Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The Suffering Question: God is in Control?

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.                      Psalm 107:1 NLT
The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.                                                                        Psalm 145:8-9 KJV

   We've been in an extended study examining the suffering question. We've been examining God's role in human suffering and tragedy. We've seen God is always good no matter the circumstance. We've addressed the issue of God's role in sickness and disease and the troubles we see in this life.

 Today, I want to further explore the concept of God being in control. Is God in control? If so what precisely does that mean? Does it mean that God ordains, and controls every single aspect of humanity? Does He control every single action on Earth?

Those under traditional religious views see God as the ultimate controller. That is that He literally controls every facet of life on Earth. Earthquake occurred? God must have some mysterious purpose in the destruction. God must have some plan that called for the killing of women and children when buildings collapse during the tremors. 

 When you actually verbalize what you think you believe about God's sovereignty it makes you pause and reflect. Your own words will challenge your understanding about who God actually is. As an example of this, before a total understanding of the Good News Gospel of Grace, I used to hold to the view that Christians could lose or leave their salvation. It wasn't until a minister friend simply asked me to articulate what I actually believed. 

 When I stated how I could conceive a believer could lose their salvation it made me pause. I was like this doesn't sound right. My spirit was challenging my intellect and understanding. Then I was able to read the Scripture unbiased and free from my traditional sentiments. Now I know beyond doubt we are secure. So likewise, articulate what you mean when you say God is in control. 

 Now the phrase God is in control is a man-made saying. There exist no passage stating this phrase. Believers though have made this phrase an almost tenet of the Christian faith. In my life, I have seen this phrase used to explain horrific events from plane crashes to rape and murder. 

 Is this the right way to explain God's sovereignty? Let's explain the truth about sovereignty. God is sovereign. That is He is the supreme ruler. There is only one true and living God. That is Jehovah God, the Lord most High. It's not false religions created by the enemy to deceive mankind. It's not buddha, not krishna, not wiccan witchcraft, not new age crystals, not taoism, not shintoism, not hinduism, not mohammad, not allah! No there is only one true and living God and He is mighty, He is majestic, He is the Lord Most High and Jesus is His only begotten Son who came and died for us and purchased our redemption. 

 The Lord has established His throne in heaven, And His kingdom rules over all. Psalm 103:19 NKJV 

 This passage simply confirms that God is the supreme authority. It doesn't mean, however, that God controls every aspect of life. Yet other translations seem to translate the Hebrew word rule and kingdom here with the idea of hyper-control or more accurately the translators seemed to think this passage lends credence to the idea of hyper-control. So lets articulate hyper-control and see if this is really the right understanding of how God's sovereignty should be understood.

God is in Control...of crime?

 Does God's sovereignty mean He is controlling all aspects of mankind? So when a man robs a bank, traumatizing employees and customers as he brandishes a firearm and threatens violence unless they comply with his demands for money, is this God controlling Him? Is God ordaining him to commit this crime? 

 When a twisted individual preys on women, brutally raping them and causing a trauma that takes much to totally heal from, is this God controlling him? Is God in His sovereignty ordaining that a young woman be violated and mauled? 

 Same can be said of child molesters, battered wives and children. Are abusers only being controlled by God to do these horrific acts? Did God ordain that some children should be mistreated?

 If God is ordaining criminal activity and we try to stop said crime are we rebelling against God? Are Police and the judicial system counterproductive to God's mysterious purpose and plans? I hope you can see when articulated this concept of hyper-control used to explain away tragedy is completely twisted thinking and counters the character of God. 

God is in Control...of international crisis and suffering?

 Let's apply this hyper-control concept to WW2. Did God in His sovereignty cause Hitler and Mussolini and Tojo to commit aggression and invade other lands with the intent to conquer? God is in does that mean He ordained that thousand upon thousands die in war? 

 What about the Holocaust? Did God in His sovereignty, in some mysterious plan ordain that 6 million Jews be exterminated by evil men? God is in control. Does this mean that He caused this event? 

 I hope you are getting a clear image of the consequence of believing this concept that God is literally controlling every aspect of human events. How is God just if He causes men to steal, kill and bring destruction? 

God is in control...of elections and rulers?

 Living in America, I have seen this tired hyper-control concept used to describe every election for the Presidency since I can remember. God put so and so in office. God wanted this one, not that one. 

 Look, did God go into the voting booth? This concept is utter nonsense. God gave mankind a free will. Men and woman of voting age, by their vote, elected a leader. God can influence your vote but He doesn't vote. 

 The hyper-control view concerning the Presidency is also the arrogance of our Nation. I'm not bashing America in any way by saying that. I am talking about individuals who take for granted our liberty and freedoms. 

 Would the same be said of Germany during WW2? Did God put Hitler in office? How about the many tyrants over the years that have ruled lands? God put Nero in charge? The ruler who murdered Christians? That's absurd.

