- Hope is the vaccine for sadness. Peace is the antidote to fear.
- Peace results not the absence of conflict but from the presence of God who provides comfort and confidence, even and especially in challenging times (Phil. 4:6-7).
- Where is your mind focused? Your thinking determines your feelings and the direction of your life.
- Keep your mind focused on the Lord’s presence within and you will stay in perfect peace. “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3, NIV84) “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalm 91:1, NIV84)
- LIsten to the LORD and receive His promise of peace. Turning or returning to foolish behavior and ungodly lifestyle choices results in frustration and fear. “I will listen to what God the Lord will say; he promises peace to his people, his saints— but let them not return to folly.” (Psalm 85:8, NIV84)
- One day Jesus will return to reign over a renewed earth and establish universal peace (Isa. 11).
- Until Christ returns children of God are called to be peacemakers (Matt. 5:9)
- Stand for justice and truth, but speak with love (Matt. 5:6, Eph. 4:15).
“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” (Ephesians 4:15, NIV)
- Share the Good News with everyone who will pay attention to you (2 Cor. 5:17-21)
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:17–21, NIV84)
Remember the pandemic? Of course you do. Remember when we all were commanded to “shelter inside”? Well, you could go outside if the government determined that what you were going to do what “essential.” Was your job deemed essential? What activities could you participate in during those dark days? Well, you could go to the store to get food; that was considered essential. You couldn’t go to a friend’s house if it meant there would be too many people (usually over 10). You could go to the liquor store; because, you know, alcohol is essential. In places like Colorado I believe the marijuana shops were open. You could go to Walmart, but in at least one state you couldn’t go to the garden section and buy seeds or tools to grow your own food. In fact, in my Walmart experience during the shutdowns, there were quite a few people who were meandering up and down the aisles—at least six feet apart, of course.
In many states churches were not considered essential and you couldn’t worship together. This lasted long after the official shutdowns. Church is just not essential, apparently. Better for us all to worship quietly in the safety of our homes. So, many churches learned to stream. Many people tuned in, kind of. In my observation of the statistics that Youtube provides, the average watch time for a 70 minute worship service was a little over 20 minutes. Yeah, church is really not essential, even to those who would say it is.
Now, we’re a good ways past shutdowns, masks, vaccinations, and church is still not essential to many people, even those who were once faithful participants in their respective local congregations. I’ve seen about one third of my congregation (or more!) who attend quite sporadically, or who have stopped coming altogether. Church is not essential to them.
Jesus thought church was essential, however. He established it. Let’s define church to understand exactly what Jesus intended. The Greek word translated “church” in the New Testament is ekklesia (yes, we get our English word “ecclesiatical” from it). Ekklesia could literally be translated “the called out.” God calls His people out of the world, and He calls them together to worship. Implicit in the idea of church is gathering together regularly. The people of Israel did this in the temple and in their local synagogues. From the beginning Christians gathered in the temple and in homes.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42, CSB)
“Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts,” (Acts 2:46, CSB)
Yes, they did this more than just once a week. In fact, they gathered daily. Church was essential to them. God blessed these gatherings greatly. People were saved, healed, delivered from evil. They shared their worldly possessions. This essential church didn’t diminish but exploded with new members.
“Many signs and wonders were being done among the people through the hands of the apostles. They were all together in Solomon’s Colonnade. No one else dared to join them, but the people spoke well of them. Believers were added to the Lord in increasing numbers—multitudes of both men and women. As a result, they would carry the sick out into the streets and lay them on cots and mats so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on some of them. In addition, a multitude came together from the towns surrounding Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed.” (Acts 5:12–16, CSB)
Church is still essential, regardless of what our godless government, and many faithless, consumer oriented Christians say or do. We are warned to continue meeting together, not for the sake of habit, but to worship and serve our Lord, and to encourage one another.
“And let us consider one another in order to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.”
(Hebrews 10:24–25, CSB)
This is not possible when we are apart. It is not possible if you’re watching on your TV or computer or mobile device. We must gather. We must do this regularly. Church is essential. If you are a genuine believer in Jesus Christ, if Jesus is your Lord, you need to be involved in a local church weekly. Church is essential. If you neglect church, you’re simply living in disobedience to the Lord you claim to follow. Get back this week, participate, volunteer, and be consistent.
