Sunday, May 26, 2013

Where is God when bad things happen?

After the events of this past week out in Oklahoma, many people are asking the question, "Where is God when bad things happen?". 

As a pastor I often find myself having to answer questions like this. Today a read a great article by Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas.

Here is what he had to say:

The agnostic philosopher David Hume claimed that tragedies in the world such as the tornadoes in Moore, Oklahoma last week constitute prima facie evidence that God is either evil, impotent, or non-existent.   

Admittedly, reconciling the reality of suffering with faith in a loving, all-powerful God is difficult.  

The late rector John Stott claimed that the existence of suffering in the world posed the single greatest challenge to the Christian faith. 

If there is a God, why would He allow this unwanted divorce, undeserved termination from a job, or unexpected illness?

Although there is no pat answer to the question, “Why does God allow suffering in the world?” the Bible does offer three truths (or “lights”) we can depend on to lead us safely through the storms of adversity that unexpectedly blow into our lives.  

When Lee Strobel was preparing to write his best-selling book “The Case for Faith: A Journalist Investigates the Toughest Objections to Christianity” he conducted a nationwide survey asking, “If you could ask God anything what would you ask?”  The top response was, “Why is the suffering and evil in the world?”

As a pastor for more than 30 years, I realize that when people pose that question they are not as concerned with suffering in the world in general as they are with the reality of suffering in their own lives.  If there is a God, why would He allow this unwanted divorce, undeserved termination from a job, or unexpected illness?

One night my wife and I were traveling on an interstate highway in the middle of West Texas in a driving rainstorm when our headlights went out due to an electrical malfunction in our car.  
We could not see two inches in front of us, but we were hesitant to pull over to the shoulder of the road for fear of being hit by another car.  

Thankfully, we spotted an eighteen-wheeler in our rear-view mirror.  We allowed it to pass us, and then we simply zeroed in on its taillights and followed it safely into the city limits of our town.

God is loving. The psalmist declared, “The earth is full of your lovingkindness, O Lord” (Psalm 119:64).  Even apart from the Bible, the world is filled with the evidence of a benevolent Creator.  

Yes, occasionally floods and tornadoes bring indescribable heartache and even death.  But such disasters are the exception rather than the rule.  Most of the time rivers stay within their banks and winds are held in check.  

The outpouring of help by first responders and the financial support for those whose lives are destroyed by the occasional disaster are a reflection of the goodness of God in whose image we are made.

God is all-powerful. Again, the psalmist claims that God is in control of all His creation (Psalm 103:19).  Some people find this truth troubling.  If God has the ability to prevent natural disasters and human tragedy, why doesn’t He?  

In an attempt to acquit God of responsibility for evil in the world,  a growing number of  people think of God as a loving but impotent old man who would like to help us, but is incapable of doing so.  

But do you find any comfort in the belief that you are simply a victim of random events and people?  Fortunately, the Bible assures us that there is a God who is in control of everything that happens in our lives.

God’s ways are beyond our understanding.  One of the most famous analogies about God’s purpose in suffering is that of a bear caught in a trap in the woods.  The hunter, wanting to help the bear, approaches him, but the bear won’t allow it.  

The hunter, determined to help, shoots a dart full of drugs into the bear.  The bear is now convinced that the hunter wants to hurt him.  

The drugged animal, now semi-conscious, watches as the hunter actually pushes the bear’s paw further into the jaws of the trap in order  to release the tension.  

The bear has all the evidence it needs to conclude the hunter is evil.  But the bear has made its judgment too soon, before the hunter frees him from the trap.

At some point God will seem unfair to those of us trapped in time, but we make our judgment too soon.   

One day, perhaps not until heaven, we will understand what the Hunter was up to in our lives.  Until that time, God says “Trust me.  I have a plan I’m working out in your life, even though in the darkness of the storm you cannot see what that plan is.”

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Up Hill And Into The Wind

A few miles from my house is a very big hill. It is about 3/4 of a mile long. There are many days when I am out running that I would just assume avoid that hill, but I run it because I know that even though it is hard, it will benefit me in the long run. It will help to strengthen my legs and increase my endurance.

While out on my run today, I had just finished 7 miles when I turned the corner to start that up hill climb. As I did I quickly realized that I would be running 3/4 of a mile up hill and into the wind. Needless to say this was a lot harder than usual.

As I was running I couldn't help but think of John 9. There we read about a man who was born blind.

John 9:1-3 says,  As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

Did you catch that? The man was born blind "so that the works of God might be displayed in him."

This man must have felt like he was running up hill and into the wind his entire life. But because of this man's blindness, Jesus had an opportunity to show His power and bless this man's life.

What if the struggles I go though in this life are really opportunities for God to show His power and bless my life?

There is a popular song entitled "Blessings". Part of that song says this, "What if your blessings come through rain drops? What if Your healing comes through tears? What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near? What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?"

Think about that, what if the times in life when it seems like you are running up hill and into the wind are really opportunities for God's blessings? 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Encouraging Others

The other day I was out on a 19 mile run. Whenever I run I always carry Gatorade with me, but on a 19 miles run I need more than I can carry. So I decided that I would run out 5 miles then back to the house where my wife would be waiting to fill up my Gatorade bottles then  I could finish my run.

As I was running down my street I could see all my girls standing at the end of the driveway cheering me on. I gave them my Gatorade bottles and kept running down the street as my wife went to fill them up. My girls kept cheering me on as I was running down the street and back.

After picking up my now filled bottles, I took off out of the neighborhood to finish out the 19 miles. It was so encouraging to have my girls cheering for me as I ran.

As I left the neighborhood to finish the run, a verse came to my mind.

Hebrews 10:24-25 - And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

Just as my girls encouraged me while I was running, we need to be encouraging others as we run this race called the Christian life.

Who can you encourage today?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

All I Have Is Christ

Lately the song "All I have is Christ" has been going through my mind. I find myself singing it many times throughout the day. 

God's loves truly amazes me. Ephesians 2:1-3 describes my life before coming to Christ.

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 

Then we come to two of the most beautiful words in Scripture, "But God".

Ephesians 2:4-10, describes my life because of Christ. 

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

Thank God for His grace and mercy. All that I am today is because of Christ!