October 26, 2010

A Good Place To Be – a poem

With the rising sun it is bravado I display,
While under the resting moon as a small child I lay.
Bravery, bravery, why are you hidden today?
Testify, as to myself my own heart does betray.
So forlorn as my rescue is so long in delay.
Oh, the affable Father is molding me like clay!

Isaiah 64:8 “Yet LORD, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You are our potter; we all are the work of Your hands.”

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October 17, 2010

Praying Missionally

A good axiom about prayer for the majority of us is that if we don’t have triggers to keep us on target our minds tend to wander. This certainly is not categorically true, but I think it is mostly true of most people when they pray most of the time. ūüôā

For that reason it is always a good idea to pray with the Bible open so you can pray Scripture into your life. A prayer journal is also a great tool to rely on everyday. Of course there is also prayer tactics such as ACTS and IOU and concentric circles in your prayer life. All good ideas.

Let me now propose another prayer tool for you to stay vigilant in keeping the whole of God’s Great Commission in view as you pray. The Joshua Project highlights a different¬† unreached or mostly unreached people group every day. You can even have them email them to you every day.

My family has incorporated this tool into our nightly devotional time. I’m trying to get my blog to post it too, but so far my attempts have failed – so until then sign up for their emails.

October 15, 2010

Be Ye Holy

Ever wonder how if God being holy is such an alien idea then why does he call us to be holy? Isn’t that a difficult prospect!

God: Be holy as I am holy.

Me: Yeah, only I don’t know what that is! Remember?

Well, if that conversation is yours – as it is mine. Here is a sermon I heard earlier this week while aerating and thought of my last post. It is by Dr. Derek Thomas and I believe it will do you well.

October 12, 2010

God as Holy

When we say God is holy we struggle with what holy means. We define terms intensively and ostensively. Ostensively we point to examples of a thing to define it through these examples. For example, when talking to a child or someone who speaks a different language we can point to the color red as we say “red” to convey the meaning of the idea of “red.” Or we might define “tree” ostensively simply by pointing to a maple or poplar tree and saying “that is a tree.” Ostensive definitions work because although there may be some type of struggle in defining the term – be it comprehensiveness or different languages – we have a common starting point to work from. While every tree is different from every other tree in the world, there is enough similarity in the trees we all come across to know that we can come to a common understanding as we point ostensively to a tree as we say “tree” knowing that we each can to an understanding then. This is exactly why ostensive definitions are so important – because it is the simplest way to define things as we experience them, by simply pointing to them. Ostensive definitions rely on human experience to work.

Intensive definitions are the lexical definition of a term, which give a precise explanation of the idea behind the word rather than simply pointing to it. A way to think of these two types of definitions is to think of your dictionary. The intensive definition is the explanation written on the page. The ostensive definition is the picture next to it.

But when we define holy our struggle is that we combine an intensive and ostensive definition, not to point to what we mean when we say “God is Holy,” but to point to the boundaries of our understanding and to say “God being holy means something infinitely beyond these boundaries.” That is the best we can do. God is so holy! Or in Biblical language, God is Holy, Holy, Holy!!!

Here then is me pointing to these boundaries. God is holy in that:

  1. God is Good: He is wholly perfectly pure in every detail of his being and attributes.
  2. God is Great: He is supremely excellent above all others.
  3. God is Grand: He is transcendent and other. He is separate. He is different. He is one of a kind. There is none like him. He is infinitely and majestically supreme. He is the ontological king.
  4. God is God: Holy points to the all-encompassing synonym for God and is a constant reminder that we can only understand the things about God which he has revealed. Deuteronomy 29:29 reminds us that “The hidden things belong to the LORD our God, but the revealed things belong to us and our children forever, so that we may follow all the words of this law.”
September 11, 2010

Love, Hate and 9/11

Nine years after 9/11 and it might as well have been yesterday considering all the emotional turmoil that has been blown into the atmosphere by the political-religious implications of both a mosque being built near the site of the attacks as well as a pastor from Florida wanting to burn the Quran today as some act of condemnation. The issue at stake for most of us is to figure out how we should feel, think and respond to these three events. That’s right. They are three events – and two haven’t even happened yet.

