Sorry for the lack of posts everyone. I’m trying to figure my life out.
This song is wonderful, and has been a huge comfort to me. Happy Advent and Christmas!
Sorry for the lack of posts everyone. I’m trying to figure my life out.
This song is wonderful, and has been a huge comfort to me. Happy Advent and Christmas!
Some sanity brought to a very difficult and confusing topic.
by Matt Smethurst
The Story: After eight days of bloody conflict, Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas have agreed to a ceasefire, The New York Times reported yesterday. Five Israelis and more than 150 Palestinians have been killed along the Israel-Gaza border during the past week.
Such events raise typical and salient questions. Does Israel possess a “divine right” to the “Promised Land” in the Middle East? What is the “Promised Land,” anyway? The interminable Israeli-Palestinian conflict has always been freighted with biblical significance; Israel, after all, isn’t calling their anti-Hamas campaign “Operation Pillar of Cloud” for nothing.
But are such appropriations legitimate?
The Background: In 2004, John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, delivered a sermon from Romans 11:25-32 titled “Israel, Palestine, and the Middle East.” In it, he offers seven principles concerning the ever-contentious issue of “the Land”:
1. God chose Israel from all the peoples of the world to be his own possession.
2. The Land was part of the inheritance he promised to Abraham and his descendants forever.
3. The promises made to Abraham, including the promise of the Land, will be inherited as an everlasting gift only by true, spiritual Israel, not disobedient, unbelieving Israel.
4. Jesus Christ has come into the world as the Jewish Messiah, and his own people rejected him and broke covenant with their God.
5. Therefore, the secular state of Israel today may not claim a present divine right to the Land, but they and we should seek a peaceful settlement not based on present divine rights, but on international principles of justice, mercy, and practical feasibility.
6. By faith in Jesus Christ, the Jewish Messiah, Gentiles become heirs of the promise of Abraham, including the promise of the Land.
7. Finally, this inheritance of Christ’s people will happen at the Second Coming of Christ to establish his kingdom, not before; and till then, we Christians must not take up arms to claim our inheritance; but rather lay down our lives to share our inheritance with as many as we can.
Why It Matters: Wherever you land theologically or politically, the events of the past week mark yet another distressing development in the Israeli-Palestinian saga. This is a prime opportunity to pray. Pray for the Israelis, image-bearers of God, that they’d search the Scriptures and find life in the Savior (John 5:39-40, 46). May they discover that the meeting point between God and man is no longer a place—whether reconstructed temple or geographical partition—but a risen and reigning and soon returning Person (John 4:21-26).
Pray too for the Palestinians, image-bearers of God, that they’d turn in droves to Jesus the King. Pray particularly for our Palestinian brothers and sisters in the faith; there are, after all, far more Palestinian Christians in the Middle East than the news headlines imply.
May the Prince of Peace reveal what’s been hidden (Luke 19:41-42) and bring everlasting shalom to a Land flowing with blood and hatred—with little milk and honey to be found.
But oh God, tenderly, tenderly. Already, month by month and week by week you broke her body on the wheel whilst she still wore it. Is it not yet enough?
The terrible thing is that a perfectly good God is in this matter hardly less formidable than a Cosmic Sadist. The more we believe that God hurts only to heal, the less we can believe that there is any use in begging for tenderness. A cruel man might be bribed—might grow tired of his vile sport—might have a temporary fit of mercy, as alcoholics have fits of sobriety. But suppose that what you are up against is a surgeon whose intentions are wholly good. The kinder and more conscientious he is, the more inexorable he will go on cutting. If he yielded to your entreaties, if he stopped before the operation was complete, all the pain up to that point would have been useless. But is it credible that such extremities of torture should be necessary for us?Well, take your choice. The tortures occur. If they are unnecessary, then there is no God or a bad one. If there is a good God, then these tortures are necessary. For no even moderately good Being could possibly inflict or permit them if they weren’t.
Either way, we’re for it.
What do people mean when they say, “I am not afraid of God because I know He is good?” Have they never been to a dentist?
Yet this is unendurable. And then one babbles—”If only I could bear it, or the worst of it, or any of it, instead of her.” But one can’t tell how serious that bid is, for nothing is stake on it. If it suddenly became a real possibility, then, for the first time, we should discover how seriously we had meant it. But is it ever allowed?
It was allowed to One, we are told, and I find I can now believe again, that He has done vicariously whatever can be so done. He replies to our babble, “You cannot and dare not. I could and dared.”
-A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis, pp. 49-51.
I’m reading the book A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis currently. It’s a portion of journal entries by him following the death of his beloved wife Joy. It is truly incredible. It really is a theologian raging against God in the midst of indescribable grief. I’m not sure why his crying out against God is so refreshing to me. Blasphemous, perhaps, but he spoke from the depth of what he was feeling at the time, and I find that kind of honesty something to be praised, whether he is questioning who God is or not. I feel like most of us choose to hide what we feel in order to present ourselves as somehow holier or stronger than we are. Perhaps it would do us some good to speak freely about what we feel, instead of covering up.
