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Posts tagged ‘God’s power’

Where Is God in the Midst of All My Troubles?

SOURCE:  an article by J. Budziszewski

Has God forgotten me? Does He hate me? Why does He seem to hide Himself?

If you hurt enough to ask such questions, you deserve an answer.Trouble suffocates me. Worry entangles me. By night I can’t sleep, by day I can’t rest. The burden of suffering is intolerable. Where is God? Does He know, or are my prayers heard only by the wall? Is He near, or somewhere distant, only watching?

Some people think that you don’t. You’re sick, you’re dying, you’ve been deserted, you’ve lost a child, you’re innocent but accused of wrongdoing — and they try to shush you. Their intentions may be good, but they are hard to bear. “Don’t question God’s ways; He might hear you.” In my cry of anguish, don’t I want Him to hear me? “It’s probably for your own good.” If I’m to be tormented for my own good, don’t I get a say in the matter? “I’m sure there’s a good reason.” No doubt there is, but did I ask for a philosophical explanation? What I asked is “Where is God?”

Some Comforters

Even worse are the people who say, “You’re being unfair to God. It isn’t His fault. If He could have kept your trouble from happening, He would have, but He couldn’t. God is just as helpless as you are, and He weeps to see your sorrow.” No. If God is really God, then He could have stopped it; if I’m suffering, then He could have stopped it but didn’t. I may be baffled by Him, I may be frustrated by Him, but the God I want to hear from is the God who rules the world. I’m not interested in a God who is “not responsible.”

Some Comforters, Some Religion

Has God forgotten me? Does He hate me? Why does He seem to hide Himself? I am weary of my comforters, tired of His defenders. I want God to answer me in person. If only I could state my case before Him and hear His answer!

There was once a man who did that. His name was Job. He too was plagued with so-called comforters and defenders of God, but he demanded a hearing from God Himself, and God answered him. The history of the incident is told in great detail in the Bible.

Job is blameless and upright, a man of such integrity that even God likes to show him off. If anyone deserves blessings, Job does. Yet one day God puts him to the test. Job”s life falls to pieces; calamity of every kind descends upon him. Raiders sweep his fields; his livestock are captured or destroyed; his servants are put to the sword; a house collapses on his sons and daughters and kills them all. Disease strikes him, and he is covered with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. In all this, he submits patiently to God, only to be mocked by his wife, who tells him to “curse God and die!”(Job 2:9) Friends arrive, and still he is patient. For days they sit with him in silence, seeing how greatly he suffers.

A Torrent of Grief

Finally Job can contain himself no longer. In a torrent of grief and protest, he cries, wishing that he had never lived. He doesn’t curse God, but he curses the day he was born. The terrible curse demeans all the previous good in his life; it implies that his joy, his home, his peace, and the lives of his children had never meant a thing, just because now they are gone.

This is too much for Job’s friends, and they rebuke him. On and on they lecture him; they cannot scold enough. Suffering, they say, is punishment for sin. The greater the sin, the greater the suffering. Since Job is in agony, he must have done something terrible to deserve it. Obviously, then, he is covering up. He only pretends to be just; he is really a hypocrite. If only he would confess and take his punishment, God would forgive him and relent — but instead, like a fool, he complains.

To hear these accusations is unbearable to Job. He rages in grief, defending himself and denouncing his friends. Against God, his complaints are even more bitter — and inconsistent. One moment he wants God to leave him alone, the next moment he wants Him to listen. One moment he declares himself guiltless, the next moment he admits that no man is. Yet through it all, he insists that his suffering is undeserved, and he demands that God give him a hearing.

Answer in a Whirlwind

In the end, Job gets his hearing. God answers from the heart of the whirlwind. He doesn’t pull His punches, and the encounter is overpowering. Meeting God turns out to be nothing like just hearing about Him. But Job is satisfied.

There are two amazing things about this face-off. The first is that God never explains to Job the reason for his suffering. In other words, it isn’t because God answers Job’s questions that Job is finally satisfied. In fact God asks questions of His own: Where was Job when God laid the foundations of the earth? Can he bind the stars of the constellations? Job has challenged the Creator of the mind, but does he comprehend even the mind of the ostrich? Job confesses, “I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know”(Job 42:3).

The second amazing thing is that God does not side with Job’s friends. He sides with Job. It seems impossible. Wasn’t Job God’s accuser? Weren”t his friends God’s defenders? But there cannot be any mistake. Even though God humbles Job, not once does He express anger toward him. Yet toward his friends, God declares that His anger blazes out. He says that He will not forgive them until Job has prayed for them. And why? Because they have not spoken the truth about Him, “as my servant Job has”! (Job 42:7-8)

What truth could Job have spoken? Didn’t he just admit that he hadn’t known what he was talking about?

Not All Suffering Is Our Fault

Yes, but about one thing Job was right: He didn’t deserve what was happening. Not all suffering is our fault. We do bring some suffering upon ourselves: Adulterers destroy their homes, drunks their livers, wasters their wealth. Yet the innocent suffer too. Dreadful things happen, things we don’t deserve, things that seem to be senseless. This is why God sides with the sufferer, even in preference to those so-called defenders who merely “explain away” the pain.

In His justice, God understands that this will seem unjust to us. He does not even try to give us “answers” that we could not understand. Instead, He visits us, as He visited Job. Is He not God? He is a better answer than the “answers” would have been. Indeed, He is the only possible answer. Though we find ourselves buried in a deeper dark than night, from the midst of the whirlwind, He speaks.

You may object, “What good is it for God to visit me? He’s not the one drowning in troubles; I am. You say God sides with the sufferer,” but these words are meaningless. God can’t suffer with me. He only watches.”

But there is more. The story of Job is not God’s last word. Nor is it His last deed.

Human Wrecks

Let’s face it. In all our thoughts about suffering, we have sidestepped the main issue and focused on the secondary issue. To be frank, we human beings are wrecks. The external troubles that we blame on God are the least of our suffering. Something worse is wrong with us, and it is wrong with us inside.

One writer describes the problem as a “deep interior dislocation in the very center of human personality.” What we want to do, we don’t. What we don’t want to do, we do. We not only do wrong, but call it right. Even the good things in us become polluted. We may long to love purely, but our desires turn into idols that control us. We may long to be “blameless” like Job, but our righteousness turns into a self-righteousness that rules us. We may long to be reconciled with God, but we can’t stop wanting to be the center of the universe ourselves.

Can’t Repair Ourselves

Not only are we broken, but we can’t repair ourselves. Could you perform surgery on your own eyes? How could you see to do it? Suppose you tore off both hands; could you sew them back on? Without hands, how could you hold the instruments? Our sin-sickness is something like that. Many philosophies teach about right and wrong with pretty fair accuracy. What they can’t do is heal the sin-sickness. However true, no mere philosophy can do that. Our cancer requires more than a philosophy. What it requires is the divine surgeon, God Himself, and the name of His surgery is Jesus Christ.

Jesus was God Himself in human flesh — fully God, but fully man. Most people have heard that He taught, performed miracles, healed the sick. Most people have heard that He was executed on a Cross and rose again. What is less well known is what this was all about.

Did someone say God doesn’t suffer? In Jesus, God suffered. That was why He became one of us — to suffer for us.

Even though He had no sin of His own, Jesus identified with us so completely that He took the burden of our inward brokenness — our sin and sin-sickness — upon Himself. He understands it all, because He bore it all — the whole weight of it, all for us. By dying, He took it to death; by rising, He opened for us a way, through Him, to life.

There was no other way for God to help us. He bore real agony, bled real blood, died real death. On the Cross, even He felt alone. When He cried out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” it was for us (Matthew 27:46). All this He saw coming from afar, and He accepted it on our behalf. He paid the price that we cannot pay, He bore the burden that we cannot bear. “Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened,” He says, “and I will give you rest”(Matthew 11:28).

This is not a fable; it actually happened, and it is really true. If we trust Him as our price-payer, as our sin-bearer, then through Him we give up our broken life and receive His own life in its place. Then no suffering can be meaningless, because it is lifted up into His own suffering and redeemed.

