Friday, February 26, 2010

Christie's songs

Hey guys

We've put Christie's music on Noisetrade. You can download it for free! Just use the widget.

Systematic Theology Part 18: From Nothing to Something

God's creation is amazing. We've all experienced that to some extent. Whether it's the fog on the fog rolling across the lake, a shooting star, snow on the fields or a woodpecker in the back yard, you can see how amazing God's creativity and power are. There are some amazing images out there, and the further you go the more you can see the creative power of God. Modern technology has given us some incredible views of the universe. Here are two of those views:

Images from the Hubble Telescope

Planet Earth

We are not going to take on the Creation/Evolution debate here. We've talked about that at length before and will again in the future. Instead we are going to look at the ACT of creation. We'll find out why its important, what it means and how it affects our lives and our faith.

Creation is not just a thing but is also an act. Here's a definition of Creation as an act:

"The Christian doctrine of creation is the free act of the triune God to create the entire universe from nothing, as well as every creature for his own purposes and glory. (David Nelson, A Theology for the Church, p243)

But, why study creation as an act?

1. The doctrine of creation is fundamental to faith.

Hebrews 11:3 says: "By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible."

The beginning of a chapter on people that believed and acted in faith is grounded in the belief and faith that the world was created exactly the way Genesis one depicts it. Belief in creation is the first great belief in faith and, as we will see, is foundational to EVERYTHING else we believe.

2. The doctrine of creation is a significant part of the whole of scripture.

The theme of creation runs through the entire text, from the original creation in Genesis 1 to God's recreation, the new heaven and new earth, in Revelation 21-22. We will see this as we discover the key truths about creation. The doctrine of creation is not limited to Genesis 1 and 2.

"God's creative work plays a prominent role in the biblical presentation of God." (Millard Erickson, Chrisitian Theology, p393)

3. The doctrine of creation has historically been a highly important part of the teaching and preaching of the church.

The first part of the Apostle's Creed says, "I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth." The church fathers knew that our understanding of the doctrine of creation affects our understanding of other doctrines.

"Alter the doctrine of creation at any point, and you have also altered...other aspects of Christian doctrine." (Erickson, p393)

The church, in recent years, has lost much of this distinction. It's time to intelligently get it back.
Let's start by looking at 4 key truths that generate from this doctrine of creation and see how they affect our lives as Christians.

Truth 1: God created everything

Everything is a tough concept because when we often say "everything" we don't really mean everything. Someone might remark that they left "everything" out on the court or field, but they obviously still have something. Someone might promise to give "all they have" for someone else, when in reality they will hold something back. A mugger might tell someone to give them "everything" but they probably don't want the coupon for toothpaste or the grocery list that's in their pocket. They just want money and valuables.

We have to get past this limited understanding of everything and realize that when Genesis 1:1 says that God created "the heavens and the earth" this means he created EVERYTHING. Not just most, but all.

Genesis 1 isn't the only place we see this truth proclaimed. Check out Acts 17:24; Ephesians 3:9; John 1:3; Revelation 4:11; Colossians 1:16; Revelation 10:6; Acts 4:24; and Acts 14:15.

The Bible is clear about the extent of God's creating. He created it all.

And since he created it all, there couldn't have been anything to begin with, so

Truth 2: God created everything out of nothing (Ex Nihilo)

Hebrews 11:3-What is seen was not made out of things that were visible
Colossians 1:16-everything has its existence because of Jesus
John 1:3-if it was made, it was made by Jesus
Romans 4:17-He calls into existence the things that do not exist."

God created "without the use of preexisting materials...he did not fashion and adapt something that already existed." (Erickson, p394)

Again, this is hard for us to fathom. We have all participated in the act of creation: a piece of art, a meal, a song, an essay. We've all made something, but everything we make is limited to the material that we have.

The original act of divine creation is unique. It cannot be compared to how we create. It is not limited to what exists. It "brings into existence what does not exist."

Erickson helps us see why this is important to other doctrine, namely the doctrine of God:

"He brought into existence the very raw material he employed. If this were not the case, God would not really be infinite. There would be something else that also was, and presumably had always been...God brought the raw material into being and endowed it from the beginning with the characteristics he wanted it to have." (Erickson, p400)

Truth 3: God created everything good

One word repeats itself over and over again in the act of creation: "good". But, what does God mean by good? Our understanding of good is often just "adequate". For God, who is also good in the most perfect sense, good means perfect. God created the world PERFECT!

