THE PROBLEM OF PAIN

C. S. Lewis said in The Problem of Pain, “The human spirit will not even begin to try to surrender self-will as long as all seems to be well with it.” Our self-will deceives us; in loss, tragedy, and suffering we may finally come to terms with our need for help.

Why do God’s children undergo pressure, suffering, and deadly peril? Paul answers clearly: “that we might not rely on ourselves but on God” God uses our weakness and inadequacy not only to build our character but also to manifest His strength and grace to us and through us.

For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him, we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.2 Corinthians 1:8-11

Paul says, “Suffering exposes our theology. …Suffering will deepen your faith or it will weaken it. …Your suffering is not a failure of God’s plan. …In suffering, God reveals us and reveals Himself. … suffering is the workroom for grace.”

THE CASE FOR EASTER

The Case for Easter invites participants to examine the evidence for themselves and consider whether the story of Jesus’ resurrection makes sense. It will point them to the inescapable conclusion that led New York Times bestselling author Lee Strobel from atheism to Christianity: Jesus was the Son of God who conquered the grave

In his bestselling book The Case for Christ, Lee Strobel retraced his spiritual journey from atheism to faith by showing how the evidence he obtained from experts in the field of history, archaeology, and ancient manuscripts led him to the verdict that Jesus truly was the Son of God. Now, in this four-week study for Easter (DVD/digital downloads sold separately), Lee investigates the story surrounding the resurrection of Jesus—and how we can know that it is true.

In each session, he explores the following aspects of the Easter story:

What the Gospel accounts actually say about Jesus’ death and resurrection, how we can reconcile the discrepancies between the accounts, and how we can know the biblical accounts are accurate

How we can use a technique known as “five minimal facts”—facts on which even skeptical scholars agree are true—and medical evidence to build a strong case for Jesus’ resurrection

What the evidence in the Gospels reveals about the Jesus’ tomb being empty, why the Gospel writers are credible when they make this claim, and what this evidence leads us to conclude

Who the Bible states witnessed Jesus being alive after the crucifixion, how early creeds emerged that stated Jesus was alive, and how it’s clear the early church carried on this teaching.

The Case for Easter invites participants to examine the evidence for themselves and consider whether the story of Jesus’ resurrection makes sense. It will point them to the inescapable conclusion that led Lee from atheism to Christianity: Jesus was the Son of God who conquered the grave.

THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS

This video is an excerpt from the feature-length documentary THE CASE FOR FAITH produced by LA MIRADA FILMS. It is a documentary I suggest you acquire.

Through the resurrection of Jesus, God transformed the worst event the world has ever known into the greatest possible good – the salvation of humanity. Featuring N.T. Wright, Peter Kreeft, Greg Koukl, J.P. Moreland and Lee Strobel this video is an excellent resource for you to use in evangelism and training disciples of Christ.

The resurrection of Jesus celebrated at Easter is a declaration of the transforming power of Christ to overcome darkness and bring hope.

We continue to see much darkness over the world. We have experienced the darkness of Covid-19. We see increasing darkness as the world rejects God and His values, lawlessness abounds. Jesus warns us that darkness will only increase as we approach the time of His return. He has given us many “end times” signs so that we will not be unprepared.

As Christians who are being transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are called to be lights into this darkness. We are called to share in the mission of the risen Jesus. The death and resurrection of Jesus are the reason we know that there is an answer to the darkness and brokenness of this world. There is hope and salvation. There is a light that cannot be overcome.

May you this Easter know the transforming power of the Risen Jesus, be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and so be a light to others to the glory of God our Father.

PRAY, PRAY, PRAY

These were actress Candace Cameron Bure’s powerful words for fellow parents after her daughter’s baptism.

She said her heart was “overwhelmed by God’s goodness and grace” last Sunday after watching her daughter, Natasha Bure, publicly profess her faith through baptism.

Bure thanked Pastor Dudley Rutherford of Shepherd Church in Porter Ranch, California, for baptizing her daughter

“As a mama, there’s nothing that tops this day. Nothing!” the “Fuller House” star wrote on Instagram:

“My three adult children have now all professed their faith, love, service, and devotion to Jesus Christ; Lord of Lords, King of Kings, Savior of the world.”

She also said “walking the talk” is essential for parents’ own Christian journeys, especially as their kids observe. “How you handle the hardships in attitude and character by praying, submitting to God, and honoring the Lord in your decisions speaks volumes to your kids, even if you don’t think they see it at the time,” she said. “Be the example you wanted to have growing up. God is faithful, even when you aren’t.”

