Suffering – The Forbidden Subject

March 23, 2017

In modern Christianity there is a topic that is rarely discussed, preached or taught.  However, this topic receives quite a bit of attention in the scriptures, especially in the New Testament.  It is the topic of suffering for Christ.

This topic is not popular because of several reasons:

  1. Suffering is hard, and painful, otherwise it wouldn’t be called ‘suffering’
  2. There are many other topics that are more pleasant to talk about – love, joy, bearing fruit, sowing and reaping, etc…
  3. We don’t really understand the topic

And some don’t talk about this subject as they don’t believe it actually fits modern day society.  After all, it is a bit difficult to talk about the doctrine of prosperity, and then turn around and discuss how that we might have to suffer for Christ.

Before we get too far along, let’s be clear on one thing – suffering can take many forms.  We usually think of physical suffering when the subject is raised, but there are many other types of suffering.  There is the suffering associated with broken relationships, friends who turn to be enemies.  There is suffering associated with those who are prayer warriors, who fight enumerable battles often in private.  There is suffering associated with grief over the loss of loved ones, or over their sickness, or those who are dying.  There is suffering over lost opportunities, things that go wrong, reverses, upsets, disagreements, angry exchanges, etc…

To understand this difficult and forbidden topic, we must grasp a fundamental concept that is clearly spelled out for us in the scriptures.  Suffering (among other things) changed from Old Testament to the New Testament.  God did not change, but His method for dealing with man (men and women), and some fundamental things did change.  In the Old Testament, for example, suffering was viewed as directly related to sin.  If someone was suffering in the Old Testament you can be sure there is someone somewhere who has sinned and is responsible.  However, in the New Testament this connection is not as clear, and not always true.  In the Old Testament if things went badly, you prayed to God, broke out your army and attacked the enemy to regain the victory.  In the New Testament this is not the pattern, at least in the physical realm.

We can see how dramatic change between the Old and New was brought into sharp focus by Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and Sermon on the Plain.  Many, many times Jesus explained the old by saying, “It is written or said that such and such is the rule, but I say to you …..”.  In other words, Jesus was saying, “There are going to be some changes, so pay attention.”

One of these changes had to do with how we would deal with an enemy.  In the Old Testament an ‘eye for an eye’ was the general rule, whereas in the New Testament, “we are to turn the other cheek.”

One of the more dramatic changes had to do with persecution.  While persecution was not unheard of in the Old Testament, it was mostly experienced by the prophets and judges God sent to the people.  In the New Testament, however, all who live Godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.  Now, persecution is not a pleasant thing, and could involve many things associated with suffering, up to, and including death.

One can well understand why this subject has dropped off the ‘hit list’ of topics in today’s pulpits.  Who wants to hear about suffering?  Who wants to grasp Christ’s words when He said, “If one will follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me?”  We would much rather talk about more pleasant things, wouldn’t we?

I haven’t calculated the total scriptures, but I’d guess that around 20% of the scriptures written by the Apostle Paul either deal directly, or indirectly, with suffering.  So, it would be a shame if were to take 20% of the scriptures and put them away only because we do not fully understand them, or because they are not pleasant to us.

A Mystery

March 18, 2017

I had pretty much assumed most people had the same general interpretation of the Bible as myself.  But, the longer I live it becomes clear there are as many interpretations as there are people, which is to say – a lot.

This doesn’t mean, however, that most people are wrong, or that most people are right.  It is probably a mistake commonly made by clergy and ministry to try and get folks to have the same view and understanding as themselves.  But, we can take some comfort in knowing this is merely a human characteristic, and not completely uncommon.  For any army to succeed in battle, or any sports team to succeed, they must share a common view of the objective, and be united in their cause.  All of this is well and good, and does bring about a certain feeling of comfort to know that you are working with like-minded individuals.

A careful study of the New Testament, especially the things taught by Jesus, Himself, and one can see that He supported a pretty broad view of the scriptures.  In more than one setting He explained that our primary mission was to focus on two things:

  1. Love God
  2. Love each other

That’s pretty broad, and open to a lot of interpretation.  In fact, many church organizations would have plenty of problems opening their doors and membership to all-comers by having only these two qualifications or requirements.  We would say, with, perhaps, some justification, it’s simply too loose.

