“Let’s Get This Over With!”

FRIDAY
“Let’s Get This Over With!”

C. S. Lewis noted that God must be terribly offended at our behavior. He writes, “We actually are, at present, creatures whose character must be, in some respects, a horror to God. This I believe to be a fact: and I notice that the holier a man is, the more fully he is aware of this fact.” Why does an all-good and all-powerful God not just destroy evil and remove it from the world?

Just because God has not yet defeated evil, this does not mean that evil will not be defeated or destroyed by God in the future. “Since we have not yet finished with history, it is possible that all evil in history will one day cease.” In fact, the only way to refute the potential for God to one day destroy evil would be to see all of time, which only an infinite being could do.

Because God has not yet removed evil, we live in an evil world that results in pain and suffering. The analogy of a symphony orchestra works well to illustrate this point: If we were to imagine that the entire universe is a philharmonic orchestra in concert, we might designate certain objects as instruments. A series of events or an era in history might then represent a particular movement within the overall concert.

“The death of an innocent man during this era might be represented by a dissonant chord and the Second World War by several measures of the score. If the symphony had been playing for thousands of years and someone listened to only a few minutes of the very dissonant section, he would not be fair in pronouncing the whole symphony “horrible” or the dissonant part “unjustified.” In the same way, it may be that there are some examples of suffering that do not seem justified from our vantage point, but these may nevertheless be ultimately justified.”

2 Corinthians 4:17
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.

“Give Me Break!”

THURSDAY
“Give Me Break!”

Why does God allow evil to continue? Because God is omniscient, He would have known that men would choose to do evil. Specifically, He must have known that Adam and Eve would be disobedient in the garden and that evil would be the result. So, why did God allow this to happen? Even if God is not the author of evil, it would seem that His omnipotence would allow Him to keep evil from happening through either a miraculous event or other preventative measures.

Why could God not have blown a great wind that made it impossible for Eve to get to the fruit she was tempted to eat? It seems that God could also miraculously turn a gun into a banana just before a murder happens. Could God have stopped the events of 9-11 by causing each of the terrorists to have a spontaneous heart attack before they killed thousands of people?

In God’s sovereignty, he gave man free will. Knowing that this act would lead to the fall of man, the death of His Son on the cross, and the suffering of many people spending eternity in Hell, could God have just not given man free will? At first, this option makes sense. However, the only way for God to allow love to be shared between a creature and a creator is for both to choose to participate in the relationship. Love cannot be forced, because forced love is really rape.
If there is the potential for a person to choose to have a relationship with God, it would follow that the potential for man not to choose God would also have to be real. This is why God allowed for the possibility of evil and why free will is a good thing for Him to have created. It was the only way for man to have the potential to freely love God.

1 Peter 4:12-13
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.

“The Beginning of Bad”

WEDNESDAY
“The Beginning of Bad”

God of the Bible is described as being infinitely powerful, good, and knowledgeable. However, if God exists, and has the three attributes just mentioned, “He would have both the desire and the power to rid the world of evil.” In addition, He would know how to do so.

In Genesis 6, “the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was on evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). However, how did this happen? All throughout the creation account in the beginning of Genesis, God affirms that His creation is “good.” “Then God saw everything He had made, and indeed it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). What happened between chapter 1 and chapter 6 of Genesis? From where did this evil come?

Darkness is really an absence of light and is therefore not a thing but rather the absence of a thing. This is similar to the relationship between evil and good in that evil relies on good for its very definition. The analogy of light and dark is still in need of clarification because evil is more than just the absence of good; it is the privation of good.

Absence only implies that something is not there. Privation implies that something ought to be present and it is not. An example that would illustrate the difference between an absence and a privation would be a blind man versus a blind rock. In the rock, sight is not expected; therefore, blindness would be an absence of sight. However, for the man, sight is expected; therefore, the blindness is a privation of sight. Evil is a privation of good.

Although God is not the creator of evil, He is the creator of the good creatures that choose to do evil. God created a world in which evil was possible, but it was creatures that made evil actual by choosing things that were not good. “He created the fact of freedom; we perform the acts of freedom. He made evil possible; men made evil actual.”

THOUGHT: Suffering can make us BETTER or BITTER.

CHALLENGE: Fear no evil

TUESDAY

CHALLENGE: Fear no evil…. perfect love casts out all fear.

