Loose Ends

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63 Responses

  1. Paige says:

    Good morning Michael and friends…… I have a dear 87 year old friend who has outlived all her children and husband (married 67 years when he passed) . She had numerous miscarriages, a full term stiff birth, one son died at age 4 during treatment for a congenital heart problem and the only surviving offspring was killed at age 22. I asked her–a woman of devout faith and prayer (attends the AG denom)–how she deals with the losses. She said “God took them to keep them from suffering something worse in this life”. She is at peace and her faith is pure without bitterness. Frankly, I’ve never met a wiser, more cheerful & optimistic person.

  2. Paige says:

    oops, error about my friend….’full term STILL birth. sorry

  3. Em says:

    divine intervention all the time? literal special passes for the Redeemed? how does that fit with Faith? the whole world would convert in a year for the earthly benefits … or so it seems to me … that said, what is this drive that we all, not just pastors, have to explain God; to make excuses for Him?

  4. I don’t know where we get the idea that we aren’t supposed to suffer. Do we consider ourselves above Christ, who willingly suffered on our behalf?

  5. Paige says:

    Indeed, Josh the Baptist…..I agree. Suffering, loss, hardship and untimely death is not a popular subject of sermons….but should be. We would be spared a lot of disappointment and questions, if it were…… This world is not our eternal home. Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world…..

  6. Michael says:

    I am not raising an objection to suffering. I am saying that when Paul says he forbids a woman to teach we take that literally, apply it universally, and divide when the doctrine is questioned. We apply a different standard to prayer verses.

  7. covered says:

    Josh & Paige, I agree wholeheartedly that suffering is actually part of the process. One of my favorite scriptures as why we experience such things is 2 Co 1:4-5. It doesn’t take away the pain but it helps me to deal with it. It’s not personal it is necessary when people suffer.

  8. covered says:

    Interesting observation Michael. Sometimes I am embarrassed by the issues in which I want to stand firm and dig in on.

  9. covered says:

    I found the James McDonald piece fascinating. Very well written and it appears to have been well researched and thought out.

  10. I cop to be hypocritical on my bible interpretation, but I don’t see where prayer is offered as some sort of “get out of jail free” card. In fact, I see lots of scripture about oncoming suffering, how to deal with it, and even about Jesus’ suffering. You’ve written about this many times before, so it is obviously a tough one for you. I guess I don’t get it.

    Nobody wants to suffer, or even be uncomfortable…or even inconvenienced, but the bible never promises believers that we will escape such pain.

  11. Sarah says:

    Michael…honestly, we pray because there is nothing else to do.

    We pray when we are hopeless because we know that we do not have the resources to fix the situation we find ourselves facing. We pray when we are suffering and overwhelmed because we know that help has to come from outside…there is no other place to look.

    We pray because things look impossible. We pray because we know that we are inadequate and incapable. Yet, even in that our insecurities come and find us and nag and we wonder if we pray with enough faith. Or use the right words. or if it is okay to type prayers on the internet, or only speak them in whispers. Or shouts.

    We stumble and we find ourselves on our knees because we are broken people, and we know that we need help. And each time we hear that God has answered a prayer (what would we do if Lane was healed today?!)…we cannot even accept that in purity…

    It makes us stumble even to have God answer. We wonder why He did this time, and why not for the other person. Was there something key in all the things we did? Did we hit the magical number of people praying with us?

    It molds us and takes our emotions and I believe the enemy messes with us in this critical and vulnerable area.

    God is sovereign….and He is trustworthy.

    We can trust that He hears the heart of our prayers…broken and stumbling and inept as they may be. He translates them…His Spirit intercedes on our behalf…and he hears.

    If we don’t trust that, there is not much room to go on.

    We trust that He hears, and we trust that He cares. He has shown that throughout the pages of Scripture, and throughout the testimony of the saints.

    The thing is…prayer is a releasing of the situation to the care of the Father, and that is difficult for us to do. For me anyway. To release the dying child and trust that God will do what is right….it is difficult for me and I simply know these families through others and I cannot imagine the turmoil of being the parent.

