Helping Hurry God Along (Hint: That’s a Horrible Idea)

Ever felt like God wasn’t working as fast as you think he should?

I think that would describe, at one time or another, every Christian who’s ever lived.

Enter the story of Moses.

But first, a little context.

After the death of Joseph (the “coat of many colors” Joseph), things went downhill in Egypt.

The Bible puts it this way:

Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt.”

Due to paranoia that developed at the increasing number of Hebrew people living in Egypt, Pharaoh had a plan: enslave the Hebrew people. Beat them. Terrify them. Show them who’s boss.

Sadly, slavery is nothing new, having been in play for millennia.  What ensued in this particular story was oppressive and cruel slave-bondage of the Hebrew people.  400 years of it.

Again, the Bible describes it this way:

So [the Egyptians] put slave masters over [the Hebrews] to oppress them with forced labor,…and worked them ruthlessly. They made their lives bitter with harsh labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their harsh labor the Egyptians worked them ruthlessly.”

Worse – far worse – Pharaoh ordered genocide of all male Hebrew children.   Eradicate all the males and soon the Hebrew race no longer exists.  Pretty simple.

But there was one problem: the Hebrew midwives feared God and disobeyed the king’s orders to murder babies.

The Hebrew women wouldn’t obey?  Pharaoh had a simple solution.

Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his (Egyptian) people: “Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.”

Most, even non-Christians, are familiar with the story of Moses’ birth and miraculous survival – how he was placed in a basket as a newborn baby, and sent down the Nile River only to be found by, of all people, Pharaoh’s daughter.

While Moses was being cared for and raised in Egyptian luxury, in chapter 2, we read:

“The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God.”

Simple logic dictates they’d, no doubt, been crying out to God for help for centuries.

And Moses, living in the midst of his daily tasks, would have heard those prayers and cries every single day of his life.

I can imagine Moses thinking to himself, “Is God deaf?  Why isn’t he doing anything to help my people??  Come on, God!  Hurry up!!”

God was not deaf.  And he wasn’t sitting idly by either. Jesus would later say,

“My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.”

Further, God never sleeps nor slumbers, the psalmist wrote.  Contrary to what Moses was thinking – and, most likely, most of the Hebrews as well – God was simultaneously protecting his people while preparing Moses for something far greater than he could’ve ever imagined as a cocky young man of 40 years.

But Moses has no interest in waiting on God to implement his plan.

So, Moses decided to take things into his own hands.

This was a horrible idea.

The scriptures tell us:

“One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Looking this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid (buried) him in the sand.”

Translation:  Hey God, I’m sick and tired of waiting on you so I’ll rescue these people myself – starting with murdering this Egyptian taskmaster.  (I wonder if the memory of this incident stung Moses’s heart when, while receiving the Ten Commandments from God, God said, “You shall not murder.”)

God doesn’t need our help.  What he wants is our faith and trust and courage, made available to us in Christ Jesus.

What happened after Moses’ rash decision to “hurry God along” was just the opposite of everything Moses had thought would happen.

Not only did his murderous act disgust the Hebrew people (the very people who wanted to be rescued), God sentenced Moses to forty years in the desert.

Forty. Years.

Moses would be 80 before God would call him from the burning bush.

***You can read the rest of the story in the biblical book of Exodus.***

Moses is a case study in the sin of trying to “hurry God along because I know better than he does.”

There are numerous examples of this painful mistake in scripture.  Here’s one other passage to which I’d like to draw your attention.

Centuries later, the prophet, Isaiah, was warning the Israelites (yes, these same Israelites) not to get cocky and try to “hurry God along.”

“Who among you fears the Lord and obeys his servant?  If you are walking in darkness, without a ray of light, trust in the Lord and rely on your God. But watch out, you who live in your own light and warm yourselves by your own fires. This is the reward you will receive from me: You will soon fall down in great torment.” (50:10-11)

Rather than “trust in the Lord and rely on God,” arrogance blinded Moses and led him to make a horrible decision.  He trusted “his own light” and relied on “his own fire.”  Rather than wait on God to “bring light”, Moses manufactured his own light rather than allow God to be “a lamp unto his feet and a light unto his path.”  This grave mistake led Moses down a path that seemed like the right path at the time.  But pride distorts truth.

As Solomon wisely wrote,

“There is a way that appears to be right; but in the end it leads to death.”

This meme offers great biblical truth:

In those times of seeming heavenly silence, Christ is actually working mightily, strengthening your faith and preparing you for an adventure you cannot possibly imagine.

The discomfort and trials you now experience are God’s “training ground” for what he’s planned for you.  As I heard one preacher once say, “God is preparing you for what he’s prepared you for.”

Trust.  Wait.  And resist the temptation to help God out by hurrying him along.

It is a wise decision to let God lead.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

The Problem with “Church, Submit to Your Pastor”

I’ll never forget it.

A pastor I was served with (more like “worked for”) was in a meeting with about two dozen very upset church members.  They weren’t just upset, they were angry.  And for good reason.  He had made, in just a couple of months, more foolish decisions than most of us make in years.

He told me to be at the meeting.  So I had no choice but to attend. (I would have rather been having a root canal.)

As he was rightly being confronted for how he had handled a particular situation, he, feeling cornered, leaned over and whispered to me, “I’m about to remind these people of Hebrews 13:17 which says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them,…”

I thought to myself, “If he does that – people will be able to see the mushroom cloud for miles because this crowd will explode.”

While conveniently quoting the first phrase in the Hebrews passage, this immature pastor failed to quote the rest of it:

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.”

First, he cherry-picked the passage out of the greater context of the New Testament.  The Bible gives instructions, both specifically and in principle, as to how a pastor (the biblical word for “pastor” literally means “shepherd”) is to lead, as well as not to lead. Second, he conveniently left out the second half of the statement (which should send chills up the spine of every church leader.)

There is a gross ignorance among “the average person in the pew” regarding church leadership.  Is it ok to question or confront a pastor?