Being infinitely good, God could not have created something that was not perfectly good. This carries a few implications:

1. There was nothing evil within God's original creation
2. God created the world with order and purpose
3. The goodness of creation places the responsibility for sin and evil on us. Human sin is an exercise of human freedom and therefore our responsibility, not just and outgrowth of our environment or society.

Since everything was created perfectly good, then it follows that

Truth 4: God created everything with intrinsic value

Matthew 6:26-30 shows God's love and care for a world with value.

"God loves all of his creation, not just certain parts of it. Thus we should also have concern for all of it, to preserve and guard and develop what God has made...Christians should be at the very forefront of the concern for the preservation and welfare of creation, because it is what God has made." (Erickson, p411)

This intrinsic value is lost on many of us. We value things that we want, and if we don't want it or care about it then it has no value to us. So, then, if we don't want it, we just throw it out. That's how babies end up in the trash. They have no intrinsic value in someone's mind. For God, though, his whole creation is of great value. He values us so much that he has rescued us from sin and suffering for all eternity through Jesus' very own suffering on the cross.

These truths should, in some way, impact how we live as Christians. Here are 4 ways we should be changed.

Since God created everything, we should love open-handed, realizing that we really own nothing. It's all his. He has blessed us with what we have so we can bless others.

Since God created everything out of nothing we should live humbly, realizing that, even in our greatest moments of inspiration and creativity we cannot compare to the creativity and power of God.

Since God created everything perfectly good we have to take responsibility for our sin, not excusing it by saying we are "just human".

Since God created everything with value we must respect and care for life. Recognize the dignity that even the elderly and disabled have. Protect the unborn. Care for the world God has given us.

If you're struggling with the science and the "proof" of evolution and all that you've learned that hits against the doctrine of creation, here are a few books to help your further study:

Partial Conversion? When a Love for God Fades

Here's a thought about "partial conversions" from D. A. Carson's devotional For the Love of God:

ONE OF THE MOST STRIKING PICTURES of what might be called a “partial conversion” is found in Luke 11:24-26. Jesus teaches that when an evil spirit comes out of someone, it “goes through arid places seeking rest ant does not find it” – apparently looking for some new person in whom to take up residence. Then the spirit contemplates returning to its previous abode. A reconnoiter finds the former residence surprisingly vacant. The spirit rounds up seven cronies who are even more vile, “and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first.”

Apparently the man who has been exorcised of the evil spirit never replaced that spirit with anything else. The Holy Spirit did not take up residence in his life; the man simply remained vacant, as it were.

There are three lessons to learn.

First, “partial conversions” are all too common. A person gets partially cleaned up. He or she is drawn close enough to the Gospel and to the people of God that there is some sort of turning away from godlessness, a preliminary infatuation with holiness, an attraction toward righteousness. But like the person represented by rocky soil in the parable of the sower and the soils (8:4-15), this person may initially seem to be the best of the crop, and yet not endure. There has never been the kind of conversion that spells the takeover of an individual by the living God, a reorientation tied to genuine repentance and enduring faith.

The second lesson follows: a little Gospel is a dangerous thing. It gets people to think well of themselves, to sigh with relief that the worst evils have been dissipated, to enjoy a nice sense of belonging. But if a person is not truly justified, regenerated, and transferred from the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of God’s dear Son, the dollop of religion may serve as little more than an inoculation against the real thing.

The third lesson is inferential. This passage is thematically tied to another large strand of Scripture. Evil cannot simply be opposed – that is, it is never enough simply to fight evil, to cast out a demon. Evil must be replaced by good, the evil spirit by the Holy Spirit. We must “overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21). For instance, it is difficult to overcome bitterness against someone by simply resolving to stop being bitter; one must replace bitterness by genuine forgiveness and love for that person. It is difficult to overcome greed by simply resolving not to be quite so materialistic; one must fasten one’s affections on better treasure (cf. Luke 12:13-21) and learn to be wonderfully and self-sacrificially generous. Overcome evil with good.

Monday, February 22, 2010

ULead-Cheapened Grace

Here's a little recap of what Evan taught us last night:

Romans 5:18-6:7

Grace is mercy and forgiveness that we do not deserve that is given to us freely.

We benefit from this grace in several ways:
New Creation
Eternal Life

We cheapen grace as we continue in sin and live as if we are not the new creation that God has made us into. God's grace is special and beautiful but we often live as if it's common and cheap.