    Yet, as Paige said above…there is a wisdom and peace that comes to those who have walked through this. I would venture a guess that their prayers have a different ring than mine. They know God differently and it translates to their prayers.

    We pray because we are called to, because we are created with the need to pray and because we believe that there truly is a God who hears.

    I hear your groans, though, and understand the frustration. We face the suffering differently from the world because we walk through it in conversation with the God who hears, and He groans with us.

  12. Ixtlan says:

    Did a little reading on MacDonald. Came across this discussion with James White, Carl Trueman, and Phil Johnson……. worth listening to

  13. Em says:

    #6 that observation seems to make the point that i am beginning to get my mind around – the life of a Christian **is** interactive – we have to learn to fly in the conditions – there is a difference between common sense, dogmatism and rationalizing – for us Believers ‘common sense’ is aligning with the mind that was in Christ, Himself … desperate or extreme situations modify our use/observance of laws … however as my late husband used to say, “you have to become an expert before you can successfully break the rules” … if we muddle can through in humility as learners, sometimes it’s luck, sometimes it’s grace and other times we crash and need rescue … and a few other times? we make our Lord proud, perhaps? 🙂

  14. Em says:

    “The thing is…prayer is a releasing of the situation to the care of the Father, and that is difficult for us to do.” AMEN! wonderful and worth a ponder – difficult indeed when it hurts

  15. Another Voice says:

    (As God is my witness, I am not being flippant or overly simplistic.)

    Our Lord and Savior Himself prayed,

    “Father, all things are possible for You….Nevertheless, not my will, but Thy will be done”

    I spply it verbatim, in all prayer circumstances, and meditate upon it often.

    That is the summation of prayer to me. All other Scripture is elaboration on this primary principle.

  16. covered says:

    Good counsel AV

  17. Em says:

    #12 – that’s teaching – we need teachers and there don’t seem to be enough to go around … or maybe we won’t listen? dunno – i guess a better way for me to have expressed what i meant about “explaining” God, would have been simply to say that we try to make excuses, to “get Him off the hook for not meeting *our* expectations for Him

    #15 another amen from my corner this morning

    checked out the James MacDonald link and seems to me, he’s just one more victim of the group-think that we were riding a rising tide that was never to ebb – stupid prosperity thing

  18. Papias says:

    Amen AV.

    For the James McDonald link – hats off to them! May Their tribe increase. 65 million dollars in debt, more “elders” brought on to decrease the power, and HBC changing to a senior pastor model, etc.
    Pretty soon, HBC is going to have issues! 😉

  19. Another Voice says:

    The dollar figures associated with HBC and MacDonald are jaw dropping. And as an aside, I can’t fathom his desire to be the general contractor on a massive building project like the one described – even if he had worked as a GC for 20 years (which I assume he has not).

  20. Well, we all know the solution to the James MacDonald debt situation – open quarterly meetings.

    This Sunday afternoon, my church will be participating in such an event… boring as all get out, but we cover everything. The Treasurer and the minister of finance and administration will report – and they will answer questions.

    Congregants from these churches that don’t “consult” with the congregation deserve the title “dumb as rocks”

  21. Kinda tipped his hand when he said “Congregational Polity is from Satan”.

  22. Bob Sweat says:


    That’s the way the denomination where I served did things as well. Everything out in the open. Stops out-of-control leadership. Treasures report was presented, and posted. I submitted a pastoral report. What some call a hireling, I call accountability.

  23. Bob Sweat says:

    Could it be that some pastors don’t want their congregants knowing what they do or don’t do?

  24. Bob Sweat says:

    Here’s where James MacDonald is today. http://theresurgence.com/conference/schedule

  25. I have to admit, that this is pretty much a Lutheran thing, but the message we get from the Bible is “Jesus for you.” – as in “this is my body broken for YOU” and “this is my blood, shed for YOU.” Every message preached is Jesus for YOU”

    If you look at the titles of all the messages at the show, they are all plural “I” – what I do for Jesus

  26. Laurie and Driscoll the exception, but yeah, that’s a little weird. Not just a Lutheran thing, either.

  27. Bob,
    Our pastor gives a report also on how he has carried out his job as the minister of word and sacrament. I don’t know how many others do this, but our pastor gets an annual review and sits down with the congregation president and the head of the elders and sets goals for the upcoming year.

