Tag Archives: Persecution

What Happens to Our Faith When God Disappears?

Christian faith is often brittle. It’s often punctuated with moments of doubt. Persecution. Isolation. Fear.

We can sometimes spend entire nights staring at the ceiling or pacing the floor praying, “God, I cannot do this unless I know you are with me. Where are you? Don’t hide. Please. I need you.”

It’s as if God’s gone AWOL.

Michael Patton  when his sister died.

It was a devastating buzz kill to a man who was a seminary superstar on a spiritual high, always optimistic when everyone else was in the dumps…

Always seeing the good in the evil.

However, this tragedy caused enormous confusion.

And he couldn’t shake it.

Spiritual Loneliness and Our Circumstances

Since that time he’s had his ups and downs. Exhausted from ministry and struggling to provide for his family, you could easily say that when he wrote that post he’d spent an extended period in the downs.

But don’t count him out.

In the midst of his painful post he writes:

Those of you atheists and former Christians who suspect that they are about to have another Christian cross over to the dark side, put up your party hats, blowouts, and (ahem) cake. I am not close. One thing that I have learned, believe, and teach with great conviction is that my circumstances do not have a vote in truth. Nothing that I go through can alter or affect the cardinal issues of my faith. Jesus Christ either died and rose from the grave or he did not. It is upon this that the entirety of my faith rests.

Here’s the deal: Our faith will be assaulted…and then weakened. But true saving faith will always prevail because it’s not dependent upon our circumstances.

It’s dependent on something more concrete.

What Does Spiritual Growth REALLY Look Like?

The doctrine of the perseverance of the saints doesn’t mean our Christian life is one of steady upward growth without failure.

Yes, it’s upward. But it looks more like a saw-tooth than a gentle slope toward the sky.

Any Christian can relate: We can go from an acute sense of holiness and the presence of God to very bad sin and feelings of isolation all the way back to a so-called intimacy–within weeks…or even days.

 doesn’t mean we won’t sin or experience despair. Nor does it mean we won’t sin or despair GRIEVOUSLY. Truly regenerate Christians can commit murder, adultery and even publicly reject Christ.

They even can live in depression. But NEVER persistently. The Bible is clear: A Christian can fall. And fall hard. But not fully or finally.

Spiritual Growth Involves War

Our faith is weak. And we will naturally be bruised as we fight the good fight of faith. The Bible promises us a war.

Thing is, we’ll never be abandoned during that war. Even when it feels like God has gone AWOL.

Martin Luther stood alone at the Diet of Worms against the most powerful men of his time. He spent the prior night praying in agony. He knew he could not do what he was going to do unless God was behind him.

In his :

My persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

In the same letter Paul uncovers his own despondency when he declares: “No one came to stand by me. All deserted me…. But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me. …The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom.”

We are in good company when we experience despair and pain. Furthermore, we also know that we will be victorious. God will rescue us because Jesus Christ is the author and finisher of our faith.

And what is our faith? , “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for.” Our hope in Christ is the anchor of our soul.

What Faith Is and Isn’t

This is not faith AGAINST the evidence. But a faith of substance. Nor is it a faith in skimpy evidence…and we’re told to believe anyway.

It is not ephemeral and wishful, but rooted in the historical life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s based upon the manifold evidence that Christ is God’s son.

And that he came to redeem the world.

Faith is a gift from God. He is the author of that faith. He’s also responsible through the Holy Spirit to nourish that faith. And we have God’s promise that he will not abandon that work–but finish it.

And that’s why in the midst of doubt or trials Michael Patton, Martin Luther, the Apostle Paul and even Demian Farnworth can say, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom.”

3 Ways of Looking at the Great Tribulation

About two years ago a friend asked me what I thought about the tribulation.

My response: “The what?”

I obviously hadn’t thought about it.

The question is, should I have thought about it?

More importantly, is this a doctrine that promotes a healthy, meaningful Christian life?

Or is this simply a speculative future event that causes nothing but fights?

I want to argue that it will indeed help Christians live a vivid, meaningful Christian life. That it can actually encourage us. And, combined with other doctrines of the last things, provide comfort.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s define the Great Tribulation real quick.

What Is the Great Tribulation?

The Bible talks about a time in the future of great anguish–tribulation–exceeding anything we’ve ever known:

…And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Revelation 7:14

However, this is not to be confused with the general tribulation of common people [think childbirth] or believers [think torture] or God’s specific wrath found in hell.


This is a short but dramatic burst of intense moral evil and natural disasters that will cover the globe. [See .]

How short? Seven years. But WHEN will it happen? In general, there are three positions on this doctrine of last things that describe the when:


Some people believe that the church will be present during the entire 7-year tribulation. Christ’s second coming will occur at the end of this period.


A belief that simply sees Christ coming to rapture his church [read: remove them from the world] before the tribulation.


This position sees the church present during the first 3.5 years of the tribulation…before the severe anguish starts.

As you can see, we don’t have exact dates. That should tell us something: We aren’t supposed to calculate exact dates.

To do so–and then fail–will unnecessarily jeopardize our faith.

But it tells us something else: We are to be ever watchful and faithful. This is one of the redeemable qualities of this doctrine.

Here’s another: When combined with Christ’s second coming and the general resurrection, it provides comfort and encouragement.

To be honest, I don’t have a position on when the great tribulation will occur. Like the doctrine of the millennium, the when is not so important as the why.

Besides, this is not an issue Christians should die on the hill over. Neither is it something to quibble with unbelievers.

What about you: Ever think about the Tribulation? Ever read The Left Behind books? [I haven’t.]

