Why Not Be Anxious? A Great Quote From Dr. James M. Boice

 James Montgomery Boice on Faith NOT Seeking Understanding:

“Whether you can see it or not – and often we cannot – everything is being used of God for your good as well as the good of others…This knowledge is by faith. It is not always by sight. But it is nevertheless certain, because it is based on the character of God, who reveals himself to us as both sovereign and benevolent…We are not to be anxious about the unknown future or to fret about it. We are to live in a moment-by-moment dependence upon God.” – excerpt from notes I took from a late 1980’s sermon of Dr. Boice

About Dr. James Montgomery Boice

*Dr. James Montgomery Boice, just 8 weeks after being diagnosed with a fatal liver cancer, died in his sleep on June 15, 2000. The senior pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, he was a world-famous Bible teacher, author, and statesman for Reformed theology. He informed his congregation of 32 years of his condition on May 7, proclaiming his complete confidence in God’s sovereignty and goodness.

In the past 72 years, historic Tenth Presbyterian Church had two senior pastors, Donald Grey Barnhouse and James Montgomery Boice – previous to Dr. Philip Graham Ryken (Currently the President at Wheaton College). Founded in 1828, the church itself predates their tenure by another hundred years. Tenth Presbyterian Church lies in the very heart of the city and today has about 1,200 members.

James Montgomery Boice accepted the position as senior pastor in 1968, and was the teacher of the Bible Study Hour since 1969 and the more recent God’s Word Today broadcast as well. Dr. Boice held degrees from Harvard, Princeton Theological Seminary, and the University of Basel, Switzerland. He had written or contributed to nearly 50 books, including Foundations of the Christian FaithLiving by the Book, and exegetical commentaries on Genesis, Psalms, Acts, and Romans.

He was no less involved in the preserving of the fundamentals of the faith than his predecessor, Dr. Barnhouse. In 1985, Boice assumed the presidency of Evangelical Ministries, Inc., the parent organization of the Bible Study Hour, Bible Study Seminars, Bible Studies magazine, and other teaching ministries. In 1997, Evangelical Ministries merged with Christians United for Reformation and the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, taking the latter as the new organization’s name, and Dr. Boice assumed the presidency. In 1997, he was a founding member of, and chaired, the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy.

Of particular concern to Boice was the matter of the church and her relationship to and engagement of society. His recent book, Two Cities, Two Loves, maintains that Christians are citizens of the kingdom of this world and the kingdom of heaven and that they have responsibilities in each. He urged Christians to “participate in secular life rather than merely shoot from the sidelines at secular people.”

His wife, Linda, and three daughters survive Dr. Boice. Characteristic of his ministry was his pushing Christians to commit themselves to staying in one place. He lived what he preached, committing to the church and his downtown neighborhood for 30 years. A gifted pastor and leader, he turned down many attractive opportunities in order to build a sense of permanence and belonging. And he urged his parishioners to do the same.

“Every Day With Jesus is Like A Thanksgiving Holiday” By Dr. David P. Craig

“Thank God It’s Thanksgiving Everyday – Especially on Thursday’s!”

I have always loved the Thanksgiving Holiday. It’s one of the few times of the year where our very large family can come together from all over the United States and enjoy giving thanks for our many blessings. This year more than likely I’ll be having liquid formula through a feeding tube in my stomach. I already had the G-Tube surgically implanted in my stomach this past week. During chemotherapy and radiation around Thanksgiving time will be a time of great testing for me, when according to my Doctors I will be unable to swallow and chew due to the severity of my treatment for throat and neck cancer. Watching every one I love dearest passing around the turkey with all the trimmings will be something my eyes will enjoy, but not my taste buds. However, I’m good with that. I’m good with whatever comes my way because I can choose whether I’m a “reactor” or a “responder.” Let me explain.

Over the past decade I’ve had eye problems off and on – a cataract surgery and lattice degeneration in both eyes, which required laser surgery to repair numerous tiny little “tears” in the back of my eyes. A few days ago the Eye Doctor discovered I have a Vitreous Detachment and a Vitreous Hemorrhage in my right eye. After seeing a cataract specialist I was referred to another specialist who confirmed these diagnoses. All I know is that it is difficult for me to read, and that I see flashes of light at night, and what looks like a “blob” during the day out of my right eye. The Ophthalmologist thinks it should go away – but for now, I’m hoping and praying the “blob” will clear up.

I have also had an off-and-on battle with “Gout” (Charles Haddon Spurgeon had Gout as well – which makes me feel a little bit better about it – at least I’m in good company). They say Gout is a “rich man’s disease” (well one out of two ain’t bad – and “rich” isn’t the one). The first time I experienced Gout was after coaching one of my daughter’s soccer practices. I remember lying on the bed at night after soccer practice and feeling like someone took my right big toe and pounded it with a hammer as if they were really mad at the nail – and it just so happened my big “toe” represented the nail. It was excruciating. I’ve finally (after years of hopping, limping, and crawling through various “Gout” attacks) resorted to taking medication a few months ago – so far so good. The reality is I get “Gout” not because I’m rich, but because my body is missing an enzyme and therefore I manufacture too much uric acid which builds up “crystals” (more like little torturous demons) in weak areas of the body – joints in the extremities – and inflames them, so that even a bed sheet touching the inflamed joint hurts like you just got stepped on by a really upset “Chuck Norris.”

