O God, Why? #3

Image result for suffering reveals God's powerAs we had learned in the last post, the suffering of the follower of Jesus, has more than a few good and godly purposes.  1) Suffering serves as means of God’s loving correction in our lives. 2) Suffering is a means of exposing that which is within our lives, that is still contrary to Christ. 3) Suffering strengthens the authentic faith we have, and purifies our walk of righteousness. It is in this last purpose, we continue today with our last three. (If you have not read the 2nd article in this series, click the link https://4rs4thechurch.com/2017/10/06/o-god-why-2/)

In order to strengthen our faith and purify our walk, while in situations that are painful and difficult, we need something more than a simple “stick-to-it” mind set. We need power, and power is what we get if we have the mind of Christ; that power comes from the Presence of the One who is the Power and the Glory of God.

#4 Suffering Brings God’s Power In Weakness For All To See

When reading II Corinthians 12:1-10, we are taken inside of the suffering of the apostle Paul; to Him this suffering was absolutely humiliating. After pleading with God to take the pain away three times, yet the Lord offered only one answer; “My grace is sufficient to sustain you, for My power is made perfect in your weakness”. Therefore, in humility before God, Paul says He would rather rejoice in his weaknesses and the trouble that brings it on; then the power of God would rest upon him.

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This power of God resting, is similar to the word Jesus used in declaring to the disciples, that upon waiting in Jerusalem for the gift of the Father, they would be “endued with power from on High”. The word “endued” simply means to be enveloped or plunged into the power of God. We understand that this enduement of power was the necessary first step, on the day of Pentecost, for being filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4). Simply put, they were baptized in the Holy Spirit, then filled with the Holy Spirit. This pattern was repeated in Chapter 4 of Acts, after Peter, James and John were persecuted for their faith in Christ, and having returned to the brethren they prayed. Let’s read what happened after they prayed, not to avoid further suffering, but for God to manifest His power; in the midst of more suffering for Christ.

(Acts 4:31) And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.

We see that in the midst of suffering, they were filled with the Holy Spirit again (We are called to continually be being filled” with the Holy Spirit in Ephesians 5:18). Now considering Paul’s predicament, we understand the nature of His testimony of God’s power resting upon him, in a supernatural and known way. Yet to see the complete view we must travel back a few chapters.

(II Corinthians 4:7-11) But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed–always carrying about in our body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus would also  be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

This passage reveals the 4th purpose of our suffering: Jesus’ resurrection life and power on display for the whole world, through our sufferings. With Paul’s “We are hard pressed…” we see the beginning of suffering on Christ’s behalf, which needs the power of God endued from on high. As we submit in faith, not only are we plunged afresh in the power, but then filled with the the Holy Spirit, which is the presence of Our Savior. Henceforth, Jesus’ life is seen in and through us.

Do-Others-See-Jesus-In-You

It is this wonderful and godly purpose in suffering that brings so many to believe on Jesus all around the world. When the world sees the followers of Jesus loving their enemies, blessing those who would curse them, doing good to those who hate them and praying for those who would destroy them; they literally see Jesus. When the world of lost men see Christians who lay hands on the suffering and they recover, or continue to preach Christ crucified when their lives are in danger; they literally see Jesus. When they see followers of Christ meeting in a crawl space to pray, or suffering the deprivations of persecution; they literally see Jesus. The reason they see Jesus is for the special union between He and the sufferer. Here we see the fifth good and godly purpose for our suffering.

#5 Suffering Takes Us Into A More Intimate Knowledge Of Christ

(Philippians 3:10-11) that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

In order to understand this purpose in relation to suffering, we must look into the word “know”. In the Greek language of the New Testament, the word “know” is the same word used in Luke 1:34, where Mary was befuddled at the angel’s revelation she would have a baby, as she said “I do not know a man”. This understanding reveals the depth of Paul’s desire for the Savior. The apostle is praying for a deeper, more inmate connection to Jesus Christ, by the fullness of the Holy Spirit, than the one flesh union between a husband and wife. Make no mistake this is the goal of Paul’s prayer, and it is possible for us only through walking in His sufferings,  as his prayer records.

It is often easy to dismiss the deeper meanings of such passages in times and geographies of relative peace, but among the persecuted, this union is aquestion supernatural reality. This reality sustains, empowers and fills the  saint with love and commitment. Attempting to describing it in words will always fall woefully short, it must be experienced, and only can be by those who live their lives so sold out for Christ that they become an easy target for the enemy to buffet. In those times others then can experience the love, life and power of Christ, through the one He is manifested through.  When this reality is seen, the follower becomes a living example of the life of Jesus.

Consider the young deacon Stephen of Acts of the Apostles 6 and 7. This man was so mighty in Christ, that the religious could not best his proclamation of Jesus and his face was bright like that of an angel (Acts 6:8-15). In Acts 7, as he was literally having his skull crushed, through being stoned to death, his union with Jesus gave him supernatural strength, as well as Jesus’ presence experienced and seen.

