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Posted on Nov 3, 2015 in Apologetics, Blog, Culture, Featured

The Two Main Reasons We Get Disappointed With God

The Two Main Reasons We Get Disappointed With God

Have you ever found yourself disappointed with God? You can’t believe He let you down, He didn’t do what you wanted Him to do or what you thought He would do. Maybe you feel like God has broken one of His promises, or that God doesn’t seem to be consistent – sometimes He gives us what we ask for and other times He seems silent.

I know I have felt those things. There have been plenty of times in my life when I have expected God to act one way, only to experience Him in a completely different way. Why does that happen?

I think there are two basic reasons for this that we all relate to. And when we understand them, I think it’s quite simple, and we can recognize it.

1. We are trying to define God from our humanity.

God is infinite. God is immutable. God is both transcendent and immanent. That’s just four characteristics of who God is, and we, in our humanity do not have the ability to really understand any of them. God is immortal, immovable, all powerful, all knowing, all seeing. God is huge.

God is infinite. He is not constrained by time. He has always been, will always be and always is. We have a birthday. We celebrate it each year. We go to funerals. We have a beginning. We have a start date.

God is immutable. God never changes. We change all the time. We are growing. We grow in our understanding of God’s word and ways. We adapt our lives to Him. Our lives were never perfect. We are fickle. We change our minds all the time.

At these two foundational aspects of God’s nature we discover that we cannot possibly come to a complete understanding of who God is. We are constrained by our humanity.

Problems arise when we critique God because we can’t understand his nature. Let me give you an example. Because we are constantly changing, we can’t understand how God could stay the same for all of time. Because we are confined by time, we can’t understand a God who isn’t.

So, out of frustration we change God. Certainly God would change if He knew what I knew. Certainly, if God knew how long it was going to take to do this or to change this or to become this, he would circumvent the process.

We take our humanity and try to define God. And we fail. Miserably. When God’s nature isn’t measuring up to our standards, it is not God who is incorrect but our standards. We adapt to his nature, we can’t change his nature to adapt to ours.

2. We are trying to understand His ways in the context of our ways.

Because God is all of these things, He has a way of doing things. The way that God does things is in perfect keeping with His nature and character. God is not hindered by imperfections and flaws like we are. God is not tempted by sin like we are. God is not hindered by time, by a lack of knowledge, by a lack of wisdom or any kind of lack we can imagine. God lacks nothing. There is no part of God that is not perfect. God is perfectly complete and completely perfect.

So, when God doesn’t answer our prayer the way we think He should, He isn’t doing so to punish us or to keep us unhappy. God isn’t out to get us or to keep us miserable. God’s wisdom is perfect. So, when the timing isn’t right, He leads us in a different direction until the timing is right. If it ever will be.

We don’t critique God for not working as we think He should. He is God, we are not. If God doesn’t move like we think He should, it’s not because He doesn’t love us but because He does. If God doesn’t do what we want, it’s not because He doesn’t care, but because He does. He cares enough to lead us in the everlasting way. He cares enough to say no to something good because there is something great that He can see and knows is what we need. Not only does He see it, He has planned it.

Another example: Culture around us is constantly changing. Currently at a pace that is hard to keep up with. There is great pressure on believers to change their beliefs to adapt to culture. And it’s hard not to. It feels wrong to stay the same when everyone else is changing.

But, God never changes. His wisdom never changes. His understanding never changes. This system He created operates on the same foundation as it did when He created it. The promises God made to Abraham are still in keeping with what God’s nature is for us today. The value God placed on life at the beginning of creation is the same value He still places on life today. The way the whole system functions today is the same way God created it to function in the beginning.

When God’s ways do not measure up to our ways, it is not God who has failed but our understanding of His ways that has failed.

So, no matter where you find yourself this day, I hope you are encouraged. And if you are not encouraged, but discouraged because God isn’t measuring up, I hope you have found definition for your discouragement. Our frustration with God is because we can’t fully comprehend and understand, not because God has failed. God cannot fail, it isn’t in his nature. We fail all the time.

If the answer from God right now is no, it’s not because He doesn’t love you, it’s because He does and He exists outside of the confines of time we experience and He knows and sees better for you. If you are frustrated that God isn’t giving you something you want, He hasn’t given it to you because He knows what it will do to you right now to let you have it. That’s because He is God and can see things we can’t see. He is God and knows things we will never know.

