Why would God allow Satan to harm Job? Is God placing side bets while we battle cancer or lose loved ones? Here are some preliminary thoughts in response to those questions.

Our church continues our series on the book of Job, A Journey With Job: Seeing and Savoring the Beauty of Christ Amid the Long Walk of Suffering. You can listen to the first sermon, “Someone You Need to Meet,” on our church web site.

Any study of the book of Job raises questions about the debate between God and Satan. We wonder, why would God allow Satan to harm Job and his family. I will be speaking to this question more in our next sermon, but let me make some of the points in advance here in this blog post. The idea is that these points are all part of the answer.

So what should we say in response to the question, “Why did God allow Satan to harm Job”?

  1. The objective of the book of Job is not to teach a comprehensive view of the workings of Satan. Satan – – more literally, “the adversary” — in Job is a minor character. He appears in the first two chapters and is not heard from again. This tips us off from the beginning that Satan’s role is “incidental” in Job. We shouldn’t bring all our questions to Job. Rather, we should listen to those answers it gives. God does not intend for the book of Job to comprehensively explain his dealings with the Satan.
  2. Satan is only a pawn in God’s sovereign purposes. Just as God allowed Joseph’s brothers to sell him into slavery in Egypt, God sometimes permits those motivated by hate to inflict temporary harm. But we can be sure that even when God allows harm, ultimately all things work for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28).
  3. We do not have the capacity to comprehensively understand why God allowed Satan to harm Job. God’s ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not ours (Psalm 103:11-12). We cannot process all the ways of God. When my children were babies, and Jamie bathed them, they usually screamed loudly because they were temporarily naked and cold. Babies can’t understand their mother’s care. You see the analogy- –  the gulf between us and God is infinitely greater than the gulf between a baby and her mother. Loving parents allow temporary pain for reasons that their children do not understand.
  4. The Cross shows us that we can trust God even though we don’t understand everything. When considering the interaction between God and the Satan in Job, we must understand that this is not anywhere near the most notable instance of God allowing someone to be harmed. The ultimate example of unjust suffering is that God sent his one and only Son – – – to enter into our space and history – – – and to be crucified. The Cross shows us that it is reasonable to trust in God even though we can’t understand terrible pain. As Kelly Clark wrote: “A God who shares in our pain, who redeems our sorrows and our shortcomings, who wipes away ever tear, is surely a good God.”
  5. We cannot imagine how the pain of this life will be undone by Christ. There are wounds that we face in life that hurt so badly we cannot imagine ever healing. I suffered the first major blow of grief over 40 years ago and it is still hard for me to think about. I can’t imagine how that pain can be healed. And yet, the resurrection shows us that Satan will not have the last word and that pain can be undone for those who know Christ. While God’s people cannot understand the beauty of all that Christ is accomplishing, we can be sure that He is doing immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20-21).

 

Be Sociable, Share!

Missing Our Son at Cedarville

Chris —  October 6, 2014 — 2 Comments

CDB_3732Jamie and I continue to miss our children who are away at college. But we are thankful that they have chosen colleges like Trinity International and Cedarville. This week I wrote a guest post for Cedarville about how we are feeling these days.

A few weeks ago my wife, Jamie, and I left our son, Christopher, to begin college at Cedarville University. We smiled for final pictures outside the Dixon Ministry Center. But we cried on the way home. It is a hard transition for parents.

Our emotions didn’t stop once we pulled into our garage. A few days after we left our son at college, I walked into our bedroom and Jamie was quietly emotional. I didn’t have to ask why. We always knew our children would fly away quickly, but it seems as though it has been only a few days rather than 18 years. We picked our baby boy up at the hospital on Monday and he left for college on Friday. . .

Here to read the rest.

Be Sociable, Share!

If we are to take our heads out of the sand, and hit the hard questions head-on, so that we can be prepared for suffering, as we plan to do in the book of Job on Sunday, then we need to be sure about what we believe to be true.

In explaining how to begin considering what we believe to be true, Ravi Zacharias points out that every thinking person must confront four basic questions: the questions of origin, meaning, morality, and destiny.

  1. How did life come to be in the first place?
  2. To what purpose is my life?
  3. How may I choose between right and wrong?
  4. What happens to me when I die?

Ravi goes on to explain that the answers we arrive at and give must correspond with reality and fit with one another. Ravi encourages us that “Answers that correspond with reality and fit into a coherent system provide the individual a world-view by which all of life’s choices may then be made.”

*Ravi Zacharias, Deliver Us From Evil, 219.