Today I am on my way to the hospital to get my face fitted for a mask that I will wear for radiation treatment. I will also have a CT-Scan to see if I’m ready to start chemotherapy and radiation for the Stage 3, throat and neck cancer I’ve recently been diagnosed with. God-willing I will begin treatment early next week (the sooner the treatment begins – the better). So what’s with all the grim news? Well, honestly, I truly believe that some tough days are ahead – but they will go a lot better if I have a thankful heart.

I also have learned something about life – We are either coming out of tough times, going through tough times, or about to go through tough times! The good news – is that as Christians we know that God “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide a way of escape that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13b). Warren W. Wiersbe calls the Christian life a “land of hills and valleys.” We journey from low points to high points and everything in between.

 Why Lord? What’s with All the Tough Stuff?

James puts it this way, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4). In other words, if you want to lack nothing, be spiritually mature, and satisfied – the only way to do it, is by meeting all kinds of trials with “joy.” Why? Because God designed it that way! If you’ve got a problem with it…He’s got a bigger problem! He took our sin problem head-on and voluntarily. He sent His perfect Son to die in your and my place and exchanged His perfect record of righteousness for your (and my) heinous record of unrighteousness.

I didn’t choose to have a cataract or lattice degeneration in my eyes; Gout, or Squamous Cell Carcinoma Cancer. But, I do know for a fact that God has allowed me to have these ailments, and I can either react to, (negative thinking) or respond to (positive thinking) God’s sovereign will and plans. I know that God works everything out for my good, and more importantly, for His glory. I know that God can heal me if He chooses to do so. I know that He can use medicine and the skill of excellent Physicians, medications, diet, and the prayers of His people to rid me of my cancer if He so desires. I also know, that we live in a fallen world, and one out of one people die. As a pastor I’ve easily performed over 100 funerals, and I’ve also witnessed miraculous healings. However, I do not presume to know what God’s sovereign hidden will happens to be in my cancer. I only know that I must decide whether God is good or evil – and the track record is that I’m very evil, and He is very good – as a matter of fact Perfect and immutably so. Only God is infinitely Wise in His plans. I simply want to trust and obey Him in the midst of this trial.

 God is Good and Sovereign:

Lamentations 3:21-26 – But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.”

Psalm 90:12 – Moses prays, “so teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”

Proverbs 16:9 – Solomon says, “Man plans His ways, but the LORD determines His steps.”

Psalm 139:16 “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”– in paraphrase: “All of our days are numbered before one of them came to be.”

Romans 8:18, 28-29, 32 – “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us…And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers…He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

In summary: God has given me a certain number of days to suffer and grow in wisdom. He has always been faithful to provide for all my needs. If He didn’t spare His own Son – how could He possibly abandon me now? In the days He entrusts to me I can either react or respond to everything that He allows in my life. He promises that everything that comes my way is ultimately for my good and His glory. Ultimately all of my suffering is not worth comparing with the glories to come. God has predestined and purposed for me in His infinite wisdom and love that through suffering my character would conform to the image of Jesus – so that I would look like His brother – an heir with Christ, adopted into the family of God! God will give me an allotted time known only to Him to make much of Jesus and to bring Him glory – nothing else really matters.

Are You a “Reactor” or a “Responder”?

Here is an example of the difference and importance of “reacting” to circumstances, and “responding” to them: If I begin radiation and chemotherapy on Monday and within a few weeks my tumor shrinks from 7 to 5 cm, and the cancer cells are disappearing – then that’s a positive “response” to the treatment – it’s working! My body is responding to the treatment. If the tumor and cancer cells metastasize to another part of my body and the tumor grows to 8-9 cm then that’s called a “reaction” to the treatment – it’s not working. My body would be “reacting” to the treatment. The treatment will either cause my body to “react,” (negatively) or “respond” (positively) to the treatment. Responding is good. Reacting is bad.

The good news of the gospel is that even when you or I “react” negatively in our thinking, Christ has us covered! Even when you or I “respond” it’s only by His grace that we’re able to respond the way we should. I thank God that my salvation is NOT based on the way I react or respond to everything in life. I thank God that it is solely by repentance and faith – God’s gift to me – sola gratia, sola fide, solus Christus, Soli Deo Gloria – that I’m accepted, adopted, and saved by my beloved Triune God.

I truly believe that we can respond to circumstances by responding by having a greater understanding of the incredible mercy and grace of God in saving us. Read carefully just a sampling of God’s amazing Triune grace and mercy in saving us:

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:44).

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:1-5).

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

“Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:1-4).

For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” (Romans 9:15-16).

“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:4-7).

I like the way Pastor David Platt puts it, “Salvation has absolutely nothing to do with human merit and absolutely everything to do with divine mercy.” John MacArthur says it like this, ““There are basically only two kinds of religion in the world: those based on human achievement and those based on divine accomplishment. One says you can earn your way to heaven; the other says you must trust in Jesus Christ alone.” Tullian Tchividijian makes the same point this way, ““The Bible doesn’t tell the story of good people who do great things; it tells the story of great sin that is met with a greater Savior.”

Paul David Tripp writes, ““Because we sin specifically, the gospel intends us to grow in grace specifically…We must emphasize again and again the nowism of the gospel…Jesus didn’t just die for your past and future, He died for you’re here and now! To die for you, Jesus had to first live for you. He lived a perfect life in your place so he would be an acceptable sacrifice for your sin.”