God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. If your frustrated with the way your life is working out, could it be that you’ve been fighting God for your way and not following His?

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Posted on Sep 1, 2015 in Apologetics, Blog, Culture, Featured, repost

Disagreement ≠ Hate

Disagreement ≠ Hate

We have entered a scary new world. It’s a world where there are no absolutes. We define what’s true. If something makes us uncomfortable or requires us to change, well it must not be true. So instead of adapting to absolutes that have existed for all of time, we adapt the absolutes to meet our ideas. This is the world we live in. We are the decision makers. No one can tell us how to think or what to believe. We will decide for ourselves, thank you very much.

This, however, has caused a great dilemma. Because of this shift, truth has become something that is central to our being (as if absolute truth is not). We have created this truth. Because we are the creators of our own truth, disagreement becomes a bit more personal.

Dissenters aren’t just disagreeing with a philosophy, they are disagreeing with me. And they aren’t simply disagreeing with me, they are disagreeing with the core of who I am – the thing I have wrapped my identity up in – the center of my life.

So, when I create my own truth and someone disagrees with me, I am inclined to interpret their disagreement as hatred. “If you don’t agree with my truth, that must mean you dislike me as a person because I created that truth.”

How do we proceed in a world where everyone has their own truth? 

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure. It’s tricky. It’s even dangerous. We are seeing that played out before our eyes these days. Whether it’s the murdering of law enforcement officials, the murdering of people of a different race than our own, the slaughter of Christians in the middle east or the derogation of Christians who have beliefs that counter the culture around us, it feels dangerous to support truth.

But, this is not a new problem. This is the problem that was born in the garden of eden. When the serpent convinced Eve to eat the fruit, he established the dilemma:

“‘God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.'” (Gen 3: 5)

It would seem, that prior to this instance the only truth that Adam and Eve could see was God’s truth. I’m not entirely sure what they saw. I know they walked with God in the garden – and to do that they had to be righteous and holy.

One thing is clear, it is becoming much more difficult to separate a person’s beliefs from their being. When someone’s identity is wrapped up in their created “truth” it feels like hatred if we disagree with them. (By the way, I have been contrasting the absolute truth created by God with “truth” created by man. By definition, there can only be one truth. If truth is what is, there can only be one. This is either a tree or not a tree, it cannot be both a tree and a fish at the same time.)

But, let us go back to the garden. Prior to eating the fruit, Adam and Eve’s identity was wrapped in up whose image they were created in. They were both made in God’s image. After eating the fruit, they sought to hide that image. They knew they were naked and felt ashamed to be that way. So they covered themselves.

Truth, in its unaltered state is freeing. It sets us free from the shame that we are covered in by the nature of our sinful state.

So, may I ask, are you free? Has the truth set you free? Freed people free people. So, if we’re free, our response to those who aren’t free should be one of compassion and hope that there is freedom they can find if they will believe the truth.

If your “truth” is causing you to hate, then that should be a pretty clear sign that you have not yet found the truth. If you interpret opposing ideas as hatred towards you, that’s another sign that you are clinging to the lie instead of the truth.

If you believe me to be wrong, that the truth I cling to is wrong and your reaction to me because of my belief is hatred, then I urge you to take a deeper look. Because my truth drives me to love you unconditionally.

A word of clarification, while my truth drives me to love you unconditionally, it does not require me to agree with you unconditionally. In fact, I cannot agree with a lie. And it is love the drives us to stand up for the truth and to try to persuade you to believe it. If I didn’t love you, I would let you go on believing what you believe without saying anything. I wouldn’t care that you’re destined for destruction. But the love of Christ compels me to show you the truth so that you may be set free.

But, I would urge you to understand that we who disagree with what you believe do not hate you. Our disagreement is actually love. We want you to be set free.

Disagreement does not equal hatred. In fact, disagreeing with you could quite possibly be the most loving thing I do.

Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:31-32 

PS – It would probably be a good idea to read the rest of John 8…

Update: 

I should also add this: you may not agree with me, and I may not agree with you. That does not mean we have to hate one another. Somewhere along the way, we stopped being able to have civil disagreement. We can disagree on almost any topic without it driving us to act out in aggression towards those who disagree with us. The fact that I disagree with you does not drive me to want to destroy you or the world you live in. The fact that you disagree with me should not drive you to destroy me, to want to harm me or to write me off as a human being.

