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.


iMonk goes on a rant about law preaching versus gospel preaching that is both entertaining and informative. take a look.

In other words, it’s an unmitigated disaster unless the Gospel is heard louder, longer and much clearer than anything else.
I’d really like to apologize to anyone- and there are a lot of these people- who ever showed up at church and heard the “good news” that if they would take their talent and use it for the Lord, they’d be blessed. Or if they surrender their all to Jesus, they’ll be happy no matter what happens. Or if they will stop making excuses and get serious about following Jesus, they can please God.

Really, I apologize. We’ve got better news than that.

We’ve got the news that if everything sucks, asteroids hit the earth, you die, the economy tanks, no one at work likes you, Christians are jailed, your computer breaks and your kid turns out to be a lawyer, you still can’t stop the Good News of what God has done for you.
We’ve got the news that God has declared religion out of business. We’ve got the news that the church has nothing to offer or say except the Gospel, so that should simplify your search for a church. We’ve got the news that at the end of the world, there’s going to be a party for you and me, where we’re going to be embraced, loved and taken to the new heaven and the new earth completely on the free grace of God in Jesus.

Hat tip to Vitamin Z.

New Piper book, free pdf

zach points out that the new John Piper book with missionary stories is available free for download.

DG Blog

John Piper’s new book Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ is now available for download. Get it for free.

Read an interview by JT with John Piper concerning this book.

here is the direct link to 128 pages of goodness.

and here is the book information page

oh, I’m much worse than that

I love this bit of self-deprecation and reliance on grace from Martin Luther as updated by Carl Trueman. This is some good stuff.

… has been brought to my attention over the last years that I am the hapless lackey of right-wing Christian America, the ruthless dismantler of everything good and virtuous at Westminster Theological Seminary (both the right and the left have advocated that one), a communist apologist for Islamic terrorism, a fundamentalist, a liar, a liberal (political and theological), an inveterate street fighter, a spineless girlyman, and a symptom of the crisis in American higher education whose very existence explains why so many young people leave college ill-equipped to deal with real life.

Now, I have to confess that, in the early days, the web insults that were forwarded to me did hurt a bit. I suspect that anyone who says that such things do not hurt is a liar. I may have had my blood replaced with ice water when I took the job of Academic Dean; and I can confirm the rumours that I do not have a shadow or cast a reflection in the mirrored glass in Machen Hall; but, despite the hearsay, I do remember getting a lump in my throat at the end of Bambi when I was child; and I can enjoy the occasional episode of Dancing with the Stars as much as the next man. Yes, I am human and I have the feelings too.

Look, to repeat: the web is bandit country. Let the wild and the whacky compete with the sane and the measured, the incoherent and rambling with the logical and well-argued, the extreme with the moderate. If people believe you are really a lizard from the Planet Iguanadon who has assumed human form and infiltrated a church or a seminary to make it the base for an Iguanaman takeover of the entire Christian church, then let them do so. Nothing you can say to the contrary will do anything other than convince them of the depth and sophistication of the extraterrestrial reptilian conspiracy. Their emotional and psychological needs are clearly more serious than your own; and if you respond to such nonsense, you give it credibility and allow the parasitic nature of the attack to succeed. Ignore it and it may not go away, but sane people will see it for what it is and walk by, slightly embarrassed, on the other side of the virtual information highway.

There is, however, a spiritual dimension to blog attacks which is, ironically, conducive to spiritual health and growth. Here I have learned much (as elsewhere) from the master theologian, churchman, public figure, and normal Christian believer, Martin Luther. It is well-known that in his writings in table conversation Luther would often refer to visits from the Devil, how the Devil would come to him and whisper in his ear, accusing him of all manner of filthy sin: “Martin, you are a liar, greedy, lecherous, a blasphemer, a hypocrite. You cannot stand before God.” To which Luther would respond: “Well, yes, I am. And, indeed, Satan, you do not know the half of it. I have done much worse than that and if you care to give me your full list, I can no doubt add to it and help make it more complete. But you know what? My Saviour has died for all my sins – those you mention, those I could add and, indeed, those I have committed but am so wicked that I am unaware of having done so. It does not change the fact that Christ has died for all of them; his blood is sufficient; and on the Day of Judgment I shall be exonerated because he has taken all my sins on himself and clothed me in his own perfect righteousness.

go read the whole thing. Hat tip to vitamin z.

self-righteousness is no respecter of persons

courtesy of vitamin z, I ran across Tullian Tchividjian’s excellent post on the double reach of the disease of self-righteousness. good stuff.

Now, it’s very interesting that in the Bible it’s always the immoral person that gets the Gospel before the moral person. It’s the prostitute who understands grace; it’s the Pharisee who doesn’t. It’s the unrighteous younger brother who gets it before the self-righteous older brother. Tim’s book points this out well.

There is, however, another (perhaps more subtle) side to self-righteousness that younger brother types need to be careful of. There’s an equally dangerous form of self-righteousness that plagues the unconventional, the liberal, and the non-religious types. We anti-legalists can become just as guilty of legalism in the opposite direction. What do I mean?

It’s simple: we can become self-righteous against those who are self-righteous. Many younger evangelicals today are reacting to their parents’ conservative, buttoned-down, rule-keeping flavor of “older brother religion” with a type of liberal, untucked, rule-breaking flavor of “younger brother irreligion” which screams, ”That’s right, I know I don’t have it all together and you think you do; I know I’m not good and you think you are. That makes me better than you.” See the irony?

go read the rest to see the cure.

Zach is thankful for Mark Driscoll

Zach of Vitamin Z is thankful for Mark Driscoll.

Most people know that Mark is known for his strong push for men to act like Biblical men. Sometimes I feel that this crosses the line and could give people the impression that he believes a real man has to be a fist pounding, beer drinking, UFC loving, likes to fight kind of guy. I know this is not Mark’s intention, (which he explicitly stated last night) but I fear that it could be heard that way by some.

But… I know why Mark stresses these things with such intensity and I completely agree that it is a huge need in our Christian culture. As he says, “You get the men, you win the war”. I know this is true and I am thankful for Mark leading so many broken men in Seattle and beyond into loving their wives well, loving and teaching their kids well, and stepping up to lead in the church well.

Go check out the rest at the link above.

In other words, Mark Driscoll is the opposite (masculine) influence to the dominant Christian culture as reflected in The Shack (completely feminine).

I am thankful for Mark Driscoll as well.