Esthermay Bentley-Goossen
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Apologetics: ə-pŏl'ə-jĕt'ĭks from the Greek απоλоγία Def: The branch of theology that is concerned with defending or proving the truth of Christian doctrines.

The Grace Game

Written By Esthermay Bentley-Goossen on 14 March 2012



"Any concept of grace that makes us feel
more comfortable sinning
is not Biblical grace.
   
God’s grace never encourages us to live in sin,
on the contrary, it empowers us to say no to sin 
and yes to truth."
~ Randy Alcorn



And the misconceptions of grace are exposed...

                         Can I fall from grace?
                                   How much can I get away with?
                                              Is it possible to not sin at all?
                                                       What does it mean to frustrate the grace of God?
                         
I was a mischievous, headstrong child with a sensible, fun-loving mother -- a godly mother with a good sense of  humor.  I don't blame her, but I get my sarcasm from her.  And perhaps a tendency towards legalism.

It all comes back to me now...   growing up a preacher's kid. The sacred things. The silly things. The things I thought were funny -- which really weren't.  It was easy to poke fun of people whose theology of grace was not our own.  I had fun with it. I think most preacher's kids do.

We try so hard to be unlike the world that we become polished pharisees.

We had the most fun with Catholics.
They lived lives so very much unlike our own -- engaging in all the things legalists find offensive.
          Dancing.
                    Drinking.
                              Swearing.
                                        Smoking.
                                                  Other stuff...


But they went to "confession."
               And this -- of course -- made it all okay.
I think the Catholics got it wrong
Although... my legalism got it wrong too.
Two opposite ends of  a spectrum.

And so goes the grace game. 
                              A constantly swinging pendulum, 
                                                            swinging back and forth between the two.



New Idea: Being dead to sin.  It's a phrase familiar to all of us. Oh! Remember how we heard this growing up in church.  But what does it mean?


When we think of the death of someone, we immediately think of their separation from this present world. We think of their spirit being separated from their physical body and entering into eternal life.

But how does that square with the whole concept of sin? Is a Christian really completely and totally separated and forever free from the power of sin?  Isn't sin a constant battle?  After all, we do live in a fallen world surrounded by sin and sinners.  And our bodies are "flesh."  So if it is a battle, how do we deal with it?

Unfortunately, there are Christians who believe that God -- in all His glorious grace -- will forgive us.  So why not indulge in sin? It is one way to deal with the struggle and it's actually very common. But it is altogether not biblical.  Romans 6:15-22 tells us that if we do live like this, sin will enslave us,
     it will shame us,
          it will limit us,
               it will defile us,
                    it will bring corruption and death.

15What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!
 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?
 17But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,
 18and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
 20For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.
 21But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.
 22But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.
(English Standard Version)

So even though we are a Christians trusting that God's grace will forgive us, we're unhappy, miserable, lacking joy because we cannot give way to sin without being enslaved by it.


Here's another approach... And let's just call it what it is:  LEGALISM.  Just as crazy-far from Biblical grace as the GRACE-ABUSERS that I poked fun of 40 years ago.  We attempt to handle sin by trying our dead-on best to do what we think God wants.  We throw up caution tape at every turn -- wondering if this or that counts as sin and finding that almost everything does count as sin.

We use discipline, dedication, and determined willpower to live according to "The Law." It seems like a far more suitable battle plan.  But, again, it's not biblical.

The beginning verses of Romans Chapter 7 describe what happens when we become legalists:
                    We become defensive,
                    self-righteous perfectionists,
                                                                         critical of others,
                                                                         proud of our own record.
                                                                         We become bored, 
                                                                         dull, 
                                                                         discouraged,
                                                                         depressed,
                                                                         and even despairing.

So what’s the answer? Paul’s own words reflect the dilemma:

“In my inner being, I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” 
~ Romans 7:22-24

Paul’s dilemma is the human dilemma. It’s every believer’s battle.

