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Why Fasting Is Important and Healthy

The truth is everyone has thoughts or desires, which, if acted upon, would be destructive to self and others. If we do not learn to say no to these inborn incessant urges when we are young, then we wind up dead, in debt or in prison before too long. We are conditioned to say yes to our whims from the time we are tiny via an array convincing consumer ads. Our economy surges when we splurge and buy what we are persuaded we want. In addition to this, we are taught that virtually nothing we do is really our fault. We are victims of time and chance and genetics, to say nothing of the people who have scarred us emotionally and psychologically. I need to eat comfort food to feel better; I need to buy myself something; I need to escape by playing my video games, trolling the internet for ever more interesting porn, watching countless hours of television or movies. Entitlement is a destructive mental illness because it is the excuse keeping us from saying no to ourselves.

Jesus said that unless we deny ourselves, take up the cross and follow him we cannot be his disciples. Christianity in our time has followed the consumer culture by presenting a Jesus who wants to boost our sagging self-esteem, and enable our sense of entitlement by providing us with anything and everything we ask for in prayer. We are promised that we can receive whatever we ask for, but Jesus said, “if you abide in me and my word abides in you, then ask whatever you will and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). He also instructed his followers to ask in His name, which means asking by proxy for the kinds of things and with the kind of faith Jesus himself would. This is not self-interested asking. The only way to get to the place where we are asking like the Son of God is to become like the Son of God, and the only way to get there is to deny ourselves and be filled with the Spirit of Christ.

This denial of self is a cognitive process that involves seeing ourselves differently. It involves realizing a mysterious metaphysical reality: I have been crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20). This cannot be a theoretical understanding only, or even a remarkable personal revelation into the teaching of Scripture. The Apostle said, “I die daily.” Thus, it is a daily, even moment-by-moment, recognition that the old person of mere flesh and blood is dead. 

Self-denial requires faith that results in self-discipline. Without faith we likely will fail to continue in the discipline. After all, why should I deny myself what I desire? Moreover, without assistance from outside myself I remain captive to the tyranny of “me,” even while seeking to deny certain desires or perceived needs. Therefore, faith in Christ is essential to self-denial, both as the reason and the power to deny the self. This is much stronger than so called “will-power.”

I confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, and the Lord has commanded that I deny self. In fact, he stated plainly that I couldn’t follow him until I do this (Mark 10:34, Luke 14:26-27).  To assist me in keeping this command Jesus has died on the cross, risen from the dead and sent His Spirit to live within me. The Holy Spirit connects me to Christ’s death and resurrection. Now the spiritual reality is: I have died; my old life is buried; a new creation has been resurrected. In order to make this truth a reality in my experience I must believe and continually discipline myself to act upon that faith. Certain spiritual disciplines may aid in this practice.

For thousands of years people in many different religious traditions have practiced fasting. Consider the following examples of people who fasted: Confucius, Plato, Aristotle and Hippocrates (father of medicine).  In the Bible we find Moses, David, Elijah, Daniel and Esther fasting in the Old Testament. In the Mosaic Law 

Israel is commanded to fast once per year on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:27). In the New Testament Paul the apostle and Jesus fasted. Such eminent Christian leaders as Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards also fasted. Why?

There are many reasons and benefits, but in keeping with the teaching above I have observed the following truth. Fasting teaches me to say, “no” to me. It is denying something that I need, usually food, in order to focus on what I need more: God and his truth. Jesus was tempted by the devil to end his 40 day inaugural fast miraculously by turning rocks into loaves of bread. The Lord quoted Deuteronomy: “Man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4 & Deut. 8:3). There is something, or rather Someone, more important in life than me. 

Eating is essential for physical life to continue. Unlike air, or even water, food is something I can limit or go without for an extended period of time without serious health risks. In fact, if done correctly and not recklessly, fasting may actually be healthy for the body. For example, recent studies done with both animals and humans indicate that eating 30% fewer calories results in a longer and healthier life. 

Fasting doesn’t have to be limited to food, however. Scripture records this interesting fast of the prophet Daniel during a period of serious prayer and mourning: “I ate no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, for the full three weeks” (Daniel 10:3, ESV). So, Daniel kept himself from self indulgence during this time. Later in the passage we see that he had chosen this kind of fast as a way of humbling himself before God to seek understanding into the future plight of his people Israel (ibid. 10:12). The Apostle Paul observed that married couples might abstain from sexual activity in order to focus on prayer. However, he encourages such couples to come back together after a limited time to avoid temptations, which may result from a lack of self-control (see 1 Corinthians 7:5). During the Christian season of Lent some people come up with an activity or indulgence in their lives to give up, which is a kind of fasting.

The following are seven reasons for fasting.

1. DEDICATION. Fast as an Act of Dedication (Matthew 4:1-2) –  After his baptism, Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit where he fasted for 40 days to prepare for entry into his ministry. During this time Jesus was tested by the devil. Perhaps fasting gave Jesus clarity as he intensely focused on His Father. The time of testing provided confirmation that He was the Son of God who had come to save the world. You may fast as an act of dedication to the Lord, and to seek confirmation about his calling in your life.

2. DISCIPLINE. Fast as an Exercise of Self-Discipline (Matthew 4:3-4) –  Learn to say no to yourself. All of the temptations Jesus endured were aimed at getting him to act egotistically and expediently. If the Lord had given in it would not have been an exercise of faith, but an effort at overcoming self-doubt with presumption. Our consumer culture is about self-indulgence, not self-discipline. It is about pursuing passion, pleasure and satisfying desire. This is why we’re overweight and in debt. It is important to set limits for our time, money, eating and drinking. Fasting is a good tool to discipline yourself so that you may also say no in areas other than food.

3. DEPENDENCE. Fast as an Affirmation of Dependence upon God-  Learn to rely on the power of God. Jesus’ first statement in response to Satan’s temptation demonstrates this. “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Deuteronomy 8:3 as quoted in Matthew 4:4, also John 4:34). When I give up something I truly want, I will need God’s help to persevere. The third affirmation of the AA 12 Steps recognizes our need to do this. “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God…” This is essential if I am to overcome a particularly stubborn habit or addiction. “This kind only comes out by prayer and fasting” (Mark 12:29). We need a deep faith, which relies entirely upon God, and fasting may help promote such faith.

4. DETERMINATION. Fast to Establish Determination-  Faith is not a feeling. Belieiving is an act of the will. If I truly believe I am willing to do something about it. Faith must also endure or it’s worthless. Learn to have a tenacious and unshakeable faith. Not everything happens instantly. In fact, many issues require determination and tenacity to overcome. Jesus’ disciples encountered a boy whom they could not help. After Jesus cast out the spirit afflicting the child, his disciples asked him why they were powerless to do so. Jesus replied, “This kind can only come out by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29, Matthew 17:21). 

Remember, although faith is an act of the will, it is not about willpower. It is about trust. I must be determined to continue to trust God, no matter the circumstances. This is fasting for a breakthrough. Nothing is helping. Nothing is changing. I can give up and give in, or I can resolve to focus all my attention on God and persevere in asking and seeking and knocking. Consider Jesus’ parable of the importunate widow: the woman kept coming to the judge for justice until he finally gave her fair relief (Luke 18:1-8). In the end I will find it is not God who is withholding my right, but a lack of faith on my part. Fasting helps me to break through.

5. DESPERATION/Destitution. Fast as an Act of Desperation (Joel 2:17-21) –  Am I sick and tired of being sick and tired? Do I realize I have nothing to offer God? I must repent and come to an end of self if I want to be filled with God’s Holy Spirit. I must realize how truly sinful I am, and how depraved I will become without God’s help. I’ve got to take sin seriously. Cry out to God in repentance. “Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” (Joel 2:12 NIV). “God will hear the prayer of the destitute” (Psa. 102:17). I need to hear from God at all costs. Our nation and our lives are filled with rebellion, perversion and lawlessness. How many more tragedies must occur until we realize the need to return to the Lord in heart and mind and body? “for the LORD will rebuild Zion; he will appear in his glory” (Psa. 102:16).