Not only is it ok, it’s biblical.

Paul had no problem publicly confronting Peter:

“When [Peter] came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.” (Galatians 2:11)

There are numerous examples in scripture where spiritual leadership were questioned and confronted. Probably the most familiar is Nathan’s scathing confronting of King David in 2 Samuel 12. And Jesus was almost always confronting and exposing the Pharisees (the religious leadership of the day.)

We’re all – including church leadership – hopelessly flawed and in desperate need of healthy accountability.   Jeremiah, the prophet, said, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.” (apart from Christ) 

Left to ourselves, disaster is inevitable.  Satan will make sure of it since he knows that, in order to take out the sheep, you first take out the shepherd.

Once, as I worked for yet another foolish pastor, even though his actions were deplorable and abusive to people, one particular man refused to confront him.  Why?  Because he kept citing, “We shall not touch the Lord’s anointed!”, a passage based on 1 Samuel 26:7-11, where David had a chance (a second chance, mind you) to kill the wicked King Saul.

The man who quoted the 1 Samuel passage cherry-picked it out of the greater context of scripture (this seems to be a pattern among the biblically myopic), molding it into something the passage in no way means. 

Merely holding a church leadership position in no way suggests we pastors are incapable of the most depraved behavior. The Bible is replete with stories of church leadership who were wicked and abusive. Further,  in the case of David and Saul, killing someone is quite different from confronting a leader’s abuse and/or foolishness.

Before I conclude my introductory comments, please allow me to offer this:

Sadly, it is not uncommon for church leadership to be resistant to – or outright refusing – to receive admonishment.  So, if a situation calls for confrontation, don’t shrink from it.  However, (1) pray it through at lenght, and (2) evaluate your own heart first to see if the Holy Spirit would call to mind anything that might skew your judgment. Jesus instructs us to remove the speck from our own eye before calling attention to the plank in the eye of another.  Self-righteousness and anger don’t serve the one doing the confronting any more than it does the one being confronted i.e. you’ll get nowhere fast.  Speak the truth boldly and forthrightly, but do this in love (even if it’s tough love.)

All that being said, after reading this article from Christianity Today written to church leaders, I thought it worth sharing.  I wouldn’t categorize it as a lengthy read, but, clearly, it would behoove you to set aside a little time to be able to consider what the author offers.

Enjoy, nw

 

The Problem with ‘Church, Submit to Your Pastor’

When pushing our agenda keeps us from empowering others, we miss the point of leadership.  Mark L. Strauss and Justin A. Irving

Tony called me (Mark) and asked if we could get together for breakfast. The tone of fatigue and resignation in his voice spoke volumes. I knew what was up. This was Tony’s third pastoral role, and this one, like the first two, was failing.

His first was a youth pastor position. Tony was articulate, bright, gregarious, and creative—a perfect combination for student ministry. Yet the position ended badly after 10 months when the church board asked him to leave. In our conversation afterward, I became convinced the church leadership was primarily to blame. Tony had a great vision for evangelism and reaching down-and-out street kids. The church wanted someone to babysit their own. Their attitude was more like What if one of those punks starts dating my daughter! than a passion to seek and save the lost. At the time I thought, Another middle-class church with no vision for God’s priorities. Sad, but better for Tony to move on.

I knew much less about the second ministry position, a senior pastor role in a small church. After it ended, Tony described the church as visionless and unwilling to step out of their comfort zone.

Now here we were again. For the third time, he and the church board were at loggerheads. He was considering another resignation—if he wasn’t fired first.

Tony looked tired when I met him at the restaurant. He sat sipping black coffee but left his omelet almost untouched. We sat in silence for a time. Finally, I asked him, “If someone asked your opponents, ‘What’s Tony’s problem?’ what would they say?” He barely paused before responding, “They’d say he needs to have things his way.” I was surprised how candid and self-aware he was. Evidently he had been confronted about this before.

He went on to say that he knew what was best for this church and that the Lord had given him a vision. After probing some more, I offered this counsel: “Tony, it sounds like you’re pushing your agenda too hard. Remember, you have to love them before you can lead them. You need to be their shepherd first and their motivator second. Your personal agenda needs to take a back seat to the nurturing of their spiritual gifts.” We had an honest, heartfelt, and at times tearful discussion. We prayed together. He seemed encouraged when he left.

A week later he called me, thanked me for my time and counsel, and told me what he had decided. “I’m going to start a new sermon series next week,” he said, “about respect for and submission to your leaders.” As I hung up the phone, I was reminded how deeply entrenched our leadership patterns can be.

A Self-Appraisal

Most of us go into pastoral ministry because we love the Lord and desire to make him known. Yet we also aspire to Christian leadership because we are gifted, passionate, committed, hard-working, and full of good ideas. We are ready to lead. Yet ministry often looks less like leading and more like waiting, listening, nurturing, and waiting some more.

We readily embrace phrases like “servant leadership” and “empowering others,” but when our own gifts and ideas take a back seat to others’, it can feel like one sacrifice too many. How do we feel when colleagues are more successful or more gifted than we are or when someone takes credit for our good idea or fails to respect our position or authority? It is easy to be humble when others praise us. Not so much when we face criticism or critique.

How can we start to weed out the pride choking our noble desire to serve others? It starts with self-evaluation and self-disclosure. Consider Paul’s encouragement to sober self-appraisal in Romans 12:3: “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” Note also his words of encouragement to Timothy: “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:16). This call for Timothy to watch both his doctrine and his very life is also a call for us to look beyond the positive image we project to others.

Perhaps we can further separate our genuine desire to empower others from our subtle hopes for self-promotion by returning to a story so familiar that many have forgotten its critical redefinition of Christian leadership.

Power or Empowerment?