Good News:  In verse 25 we find this:

“I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” 

Perhaps this sounds too simple.
News: the Gospel is simple.

What verse 25 is telling us is that the sin battle is nothing more than Grace vs. Will-Power.

It is the same faith that brought us to Christ in the first place that we must rely on to separate us from sin. Every believer’s battle is won by relying on Christ and Christ alone by the indwelling of His Spirit. This is the yielding process and the beginning of sanctification....



Neither yield ye your members as instruments of 
unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, 
as those that are alive from the dead, and your members 
as instruments of righteousness unto God.
~ Romans 6:13


What does that mean? Too often we read a passage of Scripture and we believe it simply because it’s God’s Word, but we haven’t a clue what it really means. Right?

Well, when we come to the realization that within our human bodies lives an unrestrained flesh that seeks to influence us to sin, we make a choice to NOT allow the flesh control.  That’s called salvation.
STEP ONE.

The Apostle Paul is telling us that the STEP TWO is to consider the members of our bodies: hands, feet, eyes, whatever you want to refer to as a "member" of your fleshly body.  Paul calls it a body of sin. And we’re told not to yield it anymore as an instrument of unrighteousness.

Sometimes we forget what the word “yield” means. It’s not just traffic terminology. It comes from two Greek words. One word means “alongside,” and the other word means “to place yourself.”

The picture Paul is drawing here is amazing! Paul is saying, “Don’t keep putting yourself in a position where you can be overpowered by the flesh. It’s just waiting for you to do that. Don’t keep yielding yourself. Don’t keep putting yourself “alongside” that kind of thing.

 (*That thing could be gossip, unwholesome entertainment,
non-Christian friends who negatively influence us,
alcohol, television, pornography, 
you fill-in-the-blank _______.) 

Instead of yielding ourselves to *that, instead of accommodating the flesh, Paul says accommodate God: Yield yourselves to God. That’s how He replaces our unrighteousness with His Righteousness.

Here's the neat part:  That word “yield” is aorist active imperative. That means that --  grammatically speaking -- it's a command!  The aorist tense means DO IT!   Just do it!

If you’re saved – you need to train your senses to line up under Christ. Accommodate yourself to Christ. Put yourself where you can be influenced by the Spirit of God and not by the flesh. 

What does that mean for you?

For this recovering legalist...

God's grace is not a game.
It is my teacher.

 
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all...  
Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, 
we should live soberly, righteously, 
and godly, in this present world.
~ Titus 2:11-12

~ Esthermay V. Bentley-Goossen
© 2012 The Heart of a Pastor’s Wife
 
*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
This installment of InOtherWords is hosted by Urailak
on her blog, Living for God
12:25 AM | 2 comments | Read More

Raising a Missionary

Written By Esthermay Bentley-Goossen on 02 March 2012

Even in laughter the heart may ache, and joy may end in grief.

~ Proverbs 14:13 (NIV)  

He's seven years old. He's adventurous. He loves Civil War history. His attitude is responsible. His ideas, organized and mature. He refuses to wear blue jeans. He is the child of older parents; and his energy brings me to the edge of berserk.
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GOD's Will vs. Human Will . . .A Complete Mess of Conflicting Wills

Written By Esthermay Bentley-Goossen on 30 November 2010


"There are two kinds of people: those who say to God,
"
Thy will be done," and those to whom God says,
"
All right, then, have it your way”.
~ C.S. Lewis

1:27 AM | 11 comments | Read More

Why? . . . Because IT Changes Lives!

Written By Esthermay Bentley-Goossen on 10 August 2010


"T
he Gospel alone is sufficient to rule the lives of Christians everywhere. . . any additional rules made to govern men's conduct added nothing to the perfection already found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
~ John Wycliffe

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In Honor of Memorial Day . . . and Paul Martin Wehlan

Written By Esthermay Bentley-Goossen on 29 May 2010


MEMORIAL DAY

Remembering PAUL MARTIN WEHLAN


The memory of the righteous will be a blessing
~Proverbs 10:7

4:13 PM | 8 comments | Read More

I Am the Wretch the Song Refers To. . .