6. DETOXIFICATION. Fast as a means of Detoxification (Daniel 1:8-16) – Because of constant exposure to an impure environment your body collects all sorts of toxic and destructive substances. Consider Daniel and his friends who would not eat the meat and rich food offered them by their Babylonian overlords. Instead they ate only vegetables and drank only water. They were healthier as a result. They asked to be tested for 10 days. You can do the same test on yourself: Eat only vegetables and drink only water for 10 days and discover a healthier you. A vegan or even vegetarian diet that allows only organic foods is a healthy way to rid your body of toxins. When you abstain from food altogether, drinking only water, especially for longer periods, the digestive system and liver and kidneys can be cleansed of accumulated poison.

The same applies to your mind. When you remove TV, movies, video games, godless music, social media, you give your mind the opportunity to rest. Replace these things with worship and saturation in Scripture.

7. DIET. Fast regularly to lose excess body fat- Limiting the amount of food you eat is a means of controlling calorie intake. Most of us eat too much. We take in more calories than we burn, so we gain unneeded fat. Periodic fasting, (ie. one day per week), if done in moderation and balanced with a healthy, calorie controlled diet, is an effective tool in losing fat and maintaining a lean body. Further, we eat too often, and this adversely affects health by raising insulin resistance. Intermittent fasting throughout the week will help resolve this health problem. Stop eating at sundown and don’t eat again until sunrise. Several days per week, don’t eat until lunchtime. Periods of at least 13 hours without food will help your body to reduce the amount of insulin it is releasing and help your cells to become more sensitive..

Here are some practical guidelines and suggestions for possible fasts. Remember the following principles. 1) If you make a vow, keep it.  2) Choose something that will really require discipline to give up. 3) Giving up what you shouldn’t be doing to begin with is not fasting, it’s obedience.

Consider one several of the following fasts during Lent.

  1. Pick a legitimate pleasurable food or activity and deny yourself this.
    1. Why? You are learning to discipline yourself for the sake of Christ.
    2. For example eliminate: candy, soda, dessert, coffee, alcohol, TV, watching or listening to sports, secular music,  talk radio, movies, video games, Facebook, texting.
  2. Fast at least once per week from sundown to sundown. Eat a healthy dinner immediately before sundown on the first day, skip breakfast and lunch the next day, and break the fast right after sundown. Although, this is a 24 hour fast, you will have only skipped two meals.
  3. Juice fast for 24 hours. Drink only pure vegetable juice. 
  4. Eat no flesh. Abstain from eating meat during the entirety of Lent. 

Now, Lent is 46 days because Sunday is considered a feast day, and there are six Sundays in this period. Therefore, it is acceptable to “take Sunday off” during Lent.

Acts of God

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory, the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word”  (Hebrews 1:3, NIV).

“For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust”  (Matthew 5:45, ESV).

If nature’s laws were not universal and consistent, science would be impossible. Experiments are worthless if we cannot be assured that the same thing will happen again under the same conditions. Without universal laws of nature, life would be chaotic and very difficult (if it would be possible at all). What if water boiled at 100 degrees celsius today, but under the same conditions tomorrow it wouldn’t boil until it reached twice that temperature? Actually, we wouldn’t even have the celsius scale to measure it, since celsius is calibrated according to the freezing and boiling points of water! What if the magnetic North Pole moved around randomly? Compasses wouldn’t work. What if gravity fluctuated erratically? Let’s say gravity suddenly became the same strength on earth as it is on the moon, then a week later it was equivalent to Neptune? If I weigh 180 lbs on earth, I’d weigh just 30 lbs (yes, thirty!) when gravity shifted to Moon-Strength, and I’d weight a whopping 3,078 lbs (one and one-half tons!) when Neptune-Strength gravity kicked in. Aren’t you glad we live in a world where nature is consistent?

Storms, accidents, and natural disasters impact both moral and immoral people. Earthquakes, tornados, droughts: all indiscriminately effect Christians, Jews, atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and agnostics; in short, everyone. 

Everything in the natural order works according to established laws. God is not the direct (efficient) cause of everything that happens. I’ve heard and read preachers who say that God makes the breeze blow the branches of the trees. When those who believe this way say, “God is in control,” they see him as the immediate cause of everything.  The trouble with this micromanaging approach to God’s sovereignty is, it ignores a fundamental reality: we are living on a planet that is separated from God. There is evidence of God’s absence on earth, and this reinforces the argument of the atheist. However, as we’ve seen there is also reason and evidence to believe in the existence of God. So, what’s going on? 

The Fall includes, not only human beings, but all of creation: 

“the creation was subjected to futility… and bondage to decay…. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now”  (Romans 8:20, 21 & 22). 

Only after the Son of God returns to earth to reign over and transform everything and everyone, will life be what it should. Until then, we are living in a broken, dangerous world, a world from which we need to be saved.

I am not advocating deism, the belief that God created everything and then withdrew. God is indeed still in control. He remains all powerful, and all knowing. What I am saying is God’s control over the universe is mediated through the laws of physics and nature that he set up. I do believe that God is omnipresent. However, God’s presence is not manifest to his creation naturally. Again, we can see evidence of God in the order of creation, but we do not naturally perceive God anywhere. He is hidden. “No one has seen God at any time….” It is critical that we understand this in order to answer the question, “Why is there evil in the world?” It is a fallen world, and that extends to every part of creation.

Miracle

God does sometimes act upon the world by superseding the laws of nature, which we call a miracle. However, he does not regularly interfere in the natural order, not even for good people, not even for his own people. God is unlikely to work a miracle because of the selfish prayers of someone who feels entitled to have things their way! I don’t believe God makes it a habit of changing the outcome of a football game because I pray for my favorite team, nor will he make it stop raining just so my family may have a nice picnic. Our prayers need to be less selfish.

“If the course of nature is the work of an intelligent Being, should we not expect that he would vary the course of nature only infrequently at times of great importance?” 

(William Paley)

“That God can and does, on occasions, modify the behaviour of matter and produce what we call miracles, is part of the Christian faith; but the very conception of a common, and therefore, stable, world, demands that these occasions should be extremely rare.” 

“But if matter is to serve as a neutral field it must have a fixed nature of it’s own. 

“If a ‘world’ or material system had only a single inhabitant it might conform at every moment to his wishes– ‘trees for his sake would crowd into a shade.’

but if you were introduced into a world which thus varied at my every whim, you would be quite unable to act in it and would thus lose the exercise of your free will.”

“In a game of chess you can make certain arbitrary concessions to your opponent, which stand to the ordinary rules of the game as miracles stand to the laws of nature. You can deprive yourself of a castle, or allow the other man sometimes to take back a move made inadvertently. But if you conceded everything that at any moment happened to suit him– if all his moves were revocable and if all your pieces disappeared whenever their position on the board was not to his liking– then you could not have a game at all.

So it is with the life of souls in a world: fixed laws, consequences unfolding by causal necessity, the whole natural order are at once the limits within which their common life is confined and also the sole conditions under which any such life is possible.”

 (C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, pp, 31-32)

Providence

 God may act without superseding or suspending the laws of nature. Instead, as the master of time and space, he has arranged for things to occur in a specific order with a specific purpose in mind. We may call such activity providence. We can see that the entire universe is an act of providence.  Providence in an individual’s life may be understood to be “a coincidence that God has arranged.” Miracles of providence are common in the lives of believers.

“All things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

I believe that is is essential for believers to recognize God’s providential activity, and learn what he has in mind for each circumstance and event in our lives. Further, we can have confidence in a good, loving and powerful God to turn even the worst situation into something that works out for our good and his glory.

Obsessed With Control

Humans have become obsessed with control. We want everything to go our way. Science has been so successful at informing us about the natural world and giving us control over it that we are frustrated when we cannot do so. C.S. Lewis observed a connection between the motives of those who seek to manipulate reality through magic and those who use applied science.

“There is something which unites magic and applied science while separating both from the wisdom of earlier ages. For the wise men of old the cardinal problem had been how to conform the soul to reality, and the solution had been knowledge, self-discipline, and virtue. For magic and applied science alike the problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of men.”

I think many of us pray for the same reason. 

What Did I Do to Deserve This?