The actress added another essential reminder: “Read the Bible. And read the Bible to your children.”

Research has found Bible engagement is an essential indicator for children maintaining faith in adulthood.

And considering the mandate we see in Proverbs 22:6 — “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it” Bure’s Scripture-based advice is essential for all parents.

PHIL ROBERTSON ON CANCEL CULTURE

Have you ever seen or heard Phil Roberston on faith. If you have not you are missing out on a treat.

On this episode of Faith vs. Culture: How should Christians respond to cancel culture?

Duck Commander Phil Robertson joins Dan and Billy to talk about his experience with and response to cancelling (cancel culture). It is brilliant.

Robertson, who infamously faced his own bout with cancel culture in 2013, when A&E suspended him over comments he made about homosexuality during a magazine interview, told CBN’s “Faith vs. Culture” he holds no ill will against anyone involved in his highly-publicized controversy.

EXCELLENT NEW COMMENTARY ON GENESIS

The Tyndale Old Testament Commentary series are designed to be non-technical and easily accessible commentaries on the English text, aimed at the busy pastor or preaching layman. The latest in the series is on GENESIS. This is the foundational book of the Bible so you need to know what it teaches.

The commentary opens with an Introduction to Genesis where the author highlights that this book is the book of beginnings and relates to the beginning of the world, of sin, of God’s promise of redemption, and of the nation of Israel, whom God chose as His people.

reliable and accessible

Importantly, Steinmann adopts the traditional literal ‘solar day’ view advocated by Young Earth Creationists.

Each pericope or section of text is treated with three separate sections: (1) Context, (2) Comment, and (3) Meaning. The Context section discusses the historical and literary context of the particular section of text. The Comment section provides more detailed commentary on the text itself. Though all verses in the text are covered, it is not strictly a verse-by-verse commentary. Given that this commentary is pitched at pastors and laymen rather than other scholars, there is no detailed Hebrew exegesis, though the author does make occasional reference to key Hebrew words and terms, along with clear explanations. Finally, the Meaning section offers a brief summary and meaning of the text, along with any theological notions and implications.

Numerous ‘Additional Notes’ that discuss a particular topic, idea, or interpretation in more detail also appear throughout the commentary. Topics include ‘The seven days of creation, ‘Knowledge of the name Yahweh in Genesis’, and ‘The ages of the persons in the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11’.

Steinmann points to the notion of ‘God’s Chosen People’ as a prominent theme throughout the book of Genesis. God chooses his people by favouring a particular line of descendants. God chooses Seth over Cain, Shem over his brothers, Jacob (renamed Israel) over Esau. Because you have put your trust in Jesus as your Saviour and Lord, God chooses you and has at least one important task for you to do.

‘Justification by faith’ is another important theme and is clearly demonstrated in the life of Abraham. Abraham believed in the gracious promise of God that through him and his seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed. Despite Abraham not understanding how this prophecy would be fulfilled through the incarnation and death of Christ, he still trusts in God’s grace and promises: “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:3). Indeed, Hebrews 11 also indicates that Abel, Enoch, and Noah were also righteous through faith.

Steinmann’s commentary is an order of magnitude better than Derek Kidner’s previous volume on Genesis in this series. It contains clear and generally accurate historical and theological explanations of the book of Genesis. This is the purpose and goal of the Tyndale Old Testament Commentary series. Although the author often makes reference to Hebrew words and other ancient Near Eastern cognates, you will not find technical discussions of Hebrew grammar and linguistics. What you will find is a concise, reliable commentary on the text of Genesis that is also accessible to the busy pastor and preaching layman.

The book is thoroughly reviewed by Andrew S. Kulikovsky in the latest edition of Journal of Creation http://www.creation.com. The above is extracted from that review.

THE VALUE OF KNOWING YOUR CREATOR

When you do, you can live life to the full and be joyful. In this wide-ranging video, the 51-year-old “Growing Pains” star, Kirk Cameron explains how.

Kirk Cameron, who began acting at just 14 years old — referenced a quote he learned from one of his now-grown daughters. Scrawled on a piece of paper, she wrote: “It’s the same boiling water that softens potatoes that hardens eggs. It just depends on what you’re made of.

“So the same difficult challenges and influences of Hollywood that turns some people sour and makes them narcissistic and bitter and joyless and afraid to not fit in,” Cameron said, “is the same pressure that actually softened my heart and caused me to embrace gratitude and be thankful for the life that I have and want to use a platform and this Hollywood industry to advance the good.”

