Paul Madson

THOUGHTS, QUOTES & REFLECTIONS

Year: 2014 (page 2 of 2)

5 Things You Can Do for the Christians in Iraq

What can we do for the Christians that are being persecuted so savagely in Iraq? If you are like me, I like specifics…they help me to grab a hold of a specific action…and actually do something that will potentially help the situation.

Recently, Philip Nation wrote a helpful blog post on this very topic:

Like many believers around the world, I am horrified at the persecution of Christians in Iraq. It is a sobering moment to realize that the type of persecution I’ve read about so many times in the Book of Acts is happening in our day. Even our Lord Jesus spoke of the reality and the blessing that He will give to those who suffer for the faith.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” – Matthew 5:10-12

As I’ve pondered it all, here are five things that we can do about the persecution of the church in Iraq.

1. Be informed. There are a multitude of news agencies carrying the details of what is happening in Iraq and specifically in Mosul. My caution is to be careful as to what you read and watch. In our day of 24-hours news reporting, anyone with a computer can post information to the Internet. Stick to trustworthy news sources and stay informed. I am watching some of the traditional news sources, Open DoorsThe Voice of the Martyrs, and the International Mission Board.
2. Use your influence. Many of us believe we have little influence when that is really not the case. You have influence with governmental leaders through a simple phone call. You have influence through your social media accounts of Facebook, Twitter, and all the like. You have influence with friends to make them aware and engage them into the work. Use what you have.
3. Give. There are many organizations that are mobilizing right now to get relief aid to believers under persecution. It will continue to be difficult (and dangerous) to get supplies to the believers in Iraq. Nevertheless, those of us with much must be ready to give to those in the church that have little.
4. If you are called, go. But only if you are called. We do not need anyone with a hero or martyr complex to run off to the border of Iraq thinking that they are going to sneak in and save the day. Instead, if you feel a sure and certain calling from the Lord, answer it. As we are witnessing a renewal of New Testament-era persecution, the Lord will call those from among His church to do His work to care for His people.
5. Pray. It is the most powerful thing we can do. Together we must cry out to our Heavenly Father. Ask Him to intervene on behalf of our brothers and sisters in the faith.
  • Please pray for the Iraqi Christians forced from their homes in Mosul under threat of death.
  • Pray for God’s protection on the lives of parents and children.
  • Pray that they would miraculously receive physical provisions of food, shelter, and safety.
  • Pray that believers will be strengthened by the Holy Spirit.
  • Pray that they will display the gospel even in these horrific days.

I am unable to fully communicate my horror at it all. It all drives me back to an understanding that this world is terribly broken and that people are horribly fallen. But, I know that Christ is able to keep those who belong to Him and will deliver them into His eternal presence.

 

The Latest Edition of Quotable Quotes

Lynx Lake (Prescott, AZ)

“Sometimes God allows what he hates to accomplish what he loves.” (Joni Eareckson Tada)

“Jesus Christ was treated as we deserved so that when we believe in Jesus, God treats us as Jesus deserves.” (Tim Keller)

“There are times when God asks nothing of his children except silence, patience and tears.”  (Charles Seymour Robinson)

“Faith does not eliminate questions. But faith knows where to take them.” (Elisabeth Elliot)

“If God has made you a Gatherer,

Then He has called you to be a Giver.

Because He hasn’t called anyone to be a Hoarder.”

(Larry Burkett)

“The Christian gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time. It undermines both swaggering and sniveling. I cannot feel superior to anyone, and yet I have nothing to prove to anyone. I do not think more of myself, nor less of myself. Instead, I think of myself less.” (Tim Keller – from The Reason for God)

“Unless there is an element of risk in our exploits for God, there is no need for faith.” (Hudson Taylor)

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” (Corrie ten Boom)

“The Jesus of the Bible is worthy of our absolute surrender, our highest thoughts, our noblest efforts, our purest adoration, our greatest enjoyments, and our costliest sacrifices.” (John Gillespie)

The world may be as evangelized as it will ever get if we attempt to complete the remaining task with a motivation built around the fleeting feelings of compassion. Mercy can strike a match, but we need emissaries from many lands who are ablaze with the inexhaustible fuel of jealousy for God’s glory.” (Steven C. Hawthorne, PhD)

