The Suffering G-d (El)

(EL, the title of the Heavenly Father, is herein used in place of the conventional but improper name "God")

There is no reason to be enthusiastic in our praise if our EL can't or won't feel for us, suffer with us, love us with an assertive love. But our EL does love with a high love; and our EL does suffer with us, for us, and among us and within us. EL cares -- and EL is for you.

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Codex Sinaiticus

New Testament:

from the famed discovery

 

The earliest, oldest New Testament text has finally been released to the public.  You may read the Codex Sinaiticus online - but only if you know Greek!  To read it inCodex Sinaiticus New Testament H T Anderson English English, you need the only English translation we know.  The H. T. Anderson English Translation of the Codex Sinaiticus, with the three extra early New Testament books and the Sonnini Manuscript of Acts 29 included, and the original absences of certain verses (put in there later by the 'church') is now available only at here.  

THIS IS NOT A CHEAP, SCANNED-IN FACSIMILE. This is a first edition of the text published in easy-to-read Georgia font with plenty of room between verses for your notes.2 points between verses, hard or soft cover.

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The Nazarene Acts
of the Apostles

Also known as
The Recognitions of Clement

Ever wonder why PAUL and not PETER received the mission to the lost tribes?  Wasn't Peter the stone upon which the "church" was to be built?  In this new translation of the Nazarene Acts, we follow Kefa (Peter) as he itinerates from Jerusalem and up the Mediterranean coast up to Tripoli, as recorded in the journals of his successor, Clement of Rome (Phi 4:3).  Every message Kefa preached, the company he kept, and the great works of faith the the Almighty accomplished through him are herein recorded.  This 300 page volume has been 'hidden' in the back of an obscure volume of the "Church Fathers" all this time.  Could it be that, in establishing the Gentile 'church' by pushing away from Judaism, this history was purposely hidden?

Snyder Bible Home    All Sermons        Isaiah 53:1-5, Isaiah 63:7-9, 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

We are serving a EL who is like us in many ways. Though EL is spirit, EL feels for us. EL feels pain, rejection, jealousy ... just as we feel ...but amplified to EL-sized proportions. Because we are so emotionally similar, we can participate in EL's mission, and EL can participate in our suffering. EL loves us special, so he is never indifferent or unfeeling toward us. EL is pained when we are in pain. EL is hurt when we hurt.

Someone has said that the opposite of love is not hatred but indifference or apathy. Many Believer groups still believe that EL is away out there someplace, managing a universe that ticks like some great clock; not involved in our little lives unless there is something special EL wants to accomplish.

But if EL were indifferent - like the great unfeeling machine-master that we often portray him - then EL can't be love, nor can EL have love. There is no reason to be enthusiastic in our praise if our EL can't or won't feel for us, suffer with us, love us with an assertive love. But our EL does love with a high love; and our EL does suffer with us, for us, and among us and within us. EL cares -- and EL is for you.

This is made plain in Elie Wiesel's eye-witness story about the hanging of three Jews in a Nazi concentration camp. Two of the condemned were large men. But the third was a young boy about the age of Wiesel himself. All the prisoners were paraded out to see the hanging as an example. Wiesel writes: When they were hung by the neck,

The men died quickly [because they were heavy], but the death throes of the youth lasted for half and hour. 'Where is EL? Where is He?' someone asked behind me. As the youth still hung in torment in the noose after a long time, I heard the man call again, 'Where is EL?' And I heard a voice in myself answer: 'Where is He? He is here. He is hanging there on the gallows.'

And where is EL when you are hanging in torment? EL is with you; he is with you till the end.

Yes, EL suffers with you because EL loves you. And EL lifts you in your suffering because he desires the suffering to be ended. Remember the beautiful poem Footsteps?

'Master, you told me when I decided to follow you, you would walk and talk with me all the way. But I'm aware that during the most troublesome times in my life there is only one set of footprints. I just don't understand why, when I needed you most, you leave me.' He whispered, 'My precious child, I love you and will never leave you.... When you saw only one set of footprints it was then that I carried you.'

Pastor Dennis Nguyen illustrates Footsteps in his true-to-life story of EL's suffering love for him:

When I was eight, I lost my father to cancer. A week after his burial, I became severely ill. The pain in my body eventually paralyzed me. I still remember how my mother, newly widowed, cared for me. She did not discuss with me how I felt. Instinctively, she took me into her arms and caressed my back with her gentle hands, reassuring me with words of comfort and love for me. I grew so sick that I was hospitalized. Since we lived in a remote village [in Vietnam?] about 10 miles from the hospital, my mother carried me there on her back, walking powerfully, uphill and down. With tears streaming down her cheek, she said: 'Son, Daddy is not here. But mommy is still here. Hang in there. We will make it to the hospital soon.'