Of course, we must guard who we talk to, not wanting to cause younger believers to stumble. But, I think that God is more than capable of handling our fear, sadness, and anger. Reading through Lamentations 3 is enough to demonstrate that the Lord is fully aware of our fear, anger, and disappointment with Him, and that such expressions deserve protecting in the canon. He did not censor the things Jeremiah said, whether it was accurate or not. It simply fully expressed all the anguish Jeremiah was feeling.
I think everyone should read this book by Lewis. It’s heart wrenching, but I have found it quite useful, particularly since I am writing my honors thesis on suffering. He certainly suffered, and he let God know about it.
Hello O lovely readers!
I am working on an honors thesis to fulfill the honors requirements for the university I attend. I have chosen to do my thesis on the topic of suffering and God’s relationship to us while we suffer. I created a questionnaire that includes 9 short answer questions and 1 multiple choice question. If you would be willing to answer the questions, that could be a significant help to me as I consider how I might consider this topic!
Thank you so much! I hope that all of you who are Americans enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving. For those of you who are not Americans, I hope that you have a particularly good Nov. 22nd, whether you have anything to celebrate or not! =)
I waited patiently for the LORD;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the LORD.
Blessed is the man who makes
the LORD his trust,
who does not turn to the proud,
to those who go astray after a lie!
You have multiplied, O LORD my God,
your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
none can compare with you!
I will proclaim and tell of them,
yet they are more than can be told.
In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted,
but you have given me an open ear.
Burnt offering and sin offering
you have not required.
Then I said, “Behold, I have come;
in the scroll of the book it is written of me:
I delight to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart.”
I have told the glad news of deliverance
in the great congregation;
behold, I have not restrained my lips,
as you know, O LORD.
I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart;
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
from the great congregation.
As for you, O LORD, you will not restrain
your mercy from me;
your steadfast love and your faithfulness will
ever preserve me!
For evils have encompassed me
my iniquities have overtaken me,
and I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head;
my heart fails me.
Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me!
O LORD, make haste to help me!
Let those be put to shame and disappointed altogether
who seek to snatch away my life;
let those be turned back and brought to dishonor
who delight in my hurt!
Let those be appalled because of their shame
who say to me, “Aha, Aha!”
But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation
say continually, “Great is the LORD!”
As for me, I am poor and needy,
but the Lord takes thought for me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
do not delay, O my God!
(Psalm 40 ESV)
Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars. -Khalil Gibran
I’ve thought a lot about suffering this quarter, primarily because I have seen a lot of suffering in the last few months. Over the summer, I felt so much pain as I got to know this wonderful homeless woman when I was at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. Knowing her and loving her, however, was one of the greatest things I’ve ever had the opportunity to do. And coming back I saw suffering all around me, and I even felt a fair amount of it with things going on in my life.
In the last two weeks that suffering actually became real. Everything before was like a treat compared to what I’ve been feeling the last few days. I’ve never felt like this before, never cried so hard, never lost more sleep, never wanted freedom from anything quite like this. And I’ve had to make some very hard decisions, have some very hard conversations, and make some drastic changes in order to get myself in a position where I believe I might be able to heal.
But what I’ve seen more than anything is that I have never believed that the Gospel is my only hope more than I do now. I’ve never relied on the grace of God like I have had to this last week. I’ve never prayed harder, repented more, or genuinely cried out to God like I have recently. And the incredible thing—as if I should be surprised—is that God showed up. He’s showed Himself to me more in the last few days than He ever has. And my heart has only felt peaceful when I would sit and repeat aloud all the promises of God. And I’ve experienced the reality that His promises alone will satisfy and remain steadfast. All else fades away; all else is shifting sand.
And so I’m sitting in my room right now just smiling because I see how this has been the best thing that has ever happened to me. As the searing pain of loss has crushed my heart, my knowledge, and my hope, I’ve seen that the true hope that I can never lose has been here all along and that I have not relied on Him as I should have been.
God’s love has been so expanded in my mind. His mercy for me is so great. His faithfulness is the greatest treasure of my life. I knew it intellectually before, but now I have had no other option than to rush into His presence with weeping and tears, begging Him to come and make real all the things I know but had not yet truly experienced. And what a sweet lesson to learn.
I see so much more clearly now that the agony our Lord experienced in His life—becoming the Man of sorrows—is one of the most important redemptive acts of His life. We so often locate our redemption only in the Cross, but there is so much more that Christ experienced that was redemptive. He felt all the pain of loss—betrayal, heartbreak, abandonment, physical torture, emotional anguish—and He invites us into His presence as a God who truly understands all that we go through. He’s been there. He’s seen it. He’s felt it. He’s wept. He’s felt the same crushing hopelessness that we sometimes experience. Yet, He led a sinless life that always relied on God throughout all of the struggle. And for these reasons He can atone for our sin and offer true solace when we are in pain.