When trials come into our lives in the form of a long traffic light that makes us late for work, an unexpected tax increase, or in the form of a pink slip from our boss, small or large trial – we all have them – where we differ and show what we are made of is in the arena of our character. Character is made in the shade of trials – the inner being. Our character is manifest in the light of the fight. It is in the heat of the hottest fire where the gold is most refined. Gold is never made without heat. Our purity came at a huge cost – the life of the perfect One – crucified (the greatest suffering), buried (the greatest abandonment), risen (the greatest triumph), and coming again (our greatest hope)!

Therefore, I am going to do something I’ve never done before starting this Thursday – Today. I’m going to make it a “Day of Thanks” – no matter what comes my way. I am going to choose to “respond” and not “react” – be positive and not negative – praise God and not whine to Him. I’m going to spend my entire day choosing joy over sorrow, and to focus on the Grandeur of the God of the Gospel.

Thursday’s for me – from this Thursday on – by God’s grace will be a day of responding to God in gratitude and thanks all day long. October 18, 2012 is going to be a day dedicated to Thanksgiving. I will not ask for anything of God. I will spend my day delighting in what He has already done and will continue to do for me. I will choose to delight in His nature and attributes. I will respond to Him by rejoicing in His plans that are ultimately always for His glory and for my good. As a Christian I know that even my suffering has a purpose – I know that behind every pain there is a plan by a loving God who suffered and was in more pain than I’ll ever know, in order to spare me from His wrath that I so rightly deserved. Now all I know is that because of the Triune work and plan of God I will never be punished for my wretched sin – Jesus took care of it, and stated “It is finished” two thousand years ago.

The new normal for me may consist of a lot of pain – but that’s ok because Jesus has been through the greatest pain on my behalf – out of love for the Father and love for me as His adopted heir in the family of God. His goal for me whether He gives me many more years or just a few more days is spelled out clearly by the Apostle Paul in Romans 5:1-8,

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

 Today is a Day of Thanksgiving because I’ve been:

(1)  Justified by faith (not my works – but the perfect works of Jesus on my behalf);

(2)  I have peace with Jesus – He’s not mad at me even though He died for “my” sins;

(3)  I stand in grace – undeserved, free, and infinite – accessed solely by faith in Jesus Person and Work on my behalf in his life, death, burial, and resurrection;

(4)  I can rejoice in the hope of the glory of God – I will see Him in His perfect glory forever – no blinders and no barriers because I am his child forever;

(5)  I can rejoice in my sufferings – because they have purpose – they aren’t by “chance” or “luck” – they are carefully designed by an infinitely wise and loving God to conform me to the image of Jesus;

(6)  My character will be produced by endurance, strength, and hope by choosing to respond and not react in the midst of the hardships – because the more I become like Jesus – the more prepared I will be to bring gratitude and glory to Him;

(7)  I have God’s love in my heart because He poured it there via the Holy Spirit – no more guilt or shame, because I’m covered by the blood of Christ, and the Spirit has taken up residence in my life forever – never to leave me nor forsake me;

(8)  No matter how weak I am – Jesus the risen one who conquered death – who died for my sin – who rose from the dead and will return and reign as King – the righteous for the unrighteous – how can I doubt His love or plans for me;

(9)  He can never love me more than he already has demonstrated – for while I was a sinner He died for me. I can never do anything to make Him love me more. So whether I “react” or “respond” because of my repenting of my sins past, present, and future – He’s got me covered by His blood shed for me.

Thursdays from this day forth will be “Days of Thanksgiving.” Not the all-you-can eat Turkey and gravy fests The focus on my prayers will be to be express my gratitude and “respond” to God’s amazing graces in my life. And if He never did another thing for me – only He would be worthy of all of my praise for Who He is, what He has done, and what He has promised to do for His glory and His Eternal Kingdom.

Today I Start with this Simple Prayer of Thanks – “Response”:

“Father thank you for orchestrating my election in eternity past. If you never did anything else than to pick me on your team – adopt me into your family and not make me pay forever for my sin – that would be enough for me to thank you each millisecond for the next billion years. Jesus, thank you for coming after me courageously and unflinchingly receiving the Father’s wrath for my sin – if it were only my sin it would have been brutal enough. But you also took on the sins of the world. You are the Man – there is no one who can be named in the same breath with the name of Jesus. At your name every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that You are Lord. I do so now willingly, with gratitude, humbly, and filled with joy – that you would exchange your righteousness for my righteousness which to you are only as “filthy rags.” Holy Spirit, I am grateful that you regenerated me. You took a dead man with no ability whatsoever to trust in Jesus, and made me alive spiritually. You gave me the gift of faith in the One you pointed me to – the Holy Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world – and who took away all my sins – past, present, and future. Thank you Triune God for your plan to save me; your perfect execution to save me in totally fulfilling the righteous requirements of the law; and the reconciliatory requirements in order to forgive me on the basis of the name that above all other names, and You will reign as King forever and ever! – Amen!

I hope that you will join me in committing to making one day a week – it doesn’t have to be a Thursday; the date isn’t as important as your becoming focused on the Gospel – seeking to conform to being more like Jesus. I encourage you to join me in becoming a “responder” to the Gospel and not a “reactor” that doubts the goodness of our loving God. Please join me in giving God the Father, Son, and Spirit the gratitude and glory due Him for the great things He has done – let’s strive to be “responders” to His grace, and not “reactors” because of our foolish idolatries. Soli Deo Gloria!