Did you read the catch? “If we trust Him.” Can you do that? Can you do it utterly, without reserve? Can you give up the ownership of yourself, and transfer the title to Him? If something in your heart is an obstacle — some fear, some pain, some pride — can you at least ask Him to remove it?

Though He had 77 questions for Job, for you He has only one. Will you come?

How Much “Authority” Does Christ Have

SOURCE:  John Piper/Tolle Lege

“The Lofty Claim” 

“‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.’ (Matthew 28:18) This I call The Lofty Claim. Jesus claims that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him.

He has died for sin, to triumph over guilt and condemnation. He has been raised from the dead to triumph over suffering and death. And in triumphing over guilt and condemnation and over suffering and death, He has also triumphed over Satan who can only destroy us with the guilt of sin and torment us with suffering and death.

And because Jesus has triumphed so gloriously over guilt and condemnation and suffering and death and Satan, therefore ‘God has highly exalted Him and given Him a name that is above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father’ (Philippians 2:9–11). Which is just another way of saying: ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to [Him].’

All authority.

  • He has authority over Satan and all demons, over all angels—good and evil;
  • authority over the natural universe, natural objects and laws and forces: stars, galaxies, planets, meteorites;
  • authority over all weather systems: winds, rains, lightning, thunder, hurricanes, tornadoes, monsoons, typhoons, cyclones;
  • authority over all their effects: tidal waves, floods, fires;
  • authority over all molecular and atomic reality: atoms, electrons, protons, neutrons, undiscovered subatomic particles, quantum physics, genetic structures, DNA, chromosomes;
  • authority over all plants and animals great and small: whales and redwoods, giant squid and giant oaks, all fish, all wild beasts, all invisible animals and plants: bacteria, viruses, parasites, germs;
  • authority over all the parts and functions of the human body: every beat of the heart, every breath of the diaphragm, every electrical jump across a million synapses in our brains;
  • authority over all nations and governments: congresses and legislatures and presidents and kings and premiers and courts;
  • authority over all armies and weapons and bombs and terrorists;
  • authority over all industry and business and finance and currency;
  • authority over all entertainment and amusement and leisure and media;
  • authority over all education and research and science and discovery;
  • authority over all crime and violence; over all families and neighborhoods;
  • and authority over the church, and over every soul and every moment of every life that has been or ever will be lived.

There is nothing in heaven or on earth over which Jesus does not have authority, that is, does not have the right and the power do with as He pleases. Both the right and the power.

The scope and the magnitude of the authority of Jesus is infinite, because Jesus is one with God the Father. The Father has given him all authority not because the Father can give up being God, but because Jesus is God.

And when deity shares infinite authority with deity, He neither loses nor gains anything, but remains infinitely full and triumphant and all-sufficient.

This is the lofty claim. Our Lord, Jesus Christ, has all authority in heaven and on earth, because our Lord Jesus is God.”

–John Piper, “The Lofty Claim, the Last Command, the Loving Comfort,” Sermons from John Piper (1990–1999) (Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God, 2007), 1.

With God, There is NO _____________

SOURCE:  Tolle Lege/J.C. Ryle

The pillow of God’s omnipotence” by J.C. Ryle

“Let us mark, in the third place, the mighty principle which the angel Gabriel lays down to silence all objections about the incarnation. ‘With God nothing shall be impossible.’

A hearty reception of this great principle is of immense importance to our own inward peace. Questions and doubts will often arise in men’s minds about many subjects in religion. They are the natural result of our fallen estate of soul.

Our faith at the best is very feeble. Our knowledge at its highest is clouded with much infirmity.

And among many antidotes to a doubting, anxious, questioning state of mind, few will be found more useful than that before us now,—a thorough conviction of the almighty power of God.

With Him who called the world into being and formed it out of nothing, everything is possible.

Nothing is too hard for the Lord.

  • There is no sin too black and bad to be pardoned. The blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin.
  • There is no heart too hard and wicked to be changed. The heart of stone can be made a heart of flesh.
  • There is no work too hard for a believer to do. We may do all things through Christ strengthening us.
  • There is no trial too hard to be borne. The grace of God is sufficient for us.
  • There is no promise too great to be fulfilled. Christ’s words never pass away, and what He has promised He is able to perform.
  • There is no difficulty too great for a believer to overcome. When God is for us who shall be against us? The mountain shall become a plain.

Let principles like these be continually before our minds. The angel’s receipt is an invaluable remedy.

Faith never rests so calmly and peacefully as when it lays its head on the pillow of God’s omnipotence.”

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–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1879), 1: 27-28. Ryle is commenting on Luke 1:34-38.

How Will I Ever Overcome My Failures?

SOURCE:  Taken from the work of  J. G. Kruis 

Overcoming Sin

     1.  The truth sets us free.

John 8:32. “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

  1. By nature we are all slaves to sin, but Jesus sets us free.
    John 8:34–36. Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”
  2. A believer can overcome sin because he is a new creature.
    2 Cor. 5:17. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
  3. God has given us all we need for life and godliness.

2 Peter 1:3. As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue.

  1. God requires you to work out your salvation in every area of life.
    Phil. 2:12. Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;
  2. God enables you to do so; you need not go it on your own.
    Phil. 2:13. For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
  3. God is able to make all grace abound to you, to enable you to overcome any specific sin.
    2 Cor. 9:8. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.
  4. We are being transformed more and more into the likeness of Jesus.
    2 Cor. 3:18. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
  5. You must keep working at breaking sinful habits and developing new and godly ways.
    Eph. 4:22–24. That you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
    Col. 3:9–10. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.
  6. Like a runner in a race, keep pressing on until you have gained the victory.
    Phil. 3:12–14.
  7. Don’t keep dwelling on past failures; nor should you get discouraged and give up after you have failed. Hang in there!
    Phil. 3:13–14. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
  8. Get rid of everything which might hinder you. Persevere!
    Heb. 12:1. Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
  9. One who is saved by grace must no longer serve sin. Keep working at overcoming it, using your body to serve only the Lord.
    Rom. 6:11–22. (Romans 6 contains much good instruction concerning how a Christian must and can overcome sin through the grace and power of God.)
  10. Don’t be mastered by any sin.
    1 Cor. 6:12. All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.
  11. Christ, dwelling in us, enables us to overcome sin.
    Gal. 2:20. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
  12. Drunkards, homosexuals, idolaters, and others caught up in wickedness can overcome sin by God’s power and grace.
    1 Cor. 6:11. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
  13. Paul, Titus, and others were set free from the power of sin. God gave them victory through the Holy Spirit.
    Titus 3:3–7.
    Titus 3:5–6. Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior.
  14. Use the infallible Word of God.
    2 Tim. 3:16–17. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
  15. A true Christian will not live in sin.
    1 John 3:6. Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.
    1 John 3:9. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.
  16. Jude mentions three things that are necessary to remain faithful to God.
    Jude 20–21. But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

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Kruis, J. G. (1994). Quick scripture reference for counseling (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

 

Impossibilities…

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC)

“We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as an impossible situation.” -Chuck Swindoll

“I have found that there are three stages in every great work of God: first, it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done.” -Hudson Taylor

“Triumphant prayer is almost impossible where there is neglect of the study of the Word of God.” -R. A. Torrey

The impossible…

Have you ever found yourself in a circumstance or situation that seemed impossible? Even for God? Those times where nothing made sense, and even trusting God and His Word was difficult.

Mary faced the impossible – in a double dose. Gabriel came to her and proclaimed,“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.” (Luke 1:31 ESV)

No doubt she thought “no way”. Mary had never known a man. Mary asked the angel,“How will this be since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34 ESV)

Gabriel responded, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy – the Son of God.”

No doubt she was familiar with the prophecies, but still – the baby would be the promised Messiah? The Holy Son of God?

“Come on…”

What’s interesting is that in several places, the Bible tells us that Mary “pondered” the words she had heard in her heart.

