The Power of the Resurrection

Holidays, Thoughts
Happy Resurrection Day to you and yours! As much as we celebrate the power of the cross, we mustn't neglect the power of the resurrection.  Many have died on a cross - though only one as the Son of God - but the spectacular coming-back-to-life is the experience of Jesus alone.  God the Father confirmed the power and sufficiency of Christ's death to forgive sin and His identity as God's Son, the sinless One, by raising Jesus from the dead (Rom 1:1-4).  The resurrection sealed the deal and confirmed our salvation won at the cross.  "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy had caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from…
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The Power of the Cross

Holidays, Thoughts
Blessed Good Friday to you and yours! In Luke 9:23, Jesus warns His would-be disciples, "And [Jesus] was saying to them all, 'If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.' "  The concept, taken from this verse, of "bearing one's cross" is a prevalent theme in the literature of Christian discipleship.  We often take the term to mean putting up with some physical infirmity, dealing with a challenging relationship, or some other difficult situation.  But to Jesus' first century audience, the meaning of "bearing one's cross" cut much deeper and was explicitly vivid.  Being 2000 years removed from the cross as an instrument of execution has so softened the intensity of this phrase for us that we almost…
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Our Counterattack – Prayer and Faith

Evil and Suffering, Faith is ..., Thoughts
(8 of 9 in a series on "Why do bad things happen to good people?") In Mark 9:14-29, we have a story of demon-possession that includes a long conversation between Jesus, a distraught father, and the disciples.  As Jesus returned from the mountain of His transfiguration, he found a crowd gathered.  While He was away, His disciples had failed in their attempt to drive a demon out of a child and the desperate father turned to Jesus.  After describing the child's pain, the father pleads, " 'But if you [Jesus] can do anything, take pity on us and help us!'  And Jesus said to him, ' "If you can?"  All things are possible to him who believes.'  Immediately the boy's father cried out, 'I do believe; help my unbelief.'  When Jesus saw that…
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Under Attack

Evil and Suffering, Thoughts
(7 of 9 in a series on "Why do bad things happen to good people?") If Satan is the author of evil and his plan includes harming believers, how do we rightly evaluate the bad things that happen to us?  That is, how do we recognize the difference between God's training program and Satan's attacks?  We start by interpreting our situation through "the glory of God in the face of Christ" (II Cor 4:6).  We ask ourselves, "Is this harm that has befallen us consistent with what we expect when we look into the face of Jesus?  Is this the kind of discipline we expect from our Savior, or is this so outside the realm of His love that it must be an attack from Satan?  Let's think about some example situations…
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The Dark Enemy

Evil and Suffering, Thoughts
(6 of 9 in a series on "Why do bad things happen to good people?") When the pain we experience seems capricious, random, or unexplainable, I believe that rather than blaming God, we need to recognize we have a powerful, dark, and active enemy who hates us.  As C. S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, "One of the things that surprised me when I first read the New Testament seriously was that it talked about a Dark Power in the universe - a mighty evil spirit who was held to be the Power behind death and disease and sin." God is not the author of evil.  For too long, in our dogmatism about the sovereign plan of God, we have either inadvertently or deliberately, painted God as the author of evil.  With…
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The New Testament Picture of God

Evil and Suffering, Thoughts
(5 of 9 in a series on "Why do bad things happen to good people?") When you picture God in your mind, what image do you see?  Because God is so unique, so holy, so multi-faceted in His attributes, there are a variety of images that could come to mind.  Think now about the New Testament image of God.  In the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus gives us a picture of God as a compassionate father; looking, longing, running, kissing, embracing, forgiving, and celebrating his son's return.  The apostle John highlights in his letters the love of God as the very essence of His character.  And the apostle Paul refers over 200 times to God or Christ living inside us.  Let this New Testament picture sink in and realize that…
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Our Response to God’s Training Program

Evil and Suffering, Thoughts
(4 of 9 in a series on "Why do bad things happen to good people?") When the author of the book of Hebrews lays out the reasoning behind God's training program for us, it is designed to help us not "lose heart".  But, at least in the Hebrews passage, our response to the pain that comes with it is not clearly explained.  But reasoning through the analogy with our earthly father's discipline gives us some insights that I think are largely ignored in our understanding of suffering. God's overarching attribute in His dealings with His children in the present age is love.  Put simply, the New Testament description of God is, "God is love."  Even God's discipline is motivated by His love, "For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines" (Heb 12:6). …
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God’s Training Program

Evil and Suffering, Thoughts
(3 of 9 in a series on "Why do bad things happen to good people?") In Hebrews chapter 12 we are introduced to God's training program for His children.  The author begins the chapter with the example of Jesus "who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb 12:2).  Jesus endured incredible pain to accomplish what God set out for Him to do.  In verse 3, the focus shifts from Jesus, our example in suffering, to us, God's children.  "For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart" (Heb 12:3).  The author then goes on to explain God's training program in verse…
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Three Answers from the Bible

Evil and Suffering, Thoughts
(2 of 9 in a series on "Why do bad things happen to good people?") The Bible gives three broad reasons for why bad things happen to good people.  First is the law of consequence.  Poor choices in life lead to bad outcomes.  Second is the training program of God.  God may send uncomfortable - I hate to use the word bad in describing God's interaction with His children - situations to stretch us and grow us and mature us.  Third is the idea that we and God have a dark enemy, Satan, who is working in this world, including in the lives of believers, with ill-will toward us on both large and small scales.  While Satan has no power to possess us in the classic sense, he can make our lives…
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Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

Evil and Suffering, Thoughts
(1 of 9 in a series on "Why do bad things happen to good people?") Another topic addressed in the book of Hebrews is the philosophical conundrum, "Why do bad things happen to good people?"  The Hebrew believers were facing severe persecution for their faith.  It would be natural for them to wonder why this is happening; why adversity seemed to be the reward for following Christ.  Maybe it would be better to shrink back from such a dangerous faith to the comforts of the Judaism they had known in the past. By God's goodness, grace, and revelation we have answers in Scripture to the big issues of life including this one.  But first, let's start with what the answer is not.  There is a certain brand of theology that, rather…
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Letting the River Flow in Ministry

Church Life, Thoughts, Walking in the New Nature
"Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit.  For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life" (II Cor 3:5-6).  As ministers of the new covenant, we recognize the flowing river inside each believer and we serve in ways that encourage its flow to come to the surface in our friends and family. Let me give you an example of how this works in ministry.  Several years ago, Rhonda and I were asked to lead an adult Sunday School class at our church for young married couples who were just starting their families.  We were at the other end…
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