(Acts 7:54-60) When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. 55 But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, 56 and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” 57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; 58 and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

I believe, Stephen’s martyrdom, was brought to mind by the Holy Spirit when Paul (who witnessed the young deacons death) wrote in II Corinthians 7:10always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body“. Stephen’s triumphant death on Christ’s behalf reveals the sixth and final good and godly purpose in our suffering: to reveal the love of God for all men, in the Savior suffering on behalf of His enemies.

#6 Suffering Reveals Redemptive Love For Those Who Are His Enemies

In Stephen’s last word’s of forgiveness on his enemy’s behalf, we hear Christ’s own “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”. It is true that our own suffering on His behalf, points to His own for us. Now we turn to the undeserved suffering that opened the kingdom of heaven to all men; that of Jesus. Only Jesus’ suffering answers the question of why God allowed suffering in the first place, when He knew sin would cause it.

Image result for Jesus loved his enemiesSimply put, there is no greater love than to lay down ones life for His friends. Herein is God’s great love: He treats all men as His friends regardless their disposition, while we treat Him as our enemy. God’s love, willing to forgive man’s sin, through Christ’s paying the wages of that sin, can only be seen through the cross of Jesus Christ (Romans 5:8). To be willing to die that another might live, especially when that “another” is born an enemy, is the Love of God. This, in my opinion, is the only plausible explanation for  God giving man free will, when He knew we would eventually sin, causing separation from Him and the suffering we experience in the world.

To make us serve Him by program, is not love, but controlled response. We had to freely choose His grace, benevolence, kindness and mercy. We cannot by natural birth. He on the other hand had to express His love for us, regardless of whether we responded in kind. Was it not Jesus who told us “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?” How could He say that of us, when He, as God in the flesh, would not embody the truth?

He of course did embody this truth, as the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form. God’s love was first revealed in His discipline of the first parents, and subsequently in the slaying of an animal to cover their shame with coats of skin. In this death they received a pattern, by which they could still stay in some connection with Him. This also pointed to the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world.

In His love, He gives all men the opportunity to receive His grace, by faith, in a supernatural birth by the Holy Spirit. It is true there is an eternal penalty for those who reject Jesus, yet this is for the sake of love was well; yet that is a discussion for another time.

For now it is enough to remember that God has a purpose for everything He allows or ordains under the sun. Our suffering is included in that and remember…  In the midst of the valley of the shadow of death, He is with you, you need not fear, No matter the outcome, your hope is sure, you will see Jesus face to face. God never forsakes a promise. He is Love.

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Posted in "be being filled with the Spirit", Baptism in the Holy Spirit, Christian suffering, filled with the Spirit, God's love, Jesus Christ, Matthew 5:44-48, persecution, theology of suffering, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

O God, Why? (#2)

Related imageWhen considering why God allows suffering, it is essential we remember that man was created good, very good indeed. God was pleased with what He had made and Genesis records that God had fellowship with Adam and Eve, in the Garden. Everything was great, until Adam chose to disobey God’s command, eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That choice introduced sin into the human race, with a multiplicity of terrible compounding consequences for every human ever since. (If you have not read part 1 of this article, please click this link).

Although humanity’s choice to sin led to suffering in the human race, we can ultimately see, even this happens under the oversight of God’s sovereignty. This can be seen as God declared Jesus Christ to be the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world, in order to deal with man’s sin can the suffering it led too (I Peter 1:19-21; Revelation 13:8). Before God created the world, He foresaw man’s abuse of free-will and consequences. For this He chose the word of God within the Godhead (John 1:1-5, 14), to be the Son of God sent to atone for man’s sin by His own precious blood.

For many this raises the question, “If God knew what would happen, why did He let it happen?” In my opinion, one that I believe is biblically informed, there is a solid reason for His allowing it to happen. We will look at that reason later, but for now it is enough to declare that God does allow suffering; and sometimes He orders it.

To examine this truth we can look at Egypt around the time of Moses. Most do not have a problem understanding why God brought the plagues on Egypt, when considering their mass murder of Israelite boy babies and the bitter slavery they inflicted on millions. It is true that God ordered their suffering, as judgment for their wickedness toward non-Egyptians. Yet scripture declares other reason(s) for their God-ordered suffering.

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In the first place, we must understand Egypt’s poor view of the Jewish people (antisemitism), did not merely rise from a racist heart, but was fostered by the false god’s of Egypt; those fallen angels that were at war (on Satan’s behalf) against the seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15). The seed of the woman is the promise of Messiah, the Lamb of God, the only One who can defeat the enemy’s kingdom for good. In light of this information, we find in Exodus 12:12 that YAHWEH brought the plagues, specifically the death of the first born, to strike a blow of judgment upon those false god’s. Secondly we understand God chose Pharaoh, knowing the hardened disposition of his heart, to show His own power and glory to the entire world (Exodus 33:19; Romans 9:17).