There exists a common belief (call it a suspicion, perhaps) that those who are struck by catastrophe or physical infirmity have done something to deserve it. I was told by a devout believer that my hearing loss in one ear is God telling me that I’m not listening. I suppose that could be. I really need to pay attention to God’s leading. However, God has a greater purpose than punishment when bad things happen to us. I have an entire section in this book dedicated to that theme: Not All Suffering is Equal… or Evil.

Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans in 2005; many people lost their lives and many more lost their homes. Then on the 16th anniversary of Katrina in 2021, hurricane Ida came ashore and took out the power grid of the Big Easy. The entire state of Texas nearly lost its power grid due to freezing temperatures in February of 2021. A tornado swept through Garland and Rowlett the day after Christmas 2015. Were these natural catastrophes sent by God? After all, these kinds of events (tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis) are sometimes called “Acts of God.” Is the Lord trying to say something to us? The Lord is always seeking to lead and teach his people. However, the answer is not as simple as: “God is punishing our sins.” Did these storms and catastrophes only affect the property or take the lives of people who have done something wrong? Hopefully, your answer is “no.” 

I am sure good people died and I know that there were Christians in the 2015 tornado who lost everything. Did God work in people’s lives during and after these catastrophes? Yes. The Garland/Rowlett tornado struck the day after Christmas of 2015. That may seem cruel, until you recognize that many people were not home that day. As a result many deaths were likely averted. Did God offer protection to those who were praying and paying attention to his Spirit’s leading? I believe so. We’ll look at that very important aspect to God’s salvation in the next chapter.

Jesus Healing a Man Born Blind

Jesus healed a blind man once, whom the people of his day presumed had done something to deserve it.

“As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ 

‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him'”  (John 9:2-3, NIV). 

God has good reason for allowing natural afflictions and tragedies to occur in people’s lives: so that the Lord’s redemptive work may be observed in and through them. In the case of the man who was born blind that work was the miracle of physical sight that resulted in the revelation of Jesus.

Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 

“Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.” 

Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.” 

Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him”

(John 9:32-38).

Some years ago member of our church had a stroke and was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. Those among us who’ve been exposed to this understand the fear, confusion, anxiety and panic a stroke causes in the person who has experienced it. The following is part of a text she sent me.

“I am being humbled and rediscovering the presence of God especially when I panic. The only thing getting me thru a panic attack is his presence and looking at others in the rehab part where I am now I know just how lucky I am and how much God is with me.”

God is at work, friends, even and especially in our darkest moments. He will be with you if you will call on the name of His Son Jesus, and receive His Spirit. “No one has seen God at any time, but the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has revealed him” (John 1:18). God has revealed himself through Jesus. He is the light of the world (John 1:12).

Jesus gave sight to the man born blind, and he will open your eyes too. However, this also demonstrates the spiritual blindness of the religious who claim to know God, but follow their own ways. 

“Jesus said, ‘For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.’ Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, ‘What? Are we blind too?’ Jesus said, ‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.’” (John 9:39-41, NIV)

Don’t presume to understand why seemingly bad things have occurred in someone else’s life. Trust that God is good and loving, and that he is at work—even when we cannot see it. The world is separated from God by sin, but that doesn’t mean He is not at work in the world. Christ is at work all around us through the Holy Spirit, seeking to save those who are lost. God rested from his work of creation on the seventh day, but Jesus said, “My Father is still working and I am working” (John 5:17).

As a believer, God is working within me to make me like His Son, instead of working for me to make things the way I want them to be. I need to concentrate my prayer life on seeking God’s presence and wisdom to bring me through the storm instead of demanding that he stop it. Do I want “my best life now” instead of praying to my Father, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven?” Do I want to be happy when God wants me to be holy? The Father is working to transform me into the image of His Son, and that is a process which involves suffering, self-denial, faith and trial.

Paradise Lost and Regained

O Eve, in evil hour thou didst give care

To that false Worm, of whomsoever taught

To counterfet Mans voice, true in our Fall,

False in our promis’d Rising; since our Eyes

Op’nd we find indeed, and find we know

Both Good and Evil, Good lost and evil got,

Bad Fruit of Knowledge, if this be to know, 

Which leaves us naked thus, of honour void,

Of Innocense, of Faith, of Puritie,

Our wonted Ornaments now soild and staind…

(John Milton, Paradise Lost)

Paradise Is Lost

This isn’t paradise. Eden was an experiment. What happens when you give human beings a utopia, freedom, and the opportunity to rebel? They rebel. Humans have continued to fall short of God’s glory ever since. 

According to the book of Genesis Adam and Eve were the first created beings whom God made in his own image. They were given the choice to live in communion with their Creator and eat from the tree of life, or to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and pursue self-determination. 

“When the woman saw that the tree produced fruit that was good for food, was attractive to the eye, and was desirable for making one wise, she took some of its fruit and ate it. She also gave some of it to her husband who was with her, and he ate it.”  (Genesis 3:6, NET Bible)

God clearly commanded the first man and woman not to eat the fruit from this tree. Further, he promised that if they did it would result in death. Sin always produces death, which is separation from the source of life. 

“And the LORD God said, “Now that the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil, he must not be allowed to stretch out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” So the LORD God expelled him from the garden in Eden”  (Genesis 3:22–23).

Conscience

So, the first couple turned from God-life to self-life, and from being innocent of evil to experimenting with it. God kept them from the tree of life, and so condemned them to die. However, they didn’t physically die on the spot. They were separated from the Author of Life, and now so are we. How would they make their way? God graciously gave them (and us) a conscience, which made them ashamed of their nakedness. Since they were no longer in fellowship with God, conscience became the immediate source of moral knowledge for them, and for the rest of the human race. We have an intuitive sense that there is good and there is evil; there is right and there is wrong. Conscience gives humans insight into what we might call the Moral Law. God created the cosmos, and he created human beings. There is a way things are supposed to be. There is a way we are designed to behave, but without God to teach us himself, we are left to ourselves. That is why God gave human beings a conscience.

Knowledge of good and evil is not entirely intuitive. Certainly, there is a basic dichotomy established, wherein things are right or wrong, but humans can (and do) overwrite the conscience with bad instructions, calling darkness light and light darkness, treating good as evil and evil as good, pursuing wrong as though it were right, while rejecting the good God established. We see this regularly in our world. 

In Nazi Germany it was considered good to annihilate the Jews. Suicide bombers believe they will be rewarded by Allah if they blow themselves up to kill infidels. Members of Antifa think they are on a righteous crusade when they show up to cause trouble and fight those who they deem “fascists,” which recently included a peaceful outdoor Christian worship service in Portland, Oregon. On January 6th, 2020 protesters broke into the Capital in Washington DC because they believed the election was stolen. Yes, friends, we are living in a fallen world, and many have scarred their God-given conscience and chosen to believe something other than the Word of God.

Children of God?

Even though human beings are made in God’s image, we are not naturally God’s children. True, the Apostle Paul affirmed to the philosophers of his day that we are God’s offspring (Acts 17), and your translation may say “children,” but the term in Greek refers to a distant relation, not a child in the immediate family.  

Human beings are filled with pride and rebellion, unbelief, selfishness and sin. Our sin puts us at enmity with God. Because of this we are under God’s wrath, and the curse of death. We are spiritually stillborn. We are separated from our Creator and have lost the ability to innately sense or know Him. There is nothing any of us can do to change that reality, even if we desired to do so. And we don’t naturally possess that desire. 

“…there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless.”  (Romans 3:11-12a)

Philosophy and science may supply evidence for God’s existence, while religion speculates about the divine nature, but to go beyond that, or to make contact with him, is naturally impossible. If someone rejects the supernatural, and relies solely upon scientific inquiry to determine what is real, then that person will never make contact with God. There is evidence for the existence of God in nature, but all we can know is “his divine nature and eternal power,” not personal qualities like love, righteousness or fairness. 

Sin and Death

Why is there evil in the world? Because we are fallen people living in a fallen world. Human beings sin. Sin means to fall short. It is failure be what God designed us to be. Sin caused Adam and Eve to be removed from Paradise and kept from the Tree of Life. Sin continues to separate the human race from our good Creator.

“But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden his face from you so that He does not hear.”  (Isaiah 59:2, NASB)

Sin is the reason death exists. Biologically speaking our cells continue to renew themselves when we are young, but somewhere in our 20’s cells no longer regenerate as quickly as they die, and thus the march toward the grave begins. Scientists have no explanation as to why this happens. Why don’t we continue to have the energy and strength of our youth? The Bible’s answer is, death is God’s curse because of sin. 