One of the key New Testament passages on leadership is Mark 10:32–45. Jesus was on his final journey to Jerusalem. A few chapters earlier, Peter had affirmed his belief that Jesus was the Messiah (8:27–30). When Jesus made his intention to go to Jerusalem clear, James and John anticipated coming events: In Jerusalem, Jesus would announce his messiahship, there would be a popular uprising against the Romans, and Jesus would be crowned and proclaimed king. But who would be his top advisers? After all, Jesus had 12 disciples. Mustering their courage, James and John approached Jesus and asked, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory” (10:37).

Jesus considered their request and responded, “You don’t know what you are asking. … Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” The “cup” and “baptism” both symbolize the great test of suffering Jesus would endure in Jerusalem. Jesus was asking, “Are you willing to go through what I’m about to go through?” James and John believed they were up to the task. Assuming Jesus was speaking of the messianic war ahead, they answered affirmatively: “We can!” Jesus responded that they would indeed suffer, but he could not grant such positions of authority: “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared” (10:39–40).

To be sure, James and John were showing a bit of ego (moxie really). They were a little presumptuous and a bit overconfident. But what great leader is not? They were demonstrating vision and initiative. They saw the future and were ready to seize it. Against overwhelming odds, they were willing to lead Jesus’ followers into battle, even to the point of death. Aren’t these the marks of great leadership? This is “grab the bull by the horns” leadership. This is carpe diem leadership. This is Gladiator-style leadership. (It’s hard to say how many Christian leaders have told us this is their favorite movie.)

But, of course, Jesus actually responded in a very different way, rejecting the self-promotional leadership of James and John. Gathering the disciples together, he radically redefined what it means to lead: “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.” The world’s model of leadership is about power, control, and influence. It’s about motivating others to accomplish the leader’s goals, agenda, and aspirations. “Not so with you,” Jesus said. “Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43–45).

We have read these lines so often through our filter of Christian leadership that it is hard to catch their countercultural nature. Jesus turns the “power and persuasion” model of leadership upside down by calling for “servant”—or better, “slave”—leadership, an oxymoron in the eyes of his contemporaries. Servants don’t seek power and influence; they seek to please their master. They don’t accumulate followers; they empower others through service. They don’t exploit people as resources; they enable others to be the best they can be.

The apostle Paul speaks of leadership in the same way. In Ephesians 4 he points to the senior leaders in the church: “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the pastors and teachers.” And what is their purpose? “To equip God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Eph. 4:11–12). The Christian leader’s goal should be to empower and equip others to fulfill their calling and use their spiritual gifts to the glory of God, even when it means setting aside their own vision and plans.

Sacrificial or Servant Leadership?

The subtle allure of power and self-aggrandizement is not just for megachurch pastors and New York Times best-selling authors. It creeps into our hearts and actions through everyday events and activities—in our late nights in the church office, our long hours in sermon prep, and even in our faithful time at hospital bedsides. Each of these things can convince us we’ve earned the right to be listened to and admired.

James and John surely had in mind the livelihoods they had left behind and the years they had spent at Jesus’ feet when they made their request for status in his kingdom. They had the right goal in mind: doing the will of God. Yet they could not envision this apart from the prospect of personal power and glory. They were willing to accept sacrificial leadership, but they weren’t quite ready to step into full-fledged servant leadership.

When Jesus redefined the role of the Messiah, he redefined the nature of all Christian leadership. Jesus did not come to be served but to serve, and that is the orientation Christians are called to as leaders.

Mark L. Strauss is University Professor of New Testament at Bethel Seminary San Diego.

Justin A. Irving is professor of ministry leadership and director of the DMin Program at Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.

They are the co-authors of Leadership in Christian Perspective: Biblical Foundations and Contemporary Practices for Servant Leaders (Baker, 2019).

I Befriended Bart Ehrman by Debating Him

I’ve been blessed by my friendships with debate opponents, despite strong disagreements.

 

I Befriended Bart Ehrman by Debating Him

It was February 2008. I had committed to a public debate with the prominent agnostic New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman. He was an established scholar, an award-winning professor at a prominent university, and a New York Times best-selling author. Additionally, he already had several public debates under his belt.

In contrast, I was still a year away from completing my PhD and knew far less about the New Testament and early Christianity. And yet, there I was, committed to debating Bart Ehrman.

A few months earlier, I had been talking to Phil Roberts, then the president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Roberts knew about my apologetics work and had asked me if I might be interested in doing a public debate. I told him I’d want to debate Ehrman, and Roberts set it up.

Why did I choose to face this giant? His scholarship was leading people away from the Christian faith and sowing seeds of doubt in the minds of many others; he needed to be answered.

Preparing with ‘Pseudo-Bart’

The topic for our debate was “Can historians prove Jesus rose from the dead?” My nearly completed doctoral research focused on this very topic, so I was confident I knew more about it than Ehrman. Over the next five months, I dedicated no less than 50 hours a week to preparing.

I read everything Ehrman had written on the topic and formulated answers to his various assertions. I dissected his previous debate with the prominent Christian philosopher William Lane Craig and thought through how to respond if Ehrman were to make the same points and rebuttals. I wanted every answer to be sound, succinct, and accessible to our audience. I practiced managing the time for giving each answer so I wouldn’t have to rush.

My friend Amy Ponce became a debate “sparring partner.” In 2004, I debated the atheist historian Richard Carrier. Amy had read a lot of Carrier’s work and acted as a stand-in for practice debates, so I asked her to do the same with Ehrman.

She studied Ehrman’s work and was able to impersonate his views and delivery. By the time the debate drew near, I was convinced she knew Ehrman’s views as well as he did—maybe even better. She had him down, his attitude, the phrases he liked to use. I even called her “Bart.”

I told Amy she could call me anytime, even in the middle of the night to wake me up and try to catch me off guard with one of Ehrman’s arguments. We staged a mock debate with Amy acting as “Pseudo-Bart,” complete with the official time constraints. Craig, the philosopher who had debated Ehrman before, listened in and felt Amy’s prep was so good that she was a harder debate opponent than Ehrman would be. After months of preparation, I felt ready.

