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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Why must God’s children and the innocent suffer?

This is a question that has plagued the human race since its inception. Countless books and commentaries have been written on the subject. In seminary, I wrote a very long paper on this subject. Perhaps what I say in this particular blog, in six paragraphs may help you where you’re at today.

First, I believe it is only through our faith that we can begin to understand the complexities of God’s nature and accept the truth as his Word reveals. The Bible makes it clear that God is good (Nah. 1:7) and is opposed to evil (Jer. 44:4; Zech. 8:17; James 1:13). Scripture says, “The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him” (Ps. 92:15). Murder, pornography, abuse, and addiction exist because people have chosen to turn away from God to pursue self-centered desires instead of blessings offered through faith in Jesus Christ.

Yes, God is sovereign over evil just as he is over good. He could intervene in every human tragedy and trial. Sometimes he does. Sometimes he doesn’t. God should never be credited with evil. Each person is accountable for their own sin despite God’s sovereignty. Timothy said, “This Christian life is a great mystery, far exceeding our understanding, but some things [speaking of the Christ] are clear enough” (1 Tim. 3:16, MSG).

When we talk about suffering someone will always point to Roman 8:28: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). It is reassuring to know that when God does allow suffering he is accomplishing something good out of it: perseverance, maturity, Christlikeness, a godly character; while assuring us that we are his beloved and precious children. I like to hang onto these promises:
Job said, “But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction” (36:15).

“Now, this is what the LORD says: Do not be afraid, because I have reclaimed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through the sea, I am with you. When you go through rivers, they will not sweep you away. When you walk through fire, you will not be burned, and the flames will not harm you” (Isaiah 43:1-2, GW).
Someday when we get to heaven the entire picture will be revealed. It is important to keep an eternal perspective when we go through trials and suffering. Mediate on this verse: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:17-18).

Dr. J. Carl Laney, one of my professors at Western Seminary once said that God recognizes that sometimes greater glory will come to his name by permitting evil rather than disallowing it all together. It is hard to understand from a human perspective why God allows human suffering for the purpose of bringing greater glory to himself. But if the purpose of our lives is to glorify God (1 Cor. 10:31) then we can accept suffering in order to exhibit more adequately the greatness of our God.

“Dear brothers, is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete. If you want to know what God wants you to do, ask him, and he will gladly tell you, for he is always ready to give a bountiful supply of wisdom to all who ask him; he will not resent it. But when you ask him, be sure that you really expect him to tell you, for a doubtful mind will be as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind; and every decision you then make will be uncertain, as you turn first this way and then that. If you don’t ask with faith, don’t expect the Lord to give you any solid answer.”
[James 1:2-7, TLB]

Friday, April 22, 2011

Why "Good" Friday?

Good Friday is the day when many Christians around the world make a special effort to remember the crucifixion of Jesus for our sins. Jesus' death on the cross is the cornerstone of every good work of transformation God has done and is doing in your life and in my life. God forgives our sins--past, present & future because Jesus purchased them by his sacrifice.

I am a living testimony to the work of God in my life in the form of emotional healing from an eating disorder, binge drinking, and many hurts and difficulties of life--as well as the conviction and correction of ongoing sinfulness in my own life.

Our relationship with Jesus does not depend on what we bring to the table but rather what he offers us through the cross. Forgiveness from our sins and eternity in Heaven is ours if we'll just trust in him alone to break down the wall that sin built between us and God.

That's why the day Jesus was crucified can be seen as "good", why this day should receive special observance and why Jesus deserves our devotion all year round.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Perfection and Greatness

What do you think defines an authentic life? What if I said it was to be perfect and be really great. Jesus did say we are to be perfect just as our heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48). Taken out of context, we may have been taught that in order to be like Jesus we must be painstakingly competent and faultless in order to be considered by God, and ourselves, as valuable. This is another one of those deadly lies. No one can be perfect. How then do we interpret Matthew 5:48, “be perfect”?

