Why Do Bad Things Happen? 

Job 30:17
“My bones are pierced in me at night, And my gnawing pains take no rest.”

One of the great quandaries we face in life is how to reconcile the problem of evil with what we understand about the nature of God. The Bible teaches us the God is love and that He cares about each of His children and desires what is best for us. At the same time life seems to teach that evil runs rampant and bad things happen to good people. When we see an evil person suffer we might be able to chalk it up to justice but when we see those we perceive to be innocent impacted by great difficulty we often scratch our heads in bewilderment, struggling to understand how a loving God could allow such things to happen. No doubt the experiences of Job fit into this category. If we are going to understand the problem of evil there are a few things we need to keep in mind.

First most of the things we regard as evil stem not from nature or an act of God but from the selfish desires of sinful men. We read of massacres taking place around the world which are driven by man’s drive for power or possessions. War, famine, starvation and the like are not a result of the hand of God but of men who refuse to submit their selfish will to the authority of God. Just the other day I was approached by a man whose friend was in a car accident where she almost lost her leg. The accident was caused by another driver who was texting. He asked me how God could allow this to happen. I find it interesting that an accident caused by a person who put self above the law and concern for others could be blamed on God. If we fail to see the real problem we will never find an adequate solution.

The story of Job presents us with an entirely different issue. The struggles he faced were not caused by men but allowed by God. As he stood in anguish because God allowed him to suffer even though he was by all standards a righteous man. In this case we want to ask how God could allow bad things to happen to a good man? It is important that we not only ask the question but that we are also willing to receive the answer. One thing we see in scripture is that what we perceive to be a bad thing is not always bad. The story of Joseph serves as a good illustration of this. We would all say that it is a bad thing if our brothers go on a jealous rampage, throw us into a pit and sell us off as a slave. We would all agree that it is a bad thing to be accused falsely of rape, sent to prison and forgotten in the dungeon. But that is partly because we cannot always see the big picture. God wanted to rescue Israel from famine so he strategically placed Joseph in a place where he could be selected as counselor to the king. It was the prison that prepared Joseph for the palace.

We are certain to face difficulties in this life. We do after all live in a fallen world with fallen people. But if we are willing to embrace the struggles we are facing we may find that what we thought to be a bad thing actually turned out to be a great benefit for the furtherance of God’s kingdom.

Jim

 

Broken Compass

Judges 19:1
“And it came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel, that there was a certain Levite staying in the remote mountains of Ephraim. He took for himself a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah.”

The closing chapters of Judges paint a dark picture of life in ancient Israel. We read of drunkenness, murder, rape, idolatry, spiritual confusion and moral indifference. It seems  the people have lost their moral compass and are allowing their desires to determine right from wrong. This was never the way God intended for man to live. From the very beginning, God gave man an external code to guide him through life, and that code is the Word of God. When the Word of God is forgotten, ignored, hidden or altered, it always leads to spiritual confusion, immorality and suffering.

Philosopher Immanuel Kant wrote, if man is to be truly free, he must establish a standard outside of himself that will help guide him through life. He declared that allowing our emotions or desires to rule our life will never lead to true freedom. While he did not see the Bible as the standard, he did understand that man, left to himself, cannot rule himself well.

It seems that, today, we have ignored the warnings or Scripture and the counsel of the wise. It seems the world we live in today, is a lot more like the time of the judges, than anyone cares to admit. If we want to see a change, we must get back to the way God intended for man to live, not doing whatever is right in our own eyes, but allowing His Word to guide our lives.

Pastor Jim

 

End Of The Road 

Revelation 20:12
“And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.”

Have you ever heard someone say, “All roads lead to God”?  While it is not true, according to Jesus Himself, that all roads lead to heaven, it is true, all roads lead to God. Whatever road you choose to travel in this life, it ultimately ends at the throne of God. John explains that he saw every person who had ever lived, the good, the bad, and the ugly, all standing before the throne of God and awaiting judgment for sin. There is no road you can travel that will not ultimately lead to the throne of God. Even those who stubbornly resist the Spirit of God and refuse to accept Him, will stand before this throne, along with those who refuse to believe He even exists. There is no way of escaping the throne, but there is a way of avoiding judgment.

John records that a book was opened which contained a list of all the sins that each person had ever committed. One sin is enough to condemn, and every sin is recorded. However, there is a second book; the Book of Life, which contains the names of all who have received Christ and His forgiveness of sin. Those whose names are in the Book of Life have had all the charges against them erased. Paul put it like this,

Colossians 2:14 “. . . having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

The most important decision you will ever make is the one regarding Jesus. If you choose to accept Him as Savior and Lord, your sins will be forgiven and you will be excluded from judgment. If you choose to reject Him, for whatever reason, you are left in your sin. One day you will stand before the throne of God and the book of deeds will be opened, read, and you will be sentenced. It seems like a pretty straightforward decision. Joshua put it like this;

Joshua 24:15 “And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Pastor Jim

 

Bad Things. Good people 

Job 40:8
Would you indeed annul My judgment? Would you condemn Me that you may be justified?”

