Friday, 18 December 2015

Alan Jacobs on 2 kinds of Chirstian books

Alan Jacobs is one of my favourite writers.  Along with a number of his essays and articles online, thus far I've read this and this and this and over Christmas holidays I hope to read this.  Jacobs is a really good thinker and is very good at putting his thoughts into words. 

Over yonder is an astute observation that quite accurately and succinctly sums up most current and recent Christian publishing*.  Jacobs divides up most current Christian books into "Platitudes and Planners".  One group tells us truths that we mostly already know but doesn't explain how those truths are supposed to affect our daily lives.  The other group write what amount to how-to manuals for the Christian life but don't show their actual basis in theology or any depth of biblical exposition.  What we are missing today, Jacobs says, are good authors that are able to connect what we believe with how we live.   

I think Jacobs' observation is as least partly that is why the vast majority of my favourite authors are dead.  I eagerly await the list of exceptions to this rule that Jacobs plans to produce. 

*Actual Christian publishing, not including much of the crap that is not truly Christian in any honest or orthodox sense but that is nonetheless published by Christian publishing houses.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Gratitude at the heart of True Worship

For Canadian Thanksgiving, I preached a sermon on gratitude being at the heart of true worship.  This is a recap of some of the thoughts from that sermon.

Paul says in Colossians 3:5, "Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry."

It is particularly the last item on his list of things to put to death that I want to focus on - putting to death covetousness.  Covetousness is desiring for ourselves what others have, desiring to have what God has not given to us rather than being content with and thankful for what he has given to us.  Covetousness is therefore directly opposed to thankfulness.  The covetous heart is not a thankful heart.  Where the thankful person looks at their life and is thankful for all God has done for them and given to them, the covetous person looks at their life and sees only what God has not done for them (and, in their opinion, ought to have) and what God has not given them (and, they think, should have).

But covetousness is more than just not counting your blessings enough.  It is even more serious than that.  Paul says that covetousness is idolatry.

Here, Psalm 106 is instructive.  This Psalm recounts Israel's history, specifically how God rescued Israel from slavery in Egypt.  The people had groaned and complained and cried out to God to save them from slavery.  God heard their cries and, through Moses, lead them out of Egypt to freedom through his mighty works.  The Psalm goes on to recount how, even after such a great, awesome and very visible salvation, Israel repeatedly forgot the kindness and salvation of God and all the mighty deeds he performed to rescue them and provide for them.  Israel repeatedly grumbled and looked at the surrounding pagan nations and began to covet what those nations had rather than what God had given to them.  Rather than looking back at God's mercy and kindness to them in the past and his rescuing them from slavery, Israel started to look back and compare the leeks and onions and cucumbers they used to eat when they were in Egypt with the manna and quail God was miraculously sustaining them with now.  Where Israel should have seen God's faithful, steady, reliable provision, they saw monotony.  And when Israel grew covetous for what God wasn't currently giving them, they quit trusting him for the provision he had promised them in future - a land flowing with milk and honey, a land in which they would eat from orchards and crops they had not planted and sit under vines they had not cultivated.  As Israel grew covetous, they became idolatrous.  As they stopped being grateful to God for his salvation and provision, they stopped being faithful to God in their worship.  As they coveted what other nations had, they started to covet the gods of those nations also.  Turning from God's provision and coveting was simultaneous with turning from God himself and turning to idols.  In fact, it was more than just simultaneous, it was synonymous.

As it was with Israel, so it is with the church, with Christians today, Paul tells us in Colossians 3:5.  Covetousness is idolatry, he says, and it is so serious that he tells us to put it to death.  It is pretty straightforward to see how covetousness is at the heart of idolatry, at the heart of false worship.  When we are discontent with God's provision for us, when we are discontent and unthankful for how God cares for us, what we are really doing is being discontent with God himself, unthankful for God himself.  We, like the Israelites, can look back and see how God saved us from slavery to sin, how he did mighty works of redemption through the death and resurrection of Jesus, to rescue us from slavery sin, death and the judgment of hell.  Yet so often we forget all God has done for us and we instead look around us at the prosperity of the unbelieving world and we start to covet what they have.  We grow unthankful for all we have from God through Christ and we start to desire what the world has, be it money or things they have that we don't, or whatever it is.  And if we are honest, and if we look at it for what it truly is, we realize that we are actually discontent with God.  And when our eyes longingly look toward what others have that we don't, they are looking away from God.  And when our hearts covet what others have rather than finding contentment in what God has given and being thankful for it, our hearts are actually wandering away from God and turning to that which is not him.  This is the very definition of idolatry.  When we exchange what God has done for us and given to us for that which he has not, what we are actually doing is exchanging God himself for something else, and that something else has become an idol.  Covetousness is idolatry.

Time for a little logic experiment:  if covetousness is idolatry, doesn't it follow that true thankfulness is at the heart of right worship?  Seems logical, but is it biblical?  Let's test it.

Paul says to put to death covetousness, which is idolatry.  This is part of a list of things Christians are called to put to death, to put off, to put away (3:5-10).  A little further along Paul gives the Colossian church (and us) things to replace them with, things to put on.  Colossians 3:12 and following tells us we are to put on compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, etc.  Above all these things we are to put on love, since it is love which binds all these other traits together in perfect harmony (3:14).  Then Paul says that the Colossians are to let the "peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.  And be thankful" (3:15).  Then he says to, "let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God" (3:16).  And then Paul sums it all up by saying that "whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (3:17).