Some choose to take this truth and twist it into defining God as malicious and awful. These God-haters choose to forget, God gave Pharaoh the choice of letting Israel go free and yet Egyptian king, at times, hardened his own heart. Of course this multiplied the suffering of the entire nation.

So we see God does at times order suffering for the judgment of nations. In fact we see this throughout Revelation, where the goal is not annihilation, but bringing repentance and redemption (II Corinthians 7:10; Revelation 9:20-21; 16:9, 10). We need to always remember God is not willing that any would perish, but all would come to repentance. Even in the sufferings of Egypt we see repentance in gentiles, for as Israel left, so did a mixed multitude (Exodus 12:38). Although God at times does ordain suffering, even in those He loves (Consider Jesus who was ordained to suffer before time began), all suffering is not ordered by God. Often times it is allowed, in the life of the faithful, for the good of His kingdom and the person who is suffering.

(Romans 8:28) 28And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

Whether ordained or allowed, suffering in those who follow Christ has good and godly purpose. As we consider this truth, we arrive at six purposes in our suffering as followers of Christ. This list I am sure is not exhaustive, but sufficient to cover most of the hardships and trials we face.

#1 Suffering serves as a means of God’s discipline in our life

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One of the least liked and understood passages of the O.T. is Proverbs 3:12, where we read “My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor detest His correction; for whom the LORD loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights”. Modern translation: if you are loved by God as a child, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, you will suffer difficulties and painful trials, which teach us about ourselves, ourselves and our God. These sufferings also prove we are legitimate children of God (Hebrews 12:4-13).

We must be careful not to believe that we are disciplined by Abba only when we are sinning. That point of view is a wrong conclusion. Often we suffer chastisement, when not sinning in any particular way, but as a means of teaching us a lesson. Remember, scripture records Jesus, “though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered“(Hebrews 5:8). What does that mean? Why does God need to learn anything?

It is quite simple when we remember that Jesus emptied Himself in His incarnation as the Son of God (Philippians 2:5-8). This means He laid aside His prerogative to exercise His Glory and Divine attributes, unless led to use them by the command of the Holy Spirit. This is why there were certain things He did not know, times where He was utterly weak, and able to feel the suffering of temptation. He learned what is necessary to be obedient to God, as a human being. This was chastisement as a Son and aren’t we glad, for when we are tempted, He is able to aid us having suffered being tempted in all ways like us, yet with out sin.

Therefore even though suffering though chastisement is painful, it does produce wonderful fruit (Hebrews 12:11). It is this truth that leads to our next two purposes in suffering for those who follow Christ.

#2 Suffering Exposes Our Sinful Tendencies

In I Peter 1:6-7 the word of God gives us a picture of what trials will do in our life, in the way of bringing the peaceable fruit of righteousness… “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested with fire, may be found to praise, honor and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ”.

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The picture we receive is that of gold being super-heated in order that the impurities, which are of lesser weight and substance than the gold, would rise to the top; at which time they can be skimmed out for the purpose of purifying the gold. The suffering of trials super-heats our life, which exposes the sinful attitudes and sinful patterns we lean on during times of trouble. If we follow God’s pattern of removal given to us in I John 1:9, we will find that suffering not only exposes that which is contrary to the fruit of righteousness in our life, but also strengthens the authentic faith we are walking in. As with any gold that is purified, the removal of impurities makes the gold more dense, strong, and luminous in its shine. In relation to our faith and our practical life of righteousness, Peter’s first letter again gives us a solid purpose in suffering.

#3 Suffering Strengthens Our Authentic Faith and Purifies Our Life

(I Peter 4:1-2) Therefore, since Christ has suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he should no longer live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.

We understand suffering described above is not arbitrary, but specifically because we follow Christ in pursuing His will. Let’s be honest, many Christians suffer in America, not because they are walking talking Jesus machines, but because their carnal lives lead to the same troubles and struggles of the perishing around us. The relative peace of American life has bred a Christianity that is profession based and prosperity focused. In this environment we are more apt to think we are suffering because of the potty mouth individual we work with, or the fact that T.V. programming does not care for our moral views of language or morality. Many believers in this nation have little or no concept of the our calling to make disciples, through sharing the faith once delivered to the saints. Therefore this truth is often difficult to grasp.

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Jesus suffered because He was solely focused on the will of the Kingdom of God. We are to have the same mind that He had; the mind that led Him into suffering. For us, that environment provides a process of purifying that works out the sin till its gone. How does this happen?

As we walk in the will of God, we will face situations with people who will oppose us strongly for our faith in Jesus Christ. We may respond in faith or run. We may respond with loving our enemies or lashing back. We may respond with further testimony of Jesus regardless of consequence or remain silent.

In Abba’s merciful plan, when we choose behavior not reflective of our faith, we can be assured we will suffer the same situation again, until we choose faith over fear. In the choosing of faith, or the mind of Christ, that is when we cease from sin (for all unrighteousness is sin), and show forth our next godly purpose in suffering, which we will examine in the next blog.

