Category Archives: Struggles and Trials

Proper Fear and Persuading Others

Not long ago I preached a sermon to my congregation, the following text being one of several that I used.

Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men…” – 2 Corinthians 5:11a

There is always talk about the fear of terrorism these days, yet very few talk about the fear of God. Why is that? After all, aren’t we commanded to fear the Lord? Isn’t it the wise thing to do?

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” – Proverbs 9:10

The problem is that we get so distracted by the common, temporal fears of this world forget about the eternal. Some of us are terrified of what others may find in our closets, but forget that God knows all. Our minds are so cluttered with all the stresses of this life that we forget about what comes after.

Both of the previous verses also talk about “knowing” and  the “knowledge” of God. In the first passage (2 Cor. 5:11a) the Apostle Paul is essentially telling the Corinthians: “Hey, it’s because we know who God is and what He’s capable of, not to mention the fact that we must all stand before Him one day (5:10), that we do our dead-level best to tell it to you like it is!”

In the second passage, wise King Solomon is telling anyone who will listen, “The more you know God, the better you’ll understand how life works.” Knowing and understanding who God is will produce produce fear: terror in His enemies; reverential fear in those who love Him.

Jesus said: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). [emphasis added]

So, while ever-present bad news will tend to make us want to run and hide or take matters into our own hands, keep everything in its proper perspective. Those who serve the Living Savior; those who are reconciled to God by the atonement of the cross of Christ; those who were once strangers, but now have been made children of the Father, can find peace and rest in the fearfully omnipotent hand of our faithful Creator.

Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.” – 1 Peter 4:19 

The only ones who should be living in terror, in fear of what may come today or tomorrow, are those who have never known God, have forgotten God, or worse, mock Him (Romans 1:18-32).

When we persuade others to fear God in the proper way, they will come to know His love and love Him in return. Then, instead of living in terror, ironically, “perfect love casteth out fear” (1 John 4:18).

For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” – Romans 8:15 

Are you living in fear? Can you call God “Abba, Father” (Daddy)? A proper relationship will produce a proper fear; terror is the product of rebellion.

If you don’t fully understand what I’ve written, or if you’d like to know more about how to live in peace without terror, click on the Eternal Life tab at the top of the page and follow the instructions.

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Filed under Bible Study, God, salvation, 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

Fighting Sleep

It’s one o’clock in the morning, and I”m fighting sleep.

I don’t know why I’m having this moment,

But I’d rather lie in bed and type than weep.

The worries of the day, both past and yet to come

Have left me with my eyes wide open,

But my emotions are practically numb.

It’s quiet, now, as I’m the only one awake.

I could turn off the light and close the laptop,

Just giving in to the night is all it would take.

But as soon as I close my eyes, I’ll be asleep.

I should be praying for peace, giving it to God,

It would really probably help if I’d just weep.

The sooner I close my eyes, the sooner the sun will shine

And shed light on the battleground of my life.

I guess that’s why I want to savor the nighttime.

But there’s no winning without fighting,

And I”m not going to be any better off dead on my feet,

So, I guess it’s time to give up and go to sleep.

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Filed under Depression, Struggles and Trials

Be Thankful for Your Trials

In all things praise the Lord (James 1:2).

This is Haley and me in a tow truck (Cain’s Wrecker Service) with her car behind us. We were on our way to an appointment at First Baptist Church in Fort Oglethorpe when only a block from the church (at 12:40) the steering went out. Haley barely got it into the parking lot.

It has been POURING RAIN, so getting out to check the car was wettening. Once I did look under the hood, I noticed the belt had slipped off. Then, upon closer inspection, the whole dang harmonic balancer had come off (the big pulley on the engine block)!!

Well, my appointment was at 1pm, so Haley and I left the car in the parking lot and decided to go on inside. But the entrance to the building on the side we were on was locked. They were already in a staff meeting, so nobody answered the phone. Soooo, we had to walk (run) in the rain to the other side of the building to the office door. By that time we both were soaked.

I went ahead with my meeting and Haley went back out with an umbrella to wait for the wrecker. After the meeting I went out to ride with Haley in the wrecker, and that’s when she asked, “Did you know about the tires?”

What??

Both front tires were nearly ready to separate on the inside. Being low-profile tires we never saw the inside edges. So, it was only when the car was lifted up on the wrecker that the tires were easily viewed. The Acura drove fine and did not give any hint that the front was out of alignment. However, at any moment either on of the front tires could have blown out while Haley was driving.

So, here we are in the cab of a wrecker on our way back to Soddy Daisy to drop this car off at a garage, then go get my car. From there we will finally get back on the road to Charleston, SC. I have an Aflac open enrollment scheduled for tomorrow at our daughter’s business and I can’t afford to miss it. We need all the money we can get right now.

