When Tragedy Strikes

On Sunday night, the most deadly shooting in American history by a single gunman occurred in Las Vegas, Nevada. As of now, the death toll is nearing 60, with over 500 others injured. Before I begin addressing this tragedy from God’s Word, I must share that our prayers are with those affected by this horrific event. God’s grace be with you all.

The question on many people’s minds after Sunday night’s shooting is, “Why?”

Scripture warns us against putting our own interpretation on tragic events like this and attempting to fill in the blanks that only God knows. But Scripture does not leave us totally in the dark during times like this. While we may never have Christ’s perfect knowledge and know the infinite number of reasons any one event occurs, we can have a biblical worldview with which to make sense of these things.

Why would someone commit such acts of evil?

One of the first things investigators delve into after a shooting tragedy is the issue of the gunman’s motive. Ironically, we cannot even discern at times the motives for why we do the things we do, let alone someone else. The world is full of people who often do the right things for the wrong reasons.

Yet Scripture does tell us that our sinful actions stem from a sinful nature. James says it this way: “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” (James 4:1). Scripture doesn’t even stop at that, but gives us a deeper reason into the insanity of our own sinful actions. This sin nature, which we have from birth, is an inherited one. Adam and Eve freely chose to doubt God’s goodness in the garden and believe the lie of the devil over the truth of God’s Word. God’s just curse on His good creation would touch every facet of life, from the microscopic viruses that attack us, to the life destroying storms of nature, to the ferocity of wild animals, even down to the twisted cravings that cause a toddler to yell, “Mine!”

I’ve heard it put this way: “We are not sinners because we sin. We sin because we are sinners.” Yet we can in no way blame God for our sinful desires anymore than a child can blame his parents for leaving the cookies out on the table and making him eat them. James says elsewhere, “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he Himself tempts no one” (James 1:13). Were there no God to stop us, there would be no limit to the evil our hearts could create. This is why it was good for God to interrupt the plans of the people building the Tower of Babel, and this is why it is good God has given us the common grace of conscience, law enforcement, and fellow citizens who know some things are truly evil and aim to stop them.

Why would God allow such evil to occur?

When asked His thoughts on a terrible evil of His day, Jesus gave a surprising response in Luke 13 that we would do well to consider. “There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Lk. 13:1-5). 

Jesus basically says what we should take away from tragic events such as this is the awareness that our lives are a vapor, we will soon face God’s judgment, and therefore we must repent before our lives are cut short. It is not our place to draw false assumptions. It is our place to pray and check our spiritual pulse to make sure we’re ready to stand before God’s judgment throne.

Someone once said, “If God is God, He can’t be good and if God is good, He can’t be God.” But this leaves the definition of “good” in the creature’s hands instead of in God’s. The presence of evil does not negate the presence of God or prove God’s guilt. Rather, the presence of evil exposes our belief in ultimate “right” and “wrong”, in something called justice and righteousness, and clues us into the fact that God’s “ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts than our thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). Or listen to the way the psalmist lays it out: “Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3). We cannot know why God allows evil, but we can know that God does all things for the glory and honor of His name. In the midst of the plagues God sent on Egypt, He told the evil Pharoah, “But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth” (Exodus 9:16). Even Satan himself is just another creature which God will bring into judgment. Martin Luther once said, “The devil is God’s devil” and another quote attributed to him has him say, “Satan is on a leash, whose length is determined by God.” This should reassure us all that no evil will finally stand a chance to God’s righteous wrath.

Why didn’t we see this coming?

The Las Vegas gunman’s brother was reported as saying, he never saw this coming. He said his brother had no history of mental illness whatsoever and said it was like an asteroid that came out of nowhere.

We cannot see the depths of evil that lie deep in our hearts sometimes until they are exposed by our sinful actions. Everyone of us have been surprised by our own evil choices at times. We think or say or do something that shocks even us, and all we can do is honestly repent before God and those we’ve offended. For those who resist the guide of their conscience continually, it becomes incapable of pricking and is so hardened that more intensified acts of evil carry less and less guilt (1 Tim. 4:2). Serial killer Ted Bundy confessed this of himself when interviewed about his actions. Bundy said his sinful trajectory began with lust, was fed by more and more aggressive pornography, and eventually led him to feel little guilt over the horrible murders of his victims. There are many more evil perpetrators out there who have yet to act out their intentions. We may never see them before it is too late, for they look just like us. As we look ourselves in the mirror, we must not think to highly of our own goodness to think we’re beyond evil ourselves.

What hope is there for our broken world?

Thankfully God has inserted Himself into the picture. Astoundingly God didn’t come here and remain untouched by our evil. He didn’t create a bubble around Himself and come to teach a bunch of pithy platitudes. He personally allowed the evil and brokenness of this world to kiss Him in the face as it were. To punch Him in the face. To spit on Him. To mock Him. To beat Him to a bloody pulp. And to pin His naked body to a cross. Jesus asked, “Why?” from the cross, though He knew the answer. God was punishing our sins on His own beloved Son so that all who turn in faith to Him can have life. At the resurrection, the work of Christ was proven successful and His victory over the grave was obvious. But the gospel isn’t just about our personal beliefs. It is also about cosmic redemption (Romans 8:19-25). By taking the curse on Himself, Jesus was reversing the curse and promised that this ultimate reversal would come at His return (Gal. 3:13). All the marred results of life in this world will be burned away when Jesus returns and the creation will once again sing and dance before Him (Isaiah 55:12). After the consummation, there will be no more hurricanes or hospitals, no more shootings or shots, no more wars or wild animals. All will once again be at peace. Christ’s church must continually say, “Come, Lord Jesus!” But for those who aren’t ready for His return, this is a call for repentance and faith in Christ. 

One day, we will all know the answer to the question, “Why?”, but until then, we must only remember who is truly in control of this chaos.

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Refuge

In a fallen world, tragedy visits us all.

Tragedy may manifest itself in natural disasters, a broken home, betrayal of a friend, loss of a job, or death of a loved one. For some, the incomprehensible strikes, questions rage, doubts swirl, and we cry out to God in desperation! Our tragedy drives us to the only Refuge and He protects us within His walls and provides for us in His love. Such was the case with the passing of Job.

Job Allen Peterson, my nephew, lived an hour and twenty-four minutes on July 8, 2017. Tragedy. Death is a tragedy. It is not our friend; in fact, Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:26, says that it is our enemy. Death is an enemy of God, the Author and Giver of life. Death, too, is an enemy of ours as it steals that which God gave the unique of all creation; namely, his breath in our lungs. But this tragedy is not like any other I’ve ever been a part of.

