Tag Archives: God

Are You The Redeemed of the Lord?

One of the more interesting dynamics of the Christian Faith to me is the argument that as the Elect of God, we are perfectly in his hands.  Never to have calamity or evil ever cross our paths again.  These are the “feel good” Christians.  The idea that “if God be for me, who can be against me?”

The opposite side of the coin however are the “daily struggle” Christians. The I must “work out my faith” Christians.  That every day of my life is a new challenge and I must face the Sin in the world against a constant barrage of ill will directed at me by Satan himself.

Both view points point to various Scripture to bolster their claims and to drive their points home.  They will preach that you should live your life secure in the knowledge that God only wants the best for you, or that you must constantly be on your guard and struggle in your faith.

What is interesting about these studies to me is that you never hear both sides at once (or so rarely that they are almost impossible to pinpoint).  You never hear someone preach “God wants to make you rich!” and “You have to put on the whole armor of God” at the same time.  And so you are left with the feeling that perhaps God wants to fight all your battles for you, but only if you take up the sword and do the fighting yourself.

There are many interesting concepts found within Scripture.  Some that are seemingly contradictory of each other.  But only when considered from humankind perspective.  When considered from God’s perspective, they begin to look a little differently to us.  I’ve talked about these Scriptural paradoxes in previous posts.  Perhaps the most famous one known is Calvinism vs, Arminianism, of which I have quoted Louie Giglio when he stated that it is a great mystery to man; that God is 100% in control and yet man has free will at exactly the same time.   I believe our “status” here in this world is exactly one of those cases.

Consider the words of Paul of Tarsus to Timothy in I Timothy 1:15.  Paul told Timothy that he was Chief amongst sinners.  He said “I am”.  I’ve looked up the Greek word for “I am” in this passage for you.  It literally means “to be”, in this case “to be found”.  It is present tense.  Paul was telling Timothy that he literally was the number one sinner in the world at that time.  Paul probably wrote this letter to Timothy somewhere between 58 and 64 AD.  Yet in his letter to the Roman’s Paul writes that it is not he who sins, but the sin that dwells in him: Romans 7:17.  Most scholars date the book of Romans to somewhere between 54 and 57 AD.  Before his letter to Timothy, where he is currently, at that time, Chief amongst sinners.

So which is it?  Is Paul confused?  Or do we have a Biblical paradox here?

I believe that both are true at exactly the same time.  At the same time Paul enjoys the completed work of Christ in him, and yet he remains Chief amongst sinners.  He is both redeemed, and within the sin struggle of this world at exactly the same time.

Consider Paul’s words in Romans 8:17.  Paul is so bold as to point out that we are Joint Heirs with Jesus Christ, the Name above all names.  The Son of the living God.  But he points out that if we share in His Glory, surely we share in His suffering as well.  You might be considering that Christ’s suffering is over, and you are correct, but we should not be so naïve as to think that we can know Glory without also knowing Suffering.

So the question then comes “Does God own the Cattle on a thousand hills”?  Well of course he does.  He is God.  And “Does God want the best for our lives”?  Well of course he does.  He sent his only Son to die on a cross for our sin.  He plans to one day wipe away every tear and lift every burden.  But do we still have to put on the whole armor of God and take up our cross and follow in the footsteps of Jesus?  Well yes, we do.

Why?  Because there is little substitute for experience.  I was talking with a very well-educated person recently.  A person with many degrees and certificates.  But yet this person needed some advice, even with all of their studies and academic achievements, they needed some advice in life.  And the reason they needed advice is because they lacked experience.  You see, experience cannot be taught.  It must be gained though one’s own journey.  And God desires for us to experience Him.  He delights when we explore and strive to understand Him.  He delights when we come to Him in order to know Him more.

And that includes with both blessings and sorrow in our lives.  It includes when we struggle with sin in our lives and when we put on the armor of God and say No! to Satan.  We cannot know victory without knowing defeat.  And God’s blessings are all that much greater when they have been delivered in the midst of great sorrow.  It is when we are weak, that He can be strong in our lives.  Is it because we do not already have the Creator of all things living inside of us?  No, of course not!  If Christ be for me, who can stand against me?  No, it is because He wants us to stand in His strength and not our own.

Are you the Redeemed of the Lord?  I pray today that you are.  But if you are, I pray that you will recall that it is only because of what God has done for you and not what you have done for God.  Can God grant you all the blessings of Job in your life and much more?  Well of course he can.  However I, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, say that if God so chooses NOT to bless me, NOT to shower my life with all the peace, joy, and love, that only He can give, He is still God.  And He is still upon His throne.  God may choose to deliver me from the fiery furnace or He may not.  But He is still God.

Do You Make A Difference?

In 2008 The Oak Ridge Boys asked the question “Did I make a difference in somebody’s life?” through a pretty thoughtful melody.

They inspired people though song to consider whether or not they were making a difference in the world in which we all live.  The song is asking us whether or not we are making a positive difference.  And it embodies the idea of sacrifice in making that difference.  When the songwriter states “When my race is run, when my song is sung” it captures the idea of when at the end of my life, how will I be judged?

In reality, we all make a difference.  The very fact that you are alive and here on Earth means you have already made a difference.  Your presence has impacted the world.  All of our presence has impacted the world.  Some for good, and some for evil.  And using any reasonable world standard, we could all be judged to have impacted those around us with a little of both.

But what is the real difference we make?  Maybe I should ask what difference do you want to make?  Most of us want to make a difference, I might say that most of us try to make a difference.  After all, is that not how we are judged?  Isn’t that how we judge one another?  By the impact, or difference, someone makes in our lives?