Facing the giant

The day finally arrived. I flew to Kansas City, where the debate would be held on Midwestern Baptist Seminary’s campus. I woke the morning of the debate to find, to my horror, that I’d nearly lost my voice. Fortunately, the sound engineers at the venue were very helpful and the debate went ahead.

Standing offstage waiting for the event to start, I had jitters. Ehrman was waiting next to me in the wings and I was sizing him up. I knew he was a seasoned debater and never pulled his punches, even when debating his friends, which I certainly was not. I knew he would use clever rhetoric, a charming demeanor, careful logic, and thorough research—everything—to score points. He was out to win this debate.

Finally, the moment came and we stepped on stage. Once we were seated and the debate began, my jitters disappeared. I’d been preparing for months. I knew this stuff cold. I was a bit frustrated that my voice was weakened because it prevented me from being as passionate and engaging as I wanted. Even so, I felt good during the debate. I knew Ehrman was wrong. I knew I could answer him. This was my area of expertise. He couldn’t say anything I didn’t have an answer for.

When the debate finally drew to a close, I had mixed feelings. I had just taken on one of the world’s leading skeptics and thought I had at least held my own. But I wasn’t sure what the audience felt. For me, there’s tremendous pressure in public debates because if I perform poorly, I might inadvertently contribute to a believer’s doubts. I take Matthew 18:6 very seriously; I don’t want to cause anyone to stumble.

Immediately after the debate, two students came up to me and told me the event had instilled such a new confidence in their faith that they were prepared to devote themselves to full-time Christian ministry. A few months later, I met a college freshman whose professor was using one of Ehrman’s books as required reading and it was rocking her faith. I gave her a DVD copy of my debate with Ehrman and her face lit up. I later learned that the recording of the debate with Ehrman had encouraged her tremendously. In fact, she was now flourishing as a faith-filled student leader in her campus ministry!

You’d certainly expect that after five months of preparation designed to publicly denounce his ideas and testimonies from Christians encouraged by my ability to stand up to his doubt-inducing arguments, Ehrman and I would not be on speaking terms.

It’s true, I felt a little anger toward him before the debate began because I knew the effect his scholarship was having on people, leading some of them away from Christian faith. But that anger was tempered by knowing that Jesus loves Ehrman. There is no room for hatred. By the time the debate actually started, I did not feel any animosity toward him. In fact, since then, Ehrman and I have become friends.

A table in the presence of my enemies

In the 11 years since that debate in Kansas City, Ehrman and I have engaged in two more public debates, a written debate, and two dialogues on the popular podcast Unbelievable? with Justin Brierley. We have strong disagreements on a number of matters pertaining to Jesus and the Gospels, and our debates have always been spirited.

Despite the societal norm to demonize those with whom we disagree, Ehrman and I get along really well. I have grown to like him as a person and consider him a friend. We always greet one another with a smile and a hug at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature.

How is it that Ehrman and I can battle each other vigorously on matters held dearly to each of us, then part with a handshake and a hug, which emerge from a genuine warmth toward the other?

Years ago, a mentor of mine, Gary Habermas, told me that he likes to have dinner with his debate opponent before the event in order to break the ice. So before that first debate with Ehrman in 2008, I asked Midwestern to set up a dinner with him ahead of the event.

As we ate, Ehrman and I asked one another surface questions, such as what our present research concerned, what would be the topic of the next book we planned to write, and about our families. We didn’t have much time to get to know each other, but it helped to relate in a more social context, away from the debate stage. As we have come to feel more comfortable with each other over the years, our conversations have become more relaxed and personal.

At our second debate, held at Southern Evangelical Seminary a year later, we again had dinner beforehand with the president and a few faculty members. Knowing that he does a lot of public debates, one of the seminary professors at our table asked Ehrman who his favorite debate opponents were. I was a little nervous about what he would say. But while Ehrman admitted that some of his opponents could be mean, he said, “I really like Mike because he’s a nice guy.”

Getting to know each other off the debate stage was instrumental in correcting any stereotype we may have had of the other. I could see that the person with whom I was sharing a meal did not have the glowing red eyes of a demon! And Ehrman could see that his opponent was not an angry Bible thumper who was going to scold him publicly during the debate. Instead, we both met a friendly guy with whom we could have a collegial dialogue.

Whenever we debate one another, we have fun with it. We’re still serious about our topics and we still don’t agree.The debate is always lively. Ehrman doesn’t pull any punches and neither do I. But we relate in a very relaxed way; we banter back and forth and occasionally goof off. I feel there’s trust there. He knows I’m not going to talk bad about him behind his back and vice versa. I don’t agree with him, and I’m deeply concerned about the effect his work has on people. But I respect him and I like him.

Blessed are the peacemakers

There are people on both sides of any issue who are divisive and rancorous, and we cannot change that. What we can control is how we interact with others when we disagree with them. As followers of Jesus, it is our responsibility to love our neighbor, to be salt and light to our culture, and to return good for evil (Matt. 5:13–14, Rom. 12:14–21).

This is difficult when a person is screaming at us in disagreement, and it can even be a challenge in a good-natured public debate. But Jesus did not say that following him would be easy. In fact, he told us specifically that it will not be (Matt. 10:22–25, John 15:18–20).

As followers of Jesus, we are called to be his representatives in our society (John 20:21). So, we must engage in dialogues with those with whom we disgaree. We must not compromise Bible-based morals, despite the increasing hostility toward us for embracing those morals. We should not be surprised that much of our society hates us and desires to silence us. On the contrary, Jesus told us we should expect this sort of treatment.

That does not mean that everyone is out to get us or that disagreement precludes friendships. I’ve been blessed by my friendships with several of my debate opponents, despite strong disagreements on core issues. Jesus calls us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matt. 5:43–47). Should we do any less to those with whom we have disagreements but are not our enemies?