But, once again, a careful review of who Jesus accepted and who He rejected, reveals a pretty good case that the things we think are important, are not the same things He felt were important.  A case in point – the woman at the well.  In no case did Jesus say He was ok with her lifestyle or behavior.  But, on the other hand, He chose not to condemn her, either.  But, saw beyond the circumstance and saw an individual who was in need of God’s healing love.  So, does God dismiss our wrong behavior or actions?  No.  But, He is more interested in what that individual means when they can feel God’s love and forgiveness, and where they will go in the future.

When Jesus had an encounter with Paul on the Damascus road, He did not dwell on Paul’s past, but rather was more focused on Paul’s future.  Yes, Paul was a bad man, and had done many bad things, but God’s focus was on Paul’s future, not his past.

However, it is human tendency to focus on a person’s past, rather than what they could be in the future.  We sometimes forget that a person’ past does not have to define their future, especially if God gets involved with their life.  He has a tendency to change a person’s life trajectory, and recast it into the image that is pleasing to Him.

So, while our interpretation of the scriptures may vary a great deal, let’s not forget those things that are most important:

  1. Love God
  2. Love each other

The Universal Gospel

March 16, 2017

I’ve written about this topic before, but it is such an important topic it would be hard to say too much about this subject.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is universal in every sense:

  1. Geographically – there is not a place on the planet where the Gospel of the Good News does not apply.
  2. Across national barriers – there is not a nationality on planet earth that the Gospel does not apply to.
  3. Across races, colors, creeds – regardless of race or national origin, the Gospel has universal appeal
  4. Across gender – there are no exclusive clubs, no glass ceilings, where the Gospel cannot go.
  5. Across Age – young or old, married or single, children, or no children, the Gospel applies.  It applies to young children, teens, young adults, and old folks, too.
  6. Across all income brackets – rich, poor, or anywhere in-between, the Gospel has application.
  7. Across all education levels – whether you have formal education or no education, PHD or Masters Degrees the Gospel has something for you.

If all this is true, then why do so many want to preach or teach a crippled Gospel?  Crippled in the sense that it’s universal appeal is diminished or limited.  Why would we do that?  The answer is simple – it feels good, that’s why.

In America the common message that has gained more popularity than most any other is simply titled – Prosperity.  It speaks of abundance, wealth, and physical prosperity that comes from God’s abundant supply.  The message tends to lean towards encouraging folks to give so they can also become prosperous in God’s rich army.  There’s only one small problem with this approach – it has a hard time playing in places in the world where poverty or famine has placed its grip on the people.  It’s a little hard to talk about diamond rings, and gold watches, and Rolls Royce’s when people are having a hard time finding enough to eat and clean water to drink.  This message tends to do much better in wealthier countries where sometimes people have more money than common sense.  Where opportunities abound, and clean water and food abundance are items taken for granted.

It is easy to forget that not every place in the world is as fortunate as we have it here in America.  Oh sure, we have our challenges here, too.  And it is no picnic to raise a family and put food on the table every day.  But, our struggles are nothing compared to those in many foreign countries where food, water, and other basic necessities are in short supply, and sometimes not available at all.

So, this posting is mostly for my ministry friends.  Just a reminder to keep it real, and whatever we do keep it universal, as that will mean that its still pure, and hasn’t been tainted or modified.  To not get carried away with things (physical prosperity) that don’t really matter as much as our spiritual welfare does.  To pay attention to our own motives, and the danger of pushing a ‘popular’ message, instead of the right message.

I’d rather listen to a preacher that makes me examine my own motives and life every Sunday, and makes me feel uncomfortable, then to listen to someone who will say whatever it takes to make me feel good, only to find out later I’ve fallen short in the sight of God.

When Things Go Wrong – Part 5

March 11, 2017

This posting is part of a series, so if you haven’t read parts 1-4 you might want to check those out first.

Well, it has become clear to me that I need to close this out, as I suspect that I would be writing Part 99 before long, and still not be close to putting a dent in this formidable topic.  So, I’m going to close this subject with a few observations, that have helped me over the years.  In no particular order here are some things that have helped me to better understand life, and in particular, when things go wrong.

