Suffering and Our Savior

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When caring for someone who is suffering it is often best to say little. It is often best to sit in silence and just be a support by your presence. Even when people ask, “Why? …Why did this happen? …Why are we going through this?… Why?…” It is often still better to refrain from giving an answer. Instead of offering answers (that really can’t be satisfactory) we should pray and point them to our God who cares.

However, as Ecclesiastes 3:7 tells us, there is a time to be silent but there is also a time to speak. When it is time to speak here are some things that I have found helpful in the midst of suffering. 

Suffering is a result of sin
Suffering was not part of God’s original intention for the world. God created the world “very good” (Gen. 1:31). It was only after humanity rebelled that suffering came on the scene.

Sadly, there are all sorts of effects because of sin. The world is fallen. And we have faulty and frail bodies. We are susceptible to Lyme disease, cancer, and all sorts of other things. We all suffer, we will all die. That is sadly the way the world is because of the curse that sin brought.

So, in one sense, we can give an answer to the “why?” question by saying sadly the world is broken and we as individuals are broken physically and spiritually. However, that’s not it. We thankfully are not left there. We also see…

God takes our suffering seriously
Our Lord is not up in the sky indifferent to suffering.[1] God takes sin and its effects seriously. Let’s look at four ways God sympathizes with us and takes sin seriously.

First, we see Jesus sympathizes with our suffering. John 11:35 says that “Jesus wept” at the death of Lazarus. Jesus was “deeply moved” (v. 33, 38) and “greatly troubled” (v. 33). Jesus can sympathize with us and our suffering (cf. Heb. 4:15). Our Lord is not up in heaven unaware of the suffering of His servants. Our Lord is aware and He cares. He cares deeply.

Our Lord cares so much that second He comes as our Savior. We see “God takes our misery and suffering so seriously that he was willing to take it on himself.”[2] Jesus offers a solution to the problem of suffering, by suffering in our place. Suffering without medicine or morphine, suffering on a Roman instrument of torture. Even as we grieve over suffering and death we do not grieve as those without hope. We have hope! We have hope through Jesus!

Jesus didn’t heal everyone when He walked the earth and He doesn’t heal everyone now, but He does take care of our biggest problem. Jesus suffered, bled, and died. He was cast out by the Father so that we could be welcomed in.

God is good. Even when we cannot see His hand, we can trust His heart. God memorialized His love for us, when we see the cross, we see that God’s hands are open wide to welcome us in, comfort, and renew us.

So, dear beloved, take heart, Jesus, who is God, weeps as you weep. He feels your misery. However, He does not leave us there (as everybody else has to because they are not Lord) but offers us the solution to all pain and misery. How does He do that, what solution does He give? Jesus gives Himself, His own life. He takes the misery upon Himself on the cross. He bears the wrath we all deserve. Through what Christ did on the cross, for all those in Christ, all things will be restored, made new!

Actually, even now we have the Holy Spirit as a down payment of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it (Eph. 1:14). So, in the midst of suffering and difficulties, we shouldn’t project ourselves into a graceless future. Because, third, God will be there, grace will be there. The LORD will not leave us or forsake us (Deut. 31:6). Our Shepherd, who neither slumbers nor sleeps, is with us now and He will be with us through the storms of life (Ps. 23 cf. 121). Even in our suffering when we can’t form words to pray, the Spirit is there to intercede for us (Rom. 8:26).

Fourth, we see that Jesus will come back and set all things right. There will be no more reason to weep for He Himself will wipe away every tear (Rev. 21:4)! We know, as Paul says, that this light momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Cor. 4:17 cf. Rom. 8:18). Continue reading


The Forming Affects of Film

Who are the most influential and popular thinkers, philosophers, and theologians today? Who is teaching the most people? John Piper? William Lane Craig? N. T. Wright? Francis Chan? The local pastor? Nope.

“The most influential theologians in the United States of America are screenwriters, producers, lyricists, and musicians. These Hollywood theologians’ convey their messages through movies, televisions shows, and popular music.”[1] America’s “philosophers” and “theologians” are people like Justin Bieber, Kim Kardashian, Kanye, and Vin Diesel.[2]

Film  Crew TV Cameraman With Movie Camera Retro Continue reading


The Dignity of Human Life


Philemon: A Case Study of New Life in Christ (Part 2)

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What do we learn about Onesimus?
Paul calls Onesimus his child, as he often does with converts, especially, it seems, those whom he had a special connection with through discipleship (cf. 1 Cor. 4:14-15; 2 Cor. 6:13; Gal. 4:19; Phil. 2:22; 1 Tim. 1:2).

Onesimus, had a common slave name, his name meant “useful.” Paul makes a pun here. He basically says, Useful was useless to you Philemon but now he is useful to both you and me (v. 11).

