Category Archives: Teaching

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.

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.

Walking On the Right Path

“There is a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path.” -Morpheus (The Matrix).

I initiated a fat loss competition at my church on the first Sunday in January. The purpose was (and is) to motivate people who enter to become more healthy, not just by losing pounds, or even inches, but by losing excess(ive) body fat. According to the Diabesity Institute (diabesityinstitute.org) 60% of Americans suffer from a combination of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Diabesity is the major factor behind heart disease. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine people with type 2 diabetes are two to four times more likely to have a heart attack. Obesity has long been known to increase the risk of heart disease. Therefore, this is not merely an issue of looking better, or even feeling better, but of living healthier and longer. Our church is called Lifewell and our motto is Live Life Well, This fits our mission.

I haven’t lost any fat, in spite of the fact that I have the knowledge and experience to do so. I could be a trainer if I had time and inclination to get certified. However, as Morpheus says in the first Matrix movie, “There is a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path.” See, I decided to take a different route. I wanted to know if I could gain muscle at the same time as losing body fat. Others have done this, but I have not. I followed a six week weightlifting protocol known as German Volume Training. I gained muscle, and strength. However, the reason I didn’t lose body fat likely had more to do with my unwillingness to give up a daily craft beer reward, and being lax in keeping up with my daily food log. The result was too many calories, and a daily interference of alcohol in my liver. The latter inhibits the liver’s ability to burn fat (at least, while it is dealing with filtering the alcohol).

What to do? Be happy with my muscle gain? Buy bigger pants? Wear all of my shirts untucked to hide a burgeoning gut? No, I’m going to re-start. Turns out virtually everyone in our competition voted to do the same. The original plan was to weigh-out on Valentine’s Day. Yeah, there were very few people who left their houses that morning. We live in Texas. February 14th was the start of a very rough week of freezing temperatures and power outages.  Prior to that we had folks dealing with Covid-19. It’s been a difficult 2021 so far. However, as the Bible promises, God’s grace is new every morning. God’s grace is my inspiration to start over, and over, and over. So, I’m not giving up, or giving in. 

The season of Lent is a time of fasting. Intermittent fasting is a great way to lose body fat. It’s also a time of self-denial. Many Christians give something up for Lent. This teaches us to say no to self and yes to God. Life is about seasons. our bodies are designed for intermittent feasting and fasting. The holiday season is for feasting. Lent is for fasting. My plan is to give up alcohol, and to fast periodically, particularly every Friday. This will help spiritually and physically. Health involves the whole person.

This re-start is an opportunity to walk the path I that know: keep a food log, count calories and keep them at around 1700 per day, avoid sugar, starch and generally keep carbs low (around 100gm/day), continue to lift weights, add cardio, and NO ALCOHOL. I’ve done this several times in the past decade and dropped my body fat below 10%, and sustained it for years. 

Today is Day One… again. Easter is 40 days away, and that is our new weigh-out date for the fat loss competition at my church. My goal is to get back below 10% body fat. I am convinced I can do it, but only if I do what I know. That really applies to all of life.

Jesus said something to his followers that is the best summation: “You know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (John 13:17). Do what you know to be right and true. If not, well, Jesus’ half-brother James said, “Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it” (James 4:17).

Do what is right, always: in health, in relationships, in your thinking, in life.

How to Respond to a World Out of Control

  1. Ignore it, and get on with your life. Sadly, this will not work for long. The culture, government, and corporations are all part of the world you’re trying to ignore. They are advocating for a particular position and demanding you support it. Additionally, as the world worsens, good people become complicit in its demise by refusing to take a stand. “All that is necessary for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.” This also applies to the next option. 
  2. Withdraw. Also called the Benedict (monastic) Option. Take your kids out of school, move to the country, grow your own food, drop off of the grid. Gather with only like-minded people. Will you be able to fulfill the Great Commission this way? Should we just let the world go to hell?
  3. Fight. Debate. Get into politics. Protest. Try to change the system. We’ve seen too many years of this. What is the result? Deep division. Prejudice. Contempt. The trouble with wrestling with pigs is, you both get muddy, but the pig likes it (variation on quote by George Bernard Shaw). Do you like living in the mud? Hopefully not. Might be a reason to adjust your social media interaction. 
  4. Shine! Remember, if you belong to Jesus, you reflect His light. “I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 10:12) Christ is the light to guide the nations (Isaiah 42:6). That is what our world needs to see! And Jesus will open their blind eyes (42:7). We receive Christ’s ministry and become agents and ambassadors, reflecting his light upon a dark world.

“Let your light so shine before people so that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16)

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you.” (Isaiah 60:1-2 ESV)

Be the change!  Do good. Love people. Live a positive life of faith in the face of a dark, negative world. Live in such a way that people will want what you have. This gives you the opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus.  The LORD will encourage you! That’s what the Holy Spirit is, an Encourager. He will give you courage and strength and confidence in the face of the darkening world.

