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July 26, 2011

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Great book--just got it myself. You can also order a hard copy free and when you donate or buy anything from Voice of the Martyrs, you get the kids DVD (which is great btw) free. www.persecution.com (btw, Voice of the Martyrs is an organization started by Wurmbrand to give voice and support to the persecuted church. They offer monthly magazines and many many resources for those interested. There is also a sponsored National Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church each Nov. They offer a free video for church/school and many other free resources as well.

This is very interesting, and quite a good read. It made me think of two questions, though.

1. If it reveals God's glory whenever we endure unjust suffering and remain faithful to him in the process, what does it say about God when we fail, as many of us do? If God has a sovereign plan in everything that happens, and his ultimate purpose in everything is to reveal his glory, how do our failures as Christians glorify God?

2. This blog post seems to cover our purpose in suffering for doing good or suffering as Christians. It reveals God's glory. But what about suffering that has nothing to do with us being Christians that is nevertheless undeserved? In other words, we aren't suffering as punishment for our wrongdoing. For example, if my cat died, I'd suffer, or if I got dumped, or if I got in a car accident. Peter doesn't seem to have covered this kind of suffering. How does this kind of suffering glorify God?

What a bummer! The new update on the kindle app for iphone did away with the button to download books from Amazon. But the Amazon app still doesn't allow you to download kindle books either. What were they thinking??? That's a dollar they're not going to get from me because I'm too lazy to jump through the hoops necessary to buy this book now.

Sam,

When I read about suffering, I always think about indirect suffering. Wanting to take the place of someone who is suffering is an excruciating type of suffering. Seeing a child or a loved one suffer – wanting to take their place - knowing you can’t.

I feel at these times, we can only say, "Thy will be done". We can make a sincere submission to God. I feel this truly glorifies God.

Good questions as always, Sam!

how do our failures as Christians glorify God?

I think it glorifies His grace. Perhaps not to the world, but to you, the sinner, and also to other Christians.

(And chapter 3 of Romans talks about how the unrighteousness of people highlights God's righteous judgment "to His glory.")

How does this kind of suffering glorify God?

I think that second goal is probably not met with other kinds of suffering, but I definitely have seen the first play out. I have a friend about my age who got married a few years ago and her husband died of cancer less than a year later. But they both worshipped God throughout, to the point where I was awed by God. To see them valuing and loving God through that whole thing was amazing. I wanted to see Him the way they saw Him. You would expect (or at least, I think the world would expect) that someone going through that would be angry with God and rebel at least a little, or ask why following Him was worth it. But they clearly thought God was more valuable than their suffering was painful. And the nurses took notice. God was definitely glorified by that.

And KWM, I think this is what you're saying. Trusting God in a situation like that is a huge statement to the world.

Yes, Amy. Just not as well : )

Much is said about the suffering at the hands of communism and I agree that it is guilty of much of this world's suffering and murders. However, capitalism should not escape the charges against it. How many people who were never given a chance to successfully compete under capitalism because they could simply not afford medical treatment for conditions they suffered without any diagnosis or treatment? We don't hear their voices because the nature of the disorders is such that they are not able to voice their grievance. When a medical disorder places such a stress on their system that combined with the stress of a competitive environment their hippocampus area of the brain severs connections so that their memory is effected, making them uncompetitive in the fray of competition of capitalism they are effectively cut off from being able to contribute and be rewarded for their contribution. These folks fall through the cracks of a system that effectively takes them out of the so-called land of opportunity. I suppose we can salve our conscience by simply saying that no system is perfect and that this one does the most good, but it sounds hollow in the ears of those who are effectively cut out of an affluent society just as effectively as the Jews were during WWII in Germany.

Beautiful post on suffering, Grace and the Gospel.
Check it out, Louis.

are effectively cut out of an affluent society just as effectively as the Jews were during WWII in Germany

Louis, this is all I'm going to say about this because you are completely off topic: this comment is absurd and makes light of the evil that happened in Nazi Germany.

In this country, hospitals are not allowed to turn away anybody who isn't able to pay for their services. We also have countless free clinics. Pharmaceutical companies offer free and highly discounted medication to those in need. Nobody has to go without care.

In Nazi Germany, Jews were thrown into ovens.

Please do not compare the two here again.

If this sounds hollow to you, then you probably need to read this book.

There are at least two types of Christians in America. The career Christians who forsake all, seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and having their needs met accordingly. (This is the low road, where people experience, or are at least eye level with many of the trials Louis mentions.)