“I really think it’s what you’re made of,” he continued. “And if you don’t know what you’re made of, don’t look to your environment or your industry or other people to give you an identity.

There is somebody who made you — ask Him. And you can be sure that the ending of the story is gonna be fantastic.”

For Cameron, it wasn’t until he was in the entertainment business that he became a Christian, revealing he actually defined himself as an atheist until he was around 17 years old.

Sitting in his sports car after dropping a girl off at an acting class, Cameron recalled pondering the afterlife, wondering if there really was a heaven and a hell and a creator and a plan for eternity.

“I knew that if there was a heaven, I wouldn’t be going there,” he said, noting he had lived life with a “self-centered, conceited, ‘I’m all that,’ ‘I’m the G.O.A.T.,’(Greatest of All Time) celebrity Mike Seaver guy” mentality, never pausing to consider something outside himself.

It was at that point he decided to pray for the first time, asking God: “If you’re there, would you please show me. … Would you forgive me for all the wrong things I’ve done and make me the person that You want me to be.”

While certainly the most important, coming to Christ wasn’t the only way Cameron changed thanks, at least in part, to Hollywood. He was also introduced to his now-wife on the set of “Growing Pains.”

Cameron said one of his nephews frequently asks him if he “took advantage” and “didn’t waste” the opportunities he had to go out with so many different girls at the height of his sitcom fame.

The actor said he has reminded his nephew he “found something so much better” instead.

“I found a girl,” Cameron said. “She’s beautiful on the inside; she’s beautiful on the outside. I married her and we’ve been married for 30 years. You have no idea how much more valuable that is. I’ve got six grown children who love God and still ask me my opinions about things, who still love to come home and be with me and my wife, and I’m on PragerU’s ‘Stories of Us.’ I mean, the story doesn’t really end much better than this.”

2022 NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS

A relationship with God is among the three most common subjects of New Year’s resolutions, particularly among younger Americans, according to a new Lifeway Research survey.

The Lifeway Research poll found that 44% of respondents said they’ve made a resolution about their health in the past. Additionally, 29% said they’ve made a resolution about their relationship with God, and another 29% have made a resolution about their finances. 

Those ages 18-34 (35%) and 35-49 (35%) were more likely to make faith the subject of their New Year’s resolutions than those 50-64 (25%) and 65 and older (17%).

Home Bible Study Group

About half (48%) of Christians who attend a worship service at least four times a month said they’ve made a resolution about their relationship with God. By contrast, just 20% of those who attend less than once a month have done so.

Black Americans (41%) are more likely to have made a resolution about God than white Americans (27%), and the religiously unaffiliated were much more likely to have made a resolution about money (36%), time (29%) or work (22%) than about God (14%).

Among all Americans, other popular resolution topics include those about relationships with a family member (26%), use of time (22%), work (18%) and relationships with a friend (15%).

The Lifeway Survey comes on the heels of an earlier study conducted this year by Evangelical pollster George Barna and the Family Research Council, which found that only 6% of Americans have a “biblical worldview.” This statistic is most troubling because we know from the parable of the ten virgins, which is a parable that Jesus told the disciples when they asked him about the “end times” that Jesus prophesied that 50% of Christians are not born again. All ten virgins were waiting for their bridegroom but only half had oil for their lamps and when they returned with oil Jesus told them to go “I do not know you”.

Afterward, the other virgins came also, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.Matthew 25:11

This clearly teaches us that half of the people who call themselves Christians are not born again of the Holy Spirit and will be the church of Laodicea which is left behind to experience the wrath of God poured out with the Trumpet and Bowl judgements. Note above that about half (48%) of Christians who attend a worship service at least four times a month said they’ve made a resolution about their relationship with God.

.”And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.
“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.Revelation 3:14-19

How different from the church of Philadelphia that was raptured and kept from the hour of trial (wrath of God).

And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.
“‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name… Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. I am coming soon.
Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.” Revelation 3:7-8,10-11

Can I suggest when thinking about 2022 you adopt David’s approach as given in Psalm 31:14.

