Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Thinking Biblically in a Chaotic World - Part 4

In the final article on the question of how we should think when faced with all of the crises that are going on now in the world, I’d like give a short answer to the question, “Why do bad things happen?” Countless books have been written on this subject and I don’t claim to have all of the answers. But I do have some thoughts that might give you tools do think about this subject.

The Bible tells us that when God made the world and mankind, everything was good. We learn very quickly that that situation did not last very long. Satan, in order to undermine God and his glory, attacked mankind with the offer of being like God. Eve took the bait as did Adam her husband. We learn then that the whole created order was cursed by God. In Romans 8:19-22 we read, “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.”

Since the curse things die. Since the curse there is pain and suffering. Since the curse things wear out and degrade.

We groan because we know things should be better. The pain we feel physically and the aging process all testify to the fact that things are less than ideal. The fact that we can picture a better situation is a sign that there is in fact a better life. We’re just not there yet.

Why are there wars? James 4:1 tells us, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.” In other words it’s sin that causes this.

Why are there earthquakes, tsunamis, tornados and hurricanes? Isn’t it because God has cursed nature? Things are not as they were originally created. Creation is groaning.

But why would a good God let these things happen? That is the question of the ages. My thought is that God has cursed this world and he will continue to allow those effects work themselves out according to his plan until the end when he renews everything. According to Romans 8 creation waits until the glorious liberty of the children of God. In that final day when the resurrection comes and God sets up his kingdom, things will be made right. Until then we live in a world affected by man’s fall and the consequences that flow from it.

How are we to live in light of all of this? I would say, first, avoid cynicism. Do not succumb to the thought that all is hopeless. Remember God is in control and is acting lovingly and for his glory.

Second, avoid fatalism. Fatalism is the view that everything is predetermined and unalterable so why try. Even though God is sovereign, the Bible never encourages a fatalistic attitude.

Third, pray. Pray for your leaders. Pray for those suffering from tragedies. Pray for your family that each one may come to know Christ and his salvation personally. Pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Pray for the glory of God to triumph.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Thinking Biblically in a Chaotic World - Part 3

How are Christians supposed to think about the seemingly chaotic events going on all around us? We are faced with economic hardships, natural disasters and wars. What is going on and what is God doing?

In the past two posts we have looked at the political side of things as well as the natural world. Today we look at this from another point of view.

In Romans 8:28 we read, “God works all things together for good, for them who love God, for those who are the called according to his purpose.” No matter how things seem as to how bad they are for us, we should become cynics and think that God is somehow out to hurt us. Look at what he told Jeremiah in 29:11. “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” No matter how things look around us, we must focus on the truth. God is working for the good of his children. That does not mean there will be no hardship. What it does mean is that we are to glory in tribulations because we know the fruit that that hardship will produce in our lives. (Romans 5:3)

In addition to his promise to work for our good, God is also doing all things for his glory. In Isaiah 48:11 he says that he will not give his glory to anyone else. In Isaiah 46:10 he says that he will be exalted among the nations.

God is at the pinnacle. There is no one else equal to him. He is the ever-existent one who created everything else. He is not one among equals. Because of who he is and because of his character, he expects and should receive the glory and honor that is due. Everything he does is ultimately for that purpose. In Revelation 11:13 a future earthquake is foretold. This earthquake will kill 7,000 people, but the remaining people will fear and give God glory. He deserves all of the glory and honor we as mere humans can muster.

Besides working for our good and his glory we need to remember that God does what he does based on his own timetable. He is never late and he is never early. It was just at the right time that Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6) There is an interesting prophecy in Daniel 11 regarding certain kings and battles that are to come. Over and over the author uses the phrase “at the time appointed.” That’s because God not only controls everything, but he does so based on a time table known only to him.

So as we look around us and see so many things happening that seem to be out of control, we need to remember that God is working out his purposeful plan for the good of his people, for the glory of his name and according to a timeframe of his planning. That should give us a great deal of confidence and courage to face whatever may lie ahead.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Memorization Monday - Resources - God's Presence

Hebrews 13:5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Hymn of the Week - Day by Day

Day by day, and with each passing moment,
Strength I find to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father's wise bestowment,
I've no cause for worry or for! fear.
He, whose heart is kind beyond all measure,
Gives unto each day what He deems best,
Lovingly its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

Every day the Lord Himself is near me,
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear and cheer me,
He whose name is Counsellor and Pow'r.
The protection of His child and treasure
Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
"As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,"
This the pledge to me He made.

Help me then, in every tribulation,
So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith's sweet consolation,
Offered me within Thy holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
E'er to take, as from a father's hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till with Christ the Lord I stand.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Thinking Biblically in a Chaotic World - Part 2

Given the perils we face in this world, how are we to think? Yesterday we looked at God’s control over nations. Today we examine God’s control over nature. Look for example at Job 38. In verse 8 we read “Or who shut in the sea with doors, when it burst forth and issued from the womb; when I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band; when I fixed my limit for it, and set bars and doors; when I said, ‘This far you may come, but no farther, and here your proud waves must stop!’”