When we are at our jobs we strive to make a difference.  That is the way we get noticed and are singled out for advancement.  When we court a sweetheart we want to make a difference.  That is how we gain their attention and eventually their love and affections.  When we interact with friends, relatives, and even strangers, we make a difference.  That is why we tell young people that first impressions are the most important.  Some of us make a difference by volunteering, helping the homeless, feeding the hungry, giving to the poor, or working in public service.  Some of us become Fire Fighters, Police Officers, Doctors, Nurses, or join the Military.  Because we want to make a difference.  Most of us want to make a difference, but few realize that we always do.  That we are constantly making a difference in someone else’s life with either positive or negative impressions whether we want to or not.

But to what end or gain?  What does it avail us to make a difference in the world?  What is the motivation?  What should be the motivation?  What do we hope to accomplish and how do we hope to be judged?  I’d like to consider this thought from our three primary base views.

If you are agnostic in your world view, I might ask (as I always do) why do you even care?  The agnostic is completely indifferent to making a difference or to those making a difference on them by sheer definition.  If the agnostic is working to make a difference, it is for their own gain or self-gratification.  Even if the agnostic is working “just in case there is a god”, they are hedging their bets and trying to garner good deed points in their own stead.  Just in case they actually are judged.  Since the agnostic is “rolling the dice”, as it were, they cannot possibly be working towards any other means other than their own good.

If you are atheistic in your world view, I have news for you.  It doesn’t matter whether you make a difference or not.  Void of a god, there is no moral relevance in your life.  I’ve had atheists argue that our moral values are a result of a common societal conscious agreement.  But that doesn’t hold water.  Consider the fact that the ancient Roman Empire considered it perfectly acceptable to put essentially defenseless civilians into an arena with lions, tigers, bears, and great Roman gladiators, in order to watch them meet their deaths for sport.  Today we would consider that barbaric.  The atheist would argue that our morals have evolved.  But that is exactly my point.  There is no relevance. No base.  And they cannot predict where evolutionary morals will take us next.  And whose to say what is right or what is wrong?  Perhaps the Romans were right in their time and we are wrong today.  Without a moral relevance it simply does not matter what difference you make other than for your own self gain.  And even then it is pointless given that all of the universe is just one great big chemical and physical reaction.  The true atheist, the one that has thought their world view through to its logical conclusion, realizes that it is all just natural processes following set laws and is completely without meaning.  And if there is no meaning, what does it matter whether or not you make a difference?

If your world view is theistic however, making a difference gains a whole new importance.  For the theist, making a difference is not about meeting man’s law, but rather meeting the law as prescribed by their god.  There are consequences to ones actions and making a difference determines how one will be judged by their creator.

There is one group of theists that have a quandary though.  For the Christian we are taught there is no one good, not even one (Romans 3:10).  Christianity is the only world religion that teaches there is nothing an individual can do to obtain favor with their God save he intervene in their lives.  Given that there is no one righteous in the Christian world view, even to the extent we cannot obtain our own salvation apart from our Creator himself, it is an amazement to me that so many Christians run around the world trying to “make a difference”.  How can you make a difference apart from The Great I Am, the Creator, the one true God?  You see, for the Christian it should be a different paradigm.  Not one of making a difference, but rather one of being made a difference in.

I wonder every single second of every single minute of every single hour of every single day of every single year if I ever do, or ever have, made a difference.

Which is why I have to constantly remind myself that it is not about me making a difference in the world, it is about Him, the Great I AM, making a difference in me.

What Do You Do In Times Of Trouble?

Recently I was asked about life’s good times and bad times,  The expression ‘When it rains, it pours.‘ (to describe multiple events of a like or same nature occurring together in a short period of time) came to mind.  I was reminded that sometimes we are overwhelmed by life’s events and we wonder whether or not the whole world is against us or if God (and we caveat this in our own minds with ‘If there is a God‘) even cares.

It is in times like these we might tend to sink into hopelessness and despair.  It is also in times like these that we may find others giving us sage advice, offering words of comfort, or simply offering a listening ear or a hug,

Personally, I believe God places us into trying times like these for His own Honor and Glory.  It is in our weakness that His strength is shown.

Have you ever watched a wrestling or a boxing match?  Two mighty champions will climb into the ring and flex their muscles in front of the crowd.  They will both show their prowess and agility as they dance around the ring.  They will stare each other down and predict a great defeat for their opponent.  But whom amongst us is impressed?  The real answer is “No One”, and if you answered differently, you didn’t understand the question.  All of the bravado means nothing.  Oh sure, the fighters may be trying to psych each other out and whip the crowd into a frenzy cheering for them, but this does not win the fight.  What eventually gets written about in the history books is when the fight begins and one fighter confidently walks over and takes his opponent out with a single blow.  That is the point that the crowd becomes impressed.  When they see a great display of strength and skill and prowess.

In some regards, God is the same way in our lives.  He can tell us in His word of His strength and greatness.  He can show us the majesty of His creation.  But what do we do?  We do not listen to Him when He speaks and we ascribe His creation to a process He is not part of.

However, when God steps into our lives and demonstrates His great strength and His love and His mercy, that is when we are impressed.  That is when we see Him for who He truly is.  That is when, in wonderment, we look around and ask “How did that happen?” and the only answer is: “God”.

But there is a condition.  You have to let God into the ring of your life.  Just like the great fighters who climb into the wrestling or boxing ring will only fight the opponent they are scheduled to fight, God will not take His intervention into someone’s life who does not want it and has not scheduled with Him.

This is why I always become uncomfortable when people start offering people in need advice or comfort.  When we try to solve the worlds problems through our own wisdom and understanding, we keep God out of the ring and don’t allow Him to work in our lives and the lives of others.

And more importantly, I believe we rob the individual going through the trial or tribulation.  God is trying to show His strength in their lives, not ours.

