Cranmer: They Don’t Know What They are Doing

This is a must read. As powerful and gripping as they come.

Nigeria Muslim attacks on ChristiansWith his family facing starvation in the refugee camp, John decided to make a quick trip back to Attagara to retrieve some of his animals hoping he could sell them to support his family. Though it was dangerous, there seemed to be no other choice. At home, he decided to pick up some of the family’s other belongings, including the family Bible.

Boko Haram insurgents spotted him entering the house, and quickly captured him. “We know you’re John,” the militants said to him. “You must convert to Islam or else you will die a painful death.”

When John refused, the men tied him to a tree binding his arms and legs. The men hacked both of John’s hands with a heavy knife and mocked him. “Can you become a Muslim now?”

“You can kill my body, but not my soul,” John shouted in pain.

Using a machete as well as the knife, the men continued to torture John. They repeatedly cut into his feet and his back, stopping only to ask him if he would give up his faith in Christ and follow Allah. John refused. “We will show you,” they told him. The insurgents used an axe to cut so deeply into his knee that it reached the bone. His head was slashed with a knife.

Eventually, John lost consciousness. At some point, the terrorists left, and John was left bleeding and tied to the tree for three days before someone rescued him and he was taken to a hospital in a coma.

In the hospital, a VOM worker met John. When the worker asked John how he felt about his attackers, he replied, “I have forgiven the Islamic militants, because they did not know what they are doing.”

Read the whole blog entry.

St. Augustine’s Anglican Church: Changed by God to Make a Difference for God

Sermon delivered on Sunday, August 31, 2014 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church’s annual dedication festival.

If you would prefer to listen to the audio podcast of this sermon, strongly encouraged in this case and usually somewhat different from the text below, click here.

Lectionary texts: 1 Chronicles 29.6-19; Psalm 122.1-9; Ephesians 2.19-22; Matthew 21.12-16.

In the name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Today we celebrate the founding of our parish. We’ve chosen today because while we officially launched on Easter Sunday, 2012, we transferred our dedication festival to the Sunday closest to August 28, the Feast Day of Augustine of Hippo, our patron saint. Given that our focus is on our parish, I want to remind us what we are all about.

I hope all of you know our mission statement is, “Changed by God to make a difference for God.” But what does that mean? What does that look like for us on the ground? To be changed by God means that first and foremost we realize the hopeless and bleak situation we as fallen human beings are in without God’s help. As David reminds us in our OT lesson this morning, left to our own devices we are aliens and transients before God who are utterly alienated and at war with God because of our unwillingness to act like his image-bearing human creatures. Instead we want to act like gods in our own right and as a result we cut ourselves off from our one and only Source of life. This means, of course, that death is our common destiny. Or as David observes, our days on earth are like a shadow and there is no hope because we are utterly and thoroughly infected with sin-sickness and there is no human remedy for it.

We don’t like to talk about this, in part, because in our human pride and arrogance we like to think we really aren’t part of the problem or that we have the ability to fix ourselves. But it is the consistent testimony of Scripture, confirmed by real life experience, that this kind of thinking is both delusional and a lie. Our sin-sickness and God’s awful judgment on it has brought all kinds of disaster to God’s good and beautiful creation as well as terrible suffering to humans and animals alike. This is why we can look around God’s world and see simultaneously breathtaking beauty in nature and human relationships and gut-wrenching ugliness in the same arenas. So being made ready to be changed by God means that we must be willing to call a spade a spade and acknowledge where the real problem lies—in us and our sin-sickness, not in God’s goodness or in his reaction to our sin-sickness, and this takes humility on our part.

When we have the God-given humility (and wisdom) to acknowledge that we are the problem and the good sense to listen to our restless hearts as they cry out for us to reconnect with God the Father who created us in his image to be faithful stewards of his good creation, this makes us ready to hear the Good News of God’s rescue plan in Jesus. And God in his mercy will grant our deepest desires to be restored to him.

This plan, of course, entailed God calling a people to be his own to offer God’s blessing and healing to the rest of his good world gone bad. This people came to be known as Israel and as God’s rescue plan unfolded, God revealed to us that the true Israel would be the ones who gave their ultimate loyalty and lives to the only true Israelite, Jesus of Nazareth, imitating him in their lives by the power of the Holy Spirit.

