Thursday, June 21, 2018

Why Does God Allow Tragedies? (5 of 5)


This is the fifth and final part of a five-part series. If you missed the earlier posts, you can read them here: 

Background:
The points presented in this series are in response to a friend's questions a few months ago. She asked questions like:
- Why doesn't [God] save more from tragedies?
- Young girls are being raped and murdered. Why won't he save that kinda stuff?
- Why does a sweet, kind God not save children?

I have done my best to address these and answer the question about why God allows tragedies, understanding that I don’t have all the answers myself either. This final post is a collection of additional quotes, verses, and resources that might help as you further explore why God allows suffering and hardships in our lives. I pray that these posts have led you to consider God and His activity in our lives in a new way.

_____________________________________

Here are some more quotes and verses I found that might be helpful:

“Although suffering may seem unfair at times, on a personal level suffering has the ability to produce so much good if allowed. On a broader lever, God uses the suffering in this world to bring about some good. Although it was not His original design, He uses the pains that rattle our world in ways we may not see it. To try to grasp or comprehend the reasons and validity of everything that happens is an exhaustive endeavor that will leave you discouraged and lacking in faith. Instead, hope for the fruit born out of suffering,” (Why Does Suffering Exist?).

“Getting mad doesn’t help either. Anger is a secondary emotion. It doesn’t achieve the will of God. In tough times our anger and resentment can begin to simmer. We imagine that by drifting away or giving God the cold shoulder, we can teach Him a thing or two. The beginning step is to seek an ally that will love us better than God. Some see alcohol as a ready friend offering quick comfort. Others believe a church switch to where ‘people really understand me’ will relieve their pain. Coping mechanisms and strategies for handling hurts and disappointments abound. But regardless of the action we choose, we’re focusing again on a tiny pencil dot on the line of eternity,” (The Part of God’s Will No One Wants).

“Faced with the part of God’s will I do not want, He is the One I draw close to, trusting that He is weaving a plan – even when I don’t understand how,” (The Part of God’s Will No One Wants).

“if we could handle these things without Him, many of us would try,” (The Part of God’s Will No One Wants).

“If something is going on in your life today and you’re wondering about God’s character, ‘If God really is X, then why is Y happening?’ the answer to that dilemma is prayer. God says, ‘Call to Me, [in that moment] and I will tell you great things you don’t know,’” (Authentic Prayer from James MacDonald).

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us,” – Romans 8:18

“Notice the method Paul and Barnabas used to encourage the churches about facing hardships [Acts 14:21-28]. They did not encourage the churches to pray that God would spare them from hardship. Neither did they minimize the hardship. Instead, they encouraged the churches by helping them embrace the reality and inevitableness of it. Hardship will come, so prepare for it. It will come because God uses it for His kingdom purposes,” (Jason C. Dukes, Session 8 of The Gospel Project Chronological, Volume 10).

“God does rescue the holy from affliction, but he does so not by rendering them untested but by blessing them with endurance,” (Basil the Great [circa 329-379], as quoted in Session 8 of The Gospel Project Chronological, Volume 10).

“We believe that Christ wants to give us comfortable, easy lives with minimal hardship. But that is not what Jesus promised. Actually, He promised the opposite,” (Jason C. Dukes, Session 8 of The Gospel Project Chronological, Volume 10).

"In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted," - 2 Timothy 3:12

"I know your afflictions and your poverty - yet you are rich!...Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution...Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life...He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death," - Revelation 2:9-11 (See Rev. 2:7, 17, 26-28, 3:5, 12, 21 for more promises from Jesus for those who overcome.)

"Doing nothing about evil, ungodly stuff going on around you isn't what God wants. You can stand up for holiness. Don't just turn your head and hope the bad stuff goes away. Pray hard against it, and if you get the chance, speak the truth in love," (Dannah Gresh, The One-Year Mother-Daughter Devo).

"We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many," - 2 Corinthians 1:8-11

- "We go through difficult circumstances so we'll rely on God and not on our own strengths," (Jared Allen)

- "Prayers of others make a difference." (Jared Allen)

"Carry each others burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ," - Galatians 6:2

"When doors close, don't stop seeking God and serving Him," (Jared Allen).

