Christian Responses to the Tragedy in Aurora

While this certainly grabs at the heart of every American, it is somewhat nuanced for me in that I attended that midnight showing of The Dark Knight earlier this morning.  But in God’s providence, I watched in Louisville, KY and not Aurora, CO.  Still, the news was, needless to say, burdening and broadening.  Here are two responses from Collin Hansen and Al Mohler.  Praying for these families during yet another sin-evincing crisis, and for all the churches in the Denver area, that they will be granted wisdom, grace, spiritual life, and a gentle boldness in bringing the gospel of Jesus to bear upon the hardest realities of this world.

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Trusting God Is Not Easy, by Ray Ortlund

Trusting God is not comfortable.  It doesn’t belong in a Hallmark card picture — a colorful valley, a quaint village, a church steeple, with a sentimental slogan.  Trusting God can be extremely uncomfortable, even painful.

Rabbi David Kimchi, one of the early Hebrew lexicographers, defined the verb “wait” inIsaiah 40:31 with reference to the medieval German verb for “twist.”  That is, waiting on the Lord can involve tension and pressure and stress.  How could it be otherwise?  Waitingis pent-up irresolution.

Go here for the rest of Ortlund’s post.

Thinking Theologically About Depression: It’s Causes and Cures

An interview with Mark Mellinger.

Quotables from John Stott’s “The Cross of Christ”: Concerning (1) the value of God’s cross-love, (2) the forgiveness of sins exclusive to Christianity, (3) Christian sacrifices, (4) Pride, (5) the Cross and Discipleship, (6) the Cross and Mission, (7) the Cross and Change through Suffering, and (8) the God who identifies with us in our Suffering

1.  On the cross and the value of God’s love:

The value of a love-gift is assessed both by what it costs the giver and by the degree to which the recipient may be held to deserve it.  A young man who is in love, for example, will give his beloved expensive presents, often beyond what he can afford, as symbols of his self-giving love, because he believes she deserves them, and more.  Jacob served seven years for Rachel because of his love for her.  But God in giving his Son gave himself to die for his enemies.  He gave everything for those who deserved nothing from him.  ‘And that is God’s own proof of his love toward us’ (Rom 5.8 NEB). . . .

2. On the cross and the exclusivity of the Christian message of forgiveness of sin:

W. M. Clow was right to draw our attention to singing as a unique feature of Christian worship, and to the reason for it: ‘There is no forgiveness in this world, or in that which to come, except through the cross of Christ.  “Through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins.”  The religions of paganism scarcely knew the word. . . . the great faiths of the Buddhist and the Mohammedan give no place either to the need or the grace of reconciliation.  The clearest proof of this is the simplest.  It lies in the hymns of Christian worship.  A Buddhist temple never resounds with a cry of praise.  Mohammedan worshippers never sing.  Their prayers are, at the highest, prayers of submission and of request.  They seldom reach the gladder note of thanksgiving.  They are never jubilant with the songs of the forgiven. . . .

3.  On the Christian’s sacrifices “of laud” consequent of Christ’s atoning sacrifice:

What spiritual sacrifices, then, do the people of God as a ‘holy priesthood’ offer to him?  Eight are mentioned in Scripture.  First, we are to present our bodies to him for his service, as a “living sacrifice.”  This sounds like a material offering, but it is termed our “spiritual worship” (Rom 12.1), presumably because it pleases God only if it expresses the worship of the heart.  Second, we offer God our praise, worship and thanksgiving, “the fruit of lips that confess his name.”  Our third sacrifice is prayer, which is said to ascend to God like a fragrant incense, and our fourth “a broken and contrite heart,” which God accepts and never despises.  Fifth, faith is called a “sacrifice and service.”  So too, sixth, are our gifts and good deeds, for “with such sacrifices God is pleased.”  The seventh sacrifice is our life poured out like a drink offering in God’s service, even unto death, while the eighth is the special offering of the evangelist, whose preaching of the gospel is called a “priestly duty” because he is able to present his converts as “an offering acceptable to God” (Phil 2.17; 2 Tim 4.6; Rom 15.16).  These eight are all, in Daniel Waterland’s words, “true and evangelical sacrifices,” because they belong to the gospel, not the law, and are thankful responses to God’s grace in Christ. . . .