“Teaching people to become like Jesus, outside of the power of Jesus, dishonors Jesus.” (Ed Stetzer)

“I am far worse than I imagine and more loved and accepted by God than I ever dared to hope.” (Tim Keller)

“Fear-based repentance makes us hate ourselves. Joy-based repentance makes us hate the sin.” (Tim Keller)

“The product of a true, growing, gospel-centered nature is often gentleness.” (Tim Keller)

“Knowing God is your single greatest privilege as a Christian.” (Sinclair Ferguson)

“Be obedient even when you do not know where obedience may lead you.” (Sinclair Ferguson)

“The late Francis Schaeffer once noted that bitter divisions among Christians give the world the justification they’re looking for to disbelieve the gospel. But when reconciliation, peacemaking, and unity are on display inside the church, that becomes a powerful witness to this fractured world.” (Ray Ortlund)

“Don’t be a drive-by-shooter in somebody else’s conflict. Use your opinions as fuel for prayer, not as bullets to shoot.” (Scotty Smith)

“No man can do me a truer kindness in this world than to pray for me.” (C.H. Spurgeon)

“Taking the long-term high road is both safer and more difficult than taking the short-term low road.”

“God uses men who are weak and feeble enough to lean on him.” (Hudson Taylor)

“Speak when you’re angry and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever want to forget!”

“The gospel is only good news if it gets there on time.” (Carl F. H. Henry) 

“Some wish to live within the sound of a chapel bell, I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of Hell.” (C.T. Studd) 

“More often than not, it is what you are rather than what you say that will bring an unbeliever to Christ. This, then, is the ultimate apologetic. For the ultimate apologetic is: your life.” (William Lane Craig)

“It is folly to think the Lord provides grace for every trouble but the one you are in today.” (C.H. Spurgeon)

“Some things in our past can’t be ‘fixed.’ You can repent, you can ask for forgiveness, but you can’t always go back—nor should you try.” (Gary Thomas)

“The greatest and the hottest fires that ever were on earth are but ice in comparison to the fire of hell.” (Thomas Brooks)

“Christianity is the only religion whose God bears the scars of evil.” (Os Guinness)

“It is not happy people who are thankful, it is thankful people who are happy!”

“God promises the Christian heaven after death, not before it.” (John Blanchard)

“He that serves God for money will serve the devil for better wages.” (Roger L’Estrange)

“You never have to drag mercy out of Christ, as money from a miser.”  (C.H. Spurgeon)

“Yet another paradox of life – we only find blessings for ourselves when we seek to be a blessing to others.”

“The general rule is that those who listen most and speak least will be the most useful to sufferers.” (David Murray)

“As soon as you pray ‘Lord, forgive me,’ you can say ‘Lord, thank you.’ Hours of self-deprecating shame will not make you more forgiven.” (Burk Parsons)

When we criticize others for their faults (real or perceived) let us broadcast the news just as widely when they repent of their faults and correct them. The same is even more true when it turns out we were wrong in our information or accusations. Of all people, Christians should not put the bad news in bold face and the good news in a footnote.” (Kevin DeYoung)

“Read the Bible praying, ‘Father, hold my mind’s attention. Wake my heart’s affection. Speak for Your glory and my holy joy.'”  (John Piper)

“Man is at his greatest and highest when upon his knees he comes face to face with God.” (Martyn Lloyd-Jones)

“To forsake Christ for the world, is to leave a treasure for a trifle, eternity for a moment, reality for a shadow.” (William Jenkyn)

The longer you know Him, the larger He seems

Concept art for Narnia movie by Justin Sweet

This week, I wanted to share a particularly insightful excerpt from GTN staff member John Gillespie’s latest book, entitled: Beholding Jesus: Letters to My Children. Enjoy!

“In C.S. Lewis’ Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia, Lucy encounters Aslan, the lion king, her hero and champion, once again.

“Aslan, Aslan. Dear Aslan,” sobbed Lucy. “At last.” 
The great beast rolled over on his side so that Lucy fell, half sitting and half lying between his front paws. He bent forward and just touched her nose with his tongue. His warm breath came all round her. She gazed up into the large wise face. 
“Welcome, child,” he said. 
“Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.” 
“That is because you are older, little one,” answered he. 
“Not because you are?” 
“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.” 