“Light arises in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious and compassionate and righteous…He will not fear bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. His heart is upheld, he will not fear….” (Psalm 112:4:7-8)

A) Love people instead of ignoring them or showing contempt and hatred.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:43–45, ESV)

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20, ESV)

B) Speak the Truth in love, rather than accepting or repeating lies. This includes unsubstantiated conspiracy theories, rumors and gossip.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,” (Ephesians 4:15, ESV)

Those who traffic in lies are doing business for the Father of Lies.

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44, ESV)

Those who live and speak the Truth are of the one who called Himself Truth.

“I am the way, the Truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

Jesus prayed that we would be set apart by the Truth.

“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17)

C) Focus on the Good News and share it with anyone who will listen.

When you hear bad news, pray. Trust God. Now turn back to the Good News of the grace of God and share it with others! That’s our mission (Matt. 28:19-20, Acts 1:8)

Nothing else matters as much as this.

Paul didn’t consider even his life of any value, except as it might be used to share the Gospel.

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts 20:24, ESV)

D) Pray often and offer to pray for other people. Tell people: I will remember you in my prayers. What would you like me to pray for?”

“Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17).

E) Believe God for healing, deliverance and salvation in your life and the lives of others. Do you expect God to do great things when you ask?

“Ask and you will receive…” (Matt. 7:7)

“Whatever you ask in faith, believing you shall receive” (Matt. 21:22).

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (John 14:12–13, ESV)

F) Openly testify and give God glory for the miracles He works in your life and in the world. This requires as much faith as it did to ask in the first place. If we fail to give God glory for what he has done and is doing, he may stop working until we do! 

“He who has, more will be given, but he who has not, even what he has will be taken from him.”

This is God’s revelation in the life of a believer. Do you receive what the Lord is doing? Are you willing to confess that it is God who is at work in you both to will and to do for his good pleasure? (Phil 2:13)

Don’t be ashamed to speak of the Lord and what He is doing in your life and ministry!

“I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16).

which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.” (2 Timothy 1:12, ESV)

So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32–33, ESV)

The word for “acknowledge” in Greek means “to express openly one’s allegiance to a proposition or person.”

Don’t throw your pearls to pigs. If they mock you, move to a new person or audience, who will respect what you have to say. But don’t be intimidated, and don’t stop testifying of the truth!

How Many Calories Do You Need?

Forget BMI. What you need to know if you want to lose fat is your BMR or Basal Metabolic Rate. You can determine the number of calories your body needs each day by determining your Basal Metabolic Rate, then adding or subtracting from that depending upon your goals. You can do the math under #4 below to get that number. First, let’s understand some other important considerations for losing fat.

  1. Calories. Your body burns energy measured in calories. Counting calories is much maligned by many today, but it is still the best way to determine the amount of energy your body needs.
  2. Macronutrients contain different numbers of calories. There are three of these.
    • Carbohydrate 1 gram = 4.5 calories
    • Protein 1 gram = 4.5 calories
    • Fat 1 gram = 9 calories
    • Alcohol (not a macronutrient) 1 gram = 7 calories
  3. Count Calories. Each person burns a different number of calories depending upon their metabolism and activity level. Count your calories.
    • Write down everything you eat in a normal day and add up the calories.
    • Go online or get a calorie counting app for your smart phone. Many of these automatically calculate the number of calories you should take in per day in order to meet your goal, be that weight loss or weight gain.
  4. BMR- Below is the math to figure your Basal Metabolic Rate

A) Females:

Multiply your weight by 10.

Now, add your weight.

Next subtract 2% for every 10 years of life.

Example of 120 lbs 20 year old woman: 120 x 10 = 1200, 1200 + 120 = 1320, 1320 x .04 = 52.8, 1320 – 52.8 =1267.2

B) Males:

Multiply your weight by 10,

Now add twice your weight.

Next subtract 2% for every ten years of life.

Example of a 150 lbs 20 year old man- 150 x 10 = 1500, 150 x 2 = 300, 1500 = 300 = 1800, .04 x 1800 = 72, 1800 – 72 =1728

Activity Adjustment for Both Males and females: 

Add 20% – 40% depending upon your activity level. 20% = couch potato/sedentary job, 30% average, 40% active.

