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Suffering

Finding Jesus in Tragedy

We experienced two tragedies this week. On Thursday I saw an alert on Facebook that a church in Adell was on fire. The name didn’t sound familiar, but given the size of the community, I only knew of one church: Adell Community Church, pastored by a friend, Mike Wiley. A few minutes later, I received an email from the Weatherford Ministerial Alliance’s president asking for us to pray for Mike and the church. I called him later and he said that their new sanctuary had all but burned to the ground.

The next day was Friday and we heard the news of the second deadliest mass murder in American history: twenty 5- and 6-year olds at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT had been killed by a sick man. It was an evil act. Of course, Facebook and Twitter were ablaze from both sides of the gun control debate. So many pundits were politicizing the tragedy even before the bodies were removed from the school. One of the wisest things I saw was a Tweet from Glenn Beck:

Our society is broken. Our communities are suffering and it is because of the ever expanding lack of self-control & personal responsibility. It’s not the gun. It is the soul.

A high school friend commented, “I don’t know if God exists. But if he does, I’m not keen on worshipping someone who lets twenty young children die.” In a later comment, she said, “If we have an omnipotent being regarding us all, he’s either doing a [horrible] job or doesn’t love us as advertised.” Her comments typify the response most of us have as we try to wrap our brains around the problem of evil.

As I studied and prayed through Friday and Saturday, I came across an excellent post from Russell Moore, Dean of Theology at Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY. I highly recommend reading his response.

This morning, I responded to these tragedies from the pulpit. My sermon’s thesis statement was that we will find Jesus in tragedy when we confidently trust in God’s absolute sovereignty.

I remember a discussion in our Christian Ethics class in seminary. The professor said that when wrestling with these issues, we are tempted to deny one of three things:

  • God is all-loving
  • God is all-good
  • God is all-powerful

But to take a Biblical approach, we must affirm all three points. We don’t have to understand why God does all that He does. He doesn’t owe us any explanations and He doesn’t have to get our permission. Our task is to trust that He is all-loving, He is all-good, and he is all-powerful. He’ll take care of the rest.

If God were small enough to be understood He would not be big enough to be worshipped. —Evelyn Underhill

 

What do you think about this tragedy? How we should approach this subject from a Christian perspective?

I am interested in hearing your comments below.

 

 

Morning After Reflections

As I type this on the morning after the 2012 General Elections, I am physically sick to my stomach. Not because “my guy” didn’t win. I feel sick because of where I see us as a nation and where we are heading as a nation. We are getting what we have asked for. And we deserve exactly what we are getting.

I don’t claim to have the spiritual gift of prophecy, but this is what I see in the coming months and years:

Homosexuality will continue to be paraded in the public square. “Gay marriage” will continue to garner support, either blatantly, or through laissez-faire attitudes by heterosexuals.

Abortion on demand will continue to be “legal and safe”. But it won’t be rare. More babies will be killed (at taxpayer expense), and more women will suffer the physical and emotional consequences of abortion.

First Amendment Religious and Free-Speech Liberties will continue to erode. Religious institutions and other organizations that are pro-life in nature, or pro-life in the organization’s leaders’ beliefs will be required to provide insurance that covers abortion/abortifacients (abortion-causing drugs).

Second Amendment Liberties will be restricted, either through the banning of certain weapons, or through the taxation of weapons and/or ammunition.

Several Supreme Court Justices will be replaced, resulting in decades of even more left-leaning decisions.

As of December 31, 2012, United States citizens will arrive at the “fiscal cliff”, seeing tax increases and cuts to our military and other programs such as Medicare. With President Obama’s reelection and continued Democrat control in the US Senate, our elected leaders will not feel obligated to address these issues — and the US House will have no authority to do so on their own. Our deficit will continue to increase exponentially, increasing the tax burden on our children, grandchildren for generations to come, as we spend more and more of what we don’t have. The result: the “recovery” trumpeted by the Democrats for the past few years will fall into another recession or worse.

Free Market Capitalism will be more restricted through increased government regulation. More workers will be laid off — or their status will be reduced to “part time” status — as employers seek to avoid the increased costs of providing mandated healthcare for their fulltime employees or fines if they don’t.

 

In short, our nation will continue to become much more different than what we have been accustomed to.

 

Our Mandate for 2012 and Beyond

It is incumbent on all Christians to pray.

Paul commands that we pray for all those in authority (1Timothy 2:1-2). If we haven’t been, we must begin to pray for our leaders. If we have been praying for them, we must not stop praying. We must pray more, not just that we get our way, but that God will bring us back to Himself, His ways, and his purposes.

“My people” in 2Chroinicles 7:14 applies to all of God’s people, not just the Nation of Israel, led by Solomon in that passage. In fact, the context of 2Chronicles 6-7, if God’s people fail to follow Him, He would bring calamity to them. If “My people” respond in repentance, then He would hear their prayer and bring restoration.

We are in 2Chronicles 7:13, 22. May we be brought back to experience 2Chronicles 7:1-4.

 

May God have mercy on us!

From Suffering a Little While to Eternal Glory

“Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:9–10 ESV).

Many in Peter’s day were experiencing a great deal of suffering. The attacks on the church were delivered through the hands of the Jewish leaders and the Romans by their adversary, the devil and his demonic troops. Peter encourages his readers to be steadfast in their commitment to their Lord by humbling themselves and casting their anxieties on Him because He deeply cares about them (5:6-7).

Peter doesn’t deny that they were suffering. He didn’t tell them that they were suffering because they lacked faith. He simply acknowledged that they were, indeed suffering for a little while. It’s beautiful how he contrasts their suffering for a “little while” with God’s “eternal” glory in Christ. The all gracious God would not not send just anyone to restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish them — He Himself would do it.

 

Application: Are you anxious? Do you feel that God doesn’t care about you or your situation? Do you feel that you are suffering for your stand for Christ? Do you need grace? Take courage! Your hardship is only for a little while. The all-seeing, all-powerful, all-loving, all-gracious God cares deeply for you. Cast (literally “throw”) your cares onto Him, knowing that as you do, He will never let you be ultimately shaken. (Psalm 54:23)