Posts tagged God
There are certain things Christians should refrain from saying. Why? Because, well, they are dumb! Don’t feel bad. I have had my dumb moments too. Let’s make sure to scratch these three from our Christian vocabulary.
1. God told me to ______. We have to be careful here. God does speak to us through His word. He impresses thoughts and ideas into our conscience. He influences us through other people. Yet, sometimes Christians play the “God told me card.” If we are going to say “God told me too” we had better make sure that He really did, because if He didn’t that would be putting words in God’s mouth. Essentially, it becomes using God’s name without God’s consent. I have heard Christians say that God told them to do many different things, and some of the things that “God told them”, I am pretty sure, were in direct violation of His written word. So either God forgot what He said before or He didn’t tell you. Sadly, some Christians even use God’s false endorsement as a means to manipulate other people. Don’t say God told me unless you are 100% absolutely sure that He did, in fact, tell you.
2. I just have to leave it in God’s hands. Certainly, there are times in life where we have no choice but to leave situations in God’s hands. We have to trust that He loves us, is well aware of all we will experience in life, and trust His guidance. Yet, we must also remember that leaving things in God’s hands does not exempt us from doing our part. Leaving things in God’s hands is not an excuse for us not to apply ourselves and work hard. “I have a test tomorrow, and I am leaving it in God’s hands.” Awesome. So you have studied all you can, right? “I am leaving the results of my sermon Sunday up to God.” Great! So you prepared and rehearsed adequately? “I am trusting God with my kids.” Wonderful. So you have poured yourself into their lives and done all you can to prepare them for what they will face? Trusting God is working hard and applying ourselves to whatever task we are given, and then trusting Him with the outcome.
3. I don’t need to go to church to be a Christian. This is absolutely correct! One does not have to go to church to become a Christian. A person is born in Christ by repenting and trusting in Christ. Case closed. It should be pointed out, however, that church attendance is a tremendous part of growing as a Christian. In fact, it is paramount. Think about how poor this logic is when applied to other scenarios. “I don’t need to spend any time with my spouse to be married.” No, but if you want that marriage to be anything special you had dang well better! “I don’t need to go to practice to play in the band.” True, but you won’t know the songs, and you won’t mesh with the rest of the band. You will be the bass player that is a beat behind the drummer, and that just annoys everyone. “I don’t need to go to school to be a student.” Nope, but if you want to pass the class you do! You get the point. Church doesn’t make one a Christian, but it is a big part if growing in Christ. We need other people. We need encouragement and accountability. We need to hear God’s word spoken (along with our personal reading), and we need to have a place to ask questions and explore our faith.
So, have you ever said “dumb things” as a Christian or heard someone else babble things that make you cringe? What are they?
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
God, where are you when an earthquake swallows up unsuspecting people? Where are you God when fires ravage homes that displace thousands? Where are you when hurricanes pound the coast and inflict pain on countless lives? Where were you when tornadoes struck Oklahoma and demolished house after house? What about the kids, God? Why did innocent kids have to suffer and die? You are all powerful. You could have stopped it. Why didn’t you?
This is a big question. One that we all have wrestled with at times, struggled with, and either worked through or pushed to the back of our minds. Yet, when tragedy strikes it pulls the question back to the forefront of our minds. Why does God allow suffering? Why does he allow tragedy? Why do bad things happen to good people?
Many refer to these phenomena as natural evil, as opposed to moral evil, which requires some agent that inflicts pain. Moral evil is when a drunk driver kills an innocent child or a person abuses another. When it comes to moral evil we know that cause is due to sin. A person has the freedom to choose to abuse his free will and harm others. Yet, natural evil, or agentless evil, there is no person or agent that chooses to hurt others. It is the result of the natural order. It is a physical phenomenon that no one, per se, caused. These events happen without a causal agent. Yet, the question lingers, why does God allow it?
Before we seek an answer to this question from a Christian perspective, it is important to understand that every worldview must answer this question. From an atheistic perspective, it is bound to happen at some point. In our world, people will get hurt. It’s an accident we are here to begin with. So when natural disaster strikes, you simply lose the lottery. Someone had to get hurt, and your number was up. Incidentally, it ends there. Life is cut short. Life has no meaning or ultimate purpose. Hopefully you enjoyed the years in the sun you had. Then there are the pantheistic religions that say the tragedies we experience are the result of negative Karma. That is, the bad things you do create negative energy and you must pay off this negative energy by experiencing difficulties. So essentially, you are the reason that bad things happen to you? They might also say that suffering is an illusion, but last time I suffered it felt pretty real. None of these answers seem satisfactory or easy to live out consistently.