Most of the filtering that I have been exposed to has dealt with amendment rights. However, I am more concerned with Christian obligation. What should a Christian response be?

Let me start of with a story from Bob Sjogren from Unveiled at Last.

You remember a church service you attend back in the winter of 1980 during the Iranian hostage crisis, when 52 Americans were held hostage by terrorists in Teheran…Glancing at the order of service in the bulletin, you saw that Greg Livingstone was scheduled to give a “missions minute.”

“Right,” you thought. “This guy’s really going to be able to say something significant in 60 seconds. The one-minute missionary.”

The anthem ended and a square man who looked like a boxer stepped up to the podium. Without so much as an introduction, he asked, “How many of you are praying for the 52 American hostages held captive in Iran?”

You, of course, raised your hand. All present raised their hands. “Wow, that’s terrific,” he said. “There must be 4,000 people here.”

“Now, let’s be just as honest; Jesus is watching. How many of you, ” the boxer continued, “are praying for the 45 million Iranians held captive by Islam?”

One hand slowly went up. Two hands.

“What? Only two people?” he yelled. “What are you guys, Americans first and believers second?” (p.55-56)

I have to ask about our concerns over the mosque being built are we Americans first and believers second? Are we more concerned political and patriotic sensibilities that the demands of the gospel? What is the demand of the gospel in this situation? Do you see the Muslim as your neighbor? Or do you see him as your enemy? It really doesn’t matter how you see him does it because our heart, which should be full of grace to all without qualification should respond the same to both.

Let’s see if Jesus can give us some guidance.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’¬† But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,¬† so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:43-48 ).

What, then, is at stake? Yes, on one level it is patriotic sensibilities. But on another level – the more important level, for the child of God, it is about God being glorified. Notice that love demonstrated toward just those who are part of your community, whatever that community is, is not much and it certainly does not reflect the redeeming, saving, life changing power of God’s love. If our reaction is first as an American then we might perchance want to first rise in protest against the mosque being built near 9/11. And if we were not of God’s Kingdom then we might be willing to ignore the outrageous-ness of a book burning – any book burning, much less a book burning of another religion. And to think that any other person on the face of the earth is dealt the hand of persecution from a Christian is an offense to the very nature of the cross which our Christ bore.

But God proclaims and teaches all the nations of the earth the power of his love because Christians have a love that overcomes the deathblow of an enemy with a kiss and prayer in return.¬† Like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who lived the gospel when he taught that a true understanding of the grace of God could lead to the loss of a Christian’s life as he loves his enemies – a reality that became real when he was hanged in a German prison camp a week before liberation. His life did not end with bitterness, but praise and thanksgiving that he could defend the helpless, bring light to the wicked actions of the oppressors and love them all indiscriminately. He told his executioner, “You think you are ending my life, but it is only beginning.” (a loose rendition as I can’t find the exact phrase this moment).

A Christian’s stance on the mosque in New York City then must be, first and foremost, concerned with loving Muslims in such a way that we do not create new barriers to the proclamation of the gospel. If some injustice is actually occurring with the building of the mosque near Ground Zero – and that is something each person must workout for him/herself – then the Christian response is to figure out how to love in such a way as to make it overly, abundantly obvious that an injustice is occurring without engaging in hateful rhetoric or actions. Jesus again gives us guidance if this is your conviction. Matthew 5:41¬† “And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” This response would require creativity with an overly abundant gracious response. Think that even Donald Trump has offered to pay over 125% value of the property to the owners in order to end the conflict. If Christians are so convinced it is wrong then we should be offering 500% or more as one possible alternative.

