Three pitfalls of suffering

pain-megaphone

Concerning the subject of suffering, CS Lewis famously said, “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Countless people, including my family and I, would affirm the truth of that statement. Pain opens the door to intimacy with Jesus. It’s through pain we grow, mature, and even find some previously unintended avenues for ministry. These are all examples of redemption – the Lord taking the broken pieces of our lives, crumbled under the weight of a corrupted creation, and creating a mosaic of something beautiful from it.

From a scriptural standpoint, there are numerous places we might point that show us the good that can ultimately come from pain. Take, for example, James 1:2-4:

Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.

Suffering produces the good of maturity which, according to this verse, is a key to spiritual maturity, which is a good, good thing. Or take another example from 2 Corinthians 1:3-7:

Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so through Christ our comfort also overflows. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation. If we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is experienced in your endurance of the same sufferings that we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that as you share in the sufferings, so you will share in the comfort.

Suffering creates an avenue for ministry, for we are able to extend the comfort we receive from the Lord to others. This, too, is a good and right after effect of suffering.

These are just two examples of how it’s supposed to work. But like all things, it doesn’t always go that way. In as much pain and suffering can, in the end, have positive and redemptive effects, there are a number of ways that our pain might have negative effects. Though there are many such pitfalls, here are three:

1. Callousness. If you go back and look at the passage above from 2 Corinthians, you can glean that pain in our own lives is meant to soften our hearts toward the pain of others. We can truly sympathize with what they’re walking through; we can shoulder the burden along with them in a very true and honest way. But sometimes we find that instead of making our hearts pliable and soft, our pain actually causes us to have a sense of callousness toward others. We spend so much time looking inward at what’s happening in our own lives that we find we have little interest, emotion, or empathy left to look outside of ourselves.

2. Entitlement. Pain is the great equalizer. In the hospital waiting room, everyone seems to be on equal (albeit it shaky) footing. That’s because all of us live in a world broken by sin, and because we do, none of us are immune from the effects. But when you suffer and suffer greatly, there is sometimes a temptation to think that you have “paid your dues.” You’ve done your time in the prison of pain, and because you have, God owes you some measure of peace and comfort. In a perverted kind of way, your pain becomes your pride, proof of the fact that you have been tested and tried. Having earned that badge, you are now entitled to live above such things.

3. Comparison. Suffering is relative. A scraped knee isn’t going to mean the same thing to a 35-year-old man as it does to a 5-year-old boy; that’s because that man has been though a lot more life than that boy has. That doesn’t mean, however, that a father can’t stoop low and sympathize with a boy. And yet sometimes the ugliness of comparison rears its head even in the midst of our suffering. We walk through a season of pain and then must battle the temptation to look at what others might be going through and compare their struggle to our own. We look with contempt on the suffering of others, bolstered by a sense of our own superiority because, ironically, of something that we did not control and something that caused us so much grief.

How, then, can we recognize these pitfalls and do the thing that none of us wants to do, but all of us will have the opportunity to do, and suffer in a God-glorifying and honorable way? I’m sure there are 3 or 4 good steps to doing so, but mostly, we can look to Jesus.

Jesus, who suffered more than all, and yet even with the knowledge of His own suffering wept at the tomb of His friend. Jesus who emptied Himself and befriended and had compassion on the dregs even when He was the only truly superior One. Jesus who did not compare the suffering of His cross to the suffering of others but instead willingly took it upon Himself for the sake of others. We can look to Jesus and see a Savior who did it the good and right way, and we can be humbled under the weight of His sacrifice and emboldened to feel deeply for others in light of His compassion.


Michael Kelley is director of groups ministry at LifeWay Christian Resources and the author of Wednesdays Were Pretty Normal and Boring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life. He holds a Master of Divinity degree from Beeson Divinity School and lives with his wife and three kids in Nashville, Tenn. Follow him at @_michaelkelley.


Photo credit: Silence via photopin (license). Designed with Canva.

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Nancy Leigh DeMoss announces her engagement to Robert Wolgemuth

This is really great news.