It was truly a day of thanksgiving when, on Thursday, November 24, my brother-in-law quietly shared with me that he was expecting his second child. I can remember the joy that filled my heart for him as we sat on the porch swing and praised God. I was like a seven-year-old boy bursting with excitement over new news when only weeks later I clued our congregation in on our upcoming blessing when I accidentally let the cat out of the bag while preaching. Children are a blessing from the Lord (Psalm 127:3-5) and our family celebrated and praised the Giver of Good Gifts.

While we, the family, were awaiting the phone call following the first sonogram, Job’s parents were receiving news that would change their lives forever. There was something wrong. There were tests and phone calls and doctor visits and more tests and waiting and waiting and waiting…praying and praying and praying.

The baby that we would come to know as Job didn’t have kidneys, a bladder, or lungs. No kidneys meant little-to-no amniotic fluid and no amniotic fluid meant his lungs wouldn’t develop. Who knew that a kidney transplant was possible on an infant or other means were possible remedy the bladder issue? But no lungs? How could this happen? Would God intervene? Certainly, He is capable. But is He willing? A miracle is what was needed. So, we prayed. We dove into the Word. We trusted. We cried. We struggled. We rested. We prayed. We praised. We cried. We trusted. We prayed. As long as he was in the womb, there was still a chance; there was still time. But that day came and Job never developed lungs.

The incomprehensible had struck but the incomprehensible wasn’t the passing of Job; it was the comfort, peace, strength, and supernatural faith that God gave his parents and the rest of Job’s family. I’ve been processing this for a while now and I’ve had to change my use of adjectives. It became clearer and clearer that my description of God’s grace as “unbelievable” was a poor representation of the God who is not unbelievable but is incomprehensible.

Let me explain.

(1) Just days before receiving the news that his baby would likely not survive, God reveals himself to my brother-in-law, graciously gives him new life in Christ and ignites a flame of passion for knowing the Lord that could not be extinguished by even this tragedy of tragedies.

(2) Amidst the struggle and the pain, Job’s parents consistently rested in the sovereignty and goodness of God and committed to praising God if He chose to save Job and to praise God if He chose not to. Which was not mere lip-service but is a reality of life for them.

(3) On Saturday, July 8, the Lord delivered Job safely into the arms of his mommy who carried him, protected him, provided for him, and nurtured him. In spite of the odds, and in spite of the doctor’s best guess that Job would not survive the delivery, our Gracious God gave Job’s mommy and daddy an hour and twenty-four minutes together.

(4) As Job passed from this life to the next, together, we praised, we prayed, we cried, we held his little hands, and stroked his beautiful hair, and we felt the presence of God like never before.

(5) As Job’s mommy held him tight to her breasts, as tears of joy and pain rolled down her cheeks from deep within, you could hear the faint sound of worship in song coming from his mother who had only minutes to share the most important message Job could ever hear; God’s glory & goodness in Jesus Christ.

(6) Four days later, we gathered around a tiny casket and praised the God who gives life. There were a few tears and our hearts were saddened but that was not the focus of that day. The “God of all comfort who comforts us in our affliction” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) was present. The God who provides “peace that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) was present. The God who “is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1) was present. The focus of Job’s funeral was on the supernatural comfort, peace, & strength that is promised to those who belong to Lord of Hosts and was provided by God through this storm.

Who is this God who gives such good gifts? Who is this God who strengthens the weak, comforts the afflicted, and can put a song on praise on our lips amidst the pain of such loss? He is Jehovah Jireh, the Lord who provides (Genesis 22:14). He is Jehovah Rapha, the Lord who heals (Exodus 15:26). He is God and He is Good and all that he does is good (Psalm 119:68).

“I love you, O Jehovah, my strength. Jehovah is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon Jehovah, who is worthy to praised and I am saved from my enemies” (Psalm 18:1-3).

Words are not enough. Blogs are insufficient. But it is our privilege and honor to give what we can as an offering of praise…“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom” (Psalm 145:3).

The Gospel Never Retreats

There sat the world’s most outspoken Christian evangelist, chained to two Roman guards behind a locked jail cell. If most of us found ourselves in Paul’s shoes, we’d have thought for sure this was a sad day for the Gospel. “Poor Gospel”, we’d think. “Your days of victorious spreading have now come to a screeching halt. I guess I might as well just retreat to the cold recesses of this cell and silently go over some memory verses to reassure me. There’s no point trying to preach now.” Yet the Apostle Paul knew better than all this. He wrote to the church of Philippi, “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear” (Php. 1:12-14).

We may be tempted to see such circumstances as hindrances to the gospel spreading, but Paul saw them as opportunities which served to advance the Gospel. Paul knew that God often allows the troubling trials into our lives for His own divine purposes. Paul knew after watching Stephen’s martyrdom that persecution has a way of lighting a fire under God’s people to spread the Gospel elsewhere. It was Paul’s travel companion Luke, who wrote, “And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles…Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word” (Acts 8:1b, 4). So God could even use the terrible stoning of one of His own children to get the gospel beyond the confines of Jerusalem. An early Christian named Tertullian was right when he stated, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

What does this have to do with me, you may wonder. While you may not face much persecution for your faith at the moment, you probably do encounter “trials of various kinds.” In order for us to “rejoice” with Paul or “count it all joy” with James, we must understand that God allows all this to advance His Gospel, not send it in retreat. His Gospel knows no such thing as retreat. We must see every screaming toddler, every financial burden, every unexpected doctor’s call, and every natural disaster as events guided by the hand of our sovereign God to advance His Gospel. We must learn to behold the invisible King of glory as He sits on the throne of heaven, guiding all things according to His perfect counsel. All human authorities from ages past to today and into the future cannot stop or silence His gospel. North Korea’s emperor says, “No evangelism allowed!”, and South Koreans send thousands of Bibles into their territory via giant balloons. China says, “No other churches authorized!”, and hundreds of millions of Christians gather with greater earnestness in underground churches and in houses. As Paul said to young Timothy, “I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!” (2 Tim. 2:9). No chains can hold back the gospel from going forth.

What should this mean for us?

Rejoice when you encounter obstacles that seem to stand in the way of Gospel advancement.

Rejoice not in the obstacles themselves, but in the God who secretly works through them and despite them to accomplish His purpose of spreading His glory.

Rejoice as you consider that God is currently making a way in your personal life and in the Church universal to extend His Gospel to those He will redeem.

Rejoice as you consider the words of Christ when he said, “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd…My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:16, 27-28). Rejoice as you believe the promise, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Hab. 2:14).

May we keep our mind’s eye on the multitudes John saw around the throne praising the Lamb who purchased them with His blood (Revelation 7:9). Then, let us put on the armor of God and commit to advance Christ’s Gospel, come what may. Since the Gospel never retreats, may we never retreat in declaring it until the trumpet sounds and our King comes to rescue us. 

