Dancing In The Dungeon

9781462734993_COVER.inddOne reason for a blog is to disseminate information. Thus, I have published a book titled: “Dancing In The Dungeon: Suffering With Hopeful Joy For God’s Glory.” It can be found on Amazon and Barnes & Noble as of this date. The Kindle edition should be available soon (God willing).

I wrote DITD first for my children to have a resource one day when life kicks them in the teeth… then for all my brothers and sisters in Christ to experience the God of comfort by considering how God comforted me in my trials (2 Cor 1:3-4). DITD is filled with practical ways God comforted me. It is written as one who’s walked a somewhat difficult path and found God faithful. DITD isn’t a philosophical treatise nor a bunch of ivory tower Bible studies about suffering. Three men who endorsed DITD say it better than I can…

Dr. Rick Lance (Executive Director of Alabama Baptists)

The problem of suffering has always haunted Christians. If you are a follower of Christ, why do you suffer? The answer to that age old question is not easy, but it may be obvious. Because we are followers of Christ, we experience suffering.

Ron Ethridge has transformed his story of dealing with suffering into a book which is a helpful guide for all of us. Dancing In The Dungeon is a personal story. Ron is very transparent in telling about those moments when he suffered most in life. He does so knowing that our God can use suffering for His glory. That is the theme of this book.

Dancing In The Dungeon is not only personal in nature, but Biblical in content and practical in application. As a fellow-sufferer, you find comfort and hope in the pages of this book. You will be encouraged to worship, pray and serve our Lord, even in the midst of suffering.

I am grateful that Ron Ethridge has shared his story and the redemptive lessons which can be learned from it. Experiences of suffering can be and should be a laboratory of learning for Christ followers.

Dr. Timothy George (Founding Dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University)

Ron Ethridge is an ordained Baptist minister whose past service in the church follows a well-trodden trajectory. Brought up in the church, followed by undergraduate studies in a denominational setting, and then seminary at a fine theological school, Ron was ready to pursue a life of pastoral ministry in fulfillment of what he was sure was God’s calling on his life. Then, midstream, Ron found himself on the outside of the church looking in when he was asked to leave two of the churches he had been called to serve. Rather than precipitate a knock-down floor fight at the church business meeting, Ron decided to walk away.

Ron admits that he himself made mistakes along the way and that, in hindsight, he would do some things quite differently. This book is not about victimhood or retaliation. Rather, it is the anguished cry of a wounded shepherd, one who has come to understand that healing only happens in the broken places. Through Redemption Ministry, Ron Ethridge is now reaching out to all who are hurting with an emphasis on fellow ministers who find themselves the situation of conflict, and possibly termination, on that part of God’s flock they have been called to serve. Ron wants to come alongside his fellow struggling pastors and hurting Christians to offer encouragement and counsel.

Dr. Ray Pritchard (Keep Believing Ministries; Author of: An Anchor for the Soul, The Healing Power of Forgiveness)

We all go through hard times. As Ron Ethridge wisely reminds us, no one gets a free ride through life. That certainly includes pastors who serve in vocational ministry. If that’s the bad news, then the good news is that God uses those hard times for our good and his glory. Dancing in the Dungeon takes us to the ragged edge of life to show us that when we feel most forgotten, God is doing his best work in us. Of all the good things about this book, the best is that Ron brings us back again and again to the Bible so that we will discover what God has said about the hard times of life. Read it so that you will be equipped when your time comes to dance in the dungeon.

Here are a few chapter titles:

What God Can Do. Reflection: One Night From Hell

A Theology Of Encouragement. Reflection: Satan’s Achilles Heel…Forgiveness

Why Me, Why This, Why Now? Reflection: The Problem Of God And Evil

When God Is Silent. Reflection: Before All Hell Breaks Loose

Comfort When Betrayed. Reflection: Enemies As Emissaries of God’s Grace

Comfort In Personal Failure. Reflection: Mind Over Heart

When Sheep Attack Shepherds.

How To Fire A Minister.

Blessings.

Vengence Is God’s, Not Ours

revengeRevenge is forbidden for Christians… in every circumstance… without exception. If we take revenge, we don’t trust God to do what He says He will do. Romans 12:19, “Never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.'”

What our revenge looks like: A cold glance, look, or stare. Saying… or NOT saying… anything to anyone that hurts or harms another person. Doing… or NOT doing something… that harms another person. Being glad or happy when something bad happens to one who has harmed us (Pr 24:17-18).

To take revenge on anyone for anything is to arrogantly attempt to sit on the throne of judgment for which you are not qualified. And consider this… if you as a Christian take revenge in any form, God then has two to deal with. The person upon whom will fall His discipline to begin with, then he will lovingly discipline you for disobeying His command not to take revenge.

Whoever has hurt you… whoever it is that has wounded you… forgive them as God has forgiven YOU (Eph 4:32) remembering what is written in Hebrews 10:31, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

There is one way NOT to take revenge: Believe God will… and do it better than you ever could. Thus back to Ro 12:19, “Never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.'”

He’s In Self Denial!

Blind Faith- Blind leading BlindYOU have character flaws you ignore, rationalize, justify, and refuse to admit. Everyone else sees them… your friends put up with them… people talk about them when you aren’t around just as you do about others when they aren’t around. Blind spots are where our idols reside. Blind spots are the sin Christians are called to crucify. Ignoring blind spots is foolish (Picture by Lee Mclaughlin).

