Are You Plugged In?

That question is directed mostly toward young Christians serving our country in the military. No, I’m not asking if you have an ‘electric’ personality! I’m asking you if you are plugged in to good, Bible believing fellowship, whether it’s a local on-base Chapel, local church, Bible study or fellowship group, or maybe just a good Bible study.

I’m asking because this last weekend I spent some time thinking about the years spent as a Christian serving on active duty in the Army’s Special Forces. How that scenario developed is another story for another time. Suffice it to say that when the Shepherd found the lost sheep and brought him back into the fold, the scenario was already in place, and I knew keeping my faith personal was not an option. But that’s not today’s story either.

This is about the question “Are you plugged in?” I ask you that because not being plugged in to Christian fellowship and Bible study can really stunt spiritual growth. We live in a fallen world surrounded by all sorts of influences detrimental to growing in our shared faith. We are also saddled with what some call a ‘sin hangover’, to use a somewhat crude analogy. It would be great if God just eradicated all of the sinful tendencies we have when we come to believe in Christ, but he doesn’t.

It goes without saying that if we are plugged into ‘power sources’ that can sustain us, we’ll not only be strong, we can be used of God in the furtherance of his Kingdom on earth. It’s the ‘plugging in’ part that I want to talk about. I don’t know about you, but I learned some things that were true when I was on active duty and are true now. They were true when I was single (living in the barracks or separated from my family because of travel), and true when our family was together. They are true now, for a couple of grandparents and empty nesters. Here are a few good principles, or rules to live by, or something in between.

  • Plug in! Connect to 1) on-base Chapel, local church, 2) Bible study or fellowship group, 3) one other believer, or 4) just a good individual Bible study. I would suggest all four, if possible.
  • Don’t wait to get invited to something, take the initiative, whether you are changing duty stations, on temporary duty or on a deployment. It says a lot about you and your desire to keep growing in faith.
  • When introducing yourself to a congregation or small group you visit, keep it simple and offer to serve. Don’t talk a lot about you have served in other places, or you might be considered a divine answer to prayer. Trust me. Be willing to serve, but take it slow.
  • Ask yourself, “Is this church or small group more about serving God, or getting stuff from God.
  • Listen more than you speak. You can learn volumes.
  • Keep a Bible handy and don’t leave home without it!

Just some tips from an old soldier. Experience is a great teacher. I assure you, NOT plugging in is always hazardous to your spiritual health. I also know that there are some of you that might be a bit apprehensive about getting connected when you find yourself in new or unfamiliar territory. CMF can help with that. We maintain a worldwide directory of CMF members, military friendly churches and other military ministries on or near military bases all over the world. There are also Bible study resources available online. Visit our Web page and look around!.

That question is directed mostly toward young Christians serving our country in the military. No, I’m not asking if you have an ‘electric’ personality! I’m asking you if you are plugged in to good, Bible believing fellowship, whether it’s a local on-base Chapel, local church, Bible study or fellowship group, or maybe just a good Bible study.

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Online Source

Interview with a Missionary in Northern Iraq RE: The Memphis Dialogues

While engaging in my favorite research activity of late (The Memphis Dialogues), I came across an audio file of a segment of an interview with a Christian missionary who lives in Mosul, in the Ninevah Province of Northern Iraq. Here are questions asked and the answers given by Neil, the missionary.

Q: Two things you know living in Iraq. You know how ugly, how murderous, how horrific radical Islam is. You also know how the great majority of Muslims do not share those sentiments. From your perspective as a missionary in a Muslim world, was it a wise thing for James (White) to try to have civil discussions, to bring walls down, to un-demonize certain people, and therefore Christians and Muslims talk face to face, or is this just being a ‘useful idiot for Islam’, and now you basically desensitize people to the dangers of radical lslam. What was your take?

A: I love that James White did this. I think it was a beautiful example of who we are supposed to be. Of course we’re supposed to be wise, but we come with love. The demonstration of the Kingdom of God comes with humility and love, and if I’m debating or arguing it’s not going to sound like love to the person I’m arguing with. This is what we do all the time. We sit down with people who are on the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of belief and faith, and we have a choice. I’m either going to argue with you about who Mohammad is and what the Quran is, how evil and vile it is, the expression of Islam and what it’s done in the Middle East, OR we can talk about Jesus. We can talk about the Kingdom of God and we can talk about what that looks like. And I can demonstrate that for you even in the way I interact with you as a human being – my tone of voice, the way I honor you and respect you as an individual created in God’s image.