“And he said to them, ‘Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away’”
-Jesus (Mark 4:24-25, ESV).
Week after week you have attended church. You recognize that illustration the preacher uses as on you’ve already heard. You’ve listened to the Scripture so many times that you might be able to quote a good bit of it if you tried. If you wanted to… Do you want to grow spiritually? To become more Christ-like? Or are you more concerned with other things? Does your attention perk up when the topic is methods and means of making money, or steps to living your best life now? You’ll go over and above for what you really want, friend? And maybe that’s not Jesus. Perhaps your problem is Christianity is part of your history, your culture. Is it an old habit, just a weak little practice without much practical use?
Have you forgotten what life used to look like when you loved and followed Jesus with your whole heart? Have you lost your first love? Or did you ever love anything or anyone other than yourself?
James says, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like” (James 1:22-23). Sorry to be the one to say it, but if you’re like the person James speaks of here, then you’re a loser. You’re is losing your identity in Christ. You’re losing hope in Christ. You’ve lost your faith through natural erosion. Eventually, if not already, you’ll lose the truth you used to believe in.
Jesus said, “Pay attention to what you hear.” You will be blessed in direct correlation with how deeply and how completely you receive the Truth of God’s Word. When you measure out more time and attention to hearing and applying the Word, then God will add blessing to you. The blessing is His presence and more revelation, then all of the other (earthly) things will be added to you as well. “Seek firs the kingdom of God and all of these other things will be added to you as well” -Jesus (Matthew 6:33).
However, if you fail to listen, then even what you’ve previously heard will be taken from you. First, the Truth no longer has the depth of meaning it once did. Then you start doubt it. Then you forget it. Finally, you’ll be just like a lost person without the knowledge of the Truth. In the most extreme, and irreconcilable, case you’ll hear the Word of God and despise it. At that stage you’ll find that you have contempt for church and the Bible, and even Jesus (the Bible’s Jesus, at least, although some folks reinvent Jesus to agree with their views). Continue down this path and you will become incapable of repentance (Hebrews 6:4-8). You will begin to call good evil, bitter sweet, and darkness light. You redefine the concepts of good and right to match your worldly values. If you reach this point of rejected the Bible and the witness of the Holy Spirit, you will be lost forever, and ever.
Is this you? O, woman, o, man, make a change today! Don’t wait for the feeling to return. You’ve numbed and scarred yourself too much for feelings. If you’re reading this and can see yourself slipping, then you’re not beyond hope. If you can change your mind, do it today. Determine to follow the Truth. For if you continue to eschew wise counsel from godly people, if you continue to be unfaithful to Christ and his bride the church, there may well come a time when you no longer have any faith. If you have ears, pay attention. Act now.
“For him who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
In the Garden, prior to eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve were not self-aware. They did not possess a conscience. Instead they were intensely aware of the Presence of God and entirely reliant upon Him to determine the right course to take. Eating of the Tree resulted in separation from God and the need for what it provided, which is self-awareness and the knowledge of what is good and what is bad.
This is proven in the Genesis passage by the fact that the first couple was unaware of their nakedness until after the fruit was eaten at which point they sought to hide from the Presence of God. What is more indicative of self-consciousness than how we feel when we are naked. This is more than worry about what others think. Nudity, once one gets beyond early childhood, to a point in life corresponding to the “age of accountability,” is a state that intensely heightens self awareness.
Further, the term used for “conscience” in the Greek New Testament points to the same idea. “Suneidesis” is defined in Liddle and Scott’s lexicon first as “self-consciousness.” In Thayer’s lexicon it is first “the consciousness of anything,” then “the soul as distinguishing between what is morally good and bad, prompting to do the former and shun the latter, commending one, condemning the other.”
This Greek word is used 32 times in the New Testament always referring to the human conscience. Examples are:
“Paul, looking intently at the Council, said, ‘Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day’” (Acts 23:1, NASB).
“… by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron” (1st Timothy 4:2).
“To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled” (Titus 1:15).
The most instructive example is contained in Paul’s theological epistle to the Romans.
“…in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them” (2:15, NASB).
In this passage the Apostle is seeking to demonstrate that the Gentiles have a moral law written within them, which they elect either to follow or rebel against. It is this natural law of the conscience that will determine what happens to those who have not been exposed to the truth contained in the Bible on the Day of Judgment.