  1. No one is an expert on this subject – even people who claim to be experts on this topic are not.
  2. There are no special revelations – this one could cause significant arguments I know, but I’ve come to the conclusion, as has many theologians who are much smarter than I, that there are no new revelations given to men, such as was given to John on the Isle of Patmos.  Now before you go gather your friends and want to burn my house down, let me explain.  God does reveal things to His servants.  And there is inspiration and anointing given to men and women to accomplish His purpose and Will.  What I’m saying is that when some begins with, “I have a special revelation from God, that I’m willing to share with everyone who would contribute to this ministry,”  I cringe.  Every bit of revelation you need to live according to God’s plan has already been revealed in the Bible.  God can help you to understand His word, and can give you personal insight and revelation to help you.  Note, I’m not talking about knowledge, wisdom, and other gifts here.  I’m talking about their being a ‘special’ inspiration given to someone above anyone else, and only their revelation is important.
  3. Bad things happen to good people.  But, bad things also happen to bad people.  If you were to believe some folks you would think that every time there is a flood, hurricane, tornado, earthquake, or terrorist act that Christians are immune.  That somehow these things only happen to unbelievers.  I think the statistics show differently.  Once again, though, I perfectly accept God’s deliverance in time of need and understand He is still in the delivering business.  But, what I’m saying is it is a miscalculation to think because you are a Christian and child of God that somehow you are immune to everything that goes on in the world.
  4. As part of the Church of God Declaration of Faith – one of the articles says something along these lines – “I believe in the whole Word of God, rightly divided, the New Testament as the basis for government.”  That’s not exact, but I think it is close.  In this short phrase are several important things of note:
    1. “whole Word of God” to me means you cannot take scripture out of context.  It’s been proven many times that you can take scripture and prove almost any point of view that want.  However, this doesn’t make it right.  It is important to understand all of the scriptures that apply to particular topic if we are to gain a good understanding.
    2. “rightly divided” – a very small couple of words, but on which hinge much misunderstanding of the Word of God.  This two word phrase to me means ‘study to show yourselves approved’.
  5. Not everything will be revealed on this side of the grave.  In other words, there are always going to be things where we do not understand ‘why’.  We cannot figure out the reasons.  They simply don’t make sense to us.  And there are many times when God will not tell us.  This is what it means to have faith.  If you understood everything, would faith be involved?  No.  Did God tell Abraham that people thousands of years from now would read about him and gain strength and comfort from his faith and actions?  No.  We just need to accept that there are some things that will only be revealed on the other side and leave it alone.

I will close this series with the words from an old chorus, which might help someone today:

And Jesus said, ‘Come to the waters, stand by my side’

I know you are weary, you won’t be denied

I felt every teardrop when in darkness you cried

And I strove to remind you that for those tears I died.

When Things Go Wrong – Part 4

March 6, 2017

This post is part of a series.  If you have not read Parts 1 – 3, I suggest you scroll down and read those first before reading this one.

This posting will deal further with the topic of the ‘blame game’ that I described in Parts 2 and 3.  Specifically, this posting deals with blaming God and others for our problems.

Let’s start with blaming God, as that seems to occur pretty frequently.

When things go wrong why would we blame God?

Well, I think the reasoning may go something like this:

  1. God is all powerful, and can do anything He wants
  2. God loves me, and doesn’t want anything bad to happen to me
  3. If God loves me, and He can do anything, then why is this ‘bad’ thing happening to me?

It’s a tough question, and has been expressed by probably millions of believers, and non-believers alike.  In fact, it is a mind-boggling question, in that it seems to have no answer.

While the answer doesn’t seem to be available we can gather some very strong conclusions from the the Word of God, especially in the lives of those described there.  Virtually every person who trusted God, who is written about in the Bible, experienced some troubling and painful things in their life.  Things that were wrong.  Things that brought them suffering, grief, and even death.  Of course, these things are understandable because of at least two things:

  1. We can see the end result of their suffering.  We are given lots of information about their suffering, and can see the final outcome.
  2. It’s not us.  That is, it is easy to see how David overcame his trials and obstacles, but it is a different story when the giant faces us.

The answer to the question of ‘why would a loving God allow me to go through this?’ is a question that may not have an answer now, but will have an answer in due time.  In other words, you don’t have enough information to make a call on that question right now.  What seems like a trial right now, may turn out to be beneficial in the times to come.