 

What That Verse Really Means – Philippians 4:13

Growing up, one of the only verses I had memorized was Philippians 4:13, which states, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” What boy doesn’t want to feel like he can do “all things”? Its a big world out there and there are lots of things which can intimidate us. Knowing that Christ helps us do anything we set out to do makes us feel good. Its almost like Jesus is our life cheerleader, standing on the sidelines shouting, “Way to go! You can do it! You got this!”

What It Doesn’t Mean

One famous UFC wrestler ran out to the ring under Philippians 4:13, on his way to beat someone to a bloody pulp. Defensive linemen in football write Phil. 4:13 in white letters under their eyes to motivate them to tackle the other team’s quarterback. But the Apostle Paul never intended his words in Philippians 4:13 to motivate us in these ways. Paul’s words weren’t meant as a pep talk for those going out into the world to achieve great feats. Rather, his words were meant to motivate us in a much deeper and long-lasting way.

What It Does Mean

Lets take a look at Philippians 4:11b-13, which read, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Here was the apostle Paul sitting in chains in a prison cell for preaching the gospel of Christ, probably chained to a guard on his left and right. He was no ivory tower theologian who enjoyed writing treatises from the comfort of his own home. He was a battle-worn soldier of Christ who had endured much persecution and hardship for the sake of the Gospel. We only need to read of Paul’s persecutions and sufferings in 2 Corinthians 11 to find out that the apostle Paul had suffered much for Christ. Yet in spite of all this, he had come to discover “the secret” of true contentment in any and every circumstance in life. He had gone without food, without sleep, and in fear of death often; and now here he sits in prison writing of his contentment. So when he comes to verse 13 and says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”, what he meant was: “I can endure any hardships necessary as I live for Christ, because Christ lives in me.”

In his book Spiritual Depression, Martyn Lloyd-Jones has pointed out, “The Christian is not just a moral man; the life of God has entered into him, there is an energy, a power, a life in him and it is that that makes him peculiarly and specifically Christian, and that is exactly what Paul is telling us here…the Christian life is not a life that I live myself and by my own power; neither is it a life in which I am obliterated and Christ does all. No, ‘I can do all through Christ.'”

What it means for us

Instead of giving us an ego boost or a peptalk to go on to do great things in our own power and for our own name, Philippians 4:13 assures us that Christ will empower us for every trial we must face.

This means the worst of life circumstances are not too much for the child of God because Christ gives them strength. Just imagine the worst thing that could possibly happen in your life: the death of a child, the loss of a spouse, a diagnosis of cancer, financial bankruptcy, a debilitating illness; If you are in Christ and Christ is in you, He will give you the strength to endure all of these.

I often hear people say, “God will never put on you more than you can handle”, but that just is not true. I agree with another friend who has said: God will put on you more than you can handle, but not more than He can handle through you. In 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, Paul describes one particular instance of this in his own life. He and his team were, “so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.”

So the next time you face a trial that seems too much for you to handle, remember Philippians 4:13 and know that Christ will give you the strength to get through this so long as you rely on Him and not yourself. If you seek contentment in your personal comforts, you are doomed to a life of disappointment and discontentment. But if you seek your contentment in Christ alone, nothing will be able to truly disappoint you and no trial will destroy your joy in Christ. You can endure it all, so long as you remember that the strength is found not in you, but in your union with Christ.

What We Can Learn from J.C. Ryle

“The world will let a man go to hell quietly, and never try to stop him. The world will never let a man go to heaven quietly—they will do all they can to turn him back…let him begin to read his Bible and be diligent in prayers, let him decline worldly amusement and be particular in his employment of time, let him seek an evangelical ministry and live as if he had an immortal soul-let him do this, and the probability is all his relations and friends will be up in arms…if a man will become a decided evangelical Christian he must make up his mind to lose the world’s favours; he must be content to be thought by many a perfect fool” (Iain Murray).

The name J.C. Ryle seemed to be forgotten by the winds of time after his death. For fifty years, Ryle’s work would be left in the dustbin of history. But when the battle for the Bible began raging on and the conservative resurgence took shape, Ryle’s works once again grew in popularity. Now that a new wave of “young, restless, and reformed” have swept on the scene to retreat from the shallow theology of easy-believism, there is a renewed interest in J.C. Ryle, and for that we should all be grateful.

J.C. Ryle served as the first bishop of Liverpool and his life spanned most of the 19th Century. He has authored a number of works including Holiness, Simplicity in Preaching, and Expository Thoughts on the Gospels. Everything I quote regarding his life in this blog comes from Iain Murray’s book entitled J.C. Ryle: Prepared to Stand Alone.

John Charles (J.C.) Ryle was born just over two hundred years ago, on May 10, 1816. Although he was born into a very wealthy family with his father running a bank, his promise of fortune ended when the bank went belly up and he was left to pay off large amounts of his father’s debts for years to come. He recalls from his childhood that he, his brother, and his four sisters, “were brought up in the greatest comfort and luxury, and had everything that money could get” (pg. 4). Ryle later comments on the crash of his father’s bank: “I was going to leave my father’s house without the least idea what was going to happen, where I was going to live, or what I was going to do…an eldest son, 25, with all the world before me, lost everything, and saw the whole future of my life turned upside down, and thrown into confusion. In short, if I had not been a Christian at this time, I do not know if I should not have committed suicide” (pg. 49).

Although J.C. grew up in a church-going family, his was not a truly Christian church or home. He remarks, “The plain truth is, that for the first 16 or 17 years of my life, there was no ministry of the gospel at the churches we attended…we had no religious friends or relatives and no real Christian ever visited our house…neither at home, nor school, nor college, nor among my relatives or friends, had I anything to do good to my soul, or to teach me anything about Jesus Christ” (pg. 18).

At about the age of 21, J.C. Ryle began sporadically attending a new Church of England congregation in his home town of Macclesfield, which was unlike the other two churches in the area, “where you might have slept as comfortably in those churches under the sermons of their ministers as you might in your own armchairs with nothing to wake you up.” It was here, under the ministry of John Burnet that Ryle saw, “a kind of stir among dry bones.” He speaks later of his conversion, “Nothing I remember to this day, appeared to me so clear and distinct as my own sinfulness, Christ’s preciousness, the value of the Bible, the absolute necessity of coming out from the world, the need of being born again…all these things…seemed to flash upon me like a sunbeam in the winter of 1837, and have stuck in my mind from that time down to this” (pg. 23).

