Suffering

Right, But Still Dead Wrong

Sometimes, you can be right about something, and yet still be completely wrong.

When I was a criminal investigator with the Military Police, I had a case involving a Sailor who might have faked his promotion and been receiving extra pay for the past three years. That’s a lot of money. Add to it that your cost of living allowances change depending on your rank, and you’re looking at even more money. This was a good case.

Everything pointed to the conclusion that he had forged paperwork, and somehow gotten it past Personnel. We interviewed the Personnel Officer for several hours, wondering how it could have been done. We had the admin guys calculate a dollar figure. We briefed the Staff Judge Advocate, who began salivating with glee and plotting a general courts-martial. We were just missing the one thing. We needed confirmation from a training school back in Texas that they did not promote the guy. Read more about Right, But Still Dead Wrong

Why Do Bad Things Happen?

Job's Tormentors. Engraving, William Blake, 1793

You recall how the story goes—God and Satan are having a discussion about a man named Job. He was a man of great character whom God had given much wealth and blessing. God commends Job, and Satan accuses Job, betting that Job would deny God if God would simply allow difficulty in Job’s life (1:7-12). God allows Satan to test Job, and Job loses all of his wealth, most of his family, and his health.

Job is, of course, unaware that he is being tested, and is deeply frustrated by his change of fortune. He feels that he has done nothing to deserve these tragedies, and he speaks out—essentially proclaiming his innocence and the unfairness of the situation. Thankfully, Job has three friends who come to the rescue. They all have the same message: this could only be happening to Job if he had done something wrong. They understood that God would not allow such things to happen to an innocent person. Read more about Why Do Bad Things Happen?

The Mimetic Sufferings of Christ

The ministry and pain—especially emotional pain—go together. Except for a few Pollyanna types who keep their heads buried in the sand, most of us know that times of suffering, sorrow, despair, grief, depression, and heartache are part of life. It is not until one is privy to many lives, however, that it becomes clear how pervasive these experiences are.

Fortunately, for most of us, not all of life is miserable. For many of us, life is mostly a positive experience. If we are particularly fortunate, we may escape the traumas of abuse, divorce, a straying child, extreme poverty, or a debilitating physical condition. Read more about The Mimetic Sufferings of Christ

Different on Purpose

This outline continues a series preached in 2002. However, since my original outline for 1 Peter 1:13-16 is missing, the following is new.

Introduction

What do you say to people who are suffering? More to the point for us, what do believers say to believers who are suffering?

It’s fascinating to me what Peter communicates to the suffering believers who were the original audience for the epistle we call 1 Peter. Though their suffering was apparently of the persecution variety, Peter puts his message in terms that speak to the heart-need of the Christian experiencing any kind of serious difficulty.

What the suffering saint needs to hear is what we find in this epistle—and what we find is a bit surprising. Peter reminds the believers of who they are in this world (displaced but God-beloved strangers) and who they are in Christ (reborn heirs of a salvation so great even angels wish they knew more about it).

But then Peter burdens these struggling recipients of grace with a solemn three-fold responsibility. He commends them to firmly embrace something, to reject something, and to pursue something. To look at it another way, the Scriptures here command us to think differently, desire differently, and do differently.

Note the word “therefore” at the beginning of 1:13. The responsibilities that follow are being revealed because of the privileges already revealed in the preceding verses. Read more about Different on Purpose

Keep Going - 1 Peter 1:5-9

This outline continues a series preached in 2002. For the curious, these outlines don’t look much like what I actually took to the pulpit. Those notes were color coded and heavily abbreviated, usually fitting on roughly one side of a single letter-sized sheet of paper. I often found that my desire to communicate with the people in the room made it difficult to actually read complex sentences. If I was going to speak extemporaneously, the notes had to be of the sort I could take in with quick glances. Of course, if you preach the text, you always have most of your structure and content right there. Read more about Keep Going - 1 Peter 1:5-9

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