Book Review of R.C. Sproul’s Surprised by Suffering

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Biblically Based Reasons for Suffering

Book Reviewed by Dr. David P. Craig

It’s difficult for Christians in the United States to grasp that a huge part of our lives entails suffering – probably due to the influence of the so-called “American Dream” and the onslaught of prosperity preachers in our midst. However, it’s really impossible to read Genesis through Revelation at face value without realizing that part of our vocation in a fallen world is that tests, trials, tribulations, and persecutions, are not only possible, but inevitable for those who follow Christ.

Sproul states early in the book: “The promise of God is not that He will never give us more weight than we want to carry. The promise of God is that He will never put more on us than we can bear…What is difficult to bear without Christ is made far more bearable with Christ. What is a heavy burden to carry alone becomes a far lighter burden to carry with his help.” He emphasizes how and why God uses suffering in Christian’s lives so that we can become more like Jesus – spiritually mature and useful to others.

Here are some of the strengths of this book:

(1) The amount of references used to show that suffering is a huge part of Christian growth and the development of our character.

(2) The stories of biblical characters that suffered and what we learn from their suffering: Joseph, Elijah, Job, John the Baptist, Paul, Peter, and Jesus.

(3) The hope that our sufferings aren’t worthy to be compared with the glories to be revealed in the new heaven and earth.

(4) He writes about how to prepare for, endure, and be victorious over trials and triumph in Christ.

I highly recommend this book to prepare you for suffering well, and with purpose, for the glory of God, and the glories that await us in Heaven.

The Peace Which Christ Gives His True Followers – Jonathan Edwards (1750)

More good stuff on Edwards from my buddy Dave Steele

Veritas et Lux

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On this day in 1758, Jonathan Edwards breathed his last breath. His next breath was in glory where he appeared before the Savior he loved during his earthly days as a converted man.

The coronavirus crisis has led many people down a path of anxiety, fear, and despondency. Edwards was familiar each of these maladies. In fact, he endured many challenging season over the course of his life and ministry. One of those seasons is described in this post.

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Imagine shepherding a congregation of people, only to find yourself
expelled from the church. That is exactly what happened to Jonathan Edwards – America’s greatest intellectual. Within a month of his dismissal, Edwards pens a series of sermons – one of which is entitledThe Peace Which Christ Gives His True Followers.

The Text: John 14:27

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the…

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God the Best Portion of the Christian – Jonathan Edwards (1736)

Excellent article on Edwards from Dr. David Steele

Veritas et Lux

Two hundred years after Calvin published his first edition ofThe jonathan-edwardsInstitutes,Jonathan Edwards preached a sermon about being content in God. The title of the sermon wasGod the Best Portion of the Christian. Edwards’s text is Psalm 73:25:

Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee.

The central truth is set forth at the beginning of the sermon, in deductive fashion:It is the spirit of a truly godly man, to prefer God before all other things, either in heaven or on earth.

Two propositions comprise this short sermon

1. A godly man prefers God before anything else in heaven.

Edwards presents the God-centered paradigm in this section by leading readers on the correct biblical path. He notes, “Every godly man hath his heart in heaven; his affections are mainly set on what is to be had there…

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The Preciousness of Time – Jonathan Edwards (1734)

Great post from my friend David Steele on the greatest “Time Manager” of all “time”!

Veritas et Lux

Time is a precious commodity that must be treasured. Such is the argument in jonathan-edwardsJonathan Edward’s piece entitled,The Preciousness of Time and the Importance of Redeeming It.

The subject of time was no stranger to Edwards. He thought about the “improvement” of time often. Even in his famous 70 resolutions, he addressed the matter of time.

Resolution # 5

Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most

profitable way I possibly can.

It would serve us well, then, to consider the precious matter of time from Jonathan Edwards’ perspective.

Section 1: Why Time is Precious

Jonathan Edwards states four reasons why time is precious.