As Paul proclaims boldly in our epistle lesson, it is because of Jesus of Nazareth that we are no longer strangers and aliens before God as David had rightly observed. We no longer labor under that status because of the cross of Christ. As Paul and the other NT writers state elsewhere, on the cross God the Son brought healing and reconciliation between God the Father and his rebellious human creatures. In Jesus’ blood shed for us, God has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son so that there is now no condemnation for those of us who are in Christ Jesus. This means that while we all must die a mortal death because we all still live under God’s curse, our final destiny is not death but life.

We know this to be true because we believe that God really did raise Jesus from the dead to conquer death and to give us a foretaste of our future as citizens in God’s promised new creation, the time when God will bring to completion his promises to us to heal and restore his good creation gone bad. Only then will we be fully healed, but O what a healing it will be! So the curse has been broken by God himself on the cross of Jesus (thus the promised new creation) and our future life living directly in God’s presence as God’s fully healed and redeemed creatures has been revealed to us in Jesus’ resurrection, at least in part.

This is the Good News that our restless hearts have been yearning for because without the cross, for God to break the power of evil and finally destroy it, God would have to destroy each one of us because each one of us has good and evil in us. The life-saving power of the cross is a radical act of love on God’s part as well as his free gift offered to us precisely because God loves each of us radically and wants us to share in his life. When we fully embrace this gift and appropriate it into our lives, we cannot help but be changed by it, and for the good. Without the cross we are ruined and without hope. With the cross we are healed and find our ultimate hope.

This is what Paul meant when he talked about Jesus being the cornerstone of the Church. Paul saw that our new life in Christ is meant to be lived together as a community of believers who live radically different lifestyles from the rest of the world. We are living stones, part of an organic church, and not a building. As both Paul and Jesus indicate in our epistle and gospel lessons, we don’t need to go to a Temple to find or worship God because we can find and worship God in Jesus and enjoy new life in him when we gather together as his people. And because we are called to live and work and have our being in Jesus, we are the new Israel, grafted into the old Israel as followers of Jesus the Messiah whom God will use to help heal and rescue his world. And here we turn our attention to what it means to make a difference for God.

As we have seen, we have been rescued from evil, sin, and death by Jesus’ costly act on the cross. But this begs the question: rescued for what? We are saved (healed) so that our Lord can use us to be his kingdom workers who build on the foundation of his rescue of us and God’s world in and through his death and resurrection. As our Lord made clear in many of his parables, the kingdom comes gradually and inconspicuously, at least until he returns in great power and glory to finish the work he started in his mortal days. Until then we are to learn how to imitate our Lord so that he can use us to help build his kingdom. We do that best when we are filled with his Spirit and equipped to embody his love to all, even our enemies, and to proclaim his gospel to all, whether they want to hear it or not. And we do this work together as Christ’s body, the Church, because God calls us to live our healed and redeemed lives together as his reconstituted family living under the authority of King Jesus our Lord and Savior.

To live our lives in this manner means we must be intimately familiar with the story of God’s rescue plan and to trust its authority as God’s word to us today. We can only do that if we learn how to read the book for what it tells us, not what we think it says or should say. For example, how many of you recognized that Jesus quoted Psalm 8.2 in our gospel lesson today? Psalm 8 is a classic Messianic psalm and in telling us Jesus quoted it, Matthew clearly wants us to see that Jesus is proclaiming he is indeed the promised Messiah, not that he is uttering some weird gobbledegook that we can safely ignore. We won’t pick that up in the text unless we first recognize the text to be from a specific psalm written for a specific purpose and understand that because many Jews actively expected God’s promised Messiah to appear they would have recognized this kind of use of the Scriptures by folks like Jesus as a way of identifying himself as the Messiah. Our understanding of this will also help us recognize as caca the claim made by some today that Jesus didn’t have any Messianic awareness or calling, which would change our understanding of him quite radically. As we learn to read the Bible like this, we will learn to better plumb the depths and richness of God’s word to us as well as appreciate the truth it proclaims, at least if my experience with reading the Bible is any indication. Don’t misunderstand. I am not advocating that we all must become Bible scholars. I am advocating, however, that we need to become biblically literate and actively engage God’s Word on a regular basis. That means we have to read and study the Bible regularly and together in small groups.

