"God be merciful to us & bless us, & cause His face to shine upon us.
That Your way may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations.
Let the peoples praise You, O God; Let all the peoples praise You.
Oh, let the nations be glad & sing for joy!"
we wade into this passage, Father, show us things we easily miss, and drive
home the great things we find it hard to believe. Amen}
fictitious world many Christians and many Churches seem to be living in is
reflected in books and preachers from Houston, Dallas, Tulsa and Tampa. They
promote the notion that if you follow their plans, repeat their
“Faith-Formulas”, kneel on their little Jesus Prayer Rugs, etc., and then
everything will go A-OK. And many churches act as if the dirty little secret we
should never talk about is suffering, and so their worship and communal-psyche
is all PolyAnna-ish, running around looking for the glad verses in the Bible
and ignoring the harsh, scummy, devilish realty that muck happens and it
happens to God’s people – even the most godly and most saintly. And that’s what
you see here in Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthian Christians. So
we’re going to deal in detail with 1.3-11, and see the crud Paul sloshed
through and the constant remedy Paul held on to.
General Principle: 1.3-5.
Who is God? (3). Paul, just like many of the Psalms, begins with a
confession of uncrushable, unrevisable, indestructible, unstoppable
facts-Here’s who God is!
Why this Crud? (4). Then Paul describes clearly that there *is* a
purpose for this crud, this grief, this pain, this betrayal, this agony. It is
not senseless, pointless nor futile. Because of the God declared in v.3, Paul
has to see things the way he does in v.4. This is hope (the same kind of hope
echoed in Psalm 94.18-19), and hope is the Christian virtue of defiance! Defiance
against hopelessness and the hollow despair of a rootless age.
Where is God? (5). Here we enter a whole new realm. Almost every
religion I can think of views God as distant from suffering, far away.
Christianity is the only religion that says that by the incarnation God is
enmeshed in it. God is in the upper room knowing that Judas is about to betray
Him. God is in the garden, almost overpowered by the darkness of hellish
suffering, staggering under the weight of doom. God is being slaughtered on the
cross, has become the target for every human cruelty that can be offered in the
name of religion, justice and efficiency! And God is, 3 days later, raised from
the grave, triumphant over death, devil and doom. So where is God in your
trouble? If you belong to Him, united to Him, then He is right there in the
middle of it. and your grief and grit and gore and agony is somehow His and His
consoling triumph is yours! 2 Corinthians 4.7-12 and 4.16-18
2. Relational Example: 1.6-7
Dynamic Fellowship of crud and consolation. Paul applies the above and shows how we, the
Church, are knit together if we are knit to Christ; and crud and consolation
flow back and forth, in and out. [a] you are not the only one to have walked
thru the valley of the shadow of death and [b] God helping Paul is an
encouragement to fuel our confidence in this God; to fortify in us the
Christian virtue of defiance.
Personal Experience: 8-11
Painful Particular (8-9a). “Utterly burdened beyond our strength” “despaired
of life itself” “and received the sentence of death” “deadly peril” (10a). This
moment, this condition Paul is describing is the black hole that sucks all
confidence dry and spits out the desiccated bones of death onto the beach. This
is the moment when all personal positive mental attitudes melt into one molten
mass. No resource left in me. No breath left.
Purposeful Particular (9b). This stripping down to the mere metal, the
sanding down through the old finish to the bare, naked wood of Paul’s soul was
to raise him up with utter confidence in the God who raises the dead. In the
words of Ed Welch in his book “Running Scared”, this is God’s
deliverance after hope dies…The kind of deliverance God works in
the resurrection, after hope dies on the cross of Christ.
Hope in the Particular (10-11). This resurrects Paul’s confidence in God, the God
he started out confessing in v.3-5. His reliance is and continues to be in the
face of future crises, in the God who raises and will raise from the dead. Now
Paul can be a weak, fragile, unadorned, resurrected instrument in the hands of
the crushed, crucified, resurrected Redeemer. 12.9-10
The message of 3-11 is clear: Crud happens and
Christ is deep in it with us! By our union with Christ, then these sufferings
are Christ’s suffering, and wrapped up in Him. He gives it reason and He is the
remedy (“Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;” Isaiah 53.4a)! The goal is 2 fold: (1) to bring
us to cast off our false gods and thrust our confidence onto Him. Here’s what I
mean: I want what the serpent promised Eve-I want to be god. I want to be the
focal point of pleasure; I want to be God’s dumping ground of peace; I want to
be the center of God‘s existence! I want ! But the hot, melting event that is
plowing up your heart is the opportunity God gives you to come clean and own up
to your idolatry and self-centeredness and turn back to Him [thus, suffering
is a worship issue!!!]. (2) That In this dynamic fellowship of crud and
consolation, you are tasked with being the weak, fragile, unadorned instruments
of healing and joy and hope and defiance in the crushed, crucified, resurrected
hands of the Redeemer. “Bear one
another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6.2)!
When I was 20 years old, I was stationed in a Muslim country for two years. During that time I read the Quran (in an English translation from Oxford), interacted with Muslim acquaintances, and saw Islam lived out in it's communal context. Therefore I was excited when my mother gave me a copy of "Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus". With bazillions of reviews already plastered on the various sites and venues, mine will be short and succinct.
Nabeel Qureshi has woven together a very personal and personable volume written to give "an insider's perspective into a Muslim heart," as well as equip readers "with facts and knowledge, showing the strength of the case for the gospel contrasted with the case for Islam," while chronicling his own inner struggles, sacrifices and doubts when grappling with the Christian faith. The style of writing is autobi…
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So cantillates Jennifer Michelle Greenberg, mother, wife, writer, musician and abuse survivor, in her new 240 page hardback "Not Forsaken: A Story of Life After Abuse". This volume is the tale of her terrors and troubles at the hands of an abusive father, and it is far, far more. It is truly a story of life after abuse, abundant life found only in the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. An easy to read book, it is ideally suited for those who have been traumatized and those who long to help the trampled! "I am not my abuser. I have a choice. I aspire to heal and grow by God's grace" (82).
It's a memoir, a series of journal entries telling a very human set of stories in a very friendly, personable way. It's not fully polished, but it's real, sometimes raw, and always forthright and frank! Holly Rench, Executive Director and co-founder of The Welcome Mission, has penned a touching series of real-life exploits, escapades, agonies and adversities of the women she has been involved with for over twelve years in this 231 page softback "At Home: The Incredible Story of The Welcome Mission".
Rench unravels the tangled lives of several of her and Marcus's "adopted" adult children describing their destructive pasts and how many of them, through love and hospitality, have moved further up and further on. But the tales are also filled with pitfalls and potholes that will jar the reader's suspension system's and rattle any self-righteous lug-nuts s…