Until next time, may our God and Father bless you with all spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus–Brother Michael

Posted in Christian suffering, dark night of the soul, enduring faith, Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, persecution, power of God, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Needed Voice from the Past

2735Lately, I have been reading a book entitled “The Ministry of Healing” by A.J. Gordon (1836-1895). Written in the middle to last quarter of the 1800’s, the Baptist preach’s work stand along side that of A.B. Simpson and Andrew Murray, in revealing the ongoing ministry of Christ our Healer.  In a chapter entitled “The Testimony of the Church” Gordon proves that the ministry of miracles did not die out at the death of the original apostles, nor did it end at the completion of the cannon of scripture. Although at times, forgotten or neglected, church history is filled with God’s miraculous power, up unto our present age. Commenting on the fundamental need for the power of God to be on display in the church, Gordon reveals it takes men of faith. Below is an excerpt of his conclusion.

“It is not geography or chronology that determines the boundary lines of the supernatural. It is apostolic men that make and apostolic age, not a certain date of Anno Domini. We are forever thinking to turn back the shadow certain degrees upon the dial, to bring again the age of miracles, forgetting that He who is “without variableness or the shadow of turning” has said, “if thou canst believe”–not if thou wast born in Palestine and within the early limits of the first Christian century–“all things are possible to him that believeth”(Mark 9:23). When by the stress of violent persecution or by the sore discipline of reproach and rejection by the world the old faith is revived, then we catch a glimpse once more of the apostolic age.”

It would appear we are on the verse of walking again in Christ’s apostolic power. Around the world, where persecution is seeking to extinguish the lives of the saints, God’s power is seen in and through the infirmities and weakness of our brethren. In America the tide of favor the church has enjoyed, to our own detriment, is ending. Perhaps for the first time followers of Christ, in these United States, will have to choose faith in Christ for all things needed and nothing else.

Related imageRemember He will never leave us or forsake us. He always provides what is needed through the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus. He will do the providing exceedingly and abundantly, beyond what we can ask or think, through His power in and through us. Remember this is His power (dunamis in the Greek), which means not of this world. Let me know what you think, leave a comment, let’s reason together–Mike

Posted in A.J. Gordon, apostolic power, Christ our Healer, Divine Healing, The Ministry of Healing, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

TRUTH Telling Shepherd or Spiritual Politician (Dr. Michael Brown)

Image result for preaching the truth“Brethren, our preaching will bear its legitimate fruits. If immorality prevails in the land, the fault is ours in a great degree. If there is a decay of conscience, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the public press lacks moral discrimination, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the church is degenerate and worldly, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the world loses its interest in religion, the pulpit is responsible for it. If Satan rules in our halls of legislation, the pulpit is responsible for it. If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall away, the pulpit is responsible for it. Let us not ignore this fact, my dear brethren; but let us lay it to heart, and be thoroughly awake to our responsibility in respect to the morals of this nation.”  (Charles Finney)

This quote is cited in the the article entitled “Dear Pastor  are You a Truth-Telling Shepherd or a Spiritual Politician?”, by brother Michael Brown. Published in the Christian Post, I found the article thought provoking. I have included a link to the full article. Please read it prayerfully, and comment. Below is the link…

https://www.christianpost.com/news/dear-pastor-are-you-truth-telling-shepherd-or-spiritual-politician-200907/

Posted in Dr. Michael Brown, The Christian Post, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

O God, Why?

In view of the apocalyptic like destruction over the last month, from hurricanes, earthquakes, and wildfires, many people are voicing their inner frustrations and fears with the questions like “Why God, are you allowing this to happen?” This age old question concerning why God allows suffering, has even eked out of some very prominent and godly Christians leaders in America, like Anne Graham Lotz.

Related image“As I watch and read the news coverage coming out of the Gulf Coast, my anguish is deeper than words. My tears seem to flow in a torrent that matches the record rainfall,”

“My spirit is crying out, ‘No. No! No!’ How can this be? How can You allow Hurricane Harvey to sit over Texas? To slam into Louisiana? To ruin property and destroy lives? Why?”

In spite of my love and respect for Lotz, her questions really irritate me.  They irritate me because of the futility of even asking them at all, because these types of questions are not unanswerable; in fact they are quite simple to answer. That being the case, so few Christian leaders simply answer the question(s) from a biblical perspective, as if we are afraid or unable to speak the truth.

My second frustration is more personal. These questions irritate me because similar questions rise in my mind when I am overwhelmed, fearful, or struggling with doubt and unbelief. In spite of knowing the truth, my flesh almost automatically responds with ignorance. If we are not careful when shaken by immense personal suffering or that brought on by catastrophic events, our minds will doubt God’s goodness and love, if allowed to wallow in carnality instead of walking in faith.

Lets face the fact: few people (even Christians) question God’s love or the “Why” of suffering, when things are relativity good. Nor is thankfulness to God a consistent practice in those relatively good times. But let the bad times roll over the good times, and even the most devout followers of Christ are tempted to ask God the maddening “Why God” questions.