Why the missional movement will die in the next five years

Matt Adair:

Several years ago, Mike Breen predicted that the missional movement would fail because it is a mission devoid of discipleship. I wholeheartedly agree. We have disconnected our life for God from our life with God.

But there’s another reason why the missional movement will fail. The people in your church do not care about the missional movement. Look, I know you’ve preached on missional living and wired your small groups to reach your city. And my guess is that you have some pretty cool stories about ways your church has served the city. You very well might have seen a person here or there come to faith in Christ.

9 Stupid Things I Did as a Pastor

Thom Rainer:

I served as pastor of four churches. It was only by the grace of God and the graciousness of the congregations that I was called and allowed to stay at those churches. I absolutely love the members of those four congregations, and I will forever be grateful to them and for them.

Frankly, I’m not sure I would give myself a passing grade as a pastor. I messed up quite a bit. I would do several things differently today. And as a point of full disclosure, my list of nine is not close to being exhaustive.

7 Truths About Hell

JD Greear:

Concerning hell, C. S. Lewis once wrote, “There is no doctrine which I would more willingly remove from Christianity than this, if it lay in my power.” In many ways, I agree with him. No one, Christians included, should like the idea of hell. Those of us who believe in hell aren’t sadists who enjoy the idea of eternal suffering. In fact, the thought of people I know who are outside of Christ spending eternity in hell is heartbreaking. As a young Christian, when I began to learn about hell and its implications, I almost lost my faith. It was that disturbing.

Hell is a difficult reality, but it is something that the Bible teaches, and we can’t fully understand God and his world unless we grapple with it. These seven truths should frame our discussion of hell.

New research on the landscape of Christianity in America

The short version: mainline denominations and Roman Catholics are in substantial decline. Unaffiliateds are rising sharply. Evangelicals are holding more-or-less stable.

There Is No Pointless Suffering

Randy Alcorn:

As a child, before my mom baked a cake, she’d lay the ingredients on the kitchen counter. One day I tasted each ingredient. Flour. Baking soda. Raw eggs. Vanilla extract. I discovered almost everything that goes into a cake tastes terrible. But a delicious metamorphosis took place when my mother skillfully mixed the ingredients in just the right amounts and baked them at the perfect temperature. The final product was great!

Similarly, the individual ingredients of trials and apparent tragedies taste bitter to us. No translation of Romans 8:28 says “each thing by itself is good,” but “all things work togetherfor good,” and not on their own, but under God’s sovereign hand. I needn’t say, “It’s good,” if my house burns down, I’m robbed and beaten, or my child dies. But God, in His wisdom, measures and mixes our circumstances, then regulates the heat in order to produce something wonderful—Christlikeness—for his glory and our ultimate joy.

Three dangers of trying too hard to explain world events

end-of-suffering

Whenever some sort of major event happens in the world—such as the devastation caused by an earthquake in Nepal or the destruction and social upheaval caused by rioting in Baltimore—Christians always want to offer an explanation. To say something to help people interpret these events, or offer something helpful as we seek to live life in the days that follow.

There’s a great deal of good that can come from articles of this nature, but—and I say this as someone who has written several of these in the past—but there are also great dangers from such things. Here are three:

1. We may appear to lack compassion. This is the easiest trap to fall into, particularly for theology nerds. But first, let me state the necessary positive: I believe it is absolutely essential to help people think biblically about what we see going on in the world and the trials we face. To help others develop even the most rudimentary theology of suffering. Honestly, had I not been compelled to do so in the months leading up to the miscarriage of our second child and my wife’s two subsequent brushes with death, I don’t know how I would have gotten out of bed each morning (and even then there were days when it was extraordinarily difficult).

But here’s the thing about a theology of suffering: even a basic understanding of how God uses trial and suffering leads to compassion for those who are suffering. It leads us to offer encouragement—not because these things caught God unawares, but because they are an opportunity for his people to demonstrate his love to those who most need it. In a counterintuitive way, trial and suffering can lead to increased trust and confidence in the Lord. And that’s a wonderful thing, isn’t it?