The word “perfect” is the Greek word teleios, which means “mature, fully developed.” Jesus did not expect his followers to become morally perfect or flawless in this life. He is speaking of the kind of love that is like God’s love—mature, complete, holy, full of blessing. His Word says if I don’t have love, then I am nothing. God spells success L-O-V-E.

We will never feel competent, fulfilled, or completely worthy if we are not in a love relationship with Jesus Christ and other authentic people. To be perfect is to follow in Jesus’s footsteps, and to seek and work to love others as wholeheartedly as God loves us—and show that love to those who don’t return it. If we truly know God as our Father, friend, and Savior, then we love, because he is love.

Mother Teresa said, “Give of your hands to serve and your hearts to love.” Doing so is a process and an instantaneous experience. The gospel of transformation calls us to evolve from obsessing and lusting over celebrities, and seeking what others have, to developing a heart that generates compassion and respect for others. It becomes our purpose for living (see Matthew 22:37-39).

Friday, April 8, 2011

Torn Between Two Masters: The Devastating Effects of Celebrity Obsession

This week I'm plugging my latest book--only because it is a subject that needs to addressed in this culture. Why is it that so many Christians are star-struck by celebrities? Celebrity worship syndrome is very real and it is having devastating effects on our culture--our youth in particular.

Why do so many adolescents want to be sports, music, runway, or Hollywood stars instead of teachers, nurses, pastors, or carpenters? Why is the gospel of celebrity so powerful in our lives and can we reduce its impact or is it too late?

This pop culture, via the media, has made it quite clear: celebrities matter—and we, both Christians and non-Christians are star-struck by them. I look at this phenomenon like an onion—there are different layers of different explanations we need to peel off. Peeling off the first layer reveals some surface reasons. I peel the onion down to the core and expose the real reasons for celebrity fascination and worship, and then lay out a number of things we can do to diminish its negative force.

The underlying issues I address in Torn Between Two Masters is:

1. Why the lure of celebrity is so powerful,
2. How to minimize celebrity obsession by increasing a teen’s self-worth,
3. The best ways to help teens navigate and be critical of the media,
4. How to identify and discourage negative and normalized behaviors such as eating disorders, plastic surgery and “hooking up,”
5. How Jesus Christ can transform a teen’s life into one of purpose, and
6. Many other eye-opening insights.

A fan page has also just been set up to talk about this subject. For more information go to www.olivebranchoutreach.com/TORN

Friday, April 1, 2011

I want a different face!

Many love the comedic comic character Maxine because she’s got a pulse on this culture and tells it like it is: “What’s new with you? Your boobs, your tush or your face?” We laugh yet reports indicate that the widespread availability of plastic surgery and the pervasive influence of reality shows focused on surgical makeovers are having a profound effect on the self-worth of young people, especially girls.

In her quest for a better body image, twenty-three-year-old reality star Heidi Montag unveiled on MTV’s The Hills’ sixth season premiere the effect of plastic surgery addiction. Obsessed with perfect, Heidi had ten procedures done on one day, all in an effort to convert herself into a real, live Barbie doll. This story crowded the Obamas off the cover of People magazine.

No doubt this type of programming encourages young viewers to pursue cosmetic surgery. More young people are considering cosmetic procedures to fulfill their dreams because most media coverage about plastic surgery is very flattering. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the most common procedure performed on people eighteen and younger was rhinoplasty (a nose job), but liposuction procedures and breast augmentations have greatly increased.

Society worships the physical body more than the soul. Scripture says that God has put a sense of eternity in people's minds. “Yet, mortals still can't grasp what God is doing from the beginning to the end of time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11, God’s Word). I believe the amount of emotion and energy poured into desiring plastic surgery is a way that person is tempting to fill that soul-hole which can only be filled by God. [Often counseling, encouragement and some lessons in makeup and beauty is all a person needs.]

The Bible says, “It's your life that must change, not your skin… What counts is your life” (Luke 3:8-9, MSG). Many psychologists say it's a myth that how you feel about yourself is related to how you actually look. Our value does not rest in looking a particular way. Celebrate every scar, every birthmark, and every flaw because each of them tells a piece of the story of who you are.