We can disagree without hating one another. In fact, I think that’s the way we can make the world a better place.

If you’re only surrounded by people who agree with you, then you never have the chance to sharpen your thoughts and ideas about what you believe. If I only have people around me who think the same way I do, I never get challenged to think about what I believe. It is through civil & respectful disagreement that we actually have the opportunity to understand the world better. And the better we understand the world (not just one side of it), the more likely we will be to be able to solve its problems.

And wouldn’t that be better anyway? Wouldn’t it be better to solve the problems that divide us instead of merely yelling at the people who don’t think like we do?

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Posted on Jun 17, 2015 in Apologetics, Blog, Culture, Featured, Grace, Intentional Living, repost, Truth

Forcible Diversions: A 6 Step Response To The Issues Of Our Day

Forcible Diversions: A 6 Step Response To The Issues Of Our Day

Recently, I found myself in a conversation with someone about one of the hottest topics of today. I don’t want to get into what it was or the details of the debate. I have no desire to belittle someone who is struggling with any of these issues we hear of. I felt as though I was being forced into a debate I didn’t want to have. Especially in this case. Fortunately it was lunch time, so I had an escape hatch. But, as I was in the conversation and for days afterward, I found myself wondering how can I share the gospel with the person whey they so clearly believe I am wrong for believing the Bible on issues of morality. Here is my response on how we ought to respond. It’s long, but hopefully worthwhile.

Let be begin with some background.

We are passionate about the gospel at our church. We believe in it’s work and that it is the one thing we would love for everyone we come in contact with to experience. All of our efforts as a church are designed to lead people to it. We spend a great deal of time training our people to live it out and share with the people in their sphere of influence. This is the main thing for us. The gospel, the good news is that Jesus’ atoning sacrifice on the cross and resurrection from the dead sets us free from the punishment of our sins and gives us an inheritance as a child of God in the Kingdom of God.

Problem #1

I have talked in the past of the struggle we face in our culture today due to the justification of sin. So many issues that we would classify as sin have become justifiable rights. The challenge is, if we no longer sin, why do we need grace? So our first problem is, the moral boundaries are being pushed further and further out. The road is getting wider and wider – so to speak.

Problem #2

I have also heard it said that you can’t legislate morality. Which I don’t necessarily agree with. But, let’s say that’s true – that you can’t legislate morality. What appears to be happening now is that we are trying to legislate a guilt-free society. A society where we can do whatever we want and we don’t have to feel guilty about it. So, we make more laws (or do away with existing ones) that make it legal to do or be whatever we want in the hope of not having to feel guilty about whatever it is.

If the cross is supposed to put us in a right standing with God (atonement), there has to be something that put us in a wrong standing with God. Right?

Problem #3

We have also talked, at length, about truth. There is such a thing as absolute truth. Truth is not relative. The fact that you may or may not believe in something does not make it true/untrue. It’s true whether you believe in it or not. 2 + 2 = 4. Always. You may choose to believe that 2 + 2 = cat, but that does not make you right.

So, we have justified sin, legislated out guilt and rid ourselves of the idea of truth.

That makes it a challenge to share the gospel with people. It’s hard to tell people they need grace when it would appear we have done everything we can to erase the need for any kind of externally received grace. We, in essence, have become our own savior.

Forcible Diversions

So then, how are Christ-followers supposed to respond when issues of morality are forced upon the church?

Let me explain. For me, grace is the most important issue. All the other sin-issues are secondary. We all sin. We all have sin issues. That’s the problem. The solution to that problem is grace. So, the primary issue is grace. To be honest, I don’t care what your sin issue is. We all have sin in our lives that requires grace. The more important thing is grace.

So, how are we to respond when sin issues triumph and are touted as a primary right?

One more clarification. You might be surprised to hear me say this, but you do have the right to do whatever you choose. You can be as nasty of a person as you want to be. God gave you a free will, and you are free to exercise that free will however you choose. But, as you have probably read, “You are free to choose, but you are not free from the consequence of your choice.” You may choose to be as evil as you wish, but you are not free from the consequence of that choice.

Our culture is working really hard to remove the consequences of our bad decisions.

So, you are free to live however you wish. And yes, you can even say you have the right to be whoever you want to be and do whatever you want to do.

