Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

There has always been a question of why Christians struggle with sickness and poverty. Many Atheists will ring this into play when talking about the existence of God, and why a good God would allow the good people to suffer. I came across the article below written by Wayne Jackson. It sure does have some great points, give it a read.

A gentleman who professed identification with the Lord became quite disenchanted with Christianity. When an interested friend asked as to the nature of his problem with faith, he replied:

According to the Bible, God promised that those who follow him will be blessed with health and prosperity. As I observe Christian people, I see vast numbers who are sick and poor. I can no longer believe, therefore, in the promises of God.

What response should be made to this troubled man?

Who’s To Blame?

There are three possible ways to evaluate the argument stated above.

“It’s God’s Fault …”

God has failed in his promises. Either he is unable to complete his pledge (in which case he is impotent), or else he had no intention of fulfilling his bargain (which would make him deceptive). In either event, the fault would lie with God.

“If I were a better person … “

God is both willing and able to bless humanity with physical/material health and wealth, and, invariably, he does. Those who enjoy wholeness and prosperity are the righteous; those who do not are flawed in character. Any lack, therefore, is with man.

“Maybe I’ve misunderstood …”

The third possibility is that the assumptions of the argument cited above are grounded in a misunderstanding of certain passages relating to physical and material well-being.

In this case, the problem would be with the critic’s misinterpretation of certain passages.

Let us give consideration to each of these possibilities.

The Skeptical Theory: God’s to Blame

The first of the above-listed propositions partakes of the nature of that ancient argument employed so often by skeptics.

If God cannot do it, he is powerless, hence, not God. If the Creator will not do it, he is malevolent, thus, not God.

If he has both the power and the will, why then is someone sick or poor?

The assumption in this position, of course, is that ignorant mankind is qualified to pass judgment upon divine actions. And, if the Maker of men is not operating consistent with how “we” might do it, he is blamed as lacking either ability or will.

But the “ways” of Heaven are beyond human analysis (Job 9:12b; Is. 55:8; Rom. 11:33).

The fact of the matter is, God, in real history, has demonstrated both his ability and integrity in keeping his promises.

Twenty centuries before the birth of Christ, Jehovah promised Abraham that through his “seed” all nations of the earth would be blessed (Gen. 22:18). The prophecy pointed to the coming of Christ (Ga. 3:16).

Even though Abraham and Sarah were aged, and without offspring at the time, the patriarch never wavered concerning the promise, for he knew that “what [God] had promised, he was able to perform” (Rom. 4:21).

Too, God’s integrity was never suspect, for, as the writer of Hebrews noted (in discussing this very circumstance), it is an immutable proposition that it is impossible for God to lie (Heb. 6:13-18).

The messianic prophecies of the Old Testament, combined with the facts relative to Jesus of Nazareth, confirm both the integrity and ability of the Almighty.

The Character Argument: “If I were only good enough …”

The idea that one’s character can be determined by his physical well-being, or material prosperity, though widespread, reflects an erroneous generalization.

While it occasionally is the case that the Bible provides some examples of prosperity as a result of righteousness, that is far from the rule.

Consider two cases from the Old Testament.

Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar insisted that Job’s plight (during which he lost all his material resources, and his health) was a result of his lack of spirituality. The patriarch supposedly had committed grievous sins. If he would only repent, God would restore his well-being.

The truth was otherwise. Job’s losses were the result of his goodness. He was Jehovah’s unique servant (Job 1:8; 2:3). The Lord permitted Job’s deprivation because he was proud of him, and knew he could maintain his integrity (Job 13:15).

Or consider the case of Asaph (Ps. 73). He surveyed society and noted the “prosperity of the wicked” (Ps. 73:3). He almost abandoned his faith at this seeming inequity — until Jehovah showed him the “latter end” of evil people (Ps. 73:17), and he learned the lesson that godliness cannot be judged by material status.

Then these New Testament examples.

Jesus’ circumstances during his earthly sojourn were those of the impoverished (2 Cor. 8:9). The Son of man did not even have a place to lay his head (Mt. 8:20). Did these meager conditions reflect God’s lack of fidelity?