And isn't this exactly what our scripture tells us that our EL will do in the midst of our distress?

(Is 63:9) In all their affliction, his presence saved them; ... he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.

Friends, a love that doesn't suffer to walk with the beloved is not love at all. What good is a EL who knows nothing of pain and suffering to pained and suffering people? As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote on a scrap of paper smuggled out of his jail cell in a Nazi prison, "Only the suffering EL can help." It is true. Only the one who knows suffering can share in and relieve our sufferings.

The Bible affirms that EL is wounded for the people he loves. In Hosea, a heart-broken EL cries out to his wayward bride Israel,

How can I give you up? How can I hand you over? ... My heart breaks within me; my compassion is warm and tender. I will not execute my fierce anger; I will not again destroy you; for I am EL and no mortal man -- the Set-apart One in your midst (11:8-9)

EL suffered the pain of his broken relationship with an unfaithful bride, his Israel. She had become her husband's enemy through her idolatry and immorality. The Word indicates that EL suffered enormously for the love of his Israel; still He was willing to chase her and court her and reveal Himself to her afresh, despite her betrayal and adulteries.

As Japanese scholar Kitamori has observed, "The 'pain' of EL reflects his will to love the object of His wrath." And such pure and active love cannot sit idly by in the face of betrayal and unrighteousness. For such is a love that actively opposes any thing that dares stand in the way of EL and his people. EL's wrath, then, is EL's love burning hot in the presence of sin; EL's wrath is proof that EL cared for Israel. And if EL cared for Israel in the past and suffered pain on her account, then EL cares for us in the present. And if EL cares for us in the present, EL cares for you today.

And EL has suffered for your sake, and is now suffering if you are suffering. There is no philosophy, Bible teaching, or worldly wisdom that more accurately illustrates such wondrous love than EL's self-sacrificing death, as revealed in the EL-man Yahshua, there hanging on the cruel cross. He was made to become sin for us that we might no longer die by the hand of sin. Friend, if we live at all, we live united with Messiah; and if we die, Messiah has suffered and died.  Let us behold his Son dying on the cross for us.

Some have taught that when Yahshua was made sin, EL "turned his back" on him, because EL, in his holiness, couldn't look at sin. Friends, that's a false teaching. EL never once turned his back nor withdrew from Yahshua in his suffering. For like the youth who took so long to die on Hitler's gallows, EL EL's self was suffering and bleeding and hanging and dying for you and me and Israel and humanity. And EL has never turned his back on you either, no matter what you think you have done to deserve his disfavor.

The famous New York Times headline of thirty years ago was true in a measure after all. It read, "EL IS DEAD," reiterating that great Good Friday hymn by Johann Rist,

O great distress, El himself lies dead,
He died upon the stake,
In this he won the kingdom of Heaven
For love of us. (Johann Rist)
 

If it weren't EL himself who became sin and suffered for us, what kingdom is left to us? What EL can't participate in, EL can't redeem. If EL hasn't entered into our sufferings, then there can be no hope of redemption or healing.

Yet no one really took his life. He laid it down for the love of you and I. Thus now we herald the good news: EL IS NO LONGER DEAD, EL IS ALIVE. He lives! I know for I have seen him - he has touched me and loved me and suffered with me - and he will heal me through his suffering. Praise EL, "for my beloved is mine and I am his, HIS BANNER OVER MY SUFFERING SELF IS LOVE."

If EL has died so that he might taste our suffering and heal us, then HOW SHOULD WE LIVE? If the way of EL through Messiah was through the cross, then we should live our lives patterned after the Cross. Although we who are overcomers find eventual victory in the face of overwhelming odds, we, as followers of EL through Messiah, must find our victory through the darkness and suffering of the cross. No wonder our style of worship seems ridiculous to the heathen and a stumbling block to the "religious." The cross gets in the way! The cross messes up the system! The cross is the thorns among the roses. "If you are the rose of Messiah, know that you will live among thorns" (Luther). You are his roses -- take upon yourself his thorns!

And the world must see just how we kick against the pricks of the thorns -- that we suffer not because of scandal or strife, but we suffer because we hold the Word of EL as truth -- we preach it -- we practice it -- we die for it. We become the cross -- "the symbol of suffering and shame."