Like a pig that has just been washed will immediately return to the mud, we often return to the mud of our sin even though we have been cleaned by the grace of God in Jesus Christ.

If we are these new creations, why do we transform back into these junk Camaro's? (Like bumblebee in Transformers 1)

"We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin." (Romans 6:6)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Funny or Not? Vol. 31

Some Great pics from the internet...what do you think? (I first saw these on this blog...a great one form moms and daughters, by the way!)

The inside and outside of a public way glass...but could you actually use it?The ceiling of a smoker's lounge...poetic.

the painted floor of a 10th floor bathroom...don't know if I could actually walk across this floor!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Systematic Theology Part 17(2)-He's Got the Whole World in his Hands Part 2

Think about all the people that play at least some role in your school:

Teachers, subs, bus drivers, coaches, principals, secretaries, students, janitors, lunch ladies, parents, superintendent, safety officer, secretary of education and even the President of the United States.

If we were to order these individuals from greatest authority to least authority there might be some disagreement, but I think we would all have much the same list. We know whose in charge. We know who has authority.

But put everyone at the ball-field and things change. Now coaches move much higher in authority and new authority is introduced, such as umpires. Take this same group of people and put them at a community pool. Their authority has changed once again. Now the pool lifeguard takes a greater place of authority than most others.

Even the President has checks and balances on his authority. But what about God's authority...his governance?

Check out what King Nebuchadnezzar says in Daniel 4:34-35 when confronted with the absolute authority of God (to see what led to this statement of belief, read Daniel 4:28-33):

"I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, 'What have you done?'"

Truth: God answers to no one in his governance.

While we have to answer to a variety of people and levels of authority change depending on location and situation, God's Providence as Governance places him in a transcendent position above all others, never to be challenged.

But God's governance is also an immanent governance. As we have seen before God directs nature, rulers and nations, and individuals. Let's look at 3 more areas where God's providence governs.

I love board games, but they can be frustrating because they rely, at least to some extent, on chance. You can have all but one cherry off your Hi-Ho-Cherry-o tree and spin right into a spilled bucket and you're back to square one. You can be 3 spots from the finish of Candy Land and draw a card that sends you back nearly to the beginning. An opponent draws a "Sorry" card and that pawn that was just about to enter the safe zone is suddenly back in the start circle.

Chance. It can be cruel, but it can also deliver at just the right time.

Proverbs 16:33 shows us that God's providence governs over even accidents. In this case the casting of lots, a chance activity. Jonah 1:7-10 was a time when God intervened in the casting of lots to show the ship crew whose fault the storm was. The disciples used the casting of lots to determine (after prayer) who would take Judas' place as a disciple.

Does this mean that every time a coin is flipped or dice are rolled or black jack is played that God is directly affecting the outcome? Not necessarily, but he can if he wants to. Also we have to remember who created the physics of the dice and coin and the probabilities of the cards.

The great news for us is that we don't have to depend on games of chance to know God. The casting of lots takes place 70 times in the old testament and only 7 times in the new. God has given us the Holy Spirit, prayer, his word and the church to help where lots may have been depended on in the past. But know that God still governs over those things often counted as "luck" or "coincidence".

God's providence also governs over free actions.

Proverbs 19:21
"Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand."

If this is true, are people really free to act or is God always "pulling the strings?" Sincere Christians 0n both sides of the issue have disagreed on this for centuries. What we do see in scripture are people acting freely and God directing them to act.

Here's a word for you: Concurrence. Concurrence is when "both God and his creatures work together to accomplish God's sovereign purposes in the world." (A Theology for the Church, p280) Here are a few passages that contain some concurrence: Gen 1:11-12; Psalm 127:1; 1 Kings 9:9; 2 Chron 9:13; Neh 13:18; Acts 8:1-4; Acts 4:27-28; Phil 2:12-13; 1 Cor 12:11; Rom 12:6; Acts 1:8. There are more but this is enough to show that, as Wayne Grudem says, "we make willing choices, choices tha thave real effects."

Our freedom and God's providence. There will always be a tension here.

One obvious area of human freedom is our persistent run toward sin. But God is not absent in this either.

2 Thessalonians 2:10-12 shows us one example how God's providence governs over sinful actions.

But wait. How can this be? Does this mean that God causes sin? Remember our interpretation principles. We have to start with what's clear. James 1:4 and 1 John 2:16 are clear that God does not cause sin. But he does act in relation to it.