 I trust articulating the twisted view of hyper-control makes you challenge traditional religious viewpoints. God is the supreme ruler.  That is the truth. However, God is not ordaining, and creating, and causing every event on Earth.

The heavens belong to the Lord but he has given the earth to all humanity. Psalm 115:16 NLT

 This passage should bring clarity and understanding to the truth of Sovereignty. God is God, yet He isn't controlling every single aspect of life. The Bible as a whole proves this beyond doubt.

 We see all throughout Scripture, God wanting one thing and people doing the opposite. God wanted the Children of Israel out of Egypt the moment He sent Moses to speak to Pharoah. Yet Pharoah didn't comply. Why? He had free will. He chose wrong.

 In summation, keep the character of God in the forefront when trying to understand how God operates. He is loving and just and good. He isn't a harsh taskmaster, He isn't a tyrant. He isn't ordaining evil. He is a good Father. 

 Let go of the traditions of men to explain horrific events. We live in a fallen world. That's why we see tragedy. Also, mankind has free will. Also, equipment and materials can break down, can be defective. That's why we see plane crashes and car wrecks. Not because God caused them. Use God-given wisdom and Bible sense, not the religious traditions of men. 
Image by Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay  

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The Suffering Question: Is God the Source of Your Troubles?

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.                      Psalm 107:1 NLT
The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.   Psalm 145:8-9 KJV

 We've begun a new series of study. We're examining God's great love and mercy and all the time goodness further by exploring the suffering question. That is the question of human suffering in light of Grace and the Finished Work. 

 So far we've seen God is indeed good no matter what. We've looked into the concept that God is sending judgment on cities, towns, provinces, and nations. We've asked and answered the question is God the source of your sickness or disease? 

 Today, I want to ask and answer another question. Is God the source of your troubles? What do I mean by troubles? Troubles can be defined as, problems, difficulties, misfortune, trials, tribulations, trauma, heartache, grief, anxiety, burdens, misery, afflictions, and unpleasantness. So is God the author of your misery and sorrow? Is God the author of your trauma and heartache? If we were to consult religious tradition the answer would be yes in some shape or fashion.

The Troublemaker?

 When I was a child I recall adults and older kids giving warnings about avoiding certain people. They would say avoid them for they are "troublemakers".  In other words, they would misbehave in public, backtalk authority figures, flaunt the rules and generally cause those around them to also suffer consequences of the troublemaker's poor behavior. The troublemaker made life challenging for others.

 So is God our troublemaker? Is God in Heaven concocting schemes and scenarios and situations to bring you misery, heartache, and pain? Is God our Father devising a plan to cause problems, difficulties, misfortune, and tribulation to manifest in your life? The religious traditions of men so often seem to convey the message that God is the source of our hardship and misfortune. 

 Once again, this concept of hyper-control is at the root cause of this. It's as if a leaf falls from a tree and if God somehow didn't ordain it, it must mean God is not the supreme authority in the Universe. We as believers must renew our minds to the truth of the Word. God is the supreme authority but He isn't controlling, navigating, causing every single event on this Earth. That doesn't mean He isn't God, the sovereign Lord of Heaven and Earth.

 Let's examine some Scripture about God's goodness.
sought the Lord, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4 NKJV

This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, And saved him out of all his troubles. Psalm 34:6 NKJV

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles. Psalm 34:17 NKJV

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers him out of them all. Psalm 34:19 NKJV
 Have you noted a pattern here in Psalm 34? Man has fears, troubles, and afflictions. Allow me to pause and establish briefly, what I am not saying. We see it clear right here. We live in a fallen and fractured creation. In a sense, we are in hostile territory. We have all experienced challenge and difficulties. I am not suggesting that you will never have a challenge or trial. 

 Going back to the Psalm, what pattern do you see? Man has fears, troubles, and afflictions. However, what other pattern do you see? What is God's role in this? God is the one bringing deliverance and salvation. He is not the One bringing what's causing the fear. He isn't sending the trouble. He isn't the author of the affliction and He never will be. Why can I say that with such confidence?
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! Psalm 34:8 NKJV 
 Because God is so good. Because He is our good Father. Since we know God is good all the time, we can trust in Him. When we are in the tough times, the trial, we can trust in Him, we know He is with us and won't leave or forsake us. 

The Teacher?

 But brother isn't the adversity, the hard times, the trials, tribulations our instructor? Let me point out a Scripture passage to answer this more fully.
16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV
 The truth is the Scripture, with the leading and guiding work of the Spirit is the true instructor. When we deposit God's Word within our heart the Spirit can lead you into the whole truth thus causing maturity and more understanding. Following the guidance of the Spirit, the Word deposited within, and acknowledging what we have in Christ, who we are in Christ, and what we can do because of Christ brings true growth and maturity.