As a young Jewish girl, she would have certainly been very familiar with Hebrew scripture and the stories of “impossibilities”;

  • Abraham believing God when he was called to go out to a place of promise…not knowing where he was going.
  • Sarah conceiving in her old age knowing the God who promised was faithful.
  • Moses and the parting of the Red Sea.
  • Joshua watching the walls of Jericho come tumbling down.
  • Rahab, a prostitute, entering into the lineage of the Messiah.
  • Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel. The stories must have flooded her mind and heart.
  • And of course the prophets foretelling that the Son of God would be born of a virgin.

As she pondered the recorded past of God’s power and presence, her heart must have come alive with what the angel Gabriel declared, “Nothing will be impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37 ESV)

Her response reflects the heart attitude imperative for God to work the impossible. She said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38 ESV)

What’s impossible in your life today?

  • Impossible that God can heal your body when the doctors give no hope?
  • Impossible that God can restore a broken marriage devastated with infidelity?
  • Impossible that God can bring the prodigal child back home?
  • Impossible that you will ever see your hearts desires realized?

God takes great pleasure in turning your “impossibilities” into “possibilities”.

Ponder what God has done in the past. “Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me…” (Isaiah 46:9 NASB) Reflect on the stories recorded in the Bible. Remember the good things God has done for you. For your family. For your friends.

What God has done before – He will do again.

Watch God turn the impossible into the possible. It may take a miracle. That’s ok – He specializes in those.

And He will turn your life around.

Seven Things the Bible Says About Evil

SOURCE:  Johnathon Bowers/Desiring God

How can we reconcile God’s sweeping control over creation with the existence of such horrors as cancer, famine, genocide, sexual abuse, tsunamis, and terrorism? Voltaire sums up the issue nicely in his “Poem on the Lisbon Disaster,” written after the devastating Lisbon earthquake of 1755:

Ill could not from a perfect being spring,
Nor from another, since God’s sovereign king.

His point is that since God is good, he can’t properly be the source of evil. Likewise, if God is all-powerful, no one else can thwart his intentions. So we’re stuck, it seems. Who’s to blame for the suffering we experience? Though we lack the space here for an extended discussion, let’s consider seven biblical affirmations.

1. Evil is real.

That is to say, we distort the Bible and do ourselves a profound disservice by minimizing the existence of suffering. God invites us to acknowledge our pain. The Psalmist wrote, “I believed, even when I spoke, ‘I am greatly afflicted'” (Psalm 116:10).

2. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

In some ways, talking about a “problem of evil” is a false start. A better quandary to start with would be the problem of sin. How quickly we rush to raise a self-righteous fist while our other hand digs in the cookie jar. “Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way not just? Is it not your ways that are not just?” (Ezekiel 18:25).

3. God is good.

Whatever we say about God’s sovereignty over evil (and say we will; see below), we must never imply that God is corrupt, that he somehow nurses a dark side. “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one” (James 1:13).

4. God ordains all things that come to pass, including evil.

God does whatever he pleases (Psalm 135:6). To be sure, this means he clothes lilies and feeds birds (Matthew 6:26, 28). But he also makes lightning (Psalm 135:7). He strikes down firstborn children and kills mighty kings (Psalm 135:8). Our God holds sway over the good, the bad, and the ugly. “I form light and create darkness,” he says. “I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things” (Isaiah 45:7).

5. Man is responsible for his actions.

Lest we fall into fatalism, we should remember that God’s sovereignty never excuses wrongdoing. When a man commits murder, the blood is on his hands. “For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” (Luke 22:22).

6. God did not spare his own Son.

The cross speaks to our theology of suffering in at least two ways. First, it shows us that God can will something to happen that he opposes. Proverbs 6:16-17 tells us that God hates “hands that shed innocent blood.” And yet he sent his Son to suffer precisely that fate. Is this a mystery? Absolutely. But it is not nonsense. We can look at evil and with no contradiction say, “This is wrong, and God has willed that it take place.” Listen to how Peter describes the crucifixion: “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23, emphasis mine).

Second, the cross demonstrates that God regards our affliction not as something strange to the palette, but as a cup he has drunk to the dregs. By giving up his own Son, God entered into our pain. He knows what it’s like to suffer loss. But he also did more. By putting his Son to grief, God turned grief on its head. “But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). This brings us to the final point.

7. Heaven works backwards.

C. S. Lewis writes in The Great Divorce, “They say of some temporal suffering, ‘No future bliss can make up for it,’ not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.”

Lewis is not being novel here. He is simply restating what Christians have hoped in for centuries, the promise that gives all our suffering purpose: “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).

Johnathon Bowers is Instructor of Theology and Christian Worldview atBethlehem College and Seminary in Minneapolis, MN.

Did the Devil Make You Do It?

SOURCE:  STEPHEN MATTSON/Relevant Magazine

How much influence does Satan have in our everyday lives?

Here’s a scene familiar to all:

A film or television character, locked in inner debate. All of a sudden, poof, a tiny devil—sometimes styled to look like an evil version of the actual character—appears on one shoulder. This devil has some of a James Dean, rogue-ish appeal, and talks about how much fun it would to be to indulge in such and such.

It’s a clichéd trope, and though it’s not as common in cinema anymore, the general device is still used. There may not be a smirking devil on Walter White’s shoulder, but his endless qualifiers and excuses sure sound like the work of a cunning tempter yanking his puppet strings. And it resonates, because we’ve all been there. We know the feeling of entertaining a little tickle in our ear—one that sounds like us, but not quite like us. It gave rise to the phrase: the devil made me do it. But is that a fair assessment?

As Christians, we accept that everything good and pure within us is from God. We’re instructed to believe our good works, righteousness and holiness should be credited to Jesus working through us, giving us the strength, wisdom and power to accomplish His will.

We are quick to give God credit for anything positive within our lives. “Only through God was I able to do that!” or “I give glory to God!” are common expressions we use to acknowledge His supernatural ability within our lives.

The danger is that we can use this same logic for everything bad and evil we do—blaming Satan for our wrongdoings instead of taking personal responsibility for our actions. If God is responsible for our good, isn’t Satan responsible for our bad?

Thinking about Satan—the Devil—is often emotionally and intellectually draining, so many believers have simply stopped doing it. In a modern society that mocks and ridicules the belief that supernatural beings are engaged in an epic battle of good vs. evil, it can be easy to shy away from the topic of Satan. It’s hard to accept a supernatural realm when our perception is inundated with the physical reality of our everyday lives.

Contrarily, there are those who do nothing but dwell on spiritual warfare and become strangely obsessed with Satan. These individuals are often overcome with constant dread, fear and suspicion—crippling their lives. They stand on street corners and yell apocalyptic warnings from bullhorns and often appear to be suffering from delusions or mental illness.

To make matters worse, people often falsely accuse others of being demon-possessed or influenced by Satan just to promote their own agendas or because of misplaced fanaticism. We can be quick to label others as “Satan’s Henchmen,” heretics who spread a false gospel of deception, simply because we disagree or despise someone—often someone who has a different theological, social or political belief than our own.

How can we talk seriously about something that has been commercialized and comically popularized within our logic-driven and scientific culture? The topic of Satan is bizarre yet relevant, uncomfortable but necessary.

The worst thing a Christian can do is ignore Satan’s influence. Throughout the Bible, God warns us time and again about the very real presence that the Devil has within our lives—we should take the threat seriously. But can Satan actually control us? Can Satan cause us to sin?

It depends. For believers, the power of Christ has defeated Satan. 1 Colossians 1:13 promises that we have been delivered from the power of darkness. Jesus, through the crucifixion, defeated Satan. And while most biblical scholars agree that Christians can’t be possessed by demons, we are constantly facing a spiritual battle, and we can be influenced by Satan’s control within the world around us—but not within us.

Satan’s supernatural power throughout our universe can directly impact our lives. Satan can constantly tempt us, manipulate circumstances to oppress us and attack us through outside influence in order to wage war against our Christ-centered lifestyle. This should not be taken lightly.

We see Satan’s handiwork everywhere around us: through addiction, violence, injustice, abuse, sickness, suffering and pain. And while Satan attempts to destroy and cause death, Christ is restoring and bringing new life.