In this section of Colossians 3, Paul speaks of 3 ways that the church is to practice the presence of Christ in us.  We are to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts, we are to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly, and in everything we do and say we are to do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.  The peace of Christ, the word of Christ, and the name of Christ.  And what comes with all these things, all these practices for the life of the church?  Thankfulness.  Look at it again.  Along with letting the peace of Christ rule in our hearts, Paul calls us to be thankful.  And as we are to let the word of Christ richly dwell in us, which is done by teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom and by singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, this is all to be done with thankfulness in our hearts to God.  And when he calls the church to do whatever we do in word or deed in the name of Christ, he says that it is all to be done while giving thanks in our hearts to God the Father through Jesus.  In other words, the body life of the church is to be saturated with thankfulness.  Gratitude is to permeate the life of Christians and our corporate life as the body of Christ.  Letting Christ rule in us, letting his word dwell in us richly, doing all we do and saying all we say in the name of the Lord Jesus, all this is to be done from a posture of thankfulness.

Thankfulness is key to letting Christ rule in our hearts rather than allowing our allegiance to become divided by covetousness, which is idolatry.  Thankfulness is key to letting the word of Christ dwell in us richly, rather than allowing alternative "truths" to push God's word out.  As we teach and admonish and encourage and exhort one another, as we sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, in other words as we worship, these are all to be done with thankfulness in our hearts to God.  Why?  Because, like Israel, if our hearts aren't thankful, then they are covetous.  And if our hearts are covetous, then like Israel our hearts are wandering away from the true God and seeking after false gods.  When our worship is no longer springing from a heart of gratitude, it is coming from a heart of discontent and covetousness and pretty soon we are fashioning false gods so we can bow to them instead.

Like Israel, we are always in danger of taking the gifts God gives us and melting them down and forming them into idols.  After all the plagues and the passover and the angel of death, as the Israelites were finally leaving Egypt, God moved their Egyptian neighbours to give them articles of gold and silver.  A faithful Israel would have thanked God for these things and would have saved up all these treasures to be used to fashion the articles of the Tabernacle, when the time came to make it.  But a discontent and covetous Israel instead melted them down and fashioned a golden calf out of them, because covetous people are idolatrous people.

Later in Colossians, Paul points out that thankfulness ought to permeate the church's prayer (4:2).  Thankfulness as the peace of Christ reigns in the heart of Christians and in the life of the church, thankfulness at the center of the church wisely teaching and admonishing one another, thankfulness in the church's worship in song, thankfulness in the church's prayer.  This sounds like thankfulness is at the heart of the true worship.  And thankfulness to God through Christ as the church does all that it does in Jesus' name means that thankfulness to God is ultimately at the heart of the Christian life.

In Colossians 3:1-3, Paul tells the church not to set our minds on things that are worldly, on things that are of the earth.  Rather, we are to set our minds on things that are above, things that are where Christ is seated at God's right hand.  When we set our minds and hearts on earthly things, our focus is worldly, idolatrous.  Therefore, we are called to set our minds on that which is above, that which is of Christ, that which is in submission to the reign of Christ.  When we do this, we are in a right orientation not only to God through Christ, but we are then in a right orientation to the earthly things as well.  God gives us many things in this life, and they are gifts which we are to receive with thankfulness.  But when we set our hearts on things, we find that they go from being good gifts to being bad gods.

A bit ago, we did a logic exercise:  If covetousness is idolatry, then thankfulness ought to be found at the heart of true worship.  It certainly seems to be one of the things the Holy Spirit is teaching the church through the Apostle Paul in Colossians 3.  But if this is indeed the case, we really ought to expect to find this elsewhere in Scripture as well.  And, in fact, this is exactly what we find.

Psalm 107 speaks of God's works of redeeming people from their various difficult situations and circumstances, from being lost and without hope.  The Psalm begins with a call to give thanks to the LORD, to YHWH God, for he is good and his steadfast love endures forever.  Then it goes on to describe the plight of various peoples whom God has rescued.  After each particular example of someone God has saved from their trouble, the Psalmist repeats the regular refrain, "Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of men", along with the particular thing the Lord has done for them.  This is repeated in Psalm 107:8-9, 15-16, especially 21-22 which puts thankfulness in the context of worship (the very middle of the Psalm), and 31-32.

Psalm 108 shows us an example of the frequent parallelism we find in Hebrew poetry.  In verses 3 and 4 we see truths stated in two ways in order to magnify and draw attention to them. Both verse 3 and verse 4 are sets of parallel and equivalent statements.
"I will give thanks to you, O LORD, among the peoples;
      I will sing praises to you among the nations.      
For your steadfast love is great above the heavens;       
      your faithfulness reaches to the clouds."
It is easy to see in verse 4 that "steadfast love" in the first line is equivalent to "faithfulness" in the second line, and "above the heavens" is equivalent to "reaches to the clouds".  But look at the equivalent statements in verse 3.  There, "among the peoples" is equivalent to "among the nations", but for our present contemplation, just as clearly we see that "I will give thanks to you" is equivalent to "I will sing praises to you".

In Psalm 100:4, we have another example of parallel exhortations which are equivalent, restatements of the same call to God's people but stated slightly differently.
"Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!  
      Give thanks to him; bless his name!"
Here we see that the way to approach God in worship is to come into his courts with praise, and to enter his gates with thanksgiving.  In the act of worship, we are called to bless God's name, to give thanks to him.  Entering God presence with thanksgiving is at the heart of coming into his presence with praise.  Blessing the name of the Lord is done, at least in large part, by giving thanks to him.

These are just a few scattered examples.  But it is enough to see that true and right, biblical and godly worship has thanksgiving at its very heart.  Gratitude is at the center of true worship and praise.  And if that is so, it is no wonder that Paul says that covetousness is idolatry.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Living in Gratitude

Peter Leithart has some good thoughts about gratitude being at the center of the "good life".  He says,
Discontent is one of life's most corrosive vices. When we wish we lived then, when we want our life to be taking place over therewe take no joy in what's here and the now. We cannot enjoy the present without receiving it, and we cannot receive it well unless we receive it gratefully.
All of life must be seen as the gracious gift of God that it in fact is.  When things aren't going according to our plan, it is beneficial for us to remember and to be thankful that it is going according to God's plan.  To live the good life, the content, peaceful, joyful life, one must receive all of life and all that comes with a thankful heart. 