  1. Because a happy or miserable eternity depends on the good or ill improvement of it.
  2. Time is very short, which is another thing that renders it very precious.
  3. Time ought to be esteemed by us very precious, because…

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THE BUCKET LIST

Great article from my good friend Dr. David S. Steele

Veritas et Lux

The Bucket List, starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson is about two very different men who are both diagnosed with terminal diseases. One of the men, upon learning of his condition, decides to draft a “bucket list.” The list would include achievements and things to see before he “kicks the bucket.” After viewing the film, I began to re-visit my bucket list:

  • Attend a baseball game at every major league park in America
  • Visit the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London
  • Walk the streets of Geneva where John Calvin ministered
  • Stand at the Castle Door in Wittenberg
  • Climb the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial

A bucket list is an important tool because it helps a person discern what is most important in life. What is on your bucket list? Who would you want to see? What would you want to accomplish? Where would you travel?

We know that the Apostle Paul had…

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Book Review of Joel Rosenberg’s The Last Jihad

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Fast Moving and Gripping Political Thriller

Book Reviewed by Dr. David P. Craig

In this book – the first of five – in the Last Jihad series, Joel Rosenberg writes a fast moving and gripping political thriller. In a televised interview the author says that his goal in writing is “for the reader to not be able to put the book down – and stay up until the wee hours of the night until the book is finished.”

I didn’t stay up all night reading this particular book (I’ve only done that three times in my life: Reading John Grisham’s The Firm; R.C. Sproul’s The Holiness of God; and Randall Arthur’s Wisdom Hunter). However, if I didn’t have to go to work in the morning I probably would have, and could have read the book all the way through without a break. 

The narrative involves an assignation on the POTUS; a wall street multi-millionaire; Iraq, Iran, Israel, and various characters from the C.I.A., the President’s cabinet, a billion dollar corporation, and various other interesting characters like Saddam Husein.

What I like most about Rosenberg’s book is how he ties together contemporary events, people, and geo-political realities and tells a feasible and realistic thriller. He is an excellent story-teller and weaves in some good insight and wisdom along the way. I highly recommend this book and look forward to reading the next four books in the Last Jihad series.

Biography Of The Author of The Last Jihad

Joel C. Rosenberg (www.joelrosenberg.com) is a New York Times bestselling author of 15 novels and five nonfiction books, with over 5 million copies sold.

He has been interviewed on hundreds of radio and TV shows, including ABC’s Nightline, CNN, CNN Headline News, C-SPAN, Fox News, MSNBC, The History Channel, The Rush Limbaugh Show, The Sean Hannity Show, and The Glenn Beck Show. His articles and columns have been published by National Review,FoxNews.com, CNN.com, the Jerusalem Post, World magazine, and the Washington Times, among others. He has been profiled by the New York Times, the Washington Times, and the Jerusalem Post.

Joel has spoken to audiences and met with religious and government leaders all across the U.S. and Canada and around the world, including Israel, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, the UAE, Turkey, Afghanistan, Russia, Germany, France, Belgium, Italy, India, South Korea, and the Philippines. He has also addressed audiences at the White House and the Pentagon, addressed members of Congress on Capitol Hill, members of the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa, and a conference held at the European Union Parliament in Brussels.

He is the founder and chairman of The Joshua Fund (www.joshuafund.com), a nonprofit educational and charitable organization he and his wife launched in 2006 to mobilize Christians to “bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus, according to Genesis 12:1-3.”

Joel’s books, most of which are published in numerous languages, include:

FICTION

The Last Jihad (2002)

The Last Days (2003)

The Ezekiel Option (2005)

The Copper Scroll (2006)

Dead Heat (2008)

The Twelfth Imam (2010)

The Tehran Initiative (2011)

Damascus Countdown (2013)

The Auschwitz Escape (2014)

The Third Target (January 2015)

The First Hostage (December 2015)

Without Warning (March 2017)

The Kremlin Conspiracy (March 2018)

The Persian Gamble (March 2019)

The Jerusalem Assassin (March 2020)

NONFICTION

Epicenter: Why the Current Rumblings in the Middle East Will Change Your Future (2006; revised version, Epicenter 2.0, released in 2008)

Inside The Revolution: How the Followers of Jihad, Jefferson & Jesus are Battling to Dominate the Middle East and Transform the World (2009)

Implosion: Can America Recover From Its Economic and Spiritual Challenges in Time? (2012)

Israel at War: Inside the Nuclear Showdown with Iran (2012)

The Invested Life: Making Disciples of All Nations One Person at a Time, written with Dr. T. E. Koshy (2012)

He has produced two documentary films, based on two of his nonfiction books, Epicenter and Inside the Revolution.

