Category Archives: Faith

Don’t Ask for a Sign

Just a little while ago, feeling a little down and discouraged – it’s been a rough few days, spiritually speaking – I thought out loud to God, saying:

“Lord, is there anything I wouldn’t give to see something tangible with my own eyes? Something to encourage me. Something to increase my faith.”

Almost immediately I heard a still, small Voice speak to my conscience, “Then it wouldn’t be faith, would it?”

Yeah, it was convicting. Are His promises not enough? Should I be any less obedient to His revealed Word if I never have an epiphany? Is the illumination of the Spirit of any less value than a beam of light?

We walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7).

Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6).

What I should be praying is, “Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!” Then, following faith, God can use a “sign” as confirmation.

If the sign comes before the faith, then the product will not be true faith, for “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Faith, Depression

It Will Be OK

I was lying in bed last night, setting the alarm on my iPhone, when it occurred to me that I have not been writing on my blogs very much lately.

Just a few minutes ago I thought it would be a good idea to at least go back to the archives and find something interesting or entertaining to repost, you know, just to keep the activity going.

But then I read a post from Wally Fry. He’s going through some tough stuff right now with a job loss and the impending death of this beloved father-in-law due to brain cancer.

Life can be hard. Devastating, to be honest.

But, even though what I’m about to say may not sound comforting on the surface, it’s a foundational truth that can help through times like this – times like a lot of us are going through right now: Others have been down this road before us, and they say, “It will be OK.”

What I know is that we live in a world that is broken by sin. One day it will be made new. One day all the answers we are looking for will finally be answered. On that day we will finally be able to understand what our finite brains are incapable of understanding, now.

One day the redeemed in Christ will stand in the presence of Holiness and look back on what God was doing through all these trials and say with utter amazement, “WOW!”

Until then, this is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it. It’s a choice I will make – by faith – that the One who created the day is with me in the day and will never leave me nor forsake me to its uncertainties and fears. I am not alone in the furnace. I’m not alone in the boat that seems to be sinking. I’m not alone in the field with not enough provision to feed the thousands.

And if you know Christ, neither are you.

It will be OK.

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Filed under Faith, Family, Life Lessons, Life/Death, Struggles and Trials

The Real Problem with the Problem of Evil

An Old Debate

One of the most common reasons for denying the existence of God is the problem of evil in the world. Just ask any group of atheists to give their top ten reasons for unbelief and surely one will claim as number one, “If there is a God, then why is there so much evil in the world?” For many, this is the pièce de résistance of rebuttals. How could a good God be real and allow all the suffering in the world to continue unabated – assuming He is even good? The eighteenth century philosopher, David Hume described the problem this way in Dialogues concerning Natural Religion, 1779:

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? whence then is evil?” (Stackhouse 1998, 11)

So, the “problem of evil,” and its source, has been an issue of philosophical debate for centuries.  The existence of evil in the world, along with unanswered questions, has even become evidence enough for some to embrace atheism.  Therefore, because so many philosophers and theologians have tried for ages to reconcile the existence of God with the existence of evil, I dare say that nothing I write will be new.  But, if anyone were to challenge my belief in God, along with my faith in Jesus Christ, with the argument that the problem of evil constitutes proof God does not exist, then I would possibly respond with arguments based on the following thought:

Without the existence of God, there should be no evil to be a problem, and that’s the real problem with “the Problem of Evil.”

Evil? What Is It?

What exactly is “evil?” Now, that may sound like an absurd kind of question to ask, but if the existence of evil is the evidence that is supposed to expose my faith as a fraud, at best, or even a lie, then what is it?  Is it something tangible? Is it metaphysical? Is it theoretical? What is it, exactly? Does it have any particular form? How can it be distinguished from what is called good? On what do the atheists and agnostics base their definition of this thing called “evil?”

Amazingly, the answers are not all the same, nor in some cases even grounded in reality. However, it is imperative to understand that we must define this God-killer, because its definition will determine our conclusions and help to clarify our assumptions.

When C. S. Lewis was an atheist, for example, his “argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust.” (Lewis 1989) There he had it, or so he thought. God could not exist because so much evil exists. But how did he arrive at “this idea of just and unjust?” Lewis said, “A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.” (Lewis 1989) “Tell me,” I would say, “what is evil, and how do you recognize it when you see it?

The Adjective

To start, evil must be understood to be an adjective. Evil is a description of something that is not good. Evil is not a thing. The word “evil” only describes the thing, the thought, and the action. Technically, “evil” does not exist, only what it describes.