Paul frequently was in situations where he lacked material prosperity (2 Cor. 11:27). In addition, he was afflicted with a terrible physical malady (2 Cor. 12:7). Surely it will not be suggested that these difficulties were the result of the apostle’s evil way of life.

Misunderstood Texts: What Does God Promise?

Without a doubt, there are biblical passages that promise prosperity and well-being, in some sense, to those who are faithful to God.

When the nation of Israel left Egypt, Jehovah informed them: “I will put on you none of the diseases which I have put on the Egyptians: for I am Jehovah who heals you” (Ex 15:26). And Isaiah declared that “by [Christ’s] stripes we are healed” (Is. 53:5).

Solomon affirmed that the one who honors God with his substance, with his firstfruits, will have overflowing prosperity (Prov. 3:9-10), and Malachi described the Lord as opening the “windows of heaven” and pouring out a blessing too bountiful to receive (Mal. 3:10).

How are these passages to be explained? There are a number of scriptural truths that will help bring balance to this oft misunderstood subject.

Principles of Well-Being

Death was visited upon man because of his transgression of divine law (Gen. 2:17; Rom. 5:12). In this earthly environment, therefore, humanity will never be exempt from sickness and death.

Be that as it may, there are principles within sacred Scripture that will enhance longevity as a general rule.

There were many sound principles in the Mosaic code that facilitated the good health that Israel generally enjoyed. Dr. S. I. McMillen has discussed this theme in his book, None of These Diseases (Revell, 1963). See also our chapter, “The God Who Heals,” in The Human Body — Accident or Design?.

As a rule, it is assumed that parental love will motivate mothers and fathers to train their children in sound health principles, so that it “may be well” with them, and that they “may live long upon the earth” (Eph. 6:3).

This certainly does not mean, though, that the Christian’s children are immune to illness, or will never die prematurely. This is a principle — not an inflexible law.

The proverb cited above (Prov. 3:9-10) contains a secluded truth supplied by the subsequent context. Derek Kidner has observed that generously giving to God, of one’s first and best, in “the face of material pressures” is, in truth, a test of faith, and is a vivid commentary on a man’s character (Proverbs, 1964, Tyndale Press).

Such a person, who so selflessly serves God, will be honor-bound to treat his fellows fairly. The practice of noble ethics in business (discussed in vv. 27ff) will generate respect, and rebound to the righteous man’s personal prosperity.

Again, though, this is not an iron-solid rule. Obviously, there will be times when the generous and honest Christian becomes the victim of those who take advantage of him. Such cases, however, do not invalidate the principle.

The Use of Figurative Language

The Bible abounds with figures of speech. Hyperbole (exaggeration for emphasis) is common (cf. Jn. 21:25), and metonymy (one thing put for another) is a frequent technical device. In his classic book, Hermeneutics, D. R. Dungan consumed more than forty pages in discussing this latter figure alone.

How does an understanding of this type of expression fit into our discussion?

There are occasions in scripture when spiritual concepts are conveyed in physical or material terms. A failure to recognize this teaching mode can result in the misinterpretation of important biblical texts.

When Isaiah declared that “healing” would result from the benefits of Jesus’ death, he was not speaking of physical healing, but a healing (forgiveness) from sin, as the immediate context reveals (Is. 53:5-6 — note “transgressions,” “iniquities”), and as was confirmed by Peter (see 1 Pet. 2:24-25).

The prophet Joel spoke of “those days” when Jehovah would pour out his Spirit, and supernatural phenomena would result (Joel 2:28-30). In Acts 2, Peter informed his Hebrew auditors that the events of that day (the apostles being overwhelmed by the Spirit’s power — Acts 2:4; 1:5) were a fulfillment of Joel’s oracle (Acts 2:16).

This was the commencement of the Christian age.

In connection with this wonderful era, Joel announced that “the mountains shall drop down sweet wine and the hills shall flow with milk,” etc. (Joel 3:18ff). The prosperity here described is not an agricultural boon. Rather, the material is used to depict the spiritual.

Those who attempt to literalize all the prosperity passages should take note of this idiom.

A survey of the terms “rich” and “riches,” as used in the New Testament, will demonstrate that these words are employed far more frequently of spiritual prosperity than they are of material wealth.

