I don’t desire that. I just don’t think that is the way God always works. However, I do know that God does work all things out for Him to get the maximum glory.

Now, many of you may ask “how can God get glory unless he heals Gideon?” My response would be that he definitely gets glory by healing Gideon, but He gets even more glory when we have our full satisfaction in Him and Him alone!

God isn’t all satisfying and worthy of my praise because he makes us healthy and wealthy. He isn’t worthy because He heals my little boy. He is all satisfying because He is God and He always does what is right! He is all satisfying because he rescued me from my biggest problem.

Our greatest problem isn’t poverty, lack of self-esteem, or brain tumors. Our biggest problem is we have sinned against a holy righteous God. He has saved me from my sin, and for that reason alone he is all satisfying. He is enough.

Yes, we have faith in our God, but our faith is that He will do what’s right and what is best…even if that meant taking Gideon from us.

Mark then posted the link to the blog entry on twitter as follows:

How would you react if your 6 yr old had a brain tumor? Would you glorify God? One family’s responsehttp://bit.ly/3IV3Xh

Wes responded with this:

@hereiblog Glorify God for what? Giving the strength and comfort to endure it or for giving the brain tumor? One isn’t glorifying.

Jacobhall jumped in then with this:

@kai5263499 Your view of God is totally skewed. He is worthy of Glory regardless of the situation.

then Wes:

@JacobHall86 Not if he kills innocent people for no reason. Sorry, that’s not the picture of God the bible paints.

then Jacob:

@kai5263499 Noone is innocent. That is the picture painted in the Bible. You assume with Pelagian views. None are Righteous.

Now look up at the two portions of Wes Widner’s entries that I bolded. do you see it? Wes has decided that he knows what brings God glory and he knows who is innocent and he knows when there is “no reason” for a death.

I have some questions.
Why does Wes have such a high view of himself and his own knowledge?
Why does he not approach this topic with a little more humility?
Why doesn’t he even give lip service to the possibility that God has something in mind in this situation that is far higher than our poor power to deduce as we rock along here in our finite bubble of right now with our limited intellects and our limited set of emotional responses?

Does Wes think God doesn’t at least have the ability to control this boy’s tumor?
If so, then what else doesn’t God control in Wes’ world?
If not, then isn’t allowing it to happen functionally the same as causing it?
Wouldn’t God remain culpable for the illness?
If that is the case, then isn’t it better to believe God to be fully sovereign over every aspect of this situation and every other situation in our lives?
Isn’t it better to fully trust a sovereign God who loves us, sent his Son to die for us, and promised us good things, with our illnesses and their outcome?
Isn’t it true that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him, even in the midst of loss, heartache and pain?
Isn’t that what makes God look most fantastic to this lost and dying world?

just asking some questions here.

the Jesus threat

Todd Bumgarner posts an interesting quote from John Stott. what do you think about this?

The context is Stott talking about the first century Jewish people and their priests and how they reacted and responded to Jesus’ ministry:

“So they felt threatened by Jesus.  He undermined their prestige, their hold over the people, their own self-confidence and self-respect, while leaving his intact.  They were “envious” of him, and therefore determined to get rid of him.  It is significant that Matthew recounts two jealous plots to eliminate Jesus, the first by Herod the Great at the beginning of his life and the other by the priests at its end.  Both felt their authority under threat.  So both sought to “destroy” Jesus (Mt 2:13; 27:20 AV). However outwardly respectable the priests’ political and theological arguments may have appeared, it was envy which led them to “hand over” Jesus to Pilate to be destroyed (Mk 15:1, 10).

The same evil passion influences our own contemporary attitudes to Jesus.  He is still, as C. S. Lewis called him, “a transcendental interferer.” We resent his intrusions into our privacy, his demand for our homage, his expectation of our obedience. Why can’t he mind his own business, we ask petulantly, and leave us alone? To which he instantly replies that we are his business and that he will never leave us alone. So we too perceive him as a threatening rival who disturbs our peace, upsets our status quo, undermines our authority and diminishes our self-respect. We too want to get rid of him.”

John Stott, The Cross of Christ. p58

Choice, Sovereignty and an example

John Piper recently explored free will, God’s sovereignty and Paul’s example. fascinating stuff.

One of the most influential passages in the Bible that God used to open my mind to his sovereignty over my will is Philippians 2:12-13.

Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

So my working and willing are necessary. They are real. But they are not first or ultimately decisive. God’s willing and working is decisively under and in my willing and working. The word “for” is crucial. I work because he is working in me. I will, because he is willing in me.

Believing this precedes understanding how it works. God says it. I believe it. Now I am spending a lifetime learning what it is like to live this way.

go read the rest (its short).

two on suffering

first courtesy of Vitamin Z we get this comforting bit that we will never be able to fully explain the problem of evil but that we can trust God anyway:

So how do Christians explain the problem of evil?

The reality is, we can’t provide an exhaustive theodicy or explanation of the existence of evil.  Our minds cannot fully fathom “why.”

But, in his recommended book, Return to Reason, Kelly Clark, explains why Christians need not feel intellectually compromised if they cannot explain the existence of evil.  Here is how he concludes the discussion.

The Christian theist need not be troubled by is his ignorance of a theodicy.  This ignorance is not insincere, questionable or obscurantist.  Rather, it is quite consistent with his theistic beliefs.  The Christian theist will believe that God has a good reason for allowing evil, although  he does not know what it is or know it in any detail.  He believes that God has a good reason because of God’s redemptive incarnational revelation.  It is not rationally incumbent upon the theist to produce a successful theodicy; the theist, in order to be rational, must simply believe that God has a good reason for allowing evil.  A God who shares in our pain, who redeems our sorrows and our shortcomings, who wipes away ever tear, is surely a good God. (page 89).

and then Halim Suh is making plans. He is thinking about what he wants his friends to tell him when suffering comes in his life. It is so very helpful to have right theology and right thinking about suffering firmly in place in your mind before the suffering hits. before the cancer diagnosis, before the layoff, before the horrible accident etc. etc. Here are some of Halim’s prospective advices to himself. Go read the rest.

Yesterday in our book group, we were discussing suffering. Honestly, I haven’t endured a lot of suffering, yet, in this life. Especially not the tragic, life-changes-in-a-moment kind of suffering. But, only the Lord knows if it is coming. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I would want people to tell me if I do go through a crisis – and these are things that I think I would need to hear:

Tell me that there is a God in heaven, who made the heavens and the earth and all that is in them. Remind me that my crisis, my suffering, is not a surprise to Him, and that it has not happened outside of His control. Tell me that my God has a purpose in everything – my suffering included. Remind me that He is the God who sees everything – not one thing has ever escaped His attention. He sees me now.
….
Tell me that there is a Savior that suffered – a lot more than I can ever imagine. No matter how much suffering I am enduring, remind me that Jesus suffered so much more, infinitely more. Tell me that He can comfort me because He knows my pain. He knows my suffering. Tell me that my Jesus is there.

Tell me that God loves me with a fierce love – the kind that rips open seas, that drowns armies, that throws hailstones from heaven, that shuts up lions’ mouths, that saves from consuming fires, that heals the lame, that feeds the hungry and that conquers death. Remind me that my God loves me like that. And that this God doesn’t change, nor does His love for me change. So, if He has ordained suffering in my life, He is still loving me – although I may not see it or understand it.

Halim is one of the staff at Austin Stone Community Church.

powerful stuff

Timmy Brister posted this video “Choosing Thomas” and like he says it is worth the next ten minutes of your time.

somewhat related, Randy Alcorn talks here about the absolute necessity for Christians to have a well developed theology of suffering to avoid falling into serious error when something like the events in the video above come into our lives.

I wrote If God Is Good because the question of suffering and evil is the most commonly raised and perplexing problem there is. It’s unusual to have serious prolonged interactions about believing in God, with either believers or unbelievers, without them raising it.

I am also deeply concerned with how radically unbiblical viewpoints are being assimilated into the thinking of evangelical Christians. In If God Is Good, I wrote four chapters critiquing the attempts of misguided theologians to resolve the problem of evil by minimizing the divine attributes of omnipotence, omniscience, goodness, or love.
….
I also wanted to address the issue of mystery and faith, and our need to trust God even when we can’t see his purposes. That used to be a central part of faith, but somehow it seems more difficult for modern Christians. I argue that while the nature of faith is to trust God for what we do not see, we may base our trust in him on many things we have seen—His Word, His creation, and how he has shown himself in others in our lives and throughout history. I point out that if you write down the worst things that have ever happened to you and then write down the best things, there is often, especially when sufficient time has passed, a shocking overlap of the lists, confirming the workings of God’s sovereign grace.