"God uses closed doors to direct us to the one who is waiting for us [Jesus]," (Jared Allen).

"Sometimes our disappointments in life can become God's appointments," (Jared Allen).

"Despite our failures, God can use our faith," (Jared Allen).

"In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed," - 1 Peter 1:6-7

- "Pain proves and purifies our faith," (Jared Allen).

"Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed," - 1 Peter 1:13



Here are a few other resources you might want to check out. I have not read the books, but have checked out the websites and videos mentioned below.

- www.everyperson.com – “A Safe Place to Explore Questions about Life and God”
- Resources from Ravi Zacharias – He has some videos on YouTube, books, and a website. From my own quick searching online, I think your best option to find something related to this specific topic would be to type his name into the YouTube search and look at some of the videos that are found. There are some with titles like “How could an all-powerful, all-loving God allow evil to exist?”  “Who is responsible for evil?” and “Belief in God through times of suffering.”
- When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold S. Kushner
- Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People: Answers to One of Life’s Greatest Moral Questions by David Arnold
- https://www.gotquestions.org/bad-things-good-people.html
- The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis


Sources (listed in the order in which they first appear in this post):
1. Rust, Brittany. "Why Does Suffering Exist?" Brittany Rust, on YouVersion Bible app, Accessed: January 2018.
2. Matte, Gregg. "The Part of God's Will No One Wants," in partnership with El Centro Network, Baker Publishing Group, on YouVersion Bible app, Accessed: January 2018.
3. MacDonald, James. "Authentic Prayer from James MacDonald," Walk in the Word, on YouVersion Bible app, Accessed: January 2018.
4. Holy Bible, New International Version. East Brunswick: International Bible Society, 1978. Print.(Some quotes also came from the NIV version (not 1978) on biblecc.com.)
5. Dukes, Jason C. Session 8 of The Gospel Project Chronological, Volume 10, Lifeway. Print.
6. Gresh, Dannah and Janet Mylin. The One Year Mother Daughter Devo, Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2010.
7. Allen, Jared. "That's Not in the Bible: 'God Won't Give You More than You Can Handle.'" First Baptist Church, Round Rock, TX. 15 April, 2018 Presented. Sermon.
8. Allen, Jared. "That's Not in the Bible: 'When God Shuts One Door, He Always Opens Another One.'" First Baptist Church, Round Rock, TX. 22 April, 2018 Presented. Sermon.
9. Allen, Jared. "1 Peter: Holiness in Hard Times." First Baptist Church, Round Rock, TX. 3 June 2018 Presented. Sermon.
10. Allen, Jared. "1 Peter: Holiness in Hard Times." First Baptist Church, Round Rock, TX. 10 June 2018 Presented. Sermon.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Why Does God Allow Tragedies? (4 of 5)


This is the fourth part of a five-part series. If you missed the earlier posts, you can read them here:
The first post
The second post
The third post

Background:
The points presented in this series are in response to a friend's questions a few months ago. She asked questions like:
- Why doesn't [God] save more from tragedies?
- Young girls are being raped and murdered. Why won't he save that kinda stuff?
- Why does a sweet, kind God not save children?

I will do my best to address these and answer the question about why God allows tragedies, understanding that I don’t have all the answers myself either. There are many resources in print and online about questions such as these, some of which I'll share at the end of this series.

As I have been reading, praying, and sharing about this topic, God has been drawing my attention to this topic of suffering repeatedly. Bible verses will stick in my mind when I read them with an inner voice saying, "This!" Devotionals read with my kids will mention suffering. My pastor's current sermon series is entitled "Holiness in the Hard Times" and has made me contemplate more. If I can't get it all in these last two posts, there might be a bonus post at the end of the series!

_____________________________________

Here we go with a few more thoughts about why we have tragedies and why God would allow them.


