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.

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Paul’s “But”

S and SHow has your personality changed since you were a teenager or in your early 20s. The younger a person is, the more likely they are to be carefree, adventuresome, lighthearted, and/or jovial. In most instances life sends sticks and stones which over time have a cumulative effect often resulting in “the straw that broke the came’s back” where the person isn’t near as lighthearted, jovial, or carefree. Some get so beaten down by life’s sticks and stones they become morose. Consider what Paul wrote…

2 Cor 4:7 We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live (Christians) are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

Afflicted in every way… BUT! Perplexed… BUT! Persecuted… BUT! Struck down… BUT! Those are four really big “buts,” about which I’d like to make a suggestion. Everything in this passage is FROM God which the Christian experiences in participatory passivity! Let me explain.

Vs 7, “The surpassing power belongs to God and not to us is a huge foundational statement for this passage and daily living! THAT the events of 4:8-12 take place in the Christian means GOD is providentially and sovereignly doing it Himself (“It is God at work in you to will and accomplish His good pleasure.”). In 4:11-a the Christian is “given over” to difficulties… which means it is done TO them, outside their will and choosing.

Being given over contrary to the Christian’s preference is for a another God ordained reason… for Jesus’ life to be “Manifested in our mortal flesh” (4:11-b). The things that happen TO believers are so that GOD, JESUS, and the SPIRIT will be glorified… magnified… and honored! Our life is not about us! It is about honoring God.

As long as we keep in our puny little heads that the things that happen are about us RATHER THAN GLORIFYING GOD, we will be frustrated in life. However, when we embrace life events are to glorify God, then our sufferings are transformed into joy.

When You Struggle, Remember…

Pulitzers1 Peter 2:19-25… (READ S-L-O-W-L-Y)

(It) is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin & are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good & suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth. 23 When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly. 24 He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin & live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd & Overseer of your souls.

When Hit In The Head

BrengleSamuel Brengle was a worker with the Salvation Army in Boston. As he passed by a saloon, some men threw a brick that hit his head. Brengle nearly died and spent eighteen months in recovery. During that time he wrote a little book entitled Helps to Holiness. Thousands of copies were published.

After he was able to begin preaching again, people would often thank him for the book. He would respond by saying, “If there had been no little brick, there’d be no little book.” His wife saved the brick and had Genesis 50:20 engraved on it: “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” (They Found The Secret by V. Raymond Edman)

In God’s economy there are no accidents, no coincidences, no random events. Ever so often we get hit in the head with a brick (Literally or metaphorically) by God’s providence. Our “brick” may be loss of job, health, reputation, friends/family, or any of a thousand things. As a child of God everything that happens to you is controlled perfectly by God… without exception… for His glory and your ultimate good (Conformity to Christ).

In everything God wills and accomplishes good in the lives of His children (Romans 8:28-29). Regardless of what others attempt to accomplish, only what God wills is the result. No matter how painful or difficult what we experience is, God always makes sure that His plan for our sanctification takes place. As one preacher said, “Nothing bad has ever happened to me. Evil, yes. Bad, no. That is Romans 8:28.”

Has a “little brick” hit you in the head recently? If so, work toward the “little book.”

You Need Adversity!

reflections on Christ - crucifixionThat’s right, you and I NEED to suffer more. The best thing that can happen is for us to have more hardship, difficulty, trial, and tribulation. If Satan had his way, we’d all have an easy life. In fact, he will hold the ladder for anyone willing to climb of the shelf. You leave him alone, and he will leave you alone. Serve Jesus and you’ll find yourself in hot water… quick.

Suffering for Christ is proof of salvation and a life of obedience to Christ. As it is written in Phil 1:29, “It has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake…”

God grants every genuine Christian two things, salvation and suffering. You can’t have one without the other. Every person who is saved will suffer. Without suffering for being a Christian there is reason to question being saved (If Phil 1:29 is true).