Some people say that they cannot believe in God because why or how could a good God, if He was perfect, create evil? They think of evil as something that must have not existed until God made it. But evil “isn’t a kind of molecule or a virus…infecting or affecting everything it encounters.  There was no time when God said, ‘Let there be evil,’ and there was evil.” (Stackhouse 1998)  As John G. Stackhouse put it, “evil becomes a noun only in the abstract.” Additionally, in his book Can God Be Trusted, Stackhouse says of evil:

“An action can be evil, or an event can be evil, or a quality can be evil, or a being can be evil. And we can lump all these particular evils together in our minds and come up with a category ‘evil.’ We can even go on to discuss it as if it were a particular thing, so long as we do not forget that we are always dealing with a category or group of particular evil things, not a thing itself.” (Stackhouse 1998, 31)

So then, if evil is a description, how is it that we come to use the adjective, or as Lewis put it, the “crooked line,” without first having some idea of what is a “straight” one?  Defining what is good is as important as defining evil. To know what is evil, we must first have some assumption as to what is not evil.

The crazy thing is that if God does not exist, and man is nothing more than a collection of random matter, both good and evil are purely relative – their existence is based purely on one’s perspective.  So, in other words, the one who says that there is no God, based on the existence of evil, is literally basing his belief on pure opinion, not on anything objective. Therefore, in order to bring an accusation against the goodness of God, one must have a base line. What is the standard by which we determine what is good and what is evil?

The Standard

Some use Man as the baseline. They compare God to the standard set by what is thought to be good behavior in this world. They rationalize that if God is real, at least according to monotheistic dogma, He must be all-powerful, perfectly good, and the supreme example of love, kindness, and providential care. Because it is preached that God is a better Father than earthly fathers, Mark Twain took it upon himself to write:

The best minds will tell you that when a man has begotten a child he is morally bound to tenderly care for it…[yet], God’s treatment of his earthly children, every day and every night, is the exact opposite of that, yet those minds warmly justify those crimes…when he commits them.” (Tonie Doe Media 2007)

So then, according to Twain, God could not exist because if He did, He would act consistent with our understanding of what a good and loving earthly father would do.  In other words, if God cannot, in all His perfection, behave better toward His children than the most common man, His credentials are therefore revoked, and He must cease to exist.  However, this is so illogical.

Who are we to say that God, if He is perfect, and we are imperfect, ever treats His children poorly? Do the protesting cries of a toddler who has had poison taken from his grasp carry more weight than the decision of the earthly father to take it away? How, then, are we to automatically assume that the infantile tendencies of finite man are wiser than the infinitely Mature?

Using Man as a baseline for what is good and evil is pure arrogance.

Whose Line Is It?

In reality, the problem of evil is really a problem for the atheist. He, who denies the existence of a Creator and accepts only the realities of evil in the world, essentially has nothing about which to complain.  Everything should be just fine and dandy, but it’s not.  The atheist knows that evil things happen to both good and bad people.

He sees the hurt, feels the pain, and begs for justice. The reality of evil in the world causes men to cry out for justice; for things to be made right. This is a problem, though, because knowing that a crooked line is not straight hints at the fact that a Line-drawer exists.

The Followers’ Fault

Others take a different approach. They claim that God does not exist except in the evil intentions of his followers to control others through guilt. They claim that God is just a fabrication of priests to keep mankind from behaving “naturally.”

They say that nature is good, and if anything, God is evil for trying to get man to behave contrary to the very way he was created to behave. One guru said, “It seems that for those who worship God, the opposite to God is not that which is ‘evil,’ but that which is natural.” He said of animals, comparing them to men, “They don’t worship God, they don’t go to church, they don’t have any theology.  They don’t have any feeling of guilt, they are simply natural.” (Osho 2009)  In other words, if there is evil in the world, it is because our belief in God has inflicted it.

The Majority Response

But for the majority of the hurting world, pain is real, loss is real, and evil is manifested daily.  Many see the things that happen to innocent people, especially children, and wonder, “If there is a loving God, why doesn’t he do anything about this?

These people, many of which hold on to hope as long as they can, finally succumb to their doubts and conclude that the only way to explain away the pain is to admit that it is just part of life, part of the natural world, part of what makes us human; alone, in our quest to make life easier, free of pain, free from evil; alone, without God.

These are the ones, I believe, that lure more away from the faith than any Darwinist.  They are the ones who have seen evil face-to-face and cannot fathom a God who would allow it to continue.  And because their experiences are so painful and tragic, the devout are left speechless and without explanation. Ellie Wiesel is a good example.

Wiesel’s Observation

Wiesel was a teenager when he saw his family murdered in the Nazi death camps.  But it was only after witnessing one particular act of horror – the slow, hanging death of a young boy – that he turned away from his faith in God.

In the book Night, his Nobel prize-winning autobiography, Wiesel said he heard a man behind him ask, “Where is God now?” As he stood there, being forced to stare into a pitiful, wide-eyed, swollen face of a dying child, a voice within replied, “Where is He? Here He is – He is hanging here on the gallows…” (Wiesel 1982) Because there was no justification, even in the big scheme of things, Ellie Wiesel’s God died with the executed boy.

