• How Jesus Helps us in Our Suffering

    You and I will suffer at some stage in our lives. That is just a fact of life. But the question is how are we going to deal with our suffering?

    The biggest question for a belief system whether it be a religion, a philosophy or some other worldview is how does this belief system help me suffer?

    Christianity is unique among worldviews because at the centre of Christianity is a God who comes into our world and suffered for us and like us and therefore we can go to him when we suffer.

    Here is how Mark Driscoll helpfully puts this idea in his latest book Who Do You Think You Are?: Finding Your True Identity in Christ:

    For those who are afflicted and in Christ, Jesus is a God to whom you can speak personally. You can run to him and walk with him. Jesus Christ didn’t sit back in his heavenly ease and from a safe distance give us mere counsel for our suffering. Instead, he entered into human history to identify with us. He was tempted. He wept. He was poor and homeless. His family rejected him. His friends abandoned him. His disciples betrayed him. His enemies falsely accused him. The government unfairly tried and condemned him. The soldiers mercilessly beat him beyond recognition. He bled, suffered, and died in shame. And he did it all for God’s glory and your good.

     

    Jesus is our sympathetic High Priest, who gives grace to the hurting and promises justice to the unrepentant. He is preparing a place for us, and he’s given us God the Spirit as our Comforter until he returns, so we can live out of our identity in Christ. One day, we will see Christ face to face. Our faith will be sight. His nail-scarred hands will wipe our tears away. One day, all who are in Christ will sing his praises and see his glory together forever. One day, he will work out all things for the good of those who love him. One day, all our questions will be answered, our hopes will be realized, and our fears will be forgotten. Until that day, we will be afflicted, but our identity in Christ need not be affected.

    When we are suffering we have a faithful high priest that can sympathize with us in our weakness! What a great God we serve!

    You may also like:

    God will not forget your suffering but he will reward your faithfulness

    Has God Changed?

    A sermon celebrating Dad’s life

  • Guest post: Alie Benge’s Strategy for Managing the Crazy

    Alie is a former member of Resolved who moved to NZ a few months ago. She is focusing on carving out a writing career while studying a bachelor of arts in Philosophy. Follow her writing at www.searchingforourselves.wordpress.com

    Welcome to my five point strategy for how to deal with the things life throws at you. No one’s life is a perfect ray of sunshine and every now and then you may find yourself in a rut. It’s ok, it happens to the best of us. Whenever you need it, here’s some ideas for how to get back on the happy train.

    1.Keep a book of crazy.

    Get a journal and write in it how you’re feeling, why you are feel the way you do, and try to bring it to a resolution. The benefit of writing things down is it forces you to carry a thought to completion. I have the tendency to mull over something, turning it over in my mind, never actually thinking helpfully about it. Writing it down gets it out of your head, puts it where you can see it and enables you to be a problem solver, not a problem wallower.

    2. Don’t be a jerk about medication

    There seems to be a stigma attached to medicating things. Believe it or not, anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medication isn’t concocted over a cauldron and there’s no eye of newt thrown in there. It definitely shouldn’t be a first resort as there are side effects involved, you also don’t need it if you’re just feeling a bit down in the dumps that particular week, however if a doctor has agreed that it would help you then there is nothing wrong with taking it. We aren’t living in a dark age. There’s nothing to fear about modern medicine. However, they should be used in conjunction with some kind of counselling. What the drugs do is help with the process of getting better by lifting your mood and allowing you some perspective. The idea is to reach a stage where you no longer need medication.
    3. Don’t run from your problems. They run faster.