The lives of John the Baptist and Stephen were cut short by their being murdered and killed by the enemies of God.  Their deaths, and the grief it brought to countless individuals, is sad.  However, from the standpoint of eternity, their ministries were completed, and they were called home, never more to suffer pain.  So, is it sad, or is it glad?  Well, like so many who have gone before us – it is sad for us who remain, but glad for those who have left us.

One of the reasons we misunderstand the things that happen to us in this life has to do with the simple fact that we don’t have all the information.  We cannot see everything that is being accomplished by our suffering or painful experience.  We cannot see the future, and how this event may prove to be beneficial many years down the road.  It is painful now, but will it yield fruit somewhere in the unknown future?

In summary, we are poor judges of our own experience simply because we do not possess all the facts.  If we don’t know all the facts, then who does?  God.  And He is able to weave the events in our life that cause pain and suffering into a beautiful fabric that may yield positive results for years and generations to come.

The things that happen to us as individuals often do not only affect ourselves, but those who are a part of our daily life.  Our friends, family, associates, are all affected by the things that happen in our life.  What if your temporary suffering and painful situation is not for you at all, but for someone else?  Would you be willing to endure the unendurable for them?  If your example was to make a lasting impression on your son or daughter wouldn’t you think it worthwhile?

So, in summary, the blame game is not worthwhile.  Secondly, we are not in a good position to make an accurate assessment of our own painful situation, because we lack all the information necessary to make that call.

When Things Go Wrong – Part 3

March 6, 2017

This part of a series of posts.  If you have not read Parts 1 and 2 I suggest you scroll down and read these (in order) first, otherwise you will be in the middle of the conversation.

In Part 2 I started a discussion about what I call the ‘blame game’.  The blame game is the game some people play when things go wrong in their life.  The basic premise of the blame game goes something like this, “There are some things going wrong in my life, and I want to know who is responsible, and who will be punished for this.”

In the gospel of John chapter 9, we see a full chapter devoted to this topic.  This chapter deals with a blind man that was healed by Jesus.  When they first encounter this man the disciples ask Jesus the question, “Lord, who sinned that this man was born blind?  Was it his sin or the sin of his parents?”

In short, the disciples wanted to know who was responsible for this condition, and what did they do wrong?  Jesus doesn’t go down that path, and opens their understanding (and ours) to the reality that there are some things where the ‘blame game’ does not apply.  In fact, in this case we might as well say it was Adam’s fault that this man was born blind, as it was Adam’s original sin that brought pain and suffering to our world.

Jesus never allowed Himself to get roped into the blame game.  He focused more on what the solution was, and not on how the problem got started.

The truth is the ‘blame game’ is our way of rationalizing a situation that doesn’t make sense to us.  In fact, the ‘blame game’ is closely associated with superstition.

While folks will hardly admit they believe in superstition, they often practice it without recognizing it.  Without getting into unnecessary details, let’s just say superstition is a method for explaining those things we cannot explain through our own understanding or logic.  In other words, superstition is a way of explaining things that have no explanation.  Superstition doesn’t have to make sense, but it has to make sense in explaining the unexplainable things that occur in life.  The blame game is associated with superstition in attempting to explain things that don’t make sense to us.

That is a big assertion, and I think I’ll let you think on that one, as it is probably a big jump for many folks, as I suspect most of us would say we don’t believe in superstition.

From everything I can gather from the Word of God, playing the blame game does not get you to a solution.  It only distracts you from seeking a solution.

There are many adults today that blame all kinds of things they experience in life on their parents.  Some blame their life experience on the fact they were not loved, they were abused, they didn’t get the things they rightly deserved, they were done wrong, they were falsely accused, they were slandered, they were made to feel small and unimportant, they were never praised for their achievements, my parents were poor, my parents were rich, the list is endless.  Years ago when my mom was asked the question, “What do you think about this disfunctional family?”  She simply answered, “Aren’t all families disfunctional?”

In other words, forget about the blame game.  We are where we are, and now the responsibility is on our plate, and what are we going to do now?  Playing the blame game does not get you to where you need to be.

When Things Go Wrong – Part 2

March 6, 2017

This is a continuation of a series.  If you haven’t read “Part 1” then you might not understand this posting.  I suggest you go back (scroll down) to see and read Part 1 before reading Part 2.