Psalm 23:4
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

What is Evil? How does one know it when they see it? When does a car or a gun take the step from being a simple mechanical device to something that can be part of a murder? How do we come to understand the devastation and loss of life caused by a hurricane and how is that different from the events that led to the death and destruction the world witnessed on 9-11?

It seems clear that there is a difference between a hurricane and an act of terrorism. Although both are evil, one is moral evil and one is natural evil. “Moral evil is evil brought about by human choices and actions; any other kind of evil is what we call natural evil.”

A murder would be considered a moral evil because one person chose to kill another. However, if a person dies in a hurricane, that would be a natural evil because it did not result from the choice and action of a human. A major difference between these two categories is a matter of intent. If a human chooses to take action that will result in the death of another human, that person has intended to do something that they ought not to do.

John Stuart Mill writes: “In sober truth, nearly all the things men are hanged or imprisoned for doing to one another are nature’s everyday performance. Killing, the most criminal act recognized by human laws, nature does once to every being that lives, and in a large proportion of cases after protracted tortures such as only the greatest monsters whom we read of ever purposely inflicted on their living fellow creatures.”

CHALLENGE: Fear no evil…. perfect love casts out all fear.

TRUTH: God never wastes a hurt.

MONDAY

TRUTH: God never wastes a hurt.

James 1:2-3
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.”

Everyone experiences pain. It is the common ground on which all humanity stands. Every living person is in the process of pain management. This week we will discuss the problems of evil, pain, and suffering. This is a real life issue of the heart for both believers and unbelievers. However, this is a problem that must be resolved with the mind.

In fact, the problem of evil is considered “the most serious intellectual obstacle that stands between many people and religious faith.” From life’s first cry, the human experience is one of pain for both the child and mother. In addition, death involves pain, often for the dying and always for the people who are left behind to grieve the loss of a loved one.

Perhaps more obvious and disturbing is the moment by moment life experience that is plagued with sickness, injury, acts of violence, and other various pains and evils that lead to an unavoidable question. Why?

“If we follow the course on which humanity has been led, and become Christians, we then have the ‘problem’ of pain.” C. S. Lewis, one of the most influential theists on current Christian philosophy, worked out this academic issue with clarity in his book, The Problem of Pain. However, later in his life, the death of his wife moved him to challenge his own philosophical beliefs.

“Don’t come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don’t understand.” Lewis wrote, “I not only live each day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief. Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything. But no, that is not quite accurate. There is one place where her absence comes locally home to me, and it is the place I can’t avoid. I mean my own body.”

TRUTH: God never wastes a hurt.

“Whatever He Rules… He Runs”

FRIDAY
“Whatever He Rules… He Runs”

Matthew 6:33
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

The Kingdom of God (God’s total control in action) is key to our understanding of God and ourselves. The more we learn about God, the better we understand ourselves. Perhaps we do not have a good understanding of the Kingdom of God because we have very little exposure to kingdoms in our culture. Let’s unpack three aspects to any kingdom.

First, all kingdoms have rulers. Built into the idea of a kingdom is the idea of power and authority. So, when we talk about a kingdom, we are talking first about a king. Christ is the King and Christ is God. He alone has authority over all creation. Even when it seems like He is not in control… He is. Even when things are at there worst… He is still in control. Seeking a Kingdom means we are looking to find a King!

Second, kingdoms have a realm. By realm we mean the sphere over which the King rules. This is where the kingdom subjects would be found as well. The Kingdom of God has no boundaries. In fact, the Bible says that one day every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. Our King is Lord over all creation… Heaven and Earth. His Kingdom has no boundaries.

Last, all kingdoms have rules. These rules are guidelines to help us please the King and do His will. Rules are necessary for the people being ruled to know if they are doing what the Ruler wants. Without rules, a Kingdom would be chaos. Many of us have chaotic lives because we are ignoring God’s rules. We are doing things our way instead of His way.

THINK ABOUT IT: How about you? Is there a part of your life that is not following the rules God has established? Why are we always so surprised when our failure to be obedient causes chaos? Whatever God rules He also runs. You can’t have Christ as King without being ruled.

“Stop It”

THURSDAY
“Stop It”

Matthew 6:34
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Seeking first the Kingdom of God is looking for God’s control of your life. Simply put, this passage says: don’t worry… seek first the Kingdom. This means that He decides what the goals are for your life. Let’s talk for a moment about worry before diving further into the “Kingdom of God”.