I am able to illustrate this in a very simple way.  Find an atheist and describe God’s goodness in your life.  Tell them of all of your experiences with God and what it has meant to you.  I can almost certainly tell you that the atheist will point to anything else in the world other than [a] God, to explain your experiences.  The atheist doesn’t need your experiences for proof of God.  The atheist needs an encounter with God.  Their own personal encounter.  And the same is true of us when we encounter trials and tribulations.  God wants us to interact with Him in a very real and personal way.  Not through someone else’s experiences, no matter how similar.

I am reminded of a King who lived a few thousand years ago.  This king was the King of Israel.  And he has been regarded as a great King indeed.

King David experienced his own set of trials and tribulations.  He may not have known the expression “When it rains, it pours”, but he would almost certainly identify with its sentiments.  King David allowed God to work in his life during these times.  He sought out a personal encounter with God in the close confines of the ring of strife within his life.  And King David walked out with his own answer as to how to address troublesome times.  Not someone else’s answer.  Not the answer of some program, or a counselor, or friends.  He walked out with a personal answer from God.

I like King David’s answer.  God asked him to write it down for us.  And he did.  King David’s answer to troublesome times in his life is this:

Psalms 23:
1The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.  King James Version.

King David simply had to remember that it was THE LORD who was his Shepherd.  It was THE LORD that was doing the leading.  It was THE LORD that was restoring his soul, leading him in the paths of righteousness.  It was all about THE LORD and nothing about him.

How about us?  When we find ourselves in times of trouble do we invite a Holy God into the ring of our trials and allow Him to show us His strength?  Do we make it about Him?  Or do we stand there in our own bravado and face the situation without Him?

Do you want to prove to yourself there is a God who loves you and wants to show you mercy?  Invite Him to show you His strength the next time you face trials and tribulations and you will have your proof.

Does God Want Bad Things For You?

A question that I have pontificated upon before, but nonetheless a difficult question in life is: “Why do bad things happen to good people?”  The basic premise is: If God is such a loving and kind God why is there pain and suffering in the world?  It is a concept that even the brightest minds and strongest of faith amongst us struggle with.  It is also a rather foolish argument that some use to reject faith, especially Christianity.

I have considered these topics in several postings in the past, but always with reasoning as to why God would allow pain and suffering in our lives.  But the question still remains: Does God intend for bad things to happen in our lives?

This question surfaced recently when I was asked the question “Did God intend for me to have cancer?”  I didn’t answer the question at the time it was posed because the question came from a close family member and it would not have been respectful to do so.

However I know that many people have the exact same question in their lives.  They cry out “Why me?” and “What did I do to deserve this?

But have we considered the question from God’s perspective?  I have provided logic and reasoning in the past as to why we may expect a world of good and evil from mankind’s perspective, but does God really and truly design bad things for people’s lives?

I think this is an extremely important question to answer because it goes directly to the question of God being in control.  If God is God, then is he really in control?  And if he is in control, then why do these things happen?

I’d like to share with you my view by answering the question with a question.  “Did God intend for Job to lose everything he had?”  Remember the story of Job?  Job was the greatest man in the East – Job 1:3.  He was greatly blessed by God.  And yet in a single moment Job lost his donkeys, his oxen, his sheep, his camels, his servants, and even his sons and daughters – Job 1:13-19.  The question is: “Did God INTEND for Job to lose everything?”  We all know from the story that it was Satan who took these things from Job’s life, but consider the whole host of errors that God had to commit in order to get to that point:

This first error God would have had to commit was to bring up Job in the first place: Job 1:6-8.  Notice that it was God who brought up Job in the first place, asking whether or not Satan had considered him.  Did God really and truly believe that bringing up Job to Satan would not, or could not possibly result in bad things?  Of course God knew that pointing Job out to Satan was going to result in Satan showing an interest in the subject.  Do you really believe that God is that bad of a Chess player?  Of course not, God knew full well what he was doing and what the outcome would be.

The second error God would have had to commit was to taunt Satan with Job’s record – Job 1:8-10.  Note the second half of verse 8, God refers to Job as a perfect, and an upright man.

I think it important to note here Satan’s reasoning for why Job was a perfect and an upright man – Job 1:10.  Satan places Job’s condition squarely at the feet of God.  God placed the hedge of protection about him.  God blessed his life and all that he had.  Satan basically said “God, you are the one who made him perfect and upright, of course he fears you.”  We need to consider this when accounting for the blessings in our lives.  If Satan himself acknowledges God as the source of all good things, maybe we should as well.

At any rate, do you really believe that God did not consider the turn for the worse that things would take if he were to flaunt Job’s record in front of Satan?  Did God not believe that Satan would challenge him on that?  Of course not!  Once again God knew perfectly well what he was doing and what the course of events would be.

But the third error God would have had to commit was to lower the shield of protection that he had placed around Job – Job 1:11-12.  Do you really and truly believe that God did not know that bad things would happen if he lowered his protection from Job and placed all that he had in the power of Satan?  Perhaps you would like to believe that this was a test for Satan and God was hoping that Satan would do the right thing?  But Job 2 implies a different story.  God knew what he was doing, and God knew perfectly well what the outcome would be.  God even told Satan that he had moved against him and that he sought to destroy him without cause.

The answer to the question as to whether God wanted bad things to happen to Job?  Well I think God made 3 egregious errors that need not have been made if he truly intended to protect Job and all that he had.  And since I do not believe that God, being God, is capable of making mistakes, I am left with the alternative that Yes, God fully intended to allow bad things to happen to Job.

And if God could have stopped all of the disastrous events in Job’s life, I know he could stop the cancer in the bodies of those around us today.  But he chooses not to.  Does God intend, really and truly, for us to experience bad things?  Well, let me say that God is completely, 100% in control all the time and that nothing happens that he does not want to happen and that nothing catches him by surprise.