Through the cross, the world can see whether or not you are conformed to the image of Messiah. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the suffering preacher, admonishes us about our responsibility to EL's suffering love:

Where the world exploits, [the Believer] will dispossess himself, and where the world oppresses, he will stoop down and raise up the oppressed. If the world refuses justice, the Believer will pursue mercy, and if the world takes refuge in lies, he will open his mouth for the dumb, and bear testimony to the truth....

We suffer and we die so that others might be saved and live forever!

The belief in a suffering EL can provide an entry point for evangelism. Pastor Nguyen again shares a true illustration of how:

A few years ago I was in the former Czechoslovakia on a preaching tour. On the plane home a government official spoke to me. He told me he had attended the service when I had spoken about Messiah's suffering for his people, and he had left the service in rage, cursing EL for the suffering he and his family had known: 40 years of [it] under Communist rule; the starvation and death of his parents; the long years he had spent as a lonely child in an orphanage.

His rage continued when he arrived home. On the apartment wall hung a crucifix, given to him by his mother with the prayer that he would one day come to Messiah. Furious, he hurled a cake topped with thick, white icing at it. The icing covered the crucifix, dripping down the face of the crucified figure. And in that moment, my words about Messiah's suffering came alive to him. For the first time, he said, he saw Yahshua' tears. In his apartment, he knelt in front of the cross and gave his life to Messiah. He uttered these words: 'Messiah is for me, not against me.'

The man told me, 'I don't understand many of the things that happened politically, but I know that Yahshua did not forsake me. He was in pain when I was in pain. He was in tears when I was in tears. He did not experience joy when I suffered the most.' Forgoing speculation as to why suffering befell him, he was now risking himself to the loving care of the Divine Sufferer.

Yes, though roses have their thorns, friends, thorns have their roses, too. And our wonderful Lord meets us in every thicket, every thistled space in our lives that we will surrender to him.

Today, before you go away, take time to consider Martin Luther's advice:

'Contemplate the wounds of Messiah and the blood that was shed for you.' Will you surrender to the one who suffered for you? Will you eat his body in remembrance of his sacrifice for you? Will you drink his blood which was cruelly shed for you?"

"For he was wounded for your transgressions, bruised for your iniquities; the grave punishment for your peace was put upon him, and by the blood of his stripes coursing down his broken body, you are healed."

Jackson Snyder, February 28, 1997

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Resources for the Suffering and Perplexed

  Why Does EL Allow Suffering?
By Dr. Brad Burke / David C. Cook

Several inspiring true-life stories are presented, including the account of how Steven Curtis Chapman faced the "thunder" and "lightening" in his own life. The chapter, "When Our Children Die" includes a heart-wrenching interview with a Believer family who lost three boys in eight years: two to suicide and one in a snowmobile accident.

Their losses took them through the pounding storms of heartache, guilt, pain, and physical and mental illness. But through it all, EL delivered a sunrise of hope and transformed faith that pierced even their darkest night.

It also contains a unique story that helps us to understand the real question at the heart of the matter: How can EL be altogether just, kind, Set-apart, righteous and loving in the midst of our suffering?

 
  A Different EL, A Believer View of Suffering
By Kristiaan Depoortere / Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

"There are so many different types of suffering. Pain has so many faces. If we want to deal with suffering, we have to start somewhere, from an unavoidably limited perspective," writes Kristiaan Depoortere. "The suffering persons we have in mind are the longterm ill, those still capable of contacts and relationships." There is no such thing as mere physical pain, the author contends. "[Pain] embraces physical, psychic, moral, social, and often religious facets."

"[S]uffering raises questions....Suffering interrogates life. It asks questions about our daily way of life, about its direction and its ultimate meaning." Further, "all these questions converge into one fundamental question: if there is a link between EL and suffering--of whatever sort--who is this EL?"

"Our considerations concerning the meaning of suffering and the different images of EL are directly intended for people who guide suffering fellow humans: professionals as well as volunteers, pastors, and lay pastoral workers, nurses, doctors, and also visitors and relatives."Arising out of Louvain's long tradition of theological excellence within the Roman Catholic tradition at large, the volumes in this distinguished series express some of the finest reflection on current theology and pastoral practice.

 
  The Suffering of EL
By Terence Fretheim / Augsburg Fortress

In this comprehensive and thought-provoking study, Terence Fretheim focuses on the theme of divine suffering, an aspect of our understanding of EL which both the church and scholarship have neglected. Maintaining that "metaphors matter," Fretheim carefully examines the ruling and anthropomorphic metaphors of the Old Testament and discusses them in the context of current biblical-theological scholarship. His aim is to broaden our understanding of the EL of the Old Testament by showing that "suffering belongs to the person and purpose of EL."

