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

 

Inquire Of God

1 Kings 22:7-8
“And Jehoshaphat said, ‘Is there not still a prophet of the Lord here, that we may inquire of Him?’So the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, ‘There is still one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may inquire of the Lord; but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil.’ And Jehoshaphat said, ‘Let not the king say such things!’”

Syrian forces occupied land that belonged to Israel and Ahab was determined to get it back. When Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, arrived for a visit, Ahab seized the opportunity to enlist Judah as an ally in his campaign against Syria. Not wanting to bring his people into an unnecessary war, Jehoshaphat wanted to take a moment to hear from the Lord, so he asked to hear from a prophet. Ahab paraded a host of prophets before the king who all declared victory in battle. The problem was, they were not prophets of God, but were a variety of fetish priests who worshiped idols. Jehoshaphat objected to their counsel and sought to hear the Word of God. It is here where the true heart of Ahab is revealed. He declares,

“There is still one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may inquire of the Lord; but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil.”

The king of Israel had no interest in hearing the truth. In fact, as the story unfolds, we find that Micaiah will be thrown in prison for speaking the word of God. Ahab’s desire was to silence anyone who did not declare the truth as he saw it.

What a sad parallel to much of what we see happening in our world today. We have accepted a worldview where tolerance is the highest form of morality. We are required to accept the choices people make as though every choice was equal, and those who would dare speak out against certain behaviors as immoral, are immediately silenced. The approach of silencing the word of God was not good for Ahab and Israel, and it will not turn out positively for us either.

Proverbs 14:34 “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.”

Pastor 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

 

Complaints 

Micah 6:3-4
“O My people, what have I done to you? And how have I wearied you? Testify against Me. For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, I redeemed you from the house of bondage; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.”

It is not uncommon to hear people complain. If the sun is out, we find it to be too hot, if the clouds fill in, we complain that it is muggy, overcast or dreary. We often sound like Goldilocks, who thought things were too hot, too cold, too hard or too soft. When things pass from being uncomfortable to unmanageable, it is common for our complaints to turn against God. We accuse Him of being unfair, distant, uninvolved or even unloving. Like the disciples in the boat, we think God is asleep and does not care about the storm we are currently enduring. Micah draws our attention to a different grievance; this passage reveals the complaint God has against His people.

“For the Lord has a complaint against His people, And He will contend with Israel.”

After declaring that He has a complaint, God asks them to consider what He has done, and questions why they would reject Him. He reminds them of how they were delivered from bondage and carried through the wilderness. When we face the obstacles of life that cause us to question the character and the promises of God, it is a good idea to look back at what He has accomplished for us. Like Israel, we were in bondage and without any hope of rescue. They were enslaved in Egypt and forced to serve a harsh task master, while living under the fear of death. We were enslaved to sin and its consequences. We lived separated from God, and under the penalty of the curse of sin. In that condition, we not only lived in this life without the benefits of knowing God, but we were also on course to live eternally separated from God. It was at the cross that Jesus paid our debt and made our redemption possible.

When difficulty strikes, we need to look back at what God has accomplished for us and allow His Word to direct our thoughts, rather than our circumstances. Circumstances and emotions are very poor guides. Since they are always changing, they do very little to provide stability in life. Instead, we should look at the unchanging promises of God to guide us when our circumstances are difficult and our emotions are crying out.

Pastor Jim

 

Benefits 

Proverbs 3:1
“My Son, do not forget my law”

Have you ever heard someone ask, “What’s in it for me?” As if they will not consider the cost of doing something, unless they can understand the personal benefits they will derive. In light of that, notice how Solomon goes to great lengths to express the benefits of living a godly life.

 

Proverbs 3:2. “For length of days and long life and peace they will add to you.”

Proverbs 3:4. “And so find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man.”

Proverbs 3:8. “It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones.”

Proverbs 3:16. “Length of days is in her right hand, in her left hand riches and honor.”

Proverbs 3:17. “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.”

Proverbs 3:22-23. “So they will be life to your soul and grace to your neck. Then you will walk safely in your way, and your foot will not stumble.”

Proverbs 3:26. :For the Lord will be your confidence, and will keep your foot from being caught.”