Written By Esthermay Bentley-Goossen on 06 April 2010


"I am the wretch the song refers to."
~Todd Friel

In the introduction to his book, “Hard to Believe – The High Cost and Infinite Value of Following Jesus,” John MacArthur writes, “The world is filled with millions of people who think they are headed for heaven – but they are deadly wrong. . . .
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Christian . . . or Not?

Written By Esthermay Bentley-Goossen on 08 February 2010


“C
hristian is a great noun and a poor adjective.”
–Rob Bell


Nearly thirty years ago, Robert Schuller wrote a book called Self-Esteem: The New Reformation. The book did indeed usher in a new "reformation" -- a reformation of anti-biblical, anti-Christian thought that has permeated the culture and effectively turned out a great many Christians in our generation who are anything but a reflection of the very first Christians of the New Testament.

So, can the same terminology used in the First Century to describe Christ-Followers be used today? Has the meaning changed? Have Christians changed?

Rob Bell's ministry is the direct result of Mr. Schuller's "reformation" so you do have to wonder what he's really thinking; and how he defines the term Christian. But when Mr. Bell tells us that the word "Christian is a great noun and a poor adjective," it's easy to agree with the last half of the statement. The word "Christian is indeed a poor adjective as used to describe the majority of mainline churches today. Especially when you consider the message of the New Testament Church and compare it with the message of a great number of today's churches.

But the word "Christian" is also an incredibly loosely used noun ascribed to most churchgoers of our culture. . . Thanks to Mr. Schuller's New Reformation and the resulting Seeker-Sensitive Movement. Biblically and properly defined, however, Christian is a great noun.

It really does depend on how you define "Christian."

Mr. Bell is a prominent leader in The Seeker-Sensitive Movement. Are you familiar with this term? Seeker-Sensitive Churches give their audience what they want -- what they "seek." They "seek" relevant sermons and exciting programs that may or may not have anything to do with Biblical Christianity.

Seeker churches rarely use expository preaching and seldom do they ever bring up redemption, or sin. These are the recurring themes of the Bible, but they are not themes that people "seek." The Seeker Movement is a church "style" that dominates American churches; and it is anything but reflective of the New Testament Church.
I'm not sure what Mr. Bell is trying to tell us in his quote
Because I'm not sure what he means by "Christian."

Christianity, in the hands of these Seeker-Sensitive churches has diluted (and in many cases completely misrepresented) the divine message of Salvation as revealed in the Bible beginning in the Book of Genesis!

Seeker Sensitive churches have replaced the Glory of God with the satisfaction of human beings. They have neglected to teach -- or even understand -- the entire Story of Redemption which unfolds in every single page of the Bible. They have effectively done away with the Word of GOD. Except -- of course -- for it's soundbites: those selected "feel-good," "Jesus-loves-you" verses taken out of context to give the audience what it wants to hear.
. . . 'cause who wants to hear the that we are sinners who deserve Hell?
To be sure, the Book of Romans has been
completely ripped out of the
Seeker-Sensitive Bible.

John MacArthur calls the trend "quasi-Christian, narcissism" and it is vividly characteristic of the false teaching we are warned about in II Timothy 3 where we are reminded, "Dangerous times will come, for men will be lovers of themselves." (II Timothy 3:1-2)

And because so much of the Seeker-Sensitive Movement has infiltrated our churches, the Church of 2010 bears little -- if any -- similarity to the New Testament Christian Church.

In today's culture, the use, meaning and expression of the word "Christian" is indeed a poor descriptive of a person who has been saved by grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8)

"Christian is . . . a poor adjective."
Indeed! . . . so how did this all start?

In his bestselling book, Schuller aggressively attacks the Protestant Reformation which began when Martin Luther published The Ninety-Five Theses in 1517. Schuller writes: "It is precisely at this point that classical theology has erred in its insistence that theology be 'God-centered' and not 'man-centered.'" (1)
Excuse me?? But. . . *WhaT!!??