The Bible is clear that we will be held accountable for our actions, and Satan should never be used as an excuse for our own personal sins. And just like we can lie to ourselves by being self-righteousness and falsely claiming we’re doing God’s will (when we’re not), we can also be guilty of saying (and believing) we’re being controlled by Satan (when we’re not)—deflecting the ownership of our own sin.

As Christians, whenever we blame Satan for our sins, we’re empowering him while simultaneously ignoring Christ. When we do this we buy into the lie that Satan can bypass and overcome God’s redemptive grace in our lives—essentially negating the significance of Christ’s death and resurrection.

Ultimately, we need to realize that God has delivered us and accept the freedom He’s given through His death on the cross. By admitting that Jesus’ sacrifice has real consequences relating to our current lives, our entire perspective changes, and we become fearless instead of fearful, hopeful instead of hopeless, and bold instead of timid.

Embrace the love of Christ and reject the fear of Satan. Christians can be assured of Jesus’ victory while also being wary of the very real presence Satan continues to have throughout our world.

In the end, God has given believers the ability to bring peace, healing and renewal to the places where Satan is trying to create destruction. This is an amazing responsibility we have been given, so let’s embrace our God-given authority and positively change the communities around us—bringing hope and love to all.

A Prayer about the Entanglements of Pornography

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith/The Gospel Coalition

 Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? . . . Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. Rom. 7:21-24, 8:1-2

Dear Lord Jesus, we come before you today on behalf of our friends—men and women under enslaving and destructive influence of pornography. The gospel is the only power which is mighty and merciful enough to bring freedom and healing. This is why we come boldly to your throne of grace today, with great concern, but also with a great hope.

O Lord of resurrection and redemption, bring your kindness and strength to bear in clear and remarkable fashion. Things impossible for us are more than possible for you. You have come to set captives free and to heal the brokenhearted. Pornography is creating an overabundance of both. Sin has corrupted our godly desire for rich relationship and the beauty of intimacy, and we have become easy prey for destructive counterfeits.

Lord Jesus, for friends somewhere in the pornography continuum of titillation to addiction, we ask you to reveal yourself as a pursuing and redeeming Lord. We ask for the holy gift of godly sorrow, not the short-lived remorse of worldly sorrow. For your non-condemning love has great power to deliver those who cry, “Who will rescue me…?” (Rom. 7:24)

Lead them to that cry, Jesus. Where pornography has desensitized our friends, re-sensitize them by the life-giving and transforming power of your love. Your love humbles us without humiliating us; it delivers us without demonizing us; it gives us new life, and no mere second chance. How we praise you for your heart-compelling, fear-expelling, repentance-producing love.

For our friends who are married to someone in the talons of pornography, dear Jesus, theirs may be the greater pain and struggle. No one but you can help them with the anger and disgust, the shame and the broken trust that does with their heartache. Help us love our friends well. Show us how to validate their feelings without confirming hurt-driven conclusions. Grant them patience and perspective, forbearance and faith.

Only you can rebuild the trust. Only you, Jesus, can bring a willingness to hope again. Only you can heal the places in our hearts which have suffered the greatest violation and harm. Absolutely no one understands all this like you, Jesus, and absolutely no one redeem these messes but you. So very Amen we pray, in your great and glorious name.

Slipping Back? Seek Help!!

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by  Karl Benzio/Lighthouse Network/Stepping Stones

Bad News/Good News

Do you sometimes find it hard to manage your thoughts, attitudes, behaviors, or emotions?

Do you persist in a destructive habit even though you know you are hurting yourself or those you love?

Do you have patterns or defects you want to correct, but find it difficult to do so?

On New Year’s or your birthday, as you reflect on your life, do you think of some areas of your life that you want to improve or even remove over the next year?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you are not alone.

In fact, if you answered no to all of them, you are either lying or in denial, as none of us are perfect in any, let alone every area of life.

Whether we know it or not, we have all operated in a self-destruct mode at some time in our lives. For some of us it’s been this way most of our adult lives. Perhaps you have tried to do right … tried to make some change. For a while, things may have improved. Then you find yourself slipping back to your old frustrating habits or patterns.

Well, what do you want first, the bad news or the good news?

Myself, I like the bad news first, so here it is.

You can’t make these kinds of changes by yourself. Unfortunately, you are going to have to rely on someone else.

Now for the good news: needing someone else’s help is OK because you couldn’t change by yourself and you don’t have to change by yourself.

God is standing by to help you. He is inviting, even imploring you to turn your problems over to Him. He wants you to know they are not person-sized problems … they are God-sized problems. He loves you, wants to save and ultimately sanctify you. He has the power to overcome anything you are and any struggle you can imagine. But more than wanting to, He is so capable. He has the ultimate power and strategy to make your change happen.

Unfortunately, our enemy, Satan, wants to trick us. His lies say we don’t need God, that we really can change on our own, or that if we really need assistance, the world will help us or will do it for us. Our own innate nature, which is selfish and me-centered, leans toward trusting only self and doing it all under “my own power.” Both of these strategies leave out God and only lead to a slow and tortuous inner death.

Today, take the beginning steps to overcome any destructive pattern in your life: admit you have the problem; admit you cannot correct the problem by yourself; tell God you are sorry for what you have been doing and that you truly want to change. Then trust Him to help you. Seek guidance about how to incorporate Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Bible into your everyday decision-making.

You didn’t get this way overnight, so life will not change overnight. But you can start developing the skills and disciplines to start moving in the right direction. God will be with you throughout the process.  Bringing God into your change process is your decision, so choose well.

Dear Heavenly Father and Ultimate Healer, Sometimes I feel so alone and helpless. Please bring Your Holy Word to my mind at those times. Help me remember that You are always with me, and that with You, all things are possible. Your instruction in the Holy Bible is so powerful … it can actually renew my mind and set me free. Help me to apply Your teachings and trust Your promises, instead of trusting my understanding and self-made instruction book. I pray this in the name of the One You sent who is the Good News, Jesus Christ; AMEN!

The Truth

I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.

Psalm 16:8

With Him, all things are possible. 

Philippians 4:13

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

Proverbs 3:5

Addictions – the Stone Gods

SOURCE: Taken from an article by Karl Benzio/Lighthouse Network/Stepping Stones

As kids, none of us sets out with the goal of feeling trapped in an addiction. Sadly, after a slow and insidious beginning, enslavement is the ultimate end for all addictive behaviors.

In certain key situations, addictions become our masters, the key authority in decision-making moments. So by definition, God is then subject to the addiction. A small percentage of people can feel the enslavement and lack of control. But most of us are fooled into thinking we aren’t enslaved, thinking we still have control, because the takeover is so subtle and usually occurs over a long period of time. The reality is that we easily become slaves to the objects that soothe us.

Being “trapped” is exactly where Satan wants us. He cleverly disguises our addiction objects. Because we aren’t stupid, and really don’t want to be slaves, Satan has to be subtle and crafty to help us progress down the pathway to enslavement.

People can find themselves obsessively and compulsively hooked on almost anything. The object of desire for an addict is always staring them right in the face. For some it’s using food as a source of comfort. For others it can be substances, alcohol, caffeine or pain pills. Subtler and more frequent options include control, relationships, anger, spending, Facebook, the phone, sports, TV, anxiety, panic attacks, guilt, fear, hobbies, money, power (think parenting tactics), a loud and intimidating voice, the silent treatment, avoidance … man, the list is endless! Just think of how many times these responses or objects got you into trouble. Yet you still do them! That is enslavement. In the end, we exalt ourselves above God and we want to feel good … no matter what.

People caught up in an addiction have replaced God with an idol.

They have found something that promises a good time, makes things better or easier to deal with, or makes the pain or struggle go away. What entered our life as a useful coping skill, tool, friend, or savior, quickly became a cruel master. The problem with idols is that we choose them because we want what we think they can give us, not because of what they actually are. We believe that they will do something for us, and we give them priority and ultimately, our devotion. But they are actually stone gods … illusions and lies that give us a little, but then trap us by interfering with the full, long-term relief that going to God will actually bring in full.

Today, readily admit you have an addiction. Be open with another person about what your top addiction objects are. Know as a Christian, that the Holy Spirit is in you to empower your pursuit of putting God on the throne of your heart, moment by moment.