Several of his books have won national awards:

The Ezekiel Option—ECPA Gold Medallion Award for Best Novel of 2006.

Epicenter—Retailers’ Choice Award for Christian Living (Christian Retailing magazine)

Dead Heat—Retailers’ Choice Award for Fiction: Mystery & Suspense

Inside the Revolution—Retailers’ Choice Award for Social Issues

The Twelfth Imam—Retailers’ Choice Award for Fiction: Mystery & Suspense

The Tehran Initiative—Retailers’ Choice Award for Fiction: Mystery & Suspense

The Auschwitz Escape—finalist in the 2014 GoodReads Choice Awards for Best Historical Fiction

Several of his books have reached the top or near the top of national bestseller lists:

The Last Jihad hit #1 on the Amazon.com bestseller list. Dead Heat reached #4 on the New York Times hardcover fiction bestseller list. The Third Target hit #4 on the Publishers Weekly hardcover fiction bestseller list and spent two months as the #1 bestselling work of fiction in the Christian market in North America. The First Hostage was also the #1 bestselling work of fiction in the Christian market in North America.

Joel was born in Syracuse, New York. His father is a first-generation American from a Jewish background whose parents and grandparents emigrated from Russia and settled in Brooklyn, New York. His mother, a Gentile, was raised in Rome, New York. When Joel was two, his parents moved to a community just outside of Rochester. He grew up in the small town of Fairport and graduated from Fairport High School in 1985. He attended Syracuse University (1985–1989)—spending one semester of his junior year studying at Tel Aviv University (August 1987 to January 1988)—and graduated from SU with a BFA in film drama in May 1989.

Joel married his college sweetheart, Lynn, in June of 1990. Together, they made their home in the Washington, D.C., area for 24 years. They and their four sons—Caleb, Jacob, Jonah, and Noah—now live in Israel.

For more information on conferences Joel organizes, please visit www.epicenterconference.com. You can find his weblog at https://flashtrafficblog.wordpress.com/. You can follow him on Twitter @joelcrosenberg.

 

Charles Stanley on 10 Benefits of Giving Thanks

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Why this tough but life-giving command can change your entire outlook.

Reading the Bible isn’t always Easy

If you’ve ever thought those words but were embarrassed to speak them, you’re not alone. Sure, there’s plenty within Scripture that we comprehend without much difficulty. But at times we come across a passage that baffles us—or worse, makes us feel angry or annoyed. Sometimes it’s because we simply don’t understand what the Lord is saying through the text. But often the reason for our discomfort is that we don’t like what we’re reading. It’s easier to ignore those verses and move on to more appealing topics than to hash it out with God and do what He says. Reading the Bible is hard because, in the end, it challenges us to change.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 is one of those verses that can really get under your skin: “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” But what about those difficult and painful situations? Being grateful for suffering seems to make no sense.

If I were writing Scripture, I would say, “In most things give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” It’s easy to be grateful for the good things in life—a newborn baby, a raise, a new house, or encouraging news from the doctor. But what if you lose your job, discover your child is on drugs, or are told by the doctor that you have only have six months to live? How can God expect you to be grateful then?

I faced this dilemma some time ago when I hurt my shoulder and experienced excruciating pain. I read this verse and told the Lord, “I know You said this, but it’s not reasonable when I’m hurting so badly. I just don’t feel thankful.” But then I noticed that it didn’t say, In everything give thanks when you feel like it. This command has nothing to do with feelings. It’s a choice to do what God says. Whenever He gives us a command in the Bible, it’s for our benefit.

Gratitude Impacts Every Area of our Lives

By giving us the command to always give thanks, God is not rubbing salt in a wound or calling us to set aside reason. He knows that being thankful in all circumstances has a powerful impact on every area of our Christian life. Here are ten lessons I’ve learned:

1. Gratitude keeps us continually aware that the Lord is close by. Even though gratefulness doesn’t come naturally in difficult circumstances, a decision to thank God for walking with us through life makes us more sensitive to His comforting presence.

2. It motivates us to look for His purpose in our circumstance. Knowing that the Lord allows hurt and trouble for His good purposes takes the edge off the pain. Even if we don’t understand why we’re going through suffering, we can thank God because we know that in His time, He’ll work it all for good. In the meantime, we can rest in the knowledge that He’s using every hardship to transform us into the image of His Son (Rom. 8:28-29).