 The adversity we may face gives us an opportunity to exercise that maturity and growth. The truth we must grasp though is that the adversity, the trial, the trouble alone, in and of itself is not bringing growth. The truth is, the hard times are not there for your good. 

 Look at the life of Joseph for clarity and understanding. He suffered misery, tribulation, heartache, and trauma throughout his life. These hard times were not designed to make him stronger or to become a better person. These situations were present to destroy him. To kill him. To remove his influence. 

 You see to experience victory, to exercise maturity and develop growth in the midst of the tough times, depends on what we do during the ordeal. Do we give up? Do we forget God? Do we cease trusting in Him? Or do we act on His Word, fully trusting Him? Certainly, it is not easy and it can be extremely difficult and challenging to trust in God in the hard times. Yet, it's trusting and clinging to God that brings us through the hard times stronger and more mature. 

 I hope we can see more clearly this issue of human suffering. It's clear, we may face fears, troubles or afflictions in this fallen and fractured creation. What we do know is God is not the source of these problems. He isn't creating, ordaining, or sending troubles our way. He is our present help in times of trouble. He isn't the one designing the trouble. He is our Good Father. In Him, we find help and hope and wholeness.

 Some reading may resist this. They will point out Peter and Paul and James' words thinking that they taught God wants us to experience hardship and trauma to grow and be a better believer. when Peter spoke, when Paul spoke, when James spoke, they were not teaching God creates and ordains affliction just so you will grow.

 What they were saying is what I already stated. Its what you do in the middle of the trial that brings growth. Look at James in another translation it really brings this out.
My friends, consider yourselves fortunate when all kinds of trials come your way, for you know that when your faith succeeds in facing such trials, the result is the ability to endure. Make sure that your endurance carries you all the way without failing, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.  James 1:2-4 GNT 

 Troubles put to work the fruit that is already ours in Christ. In other words, we already have the fruit of patience within us in the New Creation. Troubles, tribulation, trials put a demand on that fruit. By spending time with God in relationship, fellowship, and understanding and continually acknowledging who we are in Christ and what we have in Christ causes that fruit to be "fed" and sustained. 

What we must also realize is there is a strong contrast between God using a situation and God creating or ordaining a situation. When it comes to troubles God will use that experience to help us mature. It doesn't mean He caused it. It doesn't mean He created it.

 For example, driving in traffic gives each of us an opportunity to exercise the patience we have within. God isn't causing or creating traffic jams. The truth is all who drive, saved or unsaved will experience heavy traffic and delays while driving. You can be bitter about it or complain about it. Or you could allow that inward fruit of patience to be exercised and thus grow stronger. 

 In summation, God is a good Father. He is always with us no matter the circumstance. He isn't the troublemaker. He is not the author of our affliction. He is not the creator of heartache and trauma. He isn't the One ordaining trouble. He is the One who will be there in the midst of it. He is the One who brings help and healing and hope. 
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Tuesday, May 7, 2019

The Suffering Question: Is God the Author of Your sickness or disease?

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.                      Psalm 107:1 NLT
The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.   Psalm 145:8-9 KJV

  We've begun a new series of study examining the suffering question. That is what role does God our Father play in suffering? Can we trust that God is always good? In our last study, we looked at the idea of God's judgment.

 Today, I sense the leading to address another aspect of the suffering question. Is God the author of your sickness or disease? Is God responsible for your fever? Is it God that placed that tumor in your body? Did God give you cancer? Did God bring that blood cot? Did God afflict your kidneys? Did God ordain that multiple sclerosis? 

 I want to be as specific as I can. I want to lower this question to its most elementary level possible. Is the tumor, the cancer, the blood disease, the heart disease, the kidney disease, the skin disease, the cataracts, the spinal condition, in the bodies of men because God placed them there? Did God in His infinite wisdom actually cause the sickness or disease in you or your loved one? 

 Because sickness and disease are such a common occurrence in humanity the religious position seems to say God is the author of it. That He has some mysterious purpose in affliction. Based upon the majority of Christian publications, saying God is responsible for sickness and disease, must somehow be a comfort to people.

 Maybe in their minds telling people God did it, will help people bear the illness or disease better. Sadly, religious tradition doesn't understand this makes our God look more like a violent tyrant instead of a merciful Father who is compassionate and loving. It seems to convey the concept that God derives pleasure in seeing people suffering from tormenting diseases and agonizing ailments in their bodies.

 This doesn't seem to deter religion. Traditional religion believes strongly that God is, in fact, the author of sickness, why? They cite a passage in Exodus and this is enough to convince them that God is in the disease dispensing business. 