So that’s the positive. Here’s the danger: Although helping the suffering see their circumstances through the lens of God’s plan of redemption is a good thing, we must be careful to not to be so busy in our theologizing that we fail to communicate with compassion. When we look at the Baltimore riots, for example, we should readily acknowledge all the factors that lead to this situation, in so far as we are able. The actions of the rioters may be wrong, but the circumstances that made people feel as though this was their only option are equally so. Similarly, we should weep with and for the thousands upon thousands who’ve lost their lives and livelihoods because of the devastating earthquake in Nepal. Helping people see what God is doing—in our admittedly extremely limited understanding—should never be mistaken for some sort of mere intellectual exercise. And if that’s what it sounds like, we’re doing it wrong.

2. We risk being presumptuous. In the same way that we can be perceived as lacking compassion, we also risk being presumptuous in our understanding of what God is really doing. We should be extremely reticent to say this or that event was God’s judgment on any particular people group or nation, especially when this might be true only in the broadest sense—that is, the events we see taking place are the outworking of the curse, rather than a specific act of  divinely directed wrath.

Likewise, although we know that God does indeed ordain all things and works all things together for good according to his purposes, we don’t know how he does that. So we should be absolutely willing to say, “I don’t understand these events, but I know that God has a purpose in them.” And we should readily admit that one of the chief things these events should do is awaken a longing in us for the end of suffering, an end that will only come in the new heavens and the new earth, when Christ returns to make all things new and wipe away every tear from every eye. That we can say with confidence.

3. We risk impugning the motives of fellow believers. This is the final danger, and it is one that I often see Christians doing. A Christian minister recently tweeted that, rather than seeing people return to their false gods, his desire was for people in Nepal to come to know Christ, inspiring ire from both Christians and non-Christians alike. To be fair, his tweet could have been better phrased, but, substantially, the heart behind it and what appears in Suraj Kasula’s post at Desiring God is the same:

Most of the people hit by this tragedy in Nepal are Hindu. They blame their gods whenever disaster hits, and they will do the same again. The Hindu gods are untouched by suffering. By contrast, Jesus draws near and sympathizes with those who weep, because he knows human suffering and human tears. And as difficult as it is to imagine right now, the suffering Jesus Christ endured on the cross to pay for God’s wrath on behalf of sinners exceeds the sorrow of the whole nation of Nepal right now.

Both want people to come to know Christ out of this tragedy. And isn’t this what we all want, really? It doesn’t diminish the realities of the trials people are facing, nor does it reduce the imperative to help those in their distress. Instead, it is a recognition of twin components of human life—our spiritual and physical needs. We should always help those in distress, but we should also be careful to consider the state of their souls. And likewise, we should be careful to avoid calling a fellow believer heartless and cruel when he or she does exactly that.

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

This week there are 13 books by A.W. Tozer on sale for $3.99 each:

Also on sale is A Life Observed by Devin Brown ($2.99).

But Jesus didn’t say…

If you only read one article today, you can’t go wrong with this one by Karen Swallow Prior.

15 Doctrines That Ought to Bring Comfort In Suffering

Derek Rishmawy:

One of my fundamental convictions is that theology, while possessing theoretical aspects, is eminently practical. It’s the “doctrine of living unto God” as some of the older theologians used to put it. One of the greatest tests of that “practicality” is understanding the various ways that the doctrines of the Christian faith can serve as a comfort to us in the manifold sufferings and tragedies we encounter in this life this side of Eden and before the Second Coming.

Religious Liberty Is Not Freedom from Ridicule

Russell Moore:

In my mind, I was upset because I was protective of the reputation of evangelical Christianity. I thought: “Are you so ignorant that you’ve never heard of Augustine or Justin Martyr or Blaise Pascal or Carl Henry?” And, years ago, I thought I was protective of my home state. I thought, “Yes, I think maybe William Faulkner and Eudora Welty and Tennessee Williams read more than I do.” But in both cases, I was wincing at a personal slight. I’m a born Mississippian and a born-again Christian. When one insults these categories, one is insulting me—and I didn’t like it.