Consider three men from the “Right WAY Roofing Company”…

“Right WAY Roofing CImage result for roofing crewsompany” repaired and replaced roofs. With only a crew of 8 men, they could completely replace any residential roof in three days or less, no matter the size, or they would pay for the job themselves. In 6 years they had a 100% success rate, and Tony, who owned the company was making tons of cash.

That all changed one day when Harry, one of Tony’s crew came to work with a killer hang over. Tony knew Harry was off the moment he stepped out of his canail in footr. Although told he could take a personal day, Harry convinced Tony he was OK and began work. All was well for the first three hours, except for a splitting head ache. In the heat of the early afternoon, his headache intensified significantly. As he moved to rub his right temple, he knocked his hammer out of its holster onto the roof. Upon grasping his fallen hammer, he wobbled slightly, which caused his finger to hit the fire button; the result was a roofing nail fired into Derrick’s (a co-worker) foot.

The fallout of this accident had many negative effects. Derrick was out of work for two years. The entry of the nail led to a severed toe. Due to an associated infection he lost another toe and subsequently became addicted to pain medication. All of this misfortune put a strain on his families financial and spiritual life. He and his wife often would ask in anger “Why did God allow this to happen to me (us), I (we) never did anything wrong to deserve this?”.

Tony, the owner of the company, lost hundreds of thousands of dollars. The roof of the home where the injury occurred was not finished on time, therefore, he had to pay the total cost when it was complete. Three other homes were not completed on time, and Tony was fined for not having appropriate workers comp insurance. He lost further monies when he sued Harry for Derrick’s injury and lost, because the judge declared, he should never have chosen to allow him to work; being that the man was hung over and Tony knew it. He also had to pay thousands of dollars in medical bills for Derrick’s injuries not covered by workers compensation, as well as Derrick’s court costs. Tony eventually had to declare bankruptcy and close his business. He would questioningly accuse God “What did I ever do to you?” and  “Why are you doing this to me?”.

Harry was the only one who actually got it. He lost perhaps more than anyone. His job was gone. His wife left him because of his inability to get another job, and being sick of the consequences of his alcoholism. He was hated by at least Tony and Derrick and had to bear the weight of making choices that led to the suffering of others. The difference between Harry and the other two men is that he never indicted God with questions as to why his suffering was allowed. He knew it arose from the choices that he made.

Common sense tells us that the suffering of the other men arose from their choices as well. Tony should never have allowed Harry to work and Derrick could have protested working with Harry. Their choices had consequences as well.

bs-warning-do-not-enterAlthough, this may not answer fully “Why God allows suffering?”, it does give us a start. Suffering is in the world today because God gave man faculty to choose, which we call free will. This gift has great potential for good, but when making bad choices the potential exists for suffering for ourselves or others. Every choice has consequences,  sometimes for good, sometimes with little impact and sometimes for potential for suffering. With those consequences, their ripples are often with us longer than those who made the choice are alive. Lets begin with first choice.

BEGINNING AT THE BEGINNING

When God made man, He endowed him with intellect, emotion, physicality and the ability to choose. Remember God did not stay with Adam and Eve all the time, but allowed them to function, exercising that free will without Him manifestly present. In this God would give them commands that were for their good. Of those commands God gave them a strict prohibition to not eat of one tree. This is where their freewill was expressly tested. Without going into the why of the account, Adam freely chose to not obey (I Timothy 2:14). His choice had immediate consequences; very bad consequences. We In hind sight we must remember, God told Adam and Eve what would happen if the chose poorly; They would suffer…

Reading in Genesis 3 we will find the extent of that suffering for them.

  • Pain for the woman in child birth.
  • Her role in the marriage would be the weaker vessel in submission.
  • The man would work his entire life bringing forth a fraction of produce for the effort put forth.
  • The ground would be cursed.
  • They died spiritually the instant they chose sin, being cut off from the life of God.
  • They would eventually die physically and have to wait for their redemption, should they walk in faith in animal sacrifices.

We also consider that their choice like a rock thrown in the middle of a pond, had far reaching consequences, where the ripples would effect others long past the splash of the initial impact.

(Romans 5:12) Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all have sinned.

(Romans 5:19) For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.

These two passage reveal two more consequences of Adam’s sin…

  • All men are born with a heart bent toward sin.
  • Death and sickness (the break down of health toward death) entered the human race.

There is one more passage to consider when dealing with Adam’s sin and its consequence even as far as our time today.

(Romans 8:20-22) for creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because creation itself will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.

How did that corruption come upon the creation? Through the choice of Adam (Genesis 3:17). This applies to all creation. Therefore as we get closer to the return of Jesus’ creation will groan and labor more and more (Matthew 24:7-8).