The last thing we want to do is tear somebody down; what, so we can prove our theological point? That’s not going to convince somebody of anything. At best, it may convince their mind, but it’s not going to lead to a genuine conversion in the heart.

I applauded James White for doing that.

Q: Neil, have you yourself interacted with devout Muslims; you said that perhaps 75% are not devout in praying five times a day, and many of the younger people are more alienated from Islam because of ISIS, as you live there in Northern Iraq. Have you interacted though with very conservative Muslims as well?

A: I’ve sat down in the middle of Mosul and had lunch with Imams who I KNOW were leading prayers for ISIS in the Mosque. I’ve sat down with young men who lived their entire time through ISIS and are now studying to be Imams. And I can tell you that the best fruit we have ever seen is when we sit down and we discuss Jesus.

We don’t want to talk about the Quran. We don’t want to talk about Mohammad. Let’s talk about Jesus. Let’s talk about the truth, because they’ve never heard these things.

As for us, when we cross the boundary into deb ate and argument, it’s never going to end up good. But when we can introduce something to them that they’ve never heard before, there’s something inside of them that longs for the truth. And when we can give it to them, that’s when there entered into the Kingdom.

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That was it. Two intelligent questions and with some ‘background’ to put them in context and a missionary’s answers.

Listening to that interview gave me flashbacks to my service in Special Forces and what we did to prepare to infiltrate behind enemy lines to conduct military operations of one sort or another. Whether those operations were short or long term, we performed detail country studies to learn all about a country, their customs, language, religion, etc.

Once on the ground it was necessary to establish good rapport with the indigenous population. Some of how we went about accomplishing that was described by the missionary in the interview!

I can only ask any reader who might stumble upon this little blog “If it’s necessary to earn the respect of indigenous peoples working with them for a common cause, how much more vital is it when you want to present a religion they inherently hate?”

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The best thing about all this talking about James White is that it has afforded me the opportunity to improve my own thinking about touchy matters, and hopefully it helped me in the interpretation and exegesis of scripture.

May God bless you richly as you also travel along the way to the Celestial City.

Was James White ‘Unequally Yoked’ in Memphis?

Some say yes, some say no, some say maybe. This post is for informational purposes. Your opinion is your own. If you MUST have my opinion, I am in the ‘maybe’ camp. The term ‘interfaith’ is briefly discussed because someone recently told me that EVERYTHING interfaith is ‘unequally yoked’. I think that’s silly.

“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” 2 Cor 6:14

unequally yoked together G2086  (KJV + Strongs)

G2086   (Strong)

ἑτεροζυγέω

heterozugeō

het-er-od-zoog-eh’-o

From a compound of G2087 and G2218; to yokeup differently, that is, (figuratively) to associate discordantly: – unequally yoke together with.

Total KJV occurrences: 1

 

Albert Barnes

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers – This is closely connected in sense with the previous verse. The apostle is there stating the nature of the remuneration or recompence which he asks for all the love which he had shown to them. He here says, that one mode of remuneration would be to yield obedience to his commands, and to separate themselves from all improper alliance with unbelievers. “Make me this return for my love. Love me as a proof of your affection, be not improperly united with unbelievers. Listen to me as a father addressing his children, and secure your own happiness and piety by not being unequally yoked with those who are not Christians.” The word which is used here (ἑτεροζυγέω heterozugeō) means properly, to bear a different yoke, to be yoked heterogeneously – Robinson (Lexicon). It is applied to the custom of yoking animals of different kinds together (Passow); and as used here means not to mingle together, or be united with unbelievers.