Today’s scripture tells us that we are “crucified with Christ. therefore we no longer live, but it is Christ who lives within us.” This is the truth: we do not struggle alone. Christ is with us and in Him we are free. We slip daily. But don’t let Satan roll you over. Confess and understand why you turned to your idol instead of to God. With steady honesty and submission, and by applying God’s instruction and promises, you will be set free. When you are uncomfortable emotionally, notice what you turn to for soothing. God or ??? It’s your decision, so choose well.

Dear Father God, Today more than ever I need You to live up to that divine title of Savior. I need You to save me from myself, my addictions, my fear, my burdens. I am so tired of trying to do it on my own. I am weary and exhausted, stressed out and alone. Come to me and save me. Free me from my fears and help me to hold onto You, so that my life, my dreams, and my hopes can be renewed. I pray this in the name of the One whom You sent to set me free from all enslavement, Jesus Christ;  AMEN!

The Truth
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 

Isaiah 61:1

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. 

Galatians 2:20

Homosexuality: Tammy’s Story (2)

SOURCE:   Living Free/Dr. Jimmy Lee/Tammy Webb-Witholt

“Jesus replied, ‘But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice.” Luke 11:28 NLT


Tammy continues her testimony: “When I first made a commitment to serve Jesus, I promised to read the Bible and attend church once a week. My intention was to read scripture with an analytical eye, but soon the words came to life and penetrated my heart. I was confronted with God’s love and his call to obedience. Though I tried, I could not make the Bible say what I wanted it to say. I prayed, ‘OK, God, I still feel like a homosexual. I don’t know how to follow you in obedience. But even with my questions and my confusion, I’ll leave it all.”

“When I first came to Christ, I was obstinate and resistant to God’s will. But his grace stood patiently, hands extended in mercy and arms open wide in love. Now, with his help, I was ready to take a very difficult step of obedience.”

“That evening I ended the relationship I was in. My partner responded to my declaration by saying, ‘You can’t get out of this; no one ever gets out.’ Her words seemed like the words of a drug dealer, not a friend.”

“‘Help me, God,’ I prayed. And he did.”

Tammy couldn’t experience the power of God’s Word until she moved beyond reading it to living it. Then God gave her the strength to make some very difficult choices to walk in obedience.

Are you struggling with a problem, doing some things you know you shouldn’t, but just aren’t strong enough to do what you know is right?

Ask God to make his Word real to you. And determine in your heart that you will obey him. Once you make that choice and run to him, you will experience his love, his grace and his power in an all new way.

PRAYER….

Father, please forgive me for disobeying you. I thank you for your love and grace. Help me to make right choices. Help me to not just read the Bible, but to obey it. In Jesus’ name …

——————————————————————–


These thoughts were drawn from …

Lessons Learned: Moving from Homosexuality to Holiness by Tammy Webb-Witholt. This group study offers biblical tools, along with an abundance of hope, to anyone struggling with homosexuality.

How can I keep going when overwhelmed by the pressures of daily life?

SOURCE:  Marlene Bagnull/Discipleship Journal

Strength for the Battle

“I DON’T KNOW what’s wrong with me,” I admitted to a close friend. “I’m exhausted all the time, and I’m so irritable with the children. I flip out over the smallest things, then I feel guilty. Instead of praising God for all the good things He’s done for me, I’m almost always depressed. I feel like a failure as a Christian.”

My friend listened. She didn’t judge me as I was judging myself or break in with pat answers. Through the gift of her willingness to listen I discovered the root of the problem.

“I think I’m experiencing burnout,” I said. “I just have too many things to do, too much stress. I know my life is out of balance, but I don’t know what to do about it. I feel trapped. I try to pray. I try to read the Bible, but it only makes me feel worse. I feel as if God is angry with me for not applying the things I know and even teach to others.”

“Condemnation never comes from God,” my friend said. “You’re listening to the wrong voice.”

The tears I’d managed to hold back began to flow after I hung up the phone. “Oh, God,” I sobbed, “please help me to understand what’s happening to me. Please help me to find Your answers.”

My friend’s comment led me to turn to Paul’s letter to the Romans and read, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Ro. 8:1). The burden of feeling God was angry and disappointed with me began to lift as I remembered the context in which the Apostle Paul had written those words. He, too, didn’t understand why he did some of the things he did, and why he failed to do the good he wanted to do (Ro. 7:15). But Paul wasn’t chained to feelings of guilt and self-accusation. He experienced the “law of the Spirit of life” setting him free from “the law of sin and death” (Ro. 8:2).

Freeing him from exhaustion and discouragement, too? I wondered as I thought of all that Paul had to endure. Beatings, imprisonments and riots, hard work, sleepless nights and hunger—Paul certainly endured many hardships that could have caused him to quit. Wherever he went he encountered hostility. He was thrown out of cities and told never to come back. Even his brothers in Christ did not always support him.

“God,” I prayed, “please show me what held Paul steady, what prevented him from giving up.”

The answers did not come immediately, but in the days that followed I began to see some principles I had never before applied to my problem.

Recognize that you’re being tested.

“We want to prove ourselves genuine ministers of God whatever we have to go through” (2 Cor. 6.4, Phillips ). Paul recognized the fact that he was being tested, and he determined, by an act of his will, to meet that test head-on. Rather than succumbing to self-pity or giving up when circumstances could easily have led to defeat, Paul chose to view trials as opportunities to prove to everyone watching that he was striving to live by the principles he taught.

Paul had encouraged the Galatians to “not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9). In a lengthy letter to the Corinthians he encouraged them to “stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58). In his first letter to the Thessalonians he told them to “be joyful always” (1 Thess. 5:16).

We do get tested on the things we profess to believe, but through the testings we have the opportunity to strengthen our own faith and the faith of others. How? Paul went on to say, “We have proved ourselves to be what we claim by our wholesome lives and by our understanding of the Gospel and by our patience. We have been kind and truly loving and filled with the Holy Spirit” (2 Cor. 6:6, Living Bible ).

But I was too tired to know whether or not I still understood the gospel or was filled with the Holy Spirit. My capacity to be patient and kind was exhausted. I knew it would take more than an act of my will to be any of these things.

Rely on God’s power.

The next verse provided a solution: “We have been truthful, with God’s power helping us in all we do” (2 Cor. 6:7, Living Bible ). I again saw how God wasn’t expecting me to do or be any of these things in my own strength. It was essential to honestly face my inadequacies. It is only as I admit my weaknesses that I come, as Paul did, to rely upon God’s power at work within me.

“Is my tendency to become overwhelmed by my ‘thorn in the flesh’?” I asked the Lord, thinking of Paul’s battle and all the times I had prayed for a stronger personality. I felt God speak to me the same words He had spoken to Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).

Those words freed me, dispelling the fears that had been haunting me. I knew I no longer needed to be afraid of reaching the end of my resources because God’s power takes over when my strength is exhausted.

Go Into the battle equipped.

Finally the Lord reminded me that I am in a battle. To go into it without the “full armor of God” (Eph. 6:11) is as foolish as walking onto the front lines dressed for a game of tennis. I need to pick up and use the defensive weapons God provides for my protection. So every morning, for the past ten months, I’ve been “praying the armor on.” It’s become as much a part of my morning routine as getting dressed and brushing my teeth.

The belt of truth. “Lord,” I pray, “help me to gird myself with Your belt of truth” (Eph. 6:14). “Give me discernment that I might immediately recognize the enemy’s lies and half-truths. Help me to refuse to receive or believe them.”

The breastplate of righteousness. Next I mentally pick up the breastplate of righteousness (Eph. 6:14). It protects my most vulnerable area—my heart, the home of my feelings and emotions. It is so easy for me to be wounded by others, to allow myself to be influenced by fear of what they might say or think. “Lord,” I pray, “help me today to consistently choose to do what is right in Your eyes. Thank You for protecting me from the judgment and criticism I may receive.”

The shoes of the gospel. Just as I would not walk out of the house in the dead of winter barefooted, I take the time to have my “feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” (Eph. 6:15).

