Sunday, April 13, 2014


People find suffering and pain unnerving, sometimes frightening, a canyon as deep and wide that found in Arizona. Mark Galli suggests, such experiences often make pain appear so large and God so distant as to make God a veritable speck on the horizon (A Great and Terrible Love/Baker/2009/139).

Experience teaches me that the most severe physical pain comes via bone damages, and at this late stage I am seldom pain free, following a relatively pain-free life. On the other hand, my most severe suffering came via the self-inflicted pains of bad judgment and other sins of humanity. At the same time, I lived a lifetime with a spouse experiencing pain many would consider unbearable. I have watched-- sometimes painfully--observing that anointed ministry of pain perform miracles within human souls and produce a transformation of body and mind.

Mark Galli describes suffering as the bridge over the chasm of despair (p. 144) and describes Jeanne Fourie’s daughter Lyndi, a victim in the 1993 Heidelberg Bombing. At the criminal trial, she attempted to shake the hands of the three men who planted the bomb. A year later she told the bombers at the Amnesty Meeting, “I forgive you because my High Command demonstrated to me how to do that by forgiving his killers.”

I avoid pain if I can and I am equally averse to creating pain for others, but I hear that voice of pain speaking soft words I know are true: (1), I have watched pain shape the contours of people’s lives and produce character of indescribable patience, charity, and optimistic joy. Such beautiful character, I have learned , (2) results from the interactions between a human being and the ultimate God who enters into their suffering. This theme plays repetitiously in our lives and throughout Scripture.

A third aspect of this truth confronts today's church (3). Ravi Zacharias is a New-Delhi-born Christian apologist who lectures on university campuses in defense of Christian thought. He suggests we have three basic positions: the theonomous; the heteronomous; and the autonmous. Theonomy finds life’s authority in God of some kind. Heteronmy justifies control of the majority by the few; Marxism is illustrates this.

Autonomous livers defend individual rights against any and all encroachments, as illustrated by post-modernism and the post-Christian era—including some Christian believers. Audiences frequently challenge Ravi to share his position. Before answering, he asks, will they allow him “his autonomy” if they reject his moral authority or will they reject his credibility as well? 

What we need to understand is - people want more than our “proclamation.” They want to know that our “practice and our proclamation” are one and the same, before they will listen. This is the issue faced by the Church of God Reformation Movement of 2014! 

Never mind D. S. Warner's proclamations about “holiness and unity.” Move beyond “the truths that made us what we are” and tell us “Truth Matters”—that obedience accompanies proclamation! Stop the debate of convening nationally in Anderson, Indiana or Timbuktu! Disregard the arguments of the wrongfulness or rightfulness of the hotly debated internet topics as “missional church” “church growth” ” ad infinitum . . 

The wprld suffers with human slavery, pornography, genocide, starvation, petty politics, forsaken morality, AND “Where is God when these people hurt?” As sure as Daniel saw four in the fiery furnace, God is “In the midst of their suffering.” Like the disciples in Matthew 25:37-40, you may ask: “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?” the people ask Jesus in the famous parable. ‘And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you? And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'"  

To this, Mark Galli replies: “When we make ourselves available to those who suffer, when we come in humility to help as we can and learn what we must, we will meet Jesus. His form may not be comely—there will be times when his form is that of the crucified. But he will meet us if we’re looking for him there” (146). 

We all know people in whom we see that absolutely beautiful character of Jesus in spite of pain-filled lives, even intense, unending suffering. This week, Christians celebrate God’s taking “our suffering” upon himself via Jesus. EASTER calls us beyond proclamation - to obedience. Christ calls His body to enter into the sufferings of this world, as Paul prayed: “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Phil. 3:10).

This could cost us our personal desires, our American dreams, our national politics, our hot button issues, our patriotism, our individualized and privatized faith; it could require us to lay ALL of it on the altar of sacrifice, as we become God’s People on mission in ministry

No longer will it be abortion, or sexuality, or deficit spending, or holy living … it might be as Mother Teresa suggested, “recognizing the one who makes himself known in comfort and sorrow, in healing and pain, in resurrection and crucifixion.”

This is Warner’s World -

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