Wednesday, August 18, 2010

#185-Using someones tragedy and/or plight to prove God is good

Okay, so I was working on the Jonny Lang post I promised like two weeks ago. And it's almost done. But in the midst of the writing process, the gods took the wheel of fate and spun it around to altar my plan of action for writing this day. It came from an excellent quote in my facebook inbox from SAL contributer, Chady Hosin, and the quote was by one of my top five favorite authors, Albert Camus:

"By the same token, the writer's role is not free from difficult duties. By definition he cannot put himself today in the service of those who make history; he is at the service of those who suffer it."

That was good to remember when you are writing about the importance of Jonny Lang and it's influence of introducing Nashvillian blues within our movement. (I Kid.).

But then I saw IT!

Now as main writer to this blog, I have persevered as best as possible to not indite specific individuals. A whole post on gigantic head gear/head band has been refrained from being written because the only pictures I could find of it's inception are those of Apostolic girls at camp.

But the "It" here is a facebook status of a specific individual.  And the poor soul who wrought the status is of the utmost good Christian standing as far as I can tell (but I can't tell much because I don't  know much). They just proceeded to write a status that is so indicative of the Christianity of our time, at precisely the wrong time as to find their status in the midst of the procession that is to be presented here.

So naturally everything I am going to quote next is true. The only thing that has been changed is the words.

"If you have clothes on and shoes to walk in, and enough money to buy a meal, compared to the third world, you are blessed abundantly. Be grateful and thankful!"

Makes me weep right on the spot.

Because this is our Christianity at work summarized in one concise sentence.

And I will say that if this is how we are to define our being thankful to God, then I reject that God flat out. I would rather have hell than the heaven that such a God would offer. A God that gives more and more to those who have and are thankful about it, and continues to turn his blind ear to those who have not.

I can recount several preachings where the preacher says, "be glad you aren't blind like some others." Or "you could have been born with some name deformity or disease here, but you are not so Thank God for that."

And when I hear that I become so aggressively angry inside. Maybe some will call it my flesh that doesn't want to thank God, but I would think it's something much deeper.

I just want to ask the preachers when they say such abominable things, "yes but what about the blind? What about the sick? What about the poor and the starving? I guess they have less to thank God about? And for God's sake, I want to know one thing. If God is kind enough to bless me to not be blind or deaf or be born as a crack baby, why in the world couldn't He have gone out of his way to do the same for those who ARE blind, deaf and born with an addiction to crack? Why?"

And then they say something to the effect of, "Well God works in mysterious ways."

Which must also be answered, "Well I'm glad you got the good end of the mystery."

And we'll all laugh and play golf the next day. Yes, Apostolic Pentecostalism in America can be summed up in the following sentence, "A few got sick. Many got saved. And overall, a good time was had by all."

And here I am your court jester playing a tune and saying a joke for us all to laugh at in the good company we have gathered to enjoy life to it's fullest through and through.

(I'm guessing you never realized a facebook status can get one so ticked off).

Thank God we have a free nation to worship in. In China they would be persecuted if we had church like this. HERE HERE!

But I guess my shtick is, if there is that persecution going on I can't dare be thankful. If Africa is full of AIDS, I can't dare close my eyes to it and say "Well Thank God I'm over here and not Like those over there." Because the fact is those people are existing and suffering and if God is to be held responsible for our security here, then we most hold Him accountable for the disease over there.It's over there I see a whole lot of room for grace and redemption when there is such suffering. I swear to you some days I wish I had the money and the medication to head over to Africa. Because at least people there are starving and they're not pretending otherwise. The only difference is the starvation of the African variety is much easier than the American kind.

My goodness, forgive my uncontrolled ranting. This is not healthy.

I guess the point is, in II Corinthians 10-12, we have a very angry Paul. For at least the second time in his Ministry, the church He founded, the church of Corinth is questioning Paul's Christianity and claim to apostleship. You see, Paul wasn't the best speaker, actually he was terrible if anything. Paul also didn't have the riches the other apostles had. So the other apostles would get up and call out Paul and say (paraphrasing from the arguments made throughout both of the epistles of Corinth), "Paul isn't anything of God. Look how sickly he is. Look at the lack of power in his ministry and look how poor he is. He even has to make tents to fund his ministry. Listen to me for I am clearly the blessed apostle. I speak with authority and am blessed financially and in signs of miracles and wonders. We should all be thankful we are not like Paul."

And how does Paul respond, well first off in the opening chapter of I Corinthians, "But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are,"

Do you see? By this logic, it is the sickly, the deformed, and those without clothing in Africa who God is choosing. Not the ones who are financially well-off and thank God because they are not poor like the rest. Paul then says that the only thing he will boast about is the Lord and at one point, only in the crucifixion. He is not boasting over what he has that others do not have....

but it gets worse....

But the time II Corinthians 10 comes along, Paul is more ticked off than we have ever seen him. And he simply starts saying basically that the reason he is losing is because he refuses to brag whatsoever unlike "those blessed apostles." So then he says, "fine, today I will act like a fool. And brag about what I have." And how does it brag? Not through what he has. But rather the vicious sufferings he has encountered ("if I must boast, I will boast in my weakness" II Corinthians 11:30).

These sufferings which are in no way exhaustive include, "Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked" (II Corinthians 11:24-27).

But why Paul? That doesn't sound very much like a blessing. Au contraire! Because II Cor. 12:9 says, God's grace is "made perfect in weakness."

So there you have it. By this reasoning, when we are weak we become dependent on God. Thus any kind of self-built affluence can be destructive as we are dependent not on God but ourselves.