Since Jesus’ message is offensive to many in our culture, let’s not compound that by being unnecessarily offensive in our behavior. We just may find that we can participate in brokering peace in our society (Matt. 5:9) and that more people become open to hearing Jesus’ message as a result.

After our debate at Kennesaw State University last year, Ehrman and I both stood up and hugged. I told him, “Hey Bart, I’m really glad to call you a friend. I’d really like to call you a brother. You know the story of the prodigal son. C’mon, man! God wants you back!”

He smiled at me and, with a twinkle in his eye, asked me to come over to his side. I grinned back at him and said, “I don’t think so.”

Michael R. Licona is associate professor of theology at Houston Baptist University and founder of Risen Jesus ministries. His most recent book is Why Are There Differences in the Gospels? What We Can Learn from Ancient Biography (Oxford University Press, 2017).

From Christianity Today Magazine; July 2019

The Alarming Level of Biblical Illiteracy: Who Jesus Was, and Was Not

I teach and speak on this topic often. Sure, non-believers don’t know a lot about the Bible.

But, truth be told, neither do the majority of believers. It’s heart-breaking.

While the cursory reader of scripture envisions Jesus merely as a meek guy with great hair tenderly holding a lamb and visiting with children, the gospels tell a story of someone quite different.

In addition to the gospels, themselves, I would urge all to read Philip Yancey’s award-winning book, The Jesus I Never Knew (published 1995). Yancey writes,

“The Jesus I got to know in writing this book is very different from the Jesus I learned about in Sunday School. In some ways he is more comforting; in some ways more terrifying.”

And one more solid quote on this topic I thought you might enjoy:

“In an age in which biblical literacy continues to be on the wane, and there is an almost complete ignorance of Jesus’ words and deeds amongst unbelievers (as well as believers), my experience is that many are often surprised and amazed that Jesus actually said or did the things recorded of him. Now—as then—these stories bring us face-to-face with Jesus,…”

Quote by Paul Weston, “Preaching the Gospel from the Gospels” in Preaching the New Testament (IVP Academic, 2013), eds. Ian Paul and David Wenham, pg. 245

Norman Geisler: He Didn’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist

Apologist Norman Geisler:  The Man Who Didn’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist

Died: Apologist Norman Geisler, Who Didn’t Have ‘Enough Faith to Be an Atheist’

Just two months after his retirement from public ministry, evangelical theologian Norman Geisler died Monday at age 86. He had been hospitalized over the weekend after suffering a blood clot in his brain.

Described as “a cross between Thomas Aquinas and Billy Graham,” Geisler was a prolific author, apologist, and professor, as well as the co-founder and former president of Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES) in North Carolina and co-founder of Veritas International University in California.

Many evangelical leaders consider Geisler among the top Christian thinkers in recent decades, with pastor Derwin Gray calling him “one of Christianity’s greatest philosophers, apologists, & theologians” and Colson Center president John Stonestreet remembering him as “a towering figure in Christian apologetics and philosophy.”

Geisler was respected for the breadth and depth of his career of over 70 years, and his model of defending the faith and the Bible through classical apologetics.

“When Geisler began, there were few philosophers who embraced evangelicalism. Even more rare was a trained philosopher who was committed to helping ordinary believers in the defense of the gospel,” said Gregory E. Ganssle, philosophy professor at Biola University’s Talbot School of Theology. “Geisler paved the way for the kind of sophisticated apologetics we enjoy today,” by combining scholarly rigor with a desire to equip the church and writing books that “could be read and used by believers in all walks of life.”

Current SES president Richard Land described him as a powerfully refreshing voice that inspired conservative scholars, ministers, and fellow apologists.

“For us, Dr. Geisler’s latest defense of the faith was like a long drink of cold water in the midst of what was too often an arid and sterile theological landscape,” Land wrote. “Dr. Geisler has been the ‘go to’ authority for more than two generations of evangelical seminary students who were looking for a bold, erudite, and uncompromisingly faithful defense of the inerrant, infallible Word of God and the historical doctrines of the Christian faith.”

He was on the team of theologians that wrote the 1978 Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy and co-wrote the popular book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist in 2004.

“Norman Geisler was one of the four to five most influential people in my life. It was meeting Norm and reading his works that first drew my interest to philosophy and the rest is history,” Talbot Seminary philosophy professor J. P. Moreland told CT. “He was a tireless worker for the Kingdom and a brother who was faithful to the end. We have lost a giant and the world is worse off for his departure.”

In addition to his scholarship and teaching, Geisler participated in theological debates with fellow scholars, including a 2011 dispute with Michael Licona around the bodily resurrection of the saints, which was covered by Christianity Today.

He is the author, co-author, or editor of 127 titles, including a book on transhumanism due out next year. His book The Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics was named by CT among the top religion reference books by living theologians in 2002.

Geisler’s works had been translated into more than a dozen languages, and online tributes for spanned the globe, from Kenya to Brazil. Brazilian theologian Roney Cozzer wrote, “I often say that Geisler was ‘a source from which I drank too much’” and praised God for his legacy.

The Michigan-born scholar received degrees from Wheaton College, William Tyndale College, and Loyola University.

William C. Roach, president of the International Society of Apologetics (which Geisler founded in 2007), was mentored by Geisler and shared details in a tribute today:

Both of us were raised in non-Christian homes, our mother’s would not allow us to play football as kids, we both had alcoholic parents, struggled significantly in school, and most importantly—after our conversion to Christ we both had to face objections to the Christian faith.

Dr. Geisler used to say he got into apologetics because he was stumped by a drunk on the streets of Detroit…” Dr. Geisler knew that he either had to find answers to people’s objections or he must stop sharing his faith. Since the latter is not an option, Dr. Geisler dedicated his life to defending the historic Christian faith.

Following the news of his passing, his ministry posted 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 (ESV), one of his favorite passages to quote when he learned of a death in the body of Christ: “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.”