Remembering that Aslan is a picture of Jesus Christ, Lucy’s observation of him is glorious. (C.S. Lewis was a genius!)

Remember when you were a kid, and everything was “big”? Your bedroom looms huge in your memory, as does your tree house, school, until you return to those old haunts and marvel at how small they have all become! In reality, they have not changed, you have. You have grown, and the things which once appeared so large to your eye have gained their proper perspective…

The importance of “stuff” shrinks with time. This is what makes Aslan unique. Lucy encounters him, but not as he was. Unlike the bedroom he is not in reality smaller than remembered.

“Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.”

In fact, Aslan has not grown, but as Lucy has, she now sees Aslan more truly as he is… and he is BIGGER than she first thought.

But every year you grow, you will find me bigger. 

So it is with our King, Jesus. Because He is who He is (the Eternal Son of God), He is not in the process of becoming something greater or bigger. He is eternally perfect. However, as we grow in our Christian walk and mature in our faith, far from Him shrinking in our eyes, we esteem Him more fully. He is magnified before us, ever more wonderful, ever more powerful, ever more worthy of praise, ever more glorious, ever more able… BIGGER. 

Dear ones, you and I are just beginning this journey of discovery with Jesus Christ. Thus far, whatever we have truly experienced of Him is certain to grow in our estimation as we continue with Him… even into eternity. With Jesus, each day grows better than the one before, the “new” never wears off. There is always another adventure with Him, a new truth to delve into, explore, and glory in— a yet undiscovered facet of His character in which to rejoice. 

The Jesus of the Bible is worthy of our absolute surrender, our highest thoughts, our noblest efforts, our purest adoration, our greatest enjoyments, and our costliest sacrifices.”

Worship: For the Fame of His Name

The above picture is a list of the current “Worship Favorites” on my iPhone. Although God has not gifted me with a beautiful singing voice (far from it!), I do love to worship – whether that’s with a crowd or alone in my car.
When it comes to listening to and participating in worship, everyone has their own particular tastes and preferences. If you want to stir up a hornet’s nest in a local church, just bring up the subject of “music” and “worship.” Opinions will start flying from all directions – and will be shared with passion and gusto!

Never in the history of the church have there been more worship songs to enjoy, and to express a believer’s love for the Lord, than there are now. We should thank the Lord often for providing such gifted musicians for the Body of Christ!

As a follow-up to the blog post I shared recently about worship, I wanted to add a few more brief thoughts before we leave this important subject.

First, what is worship? Here is how I would define it: Worship is our response of all that we are – mind, will and emotions – to all that God is, says and does! In a nutshell: Worship is our response to God and His Word.

Second, worship is something that all believers are commanded to participate in. In other words, worship is not intended to be a “spectator sport.”

Third, when it comes to corporate worship, lay aside your personal preferences and prejudices about worship style. Be mature enough to not demand that worship happen “your” way before you will participate.

As I said, all of us have personal preferences in worship. Some of us even have prejudices. Remember: right at the heart of worship is humility. Humility acknowledges that God is God and we are not…which means that we need to leave room for other styles of worship that may not be “our cup of tea.”

The late Francis Schaffer once said…

“Let me say firmly that there is no such thing as a godly style or an ungodly style. The more one tries to make such a distinction, the more confusing it becomes.”

We are too prone to judge a worship experience by our feelings, rather than by the fact that we obeyed God and tried to please and glorify Him.

Fourth, when you are involved in worship, make an effort to consciously think about the words that you are singing. Worship is not meant to be some magical mantra that we chant to try and elicit some emotional feeling (much like other religions do). We are to use our intellect to ponder and unpack the meaning of the lyrics. When we truly understand what we are singing, our hearts can be moved emotionally. Someone once said, “God becomes remote when worship becomes rote.” Rote worship is “mindless worship.”

When Dr. John Mitchell (founding president of Multnomah School of the Bible) was pastoring a church in Michigan during the 1930’s, he received a message from a young member of his flock. This individual was about to leave the U.S. for missionary service in China. Prior to the young man’s departure by ship, he telegraphed Dr. Mitchell from San Francisco, requesting his pastor to give him one final word of counsel before he sailed for the mission field. Dr. Mitchell wired back immediately:

“Sit down and worship at the feet of Jesus, and then tell the Chinese what you see.”