9. There will be trouble, but take heart – Jesus has overcome the world! In John 16:33, Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Did you ever think about the fact that Jesus, himself, went through suffering? Consider all that Jesus went through! He endured a 40-day fast in the desert. (Yes, that one was His choice, but it was still suffering - and sometimes our suffering and trials do come by our own hands, don't they?) He was verbally abused and cursed. He had crowds who wanted to stone him. He was beaten, whipped until his back was in shreds, nailed to a wooden cross through his hands and feet, and hung on the cross to die. He endured incredible pain for the sins of which we are guilty – not Him. That was an innocent life that was greatly hurt by other people! If Jesus went through suffering, why would we think we wouldn't?

a.       For verses about some of Jesus’ suffering, see Matthew 27:26-50, Mark 15:15-37, Luke 22:63-65, Luke 23:11, 35-46, John 19:1-3. These verses are about the end of his life, but there are more about earlier times in his life and ministry as well, such as John 10:31 and 39.
b.       “But what about when life is unfair? What about those horrible circumstances that hit us in life, caused by someone other than ourselves? When we are feeling victimized, it’s useful to realize that God [Jesus] himself endured horrendous treatment from others. God more than understands what you are going through,” (www.everyperson.com, “Why Does God Allow Suffering in the World?”).
c.    "In fact, everyone who wants to live godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted," - 2 Timothy 3:12
d.    "Now if we are children, then we are heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." - Romans 8:17
e.    "For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows." - 2 Corinthians 1:5

      10.  We must hold on to hope. Faith is believing without completely seeing or understanding. (See 2 Corinthians 5:7, Hebrews 11:1, and John 20:29.) 

a.       “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently,” – Romans 8:24-25
b.       “We will all face these moments in our lives, when everything we can see tells us that God is not good to us. At those moments, whether we realize it or not, we ask ourselves this question: Do we believe God is good by what we see or do we believe God is good because of who he is?” (Hope When It Hurts).
c.       “Friend, this life is filled with circumstances that will leave us questioning or even denying God’s goodness if we live by what we see, rather than by faith in what God has promised. The choice we face is a daily one. We can choose to either trust what we see and define what’s good for us ourselves, and grow annoyed with God and doubt his goodness, or we can live by faith in a crucified Savior and let him define what’s good for us, even if it means exercising our faith muscles as we choose to trust him over what we can see and feel,” (Hope When It Hurts).
d.       “So let’s come to Christ with our doubts and weaknesses and ask him to give us the faith to take our eyes away from what we can see in front of us and lift our eyes again to the cross – because that is where we will find assurance and confidence in the undeserving goodness and faithfulness of our heavenly Father. Is God good? Yes. He died for you,” (Hope When It Hurts).

      11.  The question was asked, “Why won’t he save that kinda stuff?” The answer is that He does save it! He redeems it, but it is in His way and timing, not ours. He does care about us and our trials, wanting nothing more than for us to be saved and to remain with Him forever.

a.       “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” - 2 Peter 3:8-9
b.       “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” - 1 Peter 5:10
c.    "Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins." - Psalm 30:7-8
d.   "But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship." - Galatians 4:4-5
e.   "But God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself." - Psalm 49:15
f.    "I will strengthen the house of Judah and save the house of Joseph. I will restore them because I have compassion on them...I will signal for them and gather them in. Surely I will redeem them; they will be as numerous as before." - Zechariah 10:6, 8

         12.  In the initial questions, God was referred to as a “sweet, kind God.” So many people want to see God only as this, but He is so much more than that! He is just, merciful, gracious, jealous for your devotion, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present, patient (but not as we understand patient), loving (but beyond what we understand as loving), forgiving (but forgiving does not mean removal of consequences). In the Old Testament, there are many times we could interpret God as being harsh. God is the same today as He was then. All of the characteristics of God have always been true of Him - the soft, fuzzy ones as well as the hard, strict ones. Here are a few verses to consider:

                  a.       “The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed,” - Psalm 103:6
                  b.       “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.”
                                Psalm 103:8
c.       “Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.’” – Exodus 34:5-7
d. "The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The LORD takes vengeance on his foes and maintains his wrath against his enemies. The LORD is slow to anger and great in power; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet." - Nahum 1:2-3
e.   "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." - 
f.   "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." - Hebrews 13:8


See you next week with more thoughts. 
I'd love to know what you are thinking about this topic.