See also:

Hitting Hard Questions Head-On

Would You Agree That Time is the Hard Part?

Job: Preaching Propositions

Current Questions for the Study of Job

Ash Helps Us Move to the Heart of the Matter on Job

9 Reasons Tim Keller’s Book on Suffering is Superb

Andy Naselli’s interview of John Frame regarding the Problem of Evil

Men seek an understanding of suffering in cause and effect

Job: A Writer of Superb Genius Has Erected a Monumental Work

When Suffering Avoid “I Hate Thee” and “I Hate Me”

Job is a Fireball Book

Does the Book of Job Offer An Explanation for Why People Suffer?

Christian Books on Pain and Suffering

If You Never Did Anything in Advance, There is Relatively Little You Can Do At The Time

Once You Are In A Crisis, There is Not Time

Four Wrong Answers to the Question Why Me

 

Be Sociable, Share!

Don't Bury Your Head in the Sand About SufferingEveryone needs to prepare for suffering. It’s sure to come. Step forward in preparing for suffering by being part of the Job sermon series at the Red Brick Church beginning on October 5, 2014.

Suffering is a fact of life. We all have suffered.  We all will suffer. There is no choice. Cancer and car accidents crash into lives. Betrayals break hearts. Disease and disaster destroy health.

We should prepare. But many don’t. They take the ostrich’s approach of closing their eyes to reality. People will their heads buried in the sands of denial are in a place far more dangerous than any ostrich. Pretending suffering will never happen leaves people completely vulnerable to the worst kind of future.

Beginning October 5, Pastor Chris Brauns will begin preaching a new series on the book of Job. This series will equip us to see how we can be prepared to face whatever suffering comes our way.

Together we will learn and deeply own the wonderful truth that those willing to “take their heads out of the sand,” and look to God’s Word answers in Christ and the cross that are more beautiful than we ever could have imagined.

The Red Brick Church has worship services at 9 and 10:30 on Sunday mornings. There is a nursery during both hours. Children’s Sunday School for all ages is offered at 9:00 and Children’s Church for preschool through third grace is offered at 10:30.

See also:

Hitting Hard Questions Head-On

Would You Agree That Time is the Hard Part?

Job: Preaching Propositions

Current Questions for the Study of Job

Ash Helps Us Move to the Heart of the Matter on Job

9 Reasons Tim Keller’s Book on Suffering is Superb

Andy Naselli’s interview of John Frame regarding the Problem of Evil

Men seek an understanding of suffering in cause and effect

Job: A Writer of Superb Genius Has Erected a Monumental Work

When Suffering Avoid “I Hate Thee” and “I Hate Me”

Job is a Fireball Book

Does the Book of Job Offer An Explanation for Why People Suffer?

Christian Books on Pain and Suffering

If You Never Did Anything in Advance, There is Relatively Little You Can Do At The Time

Once You Are In A Crisis, There is Not Time

Four Wrong Answers to the Question Why Me

Be Sociable, Share!

TDuguid Clowney Hom Diagramechnical Alert: My target audience for my blog is our church family. Whenever I consider writing a post I ask, “Would this benefit our flock?” This post is a little more technical than I would normally write. But it’s important as we go into the Job series – – and whenever I preach from the Old Testament.

One of the most important questions that any preacher must consider is how Christ is properly preached from the Old Testament. There can be no question that we should do so. After all, Jesus himself set this example:

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. Luke 24:27

And Paul encouraged the Corinthians that:

For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. 2 Corinthians 1:20

Yet this doesn’t always mean that Christ has been responsibly preached from the Old Testament. There are far too many examples of preachers making creative claims such as arguing that the tent pegs of the Tabernacle represented the nails of the cross (Duguid, 16).

I’ve recently spent time reading a very helpful booklet by Iaian M. Duguid, Is Jesus in the Old Testament?, in which he lays out principles for preaching Christ from the Old Testament. I have found the above diagram, adapted from Edmund Clowney, to be very helpful.

You have to study the diagram for a bit to see it. Yet, it is very helpful in identifying the proper path to preaching Christ – – and in avoiding errors that have so often been made.

  1. The preacher should start in the bottom left corner with the OT Text. He should avoid the shortcuts of either allegorical moralism or allegory and continue to identify the timeless truth of the Old Testament text.
  2. From the upper left corner – – the OT Truth, the preacher should then move right and consider this text within the context of the history of redemption (see Biblical Theology for a long answer – – or this video for a short one).
  3. Once we see how the Old Testament passage is fulfilled in Christ, the significance of the text for the contemporary audience can be considered.