4.  On pride:

There once was a nymph named Narcissus, Who thought himself very delicious; So he stared like a fool – At his face in a pool, And his folly today is still with us. . . .

5. On the cross and the Christian’s decision between comfort and suffering:

The spirit of James and John lingers on, especially in us who have been cushioned by affluence.  It is true that inflation and unemployment have brought to many a new experience of insecurity.  Yet we still regard security as our birthright and ‘safety first’ as a prudent motto.  Where is the spirit of adventure, the sense of uncalculating solidarity with the underprivileged?  Where are the Christians who are prepared to put service before security, compassion before comfort, hardship before ease?  Thousands of pioneer Christian tasks are waiting to be done, which challenge our complacency and call for risk.  Insistence on security is incompatible with the way of the cross.  What daring adventures the incarnation and the atonement were!  What a breach of convention and decorum that Almighty God should renounce his privileges in order to take human flesh and bear human sin!  Jesus had no security except in his Father.  So to follow Jesus is always to accept at least a measure of uncertainty, danger and rejection for his sake. . . .

6. On the cross and mission:

Douglas Webster has written, “Mission sooner or later leads into passion.  In biblical categories . . . the servant must suffer. . . . Every form of mission leads to some form of cross.  The very shape of mission is cruciform.  We can understand mission only in terms of the cross. . . .”

7. On the view of human suffering in light of the cross and eternity, and how God changes us through what we suffer:

“We may wish, indeed,” wrote C. S. Lewis, “that we were of so little account to God that he left us alone to follow our natural impulses  – that he would give over trying to train us into something so unlike our natural selves: but once again, we are asking not for more love, but for less . . . To ask that God’s love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God should cease to be God. . . .”

8. On the God of the cross who identified with us in our suffering, the God to believe upon:

I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross.  The only God I believe in is the One Nietzsche ridiculed as “God on the cross.”  In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?  I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of the Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world.  But each time after a while I have had to turn away.  And in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in Godforsaken darkness.  That is the God for me!  He laid aside his immunity to pain.  He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death.  He suffered for us.  Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of his.  There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross that symbolizes divine suffering.  “The cross of Christ . . . is God’s only self-justification in such a world” as ours. . . . “The other gods were strong; but thou wast weak; they rode, but thou didst stumble to a throne; But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak, And not a god has wounds, but thou alone.”

John Stott, The Cross of Christ, pp. 210, 251, 257, 268, 280-81, 283, 315-16, 326-27, respectively.

Notes on the Book of Job (With an Eye to Biblical Counseling)

The opening paragraph to my notes (just placed in “Other Writings” tab above):

“What follows are the notes that I took as I read through the book of Job.  As it was with the purpose of gaining insights for biblical counseling from the book of Job, the notes are slanted that way.  I hope that they might be of some encouragement to you, and that by them you might be directed to the biblical text itself, and to the magnificent revelation of God by which grace you will receive eyes with which to see Him and so be overcome by His meticulous wisdom, providence, and purpose – even with, in, and through your suffering.  For a less choppy, and I hope, clearer presentation of insights for counseling from the book of Job, see my paper on the subject which is largely derivative of these notes.  If you are wondering why bother with these notes, I submit to you that they include more than I was allowed to fit in the final form.”

The final paper will be posted tomorrow for anyone curious – it’s simply too late, and I need to go to bed.

The Good Use of Suffering in the Life of Matt Chandler

Continue to pray for this brother that our God has and is still, by His grace, using for His glory on larger and larger stages.

Denny Burk has a post concerning this usefulness.  Within it you can go directly to the MNBC article linked to Burk’s post.  Let us ask God that we should suffer so well when it inevitably befalls us; and if in God’s providence it should not, let us prepare ourselves to minister to those who find themselves in the midst of it.  Go here for the post.