Every pastor needs a theology coach

Joe Thorn:

Many of us have seen recent, and very public, theological train wrecks driven by pastors who do not appear to be under the coaching, or tutelage, of seasoned theological leaders. As I observe and talk with pastors from different denominations and networks I can’t help but get the impression that many pastors limit their theological investment to seminary (if they went to one), or the occasional doctrinal issue. This is dangerous not only to ourselves, but to the church as well.

7 Things I Learned From Going Viral

Aaron Earls:

Having become temporarily “Twitter famous” (which is one step below Internet famous and still another step below reality TV show famous), here are 7 things I learned from going viral.

Don’t Be A Commentary Junkie

Ryan Higginbottom:

Let’s be honest: a good Bible commentary is awesome. A scholar spends years studying a book of the Bible, gathering wisdom both from centuries of Christian history and from his own encounters with God in his Word. Then you get a chance to peek over his shoulder! Commentaries can be a great blessing from God.

While they can be terrific as a reference, commentaries are a poor substitute for studying the Bible yourself. I understand the temptation to rely on commentaries. The research! The analysis! The footnotes! But when we become enamored with the work of a Bible scholar, we miss out on the beauty of the Bible’s author.

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Just a couple to add today, in addition to yesterday’s list:

And if you missed these last week at, these titles by C.S. Lewis are still on sale:

The Loins of Leah

Lore Ferguson: “Rachel was loved, Leah was hated, but God brought the Lion of Judah through the loins of Leah. Don’t waste your suffering.”

The healthy leader

This is really helpful

Let’s Rethink Our Holly Jolly Christmas Songs

Russell Moore:

But then this man explained why he found the music so bad. It wasn’t just that it was cloying. It’s that it was boring.

“Christmas is boring because there’s no narrative tension,” he said. “It’s like reading a book with no conflict.”

Now he had my attention.

Top Ten Theology Stories of 2014

Collin Hansen highlights a few of the most significant events of 2014.

Joy to the World: A Christmas Hymn Reconsidered

Alyssa Poblete:

Watts’s father issued a challenge. He told Watts that if he struggled with the songs they sang, then he ought to do something about it. Perhaps he should attempt to write something different. This moment set Watts on a lifelong pursuit to write lyrics that exalted Christ and reminded Christians of their hope in his saving work on the cross.

This desire is evident in the way he wrote “Joy to the World.” Watts was inspired to write the timeless tune while meditating on Psalm 98. Verse 4 gripped him: “Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!” And this is exactly what Watts set out to do. Little did he know that this song would spark a joyful noise that would ring through the ages.

Links I like (weekend edition)

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

In case you missed them, here’s a look at this week’s Kindle deals:

Don’t Hide Behind “The Gospel”

Barnabas Piper:

The gospel is only a solution when it drives us to do, only when what we believe about the free grace of God in Jesus makes us move. Only when we can make the connection between the gospel and the centuries of racial inequality in the United States, the lasting impact on our government and social structures, and the insidious and subtle effects on our own minds and hearts is it a solution. (If you do not acknowledge racial inequality historically, societally, and governmentally please keep reading. The gospel applies to my view and yours; we both need it.)

Sinners Are Also Sufferers

Kevin DeYoung:

It is always true: we have sinned against God more than anyone has sinned against us. Which means our suffering does not excuse our sinning.

And yet, it is also true that every sinner is in some way, often in profound ways, a great sufferer.

7 Things I Wish My Pastor Knew About My Homosexuality

Jean Lloyd:

As a Christian, the conflict between my sexuality and my faith would become the deepest and most intense of my life. Now in my forties, I’ve gone from being closeted to openly lesbian to celibate to heterosexually married. The fact that I need to qualify my marital union as a heterosexual one reveals how much the cultural landscape has changed in that time—just as much as my own personal landscape has, though in very different ways.

Is Russell Moore a “Social Liberal”?

In which Samuel Jones nails it.