  28. Papias says:

    “Here’s where James MacDonald is today. http://theresurgence.com/conference/schedule ” Is this like “Where’s Waldo?”

    So at @ 239 a head, how much does James Mac pocket?

    Maybe some should have a GPS attached to thier pastor, so they know where he is and when he’s making money outside of church?

    These guys make money hand over fist and people just lap it up….

  29. Ixtlan says:

    @25 Yep. Every message title begins with “We”. Here’s one for them….. we were dead in our tresspasses and sin……but God……. not us…………

    @17 agreed. that was a good teaching session by White, Trueman, and Johnson….. something that you didn’t get from the Elephant Room…… what we did get is exactly what we have come to expect from the narcissistic group of celebrities that call themselves pastors……..

  30. Another Voice says:

    MLD – Curious when you said ‘set goals’ for the pastor for the coming year. Can you give some examples? And what are the consequences (good and bad) for either not reaching these goals or for reaching them?

    If I was asked what my pastoral goals are for the next year (assuming the proper definition of “goal” and not simply what I hope might happen) – I would be at a loss to give even one.

  31. The link said JM’s salary from Harvest and radio is $500,000. And he is always on the speaking circuit…low estimate would be 10G a pop. I’ll bet he’s pulling a million a year easy.

  32. Ixtlan says:

    “These guys make money hand over fist and people just lap it up….”

    There are two type of people love this stuff…….
    1. those who long ago traded in the brain for a Play Station II
    2. those who aspire to be just like the celebrities

  33. AV,
    ” I would be at a loss to give even one.” It may be because you don’t have any practice going through the process.

    In general terms, goals may be furthering his own education, developing ministry leaders, visitation numbers, Some of the goal setting may be if the pastor was weak in some category the previous year and needs help bolstering his participation. His pulpit goals are always the same – be there! He has free reign as to word and worship.

    One goal we set up for the pastor was to take more time off. I guess the consequences could run from praise, scorn or just apathy.

    But now this brings up a question – you don’t have goal setting or progress review for other pastor’s or ministry leaders in your church?

  34. Bob Sweat says:


    I would get an annual review as well. I have to admit, there were a few occasions in my 22 years that I felt too controlled by the elders, that was not the case for the vast majority of my ministry. For some, the fear of accountability can lead to no accountability at all.

    During my first few years at a CC, I was amazed at all that just happened without saying anything to the people. Now, I’ve gotten use to it. 🙂

  35. Another Voice says:

    It may be because you don’t have any practice going through the process.

    Thanks for answering, MLD. And actually, because I am so saturated with goal setting in the business world, it is that familiarity that puts me at a loss as to the application to the pastorate.

    SMONT – (goals should be specific, measureable, obtainable, non-conflicting, timely)

    I hope I would not set a goal to visit 52 (average one a week) people in the hospital, if the Lord only intended on 30 being hospitalized! 🙂

    But I hear you. And no, I don’t set goals with other leaders in the church. It is not too hard for me and others to see the overall health and growth of the church, for good or bad, without quantifying it with numbers.

    But remember, I’m a guy that has only one leadership meeting a year.

  36. Paige says:

    Amen AV #15…apply to all circumstances with praise….

  37. Paige says:

    Interestingly, here is todays blog from Pastor See Lee of Suburban Christian Church in Corvallis (this man is tested and proved, faithful, a man of personal integrity and humility)
    http://pastorstevesdailythoughts.blogspot.com/ on the subject of ‘unanswered prayer”

  38. ( |o )====::: says:


    Live practically, like a Deist, expect nothing more than what Jesus said to hope for, knowing full well His Father even required Him to face need, misunderstanding, injustice, and ultimately death.
    Sometimes it’s human cruelty.
    Sometimes it’s just gravity and the friggin tower fell on ya.

    All the while, cry out to The Father, and have faith beyond reason that eternity awaits a follower of God.