 About Dr. David P. Craig

I am first and foremost a great sinner, saved by an even Greater Savior – Jesus Christ. I have been a pastor for over 23 years and working as a Pastoral Life Coach for the past year. There is nothing I enjoy more than teaching from God’s Word and pointing others to the focal point of the Scriptures and the Universe – it’s all about Jesus. I have no greater passion than to make disciples who make disciples of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Whether I make disciples by teaching large groups, coaching one-on-one, or in discipleship – the formate doesn’t matter to me. I love seeing and experiencing the Spirit of God come upon and transform lives through the power of the Gospel. I love to help people get more balance in their lives by identifying and delivering them from their idolatries and discovering that Jesus is always better than anything else. I have been blessed with a wonderful wife, five outstanding children, two amazing grand sons, and my only claim to fame is that I know where to find lasting satisfaction and joy – and it’s to be found only in knowing Jesus personally and intimately.

It’s Friday, But Sunday is Coming! By Dr. David P. Craig

“Thank God for Sunday!”

I think the first time I ever heard the phrase, “It’s Friday, but Sunday is Coming!” was from a message that Tony Campolo delivered in Chapel in the mid 1980’s at Multnomah School of the Bible (Now called Multnomah University in Portland, Oregon).

Yesterday, I had a “procedure” a nicer and more sweet sounding term than “surgery” at a hospital in Irvine, CA. I was recently diagnosed with Cancer – Squamous Cell Carcinoma – that started on the back of my tongue and has resulted in a huge mass the size of a lemon in my neck.

I had a “G-tube” inserted in my stomach because doctors and former patients I’ve consulted with say that weeks 3-6 of radiation and chemotherapy will be “brutal” – my throat will hurt “200 times worse than strep throat” (Doctor’s exact words). Also, that I will not be able to eat or drink anything orally during that time because of the pain. I recently talked with a friend of a friend who had the exact same cancer two years ago (and by God’s grace is cancer free now), and he lost 80 pounds during treatment and had the G-tube “procedure” in a weakened state mid-way through treatment. His advice was “get the G-tube NOW!”

So yesterday – with a tube in my nose that went to my stomach and feeling like I was battling in a kick boxing match with Chuck Norris and Jackie Chan I was thinking of the aforementioned phrase by Tony Campolo, “It’s Friday, but Sunday is coming.”

During surgery – I was awake during the “procedure” and in a lot of pain – I tried quoting Bible verses and singing hymns (I can never remember the new songs – only classics like “And Can It Be; “How Great Thou Art”; and “Amazing Grace”); and trying to take my focus off of the pain. Quoting verses or hymns just didn’t seem to work – I couldn’t concentrate on anything other than the pain.

So the Holy Spirit  began take my focus off of my pain and on to Jesus – what He did for me on the cross 2000 years ago. I visualized the torture He endured – the lashes; the insults; the crown of thorns; suffocating; the blood, sweat, and tears. Ultimately being unrecognizable, forsaken, and dying for my sins. He was perfect and never did anything wrong – and yet He volunteered to endure more torture than I could imagine. I endured what seemed like torture for 45 minutes – and now its done. I didn’t accomplish any atoning work for anyone. Yet His righteousness was imputed to me, and His voluntary sacrifice in payment for my sin were absolutely necessary to make me right with a Holy and perfect God.

Jesus was crucified on a Friday, but rose again on Sunday. I can’t even come close to comparing my “torture” with His. However, I do have a deeper appreciation for what He endured in His 33 years on earth: facing temptation without sinning; completely obeying God the Father in every way; and becoming the “Lamb that was slain” so that He could be my Savior and Lord.

I don’t know what will become of my cancer, I hope and pray that God will take it away. One thing I do know, is that He has already wiped away my sin, and that everything He allows is for my good and ultimately for the Glory of His Son.  I hope and pray that God will use my cancer for the furtherance of the glorious Gospel. However, I know that even if I’m silent the rocks will cry out of His glorious works. I know that I am weak and frail and but a mere sinful vessel. I also know that Jesus was weak, suffered, and died in my place, and rose from the dead on Sunday. He is so strong that no one and nothing can defeat Him. Today is Friday. But Sunday is coming! Last time He came as a humble servant. Next time He comes as King!

Today may be a tough day for you my friend. But remember that anyone who comes to Him will not be cast away. Our confession of sin in exchange for His righteousness. We can never earn our salvation – but Jesus has earned the right to be trusted and believed in unto salvation. “The righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God.”

Today, I’m doing better, but will continue down a rough road with radiation and chemotherapy ahead. However, I am grateful that because of the righteous life, death, burial, and resurrection of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that no matter how many “Friday’s” I will have in this trial – that because of Jesus finished work on the cross, my future hope is that “Sunday is coming!”

Some Scriptures God The Holy Spirit Used To Comfort Me in my Pain:

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?” – Psalm 22:1

“For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. – Isaiah 53:2-7

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. – Isaiah 53:10-12

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. – 2 Corinthians 5:20-21

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. – Hebrews 4:14-16

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. – 1 Peter 2:21-25

For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit. – 1 Peter 3:17-18

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed…Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name [the name of Christ]. – 1 Peter 4:12-13, 16

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. – 1 Peter 4:1-2

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:1-2

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. – 1 Corinthians 15:56-58

6 Reasons I’m Grateful for My Cancer by Dr. David P. Craig

A Positive Acronym for C.A.N.C.E.R.