Ryle’s later call into the ministry came after failed attempts at other things and seemed to be forced upon him. Although he didn’t want to be a clergyman and was fairly skilled in law, he would later say, “God ordered it differently, and would not allow me to be a lawyer.” He even said, “every avenue seemed shut against me.” He also remarked, “If my father’s affairs had prospered, and I had never been ruined, my life of course would have been a very different one. I should probably have gone into Parliament very soon, and it is impossible to say what the effect of this might have been upon my soul.” He served churches in Exbury, Winchester, Helmingham, rural Suffolk, and Stradbroke before being asked to become the first bishop of Liverpool. He was regularly in the houses of his parishioners, even visiting every family once a month. His commitment to visit his members so frequently came from a desire to preach the Gospel to them in their kitchens and living rooms as much as from the pulpit. His heart beat for discipling his people with the Word. Ryle saw it as his life’s work to preach the Gospel in the Church of England so as to keep it from drifting away into ritualism and Roman Catholic influences, a serious threat which we see now in our day. Having grown up in the Church of England, Ryle had studied the 39 Articles and loved the legacy of the Reformers, so he was intent to do his part to keep the Church of England on solid ground. Many would have abandoned such a hard road for another denomination with a brighter future, but not Ryle.

As a preacher, Ryle often preached from short, pithy texts and filled his sermons with no-nonsense straight talk about the real issues of life. He always spoke to his congregants like he believed he would one day have to give an account for their souls. J.C. Ryle was once referred to as, “that man of granite with the heart of a child.” Ryle earned the title of a “man of granite” by his rock-solid stance on the truthfulness of God’s Word against a host of Roman Catholic sympathizers wreaking havoc in the Church of England. He also took a bold stand in his preaching and was unashamed who was offended by the message of the cross. He did not cower before the opinions of others, even when those others were in the majority. He once told a group of ministers, “Stand fast, both in public and in private, even if you stand alone…Stand fast in the old belief that the whole Bible from Genesis to Revelation was given by inspiration of God, and that the historical facts recorded in the Old Testament are all credible and true” (Murray, pg. 194). On the other hand, Ryle was said to have, “the heart of a child” because of his sincere love for all people. Some men take themselves so seriously that they turn people away from the truths they preach, but Ryle was not this way. On his daily walks, he would often be seen speaking to a group of young boys playing a game on the road and giving them a piece of sharp and witty advice. The children also knew that whenever they saw Mr. Ryle coming he had plenty of candy in his pockets.

Ryle’s ministry included suffering, as his first and second wife both died prematurely and left him with five children to care for all on his own. He eventually married Henrietta, who more than made up for all his suffering. Henrietta was more than a good wife to J.C.; she was also the perfect partner for him in the stresses of ministry. A good help-mate can make or break a man’s ministry, and she certainly made his thrive.

Perhaps one of the saddest events in J.C. Ryle’s life involved his son Herbert. Herbert studied and began preaching liberal theology to the dismay of his aging father. It is one thing for a preacher’s son to be lost and yet a whole other thing for that son to be a popular false teacher rising among the ranks. J.C. went to be with Jesus in 1900 and his son Herbert seemed intent on removing his father’s evangelical heritage. All that J.C. Ryle stood for theologically, his son Herbert stood against. The new era of liberal theology seemed to cast a dark shadow over all Ryle’s efforts and his son Herbert rejoiced to see evangelical theology dissipating into the dark recesses of the history books. Little did Herbert and his liberal contemporaries know, the “faith once for all delivered to the saints” can never be truly extinguished, but will shine ever brighter until Christ’s return. Liberal theology only served to close church doors as J.C. had foretold, but evangelical truth, which J.C. Ryle had stood for, would face another resurgence decades later.

Praise God for the life and ministry of His servant J.C. Ryle in a day where his memory is once again celebrated. Ryle teaches ministers today to have a thick skin and a soft heart. He also teaches us to be dead earnest about the Gospel and yet not take ourselves too seriously either. We would do well to learn these lessons from a dear brother gone before.

God Meant It for Good

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20a)

Perhaps the biggest issue people have with Christianity is how a good God can coexist with the evil and suffering of this world. More ink has been spilt trying to give a sufficient answer to the question of God’s goodness in an evil world than I could write in ten lifetimes, but in this one verse we find perhaps the best concise explanation. 

Let’s at least get one thing out of the way before we break down what is going on in this text: the problem of evil cannot really be a problem to God. Were God to face a real dilemma He cannot solve, such as the presence of evil, He would cease to be the sovereign authority of all creation. The problem of evil then is really only a problem from our human perspective. The old saying, “If God is God, He is not good. If God is good He is not God”, from a play by Archibald MacLeish, sums up the belief of many regarding this issue. Yet in the life of Joseph, we encounter a God who is God and He is also good. On the one hand, He is in total sovereign control of all things (including evil and suffering), while on the other hand, He is altogether good and loving. Isn’t that the kind of God we all know exists anyway? One who is truly God and is truly good?

The story of Joseph’s life is quite remarkable. A dearly loved and favored son, Joseph dreams a strange dream of his family bowing before him only to be sold into slavery by his own brothers for even mentioning it to them. He is then falsely accused by an evil seductress and imprisoned, only to later be released by Pharaoh for interpreting dreams, and ends up becoming second in command over all Egypt and saving multitudes from a dreadful famine. 

Joseph’s story has traces of evil and suffering all over it: favoritism, envy, hatred, slave-trading, betrayal, lies, temptation, false accusations, prison, and famine. Yet at every turn in Joseph’s story, the reader is reminded of God’s good purposes and presence. In his slavery, imprisonment, and rise to power, we are told, “God was with Joseph.” Apparently a good and sovereign God can coexist with evil and suffering in this world. But how?

Later in his life, Joseph’s dreams have been fulfilled. He stands as second in command to Pharaoh and his brothers finally come bowing before him. The very plot meant to destroy Joseph’s dreams actually was the instrument by which those dreams were fulfilled. Had Joseph never been sold into slavery, he would have never been falsely accused, and had he never been falsely accused, he would have never been imprisoned, and had he never been imprisoned, he would have never been released to become Pharaoh’s right hand man, and had he never become Pharaoh’s right hand man, multitudes would have perished in a severe famine.

In Genesis 45:5-8 Joseph tells his brothers, “do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life…God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth…so it was not you who sent me here, but God.” The psalmist, in Psalm 105, is so bold as to add that God, “summoned a famine on the land” and “sent a man ahead of them, Joseph.” How do we reconcile these two seemingly contradictory statements? You sold me…God sent me. You meant evil…God meant it for good. Famines are bad…but God summoned it. 