Becoming more biblically literate also makes us less vulnerable to false teachings because we learn to recognize the authoritative voices in Scripture, voices like the apostles. In our epistle lesson, Paul is not telling us that the Christian faith consists of a set of principles we need to memorize. Instead, he is reminding us that our faith revolves around developing a real and dynamic relationship with the risen Christ and we have to learn how to recognize his voice. We are helped in that by listening to the apostles, those who knew Jesus in the days when he walked on this earth and who witnessed both his death and resurrection. Paul is therefore reminding us that not everything taught about Jesus is true and there are certain core things every Christian must believe (like Jesus’ atoning death and resurrection and the coming of the Spirit to live in his people, both individually and corporately) so that our faith can grow and help sustain us as we work to imitate Jesus in our lives. If we don’t know these teachings, we can never know who is telling the truth or even if there is truth, a claim that many make regularly in our day. And if you don’t think this is important, think about how badly the Church has been damaged by many of its recent teachers who have abandoned the apostolic belief and testimony that Jesus was raised bodily from the dead and that God’s new creation is our awaited future.

This is what it means to be changed by God to make a difference for God. It means we must put our faith to work in the manner God intends for us. This means, of course, that each one of us in this parish needs to have a ministry, whether it is formally sponsored by our parish or not. We are called individually and as a congregation to proclaim boldly God’s rescue plan to the world and to embody the same love to others that God has shown us in Jesus. This is hard work and we can get discouraged quite quickly. But we take heart because we realize we are not doing the work by ourselves or in our own strength or power. We are doing the Lord’s work together and in his power. And because we know the life-giving and transforming power we embrace by faith, we know we have Good News, now and for all eternity. To him be honor, praise, and glory forever and ever.

In the name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Tish Harrison Warren: The Wrong Kind of Christian

More PC run amok and shame on Vanderbilt. You may not give a fig about Christians being harassed off campuses. But sooner or later you will find yourself on the wrong side of PC and then you will give two figs. It is also highly ironic that places of “higher learning” where intellectual freedom and the open exchange and debate of ideas was once prized have become intellectual gulags for those who are on the wrong side of  town. Listen if you have ears. From Christianity Today online.

In writing, the new policy refers only to constitutionally protected classes (race, religion, sexual identity, and so on), but Vanderbilt publicly adopted an “all comers policy,” which meant that no student could be excluded from a leadership post on ideological grounds. College Republicans must allow Democrats to seek office; the environmental group had to welcome climate-change skeptics; and a leader of a religious group could not be dismissed if she renounced faith midyear. (The administration granted an exception to sororities and fraternities.)

Like most campus groups, InterVarsity welcomes anyone as a member. But it asks key student leaders—the executive council and small group leaders—to affirm its doctrinal statement, which outlines broad Christian orthodoxy and does not mention sexual conduct specifically. But the university saw belief statements themselves as suspect. Any belief—particularly those about the authority of Scripture or the church—could potentially constrain sexual activity or identity. So what began as a concern about sexuality and pluralism quickly became a conversation about whether robustly religious communities would be allowed on campus.

Read the whole sordid thing (and keep reminding yourself that Jesus is Lord as you do).

Devotional Resources for Yesterday’s Sermon on Prevailing Against the Gates of Hell

Yesterday I posted a sermon in which I argued that the only way to live with real hope and power in this current age was to keep in mind the promise of God’s new creation because only then will we be fully healed. Specifically, I argued that given the transitory nature of this life, our only real hope and remedy for the pain and heartaches of this world is to embrace our resurrection hope made possible by the blood of Christ shed for us. If you have not read the sermon, I encourage you to do so and to think it through.

