By Don Case
Often it seems our world is spinning out of control. We receive constant reports of natural disasters, worldwide theorist attacks, and moral decline. It is perplexing to see so many natural disasters, floods, famines, earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, and tsunamis. Why does God permit such turbulence in nature that causes so much suffering and death? Is God in control over the bad things that happen to His people or are the tragic events of this world simply blind chance happenings. Where is God in all of this, is He still in control?
In The Beginning
When this world was first created it was perfect. No violence, no hunger, no disasters, it was all good. Adam and Eve had no sickness, suffering, or death in the garden. They lived in a perfect world, without trouble of any kind. The key to understanding all suffering that has plagued humanity since that time was that Adam and Eve chose to disobey God. As the first in the human race, Adam plunged all humanity into devastation and death through his one act and our continuing disobedience. The judgments of God came to all men and women. Sickness, tragedies, and death all sprang from people's sins against God and one another; this can help us understand why tragedies happen in the world.
As a result of the sin of Adam and Eve, God pronounced a judgment on them, the serpent, and on the earth. What is described in the beginning has affected all humanity from that day forward until the day that Christ returns to this troubled world. Until that time, all humanity will live with the effect of Adam's sin, including natural disasters, personal suffering and death.
Satan told Adam and Eve that their eyes would be opened and they would definitely know good and evil, but Satan never enlarged on the consequences including suffering and death. The entire human race would be affected. Satin enticed Eve through the medium that is now common to all humanity, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life. (1 John 2:16)
Why Do Bad things Happen To Good People?
God's word has much to say about tragedies, loss and suffering. In the example of Job, it was Satan that caused many disastrous things to happen to him, a righteous man of God. Although God allowed tragedies to happen to Job, He did not cause them to occur. Through misfortunes, Job gained strength and character and was blessed by God. Is it fair for us to blame God for our adversities when they are actually caused by Satan? We have a God that cares but he does holds men and women accountable for their actions.
Have you noticed that 2014 is virtually half-over? Where did all that time go? It seems that just yesterday we were beginning a new year. Now, we're really at the halfway mark. Time does fly! There's an important lesson in this for all of us – we had best be thinking about the future, because it will be here before we know it. The greatest thing we can give our attention to is the end of our lives and whether we'll be prepared to give an answer for the things we have done as we stand before the judgment seat of Christ (II Corinthians 5:10). Before we know it, this world will end and the judgment will be upon us. Let us examine some things about the judgment which will hopefully help us be better prepared for it.
The Judgment Should Cause Fear
Paul writes about the "terror of the Lord" when he speaks about having to stand before God (II Corinthians 5:11). The Bible is very specific: "every knee shall bow" before our God (Romans 14:11). Let us remember that we will bow down to the God who "will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil" (Ecclesiastes 12:14).
The Judgment Will Be A Surprise
A host of men have claimed to know when Christ will return. These men are poor students of the Bible. Paul and Peter both wrote about the return of Christ being compared to the coming of a, "Thief in the night" (I Thessalonians 5:2; II Peter 3:10). Even Jesus Himself told us to "watch" because we won't know when the "Son of Man is coming" again (Matthew 25:13). Given the surprising nature of the judgment, we must constantly guard ourselves and continually work to make ourselves better prepared for it.
The Judgment Is For Everyone
All humans will experience the judgment. Each of us will one day stand before our God and will be hear one of two things: "Enter in" or "Depart from Me" (Matthew 25:21, 41). The Hebrew writer was very plain: "And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). Certainly, all men will die and all men will experience judgment. Given this, let each of us look to the word of God and render obedience to it and in doing so, look forward to our home in heaven for eternity. After all, it will be here sooner than we think!
The Judgment Should Be A Confident Experience
When Paul wrote to Timothy, knowing full well that his life was drawing to a close, he did not dread the judgment nor the future of his soul. Instead, the inspired writer spoke about the afterlife with great confidence (II Timothy 4:7-8). While overconfidence is inappropriate, God has made it so that we, like Paul, can consider the future judgment as an exciting day wherein we'll be able to enter heaven for eternity. What a great thing to ponder as servants of the most high God!
By Don Case
Recently we have heard a lot about bullying against our young people. Protective parents are naturally concerned that their children may be suffering physically and emotionally at hands of other students. We normally associate bullying with students but the same traits can be seen in many other groups. These traits start with tantrums and are apparent in cases of family abuse, road rage, workplace violence, gangs, terrorists and even dictators. The characteristics that are obvious are the use of pressured power over others. Bullying at any age, against anyone, is completely against God's code of conduct.