C – is for Christ – Jesus Christ chose to be my cancer. He chose to be the spiritual good cells I needed to make me right with the Father – his righteousness in exchange for my sin (justification); and He chose to be the bad cells (cancer cells – my sin) that were rightly punished by a Holy God (propitiation). In short Jesus took my chemotherapy (His Goodness killed my idolatrous religiosity and evil thoughts and deeds) on Himself so I can have the righteousness of God imputed to my account.

2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin (cancerous cells) who knew no sin (good and perfect cells), so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

A – is for Attitude – I truly believe that there are too many benefits to list in regards to having cancer. However, maybe the best benefit is that I know God is sovereign and good. He has demonstrated this time and again throughout my life and all throughout the Scriptures. I know two big things about God – He’s sovereign and has a plan in my cancer; and secondly He is always good. I know that cancer is evil and that the cancer wants to kill me. I also know that to God cancer is evil and He will use it for His purpose and for my good and the good of others.

Genesis 50:20, “As for you, you meant evil (cancer) against me, but God meant it (cancer) for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”

N – is for New Focus – The Christian life is a continuous battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil. I like to illustrate my cancer this way – If you ever played the Atari Classic video game “Asteroids,” you have these big asteroids coming at you and you are in a little space ship that moves about killing the asteroids and they break up into more asteroids coming at you quickly until you kill them all. I feel like with cancer, my past concerns of finding work, overcoming financial setbacks, and so forth were like a bunch of little asteroids coming at me. Now I have the ability to focus on a big asteroid (cancer) coming at me slowly. However, I have a God that’s bigger and in control of how He chooses to use that cancer for His glory. He can and will destroy it in His perfect time. My job right now is to seek His glory and it’s easier to hone in and focus on the battle with the cancer.

1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do (fight cancer), do all to the glory of God.”

C – is for Community – I am so grateful for the body of Christ and the community of cancer over comers and those in the fight with me. I have never experienced such care and concern from others and the outpouring of love from family and friends who are going to battle for and with me in prayer.

James 5:15, “And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick (with cancer), and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.”

E – is for Encouragement – I am daily receiving cards, emails, and calls that display an outpouring of camaraderie and the urge to be courageous in my plight. I am spurred on to want to live well for my Lord and Savior and do well for His glory while I have breath.

Hebrews 6:10 and 10:23-25, “For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do…Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

R – is for Repentance and Restoration. I believe that I am a huge idolater. God is continually bringing to mind things that I’ve put before Him – even good things like food and family. However, with cancer I have no idols that can save me. Only the love of God can deliver me from fear. Only the worship of God satisfies my cravings. Only the promises of God give me hope. Only the Gospel gives me pleasure all day long. Only the Word of God sustains me and gives me courage. Only the Holy Spirit convicts me of my sin and comforts and counsels me. I am a sinner in desperate need of God’s grace and endless pleasures that in He alone satisfy my soul. I repent of my worthless and powerless idolatries and I find my satisfaction in Christ my Lord and Savior – my Healer and restorer! He will make me strong when I am weak and He will use my total dependence on Him to point others to His glory in Christ!

Acts 3:19, “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out.”

Hebrews 12:11-13, “Being disciplined isn’t enjoyable while it’s happening – it hurts! But afterwards we can see the result, a quiet growth in grace and character. So take a new grip with your tired hands, stand firm on your shaky legs, and mark out a straight, smooth path for your feet so that those who follow you, though weak and lame, will not fall and hurt themselves, but become STRONG.”  (Living Translation)

Jeremiah 30:17a, “For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the LORD.”

*I am not taking these verses and exegeting and interpreting them in context – that’s not my purpose here. I’m merely applying them to my circumstances. I believe that God speaks to us corporately and individually – and I take comfort in and through the Holy Spirit through the various amazing applications of the Gospel found throughout the Scriptures daily!

How Can A Pastor Prepare His Church for the Inevitability of Suffering?

“You will Have Tribulation” (by Dr. David P. Craig)

I think that only in “good times” can anything that resembles a so-called “prosperity gospel” develop. Dr. Ron Carlson made a very important point in a lecture twenty plus years ago that I’ve never forgotten. He said, “If the gospel can’t be preached in the same way to every person in every tribe, country, and people group on the face of the earth – then it’s not the Gospel.” He was making reference to the teaching of Robert Schuller, whose “prosperity gospel” was failing miserably at the time in Russia in the 1980’s. People in Russia who had been under communist rule for so many years couldn’t relate to “health, wealth, and prosperity.” It was as abstract to them as living on Mars would be to us earthlings.

Over my 25 years in the ministry I’ve learned a few lessons about life. One of the most difficult lessons I’ve learned is in the furnace of suffering: emotionally, physically, financially, and spiritually. Life is tough and it seems to be getting tougher all the time. I am convinced that one of the most important ways a pastor can love his church is by preparing her with a deep and robust Biblical theology of suffering. A theology of suffering should be biblical, systematic (what the whole Bible teaches about suffering – not just isolated passages), deal with the problems of sin and evil, be Christo-centric, and be holistic (involving the promises and plans of God; practical ramifications; grapple with the emotions and pain of suffering, and so forth). A sound theology of suffering must ultimately lead to the peace, hope, and even joy that is to be found only in the Gospel.

 Should we be surprised, shocked, or indignant when we suffer?