“There are none so blind as those who will not see” (Quote from Andy Griffith Show). “If everyone is out of step but you, maybe YOU are the one out of step!” (Unknown).

Jesus confronted spiritual blindness often (Mt 15:13-14; 23:16, 19, 24; Lk 6:39-42). Then consider what is recorded in Luke 11:34-36 from Jesus…

Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. 35 Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. 36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.

One of the most difficult things anyone can ever do is ask God to reveal to them their spiritual blind spots… their character flaws (Ps 139:23-24; 2 Cor 13:5; 1 Cor 11:31). IF we desire to become more like Jesus… to grow in our faith… to mature in Christ… to be conformed to the image of Christ, then we MUST deal with our blind spots. And know this before you embark on such a journey, it will be painful… HOWEVER… consider what is found in Hebrews 12:4…

In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. 9 Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 He disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Tomorrow, God willing, there will be a process for addressing blind spots.

A Good Story!

restorChurch should be filled with strories of redemption and restoration. Church is where And once were some of you should be often said to God’s glory. Church is were the sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, and swindlers now live holy lives reflecting God’s love of redemption through His son Jesus Christ. Thus this story…

A few years ago a friend of mine made bad choices that deeply wounded family, friends, and the faith. As a result his life entered a time of wandering in the wilderness while God’s discipline did its redemptive work. Over the course of years… YEARS mind you… my friend was slowly drawn back to the place of God’s favor and blessing. Humility and brokeness took the place of pride and arrogance. Submission to God took the place of self centerdness. And as of yesterday my friend was called to pastor a congregation of God’s people on a 100% vote… to God’s glory. This is a wonderful story of healing, redemption, and restoration!

Now think with me…

Who did Jesus choose to be the leader of the 1st Century Church? Peter. What had Peter done? He had denied and cursed Christ. Why did Jesus choose Peter? I suggest it was because of his failure and being redeemed that Jesus chose him. I suggest Peter was THE shining example of what failure and restoration looks like that everyone would be able to identify with which would draw them to Christ! Redemption and restoration should be on display in the church in multiple and obvious ways.

If a congregation of God’s people are not loving, forgiving, redeeming, and restoring their own fallen… they do not have a credible message to anyone, especially the lost. If the church is not a shining example of God’s grace, it is at best a religious social club.

Pastors will make mistakes, as will staff, as will deacons, as will everyone else in a congregation. The question is not if… but when? And then will God’s people deal with those situations in love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, in order to restore the wounded (Gal 6:1)? There has been enough rubbing salt in the wounds of the hurting in church. It’s time believers quit shooting their wounded. Rather than preying on people, it is time to pray for them… restore them… and hear Paul in 2 Cor 2:5-8…

Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. 6 For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, 7 so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him.

Can it happen? Yes, I’ve seen it. Does it happen? It did for my friend. The question is will we be involved in the ministry of reconciliation?

Defrauded Christians

fraudThis post is an introduction for the next two days. Be sure to check back…

Co-workers malign you unfairly. They misrepresent you to your boss. People lie about you and your family. People do things that harm you and yours for many years. So should you: Get even… malign them… do unto them as they did unto you… exact your pound of flesh… go after eye for eye… take them to court (Slander/libel)?

Following Christ is contrary to the desires of an unregenerate heart. It isn’t natural to turn the other cheek when treated wrong. It isn’t natural to do good to those who harm us… to help those who stab you in the back… to bless a person who insults you… to take a hit and not fight back when people attack you. We want to defend out name… prove we aren’t what others say we are… and protect our reputation. Consider 1 Cor 6:5-8…

Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, 6 but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? 7 To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? 8 But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!

Paul writes to take the hit… be wronged… be defrauded. It is better to endure those things than for the name of Christ to be maligned.

The name of Christ… the reputation of Christianity… and the validity of the Gospel are more important than “winning” a dispute in a church. Humility and obedience will cause a Christian to “Suffer according to God’s (and) entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (1 Pet 4:17).

The hallmark of a Christian is their attitude and conduct in the face of suffering wrong… especially when the wrong happens from within the church or from church members. If or when someone (Anyone… including church members) say or do things that harm you, choose to take God at His Word from Romans 12:10…

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 12 Be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

A Deal With God

DEALWhat if GOD sent an angel to you… visibly… and made this offer (This is a rewind from the past as a follow up to Monday’s post.):

Praise be to our God who alone is worthy of worship, praise, and adoration!  Dear servant of The Great God of the universe, I have been sent to make you this offer:

Starting in three hours… for one year… God will use you to bring a world-wide revival. Hundreds of millions will be saved to His glory. He will heal countless broken lives… restore inumerable families… and eradicate all kinds of sickness everywhere you go as you share His Gospel. Nothing like it has been seen on earth since Pentecost!  HOWEVER

One year later you will be physically, mentally, & emotionally broken. Half your family will have died and the rest will consider you crazy. You will own nothing. The next 30 years of your life will be spent in a nursing home and no one will visit you. You will have lost your sight and hearing. Then you will die… be buried in government cemetary… without a marker… and no one will attend the service.

You have five minutes to give me your answer…

Would you say like Isaiah… “Here I am, SEND ME!?”

Or, as you read that, did you hesitate… even for just a moment? (Thank you Dr. Drummond)

It is recorded in Luke 9:23 that Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

CLICK

Volunteer Or Forced

Given Louie Giglio “choosing” not to pray at Obama’s little party and the number of football coaches who transition, I thought this funny when I saw it.  Lot of truth to it!

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