4 Ways God acts in Relation to Sin

1. God prevents sin (Genesis 20:6; Psalm 19:13)

2. God permits sin (Acts 14:16; Rom 1:24-28; Mat 19:8; 2 Chron 32:31; Psalm 81:12-13)

3. God directs sin (Gen 50:20; Rom 8:28-29; Rom 11:13-15)

"God a judo expert who redirects the evil efforts of sinful human beings and Satan in such a way that they become the very means of doing good. We must recognize here the amazing nature of divine omnipotence...our omnipotent God is able to allow evil humans to do their very worst, and still accomplish his purposes." (Erickson, p426)

4. God limits sin (Job 1:12; Job 2:6; Psalm 124:1-3)

"There are times when he does not prevent evil deeds, but nonetheless restrains the extent or effect of what evil humans and the devil and his demons can do...Even when God permits sin to occur, he imposes limits beyond which it cannot go." (Erickson, p426)

God's providence is something we have to wrestle with. The answers will not always be comfortable. I encourage youto wrestle with questions of God's providence, but be sure of this:

God's providence "means that we are able to live in the assurance that God is present and active in our lives. We are in his care and can therefore face the future confidently, knowing that things are not happening merely by chance. We can pray, knowing that God hears and acts upon our prayers. We can face danger, knowing tha the is not unaware and uninvolved." (Erickson, p413)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Systematic Theology Part 17-He's Got the Whole World in His Hands Part 1

Last week we talked about God's sovereignty as it relates to pain and suffering. Here is a video that encourages us with regard to suffering. This man, a pastor named Matt Chandler who was recently diagnosed with brain cancer, is showing us the ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE OF TRUST in the midst of his suffering.

We know from our study that God rules over everything, even over pain and suffering. The eternal perspective of trust we talked about in Part 16 is necessary when dealing with pain and suffering is also necessary in our entire study of God's providence.

Before we can fill our our discussion of God's providence we need to quickly understand two more of God's attributes: his transcendence and is immanence.

Transcendence is seen in God's infinity, holiness and in the reality that he is incomprehensible. He is above, other than and distinct from all that he has made. We cannot be like him or come close to being like him in his infinity. He is, in a very real way, separate from us. Isaiah 55:8-9 and Psalm 97:9 are just two examples of God's transcendence seen in the Bible.

God's transcendence has led some to a system of belief that rejects the notion of divine intervention in human affairs. Deists, as they are known, typically reject most supernatural events and tend to assert that God has a plan for the universe that is not altered by God intervening in the affairs of human life. In other words, God got things started, set some rules, and now is letting them play out however they will.

While God certainly is distinct from his creation, the Bible is also very clear that he is near, and actively involved. (Isaiah 57:15; Ephesians 4:6; Jeremiah 23:23-24). This is God's immananece. God is near and sustaining all that he has made. God is actively near to us and cares deeply about us.

The immanence of God is clearly seen in his providence

Providence is "the continuing action of God by which he preserves in existence the creation he has brought into being, and guides it to his intended purposes for it." (Millard J. Erickson, Systematic Theology, p413)

Providence is God's continuing relationship to the world he created. He deeply cares about his creation, down to teh smallest details. He shows that care in his providence, specifically in his preserving providence.

Look at Colossians 1:16-17

16For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Not only did God create everything (and Jesus was very active in that creation) but he is holding everything together.

The continued existence of this world depends on God.

This is also clearly seen in Psalm 104.

NO part of creation is self-sufficient.

Not only does God keep the world going 'round, but his providence as preservation is also more personal.

God's providence preserved the nation of Israel (see Joseph, Moses and the Jewish midwives, Joshua, Shadrach, Meeshach and Abednego, among others)

God's providence preserves us through life and death. (Matthew 10:28; John 10:27-30; Psalm 91)

We can have confidence because of God's preserving providence!

We don't have to live in terror and anxiety! As Millard Erickson says, we can have "confidence that physical death is not the most significant factor because not even it can separate us from God's love" (p419)

Yes, pain and suffering are going to come, but praise God there is preservation even in the midst of that. And should that pain and suffering lead to death, an eternal perspective of trust will guard our hearts, our peace and our hope.

