Links I like

If All Religions Are True, Then God Is Cruel

Paul Rezkalla:

“All roads lead to the same destination.”

While I can understand the sentiment of inclusivity, this idea pictures an evil God. Religious pluralists often reject exclusivist positions for positing a cruel God who only made one way to reach him. But if all religions are true, then God is cruel. And not just cruel—God is an incompetent, cosmic child-abuser. If religious pluralism is true, then God is the father in the second scenario. He saw the train coming, yet he decided to pull the first lever and kill his son, rather than pull the second lever.

I Lost My Dad in a Plane Crash, Too

Grant Castleberry:

Perhaps one of the most difficult things the grievers face is the lack of a body. An airplane crash makes it even more dramatic, too, since the loved one is seen by friends and family one moment only to take off on a plane the next and never be seen again. A body provides closure. A vast ocean with fathomless depths fills the mind with ungraspable questions. Did my loved one suffer? Was it traumatic? Did they have time for any last thoughts? Did they survive the crash only to die in the open ocean? Is their body sitting in the plane at the bottom of the ocean? Or is it floating on the surface? Then there are the deeper questions. Why did this happen to them? What if they’d taken an earlier or later flight? If only. The “what if” scenarios can play out in your mind forever.

Books at a Glance

This looks like a pretty neat new service, spearheaded by Fred Zaspel.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Yesterday I shared a bunch of great Kindle deals. Here are a few more:

I Want To Be The Biblical Version of Joel Osteen

Stephen Altrogge:

Because life is so hard and exhausting, every day is a battle. Every day I must fight to believe in the goodness and kindess of God. Everyday I must fight to believe that God is working all things for my good and his glory. Every day I must fight to believe that I serve a God who turns mourning into dancing. What I, and everyone else, desperately need every day, is encouragement. I need fresh hope, fresh faith, fresh strength.

There are enough critics, watch bloggers, angry prophets, protesters, and trolls in the church and in the world. We need more encouragers. We need more people like Barnabas.

Westminster book sale

Westminster Bookstore has a number of terrific books on sale to help Christians

A Common Grace Defense of Disgust

Joe Carter:

Unfortunately, Christians have helped contribute to this callous disregard by undermining the role of disgust in helping to recognize and restrain sinful behavior. While we should never be disgusted by people there a broad range of human behaviors that we should find inherently disgusting. Yet while disgust was once considered a guide (albeit a fallible one) to God’s natural law, we now chastise Christians for even implying that any sinful behavior can be disgusting.

A Sickbed Often Teaches More Than A Sermon

Luther said that he could never rightly understand some of the Psalms, till he was in affliction. Affliction teaches what sin is. In the word preached, we hear what a dreadful thing sin is, that it is both defiling and damning, but we fear it no more than a painted lion; therefore God lets loose affliction, and then we feel sin bitter in the fruit of it. A sick-bed often teaches more than a sermon. We can best see the ugly visage of sin in the glass of affliction. Affliction teaches us to know ourselves. In prosperity we are for the most part strangers to ourselves. God makes us know affliction, that we may better know ourselves. We see that corruption in our hearts in the time of affliction, which we would not believe was there. Water in the glass looks clear, but set it on the fire, and the scum boils up. In prosperity, a man seems to be humble and thankful, the water looks clear; but set this man a little on the fire of affliction, and the scum boils up — much impatience and unbelief appear. “Oh,” says a Christian, “I never thought I had such a bad heart, as now I see I have; I never thought my corruptions had been so strong, and my graces so weak.

Thomas Watson, A Divine Cordial (Kindle Edition, location 220)

Matt Chandler on Leading Your Church Through Suffering

A few quotes, pulled by JT:

“Lauren asked the doctor, ‘What’s best-case scenario and what’s worst-case scenario?’ He said: ‘Best-case scenario is that God heals you. . . . Worst-case scenario, honestly, is that you get killed in a car wreck on your way home today.’

“He was the first one to say to me out loud, ‘Nothing’s really changed for you—you just get to be aware that you’re mortal. Everyone is, but they’re just not aware of it. The gift that God’s given you is that you get to be aware of your mortality.’

“So if this goes bad for me, if my MRI scan shows that . . . I have a short amount of time, I can talk to my wife, talk to my children, shoot videos. . . . Most guys who die in their 30’s kiss their wife goodbye in the morning and never come home. . . . At least once a year, for the rest of my life, I get the anxiety of ‘Am I going to hear today that I only have a couple years to live?’ . . . It is a gift.”

HT: Z

Job and the Purpose of Suffering by Chris Canuel

Today’s guest blogger is Chris Canuel. Chris is a really thoughtful guy who describes himself as “a man blessed beyond my wildest dreams.” He and his wife Meredith have four kids and his first book, Testimony, is available for sale. You can also connect with him on Twitter here.


“Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. The LORD said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.

Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and there came a messenger to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The Chaldeans formed three groups and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.