In this posting I deal with another topic that seems to cause great confusion in the family of God.  It has to do with blame and who is responsible.  Specifically, when things go wrong in your life, who caused it, and who is responsible?

It is only natural to seek out the sources of our frustration, and when possible to find the parties responsible for our pain or suffering.  And, of course, when we do find the responsible party we would like for them to pay or be punished for their action.

And, it is entirely possible that this can be done, at least to some extent, in some situations.  But, there are many situations where this may be impossible, and that causes problems for our human reasoning, which always wants to assess blame and responsibility for everything that is wrong.

For the Christian, however, there are some additional dimensions to consider beyond the natural ones.  We have an enemy, and his weapons and attacks may be represented in the natural world, but are spiritual in their origin.  And while we might like to blame the Devil and punish him for his crimes, it is not in our realm to do so, at least not yet.

While it is convenient to blame the Devil for everything wrong even that option doesn’t always fit.  Worse, that assessment may be incorrect.  I’m sure the Devil gets some corrupt pleasure out of being blamed for things he had no part in.  For in doing that it causes confusion and distraction to the children of God.

So, let me divert a bit and talk about “control”, as that factors into how things enter our lives, and what we do about it.  Some things are in our control, while others are not.  Some things ‘seem’ to be in our control, but really are not.  And, finally, there are some things that we should control, but for whatever reason we do not.  For the most part, whether we accept it or not, you are mostly not in control of what enters, or tries to enter your life.  You are in control, or should be in control, however, of how you react to those things.  And that is a crucial point.  So, while we are not in control of those things that may try to come at us, we do have some say and authority over what those things do to us.  Of course, there are conditions to this statement.

For example, if you do not possess the shield of faith, and are not skilled in its use, or choose not to use it, then you will be susceptible to the fiery darts of the Devil.  We can understand that in the Book of Ephesians.  So, there are definitely conditions on how well we can deal with the attacks from the enemy.  You cannot stop or control the darts that are thrown at you.  This is beyond your level of control.  But, you can quench these darts using the shield of faith.

But, the enemy comes at us in many ways besides throwing fiery darts.  He can work through associates, friends, brothers and sisters, spouses, children, parents, and anyone he can manipulate.  In most cases, you cannot stop these attacks either.  But, you can prevail and overcome.

So, when the enemy uses someone to provoke an attack on you, who is to blame?  Is it the person’s fault?  It is the enemy’s fault?  And, still further, maybe it’s God’s fault for letting it happen in the first place?

Jesus made it clear, “in this world you will have tribulation.”  Now, we can interpret this in many different ways, but simply in my definition it means something like this, “as long as you are alive in this world you can expect to have some trials and problems.”  But, as we know there is more to the verse, “but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.”  And now my interpretation of this phrase might look something like this, “yes, you will have troubles in this life, but don’t worry I have provided a way for you to overcome, prevail, and be successful, despite these apparent setbacks.”

Jesus did not say He would do away with problems, or the things that go wrong.  But, He provided assurance that because He overcame these things, we can be overcomers also.  In other words, Jesus has granted to His children the power to overcome whatever situation you may find yourself in.

Most everyone can agree on the points I’ve made above, but I suspect this may be where there is a parting in the understanding.  For it is my firm conviction, from experience and the Word, that although we are given the power to overcome any situation that comes our way, it does not mean that the situations will go away, or that we will come out unscarred or without wounds of the battle.  This point is crucial, for I believe this is where there is a great misunderstanding, and a cause of confusion for many Christians.  They either believe that God has made them exempt from the problems of the world, or that they will be completely unaffected by any events that take place in the battle.  I think both of these assumptions is incorrect.

To understand what I’m trying to say we have to turn to the Apostle Paul who made the statement in Galations 6:17:

“From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.”

What does that mean?  My interpretation of this scripture is simply this, “I have suffered for the Lord Jesus Christ, and have the marks in my body to prove it.  Therefore, let no man give me grief about my sacrifice for the Lord’s sake.”

If we put this in the context of the battle of life that we’ve been talking about, it might sound like this, “Let no man bother me anymore, for I bear in my body the battle scars of my fight for the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

In summary, we need to know that Jesus has provided the means for victory.  But, that even in victory there may be battle scars, whether they are physical or mental.  But, these are not a sign you are doing something wrong, but rather you are doing something right.

