The Truth About Suffering
“I will say, with memoir,” Elie Wiesel is quoted as saying, “you must be honest, you must be truthful.”
Jack Deere tells the truth in his new book Even in Our Darkness. Not merely about his own life, but about life.
Deere’s story is one of beauty in a broken life brimming with the kind of authenticity and realism, failure and fortitude, darkness and light we need to help us and others make sense of life in all of its trueness.
Under Deere’s guidance, truth—his truth, life’s truth—is “profoundly unmasked, unsettling, and unforgettable.” Beginning with the truth about suffering.
There were three insights I gleaned from his raw, harrowing account of life.
Suffering is Mysterious
Deere’s opening paragraph illustrates the truth of suffering’s mystery with painful precision:
On the morning of…
What Happens When You Die, Why Should You Care? Michael Horton Explains
October 5, 2011: the day Steve Jobs died. When I got the news on my iPhone I was sad. Not only because the world lost an ingenious innovator–mostly because, by all accounts, the man didn’t know Jesus.
This seemed to be confirmed by Jobs himself a few years later, in this reflection from Walter Isaacson’s biography of Jobs:
“I’d like to think that something survives after you die…that maybe your consciousness endures.”
He fell silent for a very long time. “But on the other hand, perhaps it’s like an on-off switch,” he said. “Click! And you’re gone.” (571)
Is that what happens when Death comes knocking? And why should we care what happens when it does?
Enter Michael Horton’s new book Core Christianity, a readable, engaging exploration of the essence of…
How to Fight the Fallout from the Fall, and Win
The current issue of Time (Feb. 23/Mar. 2 , 2015) says my nine-month-old, Simon James, could live to be 142 years old thanks to advances in longevity science and technology.
For some—including me—the prospect of adding twenty to thirty years on our life expectancy is thrilling. Others, however, hope to die when they’re seventy-five, arguing “society and families—and you—will be better off if nature takes its course swiftly and promptly.”
How should Christians think about Death? Is it something to embrace or resist; is it good or bad?
One famous hymn suggests Death is a release from the prison of life:
When the shadows of this life have grown, I’ll fly away Like a bird from these prison walls, I’ll fly away
Others suggest Death is our reward. Michael Wittmer quotes David…
A Doubter’s Guide to the End of Cancer & Other Existential Pains
One year ago today I had surgery to remove a malignant tumor that had stolen itself into my thyroid. Thankfully, I had the good kind of cancer, and I’m (still) free and clear. Yet the dreaded “c” word will always be part of my story, both as patient and survivor.
I can’t wait for the day when cancer is no longer part of our world! Same for drive-by shootings, divorce, and snow (OK, snow will probably be part of the new creation, but this Michigander can hope, can’t he?)
It’s fitting, then, I write this column today, because in it we are exploring the ending of John Dickson’s excellent, ambitious new book, A Doubter’s Guide to the Bible. His ending happens to be the Bible’s ending, for he outlines how everything will be good again through…
When Death Arrives What Are Your Pastoral Responsibilities? — An Excerpt from “Conduct Gospel-Centered Funerals”
You can plan for sermons, leadership council meetings, and outreach events. But you can’t plan for death. In fact, it often snatches you away from those other pastoral duties.
When death arrives what are your pastoral care responsibilities?
This and other questions are what Croft and Newton answer in their practical guide, Conduct Gospel-Centered Funerals. They aim to help you shape these experiences so that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the primary purpose and focus.
And it all begins at the beginning when your people are hurting most.
Read the excerpt below to better grasp the six primary areas of responsibility you need to consider leading up to the funeral. Because as they write, “The responsibility for the pastoral care of the family belongs to you.”
Follow These 4 “P’s” to Conduct Gospel-Centered Funerals
I’ve given two funerals in my short pastoral ministry: one for a 34 year old man who died too early from cancer, another for a 64 year old who died suddenly from health complications; the former was co-led, the latter I flew solo.
While I took a class on pastoral ministry during my M.Div. program, I wish I would have had a new ministry guide to help, called Conduct Gospel-Centered Funerals.
This compact guide by Brian Croft and Phil Newton is more than a manual for the logistics, challenges, and practical matters of leading funerals. In it they aim to help you shape these experiences to be gospel-centered.
What is a gospel-centered funeral? “Gospel-centeredness is making the gospel of Jesus Christ the primary purpose and focus of the funeral.” (14)
Croft and Newton believe planning, preparing, preaching, and performing funerals should be infused with as much of Christ and His hope of salvation as all the other areas of life.
These 4 essential “P’s” will ensure you don’t merely perform a funeral, but that you conduct a gospel-centered funeral. Let's take a look at each point in brief:
What is Sin?
"Sin is one of those concepts that, on first glance, would seem to need no explanation. What is more central to the Christian faith than the understanding that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God? Sin is, in short, the reason we need a Savior to rescue our relationship with our Creator.
Like all powerful words, however, "sin" carries layers and subtleties of meaning that require further explanation. "Sin" commonly refers to willful acts of disobedience but can also refer to corporate or systemic moral transgression, to a pervasive part of humanity's condition that leaves us estranged from God, and to a state of falleness into which we are born.
"Sin" can also refer broadly to the distortion…
Adam and the Cherubim
"After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life." – Genesis 3:24 NIV
Once Adam and Eve are exiled from Eden, they soon become lost in the mists of the ancient narrative. They play a role in the Cain and Abel story, and appear again in geneologies, but for the most part their role in the drama is done.
However, the exile from Eden was not the end of their lives, even if it was the beginning of a different sort of life, one that now marched inevitably towards death.
It leads you to wonder,…
Hell Under Fire: Part 2 of our Interview with Christopher Morgan
As the discussion around the doctine of hell continues, Chris Morgan was kind enough to take time out of his schedule to do an interview about the current controversy and the book Hell Under Fire.
This is Part 2 of our interview with Chris, you can read Part 1 here.
Q: What questions are behind the questions? Is there something deeper driving this discussion?
Great question! Yes, the foundational doctrines that shape one’s theology of hell especially include the love of God, the justice of God, the nature of God’s victory, and sin (guilt and corruption in Adam).
For those who reject the historic doctrine of hell, certain core questions/objections are often raised, especially: Would a loving God really send good people to hell? And wouldn’t the existence of hell throughout eternity mar God’s ultimate victory?
While those questions are sincere and understandable, the more I study the Bible, the more I am finding them to be the wrong questions. I am finding that they are frequently rooted in inadequate assumptions.
Take, for example, “would a loving God really send good people to hell?” The question is loaded. It defines God only in terms of love, does not give significant attention to the radical guilt of the sinner, and makes it sound as if God is thrilled to have people reject him and go to hell. A better question, and a question central for Paul in Romans, is “how can the biblical God (who is just, loving, holy, and so forth) forgive the guilty and allow them into his presence?”