John MacArthur, in his study notes for The Believer’s Armor, describes a common military practice of the Roman soldiers: “planting sticks in the ground which had been sharpened to a razor-point, and concealing them so that they were almost invisible. This was a very effective tactic because, if the soldier’s foot was pierced, he wouldn’t be able to walk—and if he couldn’t walk, he was totally debilitated.”1

To protect their feet, Roman soldiers wore boots with heavy soles. Pieces of metal protruded from the bottom of the boots, acting like today’s football cleats, to give the soldiers firm footing.

The shoes God provides for me give me a solid foundation upon which to stand. He readies me for His work by instructing and teaching me in the way I should go (Ps. 32:8). When I choose to follow His plan instead of asking Him to bless my plans, I find my feet do not become bruised and weary from going places He never intended for me to go. I also find that when I say “yes” to what He wants me to do rather than to what others tell me I should do, I am filled with peace instead of tension.

The shield of faith. Next I prayerfully pick up the shield of faith to stop the “flaming arrows of the evil one” (Eph. 6:16). I ask God to make me mighty in spirit—to help me to walk by faith, not by sight. I also ask Him to help me not to lower my shield by nurturing doubts. A soldier can be fatally wounded if he lowers his shield for only a moment.

The helmet of salvation. This piece of the armor (Eph. 6:17) protects my mind. As I ask God to fit it snugly over my head, I am protected from indulgence in the negative thinking that tears me down. Each morning I thank God that I do not have to be bound by old habits and thinking patterns. I ask Him to continue His work of transforming me by renewing my mind (Ro. 12:2).

The sword of the Spirit. Finally, remembering that God has not provided any armor to protect my back, I ask Him to help me stand and face the enemy in His strength. I know that God does not intend for me to turn and run. Rather, He wants me to take the offensive by picking up the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17).

Just as Jesus defeated Satan by quoting Scripture, I can speak God’s promises and see the enemy flee. When I’m exhausted and the pressure is on, I can claim Phil. 4:19—God will meet all my needs. Or 1 Cor. 1:7–8—I do not lack any spiritual gift; He will keep me strong to the end. There is a promise for every lie Satan would use to try to intimidate me. I may still feel overwhelmed, but when I go into battle praising and thanking God, I am victorious.

There are still days when I feel completely drained—when I fear I have nothing to give. If I fail to recognize I’m being tested, if I do not rely on God’s power, and if I go into the battle unequipped, I suffer and my family suffers. But praise God, it doesn’t have to be that way. I can know the joy Paul wrote about. I can “delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10). Feelings of exhaustion and defeat will flee as I choose to draw closer to the Source of my strength.

 

Note
1. John MacArthur, The Believer’s Armor (Panorama City, CA: Word of Grace Communications, 1982), p. 41.

Is Anything Too Hard For ME!?!

SOURCE:  Living Free Ministries

“I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?”Jeremiah 32:27 NIV

Thoughts for Today
When we are facing difficult times, sometimes we begin to feel as though our situation is hopeless. If friends and family try to encourage us, we might respond with, “But you don’t understand.”

Our loved ones might or might not understand, but the Lord always understands. He always cares. And he assures us that nothing is too hard for him.

Consider this … 
What challenges are you facing? An illness? A rebellious child? Marriage problems? Financial challenges? Whatever it is, remember that God is bigger.

As you turn your problem over to God, remember that his answer might not be what you are expecting. And his timing might seem ever so slow. But he will be with you throughout the process. And his plan … and his time … are always the best plan and the best time. No matter how things appear right now, he will work all things together for good. He loves you … and nothing is too hard for him.

Prayer
Father, thank you for your promise that nothing is too hard for you. Thank you for your faithfulness … your understanding … your love … your grace. Thank you for the plan you have for me. In Jesus’ name …

————————————————————-

These thoughts were drawn from …

Stepping into Freedom: A Christ-Centered Twelve-Step Program by Jimmy Ray Lee, D.Min.

Make No Mistake: God Is In Control !!

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by D. A. Carson

The three-week delay (Dan. 10:12–14) unveils conflict in the heavenlies.

The prince of the Persian kingdom is apparently some angelic being connected with Persia; similarly for the prince of Greece (Dan. 10:20). Michael, “one of the chief princes” (Dan. 10:13), is “your [Israel’s] prince” (Dan. 10:21). The hierarchy of angelic beings is not governed by the relationships of their earthly counterparts.

As there is war between good and evil on earth, so is there war in heaven.

In the same way that observing earthly people and powers might lead the unwary to conclude that God is not really in control, so also this delay in the movements of angels has caused the unwary to conclude that God is not really in control in heaven either—since clearly there are many contingencies of which we are not normally aware.

But that is to draw a conclusion that Scripture rules out of order:

Nebuchadnezzar learned the lesson well:  God “does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and with the peoples of the earth” (Dan. 4:35, italics added).

There is a terrible war going on, but this takes place under God’s sovereignty;  in its affirmation of God’s utter dominion the text insists, “All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing.… No one can hold back his hand” (Dan. 4:35).

So there is space for conflict, resolve, perseverance—and for faith and utter confidence.

2 Kings 6; 1 Timothy 3; Daniel 10; Psalms 119:1–24

If God Is Good, Why Is There So Much Suffering in the World?

SOURCE:  Bob and Gretchen Passantino/Discipleship Journal/NavPress

People frequently challenge Christians with the problem of a good God allowing suffering. Usually their argument says, “If God is all-powerful, He could prevent or eliminate suffering. If God is all-good, He would not want His creation to suffer. Since you say God is both, suffering should not exist. Yet we see suffering all around us and experience it ourselves. Therefore, God doesn’t exist, or He’s not all-powerful, or He’s not all-good.”

Any time we come up against this question, we need to discern why the person is asking it. Is the person a skeptic? Or is the person or someone close to them suffering? When someone is suffering, all the logic and truth in the world is incomplete without a demonstration of compassionate love. For our purposes here, we will assume the person is a skeptic.

In dealing with a skeptic, first consider the consequences of accepting the skeptic’s alternatives: Suffering proves that God does not exist, or He is not all-powerful, or He is not all-good. If God does not exist, then all of existence, including our suffering, has no enduring value, purpose, or goal. If God is not all-powerful, then we have no hope that suffering will ever be eliminated. If God is not all-good, then He must be a sadist. Each of these alternatives is problematic, so the skeptic has merely exchanged one answer he doesn’t like for others equally unpleasant.

Next, we need to understand that many problems with theology come from problems with personal worldviews and values. Many people struggle with the problem of God and suffering because they reject a Christian worldview. Avoiding suffering is preferred to learning patience; immediate gratification means more than self-discipline; self-gratification is more important than sharing; and physical pleasure is superior to spiritual joy. But making sense of suffering and a loving God can only be done by explaining the Christian worldview.

If the Christian worldview is considered, there are a variety of approaches to the question of God and suffering. Biblical convictions include (1) suffering does not originate with God and will be eliminated at some point; (2) God works good in the midst of suffering; (3) not all pain is bad in the moral sense; (4) and physical, transient suffering and death are relatively inconsequential compared to spiritual, eternal suffering and death.

The Bible says that suffering in the world is the consequence of the sin of the two original human parents, Adam and Eve. Romans 5:12–21 and Ro. 8:20–21 teach that suffering, even suffering of various kinds and far removed in history from them, is a result of their original sin.

If God always prevented people from sinning (whether Adam and Eve or those whose sin causes suffering today), or always prevented the consequences of sin, then human goodness would be mere programming, not true goodness. We do not pat a computer on its head when it executes its program; it is a determined function, not an exercise of moral responsibility. Suffering, the consequence of human sin, is not caused by God, but by the sin of persons with moral responsibility.

Also, God has not abandoned the world to eternally suffer the consequences of sin. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to provide ultimate freedom from the consequences of sin. It is wrong to indict God because suffering is not yet eliminated, just as it would be wrong to indict a doctor who treats a gunshot wound he didn’t cause, simply because the wound is not healed instantly.