 

It is implied in the use of the word that there is a dissimilarity between believers and unbelievers so great that it is as improper for them to mingle together as it is to yoke animals of different kinds and species. The ground of the injunction is, that there is a difference between Christians and those who are not, so great as to render such unions improper and injurious. The direction here refers doubtless to all kinds of improper connections with those who were unbelievers. It has been usually supposed by commentators to refer particularly to marriage. But there is no reason for confining it to marriage. It doubtless includes that, but it may as well refer to any other intimate connection, or to intimate friendships, or to participation in their amusements and employments, as to marriage. The radical idea is, that they were to abstain from all connections with unbelievers – with infidels, and pagans, and those who were not Christians, which would identify them with them; or they were to have no connection with them in anything as unbelievers, pagans, or infidels; they were to partake with them in nothing that was special to them as such.

 

They were to have no part with them in their paganism unbelief, and idolatry, and infidelity; they were not to be united with them in any way or sense where it would necessarily be understood that they were partakers with them in those things. This is evidently the principle here laid down, and this principle is as applicable now as it was then.

 

Jamiesson-Fausset-Brown

Be notGreek,Become not.”

unequally yoked — “yoked with one alien in spirit.” The image is from the symbolical precept of the law (Lev 19:19), “Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind”; or the precept (Deu 22:10), “Thou shalt not plough with an ox and an ass together.” Compare Deu 7:3, forbidding marriages with the heathen; also 1Co 7:39. The believer and unbeliever are utterly heterogeneous.Too close intercourse with unbelievers in other relations also is included (2Co 6:16; 1Co 8:10; 1Co 10:14).

fellowship — literally, “share,” or “participation.”

righteousness — the state of the believer, justified by faith.

unrighteousness — rather, as always translated elsewhere, “iniquity”; the state of the unbeliever, the fruit of unbelief.

light — of which believers are the children (1Th 5:5).

 

Adam Clarke

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers – This is a military term: keep in your own ranks; do not leave the Christian community to join in that of the heathens. The verb ἑτεροζυγειν signifies to leave one’s own rank, place, or order, and go into another; and here it must signify not only that they should not associate with the Gentiles in their idolatrous feasts, but that they should not apostatize from Christianity; and the questions which follow show that there was a sort of fellowship that some of the Christians had formed with the heathens which was both wicked and absurd, and if not speedily checked would infallibly lead to final apostasy.

Some apply this exhortation to pious persons marrying with those who are not decidedly religious, and converted to God. That the exhortation may be thus applied I grant; but it is certainly not the meaning of the apostle in this place. Nevertheless, common sense and true piety show the absurdity of two such persons pretending to walk together in a way in which they are not agreed. A very wise and very holy man has given his judgment on this point: “A man who is truly pious, marrying with an unconverted woman, will either draw back to perdition, or have a cross during life.” The same may be said of a pious woman marrying an unconverted man. Such persons cannot say this petition of the Lord’s prayer, Lead us not into temptation. They plunge into it of their own accord.

 

John Gill

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers,…. This seems to be an allusion to the law in Deu 22:10 and to be a mystical explanation of it; and is to be understood not as forbidding civil society and converse with unbelievers; for this is impracticable, then must believers needs go out of the world; this the many natural and civil relations subsisting among men make absolutely necessary; and in many cases is both lawful and laudable, especially when there is any opportunity or likelihood of doing them any service in a spiritual way: not is it to be understood as dehorting from entering into marriage contracts with such persons; for such marriages the apostle, in his former epistle, had allowed to be lawful, and what ought to be abode by; though believers would do well carefully to avoid such an unequal yoke, since oftentimes they are hereby exposed to many snares, temptations, distresses, and sorrows, which generally more or less follow hereon: but there is nothing in the text or context that lead to such an interpretation; rather, if any particular thing is referred to, it is to joining with unbelievers in acts of idolatry; since one of the apostle’s arguments to dissuade from being unequally yoked with unbelievers is, “what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?” and from the foregoing epistle it looks as if some in this church had joined with them in such practices; see 1Co 10:14. But I rather think that these words are a dissuasive in general, from having any fellowship with unbelievers in anything sinful and criminal, whether in worship or in conversation:

 

“Interfaith”

adjective: of, operating, or occurring between persons belonging to different religions

This could mean a wide variety of things from having an actual worship ‘service’, picketing an abortion clinic together, having a conversation, eating a meal, UFC, playing chess, name an activity. If you are going to tell me that James White was ‘unequally yoked’, you had better tell me exactly WHY you make the conclusion. 