The Mysteries of Providence

We do not deny that God blesses his people in a physical and material way, consistent with his own will, by means of his providential activity upon the earth.

God had mercy on Epaphroditus, who had been “sick to the point of death” (Phil. 2:25-27) — with apparently no miracle involved.

This does not mean, though, that every child of God will recover from terminal conditions. To draw general conclusions from isolated Bible examples can lead to a variety of errors.

The Lord providentially directed his ravens to provide Elijah with bread (1 Kgs. 17:4, 6), and he has urged us to petition him for our daily sustenance (Mt. 6:11), but that does not mean that the child of God will never be bereft of food. He may be in need due to self-sacrifice, persecution, natural disaster, or plain laziness (see: 2 Cor. 11:27; Acts 11:28; 27:21; 2 Thes. 3:10).

One’s level of physical or material well-being, or lack thereof, is:

  • Not a reflection upon God’s ability or his concern;
  • And such is not the measure of a person’s standing before the Lord.

A Concluding Point

There is a strong argument that may be made against the position being reviewed, that almost seems too obvious to mention.

If it were the case that an inflexible rule obtains, in the divine order of things, that spirituality produces health and wealth, the following would clearly result.

Little children, the purest of earth’s society, would never get sick and die; yet, in many third-world nations, sweet children starve, their bodies are racked with disease and they prematurely go to God.

The wicked of the earth generally are more prosperous than the godly, and the righteous do not significantly outlive the non-Christian population.

If wealth was the direct result of becoming a Christian, men would be prone to accept the gospel, not because of their convictions regarding God’s Son, but merely out of materialistic self-interest. Such would bring no honor to either the Creator or the creature. The Almighty expects motives nobler than this.

One should never allow life’s difficulties to distort his view of God.

 

Scripture References

Job 9:12; Isaiah 55:8; Romans 11:33; Genesis 22:18; Galatians 3:16; Romans 4:21; Hebrews 6:13-18; Job 1:8, 2:3; Job 13:15; Psalm 73; Psalm 73:3; Psalm 73:17; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Matthew 8:20; 2 Corinthians 11:27; 2 Corinthians 12:7; Exodus 15:26; Isaiah 53:5; Proverbs 3:9-10; Malachi 3:10; Genesis 2:17; Romans 5:12; Ephesians 6:3; John 21:25; Isaiah 53:5-6; Joel 2:28-30; Acts 2; Acts 2:4, 1:5; Acts 2:16; Joel 3:18; Philippians 2:25-27; 1 Kings 17:4, 6; Matthew 6:11; Acts 11:28, 27:21; 2 Thessalonians 3:10

Not too long ago, I heard someone list three things that tell the truth: small children, drunk people, and yoga pants. I’m not sure if there was an inference in there that all others lie, but the statement itself seems to be true (at least on its face).


In this day of fake news and alternative facts, it’s always nice to know when the truth is being told (as long as it’s not some negative truth about yourself). If you read the reactions to my e-letter from last week (see below), you’ll note that even I was called on my facts.


That is as it should be. None of us should toss around inaccurate statements. In this case, my general assertion was true, but way overstated. I’m glad it was pointed out to me. It will cause me to be a better writer in the future. Kudos to my diligent readers!


But back to the yoga pants. Truth tellers are not always met with overwhelming joy. Take Jesus, for example. As is also ascribed to George Washington, he could not tell a lie. It always got him into deep doo-doo. Eventually, it got him crucified.


Jesus’ problem was he often spoke out when silence would have helped him avoid most messy situations. Of course (had he done that), he could not have carried out his role as Messiah. Then where would we be?


While I can avoid yoga pants (and drunk people, sometimes), I can’t avoid the truth of Christ–at least not without negative consequences. He once said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) While it’s one thing to know the truth, it’s entirely another to be the truth. If what he says is correct, he is the very embodiment of the truth. There is no truth without him.


A preacher once told a congregation, “If God would strike every liar dead, where would I be?” After everyone stopped laughing he added, “I’d be preaching to an empty house. That’s where I’d be.” I guess we’re all guilty of not having enough truth within us.
The Apostle Paul wrote these words. “
Let God be true, and every human being a liar.” (Romans 3:4) We seem to be on a neverending quest for the truth. If Jesus is the truth, it might be a good strategy to begin with him.