“but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2: 17)

“The soul who sins shall die.” (Ezekiel 18:4, 20)

“For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23a)

“and sin when it is full grown gives birth to death.” (James 1:15)

The Apostle Paul called this “the Law of Sin and Death,” and it is as ironclad as any law of Physics. Everyone sins. Everyone dies. Everyone, except the One who never sinned, who died for sin, who rose on the third day to overcome death for everyone.

Salvation

So, there is hope! God himself did something about our intractable problem. The Creator reached down to us by sending his Son, Jesus Christ.

“…but the free gift of God is eternal life in his Son, Jesus Christ”  (Romans 6:23b). 

Jesus sets us free from the Law of Sin and Death.

“There is therefore not condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2)

Although we can do nothing on our own, the Son of God has made peace with God for us through His cross. 

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1)

You may only receive and realize this by faith. 

“By grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

You do not have, nor can you obtain or attain, a relationship with God naturally. God is the only one who may initiate the process of reconciliation, and it was He who paid the necessary ransom for our redemption. Do not presume that you have a relationship with God by virtue of your humanity, your birth into a certain religious family, your church membership, or a misguided belief in your own morality or goodness. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Apart from what God has done in Christ, you and I are lost in a fallen, broken world. Jesus is the only way out. That is not a narrow-minded religious claim, it is a statement of fact. Jesus spoke plainly:

“I am the way, the truth and the life and no one can come to the Father, except through me.”  (John 14:6)

You see, the reality is:

1. Jesus is the one and only Son of the one and only God. 

“No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.”  (John 1:18, NASB95)

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.”(1st Timothy 2:5-6, ESV)

2. Jesus is the only one who has ever come from heaven to live on earth, and returned there.. 

“No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven.” (John 3:13)

3. Jesus is the only one who has died for our sins. 

“He who knew no sin became our sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.”  (2 Corinthians 5:21)

“For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, have been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.” (1 Peter 3:18)

4. In fact, Jesus is the only one who could die for our sins. 

“No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him—the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough— that he should live on forever and not see decay.”  (Psalm 49:7–9, NIV84)

5. Jesus is the only one who has conquered death. 

“Jesus told her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die.”  (John 11:25-26).

“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:20)

If you’ve never done so, why not reach out to God who has reached down to you through His Son, Jesus? How do you do that? Pray. Prayer is talking to God. Speak as though he is next to you now This might seem strange, or it may be second nature. The Bible promises, “whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). The “Lord” in this case is Jesus Christ. Call out to him now. Tell him what’s on your heart and mind. Above all, ask him to come into your life to save you from all of the worthlessness and evil in this lost world. Then a little paradise will be restored within your heart.

Free or Not Free?

There are two types of people in the world when it concerns the subject of human freedom: 1) those who believe it is an absolute God given right, and 2) those who believe freedom to be granted by the governing authorities. In the United States we have a Constitution, which guarantees what our Declaration of Independence states clearly. “All men (people) are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable (absolute and unchallengeable) rights. Among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In other words, choice number one above is guaranteed by God and the U.S. Constitution. Yet, increasing numbers of citizens have become convinced—many by a corrupt educational system—that our rights are not absolute. For these people, government is god, regardless of their personal profession to the contrary. The government has the right to force you to stay inside your home, to determine what form of employment is “necessary,” and what is not, to force you to wear a face mask, and now to force you to be vaccinated. Many have surrendered their absolute rights in favor of promises from the government that this is necessary for everyone’s safety. You are not permitted to make up your own mind; these people have made the decision for you. This is wrong. This is the reason the United States fought the Revolutionary War. A new revolution is under way, and it favors totalitarian lockdowns, forced vaccinations, and soon will determine every aspect of your personal freedom. Population control is the object of this “progressive” revolution. Travel will be limited and the means of transportation determined in the purported interest of climate change. Already we see freedom of expression (guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution) limited because the Leftist gatekeepers want to control the message. The rationale often given is: “That is hate speech.” Translation, we hate your free speech. You’ve contradicted our effort to brainwash the populous. We will shut you down. Recently Twitter suspended the press secretary for Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida because she called out the Associate Press for publishing a story with claims which DeSantis disagreed. So, we cannot make up our own minds about the AP story or DeSantis disagreement. Twitter has decreed disagreement with AP is cause for being silenced. This is what Marxist nations have done since the beginning of that monstrous movement: silence dissent. Disseminate disinformation. Punish critical thought. Push the narrative and broker no compromise. 

There are two types of people in the world and they treat others according to their understanding of human freedom: 1) those who feel the need to control others, or tell others what to do and how to live, and 2) those who—although they may offer advice—choose to live and let live. These two types occupy both the Left and the Right on the political spectrum. The Left has one agenda and the Right another, but those who are of type one want to force you to do what they and their Tribe says you must. There is an editorial on CNN today (although, the case can be made that all CNN publishes is Progressive editorializing) the title of which is: No You Don’t Have a Constitutional Right to Refuse Vaccination. Really. I’d hazard a guess that the same Progressive who wrote this would stand up for abortion rights. So, the government should not be permitted to stop an abortion in favor of saving an unborn baby’s life—my body, my choice—but the government can force you to accept something in your body with which you disagree. Before you pin me to the anti-vax tribe, let me state clearly: I have been vaccinated and I strongly encourage adults to see their doctor and get the vaccine if their doctor agrees it is the healthy choice for them. So, vaccine good; please get it. However, I strongly disagree with the government forcing the matter. It..Is..Your..Choice. This is still the United States of America, a Constitutional Republic founded on the ideal of God given absolute freedom. The only time that freedom should be limited is when it can clearly be shown to inhibit  the freedom of others or endanger the lives of others. Careful when and how you apply that. The present pandemic, although deadly for about 1.5% of those infected, disproportionately the elderly and those with co-morbidities doesn’t qualify as rationale to force people not to work, to limit their freedom to leave their homes, to enforce mask mandates across the board, or to enforce universal vaccination. Covid-19 is not Ebola, friends. Freedom is an amazing gift from God and it is your right. Your rights are not granted by government, rather government exists at the consent of the governed. Learn not to consent to the removal of your freedom for the hollow promise of a little safety.

God Created Everything With Good Purpose

“And God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)

Today we spend much of our time staring at screens marveling at our own magnificence. We are inveterate humanists. “Man is the measure of all things.” Is it any wonder atheism is on the rise? For thousands of years humans stared at the stars and were convinced that heaven and earth was created by God (or gods). We have removed ourselves from the beauty and grandeur of nature, and surrounded ourselves with human artifices. I would encourage you to go outside; leave your mobile device behind; turn off your technology; take off your headphones. Immerse yourself in nature by taking a walk in the forest, or by the lake. Get away from the city lights and stare at the awe inspiring night sky.  

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the sky displays his handiwork”  (Psalm 19:1).

“Earth’s crammed with heaven, 

And every common bush afire with God, 

But only he who sees takes off his shoes;

The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

God speaks through his creation. The question is: are you paying attention? There is order and complexity evident everywhere from the smallest wildflowers to the Grand Tetons, from moss growing on the slick rocks of Slide Rock in Sedona, Arizona to the giant blue whales swimming in the Pacific Ocean. Design is evident everywhere, from the human eye to the giraffe’s neck, from your immune system to the bacterial and viral infections  it is marshaled to fight. Design evinces a Designer.

The universe was created, and the Creator had a purpose in mind when he made it: people. Human beings are seen as the crown of God’s creation in the Genesis account. We are the only creatures made in God’s own image.