First we must realize that what often seem like contradictions in our Bibles are actually not contradictions at all, but paradoxes. A paradox is the coming together of two parallel truths that don’t seem to be reconcilable. When 19th Century Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon was asked to reconcile God’s sovereignty with man’s responsibility, he said, “I wouldn’t try…I never reconcile friends.”

The glorious truth obvious to Joseph and to all God’s suffering saints throughout the ages and needs to be understood by us as well is: behind every drop of suffering and behind every dark spot of evil, God is sovereignly working out His good and perfect plan. This truth is one some believers foolishly run from, yet which is given by God as a support for them in the trials of life. Instead of embracing God’s sovereignty and goodness behind our suffering and behind the evil of our world, many believers choose to attribute all supposed “bad” events to Satan and all supposedly “good” events to God. I was in a Bible study once with a godly Christian woman who said her father’s death was all the work of Satan and refused the thought that God could have been sovereign behind it. After a time of her own prayerful reflection and study, she told the group that she now understood that God was sovereign and did allow her father to die for His own good purposes.

Think of the most ungodly and heinous act in human history. Now, can you confidently say, “The perpetrators meant it for evil, but God meant it for good”? Perhaps you were thinking of the Holocaust or September 11th. But these crimes pale in comparison to an even more despicable crime: the crucifixion of God’s only Son. The early church understood the cross to be both the most heinous crime ever committed and an offense God predestined to occur for His own good purposes in redemption. In Acts 2:23 we read, “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” So on the one hand, there are “lawless men” who “killed” Jesus and on the other hand, Jesus’ death was “according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.” Then again in Acts 4:28 the church prays that all the evil perpetrators (Herod, Pilate, the Gentiles, and Jews) did, “whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” 

If God is sovereign over a famine in Joseph’s day and all the sin leading up to that event in his life and the horror of Christ’s crucifixion, then He is sovereign over every evil event and amount of suffering in this world. Yet God always has a good purpose which He brings out of evil and suffering. The ultimate good purpose of all evil and suffering in this world will be realized in the new heavens and new earth when the bride of Christ will finally be redeemed out of this sin-cursed world and all will be renewed. Until then, may we learn to rest in God’s sovereign care over our lives even as we live in a world full of sin and suffering. 

After all, what hope would there be if there were no sovereign and good God behind the helm of this world and behind the wheel of our own lives?

When God’s Will and Our Will Collide

We’ve all been there. You have your entire day planned out and all is smooth sailing…then it happens. Your car won’t start or you lose your keys or your baby has an allergic reaction and you’ve got to rush to the doc right now (me this week).

In moments like this it is so easy to carry hidden frustration toward God because of your circumstances, but this would be a failure to trust His wisdom, goodness, and sovereignty over your life. We may seem more spiritual when life is all smiles and we’re sipping a Starbucks on a breezy, carefree day, but God doesn’t see it that way. What we call interruptions to our will are actually perfectly coordinated and strategic elements of God’s will being worked out in our lives. The Christian life, among other things, is a series of God-planned interruptions uniquely crafted to wean us from self and teach us to depend upon Him; the sooner we learn this, the better. This is because of the focus of God’s will and the unique possibilities of accomplishing that will through our lives. 1 Thessalonians 4:3a states, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification.”

Since God’s driving purpose in our lives is our sanctification, and since we are best sanctified to God through hardship and suffering, His will often collides with ours. Were we to have the ability to be God for a day, we might try to sanctify someone by giving them a blissful sunny day, a leather-bound journaling Bible, and two child-free weeks at a rustic cabin in the woods that looks like a Thomas Kinkade painting. But this only reveals how man-centered and comfort-driven our view of sanctification is. While our approach at being God would make people feel more spiritual, they wouldn’t actually be more spiritual than if they had been pressed by hardship to cry out to the Lord in desperation. The single person may feel more spiritual because they have less demands on them that are pressuring them and causing their sin to be exposed. Marriage makes us feel less spiritual only because living and loving another sinner is hard work and it brings out more of our selfishness. Having children makes us feel even less spiritual because these little, needy, and ill-tempered humans demand things from us and bring out the sin that was below the surface when we were single.

So how can we remind ourselves that God is working in the difficult interruptions of life? Here is a statement to carry with you and even recite in your mind whenever God interrupts your will to carry out His: God’s will, God’s way, God’s time, God’s day.

God’s Will, Not Ours

Flat tire. Sickness. A screaming toddler with an ear infection. Exhaustion. When it happens again and you’re tempted to lose it, remind yourself that God is in charge. A year or so ago news channels were all abuzz over a cruise liner that headed directly into a hurricane despite the fact that the captain knew about it prior and didn’t change course. Now picture God behind the helm of this ship called your life and He is charting the perfect course toward your sanctification. We sometimes wish we could grab the wheel and steer clear of all trouble, but the Lord knows best when we need to enter a hurricane head on. Prince of preachers Charles Spurgeon rightly said, “I have learned the kiss the waves that push me against the Rock of Ages.”

God’s Way, Not Ours

Our way to accomplish sanctification isn’t usually God’s, but we must trust that His way is best. Another Spurgeon gem is: “When you cannot trace God’s hand, you can trust God’s heart.” It’s true that, ‘there is more than one way to skin a cat’, but God knows the best way to sanctify a child of His and chooses it every time. Our trials appear random, but don’t be deceived. Peter says it this way: “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious that gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7, underline mine). 

Like a good carpenter, God uses a variety of tools to sanctify us: weather patterns, migraines, grumpy people, you name it. The trials are “various” (same word in James 1:2), but these are each “necessary.” So the next time something happens you didn’t plan for, remind yourself this is God’s necessary means of sanctification in your life today.

God’s Time, Not Ours

We like things to happen on time. Who wants to wait? But Moses waited forty years in the back side of the desert. Noah waited for over a century before the flood came. Abraham waited for most of his adult life before God finally kept His promise when he reached 100 years of age. God loves to sanctify using time. Maybe it’s a prayer request that seems five years late or something that you doubt will ever happen since you’ve waited so long, but remember God’s timing is best. Also don’t forget that, “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). So calm down, you’ve only been around an hour or so.

God’s Day, Not Ours

Lastly, we must remind ourselves each day that it isn’t really our day at all…its God’s; and it’s all for His glory. Psalm 118:24 reminds us: “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” The specific “day” the psalmist mentions is Good Friday. A few verses earlier we see, “the stone” being “rejected” by the builders and it all being “the LORD’s doing.” Jesus prayed in Gethsemane: “Father, take this cup from me…yet not my will, but yours.” Jesus gave up the will of His flesh so that God’s will of redeeming sinners could be accomplished.

Will we not then daily pray alongside Jesus, “yet not my will, but yours”?