God is a God who preserves his creation in his providence!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Joey Update Vol. 27

Hello everybody. I hope you’ve all been doing well in your various works and lives. Things here have since last time I wrote been going slowly along. I’ve been able to get out and meet many people and share stories with more than a few of them and Col. and I have been able to get into something of a routine of visiting villages. I was looking over the pr’yer requests of last time and this routine was included so thanks for lifting it up!

Our established routine has been to stay in town about half the week and meet with people there, like on the big market day in town when many people come from outside villages. The other days, midweek, has been given to going out to those villages and meeting with groups of people. So far, we have seen success, albeit small, in this area. This past week, we were able to share a few stories with a big group of people in a village not too far away. Also, we went to a farther village that we’d not visited for a few months. When we arrived, there were hardly any people in the village (they were out working).This was the exact thing that happened last time we visited it, so we walked over the hill to another nearby village! There the people met us and greeted us.

It is slow going and a particular difficulty to overcome is at this time in dry season, many of the people in these villages are now working out of town and live in the capital. One village we visited was practically empty of men because they had all gone elsewhere looking for work, which they’ll stay at until the rains come in a few months.

This leads me to a big pr’yer request. We are going to be going into the capital next month and hope to meet with some of the people who are there working from these villages. Please lift this up, for our wisdom in our time spent there, for meaningful contacts to be made there and for the people here as we continue meeting with them. We have been searching for contact information for those who have gone to the city for when we arrive there.

As of now, we have less than a month left in town here before we go to the capital, perhaps for a few weeks, so please lift up this time. We still have a few stories we need to have tested and retold so we can proceed with the next part of the project. We really need to have these tested and retold and recorded before we return to the capital. After we get to the capital, we’ll stay for maybe a few weeks so we can meet with some of the people from the villages nearby. Then, we will most likely come back to town until our next and final training in April.

Col. and I have been discussing our strategy again lately and trying to think of one that will work to meet the goals of 1story and fit the people well. I am not much of a strategist (ask those who play chess with me) and one of my fears is falling into a rut in the midst of routine. This I would like to avoid and go on with a good strategy.

-I’ve been able to visit frequently with a faki who lives near me. One of his brothers has retold a story each time he’s heard one, without being asked! I’m hoping to work more closely with him, provided he’s willing.
-Our routine is going well so far, but pr’y that I don’t go into rut-mode. It’s happened before and is not pretty.
-A few people that we’ve been able to visit more frequently these past few days have complimented us in our work of learning language and visiting them. Greeting people and drinking tea with them goes a long way in a relationship.

-The above praises come with their respective requests: for the faki and his brother, for the routine, for the visits
-Wisdom for the time in NDJ
-Gentle boldness with the people we tell stories with. It is a challenge when sometimes I sit down, tell a story and elicit little response from it despite my attempts to start a discussion. Sometimes I just need to push a little more, but I want to push in the right way without being forceful or alienating the groups I sit with.
-Always for people’s interest in the stories and the groups we sit with, that they will be open to hear and open to receive them and us.

As is my habit to end with thanks, I do again thank you all for your encouragement and the pr’yers you lift up on my behalf and on behalf of this project work. I still do believe that story is the way to reach people with the Truth and still believe that it is our Father’s intention to reach them. Pr’y His will be done!


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Some Practical Suggestions

We will all hear the question one day: Why did God allow this to happen?

How do you answer that question? While the previous post will help you (I hope) and other Christians deal with the question of pain and suffering in their own lives, what about those friends of ours that do not have a foundation of hope and eternal trust? How do we answer their questions? Hopefully you will find a few answers here.

Romans 12:15-Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
The importance of this as a first step cannot be overlooked. We have to be real about the sadness of pain and suffering. Don't be afraid to hold someone and cry with them when their best friend dies, their parents split up or they are ridiculed for the 365th consecutive day.

Right in the middle of a tough situation is not the right time to give the answers to tough questions. Listen and comfort, often without a lot of words. The time for answers will come, but now is not the time.

2 Timothy 4:3-Most people want to hear what will make them feel better, not necessarily the truth.
Understand that people who are not convinced of the goodness and greatness of God or of the reality of sin and its consequences will have a harder time with pain and suffering. A lot of trust is required of us. A lot of faith is required. We have the benefit of looking at this question in a time of personal peace and in context with the rest of God's attributes. Usually, when this question occurs the setting will be pain or doubt and ignorance about the truth of God as revealed in scripture. You have to be aware of this and prepared for this when discussion pain and suffering with people.

