Archive for the ‘suffering’ Category

Timely words for a generation of Christians that often associates God’s favor and grace exclusively with prosperity, comfort, material blessing, and worldly happiness:

Job’s words [in Job 13:15] remind us of God’s sovereignty over all of life, including its pain and suffering. God is not the author of evil, of course, but he is sovereign over the Devil and all the brokenness we sinners have let loose in the world. Nothing comes to pass outside his authority or without his okay, so even our suffering unto death is part of the divine appointments already made for our life. God is not an antidote to the rogue element of pain. Pain is a consequence of the sin-fractured world, but none of it provoked some plan B that God must resort to in order to fulfill his purposes. Our eternal and omniscient God has already compensated for the normal abnormality of pain by predestining its role in the story of redemption. Sometimes when God closes a door, he doesn’t intend to open a window. Sometimes when God closes a door, it’s because he wants us inside when the building collapses.

– Jared Wilson, Gospel Wakefulness, pp. 45-46

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Please, take a moment to pray for our brother in Christ, Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who just yesterday was sentenced to execution in Iran for converting to Christianity.

Fox News reports:

Supporters fear Youcef Nadarkhani, a 34-year-old father of two who was arrested over two years ago on charges of apostasy, may now be executed at any time without prior warning, as death sentences in Iran may be carried out immediately or dragged out for years.

It is unclear whether Nadarkhani can appeal the execution order. …

Nadarkhani was arrested in October 2009 and was tried and found guilty of apostasy by a lower court in Gilan, a province in Rasht. He was then given verbal notification of an impending death-by-hanging sentence. …

The court then gave Nadarkhani the opportunity to recant, as the law requires a man to be given three chances to recant his beliefs and return to Islam.

His first option was to convert back to Islam. When he refused, he was asked to declare Muhammad a prophet, and still he declined.

Pray that our brother would be strengthened by the Father through the Spirit to hold fast to the word of life, confident that though Christ’s enemies may kill his body, his soul is secure in mercy and grace of God his Father, the only Lord of the universe who works all things according to the counsel of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace.

Please, beseech God for his mercy and sustaining power, that Pastor Youcef would be strengthened by the fact that God has granted him the great honor of not only believing in Christ, but also suffering for his name.  Pray that Pastor Youcef would fight the good fight of faith, and that he would confidently take hold of the eternal life granted to him through his good confession of Jesus Christ.

Our Sacred Anchor

Posted: November 6, 2011 in bible, faith, old testament, prayer, suffering

Martin Luther commenting on Jonah 2:2:

2. I called to the Lord out of my distress. For there was nothing else to do in such need of both body and soul but cry out. Our desires, our powers are nothing, just as Jonah here called out in pressing need. No merit was present, for he had sinned very seriously against the Lord. And so the only thing to do was to cry out, to cry out “to the Lord.” For the Lord is the only one to whom we must flee as to a sacred anchor and the only safety on those occasions when we think that we are done for. But this is the gist of the matter, that even though we feel that God is against us and that we have an angry God and that we are sinners who have deserved wrath and damnation, still it is possible for us to pray to God as to our kind and placable Father, for that is the kind of God He always is, and He ought never to be understood in any other way. And so God ought to be thought of not according to what we see but according to His promises, in which He has promised that He will be our Father and our God. When He treats us well, when He does not test or smite us, we ought not to put our trust in Him on that account, since He is doing something different from that which appears, but we should fear Him. On the other hand, when He strikes us down, again we ought not to distrust Him on that account, and there is no need to despair because He is doing something different from what we think.

– Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 19 : Minor Prophets II: Jonah and Habakkuk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, Luther’s Works (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), Jon 2:2.

Trevin Wax has written a thought-provoking piece exploring the possible impact of the attacks of Semptember 11, 2001 on the recent resurgence of Reformed theology among American evangelicals.  His main points are as follows:

1. September 11 forced “the problem of evil” to the forefront of theological reflection.

Terrorism brought the concept of “evil” back from a purgatory of positive thinking and practical theology. Politicians started using the term again. Preachers began sermon series on the reality of evil and suffering. Our society’s aversion to words like “evil” and “sin” suddenly appeared like an ostrich trying to avoid the truth…

Having witnessed the carnage of the terrorist attacks, I questioned whether free will was worth the trouble. Is it worth it having free will just so God can be loved without force? Isn’t there something bigger than our love for God?

I also realized that the free will response didn’t get God off the hook; it just pushed His presence into the distance a little further…

2. September 11 created an environment in which the easy answers of pop evangelicalism were no longer satisfying.

The typical evangelical response to “9/11 problem of evil” questions was to shrug them off and take comfort in the “God-moments” that occurred on that day…

But I remember how these responses seemed so inadequate. The towers fell. Some people survived. Praise God! But others died. Do we still praise God? If God were involved in a person’s survival, was He not also involved in the life that perished?…

The vision of God put forth by many evangelicals was that of a doting grandfather who arrived too late to stop the tragedy, but in time to help us put the pieces back together again.

3. The post 9/11 culture was ripe for a generation of young people to dig into the Bible for answers to some of life’s most perplexing questions.

The typical evangelical responses were superficial, and I rejected them. They offered temporary comfort by pushing aside the hard questions…

Many of us started digging deep. We wanted answers. And Reformed theology didn’t shy away from the hard questions…

In a post 9/11 world, shallow evangelicalism didn’t have the answers that many younger evangelicals were longing for. Many of us eventually came to grips with a majestic, ferocious, and irresistibly attractive God who burst all the boxes we had wanted to keep Him in.
God was in control…

4. September 11 has marked the ministry of a younger generation of pastors.

Many of today’s young preachers and teachers have different sensibilities than the baby boomer generation that proceeded them. Listen to Matt Chandler and David Platt and you won’t hear messages filled with practical tips to bettering your life today. Instead, you hear men with distinctive styles addressing some of the toughest questions of life. Chandler preaches through Habakkuk while recovering from brain surgery for a tumor. David Platt leads his church to reflection (theology) and action (service) on behalf of a Birmingham ravaged by tornadoes. The preaching ministry of many younger pastors has been significantly shaped by the reality of life in a post-9/11 world…

Friend, anyone who told you that being a Christian requires nothing more than saying a few words or praying a prayer as if it were a magic spell, was dead wrong.  Anyone who told you that coming to Jesus would make your life easy, pleasant, and fun, was dead wrong.  Anyone who told you that Jesus wants you to be rich, was dead wrong.  No, following Jesus means picking up your cross.  As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

– Mike McKinley, Am I Really a Christian?, p. 117, emphasis mine

The kingdom of God also seems unnatural psychologically.  When you hear Jesus say that he prizes weakness, poverty, suffering, and rejection, you say, “That’s masochism.  It’s psychologically unhealthy.  It’s impossible to live like that.”

And guess what, it is kind of impossible to live like that.

When you see Jesus caring for the poor, forgiving his enemies without bitterness, sacrificing his life for others, living a perfectly loving and perfectly sinless life, you say, “I can’t do that.”  You’re right – you can’t.  Jesus Christ as only an example will crush you; you will never be able to live up to it.  But Jesus Christ as the Lamb will save you.

– Tim Keller, King’s Cross, p. 191, emphasis mine