James White had a discussion about religion with a Muslim in which each man presented various tenets of their respective faiths. Whether he was unequally ‘yoked’ is a matter of speculation and individual opinion.

You can come to a hard and fast conclusion, or, you could choose wisdom and say you ‘think’ He might have been ‘unequally yoked’. 

 

“Degrees of Separation”

How do we, as believers, handle ‘relationship’ issues with other Christians? There are certainly times when we can and should walk in fellowship with other believers and times when we should part, or ‘separate’ from them to some degree. Some issues are clear and some are not. If other professing believers are caught up in unrepentant sin, we are not to hang around them. In matters of doctrine things can be a bit more difficult. The article below, from Ligonier Ministries, offers some really good principles to follow.  At the end of the day, however, it can also be a matter of one’s personal faith and conscience. Here’s the article:

Degrees of Separation

by David Murray

One of the most difficult challenges to address in the Christian life is our relationships with other Christians. It’s like walking a tightrope with heavy weights on each end of our pole. On the one side is the biblical command to unite with professing Christians, while on the other is the biblical demand to separate—at times—from professing Christians.

“Unite!” and “Divide!” Complicated and challenging, isn’t it? Wouldn’t it be so much easier if we could just choose one or the other? Some do. They decide to separate from everyone who does not agree with them on everything, producing sinful schism and division in the body of Christ. Others decide there is virtually nothing that justifies separation from anyone and unite in unholy alliance with anyone who says he is a Christian, no matter what he believes.

But both of these are unbiblical extremes that throw us off balance, tipping us into dangerous and damaging sin. Although we might prefer a simpler life, God calls us to walk this precarious tightrope carrying both weights on the ends of our pole.

DEFAULT TO UNITY

Having said that, the balance of Scripture suggests that the heavier weight is on the side of unity rather than division. That makes sense because one of sin’s great consequences has been to divide people from God and people from people. Our innate, sinful default is separation. That’s why there are so many verses in the Bible that are weighted toward strengthening love and unity between Christians. God calls us to make unity our starting point, our instinct, our default. We look for reasons to trust and unite before reasons to distrust and divide.

As we do, we will make different decisions about the nature of our relationships with other Christians. And it’s not just our relationships with individual Christians to consider. We also have to decide how to relate to individual churches, denominations, or associations of churches (for example, the Presbyterian Church in America, Southern Baptist Convention, and so on), as well as Christian ministries such as Ligonier, The Gospel Coalition, and others.

CRITERIA FOR SEPARATION

So, we begin with biblical balance, weighted somewhat toward unity, and then we start coming into contact with Christians, churches, and ministries about which we must make relationship decisions. Before we look at the different kinds of relationships and associations that may result from this, we need some criteria to help us decide which way to go.

There are four areas to consider when deciding the nature of a relationship with other Christians. The most important area is doctrine. As Christian unity is unity in the truth, we must ask what this Christian or church believes.

However, even before that, we have to ask, what doctrines are fundamental and nonnegotiable? Do we insist on complete agreement on every single truth before we have any kind of association with any Christian or church? If so, one will end up uniting only with oneself.

That’s why we need a sliding scale of biblical truths and principles that will determine to what degree we unite or separate. At the top of that scale, we might put the inerrancy of Scripture, the Trinity, the deity of Christ, justification by faith alone, Jesus as the only way to God, and other primary truths. Without the basic foundation that such truths provide, there can be no spiritual relationship of any kind.

Then, as we go down the list, we will come to issues like baptism, the role of women, eschatology, and others that, while important, might not warrant total separation. Obviously, the further down the list we can go with someone, the greater the degree of Christian unity and the closer our relationship can be.

Apart from doctrine, another area we will want to look at is practice. Regardless of what the church or person says they believe, what do they actually do?

A third area of concern is the church’s or Christian’s relationships with others. We’ll look at this further under “secondary separation” below, but it might be that a person’s or group’s relationships with others who deny cardinal truths and doctrines may cause us to decide not to fellowship with that person or group.

Fourth, church discipline also affects whether and how to relate to someone. If a person has sinned and is under the discipline of his church, we will have to decide how best we can support that discipline by our relationship with the offender.

SEVEN DIFFERENT RELATIONSHIPS AND ASSOCIATIONS

With these criteria in mind, here are the main categories of relationships we might have with other Christians.