3. Thanksgiving helps bring our will into submission to God.When the situation we’re experiencing is the last thing we’d ever want, thanking the Lord is a giant step toward being able to follow Christ’s example and say, “Not my will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Gratitude helps us acknowledge that God’s will is best, even if it’s hard; in that way, we are able to release our hold on what we want. Although the circumstances may remain the same, submission changes our heart.

4. It reminds us of our continual dependence upon the Lord. Pride, adequacy, and independence evaporate whenever we’re trapped in a situation that leaves us helpless and hopeless. If there’s no way out, thanking God for His control over all things reminds us that He alone is our strength.

5. Thankfulness is an essential ingredient for joy. There’s no way to “rejoice always” (1 Thess. 5:16) without giving thanks in everything (v. 18). That’s why ungrateful people are so grumpy. Joy is an inner sense of contentment, which flows from a deep assurance that all God’s purposes are good and He’s in complete control of every situation. With that kind of supernatural joy, it’s easy to be thankful.

6. A grateful attitude strengthens our witness to unbelievers.The world is filled with people who are angry, frustrated, and overwhelmed with the difficulties of life. But a believer with a grateful attitude is like a light shining in a dark place. The people around you will want to know why you don’t grumble and complain the way everyone else does. Then you can tell them about your amazing Savior.

7. Thanking God focuses our attention on Him rather than our circumstances. The key to a grateful heart begins with understanding the Lord’s character because knowing His awesome attributes motivates trust and gratitude. He knows exactly what you’re going through, loves you unconditionally, and understands you perfectly. When you thank Him in tough times, He gets bigger, and the circumstances become smaller.

8. Gratitude gives us eternal perspective. The apostle Paul is an amazing example of a man who suffered extreme hardship yet remained thankful. That’s because he was able to see life from God’s perspective. In 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, he says our present suffering is “momentary light affliction.” If you’re going through a really hard time, those words may sound ridiculous. Maybe you’ve been dealing with pain your entire life, or a difficult trial has dragged on for decades. It hardly seems momentary or light.

But Paul is comparing our situations here on earth with what’s awaiting us in eternity. For him, a 40-year stretch of pain and hardship was no match for the “eternal weight of glory” awaiting him (2 Cor. 4:17). What an amazing thought—your present pain has the potential to produce incomparable glory for you in heaven. Now that’s a big reason to thank God!

9. When we’re wearied by our circumstances, thanksgiving energizes us. Most of us can handle short trials, but if they continue for a long period of time, the emotional and physical strain is exhausting. Should ongoing illness, unresolved relational problems, or continued financial pressures become more than we can bear, it’s time to start thanking God because He has promised to give strength to the weary (Isaiah 40:29-31). He’ll release His supernatural energy within us so we can patiently endure the trial and come out victorious on the other side.

10. Gratitude transforms anxiety into peace, which passes all understanding (Phil. 4:5-7). I learned this principle through a very difficult experience. When I was feeling anxious about the situation, I discovered that complaining, getting angry, and arguing with God didn’t change my circumstances. Finally, in desperation, I began thanking Him. Only then did I receive His incomprehensible peace. My situation didn’t change for quite a while, but God’s peace guarded my heart all the way through that trying time.

What Will You Choose?

The choice isn’t always easy. Most of the time, we’d rather get out of difficulties than thank God through them. But have you ever considered that He may actually want you to stay in a painful situation for a time? I know this may not sound like something a loving God would ever do, but remember, His goal is to do what is best for you, not what’s comfortable, convenient, and enjoyable.

The Lord’s purposes for your life extend beyond your days on earth. He’s working for your eternal good. Begin thanking God today, in whatever circumstance you find yourself. After all, what’s the alternative—bitterness, resentment, and grumbling? God made you for something far better: eternal, sustaining joy. The transformation starts with two simple, small words offered from the heart: thank You.

Say them over and over. And then say them again. Your joy will be radiant—a light shining in a dark and desperate world.

About Charles F. Stanley: Dr. Charles F. Stanley is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. He is the author of numerous books, including How To Handle Adversity, Eternal Security, Blessings of Brokenness and many others. His popular radio and TV program In Touch is heard and seen worldwide.