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.

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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.

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!

Glory to God in suffering

Here is a video from John Jordan’s facebook page explaining further how God can be glorified in the midst of suffering.

further information on this topic in II Corinthians 4:7-5:15 and Hebrews 10:32-39.

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.

II Timothy 3:12

II Timothy 3:12 says “12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,”. Do you believe that? Do you believe that all means all and that persecution really means persecution? Really?

here is a John Piper quote from Vitamin Z:

“Obedience in missions and social justice has always been costly, and always will be. In the village of Miango, Nigeria, there is an SIM guest house and a small church called Kirk Chapel. Behind the chapel is a small cemetery with 56 graves. Thirty-three of them hold the bodies of missionary children. Some of the stones read: ‘Ethyl Armold: September 1, 1928-September 2, 1928.’ ‘Barbara J. Swanson: 1946-1952.’ ‘Eileen Louise Whitmoyer: May 6, 1952-July 3, 1955.’ For many families this was the cost of taking the Gospel to Nigeria. Charles White told his story about visiting this little graveyard and ended it with a tremendously powerful sentence. He said, ‘the only way we can understand the graveyard at Miango is to remember that god also buried his Son on the mission field.’

And when God raised Him from the dead, He called the church to follow Him into the same dangerous field called ‘all the world’ (Mark 16:15). But are we willing to follow? In Ermelo, Holland, Brother Andrew told the story of sitting in Budapest, Hungary, with a dozen pastors of that city, teaching them from the Bible. In walked an old friend, a pastor from Romania who had recently been released from prison. Brother Andrew said that he stopped teaching and knew that it was time to listen.

After a long pause the Romanian pastor said, ‘Andrew, are there any pastors in prison in Holland?’ ‘No,’ he replied. ‘Why not?’ the pastor asked. Brother Andrew thought for a moment and said, ‘I think it must be because we do not take advantage of all the opportunities God gives us.’ Then came the most difficult question. ‘Andrew, what do you do with 2 Timothy 3:12?’ Brother Andrew opened his Bible and turned to the test and read aloud, ‘All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.’ He closed the Bible slowly and said, ‘Brother, please forgive me. We do nothing with that verse.’

We have, I fear, domesticated the concept of godliness into such inoffensive, middle-class morality and law-keeping that 2 Timothy 3:12 has become unintelligible to us. I think many of us are not prepared to suffer for the gospel. We do not grasp the truth that God has purposes of future grace that he intends to give his people through suffering. We can speak of purposes of suffering because it is clearly God’s purpose that we at times suffer for righteousness’ sake and for the sake of the Gospel. For example, ‘Let those who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.’ (1 Peter 4:19, 3:17 and Hebrews 12:4-11).

To live by faith in future grace we must see that the suffering of Gods people is the instrument of grace in their lives.”

– John Piper, Future Grace

emphasis added.

more prosperity gospel

back to vitamin z for an update on Joel Osteen’s newest book.

check it out:

So, Joel Osteen sent us an email yesterday to let us know about his new book, It’s Your Time. Joel wanted us to know that we could achieve our dreams with his new book. That was the subject line, seriously.

Here’s more encouragement from Joel O.:

Get your hopes up. Raise your expectations. Expect the unexpected. In challenging times, it may be hard to see better days ahead.

You may feel as though your struggles will never end, that things won’t ever turn around.

This is exactly the moment when you should seek and expect God’s blessings.

It’s your time to declare your faith, to look for God’s favor and to give control of your life to Him so that you can find fulfillment in His plans for you!

Joel Osteen

here’s more disgusting bilge from the toothy spewer of sewer:

God wants to breathe new life into your dreams. He wants to breathe new hope into your heart. You may be about to give up on a marriage, on a troubled child, on a lifelong goal. But God wants you to hold on. He says if you’ll get your second wind, if you’ll put on a new attitude and press forward like you’ll headed down the final stretch, you’ll see Him begin to do amazing things.

Tune out the negative messages. Quit telling yourself: I’m never landing back on my feet financially. I’m never breaking this addiction. I’m never landing a better job.

Instead, your declarations should be: I am closer than I think. I can raise this child. I can overcome this sickness. I can make this business work. I know I can find a new job.

Take your dreams and the promises God has put in your heart, and every day declare that they will come to pass. Just say something like, “Father, I want to thank you that my payday is coming. You said no good thing will You withhold because I walk uprightly. And I believe even right now you’re arranging things in my favor.”

When you’re tempted to get down and things are not going your way, you need to keep telling yourself “This may be hard. It may be taking a long time. But I know God is a faithful God. And I will believe knowing that my payday is on its way.

Whenever life grows difficult, and the pressure is turned up, that’s a sign that your time is near. When lies bombard your mind. When you are most tempted to get discouraged. And when you feel like throwing in the towel. That’s not the time to give up. That’s not the time to back down. That’s the time to dig in your heels. Put on a new attitude. You are closer than you think.

God promises your payday is on its way. If you’ll learn to be a prisoner of hope and get up every day expecting God’s favor, you’ll see God do amazing things. You’ll overcome every obstacle. You’ll defeat every enemy. And I believe and declare you’ll see every dream, every promise God has put in your heart. It will come to pass.

emphasis added.  Our “payday is on its way?”  are you kidding me?  check out Matt Chandler right quick, “But you don’t put God in your debt. I know this because really really faithful men in the Scripture have it go really really bad for them.”

Do you believe the witness of scripture or do you believe the spewer of sewer with the big toothy smile?

what does God say in the Bible about our payday?  That we have earned the payment/penalty/wages of death:  “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

If we were to get our “payday” we wouldn’t enjoy it very much.

now just for comparison with the O man, go check out the last 6 or 7 verses in Hebrews 10.

Or, better yet, look for a minute at I Peter 4:12-19

12Beloved, do not be surprised at(A) the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13But rejoice(B) insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad(C) when his glory is revealed. 14(D) If you are insulted(E) for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory[a] and of God rests upon you. 15But(F) let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or(G) as a meddler. 16Yet(H) if anyone suffers as a(I) Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God(J) in that name. 17For it is time for judgment(K) to begin at the household of God; and(L) if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who(M) do not obey the gospel of God? 18And

(N) “If the righteous is scarcely saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”[b]

19Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will(O) entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

could the contrast be any more stark? What Joel Osteen is spewing is a lie from the Liar himself.

As Z says it is damnation with a smile:

What you preach is not Christianity. It’s motivational, positive sounding legalism. “Just follow these rules and you’ll be set” is essentially your message. This is not the gospel. As Michael Horton says, this is “law light”. Sounds good and very nice, but is just as damning. It’s damnation with a smile.