And thus when someone tells me to thank God because I wasn't in a car crash wherein some stranger paralyzed, I really think "but I bet they will find God a lot more now than before. When there is weakness, there is God's grace made perfect."

Sometimes, I thank God for the starving African children. Not because it means that I am better off than them. But rather it means God's grace still has broken and empty places to reside in. 

Thus when I have the shoes on my feet and a shirt on my back that I paid for, I have to pray that in spite of myself and my material riches, that somehow God's grace descend past it. But I don't really know if it's possible.

Postscript: I apologize for this complete anvil of a blogpost. I couldn't refrain. If you want to continue to kick the fallen child while it's down, read this article here:

Come back tomorrow night and I will probably have a new lighter, "Jonny Langified" post here.


  1. Heeey Joel!
    Although, I don't have time to say a lot, this post makes a lot of sense to me. Suffering draws us closer to God... so because of that we should be thankful for it...but we should also be thankful God for the blessings...not sure of the exact verse but the bible says to give thanks in all things!

  2. I understand where you're coming from and the feeling behind this post. Not all will though.

  3. This is good stuff.

    Brought this scripture to mind: The Lord is near to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

  4. Excellent, thought provoking post. Thank you.

  5. Very well put, transparent, thought out, and well said. We must find the heartbeat of Jesus.

  6. This post is very convicting. God forgive me for being a gluttonous pig.

  7. Well, I think this point breaks down a little because: Jesus said the "...poor you will always have with you...". I shouldn't say "Thank you God for my food" because there is someone in the world who does not have food? I don't think so. God is fair. People--not always. In this life it's a matter of your positioning. Favor isn't fair. But if I'm blessed, I'm admonished by the scripture to share and be charitable. God wants to see what WE will do about the poor, not refuse giving Him thanks because there are still poor people. The ball is in our court. I'm glad God kept me out of a car accident last night. But I'm positive someone else somewhere was in a car accident last night. Am I better than them? No. Do I perhaps have the protection of God that they may not have? Yes. To them I say: God is there! Get under His umbrella of protection! Some are closer to God than others because they move closer to Him.

  8. TP-them,

    You bring some good points. And some that I will have to politely disagree with.

    You mention "the poor you will always have with you."

    This verse provides absolutely nothing to the argument you presented. Just because something is always with us doesn't mean poverty is not to be abhorred. Jesus made the statement only in regards to Himself being manifested in the flesh and that was of more importance. It was not a statement to encourage an apathy about the poor.

    If my mom became deathly sick today, by your reasoning I should say "well, she is going to die one day anyways. I will just make sure she is comfortable in the process." NO! I would do everything I could to fight her illness even if it may end up being in vein.

    But I do agree with the fact that if we are blessed, we are obliged to be charitable to those without. And I think it's those that have and are not charitable that I have the hardest time with.

    Also, reading your point I realized I probably mis-wrote my ultimate point. It was not that we are not to be thankful because poor exist, but rather the "I thank God I am not like them" mentality. In other words using someone elses suffering as a measuring stick for your praise.

    But lastly, it is the last part that you wrote that I find rather obscene and ripe for censorship by the FCC (but I'm not the FCC, so what do I care?)

    "Do I perhaps have the protection of God that they may not have? Yes. To them I say: God is there! Get under His umbrella of protection! Some are closer to God than others because they move closer to Him."

    This is where I would propose a duel of sorts if you said this to me 200 years ago.

    Them "fightin words."

    But seriously, here's the challenge: For the love of God show me in scripture a la post Jesus where this kind of mentality is considered CHristian.

    Jesus says those who will be first in heaven, must be last here (which to me means the scum of the earth). It doesn't say as you know me and get closer to me, I will put you in a better and better position here on earth complete with an impenetrable protecting tent of steal goodness.

    By your reasoning, Paul, Peter, James, and any other apostle saved John were not close enough to God whereby he would protect them. How appalling. What sinners they must have been!

    Matthew 25: 41"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

    44"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

    "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

  9. Hey, Thanks for your response to my post. I guess I need to clarify some of what I said as well. Bad things DO happen to good people. Bad things happen to SAVED people. Therefore, we can't be fair-weather friends of God and only love Him in the good times. There are tests and trials. Living for God is not always a bed of roses. But those who obey, live for, serve God, qualify for the promises of God. "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you." Matthew 6:33 That sounds like a promise to me. It's a "this-for-that" kind of thing. Do this, and I'll do that. This promise is not available to people who are not "seeking first" the kingdom of God. It's already starting to sound like a privileged position to me. Living without God comes with a reward too. The "wages" of sin is death. Those without God are not cheated. But that's one reward I'm sure they'd rather do without.

    As for your challenge:

    Jesus said:

    Matthew 23:37
    O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

    But because they rejected Jesus, He says in the following verse:

    "Behold, your house is left unto you desolate."

    So we are left thinking, " gathered together under the "wings" of the Lord where we find His love, blessings, peace, healing, strength, promises, bunch 'o good things,


    Have a "desolate house".

    Someone once said, "If God seems far away from you, guess who moved."

    As I said, living for God is does not a guarantee everything is going to be honky-doree (never spelled that before) but I'll sure take my chances WITH Him instead of WITHOUT. And I'll be thankful to Him for the things He's done for me. Thank you Lord for good health! Thank you Lord that I'm not sick! Thank you Lord that I didn't get messed up in drugs and alcohol! On and on

    And I'm a nice guy! Any "fightin' words were completely unintentional!