Did I miss something in the positive benefits this doctrine provides?

Also, can anyone tell me the place and date of the above photo?  will shine your shoes if you get it right.

The Simple, Bare-Bones Secret to Radical Faith

Simply fulfilling my promise to write about Radical all week.

A manly, near-reckless radical faith. Where does one get that? Does one want it? Great questions. The answer WILL surprise you.

Back in the early 19th century British Protestant missionary to China  said:

Too long have we been waiting for one another to begin! The time for waiting is past!…

Should such men as we fear?

Before the whole world, aye, before the sleepy, luke-warm, faithless, namby-pamby Christian world, we will dare to trust our God,..and we will do it with His joy unspeakable singing aloud in our hearts.

We will a thousand times sooner die trusting only in our God than live trusting in man.

And when we come to this position the battle is already won, and the end of the glorious campaign in sight.

We will have the real Holiness of God, not the sickly stuff of talk and dainty words and  pretty thoughts; we will have a Masculine Holiness, one of daring faith and works of Jesus Christ.

A manly, near-reckless faith.

Where does one get that? Great question. First, let me explain what I’m doing this week.

Here’s the deal: I want to devote the entire week to what I started yesterday as a review of David Platt’s book Radical.

That book is simply too rich to compress into one 1,000 word post. And simply too valuable to drop after just one day.

We need to expand. So let’s go.

Resisting Typical Expectations

Arguably the best chapter in Radical is the second to the last: “Living When Dying Is Gain.” That chapter can be summed up like this:

The stories we hear about believers who are hated, beat and killed in distant countries are stories about people who’ve found a desire deeper than the basic human will for self-preservation: the desire to serve Christ and be his witness.

This desire even trumps the fear of death.

In fact, death isn’t viewed as an enemy and a coffin as a rot box. They’re viewed as a reward and a launching pad. This is the essence of what Jesus taught in :

And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Thus, when talented young men and women dismiss the expectations and promises of the world to live in filthy Palestinian refugee camps on the outskirts of Egypt…

Or in dilapidated section 8 housing in dangerous urban neighborhoods to share the gospel with the people who live there…

Only to die in obscurity a few months or years later…

Their lives are not a waste and neither are their deaths a tragedy. Rather, those lives are treasures and those deaths rewards.

Let me explain what I mean by that.

Death Is Dead to Me

The Bible teaches us that the instant we die we are ushered into the presence of Christ.

In that instant we glimpse God’s glory and unimaginable majesty. Remember, this is the great reward of the gospel: God himself.

But WAY too many Christian’s have lost that vision. A vision confiscated by the American Dream.

See, when we accept the reality that death is nothing more than a line we cross between life and God’s presence, something happens to us: We embrace a near-reckless devotion to spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This is the way Paul puts it:

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Death has been conquered. And victory secured. What do we have to fear?

Don’t Make This Mistake

Some people bristle at the notion of setting our minds on death and the afterlife because they believe it makes us worthless here on the earth.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The person who sets his mind on heaven knows that his destiny is secure and glorious. He’s free to live the most radical life of love and sacrifice here on earth.

It was a radical faith.

Listen. The hope of safety in the afterlife cures us of timidity, fear and hopelessness. It releases a radical, risk-taking love that baffles skeptics and forces them to ask for the reason for the hope that is in us.

When you invest emotional and mental equity into the hope that death is reward and the doorway to our savior, you’ll be set free to live a fearless, near-reckless life of love and sacrifice.

That’s the kind of believer the modern church should be training and churning out. What can we do to make that happen in our own churches? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

I Am Orin Scrivello, Sadistic Blogger

I’m nothing but a sadist. And a blogger. Let me explain. 

Last night I got a great comment on this post Know the Difference Between Religion and the Gospel?:

“I got a great story. It starts like this: F*CK your GOD. Let the consequences BEGIN. ps. Got a tip for U: read more BOOKS>”

Fortunately, his comment ties into a thought that’s been brewing in my head for quite some time. Let me explain.

Poster Child for Careless, Thoughtless Pain

Sadist. That’s the one word that majestically describes Steve Martin’s character in the film .

Orin Scrivello is the poster child for pain. He’s the poster child for careless, thoughtless, inhumane physical punishment.

He spent his childhood shooting puppies. Poisoning guppies. Bashing cat heads. Thus, his mom recommends he become a dentist. Suitable occupation.

Not a priest. Not a teacher. But a dentist.

I think it’s safe to say Orin’s maladjusted and borderline insane. And exactly the opposite of Katie.

Which reminds me of what Tim Keller said about preaching: We are like Orin when we pour on the difficult, bitter texts of the Bible without prefacing…without easing in a bit…without entering their world first.

More than once  speaks to this, too.

We’d never dream of walking into a room where someone is sleeping and turn on the bright lights. It’d freak them out to bad.

So, we’re coached to be witnesses, preachers and evangelists who take it slow.

Where I Struggle With His Advice

This is a new one for me. I don’t have the patience to work slowly. Build the relationship. Ease into the conversation. [That’s probably why I’m a writer.]

I think I know why: Fear and insecurity drives me to bail on the conversation as soon as possible. So, get it over with quickly. That means simply drop the bomb and move on.

It’s sadistic, I know. And causes lots of damage. Call me “Orin, the Sadistic Christian.”

But let me ask you this: If I would have approached last night’s post differently–entered the non-Christian’s world, say–would that have blunted the message? Would that have changed the commenter’s response from ferocious to calm?

I don’t think so. But I’d like to hear your thoughts. Leave them in the comments. Brutal and all. I’m here to learn.