Leithart's thoughts can be found here.  His recent theological study on this all too neglected topic may be found here.

Friday, 28 August 2015

How do you use the tool of Scripture?

There are two ways to read the Bible. 

One is to read the Bible looking for passages and verses that confirm, bolster, strengthen, prove or otherwise seem to support our already held ideas and beliefs.  Someone who reads Scripture this way usually has a concrete stance on something and is looking for ways to argue their personal perspective in a more effective, powerful and authoritative way, so they seek to rally God’s Word to their pet cause.  This is using the Bible as a tool to accomplish their own ends, which is an unbelieving and unfaithful way to employ the Scriptures.  Reading the Bible in this way is reading it the wrong way. 

The other way to read the Bible is to receive it.  The Bible is a tool (though not merely a tool), but it is one that God wields on us long before we can turn around and wield it for any outward focus or goal.  The Bible is a gift which God has given to his people to be received.  It is a sword to be wielded, certainly, but before anyone can draw this sword and point it at anything, they themselves must first be worked upon by the sword in the hands of the Spirit.  Rather than using the Bible to prove our preconceived ideas and pet interpretations, we must submit all those ideas and understandings to the scrutiny of the Word itself.  The Holy Scriptures are what is true, what is first, what is foundational, what is ultimate, what is absolute.  We are the works in progress.  We submit to God’s Word, not it to us.  We must not seek to bend the Scriptures to our preferences or employ them to our purposes.  We must seek to be formed and shaped by them, for that is God’s purpose in the Scriptures for us.  Only when we are first shaped by the Scriptures can we hope to be used by the Spirit to employ the Scriptures to shape anything else.

Too often Christians handle the Bible as though it were a block of marble and we go to work on it with hammer and chisel, hoping to show everyone else that it is shaped the way we imagine it to be.  Instead, we must approach Scripture as though it is the tool in the hands of the Sculptor and we are the slab of marble which that tool is forming into a shape that conforms to the vision and purpose the Sculptor has for us.  Holy Scripture is a tool not to be worked by us until it has first worked on us.

Planned Parenthood update round-up

See Justin Taylor's post on the 7th PP video here as well as his post on the 8th PP video here. 

Be sure to scroll down each post to see further solid and helpful additional material that Justin Taylor has pulled together, some of which informs on the scope of the abortion issue and some of which helps to form a biblical response to it.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Planned Parenthood update...

Justin Taylor at The Gospel Coalition has a round-up of Planned Parenthood related news, including the lastest videos to be released.

Doug Wilson has more clear thinking on this unfolding moral drama.

Also, I want to encourage you to encourage every pro-lifer you know to get in touch with the various corporate sponsors of Planned Parenthood.  You can find a list of them HERE.  Every one of them has a website with a "contact" tab.  Corporations make decisions based on the market (what sells) or direct pressure from consumers (why people will no longer be customers).  Hit them in the bottom line.  Tell them that if they continue to sponsor PP, you will no longer spend your money on their products and you will be sure to share the fact of their sponsorship of PP with other pro-lifers you know.  I contacted both the Canadian & American Cancer Societies as well as Starbucks to let them know of my opposition to their support of PP.  From what I've heard, many others have put pressure on them as well and both have stated that do not support or no longer support PP.  Lets make sure all on this list hear from us.  United Way is one that really needs to hear loud and clear that they won't see any more money from pro-lifers if their support for PP continues.

And don't just fight PP.  Make sure that as you take the fight to them with one hand, you take the care to your local Pregnancy Care Centre with the other. 

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Panned Parenthood update

Yes, the title of this post is intentional - read on.  Here is a post by Tim Challies about how to respond to the current Planned Parenthood outrage over the sale of aborted baby's body parts.  If you watch the fourth video released by the Centre for Medical Progress, you will see Planned Parenthood staff dissecting, identifying, sorting and discussing the body parts of an aborted baby while they discuss the relative demand for the various parts.  You will also hear a lab tech declare that, "it's a boy", while sorting through the dead child's remains in a Pyrex pie plate (hence my blog post title - and I'm not intending this pun to be remotely funny).

Beyond the obvious fact of the atrocities being committed by Planned Parenthood as they murder hundreds of thousands of babies a year, the thing that strikes me so strongly as I watch these videos is the casual nature of the people participating in this baby holocaust.  The atmosphere is so sterile, the conversations so matter-of-fact, the manner so casual, the evil so clinical, so efficient, so bureaucratic.  This is convenient slaughter, this is murder and dismemberment where customer service is their specialty, whether you are a mother looking to have an abortion (80% of women who come to Planned Parenthood facilities for an abortion are simply seeking to end an unwanted pregnancy, rather than wanting an abortion due to medical reasons), or a "tissue sourcing" firm looking to purchase body parts, Planned Parenthood wants your experience to be efficient and satisfactory.  They want your future business. 

I encourage anyone who reads Challies' post above to read the other articles he's linked to as well.  For some further clear thinking on this issue and how best to respond in a way that will help end this tragedy, see also these posts:

Ross Douthat at the NY Times says that there is no pro-life case for Planned Parenthood, as some liberals have attempted to argue.

Justin Taylor also links to the 4th video and notes that a senior PP staffer says their doctors often save specimens for their own projects so she knows that it is possible to conduct abortions in such a way as to save whole, intact babies for sale.  You can see this here.

Kevin DeYoung reminds us why unborn babies have inherent value and why they are, in fact, people, and why their value or viability does not depend on size, independence, intelligence, or any of the other factors that pro-abortion advocates say render them not yet human.  You can read Kevin's thoughts here.

Over at Desiring God there is a convicting post which asks if the evangelical church's stance against abortion is too weak, pointing to the estimate that of the 1.2 million abortions every year in the US, approximately 156,000 of them are evangelical women getting abortions (if the stats are correct, which they probably are - compare them with the divorce stats, after all, which is something else evangelicals are supposed to be against).  You can read that here.  And while your there, you should read this article as well.