Geisler’s memorial service will be held in Charlote, North Carolina, on Saturday, July 6. He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Barbara Jean, their six children, 15 grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.

 

NOTE: the above article is from Christianity Today Magazine; July 2019

Chosen But Free – The Biblical Doctrine of Election

NOTE: The issue of “election vs. free will” will forever be debated.  What is critical, though, is that a believer leans fully on the authority and sufficiency of Scripture, without adding to, or taking away.  Conjecture, speculation and theory are good for earthly debate.  But, when all the dust settles, there is only one authority: the Word of God.  “Your word is truth,” Jesus said to the Father.[1]   Even the most intelligent of biblical scholars will never fully understand all the mysteries of the Bible.   But, that’s why it’s “by faith we are saved,”[2] and not by mere human intellect, logic & reason.  Volumes have been written on this topic.  I am merely sharing a few thoughts in this blog.  It would be impossible to write all I would like.

 Here’s the question I was asked recently:

If God, being fully sovereign, has already pre-ordained all past, present & future events how can I believe that I can choose anything of my own free will?  And, if God is fully sovereign, what about the atrocities of the Crusades, the Dark Ages, the Holocaust, crimes again children, etc?  Did God preordain these events?  If you say He didn’t, then are you telling me He was “caught off guard”[3] by them?  Tell me, is God totally in charge or partially in charge?  It can’t be both.

Oh, the tangled and exhausting mess we find ourselves in when we begin to assign to God what He can and cannot do, or what He can and cannot be.  Not to mention that it angers God:

Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said: “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?  Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.[4]

God continued….

The LORD said to Job: “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!” Then Job answered the LORD: “I am unworthy-how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer- twice, but I will say no more.” Then the LORD spoke to Job out of the storm: “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.[5]

Clearly, the Bible says that we – not God – will be the ones answering the questions, not him. (Unless he chooses to do so.)

 

That said, how would you have answered the question posed above?

 

Here’s how I responded:

Chosen But Free [6] – that’s the title of theologian/apologist, Norman Geisler’s, book on this white-hot topic among evangelicals.   Geisler, as well as Spurgeon, Packer, MacArthur, and other respected biblical scholars, affirms what simply doesn’t make sense to us. He affirms both the sovereignty and foreknowledge of God and the human responsibility to either receive or reject Him.

Why should we even want to sort through this controversial of a topic?  I like the way A.W. Tozer answers this question:

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”[7]

So, which is it?  Are we all robots that God has wound up, setting us on our way to live a pre-programmed set of life-long thoughts and actions?  Or, are we free to make our own choices?

Again, are we, as human beings, merely following a program, of sorts, that’s been downloaded into our psyche by God before we existed?  Are we mindless slaves who, unbeknownst to us, have no real choice in anything we say or do?   If that’s so, why would Jesus say things like, “Whosoever will…?[8]

Because by saying, “whosoever” it sounds a whole lot like Jesus is saying, “you have a choice: accept me or reject me.”  The first Bible verse almost everyone on planet earth learns is “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him…”  (John 3:16)

On the other hand, what is God talking about when the Bible over and over again speaks of His “elect” i.e. “chosen ones?”[9]  Has He already made up His mind as to who will go to heaven and who will go to hell? i.e. “who’s in, and who’s out?”   Wayne Grudem asserts,

“Several passages in the New Testament seem to affirm quite clearly that God ordained beforehand those who would be saved.”[10]  In John 17, verses 2, 6, and 24, Jesus seems to be praying for only those the Father “has given Him” and, in verse 12, acknowledges that one has already been “doomed for destruction so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.”?

Biblical passages like the following appear to make it clear it doesn’t matter what we think or do:

  • It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.[11]
  • But [God] stands alone, and who can oppose Him?  He does whatever He pleases.[12]

 

Again, which is it?  Robots?  Or, free to choose?

 

Simply put, this is one of those doctrines that will forever cause our human intellect to short-circuit.  Consider the following humorous illustration:

“There was a group of theologians discussing the doctrines of predestination and free will. When the argument became heated, the dissidents split into two groups. One man, unable to make up his mind which group to join, slipped into the predestination crowd.  Challenged as to why he was there, he replied, ‘I came of my own free will.’ The group retorted, ‘Free will! You don’t belong here!’ So he retreated to the opposing group and, when asked why he switched, responded, ‘I was sent here.’ ‘Get out,’ they stormed.  ‘You can’t join us unless you come of your own free will!” The confused man was left out in the cold.”[13]

 

A little History:  Calvinism

  • The debate regarding “Predestination (God’s already predestined every human thought and action) and Free Will (we have the freedom to make our own choices)” is nothing new.  It’s been a source of major theological difference since Augustine and Pelagius argued about it in the early fifth century.  In Erwin Lutzer’s, Doctrines That Divide, this topic, alone, occupies a third of its pages.  Healthy debate is actually a very good thing, though.  It teaches us to think deeply.  And having our convictions challenged only makes us stronger in knowing why we belive what we believe.  Problems develop as a result of the reckless, uneducated comments that fly out of the mouths of “self-appointed authorities” on both sides.
  • In 1538, the reformer/theologian, John Calvin, wrote his Institutes of the Christian Religion, which, for centuries, served as the basic textbook of theology for most Protestants.  Later, in 1618-1619, the Synod of Dort convened in the Netherlands to defend Calvin’s “Institutes” against contrary teachings and came up with what is today commonly known as “Five Point Calvinism,” often identified by the acrostic: “TULIP”: Total Depravity; Unconditional Election; Limited Atonement; Irresistible Grace; and Perseverance of the Saints.  “Limited Atonement” is the point that conveys the message that Christ died for “the elect” only. (Or, more pointedly, that God has predestined some for heaven and some for hell. This ideal is commonly known as “double predestination.”)
  • As stated earlier, history proves that godly men have fiercely debated this doctrine.  The great 18th century preacher, George Whitefield, agreed with this doctrine and taught that any contrary teaching was blasphemy.  But,… the great preacher and hymn-writer, John Wesley, argued that limited atonement “made God a devil.”  For 17 centuries, the debate has raged on.  Today, we have very godly, educated scholars still disagreeing…still debating…and they always will.

