Month: January 2018

The Problem of “Natural Evil”

The Problem of “Natural Evil”

natural evilIn a previous post, I talked about how God could be good and still allow evil. In that post, I explained that evil is not something in and of itself, but the corruption of something good. So now we come to natural evil, such as floods, earthquakes, and hurricanes. How do those things fit in with God’s goodness?

The earth is under the curse

Romans 8:19-22 informs us, “For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”

This Scripture shows us that even nature has been subjected to the curse that originated at Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God’s will. At the beginning, all things—including weather—worked in harmony. There were no natural disasters before the fall. It’s important to remember that we live in a fallen world.

God is sovereign

Another important point is that God is sovereign. Because He can stand at the beginning and see the end (and we can’t), we often think that He must be capricious, allowing or perhaps even causing natural disasters to befall mankind. After all, He did send the flood, and in Mark 4:9 we see Jesus control the weather with a single word. But that doesn’t make God bad. Just because we cannot understand the reason for things does not mean that God cannot. In His wisdom, He allows things to be as they are for now, to be reconciled to Him in the end days.

Bad is sometimes the result of good

For instance, we have earthquakes because we have tectonic plates below the surface. Without the plates, we would not have continents. Without them, the earth could not support life.  Decrying earthquakes because they sometimes cause death is about as sensible as decrying the sun. After all, you can die from sunstroke, too. Once again, just because we do not understand why God allows some natural disasters is not a reason to quit trusting Him. Are you trustworthy to your children even when you allow them to feel the consequences of their behavior or restrict something they want to do? Of course you are. And God can be trusted even if we don’t understand all His reasons.

The worst is yet to come

The whole earth is groaning. It eagerly awaits the coming of God Himself to right all wrongs and reestablish balance in nature. We wait as the children of God for Him to rescue us from the mess that is largely our own doing. If we don’t cause all “natural disasters,” we certainly have a hand in some, such as when entire populations starve due to the evil of their governments who do not allow food to get to them. The earth is plenty capable of feeding the world. It is man who prevents it from happening.

Matthew 24:5-8 tells us what we are currently witnessing. “Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.”  Note that Matthew says these are the beginnings of birth pains.

We can still rejoice

When you belong to the Lord, you can rest in knowing that He has good things—perfect things—in store for you. Listen to Isaiah 25:8-9: “He will swallow up death for all time, And the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces, and He will remove the disgrace of His people from all the earth; for the Lord has spoken. And it will be said in that day, ‘Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.’”

 

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If God is REALLY Good, Why Does He Allow Evil?

If God is REALLY Good, Why Does He Allow Evil?

Defining “good” and “evil”

Many people have given up on God because of the evil in the world. If God were really a loving, good God, He’d stop all the evil. He wouldn’t allow evil to exist at all. In fact, if God created everything, isn’t He actually the creator of evil? To tackle this ticklish issue, we need some good, working definitions. But we can’t just hop to the nearest dictionary to find them.

Did God create everything?

The Bible tells us in Genesis 1:31 that not only did He create everything, but that it was all good. “And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31, KJV)  (If you are not comfortable that God created everything, I’ll cover that in another post.) So we can go from here with putting the credit on God for absolutely every single thing that was created.

Then doesn’t that mean that He created evil?

The problem here is why we need definitions. What is good? What is evil? Good is the quality of a thing that conforms to the character of God. Evil is the corruption of good. Evil is not a thing in and of itself. It does not exist as an independent entity. Have you ever walked into a room and seen an evil in it? Think of evil as a weeping wound on a person’s body. The body—the thing that God created that conforms to the quality of good in God—is there. But you cannot have the weeping wound without the body. It is the body that exists. The wound cannot exist without the body. It is the corruption of the good that constitutes evil.

So why does God allow evil?

The answer to this question is two-fold. I’ll start with the most commonly spoken answer: because of free will. God made us in His image, which makes us free agents of will. We can will to do good or we can will to do bad. We are given great freedom from God to choose His ways or to choose our own, even when those choices lead us into evil. Every person ever born is given the gift of free will. God desires us to choose good because He can stand at the beginning and see the end. He knows what the outcomes and consequences of our choices will be, but He will not stop us from making wrong choices if that is what we have determined in our hearts to do.

You may not be aware of how often God actually intervenes in your life to prevent something that would take your life or even worse, steal your faith. But He doesn’t violate your free will.

Yes, it’s true that He could have simply made us love him. But then is that really, truly love? Do you want your kids to love you because you make them? Is it even possible to make someone love you? You can see the difficulty here.

The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares

(Matthew 13:24-30) 24 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. 26 But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. 27 So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them.30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

If you are a believer in Christ, you are the wheat in this story. Those who do not follow the Lord are the tares. The field is the world and the sower is God. Although there are tares (weeds) in the field, the Sower decides not to remove them before the harvest, lest the wheat gets damaged in the process. So as contradictory as it seems, it is for our own sake that He does not simply remove evil right now. When the harvest time comes at the end of the age, everything will be harvested, but the tares will be burned and the wheat will be saved.

