Category Archives: Life/Death

The Table Was Broken – Something WILL Happen!

This morning I was looking on YouTube to find some background music to play while I studied. I usually select Christian piano instrumentals by Dan Mussleman (click here for his channel)

However, this time I saw a 5-hour video with background music; it was a Chronicles of Narnia snow-covered wood theme.

Now, I eventually went back to the piano music; the Narnia music got a little repetitive after an hour. But before I did, I read a comment in the comment section. It was a quote from the 15th chapter of “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.”

“I hope no one who reads this book has been quite as miserable as Susan and Lucy were that night; but if you have been – if you’ve been up all night and cried till you have no more tears left in you – you will know that there comes in the end a sort of quietness. You feel as if nothing was ever going to happen again.” (15.8) – C. S. Lewis

When I read that quote and thought of what I was going to be doing in a little while, I realized it was a “God moment.”

I had been praying about what to share with a grieving widow. I know the Bible gives us hope and assures us that we will see our loved ones again, at least those who have put their faith in Christ. Yet, I wanted something that could specifically address the time in between…the time after the funeral…the time of adjusting…the time when things feel like they’re over, like nothing wonderful will ever happen again.

This was it! This was what I was looking for! 

Susan and Lucy had just watched as Aslan has been humiliated, bound, and then stabbed to death by the White Witch. They had to listen to the rejoicing of their enemies as the beloved Lion breathed his last breath. Then, alone, they cried as time meaninglessly ticked by.

A loved one was dead. Was this the end of story? The end?

NO! 

The stone table cracked! He broke the curse! Aslan was alive!

Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. – Romans 6:8-9

Something WILL happen!

10 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Faith, Future, Life/Death, music

Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Standing In the Gap

The Reenactment

Last week I got to see the reenactment of the occupation of Sandersville, Georgia. It was the 155th anniversary of the battle that left a few dead (not like the 10’s of thousands in other battles), a courthouse burned, and a citizenry who was thankful it didn’t turn out much worse.

In November of 1863, General William T. Sherman and the Union army marched into the Sandersville area, just 10 miles or so south of where I sit right now. A skirmish broke out between some of the advance Union cavalry and the Confederates under General Joseph Wheeler. This led to more fighting and a near-disastrous misunderstanding.

Below is a video I made of the reenactment in the Sandersville town square.

General Sherman (the “march to the sea” Sherman who’s tactics embodied the term “scorched earth”) thought it had been the citizens of the town who’d fired upon the Union troops, and he was furious. He didn’t know it was Confederate soldiers. Therefore, after entering the city, he intended to burn it to the ground.

That was when the Rev. James Anthony, a Methodist pastor, went to General Sherman to beg for the city to be spared.

Changed Feelings

Before I get back into the history of the battle and the main point I want to share, I must tell you about what I felt while videoing the reenactment.

If it had been 20 or 30 years ago, maybe even only 10, I would have watched this display of musketry and role playing as “totally cool!” I mean, you’re talking to a guy who “played army” all of his young years, up into his teens. Seeing all that action, especially that close, would have been awesome.

Yet, as I stood there on the curb letting my imagination get into the act, I was surprised by my sense of sorrow, of fear, and the tears that began swelling up in the bottom of my eyes. From the moment the two horsemen rode into town warning of the impending and unstoppable invasion, to the point where men and boys were point-blank shooting at each other right in front of me, my heart sank.

There was nothing “cool” about this at all; it was utterly sad.

So “country” even the Confederates eat here 🙂

After it was all over, a deacon from our church saw me and invited me to have some tea (sweet, of course) in the little buffet right behind where I had been standing. Sitting there in the restaurant, the surreal scene of muskets lining the walls and “wounded” Confederates eating fried chicken, we talked about what we had seen.

He had felt the same way I did.

He had been standing down around the corner (where the video ended), and he said that when they came around and started shooting at “our boys,” he couldn’t help but shed a tear. He said, “This really happened.”

Back to the Story

So, upon hearing that General Sherman was going to burn Sandersville, Rev. Anthony went to Sherman to beg for the town. He finally convinced him that it wasn’t the people who fired on the troops, but opposing forces that had already fled.

When Sherman heard that Rev. Anthony had also been kind to a wounded Union officer and kept him from being executed, he accepted the pastor’s request and spared all but the courthouse and other government buildings. Sandersville survived because of the brave actions of a pastor who put his own well-being on the line.

To the Point

There’s a lot more to the story of Rev. James Anthony and his conversation with General Sherman. You can read about it by simply Googling his name. But as I stood there in the city square and heard the reenactment of the conversation between Sherman and Anthony, I could not escape the similarity between the Reverend’s name and mine.

I couldn’t escape the following passage that has been a “life verse” of mine for decades:

And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none. – Ezekiel 22:30

If only more pastors would stand in the gap!

If faced with an invading army, would I have the courage to risk everything, stand face-to-face with the conquering General, and beg for the lives of my people as Rev. James Anthony did?

Do I not have that opportunity even now?

But on my knees?

It’s war, and it’s really happening. 

1 Comment

Filed under America, Church, General Observations, Life/Death, Prayer, Struggles and Trials

The Real Problem with the Problem of Evil

This evening at church we will be having an “Ask the Pastor” question-and-answer night. Am I nervous? A little. However, I’ve already warned the congregation that I may not have all the answers and some questions might get a simple, “I’ll have to get back to you on that.” We’ll see. I may even post the questions I get in an upcoming post! Hmmm? 