Today I am posting some biblical resources that can help us in our suffering and sickness. In the sermon I stressed that while God desires all to be healed (as do we), at the same time we must acknowledge that God does not answer all our prayers for healing and that remains an enigma and mystery we must live with. But because God does not always answer our prayers for healing does not mean God is absent or does not love us. To the contrary, it is the consistent witness of both Scripture and the Church over time and culture that God can and does use our suffering to draw us closer to him to deepen our faith and dependence on his love and grace. These are not to be sneezed at.

In that spirit, below are some psalms that are perfect for the purpose of both crying out to God in our pain and fear and to ask God to draw us nearer to him so that we can find his love, strength, and comfort. In each of the psalms, substitute whatever is afflicting you for the mortal enemy to which the psalmist refers.

Make each of these psalms your ongoing prayer and return to them and other psalms of your choosing regularly. By God’s grace you will find that you are strengthened to meet the challenges at hand because God is stronger than anything that can afflict us.


To the leader: according to The Dove on Far-off Terebinths. Of David. A Miktam, when the Philistines seized him in Gath.

Be gracious to me, O God, for people trample on me;
    all day long foes oppress me;
my enemies trample on me all day long,
    for many fight against me.
O Most High, when I am afraid,
    I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
    in God I trust; I am not afraid;
    what can flesh do to me?

All day long they seek to injure my cause;
    all their thoughts are against me for evil.
They stir up strife, they lurk,
    they watch my steps.
As they hoped to have my life,
    so repay them for their crime;
    in wrath cast down the peoples, O God!

You have kept count of my tossings;
    put my tears in your bottle.
    Are they not in your record?
Then my enemies will retreat
    in the day when I call.
    This I know, that God is for me.
10 In God, whose word I praise,
    in the Lord, whose word I praise,
11 in God I trust; I am not afraid.
    What can a mere mortal do to me?

12 My vows to you I must perform, O God;
    I will render thank offerings to you.
13 For you have delivered my soul from death,
    and my feet from falling,
so that I may walk before God
    in the light of life.

Psalm 57

Praise and Assurance under Persecution

To the leader: Do Not Destroy. Of David. A Miktam, when he fled from Saul, in the cave.

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
    for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
    until the destroying storms pass by.
I cry to God Most High,
    to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
He will send from heaven and save me,
    he will put to shame those who trample on me.Selah
God will send forth his steadfast love and his faithfulness.

I lie down among lions
    that greedily devour human prey;
their teeth are spears and arrows,
    their tongues sharp swords.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens.
    Let your glory be over all the earth.

They set a net for my steps;
    my soul was bowed down.
They dug a pit in my path,
    but they have fallen into it themselves.Selah
My heart is steadfast, O God,
    my heart is steadfast.
I will sing and make melody.
    Awake, my soul!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
    I will awake the dawn.
I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
    I will sing praises to you among the nations.
10 For your steadfast love is as high as the heavens;
    your faithfulness extends to the clouds.

11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens.
    Let your glory be over all the earth.

Psalm 61

Assurance of God’s Protection

To the leader: with stringed instruments. Of David.

Hear my cry, O God;
    listen to my prayer.
From the end of the earth I call to you,
    when my heart is faint.

Lead me to the rock
    that is higher than I;
for you are my refuge,
    a strong tower against the enemy.

Let me abide in your tent forever,
    find refuge under the shelter of your wings.Selah
For you, O God, have heard my vows;
    you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.

Prolong the life of the king;
    may his years endure to all generations!
May he be enthroned forever before God;
    appoint steadfast love and faithfulness to watch over him!

So I will always sing praises to your name,
    as I pay my vows day after day.

Psalm 62

Song of Trust in God Alone

To the leader: according to Jeduthun. A Psalm of David.

For God alone my soul waits in silence;
    from him comes my salvation.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress; I shall never be shaken.

How long will you assail a person,
    will you batter your victim, all of you,
    as you would a leaning wall, a tottering fence?
Their only plan is to bring down a person of prominence.
    They take pleasure in falsehood;
they bless with their mouths,
    but inwardly they curse.Selah

For God alone my soul waits in silence,
    for my hope is from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my deliverance and my honor;
    my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.

Trust in him at all times, O people;
    pour out your heart before him;
    God is a refuge for us.Selah

Those of low estate are but a breath,
    those of high estate are a delusion;
in the balances they go up;
    they are together lighter than a breath.
10 Put no confidence in extortion,
    and set no vain hopes on robbery;
    if riches increase, do not set your heart on them.