4 Lessons from 3 Guys

In Daniel chapter 3 we read an amazing story of persecution, faith, and deliverance (read it here).

The story begins with Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king, building a large golden image for the purpose of corporate worship. It was simple, worship or be thrown into a burning fiery furnace. Once the command to bow or die went forward everyone obeyed, everyone that is, except for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They were worshipers of the one true God – YHWH. Despite the tremendous consequences they faced, God alone was worthy of their worship and they would not bow to another.

In their refusal to worship another, they told the king, “we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” The king was furious and ordered that the men be sent to the burning fiery furnace. But to the king’s surprise, the men were unscathed as they stood calmly in the flames of the furnace. The fire had no affect on them. We read that a fourth man, One who looked like a Son of the gods, came to their rescue and delivered them from the fiery furnace. In v 28 we read, “Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him…'” The God that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego trusted in (the only true God) came to their rescue and delivered them from the flames of the furnace. As a result, King Nebuchadnezzar praised God for His mighty work. The man who wanted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego dead for worshiping their God was now praising that same God.

This is an incredible story, but what does it have to do with you and me?

There are at least four things that we should take away from this story.

Peer Pressure

First, notice the incredible peer pressure that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego faced and overcame. They were being pressured to bow down to a golden image or die! It would have been very easy to give in and say to each other, “It’s not worth it, guys. Let’s just do what the king says and we will live!” But that is not what they did. God was of more value than their very lives. They were not only going to live for Him, but they were willing to die for Him. The pressure from the king didn’t seem to phase them.

We may never experience the same level of pressure that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego faced – do this or die – but there will be times when we are pressured or enticed into doing what we know is wrong. And in those times we need to stand firm and do what’s right even if that means there are consequences. We may lose friends; we might have family members that are disappointed with us; we may miss out on promotions at work, or other advancements in life; but as Christians we are called to do what’s right even when it costs us. We must recognize that God is of more value than life itself.

Worship God Alone

Second, notice Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego worshiped God alone. The passage tells us, in v18, that they told the king, “be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Only one God was worthy of their worship and that was the only true God – YHWH.

We don’t bow down to golden images or pray to false gods but we are certainly guilty of worshiping idols. Whether we realize it or not, we have a tendency to serve false gods – the god of money, the god of success, the god of approval, the god of family, the god of hobbies and sports – you name it, it could be anything! There are so many things that rival God’s place in our hearts. But those things do not have the ability to bring us the satisfaction that God can. God alone should be the Treasure of hearts.

God Allows Suffering

Third, notice that God allows suffering for His glory. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego suffered extreme persecution and were even thrown into a burning fiery furnace (terrifying) for their refusal to bow down to the king’s golden image. Although God miraculously delivered them from the flames that surround them, He could have very easily kept it from going that far. Once Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego boldly refused to bow down to the golden image God could have carried them away to safety right then and there. However, these guys face persecution, get brought before the evil king, and are even thrown into the fiery furnace. They experience tremendous fear but then God delivers them. All of this causes King Nebuchadnezzar to praise God (v.26,28,29). God allows Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to go through difficulty to bring praise to His name.

God may cause us to go through difficulty and suffering for His glory and our benefit. Through suffering God shapes and molds us into the people He wants us to be. Just image how much Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s faith must have grown as a result of being saved from the flames of the furnace. Through suffering God brings praise to His name. King Nebuchadnezzar praises God after seeing the miracle of deliverance. God may be using suffering to bring about the same results in our lives. Our suffering is not vain. God has purpose for allowing it in our lives – His glory and our benefit.

Delivered by Faith

Fourth, notice v28: “Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him…'” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into a fiery furnace and left to die. Left to themselves there is no way they would survive. They were hopeless and helpless but then the God they trusted in delivered them and they were saved. It’s an amazing story of faith and deliverance.

The same God that delivered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in that fire years ago is the same God that still delivers today. We need to know that each and every one of us deserves the flames of hell for our sinfulness. On our own there is no way we can save ourselves. We are hopeless and helpless. But for those of us who trust in Christ we will be delivered. Through faith in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection we will be rescued from the wrath we deserve.

Jesus is our Deliverer, our Hope, and our Treasure. Let Him forever be on the forefront of our minds.

Future Glory – Present Reality

This past weekend I had the privilege to close out the Publicans’ Conference reflecting on the future hope we have in our God who promised everlasting life to his children. We saw that this future life is a great and glorious gift of God, one not to be despised but enjoyed as we enjoy the giver of such a gift.

However, it leads to the question of ‘How this future glory and paradise affects my present reality?’

To be honest it changes everything about our present reality as we view it rightly through the lenses of the God’s Kingdom. Two of the main areas we can see being changed by our future perspective are how we deal with suffering and our understanding of our lives now as sojourners.

It changes our suffering into joy

Firstly, Paul makes the argument in Romans 8:18-25 that the present trials are not worthy to even be compared with the glory that will be revealed. While this does not lessen the actual sorrow and pain we experience in the trials we undergo in this life, it does allow us to see them in a larger perspective, one that goes beyond today and on into eternity. A millennium from now our pain and struggles will be nothing compared to our enjoyment of the Lord in the New Jerusalem. This should help us to see our current situation as just that current and temporary, an opportunity to see and understanding God’s work in a new way.

This understanding of events should help us to develop a joy in the Lord in the midst of hardship. Now when we speak of joy we are not speaking of some sort of masochistic pleasure from the pain of life, but rather a dependent hope in the work of Christ. It is a different kind of joy, greater and longer lasting than any momentary emotion; it is built on the reality of Christ’s work on the cross. Our joy is grounded in the suffering of Christ. When we view our present situation through the lenses of Christs sacrifice and the promise of the kingdom to come, we can’t help but be reminded of the joy set before us. He endured the cross for the joy set before him, so too we endure the trial and burdens in this life for the joy set before us in Him. Let us find hope in Christ and joy in light of the world to come, but that is not the only change that comes.

It changes our outlook on our citizenship

Secondly, John when outlining the future city of Jerusalem in Rev. 21 specifically points to the inhabitants of this new city as not being defined by their physical birth or national identities but on their names being written in the book of life. For those who are in Christ our birth certificate is no longer a piece of paper held by the government of this world but rather a line in the book of Life. Once our names are written in this book it comes with all the rights and privileges spelled out in being a member of the Kingdom of God. We become members of a new race one set apart for God, not only in this life but the next. Just think about it, we cease in a very real way to be a part of this world and join the next. We now have more in common with those whose names are written in the book from Africa and Asia than our non-believing neighbor across the street, because our true lasting citizenship is in the Eternal Jerusalem awaiting the children of God.

So what does this new citizenship mean for us?