When Job’s counselors accused him of wrong, he began to justify himself before them. They claimed he was a sinner, so he declared his righteousness. As this argument continued to develop, Job’s justification began to cast blame upon God. If Job was innocent, then God must be wrong for allowing these things to happen to him. Perhaps this was the earliest development of the accusation we offer hear today, “how could God allow bad things to happen to good people.”

God responds to this by pointing out that Job’s defense is really a form of accusation against the nature of God. This is not uncommon. The children of Israel did it in the wilderness when they accused Moses of leading them out of Egypt to die in the wild. The apostles did it when they accused Jesus of not caring about them when the waves began to crash over the boat, and we do it whenever we complain that the circumstances we are facing are unfair.

This is not just the behavior of the new, weak or carnal Christian. This is something we all struggle with. It is often difficult to accept that an uncomfortable or even painful experience could be allowed by a God who loves us. However, when we look at the heroes of faith, we come to realize that many of them faced extremely difficult experiences, and those experiences are often what forged them into the people they became. I think immediately of Paul and Silas, who upon being arrested, beaten, shackled and placed in prison, began to sing songs of worship. It was their attitude of trust, rather than accusation, that led to others coming to faith in Christ.

Pastor Jim

 

You Must Be This Tall

Psalm 71:19
“Also Your righteousness, O God, is very high, You who have done great things; O God, who is like You?”

We have four boys who are separated by only five years. When they were little, we, like so many others families, spent a lot of our time visiting amusement parks. As the older ones grew, they were attracted to the bigger rides, and their younger brother wanted to do whatever they did. The problem was, many of the rides had a standard. If you were not a certain height, you could not ride. At times, this created quite a controversy. We tried everything to make him just a little taller, we spiked his hair, we bought shoes called “Heelies”, that had a wheel in the back, and provided a couple extra inches to his height. However, time and time again, when we reached the entrance, he was excluded. He simply did not measure up.

Just like the amusement park rides, heaven has a standard for entrance. That standard is not height, growth, accomplishment or good deeds; the standard is righteousness. But not just any righteousness; we must have the righteousness of Christ. In Matthew 5, Jesus explained that the Law of God is not merely an external thing, but can be broken with thought, as well as action.  He declared, we must be perfect, as our Heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48). It is no wonder the Psalmist declares, “Your righteousness, O God, is very high.” The righteousness of Christ is actually so high it can never be reached by human achievement. Isaiah declared, “. . . we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousness are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). In other words, our very best moral and spiritual accomplishments will never be enough to meet the standard of entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven. Unfortunately, many of us, failing to realize that we will never attain perfection on our own, keep trying to “make themselves just a little taller.” Paul was like that. He considered himself to be a righteous man, and his accomplishments worthy of heaven, that is, until he met Christ. When that happened, he declared that his desire was,

“. . . not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.”   Philippians 3:9

When we realize our own achievements will not gain us access to God, and instead, we come to Him through faith in Christ, we experience a great exchange. Our sins are placed on Him, and His righteousness is given to us. Paul put it like this,

“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  2 Corinthians 5:21

Have you stopped imagining that you are good enough for heaven? Have you stopped spiking your hair and wearing “Heelies,” thinking you can trick God into letting you in? Have you come to God through faith in Christ and received His righteousness, in place of your sin? If not, now is the time. Pray with me. “Lord, I recognize I am a sinner, and You are the Savior. I ask you to forgive me of my sin, and fill me with Your righteousness.”

If you made that decision, you have become a child of God. Take a moment and let us know so we can encourage you to follow Christ. Contact us at church@ccvb.net

Pastor Jim

 

For Me Or Against Me

Genesis 42:36
“And Jacob their father said to them, ‘You have bereaved me: Joseph is no more, Simeon is no more, and you want to take Benjamin. All these things are against me.’”

2015/01/img_1356.jpgSometimes perspective is reality. How we see things will determine how we act. Jacob had experienced a series of very difficult trials. He lost his sons, Joseph and Simeon, and now he was in danger of losing his youngest son, Benjamin. As these things built up around him, he cried out in despair, “All these things are against me.” What Jacob failed to realize is, the things that seemed to be working against him, were the very things God was using to work out the salvation of his family. All he could see was loss, but God was at work, behind the scenes, preparing a much greater reward than he could ever imagine.

Life is like that. We see things through the lens of our limited experience and knowledge. When something goes against what we perceive as “the plan”, we become discouraged, upset, heartbroken or even angry. Sometimes, like Jacob, we will forget God’s promises, and raise our voice to accuse Him of wrong-doing. If only Jacob could look beyond the walls of his limited vantage point, and see what God was actually accomplishing, then instead of despair, his voice would be filled with praise. God has a different way, He wants us to look beyond our experiences, and into His promises. He wants us to believe Him when He said, “ALL things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

Regardless of what difficulties you are facing today, keep in mind that you cannot see the whole story. You are somewhere in the middle of what God is doing, and He promises not to leave you, but to work things out for His ultimate purposes.

Pastor Jim