So, how was “Useful” previously useless? What did he do that explains the remark from Paul? He ran away from his master Philemon and likely stole money from him to pay for his voyage and new life. He used to be useless but not now, now Paul says, he is indeed useful.

We have already seen that Paul used a term of endearment by saying Onesimus was Paul’s child. However, Paul does not stop there. Paul says, in sending Onesimus back to Philemon, he is sending his very heart (v. 12). Paul has a deep bond with Onesimus, he has been helpful to Paul (the old man!) in prison. As Paul says, “I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel” (v. 13). So, Paul is making the case that Onesimus, though once deemed useless, is indeed useful both to Paul and Philemon.

Onesimus, proves his new usefulness, as we’ve seen, by helping Paul. But not only that, he is repentant. He is willing to go back to Philemon his master, a bold step. In that day, slaves could be branded with the letter “F” for fugitive or “T” for thief (if they had a “gracious” master). Other masters may have their slave executed, perhaps even on a cross. There was a near contemporary of Philemon, a very wealthy slave owner, that was killed by a slave so in order to punish the slave and make an example all of the man’s slaves were killed; all four hundred of them (Hughes, p. 161-62). In fact, in Martin Hengel’s book Crucifixion there is a chapter titled “the ‘slaves’ punishment,” and in this chapter he tells about one occasion after a slave rebellion where there were six thousand slaves crucified (p. 55). Continue reading


Philemon: A Case Study of New Life in Christ (Part 1)

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We see in Paul’s letter to the Colossians[1] that Christians are to put on the new self with new practices, new characteristics. And Paul tells us about the unprecedented unification and reconciliation that happens in Christ between all sorts of different people. Paul says, “there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all” (Col. 3:11 cf. 1 Cor. 12:13-14; Gal. 3:26-27).

But will this really work?! Paul is talking all this big talk but can it ever be practiced. He says, here there is neither slave nor free, and yet there truly were slaves and freemen. There really were Greeks and Jews. There were and are people that are in the world and see the world in all sorts of different ways. How can they be united? Is it really possible? And if so, how?! Continue reading


Slavery and its defeat

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At the time of the writing of the New Testament, in the Roman Empire, there were essentially three classes of people: The rich, the slaves (about half the population), and freemen. These “freemen” were free in that they were not owned by anyone, yet they often went hungry because of their “freedom.” Whereas, slaves sometimes had good masters and sometimes had bad masters.

Slavery in Rome was not what it was like in America 150 years ago.

“In Paul’s day, slavery was not based on race. Additionally, slaves had any number of duties and responsibilities, ranging from farming, mining, and milling to cooking, teaching, and managing. Furthermore, slaves were not infrequently freed from the shackles of slavery (a process known as manumission).

There is no mistaking the fact, however, that slavery in the Greco-Roman world was degrading, dehumanizing, and downright disgusting. Taken together, slaves were perceived and treated as property and were frequently subject to unimaginable punishments based on their maters’ malevolent whims. Indeed, Roman historian Cassius Dio tells of an especially cruel slave owner, Vedius Pollio, who had slaves who displeased him thrown into a pool of flesh-eating eels.”[1]

So, what was slavery’s defeat? Harriet Beecher Stowe said:

“The Christian master was directed to receive his Christianized slave, ‘NOT now as a slave, but above a slave, a brother beloved [Philemon 16];’ and, as in all these other cases, nothing was said to him about the barbarous powers which the Roman law gave him, since it was perfectly understood that he could not at the same time treat him as a brother beloved and as a slave in the sense of [unconstitutional] Roman law.

When, therefore, the question is asked, why did not the apostles seek the abolition of slavery, we answer, they did seek it. They sought it by the safest, shortest, and most direct course which could possibly have been adopted.”[2]

Paul’s system founded on Jesus the Christ—Jesus who came to serve and not be served—subverts any form of human oppression.[3] So, we see Paul lays the necessary groundwork for the emancipation proclamation. The gospel has changed the basic structure of the way Paul looks at the world and it should change the way we see the world as well. Continue reading


Is my body for sex and sexiness?

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[[Warning!!!]] The conclusion I come to here may be offensive, radical, and seemingly insane to the majority of Americans. The culture we consume continuously yells: “Sex! Sex! SEX!!!” However, I ask you to consider my perspective on sex.

So, are our bodies for sex and sexiness? First, if you are above the age of 30 it is probably a daily empirical reality that no, our bodies are not (primarily) made for sex and sexiness.[1] Thus, virgins can (and do!) live fulfilled lives!