We’re not talking about getting sick, but being poisoned for sharing Christ. We’re not talking about losing your job due to economics, but getting fired for standing for Christ. We’re not talking about losing friends due to personality differences, but being ostracized because you won’t compromise your faith to be politically correct. Suffering isn’t dying from old age, but being killed as a result of sharing Jesus as the only way of salvation. Consider what Peter wrote…

1 Pet 2:19 This is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps.

1 Pet 3:13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled… 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

1 Pet 4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.

Being honest with ourselves, how many of our sufferings are due to living for Christ?

When Romans 8:28 Is True For YOU

GoodThere are two qualifications that determine whether or not Romans 8:28 is true for YOU…

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

Is love for God a feeling toward Him?  Is loving God keeping His commands? Consider two thoughts…

First… John 14:15 is DESCRIPTIVE, not PRESCRIPTIVE. WHEN a person loves God, the WILL keep His commands… naturally… from the heart… joyfully. John 14:15 does NOT mean that we prove love for God by doing things for Him… ie, keeping His commands as we know from Acts 17:24-25…

The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; 25 nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things… (God does not need anything or anyone… NOR does He desire in order to be satisfied).

There is only ONE way anyone is able to love God. It is found in Deuteronomy 30:6!

Third, here is what love for God IS… (From John Piper):

Love for God is desiring God APART FROM HIS GIFTS (Forgiveness, Salvation, Heaven, Blessings, etc)…

Love for God is treasuring God APART FROM HIS GIFTS…

Love for God is delighting in God APART FROM HIS GIFTS…

Love for God is satisfaction in God APART FROM HIS GIFTS…

Love for God is cherishing God APART FROM HIS GIFTS…

Love for God is savoring God APART FROM HIS GIFTS…

Love for God is valuing God APART FROM HIS GIFTS…

Love for God is prizing God APART FROM HIS GIFTS…

Love for God is revearing God APART FROM HIS GIFTS…

Love for God is admiring God APART FROM HIS GIFTS.

Fourth, remember that Romans 8:28 is written in the context of suffering (8:15A; 8:17B; 8:18A; 8:23B; 8:26A; 8:31B; 8:35; 8:38-39-A).  Circumstances and events are NOT proof of either God’s love OR displeasure!

In the words of Job (13:15)… “Though He slay me, still I will hope in Him.”  If anything, difficulties are PROOF of your salvation (Phil 1:29)!

In the words of Habakkuk (3:17-19)… “Though the fig tree should not blossom… there be no fruit on the vines… the yield of the olive should fail… the fields produce no food… the flock should be cut off from the fold… and there be no cattle in the stalls, 18 Yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. 19 The Lord God is my strength…”

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This WILL Happen To Christians

crs crwnAll Christians want to be more like Jesus, grow in their faith, and be blessed by God. Most ask God to bless them and make them more like Jesus.  But I’m not sure Christians understand what they are asking for.  Think with me…

BECAUSE Jesus told people the truth they didn’t believe Him.  Thus consider truth from Scripture: Without being holy, no person will see God (Holiness is required in order to be saved and the ONLY path to holiness is suffering. This is true. There’s no way around it.  Now…

According to Scripture, there is ONE way Christians grow in holiness… suffering. It will happen. God causes it because it is His will as the ONLY way Christians become more like Jesus. “It has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake…” (Philippians 1:29).  Consider Romans 8:16-17…

The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.

There is no crown without first a cross. And Christians don’t have a choice about it!  Romans 8:29 clearly sets forth that God does not leave being conformed to Christ to chance… He proactively predestines it. For proof… consider how Paul described this concept in 2 Cor 12:7-9.

So, if you are a Christian… do not be surprise or confused by the difficulties in your life… YOU asked God to bless you!  It is God at work to: 1) Conform you to Christ, 2) Make you holy, 3) Increase your eternal rewards!

Hope: “He (Jesus) will NEVER leave nor forsake you!” (Heb 13:5).

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart…” (Pr 3:5).

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not allow you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Cor 10:13-14). ”

“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy” (Jude 1:24).  Also go back and read Romans 8:16-17 above or click here.

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