All posts by: Anthony Stephens

Title: Answering the Tough Questions About Suffering and Evil

Authors: Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz

Publisher: Bethany House

Overview

In light of the events that took place recently in Sutherland Springs, TX, a book that discusses the issue of God and suffering would be a good fit. Suffering and evil are a reality that plagues our world. That truth does not make it any easier to stomach, but it is the truth nonetheless.

Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz try to bring some light on the subject of God and suffering in their recent book, Answering the Tough Questions About Suffering and Evil. These two authors have written many books with the intention of “communicating the truths of God in a way that is clear, correct, and casual.”

In Answering the Tough Questions About Suffering and Evil, ten questions are addressed about the topic of suffering and evil. These questions are ones that are often asked by people who are wrestling with how God and these issues fit together. Each question has a chapter devoted to it that also has some reflection and discussion questions at the end of each chapter.

Thoughts

It really seems like the stories of suffering and evil are coming more frequently and with more intensity. There have always been those that asked questions about God especially when tragedy strikes. I think that this work that Bickel and Jantz have written helps those who are genuinely looking for some good answers to these questions. This book in no way seeks to be a full answer to each and every question dealing with suffering or evil (that would a multi-volume set). Bickel and Jantz seem to put forward simple answers that point the reader to the truths of the Bible.

Recommendation

When it comes to recommending Answering the Toughest Questions About Suffering and Evil, I would gladly recommend this resource to a person that might be dealing with some of the common questions that people have with these subjects. It is not going to completely settle the issues, but it will give the reader some good answers and direction toward finding truth in the Bible.

May the Lord bless you and your family in mighty ways.

Title: How to Read the Bible Supernaturally

Author: John Piper

Published by: Crossway

Overview

How to Read the Bible Supernaturally  is a work by John Piper to help readers to read the Bible at a deeper level.  He calls it reading the Bible supernaturally.  This is not something mystical but rather a reading of the text with the intentions of getting all that the author(s) intended in writing it.  The book is laid out in three “parts” or sections.  Each section is broken down into chapters that cover points.  The work is summed up in a conclusion.

Thoughts

Reading the Bible is one of the most important works that a person can do.  The Bible tells us that faith comes into one’s life as they hear the word of God (Romans 10:17).  What that person does with that faith is on them, but without the word of God, there is no hope for that faith to be present.  I appreciate John Piper’s work on helping readers to look at the Bible in a new (yet older) way.  Piper does not share some mystical way of reading God’s word.  He simply points the reader to apply normal reading rules that will help the reader to see all that is present in the text.

I did think that the first half of the book was somewhat slow and detached from the rest of the work a little.  I get (and appreciate) the proposed goal of reading the Bible:

That God’s infinite worth and beauty would be exalted in the everlasting, white-hot worship of the blood-bought bride of Christ from every people, language, tribe, and nation (p 48).

A good portion of the first two parts of the book are explaining certain things before getting to some practical points in part 3.  I think part 3 (the final fourteen chapters of the book) is the real work of the book.

Recommendation

I believe that reading the Bible is one of the most important things that a person can do.  I believe that Reading the Bible Supernaturally is a book that would help someone who is starting to read the Bible or one that has become bored with reading the Bible.  There is not anything majorly new in what Piper shares in this book, but it is some good reminders to go back to some basic tools in order to get the most out of one’s reading of the Bible.

I believe that it is no secret that we live in a time when people love the choices that are available to them. A person does not have to just take what is given to them in many situations, but rather they can make a choice that appeals to them personally.

While I like choices when it comes to lunch selections, clothes, and many other things, when it comes to the object of my worship, there cannot be a smorgasbord. I cannot give my attention and adoration to more than one being.

When it comes to the topic of Jesus, one might think that the issue is plain. I mean, how can a person be so drastically different? If a person were very different around various people or groups, then they would not be worth following. There is just something special about integrity.

The sad part is that people see Jesus in so many different ways. Some see Jesus as their “homeboy” – he is one that is fun to hang around and always has your back. Some see Jesus the Genie – he’s around to grant our wishes and get us out of trouble. Some see Jesus the Grandpa – he’s loving and has some old ways of thinking, but he’ll let you by with a lot more than your parents. These are just a couple of the many ways in which people see Jesus. None of these accurately describes the Son of God though.

I wonder how many people are following a ‘Jesus’, but it is not the Jesus of the Bible. This isn’t the first time it has happened. Exodus 32 shows a time when people were worshipping what they thought was the Lord, but they were actually worshipping their hand-made gods.

One can see that the people asked Aaron, Moses’ brother, to make “gods” for them (Exodus 32:1). Aaron asks for their gold and makes a calf idol for the people to worship (Exodus 32:2-4). It is interesting that the word ‘gods’ so far is the Hebrew word (elohim) for either plural gods or the name of the Lord God. One doesn’t quite know exactly who they are talking about.

Yet in verse 5 we see Aaron clearing it up… they see this golden calf as the one true God that has led them so far. He says, “There will be a festival to the LORD (yhwh – the covenant name of the Lord) tomorrow” (emphasis mine). They had clearly misunderstood the correct identity of who God was and were following that wrong perception towards destruction.

How many are following a ‘Jesus’ that is not from the Bible? Is the ‘Jesus’ that we are submitting our lives to the one that the Scriptures truly reveal, or is it one that we have created so that we can manage? That didn’t work out well for the Israelites in Exodus 32, and it won’t work well for us either. Pursue the Jesus that is shown to us in the entire Bible, not just in particular verses. Each chapter and verse of each of the 66 books/letters that make up the Bible work to reveal who Jesus truly is… the one that we should follow and submit our lives to.

October has been recognized as “Pastor Appreciation Month,” and so I am taking a little time to recognize and honor some of the people that God has used as “pastors” in my life.  Those special people that God uses to spur you on to grow in your faith and be busy about the Great Commission deserve to be honored (1 Timothy 5:17).

In this post, I would like to take a little time to appreciate Dr. Curtis Ferrell.  Dr. Ferrell has recently retired from the Associational Missions Director position at the Calhoun Baptist Association in Calhoun County, Mississippi.  Curtis and his sweet wife are some precious folk.  They truly have a love for our Lord and passion to serve Him well.

When I came to Calhoun County some 4+ years ago, Dr. Ferrell was one of the first to come alongside of me.  He had the responsibility for looking out for some 46 churches in the county at that time.  I know that he poured countless hours into local ministers and churches.  He had a passion to see a Hispanic ministry take off in our county.  That might have been tied to the fact that he was the son of a missionary family in South America and also that his family served in South America as well.  Whatever the case, it was so refreshing to see someone with a passion for people that needed to experience the wonder of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I appreciated the ways in which this seasoned minister took time to listen to what was going on in my life and give some wise advice.  He would constantly ask me about how things were going both at church and at the house.  He truly had a heart for the county here during the time the Lord allowed him to serve here.

I will forever be grateful for the friendship that God gave me in this dear man (and his wife).  I know that God has big  plans for them as they will continue to serve Him in our state and around the globe.