No one I know of is doing more online to help the church think this whole thing through, and fire up the church to seize this moment as a strategic opportunity to deal a crushing blow to the abortion lobby than Doug Wilson.  Lets hope he is widely read and heard on this.  He has had so many posts about the PP outrages lately that I will just link to his blog and you can scroll down and read the applicable posts.  Doug's blog is here.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Loving thy neighbour without condoning their sin

Doug Wilson has a great post about how to love our homosexual family, friends and coworkers without celebrating and condoning their sin.  There is a biblically faithful way to love and accept them as people made in God's image without at the same time accepting their sinful lifestyle.  This is a very important topic.  The church (or at least those most often heard in public discourse) seems to divide on this subject along the lines of either avoiding relationships with homosexual folks altogether or accepting their lifestyle wholeheartedly.  In actual fact, neither of these ways is godly love and neither is biblical. 

Here are a couple of quotes from Doug's post that I hope make you want to read the whole thing:
"...taking Scripture with Scripture, we can plainly see that there is a type of interaction with sinners that is not only permissible, but considered as a general pattern in the church, is actually required. In other words, it ought to be normal. There are other instances when Christians should have nothing to do with it."
"This is why wise Christian bakers will never bake a cake for a homosexual wedding reception, and they should always bake a cake for a homosexual’s birthday party. This is why families must not attend a homosexual wedding reception, and why they certainly should attend a homosexual’s birthday party — the one that the evangelical baker made a cake for."
While it is certainly true that biblical truth is always true at all times and in all circumstances, very often the two sides of a particular debate are taking only certain truths and applying them to a situation and the other side is using a different set of passages to justify exactly the opposite actions.  When forming a position on a particular issue, it is important to consider all of the applicable Scripture and the same is true when determining how to live out that truth.  Check out Doug's very wise biblical exposition and application here. 

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Planned Parenthood baby body part trade Part 2

There has been another video released showing another conversation with a high level official and doctor with Planned Parenthood discussing the market for "tissue" from abortions.  By tissue, they mean intact  organs, legs, arms, heads, and other body parts.  PP maintains that they are doing this not for profit - nominal fees intended to recover costs with maybe a bit extra, you know, for the time and effort, the extra trouble they have to go to to ensure that they not damage the body parts that they buyers are looking for.  And again, PP says they do this strictly for the benefits of scientific and medical advancement and that the way they do it is all legal.  The legality is certainly one of the issues currently up for debate, but the bigger issue is not the legality according to federal and state laws but rather where this stands according to God's law.  Of course the murder of humans is against God's law whether those humans are inside of the womb or outside.  They are made in the image of God with the inherent dignity that entails.

You can find the second video here at Doug Wilson's blog.  Again, it is not for the faint of heart, but if you are a Christian you better be serious about seeing the practice of government-funded abortion end, and therefore you better not be faint of heart.  And if you missed the first such video, you can see it here along with some thoughtful exhortation.

Kevin DeYoung has some further good thoughts about the abortion battle in light of the current controversy here.

Al Mohler adds his voice here and Russell Moore here and here.

BUT, if you only read one opinion piece on this whole issue, whether you are already convinced abortion is evil or you are as yet undecided, you really ought to read Rosaria Butterfield's thoughts in her article I Thought Planned Parenthood Protected Family Values.  

This issue is bigger than the US.  Planned Parenthood operates in Canada as well, and often not under that name.  And this issue is bigger than PP since many abortions happen in other clinics and in government funded hospitals.  Pray that these recent revelations about the baby body part trade cause many in our culture to wake up and see the abortion industry for what it is - mass murder on a colossal scale (even when there is no harvesting of baby body parts).  And pray that all who are not already aroused to this cause in the church would wake up and pray for the end of abortion.  Also, pray for and work toward the care of those who currently don't see any other option and declare the forgiveness and love in Christ available for those who now regret their past choices to have abortions.  And as many are doing in the US, consider telling your elected officials that you are absolutely opposed to this practice and that you are dead set against any of your tax dollars supporting this type of thing in Canada.

Father, forgive us our tresspasses.  Lead us not into temptation.  Deliver us from evil. 

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Planned Parenthood and the baby body part trade

This post links to some pretty disturbing material, but if you care about the fight to end abortion this is a pretty significant breaking story. 

Douglas Wilson has posted on a recent video which was released showing a doctor very high up in the Planned Parenthood organization discussing the trade in baby organs and body parts, harvested, stored, sold and shipped from their clinics (at least in the US).  I consider Doug to be a very reliable source, but I know that there are very credible seeming things on the interweb that sometimes turn out to be a hoax.  I looked into this story on Snopes and there is quite extensive discussion of the story including official and direct statements from both PP and the makers of the video.  Snopes currently has this classified as "Undetermined" and the issue that doesn't seem to be clear is if the PP clinics are harvesting and selling baby body parts legally (because the mothers have signed a donation form to allow their baby's body parts to be sold and used for research, etc.) or illegally.

However, whether this is being done legally or illegally (contrary to US gov't laws that allow only certain practices regarding the retention and use of the body parts of aborted babies), we need to stop and ask our selves what kind of a society do we live in where the mass murder of babies has become an industry and where a private, for profit, organization like Planned Parenthood can mislead women, kill children, and further profit by selling the body parts of the dead babies.  And we also need to not be hoodwinked by the debate over whether this body part trade is operating fully legally or if it is in contravention of law.  The fact is it is pretty disgusting that it is happening at all.  No matter what the laws of the land are, according to God's law taking human life is wicked and trading in persons as though they were commodities is an abomination.

I encourage you to read Wilson's post here.  Be warned, the conversation in the embedded video link is not for the faint of heart, made all the worse by the casual manner of the doctor.  Part of the power of the pro-abortion/pro-choice lobby is their success in hiding what actually goes on in abortion procedures and their white-washing of the industry as if it were a highly regulated aspect of routine medical care.  This type of story really puts the lie to that rhetoric.  May God have mercy on our culture.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Care for some vomit?