 Concerning that passage, Here is an entire article for further study. Suffice it to say though God was not teaching us that He is the author of birth defects or disability. Let's use some Bible wisdom. Do we isolate a passage of Scripture and form an entire doctrine out of it? There are way more passages that support speaking in tongues and other gifts haven't ceased yet religion quickly ignores and buries them with their tradition. Yet tradition ignores clear Bible hermeneutics to establish the view that God is the author of sickness. 

 Briefly summarizing Exodus 4, God was simply encouraging Moses. Moses was called upon to publicly challenge Pharoah and be the mouthpiece for the Lord. Moses was intimidated by his speech impediment. God reminded him that He was the creator of all humanity. He can empower anyone for any task He calls upon them to do. This passage was not establishing that God causes people to be born deformed or disabled. 

 Look at the Bible as a whole. Is God afflicting people with sickness or disease? Some would say look at the Old Testament. What you must remember is that was the Covenant of Law. Israel had chosen Law over Grace. By choosing Law, they also chose the consequence of breaking that Law. The Law is rigid and inflexible. Under the Old we see God sending swift judgment. But that's because the Savior hadn't yet arrived and there was no sacrifice for sin. 

 Look at Jesus the exact representation of the Father. Did He send sickness or disease? Did He afflict? When Peter denied Him three times, did Jesus afflict him with a crippling disease? Did Jesus roam the land ensuring babies were born deformed or disabled? Jesus said if you've seen Him, you've seen the Father.

Sovereignly sick?

 Another reason religion believes God is the author of sickness is their morbid fatalistic view of God's sovereignty. Sovereignty truly defined means God is the supreme authority in all the universe. To religion though, this means God can't be God if a leaf dropping from a tree wasn't somehow preordained by Him. If the leaf fell from the tree and God didn't cause it, then that must mean God isn't in control of the universe and He isn't the supreme authority anymore.

 So tradition has a unique definition of sovereignty. It assigns sovereignty to mean hyper control instead of ultimate authority. That the universe would somehow cease to function orderly and timely if God didn't control every human event down to the smallest detail. 

 Texting and driving the cause of a young person crashing their automobile? Nope, God in His infinite existence caused that car wreck. Overslept and now late for work, don't take responsibility for your life, God did it, right? Examine this concept of hyper-control. 

Does God really go about His day ensuring the sun rises and the Earth sits on its axis and that your loved one get that brain tumor? Is God who spoke the stars into existence also ensuring enough people get cancer or blood disease? I trust you see this is an absurd concept. 

 Is the universe really going to collapse because sickness and disease afflict people apart from God's hands? Could it be that Creation is fallen and fractured? That because of the fall, disaster and disease and death are "fruits" of the fall and not God's hands bringing affliction? This twisted sovereignty view is a mistaken idea birthed from the traditions of men.

Made sick and disease-ridden to make you stronger or patient? 

 There is another twisted traditional concept. That God sometimes brings destruction and disaster and disease to mature you. To strengthen you. To cause your patience to grow. Looking at Jesus again, is this how He treated His own disciples? I mean, to strengthen the disciples' faith and patience, did Jesus ever dispense heart disease, or cancer among them? 

 Here is the reality we must face. We see hardships, tragedies, disasters, famine, desolation, and disease throughout this planet. It's a challenge to view the daily news and not find reports of something awful occurring somewhere on this planet. In light of this, we finite humans have this pressing need to find a reason for it all.

 As Christians, we seem to default to always blaming God either directly or indirectly. Something happens, must be God ordaining it, causing it, or allowing it for some mysterious purpose. God must be teaching me. Or some go so far as to say God is punishing me.

 To walk in peace, we must stop blaming God. Relinquish this twisted hyper-control sovereignty concept. Sometimes there are reasons bad things occur to good people, apart from the direct effects of the fall. Sometimes we make mistakes, we make a dumb decision, we are negligent, we may not be attentive to what we are doing. In these instances don't try to spiritualize foolishness. 

 Also, if God is the author of sickness and disease then that would mean sickness and disease is a perfect work. God is perfect and therefore all His handiwork is perfect. If what He does is bad or imperfect than He is deficient in some way. If God remains absolutely perfect as He afflicts humanity with sickness, then Heaven, which is an expression of His total perfection will also be filled with sickness and disease. Is that good news? 

 We know though that there is no sickness or disease in Heaven. So the place where God's complete and total perfect will is seen in every possible detail is sickness and disease free? What does that tell us? It clearly shows us that sickness and disease is the complete antithesis of God's good and perfect will. Which also proves beyond a doubt He cannot be the author of sickness and disease.

 In summation, it's clear that God is not the author of sickness or disease. We live in a fallen fractured creation, that's the source of disease, not God. God is the source of life, not death. He is our healer, not the one who makes sick. He is not the source of disease and death. He is the light and life and in Him is no darkness at all. God is a good Father. 
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