The mandate for Christian ministry

Great stuff from Albert Mohler:

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Baring It All for Us

S.D. Kelly:

This is the new frontier of the culture wars: the progressive-conservative clash resounding in personal experiences of twenty-somethings, each blow landing with a dull thud. These experiences may seem like the front lines, but this is only true to the person actually living the specific life. Being a young adult is inherently banal and harrowing all at once as the foundation is laid for the decades to follow: leaving home, finding (or not finding) love, finding (or not finding) a job. And in the specific lives of Lena Dunham and Jill Duggar, we — their audience — watch their every move, expecting them to not only share it all with us, but to tell us what it means, to give us the key to the good life. Lena and Jill are the heirs to Aristotle. Not that Kind of Girl andGrowing Up Duggar the sequels to Nichomachean Ethics.

The Strange Case of the Imploding Ministers

Mike Glenn:

Ministers don’t explode. You never hear of a pastor grabbing an Uzi and shooting up a congregation. Ministers implode. That is, the pressure on the outside becomes greater than the pressure on the inside and we’re crushed like an empty soda can. Ministry, however you express it, is giving yourself away. Unless we are intentional to refill our souls, we’ll soon get to the place where we have nothing to give.

So, what do we do? Perhaps the ministry of Jesus would offer some helpful lessons. What kind of patterns do we see in the life of Jesus? Several come to mind.

Throw Open The Doors

Nick Horton:

How many of us have gone through something similar? The exhilaration of pregnancy leads to nervous unease as the days pass. Husband and wife pray, and wait, hoping this pregnancy will make it. Hoping this one is viable. If the heartbreak of miscarriage comes and the news wasn’t shared, then it will be less people to share such pain with. There is no shame to share with everyone. No one has to know you failed…. wait.. what?

God Writes a Great Story

Christina Fox:

I recently picked up a book my son was reading and flipped through it, noticing that a number of pages were folded down. Curious, I asked him why he did it.

“Because those are all my favorite parts,” he responded.

He’s a boy after my own heart because I do the same thing. I dog-ear and mark up my books so I can go back and reread my favorite parts. In some books though, there are no pages folded down. In those books, I found myself editing as I read, thinking of ways I would have written it differently, parts I would have added and scenes I would have deleted altogether.

How does a McRib really get made?

While I’m not a fan of McDonald’s food (or business practices, or…), I definitely respect their desire to dispel rumors about what actually goes into their products:

Doesn’t make me want to eat a McRib, but it’s nice to know, regardless.

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The Lord’s Supper: Open or Closed?

In baptist circles there are three positions regarding who are the proper communicants to receiver the Lord’s Supper: closed, close, and open communion. These positions are not addressing the spiritual readiness of the individual (see yesterday’s post), but are focusing on the stewardship of church authority and “fencing the table.” Fencing the table is the means by which we protect people from partaking of the Lord’s Supper in an “unworthy manner” (1 Cor. 11:27, 28).

Should Christian Writers Try to Be Popular?

This is a really good (and necessary!) conversation:

Kindle deals for Christian readers

B&H’s Perspectives series is on sale for $2.99 each:

Also on sale:

What can I do for Christians in Iraq?

Philip Nation:

Like many believers around the world, I am horrified at the persecution of Christians in Iraq. It is a sobering moment to realize that the type of persecution I’ve read about so many times in the Book of Acts is happening in our day. Even our Lord Jesus spoke of the reality and the blessing that He will give to those who suffer for the faith.… As I’ve pondered it all, here are five things that we can do about the persecution of the church in Iraq.

3 reasons many leaders receive too much credit—and blame

Eric Geiger:

Most leaders receive too much credit for the good things that take place during their tenure and too much blame for the bad. If the results are good, typically a leader, even if he or she attempts to deflect the accolades, receives credit for his or her stellar leadership. And if the results are bad, a typical leader receives the blame and carries the burden and pain of “not delivering.” There are at least three reasons many leaders receive too much credit and shoulder too much blame.

Is doubt really okay?

Owen Strachan:

…we need to distinguish between two states: temporary confusion and existential doubt. The Bible clearly has a category for the role of temporary confusion in the life of the believer. Think of David’s mournful lament in Psalm 13:1– “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?” David is going through the fire, and he feels it; in fact, he feels in the moment like he has been abandoned.