In my opinion, the sexual revolution is missing out on our bodies’ teleological (or ulitmate) function and so people are left vying for fulfillment. This is the case because “The body is not meant for sexual immorality [misunderstanding of the bodies telos], but for the Lord [correct telos], and the Lord for the body” (1 Cor. 6:13). God does not say that sex is bad and that humans should not enjoy sex. Actually, we find that God wants us to enjoy sex and that when it is enjoyed as intended He calls it “very good” (see Designer Sex 1 and 2). 

God is not a cosmic killjoy. Truly, we find that God has our best in mind. He wants us to appropriately enjoy the many good things He made (e.g. the earth, other human beings, grapes and what can be created from grapes). However, as the supreme and glorious creator of the universe, He also knows, in the words of Augustine that “our hearts are restless until they rest in Him.” Or as Blaise Pascal said, we have an infinite hole that can only be filled by the infinite; namely, only by God Himself. Continue reading


Can we have hope in the midst of Trump’s (or Obama’s or Clinton’s) “reign”?

donald-j-trump-1271634__480How can we as Christians have hope in the midst of the “reign” of political leaders that we dislike or disagree with? We can have hope when we…

understand who is the King
As Christians, the king or President is not our ultimate King, Jesus is. Peter and Paul both lived under Roman rule, which was not the best of situations. Actually, we are told they were both beheaded under Roman rule. There are many other things that we could look at that happened under Roman rule (e.g. slavery, infanticide, public crucifixion, pornography, bisexuality). However, those things were not Peter and Paul’s main concern. Their main concern was Jesus and His gospel and they could find joy in the midst of adversity in the eschatological hope of Christ and His coming Kingdom.

Our hope is in no king here. Our hope is in the King that came and died. Our hope is in that King coming back and setting all things right. Until then, our job is to be faithful representatives of the King that came to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.

Christ is ultimately King! Not Clinton. Not Trump. Continue reading


Not all “facts” are created equal (and other proverbs for today)

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A few important and relevant things I’ve found to be true through my short tenure on earth:

1. Statistics can be skewed (in all sorts of ways).

2. Money talks, and sometimes money makes people talk about facts that don’t actually exist.

3. “Sound bits” don’t equal sound knowledge.

4. Video doesn’t always equal validation.

5. One side sounds right until you hear the other (and a lot of times people don’t listen to or understand the other side).

6. People have agendas (and agendas come through more or less depending on the topic and the person).

7. Not everyone is a specialist (e.g. movie stars getting interviewed about their political opinion might be entertaining but it’s typically not educational).

8. “I read it on the internet” doesn’t equal truth (even if you see the same thing in a few places).

9. Science sold as fact is actually often still theory (if you want to get technical it’s always theory).

10. Dogmatic assertions should sometimes be doubted (or at least probably checked and not just by Google).

11. There is a difference between knowing something and wisdom (and the difference can be a matter of life of death).

12. Unless there is objective truth, the exhortation for people to be kind (e.g. planet care, respecting others, and not harming others) is subjective and relative to the whim of individuals (and thus doesn’t really need to be heeded).[1]

13. The idea that there is objective truth is often unpopular but that doesn’t make it wrong.

14. People are often not familiar with what various fallacies are but that doesn’t mean that they are inept in their employment.

15. We can’t have a peaceful world where each person does what is right in their own eyes because people have conflicting desires that will lead to unpeaceful ends.[2]

16. No political leader is the Promised One[3] (no matter what they, the media, your friends, or your psyche says).

17. Money can’t buy happiness (but it can buy distraction); however, happiness can be quite cheap.

18. Video games, YouTube, and social media can keep us away from things that are much more rewarding and fun (though that is not to say they are bad).

What ones do you like and not like? Why? And what would you add?

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[1] That is, it ultimately does not matter morally if people “be kind and rewind,” recycle, or are racist if there is actually no objective right and wrong. However, if there is right and wrong, and it is right to recycle, then that means that there is some objective criteria of right and wrong not determined by me or you and that thus means that objective truth will have things about it that are not appealing to us but that does not change the truthfulness of the issues under question (whether murder, recycling, or a thousand other things). If not recycling is objectively wrong then so are many other things, some of which we would not like to be wrong (e.g. overeating moose tracks ice cream). We can’t have our cake and eat it too. We can’t both have and not have morality. It just doesn’t work that way. It’s an impossibility.

[2] Thus, the answer for world peace is not accepting that everything is relative (“whatever’s right for you”) but by patiently and loving communicating truth so that people can be sympathetically aligned (though not anonymous).

[3] As in the Christ/Messiah of Scripture. 


C.S. Lewis on the Importance of Reading Old Books

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As part of our book diet, C.S. Lewis reminds us to not leave out old books. “It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones” (C. S. Lewis, “On the Reading of Old Books”).

Lewis is wise to also say that,

“People were no clever then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us. Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction” (C. S. Lewis, “On the Reading of Old Books”).


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