Just through Adam’s one sin nine consequences have arisen, which impact our world today, with suffering every way, shape, and form.  This answer may not be what people want to hear, but it is true. In America we love the word freedom. We have found that the gift of democratic freedom, in others who don’t live by biblical principals, often pinches our way of life grievously. This is especially true in the way of sexual morality and life itself, but we understand this is what freedom allows. Freedom allows others to choose, and we live in the ripples of those consequences.

Therefore we can understand why God allows consequences to have ripples of effect within His own Almighty sovereignty. This is not to blame all suffering on humanity, for we understand without fallen supernatural creature, there would have been no Garden temptation. Remember, fallen angels and demonic spirits rebelling against God, exacerbate and cause much natural suffering. It would appear that God endowed His supernatural creatures with free will as well.  Their activities, as well as humanities, are allowed by God under the blanket of His sovereignty. The Bible displays how those choices together brought near and far off consequences.

Related imageRecall with me that before the Genesis flood, that the earths ecology was very different. Science concurs that before the flood, as recorded in the bible, little if any rain was likely to have fallen (Genesis 2:6). We understand that man chose to be extremely wicked, so wicked in fact that every inner thought was only continually evil; save for Noah and his family. How did that take place? Well men had problems with God from the Eden; but inject into those problems the fallen angels (sons of God), and their wicked offspring with human woman (Nephilim) and you have a rebellion cocktail of wicked choice (Genesis 6:5).

When the flood came to kill them all, the water left behind in the oceans and atmosphere increased temperatures and brought about severe whether. Again, suffering from killer weather today, is a result of angelic and human evil choice and God’s response in judgment. As not to be too simplistic lets understand how our choices may be making weather and natural disasters more severe.

Related image

Although I am not a global warming alarmist, I am a realist when it comes to the world in which we live. Global warming crazies are generally either ill informed parrots (Leonardo DiCaprio comes to mind), or political hacks looking to use the science to their advantage. I believe that history shows the world warms up and cools down naturally, over decades and centuries, as it needs to. I also believe our choice of consumption can impact the warming up and cooling down of the earth. That being said, we had been in a period of warming over the last century or so. Is it possible that our choice of fossil fuels and the like have exacerbated the process, fueling more powerful storms with greater damage? Its possible.

Shifting gears, what of the choice of North Korea to detonate a Hydrogen bomb 40 times more powerful than that of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan? This monstrosity was detonated hundreds if not thousands of feet below the earth’s surface. When detonated it cause a magnitude 3.4 earth quake in North Korea. Since that time there have been two 8.0 scale quakes in Mexico, a swarm of quakes in Idaho (141) with the strongest a magnitude 5.3, and several more hitting Japan, with the strongest 6.0 yesterday. Is it possible this swarm of quakes world wide has something to do with the hydrogen bomb test by North Korea? Yes, it is more than possible.

Should we condemn North Korean leadership for this possibility? Yes we can. But let us remember, despotic leaders choices leading to the suffering of others, usually do not arise in a vacuum. Over time, other world leaders choosing to do little or nothing to curb this aggression, led to the proactive detonation. Russia, China and the U.S. had ample opportunity to make sure one of the poorest nations in the world never nuclearized their military or starved 10 million of its own citizens, for that matter. The choice to do nothing or the wrong thing has escalated the potential for human suffering astronomically.

Why does suffering exist in the world? Because men are wicked and choose to use their gift of free will, given by God, to serve their own selfish purposes. God allows suffering because to allow only good outcomes, would not be free will.

Yet if God knows there will be bad outcomes, for He is omniscient (all-knowing), why would He not stop the whole thing before it got as far as it did? Why not block other peoples bad consequences from hurting others?

We will look into this in our next blog, especially how our response to suffering (even caused by other’s poor choices), has great potential for our being blessed, as well as revealing His great love.

Posted in Anne Graham Lotz, Christian suffering, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Say It Ain’t So Joe!

Image result for greg LaurieSorry to to draw you in with a catchy title, but this post should be entitled “Say It Ain’t So Greg”. I think you’ll agree, “Say It Ain’t So Joe” has a better ring to it than “Say IT Ain’t So Greg”, but alas I am not writing about any ordinary “Joe”, but Greg Laurie. More specifically I am writing concerning a prayer he posted on Facebook  less than three weeks ago. Let me preface my remarks by saying, I love Greg Laurie, believe him to be a godly man and minister of the gospel, and have no gripe with what he preaches. In fact, I pray God will continue to bless Greg’s efforts to win the lost and disciple Christ’s church.

That being said, he needs to be careful, in what he communicates, same as any leader in Christ’s church; because our words (even if only slightly off), can have a huge and negative influence.

In a Facebook post written around September 5th, Greg Laurie asked for prayer for victims of hurricane Harvey, yet stressed there is “another threat” greater than the hurricane. He continued…

“You may have heard on the news that North Korea has now developed what they are calling a hydrogen bomb, that has the capacity to cause far more destruction”

“In fact, they’re saying it could be three to four times more potent than the bomb we dropped in World War II on Nagasaki. Plus, they have intercontinental missiles, effectively a delivery system to get it to America”

We need to pray that God would put a shield over our country. That God would protect America, and that God would wake up America,”

“That we would wake up to our spiritual need and our need for God. I pray that He wakes up the Church, I pray He wakes you and I up as well.”