This stance should also inform those who want to give a pass to the pastor in Florida. His actions are not in alignment with Christ’s instructions to us. Burning books is not love. Proclaiming the errors of the Quran and dialogue and living a life of mercy ministry among Muslims is love. Creating additional boundaries of mistrust through the abuse of their values is not. No Christian would available for in-depth searching dialogue with a Muslim on-board on of the airplanes who crashed into the world towers if he (theoretically) could proselytize us after said event. Why would you expect a Muslim to respond any different? Do we value the Bible or the Trade Towers more? Now flip it over as a Muslim – no question that a holy book gets the nod.

Which really brings me back to what you need to figure out – are you first an American or a Christian? The answer to that question will dictate the attitude of your heart.

September 9, 2010

Getting Ready for Tonight’s Game

In celebration of the Superbowl Champs kicking the season off against the Minnesota Vikings I would like to differ to the picture below, which the vikings posted on their website before the end of the NFC championship game.  Thank you for such good memories Vikings!

OUCH!!!

September 1, 2010

Going Backwards

I saw this hilarious video (not funny to #20).

And what did I think when I say this video? I thought, “Boy, that sure looks like me and the carrying of the Gospel message.” Too harsh? I don’t think so. Just like the football has been passed to this tailback, so the Gospel has been handed down to me from earlier generations. The stakes are high (Judges 2:10¬† “And there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work that he had done for Israel”).¬† Romans 10:14-15¬† continues this instruction by adding “But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?And how are they to hear without someone preaching?¬† And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'”

So I’m invested. I care. I have a deep yearning to figure out the Christian life. Especially the part about furthering the Kingdom of God. You know the Kingdom that is in you (Jn 3:3), has come (Mt 4:17), but not come (Lk 22:16), seeks to defend the poor and defenseless (Mt 11:2-6),¬† and give action that gives understanding to the scandal of the cross (Col 1:24).

And perhaps you are in this place too. You are hoping I’m going to give you five points of success. Perhaps these five points of success will mean victory in your life. Now you can finally go forward, toward the right end zone. Sorry to disappoint you. I could do the five points. I have them in my head now, milling about, making it messy up there. But instead I want to share an observation from my struggle that perhaps might be of some benefit to you too.

My observation is this: Too often the very things getting in the way of my living out the Gospel are not what we like to typically target in our bully pulpit. Although I certainly have those struggles too. But it is something much more subversive because it is like a undetectable submarine in my conscience constantly accomplishing its mission unbeknownst to me. It is my presuppositions. It is funny that as I wrestle against the Holy Spirit in the sanctification process that it is this that is coming up. My presuppositions on how to “correctly” do church, minister to my family, reach out to my community, etc. You name an aspect of the Christian life and I have presuppositions that are brewed and bred right in here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. that like to get in the way. Only I don’t see it. I try to incorporate them into the Gospel and I miss it.

I admit that I have been stuck on part of this issue for a while – knowing that I’m stuck in my presuppositions but not finding a way to gain “a bird’s eye view” on them. It is very, very hard to see your presuppositions for what they are.¬† It takes a lot of work, at least that has been my experience. So, here I am stuck, and then I read a book recently that helped with my “aha” moment. (side note: that is why it is so important to read, you get to have some really important discussions one-on-one when you read.) It was Jim Belcher’s Deep Church. What he helped me to see was that much of my crisis on how to the live the Christian life was more of an argument between postmodernism and modernism as opposed to biblical living.¬† That is a mouthful for me.

I started to think about it and I realized that God gave us examples of postmodernism and modernism in the Bible and their traps.¬† First you have the modernists in the Bible – they are the Pharisees and Scribes. Turn through the Gospels and on every other page you’ll find an expert of the Law testing Jesus. They were famous for building a fence around the law so they wouldn’t break it. “You can only take so many steps on the Sabbath before you break the fourth commandment of the Decalogue.” Or something similar (this is what Jesus is targeting in the Six Antitheses in Matthew 5). Or the Law expert who challenged Jesus when he asked Jesus, “How do I inherit eternal life?”

Jesus: What does God’s Word say? What is your interpretation?

Law Expert: I’m to love the Lord my God with all my emotional, mental, physical and spiritual ability – and love my¬† neighbor as myself.

Jesus: That’s it!