Our assurance that God will eliminate suffering is not the only comfort God gives us. While God did not cause suffering, He has given it purpose. It became the vehicle for our salvation through “Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame” (Heb. 12:2).

Through suffering we can learn patience, self-discipline, trust, and a number of other virtues. When we suffer we can experience the love, compassion, and self-denial of those who help us. When we help someone who is suffering, we find significance in our own lives as well.

Not all pain is “bad” in the moral sense. God created us with nerve endings that use pain to protect us. Pain keeps us from burning our hands in a campfire, bending our legs back until the joints break, neglecting nourishment until we starve, etc. Suffering can also be a direct, just consequence of our own actions. Our sense of justice says that it is “good” when an exploiter loses his friends, even though loneliness is “painful.” It is good when a mugger is locked up, even though he “suffers” the loss of his freedom.

All humans have a moral conscience, even if it is corrupted by sin and often ignored. Our conscience should not rejoice in sin, suffering, and death. When we see innocents suffering, we should experience moral outrage and seek to rescue the sufferer. When we see someone suffer death, we should experience loss and sorrow. Sin, suffering, and death are not the destinies for which God created us. He created us to enjoy perfect, good, loving fellowship with Him for eternity. Despite our moral betrayal, He continues to offer eternal life.

The skeptic has it partly right: Suffering should offend our sense of goodness and justice. Sadly, he misses the rest of the argument: Because suffering violates goodness and justice, there must be an all-good, all-powerful God whose remedy restores the perfection He created. This is the hope that the Christian offers in the midst of suffering: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed” (Ro. 8:18–19).

Suffering and death in this sinful world are not without remedy. The only reasonable response to the existence of suffering is confidence in God’s promises for eternity: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. . . . Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. . . . Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 5:4, Mt. 5:7, Mt. 5:10).

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People? The Problem of Evil

SOURCE:  Adapted from a post by Tawa J. Anderson


Why do bad things happen to good people? This is one of the most haunting questions facing modern man. Why does such seemingly senseless tragedy strike such seemingly innocent victims? Why are many babies born with deformities or handicaps? Why are young women in southern Sudan raped and beaten by armed militia from the north? Why are girls in Thailand sold into sexual slavery to provide a few months income for their families and to satisfy the perversions of Western tourists? Why did an unimaginably powerful earthquake in Japan cause a massive tsunami and cause so much destruction and death? 

To put the question in another way, why does God allow bad things to happen to good people? If God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving, why is there such deep and senseless evil and suffering on earth? David Hume, the eighteenth century atheist philosopher, stated the logical problem of evil when he inquired about God, “Is He willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then He is impotent. Is He able, but not willing? Then He is malevolent. Is He both able and willing? Whence then is evil?”

According to Hume, and many skeptics since, an all-powerful and loving God would not permit the existence of the evil that we perceive and experience. Indeed, since Hume’s day, the ‘problem of evil’, as it is known, has been the strongest challenge to Christian belief, and a key argument put forward in favor of atheism. The argument is basically thus: ‘if the Christian God exists, then evil would not be. Evil is, therefore God is not.’

We all struggle to understand why God allows horrible things to happen to people who do not deserve it. Tonight we are going to ponder this issue together. I want to suggest that we can come to a better understanding of why bad things happen to good people by identifying the who, the why, the what, and the how of evil and suffering. Who causes evil? Why does God allow evil? What does God do about evil? And How are we to respond to evil? As we search out an understanding of the who, why, what, and how of evil, I pray that God will illuminate our hearts and minds.

Before we delve into the who, why, what, and how of evil, we need to establish two preliminary facts. First, if Christianity is true, then there are no truly ‘good’ people. Second, if there is no God, then there are no truly ‘bad’ things to happen to people. We could spend an entire week talking about both of these fundamental truths, but we simply do not have the time. Thus, I am going to just touch on them briefly and then move on.

I. There are no “Good People”, only “Relatively Good People”


The Bible insists, and human experience confirms, that there are no truly ‘good’ people. Psalm 14:2-3 reads: The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. Romans 3:9-20 quotes Psalm 14 and builds upon it, insisting that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. Verse 20 concludes: Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.  

The bad news of humanity, which must be understood before we can acknowledge the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is that we are all alike sinners deserving of God’s just condemnation. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Only after acknowledging universal sinfulness can we proclaim that we are all justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. The bad news precedes the good news. This is crucial when we consider why bad things happen to ‘good’ people. The bottom line is that no one is truly ‘good’; there are only ‘relatively good’ people. We are ‘relatively good’ in comparison to Hitler or Charles Manson. But none of us is ‘relatively good’ compared to God. God alone is good. We are good only insofar as we have the spirit of the living God within us. This truth has no impact upon our existential experience of evil and suffering, and it does not answer the question that we have asked. It just helps us to realize that we have to put good in quotation marks. The real question is ‘why do bad things happen’, period.

II. Outside of Christianity, there are no “Bad Things”, only “Things I Don’t Like”

Now consider this – what makes ‘bad’ things bad? To consider something ‘bad’, there must be some kind of objective standard to which it is being compared. As Christians, we certainly have this standard – something is ‘bad’ insofar as it falls short of the goodness and glory and perfection of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But what about others? Where does their definition of ‘bad’ come from? For most Eastern religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism, and Sikhism, nothing is truly and objectively ‘bad’. Something may be maya, that is, illusory; but fundamental reality is one, Brahman, and transcends our categories of good and evil. There is not good and evil, there is only ‘is’. Evil is an illusion; suffering is an illusion. Thus, in those worldviews there is no point in asking the question ‘why do bad things happen to good people?’, because there are no ‘bad’ things.

How about the atheist? He fares no better. If there is no God, there is no objective standard of ‘good’ and ‘bad’. There is only ‘what I prefer’ and ‘what you prefer’; or what different cultures prefer. Without a transcendent source for morality, we are driven to some form of ethical relativism. But then the whole argument against Christianity based on the existence of pointless evil and suffering collapses. C. S. Lewis writes:
“My [old atheistic] argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? … Of course, I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too – for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist – in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless – I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality – namely my idea of justice – was full of sense.” (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)

If there is no God, then there is no such thing as objective evil; but then there is no problem of evil to begin with. An atheist can rail against the existential unlikeability of things that happen, but he can hardly shake his fist at the God in whom he willfully disbelieves, and blame God for allowing evil to persist. Only the Christian can raise the question of why bad things happen to ‘good’ people, because we have a transcendent standard by which some things are indeed declared ‘evil’ or ‘bad’. Again, this does not minimize the reality and significance of evil and suffering—it only sets the framework for our discussion. There are no ‘good’ people, because we are all sinners by nature, and unless Christianity is true, there are no ‘bad’ things to happen to anybody. With that groundwork in place, let’s proceed to our discussion of the who, why, what, and how of evil.

III. Who Causes Evil? The impact of human sin

First, who causes evil? Where does it come from? Why is there suffering at all? In Genesis 1, God creates the universe and everything within it. In verse 31, we read: God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. In the beginning, creation was good. There was no evil, no suffering. But in Genesis 3, the picture changes. Adam and Eve disobey God, rebel against God’s loving Lordship, and plunge all of creation into a state of fallen sinfulness. Their sin affects not just their own relationship with God, but the status of the entire created order. Where does evil come from? Quite simply, from the sin of mankind. Why are young girls in Thailand sold into sexual slavery? Because of the moral evil of men and women around them—their parents’ sinful decision to sell them off, the sinful institutions in their country which perpetually impoverish their families, and the sinful perversions of sex tourists who come to Thailand solely to despoil and molest enslaved Thai women. Why do deformities and handicaps affect many children? Because the fall of man introduced sin and imperfection into the created order, including the genetic reproduction of humanity. Evil exists because human sin exists.