Amen, I agree with the need for God to awaken America. This nation as a whole needs to see itself in light of the holiness of God; being awakened to its sin. The church also needs to be awakened to its apathy and spiritual negligence concerning the Great Commission and our call to be holy. The church needs to be awakened like the Church in Ephesus who left its first love (Jesus) (Ephesians 5:13-17; Revelation 2:1-7).

1032538965In spite of my agreement on this point, Laurie’s prayer for protection, often works counter to the request for awakening. Consider the report of Syrian Christians, whom began praying for revival over ten years ago. Back at that time, Syria, although a Muslim majority country, was perhaps the safest middle eastern nation, in which Christians could live. In fact the Assad government, went out of their way to protect Christians. In that environment, Syrian Church leaders realized the body of Christ was becoming apathetic and nominal. They began to pray for revival, and God answered their prayer.

Yet this revival did not come through protection or a mass evangelistic movement; but a bloody civil war, that left the country open to the ISIS invasion, with all its brutality. Not only did the church have to deal with deprivation they had seldom even considered, they now had to live their faith, with the risk of literally dying for Jesus daily.

It is for this reason we examine our brother’s words. Does he realize that the awakening of a nation to God, often means suffering for the Christian in it? Probably not! That is why his words don’t arise from a desire for awakening, at least in the first place. They rise from a fear of losing our way of life, of potential pain and suffering. This fear has grown in the relative prosperity of  America, where the church is often spiritually flabby and avoids suffering at all costs. It is as if we believe God should never allow the terrible stuff happening around the world to happen in America. This may be arising from the error prone view of the U.S. being a “Christian” nation.

Even before Greg Laurie’s Facebook prayer, another godly church leader, whom I respect, wrote of their frustration at why God would allow Texans to suffer from hurricane Harvey. Below is the quote from Anne Graham Lotz.

“As I watch and read the news coverage coming out of the Gulf Coast, my anguish is deeper than words. My tears seem to flow in a torrent that matches the record rainfall,”

“My spirit is crying out, ‘No. No! No!’ How can this be? How can You allow Hurricane Harvey to sit over Texas? To slam into Louisiana? To ruin property and destroy lives? Why?”

Her questions have answers to them, but how they are asked appears to be an indictment against God, as if He ought to stop Harvey because the storm is destroying American lives and property. The better question for our sister, is where was her outcry to God on Facebook the week before the storm hit Texas, where it was killing hundreds in the Caribbean, and Cuba?  Here silence concerning those lives is also ringing through the prayer for the protection of America from Greg Laurie.

North Korea test-fires missiles - South Korean Defense Ministry

Lets face reality, North Korean nukes are a clear and present danger to some of the U.S. Pacific territories, Hawaii, Alaska, and possibly the west coast of the United States. Statistically speaking, the possibility of a nuclear strike, from North Korea, hitting the Continental U.S. is not negligible. Yet that scenario pales in comparison to the statistical probability of the certain destruction and loss of life (in the 10’s of millions) in South Korea and Japan, should North Korea take a pot shot at those U.S. allies. As much as I love Greg Laurie, I have to ask “Why did he not pray for a shield of protection over those who are most certainly in greater danger?”

The simple answer is that their potential pain and suffering,  does not directly affect our way of life and livelihood. Therefore their pain is simply not important. It is possible you may think this is too harsh a judgment on both Lotz and Laurie, but is it? While looking at their Facebook pages the two previous days (Sept 20 and 21), there have been no anguished prayers to God for the suffering of the people of Mexico City, where school children are still trapped in crumbling buildings. There have been no pleas for assistance (or prayer for protection) for the citizens of Puerto Rico, where in one day a hurricane killed 15 people, cut off all electricity and the island off from most forms of aide. Sadly on Greg Laurie’s page, you’ll find a steady stream of selfie like photos and promos, as he promotes his new book on the conversion of Steve McQueen.

We see this trend to ignore or even neglect the suffering of others, when in fear or focused on our own agenda’s, in a group of “spiritual advisers” to the president. This group of evangelical leaders with “Oval Office” access, laud the president’s agenda and defend him at times of media “attack”, yet say nothing of his duplicity.

Image: Donald Trump signs an executive order

Consider the presidents executive order, signed on May 4th 2017, to allow religious organizations greater freedom in political speech. Evangelical leaders praised him for this action. This executive order was a nice photo opportunity, but rings hollow considering the president’s deepening partnership with India.

The president has praised India’s prime minister Modi, for buying American weaponry, and declared the U.S. Indian partnership has “never been stronger”. Yet India, as a nation (and especially their prime minister), is not only intolerant of anything not Hindu, but allows, foments and encourages terrible persecution of our Christian brother’s and sisters. Read any periodical concerning the persecuted church and find Christians in India facing horrific persecution.