So what does Christianity have to say about natural disasters? Every now and then someone like Pat Robertson will pipe up and say that God directly causes natural disasters as a punishment for sin. We see evidence of this in the Bible in limited places. Yet, we are not qualified to make such judgments, and to do so is completely insensitive and downright narcissistic. Furthermore, God using natural disasters as punishment seems limited to a specific socio-cultural context, that is, theocratic Israel.
While God does not cause natural disasters, the question still must be asked why does He allow them? Many question, if God is all-loving and all-powerful, then why doesn’t he stop tornadoes from ripping across Oklahoma? While I believe God is both all-loving and all-powerful, does this mean that God is under compulsion to shield us from all pain and suffering? To fully answer this question man would have to assume the mind of God. God has knowledge of every possible contingency and our knowledge is limited. As Charles Spurgeon once explained, “When we cannot trace God’s hand, we must simply trust His heart.”
Though we cannot assume the mind of God, we can make some observations. First we know that when God created the world, it was good. Suffering and evil were not present. When sin entered the world, death and suffering also did, and this applied to creation itself. Paul reminds us of this, “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now.” (Romans 8:22, HCSB). So natural disasters are tied to the fall itself.
We could also discuss how God uses pain in our lives, though this is often less than satisfying when we are in the middle of tragedy. Yet, sometimes God uses pain our lives for multiple reasons. At times it is to get our attention, build character, or to keep us from greater pain and suffering by exposing us to a smaller amount of aversion. Again, we do not know the mind of God.
This question has been examined from many different angles, but I would like to approach it from a different perspective. Often natural disasters are referred to as “acts of God.” We must ask ourselves, however, are “acts of God” limited to natural disasters? Might we remember that the very fact that we have life to begin with was an “act of God”? Creation from nothing was an act of God. The suffering of Christ was an act of God. The daily sustaining of the universe is an act of God. The very fact that my lungs continue to breathe in and out at this moment is an act of God. Let us not limit acts of God to the tragedies that strike.
We must also ask, is death underserved? Due to the effects of sin, everyone has an appointment with death. We think that we get some say on when that appointment should be. We deem it unfair when people die before the average age, but say nothing when people live past the average age. Every day we get is solely due to God’s grace. We have no claim on our lives. Because God is the creator of life He can give and take when he sees fit, often for purposes that are beyond our immediate understanding.
Death will come to us all at some point. While it is hard for us to let go in this life, death is not something to be feared for those that know Christ. Death is hard on the survivor, but for the person that dies, they enter into bliss. Yet we forget this when disaster strikes because our emotions are greatly shaken, and rightly so. Yet we blame God for something that would happen at some point regardless, and when it does happen the person lost is in a better state than before. It is hard for us, the survivor. Yet, God gives us the capacity to overcome our grief.
Many would say that natural disasters are undeserved. Again, when we make this appeal we also forget about the good things that are undeserved. Do we, as unrighteous people, deserve anything? Yet, God is faithful to allow good things in our lives. If we make the argument that the bad is underserved we must also be consistent and say that the good is underserved.
In other words, the good that God allows in our lives we accept without thought or question. Yet, when tragedy strikes, God has allowed undeserving bad things into our life, and He is horrible for having done so, and even then, we don’t know His reasons for doing so.
Is it perhaps possible then, that in a fallen world that groans under the weight of sin, that God works in a way where the best possible and loving outcomes result? Is it possible that we focus too heavily on this life at the expense of remembering we were created for another world? Is it possible that we miss all of the blessings and provisions of God and focus only on the seeming injustices and tragedies? Is it possible that amidst tragedy, God is right there with us? Is it possible that God holds our hand through the eye of the storm?
God created the world knowing that we would botch it all up. He knew as a result of this that He would have to send His Son to die for the sins of mankind, that all of humanity might be restored. Would a loving father make a decision that would involve the death of His Son? In the midst of loss we might remember that God is no stranger to our plight.
These questions are not easy, yet; only Christianity offers an explanation that comes close to satisfying. Either the universe is indifferent when tragedy strikes, we brought it on ourselves, suffering is an illusion, or God is in control even when we don’t complete understand it. He loves us, blesses us, and seeks our ultimate good. So much, that He suffered greatly be sending His own son, Jesus Christ, to die for us. We should point out that the reason this answer does not seem fully satisfactory is because we don’t allows get to know the why or connect the dots. We have a low tolerance for cognitive ambiguity. Yet, at this point, we simply have to trust that God is all powerful and all loving and He is in control.
Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny?Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent.But even the hairs of your head have all been counted. So don’t be afraid therefore; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:29-31, HCSB)
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Recently, I was having an initial conversation with a fellow believer. We were doing the usual guy-get-to-know-one-another chat. Inevitably, when two guys meet for the first time, the question always comes up, “What do you do and what is your background”? I explained I was a minister and psychotherapist, and that I was studying Apologetics. “Oh, your one of those”, he said.” I was confused, “One of those, what?” “You are one of those guys that feel like God has to be defended, but He doesn’t. God doesn’t need anyone to defend Him.”
Is that true? Is apologetics just a waste of time? Well, my newfound friend is right. God does not need anyone to defend Him. I am pretty sure God has it covered with his legions of angels, not to mention all of His attributes like omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, and the like. God holds the market on power and can easily defend Himself. He doesn’t need me to do anything for Him, but He does allow me to be a part of His plan.
God does not need defending. His truth also stands on it’s own. God’s truth is true regardless of whether a person wants to accept it or not. Yet, Apologetics is not about defending God. I will let God take care of Himself. Apologetics is about giving reasons for the hope that we have. Apologetics is about tearing down false ideas that obstruct people from coming to know the truth about God. Essentially, apologetics is about removing blindfolds that keep people from seeing who God is.
I am often dumbfounded when I hear Christians make the statement that Apologetics is an unnecessary discipline because God can take care of Himself. Of course God can take care of Himself. That is not up for debate. Yet, if apologetics is unnecessary, then why does God command the Christian to engage in Apologetics? Notice what scripture has to say about giving reasons for what we believe.
I Peter 3:15 is the hallmark verse commanding an apologetic lifestyle, “Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” In 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 we are commanded to “demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God.” One must be able to give reasons why Christianity is true instead of the many false ideologies. In Matthew 22:37, Jesus states that we are to love God “with all of our minds.” How does one do that? By being informed about competing worldviews and employing logic to show why Christianity is the most compelling belief. We should also note that Jesus and the apostles employed Apologetics. Jesus repeatedly gave evidences and reasons, such as miracles and fulfilled prophecies, as to why people should trust His claim to be the messiah. The apostles did the same. Paul’s address at Mars Hill in Acts 17 is a brilliant apologetic!
We are commanded in Matthew 28 to go and share our faith with those around us. We are directly commanded to evangelize the world and present the good news to all we can. Apologetics is pre-evangelism. It removes obstacles so the good news can be heard!
God doesn’t need defending, but people need help making sense of the many competing ideas. We have been commanded to give a reason for the hope we have. It is only the lazy Christian that cannot give reasons for his faith. Evangelism doesn’t happen within a vacuum. It happens amidst many different subcultures. People’s background, experiences, history, education, etc. effects how they relate to the gospel. While we can never be completely prepared, we can do our best to have an understanding of our own beliefs and be able to offer a reasonable explanation of them.
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
For God so loved the world…BUT… you had better not do certain things or the deal is off. God loves you, but you better not be homosexual. God loves you, but you had better not fornicate. God loves you, but you had better not judge people. God loves you, but you had better not ________ (lie, cheat, steal, etc).
During a recent conversation, this line of thought was presented as rationale for distrusting God or doubting His credibility. “God says that He loves all of mankind, but then He puts limits on our behaviors and judges us for them. That doesn’t sound like love to me.” So is that true? Does God’s love depend on our ability to abide by the rules? Does God really communicate, “I love you…But”?
I have always found the insight of the famed Gestalt Psychologist, Fritz Perls, beneficial when he stated, “Always listen to what comes after the ‘but’.” You can learn a lot from people by listening to what comes after the “but”. You see, when but is used in a sentence it often negates or minimizes what has been previously said.
When we look at the Gospel, I don’t think we see God saying, “I love you, but.” Instead, we find that He says, “I love you, and”. John 3:16 states, “For God loved the world so much that (or and) he gave his one and only Son.” God’s love is not contingent on our behavior, if it was, none of us could ever be loved by God. Romans 3:10 reminds us, “There is no one righteous, not even one.” Yet, in spite of our twisted nature, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Does the Bible offer proscriptions on certain behaviors? Absolutely? Is His love for us based on our ability or willingness to follow these proscriptions? A resounding no. God has always loved us and will always continue to. People often misunderstand why God seeks to restrict certain moral behaviors.