Dealing with pain

shatterd mirror

One of the hardest aspects of my Christian life has been dealing with emotional and spiritual pain. Over the years I’ve had some pretty hard experiences, as I’m sure you have. One recent experience I’ve had has been due to my dad’s development of frontal temporal dementia and the subsequent exasperation of his mood disorder. Sometimes the idea of my dad’s dementia hits me like a ton of bricks. I can be just fine, working away, and then bam, I start thinking about what his dementia will do to him. It isn’t as if I’m actively thinking about what his disease will do to him. Sometimes it will seemingly come from out of the blue; while other times I foolishly “stuff down” how I feel. When I force this feeling back, thoughts about the situation with my dad bubble up suddenly to the surface like a rolling boil.

Maybe your mother or father has a disease that will end up crippling them and eventually lead to their death, the way my father does. Perhaps you’ve lost a parent tragically or you’ve experienced a massive amount of financial loss, or a relationship you’ve invested heavily in was abruptly over. We live in a fallen world that requires us to deal with pain. To neglect dealing with pain and avoiding one’s own feelings isn’t healthy. In fact, avoiding your feelings only leads to further issues such as compounded stress, guilt, shame, depression, and more. Dealing with pain is an unavoidable part of life.

Dealing with pain is part of dealing with reality. The day I sat down to write this article, I cried for a good half an hour while working on another project. I kept telling myself as I cried to “knock it off,” but the tears didn’t stop. Finally, I stopped telling myself to knock it off and just cried until I stopped. It’s important to remember that Jesus experienced the full range of human emotions, but never sinned. Jesus was beaten, scourged, and died the most bloody and brutal death known to man. He experienced betrayal by those closest to Him. When I feel like I do with my dad, I remind myself I have a Savior in Jesus who understands what I’m going through. Jesus is unlike me, however, in that He is sinless, while I’m a sinner clinging to and abiding in Him.

Preaching the gospel, and not a self-improvement message, is the key to rightly dealing with pain and reality. As Christians we have a big God who knows what we are going through, who is near to the broken hearted, and who genuinely desires to walk with His people through pain and suffering.

In my teenage years I struggled with telling people, “I love you”. There are times when I still struggle with this. While over the years I’ve grown better at telling people I care about them, even recently I struggled to say, “I love you” to someone I care about a lot. It wasn’t that I didn’t genuinely love this person, I do but I just didn’t feel very loving at that moment. Perhaps you’ve felt that way as well. How do we get over the feeling of feeling icky? The Bible talks about a word rightly spoken. You never know when you might offer a word of encouragement at just the right time. You never know how your prayers or ministry to someone might be the catalyst the Lord will use to genuinely help someone.

As we wrap up this article, I want to give you some (hopefully helpful) advice on how to deal with pain. First, understand that others around you are experiencing different degrees of pain in their own life. Experiencing intense pain whether emotionally, physically, or mentally will cause you to be more sympathetic, compassionate, and humble toward others. Second, get a good support system around you from your local church, family, and friends. Finally, I encourage you to open your Bible and engage in the spiritual disciplines. If you don’t know what those are, I encourage you to get Donald Whitney’s classic book The Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.

Whatever you do, don’t be silent about your struggles and please don’t ignore or avoid them. Deal with your issues by facing them head on by the grace of God, and with the help if needed of trained professionals. Dealing with pain is an inevitable and unavoidable part of life. Look to Jesus and remember what He suffered. He knows what you are going through. Run to Him, cling to Him, and rest in Him; He is sufficient for all you need.


Dave Jenkins is the Director of Servants of Grace Ministries and Book Promotions Specialist at Cross Focused Reviews. He and his wife Sarah are members of Ustick Baptist Church in Boise, Idaho where Dave and his wife serve in a variety of ministries. You can follow him on twitter @DaveJJenkins or read more of his work at servantsofgrace.org.

Photo credit: freeimageslive.co.uk – Halloween

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Hobby Lobby Hysteria

Gene Veith:

Critics of the Supreme Court’s ruling that the Obamacare contraceptive mandate must include exemptions for business owners whose religion does not permit them to purchase birth control pills and possible abortifacients are howling with indignation. Women are going to be prevented from having access to birth control! The ruling will result in more unwanted pregnancies and thus more abortions!