“God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27, NASB95)

Mediocrity

 It was once believed that earth was at the center of the cosmos, until scientists observed that there is no center, nor edges, in the universe. In fact, earth is not at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, not even in our own little solar system. Copernicus is usually credited with the discovery that we occupy a heliocentric (solar) system. This led scientists to posit the so-called Copernican Principle. Some call it the principle of mediocrity: earth is not special; it is an unremarkable planet revolving around a small star at the edge of one galaxy among some two hundred billion estimated to exist in the universe. Looking at things from that perspective could certainly persuade someone to regard us as insignificant creatures. Couple that with the conclusion of evolution— life appeared spontaneously and evolved randomly over  millions of years to finally result in human beings—and you may well feel like the teacher in the Bible’s book of Ecclesiastes, who said, “‘Absolute futility,’ says the Teacher. ‘Absolute futility. Everything is futile.’” (Ecclesiastes 1:2, CSB) The Teacher believed in the existence of God, but it doesn’t appear he had a any relationship with the Creator, other than a distant reverence and a wise willingness to keep his commands.

However, the principle of mediocrity is not hard science, but a matter of perspective which betrays the bias of underlying assumptions like naturalism and atheism. There is design evident in the universe. It is finely tuned, astonishingly so. What is “fine tuning,” and why does it matter so much? Depending upon how it is evaluated, and which cosmologist is doing the calculation, there are as many as 93 fine tuning parameters essential for our complex-life sustaining planet to have come about. Let’s look at two of these parameters.

Gravity

First, I want to give credit to Astronomer Dr. Hugh Ross for the following information. The gravitational constant represents the relative strength of gravity. If the constant moved one direction, then gravity would be stronger, the other and it would be weaker. If gravity were even slightly stronger, matter would clump together too tightly, and stars would be too hot and burn out too quickly. If gravity were weaker, matter would not clump together enough, and stars would be far too cool. The result of this would be a lack of heavy elements necessary to form planets, since those elements come from the furnace of stars. To understand how delicate the fine tuning of the Gravitational Constant is, let’s look at an example given by Lee Strobel in the film Case for a Creator. Strobel asks us to imagine a ruler marked with one inch increments, which is then stretched all the way across the known universe. The Gravitational Constant could be marked anywhere on this imaginary ruler, but for life to exist anywhere in the universe it can only be in one precise one inch location. Move the Gravitational Constant even one inch in either direction and you and I wouldn’t exist. Is it just a coincidence that gravity is so perfectly balanced for life? Remember, this is only one fine tuning parameter of 93 essential for you and I to exist.  Let’s look at one more.

Size of the Universe

At the beginning of this chapter I encouraged you to get away from the city  lights and look at the stars in the sky. It is a magnificent sight, but it could also make you feel insignificant. Have you ever wondered why the universe is so big? This involves two parameters: 1) the total mass of the universe, and 2) the amount of empty space in the universe. Both of these must be fine tuned with infinitesimal precision in order for complex, intelligent life to exist anywhere, ever.

Once again, I credit the following information and examples to Dr. Hugh Ross. The mass of the universe is so critical that if at the beginning there had been even the mass of one dime added or subtracted from it, the balance of the observable universe would have been thrown off and no physical life would now be possible. One thin dime. That seems pretty insignificant on its own, but that tiny dime matters.

Ever wonder why there’s so much space in space? Why is the universe so vast, so spread out? Since the amount of matter in the universe cannot be more or less than it is, we turn to another fine tuning parameter the Rate of Cosmic Expansion. The universe has been expanding since the Big Bang event, and that expansion has had to be precise for life to exist. In fact, the rate of expansion cannot differ by one part in ten to the 60th power—that’s a ten with 60 zeroes after it! If the rate of expansion slowed by even that incomprehensibly small fraction, there would be less space, and the universe would have collapsed back on itself before stars formed. Planets form after, and as a result of, stars. People come last, so you wouldn’t be grappling with the difficult questions we’re seeking to answer if the Rate of Cosmic Expansion were different because none of us would exist. Yet here we are.

Gravity is perfect. The amount of matter is perfect. The amount of space in the universe is perfect. There are 90 more parameters. When you look at this it definitely seems like there’s intelligence and power behind the existence of the universe. 

“As we survey all the evidence, the thought insistently arises that some supernatural agency—or, rather, Agency—must be involved. Is it possible that suddenly, without intending to, we have stumbled upon scientific proof of the existence of a Supreme Being? Was it God who stepped in and so providentially crafted the cosmos for our benefit?”  George Greenstein, astrophysicist

Finally, let’s turn to our own little “insignificant” planet. According to scientists who subscribe to the Copernican Principle of mediocrity, there are probably millions of planets like ours, and the universe must be teeming with life. The underlying assumption of these scientists is that the universe and life has come about as a result of random natural and material processes. Science doesn’t look to God because science is a method of discovering how the natural world works. It is a grave error to presume that this means there is nothing beyond the natural world. In fact, as we are observing, the existence and order of the cosmos points to a Creator beyond the material universe, who powerfully brought it into existence and crafted it carefully.

In the book Privileged Planet, astro-biologist Guillermo Gonzales lists multiple factors necessary for a planet in our universe to support complex life. So, what is necessary for a planet to be “insignificant” like ours? It must have liquid water, be terrestrial (have land), have the proper ratio of liquid water and continents, have carbon, have an oxygen rich atmosphere, have a magnetic field, plate tectonics, must be orbiting a main sequence G2 dwarf star (yes, that’s our little sun!),  have a moderate rate of rotation, be protected by gas giant planets (yep, that’s our Saturn and Jupiter!), be within a galactic habitable zone (most of the galaxy is quite dangerous), be in a circumstellar habitable zone (most of the solar system is too hot or too cold for life), must be orbited by a large moon (yea, moon!). So, after reading through those (if you did!), what do you think the likelihood would be for the existence of other complex-life supporting planets like our “unremarkable” earth? Gonzales’s conclusion is, Not Very Likely At All.

“Given the recent trends in the planetary sciences, perhaps we should begin to view Earth and its immediate surroundings not as a carbon copy of systems bound to arise whenever stars and planets form, but as a finely tuned, interdependent system that together nurtures a strange little oasis.”  (Jay Richards and Guillermo Gonzales, Privileged Planet)

Human thinking has been wrong. It doesn’t matter where our planet stands in relation to a physical center. In a universe like ours that is relative and irrelevant. What is relevant is the why of our existence. Science cannot answer that question. In fact, some scientists eschew it altogether. Richard Dawkins calls is a stupid question. Yet it is the fundamental question of every searching human mind. Why? 

“Though man is not the physical center of the universe, he appears to be at the center of its purpose.” (Augros & Stanciu in The New Story of Science as quoted in Case for a Creator)

“And yet as we stand gazing at the heavens beyond our little oasis, we gaze not into a meaningless abyss but int a wondrous arena… a universe so skillfully crafted for life and discovery that it seems to whisper of an extra-terrestrial intelligence immeasurably more vast, more ancient, and more magnificent than anything we’ve been willing to expect or imagine.” (Guillermo Gonzales and Jay Richards, Privileged Planet)

Why is a question for which only God can provide a satisfactory answer, but he has given us the curiosity and capability to seek, and when we seek God we will find him if we seek him with all of our hearts. God’s first book is the creation, written long before the Bible. It is incomplete as a source for revealing the Creator’s personal attributes. However, the cosmos clearly points to the existence of a supernatural, powerful intelligence who brought it all into existence. I would encourage you to read the book of Creation it daily.

God IS Good

“There is but one good; that is God. Everything else is good when it looks to Him and bad when it turns from Him.” (C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce)

“That tastes good!” 

“Oh, I feel so good!”

“That was a good movie.”

“She is a good person.”

What is the primary meaning of good? Am I saying the same thing whenever I use the word? Is good an essential concept, or merely a word I use to show I have a positive feeling about something?

Widely used definitions of the term good include: beneficial, pleasurable, successful, and happy. All of these are both subjective and selfish. Without an objective basis for good there is merely what is good for me and mine. However, in this subjective, selfish sense, what is good for me could be harmful to you. My good, (like “my truth”) could well be your idea of evil. Take a hot button issue like abortion. There are those who consider “a woman’s right to chose” to terminate her pregnancy good. However, preserving unborn human life is good to those who are against abortion. So, who is right? What is good?

Eighteenth Century philosopher David Hume said the concept of good and evil is nothing more than “positive and negative approbation,” meaning the terms are another (perhaps stronger) way of expressing subjective likes and dislikes. This is a disastrous view. If good is only in the eye of the beholder, then what is to keep a nation from upholding racism and genocide as good, as was the case with Nazi Germany? What is to stop a culture from embracing pedophilia or rape as good? Who can say that sadism or masochism is bad to someone who genuinely believes one or both to be good? These may seem to be extreme examples to you, but there are already groups who would support such ideas. And it may not be long until the culture shifts to support some or all of them, unless there is a consensus for recognizing an objective basis for good and evil.