    Seeing a counsellor or psychologist is mentally depleting. You’ll be asked hard questions and asked to think about things you’ve been avoiding. You know those memories that you’ve buried away in a dark corner of your mind? Well, you’ll need those. You’ll have to brush the dust off and bring them back into the light. I used to have an image of myself standing on a cliff, facing land. Over the cliff was all this crazy, hovering menacingly in the open space. I thought if I turned around and really looked at my problems they would drag me over the edge. Now I see that as one of my face palm moments. By not looking behind me, I couldn’t see that it had already begun pulling me over. My psychologist asked me hard questions. She made me feel uncomfortable, she made me take deep breaths, and she left me feeling like I’d run an emotional marathon. Sometimes I left her office feeling confused, sometimes furious, sometimes terrified, but I realised after a while that I hadn’t fallen over the edge; in fact I was walking away from it, descending the hill. You can ignore your problems, keeping them in your peripherals, but that’s where they’ll always be, growing and manifesting in secret ways. Or you could muster all your courage, face your problems and begin pushing them away.
    4. Don’t be a hero

    This is the part where I need to take my own advice. Don’t be the strong, silent one, bearing up under suffering all alone so as not to hurt others. I’m a witness to the dangers of internalising. Soon the problem will warp and mutate and blow your brain up. It will become a heavy secret that will bear down on your shoulders and cause you to distance yourself from people. Those who love you would be more horrified at the thought of you suffering alone. They’ll want to help you but they can’t read minds. Talk to your pastor, parents, siblings or friends. Trust the wisdom and perspectives of others and don’t be afraid of being a burden. It is one that most would gladly bear.

    5. Find healing in the Bible

    No one gets through life entirely un-bruised. We’ve all been damaged in some way by the people around us or by the things we’ve lost. At some point in your life you may not have been loved perfectly, maybe your parents, your friends or your spouse let you down, maybe you were rejected or anxious. Not everything that damages us is unreasonable or even noticed. Lucky for us we have in the bible one who has loved us perfectly. One who will never reject us or let us down. One who will keep loving us and keep forgiving us every time we turn around sheepishly and ask to come back. You can trust God with your anxieties. You can ask him to forgive you when no one else will. You can see how he loved you on the cross when it seems you are unloved. When you feel you are unworthy you can know that you are made in the image of God.

    You may also like:

    God will not forget your suffering but he will reward your faithfulness

    Guest Post: How the gospel shapes my life as a single woman

    Guest Post: How the gospel shapes my life as a young mum

  • God will not forget your suffering but he will reward your faithfulness

    I am preaching on having  joy in the midst of suffering this Sunday at Resolved. Joy in the midst of suffering is something we need to talk about as Christians because we will all suffer at some point in our lives.

    In preparing this sermon I keep thinking about my family as we all struggled through my dad’s cancer and as we continue to live without a great friend, husband and father.  I came across this quote from Wayne Grudem as I was not only grieving my loss but preparing this sermon.

    “He thus reminds Christians that Gods purposes in present grief may not be fully known in a week, in a year, or even in a lifetime. Indeed, some of gods purposes will not be even known when believers die and go to be with the lord. Some will only be discovered at the day of final judgement when the Lord reveals the secrets of all hearts and commends with special honour those who trusted him in hardship even though they could not see a reason for it: they trusted him simply because he was their God and they knew him to be worthy of trust. It is in times when the reason for hardship cannot be seen that trust in God alone seems to become most pure and precious in his sight. Such faith he will not forget, but will store up as a jewel of great value and beauty to be displayed and delighted in on the day of judgement.”Wayne  Grudem. The First Epistle of Peter, pg 65

    I love how Grudem point to so eloquently reminds us of our reward in heaven.

    The great hope that Christians have when they are suffering is that God will not forget our suffering but will reward our faithfulness.

    How do you hold onto this hope when you are suffering?

    You may also like:

    Has God Changed?

    Comforting Truth no 4: Heaven

    What I learn from Christians with Mental Illness/ Anxiety Issues

  • Has God Changed?

    I remember it vividly. My Dad’s chest was rising and falling very weakly, he was about to take his last breaths.

    I was overcome with grief.

    My mind was flooded with questions:

    How could God have let this happen?

    Where is God in this mess?

    But one question kept coming into my head over and over. “Is God not good?”

    When circumstances change it is very easy to think that God has changed. When everything is going good it is so easy to think that God is good, but when life kicks you in the soul it is hard to think that he is still in control, let alone good. It is easy to think God has changed. The God who we once knew, who filled our lives with vibrancy and love has changed into a cruel and angry God.

    But hear what God says about himself:

    Psalm 102:25-27

    In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,
        and the heavens are the work of your hands. 
    They will perish, but you remain;
        they will all wear out like a garment.
    Like clothing you will change them
        and they will be discarded.
     But you remain the same, 
        and your years will never end. 