But, because I have done a little writing on the “problem of evil,” I’ll re-post this article/paper in honor of tonight…and all the questions I still struggle with.

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.

2 Comments

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

Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Stay On the Float, Don’t Give Up

I’m going to be totally honest with you, OK? There was a post I published for just a few minutes this morning, but then I took it down and added it to the “draft” bin. Even as I was writing it, it seemed forced. So, no matter how I tried to edit it, it never seemed “right.”

So, what did I do? I decided I’d try to do a video blog ( a Vlog) post. I mean, hey, I’m a preacher, so why not just TELL my story? Yet, what happened? After multiple recordings, multiple edits, and multiple times trying to upload, only to see “Upload Failed,” I almost gave up.

Nothing was working!

YET, I still felt I needed to post something, almost like it was imperative that I do so. Why the pressure? Why the stress?

So, I decided to try one more thing – record straight to YouTube. No editing, not fancy camera work, no script…just raw, unedited video of me sharing what’s on my heart.

As I’m writing this, I’m waiting for the video to upload to YouTube (it’s taking awhile). If it uploads with no problem, you will see it below.

It’s taking a looooooonnnnng time.

Ah, finally 🙂

God bless!
Anthony

 

21 Comments

Filed under blogging, Christianity, current events, Depression, Life/Death, ministry

My Allergy Will Be Gone!

Since I had nothing original written for today, I typed in “random” to the search bar to see what might pull up from previous posts … Here ya go!

It’s from around 2 years ago…

But just in time for tomorrow’s sermon on heaven 🙂


My daughter Katie is allergic to a list of things, and although the list is not a long one, it does include bacon, so she does deserve our pity.

On the other hand, our young and uber-talented pianist at church, Olivia, has list of allergies longer than the strings on a Steinway concert grand! Seriously! Let’s just put it this way: just listening to the song “99 Balloons” could kill her.

But for me, I’m allergic to nothing… well, almost nothing. I’m not allergic to any foods, liquids, or chemicals; I don’t reach for an EpiPen whenever I see a bee; nor do I provide a list of medicines that could kill me should I visit a doctor.

I am, however, allergic to one thing… PAIN. The following are symptoms I experience when I receive a dose of pain, each one varying based on the length or intensity of exposure:

  • Immediate onset of watery eyes, the accumulating result being streams of salty fluid running down my face.
  • Widening of the eyes.
  • Convulsions of the hand and fingers, usually in conjunction with flailing arms and connecting concussions with inanimate objects.
  • Mental delusions, temporary insanity, and near-death experiences.
  • Random bouts of temporary-onset Tourette Syndrome.

Some people say “pain is weakness leaving your body.” To those people, I say, “Go eat a worm.”

Unfortunately, barring being put into a coma – and that’s no guarantee – I will have to suffer with my pain allergy until the day I die. There is no known cure on this earth, only items meant to temporarily mask or lessen the effects of the allergic reaction.

But someday… one day… I will have a new body! No more pain allergies for me!

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. – Rev 21:4 KJV

No allergy shots in Heaven!

5 Comments

Filed under Life/Death

A Last and a First: Closing One Ministry and Beginning Another

As many of you know, I am now the pastor of a church down in Warthen, Georgia. You probably also know that I used to pastor South Soddy Baptist in Soddy Daisy, Tennessee.

Well, I thought it might be of interest to some of you to listen to two different sermons – one from my last day at South Soddy, and the other from my first day at Bethlehem Baptist.

But the reason I am sharing both of these back-to-back is so that hopefully you will notice a similarity between them. What I hope you will notice, despite the sadness of one and the excitement of the other, is a common thread of hope and assurance that God is still at work and the work for us to do is not done.

God bless you all, and I hope to get back to writing very soon – there sure is a lot to talk about!

Click on the pictures below for links to sermons.

1 Comment

Filed under baptist, Church, Do not judge, Life/Death, ministry, Preaching, worship

The Price of Freedom

Memorial Day

Tomorrow is the day on which we Americans pause to remember and honor those who have fought and died for our country. We also honor those who have served and are serving.

Unfortunately, most people use this day to only focus on the celebration aspect of the holiday, not the memorial. But had it not been for those men and women who bled in the trenches and fell from the sky, there might not be a place to hold a barbecue. We celebrate because we are free, but that freedom came with a price.

Visiting Memorials

Three years ago at this time I visited Washington, D.C.. with my family, and one can’t visit D.C. without going to the memorials, especially on Memorial Day.

It had been a long time since the last time I was here, and new monuments to the fallen had been erected. One of them, which is probably the most impressive, is the World War 2 Memorial. I took my time exploring it.

One of the places at the WW2 Memorial is pictured below. Gold stars are affixed to a curved wall above a reflective pool. A plaque beside the reflective pool reads, “The Price of Freedom.”

Each star represents 100 who died in the war to defeat the Axis powers. Did you get that? 1 star = 100 dead. 

image

On this day let us pause and remember the lives sacrificed so that we (and the world) might live in freedom. Remember also that those stars represent mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, and scores of children whose loss purchased our gain.

Freedom isn’t free.

 

10 Comments

Filed under America, Life/Death, Vacation