11 Once God has spoken;
    twice have I heard this:
that power belongs to God,
12     and steadfast love belongs to you, O Lord.
For you repay to all
    according to their work.

Psalm 63

Comfort and Assurance in God’s Presence

A Psalm of David, when he was in the Wilderness of Judah.

O God, you are my God, I seek you,
    my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
    as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
    beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
    my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
    I will lift up my hands and call on your name.

My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast,
    and my mouth praises you with joyful lips
when I think of you on my bed,
    and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
    and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
    your right hand upholds me.

But those who seek to destroy my life
    shall go down into the depths of the earth;
10 they shall be given over to the power of the sword,
    they shall be prey for jackals.
11 But the king shall rejoice in God;
    all who swear by him shall exult,
    for the mouths of liars will be stopped.

Dr. Scot McKnight: Wouldn’t it be cool?

Worth your read if you are interested in learning about the challenges of Bible translation.

How many ways can you understand that short statement? Is it referring to someone’s temperature as below average? Is it referring to someone’s attitude as aloof and impersonal? Is it referring to someone doing well under pressure? Is it referring to someone’s popularity? All of these are common understandings of the word “cool,” but only one would be the correct understanding in a specific situation. To determine which was correct, you would need to know something about the situation and the subject to determine the speaker’s intended meaning.

Bible translators face choices like this on a regular basis. As with many words in English, words in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek can have more than one meaning and only careful study of the context can determine the correct English word choice. The very common Hebrew word elohim can refer to the one true “God,” as in Genesis 1:1 and more than 2,300 other verses. But, it can also refer to pagan “gods,” as in Genesis 31:30 and more than 200 other verses. There is no built-in meaning to the Hebrew word elohim that is correct in every context.

Read it all.

Prevailing Against the Gates of Hell

Sermon delivered on Trinity 10A, Sunday, August 24, 2014, at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Columbus, OH.

If you prefer to listen to the audio podcast of this sermon, usually somewhat different from the text below, click here.

Lectionary texts: Exodus 1.8-2.10; Psalm 124.1-7; Romans 12.1-8; Matthew 16.13-20.

In the name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Today we are holding our second healing service and I want us to look briefly at what our readings this morning, especially our gospel lesson, have to say about that. How do we get free from living as slaves to this present evil age with all of its accompanying fears, hurts, loss, and brokenness? The answer our readings invite us to consider is to live in the present with the reality of God’s future in mind. But how do we do that? The short answer is to trust with our whole being the sovereign God we worship and accept by faith the grace offered to us in Jesus.

As we saw last week, we worship a God who is sovereign over even the dark and evil powers and who is always faithful to his covenant promises to heal and redeem his hurting and broken world, ultimately through the one true and faithful Israelite, Jesus the Messiah and his people, both Jew and Gentile. This requires faith on our part because it is not always evident that God is in charge and the fact that God’s sovereignty is often made known to us ex post facto and/or in unusual or unexpected ways, the cross being the primary example of this.

In today’s gospel lesson we see a continuation of this idea of God’s future, brought about by God’s sovereign power, breaking into the present to rescue and free us from our slavery to this present age. Jesus asks the disciples (and us) to tell him who we think he really is. Peter, always the brash one who often rushes forward to put his foot in his mouth (which is why we have to love him because he is so much like us), answers that Jesus is the Messiah (or Christ), the Son of the living God. Before we look at Jesus’ response, we must be clear that when Peter called Jesus the Son of God, he didn’t have in mind the Second Person of the Trinity. That kind of thinking did not occur until after the resurrection. Instead, what Peter was confessing is the disciples’ belief that Jesus was God’s chosen and anointed Messiah or king. The use of the term “Son” indicated the special relationship God promised to have with his Messiah (cf. 2 Samuel 7.12-14a) who would, among other things, free God’s people Israel from their oppression. The term was also used to describe collectively God’s chosen people Israel (e.g., Psalm 80.14-15).