    James 1:17

    Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

    Psalm 33:10-11

    The Lord foils the plans of the nations; 
        he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.
    But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever,
        the purposes of his heart through all generations.

    Did you hear what God says about himself? Psalm 102 says the earth will wear out like the T shirt I am wearing but God remains for ever and that he remains the same. Unlike a T shirt which will fade and stretch and get wrecked God doesn’t change. James says God doesn’t change, he is still the one who gives good gifts. Psalm 33 says that God’s plans can’t be thwarted. My plans can be. City-rail decides to cancel a train, someone rings at an inopportune moment, there is someone using the machine I wanted to use at the gym. Things like these ruin my plans everyday. My plans fail all the time but God’s don’t… ever!

    When life kicks us in the soul has God changed? No he hasn’t, he is still the good God that called you to know and love him even though your faith has seen better days. He is still the same God who called you and your spouse together even though your marriage is on rocky ground.  He is still your heavenly father who loves you even though your dad never got a chance to see his beautiful granddaughter.

    Circumstances change, life kicks you in the soul.

    But God doesn’t change.

    Faith is trusting in God even when it feels like he has changed.

  • Why I’m not surprised that God redeemed me

    “In two decades of teaching theology I have had countless students ask me why God doesn’t save everybody. Only once did a student come to me and say, “There is something I just can’t figure out. Why did God redeem me?”

    We are not really surprised that God has redeemed us. Somewhere deep inside, in the secret chambers of our hearts we harbor the notion that God owes us his mercy. Heaven would not be quite the same if we were excluded from it. We know that we are sinners, but we are surely not as bad as we could be. There are enough redeeming features to our personalities that if God is really just he will include us in salvation. What amazes us is justice, not grace.”

    RC Sproul, The Holiness of God, pg 153

    This quote cut straight to my heart. It exposed my arrogance and self-centeredness. What should amaze me is God’s grace and yet so much of the time it doesn’t.

    I should be surprised that God has redeemed me, but usually I am not and I need to repent.

    The reason I’m not surprised that God redeemed me is my own arrogance, plain and simple.

     

  • Every church must do social justice part 1: Setting the Scene

    Social Justice seems to be one of the sweeping fads in contemporary Christianity. We see movements like the” I Heart Revolution” and “Make Poverty History” being championed by churches and Para-church organizations. On the other hand there seems to be a reluctance to see social justice as part of what the church does. This may be for one of two reasons:

    Firstly, people see the core task of the church as proclaiming the gospel of the Life death and resurrection of Jesus and anything else is not necessary.

    Secondly, there seems to be a reluctance to do social justice because of fear of becoming liberal of abandoning the gospel. This fear, put bluntly, seems unfounded but when we have a look at churches that seem not to preach Jesus there is a strong emphasis on social Justice as the Gospel and because of the abandoning of the gospel Social justice is avoided.

    But is it that cut and dry? Can you preach the Gospel and do social justice? Can you believe in strong reformed, evangelical doctrine and be committed to seeing people saved from Hell and still seek to alleviate the earthly suffering of those around you? This week I will be blogging about social justice and I will argue that you can preah the gospel and do social justice. in Tomorrows blog we will first examine the Biblical witness and see that one of the marks of discipleship is the care for the poor. Then we will see how the gospel is the grounds of social justice, then we will turn to church history and see that Christian since the early church have sought to relieve the suffering of those around you because of the gospel not in spite of the gospel. And finally we will wrap up with some seeing how evangelism and social justice relate to each other and then offer some conclusions.

    I hope that you will see how the gospel and social justice arent opposites but both are to be employed by every gospel centered, reformed evangelical church.

  • What I learn from Christians with mental illness/anxiety issues

    My church has recently started up a ministry to people with mental illness/anxiety called Eternal Hope. It is a simple ministry where we read from the bible, share how we are doing and then pray for each other.  But here is the thing.

    I feel like a fake when I am there.

    If we have never met, I am stupidly optimistic and positive and so when I go to Eternal Hope and I hear their pain and struggle I feel like a fake.