It’s amazing to have a God who bears the scars of His own suffering. He does not stand aloof, unable to relate. No, He gave Himself to all the worst of the things that happen in life so that He might give grace and mercy to us when we experience it as well.
And I wouldn’t presume to say that the fact that suffering has taught me much is in itself a relief for the pain that I have been feeling. Quite the contrary, the pain has been greater than I could describe. I have learned, but the pain is still real and it may last for quite some time. But knowing that God is with me gives me more hope than I’ve ever had. And that is the greatest truth. I’m never alone. He will never leave. His unconditional grace and mercy will be with me whether I recognize it in moments of pain or not. He will be Himself for me all the days of my life, and that is good news worth telling the world.
…my soul is bereft of peace;
I have forgotten what happiness is;
so I say, “My endurance has perished;
so has my hope from the LORD.”
My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
The LORD is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.
It is good for a man that he bear
the yoke in his youth.
Let him sit alone in silence
when it is laid on him;
let him put his mouth in the dust—
there may yet be hope;
let him give his cheek to the one who strikes,
and let him be filled with insults.
For the Lord will not
cast off forever,
but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion
according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
for he does not afflict from his heart
or grieve the children of men.
(Lamentations 3:17-18, 20-33 ESV)
Where do I even begin? I don’t even know how to explain what’s happening in me.
This has been such a difficult quarter. I haven’t felt as much emotional turmoil at any other point in my life. I’ve felt utterly overcome by pain, fear, grief, and anguish—just feeling genuinely hopeless. And I don’t feel like that’s an exaggeration. It got more rough the last few days. Last night a friend of mine found me sitting in the parking lot of Locatelli (an activity center on my campus), sitting curled up in a ball, sobbing uncontrollably.
About an hour ago I sent a text to all the interns who worked with me at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church this summer asking them to pray for me because my heart has been feeling so broken. I said that I knew God is good, but I really need Him to intervene. I need His presence. I need His love. I need His mercy. I need His grace. I’ve got nothing without Him. I know that so much now. There’s nothing else that matters.
And I started playing a song by Chris Tomlin:
And I sat there with earphones in, closed my eyes, and just listened. And all of a sudden I felt a rush of the most incredible joy I’ve ever felt. I began to cry and laugh at the same time—here it is: the peace that transcends understanding that is promised to guard my heart and mind in Christ. This is what everyone’s been talking about all these years. All the sermons I’ve heard, all the promises in Scripture, all the things I’ve always heard and told others—this is it! And the weeping and sadness, the knot in my stomach, was expelled by the overwhelming presence of the Holy Spirit who had chosen to tangibly manifest in my body, which has become His temple. And nothing else mattered.
The Nicene Creed says, “We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son…” We believe in a God who is overwhelmingly good, unquestionably mercy, lovingly steadfast, above all things, working all things lovingly for those who know Him. We believe in the Resurrected God, the defeater of death, the vanquisher of suffering, the destroyed of all the devil’s works. We believe in the Creator God, He who made all things by speaking and the power of His word currently sustains all things. Without His active intervention in this world, all things would cease to exist. He alone is self-existent. He alone is uncreated.
And this God—this steadfast, merciful, resurrected Lord—breathes life into His people, shattering the chains of sin, death, and suffering. He calls us out of ourselves and into new life. He’s the Lord, the Giver of life. And He showed Himself to me tonight. He reminded me of all that I know is true, yet so often forget—the pursuits of this world cannot give the life I need, the idols of this world offer empty promises. None but the Lord of life can bring us to life and satisfy our deepest needs. None but the God who gave His life as a sacrifice for you and me can truly bring life out of the death and darkness.
There is no God but Him. There is none like Him. The manmade gods of this world are no gods at all. Only slavery rests in their dominion. He alone has the power to rescue us.
I felt my Savior save me again from myself tonight. And I await the pain to settle in again. He doesn’t promise to keep it at bay. Pain and suffering is the universal experience of all people and all times because of sin. I do not expect Him to protect me from the consequences or hurts that so often comes to us.
But He promises to be Himself for us while we suffer. He gives us of Himself when all else fails.
“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26).
My flesh is weak, my heart a deceiver. I cannot sustain myself, but the Lord promises to be the strength of our hearts and to be with us.
And last night when I couldn’t sleep, I just repeated to myself all the truths about God that I know. I meditated on His promises and felt my heart get lighter until I finally fell asleep. I leave you now with what I had to remind myself of. Never forget Who you worship—the Lord, the Giver of life. These things I call to mind and, therefore, I have hope:
“The Lord is my Rock and my Redeemer; He is my sword and my shield; the Lord does not afflict men from His heart; Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life because God is with me; The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want; He makes me lie down in green pastures; He maintains me for His name’s sake; He works all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose; His mercies are renewed every morning; His steadfast love never ceases; He brings about all things in accordance with the perfect counsel of His will; He will never leave me nor forsake; The Lord is my comfort; Restore in me, O Lord, the joy of my salvation; I have none but You; All of this life is like grass that withers; You, O Lord, never change…
Glory be to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.”