In an attempt to define this "man-centered theology," Schuller explains, "This master plan of God is designed around the deepest needs of human beings -- self-dignity, self-respect, self-esteem." (2)
Again: Huh??
He goes on. . . "Success is to be defined as the gift of self-esteem that God gives us as a reward for our sacrificial service in building self-esteem in others. Win or lose: If we follow God's plan as faithfully as we can, we will feel good about ourselves. That is success!" (3)

So. . . Self Esteem trumps Salvation??!!
Anything but Biblical, Mr. Schuller.

"If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself,
and take up his cross daily, and follow Me."
~ Jesus

Schuller's not done. Perhaps his most preposterous assertion comes when he writes, "Once a person believes he is an 'unworthy sinner,' it is doubtful if he can rally honestly accept the saving grace God offers in Jesus Christ."(4)
Mr. Schuller, do you own a Bible?
Have you read it?

". . . for all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God."
~ Romans 3:23

Sadly, this "man-centered theology" is precisely the theology that the Seeker-Sensitive Movement is teaching. And it exists at some level in the majority of mainline "Christian" churches today. Christianity is no longer about Christ. It's all about the seeker.

What does the seeker want?
What does the seeker think they need?
What is truth according to the seeker?
And how does the seeker feel about that?

If you want to be saved, according to this new "gospel," you do not believe yourself to be a sinner. You just "accept Christ" because "God is Love." And -- more importantly -- you can't ever (ever!) tell anyone else that they are a sinner or even mention the word hell!
How distorted that?!

Any minister or teacher who waters down the message of Salvation so that it is less confrontational and more popular, politically correct and appealing to the seekers, is doing one thing and one thing only: promoting a cheap imitation of the Christian life, and corrupting the use, meaning and expression of the word CHRISTIAN.
Mr. Bell's quote is completely dependent on how you define the term Christian.

“Christian is a great noun and a poor adjective.”
–Rob Bell

*~*~*~*~*
"One of our great allies at present is the Church itself.
Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church
as we see her spread out through all time and space
and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners.
That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes
our boldest tempters uneasy.
But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans."
~ Screwtape,
A senior devil, instruction a junior devil
on how to tempt and trap humans.

C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters


~ Esthermay V. Bentley-Goossen
© 2010 The Heart of a Pastor's Wife

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NOTES:
(1) Robert Schuller, Self-Esteem: The New Reformation (Waco, Tex.: Word Publishing, 1982), 64.
(2) Ibid., 71.
(3) Ibid., 76.
(4) Ibid., 98.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

This installment of InOtherWords is hosted by Tami
on her blog, The Next Step
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Christians Will Have Enemies - No Doubt . . .

Written By Esthermay Bentley-Goossen on 26 January 2010


"D
o not suppose that I have come
to bring peace to the earth.
I did not come to bring peace,
but a sword."
~ Matthew 10:34



Taken all by itself
and completely out of context, Matthew 10:34 surely implies that Jesus' mission on earth was one of violence -- that He was most certainly not a peacekeeper as so much theology likes to underscore.

In fact most of Matthew Chapter 10, finds Jesus proclaiming something seemingly and directly contrary to the message the angels proclaimed at His birth:

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill to men.”
~ Luke 2:14

So were those angels misinformed? And what about Jesus' own words elsewhere in Scripture where He seems to agree with the angels and contradict Himself?

"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, give I unto you.
Let not your heart be troubl
ed, neither let it be afraid"
~ John 14:27

. . . No sword here.
Confused?

Remember the Book of Matthew was written to all of us, but in terms of a specific audience, the Book is addressed to the Jewish people of Jesus' day. The Jewish people were expecting a Messiah who would wage war. The use of the word sword certainly fits with the image of war.
Context is everything.