As you read these chapters in Job, you see that God is in control of all of nature. It all responds to his command. Weren’t the disciples amazed when they said of Christ, “Even the wind and the waves obey him?”

In Matthew 10:29 we read “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.”

So we see that the sea and the wind and even the death of sparrows is all under God’s control and these things happen according to his will. We don’t claim to understand the reasons for God’s actions at many points, but we should never say that things are out of control. God has an active role in the world and manages it according to his will.

So whether it is political, international activity or the seemingly wild ways of “nature” we know that God is at work. He is worthy to be praised and feared for who he is and for what he has done.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thinking Biblically in a Chaotic World

How should we as Christians be thinking when it seems like everything in the world is falling apart? I was asked to speak last night at our Wednesday service and thought it might be helpful for us to discuss this topic. Here is some of what I mentioned to the people there.

1. Be sure to think about what is true. The Bible tells us in John 8:32 that the truth will set us free. That means free from the bondage of sin, but also from the bondage of worry and fret that so often overwhelms us. Paul also reminds us in Philippians 4:8 that we should set our mind on things that are true, lovely, etc. So often we are inclined to listen to our inner self telling us all that is wrong and ugly. God tells us to dwell on the things that our true. As Christians we believe that we find the truth in the Scriptures. So that is where our thoughts should be directed.

2. One of the first truths that we need to come to grips with is that God is in control of all things, not just aware of them. I have had many well-meaning people tell me that what encourages them is that God knows what is going on. Frankly, it doesn’t help me a lot to know that God knows about the wars or the earthquakes or the tsunami. I’d be satisfied with that if that is what the Bible teaches.

The Bible teaches that God is in control of all, not just aware. In Daniel 4 verses 31, 34 and 35 we read: “the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses.” “His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; he does according to his will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’”

In Psalm 75:6, 7 we read, “For exaltation comes neither from the east nor from the west nor from the south. But God is the judge; he puts down one, and exalts another.”

Some other passages you might look at are Isaiah 45:1, 7, 12 and Isaiah 7:18. In both of these passages we learn that God uses ungodly kings for his glory to accomplish his will among men.

What these passages teach us is that the person in power in any country is put there by God for his own purposes. As Christians, we should believe this because that is what the Bible teaches, but we realize that this poses problems for many people because of the tyrannical and ungodly nature of many rulers in the world. However, what we need to remember is that we don’t get to choose or design the kind of God that fits our image of what God should be like. The God who exists has chosen to reveal himself through his word. He is as he is and we need to accept that and worship and obey him accordingly.

Tomorrow we’ll look at God’s control over nature.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Memorization Monday - Resources - God's Presence

Acts 2:25 - For David says concerning Him: "I foresaw the Lord always before my face, For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken."

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Hymn of the Week -- And Can It Be?

This hymn by Charles Wesley is one of my favorite. I'm sure I have posted it before, but wanted to do so again. In the last stanza it says, "Bold I approach the eternal throne..." In the book of Hebrews, God says that the way is open into the Holy of Holies where God dwells. Under the Old Covenant, only the High Priest could enter and then only once a year. Now God himself encourages us to enter boldly. We would do well to take Him up on that invitation.

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

’Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
Let angel minds inquire no more.

He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace—
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Earthquake -- A Reminder

As I was watching video from this morning's earthquake in Japan, I was thinking about how massive the earth must be when an earthquake of that magnitude can do so much damage and yet I not feel it here in Michigan. I've been in only one earthquake and that was a very minor one in Illinois of all places. I was in the language lab on the 3rd or 4th floor of Blanchard Hall, the oldest building on the campus of Wheaton College. When the earthquake hit, the headsets all started swinging back and forth and since it was such an old building we all thought it might be best to head for ground level. But just as fast as it hit, it was over.

All of this contemplation of earthquakes also reminded me of the verses in Haggai 2:6-7 where God says, "For thus says the Lord of hosts: Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory, says the Lord of hosts." Imagine the power of God when you witness the power of the large earthquake in Japan. God says He is going to shake heaven and earth. In Mark 13:24 God says, "But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory."

Whether we like to believe it or not, God is at some point going to judge the world. I'm not saying today's earthquake has anything to do with that. I'm saying it is a reminder that God with his power is going to shake everything and it will not be pretty. Sin is a taboo word in our culture, but God is displeased by our conduct. The great news is that Jesus Christ took the punishment for us and is willing to grant us forgiveness based on Christ's death in our place. God can thus be just and forgiving at the same time.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Memorization Monday - Resources - Wisdom

1 Corinthians 1:30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.

Topic titles taken from Navigators Topical Memory System