But, what you may not do is require truth to change to alleviate the guilt you feel or the consequences you encounter as a result of your choosing.

This is where some veins of the church are getting into trouble. They are allowing the pressure of an unbelieving world to affect the truth that we have believed and been guided by for Millenia. People can live however they please. But, the church is not under any kind of obligation to acquiesce to the demands of society to alleviate the consequences of that choice.

How do we respond? 

The temptation is strong to want to get into a verbal exchange about how we are right and they are wrong. While I believe we need to know what we believe and be able to give a defense of our beliefs – the majority of people aren’t brought to grace in this way. Honestly, I wish they were. Because the logic of scripture is infallible, it would be much easier to just argue the truth of our faith with those who don’t believe. But, that’s just not the case most of the time. In fact, when you find yourself in a conversation that has been forced on you, you will realize that truth has no place in the argument. Trust me. I have been in these conversations. Logic doesn’t matter.

So, how should we respond?

Let me first say, I don’t think it does us a lot of good to get into debate that is devoid of relationship. Instead, I think we should get to know someone and build trust with them. Does that make the dialog harder? I guess it can. But, remember the ultimate truth is that they are ultimately lost if we don’t. We want to set ourselves up for the best chance to have the most important conversation. We don’t want to put more up more road blocks.

So, this is how I think we should respond.

1. We love people unconditionally. 

No matter how repulsive their behavior is, we still love unconditionally. Of course, we don’t want to put ourselves into unnecessary danger. But, we have to be in the mess if we are going to be used by God to redeem people out of it. Your hands will get dirty. You may suffer some scars and bruises. But, everyone is made in God’s image. Regardless of their beliefs or actions, they still deserve to be treated with dignity and respect because of whose image they resemble.

2. We follow the truth unswervingly. 

As difficult as it is becoming, we still cannot neglect the truth. When we are pushed to condone a behavior, we simply cannot. It sounds intolerant. You will be called intolerant. You will be called a bigot. Get used to it. How can we condone a behavior when someone doesn’t believe and then condemn it once they do? Do they have the right to do whatever they want? Yes. Does that make what they are doing right? No. We believe that following God’s design for humanity is what brings about human flourishing. If we live by it, we find a better way of life. When we live against it, we struggle. If we compromise on that truth, we are not living by God’s design.

3. We live out the gospel universally.

We cannot have any area of our lives where we aren’t living out the gospel. No, we don’t have to be little holiness machines, running around trying to scrub the earth of any form of ungodliness. But, we have to be consistent in all facets. You never know when someone will encounter you in a different arena than they normally do. You need to be the light, even if you don’t think anyone is watching. Every chance you get, be the light. Do good deeds so that people will see God through you. Live out Micah 6:8 in all areas of your life.

4. We share personally. 

While it may be difficult to tell another person they are sinning, it’s not difficult at all to point to the sin in your life and how you have been forgiven. Don’t focus on trying to make the other person feel guilty for what they are doing. Instead, speak of your own life. Speak of how the price you had to pay for your wrongdoing was paid by Jesus. And how amazed you are by grace.

5. We pray incessantly.

Pray for those you encounter without ceasing. Pray for them in your head while you’re speaking with them. Pray for them as you’re walking away. Pray as often as you can. Pray that God will send His Spirit to open the eyes of their mind and heart to His truth. Pray and expect that God will not only do it, but that He will give you opportunities to share with them.

 

6. We  invite them to receive freely. 

Invite them into the Kingdom of God. The door is open for all who choose to walk through it. It’s not our job to decide who can come in and who can’t. It’s our job to invite freely. Instead of condemning their lifestyle, invite them into something they can’t experience on their own. Don’t try to get them to your side of the argument. Instead, show them what they’re missing out on. Then, maybe they might be drawn into the Kingdom and be willing to lay everything outside the gates.

Perhaps we’ve been focused for too long on trying to convince people that they are evil instead of trying to show people the joy and goodness that awaits us all in the Kingdom of our Creator. The next time you find yourself in a conversation where someone is trying to force you to condone a behavior the bible says is wrong, remember that you too once stood on that side of the argument. It is only by grace that you stand on the other side now. It will only be by grace that they come stand with you. Focus on inviting people into something instead of on what’s keeping them out.

Life the life. Don’t compromise. Invite people in.