~Job 1:6-22 ESV~

I have now been a Christian for about 5 years. To be perfectly honest over these 5 years I have been extremely blessed, and have had very few real trials. Like Job at the beginning of this book, I have suffered very little. For many, this is their picture of the Christian life, one of perpetual blessings, whether it be health, wealth, prosperity, etc. I don’t believe as we read the Bible however, that is the perspective we get.  The Christian life and the lives of the people of God are indeed lives filled with suffering. Look at Christ, how much did he suffer? Look at Paul, how much did he suffer? Look at the prophets, read through the Psalms. The Bible is filled with suffering. I’m sure we even know Christians ourselves, who right now are really struggling in some aspect of their life. If not our neighbors, it’s not hard to see how much other Christians are struggling and being persecuted in other parts of the world. [Read more...]

Jesus Finds Wrecked People

An exerpt from Mark Driscoll’s recent sermon, Jesus Raises a Widow’s Son, from Luke 7:11-17. The edited transcript follows:

Jesus finds wrecked people.

That’s what he does. That’s our Jesus. God comes to earth as the man Jesus Christ, and he goes looking for absolutely wrecked people, people on the worst day of their whole life.

Luke says it this way: “He went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out.” Do you feel that?

Read these lines, “The only son of his mother, and,” what? “She was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had,” what? “Compassion on her.” Compassion on her.

This is a devastating day.

This is a wrecked woman. [Read more...]

Book Review: Plan B by Pete Wilson

plan-b

Title: Plan B: What Do You Do When God Doesn’t Show Up the Way You Thought He Would?
Author: Pete Wilson
Publisher: Thomas Nelson

I wish books like Plan B didn’t need to be written.

And if I had to guess its author, Pete Wilson, does too.

“Do you remember the day you discovered your life wasn’t going to turn out quite the way you thought?” asks Wilson (p. 1).

Whether it’s a certain job, or for children, marriage—whatever it may be—we’ve all got plans and dreams for our lives. The question is, are our plans and God’s the same?

Whatever you wanted for your life, if you’re a Christian, you may well have assumed God wanted it for you as well. You might not admit it, even to yourself, but you were pretty sure God was going to sweep down and provide for you as only God could do.

The problem is, what you assumed was not necessarily what happened. (p. 4)

Wilson reveals our issue when dealing with any sort of trial: We are completely flabbergasted when it happens! We assume that our plans are what God intends—and when those things don’t work out, we’re left spinning our wheels.

And Wilson seeks to encourage his readers to move forward in their new normal and look to Christ as their only source of fulfillment.

Loving People with the Cross

One of the things I appreciate most in Plan B is Wilson’s obvious pastoral heart. His love for people saturates every word of this book as he describes the end of marriages, the self-destructive behavior of godly parents’ children and a host of other situations.

But, where it becomes most evident is when he approached the real issue: The cross.

“You need to know that the cross is not just the starting line,” he writes. “It’s the very centerpiece of your story with God. It’s the place where the pain of ‘you will have trouble’ meets the triumph of ‘I have defeated the world.’” (p. 149) [Read more...]

"My Goal is to be a Faithful Minister of Jesus Christ until He Calls Me Home" – Matt Chandler at Together for the Gospel 2010

Matt Chandler was a special guest at Together for the Gospel 2010, sharing about how his experience with cancer has impacted him and his theology:

[vodpod id=Groupvideo.5379519&w=425&h=350&fv=]

“My goal is to be a faithful minister of Jesus Christ until he calls me home,” says Chandler.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I’ve got that kind of faith. But I want it.

When we suffer, will we suffer well? Will we look at our circumstances with despair or will we join Paul in saying,

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.

Philippians 1:21-24

HT: Matt Robbins

On Suffering Well and The Wasted Life

Matt Chandler, center, holds hands with his son Reid, 4, left, and daughter Audrey, 7, in Flower Mound, Texas as they take a walk after a treatment for Matt's brain cancer. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

 

Yesterday, Eric Gorski from the Associated Press published a fantastic article on Pastor Matt Chandler’s battle with brain cancer. If you’ve not read it, you absolutely must.  

In the article, Gorski wrote,  

Matt Chandler doesn’t feel anything when the radiation penetrates his brain. It could start to burn later in treatment. But it hasn’t been bad, this time lying on the slab. Not yet, anyway.  

Another cancer patient Chandler has gotten to know spends his time in radiation imagining that he’s playing a round of golf at his favorite course. Chandler on this first Monday in January is reflecting on Colossians 1:15-23, about the pre-eminence of Christ and making peace through the blood of his cross.  

Chandler’s hands are crossed over his chest. He wears a mask with white webbing that keeps his head still when metal fingers slide into place on the radiation machine, delivering the highest possible dose to what is considered to be fatal and incurable brain cancer.  

Yesterday I was listening (briefly) to Tapestry on CBC Radio One while on the way to read a book and drink a warm beverage. I caught a snippet of an interview with William Lobdell, a journalist who became a Christian in his twenties, served as the religion reporter for one of the biggest newspapers in the U.S. since become an atheist.  

In talking about the Christian worldview, he said something that really caught my attention, which was that,  

Christians see this life as a fleeting moment in light of eternity. So to waste a day, a month, a year… it’s not really a big deal. They think they’ve got all eternity. But for an atheist, because we know this is all there is, we take as much joy as we can and make the most of every moment (my paraphrase).  