Everything God commands is for humanity’s benefit. He is not a cosmic killjoy seeking to rain on our parade. Disobedience leads to problems in our lives because when we choose to sin we choose to suffer. When we cross moral boundaries we openly invite consequences. Death and destruction are always on the heels of death.
We must also point out, that just because God loves us unconditionally this does not mean that he condones our behaviors. This is how relationships work, at least healthy ones anyway. For example, I love my wife very much. There is nothing that will change how I feel about her, but there are parameters around our relationship. I will not tolerate her stepping out of our marriage to become involved with other men. Love draws boundaries or it cannot be love. To condone abusive behaviors to our relationship or to watch her abuse herself is not love.
Our behaviors have nothing to do with whether God loves us. Our behaviors have everything to do with how much we love God. I do not try and live a moral life to escape eternal suffering. My eternal destiny was sealed when I accepted what Christ did for me on the cross, turned from my sin and we became involved relationally. My desire to live a moral life has everything to do with the fact that I want a close relationship with God. I do my best to follow God’s prescriptions because I trust Him to know what is best for me.
God doesn’t say, “I love you, but.” He says, “I love you, and.” I love you, and I sent my Son to die for you. I love you, and I don’t want you to hurt yourself. I love you, and I am willing to even allow you to reject me.
While God is not pleased with my sin and may discipline me in order to turn me from destructive paths and practices, His love for me does not diminish in any degree. He gave Himself for my sins in their entirety, so that I might have His love in its entirety… Accepting this reality of God’s unchanging regard is necessary for us to make progress in the Christian life. -Bryan Chapell
Walk good. Love wise. Be blessed.
Murder. Sexual references. Gratuitous amounts of violence. Scenes of rape. Frightening Imagery. Adult situations. Deceit. Scandals. Scenes of war. Incest. Sounds like a description of content from just about any rated R movie, doesn’t it? But actually, all of this content comes straight from scripture.
I am always surprised when someone says, “Reading the Bible is boring.” Seriously? Have you even read it, I want to ask? Aside from the fact that I believe it is the divinely inspired word of God, it is also some incredibly enjoyable reading. Sure, it has its slow parts (Leviticus anyone), but so much of it is simply good reading.
Skeptics of Christianity will often point out the atrocities and shady places in the Bible and ask, “How can you live by a book that contains all of this stuff?” Yet, many Christians will ignore or minimize areas in scripture that are not G rated. Some believers have only given God’s word a cursory look, focusing on passages like John 3:16, while being completely oblivious to much of what goes on in scripture. Others only hear what they expect to hear or see what falls in line with their preconceived notions.
So, how is the Bible different from majority of today’s motion pictures that serve up a smorgasbord of debauchery and carnality? For starters, majority of what is churned out of Hollywood is for entertainment. Many of today’s films are simply to entertain, but always with a worldview smuggled in, I might add. Much of what we see on the big screen is a means of escapism. The viewer is to leave his brain at the door, enjoy a story, and escape from the world for a couple of hours. During this time period the person is meant to be entertained, often, by sinful situations, images, or scenes that are morally questionable.
But, there are many times, where the viewer witnesses the moral shortcomings of the actors in a film, which are crucial to gaining a better insight into human nature. That is, what is witnessed on the screen is not simply meant to entertain, but it is meant to show man’s struggle with his own fallen nature. Thus a distinction must be made by the viewer. He must ask, “Am I being entertained by sin, or am I witnessing man’s nature being shown for what it really is?” There are many difficult things to witness during a movie like Schindler’s List, but we are taught so much about what the human heart is capable of. In movie’s like this, the end result is not to be entertained by what we see, though the story is enjoyable, but to be repulsed by the moral failures of the actors and perhaps change areas were we waver morally.
When it comes to scripture, nothing presented within the confines of this sacred text is meant to titillate the reader’s sinful appetite. In fact, it is just the opposite. The morally questionable aspects of the Bible are meant to inform the reader of the consequences of sin and its impact in the lives of men. We find in scripture evil painted with a dark brush, showing what man is truly capable of.
We will also do well to remember that what is reported in scripture is not necessarily condoned by God. There is a difference in something being reported and promoted. When we read the Bible and come to a troubling passage we must ask ourselves, “Why is this here?” “What can I learn from this?” “Is this simply being reported or is God condoning this behavior?” We can know ahead of time, however, that if something evil is happening; there is no way God is promoting it. We may need to adjust our understanding of God, what He allows, or gain insight into the historical context, but we can rest assured that God does not delight in evil.