Example of the female above with an average activity level: 1267.2 x .30 = 380.16, 380.16 + 1267.2 = 1647.36

  1. Lose fat.
    • If you want to lose fat, you must burn more calories than you eat!
    • There are 3,500 calories contained in one pound of fat.
    • This means once you accumulate 3,500 more calories than you need, you will gain a pound of fat.
    • Eat less! Cut between 250-500 (no more!) calories per day.
    • Do more! Exercise 30-45 minutes 3-4 days per week, which will enable you to burn at least 250-350 calories per workout.
    • Intermittent Fasting- Stop eating between Sundown and 8:00 P. M. Don’t eat again until at least 13 hours have passed. Vary this: some days go 16hrs, then 18hrs, then 20 up to 24.
  2. Gain muscle.
    • If you want to gain muscle, work out with weights 3-4 times per week and take in more calories than you burn.
    • Add 500 calories to your BMR.
    • Eat an amount of protein equal in grams to your body weight in pounds, up to 1.5 grams per pound of body weight.
    • Consume your largest meal of the day an hour after a hard workout.
    • Drink a whey protein shake within one hour before and after your weight workout.

These statements have not been evaluated by a physician. Always consult your doctor before starting a diet or exercise program.

God’s Purpose for the Pandemic

I know many of you think it’s bad. Certainly this virus is bad for some who catch it, very bad for a few. Can good come out of bad? Did God send this? Is it judgment for our sins? Does God have a purpose for the pandemic?

First of all, God is omnipotent and sovereign. That means He may do whatever He pleases, and He is powerful enough to do it. Therefore, whether God sent this virus, He is certainly powerful enough to stop it. God is also good, and His purposes, although often inscrutable (beyond our understanding), are ultimately good. God is love, but at times His love is what we might call “tough love.” “We must go through many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). 

This ain’t heaven. We live in a fallen world, and it is filled with hardship and suffering. Even those of us who believe in Jesus and try to follow Him suffer, sometimes more because of our faith. We’re not going to make our world into heaven, but heaven is coming. This is bootcamp for eternity! God has a purpose for our suffering and difficulty down here: to make us more like His Son, Jesus.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” (Romans 8:28–29, NIV)

God can make good come out of a bad situation. God has a purpose for the pandemic we are currently experiencing. What is it? Let’s look at something Jesus said when confronted with the suffering of his countrymen. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day, and many of the people, believed that when something bad happened to someone it was God’s judgment on them. They deserved it because of their sin. Now, we can certainly bring suffering upon ourselves as a consequence of our bad decisions and evil actions, but that doesn’t mean that every time something bad happens to someone, it is some kind of punishment from God for a particular sin.

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”” (Luke 13:1–5, NIV)

Unless you repent, you too will perish… We all sin. Sin is falling short of God’s purpose for you. It is rebellion. It is breaking the moral law. Sin is failure or refusal to believe that God exists and rewards those who seek Him. It is refusing to believe that God is, and is good and loving. Sin is self-centered idolatry. Sin is Pride. “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). 

We all sin, and we must all turn away from sin and toward God. We must put our faith in the one who can and will save us, Jesus Christ.  If you don’t, then you’ll eventually be destroyed by your sin. “The price for sin is death…” (Romans 6:23a). This is eternal death, separation from God, total destruction in hell. The reason for death and hell is sin. The reason the world is fallen is because of our sin. “But unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” 

“….but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ, our Lord” (Romans 6:23b). Jesus came to save us from eternal destruction. Jesus was raised from death on the third day, Easter Sunday. All of those who are in Christ will overcome death too. In fact, He promised those who believed in him would not see death. “Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.” (John 8:51, NIV) Those of us who believe in Jesus and follow Him because of our faith will not die forever. In fact, we’ll not really perceive death, only a transition into the presence of God. We will not perish. We have received His gift of eternal life. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). “I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in me will live, even though He dies” (John 11:25).

In a very real sense, everything bad that happens down here, including and especially death, is God’s judgment, which is the consequence of our sin. So, I’m not sure the distinction is all that important between God causing a particular thing and it happening due to nature. The world we have inherited is separated from God. That’s the judgment. What you and I must do is turn our lives over to God by putting complete trust in Jesus. We must repent of our sin, which means change our thinking and our ways.

I believe God’s purpose for the pandemic is to bring about repentance, especially repentance from idols. It is a reason for you to turn from worthless things, and turn (or return) to Jesus. The world is filled with idols, and we have set our hearts on those idols. Now, some of them have been taken from us, albeit temporarily. No sports, no eating out, no parties, loss of money, loss of precious freedom. These are not necessarily bad in themselves, but we value them too highly. Too often we look to them rather than God. As author and pastor Tim Keller put it: “Anything we look to more than we look to Christ for our sense of acceptability, joy, significance, hope, and security is by definition our god.” Now, you may say, “Well, I don’t really value sports, my gym, or favorite restaurant that much.” Here’s the test of whether something or someone is an idol. Once again from Keller, “A sure sign of the presence of idolatry is inordinate anxiety, anger, or discouragement when our idols are thwarted. So, if we lose a good thing, it makes us sad, but if we lose an idol, it devastates us.” 