Isaiah 46:10 (KJV) tells us plainly: Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:

God is good all the time

There is never a day that God is not good. He cannot not be good because that is His character and nature. And when we choose evil (the corruption of what He created to be good), it grieves His heart.

Next time we’ll talk about natural evil. Stay tuned.

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How to Make Sure Your New Year’s Resolutions Are Successful

How to Make Sure Your New Year’s Resolutions Are Successful

New Year's Resolutions

Changes.

Lots and lots of people start the new year out by making resolutions, most of which fall by the wayside after a few short weeks or sometimes months. I’ve been there, and so have you. And yet each year we say that this year will be different. So what’s going to make this year really and truly different?

Prayer.

The first thing about prayer is that it is effective. It is powerful, pulling down strongholds, which are the things that hold you back from really changing. Recognizing this is paramount to seeing real change in your life. And in mine. Your resolutions absolutely must be bathed in prayer. That leads us to a very important question.

What is prayer?

Do you bow your head, close your eyes, and suddenly your mind is a blank? You’re not alone. Prayer is not a formula for changing God. It is, however, the most effective way of changing you. The great apologist C.S. Lewis once said, “I don’t pray because it changes God. I pray because it changes me.”  Prayer is not a laundry-list of things you want to change. It is a conversation wherein you ask God what He wants to change. And note that I said a conversation.

The Oxford Dictionary has this to say about what it means to converse. “Late Middle English (in the sense ‘live among, be familiar with’): from Old French converser, from Latin conversari ‘keep company (with’), from con- ‘with’ + versare, frequentative of vertere ‘to turn’.” So to converse with God is to live with Him, be familiar with Him, and to turn to Him. Make your most important resolutions prayer.

How to pray.

Yeshua (Jesus) Himself gave us a model for prayer. Let’s look at it and see what HaMashiach (the Messiah) has to say about prayer.

Matthew 6:9-13 (Orthodox Jewish Bible)

Therefore, when you offer tefillos (prayers), daven (pray) like this, in this manner: Avinu shbaShomayim (Our Father in heaven), yitkadash shmecha (hallowed be Thy Name).

10 Tavo malchutechah (Thy Kingdom come) Ye’aseh rtzonechah (Thy will be done) kmoh vaShomayim ken baaretz (on earth as it is in heaven).

11 Es lechem chukeinu ten lanu hayom (Give us today our daily bread),

12 u-slach lanu es chovoteinu kaasher salachnu (and forgive us our debts as we forgive) gam anachnu lachayaveinu (also our debtors).

13 V’al tvi’einu lidey nisayon (And lead us not into temptation) ki im chaltzeinu min harah (but deliver us from evil). [Ki l’chah hamamlachah (for thine is the Kingdom) vhagvurah (and the power) vhatiferet (and the glory) l’olmei olamim (forever). Omein].

So what does it mean?

Yeshua’s prescription for the proper way to pray does not mean repeating meaningless words. He starts out by recognizing the relationship between us and God: Our Father (Avinu). He is the One who created us, as our earthly father procreated us. His relationship is one of blood-ties, through the sacrifice of His Son. He is deserving of worship (hallowed be Thy Name) and obedience for that fact alone. Always speak His very Name with reverence and awe. Jewish believers refuse to even utter His Name, saying HaShem (the Name) instead and writing G-d so they do not use it commonly or irreverently.

Next, Yeshua instructs us to pray for God’s kingdom and will on the earth. His agenda. His purposes. Not ours. His.

He tells us to ask the Father for those things we need. Of course, God already knows what we need, but He wants us to ask Him for it. When we do, we are acknowledging that He is our provider. (In fact, nothing you ever do provides for you. If God does not provide for you, you will not be able to make wealth. The Amplified Bible says it this way: But you shall remember [with profound respect] the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore (solemnly promised) to your fathers, as it is this day. (Deuteronomy 8:18)

He reminds us that we were sinners and have been forgiven, so we should forgive others as well. Mark 11:25 tells us: And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. Our forgiveness is tied to our forgiving others. So when we are cognizant that we have been forgiven so much, we should—we must!—forgive others as well.

Pray for protection from the evil one. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” (1 Peter 5:8). Don’t be concerned that the translation implies that God leads people into temptations if they don’t ask Him not to, for the Word is very clear on that point. James 1:13 explicitly says: “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:” Nevertheless, Yeshua says to ask God to keep us from temptation, which is the work of the evil one.

Finally, close out your prayer with the acknowledgment that God is almighty, everything belongs to Him, and He will have all the glory. Never try to keep glory for yourself, but humbly remember that God is all-glorious. Commit yourself to humility, and in due time, God will raise you up. When your heart is right with God, even when He does raise you up, your desire will be to glorify Him and deflect the glory that man tries to attribute to you.

Have you asked God for the desires of your heart in your resolutions?

Many scholars believe (as do I) that Psalm 37:4, which says: “Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” can actually mean that He will put His desires into your heart. Have you asked God to tell you how to partner with Him in prayer? What does He want you to pray about? He will always answer the prayer that says, “Thy will be done.”

 

 

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