I propose that what we know as our conscience came about when Eve and Adam ate the fruit from the tree. It prepared the human race for life without the Presence of God. Myriads of moral/ethical decisions would have to be made. How does one know what is right and what is wrong? What is the standard? How do we know? We know. The conscience speaks.
However, like the Law of Moses, the natural law of conscience is weakened by human sin. We rebel against it, seeking to do whatever pleases us, and in so doing scar the conscience. This begins to happen at a young age. As the result, every society makes laws for citizens to follow. When the citizenry rebels against good laws, or when lawmakers become corrupt and make unrighteous laws, societies crumble. This happened to Rome. It is happening to America.
The concept of conscience I have briefly developed here has far reaching implications.
1- It answers the question of what happens to those who are without God’s special revelation found in the Bible, most importantly those who do not have the knowledge of Jesus Christ. They are without excuse because each person will be judged by the light of his or her conscience (as well as the revelation of God found in nature). They will be judged according to the light they have received.
2- This perspective also answers questions about what has been called original sin and how it is passed on from Adam and Eve. We are born with the curse and blessing of self-awareness and it’s companion, the conscience. This came into the human community when the first man and woman ate the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Without God, self-awareness results in self centeredness, which has been described as original sin. This selfishness has corollaries: pride, rebellion and unbelief.
3- This also answers the question about the essential nature of humankind. Are people inherently evil, or basically good? The answer is yes, and no. Apart from God, humankind is inherently self-centered. Thus, the idea of total depravity espoused by Calvin is only true insofar as it relates to humankind’s natural relationship to God. Apart from the Presence of God we fall hopelessly short of what we were intended to be. It does not mean humankind is utterly depraved and without goodness. The law of God is written on the conscience, and that continues to guide many. The Enlightenment concept of the noble savage is erroneous also. Civilized or uncivilized, human beings are capable of, and have committed, great evils. Motives have been money, power, self-righteousness, but it comes back to those in power looking after their own interests at the expense of others.
We need to be saved from our condemning self-consciousness through Christ. It was Jesus who said, “Deny yourself. Take up your cross and follow me.” The cross puts an end to self-centeredness. The Holy Spirit replaces the scarred conscience. God-consciousness replaces self-consciousness. Egocentricity gives way to Christo-centric living. All I have to do is make a choice to stop believing in myself and start believing in God as He has revealed Himself in His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.
“I have been crucified with Christ and no longer do I live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live on in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave His life for me” (Galatians 2:20).
“You died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).
Today, there are plenty of self-proclaimed apostles, prophets, bishops, pastors and teachers. Before you listen to or follow someone, pray and ask the following questions.
- Is this person connected to the larger community of believers, or are they doing things on their own?
- Does their teaching agree with historic Christian doctrine (ie. Nicene faith) or are they teaching novel doctrine and/or innovating theologically?
- What is their theology? Do they teach the Bible or their own ideas, tips on various aspects of daily life, psychological insights, politics?
- Do they confess that Jesus Christ is who the New Testament clearly teaches he is?
- The unique Son of the one and only God (1 Timothy 2:5)
- Lord, meaning God, one with the Father (John 8:58, 10:30, Romans 10:13).
- God come in the flesh (Hebrews 4:15, 1 John 3:2-3, John 1:14).
- “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already” (1 John 3:2-3).
- Do they confess Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
5) Jesus is God’s chosen one, the Christ, the Messiah
- “Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22).
- Do they teach that they represent the “true church” and state or insinuate that other denominations or churches are going to hell?
- “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they are not of us” (1 John 2:19)
- Do they have peers who recognize them as a leader?
- Is the title they use appropriate? Did it originate from themselves or was it earned from or applied by a recognized group or entity?
- “Bishop” for example is a term traditionally used in denominations with episcopal forms of church government. It refers to one who has authority over other ministers, usually over numerous individual churches.
- “Apostle” is not a term that any established denomination has used until recently in some Pentecostal churches.
- Those who apply exalted terms to themselves to garner respect should listen to the words of Jesus, “But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:8-12, ESV).
- Do they cooperate with and/or contribute to other ministries?
- Do they seek to steal members from other churches? Do they incite rebellion and division in other churches as a ploy to gain some of their members?
- Do they discount and disrespect other ministers?
- Are they accountable to a denomination or a recognized Christian organization beyond themselves and what they have established?