10 Reasons God Stops Us In Our Tracks

David Murray:

I’m beginning to ease myself back into a few hours of work a day after my second experience of pulmonary emboli in three years.… It’s been a sobering and solemnizing time in which I’ve been prayerfully trying to interpret this providence and hear God’s “voice” to me in it.

Basically God has stopped my in my tracks once again and I’ve been asking myself Why? Not at all in a rebellious way, but in a humble and teachable way. Did I miss or forget the lessons of three years ago? I’ve already had two strikes; I desperately don’t want a third.

2 Types of Critics Who Can Teach You

Ed Stetzer:

It’s a hard balance—you want to receive criticism, but not from every single person. The fact is, being a leader attracts criticism—if you want everyone to like you, go sell ice cream.

However, I’d encourage you to consider receiving criticism not just from people who like you, but also from those who don’t. In other words, you can receive criticism from unfriendly and friendly critics.

Since it’s harder, I’ll start with learning from those who are not friendly. In many cases, they don’t talk to you, just about you. Either way, God can use criticisms from unfriendly people for you.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Evangelical Ethos of Parachurch Entitlement

JD Payne:

I have always been supportive of parachurch organizations.

However, my concern is that many parachurch organizations have not worked toward the completion of the parachurch purpose, but have created an evangelical ethos of parachurch entitlement.  Rather than empowering local churches, many have become an end unto themselves.

Christ Is Deeper Still

Tullian Tchividjian:

True growth as a Christian involves recognizing that there is always another cavern to explore. There’s always another crevasse of self-centeredness, or stalactite of jealousy. The light of Jesus shines into deeper and darker corners and proclaims, “Yes, I can save this too.” True growth as a Christian means realizing that all the climbing we need to do is down into the depths.

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Reformation Trust and Ligonier’s free book of the month is Jesus the Evangelist by Richard Phillips (it’s a terrific book!). Grab it at Amazon or get the ePub edition at Ligonier.org.

And in case you missed these late additions yesterday, here are some new Kindle deals that popped up recently:

Logos’ free book of the month is The Righteousness of Faith According to Luther by Hans J. Iwand (which you can pair with Brett Muhlhan’s Being Shaped by Freedom: An Examination of Luther’s Development of Christian Liberty for 99 cents). And finally, Christianaudio.com’s free audiobook of the month is Lion of Babylon by Davis Bunn.

33 under 33

The cover story for the latest issue of Christianity Today: “Meet the Christian leaders shaping the next generation of our faith.” Thankful to see so many friends on this list.

10 Promises for Parents

Kevin DeYoung:

My kids need Bible promises, but on most days I need them even more. I’m prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I want them to love.

So here are ten promises from the Bible that every Christian parent should remember, especially the Christian parent writing this blog.

Push Through the Awkward

Christine Hoover:

Being unwilling to push through the awkward keeps us in tightly controlled, safe places, but it also keeps us feeding on insecurities and frustrations. Of course, it’s true that we may push through the awkward and then things will be, well, awkward. The person doesn’t respond how we hoped. People don’t get why we’re doing what we’re doing. Expectations and hopes take a little tumble.

Counseling: Where Biblical Theology Hits the Street

Michael Emlet:

When you hear “biblical theology,” you tend to think of overarching categories such as creation, fall, redemption, and consummation. You think in terms of major biblical themes such as sin, suffering, exodus, sacrifice, law, kingdom, and exile, and how they develop in Scripture over the course of redemptive history. When you hear “counseling,” what comes to mind are topics such as interpersonal ministry, conversation, discipleship, personal struggles, and crisis. You see specific names and faces.

The Song of Broken Bones

Mike Leake:

I learned at an early age that when you stand next to a dude with a broken bone all you hear are screams. Playing his favorite song as he is driven to the hospital doesn’t quiet the shrieks. Neither do my always funny jokes.

The same is true when the Lord—because of our sin—breaks our bones. In such a situation you can no longer hear “joy and gladness”. All you hear are the wails of a broken spirit. Your vision is cloudy and your ears are deaf to joy.