Proverbs 3:35 “The wise shall inherit glory, but shame shall be the legacy of fools.”

Long life, peace, favor, wealth, pleasantness, safety, protection and glory are just a handful of the blessings on the path of godliness. Sadly, we often step off the straight and narrow path, because we think there is something better on the other side of the fence. The only thing the narrow road is keeping you from, is that which will lead you away from the Lord, and into a life of misery. It is time to put our hands to the plow, keep our eyes on the Word, and press forward in the Lord. The end of that road is the greatest glory, and the path is filled with righteousness.

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

 

Speaking Evil

James 4:11 “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren…” 
James 4:13 “Come now, you who say…”

James seems to be particularly interested in what the Christian has to say. In the last chapter, he spent a great deal of time talking about the tongue. In this chapter, he comes back to the topic of what we are saying. He refers to at least two kinds of evil speaking. The first would be critical or judgmental speech.

James 4:11 “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judges.”

Jesus warned us not to judge one another, and James explains why; God alone is the Judge. We have been given the Word in order to obey it. It is the Word of God that must determine our behavior. The person who sets aside the Word of God, and decides for himself how he will live, is guilty of judging the law. To him James would say, “There is one Lawgiver who is able to save or destroy . . .” (James 4:12).

Christians are often accused of being judgmental, when it is really a persons own sin that judges them. Someone might be invited to church, be welcomed, be encouraged in prayer, and fed. Yet, when they leave, they claim they felt judged by Christians because they said it is wrong to party, do drugs or live in an adulterous relationship. The Christian did not judge them, the law did. The reason the law judges us, is so we might respond to Christ’s offer to forgive us. Jesus said, He did not come to condemn but to save (John 3:17). It is after the law of God convicts us, that we realize we need to be saved. Do not be a lawgiver, but a law abider, by surrendering yourself to Christ and living according to His Word.

Another type of speech that is warned against, is making life plans without seeking God. James refers to it as boasting. In this case, James is not teaching us how to speak, as much as how to live. We need to be those who seek to find the mind of God, or the will of God, for our lives. God has a plan for your life. He cares where you live, where you work, who you marry. If we will spend time with Him, He will make His will known to us. Sometimes, His will is progressive, meaning, we are not given step two until we have taken step one. It was like that for Paul. When he asked the Lord what to do, Jesus responded, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do” (Acts 9:6). Once God makes His will clear to us, it is sin to disobey.

His will seems to fit into two categories. We might refer to them as the general, and specific will of God. The general will of God is true for all of us, and is clearly presented in the pages of the Bible. The specific will of God refers to the plans that God has for you as an individual. Those things are only found when you spend time seeking God. It is the specific will of God which James refers to in this passage. You will not find a chapter and verse telling you who to marry. But you will find much in Scripture about the character of whom to marry. You will not find the answer to what job to take, but you will find direction on how to work. You will not find what college to go to, but you will find what are the most important matters to pursue in life, and what pitfalls to avoid.

Instead of trying to navigate through life on our own, let’s be sure we spend time seeking the Lord in His Word, in order to find His will for our lives.

Pastor Jim

 

 

Promises

Jeremiah 29:11
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

The Bible is like a treasure chest filled with great and precious promises. It is designed to help the child of God navigate his way through life, and provide comfort during times of difficulty. While these promises are seemingly endless, there are certain ones that have had tremendous impact upon believers, down through the ages. Jeremiah 29:11 is one such promise. Written to a group of believers facing dark and difficult times, this verse is designed to provide hope, help and consolation.

Due to years of wandering from the ways of God, the people of Israel were overthrown by Babylonian forces. In accordance with the practices of the day, the defeated were taken captive to Babylon. Now, living as prisoners of war in a foreign land, where they did not speak the language or know the customs, all seemed hopeless. The natural response would be to wallow in self pity, for how they had failed God and ruined their lives. Instead of writing a message to condemn them, Jeremiah gives them a promise that includes hope for now and for generations to come. He promises them that God not only thinks about them, but He thinks good thoughts that will provide them with a future. In a similar passage, Paul wrote concerning the child of God;

Ephesians 2:10

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

Those in a relationship with Christ, are now walking a path that will lead them into the plans God has designed for them. We will find abundant life and a purpose for living when we begin to walk according to the ways of God. We will begin to see crooked ways made straight, as God repairs relationships we destroyed, through a lifestyle of selfishness and sin. We will see God transform our homes, and make us a witness to others of His grace, love and goodness.