- Were they active in a Gospel teaching, Bible believing church prior to stepping out as a leader. If so, did that church recognize their calling?
- What is the fruit of their ministry? Do people who listen to them really follow Jesus?
- Is their ministry focused on Jesus Christ? Or do they focus on themselves, or on you the consumer?
- What kind of character do you observe in their followers/listeners? Is it Christ-like?
- Do they charge for ministry? Books, CD/DVD, admission to events?
- Do they expect or require followers to donate certain amounts or percentages in order to be considered worthy or acceptable?
- Are they financially accountable?
- Do they have a governing board or are they accountable to a group of people?
- Are they moral and honorable? What about their staff?
- Are they servants to people or do they treat followers like their servants?
- Is their teaching filled with references to themselves?
- Do they live a lavish lifestyle, flaunting wealth, rather than exemplifying sacrifice?
- Are they personable, friendly and approachable, or distant and superior?
- Are they honest and transparent, or unwilling to reveal details of their personal life?
- Are they willing to admit to weaknesses?
- Do they seem angry?
- Are they ambitious and competitive?
- Do they boast about themselves and/or their ministry?
- Do they exemplify faithfulness and commitment to their church or ministry, or are they often absent due conferences, speaking engagements, vacations, or personal concerns?
- Do they give as much or more than they expect others to give (this includes time as well as money)?
- Are they above reproach sexually?
- Do you hear them speak in a cavalier way about sexual matters?
- Do they laugh at sexually explicit humor?
- Do they watch movies or TV programs with sexually explicit scenes?
- Do they look at pornography, or read pornographic literature?
- (viii) Do they show affection without giving any hint of sexual desire or impropriety?
- If they are married, do they appear to be affectionate with their spouse?
- Do they treat children appropriately?
- Are they often alone with anyone other than their spouse?
- Do they fulfill the Bible’s requirements for the office they hold?
- 1 Timothy 3:1-15
- Titus 1:5-9
- Ephesians 4:12-16
“Projection is the process of displacing one’s feelings onto a different person, animal, or object. The term is most commonly used to describe defensive projection—attributing one’s own unacceptable urges to another.” https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/projection
Projection is one of Freud’s Ego Defense Mechanisms. It may be a way to explain the plain hypocrisy we see coming from Leftists at the moment in regard to Elon Musk’s Twitter buyout. They accuse Musk of being “an evil billionaire,” who wants to promote harmful people and ideas, or who seeks to use Twitter to serve his own political interests (ie. not theirs). This is precisely what Twitter has, in fact, been doing for many years, and what Musk promises to free it from.
It is clear to anyone on the Right, or anyone who espouses biblical values that technology platforms like Twitter (formerly, I hope), Facebook, and YouTube regularly censor opinions with which the Left disagrees. They define the terms, with the result that those who are censored or banned are made to appear in the wrong. Terms like “community guidelines,” and “hate speech” are employed as the means of derogating disliked opinions and ideas. This, as opposed to presenting a competing idea, formulating a reasonable argument, or merely ignoring what they disagree with.
Elon Musk has probably done more to alleviate climate change than any other human alive. Millions of Teslas are on the streets emitting no carbon and using no fossil fuels. Climate Change (formerly Global Warming) is an area the Left feels very strongly about. Musk should be their hero (and he was for awhile). Wrong. He doesn’t tow the Leftist line in every area. He believes in free speech, free enterprise, and is more of a libertarian politically. Now, the man who should be lauded by the Left as a hero is called “evil.”
Maybe it’s not projection after all. Perhaps there is a more nefarious, Marxist agenda at work here. Marxists lie. They accuse their opponents of doing what they are actually doing. In the present case they accuse Musk (who has done nothing yet) of manipulating Twitter for his own purposes. And that is what they have in fact been doing all along. This kind of rhetoric shifts attention from what they are doing to what they want the public to believe their opponents (real or imagined) are doing. Leftists are significantly (some entirely) influenced by Marx. All they want is to achieve and maintain power. They seek to gain control over the population, and that starts by controlling the message, the narrative. Social media has become a formidable medium for thought control. Social media platforms censor, de-prioritize, ban and shadow ban. You think you’re seeing what others post, but the algorithms used by Facebook and Twitter favor certain ideas above others. In fact, Facebook has an AI that scours every post and actively censors what it has been programmed to consider outside the “community guidelines.”