      Sources (listed in the order in which they first appear in this post):
      1. Holy Bible, New International Version. East Brunswick: International Bible Society, 1978. Print. (Some quotes also came from the NIV version (not 1978) on biblecc.com and the YouVersion Bible app.)
      2. “Why Does God Allow Suffering in the World?” Everyperson.com, Accessed: January 2018.
      3. Wetherell, Kristen and Sarah Walton. "Hope When It Hurts," The Good Book Company, on YouVersion Bible app, Accessed: January 2018.   

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Why Does God Allow Tragedies? (3 of 5)

This is the third part of a five-part series. If you missed the earlier posts, you can read the first part here and the second part here.

Background:
The points presented in this series are in response to a friend's questions a few months ago. She asked questions like:
- Why doesn't [God] save more from tragedies?
- Young girls are being raped and murdered. Why won't he save that kinda stuff?
- Why does a sweet, kind God not save children?

I will do my best to address these and answer the question about why God allows tragedies, understanding that I don’t have all the answers myself either. There are many resources in print and online about questions such as these, some of which I'll share at the end of this series.

_____________________________________

Here we go with a few more thoughts about why we have tragedies and why God would allow them.


       6.  God can use hurt to save others. What we learn as we go through hard times (or as we go alongside others as they go through hard times) can help us be more empathetic of others. We might be able to understand their needs, feelings, concerns, wishes, as well as ways to support and encourage them. Also, as one of my mentors told me once, not every message from God (nor everything with which we deal) is meant for us specifically. We are not meant to live in isolation, but rather in community and fellowship with each other. I have had friends go through cancer diagnoses and treatments who have impacted doctors, nurses, and others through their ordeals, which were personal, but not kept private...just like our Christian faith should be.

a.   In John 9, we read about a man blind from birth. Jesus’ disciples ask who sinned, he or his parents, to cause him to be born blind. “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” Then, Jesus healed the man’s blindness. His healing did not come when he was a child, but when he was a grown man, which means that he still had to deal with the hardship for many years before healing came. His healing brought glory to God, leading people to seek to know Him more.
b.   Think of Job. He was a righteous man who was greatly afflicted, with God’s permission, and yet glory was (and is) brought to God through his tragedies. Also, Job was blessed even greater afterward than he had been prior to the tragedies in his life.
c.   Joseph (whose half-brothers planned to kill him, threw him down a well, and then sold him to slave traders) said to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives,” (Genesis 50:20).
d.     “Our pain can keep us focused on ourselves and how difficult our circumstances are. Or we can focus on the comfort that God promises to us so we can make it through anything. Then we are better able to share what we have received with other hurting people. Hope is found when you let your pain make you more compassionate to the world around you,” (Live Hope Minute: Become a Champion of Hope).
e.       We receive comfort so we can comfort others. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God,” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

       7.  The devil is real. So are demons and angels. We all have personal temptations as well (and the devil knows this). There is a plethora of verses about this, and below is just a small sampling.

a.       “but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when It is full-grown, gives birth to death,” – James 1:14-15
b.       “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of the dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” – Ephesians 6:11-13
c.       Matthew 4:1-10 is the story of when, after his baptism by John the Baptist, Jesus went into the desert and fasted. The devil met him there and tempted him.
d.       “The great dragon was hurled down – that ancient serpent called the devil or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: ‘Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is fill with fury, because he knows that his time is short.’” – Revelation 12:9-12
e.       “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” – James 4:7
f.        “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” – Matthew 26:41 and Mark 14:38 (and similar wording in Luke 22:40)
g.       “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” -1 Corinthians 10:13
h.       “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” – 1 Peter 5:8-10

       8.  Heaven will be better knowing how different it is from earth. No sadness, crying, pain, death… Sometimes it is harder to appreciate something when we don’t know what we are missing, what the alternative could be.