As beautiful as these promises are, they have no meaning if we are not willing to surrender our ways to the Lord. Those in Babylon who refused to trust God and obey His word, lived as those these promises were never given. They had the living Word of God at their disposal, and were unaffected by its promises. It might be worth taking a few minutes to evaluate yourself in light of the promises of God. Have you surrendered your life to Christ? Have you removed things that are not pleasing to Him from your lifestyle? Are you seeking to live a life that pleases Him? As you do, He will unwrap these promises and work them into your life.

Pastor Jim

 

Not Listening 

Jeremiah 18:18
“Then they said, ‘Come and let us devise plans against Jeremiah; for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come and let us attack him with the tongue, and let us not give heed to any of his words.’”

The citizens of Judah no longer looked to the Word of God for direction in life. They had forsaken the Lord and His ways, seeking to become like the nations they were supposed to evangelize. Jeremiah arose to call the people back to the Lord. Over and over again, he reminded them of the folly of leaving the Lord, and the danger of sin. He compared life apart from the Lord to a shrub in the desert, while following the Lord was like being a lush and fruitful tree. He warned of the coming destruction on the nation. He promised that God, as the master potter, could take the broken pieces of the nation, redeem them, and make them beautiful once again. Instead of heeding the message, examining their lives, and turning back to the Lord, most of the people became enraged at Jeremiah and sought to have him silenced. Soon he was arrested for speaking the truth of God. Perhaps the charges against Jeremiah were that of inciting hatred or being intolerant.

Jeremiah’s experiences are all too common. They have been repeated time and time again throughout history. Even now, we see them unfolding before our very eyes. Instead of allowing the Word of God to correct the way we live, we are finding that those who speak the truth are being accused of wrongdoing, themselves. My prayer is that we will see revival happen once again in our nation. However, I believe we must brace ourselves for a frontal attack upon Christianity and the Word of God. We must be prepared to be looked down upon, for the truths we live and preach.

Times will continue to alter and adapt. Cultural mores will change like fashions, but the Word of God will remain an unchangeable bedrock, upon which life can always be built, guided and judged. Let’s be faithful to look to the Word, as we seek to navigate our way through life.

Pastor Jim

 

The Call Of God

Hebrews 5:1
For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins.”

Hebrews 5:4
“And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was.”

The purpose in referring to the old testament priesthood, was to show that the ministry of Jesus is far superior to their ministry. However, by bringing these verses to our attention, the text gives some key insights into serving the Lord. There are four words in these two verses that are worthy of our consideration. We are told the priests were “taken” and “appointed.” This means they were chosen out of the tribe of Levi, and the family of Aaron, and set apart for the service of God. Next we are told, their service was an “honor” and a “calling.” No one could step into this service, apart from the sons of Aaron. It was the highest of all callings, and carried with it the greatest honor.

I think, in some ways, we have lost sight of the call of God. It seems to me, many of us have a “take it or leave it” attitude when it comes to serving the Lord. We may sense that God is stirring us to get involved in serving, in one capacity or another, only to put it off because we think we are not qualified, it is not important, or we will one day get around to it. We need to have a better understanding of the call of God.

Notice, we are told, “no man takes this honor unto himself”. When it comes to Christian service, the sovereignty of God plays a critical role. In the Priesthood, it was God who selected the family of Aaron from the tribe of Levi. When it comes to New Testament ministry, we are told the Holy Spirit gives us gifts “individually as He wills” (1 Corinthians 12:11 KJV). Those gifts are given so ministry might be accomplished. When you sense a stirring within you to get involved in service, recognize that as the high call of God.

When this life comes to its end, we will care very little about the time we kept for ourselves, but we will revel in the time given to the Lord, in the service of others.

Pastor Jim