God Is Our Refuge and Strength, A Very Present Help in Trouble
One thing we can do when faced with difficult people is to focus on our spiritual guide Jesus who can provide courage and comfort to handle our situations. Look at the bully like a lost child of God, or someone that is hurting badly inside. They are unable to cope with their own problems so they exercise power over others to make themselves feel superior. When confronted, try visualizing Jesus so it makes the aggressor appear less scary and it will help to be able to pray for them. A bully has a lot of problems and they really need Jesus. Letting the bully see Jesus in our behavior and showing forgiveness toward them sends a message. Remember to pray for the bully, or the person hurting you, it is important that you talk to God about them and it will help both of you. We want to have a close relationship with our God so that He can help in our situations and choices. Pray that the bully can see the love of Jesus for them through us.
Everyone Must Realize There Are Consequences to Bad Behavior
Often it helps to bring other adults into the problem so the bully will be exposed and will have to answer for their own behavior. By bringing this negative behavior out and in the open, they will have to answer for their behavior.
Remember that through Jesus we will have victory because we can actually begin to love the sinner, but hate the sin.
By Erik Borlaug
If you are a sports fan, you are well aware of superstitious rituals. In pre-game warm-ups, athletes will often tap their feet on the ground in a certain way, listen to a specific song, kiss their necklace, or walk up and down the field a specific number of times. These rituals are supposed to impact the outcome of the game to be in their favor.
When I think about superstitious rituals, I can't help but chuckle. It's odd that someone would think some physical ritual would magically change the scoreboard at the end of the game. The truth, however, is that I don't have the right to chuckle. I am guilty of the same thing in a more consequential way. Sometimes I believe in the phrase "the grass is greener on the other side." If only I had: more money, a newer car, a different church, more education, the latest gadget, more friends, a bigger house, and different circumstances, suddenly I would be more happy and joyful.
I don't rely on rituals like listening to a specific song, kissing a necklace, or walking up and down a field. However, my "lucky charms" that I rely on are oftentimes the greener grass on the other side. At its core, this is no different from superstitious athletes relying on a ritual to give them a smile at the end of the game.
To be fair, sometimes a change in circumstances is helpful.
However, we should not rely on these things for ultimate satisfaction in life. True purpose and meaning come from the Lord and knowing Him.
Look at Isaiah's invitation to enter into true contentment...
Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live...
This text is inviting superstitious people into a relationship with the Lord. Are we feasting on the good food, or are we thirsting and hungering while spending all kinds of money on our superstitious activities? They will fail us, but God will bless us.
One of the most beloved of all New Testament passages is the great parable of the son who went to his father, asked for his inheritance, and wasted the entire sum by living foolishly in service to himself. Jesus taught via this parable in response to the pointed question of the Pharisees who criticized the Savior's frequent interaction with sinners. Once the son realized his mistake, he came to the conclusion that he would make a drastic change and return to his father. In doing so, the young man exhibits three key aspects of what it really means to repent.
First, the young man made the simple, yet incredibly humbling statement required of all men desiring forgiveness when he said to his father, "I have sinned" (Luke 15:18). Perhaps there are no other words that are more difficult to say than those three, yet there are no three words that are more important than those three words. John taught that God is willing to forgive us of our sins only if we confess that we have indeed sinned (1 John 1:9). And for someone to say that he has not sinned is an impossibility for, scripture tells us, each and every one of us have transgressed God's divine law (Romans 3:23). To know whether I'm really ready to repent and change my ways so as to be better in service to God, I must first be willing to admit my wrongs before the God of all creation.
Secondly, the young man confessed that he was, "no longer worthy to be called" the son of his Father (Luke 15:19). As humans, we have egos and it's very challenging for us to admit how unworthy we really are. But that's exactly what's necessary! Jesus began His public ministry by teaching this fundamental truth when He said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3). To properly and fully repent, we need to see ourselves as poor men and women, who, without God in our lives, would end up being "nobodies."
Finally, the young man asked His father to, "Make me like one of your hired servants" (Luke 15:19). Of course, the ability to say this is fully dependent on being poor in spirit and recognizing one's worthlessness absent Christ. But the statement is still vital. God doesn't merely ask us to change from being that which was wrong. Instead, He wants us to become something different, something new, something improved. Furthermore, the change that comes with repentance demands a dedication to putting God first and self last. "Make me a servant" is more than just a statement of lip service but rather the necessary cry of each child of God. In short, no sinner can fully repent absent an attitude of willing service to the Father.
Let us appreciate the great parable of our Savior and what it teaches us. And let us model true, full repentance so as to more fully and completely please our glorious Father.