Proverbs 26:11 speaks of a person who returns to the same sin habitually being just like a dog that returns to its vomit and eats it.  As a dog owner, I can attest this is a disgusting canine practice, even if it does keep pet food bills down slightly.  This passage calls a person who returns to their sin a fool.  These are jolting words, especially in a politically correct and overly sensitive era like ours, where society has determined the cardinal commandment to be, "Thou shalt not offend".

Tim Challies points out a good post on habitual sin being like returning to your vomit and eating it.  The whole post can be found here.

So, just as you wouldn't want to put vomit on your regular meal rotation, don't keep going back to the same sin again.  Feast instead on God's Word.  After all, we live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. 

Friday, 29 May 2015

What is the Purpose of Types in Scripture?

The Bible is full of types, and the purpose of said types is a hotly debated issue in biblical interpretation.  Here is a great post by John Piper that supplies one answer (of many right and biblical answers) to the question, what is the purpose (or rather, what are the purposes) of types in Scripture?

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Getting all Puritanical

Doug Wilson has a great reminder of the biblical calling of husbands and fathers over at Desiring God.  He points us to the Puritans not as people to idolize but rather to imitate, especially in the functioning of their households. 

Many since their time have disparaged the Puritans - the word "Puritanical" is not a compliment, after all.  However, while not perfect, they were far more biblical than many generations or movements within the church either before or after their time. Much of the good they did and the legacy they left continues to bear fruit, although the church of today has left the orchard in a terrible state of neglect and far over run with weeds and thorns and more than a few goats.  Here's to hoping and praying that the men of the church today recover something of what the Puritans lived out in their marriages, families and homes.  And I pray that this spreads to influence the surrounding culture the way it did in the time of the Puritans.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

How do I know?

Kevin DeYoung has a good answer to the question that believers perpetually ask:  How do I know if I am truly a Christian?  His post is here.  Kevin's approach is refreshing because he calls Christians to look to Scripture for criteria rather than looking to themselves.

Many Christians look at themselves to determine whether or not they are truly a believer.  Many Christians think back to their experience of coming to Christ, when they first "made a decision" for Christ.  They try to examine whether or not their decision at the time was genuine, they try to dissect their emotions or their sincerity or their level of knowledge.  Many dig deep down inside themselves and examine their current doubts and struggles with various besetting sins.  They compare their struggles and doubts with all the commands and/or descriptions in Scripture of what a mature and complete Christian ought to be and they attempt to weigh whether or not they measure up.  Some Christians, probably most often those who have since become convinced of the Reformed perspective of things, look back to their original understanding of salvation and what God did for them in Christ and they can doubt if their original experience of coming to Christ was genuine because they didn't understand very much about the doctrines of grace or the way salvation is a work of God and not a joint effort between God and the sinner.

Doesn't Scripture teach us to examine ourselves to test and see if we really are in Christ?  Yes, it does.
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!       (2 Cor. 13:5)
Christians are to test themselves, to examine themselves.  But what does this look like?  Well, certainly an item well worth looking at is the fruit one's life is bearing.  Do I manifest fruit and am I living a life in keeping with the gospel?
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel...  (Phil. 1:27)
However, what Christians often do is a form of spiritual naval gazing, or what Douglas Wilson calls "morbid introspection".  This is a process by which the Christian is always looking at themselves, always scrutinizing their own thoughts, desires and doubts.  This seems at first like penitent and humble self examination, but it is really a self-centred practice.  Rather than a humble and helpful growth-inducing discipline, perpetually staring at your heart through a spiritual microscope is really a prideful and self-centered false humility.  This practice places me front and centre.

The true heart of faithful Christian self-examination is not the practice of looking at yourself but of looking to Christ.  When you examine yourself or test yourself, look to see what it is that you are constantly turning to, constantly looking at, constantly trusting in, constantly holding to.  If you are going through a season of doubt or if you are unsure of the genuineness of your faith because of your perpetual struggle with a particular sin, rather than trying to dissect your heart, look to the cross.  Don't trust or doubt based on your feelings of trust or doubt.  Turn your eyes to Christ, your one saviour in this world and your one hope for the world to come.  Don't look at all the sin you still struggle with and place it in a mental scale to see if it outweighs the measure of your faith.  Rather, take that sin and confess it to Christ.  Don't spend all your time examining your inner thoughts and feelings and impressions.  Rather, take this to Christ, place it at his feet, and look to Scripture's promises to you that Jesus has taken your sins, your guilt, your shame, even your doubts, and he has died for them.  Then live in the knowledge that he rose again and sits at the Father's right hand interceding and advocating for you before a Father who knew you and determined to send his own Son to die for you before the world was formed.

The heart of true Christian self-examination is not constantly trying to look inside your own soul but rather looking at your way of life and your doctrine and from that asking yourself, what is it I am really trusting in?  Whatever is inconsistent with a total and complete faith in Christ alone, confess and forsake.  Then turn away from that self-examination and look to Christ.  Rather than dwelling on the state of your own inner thoughts and feelings, dwell in the promises of God to you (Eph. 1:3-14) even as God's Spirit dwells within you.  Rather than trying to test the genuineness of your confession of Christ based on your current feelings, look to what God has said about you in his Word and at your own baptism, where his triune name was placed upon you.  Next time you are tempted to flick on the glaring spotlights of morbid self-examination and point them at your heart, reject your self-centred focus, remind yourself that you don't trust in your self anyway, pray to God to increase your faith, and then go rest in the pleasant shade of the cross. 