But as sad as it is, without God, who can say what happened to that boy was any worse than the slaughter of an animal?  Are we not all just animals – some more evolved than others?

The Real Problem

To me, the problem of evil is not a problem for the believer to explain, but one for the non-believer.  Aside from the theological arguments about the character of God, without God, to turn Hume’s question around, “whence then is evil?

Without God, evil is relative to one’s desires and personal pleasure.  Does it really even matter whether or not God could do anything about evil in the world when the whole question is moot if He didn’t exist?

With God, evil is defined as that which is against His law, that which stands opposed to His standards, and that which describes all who take pleasure in such rebellion. Without God, evil is just a matter of opinion.

That is the real “problem of evil.”


Works Cited

Lewis, C. S. “Atheism.” In The Quotable Lewis, by C. S. Lewis, 59. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1989.

Osho. The God Conspiracy: the path from superstition to superconsciousness. New York: Osho Media International, 2009.

Stackhouse, John G. Can God Be Trusted. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Tonie Doe Media. In The Atheist’s Bible, 129. New York: Harper Collins, 2007.

Wiesel, Ellie. Night. New York: Bantam Books, 1982.

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Filed under Apologetics, Culture Wars, Faith, General Observations, Life/Death, Struggles and Trials

Just Hupomenō

Writer’s Laziness

I don’t know that I would call it “writer’s block”; it’s more like “writer’s laziness.” You see, I have plenty of things to write about, but very little energy to attack them with the literary fervor each one deserves. Therefore, I am going to cut and paste something from a few years ago into a post for today.

A couple of years ago I told my daughter Katie (the one in college) that I was having a “form of writer’s block.” She asked, “Do you want me to give you a random suggestion?” I said, “sure.”

hupomenoTwo minutes later she comes to me with a picture and a word: hupomenō (ὑπομένω). “Write about this,” she said.

Hupomenō?

The word is a Greek word which means “to remain under,” or, “to remain under the test in a God-honoring manner, not seeking to escape it but eager to learn the lessons it was sent to teach.”*

But it could also mean standing firm by holding one’s ground (Mt 10:22; 24:13; Mk 13:13) and persevering in spite of difficulty (2 Tim 2:10).** The words that  hupomenō is most commonly translated into are “patience,” and “endure.”

Katie’s a godly young girl, so she wrote Hupomeno on her hand as a reminder to be patient and to “endure.”

Patiently Enduring

So how are you holding up? How are you enduring? Sometimes that’s all we can do, isn’t it? Sometimes all we can do when the winds are blowing, when the waves are crashing against us, and when the sand is shifting beneath our feet is to just endure the tempest while holding on for dear life to something…or Someone…unmovable and secure.

Whatever you are under right now, don’t give up – honor God with your faithfulness. Whatever you are fighting against, just hold your ground. Whatever road your traveling, even if it seems like it’s never going to end, persevere – don’t give up till you’re home.

“Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” – James 1:2-4 HCSB

Just hang in there; God is still God.


*Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: For the English Reader (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), Ro 12:9.

**James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

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Filed under Bible Study, blogging, Faith

Nine Years of Blogging

I Missed It

It is now September 5, and the only thing truly special about this day is that I’m writing this post while in a waiting room – a dreary one at that. My wife is having a scope done of her esophagus, and so I have nothing else to do but wait…I’ve already prayed, so I’ll write.

Anyway, I missed my WordPress anniversary on the 27th! 9 years ago last week I wrote my first blog post, and I still have those same Crocs! I have, however, retired them.

I Mused It

Looking back over the years, I’ve used this blog to share a lot of my thoughts about different things. Some of those things were current events which are no longer relevant, while others were topic of interest which will continue to be discussed – if not reposted.

But I’ve also used this blog to formulate my thoughts. I’ve used it as a test bed for my ideas, in the preparation of sermons, and as a way to hone my speech before it’s spoken.

Overall, blogging has probably helped me more than anyone else.

I Misused It

Right now I’m reading Dale Carnegie’s classic How to Win Friends and Influence People. If you haven’t read it, you should; the practical wisdom is invaluable.

In the first chapter Carnegie addresses the dangers of being critical of others and cites multiple examples. Towards the end of the chapter he says:

“If you and I want to stir up resentment tomorrow that may rankle across the decades and endure until death, just let us indulge in a little stinging criticism – no matter how certain we are that it is justified.”

Even though I’ve been convinced I was right, I may have been too critical of others at times, priding myself on the “stinging” part. Granted, much of that would have appeared while debating within the comment sections, but I’m sure I could have been more gracious at times. I apologize.