As an aside, I would also mention there is a drastic difference between reading something and viewing it. Again, what we read in the Bible is for the benefit of seeing sin in action. When we read the story of David and Bathsheba, we understand what took place and later see the consequences. We do not need to see Bathsheba actually bathing to understand that David liked what he saw. I can imagine if this scene was filmed for the movies today, we would no doubt see a beautiful, bare-breasted woman bathing. This is meant to please the eye, which is sin, not promote an understanding of sin, which is what scripture so aptly does.
So should the Bible be “Rated R”? Probably. There are definitely parts I don’t want my children asking me to explain to them anytime soon. But, we would do well to remember that scripture presents to us man’s true nature, and how far we fall short of God’s perfection. Yet, even in all of the R rated scenes and morally abject characters, we see God’s redemptive plan for mankind. What a beautiful story, that while we were sinners, God still loved us. He continually seeks us with his love, a love that no film could ever come close to capturing the emotion of.
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Have you ever had a dark night of the soul? Those periods in life where you feel as though you are about to break into a million pieces, and no matter how hard all the king’s horses and all the king’s men try, you will never be put back together? Sometimes, life is hard. The things that people go through are sometimes difficult to even hear. I spend roughly twenty-plus hours a week locked in a room with various people as they unpack their hurts, disappointments and wounds. At times, I shed a tear with them because I can empathize. Other times the hurt is too great for me to understand.
But no matter how hard life gets, “God will never put more on us than we can stand.” Really? Is that true? I hear this repeated so much in Christian circles. I think people mean it to be some sort of comfort to those with pain filled eyes and bleak circumstances. “God won’t put more on you than you can handle?” It really doesn’t sound that comforting. Many would say, “I can’t handle what is in my life now. What will a little more pressure do to me?”
God won’t give you more than you can handle? Is that so? What if we told that to the 150,000-plus Christians that are martyred for their faith each year? God frequently allows more than we can handle into our lives. At times, God even invites more than can be handled into the lives of His followers. I am reminded of some advice Chuck Swindoll once gave, “Be ready for the breaking.” At times, God will break his followers and strip them down to nothing. What about Job? Remember what befell him? He lost everything. Every form of affliction touched his life, save for having his own life taken.
This Christian platitude comes from a twisting of I Corinthians 10:13, “And God is faithful;he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” The idea here is that God will never allow us to be presented with a temptation with no way out. In other words, just because we are tempted to do wrong does not mean we have to succumb to the temptation. There is nothing here that talks about the weight of the burdens a Christian must carry.
Sometimes, believers have more in their lives than they could possibly handle. Jesus even warned that those who live a life in His service will encounter difficult times. His original disciples were killed for what they knew to be true. At times, Christians feel the full weight of more than they can handle, and God allows it.
In difficult times, when the night is darkest, when affliction presses in from every side, we might be tempted to ask, “Where is God?” God, where are you in my pain? Where are you in my loss? Where are you when things fail to make sense? Where are you in my tragedy?
Yet, even in the midst of tragedy, pain, and hardship, God is right there. He may allow more on us than we can handle, but he steps in to help shoulder the load. Even at the point of death, he is there. He went through it all Himself as well. He understands our hurts intimately. So when life brings us to the point where we are burdened with more than we can handle; “God’s power is made perfect during our weakness.”
During difficult times, we can lean into God or pull away from Him. When we turn away from God we become immobilized from the burdens life can lay on our shoulders. Only when we lean in to God do we find the comfort of a healing hand at our side. We may be persecuted, but we will not be abandoned. We may be struck down, but we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.
Your afflictions may only prove that you are more immediately under the Father’s hand. There is no time that the patient is such an object of tender interest to the surgeon, as when he is bleeding beneath his knife. So you may be sure if you are suffering from the hand of a reconciled God, that His eye is all the more bent on you. - Robert Murray McCheyne
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Has God ever made you sick? Literally, I mean. Have you ever disobeyed God until the point where He suddenly struck you down with an illness? Does God do that? Is illness, sickness or disease a punishment for misbehavior? There has been many times where I have overheard people say, “I wonder what they did to deserve that?” “They must have really made God mad.” Is a health problem always the result of sin or disobedience in a person’s life?
I think the starting point in addressing this question is to remember that God never intended for people to suffer with disease. In the beginning, everything was perfect. Originally, Adam and Eve never caught colds. They never worried about cancer, heart disease, or dementia. Eve didn’t have the hassle of getting mammograms. Yearly physicals and blood work (my dread) weren’t a part of life. It must have been nice! They were in perfect health, sustained by God. But death followed sin into the world. The moment Adam and Eve chose to disobey the one rule God had given them, they immediately started the dying process.