[Read more...]

Book Review: How Can a Good God Let Bad Things Happen?

HowCanAGoodGodBookCoverTitle: How Can a Good God Let Bad Things Happen?
Author: Mark Tabb
Publisher: NavPress

One of the most common objections to the idea of God in general and Christianity in particular is the question of suffering: If God is good, why do bad things happen? Traditionally, the “pro-God” answer falls into one of two categories: Either God is completely good, but not capable of intervening (as argued in Harold Kushner in Why do Bad Things Happen to Good People), or God is capable of intervening, but He’s not good.

You won’t find either of these in Mark Tabb’s book, How Can a Good God Let Bad Things Happen.

Instead, Tabb offers a third explanation, a biblical one, focusing on one of the most important statements in the story of Job: “Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” (Job 2:10 NLT)

Tabb does a wonderful job conveying the human perspective of suffering—the pain, the confusion, the frustration… everything that comes with it—but never strays from what Scripture has revealed about God. He provides strong answers that don’t minimize the struggles people deal with. What he offers instead is the truth that nothing is random, even if we can’t understand it. Even if we don’t ever get the “why,” God is working for our good. But, “[t]he good for which God works doesn’t guarantee happiness or comfort or miracles today. He works toward a far more permanent good” (pp. 99-100). But in the end, God owes us no explanation.

That’s the rub, isn’t it? God is completely good, completely sovereign—and not obligated to explain Himself. For us, this is frustrating, infuriating at times… but ultimately it’s a source of comfort. Because a God who we can completely figure out, who we can fit in a cozy box, is no God at all. So we learn to trust Him as He as revealed Himself, and we look toward the promises of Scripture. That there’s a day coming when He will wipe every tear, and there will be no more suffering, no more death. But for now, we wait for that day and press forward, serving others in our suffering.

Recommended

Sunday Shorts (07/12)

John Piper: What is God’s Glory?

How to Be Relevant 500 Years from Now

Kevin DeYoung wrote a wonderful post on the celebration of John Calvin’s birthday and why nearly 500 years after his death, his legacy remains:

Calvin’s confidence was not in man’s potential or the triumph of the human spirit… Calvin’s confidence was in the Word of God, and that’s why his theology and vision of the world continues to capture the minds and hearts of people in the 21st century. That’s why five hundred years later we remember his birth. That’s why Calvin the preacher and expositor has millions more spiritual children than Erasmus the scholar and hermeneutical skeptic. Strive for relevance in your day, and you’ll may make a difference for a few years. Anchor yourself in what is eternal and you may influence the world for another five centuries.

Go, spend about 5-10 minutes reading this article. It’s well worth your time.

The God Who Gives Strength as Needed: An Interview with Terry Stauffer

Tim Challies interviews Pastor Terry Stauffer about how God and strong Gospel Theology has strengthened his family since his daughter’s murder in September, 2008. Normally I don’t include large excerpts, here’s Tim’s introduction:

On September 28, 2008, I was shocked to read these words on the blog of Terry Stauffer, a man I had met at a couple of conferences and who has long been a reader and commenter at my blog: “Last night at about 4:45 our precious 14 year-old daughter Emily was attacked and killed as she was out for a walk. We don’t know a lot of details, but we know that two young men came upon the scene right away, but it was too late for Emily. I will write more as more details come available. Please pray for us, for our church family who are meeting without us right now, and for family that is travelling. We are realizing from the inside the value of good, Gospel theology right now. ”

Terry is pastor of Edson Baptist Church in the small town of Edson, Alberta. Emily’s murder shocked this small town of less than 10,000 people—the kind of town where this crime is unheard of. I continued to follow Terry’s blog as he dealt with the aftermath—Emily’s funeral, national media attention, the arrest of a suspect and life following the loss of a child. Through it all, Terry’s faith strengthened me from afar. I recently asked Terry if he would be kind enough to participate in an interview and I am grateful that he was willing and able to do so. I offer this interview in the hope that it encourages you in the Lord who promises (and delivers) strength as strength is needed.

Read the entire interview at Challies.com

In case you missed it

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

Everyday Theology: “God Helps Those Who Help Themselves” Exploring if there’s any validity to the statement “God helps those who help themselves.”

The Cool Thing About a Genealogy… An important lesson from the genealogy of Jesus in Matt. 1:2-16.

Three Simple Letters Briefly examining one of the most important words in Scripture: BUT

The Arrest

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled.

Matthew 26:36-56

Today, millions of Christians around the world will celebrate the brutal murder of Jesus Christ to pay the penalty for our sins. Betrayed, denied, mocked, beaten, and ultimately nailed to a Roman cross—all because of us. And by us.

Let us not make light of the seriousness of sin, particularly as the new day dawns. The cost was high to make God’s enemies His friends. May we worship with hearts filled with thanksgiving as we celebrate our suffering Savior, who cried “It is finished” (John 19:30), and put an end to the curse of death.

And may God bless you as you do.