When Things Go Wrong – Part 1

March 6, 2017

I do not know how many parts this particular topic will take, but I know with some certainty I will not be able to tackle such a large topic in a single posting.

First an explanation of the title – I’m really talking about things that cause us to suffer, to experience grief, discomfort, pain, and such like.  This suffering could be physical suffering, mental suffering, or spiritual suffering.  This topic probably has as many interpretations and theories as most any topic you can name.  The reason – no one has a complete understanding of it, or understands every situation.

But, it should be noted at the outset that God does not require you to understand and know everything.  In fact, there are many things you will not understand on this side of heaven, regardless of your knowledge, intelligence, knowledge of Greek and Hebrew, and knowledge of the Word.

Secondly, I must state that these are my opinions, and my experience with my own life, and the lives of those I have been in association with, and my own study of the Word of God.  I suspect that my thinking may be in conflict with many, so don’t be disturbed by anything that I may say here.  The point is not to convince you of anything, but to get you to think for yourself, and to study to see if the things presented have any foundation.

Enough disclaimers, let’s jump in – albeit at a pretty high level just so we can get started.  This is not the first writing on this topic as many books have been written, including a notable one by author C.S. Lewis called, “The Problem of Pain”.  It is a worthwhile read if you haven’t read it.

The basic problem we pose in this series can be summarized in the following phrase – “If God is love, and God loves me, then why am I suffering?”  We could expand this to include those we love, our friends, family, and others, but the premise and core is the same.  That is, there seems to be a disconnect between the love God has for us, and the things we sometimes suffer, causing us to raise the question, “Why?”

If we use common logic we would come up with something that might look like this:

  • If God is all powerful and can do anything
  • And God loves me and cares for me
  • And loves me so much He sent His Son to die for me
  • And God has given me the power to rebuke the enemy and those things that come against me
  • If all this is true, then why am I suffering?

The reason this will be broken down into several parts is because although the questions are simple, the answers are not.

To get the ball rolling I will start with the subject of “PAIN”…

Pain is something we avoid.  Pain signals to us that something is wrong.  Pain is associated with punishment.  Pain is an undesirable thing.

Because of these things we typically associate anything painful as BAD.  So, we come up with “If it feels good, do it”, and “If it feels bad, it is BAD”.  But, both of these statements are not entirely true.  To some extent they are true, but not in all cases.  However, we take it for granted that they are true 100% of the time, and that can cause problems.

It would not take me long to come up with a list of things that initially feel “good”, but which have a long-term bad result.  I suspect with a little effort you could also come up with such a list, so I won’t spend any time on that.  However, it might take a little more thought to come up with things that are painful, but, yet, are GOOD.  Let me try a few small examples to get the thought process going for you:

When I was a young man, my Dad inflicted pain on me at various times.  (In the view of some today, they would say he probably didn’t inflict enough pain on me, but that is another subject.)  My Dad’s purpose, though, was to have a good and positive result.  He loved me, therefore, he inflicted pain on me.  I didn’t like it.  But, I respected it.  The pain my Dad inflicted was in my lower body, but it traveled upwards to my brain, and made a permanent impression there.  This ‘small’ pain produced at that time had many positive results over the extent of my lifetime, and may have saved me from many disasters.  But, it was not pleasant at the time, nor desirable.  If you had asked me at the time if this was a GOOD thing, I would have told you NO.  But, now I say YES.

Why is this important?  Because there are things that happen to us that cause pain, and we don’t like it, and we know it is BAD, but it may be for our GOOD.  I’m not saying all things that are painful are in this group.  I’m saying that some things that cause us pain are probably in this group.

Once again, why is this important?  Well, if we misinterpret a situation in our life because it is painful, and we wrongly assume it must be BAD, then we might miss the deeper meaning, that it may ‘feel’ BAD, but is really GOOD.

Now, let’s not get crazy here.  Generally speaking, just like the example I gave of my Dad, it usually takes some time for us to realize any benefits from those things that are painful to us today.  We don’t always recognize any immediate benefits from those things that afflict us now.

Second, small example:

In 1972 I joined the Navy.  It’s a long story, but I got sick and tired of being told what to do all the time, so I sought relief in the US Military.  In the fall of 1972 I went through basic training or bootcamp.  It was mostly uncomfortable and at times, painful.  But, 45 years later I can truthfully say that the experience I endured in bootcamp has served me well in the years that followed, even to the present day.  Once again, on the surface it seems to be something that is undesirable, painful, and by definition – BAD.  But, while it was all those things at the time, later it has produced many more positive results then the brief period of discomfort I endured in 1972.

