Thursday, December 20, 2012

God Casts No Shadow...

"Dear God, why don't You do something about evil?"...

This hypothetical prayer may have passed many lips this past week in the wake of the Newtown massacre. It probably came from believers and unbelievers alike striving to cope with the seemingly random act of violence against kindergartner children. "Dear God..."

The book of James reminds us, as does the whole Bible, that God does not ignore evil and in fact has already done something. He encourages his readers by saying,...

"Don't be deceived, my dearly loved brothers. Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning. By His own choice, He gave us a new birth by the message of truth so that we would be the firstfruits of His creatures." (James 1:16-18)

I take comfort in knowing that every generous act and every perfect gift is from above. I don't have to understand or even have the question of "why" answered as to a particularly horrific event like Newtown. I can rest that no matter what evil may come, it is not from God. He is the author of good and perfect gifts. 

James goes on to describe God as, "the Father of lights" and "with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning." 

There is nothing sinful in our hearts or conduct or in this world that can be ascribed to God. He is light. In Him is the light of men. He is perfect. He casts no shadow no matter which way we view Him from. He is always good. He is perfect knowledge, purity and happiness. To ascribe evil or our evil actions to God is pure blasphemy. He is God. Period.

So when we ask the question of God, "why this evil?", He reminds us in His Word that it is a result of our choice, our rejection of His perfect plan and way. When we ask Him, "why don't You do something about it", He answers, "I have. I gave My One and Only Son, Jesus." 

"Jesus" is the answer to goodness, evil, present struggles and future glory. He is, after all, the Alpha and Omega.

"Dear God, why don't You do something about evil?"

"I did, my child. I sent my Son Jesus..."

Merry Christmas! 

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Nature of Evil...

All of us were saddened, shocked and touched in some way by the mass shooting last Friday in Newtown, Connecticut. Words probably can't describe the emotions we felt when we first learned of the shooting. Then, as the story unfolded, to hear that 26 people had been massacred by a disturbed individual, and 20 of those being children aged 6 and 7 years old, shock and disbelief turned to anger and grief. Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy said, "Evil visited the community today..."

Many have asked, "where is God is all this?" or "why does God let something like this happen?" Others might question God's existence or even use something like the Newtown massacre as proof there is no God.

I do not want to minimize what happened or the grief being experienced, but the truth is that we live in a fallen and evil world. Randy Alcorn says,...

"When we examine the Bible's perspective on evil, we learn that its essence is a refusal to accept the true God as God...Most people understand evil as anything that causes harm. The Bible uses the word evil in a broader way to describe anything that violates God's moral will and therefore displeases Him. Evil is more than the absence of good; it is the corruption of good..."

What we saw Friday was pure evil; a corruption of the goodness of God. Life unregarded and wasted by a disturbed soul. And it was not that evil visited the community; evil lived there as it does everywhere in this world, which is fading away. It just raised its ugly, God-rejecting head.

But what about the innocent children? I agree...

* What about those innocent 20 children in Newtown?
* What about the innocent 16,000 children that die world wide every day due to hunger?
* What about the innocent 3,321 children dying from abortions in the USA every day?
* What about the innocent 2,500 children who die around the globe from HIV/AIDS every day?

There is much evil in the world. It isn't visiting us. It is here, living among us.

Alcorn goes on to say, "God isn't the author of evil, but He is the author of a story that includes evil...Whenever we're tempted to think God has messed up our nice world by interjecting evil and suffering into it, let's remember that in fact we messed up God's perfect world by interjecting evil and suffering (ourselves)."

In devotions yesterday morning, I read a great thought for the day. Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, gave a word of encouragement saying,...

"Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father. To whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen." (Galatians 1:3-5)

God is good. God is on His throne. God has and will always defeat evil. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

There is Hope! Jesus is Coming Soon...

Getting ready to head out to the office this morning, I got in Bubba (the name of my truck), cranked up the local Christian radio station to hear Christmas music and get in the Christmas spirit, and headed for the office. As I creeped slowly onto the interstate, traffic was backed up out the whazoo and my Christmas spirit began to turn into something else. As I came to a complete stop on the highway, what little spark of Christmastime had completely evaporated like the fog rising over river I could see off to my right.

Just as I really started to lose it while sitting in the rush hour traffic, I happened to see a sign posted off to the side of the road and it simply said,...


My whole demeanor changed in an instant. I thought, yes, He is coming back again! In fact, in a little less than two weeks, we will be celebrating His first coming some 2,000 years ago in a manger in Bethlehem. But He's not here; He is risen and He is coming back again.

He's coming back to take His children home. He's coming back to claim His bride, the church. And He's coming back this time not as the baby in the manger or the suffering servant but rather the triumphant King, the Lamb Who was slain but is now the Lion of Judah!

There is hope. In the midst of all the craziness. When things don't go the way I think they should. When problems and pressures tempt me to criticize and take my eyes off the goal. When the world and all that it is in it is seemingly turned on its head. There is hope: Jesus is coming soon!"