You and I are forced to stay at home right now so we might focus on what is really important: our souls, our homes and families, and our relationship with God. So, what are you doing with the time you’ve been given? As for me, I’ve been thinking and praying about making some changes in my life for quite some time, but I never seem to quite do what I want to do.I begin but don’t carry it out to the end. I’ve asked God to help me, and He has, but I return to the same old patterns. The pandemic is a wake up call. It has given me perspective. It has laser-focused me. It’s like chemotherapy for my soul. It’s killing some things that needed to die. But it can’t last forever, or it will kill what is good too.

I could lose everything if God doesn’t step in and do something powerful and  miraculous. Lifewell Church is my life’s work. For some who attend our church, it may just another activity, something to do on Sunday, a place to gather with friends, hear some music, maybe listen to a nice message, some teaching from the Bible. For me, well, If I lose this church I lose everything. I lose what I’ve worked for for more than 20 years. What happens if the shutdown lasts for months? Will people lose interest? What happens if they lose their income and stop giving? We can’t pay our bills. Would the church dissolve, and I fade into the light of common day? If I didn’t believe God would protect us and hold us together, I would be in despair right now. I’d be living in panic and fear. 

This leads me to realize that according to Keller’s evaluation, even Lifewell Church might be an idol to me. So, I’ve made it clear to the Lord that as long as I have Him, nothing else matters. I need His presence, His protection, and His direction for my life. “Whom do I have in heaven but You, and I desire nothing on earth beside You” (Psalm 73:25). Abraham was told to sacrifice Isaac, the child God promised him. Abraham was willing to give up his son, and God gave Isaac back, along with affirmation that Abraham’s descendants would be a multitude and become all that God had promised. 

“By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”” (Genesis 22:16–18, NIV)

Sometimes you have to give something up to keep it from becoming an idol, and if it is God’s will you’ll receive it back. Only then it will become what God intended it to be in your life. This works with anything, or anyone, we value too much. I have given Lifewell Church over to the Lord completely. God has given me confidence that our church will be well. I am at peace. I am not afraid. I am waiting on the Lord to act miraculously. I still believe we will become all that God established us to be. In fact, I believe we will actually grow during the pandemic! We’ll come back stronger than ever. I believe.

Here’s something you desperately need to realize during this potentially dangerous time: God can and will protect you if you trust and rely on Him. If you turn from your self-seeking ways toward God’s perfect plan for your life. then you and your family will be protected. This is true of all who will remain “in Christ.” You may suffer, but you will not be destroyed. That is not the case when you think like the world and wander around doing your own thing. That’s living like a practical atheist, even if you say you believe in God. 

I cling to Psalm 91 in times like these. 

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty… “You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.” (Psalm 91:1, 5–7, NIV). 

We’re under an emergency order to “shelter inside your home” right now. Well, Almighty God is my home, and He will protect me because I am sheltered in Him. You can count on God to keep you safe from destruction if you are in Christ, because God promised to do so and He keeps His promises.

So, I have been fasting and praying daily for the past week, and I plan on continuing to do that until Easter Sunday. I am praying for the protection and prosperity of my Lifewell Church family. That’s what they are to me, family, not followers, parishioners or attenders. I am praying daily that none of us gets sick. I am believing we will not. I am praying for a miraculous breakthrough in this pandemic by Easter Sunday. I am praying and fasting and praying for our nation and our world! I do not receive sickness, hospitalization or death. I believe the report God gives in His Word, not the fear-mongering media, and not the unbelieving masses online.

I am desperate. I am determined. I am in the process of making changes in my own heart and life. I confess this with the hope that you will look closely and carefully at your life too. Let the Spirit of God encourage you and grant you a change of heart, friend. Decide. Change your thinking; change your ways. “Don’t be conformed to this world any longer, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may test and approve God’s perfect and pleasing will for your lives” (Romans 12:2).

Will you join me? Will you repent? God can, and I believe God will, stop the pandemic, but not until his purpose is accomplished. That purpose is not punishment, or I’d be sick already. God is warning us. Our repentance may well be what God is waiting on to shut this down.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9, NIV)

In the end God will accomplish his purpose, and he is working everything out for the good of those who love him and are called to that purpose, which is to make us like Jesus. So, have faith, be confident. Faith is inherently positive when it is invested in the all powerful, good and loving God. This is the One we may call Father because of Jesus. 

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” (Romans 8:15, NIV)

Remember, fear is the opposite of faith, and Jesus’ followers have the Holy Spirit, not a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7). Seek the Lord and make the necessary changes to your life. “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path” (Proverbs 3:6). This pandemic will result in good for those who follow Jesus to God’s glory. I am believing God that this will end soon. Make it so, Lord, amen!