What is the objective basis for good? What can we all look to as a standard and agree, “yes that is what good means”?

Human Flourishing

There are philosophers who have pointed to the idea of human flourishing as an objective basis for good, This means whatever promotes happiness and growth for the human population is the standard for determining good. The question is, how do we define happiness for an entire population? Some might ask about animals. What of their flourishing? Eating meat makes many people happy, and it is arguably healthy. However, that is certainly at odds with the interests of the animal being eaten! What if I am only concerned with my own happiness and/or that of my family and friends? On what basis would I concern myself with happiness and growth for billions of other people, all of whom are competing for resources. From this perspective one could well support extreme measures in population control in order to ensure that there is enough to go around. For many years the Chinese Communist Party only permitted the citizens of China to have one child per family. If a woman became pregnant with a second child, she was forced to have an abortion. They believe this is good because it promotes human flourishing by ensuring China doesn’t become overpopulated. Is that really what good is?

 What is good for me and mine may deprive others of life. Is it right to be forced to sacrifice your life or happiness for the “good of humanity”? For some that is noble, but is it good? Human flourishing may be a good aim, but it cannot be the objective basis for good.

It is ironic to observe that some who refuse to believe in a good God base their concept of good on what Christians attribute to God: love, justice, righteousness, patience and the like. Recently, several high profile Christian leaders have left the faith, but seek to maintain their status as “influencers.” These celebrities are now influencing others to be atheists. Where they were once passionate in their proclamation of Christianity, they’re now equally zealous about disbelief.  The moral advice of many of these erstwhile Christians, however, sounds quite familiar: be forgiving, love people, be compassionate. Sounds like, well, Jesus. Why promote Jesus’ teachings? All it got him (and most of his closest disciples) was an excruciating death. If there is no good God, one could hold (as Ayn Rand famously promoted in her philosophy of Objectivism) that selfishness is the supreme virtue. Many agree with this. Why should I care about anybody else? Why in the world should I listen to “influencers” who once persuaded their followers to believe what they now repudiate? Who is to say they’re right now. All they’ve proven is their own instability, while affirming an objective good, but without any basis beyond an emotional appeal.

The Form of the Good

The Greek philosopher Plato believed in a world of perfect forms above our own, and at the highest level of this theoretical world exists what he called “the form of the good.” Plato’s concept affirms the need for an impeccable, objective standard for good beyond subjective human feeling and evaluation. Some have observed that Plato’s world of flawless forms could be realized within the mind of the perfect God, Creator of everything. 

Apart from a good God there is no objective good. Apart from objective good, there is no evil. As philosopher William Lane Craig frames it:

If God does not exist, then objective good does not exist.

Evil exists.

Therefore, good exists.

Therefore, God exists.

Amazingly, this syllogism uses the existence of real evil as reason to believe there is objective good, and a real God. God defines what good is.

Does that mean whatever God says is good becomes so? What if he decides murder is good? Could he simply reverse the 10 Commandments because he feels like it? If you find that problematic, then is God accountable to a law outside himself? Going back to Plato once again, we find that he and his students wrestled with this problem and stated it in what is known as the Euthyphryo Dilemma

A) Is it good because God wills it?

B) Does God will it because it is good?

If “A” then God could call evil good and it would be so.

If “B” then God is subject to something higher, which would mean something rules over God, which would make him less than the supreme being. Are we stuck on the horns of this dilemma? Let’s go to the teaching of Jesus to resolve it.

Only God Is Good

“A certain ruler asked him,  ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ 

Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.'” (Luke 18:18-19, NRSV)

God is Good. Good is essential to His nature. “God works all things after the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:11). God wills what is good because He is intrinsically good. Therefore, God’s nature is the objective standard for good.

God is great. God is good.

God established a moral law, which is revealed through the Law of Moses in the Old Testament, but good is perfectly realized in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17, CSB). Whoever believes in the Only Begotten Son of God walks in the light of perfect good. “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all” (1st John 1:5). “I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will never walk in darkness” (John 8:12). 

God promised to write his law on the minds of his people (Jeremiah 31:33), so they will always know what is good. He promised to give them a new heart, so they will always be willing to do what is good (Ezekiel 36:26-27). These promises are realized when a person believes in Jesus and receives the Holy Spirit. Jesus didn’t come to earth to show us the right way to live, then leave us on our own to do it. Rather, he came to make us new people with a new nature that seeks  to do what is good and right. 

God is good. Jesus is God. Jesus Christ is the perfect objective standard of good.

God Is Great

Proclaim the power of God, whose majesty is over Israel, 

whose power is in the heavens. 

You, God, are awesome in your sanctuary; 

the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people.  

Praise be to God! 

(Psalm 68:34-35)

What does it mean to say God is “great”?

I have already affirmed Anselm’s definition of God as the being that no greater can be conceived.  The term omnipotent may be used,which means that God is all powerful. Only an omnipotent being could have created the universe from nothing beyond his own resources. This alone qualifies God as great. We could also say that God is great means his glory is above all else. He is worthy because of what he has done, and for who and what he is. We are wise to recognize him and revere him and praise him. 

So, we could stop right there. God is great. However, as you are aware, there is a problem. What about the evil and apparent imperfections of our world. If God is all powerful, then why couldn’t he create a better world? If God is good, then why wouldn’t he create a perfect world? Why is there so much suffering and evil? This why some have said God is not great, and others have said God must not exist at all.

What Omnipotence Cannot Do

The title above may seem contradictory, but we need to understand what is meant by “all powerful.” Let’s look at some quotes concerning God’s omnipotence.

“Omnipotence means to be able to do all that is intrinsically possible.” (C. S. Lewis in The Problem with Pain)

“Nothing that implies contradiction falls under the omnipotence of God.”  (Thomas of Aquinas)

“But I know very well that if it is self-contradictory it is absolutely impossible.” 

“You may attribute miracles to him (God) but not nonsense…. It remains true that all things are possible with God: the intrinsic impossibilities are not things but non-entities.” (C. S. Lewis)

The word intrinsic (used by C. S. Lewis above) means what is related to the essential nature of something or someone. God can do what is humanly impossible, but some things are intrinsically impossible, which means they are “in themselves” impossible. God cannot make a red green thing. Since color is actually the reflection of a certain band of light on the electromagnetic spectrum, permit me to to clarify: God cannot make an infra-red ultra-violet thing. Why? Infra-red and ultra-violet exist at opposite extremes on the electromagnetic spectrum. One cannot be the same as the other.

In a world of genuinely free creatures it would seem to be intrinsically impossible for God to force persons to do what he wills when they choose to do otherwise. Thus, it is intrinsically impossible for God to force free people to love him. Forced love would not be love at all, but a monstrous mockery of it. Love is intrinsically free, so it must come from a person with free will. This opens up a very complex subject: Determinism vs. Freedom.

Can God make a rock so heavy he cannot lift it?

If you answer yes to the question above, then you agree implicitly that God may be limited by his creation. If you answer in the negative, then you affirm God is not omnipotent, since there is indeed something His power is incapable of. This dilemma is intended to stump those of us who affirm that God is all powerful. The resolution I offer will serve to prove both God’s omnipotence and give insight into his character.

My answer to the question is, yes God can—and has—created such a “rock.” The rock in this case is the human will. You and I can resist the will of God for our lives. We are even capable of choosing not to believe in His existence! God’s power is such that he is capable of limiting himself for a greater good. His character is such that he has created beings in his image, persons with a free will who may choose to love and live with Him forever, or reject Him and go their own way. The former is heaven, the latter is hell. Without human free will in rebellion against God there would be no hell.

The capability and willingness (courage!) to create beings with free will who inhabit a world where that will may be genuinely actualized demonstrates God’s greatness. Systems of theology or thought that downgrade or eliminate human free will in an effort to elevate the sovereignty of God ultimately fail to give God the glory he is due. The world is imperfect because of human rebellion against God. The world remains in its fallen state (for now) in order that rebellious humans may experience life without God, and its consequences.