Then there are the Christians with careers, who seek to escape the perils of the low road, buying their way out of as much trial as they can afford, and thereby missing the whole point of discipleship.

The one path teaches through experience, the other through theory.

Dave, although I see truth in your comment, I disagree with the way that you have categorized all Christians. There are certainly more than two types of Christians in the world. Suggesting that Christians with careers "buy their way out of trials" and have "missed the point of of discipleship" is a dangerous statement because it implies that no Christian can have both spiritual wealth and financial abundance. It is possible have wealth but not to SERVE it. God did not intend for us all to be ascetics. In fact, I would go so far as to say that in modern society a faithful Christian rooted in Christ with a stable career and a balanced lifestyle would be perhaps the most effective witness to all non-Christians around them, preaching through their good works and not their words. When we have been blessed with more than we need we ultimately have more to give for charitable works. A balance does exist and those who truly let Christ illuminate their world will tirelessly devote themselves to achieving it. This can potentially serve to define their individual struggle. Poverty and suffering take on many forms. They can be insidious. There is only one true judge. The rest of us are called to reserve judgment and humbly abide. Luke 10:27 lays it all out in two succinct sentences:'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'

Louis,

Stop trying to redirect posts to discussions about capitalism. It's really not much better than Malenbranche trying to redirect every post to discussions bashing the Christian Right and preaching Universalism. Even if the suffering you highlight is true (which I doubt it is), it is not relevant to the suffering because of faith discussed in the book.

Also, per Amy's comment, you actually just lost:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin%27s_law

The internet has spoken.

Everybody suffers.

RonH,

Yes, they do.

Hi Dave,

I’m not sure about your “two types” of Christian description. If you had the means, would you not buy your way out of suffering? I think we do this without thinking about it – as human beings. We go to the doctor, we buy insurance, etc.

For the most part, we don’t willingly submit ourselves to suffering. We don’t refrain from taking action that would alleviate suffering (financial means or otherwise). I don’t think this is in conflict with Christianity. I’m interested to know your thoughts.

I think this fact further glorifies God.

>Melissa says: "missed the point of of discipleship" is a dangerous statement because it implies that no Christian can have both spiritual wealth and financial abundance.

>> It is impossible to have financial wealth and to love your neighbor as your own self. Especially in the world of need we see around us.

>KWM says: "For the most part, we don’t willingly submit ourselves to suffering."

>> But isn't this what we are called to do, in taking the cross? The road of disciple ship is down at street level and not along the way to doing something else.

Careers for the most part are based upon the pursuit of money and relief from the curse. We are told that we cannot serve God and money.

Even Paul called on his Roman citizenship to avoid a whipping.

>Daron says: "Even Paul called on his Roman citizenship to avoid a whipping."

>> Yes, but that is not what we're talking about. We are saying that Paul could have avoided his life of trial by starting "The Apostle Tent" factory. Living high off the hog so to speak, and setting in church every Sunday having an arm chair view of the whole thing.

Someone was talking about that?
Was anyone talking about Paul escaping suffering by escaping Damascus through a window?
Or the wealthy women of means who supported Jesus' ministry? The wealthy man who buried Him? His wealthy friends who housed, fed and anointed Him? The homeowners who used their houses for meeting places or those who took collections on the first day of the week for their suffering brothers elsewhere?
Did anyone mention the extreme wealth of God's man, Abraham, or Jacob, Joseph, David, Solomon,or Job?

>Daron >> You are very observant, God uses many wealthy people to provide for His Elect. I agree.

Cool. And He does so without putting them all together in the poor house. In the end they often have enough money for fine burials and He even exhorts them to provide for their own families, present , and generations into the future.

Amy says: "In this country, hospitals are not allowed to turn away anybody who isn't able to pay for their services. We also have countless free clinics. Pharmaceutical companies offer free and highly discounted medication to those in need. Nobody has to go without care."

No we don't *have* to go without care, but if you lack insurance it will cost you. Dearly. Free clinics are acutally "sliding scale" clinics and the truly free ones provide minimal services. The #1 cause of personal bankruptcy in this country is ... wait for it ... lack of adequate medical insurance to cover medical costs. People have *unaffordable* access to healthcare in the U.S. Had dinner with a Christian friend from Canada tonight. She's amazed at the U.S. bankruptcy statistic. She pays 50% in taxes. She is an entrepreneur and is doing well. Business is not dead in Canada.