Genuine worship is the first step in effective evangelism and missionary service.

While I was serving in the pastorate prior to leading GTN, we chose a particular worship song as our “theme song” as a church family:

Jesus, Lover of my Soul

It’s all about You, Jesus
and all this is for You
for Your glory and Your fame
it’s not about me
as if You should do things my way
You alone are God 
and I surrender to your ways

Just a few weeks ago, Lisa and I had the privilege of worshiping with a large group of pastors and their wives in Southern California. We were led by a young man who was a student at Westmont College in Santa Barbara. It was one of the most refreshing and powerful “God-focused, God-glorifying” times of worship that we have ever experienced. On our way home, we reflected on the gratitude we feel for young worship leaders like him who are following hard after God and leading people to spread the “fame of God’s Name to all peoples.”

Lisa and I have had the privilege of worshiping with fellow believers in Christ on almost every continent on earth – from many different cultures and ethnicities. It is always a reminder of the great and glorious day that is coming, described so vividly in Revelation 5:9-12

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nationtribepeople and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: 

“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.” 

All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: 

“Amen!
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.
Amen!”

Finally, I want to leave you with a few articles on the subject of worship that I have found encouraging, as well as challenging.  Enjoy!
P.S. And please remember: as with any article or book that I recommend or pass along, “chew the meat and spit out the bones.” I don’t agree with everything that is written below – ask God for wisdom to glean that which is good, profitable and God-glorifying.

“One Anothers” I can’t find in the New Testament

 

One of my favorite bloggers is Ray Ortlund. His most recent blog post was titled, “One Anothers I can’t find in the New Testament.” It’s penetrating, eye-opening, convicting and challenging…all at the same time. Enjoy!

Sanctify one another,

humble one another,

scrutinize one another,

pressure one another,

embarrass one another,

corner one another,

interrupt one another,

defeat one another,

sacrifice one another,

shame one another,

judge one another,

run one another’s lives,

confess one another’s sins,

intensify one another’s sufferings,

point out one another’s failings . . . .

The kind of God we really believe in is revealed in how we treat one another. The lovely gospel of Jesus positions us to treat one another like royalty, and every non-gospel positions us to treat one another like dirt. But we will follow through horizontally on whatever we believe vertically.

Our relationships with one another, then, are telling us what we really believe as opposed to what we think we believe, our convictions as opposed to our opinions. It is possible for the gospel to remain at the shallow level of opinion, even sincere opinion, without penetrating to the level of real conviction.

But when the gospel grips us at the level of conviction, we obey its implications whatever the cost. Therefore, if we are not treating one another well, then what we’re facing is not a lack of niceness but a lack of gospel. Our deficit is not primarily personal but theological. What we need is not only better manners but, far more, true faith. Then the watching world will know that Jesus has come in among us:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

Thoughts on Good Friday and Easter Sunday

“You have made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.”  (Augustine, from Confessions)

“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2 ESV)

“Take away the cross of Christ, and the Bible is a dark book.”  (J.C. Ryle)

“A cheap Christianity, without a cross, will prove in the end a useless Christianity, without a crown.” (J.C. Ryle)

“The best of men are only men at their very best. Patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, church fathers, reformers, puritans – all are sinners who need a Savior.” (J.C. Ryle)

“It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. And yet for this reason I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience, as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”  (1 Timothy 1:15 – 17 NASB)

“Calvary shows how far men will go in sin, and how far God will go for man’s salvation.” (H.C. Trumball)

“When Satan tells me I am a sinner he comforts me immeasurably, since Christ died for sinners.” (Martin Luther)

“It is easier to cry against one-thousand sins of others than to kill one of your own.” (John Flavel)

“But may it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14 NASB)

This Is How Jesus Died (warning: very graphic)