    Weep with those who weep, mourn with the mourners, and let the brevity of this life focus you on love, which will outlast you .

    This is what works for me in this fall season, enthused by the mystery of the cold and candles and the joy of occasionally warming at a fireplace.

    Life is always a gift

  39. The MacDonald stuff saddens me greatly. For the most part, I like his preaching, I think mostly because my own preaching style was much like his before I ever heard of him. That being said, why in the world would ANY preacher, regardless of church size, be receiving a salary in excess of $500,000? I just don’t get it! Even if my elder board willingly offered it to me, I wouldn’t take it, especially considering the median income of church members AND the fact the “corporation” is multiple millions of dollars in debt.

  40. So the issue at hand is unanswered prayer?

    Certainly the incredible invitation to ask anything in the Name of Jesus makes the question viable.

    I seldom literalize and universalize much in the text… or maybe I am just blind it…

    I know this much more trouble has come from literalist than virtually any other misuse of scripture.

    I dont know much about McDonald and I think I will avoid knowing more

  41. Spinning off from our friend David Hayward’s excellent cartoon, this link fits with this theme of the paradox of prayer and raises a lot of questions but I think gives the person plenty of space for God to work in her life at a critical beginning of a new season of life…


  42. Michael says:

    ““Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
    (Matthew 7:7–11 ESV)

  43. Michael says:

    “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
    (James 5:13–17 ESV)

  44. Michael says:

    These verses and others like them raise a hermeneutical question for everything else we take “literally”.
    It’s hard to care about hermeneutics though, when this is the only hope you have.

  45. Recalling my Roman Catholic roots, prayer was always explained with a lot of mystic uncertainty. After a long journey within evangelicalism I’m now starting to understand why.

    I totally get what Frank Schaeffer says within the larger context of this interview, something I have come to learn about the tension between what I characterize as “illusions of certainty” versus “a lifelong process of becoming”

    “…the Bible became a magic book — a simple solution to a lot of complexity. So, if you’re looking for written instruction, here it is. When all you have left is a text, Christianity comes very close to Islam because Islam has always been about the book, the Koran. Whereas, Christianity has always been about tradition. The question in classical Christianity has not been “What do you believe?” It has been: “Who are you?” Protestantism is all about “Do you believe correctly?” Whereas, the traditional Christian view has always been “Who are you following?” and “What is the content of your character?”

    The article here

  46. Off to live within the mystery today, hoping to see the fabric of creation and God’s touch within my small part of the journey.

  47. Another Voice says:

    These verses and others like them raise a hermeneutical question for everything else we take “literally”.
    My earliest point is that even when we take things “literally” we still interpret Scripture with Scripture.

    And Jesus’ words in the Garden are the foundation…at least to me..All prayer verses are interpreted through that…for me.

  48. I think I am agreeing with AV. If I take those verses literally, I have to also take the verses about suffering literally. Unfortunately.

  49. Another Voice says:

    Josh, maybe the most profound teaching for me as to being a follower of Christ is Paul’s thorn in the flesh remarks. Both the denied prayers of this great saint, and the concluding lesson he shares with us.

    I reference that often as I go through the word.

  50. Michael says:

    The reality is that we must all agree with AV to keep the faith.

  51. I just don’t see the issue, Michael. My faith grows deeper through the suffering.

  52. Michael says:


    I’m sincerely glad that is the case for you.
    Today I’m facing losing my son to mental illness unless we see divine intervention.
    People I love dearly are losing homes, health, and hope .
    My prayer for today is that I get though my work day without breaking down in front of my employer and co-workers.
    My faith will remain intact, but the pain is almost more than I can handle…and so I hope that he literally answers a few prayers.

  53. jlo says:

    Michael, prayers continue.

  54. I’m sorry Michael. I am detached today, and this was a very personal post for you, that I read as a general theological idea. I apologize for my insensitivity.

    God does answer prayer, and I am praying for you and your son. No one sees the growth while the struggle is going on. All we see is the pain. That goes for me, you, AV…and everybody else. What you are experiencing is certainly no weakness not shared by all mankind.