So, what does all this mean?  If we judge things simply on how we feel (pain or pleasure) then we will be easily mislead, and ultimately confused about many things that come our way in life.  While pain may indicate something that is truly BAD, it may also reveal, in time, things that are beneficial.

In later posts I will delve into some of the things where I think Christians have difficulty understanding, especially when it comes to suffering, or pain, or things that are unpleasant.  We will look at why a God of love would allow his people, his children, to suffer in this present world.  For many this is a conflict that has no answers, but we will see if there isn’t some light we can shed on this topic that might cause us to think.

Give Up or Try Again?

March 4, 2017

There’s an old saying that goes something like this, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

While it sounds logical, and in many cases maybe the saying is right, but is it right in all cases?

If we were to take to heart the saying, then the following examples would fit the definition for insanity:

  1. As your children grow into maturity you express to them not once, not two times, but many, many times to tell the truth, live a life of integrity, pick up their dirty clothes and put them in the hamper, put the lid down when you are finished, etc…
  2. Praying for friends and loved ones for their salvation, healing, help in time of need, comfort, etc…
  3. Many professional carpenters can sink a nail with a single blow, but there are times when it must be struck more than once, even by a professional.
  4. Many of us have, at one time or another, go on a diet.  While there may be some differences, the basics are typically the same.

There are many things that require us to do things more than one time.  And in many of these cases, sometimes we do exactly the same thing.  For there are things that require repeated action in order to achieve results.

God loved us so much He sent His Son.  He continues to love us even when we fail Him.  He loves us when we dust ourselves off, ask for forgiveness, and knowing we might have to go through the process, yet one more time.  Although He is doing the same thing, He expects different results, but we don’t say or even hint that He is insane, do we?

I think the old saying may need modification.  Let’s try this:

“The definition of insanity is doing the wrong thing over and over again and expecting positive results.”

I think I like that one better.  What do you think?

The World’s Best Hope

February 25, 2017

One doesn’t have to live very long to understand there are many unpleasant things going on in the world.  It also doesn’t matter much which age in history you want to look at, either.  There are natural disasters such as fires, famines, hurricanes, floods, blizzards, earthquakes, tornadoes, hailstorms, and drought.  There are epidemics and other hazards to human existence.  And, as if that were not enough, we have the human created disasters and horrors of war, genocide, tyranny, persecution, and other things.

While many of these things we cannot control, we do have some control over the human element, especially our own.  With this in mind, it is the church that stands out as, perhaps, the world’s best hope for creating respect and caring between human beings on this planet.

But, if the church is to stand out as this beacon of hope, it needs to be different.  The world already has plenty of hate, bigotry, prejudice, envy, jealousy and cruelty, it doesn’t need any help in this area from the church.  But, what if the church is no different from the rest of the world?

The real question here is “Is the church changing the world, or is the world changing the church?”

Now, let’s be clear – Jesus Christ will always have His church.  There will be those how hold true regardless of the times or circumstances.  But, my question is, “Shouldn’t there be more in this category?”

If the church takes on the attributes of the world, then how is the sinner going to tell the difference?  Or put another way – if the church is no different from the world, why would the sinner look to the church for help or direction?

So, what makes the church different?  Aside from the fact that the true church of Jesus Christ is led by Him, there are things that should set the church apart from the world, and they are outlined in what is called the “Beatitudes”.  The beatitudes form the basis for what is commonly called Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount.  They are a set of directives, guidelines, and commands that should guide each Christian, and by implication, the church itself.

Will following the beatitudes make the church different?  I should say it will.  For many of the beatitudes go against human nature, and destroy the concepts behind selfishness, jealousy, envy, bigotry, hatred, and other vices.  In fact, the beatitudes are what one might call “revolutionary” in concept.  They do not propose small changes, but radical shifts in thinking and attitude.    The beatitudes are so powerful that if one embraces them and structures their life around them, it becomes impossible to not change the world.

Is it possible that the church of the 21st century needs a refresher course in the beatitudes?  This author thinks that may be a start….