In the 20th century more Christians were persecuted than in all of history combined. Conservative estimates place the martyrs at between 40-50 million. In the 21st century the martyrs are piling up and look like that number will double to over 100 million! Here is just a sampling of some Scriptures having to do with the “normal” Christian life – a life full of trials, tribulations, pain, and death:

Joseph as an elderly man who endured torture, exile, abandonment, and years spent in prison for crimes he did not commit said to his brothers who sold him into slavery, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20).

Job – who was the original “poster boy for suffering” said, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face” (Job 13:15).

Peter tells the “elect exiles” scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:12-13).

Paul writes to the believers at Philippi, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:7-11).

James issues this declaration to the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).

Jesus told his disciples after telling them that they would be scattered and persecuted for their faith after His crucifixion, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Pain, agony, trials, and tribulation – these are synonymous with the Gospel and the Christian life. There would be no Christians without the gospel. And there would be gospel without suffering. The testimony of the Bible is not “if” but “when” we will suffer. Evil, suffering, and death are tackled head-on by the triune God in bringing about our salvation. Look closely at the following Scriptures as they clearly reveal the Father, Son, and Spirit’s own travail and suffering in brining about our own deliverance from suffering and death:

“Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything” (2 Corinthians 6:1-10).

For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you (Romans 8:6-11).

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?

As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:18-39).

“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (1 Corinthians 5:18-21).

 How does a pastor prepare a church for suffering? (by Tony Reinke)

This was one question addressed at the recent T4G conference in Louisville. Jointly, C.J. and Matt Chandler provided answers to this often-neglected pastoral topic.

C.J. opened the session with a brief explanation of why this topic is critical in the life of the local church. He then invited Matt to share the story of the Thanksgiving Day seizure that led to his hospitalization, the discovery of a mass in his brain, and his surgery eight days later to remove a portion of his right frontal lobe. Before the 7,000 attendees Chandler recounted this unexpected and frightening time of his life and looked back at God’s grace in the midst of his recent suffering.

What sustained me through it all? Where did I find my feet landing over and over again? In the doctrines, in the theology, and in the beauty and magnificence of Christ and his salvation. There my feet could rest and there I had the ability to put my confidence in him and him alone. This has had ripple effects in the Village Church, which has had ripple effects in the evangelical community at large, where men and women who have not theologically lined up with necessarily where I am and where my heart is, all of the sudden are drawn in and want to have discussions around the beauty of God’s sovereign will.

Matt’s testimony and example were moving. Later, when reflecting on Matt’s role at the conference, C.J. said, “God’s grace is evident in Matt’s life in a profound way. His personal example of trusting God in the midst of severe suffering is compelling. I experienced this with Matt in private conversation at the conference and I think everyone experienced it as he shared publicly. His time with us was unforgettable and it will serve conference participants in an enduring way, long after the other conference messages are only a distant memory.”

C.J. followed Matt’s segment, briefly addressing an important question: How do pastors provide this foundation for their people before suffering arrives? In the remaining time allotted for the session, C.J. encouraged pastors to consider five points:

(1) Prepare your church for suffering through the preaching diet. For the task C.J. commended the books of Job, Habakkuk, and 1 Peter.

(2) Draw your church’s attention to living illustrations of people suffering well in the church.

(3) Develop a curriculum of supplemental books, chapters, articles, and audio messages on the topic. C.J. recommended:

(4) Point your church to the suffering Savior in the gospel. C.J.: “The great mystery is not why do I suffer? The great mystery is why would the sinless Son of God suffer as my substitute on the cross for my sins, receiving the wrath that I deserve, so that I might be forgiven and declared righteous?”

(5) When suffering arrives, be at their side. C.J.: “By God’s grace, when we care for people in the midst of suffering, they will never forget the difference we make. Their gratefulness will be deep and it will be profound and it will be unending.”

Part of the article above was adapted from C.J. Mahaney’s “View from the Cheap Seats” blog: http://www.sovereigngraceministries.org/blogs/cj-mahaney/post/2010/04/23/cj-mahaney-matt-chandler-t4g-Prepare-Your-Church-for-Suffering.aspx (David P. Craig, Tony Reinke, C.J. Mahaney, and Matt Chandler – April 23, 2010).

 About the Authors:

 Matt Chandler: Matt serves as Lead Pastor of Teaching at The Village Church in the Dallas Fort Worth area. He has served in that role since December 2002 and describes his tenure at The Village as a re-planting effort where he was involved in changing the theological and philosophical culture of the congregation. The church has witnessed a tremendous response growing from 160 people to over 11,000 with campuses in Flower Mound, Dallas and Denton.
Alongside his current role as lead pastor, Matt is involved in church planting efforts both locally and internationally through The Village and various strategic partnerships. Prior to accepting the pastorate at The Village, Matt had a vibrant itinerant ministry for over 10 years where he spoke to thousands of people in America and abroad about the glory of God and beauty of Jesus. His greatest joy outside of Jesus is being married to Lauren and being a dad to their three children, Audrey, Reid and Norah.
Recently, Matt was named president of Acts 29, a worldwide church-planting organization.Over the last 10 years, Acts 29 has emerged from a small band of brothers to over 400 churches in the United States and networks of churches in multiple countries.
Matt speaks at conferences throughout the world and has written a couple of books, The Explicit Gospel, published in April 2012, and Creature of the Word, coming out in October 2012. Matt has been a tremendous example to countless thousands in his hope in the Gospel in his own struggle with cancer (currently in remission – thanks to the miraculous working of God).