 
  A EL of Suffering?, DVD
By Dr. Tommy Mitchell / Answers In Genesis

In a world that seems destined to suffer tragedy after tragedy, it's understandable that people want to know why, if there is a EL, he would allow such horrible events to take place. Dr. Tommy Mitchell here answers that question with tact and empathy. Shot on location in the Katrina devastated town of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, you'll be encouraged with the interviews of Katrina victims and see how their faith allows them to walk on, convinced that the Lord they serve won't abandon them in this trial. Region Code 1-6. Approx. 45 minutes.

 
  Suffering and the Sovereignty of EL
By John Piper & Justin Taylor, eds. / Crossway Books & Bibles

In the last few years, 9/11, a tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and many other tragedies have shown us that the vision of EL in today's churches in relation to evil and suffering is often frivolous. Against the overwhelming weight and seriousness of the Bible, many Believers are choosing to become more shallow, more entertainment-oriented, and therefore irrelevant in the face of massive suffering.

In Suffering and the Sovereignty of EL, contributors John Piper, Joni Eareckson Tada, Steve Saint, Carl Ellis, David Powlison, Dustin Shramek, and Mark Talbot explore the many categories of EL's sovereignty as evidenced in his Word. They urge you to look to Messiah, even in suffering, to find the greatest confidence, deepest comfort, and sweetest fellowship you have ever known.

 
  Is EL to Blame?: Beyond Pat Answers to the Problem of Suffering
By Gregory A. Boyd / Inter-varsity Press

Is EL to Blame? This is often the question that comes to mind when you confront real suffering in your life or in the lives of those you love. Pastor Boyd deals with this question honestly and biblically while avoiding glib answers. Writing for ordinary Believers, Boyd wrestles with a variety of answers that have been offered by theologians and pastors in the past. He finds that a fully Believer approach must keep the person and the work of Messiah at the very center of what we say about human suffering and EL's place in it. Yet this is often just what is missing and what makes so much talk about the subject seem inadequate and at times misleading. What comes through is a hopeful picture of a sovereign EL who is relentlessly opposed to evil, who knows your suffering, and who can be trusted to bring you through to renewed life.

 
  Examine The Evidence: Why Does EL Allow Suffering?
By Ralph O. Muncaster / Harvest House Publishers

Human suffering - nothing else drives us to ask "Why?" so passionately. The Bible claims to be able to help us with other questions. Take a closer look at what it says to you about this very difficult issue.

 
  A Path Through Suffering: Discovering the Relationship Between EL's Mercy and Our Pain
By Elisabeth Elliot / Gospel Light

Must we stumble through sorrow and tragedy without understanding or is there a lighted way---a path---through suffering? In A Path Through Suffering, Elliot plots the treacherous passage through pain, grief, and loss, a journey most of us will make many times in our life. Not hesitating to ask hard questions, she tenderly examines the hurts we suffer and boldly explores the nature of a EL whose sovereign, intimate and perfect care for us confounds our finite understanding. Through it all, she says there is only one reliable path, and, if you walk it, you will see the transformation of all your losses, heartbreaks, and tragedies into something strong and purposeful.

 
  Where Is EL?: A Personal Story of Finding EL in Grief and Suffering
By John S. Feinberg / B & H Publishing Group

Almost invariably, there comes a time when pat answers, even from trusted friends, can't begin to respond to your suffering. For John Feinberg, that moment came in 1987 when his beloved wife was diagnosed with an incurable, genetically transmitted disease. Where is EL? tells of Feinberg's struggle to find peace and EL in the midst of the life-rocking storm. The journey to truth is long and hard, but Feinberg's painful experience affirms EL's faithfulness.

 
  Women & the Value of Suffering: An Aw(e)ful Rowing Toward EL
By Kristine Rankka / Liturgical Press

This book offers a critical summary of recent discussions of evil and suffering from a variety of women's theological and spiritual perspectives. It incorporates the insights of feminist theory, cultural studies, biomedical research, psychology, theology, and spirituality. By exploring the complexity of suffering in our times, it reflects on how women of faith can come to terms with the enormity, diversity and, at times, apparent senselessness of human suffering.

 
  Pastoral Care Under the Cross: EL in the Midst of Suffering
By Richard C. Eyer / Concordia Publishing House

This book brings the theology of the cross into practice as a source of comfort for the sick and dying, the elderly, the depressed and mentally ill, persons with AIDS as well as the families of those afflicted. It takes a Gospel-centered approach to counseling and addresses the ethical and moral dilemmas which physicians, patients and families must face.