Preach Christ!

Be Sociable, Share!

Hitting Hard Questions Head On

Chris —  September 24, 2014 — Leave a comment

iStock_000000166691MediumOnly Christianity can truly hit the hard questions head-on. A new sermon series at the Red Brick Church will address the central questions of life.

Thoughtful human beings encounter vexing questions:

·      Why are we here? What’s the purpose of life?

·      Does what I do matter?

·      Why do good people suffer while others get away with murder?

·      Is there real hope?

·      How can I step off the mental gerbil wheel and the inner turmoil I face?

·      How can I help someone I love who is hurting?

Thankfully we do not have to dig for answers on our own. God is there. And He is not silent. He has spoken clearly in his Word.

Beginning October 5 Pastor Chris Brauns will begin a new series at The Red Brick Church, A Journey with Job: Seeing and Savoring the Beauty of Christ Amid the Long Walk of Suffering. In this series Chris will show how the Bible hits these questions head on. And in this series, those willing to look to Christ will begin to see that the biblical answers to hard questions are more beautiful than we could have imagined.

The Red Brick Church has worship services at 9 and 10:30 on Sunday mornings. There is a nursery during both hours. Children’s Sunday School for all ages is offered at 9:00 and Children’s Church for preschool through third grace is offered at 10:30.

Be Sociable, Share!

Do you agree – – “time” is the aspect of suffering that makes it so difficult?

I have been preparing for months a sermon series: A Journey With Job: Seeing and Savoring the Beauty of Christ Amid the Long Walk of Suffering. Preaching on Job means preaching on suffering – – so I have been prayerfully reflecting on suffering a great deal.

One point which I have considered for some time is that “time” is what makes pain so difficult. We could stand any amount of pain for an instant. We could bear losing the person closest to us this morning if we knew we would see them in the afternoon.

But instant relief is not how it goes. And so pain becomes . . . painful. Time intensifies pain.

Having said that – – I would treasure your input. Does that point make sense? Would you agree?

Be Sociable, Share!

What Our Exhausted World Needs

Chris —  September 12, 2014 — 1 Comment

Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote his important book, Preachers and Preaching, in the wake of the protests of the 60’s and 70’s. In it, Lloyd-Jones argued that what a tired and disillusioned age desperately needs is the proclamation of the Word. In making his point, Lloyd-Jones draws a parallel between our tired age and that of the first century and says that what both need is Christ-centered, anointed, preaching.

The Victorian age, last century, was an age of optimism. People were carried away by the theory of evolution and development, poets sang about the coming of ‘the parliament of man and the federation of the world.’ We would banish war and all would be well, and the would be one great nation. They really believed that sort of thing. Nobody believes it by now apart from an odd representative here and thee of the old ‘social gospel’ of the pre-1914 era. We have lived to see the fallacy of that old optimistic liberalism, and we are living in an age of disillusionment when men are desperate. That is why we are witnessing this student protest and every other kind of protest; that is why people are taking drugs. It is the end of all the optimism of the liberals. It was bound to lead to this because it was wrong in its basic conceptions, its origins, in its very thinking. We are seeing the end of all of that. Is not this then the very time when the door is wide open for the preaching of the Gospel? The age in which we are living is so similar to the first century in many respects. The old world was exhausted then. The flowering period of Greek philosophy had come and gone, Rome in a sense had passed by her zenith, and there was the kind of tiredness and weariness, with consequent turning to pleasure and amusement. The same is so true today; and so far from saying that we must have less preaching and turn more and more to other devices and expedients, I say that we have a heaven-sent opportunity for preaching.

Be Sociable, Share!

From Ezra and Nehemiah, we learn that when local churches move forward in ways that are: (1) Shaped by the Word (2) Drenched in Prayer (3) Accompanied by hard work, God’s people can expect to experience his good and strong hand of blessing. – – James Hamilton has written an accessible commentary on Ezra and Nehemiah that will bless you as you study these books.

Read through Ezra-Nehemiah and you are likely to notice the repeated refrain, “the hand of the Lord.” You can scan the texts below.