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. (Luke 2:15-16 ESV)

God chose Bethlehem for Jesus to be born. He did not choose a major city like Jerusalem or Rome. Even today, it is still not a likely city one would associate with a place for the Savior of the world to be born. God did not seek super stardom for his son’s arrival. Nor was there a Facebook entry with thousands of followers and press reporters that converged on the sight.

Humble shepherds saw the angelic messengers and then paid homage to the Child that would become the Savior of mankind. Joseph did not have an internet reservation at a five star hotel. He had to make do with what one would least expect: A manger and animals! Imagine the outcry of child abuser activists today if one would use a manger as a crib.

Even two thousand years ago an earthy royal prince and future king’s birth would have been remarkably different from this. There would be the best materials for baby care: a cot, clothing, fine linen and woolen blankets and nursing care. There would be a royal doctor and midwives of the Court.

Joseph and Mary followed through with the honor God had bestowed on them to be the earthly parents of Jesus Christ. They trusted God to provide when there was not even accommodations and a place to put the baby to rest.

This biography tells us that opulence and materialism, especially shopping sprees at this time of year, draw our attention away from what God wants us to focus on, namely the Savior that was born into this world and stripped bare of what one would regard as basic essentials.

Prayer: Almighty God. We thank you for the greatest and most precious gift ever given to mankind, our Lord Jesus Christ as Savior from our sins. Help us to look beyond all the distractions of the material world and to focus on the real value of worshipping Jesus

Going a little further he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but you will.” (Matthew 26:39 ESV)

How often are we faced with something in our lives that troubles us, grieves us, or simply we don’t want to do? I face this situation almost daily. Whether it’s not wanting to deal with someone at work, face rush hour traffic or do a necessary chore around the house. Most the time I think to myself that it would be nice if I did not have to deal with such things. They tend to be interfering with my plans or my will and bring about frustration.

When I reflect on the reading above (Matthew 26:39), I am immediately shamed into realizing how petty my so called trials and tribulations of life are.

Here we find Jesus asking God the Father to take away the immense physical pain and death he will be suffering. However, it is what Jesus says next that provides the most important lesson. He says, “Yet not as I will, but you will”. In other words, “God please don’t let me suffer a horrible death and find another way for me to save all of mankind, BUT only if that is what you want. If not, I am want to carry out your will.”

These 8 words from Matthew 26:39 shifted my entire paradigm of what it meant to be a Christian. I have struggled, continue to struggle and will probably always struggle with trying to assert MY will over God’s WILL. Yet, I want him to remove all life’s trouble and pain. It is inherent in our fallen nature as human beings to think this way. However, meditating on this verse helps me truly understand that God has a plan for me (us) and in end it is His WILL that we should be praying comes to pass.

Be sure to ask yourself daily, whose WILL shall be done?

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Daily Devotional Bible Verses

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And he said to them, “When you pray, say:

“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread,
and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”
(Luke 11:1-4 ESV)

Jesus’ closest followers came with a significant request: “teach us to pray.” Surely, they had prayed before, but somehow they recognized their need for instruction on how to pray most effectively. Jesus’ instruction on prayer began with this familiar statement: “Father, hallowed be your name.” To hallow something means literally to “render or acknowledge, to set apart.” Jesus knew that we are designed to render and acknowledge something or someone who is bigger and better than us.

We see this concept play out every week as we “hallow” exceptional people and exceptional things:

  • Fans will congregate in packed stadiums to cheer on exceptional athletes on football teams.
  • Every evening people pack Broadway theaters, the Lincoln Center, and Carnegie Hall as they’re moved by exceptional actors, singers, dancers, and other performers.
  • During 2009 and 2010 the movie Avatar grossed over 2.78 billion dollars as it wowed audiences with its exceptional 3D special effects.
  • Each year 5 million visitors visit the Grand Canyon to marvel at its exceptional natural beauty.

We often “hallow” or worship worldly things, without realizing we were designed to hallow an exceptional God.