“Shredded flesh against unforgiving wood, iron stakes pounded through bone and wracked nerves, joints wrenched out of socket by the sheer dead weight of the body, public humiliation before the eyes of family, friends, and the world — that was death on the cross, ‘the infamous stake’ as the Romans called it, ‘the barren wood, ‘ the maxima mala crux. Or as the Greeks spat it out, the stauros [Greek word for the cross]. No wonder no one talked about it. No wonder parents hid their children’s eyes from it. The stauros was a loathsome thing, and the one who dies on it was loathsome too, a vile criminal whose only use was to hang there as a putrid decaying warning to anyone else who might follow his example. That is how Jesus died.” (Greg Gilbert, as quoted in “The Gospel: God’s Self-Substitution for Sinners” in Don’t Call It a Comeback, by Kevin DeYoung – Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2011 – Page 72)

“At the cross, the love of God and the wrath of God shake hands; the mercy of God and the justice of God embrace; and the holiness of God and the sinfulness of humanity appear in stark contrast.” (William P. Farely, from his book – Outrageous Mercy)

 “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlledupright and godly lives in this present age.” (Titus 2:11-12)

 “There is a history full of grace behind us, and a prophecy full of glory before us.” (C.H. Spurgeon)

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”  (C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity)

“The effect of the cross is…we are silenced by the severity of our sin and we are stunned by the glory of our God.” (Is. 52:13-53:12) (David Platt)

“The law discovers the disease. The gospel (the cross and resurrection) gives the remedy.” (Martin Luther)

 “…the gospel tells us that we’re far worse off than we ever imagined . . . and far more loved than we ever dared to dream.”  (Tim Keller)

“…but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God.” (Hebrews 10:13 NASB)

“…He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” (Hebrews 9:12 NASB)

“…having forgiven us all our transgressions, having cancelled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13b-14 NASB)

 “Every time we look at the cross, Christ seems to say to us, ‘I am here because of you. It is your sin I am bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying.’ Nothing in history or in the universe cuts us down to size like the cross. All of us have inflated views of ourselves, especially in self-righteousness, until we have visited a place called Calvary. It is there, at the foot of the cross, that we shrink to our true size.” (John R. W. Stott, from his commentary, The Message of Galatians (London, 1968), page 179.

“Either He bore all our sins, or none; and He either saves us once for all, or not at all.” (Charles Spurgeon)

 “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” (Romans 5:9 ESV)

“Ransomed men need no longer pause in fear to enter the Holy of Holies. God wills that we should push on into His Presence and live our whole life there. This is to be known to us in conscious experience. It is more than a doctrine to be held, it is a life to be enjoyed every moment of every day.” (A. W. Tozer)

I’m forgiven because You were forsaken, I’m accepted, You were condemned.

I am alive and well, Your spirit is within me, Because You died and rose again.

Amazing love, How can it be That You, my King, should die for me?

Amazing love, I know it’s true. It’s my joy to honor You, In all I do, I honor You.”

(From Amazing Love – by Chris Tomlin)

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18 ESV)

“Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.” (Martin Luther)

“Entrust the past to God’s mercy, the present to His love, and the future to His providence.” (St. Augustine, from Confessions)

 

What’s Your Worldview?

Over the years, I’ve heard many popular objections to Christianity. Recently, I came across a brief article by Matt Smethurst on The Gospel Coalition’s website that answers four of the most common objections to Christianity, which I’ve shared below. Enjoy!

Don’t impose your exclusive views on me.
How can you believe in a God who’d allow so much senseless evil and suffering?
On what basis do you believe Jesus rose from the dead—besides blind faith, of course?
No religion has the whole truth—including yours.

Whether couched as questions or assertions, we’ve all encountered objections like these. Perhaps you’ve even voiced a few yourself. For some, of course, they’re smokescreens. For many others, though, they sincerely express confusion, frustration, uncertainty, and unbelief. As Christians, we seek to prompt unbelievers to “doubt their doubts,” as Tim Keller puts it, but we must do so with patient love (2 Tim. 2:24-26). Our friends—and their objections—deserve to be treated with fairness and respect.

In the spirit of those old “Choose Your Own Adventure” stories, James Anderson utilizes a creative approach in his new book, What’s Your Worldview?: An Interactive Approach to Life’s Big Questions (Crossway). In it, he leads readers on an “interactive journey of discovery” aimed at helping us identify, understand, and evaluate our various worldviews. At a little more than 100 pages, What’s Your Worldview? would make for a winsome, non-threatening conversation starter with that skeptical friend or family member you love.