Jesus responds by pronouncing a beatitude (or blessing) on Peter and then gives Simon the new name of Peter, which in the Greek means Rock, declaring that on this rock he would build his church and not even the gates of hell would prevail against it. What did Jesus mean by this? While a sea of ink has been spilled over this and Protestants and Catholics vigorously disagree about its meaning, I want to focus our thinking this morning on how it applies to our healing and our freedom from slavery to this present age.

However we interpret Jesus’ reference to Peter being a rock, one thing is certain. Jesus did not call Peter a rock because of Peter’s rock-like and solid behavior or character! Jesus makes this clear when he declares that Peter has come to this realization not by his own powers but because God the Holy Spirit revealed it to him. And of course Jesus knew how fickle Peter could be. Whether it was walking boldly on the water or sinking in it like a rock (Matthew 14.28-31), whether it was confessing that Jesus is the Messiah or denying him (Matthew 26.69-75), Peter is a powerful representative symbol of all of us who follow Jesus.

With Peter’s fickleness in mind, as well as our own, surely one of the things Matthew wants us to grasp in this story is that Jesus sees in Peter the material he has to work with for the building of his Church. And given Peter’s composition and ours, that material must be entirely shaped by the grace of our sovereign God. It is God’s grace and power that makes Peter and us a rock, not our own strength or character or effort. It is the same grace that Paul tells us transforms our mind so that we can think clearly about what it means to be part of Jesus’ body, the Church, and to live in the present age with the light of God’s future in mind. It is the same grace that rescued Moses from the murderous hand of Pharaoh, using the same element that God would use to rescue his people from their slavery in Egypt.

We are given the grace of Christ’s strength, made known to us by our confession uttered in faith that Jesus is God’s true Son and our Lord, because God has called us to bear the gospel to the whole world until the eschaton, the end of the present evil age. And we can expect to incur the wrath of the forces of evil when we do. But not even the gates of hell can conquer the community of believers called to be Christ’s Church, broken and bumbling as we can sometimes be, precisely because God is sovereign and Jesus is Lord. Let the church say, “Amen!”

But, you protest, if Jesus is Lord he’s doing a lousy job. His people are being slaughtered in the Middle East. Injustice and suffering run rampant throughout the world and in our lives. And no one escapes the invincible power of the grave. Back comes the answer, “O foolish ones and slow of heart to believe (cf. Luke 24.25-26)! Do you not remember how God in his mercy has acted for you in and through Christ?” He has rescued us from the forces of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, reconciling us through his blood shed for us on the cross. And in Jesus’ resurrection, God has conquered death forever and given us a foretaste of his promised new creation with all its hope and promise.

In light of God’s radical new future reality brought about by Jesus’ death and resurrection, one of the things Jesus promises us in today’s gospel lesson is that when we suffer loss or harm, he will share his own indestructible life with us so that even though we are destined to die a mortal death and suffer irrecoverable loss in this world, we will not be destroyed or suffer loss permanently because we are yoked to the Messiah by faith. Is there a more empowering and hopeful promise than this as we labor in the present evil age? Let the church say, “Amen!”

So how does this pertain to our healing service today? Just this. We should not expect our faith in the redeeming and healing power of Christ to act like some magical elixir that guarantees our prayers for healing will be automatically answered. The opposite is also true. Because our prayers for healing are not always answered does not mean we lack faith or our faith is somehow corrupted or insufficient. The fact is that God desires our healing and has the power to heal, but that sometimes God chooses not to answer our prayers and we have to be very circumspect in our musings about why that is. One thing is for certain, however. God can and does use unanswered prayer to help break our proud and sinful self-reliance so that we learn to rely on his empowering and life-giving grace to overcome our suffering and this world.

As Tim Keller rightly observes, part of the problem we have today with suffering is that we have learned to put our ultimate hope and trust in the wrong things, in scientific and medical advancements, which reduces God’s role in healing. But as we shall see shortly, these are ultimately bound to fail because even the most remarkable healings our medical advancements have wrought are at best incomplete and/or temporary. Hear me carefully here. I am not suggesting we stop going to our doctors for healing or that scientific and medical research and knowledge are worthless. Nothing could be further from the truth and these practices are good and godly for reasons too numerous to mention here. What I am suggesting is that we need to look first and foremost to the One who has the power to heal us ultimately and to see science and medicine as part and parcel of God’s healing love and power, not our ultimate hope. Doing so will open not only our body to healing but also our mind, heart, and spirit as well.