Law Expert: Just so we don’t equivocate – when I say neighbor – I mean just people like me.

Jesus: Your interpretation has fallen short. Your attempts to put a perimeter around loving your neighbor stops you from going far enough. You have failed to obtain eternal life.

That is an Israel’s paraphrase commentary of the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10). Check it out. The law expert, like most of Jesus’ antagonists in the Gospels, is so concerned with the tangibles that he misses the heart behind them, which results in his not understanding them at all.

Then you have the postmodernist (or one of them) of the Bible: The Samaritan Woman at the well (interesting that both examples contain Samaritans in them). Consider my loose commentary on their conversation in John 4. Let’s call her Sammy.

Jesus: Can you give me a drink of water out of this well?

Sammy: You’re asking me for a drink? We are suppose to hate each other, you know.

Jesus: If you knew who I am, it would be you asking me for my drink for it is the drink of eternal life.

Sammy: Are you loopy? You don’t have a bucket? Besides, where is this well that you get this water from (and why aren’t you there now)? Besides, what do you have to offer me that is better than what I have now? I drink from the well of people who are no doubt greater than you.

Jesus: The well from which you drink does not satisfy. The well from which I’m talking about springs up eternal life.

Sammy: I’m game. If this water means I don’t have to continue to labor over this well again in the future then I’m interested. I’ll take you up on your offer.

Jesus: So, go get your husband and we’ll talk.

Sammy: Oh! Well, uh, um, I’m not married.

Jesus: Right you are. You’ve had five husbands and you are currently living with a guy who is not your husband. This is a good starting point to talk about how to get eternal life so lets talk about it.

Sammy: Okay, okay. I can see you are a spiritual guru and clearly your knowledge of my past endorses your claims about eternal life. I get that, but let’s not get to excited about specifics talking about actual sins, or specific theological nuances or distinctives.¬† You say God is in that religion, I say God is in found in this religion and I’m good with that.”

Jesus: Sammy, truth is real and there is only one way to get eternal life. Hearken to the Spirit and Truth and you will have eternal life.

Please recognize how loose this is or I would feel very badly if they thought I was trying to play fast and loose with God’s Word. The effort is in trying to get you to see what is going on behind the conversation. Here this woman doesn’t want to deal with specifics. She doesn’t want to deal with her specific sins and she doesn’t want to deal with the specifics of one religion compared to another, but she does want eternal life as it means a more convenient life for her and she is only concerned about details when it is in relation to the material world (such as having a bucket). She just wants a nice, unconvicting warm cozy covering of a religion. Now that, to me, is a good reflection of pomo Christian living in America trying to figure out how to live godly while still being postmodern.

To borrow a term from Jim Belcher, there is a third way, a better way and to get there we have to see how deep our modernistic/post-modernistic presuppositions really infiltrate our worldview as we attempt to live godly in Christ Jesus. And Jesus gives us the way to approach the subject by his handling of both the Law expert and the Samaritan Woman. He deals with them with where they are at. He shows the Law expert that his propensity to details and creating perimeters in his zealousness for God is getting in the way. And Jesus shows the woman at the well that to live a life that refuses to account for the details of living and belief is just as problematic. The Jewish man over-examined in an effort to explain away his actions while the Samaritan woman refused to consider her actions so she didn’t have to explain them.

August 29, 2010

Happy Katrina Day!

Enjoy Katrina Day with this lovely local’s song with a nice montage of pictures that remind us of the beauty of the city beneath the sea.

August 27, 2010

Thin but Anchored

I finished the last post by asking how does knowing specific reasons behind why God leads Christians down a path of suffering help us survive.  This is not just an academic question. In many ways, a question like this helps give depth and understanding to the Christian life. For some, the answer results in turning away from Christianity and for others it strengthens the resolve. The reason for this is because this is a question that deals with hope. And despair. Resolve. Or to vacillate.