But, what could have happened if this car had not broke? A blowout while Haley driving up or down a mountain or on a highway at 70mph?

which trial would I prefer? How we are going to afford to fix my daughter’s car, or how to pay for my little girl’s funeral?

Count it all joy, my brethren! Count it all joy.

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Struggles and Trials

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

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

My Last Words?

Worthy Drafts?

This evening I was exploring the “draft” file to see if there was anything I could edit and post. I clicked on a few titles of unfinished works, but more often than not the posts were only titles, nothing else. Then I came upon the following draft written all the way back in March of 2011: “My Last Words.”

It was seven years ago, and I don’t even remember what kind of surgery I was about to have. All I know is that I did not die; I survived. Actually, I don’t even know if I had the surgery. I just can’t remember.

But reading the words of this post disturbed me. It almost sounds like what a suicide letter would sound like! So much regret! So much hopelessness! So much self-pity. So little victory!

Therefore, with even more transparency than I’m used to, I’m going to let you look into my past, into my mind and heart, right before believing the worst would happen. Then, I’m going to do something else…just in case.

My former last words…

I am going to have surgery tomorrow. I don’t know if I will survive. I have been having strong feelings that I won’t. I am scared, but not too much. I just pray that God takes care of my wife, Valerie, and the girls.

I have not lived much of a life. I have not been many places, or seen many things. My education has been limited and of little value. I wish that I could have studied and applied myself more early on, instead of doing fruitless things and chasing fruitless relationships.

I miss my dad, and long to see him again.

My wife could have done much better than me, for I have not provided for her, or my children, the way they deserve. She deserved a man who could take care of her emotionally and monetarily. I have done neither. I have failed her in many ways.

My children have not had the best dad, either. I have not intentionally been abusive, but I have hurt them many times with my words. They didn’t deserve that. I hope they will forgive me.

I hope that my girls will grow up to fear the Lord and live for Him, much like I have tried to do, but have failed. They have a hard life ahead of them, and without faith in God, there will be no hope.

I could say a lot more, but I hope that God will be glorified in my weakness. Maybe something I have said and done in my life will prove to have had some lasting value once I’m gone.  I pray my wife finds peace and is taken care of. I pray my daughters find godly men. – Written 3/3/2011

Like I said, I’m glad I didn’t die in that surgery, and I’m very happy those were NOT my last words! However, should something happen to me before the sun rises, allow me to write what I’d prefer to be my “last words.”

To all concerned…

Valerie, you have been the greatest gift God has given me apart from salvation. Without your love and unending support and faithfulness I would have never become the man I am today. Your joy and faith, despite innumerable ills and disappointments, have filled my life with a beauty that transcends the temporal. Your gentle eyes inspire me. Your laugh energizes me. Your love humbles me. Your very presence comforts me, especially in the night when you’re beside me. Despite what you think about yourself, you are a godly Proverbs 31 woman worthy of praise. You’re the ruby in the setting of my life.

Girls, I’m proud of all of you! Each of you are specially gifted and called by God to glorify Him in unique ways. Don’t compete with each other. Don’t ever be jealous of each other. Always love each other, despite your differences. Put God first in your lives, before relationships, family, career, money, or even yourselves. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom – seek God and be wise! Never settle for a man who simply loves you; expect more! Find a man who loves Jesus first, then treasures you. You won’t regret it.

Mom, I love you. Becky, I love you, too. I wish we all could have spent more time together as a family down here. However, one day we will be reunited, along with daddy, and the dissappointments of the past will fade away along with the feelings of being apart.

God has been so good and gracious and merciful to me! If I have any regret, it’s that I haven’t praised Him enough. Hasn’t He been good? Yes, He has! All the time! Keep telling people about Jesus, even without me. Without Jesus what would we have? Without our hope in Christ there’d be no hope of seeing each other again, so thank Him in the congregation of unbelievers and believers alike! Let them know the reason for the hope that is within you.

If these truly end up being my last words, don’t weep for me too long. Rise up, look to the future with expectation and excitement! Joy comes in the morning!

Make my funeral one to remember. Have church! Worship! Sing! Shout! Get a man of God who can preach the infallible Word of God and let him loose! If the gospel isn’t preached with joy, passion, praise, and power at my funeral I’ll find out about it and personally ask God to disable evey game app on all your phones! If the Word isn’t preached over my casket you’ll never play word games again 😉

Finally, don’t forget to read your Bible, pray, move on with your life, know God still has a purpose for you, and become a better shot!

I hope these aren’t my last words, but if they are, I love you! See you in a little while!

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness… All other ground is sinking sand.”

 

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Filed under Life/Death, Relationships and Family, Struggles and Trials, worship