But it goes further than the context of speaking to a Jewish audience. Look at the verses immediately following this idea of "a sword" where Jesus quotes a passage from Micah 7:6 having to do with mistrust and betrayal within families:

"For I have come to turn 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law - a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.'"
~ Matthew 10:35-36

Sounds very much like a passage earlier in the same Chapter:

"Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child;
children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death."
~ Matthew 10:21

It seems then that the "sword" that Jesus came to bring is symbolic of the division that will occur within families and friends (and even bodies of apparent believers) as a result of His ministry. So the use of the word "sword" is typical of Jesus' figurative way of speaking. He used a sharply definitive word to convey a very disturbing reality.
The reality being: Christians will have enemies.

Look at the parallel verse in the Gospel of Luke:

"Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division."
~ Luke 12:51
See how Luke changes the metaphor into a factual statement?

Throughout Scripture we are confronted with the reality that Christians will have enemies. There will be division. Jesus Himself caused much division and had many enemies.

(There's an understatement!)

Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would be despised and rejected by men some 700 years before His birth. Clearly the division was foreseen. (Isaiah 53:3)

While blessing Jesus as a very small child, Simeon prophesied that His life would indeed act as a "sword" and bring division in Israel. Clearly the division was forseen. (Luke 2:33-35)

Judas -- one of the Twelve Disciples -- betrayed Jesus. Clearly there was division between Jesus and one of His own followers.
(Mark 14:10-11)

The Apostle Paul instructed believers that if an unbelieving spouse chooses to leave, that we should "let them leave." Clearly being a believer can cause division in a marriage. (I Corinthians 7:15)

In the Apostle Paul's closing words to Timothy, he warns about a man named Demas who deserted him. Paul also mentions Alexander the copper-smith, a man who opposed the message of the Gospel and did great harm to Paul. Clearly there was division between Paul and those who knew him.
(II Timothy 4:9-18)

In Acts Chapter 5, Peter exposes the lies and piousness of Ananias and Sapphira. Clearly there was even great division in the body of Christians known as the Church. (Acts 5)

It becomes clear as we read the New Testament that Jesus considered it a given that the world would despise Him and his Church. He says, "The world . . . hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil" (John 7:7).

In other words, the world's contempt for Jesus, His Church and His followers stems not from simple differences, but from a huge chasm -- a chasm created by a refusal to accept that human ways (human thought, human behavior, human philosophies. . . ) are evil.

"This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved the darkness instead
of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will
not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed."
~ John 3:19-20

Christian Truth will never be popular with the world. It will always divide.

Yes. . . Jesus brought peace to earth. But that peace comes as an inner peace that is available only to those who put their full faith in Him as their Savior.

Otherwise. . . His presence and His message only bring conflict. No accurate reading of Scripture can conclude anything different.

The coming of Christ did not bring the peace the Jews had hoped for. Instead it brought even greater conflict because the presence of Truth causes those who deny it to become even more enraged and evil.

Wishing and hoping for world peace is a ridiculous, hopeless and pointless task. Sin is the dominant force on this earth. The Bible tells us so. Scripturally speaking, "Peace on Earth" is reserved only for those who surrender to Him and live according to His will.

The Christian will make enemies. No doubt.

". . . but if to do the right, and to believe the true,
should cause him to lose every earthly friend,
he will count it but a small loss,
since his great Friend in heaven will be yet more friendly,
and reveal Himself to him more graciously than ever. . . .

"Better a brief warfare and eternal rest, than false peace and everlasting torment."
~Charles H. Spurgeon

~ Esthermay V. Bentley-Goossen
© 2010 The Heart of a Pastor's Wife

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Who Wears the Millstone?

Thoughts for Sanctity of Human Life Sunday...

Written By Esthermay Bentley-Goossen on 23 January 2010

If you were born after 1972, consider yourself a Survivor of the Abortion Holocaust. ONE-THIRD of your generation has been killed by abortion in the United States of America.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~




"You created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and
wonderfully made; your works are wonderful,
I know that full well."