It means that we now live as sojourners in a land that is not our own. We have become stranger in a lost and dying land. It means we have been given a mission to spread the truth of Christ and the Kingdom to come with those who live in this land. Jesus commanded his disciples to go make disciples, to teach them the truth of the Kingdom of God. They became ambassadors in land that was not their own to teach the people about the reality of the Kingdom to come.

We must not become isolationists with our faith, our citizenship in heaven would not allow it, and rather we will go and call others to join us in this new and lasting city. We will call others to see the greatness of our true King who reigns and saves.

Mourning and Responding to Orlando

While politicians and presidential candidates are using the largest shooting in U.S. history as a platform for their prospective gun-control policies, most of the rest of us are just left saddened, confused, and angered by such a tragedy. Here are two ways to respond from The Gospel Coalition:

a) Mourning, Longing for Truth and Love (from Nabeel Qureshi):

As an ex-Muslim who loves America and my Muslim family, my heart is hurting beyond expression.

Today we witnessed the worst mass shooting in American history: 50 tragically killed in a gay bar in Orlando, Florida. The authorities announced the details just a few minutes ago: it was Omar Mir Seddique Mateen, a devout American-born Muslim who had pledged his allegiance to ISIL.

AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack
AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

Mateen’s father has said the shooting had “nothing to do with religion,” and that his son may have committed this crime because he saw “two men kissing in Downtown Miami a couple months ago.” But no one goes on a killing rampage for seeing two men kiss. Clearly there’s more to this than his father doesn’t see. I do not blame him, though. His son has just died, and he’s not in a state to think clearly. We ought to be praying for him.

None of us can think entirely objectively, especially at the heels of a terrorist attack charged with so many political controversies. The rhetoric and agendas are flying, even though the dust has not yet settled. Gun control? Homophobia? Islamophobia?

As we are clouded by agendas and struggling to react, two opposing positions are coming to the fore: “Islam is a religion of peace and Mateen’s actions therefore have nothing to do with Islam,” or “Islam is inherently violent therefore we must see all Muslims as latent threats.”

As an American and a former Muslim, my heart is torn by these two poles of rhetoric. Those who take the first position are endangering my country by overlooking the very real cause of Jihad, which are the teachings and history of Islam. (See my article “How Does Jihad Compare with Old Testament Warfare?”) Those who take the latter position are endangering my Muslim family and friends, loving and patriotic Muslims that are as innocent and American as the rest of us.

The fact is, the vast majority of Muslims are loving, peaceful people who would never want to hurt any American or homosexual. I know this because I was deeply rooted in the Muslim community, and not a single Muslim out of the thousands I knew were violent or harbored violent tendencies. (The community I am referring to is in Norfolk, Virginia, with Sunnis, Shias, and others attending the same mosque. It was an open-armed and diverse Muslim community.)

Regardless, Islam itself has always taught that gays should be executed. Muhammad commanded: “If you find anyone doing as Lot’s people did, kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done” (Sunan Abu Daud 4447). Imams who have been trained in these Islamic teachings are teaching in our communities. Just three months ago, an imam who is well known for proclaiming Muhammad’s teachings on homosexuality spoke in Orlando. In a prior speech about homosexuals he was noted to have said, “Let’s get rid of them now” (video and news article). The imam spoke at an Islamic center that is less than 20 miles from the site of today’s atrocities. Some American-born Muslims, such as Omar, are taking teachings like these at face value, listening to their imams and following Muhammad.

b) 5 Ways Christians Can Respond (from Joe Carter):

It happened again.

In the dark hours of this Sunday morning some 50 people were killed and another 53 were injured in a terror attack in gay nightclub in Orlando. President Obama has called it an “act of terror and an act of hate,” and it’s being described as the most deadly shooting in American history.

The news of such violent atrocities comes to us so regularly nowadays that we may feel numb, helpless to know what to do or say after such events. But as followers of Christ we can’t simply shut out the pain and despair. We must bring light and healing.

These horrible events of recent years have targeted a wide variety of people: military personnel, movie-goers, elementary school children, and now patrons of a gay nightclub. All have dignity as made in the image of God. The death of any leads to mourning, whether they were targeted at random or not.

Over the years several writers for TGC have provided wise guidance on how to respond. These five calls (pray, pause, grieve, love, hope) to action apply to the most recent in a string of tragedies.

Beyond the Gates of Splendor

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (Psalm 91:1–2)

Five families in the early 1950’s moved to Ecuador to reach the isolated Waodani tribe with the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the first time in history.  Although at first they found acceptance they would soon meet hostility and eventually death.

60 years ago today – January 8, 1956 – Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Peter Flemming, and Roger Youderian were speared to death on a sandbar called “Palm Beach” in the Curaray River of Ecuador.  The courage of these men was deep, but too few recall the courage of the wives and children they left behind.  After their death, members of the slain missionaries’ families returned to the same tribe to live among them with the same aim of reaching them with the Gospel.

They did…

…and nothing has been the same since.

The world called the death of these 5 missionaries a ‘tragic nightmare’ but Elisabeth Elliot, wife of deceased Jim Elliot, was not convinced and wrote a book about the events that took place called Shadow of the Almighty (title coming from Psalm 91 seen above).  She was convinced that the death of her husband was a glorious reminder that God is a refuge for His people, not from suffering and death but a refuge from eternal death.  The world learned a lesson that day.  That the Gospel, the precious Gospel of Christ, is worth dying for, and those who love Jesus always walk (even in dark times) in the shadow of the Almighty.

A documentary of these events was made called Beyond the Gates of Splendor (which prompted the making of the motion picture The End of the Spear), Nate Saint’s young son Steve grew up and founded his own missionary organization (ITEC) taking his father’s place as a missionary himself, and last but not least Jim Elliot’s journals were gathered and published for all read.

We now know the story, and are grateful for it.

John Piper has written a wonderful piece describing the significance of these events, I encourage you to read it today (click here).

Also the entire documentary (that is worth your time) is on YouTube (click here).

Here are a few quotes from Jim Elliot to take to heart today:

“Father, make of me a ‘crisis man’. Bring those I contact to decision. Let me not be a milepost on a single road. Make of me a fork, so that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me.”

“What is written in these pages I suppose will someday be read by others than myself. For this reason I cannot hope to be absolutely honest in what is herein recorded, for the hypocrisy of this shammering heart will ever be putting on a front and dares not to have written what is actually found in its abysmal depths. Yet, I pray Lord, that You will make these notations to be as nearly true to fact as is possible so that I will know my own heart and be able to definitely pray regarding my gross, though often unviewed, inconsistencies. I do this at the suggestion of Stephen Olford whose chapel message of yesterday morning convicted me that my quiet time with God is not what it should be. These remarks are to be written from fresh, daily thoughts given from God in meditation on His Word.”