SPIRITUAL UNITY: This is the essential union that every Christian has with God and with other Christians through the Spirit of Christ. There may be much visible and vocal disagreement and division among Christians, but there is an invisible and unbreakable spiritual union that connects every believer in the spiritual body of Christ.

ECUMENISM: The Greek word oikoumenē means “the whole inhabited world,” and it originally referred to the Roman Empire. The church took over this word and used it to describe the visible worldwide unity among Christian churches. That’s why some of the early church councils produced ecumenical creeds, reflecting the visible unity in the truth throughout the worldwide church.

More recently, the Roman Catholic church has promoted ecumenism as a way of bringing Christians and churches back into the Roman Catholic Church, usually at the expense of the truth.

However, just because the word has been perverted and abused does not make it a bad word. Every Christian and every church has the duty to seek and promote true ecumenicity—visible unity in the truth. When done well, it is a persuasive witness to the nature and power of the gospel.

ASSOCIATION: Despite valiant attempts to promote biblical ecumenism, sometimes the differences between churches are too great to produce ecclesiastical union. But even when churches decide not to unite, they can still enjoy some level of relationship, often called association. This can vary from accepting one another’s ministers, working together on joint projects, financial support, and even simple recognition and correspondence.

However, great care is usually required to navigate this, as there is always the danger of ignoring fundamental disagreement on the nature of the gospel when we unite to work on less-important issues. In a formal association, all should agree on the major truths, and disagreements should be limited to less-vital areas of doctrine.

ENDORSEMENT: But what if there is not enough common ground to unite or even associate formally? Does that mean the only option left is separation? No, it’s possible to endorse some aspects of a church or person’s witness without agreeing with them in everything. Perhaps a pastor from a church writes an excellent book on justification, but we disagree with his view on the millennium. We can endorse the book while being careful not to give blanket approval to everything else.

FRIENDSHIP: Even if there can be no formal, visible union or association on the institutional or organizational level, that does not mean there can be no unity at all on a personal level. On the contrary, informal Christian relationships and friendships can be a powerful reminder of our underlying unity and the practical love we have for one another.

SEPARATION: Sadly, the doctrinal and practical disagreements between churches and Christians are sometimes so serious and substantial that there is really no option but to separate on both an institutional and personal level. We cannot unite, we cannot associate, we cannot endorse, and we cannot even remain friends.

For example, if a church or Christian denies justification by faith alone or the exclusive claims of Christ, these heresies go to the heart of the Christian faith and cannot be played down. In such instances, we may and must separate completely. This kind of separation, though, should be a last resort, and it should be reserved for the most serious of cases. Usually it will also be necessary to publicly explain the reasons for separation and even to issue warnings about the matter.

SECONDARY SEPARATION: In 1963, Billy Graham asked D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones if he would chair the first Worldwide Congress on Evangelism. Lloyd-Jones said he would gladly do it if Graham stopped including liberals and Roman Catholics on his crusade platform and staff. They talked for three hours, but when Graham refused to agree to this, Lloyd-Jones said he could not o”er any support or endorse Graham’s campaigns. Lloyd-Jones had a high regard for Billy Graham but separated from him formally because of his associations with others.

That’s secondary separation, and again, it should be limited to denial of primary biblical truths, or else we will end up in a church of one, isolated and completely alone.

PRAYERFUL DISCERNMENT

The nature of our relationships with others is one of the most challenging areas in our Christian life and witness. We need to be prayerfully searching the Scriptures to remain sensitive to the Spirit of truth if we want to safely traverse this high wire of holiness.

Online Source:  http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/degrees-separation/

What to make of the Francis Chan at IHOP

Last week I read about Francis Chan speaking at the 2013 Onething Conference at IHOP in Kansas City. Knowing the background and heretical roots of IHOP I had the same questions as others – Why did Francis seem to give legitimacy to a movement with roots steeped in heretical doctrine? To be fair, I listened to Francis Chan’s entire presentation. What I learned from listening to the whole enchilada is that the comments made at the beginning needed to be taken in the context of Chan’s entire message. Some of what he said, and some of the scripture concerning false/lying prophets would seem to indict IHOP rather than lend credibility to it, although what Chan had to say specifically about IHOP was that there were great things going on there.