 

Familiarize Yourself with the Word “Antimony.”

  • “Antimony,” by definition, is: “an apparent contradiction between valid principles or conclusions that seem equally necessary and reasonable.”
  • The first chapter of Ephesians, Paul addresses our being predestined for salvation.  Pastor/Teacher, John MacArthur, does a masterful job of explaining this element in his commentary on Ephesians:
  • “God’s sovereign election and man’s exercise of responsibility in choosing Jesus Christ seem opposite and irreconcilable truths – and from our limited human perspective they are opposite and irreconcilable. That is why so many earnest, well-meaning Christians throughout the history of the church have floundered trying to reconcile them. Since the problem cannot be resolved by our finite minds, the result is always to compromise one truth in favor of the other or to weaken both by trying to take a position somewhere between them. We should let the antimony remain, believing both truths completely and leaving the harmonizing of them to God…..It is not that God’s sovereign election, or predestination, eliminates man’s choice in faith. Divine sovereignty and human response are integral and inseparable parts of salvation – though exactly how they operate together only the infinite mind of God knows.”[14]

  • A perfect example of antimony is: “Was Judas ‘predestined’ to betray Jesus Christ? If so, what kind of God would do such a thing?!”  True: Judas was predestined.  Also true: Judas had choice in the matter.[15]  So, which was it?  Both.  But it contradicts human logic, reason and intellect.  I agree with former Houston Baptist University professor, Robert Creech, Ph.d, who said, “Anything that undermines the love of God is rightly suspect.”[16]  The problem of Judas is simply antimony.
  • In Romans 9:15, God says, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”  What part of that verse is hard to understand?  Bottom line: God has the last word.  And He basis His will on His wisdom, not ours.  Archbishop, William Temple, once said, “One of the things believers are most fond of doing is thinking they’re more spiritual than God.”   In Romans 11:33-34, Paul wrote: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?”
  • Finally, God said through the prophet, Isaiah, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV)

 

“Which is right? ‘Predestination’ or ‘Free Will?” The answer is: “Yes.”

  • As one friend once told me, “We were predestined to have free will.”
  • John MacArthur writes, The Bible is clear that “no person receives Jesus Christ as Savior who has not been chosen by God:”[17] John 6:44; Romans 8:29-30; Romans 9:11, 14-15; Eph. 1:4-5; 1 Thess. 1:4; 1 Peter 1:2.
  • But,.. equally clear in Scripture, MacArthur continues: “The frequent commands to the unsaved to respond to the Lord clearly indicate the responsibility of man to exercise his own will.”[18]  Matt. 3:1-2; Matt. 4:17; Matt. 11:28-30; John 3:16; John 5:40; John 6:37; John 7:37-39; John 11:26; Rev. 22:17. Interestingly, Luke 2:10, records the angel, Gabriel, proclaiming, “I bring you good news of great joy that shall be for all people.”….not “some” people.
  • Again – and I can’t emphasize this enough – the Bible clearly teaches that God is 100% sovereign.  But, the Bible also teaches that of mankind’s responsibility, or freedom to choose.  The New Testament is replete with Jesus’ invitation to all mankind, the dozens of “whosoever will’s”.  Paul wrote to Timothy, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”  Then Peter writes, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”  (Hyper-Calvinists will jump through all kinds of theological hoops trying desperately to dismiss these passages as in support of the free will of man.)
  • One of my college professors, paraphrasing Charles Spurgeon, explained it to me this way: Throughout Scripture two abiding truths are told time and again: 1) God is in absolute and complete control (He is sovereign), and 2) people are responsible for their choices (humans have free will).  In high level human logic, those two truths are incompatible – sort of like a “married bachelor” – it is completely contradictory.  But, in God’s economy, it works.  As Spurgeon stated, those truths are like the two rails on a railroad track. They are parallel and never touch, but you have to have both for the train to go anywhere.[19]

 

Accept the Fact That Some People Just Enjoy Arguing.

  • Know that this conclusion will only frustrate some.  But, typically, these are folks who, for whatever reason, just enjoy arguing.  It frustrates them that they can’t wrap their mind around God. They are foolish to ever think they could. They can’t stand it when things like this don’t “add up.”  But, neither do talking donkeys, huge bodies of water parting, or virgin births, all of which are in our Bible.  You can’t cherry-pick which miracles you’re going to allow to be inexplicable.
  • Author & theologian, J.I. Packer:  There is among Christians “the reluctance to recognize the existence of mystery and to let God be wiser than men.” He goes onto write that some people simply “are not content to let [predestination and free will] live side by side, as they do in the Scriptures…..The desire to over-simplify the Bible by cutting out the mysteries is natural to our perverse minds, and it is not surprising that even good men should fall victim to it..”[20] 
  • Unfortunately, people still enjoy throwing the body of Christ “into confusion”[21] with rhetoric that is just plain irresponsible. God’s already told us that He’s “not a God of disorder, but of peace.” (1 Cor. 14:33)  So avoid combative, argumentative dialogue on this topic.  If you find someone that refuses to validate your position simply leave or talk about something else. Because whether they want to admit it or not, this issue will not be settled in this life.
  • And, speaking of arguing…

 

