Category Archives: Christianity

Such Grief, Such Hope

1 O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath. 

2 Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing; heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled. 

3 My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O LORD-how long? 

4 Turn, O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love. 

5 For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise? 

6 I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. 

7 My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes. 

8 Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping. 

9 The LORD has heard my plea; the LORD accepts my prayer. 

10 All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled; they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment. – Psalms 6

Such grief and such mourning these days. Form the state of our nation, the loss of friends, and painful diagnoses, it is difficult not to see enemies at every turn. David talks about fear at the heart of his grief in Psalm 6, which invokes questions of belief. 

David’s fears would have included armies and men who were out for his life. His anguish causes him to beg God to graciously hold back his discipline because in his current state it would have been too overwhelming. 

As my heart cries out in anguish, it is far too easy to worry that all is lost, that the world will never be put to rights and God is far from hearing my pleas. And admittedly, these moments can quickly lead to depression and despair. God, where are you? Why do you wait so long?

Surprisingly, David does not doubt that God is intimately involved in his life, even when it is so bleak. He expresses trust in God’s love for him as a Father who is true to his work of disciplining his children. David is certain that God will act as he asks “how long” in verse 3. 

As often is the case, David starts with strong “negative” emotion and moves to confidence in the promises of God. At first reading it sounded like his confidence was that God would spare his life, but I am not sure that it is actually the message of this Psalm. David has been praying in his grief, and is confident that God heard his prayer and that he will bring shame on his enemies. But could David mean that he is confident that no matter what, in life or in death, that God will remain true to his promises?  It may be that verse 8 is a warning, that no matter what happens God will have the victory. “Beware, if you come against me and even if you think you succeed, you will know the wrath of God.”

I pray that I can know this confidence in God’s promises. So often my fear drives me to disbelieve. So often I fail to put my hope in God and trust that what now fuels my grief will serve his glory. 

Lord God, help me to put all my hope in you. Help me to see your authorship in my life and the lives of those with whom I suffer and grieve. Help me to grieve with confidence. 

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Review: Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will

Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God's Will Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God's Will by Kevin DeYoung

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I admit it: I have become weary of the “life purpose” discussion. Not because I do not believe that God had a purpose for our lives; the Bible is clear that he does. Purpose has become coopted by both the religious, like good ole Rick Warren, and by the non-religious alike. It is hard for me not to roll my eyes when talking to people who are disappointed with their jobs because they don't think that they have quite found what they were “made to do.”

I have read Kevin DeYoung before, and so when I found his book on the topic of purpose and finding God's will, well, I can't say that I wasn't skeptical. Yet, if anyone could give the topic a good treatment I have to say that I expected him to be one. Conclusion: not disappointed.

Simply put: DeYoung says everything I have wanted to say about finding purpose and God's will that I have wanted to say, and more. Does God have a plan for your life? Yes. Is it the kind of plan that he will tell you in advance? No. Have you read the Bible? Even the “heroes” of the Bible rarely, if ever, get told what God wants them to do in advance. Even the prophets generally are told “you are my prophet,” then “say this.” Even Moses, granted he was told that he would be the one to lead the people out of Egypt, he was only told what the ultimate end would be, but only one step at a time in the process.

God's will is for your sanctification. God wants you to become holy. That is his main purpose for your life. Everything you go through is to accomplish that goal in your life and in the lives of those around you. God's purpose for your life may be extremely hard and challenging. It may bring heartache and tears. Finding yourself in the gutter may not be any indication of your having made a misstep or fallen from God's will. It may be the crucible in which you are being pruified and perfected.

Stop fretting about what God's will is for your life; just love him and then just do something!

 


Review: Erasing Hell: What God Said about Eternity, and the Things We’ve Made Up

Erasing Hell: What God Said about Eternity, and the Things We've Made Up
Erasing Hell: What God Said about Eternity, and the Things We’ve Made Up by Francis Chan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Somehow people have gotten the impression that Christians, at least the conservative ones, really like the idea of hell.  I do really love the idea of sin and death being cast away for all eternity; can you imagine a world like that?  But people must visualize God as Mr. Burns, wringing his hands just waiting for the chance to make the lowly condemned people in sector 7G get what is coming to them for their shoddy disregard for the task he demands of them.