Why?  Consider the blind man in John 9:1-3.  Jesus answered his disciples that neither the man nor his parents had sinned, but that the man had been blind from birth simply for the glory of God.  And that is the answer for everything in our lives.  Whether it be great blessings or incredible hardships, or happiness, or sadness.  It is all for His Honor, and His Glory, and His Pleasure.  Praise be to my Lord Jesus Christ.

There Is No Honor In Death

I lost my cousin today.  The son of my dad’s brother,  and the youngest of two children, he was known to the family as Little John.  I suppose from some throwback to the Robin Hood character.  But not to me.  To me he was always Big Bad John.

John stood 6 foot 5 inches tall and for most of his adult life weighed more than 300 pounds.  He was younger than me, but he was a much bigger man than I ever have been.  Dad used to refer to him as the Gentle Bear.  John was intimidating in his size, but there was nothing at all intimidating about his heart.  John warmed up to everybody he came into contact with and was always looking for the good within people.  It is just the way he was.

John passed away at 0500 EST this morning peacefully in his sleep after a short battle with cancer.  I have always been the rebel in the family, not seeking out relationships or contacts.  But not so with John.  These last few months, and really for the last couple of years, John confided in me maybe a little more than the rest of the family.  Almost to the point where the rest of the family was asking me if I had heard from him and if I knew how he was doing.  Perhaps to some extent, John was more respectful of our relationship than I was.

Perhaps it was because I served in the U.S. Military and John never did and he always had such great respect for our Nation’s military.  Or perhaps he just cherished some of the moments we shared in our youth.  But whatever his reasons, Big Bad John wanted to share the last few months he had on this earth reminiscing with myself, his cousin.

I’ve stated this before, but I’ll take this opportunity to say it again, Death is the antithesis of Life.  Jesus Christ said that he came to earth that we might have Life (and have it abundantly) (John 6:39-41).  God gave all of humankind Life from the inception of creation.  Death is the sin curse upon the world and Satan uses it as a feeble attempt to rob God of his created family.  And thus Death and Life are at odds with each other.  One brings joy and happiness, and the other brings sorrow and pain.

I was at work when I got the call from my wife with the news that John had passed.  I must have been visibly shaken because my coworkers asked if I was OK, and one asked if the phone call was bad news after I had hung up the phone.  Even though I knew it was coming, and even though the family expected it at any time, the moment of the news was a point that shattered my soul.  Big Bad John was gone.  No longer may I take for granted his Skype calls or his IM chats, or the time that he wanted to share.  Those times are now past.  And the memories of those times are all that remain.

If your world view is Atheistic, then I am saddened for you all the more. The one thing that evolution cannot answer for you is the emptiness in your soul at the passing of a loved one, a family member, or even a friend.  There is no science that explains the inexplicable bond that all of humanity shares over the helplessness of Death.  Even though as a good atheist you should know that it is all without meaning and that we are all just cosmic particles drifting in the vastness of the universe, there is still, to varying degrees in all of us, that unnatural feeling of loss that Death brings.

If your world view is Agnostic, then you really should not care one way or the other at the loss of a life.  But the impact of Life and Death is still there and is still an unexplainable force that impacts us all.

However, if your world view is Theistic, as mine is, then you should understand that God is still in control and that His Great Plan is playing out on the world stage and just how privileged we are to be a part of it all.

Christians sometimes wonder why God allows Death in the world.  I believe that Christians shouldn’t wonder why God allows Death, but rather understand that God orchestrates Death.  God is the giver of Life and only He (and He alone) may take that Life away.  Consider the Life of Job.  When God asked Satan if he had considered his servant Job, and Satan accusingly challenged him on the blessing God had bestowed upon him, God allowed Satan free rein in Job’s Life but would not allow him to take Job’s Life (Job 1:1-12).  Because God, and God alone holds the keys to Life and Death.

We like to depict Death as the Grim Reaper, as some evil character coming to take Life away, but in reality, the Angel of Death works for God, not Satan.  And Satan has no more say over your Death than what God allows within His plan.

And thus, like Paul of Tarsus, we may proclaim, “Oh death where is thy sting, Oh grave where is thy victory?” (I Corinthians 15:54-56). Because the Theist, the Christian, has a great hope that this life is not meaningless, that there is order to it all, that there is a God who loves us and who has a Great Plan for His Honor and for His Glory and that we have the great privilege of being a part of that plan.

I know that I know that I know, that one day Big Bad John and I will swap stories once again.  I know this because Cousin John told me that he was at peace with his King and his Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.  And I know that God is now holding Cousin John in His great hands, safely awaiting that day when we will all be united once again as part of God’s great family.  Not for me, and not for Big Bad John, but for His (Jesus Christ’s) own Glory.

So Big Bad John, just know that in the meantime I will keep the faith, and as for me and my house, WE WILL SERVE THE LORD until that day that he either calls me home or He comes again to reunite all of His children in the ultimate culmination of this fantastic journey He has orchestrated for each and every one of us.

John Keith Orman: March 24, 1965 – March 31, 2016image

Do You Want to Change the World?

Currently, here in the United States of America, we are going through an election cycle for the President Of The United States. The candidates making their pitch to the citizens for the highest office in the country, each have a vision for how they would change things for the better. They all want to do something, and sometimes, what that something is, is hard to discern. They also want to bring their vision of change ostensibly on behalf of the people they represent. Seemingly without regard as to what that change would mean to the people or how it would affect them.

How about yourself?  Have you ever wanted to change the world?  Have you ever wanted to right a wrong?  Build a bridge?  Or tear down a wall?  Have you ever wanted to unite people?  Or divide the good from the evil?  I think all of us, to some extent or another, have wanted to impart our own particular version of change upon that area we can affect, at one time or another.  We all, seemingly want to change the world.