The Incarnation

The pre-eminent example of God’s capacity and willingness to limit himself is the incarnation of His one and only Son. Jesus of Nazareth affirmed, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). The Apostle Paul proclaimed “For in him all the fullness of deity lives bodily” (Colossians 2:9). Jesus continued to be God and to have the nature of God, but chose to lay aside his divine power and privileges to take on the limitations of a human nature. The baby born in a manger “grew in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man,” and remained in unbroken communion with, and dependence upon, God the Father, throughout his time on earth. This Jesus was and is one with the God of the universe. However, the Son of God didn’t just pretend to be human, he became one of us. A popular songwriter from a previous decade asked:

What if God was one of us?

Just a slob like one of us

Just a stranger on the bus

Tryin’ to make his way home? 

Jesus Christ became just that. He took every bit of our humanity upon himself. As one early theologian put it, “What is is un-assumed is unhealed” (St. Gregory of Nazianzus). This means the Son of God had to take on the fullness of humanity in order to take away all of our sin. On the cross Jesus assumed all of our sin and selfishness and sickness and then died the death we deserve. 

“He who knew no sin became our sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). He came and died and rose from death so that we may be saved from this corrupt world, and have the hope of eternal life in a new and perfect world. 

That is the epitome of love, and it required self limitation.

“who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross”  (Philippians 2:6–9, ESV).

“He who knew no sin became our sin that we might become the righteousness of God in Him”  (2 Corinthians 5:21).

However, Christ didn’t remain dead. “Ain’t no grave can hold my body down!” The Author of Life rose from the grave on the third day, and now He always lives to provide salvation for any who will put their faith in Him. 

“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).

Is it any wonder the Apostle Paul would write a paean to this Great God:

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?’ ‘Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:33–36, ESV).

God’s true greatness is about more than possession of raw power and incomprehensible intellect to make things and people as he wants them to be. The limitless God can limit himself if he chooses. God has created beings in his image with free will. God has limited himself by permitting the independent exercise of free will, even when it opposes his own. God also limited himself by becoming one of us, so that the destructive exercise of human free will may be atoned for and corrected. God has chosen to limit himself in order to achieve the ultimate purpose of his glorious will to raise up a people who have freely chosen to love him, and who have decided to follow their Lord, who said, “not my will, but thy will be done.” He is in the process of calling people to be his own, who will freely align their wills with God’s without coercion or fear of punishment.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness and into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

God is very great indeed.

God Is.

Let’s begin with a little thought experiment. When you reach the end of this sentence close your eyes and think of nothing for a moment or two…

How did it go? Did you really think of nothing? What was your “nothing” like: darkness, static, silence? Each of those experiences is actually something. I’d argue that it’s actually impossible think of nothing. Sure, you can try to blank your mind and refuse to allow images or words to be there, but something is still there: you, the perceiver of this supposed nothing. If you think about it, even the concept nothing is something! Yet I asked you to think of nothing, NO THING at all. The human mind has as difficult a time grasping nothing as it does infinity. 

Something Has Always Existed

Nothing means non-existence. Nothing cannot produce something. Non-existence cannot produce existence of any kind. Some thinkers have stated it like this: “From nothing, nothing comes.” Therefore, something has always existed

Some ancient Greek philosophers believed matter to be eternal. For much of recorded history it was widely accepted that the universe always existed. However, beginning early in the 20th century, theory and mounting evidence contradicted this belief. At the time of this writing scientific consensus holds that our universe began to exist around 14 billion years ago with an event called the Big Bang. The universe had a beginning. Everything that has a beginning, has a cause for its existence. So, where did the universe come from? What caused the cosmos? 

There are both scientists and theologians who hold that the universe came from nothing, but each group has its own set of assumptions about the nature of that nothing. For the scientist nothing is actually something. It has been called a “spontaneous fluctuation of the energy contained in the sub-atomic vacuum.” Now that is something! The theologian who affirms that God created the universe ex-nihilo (Latin for “from nothing”) is not saying it came into existence from nothing on it’s own, but that it was created from the infinite resources of an omnipotent God.

The speculation of cosmologists (those who theorize about the origin of the cosmos) as to what existed prior to our universe cannot be grounded in the same hard science which has continued to validate the Big Bang. Science is inherently naturalistic because the scientific method only works when applied to the study of the natural world. There must be matter and energy to measure, and causation and the consistency of the nature must be established, or objective scientific inquiry is rendered powerless. Prior to the Big Bang, there was no space or time that anyone can measure or verify. There was no natural order to be observed or measured, no laws of physics and no way of knowing if causation operated as we trust it does in nature. So, cosmologists rely on speculation about reality without hard evidence. Their theories are dependent upon their own philosophies and beliefs concerning nature and what might exist beyond the material universe.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the multiverse in popular movies, broadcast programs and literature. This is a theoretical notion, which does not have hard evidence to back it up. The multiverse is the speculation of naturalists (those who reject the supernatural) who wish to revive or reinforce the belief that the cosmos in some form is eternal. Carl Sagan famously stated at the beginning of his television show Cosmos, “The cosmos is all that was, and all that is, and all that ever will be.” If the universe has always existed in some form, then we aren’t forced to grapple with where it came from, even if we might still ask why it exists. It has been observed that belief in the multiverse only moves the question of origin back. Where did the multiverse come from? What caused these myriad universes?

If a cosmologist is a materialist and/or a naturalist, then she looks for answers that conform to her expectations that there can be nothing supernatural—or perhaps we could say supra-natural (above nature). This is a limiting bias, especially when studying phenomena that are by definition beyond the natural order and outside our material universe. 

In an interview with NPR, philosopher Alvin Plantinga, who authored a book about science and religion titled Where the Conflict Really Lies, said: “Science is absolutely wonderful but it’s a limited endeavor. It doesn’t cover the whole of the knowledge enterprise, you might say.” One must employ methods and tools that fit the field of inquiry. When seeking answers beyond the natural order it would seem wise to enlist the ancient disciplines of philosophy and theology.

Something has always existed. If not the universe in some form (ie. matter and energy), then what? Throughout recorded history, most human beings have believed that the world was created by a divine being or beings. The Greek philosopher Aristotle spoke of an Uncaused Cause. This Cause must have existed prior to the universe and be itself uncaused. Could such a causal force or entity be God? 

Perhaps we should pause and ask what is meant, or to whom to we think we refer, when using the term God? Without getting into a great theological or philosophical debate, I will simply agree with St. Anselm, the Medieval scholar who formulated the Ontological Argument for God’s existence. Anselm famously stated that what we mean by God is “a being that which nothing greater can be thought.” Anselm reasoned that something which does not exist cannot fit the definition because what exists is self-evidently greater than a mere idea. Therefore, if God really is a being that which no greater can be conceived he must possess the quality of existence. This may or may not be a persuasive argument, but I think we can agree with Anselm’s basic definition of God, which I will clarify further. God is the Being above which nothing greater may be conceived. God is indeed the Supreme Being.

As the cause of the universe God would have to be powerful, but also intelligent. As an uncaused cause, it stands to reason that God could be personal. In fact, personal beings possess a will to freely choose apart from prior causes. So, God is the Supreme Being: personal, powerful and intelligent.

Another Medieval scholar, St. Thomas of Aquinas called God the Necessary Being, meaning God is not dependent upon anything else. God is self-existent, unlike the universe, which is caused by and dependent upon something else for its existence. The universe is contingent, not necessary, not self-existent. . St. Thomas also taught that God is “the ground of all being.” In other words, God is the basis for all existence. God is the Necessary Being upon whom all contingent beings rely for their existence

Perhaps you’ve heard the question (or perhaps even asked it yourself): “Where did God come from?” Or, similarly, “Who created God?” These questions equate God with the material universe, and thereby misunderstand even the idea of God altogether. A self-existent being is uncreated, and by definition has no cause. Something has to fit that description because nothing cannot produce something: non-existence cannot cause existence. Something has always existed. The material universe, by nature, cannot fit that description. God by definition can.

The Bible begins with the following words, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). The existence of a powerful, intelligent, personal creator for the universe is assumed. In the Bible’s book of Exodus, God speaks to Moses on Mount Sinai and reveals his personal name for the first time.