Make sure that you do not appease people with false hope or platitudes. Better to just listen and comfort with a soft touch or hug in the moment that tell them what they want to hear just out of hope that it will make them feel better.

Also, when someone asks this question when they are not personally dealing with pain or suffering, their purpose may be just to start a debate, with no real desire to consider real answers or other opinions. Be careful that you are not being drawn into a fruitless argument.

James 1:17; Malachi 3:6-The bible is very clear that God does not change
This is an important point when trying to give answers. If God created the world very good and with us in mind, that has not changed. Something else must have changed. In fact the world has changed because of sin. A discussion of sin and it's impacts is a great starting point for a discussion of pain and suffering, which can lead directly to the most important discussion of all:

Romans 6:23 (and other passages about sin and salvation from Romans)-Jesus is the most important question and answer, far above questions of pain and suffering.

Don't dodge the question on pain and suffering but direct it to the true issue: sin and redemption. The impact of sin (death) and the hope of eternity (in Jesus) must be understood and believed first before pain and suffering will ever make sense.

Once this happens by the power of the holy spirit, then a systematic discussion of the things presented in the previous post can be had.

I know this may seem simplistic, but that's what it can be. Debates with people who have no understanding of sin and it's consequences are often fruitless. Pray that the Holy Spirit will draw them to God in salvation, then you can have a REAL discussion with ETERNAL significance.

Systematic Theology Part 16-Hurts So Good

The argument goes something like this:

"If God were good, He would wish to make His creatures perfectly happy, and if God were almighty He would be able to do whatever he wished. But the creatures are not happy. Therefor eGod lacks either goodness, or power, or both."

Is this true? Is God lacking in goodness or power because there is pain and suffering in the world? How do we deal with this question in our own lives, as Christians, when we experience or observe suffering in the world?

Genesis 3 gives us a great backdrop for our look into pain and suffering. In fact it is an essential backdrop. It is where pain and suffering get their start.

As soon as man chose to sin, things changed. Here are 3 specific areas sin changed things:

Sin changed man: Man was now fearful of God and creature. Man would have to work hard for things that God intended him to have easily. Labor is a new concept that comes from sin.

Sin changed nature: Animals are now an enemy that can hurt and destroy. Childbirth will be with great pain as a result of sin entering the world. Thorns and thistles will spring from the earth and make life more difficult for the farmer. Romans 8 reminds us that the world has been subjected to bondage and decay (v21).

Sin changed relationships: The relationship between man and woman changed. The relationship between man and animal/nature changed and the relationship between man and God changed (see Genesis 3:10)

We cannot ignore these changes when considering the question of pain and suffering. If you were to list out all the pain and suffering you have endured in your life, physical and emotional, you may find that they can all be categorized in one of these three areas that sin changed things.

A proper understanding of what sin has done is essential if we are going to understand pain and suffering side-by-side with God's goodness.

"A recovery of the old sense of sin is essential to Christianity...We lack the first condition for understanding what He is talking about. And when men attempt to be Christians without this preliminary consciousness of sin, the result is almost bound to be a certain resentment against God [asking], 'What harm have I ever done Him?'" (C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, p50-51)

Sin has started a downward spiral, but is it a downward spiral that God has no control? Here are a few truths that might help us understand things a little bit better.

Romans 8:28-29
Truth: God works in all things for the good (v28)
Truth: The greatest good is being conformed to the image of Jesus (v29)

These two truths are foundational. These truths, when believed, will help us accept the other truths clearly presented in scripture about God's role in pain and suffering.

Deuteronomy 32:39, 1 Samuel 2:6-7, Isaiah 45:7
Truth: Bad things are not outside of God's control

"God is just as much in control of bad things that happen in the world as he's in control of all of the good that takes place...we ought to accept this as true even though we may not be able to understand full just how it can be true...we should not turn away from this teaching just because we find it hard to understand...If God is not in control of bad things, then we would be led to deep sadness, thinking that a bad thing that is happening will serve no good purpose. But it is not so!" (Bruce Ware, Big Truths for Young Hearts, p70-72)

Job 41:1, Psalm 29:10
Truth: God easily controls thing man cannot control

"God keeps the chaos under control...Here the powerlessness of Job is set in marked contrast to the power of God. God's power over evil is so great that he casts for the primordial sea monster and catches him with a five-pound test line." (R.C. Sproul, Renewing Your Mind, p59-60)

Galatians 6:7-8
Truth: Sin has unpleasant consequences

Matthew 5:29
Truth: Pain and suffering sometimes rescue us from something worse

"Love may cause pain to its object, but only on the supposition that that object needs alteration to become fully lovable." (Lewis, p48)

"His suffering is not punishment. It is not a sigh of God's anger. Job's pain is not the pain of the executioner's whip but the pain of the surgeon's scalpel. The removal of the desease of prides is the most loving thing God could do, no matter what the cost.