Here is Doug Wilson on morbid introspection.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Raising the Dead

"Jesus came to raise the dead. He did not come to teach the teachable; He did not come to improve the improvable; He did not come to reform the reformable. None of those things works."
                                                                        - Robert Farrar Capon

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

remembering JWMG

One year ago yesterday (May 5) we buried our baby boy, Jack Wesley Martin Glover.  He was delivered premature after struggling but seemingly getting stronger in the womb over Trina's 6 week hospital stay in Vancouver.  He lived outside Trina's womb for an hour and a half but his under developed lungs couldn't hold enough breath to sustain his little life.  Trina got to touch him and talk to him as the doctors frantically tried to sustain his life.  However, God's plan for Jack was not for length of days.  His Heavenly Father and our Great Physician took him home.  Another week in the hospital afterwards for Trina's recovery...the hardest week of all.  Then home to be with our other four healthy children, who were very much missing their parents, and whose parents were aching to be with them.

Tim Bayly writes about parents and churches commemorating the lives of children who are stillborn or who die at a very young age.  He points out that there are big differences with what people in the church believe ought to be done when children die in the womb or when they have lived only a short time.  But he makes a good point that, perhaps especially in our culture of easy and common abortion, the church makes a strong statement when it commemorates the lives of these little ones.  Still, he asks some important and difficult questions, some of which I don't think can be answered in a concrete, one-size-fits-all way.

Trina and I are thankful for loving family, friends and church family who cared for our children and supported our family during the difficult time from February to May of last year, and we are grateful for people's understanding and love in the weeks and months following.  We are also very grateful to all who commemorated Jack's life with us at his funeral as well as to those who upheld us in prayer or were with us in spirit. 

To many people, it is more natural or feels more appropriate to have either a private service or no service at all for a life of such short duration.  But short as it was, Jack's life was a real life and he was woven together by God in his mother's womb no less than any 4 year old, or 14 year old or 84 year old.  Jack's days were numbered by God, and the length of his life was ordained by the one who knows all things and works them all according to his glory and our good, though we may not understand his purposes...yet.  And the primary value of a life is not in what a person accomplishes, or how long they live, or who they know or what they have.  Rather it in the fact that they are made in the image of their Maker.  That fact alone makes even the shortest life a valuable and precious thing.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Self Examination and the Lord's Table

Over the last while, a number of people have asked me about the practice of self examination prior to partaking of the Lord's Supper.  Self examination prior to partaking is certainly commanded of us (1 Cor. 11:27-34).  However, there is a common and long standing idea in the evangelical church that we are to examine ourselves to see if there is any outstanding or unconfessed or unresolved sin issues in our lives and if there are, we are to exempt ourselves from the table until those sin issues have been resolved.  I think this is a confusion between and a jumbling up of the above instructions by Paul and the teaching by Jesus on making things right with a brother before bringing a gift to the altar in the temple (Matt. 5:23-24).  It needs to be said that these are two different situations.  In Paul's instructions, we don't see Christians being told to temporarily excommunicate themselves from the table until they've gotten their sanctification act together.  Rather, in its context, Paul's instruction is one of examining one's overall loyalties.  Are they to Christ or are they to sin?

Doug Wilson has some helpful words on what we are looking for when we examine ourselves prior to partaking of the Lord's Supper.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

C.S. Lewis on the Moral Law of God

"Now we our failure to keep God's law except by trying our very hardest (and then failing).  Unless we really try, whatever we say there will always be at the back of our minds the idea that if we try harder next time we shall succeed in being completely good.  Thus, in one sense, the road back to God is a road of moral effort, of trying harder and harder.  But in another sense it is not trying that is ever going to bring us home.  All this trying leads up to the vital moment at which you turn to God and say, 'You must do this.  I can't'."

"The road to the promised land runs past Sinai.  The moral law may exist to be transcended: but there is not transcending it for those who have not first admitted its claims upon them, and then tried with all their strength to meet that claim, and fairly and squarely faced the fact of their failure."

"There is nowhere this side of heaven where one can safely lay the reins on the horse's neck.  It will never be lawful simply to 'be ourselves' until 'ourselves' have become sons of God."

"No creature that deserved redemption would need to be redeemed."

"We all agree that forgiveness is a beautiful idea until we have to practice it."

"[Jesus] told people that their sins were forgiven, and never waited to consult all the other people whom their sins had undoubtedly injured.  He unhesitatingly behaved as if He was the party chiefly concerned, the person chiefly offended in all offenses.  This makes sense only if He really was God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded in every sin."

                                                                                                       - C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Don't follow your heart, lead it

Desiring God has a great post about the dangers of following your heart here.  Rather than following our hearts, Scripture teaches us they need to be led.  Our hearts are not reliable shepherds but wayward sheep.  We ought not follow our hearts but rather to lead them.  And the place we need to lead them is to Christ as revealed in God's Word. 

Friday, 17 April 2015

A failing grade of 99.99%

"...the law cannot give life because it has not power to do so.  The law does not offer assistance to obey it and does not grade on a curve.  It only announces the penalty of death for those who fail.  Even a 99.99 percent obedience rate earns a failing grade."

                                             - David Garland, New American Commentary on 2 Corinthians, p. 172

Sunday, 5 April 2015

a living hope

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith - more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire - may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  Though you have not seen him, you love him.  Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls."
                                                                                                    - 1 Peter 1:3-9

"But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.  We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.  For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.  But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive."
                                                                                                  - 1 Corinthians 15:13-22

I spoke to an old friend today who has forgotten these truths.  I pray God gives him remembrance...all the way down.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

The Crown through the Cross

"Happy is he who thoroughly understands that though Christianity holds out a crown in the end, it brings also a cross on the way."
                                 - J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Matthew, p. 79

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

God's Anti-Virus Software: Christian Meditation

When many people think of meditation, they think of the common eastern practice of emptying one's mind of everything, or of emptying one's mind of all but one word or concept, and then repeating that word as a mantra until that is the only thing in your head.  God's people have had a long practice of meditation as well, which can be traced back to very early times in the Old Testament, but it is very different from the form of meditation in which the one meditating seeks to empty his or her mind. 