Sickness and disease are inextricably linked to their decision to break their relationship with God. Today, we suffer the effects of mankind’s separation from a perfect relationship with God. Paul captures this idea vividly in Romans 8 when he says that creation is in “bondage to decay.” Due to sin, we will all die one day. Sickness will be the vehicle that leads to our death. So, in a global sense, sickness is the result of sin, but does that mean just because someone is sick or dealing with a debilitating disease they must have sinned in their life? The answer is a resounding no.
We can look to the life of Job. Scripture says that “this man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.” Yet, Job was stripped of everything he held dear, save for his life. His immediate circumstances in no way reflected his relationship with God.
Jesus sheds a tremendous amount of light on this question in John 9. He and his disciples encounter a man that was born blind, and his disciples asked what people often do, “who sinned,this manor his parents?” Why was he born blind? Jesus responded by saying, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned…but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Just because a person is suffering, dealing with pain, or is sick does not mean they are paying off some form of debt for past sins.
Illness is not necessarily God’s means of delving out discipline. God often has other purposes for allowing pain in our lives. In the previous situation it was in order for God to receive the glory. Other times it is God’s means to get our attention and speak to us when we might not be listening. As Lewis so eloquently put it, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Sometimes illness or pain is simply God’s way of shouting into our lives. Sometimes God even uses our pain to prepare us for a specific purpose or to use us in a certain context. We might not always know the reason why. Sometimes we are left with unconnected dots in this life that will not be strung together until the next. Yet, God has his ultimate reasons for allowing certain things to come into our lives.
Last, I think we need to make the distinction between punishment and discipline. Punishment is an act of inflicting a penalty for an offense committed. It is retribution for wayward acts in the past. The sin of disbelief will one day be punished eternally in a place set aside for those who choose to reject Christ. Discipline is another thing entirely. The purpose of discipline is corrective. The end goal is to grow maturity into the person. It is future oriented. When I discipline my son it is because I don’t want to see him hurt in the future. Discipline is an act of love. God reminds us in Revelation 3:19, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.” God disciplines those that know Him. Discipline does not always seem like an act of love, but it is; because if we continue on in our sin unabated we are choosing to embrace more, often greater, suffering.
God uses a multitude of ways to discipline us. It might be loss of relationships, our finances, or even our health. God did not spare His own son’s life in order to have a relationship with us, why would he hesitate to do whatever it takes to maintain the health of that relationship?
More often than not, the discipline that God delves out is simply allowing us to experience the full weight of our decisions by enduring the consequences that follow. Much of the time, our discipline is a direct result of the choices we have made.
So why is sickness here? Because death entered the world through disobedience and none of us can escape it. Yet, just because a person suffers from disease or pain in no way indicates that it has been due to previous sin in their own life. God allows and uses pain in our lives for a multitude of purposes. Though, we should take into account that, at times, he will use our health to discipline us and draw us near to Himself.
Regardless of our situation in life, we must be reminded that, “all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” When life is good we must choose to continually walk close to God. When hard times come, we must lean further into God.
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Remember when you were dating, and you took your spouse home to meet your family for the first time? That is always a stressful scenario, for both you and your partner. You hoped that your parents wouldn’t do anything to make you look like an idiot, and your spouse was doing their best to look put together. For some, these meetings go smoothly for the most part. Others have a more difficult time. I guess some parents are just kinder than others. For some parents, they use this time to reminisce about every possible embarrassing moment their son or daughter had. Even though moments like this are often hilarious, when you are trying not to scare someone off they don’t seem all that funny.
Remembering embarrassing moments can be funny (sometimes), but having past failures, shortcomings, and mistakes thrown up in your face is never a fun time. We are back to dissecting 1 Corinthians 13, and formulating a biblical definition of what it really means to love someone. We know, “Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not conceited, does not act improperly, is not selfish and is not provoked.” In adding on to this incredible definition of love, Apostle Paul reminds us that love keeps no record of wrongs.
True love, real love, never keeps a ledger of the failings or shortcomings of one’s spouse. Love never finds itself reaching into the past to emotionally slap the other person in the fact with their deficiencies. Love doesn’t keep record of being let down. Love keeps no count of being hurt. Love does not keep score.
What does love do? It deals with problems and then lets them go. It doesn’t gloss over disagreement, but once problems are settled and amends have been made it buries the conflict and never attempts to dig it back up.