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Posted on Apr 15, 2013 in Apologetics, Pain and Suffering

The Problem of Pain and Evil

The Problem of Pain and Evil

In light of today’s tragic events, I want to take the opportunity to start a discussion on the problem of Pain and Evil in our world. As I was preparing to write this post I came across this brilliant answer to these questions from Dr. Ravi Zacharias. RZ is one of my favorite speakers of all time. He is an apologist who travels the world defending the Christian faith in secular forums. If anyone is well acquainted with the question and capable of giving an answer, it is RZ.

Here is the video:

There are a few quick points I want to draw out of his answer to the question.

“The question does not dislodge God, if anything it proves that God actually exists – otherwise value and the question disintegrates.  You don’t ask the question unless you believe in an absolute moral law and you don’t believe in an absolute moral law unless there is an absolute moral law giver. So the question is with God in the paradigm not outside the paradigm.”

The question itself, how can a good God allow Pain and evil, is one that starts from a way of thinking (paradigm) that believes in the existence of God.

“The ultimate ethic in life is love, that is the supreme ethic. There is no ethic more supreme than love. But, necessary to love is the component of the will. You cannot have love without the freedom to not love. Otherwise you have conformity, compliance, you really don’t have love. So if love is a supreme ethic and the freedom of will is indispensable to love, and the question must keep God in the paradigm…

You cannot have love without the option to choose not to love. You cannot have real love unless it’s possible for the person to choose not to love you. So, in order for God to have a creation that truly loves Him, He had to give that creation the ability to choose not to love Him.

Then what I would say is the greatest gift of God is the gift of the freedom of our will in order that we can love. But with the greatest gift comes the greatest possible calamity, when you violate that love the entailments actually follow. So both good is real and evil is real. And the human heart must be able to recognize this and choose what is good. Otherwise, you live in a world of non-concrete expressions where you can choose bad if there were no consequences.

With the greatest gift comes the greatest calamity. With something that has such potential for true love, there is also the potential for the opposite – true evil. This is the problem of evil. God didn’t want or need to create a people of robots who must follow and have no choice. He wanted to create a people who, when they chose the right love, would be a people who truly love God.

In the supreme effort of God to bring you and me to himself, he gives us the example of love. He has made us for himself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Him.

God has made us for himself, and we are not at rest until we find Him. Another way of saying this might be to say, that since God made us for himself but gave us the option to choose, we are at odds or war with God who is good until we do choose Him and His ways.

What is good? Every time we raise the problem of evil it is either raised by a person or about persons…Which means personhood is indispensable to the question. Therefore, the assumption is that the intrinsic value is not in the question but in the personhood. How can a person be of intrinsic value if time plus matter plus chance has been the cause of that person, it’s nothing more than chemistry in motion. The only way the person can be of value is if the person is the creation of somebody with infinite and intrinsic worth which means it’s God himself that needs to be able to justify our question.

The fact that we look at what other people do to other innocent people as wrong and evil – we are stating that every person has value and worth. Which begs the question, where does a person’s value come from. If they are the by-product of goo, where is the value in that? If they are the planned creation of a God who is infinite in worth, then there is value because we were created by a worthy God.

So when we talk about evil we need to realize that we are the point of God’s creation…and this is to build worth and value.

In talking about evil, it leads us to God. Just in asking the question, we argue for the existence of God because we believe that there must be worth to the people who have been harmed. In order to have a true love, God had to allow for the possibility of the opposite. It doesn’t make God evil. It doesn’t make evil any easier to deal with. In some ways, it makes it harder to deal with because we believe there is value in every life that is taken.

When you are at war with God, the things we call evil become harder to see. This is why there can be such great evil in the world. The more evil a person becomes, the further down the hole they fall, the farther they get from the truth. And as they get farther from the truth, what seems abhor able to us, seems common place and even good to them.

“The human spirit will not even begin to try to surrender self-will as long as all seems to be well with it. Now error and sin both have this property, that the deeper they are the less their victim suspects their existence; they are masked evil. Pain is unmasked, unmistakable evil; every man knows that something is wrong when he is being hurt.”
― C.S. LewisThe Problem of Pain

Feel free to chime in on this discussion. What I hope to do is to give an answer to those who are asking questions as a result of what happened today in Boston. Why do people do evil things? Because they are at war with a good God. And when you are a war with good, evil will abound.

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