My question is why?  Why do YOU, personally, want to change the world?  To what end?  And what would be accomplished?  And this is not a matter that is particular or unique to any one group or world view.  Christian’s want to CHANGE the world for Jesus Christ.  Atheists want to CHANGE the world by stamping out (supposed) religious fantasy, and even Agnostics want to CHANGE the world by having everyone else just leave everyone alone.  And somehow I can’t help but believe we’ve all gotten it wrong.  And the group I am most concerned with today is the Theistic group.  Because that is the group that I believe actually has the most potential to effect a change in the world, IF they were to do their part.  And here is why I believe that is so ,,,

If your world view is Atheistic, you cannot possibly believe there is any outside or external influence upon the forces in the world today.  It is a closed system and, as I have argued in past posts, is subject to the physical and meta-physical laws of the universe around us.  The mere fact that you even want to change the world was set in motion (supposedly) billions of years ago at the outset of the (so-called) Big Bang.  You can no more change the world than you can defy the laws of gravity or nature.  Everything around you is governed by a set of events you have absolutely no control over and has no meaning attached to it.  It just is what it is.  So why do you need to effect any change to begin with?  All of time is going to play out governed by the laws of the universe whether you like it or not.

If you are Agnostic in your world view you really shouldn’t care one way or the other.  After all, Que Sera, Sera.  Whatever will be, will be.  The problem the Agnostic faces is that they truly cannot be left alone.  The Agnostic has to exist in a world alongside both Theists and Atheists.  And at some point they are going to be infringed upon.  At some point the Agnostic is forced to care and to act in their own best interests.  And even that is a misnomer because even then the true Agnostic shouldn’t really care.  Why would you?  A true Agnostic would just go with the flow.  They are along for the ride and hope that it all sorts itself out in the end.

The Theist however should believe in a God.  A Spiritual realm that has an external influence upon the world and that is acting out on a greater plane than we see or experience here in the physical realm.  And this is the group I have the greatest concern over.

Christians want to CHANGE the world for God.  And yet as Theists, the Christian should recognize that it is their very God who is in control.  It is he who orchestrates change in the life of a person and it is he who moves to effect His will in the world today.  The ONE thing a Christian should want is to get out-of-the-way and let God work!

Nowhere in Scripture do I find the commandment to CHANGE the world.  Christians so often misinterpret their own directives and try to apply them to others around them, when in reality, they are only commanded to follow.  The question I would ask is How can you be following if you are constantly trying to change the direction of others around you?

Christians believe they are to be the Salt of the earth (a concept I’ve addressed in this post before).  Christians can’t preserve the status quo.  Nor are they intended to.  Christians as Salt should be the savor in the world.  That which makes the taste palatable.  And one might ask whom they are making the taste palatable for?  Why God of course!  Not for others or ourselves, but for Him!  The great I Am.

Christians believe they should be the Light of the world.  But light has never caused me to change my path in and of itself.  It has illuminated my path and helped me along my way.  But it has never directed my path.  Light illuminates, but it does not direct or dictate a way to go.

So what then should we do?  I have always told my congregation that they have one obligation in their Christian lives.  And that is to keep their eyes on the Cross.  A Christians obligation is to simply take up their cross and follow after Jesus Christ.  When your eyes are on the Cross of Jesus Christ, everything you see will be filtered by His sight, by His will, and for His Glory.  And then He will effect real change in the world we live in.  Not because of what we have done, but because of what He has done.

So what about you, Christian?  Do you want to change the world?  Then keep your eyes on the Cross of Jesus Christ.  Take up your cross and follow after him.  By applying all of your attention to the Creator of the Universe and by simply following Him, Jesus Christ, you WILL become the Salt and the Light of the world.  And the world WILL change.  Not because of what we have done, but because of what we have STOPPED doing.  Stop trying to CHANGE the world and allow the Sovereign God to work and the world WILL CHANGE.

Hell: Is it For You or Me?

In my last couple of posts I’ve espoused the idea that Hell is God’s holding place for Sin for all of eternity.  But I haven’t fully explored what that entails.  Particularly, will we (humanity) find ourselves there?  It is a reasonable question after all, because we know there is evil in the world and if Hell is God’s prison for evil, will we (any or all of us) find ourselves there?

Unsurprisingly, this question haunts a lot of individuals in the world today.  Dr. Stephen Hawking is so disturbed by it, he has devoted his life to trying to answer it.  And if you think I stretch the bounds of reason here, look at the last few pages of his book The Grand Design. S.W.Hawking and L. Mlodinov (Sep 2010), ISBN-13: 978-0553805376.  Look at the last few pages of the vast majority of any Evolutionist’s book.  They usually conclude with the thought that if evolution is true, there is no God, and if there is no God, there is no Heaven, and by contrast, if there is no Heaven, there is no Hell.  Ahhhhh finally!!  We’ve escaped Hell.  The Evolutionist’s means of escaping Hell is by disproving it.  By-the-way, the Agnostic’s means of escaping Hell is to ignore it (after all, what do they care?  An Agnostic is impartial by definition).  The Theist however escapes Hell by trying to understand it.  It is up to you as to which path you choose.

The Creator’s answer is yes, some of humanity will find themselves locked away in Hell for all of eternity.  Jesus Christ himself told the story of a certain rich man who found himself in a place of torment (Hell) in Luke 16:19-31.  Here we have a man alive on the earth who died and found himself in Hell.  So if we are to take the Creator’s word for it, the answer would seem to be yes, we (humanity) can definitely end up in Hell.