I don't have knowledge of the exact time or the exact mode. I do know that it will be a great a glorious day for those who have been washed in  the blood of the Lamb. I also know that it will be a terrible day for those who have not.

So, while there is still day, let us not grow weary in well-doing. Let us not grow weary in sharing the message...

There is hope! Jesus is coming soon!


Thursday, December 6, 2012

What Happened After the Lame Man Was Healed...

When God does His work in His way, there is always no small commotion among those affected.

After the healing of the lame man at the Beautiful Gate in Acts 3, a series of things happened...

* The lame man was changed forever. He went walking, leaping and praising God. I can imagine he did that every day until he died because his life was so radically changed.

* The bystanders who saw were filled with awe and astonishment that something like this could happen. Who had ever heard of a man lame from birth now dancing a jig to God?

* Peter and John, seizing upon the moment and the gathering amazed crowd, began to share the message of the gospel. The demonstration of the gospel (e.g. healing of the lame man) was immediately followed by a proclamation of the gospel!

* And it wasn't a mamby-pamby message that Peter preached. He was pretty unambiguous when he said, "Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this?...The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His Servant Jesus...You killed the source of life, whom God raised from the dead; we are witnesses of this. By faith in His name, His name has made tis man strong whom you see and know..."

* The religious leaders became offended, seized Peter and John and had them put in custody overnight. But over 5,000 people believed in their message!

* The next day, Peter and John were dragged before the ruling religious council and asked, "By what power or in what name have you done this?" to which they boldly answered, " the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene - whom you crucified and whom God raised from the dead - by Him this man is standing here before you healthy!"

* And then, they boldly state for the religious leaders and the whole world to hear...

"There is salvation in on one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people, and we must be saved by it."

The religious leaders were furious. They looked down on Peter and John because they were uneducated and untrained. But they were amazed at their boldness and they recognized that, "they (Peter and John) had been with Jesus."

They leaders ordered Peter and John, "Don't you dare ever preach or teach in the name of Jesus again!"

Peter and John replied, do what you want, but "...we are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard."

The religious leaders threatened Peter and John further and then released them.

Thus, when God's work occurs and people are amazed, there is always opportunity for telling the real story behind everything: God's plan for salvation of the nations. However, there will always be those who will oppose and do all they can to keep this message of hope from going forth. May we all, as followers of Jesus, be like Peter and John and not give in to pressure from the world. No matter if we're uneducated and untrained. No matter is the world threatens us. No matter whether the crowds believe or not. May we always be unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard in Jesus!

Because here is the good news: Salvation is found in no other name but Jesus!


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

He Went Walking, Leaping and Praising God...

I'm now in the book of Acts in my daily devotions. Some of my favorite stories of all time. One, in chapter 3 of Acts, is about a lame man being healed.

Peter and John were "as usual" on their way to the temple to pray. In their "as usual" routine of the every day, they saw a man in need. How often do we overlook the needy in our "as usual" routines of the day?

The lame man had been lame from birth. Every day, he was carried to this particular entrance into the temple area. He was carried there not to get well but to beg for his daily bread. He was "ptocheia" poor or what we would call in "absolute poverty." All his hope depended on the mercy and kindness of others. He was, in a sense, a true charity case.

When he saw Peter and John entering the temple complex, he called out to them and asked for help. Peter and John stopped, looked intently at him and said, "Look at us..." So he turned to them expecting to receive a gift of money. But Peter said, "I don't have silver of gold, but what I have I give to you. In the Name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk."

Peter took the lame man by the hand and helped him stand. At once, his feet and ankles became strong. He jumped up, stood and started to walk. He entered the temple complex with them walking, leaping and praising God! And when all the people saw this lame man healed, they were amazed and filled with wonder and awe!

A couple of things really jump out at me in regards to this story (no pun intended). For one, how many years did that man sit by the gate and beg? I assume that there is a good possibility that he had sat there when Jesus passed by. But he was never healed. Is it that Jesus ignored him? Or is it that he didn't ask Jesus for help? Or was it simply that the timing of his healing was really to be when John and Peter walked by? We really can't know the answer to that question. But we do know that when he was healed, in God's timing, he jumped up and went into the temple walking, leaping and praising God!

When is the last time that you and I jumped for joy because of what God has done for us? For me, far too long...

Another thing that strikes me is that Peter and John took time to help. Even though they didn't have a lot of material things to share with the lame beggar, they had time and they had a message of hope in Jesus Christ. I often cringe and even try to look the other way when coming in contact with a person in need. The truth is no matter what we have in our pockets, we can always share a bit of time, a message of hope or even a listening ear to those in need. How much does it cost to stop, listen and pray for or with those in need?

When we allow God or join God in working in His ways, we get to experience what Peter and John did that day. We get to see those freed of their needs walking and leaping and praising God. And, we get to see other who witness God's working be amazed and filled with awe and wonder.

I don't know about you, but I desire to see God do amazing things. I also hope it moves me to walk, leap and praise Him as well.