“Moses said to God, ‘If I go to the Israelites and tell them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?”—what should I say to them? God said to Moses, ‘I am that I am.’ And he said, ‘You must say this to the Israelites, “I am has sent me to you.””” (Exodus 3:13–14, NET)

The God of the Bible has a personal name that refers both to self-existence and eternal existence. God simply is. “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come” (Revelation 4:8). 

Something has always existed, and that something is a Someone who created the universe ex-nihilo (from nothing but his own supernatural resources). God is. If there were no God, there would be nothing else: not you, not me, and not the universe. Absolutely nothing. 

There are good reasons and evidence for such a belief, but it is also what philosopher Alvin Plantinga calls “properly basic” or self-evident. Belief in God is instinctive and intuitive for most people. Such a belief is the first step to knowledge and wisdom.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7).

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Proverbs 9:10).

Belief in God’s existence is not “blind faith.” It is reasonable and necessary to hold that the universe has been created by an omnipotent, personal intelligence. This still requires faith. However, so does any other alternative. 

Addiction!

An addiction is anything that gets ahold of your “want to” and won’t let go. It will have increasingly destructive consequences, but you excuse or overlook them in favor of what you want. Examples are myriad: alcohol, gambling, porn, sex, eating, fasting, exercising, adrenaline. An addiction may be to something healthy or unhealthy. 

When the addiction is to a healthy thing, it became an addiction when you couldn’t do without it, at the point when it got out of balance. Let’s take food for example. Obviously, we need to eat. However, when I self-medicate by eating, when I continue to eat too much and too often, when I cannot do without a meal, snack or drink without feeling deprived or uneasy, then I may well be addicted to eating. Relationships are healthy. We need to be connected to other people. However, when I cannot go a moment without someone, when I feel the constant need to know where they are and what they are doing, when I become jealous of other people who may take the person’s attention for any period of time, then I’ve got a problem. So does the person to whom I am addicted. 

Then there are addictions to dangerous things. This is usually where we identify addiction. The physiological attachment to something that destroys health. Why would someone do heroin, a sober person asks? Well, they may have been tempted to try it, then it got ahold of them, caused chemical changes in their body and made them need it.

Interestingly, a chemical doesn’t have to be physiologically addictive to gain a hold on you. Many people enjoy marijuana, and they will tell you that it is not an addictive chemical. Yet, the telltale signs of addiction may still occur: constant need for the high, continuous use of the drug even when it is obvious to those who are sober that negative consequences are occurring, escalation of usage, and/or an unwillingness to cut back. I’ve watched people over the years who have brought negative consequences into their lives as the result of smoking weed, but they will not slow down or stop. As an example, several years ago a young adult I was seeking to mentor got into some trouble with the law and was given probation. As a condition of his probation he was prohibited from using any illegal drug. He was required to meet with his probation officer weekly, and would receive random drug tests. He loved smoking weed so much that he stopped meeting with his p. o. in order to avoid being tested. He tried to hide. He got busted and is now serving an extended sentence for the original crime. Why? He needed marijuana.

Alcohol is a well known addiction. Those who recognize that they are addicted may call themselves “alcoholic” and see it as a disease. In fact, that is the dominant model for alcohol addiction. However, it has the same characteristics and consequences as any addiction. What alcohol has in its favor is social acceptance (marijuana is catching up). My father was an alcoholic. It is believed by some that alcoholism is hereditary (again the disease model in effect). As the result of this, and coming to faith in a baptist church that opposed drinking, I didn’t touch alcohol until I was 37 years old. For many years after that I enjoyed an occasional glass of wine or beer, or perhaps a margarita. I could do with it or without it. Recently that has changed.

I don’t want to stop drinking alcohol. I’ve done a number of fasts over the past few years, but it has been difficult to give up alcohol for more than a few days. Drinking too much gives me a headache. You’d think that this would be enough to stop me. All it does is slow me down. I’m careful. But I don’t want to quit. I like the feeling it gives me, until I don’t. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m addicted, if not to alcohol, then to the reward, the feeling I get as the result of drinking. So, I need to stop. Is it a disease? I don’t believe so (check out the book The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction Is Not a Disease by Marc Lewis). Is it an addiction? Yes, and I need to not need or want it, or I need to end it altogether.

The Bible teaches “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12). That last phrase is very important. An addiction becomes the master of a person. I begin by enjoying something, but when it takes hold, it starts running my life—and ruining it. However, as a Christian, I have professed Jesus Christ as my Lord, which means I’ve given him control of my life. How dare I, or worse some chemical or thing, take control from Christ.

So, what to do? Well, during Lent I’ve been fasting alcohol, then my birthday came up and I started drinking occasionally again. Today is Monday of  Holy Week and I’ve chosen to (following a fellow minster and friend) do a complete fast until Easter. No food. No alcohol. I want nothing in control of my desires but Christ. 

I hope my little confession has helped you to evaluate your life, and maybe encouraged you to make some changes. I am not a clinician, psychologist or certified addiction counselor. You may need to get help from someone like that. I am a minster of the Gospel, and I will try to live up to that as well as I am able, with God’s help.

Science or Superstition?

Governor Greg Abbott of Texas just announced that he will be rescinding his executive order mandating the wearing of masks. This has reignited the ongoing debate concerning the wearing of these masks and their capability of restraining the virus. I would like to examine this and then apply it to our overall perspective on health and safety.

Let me ask you a series of questions.

1. Do you wear a mask when you are by yourself?

2. Do you wear a mask when you are out of doors?

3. Do you wear a mask when you’re in your car alone or with family members?

If you answered yes to any of those three questions, then why? Is your response scientific, or superstitious?

The science of the spread of coronavirus indicates that the only way it spreads is via droplets coming from the mouth or nose of an infected person this explains the constant caution regarding social distancing. The virus may also spread, although less prevalent, when infected droplets land on a surface, with which you make contact, then touch your nose or mouth soon after. If you’re paying attention you will realize that wearing a mask outside wearing a mask by yourself wearing a mask inside your car does absolutely nothing to stop the spread of the virus or to keep you any healthier. In fact wearing a mask could make a someone falsely confident, which could, in turn, result in less consciousness of social distancing. Coming into close contact with an infected person regardless of wearing a mask, may result in infection. In fact a recent study indicated that the coronavirus may live for days on fabric, which means droplets landing on your mask could remain there throughout the day as you constantly breathe them in.

I am not opposed to masks. If in an environment where I may come in contact with strangers, I’d prefer we wear them until community immunity is reached. However, if I’m the only one wearing a cheap cloth mask, I’d likely be better off without it, my vigilence to remain six feet or more from others is heightened. If I’m seated somewhere and a stranger sits close by, I will move to facilitate distancing. My mask will not protect me.

Next let’s look at the vaccines.

1. Do you believe that a vaccine stops you from getting COVID-19?

2. If you’ve already had COVID-19 do you believe you should be vaccinated?

If you responded affirmatively either of those questions, why?

Let’s begin with how a vaccine works. If you have a healthy immune system, infection with a virus causes an immune response within your body, which will then result in you being able to fight off future infections of the same virus. We call this immunity. A vaccine does not stop you from getting an sick, your body does. A vaccine stimulates your body’s natural immune system, so that you will be able to fight off an infection. There are four approved vaccines for Covid-19 currently available. All do the same thing, prepare your immune system to fight the virus.

The healthiest thing you can do to avoid a debilitating infection with the coronavirus (or any other illness) is to be healthy. A vaccine is far less effective, and in fact may be ineffective, in a person with a weak immune system. So, eat a healthy diet, stop smoking, cut down on your alcohol, or eliminate it altogether, work out regularly. In short, be healthy and you are far more likely to experience a less severe infection of any virus or bacterial infection.

Be scientific and smart. Avoid close contact with those outside your family. Sanitize your hands. Don’t touch your face. Stop adjusting your mask. Get vaccinated if you haven’t already had Covid-19. Don’t fear and don’t stress. An unhealthy mental state may result in an unhealthy body.

Covid-19 may become endemic. In other words it may always be out there in some mutated form, just as influeza is. We will have to continue to be vigilant, smart and scientific, not superstitious.