As we pray, our natural inclination is to begin by focusing on our needs or our struggles. God clearly cares about those needs and struggles, but our prayers will always be limited in scope and depth when we begin by focusing on ourselves rather than God. Fixing our minds and hearts on His glory, His power, His wisdom, His justice, His authority, His holiness, and His love is what gives us the proper context for everything else we pray. Notice how your needs and your struggles look different when you focus on God’s glory first.

Do your prayers begin with God as the focus or you? Take some time today to praise God for who He is and what He has done.

We live in a very negative world, and not an easy world to live in. So to be positive may be quite a strain to you. But it’s not only the world that affects this, your temperament plays it’s part also. If you’re an extrovert you may have a bit of an edge on the introverts amongst us. And there’s one extrovert temperament (which Tim La Haye calls a ‘Sanguine’) who seem to be positive and happy nearly all the time!

index

Then some of us are negative in our attitude, seemingly independent of the world and independent of our temperament type. Is it just because we WANT to be? The standard ‘test’ for this, of course, is to ask whether the glass is half full or half empty. You answer will tend to show whether you are a basically positive or negative person.

I see the half-full glass as more than half full *broad grin!*, so now you know which side I’m on. My primary temperament is that of an Introvert, but I have two sub-temperaments both Extrovert, so I can basically be either. I love the temperament that God and my parents gave to me, and I make the very best I can of it!!

Negativism is pretty awful really. I’ve read that it takes 10 positive words to overcome 1 negative one – isn’t that shocking! – so do watch your mouth, particularly with your children. When we feel and speak and act negatively ultimately no good can come from this.

Seems like God is well on the side of positivism. I was reading in Philippians and couldn’t help noticing these: Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say rejoice! PHILIPPIANS 4:4.That sure works for ME!! If you’re rejoicing, well, ALWAYS, then I can’t really see any room for negativism, can you? A verse or two later God continues with: Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything – which seems pretty straight forward to me.

But how is this possible in our lives? Well the verse continues with the answer: but in every circumstance and in everything by prayer and petition continue to make your needs and requirements made known to God. PHILIPPIANS 4:6. NOT your wants“, your needs“, okay! BIG difference!!

There are definitely people in the world who are ‘Positives’ and others who are ‘Negatives.’ Do you think the verses above may mean that God is perhaps a ‘Positive?’Okay, I don’t dare ‘label’ God like that – just saying it seems to be that way. Continuing in Philippians I come down to the verse that I’m going to kind of summarize, so that hopefully we may get the full impact of it:

Whatever is true; and honorable and good; and just; and pure; and lovely; and kind and gracious – think on these things (fix your minds on them.) PHILIPPIANS 4:8. Whoo-hoo!! I just LOVE all of that!

Does that mean that I manage to do all in that verse? No, I’m not perfect yet. But you’re a positive, right; so were you always like that? Tended to be, but no, I’ve had to LEARN to do (OBEY!!!) the things in these verses, along with many others in the New Testament that lead us to be so grateful for all He’s given us and done for us, and I’m now ALWAYS joyful deepdown which the Holy Spirit can and will give you as part of the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23.

I pray for you all – as part of this Fruit, that you gain deep-down Love, Joy and Peace!!

They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. (John 17:16 )

Heaven

We live here, we walk here, we eat and drink here, but may we never call it home. The ground beneath our feet and sky above our heads are the scenery we enjoy momentarily, but they will pass away (Matthew 24:35). Our family is more than people with the same last name (Mark 3:35), as believers we are united by blood, literally the shed blood of Jesus the risen Savior. We, the family, walk as sojourners (1 Peter 2:11), as travelers, loving and serving the people around us, all the while remembering we will one day be home. A home that has been prepared for us (John 14:3), where we will live in ever increasing joy.

Our lips will never again say, “It was fun while it lasted”, as the smile fades from our face. In our home there is no sorrow, there is no disease, there is no end to joy (Revelation 21:4). In our home our treasure does not fail, there is no thief to steal, no moneybag to grow old (Luke 12:33). In your heart, and in your head, where is your treasure and your home? For “there will your heart will be also” (Luke 12:34).

Where is your home?