Every time our spouse messes up or makes a mistake, and we make a mental note of it to use against them later, we are not loving. Instead, we are choosing to poison our hearts and our marriage. A relationship will not thrive where one or both partners keep a record of the other person’s wrongs. It creates an atmosphere of negativity. Instead of seeing the good in the other person, we begin to expect the negative.
Every marriage has problems. When you take one individual who is fundamentally screwed up, and add another person who is fundamentally screwed up, you get a couple that is fundamentally screwed up. Despite the idealism and romanticism that is funneled into our brains by Hollywood all of our lives, part of marriage is about two broken people learning to love and accept one another’s brokenness.
What if we started keeping a record of our own wrongs? How fun would that be? I could fill volumes with my own mistakes and shortcomings. Yet, God loves me enough to offer grace and redemption. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”
If we have messed up so much and wouldn’t want our failures dug up and dragged into the light, then what business do we have keeping record of when our spouse falls short?
It is time to tear up the ledger. Love keeps no record of wrongs.
Oh the comfort – the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person – having neither to weigh thoughts or measure words, but pouring them all out right, just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, then with breath of kindness, blow the rest away. – Dinah Maria Mulock Craik
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
We are counting down the most popular posts of 2012. We are down to the sixth most read post. It was originally published on April 18th. We must remember that presenting good arguments for Christianity is not the same as arguing. Giving a defense does not mean we get defensive. Apologetics is not about coercion, it is simply present the facts in a persuasive manner and tearing down obstacles and strongholds that block or distort the truth. I hope this post serves as a reminder that we are to present the truth with a healthy heaping of love. I hope you enjoy.
Sometimes, we as Christians approach apologetics and evangelism with the mentality that we can argue someone into becoming a Christian. So we get on our soapbox and we argue for Gaw-Duh (that is said with my best televangelist accent). Recently I heard someone say, “If you can argue someone into believing in Christ, then an atheist can argue them out of believing in Christ.” It is hard to dispute that statement.
So, where exactly does that leave apologetics? Isn’t apologetics about arguing a point so hard that unbelievers are forced to raise the white flag and surrender their Christ-resisting worldview? Well, actually no, that isn’t the case at all. Apologetics is about making a case for the evidence that supports belief in God. It is about showing that faith in God is reasonable. It consists of sharing who Jesus was and why His truth claims are valid.
I Peter 3:15 is the staple verse on what apologetics entails, “But honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” Apologetics consist of knowing what you believe, why you believe, and the evidence to support it. It is a call to engage the mind, but it also consists of answering questions with intellectual clarity when non-believers want to inquire about our faith.
Some people have intellectual or emotional barriers to belief in God, and the use of reason and personal testimony can do much to traverse these barriers. Some people, however, do not want to consider belief in God as an option. No matter how much evidence is presented their mind will not be changed and their resolve will not be budged. Some simply are at cross purposes with who God is and want nothing to do with Him. Those who have no desire to submit to God’s authority will not be budged by any amount of evidence. John Milton, in Paradise Lost, said speaking for Satan, “It is better to rule in Hell, than serve in Heaven.” Sometimes people willingly choose to remain rebels until the end and hide behind their intellectual facade.
Jesus gave some advice for dealing with people who want nothing to do with Christianity. “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town.” In other words, don’t consume your energy trying to argue people into believing in God. Instead, be prepared to give a reason or defense for the hope that is in you. Some people are willing to listen. Some just need more information or evidence to overcome objections. Some are willing to follow the truth wherever it leads. This is where apologetics is of great import.
There are thousands of false ideas and philosophies that compete in the marketplace of ideas. It is the Christian apologist’s job to fight for truth and dispel false teaching because many are looking for answers. Some are desperately hungry for the truth and it is the job of the Christian to make sure they receive it.
It is also extremely important to remember that the apologist’s motivation is always love. Generally, I find that those who “argue for Jeeezus (again with the televangelist voice, sorry)” are more concerned about being right than they are about sharing the love of Christ. Sharing the reason for the hope that is within us should always be done with “gentleness and respect” (I Peter3:16) or we are wasting our time. We may have all the answers and be brilliant philosophers, but if we don’t have love for others we are just making noise like an old, out of tune piano.
We should never give up on people that are resistant or adamantly opposed to Christianity, but we must keep in mind that we cannot argue people into belief. We can only provide evidence and give reasons for what we believe and we can reflect the love of God.