“But I trust in you, O LORD;
I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hand”

POWERLESS PRAYER

‘‘Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. James 5:14-15

The clearly expected outcome –the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up.’ In verses 17-18, James continues to assert the miraculous power of prayers, offered in faith:

‘Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.’ James 5:17-18

Clearly, James believed that prayers offered in faith would result in the physical, miraculous intervention of God. When we look at the life of Jesus, and the amount of time and energy he devoted to healing the sick, which was an expression of his deep compassion for the suffering, it is easy to see that James was closer to the truth than most Christians are today.

Jesus relied on miracles to confirm his words, moreover, He told us that those that believe in Him will do even greater works than He did. Do we really believe Him?

I assure you: The one who believes in Me will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.John 14:12-14

Powerless prayers have been rendered as such by the long, slow erosion of faith among God’s people, and that erosion has been made possible by the embracing of false traditions. For example, the kind of prayers that close with ‘not my will but yours, be done’. This is not stated in faith, in expectation of an outcome, but more as a catch-all – ‘please ignore everything I just asked for, if it doesn’t suit you.’

This is not the model of discipleship we are to follow and teach, where we are completely unaware of the will of God, and our prayers are at best guesswork. Paul urges us to walk ever more closely with God, and increasingly understand his will.

‘Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.’ Romans 12:1-2

As we yield to God’s mercy and walk closely with him, our ideas are changed. We jettison old ways of thinking, as healthier, more life-giving inspiration arises in His company, and as our minds are renewed, we become more attuned to Him and to His will. Only then, in our closeness with God, where His good, pleasing and perfect will is known, can we pray effectively.

In the early church, the lived experience of the Christian faith was far greater than it is today. There is much we have lost and must seek to restore. Back to the church as God intended as revealed in the Book of Acts.

Praying effectively: James sums it up well:

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.’ James 1:6-8

 Adapted from the excellent article "The Prayer God Can’t Answer" by Duncan Edward Pile Patheos Nov. 23rd 2021

BEING SAVED AND BEING A CHRISTIAN

Who will live with God on the new earth and heaven that He creates for His children? This is a valid question and we know it is not only Christians. Some will be taken back, as I was when I first read this statement. However, I quickly realised that Abraham, Moses, Job, David would not strictly come into the category Christian.

There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.Job 1:1

Think about the one thief upon the cross that simply asked Jesus to remember him when He came into His Kingdom, What was Jesus’ response?

Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43

I think therefore that the thief put his heartfelt trust in Jesus as the Messiah of God and that was enough to get him saved.

Roger Olson in his excellent article “Answer to the Question: What must a person know/believe to be saved or to be a Christian” raises the story of Paul and Silas and the time God opened up the prison doors for them. Paul stopped the jailor from killing himself as he thought the prisoners had escaped. The jailor knew there was something different about these men who had been praising God in their chains and were now free of those chains. He asked them this question.

Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe on (trust) the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Acts 16:30-31

Roger makes the point that from this statement, for the jailer and his family to be saved they had to believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and they must put their trust/faith in Him. This is the simple rule of faith for salvation.

To be a Christian there is more and Roger points out that Paul and Silas then went on to say:

And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.Acts 16:32

Roger’s interpretation and I have to agree with him, is that the jailer, like the thief on the cross, was saved the moment he believed on (trust) the Lord Jesus Christ as his Lord. However, to be a Christian there is more, Jesus gave His disciples the Great Commission; repent, be baptised, and receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit enables believers to comprehend the Word of the Lord. He sanctifies us over time and produces the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. He will guide our every step if we allow Him. Therefore, He enables us to live the Christian life.

SAVED

God knows the condition of our heart and it is a heart issue that gets us saved. This Scripture from Exodus reinforces the issue of having a heart/spirit for God.

“And they came, every one whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, and brought the Lord’s contribution to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the holy garments. So they came, both men and women. All who were of a willing heart brought brooches and earrings and signet rings and armlets, all sorts of gold objects, every man dedicating an offering of gold to the Lord.Exodus 35:21-22

CHRISTIAN

To live the Christian life you must have the Holy Spirit which is given once you repent of your sins (prepared to die to your old life) be baptised (signifying death to the old life and arising as alive in Christ) at which time God the Father sends the Holy Spirit, the enabler, to be your counsellor, your teacher, and comforter. He enables you to live a Christian life.

ETERNITY

For me, this understanding gives me comfort in knowing that there will be many people who have never heard the Good News of Jesus Christ who will be saved because they had a heart after God. Moreover, I am sure you like me have heard of many stories of Jesus appearing to Muslims and they have come to saving faith in Him. Jesus answered their heart cries. We can trust God to ensure that all those that should be in His Kingdom will be there.