And to cover the costs of care delivered to those who are uninsured? Hospitals and providers increase the rates for those who *do* have coverage. So we all pay for the uninsured already. We have socialized medicine. It's just hidden in the commercial premiums.

We have the most expensive health care system in the world (over $3 trillion in U.S. healthcare revenue annually) and lousy outcomes. Some say we have a "wealthcare" system ... an engine perfectly optimized to maximize revenue, NOT health. If our health care economy were compared to the entire economies of other countries, it would be the 4th largest economy in the world. Just health care. And remember -- our health outcomes are lousy: we die sooner, our children are less healthy, more obese. We smoke more. We have higher cancer rates. But boy do we know how to make money from this stuff!

So I expect some to reflexively respond, "well, countries with free (more accessible) health care have higher taxes and long lines to see specialists."

My response:

1) On Taxes: From 1935 thru 1975 -- the period of greatest economic growth in our country's history -- we had a progressive tax system. During this time what was the tax rate for the wealthiest Americans? wait for it ... 70%. Thus we have empirical evidence that progressive tax system can actually exist during (and maybe support) economic prosperity, and perhaps during such times of prosperity, we may begin to provide a more effective and accessible healthcare system while we're at it.

2) On long lines to see specialists: The U.S. has short lines to specialists. Our population isn't healthy. Access to specialists is not correlated with population health and is a red-herring in the healthcare dialog. But let me say more. Access to *urgent* specialty care is not hindered in countries with more accessible healthcare systems. Having a heart attack? You get you cardiac catheterization. Suffer a fracture requiring intervention? You see the orthopedist urgently. Acute respiratory distress? You're into the ED and to the appropriate Pulmonologist/Cardiologist. You want to treat your acne and demand to see a dermatologist? Get in line. You can wait, because it's not urgent, and you've probably had the condition for a couple years.

If you (1) have commercial insurance (not Medicaid), (2) have the financial resources to make healthy lifestyle choices (it's (a) cheaper to high fat, high sugar food, (b) expensive to buy fruits and veggies, and (c) having time to exercise means you make enough money to have enough time), and (3) are educated enough to know the right choices to make, then by all means Amy, we have the best healthcare system in the world. If, however, you don't fall into the 8% of the population who meet the above three criteria, then, oh well, we'll get that new body once we get to Heaven, right?

>Daron >> like Reverend Ike says,
“Money is God in action.”

Is this where you're coming from?

Hi Dave,
I don't know "Reverend" or he context of your quote so I can't affirm that.
I'm coming from a place in which God never says that if you somehow are made steward of certain resources that you are necessarily sinning until you arrange that nobody has less than you.
Jesus declared many people of means to be saved without demanding that they, like the rich young ruler, give away all their possessions. Many times He availed Himself of the wealth and hospitality of the well-to-do without condemning either Himself nor them.

So, the Lords prayer should be "give us this day, our daily bread for the next 20 years"?

“Dr.”

I have to give you credit, so off topic, so many talking points, such a small space. Can I just pick a few things? I can’t resist.

>>our health outcomes are lousy: we die sooner…”

If someone gets hit by a truck at age 18 and dies, does that mean we have a bad health care system? Or do you just buy into the faulty notion that dying soon automatically reflects medical care quality?

>>our children are less healthy, more obese...

We have obese children, but that doesn’t reflect the quality of our health care system. What if we are the world’s best at treating obesity? Whether we are or aren't doesn't matter. Your assertion is invalid. Canada’s child obesity is around 20% and growing.

>>We smoke more…

Same with obesity. It wouldn’t matter if everyone smoked. This has nothing to do with the quality of medical care. Besides you know who beats us out? France, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Ireland, and many more.

>>Higher cancer rates

Compared to whom? France? Nope. Denmark? Nope. Australia? Nope. In fact we’re very close to Canada (a system you supposedly love) in this regard. Moreover, cancer causes are more at issue here. Not medical care.

See, the problem with talking points is there’s just so much that’s taken for true that simply isn’t. I could pick out more from your post, but not being on topic I’ll refrain.

The real scary part is these things were mentioned by someone with the name "Dr.Research" right before saying, “See, a 70% tax rate isn’t that bad”.

>>”So, the Lords prayer should be "give us this day, our daily bread for the next 20 years"?

Please, Dave.

What should this be, Dave?
Proverbs 13:22

Which prayer says "give me leisure time to waste and a computer by which to preach - especially in the world of need we see around us"?