IV. Why does God Allow Evil?

Second, why does Almighty God allow evil? Granted that evil stems from the sinfulness of humanity. Why does God allow it? If God is all-powerful, why doesn’t He stop children from being born deformed? Why doesn’t He stop women from being abused? Why doesn’t He protect New Orleans from being decimated by hurricanes and floods? Before I begin to answer this question, I want you to note the irony of this complaint against God. Atheists frequently want to be left alone to do what they want to do, morally and intellectually speaking. In other words, they want God to let them do what they want to do. If they want to have sex with a multitude of women, let them. If they want to think that words are a power game and have no intrinsic meaning, let them. They want to be left alone. They certainly do not want ‘God’ (in whom, again, they do not believe) to interfere in their lives and disrupt their plans. And yet they raise a howl of protest against intuitively-known evil, and insist that if there was an all-powerful God, He ought not to let such things occur. They want God to intervene and prevent other people from perpetrating evil (that is, from doing the evil that they want to do), but they forbid God from intervening and preventing themselves from perpetrating what others might perceive as evil. Which is it? Do they want a God who intervenes in earthly affairs, or not?

A) Human Freedom

Why does God allow evil to occur? Why does He permit relatively good people to endure incredible suffering? First off, we must acknowledge that if God so desired, He could eliminate all evil and suffering with one word from His mouth. After all, God is all-powerful. However, we might not like what was left of the world if God did that, as we will come to see presently. At any rate, we can point to three broad reasons that God allows evil to occur.

First, and most commonly and generally, God permits evil to occur because He has endowed men and women with free will, and does not intervene to prevent His creatures from carrying out their freely-chosen evil intentions. We are all consciously aware of having the power of choice – the ability to determine what we do today and tomorrow. To be sure, we are strongly influenced and directed by our particular genetic make-up, as well as our environmental upbringing. Nonetheless, we choose our course of action. [For example], one could decide to go out after church on Sunday and bring sandwiches and cold ice tea to the homeless people living on the streets of Louisville. [Another], meanwhile, could choose to slip thumbtacks into the shoes and hats of those same homeless people. One would be choosing to do good, the other to do evil. But both would be making a decision to act. God would not approve of  [the latter’s] actions. [This] would be acting contrary to God’s prescriptive will – that is, what God desires and directs to happen. [This] act would fall under God’s permissive will – that is, what God allows to happen, even though it may be contrary to His character and commandments.

The vast majority of evil and suffering we complain about is due to the sinfulness of mankind. The argument that God should not allow such evil to occur is really a demand that God should make man to be something other than what He is—that mankind should be compelled and forced by God to act rightly, instead of being exhorted, encouraged, and entreated to do what is right. A world without evil would be a world without free-willed men; a world of robotic androids, incapable of forming relationships, incapable of expressing worship, incapable of ‘doing good’ because they are incapable of choosing their path in any way. That is why we as human beings really do not want God to eliminate all evil and suffering—because if He did, we would cease to be conscious of anything. Removing the possibility of human-perpetrated evil also removes the possibility of human good.


B) Suffering as Discipline and Judgment


There are two other reasons that God permits evil and suffering. On the one hand, He sometimes allows us to experience a wake-up call—such as when a man who has been eating deep-fried fatty foods for years suffers a mild heart attack and ponders his need to alter his lifestyle and diet. God sometimes leads us through suffering in order to refine our character and will. Other times, suffering is a more direct judgment for sin, as when God judges His chosen nation of Israel in the Old Testament for their rebellion against Him, and sends them into exile in Babylon.

C) Suffering/Evil and the Greater Good

On the other hand, God often uses apparent evil to accomplish a greater good which we can not see because of our limited human perspective. Indeed, the comforting promise of Romans 8:28 is that we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. From my perspective (and I know there are many who disagree with this), God does not approve of or will the evil that occurs, but He does redeem it, working in the midst of great evil to accomplish greater good.

V. What does God Do about Evil and Suffering?

Indeed, that is part of the answer to our third question: What does God do about evil? Granted that mankind is the source of evil, and that God permits it primarily because He has divinely created us to be creatures with the freedom to choose good or evil—what does God do about it? Is He merely standing on the sidelines, cheering on the ‘good guys’ while booing the ‘evil ones’? Is He wringing His hands helplessly, weeping over His inability to rein in the forces of doom and darkness? In addition to working good out of evil, I suggest that there are four things that we can identify God as ‘doing’ about the evil and suffering in the world.

A) Grieves Over

First, God grieves with us over evil in the world. In Matthew 23:37, Jesus cries out:O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. Jesus is grieved by the unwillingness of the people of Israel to acknowledge and embrace His messianic ministry. Throughout Scripture, we see God expressing sympathy for those who are suffering, and promising to provide comfort to those who are afflicted. God grieves with us as we suffer, and carries us through the darkest times of our suffering.

B) Condemns and Judges

Second, God condemns evil. In Matthew 23:23, Jesus expresses strong anger and condemnation towards the evil of the religious leaders of Israel. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. If you want even stronger expressions of condemnation for evil, check out the Old Testament prophets. A brief taste from Amos 2:6 – For three sins of Israel, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath. They sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals. They trample on the heads of the poor as upon the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed. Father and son use the same girl and so profane my holy name. God judges and condemns evil in all forms, from whatever corner it comes. God’s Church is not exempt from condemnation—if and when evil is perpetrated by professing Christians, God can and will condemn it also.

C) Absorbs and Endures

Third, God takes evil upon Himself. God descends to earth in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Though a righteous, sinless man, incarnate God suffers intense evil at the hands of sinful men. Whatever suffering and evil we have endured, Jesus has gone through similar or worse. Furthermore, when Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem, He assumed upon Himself the evil that we have committed, and endured the punishment that we had earned. For example, 2 Corinthians 5:21 reads – God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. As Jesus hangs on the cross, bearing upon Himself all of our evil and consequent punishment, God the Father judges the evil present upon God the Son. Jesus experiences this divine abandonment, and cries out: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Never lose sight of the fact that the suffering of the cross is real, and that Jesus takes evil willingly upon Himself. God does not just witness evil from the sidelines; He enters into human suffering and takes it upon Himself.

D) Ultimately & Finally Defeats
Finally, God gives His divine and certain promise that evil will one day be defeated and eradicated. We live as fallen creatures in a fallen creation, but God has assured us that He will one day remake creation and re-establish for all eternity a righteous, perfect order. Revelation 16-20 (like many other biblical passages) describe the future defeat, judgment, and demise of Satan and other workers of evil; Revelation 21 then opens with a beautiful picture of the paradise that awaits us when evil is eradicated. Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. God grieves over evil; He condemns it; He takes it upon Himself to redeem us; and He will ultimately defeat and demolish all evil and suffering.

VI. How are We to Respond to Evil and Suffering?

With all that in mind, then, how are we to respond to evil? Are we to throw our hands up in the air and cry: ‘There’s nothing we can do about it! We live in a terrible world!’? Or are we to take a shotgun and shoot whoever around us seems to be most evil? How does God desire us to respond to evil around us, and the evil that we ourselves endure. First, we need to have the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus, as Philippians 2:1-11 reminds us. We must grieve with others who encounter evil and experience suffering, and seek to comfort them and carry them through their trials. We must also condemn the evil that exists in our society—as well as the evil that exists within ourselves. We must not be content to accept the inevitability of evil and suffering, but rather are called by God to strive against it. In the Lord’s prayer, we pray: Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. We truly desire for God’s will to be done here, and thus we struggle and fight against evil, injustice, and sources of human suffering. 

Finally, when we experience evil personally, we must keep fresh in our minds the convicting, challenging, but comforting words of the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 – Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. Yes, our suffering may be intense; the evil we encounter may be gratuitous, grievous evil. But we must keep in mind the victory over death and evil and suffering that is ours through faith in Jesus Christ. Just as Christ won the victory over sin and death through His glorious resurrection, so too we are assured of our own victory over evil and death. Just as Christ was raised from the dead to eternal life with God the Father, so too we are assured of our own resurrection to eternal life.

Who causes evil? We do. Why does God allow evil to persist? Because He created us with the freedom to choose, for good or for evil, and allows us to act accordingly. What does God do about the evil that He permits? He brings good out of it, grieves over it, condemns it, takes it upon Himself, and ultimately defeats it. How are we to respond to evil? We are to grieve over it, condemn it, and keep our eyes focused upon the redemption of our suffering through our future resurrection.

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