    My transmission went out last weekend, and I threw a fit. I felt like a loser. Like God had abandoned me. Seriously, I went over the deep end a little. A transmission is trite and silly compared to a child with mental illness. I only say that to point out that in theory, I’m a mighty warrior. In reality, I grieve when my car breaks down. For you to struggle over the health of a child is certainly warranted, and your father hears, and He cares.

  55. Another Voice says:

    Bless you, Michael. Email me if there is any possible help I can give. 2nd opinion etc. I believe you know my wife’s professional background.

  56. Just to clarify… I take the passages about prayer as true and applicable for today. When there is no healing there is still Him… his love and presence do not abate. If in this world only we have hope then we are of course the most miserable of all people for we claim he is risen.

    The issue at hand is not the lack of explanations or information.

    The issue at hand is the discomfort of our friend Michael and those who suffer. I am not suffering of the kind as Michael so I am of little use here … I can testify but again. I am not without consolations.

    Though I believe in healing and see it now on a regular basis … I do not see all things healed… I am at this juncture content with eschatological faith… one child dies of cancer and a thousand unknown children die in Africa of simple dehydration or of complications at birth because of lack of medical care. Our faith is not drawn from the order of the world our faith is drawn from the crisis of the cross where Christ won for all the victory.

    Michael is correct EVERYTHING is subject to nuance, reason and theology but ultimately we rise or fall upon the presence of the living Christ among us, within us and consciously ministered to us by the body, by the Spirit, and by the sacraments of grace. I have a pretty remarkable testimony from a woman I met in Canada.

    Her first child and her mother died in an automobile accident that left her for two months in the hospital… her second child died of MS… her husband later died in an auto accident looking after the transport of a medical patient. Her third and fourth children are now diagnosed with MS as well. I listened to her story… she was radiant and unwilling to allow anyone who heard her story to be sorry for her. She comforted us all as she unfolded the story and as she told us of her expectation that without amazing miracles her other children will pass as well. “I live in two worlds both real to me all the time,” she told us. She is not afraid, not bitter, not resentful, not anxious. She reminds me Michael of our mutual friend and father Steve Brown who says that every time someone dies of cancer in unbelief a believer dies as well and the world can see the difference.

    Michael I know you have a testimony of the same consolations in Christ. Your honest and broken writings minister to us and cause us to be honest and raw… I hope this post is received as it is meant… as an encouragement.

    The grave has no victory over us… none.

  57. “Today I’m facing losing my son to mental illness unless we see divine intervention.”

    So sorry. Asking for mercy and the intervention.

  58. Em says:

    i hadn’t visited this thread today …

    as i join in the prayers for Michael, i won’t give up on Trey either – although i have no knowledge of just what is going on i am praying with everyone here – God knows and, even in confusion here, we lay it all at His feet – other things posted on the blog seem so shallow by comparison

  59. Em says:

    while faith without suffering is an untested faith, there are many reasons beyond our understanding for sufferings and it doesn’t always deepen our faith to know that – IMHO – not only is our God sovereign, He is working something out on this planet that He has seen fit raise up a people for His Name to bear with Him as He does so … but, we can still hate the evil days and pray for mercy as our Lord, Himself did … let the cup pass, if it does not serve the will of our magnificent, holy God and Savior – please Lord?

  60. nonnie says:

    Michael, praying for your sweet son.

  61. I made a mistake in my story the children in the testimony above died of MD Muscular Dystrophy not MS

  62. Lord, mercy, please, mercy.

  63. victorious says:

    Concerning prayer.

    I know that I will arise by the power of the Holy Spirt into a new body delivered from corruption and fit for fellowship with the Lord and the work that will be carried out in that new era the Kingdom.

    I know that the hardships and trials encountered in this phase of eternal life are being used to fashion within me a character that will bring God the glory He deserves and a fullness of joy to myself in others.

    I know that the sufferings I experience directly or share indirectly of others enable me to understand aspects of my Savior that would be unknown to me forever.

    Temporary healing is a sign to what I have described as the real promises of prayer.

    Prayer helps me to not go off the rails and hold onto the,person of God and His purposes while in the midst of,the suffering.

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