a.   "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." - Romans 8:18
b.      “he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace from his people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken.” – Isaiah 25:8
c.       “’Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” – John 14:1-3
d.       “Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” – Revelation 7:16-17
e.       “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’” – Revelation 21:4-5
f.       You may want to read all of Revelation 21, Revelation 22:1-5, and Revelation 4 to read about the beauty of heaven.
g. "The thought came to me and I don't believe the mountains would be nearly as beautiful, magnificent, or awe-inspiring without the valleys. In fact, I'm not sure there'd even be mountains without the valleys. But later someday...'Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken,' (Isaiah 40:4-5). Other verses I found for this idea include Isaiah 41:15-16, 45:2-3, 49:11, and 54:10," (from http://strivingforgodsglory.blogspot.com/2017/06/glad-for-hard.html).


See you next week with more thoughts. 
I'd love to know what you are thinking about this topic.

(Please excuse the formatting issues below; I couldn't get the text to move back to the left margin.)

Sources (listed in the order in which they first appear in this post):
1. Holy Bible, New International Version. East Brunswick: International Bible Society, 1978. Print. (some quotes also came from the NIV version (not 1978) on biblecc.com)
2. Smeby, Mark. "Live Hope Minute: Become a Champion of Home," Broadstreet Publishing, on YouVersion Bible app, Accessed: January 2018.
3. Shuman, Christa. "Glad for the Hard." Web blog post. Striving for God's Glory. Blogger, 16 June 2017. Web. January 2018.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Why Does God Allow Tragedies? (2 of 5)


This is the second part of a five-part series. If you missed the first part, you can read it here.

Background:
The points presented in this series are in response to a friend's questions a few months ago. She asked questions like:
- Why doesn't [God] save more from tragedies?
- Young girls are being raped and murdered. Why won't he save that kinda stuff?
- Why does a sweet, kind God not save children?

I will do my best to address these and answer the question about why God allows tragedies, understanding that I don’t have all the answers myself either. There are many resources in print and online about questions such as these, some of which I'll share at the end of this series.

_____________________________________

Here we go with a few more thoughts about why we have tragedies and why God would allow them.

3. God is not human. We cannot project our minds and ways of thinking onto Him. His ways and thoughts are higher than ours. He sees, knows, and understands way more than we can. Like my pastor, Jared Allen, said in a sermon in July 2017, “Our infinite God cannot be fully understood by our finite minds. His power is not limited by what we understand.” We may see the trees. He not only sees the forest, but the whole world – the whole universe! He sees not only how a situation affects us as an individual; He sees how it affects the people around us, the people around them, and so on. He sees how it affects people we don't even know or think about. There is more going on than what we can see and know about life. He can work good in anything, even tragedies!

a.       “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,” – Romans 8:28
b.       “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declared the LORD. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts,’” – Isaiah 55:8-9
c.       The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart,” – 1 Samuel 16:7
d.       “God is working things out during those very parts of His will we do not want. He is crafting, shaping and planning at a deeper level than we can see. He is looking at a lie that stretches from eternity past to eternity future, while we are looking through a straw at a tiny black pencil dot set on that line of life. He is looking at eons of eternity at once,” (The Part of God’s Will No One Wants).
e.       “I had two options. I could walk by sight and allow what I couldn’t understand to simmer into a rolling boil of anger toward the Lord, or I could choose to walk by faith by reminding myself that God’s ways are higher than my ways, and that he is trustworthy and good, even when I can’t make sense of my circumstances,” (Hope When It Hurts).
f.       “We didn’t like His will and did not want it, but He didn’t ask us about that. He does not have to. He is the Sovereign One. My job is to cling to Him in trust,” (The Part of God’s Will No One Wants).