I posed four popular objections to Anderson, professor of theology and philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, in light of his new book.

***********************************************************************************************

How can you say your perspective on truth is any more valid than anyone else’s? Truth is a personal and social construct, and it’s intolerant to impose your exclusive views on me.

Certainly everyone has their own perspective on the truth, but it doesn’t follow that all perspectives are equally valid or valuable. A neurosurgeon’s perspective on the gray stuff inside your head is different from mine, but which of us would you rather have performing brain surgery on you? If anyone’s perspective is just as valid as anyone else’s, it would make no sense for us to talk about “experts” or “specialists” in different fields.
 
The claim that “truth is a personal and social construct” is self-defeating, since it would mean the claim itself is merely a personal and social construct—in which case it doesn’t have to be universally true. It also appears to be an “exclusive view” since it excludes other views of truth.

As a Christian, I don’t seek to impose my views on other people, but I do try to explain the reasons why I hold those views, reasons I hope they’d also find persuasive. Knowing the truth is important to all of us, in all areas of life, and it would actually be quite selfish to keep our reasons to ourselves if they might help others in their pursuit of the truth.

In his Pulitzer Prize-winning play J.B., Archibald MacLeish nails it when his character Nickles declares: “If God is God, he is not good; if God is good, he is not God.” How can you believe in a God who would allow so much senseless evil and suffering in the world?

Nickles gets it exactly backwards. God is by nature good; if God isn’t good, he isn’t really God. Or to be more precise: if there’s no good God, there’s no God at all. I agree that there’s horrific evil and suffering in the world, which can strain our faith in God to the limits, but as a Christian I have to reject the assumption that it’s senseless. It may appear senseless to us, but we don’t have God’s comprehensive perspective on events. If there is an all-good, all-knowing, and all-powerful God, then he must have good reasons for permitting the evil and suffering that exists—whether or not we ourselves can discern those reasons. The Bible gives us some insight into God’s reasons for permitting evil and suffering, even if it doesn’t answer all our questions.

In the end, the reality of evil and suffering actually reinforces my belief in God, for if there were no God there would be no ultimate basis for distinguishing between good and evil. How could anything be literally evil in a godless, purposeless, ultimately meaningless universe? If humans are just one of the many accidental products of mindless natural processes, why would our experiences have any special significance? The universe neither knows nor cares—but God does.

On what basis do you believe Jesus actually—physically—rose from the dead (besides blind faith, of course)?

I have faith that Jesus rose from the dead, but it isn’t a blind faith, because there’s good reason to believe he did. I believe Jesus rose from the dead primarily because of the eyewitness testimony of people who knew him and claimed to have spoken and eaten with him days after he was publicly executed—testimony that was written down and has been faithfully preserved over the centuries in the books and letters of the New Testament. These eyewitness accounts have what C. S. Lewis called “the ring of truth.” They come from multiple independent sources, and they’re too early and unembellished to be legends that developed decades after Jesus’ life.

God would certainly have the power to raise Jesus from the dead. And the resurrection wasn’t a random, freak event; it fits perfectly into a storyline that began thousands of years before Jesus’ birth. When I consider the broader historical context, I find the alternative explanations (e.g., the witnesses were lying, hallucinating, or simply mistaken) far less credible than the idea that Jesus really did rise from the dead, just as he himself predicted.

It’s narrow-minded and intolerant to claim Jesus is the only way to God. No religion has the whole truth—including yours.

If it’s narrow-minded and intolerant to claim that Jesus is the only way to God, then Jesus himself must have been narrow-minded and intolerant, because that’s exactly what he claimed about himself (see, for example, Matthew 11:27 and John 14:6). Jesus also claimed to be the Son of God from heaven and that only those who believe in him will have eternal life. Yet when we read the four Gospels, we don’t encounter a narrow-minded, intolerant, arrogant man. Rather, we see a wide-hearted, selfless, and humble man, full of grace and compassion toward others.

When you say, “No religion has the whole truth,” I have to ask: How do you know? How could you know? Have you thoroughly investigated every world religion? And wouldn’t you need some kind of access to the whole truth yourself in order to make the judgment that no religion has the whole truth? The more pertinent question isn’t whether any religion has the whole truth, but whether the central and defining claims of any particular religion are in fact true.