He who has ears to hear, let him hear! -Matthew 11:15
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Recently, someone asked me, “Why is it that you worship Jesus? What separates Him from the thousands of other gods one might pick?” What a great question! This is also an incredibly important question. While there is much to say about Jesus, one cannot do justice in adequately describing the greatness of this man/God. The things He did as he walked this globe leave one with a sense of wonder and fascination. “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” (John 21:25) His life stands in sharp contrast to any other historical figure. He lifts our Spirits, but also reminds us of our shortcomings. His life drips with beauty, grace, humility, and majesty. Many people do not understand the life of Jesus and relegate his life story to the piles of fiction. We would do well to remember the words of G.K. Chesterton, “Truth is stranger than fiction because we have made fiction to suit ourselves…What we need is not a religion that is right where we are right, but one that is right where we are wrong.” This is exactly what the life of Jesus does. It shines light into the dark hearts of men and reveals to us who we really are: broken people.
So, why Jesus? First, He was an actual historical figure. He actually dwelt among us. (John 1:14). During His time spent on earth, Jesus made the audacious claim that He was God. This is a statement that anyone in His culture knew would very well carry a death sentence, yet He made the claim repeatedly. The very fact that Jesus is a historical figure who claimed to be God separates Him from the vast majority of other “gods”. Many gods have been conjured up by the minds of men to account for certain phenomenon when they lacked an explanation. Some are created by the hands of men into various graven images. God’s such as Marduk, Zeus, Vishnu, etc fall into this category. There is no historical context with which to give credence to the existence of such gods. We also have historical figures, such as Guatama Buddha, who never claim to be god but are venerated as such after their death. Jesus stands out having been a historical figure that also claimed to be God, even under the threat of certain death.
The life of Jesus rests on a bedrock of historical evidence. Mike Licona takes a “Minimal Facts” approach when it comes to examining the historicity of Christ, which considers only data that meet the following two criteria: 1. The data are strongly evidenced and 2. The data are granted by virtually all scholars on the subject, even the skeptical ones. He then goes on to show that the following are unanimously accepted by scholars, even those hostile to Christianity: “Jesus died by crucifixion, Jesus’ disciples believed that He rose and appeared to them, The church persecutor Paul was suddenly changed, The skeptic James, brother of Christ, was suddenly changed.” Licona also demonstrates that the tomb of Christ was empty, though this does not meet the first two criteria. Yet, there is strong evidence for it with roughly 75% of scholars accepting it as historical fact. As we can briefly see, Jesus was very much a historical figure, and one that claimed to be God.
Jesus is also creative. In the beginning, He created the heavens and the earth. He is a God of action. He is an imaginative artist. The vastness of space. The brilliant stars slung across the galaxy. Pristine blue waters housing colorful fish. Two million different varieties of insects (by conservative estimates). Beautiful landscapes. Each snowflake and fingerprint having their unique design. What about the complexities of human relationships? The act of procreation between husband and wife. He could have designed us to pollinate one another, but instead He chose this wonderful expression of intimacy. Jesus is creative. Not only in His initial act of creation, but also in how He lived His life on earth and the words that he spoke.
Second, we should notice that Jesus is the culmination of ancient prophecies. In Christ, over 300 Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled. This alone shows Jesus to be distinct from any other deity.
Third, we also find that Jesus is personal. He is not aloof and detached from creation. He did not wind up the world and leave it to function on its own. He desires that we seek community with Him. He wants to talk with us and have us share the most intimate details of our lives. He relates to us as His children. John 15:15 states, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” Who are we that we should get the privilege of being the designer of the universe’s friend? “What is man that You are mindful of him.” (Psalms 8:4) Our relationship with God is uniquely and immensely personal.
Fourth, we would do well to be reminded that God is love. Not that God simply loves, but that He is love. His very nature gives meaning to the word. What does a person in love do? They give. I loved my wife, so I put a ring on it. God loved, so He gave us His son. Jesus loved, so He went willingly to the cross. John 3:16-17 reminds us, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” Love does not slap heavy burdens on people, it frees them. This is what Jesus has done for us. Through his death we live. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
Fifth, through Jesus we find redemption. We are not stuck. He has made a way for us to have second and third chances. When we do wrong, we can make it right. When we fail, we are not doomed. When relationships are broken, they can be restored. No other worldview offers a person redemption. The concept of grace, redemption, and restoration are inextricably linked to the person of Christ.
Jesus. Unique. Creative. Loving. Relational. Powerful. All knowing. The fulfillment of ancient prophecy. The defeater of death. The designer. The bringer of order from Chaos. Friend of sinners. God.
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon, or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great moral teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. -C.S. Lewis
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
There is so much more that could be said. Why don’t you tell us Why Jesus?