~Psalm 139:13-14

~ ~ ~ ~ ~




"Then said He unto the disciples, 'It is impossible but that offenses will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than than he should offend one of these little ones.'"
~Luke 17:1-2

~ ~ ~ ~ ~



"If they [my daughters] make a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby."
~ The President of the United States

"The first thing I'd do as President is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. That's the first thing I'd do."
~A Politician running for President of the United States


~ ~ ~ ~ ~



"Good leaders abhor wrongdoing of all kinds: sound leadership has a moral foundation."



~Proverbs 16:12

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Who wears the millstone?

The abortionist?
The mother who chooses it?
The citizens who support it?
The politicians who fight for it?
The electorate who vote for them?
The citizens who look the other way?. . .

Who wears the millstone?


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The Message of the Earthquake --

Ultimately Points to the Cross. . .

Written By Esthermay Bentley-Goossen on 19 January 2010

“Every happening, great or small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us, and the art of life is to get the message.”
~Malcolm Muggeridge

Rick Warren is wrong when he tweets that God does not judge the world through catastrophes. Here's what God says:

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness. . .
~Romans 1:18

Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it?
~Amos 3:6

Pat Robertson is wrong when he claims to know why the Haitian earthquake happened. Deuteronomy 29:29 says,

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.

Christian Apologist Malcolm Muggeridge does offer up some wisdom, however, when he says,

Every happening, great or small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us,
and the art of life is to get the message.

So what's the message? Is there a message in an earthquake? Is there a message in any natural disaster? And if the art of life is to "get the message," how do we go about deciphering that message?

Much bad theology inevitably surfaces when Christians confront human suffering and look for answers. However, as John Piper writes, "Wimpy worldviews make wimpy Christians. And wimpy Christians won't survive the days ahead." It's the wimpy Christians who will question human suffering and remain confused and bewildered, asking "Why?"

If we have a solid biblical worldview, we will understand the message in a catastrophe like the recent earthquake in Haiti, for it is indeed found in God's Word . . .

Let's look at the principle players involved in the unfolding of a natural disaster as outlined in Scripture so we can "get the message."

. . . We've got GOD, Satan and -- of course -- Human Beings.

GOD
In His design for the world, God allows many events to run their course according to "time and chance" (see Ecclesiastes 9:11) and so -- for those affected --these many tragedies are seen as accidental and unforeseeable.

God has also told us in His Word that natural disasters would grow in frequency and intensity as the end of the age approaches. This is to happen so that people will be shaken out of their complacency and lead them to seek Him. (See Matthew 24:7; Luke 21:25-26; Revelation 6:12, 11:13, and 16:18.)

Even so, as Christians, we are given these verses of comfort:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
~ Romans 8:1

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Selah. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah.
~ Psalm 46:1-7

Ultimately, God controls everything either directly or indirectly by restraining His grace or allowing Satan a little longer leash. Either way, God is sovereign over everything and happily accepts responsibility for both "human suffering" and "blessings."

I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster;
I, the LORD, do all these things.

~Isaiah 45:7
Satan
Ephesians 2:2 does tell us that Satan is the ruler of the kingdom of the air and that his spirit is at work in those who are disobedient. We should never underestimate the power of Satan.

He does indeed rule in the hearts of many including some world leaders. It could be -- and has been -- argued that Satan therefore controls the nations. This would be a stretch! Satan does prowl about like a lion. . . but nowhere in God's Word can we construe that Satan has control of nations or natural disasters.

Satan does not control the weather or rule the nations. God alone is Sovereign.

Human Beings
There are only two groups of people on earth: pagans and Christians. Perhaps a over simplification? Yes. (i.e., natural man, carnal man, spiritual man. . .) But for purposes of this discussion, Scripture is clear when it comes to human suffering:

He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
~Matthew 5:45

Jesus gave us a very definitive statement on human suffering by way of catastrophes in Luke 13:1-5:

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans
whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, "Do you think that
these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans bec
ause they
suffered this way? I tell you, No! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.
Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them --
do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?
I tell you No! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.
"

Both believers and non-believers are affected when God sends or allows a disaster.