Everyone, regardless of their worldview, has to deal with¬† hopelessness at some point in life. It may be fleeting. Or it can last a life time. It can be private – the emperor’s new clothes; or it can be as plain as the clothes you are wearing right now (I hope no one is reading this naked, after all).¬† Hopelessness is a strange bedfellow. It happens because of family, community, work, finance, recreation, romance and the list goes on. Just think of the time in your life when you couldn’t see any hope – no answer to relieve you of whatever caused your despair. After all hope is powerful and it cannot be underestimated. The need and want to hope is powerful indeed. We cannot underestimate people’s needs for it – and all that we are willing to trade in to have it. We trade in logic as an example. Try to explain the statistical absurdity of the lottery to the impoverished who are so decimated by their situation that their only hope (seemingly) is something that siphons their meager bank accounts. Yet they play. Or people sucked into a prosperity gospel – bankrolling the expenses of false prophets just for the hope of good health or the promise of a comfortable lifestyle.

So this universal human experience – albeit its many manifestations – must be addressed. Unfortunately, I fear, too many don’t dealt with it. We find our worldview lacking to give us satisfactory answers and we don’t know how to press on and we feel defeated. We feel as if life has killed the dream we dream (which is why this song, for me, epitomizes the issue).

The answer lies beyond both emotions and reason. It lies beyond emotions because our emotions can be misleading. We can’t always trust our heart so to speak. For example, we can overreact in heated arguments with loved ones – saying things we don’t mean just to inflict pain. Or we can stop trying to love our spouse just because “we lost that loving feeling.” It is good to know that love is more than just a feeling. Not that emotions don’t have their place, but in a place of hopelessness all your feelings are going to do is perpetuate a state of despair. It is unreasonable to think we just will our feelings from one state into another by sheer will power.

Reason – or knowledge – also falls short. You can have all the right information in the world – all the answers – and still by submerged in despair with no comfort. Knowledge itself nor the capacity to reason a situation through mere intellect is enough to fortify one’s souls to deal with the onslaught of the difficulties of life. For example, we know that reason by itself falls short because James tells us so (James 2:19).

I have another reason to dismiss emotions and reason as the deciding factor in how a Christian should work out an understanding of suffering in his/her life. The reason has to do with our current culture. Before us we see vie two competing worldviews – postmodernism and modernism. And each elevates one of these answers as the path that will lead us to the answer (ultimately I think there is at least a book full of answers – as my last post implied, but this is a blog so I’m only picking one for today). But for the Christian, I think there is a different answer. It may seem silly at first, but stay with me on this. The answer that God gives Christians to persevere through despair and hopelessness is…hope. What? Were you expecting something else?

This is part of the faith journey that we are invited into by God. What gets you through the day when you feel not just paper-thin, but cigarette paper-thin? You need an anchor. A heavy anchor that can handle the weight of the storm. Here you are getting tattered and beaten up. How do you stand your ground. Well, you don’t really. You need something to keep you anchored as the storm picks you up, tosses you around and tries it’s best to destroy you. A heavy anchor….

…like Ununoctium. The heaviest element known to man (I think). It sounds like a good answer, but it isn’t. Ununoctium is like emotions and reason. It is synthetic and it¬† is temporary. It gives all the appearances of being the answer, but in the end – at the height of the storm it dissipates and you are left helpless.

No, you need a heavy anchor like uranium. It is heavy – the heaviest natural element (again, I think). And it is never going to disappear on you. In fact, it can even be used as armor if nothing else. Interesting thought. How does this anchor of hope look?

Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.¬† Also through Him, we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.¬† And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance,¬† endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope.¬† This hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Romans 5:1-5).