When YHWH was preparing Joshua to lead Israel into conquest of the promised land, he said this to him: 
"Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you.  Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.  This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.  For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.  Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."    - Joshua 1:7-9
God commands Joshua, and through him all Israel, to be strong and courageous, to not be frightened or dismayed by their enemies or the gods of their enemies, to do all the law that God gave to them through Moses, and not to turn from it to the right hand or left.  God promises he will be with the people wherever they go and that they will have good success in their battles against the idolatrous inhabitants of the land and in taking possession of the land. 

Joshua and the people are told to not let the law of God depart from them or them depart from the law of God.  How do they keep themselves from departing from God's law?  By meditating upon it day and night.  They are to meditate upon the law of God always so that it sticks in their hearts and minds, so that they know it through and through, so that God's law is thoroughly implanted in them. 

David says in Psalm 1 that a man who delights in the law or the LORD and meditates on it day and night "is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.  In all that he does, he prospers"  (see Psalm 1:1-3).

Psalm 119:9-16 is a wonderful description of the method and benefits of meditation according to God's Word:
"How can a young man keep his way pure?  By guarding it according to your word.  With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!  I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.  Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes!  With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth.  In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.  I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.  I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word." 
So rather than the common notion of meditation, to focus on emptying one's mind, Scripture teaches that Godly meditation, Christian meditation, is to fill one's mind.  And the thing we are to fill our minds with is the law of God, the Word of God, the holy scriptures.  We do this so that we will not fall into sin, so that we will not depart from God's will and God's way for us, so that we will be careful to do all God would have us do.  When temptations and messages come at us from our own sinful hearts or from an unbelieving world around us, if God's word is hidden in our hearts, we will have God's own words stored away in our inner hard-drive, a bit like an anti-virus software.  God's word hidden away in our hearts will help us filter out lies and temptations and it will point us to God's truth.

Paul tells the church to "let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God" (Colossians 3:16). 

Far from the pagan practice of meditation, which is to empty one's mind of all things, Christians are called to a different type of meditation, one which fills the mind and heart with God's Word.  Instead of a meditation that erases the hard-drive of our mind, we are taught to download and store God's word in our hard-drives, to completely fill our mental and spiritual hard-drives with God's Word.  And we are to do this so that we might not sin against him. 

Justin Taylor quotes Joel Beeke at length on the Puritan practice of Meditation on the Scirptures.  It is well worth checking out these 22 benefits of Scriptural meditation.  It is also worth reading Beeke's whole essay, linked at the bottom of Justin Taylor's post.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

The danger of neglecting the offers of the Gospel

Below is some commentary from J.C. Ryle on Matthew 10:15: 
...we are taught that it is a most dangerous thing to neglect the offers of the Gospel.  It will prove "more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment" than for those who have heard Christ's truth, and not received it (verse 15).
This is a doctrine fearfully overlooked, and one that deserves serious consideration.  Men are apt to forget that it does not require great open sins to be sinned in order to ruin a soul forever.  They have only to go on hearing without believing, listening without repenting, going to church without going to Christ, and by and by they will find themselves in hell!  We will all be judged according to our light; we will have to give an account of our use of religious privileges: to hear of the "great salvation" (Hebrews 2:3) and yet neglect it, is one of the worst sins a man can commit (John 16:9).
What are we doing ourselves with the Gospel?  This is the question which everyone who reads this passage should put to his conscience.  Let us assume that we are decent and respectable in our lives, correct and moral in all the relations of life, regular in our formal attendance on the means of grace.  That is all very well so far as it goes, but is this all that can be said of us?  Are we really receiving the love of the truth?  Is Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith?  If not, we are in fearful danger; we are far more guilty than the people of Sodom, who never heard the Gospel at all; we may awake to find that in spite of our regularity and morality and correctness, we have lost our souls to all eternity.  It will not save us to have lived in the full sunshine of Christian privileges, and to have heard the Gospel faithfully preached every week.  We must experience acquaintance with Christ; we must receive his truth personally; we must be united with him in life; we must become his servants and disciples.  Without this, the preaching of the Gospel only adds to our responsibility, increases our guilt, and will at length sink us more deeply into hell.  These are hard sayings!  But the words of Scripture, which we have read, are plain and unmistakable.  They are all true.
 - J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, Matthew, p. 72-73.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Al Mohler on 50 Shades

Al Mohler weighs in on 50 Shades here, in his article called 50 Shades of Shame. 

Mohler reminds us that truth, beauty and goodness are inseparably joined together because they flow from and originate in God himself.  He points out that pornography warps beauty by seeking to separate it from truth and goodness.  That means that producing or partaking in pornography is an act of rebellion against God - willfully trying to separate what God has joined together.  And make no mistake, Mohler clearly considers the 50 Shades books and movie pornography and recognizes in them an attempt to normalize and popularize graphic and abusive porn to a far wider audience. 

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

50 Shades of Sexual Immorality

Below is a round-up of Godly exhortations about the movie (and book) 50 Shades of Grey, set to be released this Friday, just in time for Valentine's Day.  In short, don't go see it, not even so you can talk to others about its dangers.  Its defenders preach the message that all the immorality in this story is consensual and therefore morally OK, but that is not a defence a Christian should consider valid on its own.  Adam and Eve both ate the forbidden fruit out of mutual consent, but they didn't have God's consent and therefore it didn't matter what decision they made together.  Take another biblical example, that of orgies.  Orgies are also consensual, but they are strictly forbidden in Scripture (Rom. 13:13; Gal. 5:21; 1 Pet. 4:3) because they are sexually immoral whether or not all parties consent.  50 Shades is a story that glamourizes and normalizes abusive, selfish and self-centred, lust-based, personal sexual gratification in the context of causing another pain.  It stands in stark and obvious antithesis to God's definition of love, which seeks the others best and serves one another.  

This book originated as a work of fan fiction, inspired by Twilight.  As a father of 3 girls, I believe Twilight also ought to be avoided for the same reasons as it too glamourizes a warped, controlling, abusive relationship that, if it weren't for the device of vampires, everyone would recognize as sick and twisted (for more, see Douglas Wilson's article from The Huffington Post below). 