On the contrary, like a parent warning that a knife is not the best thing to put into a light socket, the Christian who is passionate about the topic of hell is so because of the fervent fear that people will indeed find themselves perishing.  In fact, it is said to be impossible to really understand Christianity without also facing the reality of our due penalty in hell.

In his book Erasing Hell, Francis Chan does a very good job at describing his own pain when he considers the idea of hell and how his quest for the truth from the Bible about this unpopular concept in effort, at least in part, to simply explain it away.

Not coincidentally written on the heels of Rob Bell’s now infamous book Love Wins, Chan debunks the idea that hell is some general concept about reaping what we sow on earth, and how Jesus himself really did teach that hell is a real place and that people will really go there.

Because of the nature and content of this review, I am turning off comments for this post.  If you would like to interact on this topic, hit me up on Twitter or send me a message via the Contact and Connect page.

Audio version of this book available at christianaudio.com.

Legal: a review copy of this work was provided by the publisher as compensation for this review.  No requirements for a positive review were made; these are my honest thoughts about this work.


The Forgiveness Payback

ImageNearly every time the need for apologizing arises, I hear not only my mother but every mother’s voice ringing in my ears: “Say it like you mean it.”  That may sound like a simple thing, after all I often really do feel badly about what I have done (at least since becoming an adult) because most of the time the pain I inflict is not intentional.  (All the other times I like to think it is for their own good.)  But I have begun to notice something that has made it all the more difficult, not only to say “I’m sorry,” but to mean it.

In a recent, shall we say “discussion” with my wife I felt this creeping goblin behind me.  We had had very little sleep and were just missing each other all day.  Trying to get things done around the house when it is full of zombies, I suppose, requires some level of force.  The conversation came to a head, and I will not begin to make myself look good.  We came to an unspoken truce and decided that we needed time to cool off.  I went to wash dishes (the dishwasher being on the fritz) and began to think.

Ever notice how doing something so mundane as dishes can be a great opportunity for thinking?

Almost as if the garden window dropped a screen and showed a replay of the argument, I noticed a shadow lurking just over my shoulder.  As if in a whisper, it seemed to suggest that if I would go to my wife and apologize, she had better follow suit.  It was even worse than that: it was as if my apology was not really an apology at all, but a covert way of demanding that she apologize to me.

How old am I?

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Review: The Donkey Who Carried a King by RC Sproul

The Donkey Who Carried a King
The Donkey Who Carried a King by RC Sproul
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Encounters with Jesus can affect people in so many ways.  In our own day there are people that use Jesus’ teachings to as permission to hate other people, to burden people with requirements on how they should live, and some reject him either quietly or sometimes loudly.  Even when Jesus walked on the earth people felt much the same way as they came for healing, for blessing, or to curse and eventually plot to kill him.

RC Sproul tells a story of Davey, a little donkey who had a unique encounter with Jesus.  Even though he was passed by for other important jobs, Davey was picked to be the one for Jesus to ride into Jerusalem as king on Palm Sunday.  On going back home, however, Davey decided that he did not need to do his regular work because he was special enough to carry a king.

This book presents a simple, yet challenging story of the life of the Christian.  Even though we have been chosen for salvation, we have also been given work to do, and any work assigned by the king is kingly work and should be done in his honor.  Davey learns this valuable lesson by witnessing the life of Jesus firsthand and we can learn from his experience and by the witness of the Bible:

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.
Colossians 3:23

With warm and vibrant pictures, Sproul tells Davey’s story that intersects with Christ’s during Holy Week, but it is not overtly an Easter story.  Share this book with your children any time of the year to help them learn the value of their everyday lives in service to God who loves them enough to send his Son to take their place.

Note: a copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review.  No obligation was given to give the book a positive review; all views expressed are my own and not influenced by the publisher.