However, knowing that mankind can end up in Hell, does not necessarily mean that Hell was created for mankind.  Actually Peter tells us that it is God’s desire that none should perish (2 Peter 3:9).  In other words, God does not desire to see anyone in Hell.  That doesn’t sound to me like God created Hell for humanity.  Rather that he is saddened that some of humanity gets swept into Hell along with the rest of the evil host.

I was asked to lead a singles Bible study about 16 years ago in Fort Lauderdale, Florida,  One of the members of that study asked me what I thought the difference between angels and humans was.  The question really boiled down to whether or not an angel could experience mercy and grace. I do not (personally) believe they can.  We are two different types of vessels,  In the case of humanity, we have the distinct privilege of being made in God’s own image. When God created us, He made family, His family,  I, for one, am more than happy being the weaker of the vessels.  An angel will never know the honor and the privilege of being a part of the family of God.  Angels certainly get to watch God’s plan play out on a stage and an scale I could only hope to understand.  But that is not worth trading to be a part of the family of God,

So I believe that God created Hell for the vessels of dishonor He created for the purpose of introducing Sin into creation.  Mankind was created as God’s very own family and then was allowed to be put to the test with that Sin.  Adam, on behalf of all of mankind (yeah, I know, but before you give Adam a bum rap, consider that you or I would have done no different), failed that test,.  And God then had to set his plan into motion to rescue us by paying the price for that Sin in our stead.  Had we never been in that Sinful state we wouldn’t have needed rescuing, and by not being rescued we would have never known God’s Mercy, and Grace, and Love.

A few years ago, Rev. Rick Warren wrote a book titled The Purpose Driven Life.  You may take several things away from that book, but the one thing that kept hitting me in the face was It’s not about me, it’s all about God.  People keep asking question like “If God did not want anyone to perish, why didn’t he just put us all into Heaven to begin with?”  Well, it is His show, His plan, His design, and it is for His Glory and His Honor.  It is all to Glorify Him.  And that alone is good enough for me.  But my theology also allows me to reason that perhaps God wanted a family that actually knows Him on a personal level, that understands His Mercy and His Grace.  And knows of His Love like none other in all of creation.  And that required us to know what was NOT Him to begin with.

But God did not want just want dedicated servants.  I believe he has those with the Angels.  Both the ones created to serve His purpose in good, and those created to serve His purpose in evil.  No, God wanted his family to choose Him because they desired to of their own free will.  And thus he gave us a choice.,  We may choose.   Choose rightly, and spend eternity in Heaven, choose wrongly and spend eternity in Hell.

Astute theologians should recognize at this point that we have a paradox,.  The Youth Pastor and Worship Leader of my home church growing up pointed out to me that perhaps I was asleep during certain studies and that there actually is a study of these paradoxes in theology,  My Youth Pastor was Rev. Mitch White and he has been a great friend and mentor over the years.  The study he recently introduced me to is antinomy, literally two competing but equally true ideas.

I don’t know how it is that God can be 100% in control and that at exactly the same time you and I have the free will to live our lives and to either choose or reject Him.  Louie Giglio said in one his Passion Series that it is a great mystery that God can be completely in control and mankind can have free will at exactly the same time.  We cannot resolve or know all paradoxes in this life.  But I do know this, you and I have a choice, and that choice is Heaven or Hell.  And the choice is final, for all of eternity.

Hell: A Finality?  Very much so.  I would surmise that it takes an eternal Hell to offset an eternal Heaven.  I choose to believe on Jesus Christ, that He is The Way, The Truth, and The Life.  I believe with all my heart that I have chosen wisely.

Hell: Fantasy or Finality?

A while back I had a post here in which I mentioned Hell.  In that post I based arguments on some assumptions that were given’s up front in my discussion and I purposely did not offer a definition or an explanation of Hell for the stated reason that I wanted to revisit the subject of Hell in more depth one day.  Let’s make that day today.

But before I get to the actual subject of Hell itself, which I may actually have to address in several separate posts,   Please allow me to lay some groundwork with a short examination of why I believe we have both good and evil in the world.

I had a friend of mine (my friend is a lawyer and is quite intelligent.  He passed the Florida Bar the first time he took it.) once tell me that he believed people were born in a neutral state.  That is a person comes into this world without any disposition towards good or evil.  As time goes on, a person is then influenced by good and evil forces within their lives and they are pushed and pulled towards one side or the other.  Kind of like Star Wars.  You either choose the light side of the force or the dark side of the force.  It is amazing to me the number of people in the world (I would guess the vast majority, although I have no definitive statics on this) that have this exact same philosophy.  There is one religion in the world that does not teach this, and that religion is Christianity.  And thus it is even more amazing to me the number of Christians that seem to hold this basic belief.

There are a couple of fundamental problems I believe you should have with this thinking.  The first is “Where did the first evil person get their influence from?”  For that matter where did the first good person get their influence from?  If we indeed started out neutral, and are still born that way today, how did good and evil come to exist to begin with?  And who was it that first defined what was good and what was evil?  I’ve addressed this conundrum of morals in this previous post.

The second problem I believe you should have with this philosophy is that you should ask yourself the question “Which side is winning?  Good or evil?”  Is there more good in the world today or is there more evil in the world, and why?

People want to believe that both forces have existed from the beginning of time (they have, from humanity’s standpoint) and that the great struggle is for humankind and we are caught in the balance waiting to see who will win, the forces of good or the forces of evil.

Christianity however teaches that people are born into sin.  That is they are alienated from God.  Having a propensity towards evil and that there is no good in them.  Paul of Tarsus made this argument rather eloquently in Romans and every Christian should be familiar with it.

But were good and evil always present?  Meaning did they both exist equally before the beginning of time?