Desiring God on 50 Shades and how sin is dangerous, not playful.
Douglas Wilson calls 50 Shades by its biblical name
Douglas Wilson's piece on 50 Shades at Huffington Post
Another post by Wilson with further discussion and some additional links, including the one to his multi-part review of Twilight, which goes into the self-destructive psychology of the main character and the emotionally abusive relationship at the heart of the books.
Emily Whitten at World Magazine on 5 Myths about 50 Shades
Tim Challies reminds us that 50 Shades is porn for women
Tim Challies shares 7 lessons from the 50 Shades phenomena and reminds us that this is what the Bible means when it speaks about the sexual impurity of pagan cultures and that it has no place in the Church of God.
Dave Boehi points out there's been more than a little peer pressure from Christian women to read or see 50 Shades
Kevin DeYoung minces no words: 50 Shades is sinful straight up

The final word goes to the God the Holy Spirit, through the Apostle Paul: 
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."  - Philippians 4:8
I have not read 50 Shades, nor will I.  I have not watched 50 Shades, nor will I.  And I don't want to prime my girls to one day be vulnerable to a selfish, abusive man who only values them for what he can get from them, so I will not allow them to read Twilight.  Enough can be known about Grey in the above articles to know that it is neither pure, nor lovely, nor commendable, nor excellent, nor worthy of praise, and so it is not worth putting in your mind.  Nothing about this is grey, this is a black and white issue.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Canada's Supreme Court Unanimously Supports Doctor Assisted Suicide

You can read reports about the Supreme Court decision at the Globe and Mail, and the National Post.  In their ruling the judges have said that the decision is limited to “a competent adult person who clearly consents to the termination of life and has a grievous and irremediable medical condition, including an illness, disease or disability, that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition.”  They have also pointed out that the condition need not be terminal, and that the suffering may be either physical or psychological.  Those are the conditions they have imposed...for now.

I believe this is a slippery slope decision.  I believe it is only a matter of time before physicians, family members, and others will begin "assisting" people in making the decision toward "assisted suicide" who may not have made it on their own.  I believe that all too soon we will hear of parents deciding for their disabled or unhealthy children, grown children deciding for or coercing their aged or infirm parents, or some physicians leading patients who would not have gone this direction otherwise to choose this as the right option rather than remaining a burden on a society with limited resources.  I believe that we will see people who are otherwise healthy but who are in the midst of a time of depression or in difficult life circumstances demanding these same rights in the near future.  In fact, I believe that before my kids are my age, we will see people who have no discernible physical or psychological ailments demanding "the same rights" to manage their existence as do sick people.  Why do I think this decision will lead to that?  Because people are involved and people are sinful.  The nature of sin is to continue in a downward rebellious march away from God until all authority has been wrested from God and we have raised ourselves up to the place of ultimate and total authority in his place.  A sinful heart is never satisfied with limited rebellion.  But it is not just the slippery slope and where this could, or rather will, lead that makes this decision wrong.  This decision is already wrong as it stands.

Anytime people take for themselves prerogatives that are God's, like deciding what constitutes a life worth living, or when life ought to end, or what lives ought not to make it past a few days, weeks, or months in the womb, it is a form of rebellion against the God who gives life to all.  It is God who breathes into people the breath of life (Gen. 2:7).  "See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand."  (Deut. 32:39)

We are not autonomous.  We are not an authority unto ourselves.  We are not the gods and lords of our own lives.  We are not vested with the authority to choose who ought to be born, nor are we given the authority to pick when we die.  God made every person and because he created all people, each person owes allegiance to him and must submit to his rule.  But of course this ruling by the courts to allow people to choose when they die is simply the logical outworking of a people and culture and society which has long ago rejected the authority of God in exchange for the lie that "you will become like God."  As a society, we have rejected the truth that God is the creator of all life, and so it logically follows that his Word should have no authority to define how life ought to be lived. 

Every human being is made in God's image.  As Francis Schaeffer said, "Any person, no matter who he or she is - a stranger or a friend, a fellow believer or someone who is still in rebellion against God, anyone of any age, before or after birth - any and every person is made after the likeness of God."  (Whatever Happened to the Human Race, p. 158). Every human life has value simply because every human bears God's image.  Some will argue, and the courts have agreed, that suffering life is not really life, that at some point life becomes less than life and is no longer worth living, at least if the sufferer deems it so.  It is easy to see why people in a culture of pleasure, of self-fulfillment, of personal gratification and the pursuit of all things ME, a society of human-centredness, would believe that life is not worth living if it is not measuring up to an individual's expectations for it.  That is simply not true.

Suffering, even severe suffering, does not relegate life to some state that is sub-human or unworthy of continuing.  I want to be sensitive to people who do suffer severely, having known close family and friends who have lived in the depths of great suffering, some for very extended periods.  But even life with severe pain is still real life.  This is demonstrated in the life of Christ.  When God became incarnate in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, he suffered much and yet, even in the depths of his worst suffering, excruciating anguish which was both physical and psychological, he still was fully God in human flesh.  While not identical, this is analogous to created human life.  Suffering does not make human life meaningless any more than it made Christ's life meaningless.  In fact, in some sense, it takes on an extra level of meaning, often for the sufferer and those closest to them.  Perhaps when a sufferer finds their life no longer worth living, it is because the suffering has highlighted the purposelessness of their life prior to suffering, but the suffering brings that purposelessness into stark relief rather than allowing it to be hidden in the distractions we often surround ourselves with in the course of everyday life. 

For those who know God and understand their highest purpose and life calling to be to glorify him, suffering becomes simply a new context, albeit a very difficult one, in which to continue to live out that purpose. 
"Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created."  (Rev. 4:11)
But if God sends suffering to us, he also sends the strength and grace to live in it.  If we don't find we have that strength to endure, it is likely God's way of telling us that we need to turn to him.