A Warning:  Hyper-Calvinists

  • A person would be categorized as a hyper-calvinist if the following applies:  they are not satisfied with simply holding to a strict argument for the Five Points of Calvinism.  They want you to believe it too.  All of it.  They argue their case self-righteously, almost angrily, giving little or no respect for opposing arguments and opinions.
  • Jesus never imposed his convictions on anyone.  But this person has absolutely no interest in civil discourse.  Rather, they want to bully their interlocutor into aligning their conviction with theirs.
  • As a result, the hyper-calvinist, like the ancient Pharisees, foolishly believes they’re on a level with the mind of God as they laughably attempt to mold God into their own little theological box created by their mere human logic, reason and intellect.
  • Should you ever encounter a person who fits this profile, simply smile and walk away.  This person loves to argue.  Any attempt to have an adult conversation with them will suck the very life out of you while their rambling, arrogant logic takes you with them down the proverbial rabbit hole. 🙂

 

 Final Thoughts:

  • Holding to the Bible teaching that God is 100% sovereign (I do believe this) means God is responsible for all the blessings in my life.  But he’s also responsible for my son taking his life.  (He could’ve stopped it.)  It’s either all on God, or it isn’t.  You can’t have it both ways.  But, like Job’s terrifying experience meeting God that day beginning in Job 38, I’ve also made a choice not to question God’s fathomless wisdom.  In my cognitive dissonance – rather than futilely attempt to spend my life trying to figure God out, I’ve chosen to focus on the cross.  Why? Because of the Cross and the Empty Tomb my son is more alive than he’s ever been.  And a reunion is coming. There are simply some mysteries that won’t be revealed until we reach heaven.  Paul told the Corinthians: “Now we see things imperfectly as in a poor mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me now.”[22]
  • Let me finish with a quote from the great 19th century, British preacher/ theologian, Charles Haddon Spurgeon:

“The system of truth revealed in the Scriptures is not simply one straight line, but two; and no man will ever get a right view of the gospel until he knows how to look at the two lines at once…..I see, in one place, God in providence presiding over all, and yet I see, and I cannot help seeing, that man acts as he pleases, and that God has left his actions, in a great measure, to his own free will. Now, if I were to declare that man was so free to act that there was no control of God over his actions, I should be driven very near to atheism; and if, on the other hand, I should declare that God so over-rules all things that man is not free enough to be responsible, I should be driven at once into antimonianism or fatalism. That God predestines, and yet that man is responsible, are two facts that few can see clearly. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory, but they are not. The fault is in our weak judgment. Two truths cannot be contradictory to each other…..They are two lines that are so nearly parallel, that the human mind which pursues them farthest will never discover that they converge; but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring.”[23]

 

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

 End Notes

[1] John 17:17, NIV; See also Isaiah 40:8

[2] Ephesians 2:8, NIV

[3] The term used to describe God as One who can be “caught off guard” or not completely certain of what happens next is:  “Open Theism.”

[4] Job 38:1-4, NIV

[5] Job 40:1-7, NIV

[6] Norman Geisler.  Chosen But Free, 2001.

[7] A.W. Tozer.  The Knowledge of the Holy, 1978.  Quoted by Norman Geisler in Chosen But Free.

[8] Matthew 10:32; 12:50; Mark 9:37; Luke 9:24; John 3:16

[9] Matthew 24:22, 24; Romans 8:33; In Colossians 3:12, the Amplified describes “chosen ones” as “His own picked representatives.”

[10] Wayne Grudem, Ph.D.  Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, 1994.

[11] Romans 9:16-18, NIV

[12] Job 23:13, NIV

[13] Edwin Lutzer. Doctrines That Divide. 1998.

[14] John MacArthur.  MacArthur Commentary on Ephesians, 1986.

[15] For an excellent commentary on Judas, see John MacArthur’s, Twelve Ordinary Men, 2002.

[16] Robert Creech, Ph.D.  Quote included in a personal e-mail from Dr. Creech.  2000

[17] MacArthur.  Ephesians.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Larry McGraw, Ph.D. Professor of Theology. Hardin-Simmons University. Abilene, TX.

[20] J.I. Packer. Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. 1991

[21] Galatians 1:7, NIV

[22] 1 Corinthians 13:12, NLT

[23] Charles Spurgeon.  A Defense of Calvinism, 1897.  Included in “A Heritage of Great Evangelical Teaching,” 1996.

Why Pray? (Does it really make any difference?)

I want to thank everyone for your kind and encouraging words regarding the message I preached on June 16th about the mystery of prayer and why God, through human eyes, seems so capricious i.e. why does he answer some prayers and not others?

My daughter, Macy Watts, listened to it yesterday and told me should couldn’t stop crying. (Most of the time that’s what happens when they find out I’m that day’s preacher. )

Why pray? Because Jesus did.

Why flood heaven with requests? Because Jesus did.

I shared the following with Macy. Perhaps, for those who are wrestling with this spiritual disciple called prayer, my response to Macy may be of some encouragement. love to you all. nw

“Macy, the topic (of why God answers some prayers and not others) has always been problematic for me. Way before Jordan died I would hear testimonies of people talking about how their loved one had stopped drinking or using drugs. I begged God to heal my dad and sister. They died anyway. Or about someone who had been reconciled with their dad or mom. And I would ask God, “Why them and not me??” But, at some point, you just have to strip away the veneer and ask the question behind it all: “can I trust God, or not?” It’s a hard question sometimes. In Daniel 9:23 the angel, Gabriel, came in “swift flight” to tell Daniel, “As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given.” If I am going to believe John 3:16 I have to believe Dan. 9:23 right? I can’t cherry-pick which scriptures I’m going to believe and which ones I’m not. At some point in one’s life you have to drive a stake in the ground and, with your Bible in your hand, say to God, “Life is hard. I don’t understand most of it. But I’m going to believe this book, by faith alone, in Christ alone.” And then walk away with the issue once and for all settled. As my brother/friend, Joe Price, told me after Jordan Blake Watts took his life, “If faith was easy, it wouldn’t be called faith.”

When Macy texted me after listening to the message she included my closing quote:

“It appears to me that God has decided that he can use me better in my pain than with my son still here. I don’t understand it. I don’t like it. I don’t have the answers that I need. But I’ve chosen to believe that God is still God. And that God is still good.”

For Narnia, nw