The Joys of Heaven Will Far Outweigh the Sufferings of Earth

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Suffering has a way of messing with our hope. In the midst of experiencing pain, loss, or hardship, we as Christians can easily lose our focus on what matters most and on our certain future. I was reminded of this reality recently and encouraged as I read the following story from David Jeremiah’s book What Are You Afraid Of?: Facing Down Your Fears with Faith (see my review):pilot_flying_airplane

Suppose you won a free trip around the world for you and a loved one. It included first-class accommodations at five-star hotels, private planes, lavish gifts, and personal tours. (See how powerful the imagination is?) But suppose as you opened the envelope containing the tickets, you suffered a paper cut on the end of your finger. You might say to your companion, “Oh, I cut my finger!” You’d grimace for about half a second before grinning from ear to ear and saying, “Who cares? We’re about to take the trip of a lifetime!” I would say nothing to trivialize disease [or other intense suffering]; I know the misery of it firsthand. But according to Paul, and from the perspective of our eternal God, the sufferings of this present world are less than a paper cut in relation to the glory yet to be revealed to us (p. 56).person-flying

The Apostle Paul’s perspective that David Jeremiah mentions comes from Romans 8:18:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

Paul was no stranger to suffering. Later in Romans 8, Paul gives a long list of potential sufferings that some might think separate us from God: tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword, death, angels, rulers, powers, etc. The truth is that for the Christian, none of those things mentioned or “anything else in all creation” can separate him or her from the Lord! Paul himself faced many of these sufferings:

24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? (2 Corinthians 11:24-29)

So when Paul said that the “sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us,” this glory must be great to outweigh all of the intense sufferings that he faced. Indeed, this glory did outweigh Paul’s sufferings and it does outweigh ours!

Meditate on Heaven and the joy to be found there deeply, so that you can be of great earthly good and endure whatever may come in this life!

Let the example of Paul and the truth that even your hardest sufferings cannot separate you from God be an encouragement when you face suffering of any kind, whether small or great. If you know Christ, you have hope beyond measure and a certain joyous future in Heaven with Him!

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In His Own Words: Why Chris Norman Said No to the NFL

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A little over a week ago I shared a video testimony of a Michigan State University football team captain who is a Christian and who could have been drafted by the NFL, but chose instead to go to seminary. That man is Chris Norman and a few days ago he wrote a follow-up blog post to the video which gives further clarity into God’s leading in his life and further encouragement for us.

The part I appreciate the most is where he discusses how he discerned God’s will on this difficult question. He describes five steps for him that collectively gave him confidence that God was leading him to seminary, not the NFL. His thoughts on this are edifying to me. I also really appreciate that he affirms the legitimacy of football and Christians playing the sport to glorify God.

Check out, in his own words, why Chris Norman said No to the NFL.

If you missed the video from last week, be sure to watch it (it’s about 11 minutes & very well done).

Also, I encourage you to share the video (and Chris Norman’s own words) with any young Christian guy you know who plays football (or even other sports). It’s worth their time.

Drafted: Why Chris Norman Said No to the NFL

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This is a powerful testimony for anyone who plays or likes football, or any other sports! In it, Norman is careful in what he says. He affirms that for some people, the NFL would be the way to go. And He also affirms that for those whom God has given platforms, they should use them for the glory of God. For Norman personally, he feels God’s call to go to seminary. And God has blessed him with an amazing opportunity to do so.

Such an excellent video! Watch it. Share it with other sports fans. And let me know your thoughts below.

And if you play any sports, conduct yourself in a way that gives glory to God as you do!

What is “good” and “bad” in the atheist worldview?

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Whether in person or on the internet, I’ve often heard an atheist assert that nobody needs God (or belief in Him) to do good. As PZ Myers puts it, we “do good because we’re happy to help our communities and see our fellow human beings thrive.” He asserts this while at the same time also asserting (as Carlton Wynne summarizes):

there is no transcendent purpose to guide life’s decisions, no plan according to which all is moving, no divine foundation for interpersonal relations, and therefore no rules to norm our behavior.

A few comments: if there are no rules and no purpose and no foundation for ethics (as Atheists claim either explicitly or implicitly by their reasoning), first off, how can we call anything “good”? What is “good” if there is no absolute standard? An atheist might respond, “well, the vast majority of us know that things like helping our neighbor is good, so of course there is meaning when we call that ‘good’”. But, what if all of a sudden the majority of us change our mind? Would “good” change too?

Personally, I do not understand how else to explain what “good” and “bad” are in the atheistic worldview other than saying that they must be whatever the majority in a community, culture, or country think. In other words, “might makes right.” Atheists may deny this, but what other explanation can they give that is not relative? So, PZ Meyers can say:

Oh, sure, you still feel guilty if you harm people — and that is right and appropriate.

But, I would say to him, “on what basis can you call that ‘right’ and ‘appropriate’”?