Francis Chan’s real goal in appearing there might not be known for some time, if ever. The contrast between his lead-in comments and the content of some of what he preached prevents me from a judgment call, which would be unwise.

My own personal feelings about IHOP and Mike Bickle come from hearing things that caused me to study IHOP and even listen to hours of Mike Bickle’s teaching. He’s still peddling the same old stuff and playing the role of a Pied Piper – stealing emotion/feelings driven children  (along with adults who, if they read their Bibles should know better), sucking them into a false ‘dominionism’ theology in which ‘Forerunners’ are needed to prepare the world for the 2nd coming of Christ, who will usher in the ‘pure’ church that must be in place for Christ to return.

The parable of the wheat and the tares in Matthew 13 presents a different picture of the ‘end time’ church in which the church on earth will not be purified until Christ returns in judgment to purify it himself.

Of course there are other resources one can use to investigate IHOP that discuss other rotten roots of the movement, some of which are linked to at the ‘Stand Up For The Truth’ link below.

What to make of the Francis Chan/IHOP union | Stand Up for the Truth.

The Church is Full of Hypocrites!

We hear it all the from all sorts of folks, from atheists to those are ‘spiritual’ but not religious, and everywhere in between. there’s a point to be made here and a question to be asked.

The Point

Church is a great place for hypocrites to hang out! They might meet Jesus and find a solution for their problem.

First of all, all ‘hypocrites’ aren’t hypocrites. The ‘accusers’ often expect everyone who attends church to already be perfect, instead of regular people with faults and sin in their lives who, in reality, are quite like their accusers, but in a better location to have their faults and sin dealt with.

The ‘accusers’ often  realize the above and attack the slick hucksters peddling the gospel from the pulpit or stage, rather than everyone in the pews/theater seats. That might be a wise move concerning the folks in the pews, but still be a rather irrational conclusion regarding ‘spiritual’ snake oil salesmen.

The Question

Would E=MC2 be true or false if Albert Einstein had been caught shoplifting?

The fact that there are spiritual snake oil salesmen is not in doubt. Every leader in every false religion certainly qualifies. The hucksters claiming to be ‘Christians’, who sell a ‘false’ gospel for their own gain, whatever that looks like (TBN prosperity teachers or liberal ‘social’ gospel purveyors), in no way prove the genuine product to be false.

In this case, the genuine product is found in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4.

“Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures”

Food for thought. . .

The God of All Comfort

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Certainly the chief significance of Paul’s description of God, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, is in the context of suffering for the name of Christ whom he preached unceasingly, as well as the similar suffering of the saints in the church at Corinth. There is, in these few verses, a picture of suffering for the name of Christ, the experiencing of the comfort that only God can bestow upon his children, and the sense of God’s sovereignty over even the ‘not so comfortable’ circumstances of suffering saints, in order that they (we) might be able to credibly minister to others in similar circumstances.

The Apostle Paul sees his afflictions and persecutions being for the express purpose of the comfort of other suffering saints, as he experiences the comfort of God and because of that experience, being able to comfort the believers in Corinth.

Can we not extend the cycle of suffering, finding comfort, and comforting others ‘with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God’, to the ordinary ‘stuff of life’ that we endure as believers in a fallen world? Personally, I think that Paul has delivered a serious blow to the thought (and sometimes taught) notion that as believers we somehow deserve ‘special’ treatment in this life.

In these verses, Paul does not specifically describe the impact of our going through all the ‘stuff of life’ on the unbelieving world around us, but it cannot be denied. As believers we are able to, and ought to, go through the adversities of life quite differently than even the most ‘positive’ of unbelievers with whom we live, work, and breathe. ‘How’ we go through the same adverse circumstances of life speaks volumes and is at times one of the greatest ‘wordless’ expressions of the gospel of grace we possess. Those wordless expressions are used of God as He arranges ‘divine appointments’ in which we have the great privilege of adding the ‘words’ of the Gospel, as God draws those for whom the Son died to the foot of the Cross, culminating in much rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents!

So take heart, brothers and sisters, knowing that God is indeed sovereign over the affairs of our lives, both the good and not so good, and that God’s purposes in all of them will stand for eternity!