Let’s see if we can ask some theological questions that will help us with this question.  The first question I would like to ask is: Where did God come from?  A Christian’s answer should be God has always been and always will be.  He had no beginning and He has no end.  God Is.  My second question would be: Is God good, or is God evil?  And once again, a Christian’s answer should be God is good.  My third question would be: Is there any scenario ever where God’s will is not fulfilled?  Now before you answer that, think about it very carefully. Is there anything (anything at all) that God does not know is going to happen or exactly how it is going to happen?  Is there any scenario where God could ever lose a battle?  Is there anything that could ever surprise God or catch him off guard?  Is there anything that God could not change should he so desire?  By definition, God is in absolute control.  It is His show.  It is His creation.  He is preeminent.  He, and He alone is supreme.  Therefore, your answer should be No.  God’s will is always fulfilled.

So my next question would be: Where did evil come from?  Well if it existed before time, wouldn’t God have been aware of it?  He should have been.  And would not God have been able to erase it?  Why wouldn’t He?  He is, after all God.  It does not theologically follow that evil existed either prior to or current with God’s own existence.  Evil has not just always existed without beginning or end.  Evil came into existence just like anything else in creation with God’s full knowledge and approval.

So the real wonderment then becomes the understanding that it was created along with the everything else.  Now I personally don’t believe that God, in a single act just brought Sin into existence.  What I believe he did is, he created the avenue for Sin to come into existence knowing full well that it would fulfil the course he set it on.  This is explained in Romans Chapter 9.  In Romans 9:21 Paul asks the question as to whether God has the power and the wherewithal to make both good and bad vessels.  Paul concludes that he does.  I believe God created Satan for the express purpose of bringing Sin into existence.  He created him as a vessel of dishonor.  Why would God do such a thing?  Paul answers this question in Romans 9:17 and in Romans 9:22-24.  God allowed Sin to come into existence through a vessel of dishonor that he created in order to show his great purpose.

And what of HellHell is God’s containment vessel for that Sin.  Hell is the holding place where he is going to keep it locked up for eternityHell is the prison that will separate the unrighteous from the righteous for ever and ever.

And from that consideration – Hell is very much a finality and not fantasy.  Next – Further Considerations of Hell.

Do You Deserve The Best?

Well here we are in a brand new year and people are wondering what 2016 will hold for their lives. If you invest in the stock markets or have any part of your retirement portfolio in them, you might be wondering what is going to happen with your money (Wall Street News).  As we enter into a new year people all over the world have many things to be thankful for and yet many have much to be fearful of.

It is an interesting dynamic between thankfulness and fearfulness.  The balance between thankfulness and fearfulness is part of the equation that drives our expectations in life.  This is because if I allow fear to rule my life I will be driven into either desperation or despondence.  Meaning I will either be driven to take bold actions that I would not normally be inclined to take in my life or I will simply shrink into a shell and shun the world and not take actions that I should be taking in my life.  On the other hand if I allow thankfulness to rule my life, I risk an abnormal state of euphoria or I risk a state of constant disappointment in my life.  And what drives our expectations in life, is what brings us to a state of entitlement.

I overheard a mother and daughter talking on New Year’s Eve and the mother was wishing the daughter the best year in her life in 2016.  This seemed normal to me as most of us wish each other the best in life.  But then the mother added something alarming onto the statement.  She said “Because you deserve the best.”  And I immediately thought “Why?”  Why do we, any of us, deserve the best?  What have any of us done to merit the highest quality of anything in our lives?  When we start believing that we deserve the best in our lives we enter dangerous territory on a path to developing an entitlement attitude towards life.

This is an epidemic that is sweeping America and I believe most Western European counties as well as parts of Asia.  Many conservative commentators have exposed this on talk radio and in their books.  We have even had it creep into our legal system as is evidenced by the Affluenza Teen (see any of these news article here).  Even within theistic realms we have developed the ideal that we somehow deserve the best in all that life has to offer.  And note that there is a very sharp contrast between God wanting the best for our lives and us deserving the best in life.  We, the people of the world, have come to establish within our minds that we should get the very best that life has to offer.

This is simply astounding to me.  First of all it is totally unrealistic.  It presumes that there is enough of the best to go around in the first place.  However you define what is best, if you do happen to acquire it, then more of it would have to be found in order for others to have it as well.  Liberals have been attempting to achieve this happy utopia for decades and they have never even come close.  And note that those who have achieved any level of success in life hardly ever want to give up that level of success in order for the rest of us to enjoy some of the benefits they have acquired.  And yet they would typically be the first to demand that we do more.  The logic is confusing to me.  It would seem to me that if they really wanted an equal playing field they would first address their own affluent states before requiring the rest of us to do something with ours.  And please note that I (personnaly) have no desire nor expectation of them to do so.

Secondly it makes no sense from any point of your world view.  For the atheist it is always astonishing to me that they would take up any world cause.  To what end would an atheist want the best for either themselves or anyone else?  The atheistic view point, by definition ascribes no meaning in life.  Nor can it.  There is no order, no design, no grand purpose in life.  It is simply all random and without definition.  They cannot do anything about it.  Events were prescribed from the absolute beginning from the occurrence of the Big Bang. Even their attempts at ascribing some change in their own lives or the lives of other is the result of completely random events that follow the laws of the universe.  For the agnostic any type of ambition on their part would seem contrary to their world view.  As long as you are not affecting their particular station in life, the agnostic should not care about whether or not you obtain the best in life.  Neither should they ascribe to any particular state of affluence on their own.  They are, after all, agnostic in their point of view.

For the theist however, it is confusing to me as to how they could have any expectation as to what they deserve in life.  As a theist I understand that what I deserve and what I obtain is ordained by the plan and purpose of the creator.  And if I am a Christian I understand that the best is not what I expect but what God provides in my life.