I have a personal example of Facebook censorship. I rarely make political posts nowadays. However, I do like to joke around on occasion when replying to friends. So, there was a post getting passed around about a year ago that asked, “If someone broke into your house and looked on top of your refrigerator, what would they find?” I replied that the intruder would likely be shot! Well, that’s a possibility, but really I don’t shoot first and ask questions later. I was joking. There is no intruder. It’s a silly hypothetical to get people to reply, as I did, humorously. Facebook’s AI stepped in immediately and deleted my post, determining that I’d violated community guidelines. I was given a WARNING. Several months later a friend who is an actress posted a clip to Facebook from a movie she just made. Apparently the movie is a Western. In the scene my friend is in a cowboy slaps her character hard several times. It looked realistic. She’s a good actress! I replied to the posted clip with the statement: “Throat punch that cowboy!” Facebook AI stepped in again and removed the post. Then I was banned from posting on Facebook for 24 hours, banned from posting to any groups (even my own I believe) for three days. Further, the warning reminder has come up several times when I’ve loaded Facebook on my phone. This is like being in Junior High. The teacher overhears a comment, and without context jumps in and dishes out the consequences. Ridiculous. Childish. However, this is what is happening on these platforms regularly, and not just in regard to petty “offenses” like mine.
Facebook and Twitter have been also been censoring whatever they deem “misinformation.” They have teams of “independent fact checkers,” who review comments and label them. Who are these “fact checkers;” what is their education or qualification? They hide in the shadows and lay down the law. “YOU’RE WRONG! Independent Fact Checkers say so.” Remember COVID 19? Much of the so-called “misinformation” has proven to be factual, but we weren’t permitted to post anything that disagreed with Fauci and the WHO. This covers everything from the source of the virus to the effectiveness of masking and lockdowns. We the people must be able to discuss these important issues, debate them, and make up our own minds. We can think for ourselves, can’t we? Not according to the Leftist censors of Silicon Valley.
Now, Elon Musk has taken a great risk and spent a significant amount of his own money to set Twitter free, hopefully making it a genuine haven for discussion and debate without censorship. Musk posted: “Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated.” Let us hope and pray that Mr. Musk makes good on his word and commitment. He seems to be a principled person, which is more than may be said for the Leftist pundits who are projecting their own evil motives on the billionaire entrepreneur.
There is only one word for love in the English language: L-O-V-E. But did you know that there is more than one kind of love? There are also many different expressions of love. We know this to be true in our everyday experience:
- You may love your family or a friend.
- You may love your dog or cat.
- You may love a boyfriend or girlfriend.
- You may be married and love your spouse.
Is it appropriate or right to express your love in the same way in each of the relationships listed above? Hopefully NOT! There is more than one kind of love – even if you can’t (yet) give each type of love its own name. Like space and time, LOVE has FOUR DIMENSIONS. To name these “FOUR LOVES” we’ll need to change languages. The New Testament in the Bible was written in ancient Greek, a very expressive tongue which has no fewer than four words for love:
AGAPE = aγάπη
PHILIA = φιλία
EROS = ἔρως
STORGE = στοργή
Each of these words has a different form or expression of love in mind. Relationship is a continuing connection with another person, Each of the different forms of love is the basis for a different type of relationship connection.
AGAPE– The foundational love, without conditions. It should be the basis for every human relationship. It is like the dimension we call WIDTH, which we could designate as East and West on the compass. As the old hymn says, “There is a wideness to God’s Mercy.” “He removes our sin from us as far as East from West.”
PHILIA– This is mutual love; trust as the primary condition. This selective kind of love is the basis for friendship. It is like the dimension we call LENGTH, which we may designate as North and South on the compass. We should go to great lengths to find and keep a trustworthy friend.
EROS– This is intimate love. Exclusive lifetime commitment between opposite sex lovers is the condition. This exclusive love is the basis for marriage. It is like the dimension we could call DEPTH/HEIGHT. This love is emotionally deep and takes us to great heights of passion.
STORGE– This is affection, love’s language. We use it to show how we feel about another. It is expressed diversely with each form of love, and in each type of relationship. It is like the fourth dimension of TIME, which is present with all of the others, but experienced differently from the perspective of each dimension.
“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.
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?”
“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)
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”
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.
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).
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.
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.