Make no mistake, the presidents actions are duplicitous. Its possible we have grown to accept this character flaw in politicians. Should we also except it in lives of Christian leaders?

Why aren’t Christians leaders with “Oval Office” access, using their platform to advocate on behalf of our brothers and sisters in Christ in India; encouraging the president to avoid getting into bed with vile men and governments, who seek to destroy our brethren?

Once more, the simple answer is pain and suffering of Christians in the nation of India does not directly affect our way of life and livelihood. Speaking up may also limit their access to the president. Therefore persecuted Christian’s pain is simply not as important as our need to stay close to political leaders. Friends this ought not be the our way, for it is the respecting of persons.

It seems to me that a “Christian Nation” and godly leaders would not fall into such duplicity, error, or callousness. Once again this is an example of those called to be prophetic, becoming pathetic. We ought to demand more of those who would purport to be “spiritual advisers” to the president. We ought to demand more of ourselves, than prayer and actions that are narrowly focused around what is best for us. We need to remember that the kingdom of God is not Americans first, but the blessing of every nation, tribe and tongue before the Lamb of God (Revelation 7:9). To be oriented any other way is to be respecters of persons, which is a great sin in the sight of God, for any Christian (Romans 2:11; James 2).

Image result for will God protect AmericaIn my opinion, it is not likely God will continue to protect America indefinitely. This nation will have to answer at some point for the 60 million children savagely murdered in the womb. The blood of those precious babies will never be forgotten by their Maker, and will not go unpunished. Nor will the perversity that has poured forth from the American entertainment culture. Nor will the lives destroyed from illicit and pharmaceutical drugs, which dope the entire planet with addiction. Nor will the pollution of the souls of men, from every form of state sanctioned sexual immorality.

God will not allow the rejection of the cross of Christ, from hundreds of millions of lost Americans to continue with no sanction. He will not ignore the denial of religious “Christian” Americans, who reject Jesus call to follow Him in righteous paths and walk with Him through the valley of the shadow of death. Our Father will not allow us to continue to think that being godly brings material gain and prosperity (I Timothy 6:5).

O but God is merciful and has been giving us warnings, many warnings; not merely to awaken the lost of this nation, but call His church back to Himself. Since the total solar eclipse of August 23, 2017…

  • Four super devastating and historic hurricanes made landfall; one on the western coast of Mexico.
  • Two major earthquakes shook Mexico with loss of life; since late June has encountered an enormous quake storm; Japan shook just the other day .
  • North Korean nuclear terror threats have increased, with catastrophic earth impacts.
  • Coast to coast politically charged demonstration, with violence, fomenting more unrest; including Charlottesville Va. before the eclipse.
  • Wild fires have torched the western states to the tune of millions of charred acres and loss of property and lives.

My friends, God is not judging America yet. He is warning this nation’s people and people of other nations, to repent for the hour of Christ’s return draws near. It is time for000 the church to awaken and return to our first Love. It is time we refuse to put any confidence in the flesh, even if that flesh appeals to our preferences. It is time we prepare for the environment, in which revival will take place.

Leaders must break from a narrow America first idea of life and ministry. We are children of God and ought to behave so. Lets begin today, living for Christ, like today is our last day on earth. Let us speak to the lost as if we will never get another opportunity. Let us love one another, as followers of Christ, as if we may not see each other again; this side of eternity with Jesus. Let us look to the example of Jesus, who in the suffering of His cross, still looked to serve others and praying… “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”.

Posted in Anne Graham Lotz, Greg Laurie, Myth of a Christian Nation, politics, Say it ain't so Joe, Uncategorized, Why does God allow suffering | 1 Comment

My Heart, In His Hands

Related image(Psalm 86:11) Teach me Your ways, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name.

Below is a puritan prayer, from the devotional Book “The Valley of Vision”. As you read, let it be your prayer, your heart’s desire and proclamation–Mike

I am a stranger, with a stranger’s indifference; my hands hold a pilgrim’s staff, my march is Zionward, my eyes are toward the coming of the Lord, my heart is in Thy hands without reserve.

Thou hast created it, redeemed it, renewed it, captured it, conquered it.

Keep from it every opposing foe, crush in it every rebel lust, mortify every treacherous passion, annihilate every earth born desire.

All faculties of my being vibrate to Thy touch; I love Thee with soul, mind, body, strength, might, spirit, affection, will, desire, intellect, understanding.

Thou art the very perfection of all perfections; all intellect is derived from Thee; my scanty rivulets flow from unfathomable fountain.

Compared with thee the sun is darkness, all beauty deformity, all wisdom folly, the best goodness faulty.

Thou art worthy of an adoration greater than my dull heart can yield. Invigorate my love that it may rise worthily to Thee, tightly entwine itself around Thee, be allured by Thee.

Then shall my walk be endless praise.

 

 

Posted in prayer, praying in faith, Psalm 86:11, The Valley of Vision, Uncategorized | Leave a comment