“The world cannot hate you”, so Jesus said to those who were of the world spirit. O’ that it could! The Lord is not enough ‘with me’ that the world can recognize and hate me for what I am – “not of the world.” The world loves its own, and for me it shelters not hatred. Lord, have I wandered so far?”

“There is now no longer any inheritance for me down here. I’ve been bought by the labors of that great Shepherd who came from afar to gain me as His bride. Lead on, Lord, whatever God’s command is or wherever He may lead, I am now ready to go.”

“God, I pray, light these idle sticks of my life and may I burn up for Thee. Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine. I seek not a long life, but a full one like Yours, Lord Jesus.”

“Lord, I know Thou art with me, but I fear that because my life is barren for Thee so much of the time, that You gain little glory from being with me. I pray Thee, make my way prosperous, not that I achieve high station, but that my life might be an exhibit to the value of knowing God.”

“Lord, here at Wheaton we need some affliction to unite us in our purpose, to make us prosper, to scatter us abroad. I pray, then, Lord, for should I ask for a Pharaoh who knows not our Joseph and is antagonistic? (Gen. 37- Ex. 1) Yes, send persecution to me, Lord, that my life might bring forth much fruit.”

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

“What Do I Say of Muhammad?”

On this day, April 7, 1321 brother Thomas of Tolentino and three other Franciscans monks witnessed for Christ. On either the 8th or 9th of April, after torture, they were beheaded. Traveling toward China the party had been detained near Bombay. A local Cadi summoned them to discuss religion. Thomas and his associates upheld the divinity of Christ. The Cadi then demanded to know what they thought of Mohammed. Thomas replied that since Mohammed’s claims did not square with Christ’s, the Cadi, if he were wise, should be able to determine what to think of him. The Cadi and his attendants would not accept this evasive reply but demanded a direct response. The answer below, when it came, caused the Muslims to shout that Thomas had blasphemed the prophet and to call for his death.

Quote: “Since ye can only repeat What do I say of him, I should blush to refuse the reply ye seek. I reply then, and tell you that Muhammad is the son of perdition and has his place in hell with the devil his father, and not he only but all such as follow and keep his law, false as it is, and pestilent and accursed, hostile to God and the salvation of souls.” (Source: The quote is from Cathay and the Way Thither: Being a Collection of Medieval Notices of China. The date is from Internet encyclopedias and saints’ sites.)

Lesson?

In a time where political correctness rules the day, may we be found to be as faithful as these men for the glory of Christ.

All Marriage Begins in Joy and Ends in Tragedy

Insightful piece from Carl Trueman:

When I married a young couple in my congregation a few years ago, I commented in the sermon that all human marriages begin with joy but end in tragedy. Whether it is divorce or death, the human bond of love is eventually torn apart. The marriage of Christ and his church, however, begins with tragedy and ends with a joyful and loving union which will never be rent asunder. There is joy to which we point in our worship, the joy of the Lamb’s wedding feast. But our people need to know that in this world there will be mourning. Not worldly mourning with no hope. But real mourning nonetheless, and we must make them ready for that.

To read the rest, which I recommend you do, click here.

Egypt! Egypt! Have You Forgot?

A Poem from John Piper, stemming from his reflection on the current events playing out in Egypt.

Egypt! Egypt! A Meditation for Today on Isaiah 19:24–25

O Egypt, Egypt, do you not

Recall, dear friend, have you forgot

That twice you were the savior of My only Son — though not from love?

You fed him in the famine. Then You took him for a slave.  And when I rescued him, I made you know My name, my power, and how much woe Will fall on those who mock my Son.

And when he came again, the One That Herod would destroy, he fled once more to his dear friend who fed Him once before.

And there you hid and suckled him like Moses, ’mid the rushes and the riches of the regal court — though not from love.

Two years you gave him shield and bread until his enemies were dead and it was safe for him to make His way back home, and for your sake To die.

O Egypt, Egypt, will you now destroy his house, and kill His people, cut his seamless word to pieces, lest the truth be heard — The sweetest news that he, or I, could ever speak?

And so I cry Aloud again: O Egypt, Hear this tender word.  It is as near to you as hope.

Did not your own Isaiah tenderly make known My heart? O Listen, Egypt! “In that day, in spite of all your sin, together, you and Israel, and vast Assyria, will dwell As one — the kingdom of my Son —  and in that day, with joy, I’ll stun the world, and call you mine.

And you will be my people.

Yes, the true and happy bride of Christ, with all your meek and broken foes who call on his great name.

And in the end, you’ll know why I have called you friend.”

“Though You Slay Me”

One of my best friends, Ross Floyd, is in the process of raising support to move to Bogota, Columbia for missions with his wife Angela.  He posted this on their blog today, and it is moving to say the least.  I’ve re-posted it here for your joy and benefit.  If you feel so inclined, please do support them, all the info is on their blog, click here.

Though You Slay Me

I just finished watching this video not 2 minutes ago and it really cut to the core.  Many of you are familiar with some of the pain that Angela and I have experienced through the past years with loss of our two children through miscarriages.  It is something that I feel the pain of everyday.  I find myself at times struggling with understanding why Christ chose us to go through this suffering.  Through these times of struggle I am admittedly very critical of people when I see posts on social media praising God when things are going well.  Why do I never see posts about God’s faithfulness during times of pain, and well, HELL?  Why do I feel like people are only willing to show off our God in times of victory and joy?  And then it hits me.  Where was I when Angela and I were suffering?  Was I posting about God’s faithfulness?  Was I praising Him and His sovereign grace during the times of hell?  No, I was cowering behind the pain and hurt hoping for pity and comfort, instead of proclaiming that Our God is Sovereign and there is nothing that happens outside of His will.  He planned the miscarriages for His glory and honor.

Right now, Angela and I are in the midst of raising support to be missionaries in Bogotá, Colombia.  I never thought that it would be as hard and as challenging as it really has become.  We struggle everyday to be motivated to call people and ask them to support us on this journey.  We struggle with comparing ourselves to others; it seems they have not struggled in raising the support like we have.  But one thing that I know is true, Christ intends this time of struggle, this time of doubt, and pain for His glory.  He is sovereign in the timing of when we get to 100% and are able to go to Bogotá.  So we are to honor him in the way we work towards that goal.

These past two years have sucked.  There has been some extreme hurt and disappoint in our lives.  Though we may be slain, Christ is ultimately glorified and given praise.

“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.  GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s;  he makes me tread on my high places.” ~ Habakkuk 3:17-19

~ Ross