Likewise, we need to think things through about the realities of living in this present evil age so we can learn to develop a godly and much-needed perspective about healing. So, for example, even if our prayers for healing are answered and we are healed completely or miraculously, what is our ultimate destiny? We all will die, either by disease, old age, accident, acts of violence, or other circumstances. This is because all creation lives under the curse of God for our ongoing sin (Genesis 3.1-19; Romans 8.19-23). So at best, any healing that occurs in us is temporary because barring the return of Jesus in our lifetime, our common destiny is the grave.

But the cross and resurrection are towering reminders that suffering, loss, and death are not the final destiny for those who put their whole hope and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. As we have seen, God himself has acted to ensure our reconciliation with him and when the new creation comes in full and our mortal bodies are raised from the dead and given new life, death is swallowed up in life, the curse is ended forever (it was never God’s original intention for us and his creation in the first place), all our loss will be restored, and our brokenness healed in ways we can only begin to imagine. This is our future hope and assurance. It is ours only when we confess Jesus to be Lord and God’s Messiah and Son, and it is the only remedy to the evil and hurt and suffering that beset us in this present age. Our time in this world is astonishingly short, even though it doesn’t always feel like it, and this age will one day come to an end. But the age to come, the age of resurrection and new creation, will go on forever and then we will know what it is like to be fully healed and human.

This is why we ultimately participate in these healing services. Of course we hope to be healed of our immediate afflictions. But this is only a foretaste of things to come and as Paul reminds us in our epistle lesson, we are called to live out our faith, not just because we hope to reap the immediate rewards of being healed, but as living witnesses to a sin-sick world and its peoples who desperately need to hear the Good News of God’s love for all people as well as his healing power. We are promised that irrespective of how God chooses to answer our prayers for healing (or not), living in this manner will bring God the glory he is due for rescuing us from this present evil age, even if we do not fully understand how.

This is what faith on the ground looks like in the context of healing, a faith that enables us to live in the present in light of God’s future, messy as it can be. We are empowered to live this way only by the grace of God and the extent to which we can build a real and living relationship with Jesus our Lord. As this happens, our faithful living will proclaim to the world in ways we will never fully know or realize that Jesus is Lord and we have Good News. And in that Good News we will find our peace, now and for all eternity. To him be honor, praise, and glory forever and ever.

In the name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

CBN News: Divorce Shocker: Most Marriages Make It

Most people believe only half of U.S. marriages make it. But a leading researcher is announcing the true divorce rate is much lower and always has been.

Shaunti Feldhahn received her research training at Harvard. She and her husband Jeff help people with their marriages and relationships through best-selling books like, For Women Only and For Men Only.

This Atlanta-based couple often quoted in their writings and at conferences what they thought was accurate research: that most marriages are unhappy and 50 percent of them end in divorce, even in the Church.

“I didn’t know,” Feldhahn told CBN News. “I’ve stood up on stage and said every one of these wrong statistics.”

Then eight years ago, she asked assistant Tally Whitehead for specific research on divorce for an article she was writing. After much digging, neither of them could find any real numbers.

That kicked off a personal, years-long crusade to dig through the tremendously complicated, sometimes contradictory research to find the truth. The surprising revelations are revealed in her new book, The Good News About Marriage.

“First-time marriages: probably 20 to 25 percent have ended in divorce on average,” Feldhahn revealed. “Now, okay, that’s still too high, but it’s a whole lot better than what people think it is.”

Shaunti and Jeff point out the 50 percent figure came from projections of what researchers thought the divorce rate would become as they watched the divorce numbers rising in the 1970s and early 1980s when states around the nation were passing no-fault divorce laws.

“But the divorce rate has been dropping,” Feldhahn said. “We’ve never hit those numbers. We’ve never gotten close.”

And it’s even lower among churchgoers, where a couple’s chance of divorcing is more likely in the single digits or teens.

Read it all.