The anchor of hope is made of faith. We are on a faith journey. Our covenant that we have been joined to God in is a covenant of faith. It has always been that way; that is why God’s covenant people are called “faithful” in the Bible (Gen 15:6; Ex 19.9; Hebrews 11 as examples). The nice thing about faith is that it is a gift from God (Gen 15:6 cf Gal 3:6; Rom 3:22-24; Eph 2:8) – not something we have to muster ourselves. We don’t have to muster up the will or the activity that surmounts to faith (Rom 9:11,16). Our actions are in accordance to it. So, as we struggle with life, our faith produces hope as we persevere. In this respect I think Augustine’s statement “I believe in order that I might understand” makes all the sense in the world. Take that saying and put it in a different context and it seems, to me at least, a little nonsensical. But in the world of living, when it is hard to make sense of a despairing horizon, it makes all the sense in the world. Perhaps the faith journey is the furnace where our emotions and knowledge are tempered. It is at this junction that our worldview most noticeably informs our understanding of reality. For Christians, like Augustine, it is not a vacuum behind the “believe.” It has in view the power behind the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is the hope to which we set our eyes upon. That before God we have been declared innocent. That God, right now, is transforming us into innocents and that one day we will stand completely transformed. Our souls long for hope in despair because we were created for hope – and dwell in it in life everlasting we will.

August 20, 2010

Pinching Jesus’ Cheeks

Ever been in the place where you feel that  if Jesus were standing in front of you that you would pinch his cheeks?

For example –

Jesus:    Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock.  And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock.  And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand.  And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall  (Matthew 7:24-27).

Me:¬† Awe, aren’t you cute (Pinching Jesus’ cheeks ensues in a manner similar to seeing a new born baby with hamster cheeks and you just can’t help but pinch them). Isn’t Jesus cute! (I exclaim to others around me).

– or –

Jesus:   I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me (John 14.6).

Me: Uh, yeah, okay. Sure thing (Slight squeeze with a little hand slap like when we want to chase a child off).

– or –

Jesus: Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.¬† For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it?¬† Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and take counsel whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand (Luke 14:27-31)?

Me: YEAH (Pinching Jesus’ cheeks like you do with another adult that you’d like to knock out, but don’t because it just isn’t a good idea)!

Does this sound a little sacrilegious? Well, it is, but I got to admit that I think we all pinch Jesus’ cheeks every once in a while. Because the one thing that pinching cheeks seems to connote is that you know better. Pinch the little baby’s cheek, because she is so cute and her precocious preciousness is fleeting and you know it. Pinch the child’s cheek in a condescendingly affectionate way because you see the bigger picture and he doesn’t. Squeeze your friend’s cheek because he is belligerent and arrogant and you are warning him to back down without getting hostile.

Often in our walk with God we struggle with the idea that we know better than God. As Christians, we struggle with God’s instruction. Perhaps we struggle with our love for materialism and don’t want to heed God’s warnings (Mt 6:24; Lk 16:13). Or the idea of being married is so important to you that you think that God’s wise instruction not to be unequally yoked doesn’t apply to your situation (2 Cor 6:14). Or that your life belongs to you (1 Cor 6:20; 7:23).

Or you want an easy life – not the life of Bill Gates, but a life without turmoil and hardships. I think this is the place where we are most likely to fall into the trap of pinching Jesus’ cheeks – you know, actually thinking we know better.¬† Fortunately, our wisdom is God’s foolishness (1 Cor 1:25) but we must wrestle with coming to terms with these difficulties.

After all, we do have promises such as 2 Timothy 3:12, where we are reminded that ” In fact, all those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. ” I love this verse because it reminds me that the requirement to be persecuted is not living a godly life in Christ Jesus, but wanting to live a godly life. All you have to do is desire it. And Paul includes things like being shipwrecked, labor, hardship, being hungry and thirsty, cold, without clothes, insomnia as part of his list of persecutions he experienced in 2 Corinthians 11. So persecutions can manifest themselves in many ways because “For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens (Ephesians 6:12).”

But there are other reasons for difficulties too. Things such as God gives blessings and sufferings indiscriminately to those who live in His creation (Mt 5:45), God disciplines those he loves (Heb 12:5-11), that the universe groans under the consequences of sin and that these consequences are a reminder of our needing salvation (Rom 8:22-25), that by our suffering Christians exhibit to the world Jesus’ sufferings so they know who it is that can save them (Col 1:24), and all of this ultimately leads to the glory of God (Rom 5:2-4).

But this all leaves me with a question. How does this knowledge help me? I’ll attempt to answer this question in my next post.