For instance, in the atheist worldview, what is wrong with the following conclusion by atheist and murderer Jeffrey Dahmer:

If a person doesn’t think there is a God to be accountable to, then—then what’s the point of trying to modify your behaviour to keep it within acceptable ranges? That’s how I thought anyway. I always believed the theory of evolution as truth, that we all just came from the slime. When we, when we died, you know, that was it, there is nothing …

How can this be considered ultimately “bad” by PZ Meyers?

What’s really going on when an atheist asserts that certain things are “good,” “bad,” “right,” or “appropriate,” has been summed up well by Carlton Wynne:

Myers, despite his insistence that he is an undesigned biological happenstance somehow morally accountable to other biological happenstances, is actually made in the image of God. As such, he is confronted by the personal presence and covenantal demands of this God with every tweet, every chortle, every breath he takes, every volley he lobs at Christians. But instead of repenting of his arrogant refusal to submit to the adam_eve_running_from_Godsovereign authority and care of his Creator, Myers, like our first father, Adam, runs from God and attempts to hide himself in the forest that owes its very existence to divine generosity. In other words, he purports to co-opt for atheists what only God can and does give–the possibility of respect for human dignity, the pleasure of productivity, a longing for life in the face of death–and stitches these gifts together to adorn his supposed autonomy when at most he only masks his shame (cf. Gen 3:10). Myers portrays these as the fruits of his default position instead of acknowledging that he has ripped these fig leaves from the life-giving soil of their God-given purpose. With a certain biological self-consciousness, Paul foretells the real result of this kind of thinking: “[T]he end of those things is death” (Rom 6:20-21). When set against their Maker, those covering leaves shrivel up and expose the nakedness of a rebellious creature of the dust. [emphasis added by me]

I hope you didn’t skip over that quote. I know it’s long, but it’s rather profound! The point is that atheists can only make their assertions by borrowing from the Christian worldview, or as Wynne put it, by ripping “these fig leaves from the life-giving soil of their God-given purpose.” The only reason people have a general sense of “good” that Myers appeals to is because God made everyone in His image with a conscience. If our world was somehow uncreated and evolved as Myers would claim, then we wouldn’t even be here having this discussion! The very air that Myers breathes out in anger towards a God who supposedly does not exist, is the very same air that God in His mercy gave Myers to breathe. Oh, that we who believe would praise God for our lives and our every breath as a gift from Him!

Abortion & “Women’s Health”

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From a Facebook post from Mike Huckabee on 6/24/13:

[Liberals] demand the right of carrying out the death penalty on an unborn child at any time for any reason and even insist that it all be called ‘women’s health.’ Can’t be too healthy for the baby, and if it’s a little girl baby, I would think that would be bad for that little woman’s health.

womens_healthI wonder how many liberals (or anyone else) actually think through this logic. I am persuaded that Huckabee is right on the money: if “women’s health” was what is truly important, then the life of the little woman (or man) in the womb would be just as equally precious and valuable as the woman carrying the young one. As a nation, then, we couldn’t justify “eliminating” the young woman or man because we would clearly see that as unjustly murdering a helpless, defenseless life in the womb.

I think these thoughts ultimately lead back to the question of when the entity inside the womb is human. It seems the only consistent (and certainly apparent) answer would be at conception. Otherwise, we are left to decide for ourselves this question:

So the question I have for you is what is the moral difference between what Dr. Gosnell did to a baby born alive at 23 weeks [he murdered the baby] and aborting her moments before birth?

This very question was posed recently to Rep. Nancy Pelosi by a reporter from The Weekly Standard. If you want to see her response, go here (spoiler: she avoids the question).

The Bible is clear that while little men or women are inside their mother’s womb, God knows them intimately. Consider these verses:

13       For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14       I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
15       My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16       Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:13-16)

God said to Jeremiah the prophet:
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations. (Jeremiah 1:5)

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby [John the Baptizer] leaped in her womb. (Luke 1:39-41a)

Certainly these passages (and others) indicate that to God, people inside their mother’s womb are in fact people. God forms and knits them together in the womb! God sees the undeveloped baby! These facts are true not only of those babies who are fortunate enough to make it alive outside the womb (aka “are born”) as one looks in hindsight, but true of all babies in the womb, even if they don’t make it out alive. In the case of Jeremiah, even before he was formed in the womb, God knew him! And with John, he somehow leapt inside his mommy!

nephew_benjamin

My cute nephew Benjamin texting his daddy

So, next time when you are talking about a baby (whether born or unborn), please refer to the child as “he” or “she” and not “it”. Why? Because the child inside the womb, and the child who has been born, are humans that God made either male or female. You know something is amiss when regularly you hear people refer to their cats and dogs as “he” or “she” with personal names, but refer to babies as “it”. As Christians, let’s try reverse that trend with our speech. Maybe God will use small things like this to impress upon a larger culture the personhood of the precious little ones in mommies’ bellies all across the land.

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