David P Craig: is a Pastoral Life Coach residing in Tustin, CA. He specializes in helping young pastors and leaders with personal and organizational balance by focusing on the Gospel at the center of all of life. He has a special heart for those dealing with emotional and physical pain, and is currently trusting in the God of the Gospel in his own battle with cancer. He has been married to his best friend and lover for twenty years and has five fantastic children and two grand sons.

C.J. Mahaney: C.J. Mahaney leads Sovereign Grace Ministries in its mission to establish and support local churches. After 27 years of pastoring Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland, C.J. handed the senior pastor role to Joshua Harris on September 18, 2004, allowing C.J. to devote his full attention to Sovereign Grace. He serves on the Council of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, and on the board of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. He is author of The Cross Centered Life; Christ Our Mediator; Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God: What Every Christian Husband Needs to Know; Humility: True Greatness; Living the Cross Centered Life and Don’t Waste Your Sports. He is the editor of Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World. He also contributed to Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry, and to two additional volumes in the Foundations for the Family Series (Crossway). He has also edited or co-authored four books in the Pursuit of Godliness book series, published by Sovereign Grace Ministries: Why Small Groups?, This Great Salvation, How Can I Change?, and Disciplines for Life. C.J. and his wife Carolyn have three married daughters and one son. They make their home in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Tony Reinke: is a former journalist now serving as a theological researcher, writer, and blogger. He lives in Maryland with his wife and three children. He is the author of the fantastic book: Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books. Wheaton: Crossway, 2011.

Book Review on Tim Chaffey’s God and Cancer: Finding Hope in the Midst of Life’s Trials

Biblical Reminders of Hope While Battling Cancer

 Book Review by Dr. David P. Craig

As a newbie to cancer – just diagnosed with throat cancer a week ago – I’m reading everything I can get my hands on with reference to cancer. I’m in the process of trying to understand it, develop a positive attitude with it, and seek to overcome it.

In this short book Chaffey addresses head on his own battle with cancer (Leukemia). He goes into graphic detail with his discovery of it, his emotions in dealing with it, and God’s promises and hope in the midst of it.

Some of the helpful features of this book: its brevity, its Biblical promises; its doctrinal hope with reference to God’s sovereignty over evil and suffering.

Chaffey writes an authentically helpful book for those who have discovered they have cancer, family and friends of those with cancer, and gives a positive testimony of God’s working in the midst of it, and using prayers, doctors, treatments, and the like in overcoming it. The book is a testimony to God’s healing mercy in Tim Chaffey’s life and gives good advice and hope for those currently in the battle with cancer.

 About Tim Chaffey:

Tim lives near the Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio borders with his wife and two children. He enjoys spending time with his family, walking, basketball, swimming, and good theological discussions. In 2001, he was the starting center for a national championship basketball team, and in August 2012 he swam the relay leg of a half-Ironman triathlon.

He currently works as a writer and editor with Answers in Genesis. He has spent five years as a pastor and associate pastor, in which he taught youth ministry, adult Sunday School, and a weekly theology class in addition to regular preaching duties. He has also taught high school Bible and science classes for six years.

Tim earned a Th.M. in Church History and Theology from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary in May 2011 after successfully defending his thesis on “The Sons of God and the Nephilim” (available on Kindle). In 2008, he earned a Master of Divinity degree (summa cum laude) specializing in Apologetics and Theology. Tim also holds a Master of Arts and a Bachelor of Science in Biblical and Theological Studies.

He is the founder and director of Midwest Apologetics, a ministry dedicated to defending the word of God from the beginning to the end.

Tim specializes in the historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus and the creation v. evolution controversy (and the corresponding age of the earth battle). He is especially interested in the theological nature of these debates. This interest led to the publishing of his first book, Old-Earth Creationism on Trial: The Verdict Is In (co-authored with Jason Lisle, Ph.D. in Astrophysics).

In 2008, Tim published a booklet entitled God Means What He Says: A Biblical Critique of the Framework Hypothesis. This booklet critiques those views which claim that Genesis 1 should be interpreted in a poetic or allegorical manner. This work was originally an academic paper for his Master of Divinity program and is available from the Midwest Apologetics website and the Kindle edition is available from Amazon.

Tim is also a cancer survivor. He was diagnosed with Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia in July 2006. He has been in full remission since September 2006. His second full-length book, God and Cancer, traces his battle with the disease, but focuses on providing insight and advice to others who are going through difficult times. The book concludes with an apologetic for the existence of God. This section demonstrates that suffering and evil do not provide evidence against the God of the Bible, but rather the Bible provides the only solution to this issue.

Tim has co-authored The Truth Chronicles youth fiction series. Book 1 (The Time Machine) was published in April 2010, book 2 (The Contest) in May 2010, book 3 (The Rescue) in June 2010, book 4 (The Thief) in April 2012, and book 5 (The Chase) in Fall 2012. These exciting books are designed to teach young people how to defend the faith, and learn more about the biblical worldview. Book 6 is currently being written.

Tim has contributed to several other books as either an editor or writer. Notably, he has written multiple chapters in the following books: How Do We Know the Bible Is True? Volumes I & II, and Demolishing Supposed Bible Contradictions, Volume II.

Tim is a popular speaker and often teaches on topics related to apologetics, theology, and worldviews in churches, camps, and schools. He has been a guest on numerous radio programs and speaks regularly at the Creation Museum in Northern Kentucky. He also maintains a well-trafficked blog at http://www.midwestapologetics.org/blog.