When God sends or allows disaster to non-believers, it could be for one of two reasons: either as judgment or as a call to repentance.

Clearly a natural disaster such as an earthquake does not come close to the eternal punishment of hell, but it is a taste of God's wrath. How a non-believer responds to a disaster is far more important than the reality of the disaster in-and-of itself.

When God sends or allows disaster to believers, He does so -- again -- for one of two reasons: to prune/refine us or to take us home to heaven! Christians are never victims of collateral damage and we should never think such. While there may or may not be a primary reason God sends or allows a disaster (Remember: God is GOD!), He always orchestrates every single detail. As Christian onlookers to disaster, we can respond in one of two ways: apathy or kindness.

When God sends or allows disaster -- or judgment -- to come to an entire nation, each individual involved needs to determine why God caused or allowed him/herself to be harmed.

Bottomline
God gets the credit for the earthquake. Yet he is not to "blame" since God is never to "blame" for anything. He is sovereign and always does the exact right thing at precisely the correct time.

God sends a taste of His wrath to non-believers that they might look to the Cross and find Salvation. God prunes and refines Christians that we will live in greater gratitude for what Jesus did to rescue us from eternal destruction.

As Christians, we should use the tragedy of the recent earthquake in Haiti as a reminder of the brevity of life and the equality of death as it happens on this earth. More importantly, we should use it as a springboard in sharing the ultimate solution to this world's problems.

God seeks to glorify His Son in all He does. Including catastrophes. Catastrophes -- like everything else in life -- are about finding our way to the Cross of Jesus Christ!

~ Esthermay V. Bentley-Goossen
© 2010 The Heart of a Pastor's Wife

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This installment of InOtherWords is hosted by Kathryn
on her blog, Expectant Hearts
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The Treasures of the Snow . . .

Written By Esthermay Bentley-Goossen on 13 January 2010



This week's hostess for WordFilled Wednesday is Lori @ All You Have to Give.
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Blessing: The Mystery of its Meaning . . .

Written By Esthermay Bentley-Goossen on 12 January 2010


"God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways."
~ 2 Corinthians 9:9 (The Message)

So what precisely is a blessing? Is it a reward? Is it a miracle? According to Scripture, what exactly does it mean to be blessed by God? And should it be a mystery to us?

There are numerous Hebrew and Greek words throughout Scripture which when translated mean bless, blessed or blessing. Viewed collectively they mean "to declare happy, to speak well of, very happy.

Lamentably, popular Christianity has twisted the concept of being blessed by God to mean something entirely different than what God intended. Way too many Christians have readily bought into the lie that to be blessed is to enjoy material favor with God as a result of faith. And the avenue by which these blessings reach us can be surprising, unsuspecting, even magical.

If we follow this logic, then the wealth gained by way of Wall-Street is a blessing. Right?
Why are the results of a person's free will classified as sinful greed in one case,
and as a blessing in another?
The logic is flawed.
The mystery remains. . .

Much of the heart of New Testament Christianity has been completely corrupted in the pursuit of being blessed. Too many teachers and preachers have taken the focus off of sound doctrine and true worship and placed it instead to the idea of being blessed with things, stuff, money, bigger buildings, larger ministries -- which even non-believers know cannot bring real happiness.

The [wrong] thinking is that if God loves you and you are in His will, you exercise faith, and His favor rests upon you, then He will bless you with a lot of extra things above and beyond what you'd have if you were just an ordinary believer. And we've fooled ourselves into thinking that if we do have some material wealth, it was God who blessed us with it.

This is not what the Bible teaches. What is a blessing? And is it a result of faith?
Herein lies the mystery.