Links I like

Time heals all wounds?

Jeremy Walker:

The simple passage of time does not heal such wounds. Even in the relationship of God with men, God’s forgetting of our sins is a deliberate putting away – under specific circumstances and with good grounds – of that which has caused offence. It is not a gradual fog that gathers due to unavoidable gaps in the divine mind. The matter is there until repentance and forgiveness deals with it, and then it is cast into the depths of the sea. On a human level, the passage of time may dull the immediate pain of the splinter, only for it to flare up when pressure is re-applied. And yet how many of us seem to think or hope that if we just leave our sin or the sins of others alone, maybe the wound will heal? To be sure, it may temporarily scab over, but the slightest movement at that particular point will re-open the injury, and perhaps reveal not just the original cut but a developed infection.

Theses on the Revelation of the Trinity

Fred Sanders:

As I’ve been working on a large writing project on the doctrine of the Trinity (The Triune God in Zondervan’s New Studies in Dogmatics series), one of the things that has increasingly called for attention is the peculiarity of the way this doctrine was revealed. It’s simply not like other doctrines. I think the doctrine ought to be handled in a way that takes account of the way it was made known. More strongly: the mode of the revelation of the Trinity has structural implications for the right presentation of the doctrine. Here, in compressed form (propounded but not defended), are guidelines I’ve been working with for handling the doctrine.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Get Foundations of Grace in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get the ePub edition of Foundations of Grace by Steven Lawson for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • 1-2 Peter by R.C. Sproul (ePub)
  •  A Survey of Church History, Part 2 teaching series by W. Robert Godfrey (DVD)
  • Feed My Sheep by various authors (hardcover)

$5 Friday ends tonight at 11:59:59 PM Eastern.

Liberty Village 365

Would you consider helping my friend Darryl Dash out with this project?

The Problem with Seeking Converts by Saying As Little As Possible

Thabiti shares a great quote by Walter Chantry.

The enduring relevance of Charles Spurgeon

Relevant Magazine shares 20 quote from Charles Spurgeon that remind us why he still matters today.

Pornolescence

Tim Challies:

It is going to take time—decades at least—before we are able to accurately tally the cost of our cultural addiction to pornography. But as Christians we know what it means to tamper with God’s clear and unambiguous design for sexuality: The cost will be high. It must be high.

Links I like

Remember rather than blame

Kim Shay:

It’s not uncommon for those who grew up in the church, and who have become disenchanted with it, to blame the church they grew up in. I’ve seen it and I’ve heard it from young people around me.

God’s Character and Your Circumstances.

Erik Raymond:

I don’t believe Abraham had an advanced copy of the plan. I don’t think he knew what was going to happen in detail. However, I do believe that he believed that God would fulfill his promise to him to make him a great nation, a father with countless descendants.

This is a perfect example of interpreting his circumstances in light of God’s character and promises. Everything that happens is processed through who God is and what he has said.

Too often we do this in reverse. We interpret God’s character and promises through the lenses of our circumstances.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Here are a few new Kindle deals for you:

Why libraries matter

HT: David Murray

The Happy Rant podcast

A while back, Stephen Altrogge and Barnabas Piper started a series of video conversations in which they cheerfully ranted about things that didn’t matter all that much. Now, by popular demand (if me, Bobby Giles and a few other dudes encouraging it is popular demand), they’ve ditched the Google Hangout videos and moved to podcasting and brought Ted Kluck along for the ride. Enjoy!

When We Get Small And God Gets Big

Jared Wilson:

Natalie comes walking in. “What are you doing in here? Go out there and meet people.”

Excuse me? Who does this lady think she is?

One of my best critics and greatest friends, actually. As I’ve thought over our friendship the last few weeks, it occurs to me that Natalie is the person from the church I talk with the most. Several times a week we exchange emails. We volunteer together at the local food shelf. When I have to meet with a woman alone at the church, Natalie is the one who will come and hang out in the room next door. Natalie is the one who, when she’s at the table, I know things will get done. When she says something is doable, dangit, it’s doable. Natalie went from my shrewdest challenger to my fiercest supporter and encourager.

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.