Of course Dave has piped this little tune before:
http://str.typepad.com/weblog/2010/06/wealth-and-the-bible.html

It's a sad day when the teachings of Christ about our inability to serve God and money simultaneously come under attack on a board such as this.

Dave,
You one-trick ponies have serious problems with social interaction. Nobody here has said a word against Jesus' teachings. In fact, when you first started return to your off-topic sermonizing Melissa affirmed the very teaching you are bemoaning while pushing bak against your stated issue.
What this sad day (oh woe to you!) has brought is reaction to your oft-repeated claim (belied by your own behaviour) of :

It is impossible to have financial wealth and to love your neighbor as your own self.

You can't defend this claim either against Scripture or your own habits so you disingenuously pretend it is Jesus under attack.
Among your other possessions I hope you have a Bible and a mirror.

It's this simple. If you love your neighbor as your own equal, what belongs to you belongs to them. That is why the early church abode in the Apostles doctrine and had all things common. That's the target regardless of how attainable it is in this world.

Dave,

If my neighbor owns a ski boat, should I be able to take it out whenever I want, provided he’s not using it? Assuming, of course, he is a Christian?

Lots of neighbors without computers, Dave.

Guys, as tempted as I am to respond to this, I'm not going to break my rule against encouraging off-topic-agenda posting.

However, I will write a post about this sometime soon because I have some things to say about how private property ties in with human dignity (which is why it was so strongly protected by God in the Law and why violating it leads to so much human suffering). So you'll have a chance to discuss it there soon.

Meanwhile, I find it interesting that those on the left would turn the discussion so quickly away from human evil and suffering to the issue of material possessions and advantages. Since Marx, the idea that the real problem of the world is not human evil, but rather material inequalities has gained momentum, but I don't think the root is at all biblical.

>Lots of neighbors without computers, Dave.

>> Actually, I gave a computer to a family in need and paid for their ISP for at least a year.

Today I gave away things I could sell, simply because they asked for it.

And this is a common occurrence with years of similar activity.

>"the left would turn the discussion so quickly away from human evil and suffering to the issue of material possessions and advantages"

>> All I said is that seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness as your career, leads down difficult paths many try to avoid by seeking a career (money). It results in having a spiritual depth VS having an arm chair discipleship overview.

>Dave,

If my neighbor owns a ski boat, should I be able to take it out whenever I want, provided he’s not using it? Assuming, of course, he is a Christian?

>> I normally invite others to use my boat and even offer to drop it off for them and pick it up. If they would like to use it when I've already made plans, I would probably invite their family along.

"Give to him that asks of you"
Jesus

Kudos on you, Dave. But there are still neighbors without computers. And I'd love a boat, may I send you my address and you can mail me a cheque to buy one? Sounds like you are doing ok with the whole wealth thing.

>Kudos on you, Dave. But there are still neighbors without computers. And I'd love a boat, may I send you my address and you can mail me a cheque to buy one? Sounds like you are doing ok with the whole wealth thing.

>>All that I have is yours to share, I don't have any money in the bank (laid up treasure) but if you ever make it out this way, stop by.

You can sell the boat and send me the proceeds.

> You can sell the boat and send me the proceeds.

>> I don't sell stuff, I give it away.

Right. Thanks for your hospitality anyway.

Why are you ridiculing me when I've made a career out of following Christ? I gave up a very lucrative career to do so. You can set around and theorize from your lofty peek, I on the other hand have experienced the providence of God in ways very few ever will.

I know we’re still off topic, but one thing I also notice is that people that hold this type of view tend to talk about their ‘good works’ and ‘charity’ a lot more than others.

Something I notice time and time again.

Was that ridicule? I don't think so. i am very impressed with your altruism and your experiences of God. Not so much with your preaching.

It is impossible to have financial wealth and to love your neighbor as your own self.

I've noticed that as well, KWM.

I've also read a bio on Hudson Taylor and reread George Muller's. Those who give up careers to rely only on God's providence are great examples. They seemed to do so without judging and ridiculing others, and without lamenting the sad days that they misrepresented others' positions. In fact, God used people with careers to support these men and their very worthy projects. Their own work did not generate the kind of revenue that would have advanced similar projects.

I gave personal examples in answer to your provocation. I am merely telling you that what I say comes from a life long walk that I've proven to be true. I wouldn't dare flaunt God's Grace for my own glory.

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