"Remember the words of the Lord: Better to suffer the excruciating pain of a gouged out eye than to let any sin remain in your heart. If this does not seem obvious to you--namely, that sanctification is worth any pain on this earth--it is probably because you don't abhor sin and prize hliness the way God does and the way you should." (John Piper on Job)

2 Corinthians 12:7-9
Truth: Pain and suffering sometimes give us something better.

What would be better for Paul: physical comfort or perfect power in Christ?

Genesis 45:4-8; 50:20
Truth: What man means for evil, God means for good.

An Eternal Perspective of Trust
This all comes down to an eternal perspective of trust. Watch this video an then think with me what this means.

We are willing to go through so much for such simple pleasures as money. In fact a lot of reality TV depends on that willingness to suffer pain and humiliation.

But at the first sing of trouble in life we run from, get angry at or blame God, not seeing that he gives us EVERY good and perfect gift and that the eternal pleasures he is preparing for us are far greater than the simple pleasures we endure pain and suffering for here on earth.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 is a great promise of home in the eternal perspective of trust. This eternal perspective of trust is ESSENTIAL to surviving pain and suffering.

"God is not defined in terms of what brings personal pleasure to humans in a direct fashion. Good is to be defined in relationship to the will and being of God. Good is what glorifies him, fulfills his will, conforms to his nature...this then is the good, not personal wealth or health, but being conformed to the image of God's Son, not our short range comfort, but our long-range welfare." (Millard Erickson, Systematic Theology, p450)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Music I've Recently Dowloaded

Wondering what we at the Russell house are listening to...and what you may soon hear on a Sunday or Tuesday night?

Andrew Osenga


Brandon Heath


Me...Humble? Yes! Well...

A follow-up post from the IX Marks Blog

"God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble."
James 4:6

Here's more great stuff to read slowly and prayerfully from Stuart Scott's From Pride to Humility:

A list of 24 manifestations of what Christ exalting humility should produce in your life.

1. Recognizing and trusting God’s character (Psalm 119:66)

2. Seeing yourself as having no right to question or judge an Almighty and Perfect God (Psalm 145:17; Romans 9:19-23)

3. Focusing on Christ (Philippians 1:21; Hebrews 12:1-2)

4. Biblical praying and a great deal of it (1 Thessalonians 5:17; 1 Timothy 2:1-2)

5. Being overwhelmed with God’s undeserved grace and goodness (Psalm 116:12-19)

6. Thankfulness and gratitude in general towards others (1 Thess. 5:18)

7. Being gentle and patient (Colossians 3:12-14)

8. Seeing yourself as no better than others (Romans 12:16; Ephesians 3:8)

9. Having an accurate view of your gifts and abilities (Romans 12:3)

10. Being a good listener (James 1:19; Philippians 2:3-4)

11. Talking about others only if it is good or for their good (Proverbs 11:13)

12. Being gladly submissive and obedient to those in authority (Rom. 12:1-2, 13:1-2)

13. Preferring others over yourself (Romans 12:10)

14. Being thankful for criticism or reproof (Proverbs 9:8, 27:5-6)

15. Having a teachable spirit (Proverbs 9:9)

16. Seeking always to build up others (Ephesians 4:29)

17. Serving (Galatians 5:13)

18. A quickness in admitting when you are wrong (Proverbs 29:23)

19. A quickness in granting and asking for forgiveness (Colossians 3:12-14)

20. Repenting of sin as a way of life (Colossians 3:1-14; 1 Timothy 4:7-9)

21. Minimizing others’ sins or shortcomings in comparison to one’s own (Matthew 7:3-4)

22. Being genuinely glad for others (Romans 12:15)

23. Being honest and open about who you are and the areas in which you need growth (Philippians 3:12-14; Galatians 6:2)

24. Possessing close relationships (Acts 20:31-38)