Confident Faith - March 2016

The Problem of Pain and Suffering

The theodicy (the problem of pain and suffering) is among the top "problems" raised against Christianity, yet when properly understood and seen from the "inside", actually is a strong case FOR Christianity. I cannot fully develop arguments to support this in such a small space, but I want to give you two quotes that point us in the right direction–pain and suffering leads us to Christ.

Malcolm Muggeridge wrote, "Contrary to what might be expected, I look back on experiences that at the time seemed especially desolating and painful, with particular satisfaction. Indeed, I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned in my seventy-five years in this world, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my existence, has been through affliction and not through happiness, whether pursued or attained....This, of course, is what the Cross signifies. And it is the Cross, more than anything else, that has called me inexorably to Christ."*

"It is a glorious phrase of the New Testament, that 'he led captivity captive.' [Eph 4:8 quoting Psalm 68:18] The very triumphs of His foes, it means, he used for their defeat. He compelled their dark achievements to sub-serve his end, not theirs. They nailed him to the tree, not knowing that by that very act they were bringing the world to his feet. They gave him a cross, not guessing that he would make it a throne. They flung him outside the gates to die, not knowing that in that very moment they were lifting up all the gates of the universe, to let the King of Glory come in. They thought to root out his doctrines, not understanding that they were implanting imperishably in the hearts of men the very name they intended to destroy. They thought they had defeated God with His back to the wall, pinned and helpless and defeated: they did not know that it was God Himself who had tracked them down. He did not conquer in spite of the dark mystery of evil. He conquered through it."* James Stewart

Living in the midst of pain and suffering, I can say that I do not like this answer any more than I liked Dr.Everist's shots as the answer to my childhood strep throat, but this is a beautiful answer to behold.

Some may be in the depths of pain and suffering right now, and "no volume of words can bring comfort. But it is also true that even if the impact is not immediate, at some moment, the truth takes hold."*

Harold Henderson

* As quoted in "Why Suffering: Finding Meaning and Comfort When Life Doesn't Make Sense" pp 54-57, by Ravi Zacharias and Vincent Vitale

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Confident Faith - January 2017

Did you ever think of Christianity as the story of reality? Isn’t that what the Bible is – the story of reality from beginning to end? But it’s more than just a history for it is also the roadmap to life – and for everyone, not just Christians.

Story is a powerful way of getting messages through to people who might not otherwise read or listen to another form of presentation. Story engages the imagination and draws you in. Have you ever thought of commercials as a form of story? Are commercials effective? Were Jesus’ parables (stories) effective?

Think back on Cook Baptist Church’s two presentations of Judgement House. We were presenting the Gospel message in story form, and it was effective in changing lives. The core message was there but it was presented in story. Story is a powerful medium – particularly in today’s visual media obsessed culture.

We have been commissioned to carry the Gospel message to the world, yet right here in a nation founded on Biblical principles, there are more people conversant in the Star Wars universe than in the Bible. OK, that may be a slight exaggeration, but I think you get my point.

The power of the Biblical message presented in story is not just in the story format itself but in the fact that this story is the true picture of reality for everyone.

To help you in seeing Christianity as story, I want to commend a new book to you: “The Story of Reality: How the World Began, How it Ends, and Everything Important in Between” by Greg Koukl. Greg weaves the story around five words – God, Man, Jesus, Cross, and Resurrection. This is a story you can tell others.

p.s. This book is in the church library - or will shortly be there.

Harold Henderson

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Confident Faith - November 2016

Pastor Andy Stanley posted an article titled “Why ‘The Bible Says So’ Is Not Enough Anymore”. This is a very appropriate article for any church serious about evangelism in what Dr. Stanley calls the post-Christian culture we live in today. Here is the link to the article - http://www.outreachmagazine.com/features/19900-the-bible-says-so.html.[/dropcap]

Below is a brief excerpt:

“The world has changed.

The approach most of us inherited doesn’t work anymore. Actually, it’s never worked all that well. In a culture that had high regard for the Bible, the traditional approach held its own. Those days are over. They’ve been over for a long time. If you think I’m using culture as an excuse to maintain a flawed hermeneutical approach, consider this.

In 2015, I took seven staff members to Nashville to attend the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission conference on “Homosexuality and the Future of Marriage.” In the opening session, Dr. Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, made a comment that took my breath away. Nobody else in the room seemed the least bit bothered. I wrote it down and then went back and listened to the session again online to make sure I heard correctly. Speaking specifically about Southern Baptist churches, he stated:

“The vast majority of people who’ve ever been baptized by our people are our own offspring. We’ve never been very evangelistic in terms of people who weren’t those to whom we gave birth.”

Seriously? The SBC has never been evangelistic beyond people to whom they gave birth? If that’s the case, and he should know, it seems to me my friends in the SBC, along with church networks everywhere that embrace a similar approach, need to hit pause and rethink things. Perhaps everything. Not their view of Scripture [emphasis mine]. But perhaps their approach to talking about Scripture. More specifically, their approach to talking about Scripture in a culture that doesn’t take the Bible seriously anymore.”