As a Christian I understand that what I deserve in life is a cross, eternal separation from the Creator, a Holy and Righteous God.  But I also understand that what the Creator has provided us is His Grace, complete and unmerited favor in the very act of taking that cross away from me (and you) and providing restoration to his family and his goodness in our lives.  And by doing so, Jesus Christ, on His Cross, has already provided the very best that life has to offer.  There is no greater gift, there is no greater prize to be achieved.  He has done it all and it is by His Grace that it has been made available to us and not some some entitlement we should expect.

So this New Year I wish for each and every one of you the BEST life has to offer.  My hope and desire is that you will find God’s Grace in your life.  That you will come to understand and enjoy a personal relationship with the Creator of all we survey, and that this new found relationship will come to change your expectations in life, as well as mine.

Happy New Year to ALL.

Do You Have Wisdom to Share?

There are a few types of knowledge in this world.  There is the scholarly knowledge that is taught and gained in schools.  Some of it may be correct, accurate, and true.  While some of it may be questionable.

Take for example the study of mathematics.  In every culture and in every land we have an understanding of at least simple math.  Everyone understands (or should understand) that 1 plus 1 is equal to 2.  That is if you have 1 apple and then I give you another apple, you have just had your total quantity of apples grow.  And your new total of apples is now 2.

But then you have those that are wise in math and they will tell you that 1 plus 1 is equal to 10.  IF you use base 2 (binary) math.  In other words for a mathematician, it is important to state exactly which math you are talking about.  They want to represent the correct number base and ensure everyone is following the same set of rules.  There is a level of knowledge displayed that goes beyond the every day use of most people counting their apples, BUT it does not alter their understanding of the number of apples they may (or may not) possess.

Then there are studies that are not quite as concrete.  Take for example the study of evolution.  There are those that want to teach biological evolution concerning the alteration or transformation of one species into another as fact.  When they know (and actually have full knowledge) that it is simply a theory and is not repeatable and indeed is unprovable.

The science of evolution is constantly changing, constantly growing, and constantly evolving as people perceive to gain new insights and knowledge and thus alter their thinking on the subject.

I’ve mentioned a book written by an acquaintance of mine in past blog posts.  The book is: “The Word of God A Logical and Moral Dilemma“.  In chapter 5 of his book, titled “The Reality Of God”, my friend writes:

“During my early conversations with creationists, I often presented the scientific viewpoint during our creation vs. evolution discussions.  That is, I used small scientific facts, such as the existence of pelvises in ancient whales and the existence of gill slits and tails in embryonic humans, as evidence that God didn’t create the world beginning with an evolved state of nature.  I made very little headway in my debates, and usually departed from my encounters cursing the “blindness” of my opponent.”

(Eric Brownlee, The Word of God A Logical and Moral Dilemma, Writers Club Press, 2001, Lincoln, NE, ISBN: 0-595-19417-6, pg. 85)

The problem is, we now know that the ‘gill slits‘ in embryonic humans (and I would argue the ‘tails’ as well) are not what we used to think they were.  As a matter of fact, it has now been proven that the scientist, Ernst Haeckel, who is sometimes credited with this “discovery” (it is more an observation), actually faked his drawings and misrepresented the truth (Human Gill Slits).  In other words, we’ve come to a new understanding and know that the statement that human embryos have gill slits is just wrong (Evolutionary Point of View).  An Answers In Genesis article on the subject may be found here.

So here we have wisdom (it was originally represented as scientific fact) that is neither wise nor very long lived.  Certainly not like the mathematical fact given in my first example.

Thus our wisdom grows and gains new insights.

But what about spiritual wisdom?  Surely something so critical as to bringing understanding to the creator and guidance in our own lives, we don’t want to take chances with, right?  We want to make sure we have the right understanding, or at least the best understanding from as early a point in time as possible.

Spiritual wisdom is not too unlike earthly wisdom, it comes by learning, and learning comes by asking questions.  The difference is, knowing who and how to ask.  When our earthly wisdom is challenged, such as in the case of human embryos having gills, a little bit of research and asking the right questions reveals the answer.  Now there may be those that colloquially make reference to my blindness (see definition # 2) however I am going to claim that it is their own blindness since main stream evolutionist don’t even have that understanding anymore.  The point is, if I am willing to challenge the understanding and ask the right questions of the right resources, I am able to learn an answer and grow my understanding.

The same is true with Spiritual wisdom, but you have to know who to ask.  Fortunately there is an answer within the Bible.  It is found in James 1:5-8.  James tells us that if we lack wisdom (Spiritual wisdom) we simply need to ask of God, and God will provide us with wisdom liberally (see the origin of the word.  Here it means generously).

And I love the fact that the verse tells us that God gives to ALL MEN, without regard for Christian, or Atheist, or Agnostic, or any other Religion or world view.  Why would God do that?  Wouldn’t God just reserve wisdom for those that know him and are his children?  Of course not!  Otherwise, how are we even to discover him in the first place?  God wants us to know him.  He wants us to be curious about him.  And he wants us to discover him, to learn about him, and to have knowledge and understanding of him.  And this comes through wisdom from him.  He gives to all who ask him, and he gives with great abundance, BECAUSE he wants us to discover him.

But note the condition.  You have to truly ask in Faith believing that God will answer your request and will grant you the wisdom you seek.  In other words, you had better believe that God is there and capable of providing an answer.  If your predisposition is that science has given you all the facts of evolution and there is no God, you cannot be running to God asking him to provide you wisdom of himself.  That is not truly seeking after God.  That is simply convincing yourself that the lie you believe is justified.

I sincerely hope that no one believes I have any great wisdom to share.  Rather I hope that for earthly wisdom you will do due diligence and seek out the right answers.  And for Spiritual wisdom that you will ask of God, in Faith, believing he will answer you and provide the wisdom that you seek.