I’ll Make It

So, now that I’m into my tenth year of blogging, I look forward to writing even more about subjects that interest me and may interest others. In doing so, I hope that my transparency will not hurt my own reputation, but encourage others in their own walk of faith with grace.

Life is tough at times. Like I’ve mentioned before, I know full well the dangers of depression and an outlook that forgets Who is in control. Maybe more posts in the future will help others see and understand how good and faithful our God is. Maybe they’ll be less critical, less controversial, and more encouraging as the days get darker.

Sure, some things will have to be addressed or I’ll just explode – like how now that the mayor of Chicago and a black preacher at Aretha Franklin’s funeral said what needed to be said, but the culture is too far gone to accept it…and who’s fault is that? But, when all is said and done, the command of Philippians 4:8 must rule the day – we must think on those things.

In the end, Lord willing, I’ll make it safe and sound of mine to our 10th anniversary at The Recovering Legalist. If you’ll stick with me we’ll make it a celebration to remember!

Thank you for your friendships!

Anthony

PS, My wife is not yet out of surgery, and this waiting room is sadly depressing. No coffee!

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Filed under blogging, Faith, Future, grace, Struggles and Trials, writing

Sometimes I Feel Like a Failure

I am going to be very honest, as I’m sure you will appreciate: Sometimes I feel like a total failure.

You may have some impression of me, and that impression might be a good one. However, sometimes I see myself as a failure for not having accomplished a fraction of my stated goals, thereby leaving myself wondering, “Will I ever be able to do this?”

This morning has been difficult. It’s been a long time since any regular income has come in. And even though I felt sure I was supposed to be doing what I’m doing career-wise, it’s not put much money in the bank as of yet. I’m not talking about ministry; I’m talking about my work outside the pastorate (I’m bi-vocational).

So, I went to Blueletterbible.com and did a word search for “fail.” There were over 60 occurrences of the word, but two of them stood out to me.

The first one spoke of how David understood pain and doubt. He had questions about God’s compassion and promises.

Is his mercy clean gone forever? doth his promise fail for evermore? – Psalm 77:8

But then David went on to answer his own question by remembering what God has done and said:

Thou art the God that doest wonders: thou hast declared thy strength among the people. – Psalm 77:14

Then I came to the following verse:

When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the LORD will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. – Isaiah 41:17

I am poor and needy. We have more than a water bill. I can’t do this on my own! Much of the help that should come from man is missing, but I have a God who hears my plea and has not forsaken me!

All I have to do is cry out to him!

I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth all things for me. – Psalm 57:2

Lord, I am not a failure as long as there is still breath in my lungs and an opportunity for me to step forward to my Goliaths. My strength is small; my abilities are few; my vision is limited to the horizon, but You will not forsake me, and Your presence will go before me. You will get the credit for my successes, for Your name will be glorified as You help me stand, fight, conquer, and provide for my family (Deut. 8:18). I am not a failure because You are not.

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Depression, Faith, God, self-worth, worship

Phoenix Shmeonix, We Have a Pumpkin!

Mythical Birdie

Greek mythology tells of a bird that rises from its own ashes to live again. They call this kind of bird a pheonix.

Personally, I’ve never seen a pheonix, nor have I seen any bird rise up from the ashes of its own dead body – not even that turkey we burned to a crisp one year. I’ve seen some chicken go up in flames, but once the ashes were cleaned out of the grill, that was it.

So, when it comes to freshly-feathered foul flying from the fire, I’m kinda skeptical.

But when it comes to pumpkins, that’s a different story.

Mysterious Gourd

If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I might have thought some muffaletta-munching Greek had been up to another one of his tall tells. Yet, there it was, right there, smack dab in the middle of our burn pit… a pumpkin!

You see, down in a field we have a place where we burn stuff like wood and brush, and the occasional box of paperwork that’s too sensitive too be trusted to a shredder. When not being used as document destroyer, the pit is perfect for cookouts and hanging out while listening to the crackling of the fire on a cool night.

What the fire pit is NOT used for is a garden. On top of that, the last time the fire pit was used, no produce was harmed and no seeds were sown. As a matter of fact the last thing that was torched was about a hundred pounds of sensitive files and a couple of trash bags filled with shredded bills.

So where on earth did the pumpkin come from? Charlie Brown?

Don’t Lose Hope

Here’s the thing: you never know what might unexpectedly spring up from the ashes. Even your wildest imagination may fail to prepare you for what might grow out of the remains of total decimation.

It might be nothing like anything that was burned, not even remotely, but it will have been planted by God and nourished by what you thought was worthless.

I literally don’t know where that pumpkin could have come from or how it managed to grow. However, later on, when I’m eating pumpkin pie, I’ll be thanking the Lord it was a gourd that rose from the ashes, and not a pheonix…

The last thing you want to eat is a regenerating hot wing! 

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Filed under Faith, Life/Death, Struggles and Trials