        4. Sometimes, it’s the tragedies that lead us to God and make our faith stronger. Pain may be a place of preparation.

a.       “Martyrs, widows, orphans, the impoverished, the forgotten, the persecuted and the wounded have all found Christ faithful,” (The Part of God’s Will No One Wants).
b.       “The more closely you walk with Christ in the uncomfortable of the unknown, the greater clarity of life you will experience,” (The Part of God’s Will No One Wants).
c.       “But consider this: only by experiencing pain do we recognize the areas of our life that require healing,” (Problem with Pain).
d.       But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead,” (2 Corinthians 1:9).
e.        “Those parts of His will that we do not want, cause the volume of our faith to get turned up…Not only do we hear God more clearly, but our attentiveness to Him can also cause the ears of others to incline toward words of hope,” (The Part of God’s Will No One Wants).
f.       “I look at the hardships and the trials as part of my training and believe that they make me strong,” Abernathy said. “As you are going through trying times, you don’t always have the answers, so I encourage you to keep going back to God’s Word and keep praying. When you persevere, you come out a much stronger person,” (Anne Abernathy, Olympic luger, quoted in “The Winter Olympics and the Bible,”).
g.       “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything,” – James 1:2-4
h.         “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him,” – James 1:12

        5. There are opportunities for followers of Christ to show the love of Christ to those who are going through tragedies. When people reach out to serve and help those who are suffering, they can show God’s love. They can demonstrate faith, hope, and love. This is not only true for someone from the outside of the tragedy, but for the person(s) within the tragedy – the victim(s). Not only might they be able to demonstrate faith, hope, and love, but they might also be able to demonstrate forgiveness. The offering of forgiveness in such circumstances can be absolutely mind-blowing to others involved in the situation as well as outsiders looking in at it. This can be a powerful message about God to people.
a.       learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow,” - Isaiah 1:17
b.       “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world,” - James 1:27
c.       “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” – Luke 6:27
d.   But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous," - Matthew 5:44-45
e.   "Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you." - John 13:14-15
f.   "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer." - 2 Corinthians 1:3-6


See you next week with more thoughts. 
I'd love to know what you are thinking about this topic.

(Please excuse the formatting issues below; I couldn't get the text to move back to the left margin.)

Sources (listed in the order in which they appear in this post):
1. Allen, Jared. "Colossians 1:24-29." First Baptist Church, Round Rock, TX. 2 July 2017 Presented. Sermon.
2. Holy Bible, New International Version. East Brunswick: International Bible Society, 1978. Print. (some quotes also came from the NIV version (not 1978) on biblecc.com)
3. Matte, Gregg. "The Part of God's Will No One Wants," in partnership with El Centro Network, Baker Publishing Group, on YouVersion Bible app, Accessed: January 2018.
4. Wetherell, Kristen, and Sarah Walton. "Hope When It Hurts," The Good Book Company, on YouVersion Bible app, Accessed: January 2018.
5. Haines, Seth. "Problem with Pain," Abide, on YouVersion Bible app, Accessed: January 2018.
6. Abernathy, Anne. As quoted in "The Winter Olympics and the Bible," Museum of the Bible, on YouVersion Bible app, Accessed: February 2018.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Why Does God Allow Tragedies? (1 of 5)


A few months ago, I shared on Facebook the following quotes from an online devotional I was reading:
"God gives us the freedom to make choices. In giving us that freedom, He is not going to keep us from using it however we want to. He will never force us against our wills to go in the directions He wants us to go. God gave us the freedom to choose between right and wrong, and if this world seems deeply troubled, it’s because we humans keep making bad choices."
"Giving us free will was risky on God’s part because we have a tendency to misuse it."
(from The Lies We Believe About God, by Dr. Chris Thurman, read on YouVersion)

I had a friend respond with questions. Here I paraphrase:
- Why doesn't [God] save more from tragedies?
- Young girls are being raped and murdered. Why won't he save that kinda stuff?
- Why does a sweet, kind God not save children?

This friend rightly suggested that these questions are tough for many non-believers. They are difficult for many believers as well. Numerous resources exist, many I have not personally read, although since the questions were asked, I read some of them, prayed, and asked a few other people, too. I will do my best to address these and answer the question about why God allows tragedies, understanding that I don’t have all the answers myself either.

Because I compiled a lot of information and ideas, I am dividing this topic up into five posts. I hope you will be able to read all of them, consider what they say, and find some peace.

Here we go!