Christians don’t claim to possess the whole truth. Only God could make that claim! But we do believe God has revealed the most important truths through Jesus, and that Jesus has more credibility than anyone else in his claim to know—indeed, to be—the way to God. Is there anyone in history who has a more credible claim to know God? Is there anyone who showed greater insight into the human heart and our deepest spiritual needs? Don’t take my word for it. Study the Gospels for yourself and draw your own conclusions!

Matt Smethurst serves as associate editor for The Gospel Coalition and lives in Louisville, Kentucky. You can follow him on Twitter.

Loving All Churches and Wishing They Loved Each Other

As my wife and I wrap up a month-long trip throughout the Middle East and South Asia, I wanted to share a few thoughts that have been on my heart for some time … and have only been deepened on this trip meeting Christ-followers from all types of backgrounds, denominations, churches and cultures.

One of my deepest passions is to see the larger body of Christ expressing and demonstrating genuine love, support and encouragement for one another.

One of the ways this is demonstrated is by local churches genuinely loving, respecting and encouraging other churches throughout their community. Including churches that may not be in their particular “tribe” (or denomination / affiliation).

Recently I came across a great blog post by Thabiti Anyabwile on The Gospel Coalition website. Here are a few excellent excerpts from his post.

I’m continuing to read Anne Ortlund’s Up with Worship. It’s been a surprisingly convicting book. Ortlund “writes tight.” She squeezes a great deal of insight and heart provocation in short space. I’ve been pricked–helpfully pricked!–in nearly each of the chapters so far.

Take, for example, these words describing the Ortlund’s ministry over the decades:

Ray and I have ministered for more than thirty years in four pastorates. (Is it wrong for a wife to state it like that? I’ve had a subordinate role, but I’ve been there!) We’ve been in an old country church, a young suburban one, a downtown city one, and one that’s new, experimental, and “beachy.” We’ve been in mainline denominations and independent fellowships. We’ve worked with budgets of thirty thousand to millions of dollars, and with congregations ranging in size from one hundred to thirty-four hundred members. We’ve pastored formal and informal churches, traditional and untraditional. We’ve loved them all. 

During the last twenty years, God has also commissioned us to an umbrella ministry of conferences to churches, pastors, missionaries, and denominations all over the world. Under the auspices of Renewal Ministries, we’ve spoken to several of the largest Southern Baptist churches in the world; to Episcopal churches with chants and incense; to Mennonite groups in their bonnets and plain clothes; to Free Methodists and United Methodists and “G.A.R.B.s” and Presbyterians; to charismatic churches and anti-charismatic. Ray has preached in lace beside an enormous crucifix in Lutheran Germany; he’s shed his wolf-skin long enough to preach beside a potbellied stove to seven hundred Eskimos. He’s served shorter pastorates in Kabul, Afghanistan, and suburban London. 

I was reading along enjoying the tour, imagining lace in Germany and Eskimos in wolf-skin. I was recalling my friendships across denominational lines and theological lines. I was reminiscing about the churches I’ve had the privilege of being a member of and the churches I’ve had the privilege of serving. Then she concluded the section with this:

We’ve loved them all and wished they loved each other! 

Yes; I’ve loved all the churches I’ve known and the friends I have in other “camps.” But the second part–”and wished they loved each other!”–struck me like lightning. It wasn’t her main point, but it pointed mainly at my heart.

I’ve loved every church I’ve ever had the privilege of being a part of. But I can’t say I’ve wished they loved each other. Oh, I’ve wished churches could get along, stop fighting, speak kindly of one another, assume the best, engage their differences respectfully or even stay in their corners if they couldn’t find a better way of coexisting. But my ambitions and desires have fallen woefully short of longing that all God’s churches might love one another. I certainly haven’t thought of that as part of my worship of God. Ortlund exposed a gaping cataract in my heart.

Then I heard the Savior say: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). Seems this “one another” might be thought of on both the individual and the corporate levels.

Do you long for the Lord’s churches to love one another?

“What! At peace with the Father, and at war with His Children? It cannot be.” (John Flavel)

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