“THE HAND OF THE LORD” IN EZRA-NEHEMIAH

this Ezra went up from Babylonia. He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the Lord, the God of Israel, had given, and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the Lord his God was on him. Ezra 7:6

 For on the first day of the first month he began to go up from Babylonia, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, for the good hand of his God was on him. Ezra 7:9

 and who extended to me his steadfast love before the king and his counselors, and before all the king’s mighty officers. I took courage, for the hand of the Lord my God was on me, and I gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me. Ezra 7:28

 And by the good hand of our God on us, they brought us a man of discretion, of the sons of Mahli the son of Levi, son of Israel, namely Sherebiah with his sons and kinsmen, Ezra 8:18

 For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.” Ezra 8:22

Then we departed from the river Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go to Jerusalem. The hand of our God was on us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy and from ambushes by the way. Ezra 8:31

They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand. Neh 1:10

 and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy.” And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me. Neh 2:8

And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work. Neh 2:18

Both Ezra and Nehemiah emphasize that their projects succeeded because God’s hand was on them.

So as a pastor, I am asking, “How can I experience the hand of the Lord”? To help me in my studies, I am reading a number of commentaries including James Hamilton’s commentary. I am only beginning, but so far I have identified the following points.

  • Ezra-Nehemiah were Word-centered and so aligned with God’s kingdom  purposes.

James Hamilton writes of Ezra:

Ezra 7: 6 tells us that not only did Ezra come from a significant ancestry, he was also godly and was seeking the kingdom of God: He was a scribe skilled in the law of Moses, which Yahweh, the God of Israel, had given. The king had granted him everything he requested because the hand of Yahweh his God was on him. The phrase “skilled in the law of Moses” tells us that Ezra was swift in the Scriptures. He was nimble, quick with the Torah. He knew the contents of the Bible, understood the contents of the Bible, and brought the Bible to bear on pressing questions. There are at least two factors at work in any skill : natural aptitude and practice. The Lord had blessed Ezra with abilities, and Ezra had honed the abilities given to him to the point that he could be described as skilled. This means that Ezra had God-given capacities and that Ezra had studied.

Hamilton also highlights Nehemiah’s commitment’s and challenges ours:

In the midst of these responsibilities and duties, with all this influence, Nehemiah knows the Bible. Nehemiah’s supreme concern is for God’s kingdom. I doubt that Nehemiah would plead that he was too busy to study the Bible or pray. He wanted to study the Bible and pray, so he made time for it.

  • Ezra-Nehemiah soaked their ministries in prayer. Just read Nehemiah 1 and you will see the centrality of prayer in Nehemiah’s life.
  • Ezra-Nehemiah worked hard. In the end, so much of life and ministry comes down to hard work. If you read through Ezra and Nehemiah, you see that because God’s hand was on them – – they worked hard – – and because they worked hard – – God’s hand was on them.

Going into fall ministries, I am praying that our church will be Word-centered – – on our knees – – and working hard. Nothing is more worthwhile than working with God’s good and strong hand on our shoulder.

 

Be Sociable, Share!

The Stillman Valley cheerleaders gave our community the gift of smiles last Friday night.One of the best gifts young people can give their communities is to smile, laugh, and have fun. It warms our hearts.

Let me say this at the onset to get it over with. It was an abysmal football game; it felt like some sort of dystopic nightmare. Because of lightning, the game didn’t  start until 9:45 and it was mostly downhill from there. Thankfully, we don’t endure those sorts of games often. We are also thankful that ESPN has already done their story on our opponent, Wendell Phillips high school, so at least we aren’t featured in the footage. The ESPN piece on Phillips is worth watching.

But there was a bright spot during the lengthy lightning delay.

For the first several days of the delay some of us hunkered down in the shed. Picture Noah on the ark. We went into the shed two by two. The winds howled. The rain blew in. Less brave people (like my wife) hid in the high school. But once the rain let up, we met up at the stands.

Sensitive to our boredom, the boys in the press box scrolled through their I-pods and played some  favorites. Maybe, I am living in the 70’s, but I’d like to think their playing of CCR’s, Who’ll Stop the Rain got things going right. Before someone brings it up, I deny yelling anything about Freebird when Sweet Home, Alabama was played.

In any case, the party really picked up when Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline blasted over the speakers. Our cheerleaders decided that if they weren’t going to lead the crowd in cheers (we still didn’t know at that point if we would even play) they could bring cheer with a “Sweet Caroline chorus line.” It wasn’t necessarily well choreographed – – but the moment I will remember for quite some time is what an encouragement it was to my heart to see young people laughing and having fun. Their smiles were warm and carefree.

Here is a serious point. At the end of the long week, seeing teens sing Sweet Caroline, or watching them surf on the football bench to Wipeout, or seeing adults champion the cause of the YMCA – – those are the sorts of smiles we need. We really do.

Young people can’t know what a gift they give when they smile and laugh. I am thankful for them.

 

 

Be Sociable, Share!