Why do the Righteous Suffer?

On September 19th, 2008, my daughter Macy was stillborn.  Her death was completely unexpected.  Right up till the day she was born, every indication was that she was doing fine.

Lauren and I have never learned why she died.  I do know this, though:  in the aftermath of her death, we suffered terribly.  Even now, ten years later, every time I see her picture hanging on our bedroom wall, it sends a jolt of pain right through my heart.

Our experience is hardly unique.  Even in a country like ours, at some point in their lives, nearly everyone encounters great suffering.  This is true for unbelievers, but it’s true for the most faithful Christians too.

Here, some locate the greatest challenge to our faith.  They ask, “If God is both good and powerful, then why does He allow the innocent and undeserving to suffer?”

This is hardly a new question.  It goes back at least to the book of Job, if not before.  However, it is an important one, with great relevance to all of us.  Thankfully, it’s also a topic that the Bible explores in considerable depth.  Let’s turn to the Scriptures, then, to answer the question, “Why do the righteous suffer?” Continue reading

What Is Covetousness?

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A few weeks ago, I ran a blog post on gambling in which I argued that the true problem with gambling is that it provokes covetousness.  In the next day or two, I found myself talking about it with Landon.  He observed that he agreed with the point, but he felt that most of us could benefit from a more specific understanding of covetousness.

I think this is a great point.  “Covetousness” and its variants are used a couple of dozen times in the ESV.  We know it’s a sin.  However, we often don’t know exactly what the specific sin is.  The dictionary defines covetous as, “Inordinately or wrongly desirous of wealth or possessions; greedy.”  So, basically, the dictionary is telling us that it’s a sin when we want things in a bad way.  Thanks, dictionary!  That’s really helpful!

However, even though the dictionary doesn’t offer much guidance here, God’s word does.  There are many passages that highlight the problems that covetousness creates.  When we piece them all together, we can come up with a useful answer to the question, “What is covetousness?” Continue reading

Bear with and Forgive One Another

In the last couple of lessons in our “Heaven Bound Together” series, Shawn and I have primarily considered the way that Christians are supposed to help each other through life’s struggles.  We’re supposed to encourage.  We’re supposed to restore.  We’re supposed to bear one another’s burdens.  Generally, we’re supposed to help solve one another’s problems.

However, that leaves a giant issue unexplored.  If other Christians are supposed to help us with our problems, what are we supposed to do when the other Christian is the problem?  Let’s be real, friends.  Sometimes, the worst problems that we have are with people who worship with us.  Our brothers and sisters in Christ can be annoying, hard-headed, and even downright sinful.

This can be intensely frustrating, but we must remember that our responsibilities toward one another don’t end because we think another Christian isn’t acting right.  Instead, we’re supposed to work through even that situation with them.  This morning, then, let’s look at our role in bearing with and forgiving one another. Continue reading

The Superiority of the Son

Ever since I started preaching the gospel, I’ve made a point of trying to honor the sermon requests that people make.  A few weeks ago, I got one such request from Cindy Coleman.  She asked me if I’d be willing to preach a sermon on Jesus.

It’s a rare gospel preacher who could refuse a request like that!  Last week, as I was trying to decide what to say about Jesus, my mind turned to the book of Hebrews.  Hebrews was my dad’s favorite book of the Bible, and it also says many things about Jesus that are not found anywhere else.  As a result, I decided it would be profitable to all of us if we looked at the Hebrews writer’s opening arguments about Jesus.  Let’s consider, then, what he tells us about the superiority of the Son. Continue reading

Encourage One Another

I’ve heard it said that it takes 10 compliments to cancel out one criticism.  As a parent, that makes me wonder if criticisms in chunks count as one criticism, like when I have to tell my kids five times in succession to stop messing with something.  Does that count as five or one?  If it’s five, their self-esteem might never recover!

Even if the precise math here might be up for debate, the overall principle isn’t.  Children or grownups alike, all of us appreciate positive feedback and reinforcement.  When we don’t get that positive reinforcement, whether verbally or through some other means, we’re less likely to continue doing the right thing.

This is particularly important when it comes to serving God.  Christians who never receive any praise, any sign that they matter to somebody else, any kind word at all, may well end up falling away.  From time to time, all of us need somebody to lift our spirits and help us to keep going.  As part of our series on being heaven bound together, then, let’s consider what we can do to encourage one another. Continue reading

Heaven Bound Together

Earlier this year, Shawn and I preached a series on how all of us, no matter what our individual life situation, can still be people who are bound for heaven.  There’s a sense in which every one of us has to make that journey for ourselves.

However, there’s also a sense in which we can’t make it by ourselves.  There is no such thing as a lone-ranger disciple.  Without the help of our brothers and sisters, none of us are going to inherit eternal life.  This morning, then, I’m going to kick off a new sermon series, one that looks at how we can be heaven bound together. Continue reading

Grace-Filled Living

It’s commonly said that in the churches of Christ, “we” don’t spend enough time talking about grace.  That may well be true in some churches, but I don’t think that anybody but God knows enough about our extremely diverse brotherhood to correctly describe what we do or don’t emphasize in our peaching.

Additionally, I think that sometimes the people who make such comments have trouble understanding Biblical grace, as opposed to pop-culture Christianity grace.  The two are very different concepts.  Pop-culture grace just kind of rolls over you while you do nothing; Biblical grace demands that you get up and do something.  Faith in Jesus and obedience to Jesus aren’t contradictory; instead, they’re two halves of the same whole.  Let’s consider this evening, then, what grace-filled living looks like. Continue reading