    I feel like a fake most when my brothers and sisters at this group talk about heaven. They talk about longing for heaven and how this life is a struggle. Then I think about my life, beautiful wife, child on the way, awesome church and I think “Man I don’t want to be in heaven yet!!!”

    But that is the point my brothers and sisters at Eternal Hope see reality more than I do. They see that their home is heaven and I see what is in front of me. What I learn from my brothers and sisters at Eternal Hope is that I need to be more in love with where I will be spending my eternity.

     

    What about you do you long for heaven or are you content with earth?

     

  • Comforting Truth no. 5 Grace

     

    One of the sweetest doctrines is Grace. It is amazing to know we stand before God forgiven and in a right relationship with him based not on what we have done but only on what he has done. This doctrine hits home when I consider my dad’s and my own mortality. We all know that one day we will face God but when was the last time you considered that you will be standing before God with nothing but the righteousness he has given you? When was the last time you considered that one day you will stand before God and in that moment all you have is the grace he has shown to you in Jesus?

    But grace works itself out in different ways also. It is only by God’s gracious provision that he has put me and my family in Australia where Dad has been benefitting from some of the best medical treatment in the world. It is only by God’s grace that we live in Australia where this treatment cost mum and dad next to nothing. I always thought I was blessed by God to live in Australia but it has only been since dad has been diagnosed with cancer do I realise how much God’s grace has been shown to me in him placing me in Australia.

    But the ultimate form of Grace is shown in the cross where Jesus took my sin and the punishment for that sin in himself so I could be forgiven.

    It is this grace which will keep me going through the rest of dad’s cancer.

    It is this grace which will see my Dad stand before Jesus right with him.

    It is this grace I pray that my dad accepts and I keep living in until that final day.

     

  • Comforting Truth no. 4: Heaven

     

    A few years ago I was sitting in Hungry Jacks in Kings Cross at around 9pm when a bunch of prostitutes walked in. They were loud, raucous and quickly made themselves the centre of attention. A song came on over the radio called Heaven by the Eurogliders.[1] The lyrics of the chorus are:

    Heaven, must be there-ere

    Well, it’s just got to be there-ere

    I’ve never – never seen Eden

    I don’t wanna live in this place

    One of the prostitutes turned to another and said “Do you think it exists? Heaven I mean.” The other one said “Sure, cause I don’t wanna live in this place!” At this they laughed, ordered their food and loudly went on their way.

    When I see my dad racked by pain, hardly able to eat anything and I know there is no human way he will survive this cancer I think of heaven. Because when I see my dad in so much pain I don’t wanna live in this place! I want be in a place which is described like this:

    Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:1-5)

    I want to be in a place where there are no more tears or cancer or hatred or violence or death or mourning. That is the place I want to be. So when I see my dad racked with pain or when I see him exhausted and sleeping on the couch, a mere shell of the man he once, I was I realise my hope, my future and my home is heaven.


    [1] You can see the video clip here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJou-XIUywQ

     

  • Comforting truth no.3: The Resurrection

     

    The Bible states that our resurrection will be patterned after Jesus’ own resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:35-44) and so our resurrection, just like Jesus’, will be physical. This gives me great hope for myself that one day, no matter what happens in this life, my body will be resurrected and made new.

    When I think about the resurrection and I think about my dad I remember what he used to be like before the cancer struck. He was a man who was thin and yet very tough and strong, he had boundless energy and was always working. But now he has lost a tonne of weight, he now cannot do one tenth of the things he used to do, he sleeps a lot and doesn’t have a quarter of the energy he once had. The resurrection says that this will not be the final picture of my dad I will see. If my dad believes in Jesus he too will be resurrected and given a new body, an imperishable body , a body  that is not racked with cancer one that is fit and with boundless energy.

    It seems like every year there is a bishop or pastor who will deny the physicality of the resurrection. Remember that when they do that they are not just denying something that is integral to the Christian faith they are denying me and my dad hope. Hope that one day my dad will run again, hope that one day my dad will be able to work like he used to hope that one day everyone who trusts in Jesus will be raised physically to a new and eternal life!

    So make sure when you preach the resurrection this Easter people go away knowing that Jesus was raised physically!