1.      1. Everyone has free will to make the choices that they want. Unfortunately, in the cases that we are considering, those choices affect more than just the person making the choice - which is actually true for every decision we make, just to differing levels. People are affected, whether the wrong choice was to lie, steal office supplies, watch pornography, or much more egregious cases of rape, murder, and abuse. The Bible says that the sins of one person affect the children to the third or fourth generation (Numbers 14:18, Exodus 20:5, Exodus 34:7, Deuteronomy 5:9). (Many translations of the Bible actually say that “He punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation,” but we have to remember that we are not reading the original language. It is my belief that there is a translation issue here, because each person will be judged for their own sins and not those of another person (Ezekiel 18: 4, 13, 17-20). I believe that it means that the effects/consequences of the person’s sin can be felt for three or four generations.) There is good news though! The Bible says that those who love the LORD and keep his commandments will benefit their children for a thousand generations (Exodus 20:6, Deuteronomy 5:10, Deuteronomy 7:9)! That is much more than three or four generations!

2.      2. God is not ignoring sin. He is just and will repay sinners for their actions. It might not be in the time that we think He should do it, nor in the way that we think He should deal with it, but that is not for us to decide. He does promise us, though, that He will deal with sin.

a.       “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to revenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord,” – Romans 12:19
b.       “The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The LORD takes vengeance on his foes and maintains his wrath against his enemies. The LORD is slow to anger and great in power; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet.”  - Nahum 1:2-3
c.       “God presented him [Jesus] as a sacrifice of atonements, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance, he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished,” – Romans 3:25 (Justice will come.)
d.       “…he does not leave the guilty unpunished…” – Exodus 34:7
e.       “…Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished…” – Numbers 14:18
f.        “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, ‘How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’ Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed,” – Revelation 6:9-11 (This passage is a little difference, since it is dealing with martyrs for the faith, but it still addresses justice for those who persecute others, especially those of the faith.)
g.       “But those who hate him he will repay to their face by destruction…” – Deuteronomy 7:10
h.       “Do not say, ‘I’ll pay you back for this wrong!’ Wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you,” – Proverbs 20:22
i.     " Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism." - Colossians 3:25
j.         “’No longer will the people of Israel have malicious neighbors who are painful briers and sharp thorns. Then they will know that I am the Sovereign LORD. This is what the Sovereign LORD says: When I gather the people of Israel from the nations where they have been scattered, I will show myself holy among them in the sight of the nations. Then they will live in their own land, which I gave to my servant Jacob. They will live there in safety and will build houses and plant vineyards, they will live in safety when I inflict punishment on all their neighbors who maligned them. Then they will know that I am the LORD their God,’” – Ezekiel 28:24-26

Before I move on, I do want to point out some great news: God also forgives sin! We are ALL sinners in need of forgiveness. Romans 3:23 tells us “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The crux of this, however, is repentance. We must recognize our sin and call it what it is – sin. We must be sorrowful over it and ask God to forgive our sin. We must be willing to put forth the effort to change, to turn away from the sin. If, in good faith, we do these things, He will forgive. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives,” – 1 John 1:9

It may be hard to accept, but even rapists and murderers can receive forgiveness from God for their past sins - if they truly repent and turn their lives over to God. Matthew 20:1-16 contains a parable from Jesus that is often referred to when considering people who accept Jesus later in life - even after committing sins all their life - can still receive the reward of eternal life with God. It is for God to decide, not us.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Taming the Tigers

Did you know that Texas has the second largest population of tigers in the world? Plus, it is estimated that there are more tigers in captivity in the United States than there are in the wild! Many of these tigers are being kept in people's backyards as pets.

Image Credit: Nigel Swales via Flickr

     
      Image Credit: www.heroviral.com
    (Facebook/Erin Poole)




                 
                                   




I tend to keep my pet tigers even closer to me. Now, before you get all concerned that I really have pet tigers roaming around my living room, let me clarify that - although one of our real-life cats is named Tiger - I am not talking about real animals here.