Hebrews Chapter 11 is often called the "Hall of Faith" It is the Scriptural record of those individuals throughout biblical history who had great faith. The examples we find here are a roadmap -- a guide -- to understanding true faith and the result of that faith. Look at verses 36-40:

Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated -- the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

Wow! Where are the "astonishing" blessings here??!
. . . Certainly doesn't match the depiction of being
blessed as taught by Benny Hinn,
Paula White, Joel Osteen or a host of others.

Even well-intended Christians have tainted the notion of being blessed by God to mean something other than simply enjoying what God has intended.

What did God intend? What is God's idea of a blessing?

Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.
~Psalm 127:3

[Esau] lifted his eyes and saw the women and children, and said, "Who are these with you?" So he said, "The children whom God has graciously given your servant."
~Genesis 33:5

Joseph said to his father, "They are my sons, whom God has given me here." So he said, "Bring them to me, please, that I may bless them."
~Genesis 48:9

God blessed them; and God said to them,
"Be fruitful and multiply..."
~Genesis 1:28

For I will have respect unto you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, and establish my covenant with you.
~Leviticus 26:9


The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning and. . . he had seven sons and three daughters." Job 42:12-13


Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth and she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and her relatives heard that the Lord had displayed his great mercy toward her
and they were rejoicing with her.
Luke 1:58

And as Eugene Peterson puts it in The Message, God can and does pour out His blessings in "astonishing" ways. Revisit Genesis Chapter 12 where the Lord told Abram:

"I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;
an
d all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."
Genesis 12:3-2

. . . and how did God do this?
Yes. . . By way of the blessing him with children. Many of them!
Culminating in the lineage of JESUS CHRIST! (Matthew 1:1-16)

The idea of being blessed with children as emphasized over and over in Scripture is one of the most overlooked lessons in God's Word. The family is no longer considered a blessing by today's standards. Christians no longer guard their families at all costs. We see children as a nuisance instead of gifts from God. Children are often a burden, not a joy. We complain about the cost of raising them. Mothers complain that children are a hindrance to their career. Dad's lament that children are a drain on the finances. Children often become trophies for soccer moms and dads who have to keep up appearances. And the number of women choosing to kill God's blessing of a child is approaching 50 million since 1973.

Yet, when the parent or family burdened by
[the blessing of] children receives an unexpected
check or materialistic serendipity, they call it a blessing.
That's backwards thinking!
This must be a mystery to God.

And lest you believe I've concluded the only blessing of the Bible is children, lets look at some more:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms
with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation
of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.
~Ephesians 1:3-4

Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah.
~Psalm 68:19

Are we to assume that God is going to bless us in any materialistic way (either personally or as a society) when we've chosen to ignore the biblical definition of blessing??

God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways.
~ 2 Corinthians 9:9 (The Message)

I like Eugene Peterson's Message; and in context is a wonderful story of redemption
beginning in Genesis all the way through to Revelation. But as with any translation
of the Bible, a single verse set aside as a lesson can be seriously misinterpreted.
Take time to read the full text of 2 Corinthians 9:6-9 in the NIV or KJV
and see if you have the same impression of the term "blessing. "

Let's just not be so nearsighted
that we misunderstand what a blessing really is. Joel Osteen is absolutely right in saying that the Gospel promises our "best life now." He’s just utterly and thoroughly mistaken on what the form of that life is.

Throughout the Bible we come to understand the theme of redemption and that Jesus was God’s blessing to us -- sent as a child to live among us and He alone is the example, shape, description and picture of our "best life. . . ."

For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto,
but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

~Mark 10:45

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
~I Timothy 6:6-8

Mystery solved!

~~*~*~*~~

I asked God for strength that I might achieve.

I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health that I might do greater things.
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy.
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men.
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life.
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am, among all men, most richly BLESSED.

~The Prayer of an Unknown Confederate Soldier

~ Esthermay V. Bentley-Goossen
© 2010 The Heart of a Pastor's Wife
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This installment of InOtherWords is hosted by Deborah
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