Dr. David P. Craig on Cancer and God’s Glory

“Peace in Cancer, Because Christ is Bigger!”

I’m in good company – John Piper and Tim Keller have both battled cancer – and there are many other less known Christians who have faced the battle. As of today, Piper and Keller have been freed from any trace of cancer. Perhaps my greatest pastoral hero was Dr. James Montgomery Boice. When he was diagnosed with cancer he continued to minister in his church in Philadelphia as he always had – being faithful to the gospel, emphasizing God’s glory and sovereignty – and the Lord took him home within six months of his being diagnosed with cancer. He was steadfast and brave because all he had known and preached for forty years was the sovereignty and goodness of his Savior – the Lord Jesus Christ.

Tomorrow, I go to the hospital for a PET scan. When I first found out recently that the lump in my neck was cancer (and not an infection – as I had hoped) – I didn’t take the news too well. After receiving the news I came home and went for a long walk – cried, prayed, got angry with God, confessed every known sin, and got extremely tired, depressed, and discouraged. A few days after the news I settled down and realized that this is where the gospel meets the road of life – when faced with our mortality.

In the excellent book Suffering and the Goodness of God edited by Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson, Robert W. Yarborough writes an excellent illustration in the first chapter that articulates the realities of life and death and the integration of the gospel that gives us hope in the face of our mortality:

Suffering is a bracing slap in the face that drives God’s people again and again to clarify and purify the fundamental terms of acknowledgment and worship of their God. It drives us to turn our hearts to God in truer prayer. The rediscovery and application of a brutally realist God-centeredness is an urgent need in an era of much crass human-centeredness—typified recently in the ego-centered absurdity of Episcopal priest Ann Holmes Redding’s simultaneous profession of both Christian and Muslim faith (Cf. Eric Young, “Episcopal Priest Suspended over Muslim-Christian Identity,” Christian Post Reporter, July 7, 2007, http://www.christianpost.com/article/20070707/28350_Episcopal_Priest_Suspended_Over_Muslim-Christian_Identity.htm – July 9, 2007).

Nor have we explored implications of the fact that whatever suffering Christians and everybody else must endure in this world, it pales next to scriptural predictions of what awaits the divinely accursed both in this age and in the age to come (Cf. Stephen Keillor, God’s Judgments: Interpreting History and the Christian Faith. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2007. 40. See Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson, eds., Hell Under Fire. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004).

This has contemporary significance in that contemplation of both current and eschatological woe is an important incentive to cultivate a seemly sense of urgency in personal pursuit of God, in ecclesial labors including evangelism, and in mission generally. But the last word of this introductory chapter belongs not to one more thesis or argument but to a story. We began speaking of a boy’s death by crocodile in Costa Rica. No one could save him [he was killed by the crocodile].

A second story, very similar, has a different ending. In the Nseleni River near subtropical Empangeni, South Africa, two third-graders released from school with pinkeye decided to slip away for a secret swim. As they were leaving the water, a hidden crocodile’s jaws closed on Msomi’s leg. He shouted frantically for help. Companions wisely and understandably fled. Except for Themba. He grabbed his friend Msomi in a tug-of-war with the determined reptile. Matters hung in the balance for a long turbulent moment. Suddenly Msomi broke free. He scampered out of the water, bleeding from his left leg and arm and from a cut across his chest. But he was saved. And Themba the noble rescuer, a third-grade kid with the heart of a grizzled warrior? Msomi, visibly shaken, lamented from his hospital bed: “I ran out of the water, but as Themba tried to get out, the crocodile caught him and he disappeared under the water. That was the last time I saw my friend alive. I’ll never forget what happened that day—he died while trying to save me” (Sibusiso Ngalwa, “Boy Dies Saving Friend from Crocodile,” April 4, 2004, http://www.io l. co.za/?click_id= 14&art_id=vn20040404110517366C649996&set_id=1 – July 10, 2007).

The crocodiles of crises and calamities beset us all. Eventually we wander into the kill zone where the unwanted lurks, biding its time.

Suffering is ubiquitous and finally terminal in this age. But there is a God, and he is good, and those who seek him are saved. We are all Msomi, but there is a Themba (Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson, eds., Suffering and the Goodness of God. Wheaton, IL.: Crossway Books, 2008).

I praise God that Jesus is my Savior – my Themba. Although Themba’s death for his friend was an incredible act of love it was not salvific in a spiritual sense. Only Jesus’ perfect life and purposeful atoning death propitiated the wrath of God that my sin deserves. Therefore, whether this cancer takes my life or not – I’m covered by the blood of Christ’s death as payment for my sins. His perfect love casts out my fear!

I’m sure I’ll have ups and downs along the way. However, I hope that whether I live or die soon, or in several years that I can live like Keller, Piper, and Boice who have paved the way for me – at peace with God because of Jesus – my Themba!

My heart’s desire is that whether God chooses to take me home or spare my life mercifully and graciously that I will be able (with Christ’s help) to bring Him the glory that He deserves for already sparing my life and rescuing me from eternal separation from Him.

May I be able to say with the apostle Paul, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain”…and “So whether we [I] eat or drink, or whatever we [I] do, may all be to the glory of God” (Philippians 1:21; 1 Corinthians 10:31).

Why? because of passages like 2 Corinthians 5:21 and Romans 8:1,11, 18, 28-39:

“For our sake [my sake] he made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God…There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you…For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us… And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”