Have you ever thought about what we worry about? 40% of things that we worry about are future events that never happen. 30% of things we worry about are things from the past that we can’t change. 12% of things we worry about are about our health when there is actually nothing wrong with us. 10% of things we worry about are petty and insignificant (not worth worrying over).

This equals 92%, which means that only 8% of things we worry over deserve our concern! Harper’s Index tells us that the average American is in a bad mood 110 days out of the year. Whether that is part of the day or a whole day, it is a lot of grumpiness! This means that as much as 30% of our time is dominated by worry, stress, or depression.

CHALLENGE: Realize that WORRY is a WASTE of time!

“Is That Your Stuff?”

WEDNESDAY
“Is That Your Stuff?”

Matthew 6:33
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

There are three other things that we should say about the Kingdom of God (God’s total control in action). First is that it is incredibly important to Jesus’ ministry. You don’t have go far to find Jesus preaching and teaching about the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom of God has even been considered the theme of the entire Bible.

Secondly, the Kingdom of God is “already… but not yet”. Fundamentally the Kingdom of God is God’s comprehensive, sovereign reign over all creation. His reign is comprehensive and so is His plan. But God’s plan expresses itself in different stages.

In Galatians 1:4, we learn that Christ “gave Himself for our sins that He might deliver us from this present age”. Christ’s completed work on the cross was only part of the story. Through the cross we are freed from the power of Sin. But a time is coming when we will be freed from the presence of sin. Christ has delivered us from the power of this age but not the presence of this age.
We have something more to look forward to. Jesus Christ is coming back and he is coming back as a lion… not a lamb. We should live our lives acting accordingly.

Third, the Kingdom of God is both material and spiritual. God has control over both the spiritual and material world. He should be King at work and at home as much as He is King at church. Many of us are struggling today because we want God to bless our agenda instead of us fulfilling His agenda in the world. We want God to ok our plans rather than fulfilling his plans. We want God to bring us glory rather than us bringing glory to God.

THINK ABOUT IT: What about you? Does God have control over your stuff? Your computer, bank account, cell phone, money, hands, feet, eyes, mouth, your gifts and your talents. What makes you think it is YOUR stuff anyway?

“You Can’t Serve Two Masters”

TUESDAY
“You Can’t Serve Two Masters”

Matthew 6:31-32
“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.”

In this passage, Jesus is in the middle of the “Sermon on the Mount” which takes up chapters 5-7. Some would say it’s the greatest sermon ever preached. Jesus has a big crowd and His disciples and He begins to teach about the beatitudes and how we are the salt of the Earth and light of world. He also just taught about law, anger, lust, divorce, keeping your word, loving your enemies, giving to the needy, prayer, fasting, money, and criticizing others. He had quite a following and has just mention money.

Jesus’ next topic is worry. Most of us understand worry because we experience it. The word “worry” in the Greek is merimnao, which has two root words – “divided” and “mind”. In the Greek language, worrying means to be divided in your mind or target. In context, Jesus is speaking about God and Money.

“No man can serve two masters”. We know that we are not to worry and that we are to replace our worry (divided thoughts) with a focus on God. Worry is like a rocking chair, it will give you something to do, but it will not get you anywhere. God knows our needs and we can trust Him to provide.

QUESTION: Are you trusting God to meet your needs today?

“The Kingdom Of God… What Is It?”

MONDAY
“The Kingdom Of God… What Is It?”

Luke 10:10-11
“But whatever city you enter, and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, ‘The very dust of your city which clings to us we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near you.’”

This week, our topic is the Kingdom of God. This is a huge topic and we will only be able to scratch the surface as it literally saturates the entire New Testament. So here is our question… THE KINGDOM OF GOD… WHAT IS IT? What do you think the Kingdom of God is? How would you explain it to someone?

There are few themes so prominent in the Bible that have received such radical divergent interpretations as the “Kingdom of God”. The Kingdom of God is GOD IN TOTAL CONTROL. It is His reign and His rule. It is his divine sovereignty in action. This is God in complete, comprehensive control. He is calling the shots. He is setting the course. He is making the decisions.

QUESTION: Is God in total control of all areas of your life or are there still some areas that you are running?