Christians, You Will Suffer

Stand to Reason Blog has some excellent thoughts about how suffering shapes us as believers in their blog piece, “Christians, You Will Suffer.” Here’s an excerpt:

“If suffering disproves your Christianity, you’ve missed Christianity. The Bible is filled with the suffering of those whom God loves. The central event of the Bible is one of suffering. Love involves suffering. “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” That means suffering.

But Christianity also promises justice for evil. And grace. And life from death. Resurrection. New bodies. Hope. Jesus is the only hope for true pain.”

– See more at: Stand to Reason

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Psalm 37: A Wise Walk in a Wicked World (Pt. 1)

Psalm 37 is a study in contrasts between the righteous and the wicked. It encourages us to trust in God, devote our lives to Him, and know that He is sovereign. All things will ultimately be resolved by Him, if not immediately then in the final judgment. It’s a content-filled psalm and I’ll be unpacking it in several parts. Enjoy the journey.

Quick overview of the psalm

David wrote this psalm as an old man looking back over his life [v. 25] and reflecting on his experiences with life and with the Lord. In his lifetime, David saw a lot of wickedness succeed and a lot of righteous people suffering. That led him to encourage the righteous as to how they should respond.

Fret not yourself because of evildoers;
    be not envious of wrongdoers!
For they will soon fade like the grass
    and wither like the green herb.

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
    dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
    and your justice as the noonday.

Key things to pick up from this part of the Psalm

Don’t fret about evil: Here and twice in the next section of verses, we’re told, “fret not,” or “do not fret, as the NAS puts it. Fret is a weird word to most of us and we probably don’t use it a whole lot. It has the sense, from the dictionary, of being constantly or visibly worried or anxious. Spend a day in the world working or simply observing people and you will see evil and wrong behavior. For a feeling, reasoning believer, this can be a great cause of distress. After all, we want the true justice — not the world’s method, but God’s. Continue reading

No Answers, Prayer, Mercy

In my recent post, Not Having All the Answers, I shared with you a struggle that an important person in my life was having and that I worked hard at not coming up with all the perfect theological and scriptural answers to help him solve his problem.

Today I have it on my heart to share the end of the story. Or you could say it was the beginning.

The person is my brother and the problem he faced (without going into his private details) was a legal one (albeit minor). A wrong attitude on his part combined with a falsehood told by the law enforcement side brought him to the day where he had to face things — but he was tempted to run away instead (literally). Depending on the mind of one judge, he could face an unknown amount of jail time. Long enough and he’d also face the upheaval of losing his business, dog, house – in short, his life.

For weeks, he struggled, prayed, wrestled, rationalized, talked, went back and forth, and fought mentally and spiritually over a decision that either way could change his life forever. For weeks, those of us who love him supported, listened, and loved him without telling him what he should do. Continue reading

Not Having All the Answers

When I was much younger (in years and in the faith), I was involved in a Christian online forum. Since many of the people who frequented that forum were even younger than I was, I became a person who was an “authority.” I hesitate to use that word, because I always viewed it as service, not expertise.

Many of these people were wrestling with significant doctrinal issues and I would often feel compelled to try and answer all their questions. You can imagine how overwhelming this was, but it also led me to a place where I began to feel I needed to be right about everything. To be able to give an airtight explanation that would leave them feeling more satisfied and confident in their Christian faith. Continue reading

The One Who Creates Calamity

I am the LORD, and there is no other,
besides me there is no God;
I equip you, though you do not know me,

that people may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is none besides me;
I am the LORD, and there is no other.

I form light and create darkness,
I make well-being and create calamity,
I am the LORD, who does all these things.

Isaiah 45:5-7 ESV

In context, Isaiah is prophesying the time when God will use Cyrus, king of Persia, to permit the nation of Israel to return to Jerusalem and “build Him a house.” [see 2 Chron. 36:22 ESV for the fulfilled prophecy] It is the only time in scripture where God calls a Gentile “His anointed” (see Isa. 45:1).

At first glance, this may look like ancient history. What does this have to do with Christ’s church in 2015? What does it have to do with you?

Let’s walk through a few key pieces of this:

I equip you, though you do not know me

The word “equip” is “often seen as “gird” in other translations and in Hebrew means “to encompass” as well as “to equip.” The idea of encompassing is one of surrounding and having or holding within. It also conveys the concept of causing something to take place. It speaks of the fact that it is God who works in men’s hearts to bring about His purposes.

I am the LORD, and there is no other.

This phrase “I am the LORD” is repeated three times here and speaks of God’s veritable Lordship over all things. The additional repetition of “and there is no other” emphasizes His uniqueness in this role.

earth light and dark

Photo credit: Defwalls.com

I form light and create darkness,
I make well-being and create calamity,

This speaks of God’s omnipotence in creation and of God’s sovereignty in both good/evil. The word for “calamity” in Hebrew is ra which Strong’s translates 124 times as evil. Here is a point that may be difficult to grasp because of our limited understanding as finite beings or because we simply do not want to see God this way. The very clear indication here is that God made both light and darkness and good and evil (note that I am not saying that God created sin.)

Is this shocking to you? Here’s what it has to do with your view of the storms you may be in.

It is critical for a wise and godly perspective that rests in Him to see that the creation of both good and evil indicates God’s absolute sovereignty. If God does not, at minimum, allow/permit evil and suffering, and at maximum, create or bring it about, then how can He be sovereign? If He does not, He is only partially sovereign and that means some things are out of His control.

Further, if this were true, He would have no way to bring about His good plan and purpose because He cannot fully oversee all things to their intended conclusion.

So the storm you’re in is created, shaped, and brought about by Him. You may not fully understand it until you reach His presence. You don’t have to even like it (and who has not said this!). Yet He intends to shape you in and through it.