“A post-Christian society is not merely a society in which agnosticism or atheism is the prevailing fundamental belief. It is a society rooted in the history, culture, and practices of Christianity but in which the religious beliefs of Christianity have been either rejected or, worse, forgotten. [John O’Sullivan, “Christianity, post-Christianity, and the future of the West,” National Review, December 14, 2013, accessed September 16, 2016]”

“In a non-Christian society, people may have never heard anything about Christianity and, therefore, have few to no preconceived notions. A post-Christian society is the opposite. In a post-Christian society, people have been exposed to Christianity (in our case, for generations) but are opting out for a different worldview, a different narrative through which to make sense of the world. In a post-Christian society, people know the stories; they just don’t believe ‘em. Or in many cases, they don’t believe ‘em anymore.

Is Andy Stanley worried?

“Once upon a time our faith was stronger than Roman steel and tougher than Roman nails. Against all odds a small band of Jesus followers defied an empire and claimed their leader came to replace the temple. Two-thousand years later, we’re still standing. All over the world. And we have the internet! So I’m not worried. But I’m not sitting around praying for revival either. I grew up in the pray for revival culture. It’s a cover for a church’s unwillingness to make changes conducive to real revival. You want revival? Start assuming there are post-Christian people in the room. All the rooms. Begin evaluating through the eyes and ears of post-Christians.”

Read the article. Think on it.

Harold Henderson

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Confident Faith - October 2016

Every Bible verse is to inform us but not every promise is for us.

I remember the first time I heard “’For I know the plans that I have for you’, declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’” Jer 29:11 (NASB). I had just gotten on the Va Beach Expressway at Little Neck Rd driving to work at the Norfolk Naval Base and was listening to John MacArthur on the radio when he spoke that verse to ME! God had a PLAN for ME! I was a young Christian struggling to make sense of the Bible, God, faith, ... life. As a concrete sequential kind of person (i.e. engineer), the mere fact that God had a “plan” gave me hope there was some possibility of understanding it, and my place in it, by careful study of His Word! That the verse seemed to say the plan was personal for ME was gravy on the biscuit.

As I grew in my study of the Word I learned that God does have a plan. In fact, there is the big plan – the sweep if His-story from before Creation, man, the fall, the rescue plan (Jesus), all the way to the New Heavens and Earth and eternity – that runs from Gen 1:1 through Rev 22:21. I also came to understand the personal plan for me was in Romans 8:28-39 - particularly in the phrase “to become conformed to the image of His Son.” His plan for me is to lead me to become more like Jesus.

Many people claim Jer 29:11 as “their” verse and promise. Some even see God promising them “welfare” as in prosperity and good health. This is a verse often used by Health, Wealth, Prosperity false-gospel hucksters, but this flies in the face of reality, doesn’t it? How many great Christians have been poor? How many, sick? How about Christians being persecuted even to death in our times?

This puts false words into God’s mouth, makes the Bible say what it never said, and mis-claims a promise made for others - ancient Israel in captivity. Misreading Jer 29:11 sullies God’s Word and dims the beauty of a loving God speaking hope and a plan to people in a specific time and place - Jews exiled by God in a foreign land. That’s our unchanging God speaking and revealing His character to us! That’s the message of Jer 29:11 for us today. In this case, it’s not the promise that carries forward to us but the consistency of God’s character.

Good Bible interpretation is NOT just for preachers and Sunday School teachers - it’s our responsibility, too.

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Confident Faith - September 2016

Meatloaf’s song says: "I want you. I need you. But -- there ain’t no way I’m ever gonna love you. Now don’t be sad, cause two out of three ain’t bad."

Some abortion supporters say, “Abortion’s not the only moral issue. Let’s agree to disagree on abortion and just focus on issues like feeding the hungry and healthcare availability for all." Most would agree these last two are good things even if we disagreed somewhat on the means.

If we accept that approach, are we agreeing with Meatloaf’s philosophy that "two out of three ain’t bad?" Depends on whether abortion is significantly different and higher than the others - just as love ought to be over "wanting" and "needing".

Here are two illustrations:

  1. You’re serving in a soup kitchen when through the window you see a baby crawling onto a busy street with no one around to stop it. Do you serve the two homeless men waiting in line and then rescue the baby? No! You run and save the baby. There’s a greater moral imperative to rescue those in immediate peril.
  2. There are three objects with a common characteristic, all spherical, in a dark room. One’s the sun (miniaturized, of course); the others, black marbles. Beyond the size difference, there’s another very significant difference - the light from one enables us to see the others. In fact, without the sun we would probably overlook the other two.

If life is intrinsically valuable, there’s a much higher moral imperative to rescue the thousands being killed daily through abortion. The valuing of life gives light and meaning to serving valuable human beings in the soup kitchen; ignoring this imperative cheapens caring for others.

If life has no value and can be ended for reasons as simple as discomfort and inconvenience, there’s absolutely no sustainable reason to care for others. You’re just quieting an ache and giving fuel to a meaty robot for another day. The morality of life just becomes a lie for political advantage, and we see that every political season.

C. S. Lewis described Christianity as a worldview for ALL of life: "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." Likewise, the intrinsic value of God breathed life in all human beings is the highest of loves we can show. It was worthy of our Savior’s sacrifice. He didn’t settle for two out of three, nor should we.

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