I'm talking about temptations. Temptations can prowl around in our lives. They seek to devour that which is good. A couple of my temptation tigers are sugary treats and time lost to technology usage (mostly Facebook and e-mail). Sometimes I'm fooled into thinking that they are just a current, temporary struggle that has popped up. Recently, however, I looked through an old notebook and saw notes about my struggling with these same tigers four years ago! It was discouraging to consider that I am still trying to tame the same tigers! I have not done well with self-control on these two issues.

We don't have to try to tame the tigers on our own. We can enlist a team to help us. Get some accountability with others who will support you and ask you the hard questions that you don't want to answer (i.e., Did you avoid eating sweets today? How long did you spend on Facebook this week?). They need to be tough - tough on you to spur you onward and motivate you, and tough on the temptation tigers, to push them back so they no longer threaten you. If I am completely honest with you, I have avoided accountability because I don't want to be told 'no' when I selfishly decide that I want to eat those sweet treats, or I want to get on Facebook and read "just a few more." Well, maybe this is a very good reason why I have not been successful for over four years!

We also would benefit from the skills of a trainer. A trainer has experience. They have worked with the tigers before and know how to deal with them. I'd like to work with a trainer who has been successful at overcoming the tigers, too. You know that's what Jesus did, right?

Hebrews 4:15 - For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin.

Hebrews 2:18 - Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

1 Corinthians 10:13 - No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

So, how do you contact your trainer and get him to help you tame your tigers? You need to spend time with him and develop a relationship with him. It's not that he doesn't know you or know how to work with you and your tigers; it's that you need to get on the same page with him and trust him to help you. You need to learn how to follow his lead and go along with his plan, even if it doesn't make sense to you at the time. Talk to him and be honest with him in your prayers. Tell him how you feel about your tigers and how hard you think the taming process will be. Sit still in his presence and let him communicate to you - he is with you and will help you; have peace and trust in him; there is nothing that he cannot handle - nothing is impossible for him. As you develop your relationship with your trainer, you will learn how to tame you tigers and develop the confidence to put the plan into action, even if the plan is revealed to you only one step at a time.

One resource you might consider is Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst. I am at the end of a 21-day online devotional on this subject by her and it has made me want to buy the book (or devotional, or Bible study...). The main topic has been about food issues, but it is definitely applicable for other issues.

Even better than just trying to "tame" our temptation tigers would be to cage them up and send them away from us! "You cannot take the wild from a tiger. You can put 'em in your living room, you can put 'em in your bathroom, you can put 'em in your backyard, but a tiger is a tiger is a tiger. They are wild animals, and they could kill you," (Monique Woodard, founder of Exotic Cat Refuge and Wildlife Orphanage).

Our temptations don't just need to be tamed to be kept around and coddled or petted! They need to be cast away from us! There is no way they can turn against us if we have removed them from our lives! Now, I know some temptation tigers cannot be removed and we need to know how to have self-control to resist their dangerous advances.

So, what tigers are you needing to tame? Is it time to talk to the Trainer and listen to what He wants to tell you? Is it time to take that first step - or, like me, take a step again? Maybe your tigers don't need just tamed - maybe they need to be caged and removed completely from your life. Either way, let's get control of some tigers!


Sources:
- Gibson, London. "Tigers are endangered in Asia, but in Texas they're backyard pets." Austin American Statesman. Cox Media Group, 30 April 2018. Web. 03 May 2018. 
- HeroViral Team. "Tiger Cub on a Leash Found Wandering the Streets of Texas." HeroViral. HeroViral/Correlate Pte Ltd, Undated. Web. 04 May 2018.
Holy Bible, New International Version. East Brunswick: International Bible Society, 1978. Print.
- Macatee, Rebecca. "Why a Pet Tiger is Never, Ever, Ever a Good Idea." Across America Patch. Patch Media, 13 January 2017. Web. 15 May 2018. https://patch.com/new-jersey/bernardsville-bedminster/why-pet-tiger-never-ever-ever-good-idea.
- Wise, Lindsay. "Dangerous exotic animals make home in Texas." Houston Chronicle. Hearst Corporation, 19 March 2012. Web. 4 May 2018.