Saturday, April 30, 2011

Aliens Revealed ™ : My True Story: The Rapture and the Satanic Lie

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Aliens Revealed ™ : My True Story: The Rapture and the Satanic Lie

Sin, and What to Do About It

On January 16, 2003, the space shuttle Columbia lifted off for what was supposed to be a routine flight. Shortly after lift-off a piece of insulating foam from the shuttle's external fuel tanks broke off and struck Columbia's left wing. This action was caught on video, but it was presumed that no serious damage had occurred. However, serious damage had occurred. The foam from the fuel tanks punctured the wing's thermal protection system.
The seriousness of the damage became evident when Columbia reentered the earth's atmosphere on February 1. The damaged wing was no longer protected from the extreme heat caused during reentry. The shuttle disintegrated in midair killing all seven astronauts. NASA's failure to correctly assess the damage prevented it from taking action that could have avoided the devastating results.
Mankind faces a similar but even more tragic situation. Shortly after creation, Adam sinned. With Adam as the head, the whole human race fell under God's condemnation. Sin now rules every unregenerate heart, and if it had its way, it would destroy and damn every soul.

What Does God Think About Your Sin?
If you refuse to see your sin as God does, you cannot escape His eternal judgment. If you want to deny your guilt or hide your own sinfulness, you'll never discover the cure for sin. And if you try to justify your sin, you'll forfeit the justification of God. Until you understand how offensive your sin is before God, you can never know Him.
Sin is abominable to God-He hates it (cf. Deuteronomy 12:31). Sin is contrary to His nature (Isaiah 6:3; 1 John 1:5). It stains the soul and degrades humanity's nobility. Scripture calls sin "filthiness" (Proverbs 30:12; Ezekiel 24:13; James 1:21) and likens it to a putrefying corpse-sinners are the tombs that contain stench and foulness (Matthew 23:27). The ultimate penalty-death-is the consequence of sin (Ezekiel 18:4, 20; Romans 6:3). The human race is in bad shape.
God wants you to understand how bad sin is and how terrifying its consequences are. You dare not take sin lightly or dismiss your own guilt frivolously. Quite the contrary-you should hate sin.
But sin tempts the best of saints, and even the godliest among us commit sin. David was a man who followed after God with all his heart (1 Kings 14:8); and yet he entered into temptation and committed unimaginable sin-adultery, deception, betrayal, and murder. And until God confronted David through the prophet Nathan, David denied his sin. That's the natural tendency of every fallen sinner.

What Do You Think About Your Sin?
If a man of David's caliber can fall so terribly, where does that leave you and me? If you're honest, you'll admit that you sometimes love your sin, delight in it, and seek opportunities to act it out. You know instinctively you are guilty before a holy God, yet you inevitably attempt to camouflage or disavow your sinfulness. In a word, you deny it, just like David did.
Like the rest of fallen humanity, your denial of sin falls into three general categories: you seek to cover it up, you try to justify yourself, and, most often, you are oblivious to your sin.
First, you try to cover up. That's what King David tried to do when he sinned against Uriah. He had committed adultery with Uriah's wife, Bathsheba. When she became pregnant, David first plotted to make it seem as if Uriah was the father of the baby (2 Samuel 11:5-13). When that didn't work, he schemed to have Uriah killed (vv. 14-17). That only compounded his sin.
For all the months of Bathsheba's pregnancy, David continued to cover his sin (2 Samuel 11:27). Later, when David repented, he confessed, "When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer" (Psalm 32:3-4).
Second, you attempt to justify yourself. Adam blamed Eve, whom he described as "the woman whom You gave to be with me" (Genesis 3:12, emphasis added). In blaming Eve, Adam was blaming God too. God, he reasoned, was responsible for the woman who victimized him.
You also try to excuse your wrongdoing by saying it's someone else's fault. Or you argue that you have a valid reason for sin. You convince yourself that it's OK to return evil for evil (cf. Proverbs 24:29; 1
Thessalonians 5:15; 1 Peter 3:9). You can call sin a sickness, a mental condition, or a hormone imbalance; you can excuse yourself as a victim; you can even deny what you've done is really wrong. Your sinful heart is endlessly creative in finding ways to justify its own evil.
Third, you can be oblivious to your own sin. Whether in ignorance or presumption, you sin, and you sin often. That's why David prayed, "Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults. Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins" (Psalm 19:12-13). It's those "hidden faults" that God sees in plain daylight, and they are just as offensive to Him as the "presumptuous sins." Because sin is so pervasive, you naturally tend to be insensitive to your own sin, just as a skunk is impervious to its own odor.

What Are You Going to Do About Your Sin?
Sin is a horrible malignancy for which there is no human cure. It is an incurable leprosy of the soul (Isaiah 1:4-6), and all humanity is sick with it from top to bottom, inside and out.
As a sinner, you cannot improve your own condition. Jeremiah 13:23 says, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then you also can do good who are accustomed to doing evil." Your tears and sorrow can't atone for your sin. Your "good" deeds can't make amends for your wrong against God. Your prayers and personal devotion can't soften your guilt or cover it in any way.
And don't buy into the erroneous concept of purgatory-the fires of hell over a million lifetimes could never purify the soul from its own corruption or atone for its own sin. If you are looking for a do-it-yourself solution to the problem of sin, you only shackle yourself all the more securely to your guilt.
But there has to be a solution to our problem; there must be a way God can satisfy His perfect righteousness and still display His rich mercy toward sinners. I'm delighted to tell you that there is a solution to the human sin problem-it's called the Gospel. The cross of Christ provided the way to God by enabling the only acceptable Sacrifice to atone for human sin once for all.
Our Lord, the sinless One, was the Lamb of God offered as a perfect sacrifice for sin (John 1:29)-it was the very purpose for which He came. "You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin" (1 John 3:5). Isaiah prophesied, "Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried...He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him" (Isaiah 53:4-5, emphasis added).
Jesus Christ "offered Himself without blemish to God" to cleanse our consciences (Hebrews 9:14). He paid the penalty to the fullest on our behalf. All the sins of everyone who believes are imputed to Christ, and He died for them. Jesus then rose from the dead to declare His victory over sin and death-"[He] was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification" (Romans 4:25).
Furthermore, God reckons all believers righteous in Christ-He accounts Christ's righteousness to the believer. That's the truth taught in 2 Corinthians 5:21: "[God] made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."
God redeems those who believe and makes them new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17). If you are a believer, you know what I'm talking about. God gave you an entirely new nature, including a love for righteousness and hatred for sin.
If you're unsure of your salvation, reading this should bring you to the point of despair. What can you possibly do to change your hopeless condition? Nothing. You are utterly dependent on God's mercy. But if the cry of your heart is something akin to that of the Philippian jailer who said, "What must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:30), take heart-the Spirit of God is already working in you! Here is Jesus' clear and concise command to the troubled sinner: "Repent and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15).
To repent is to "turn away from all your transgressions" (Ezekiel 18:30). It means confessing and forsaking your iniquities (Proverbs 28:13), and completely hating your sin (2 Corinthians 7:11). If repentance stresses turning away from sin and self, believing emphasizes what to turn toward-"Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved" (Acts 16:31).
You can't lay hold of Christ while still clinging to your sin. Unless you pry your heart from the passing pleasures of sin, you'll never see God. God's salvation from the flames of an eternal hell involves a glorious liberation from the control of sin.
That's good news! You can be set free from sin's dominion of your life. Take hold of Christ, and take this gospel offer seriously. It may be your last opportunity!
(By John MacArthur;

(What do you think? Comments and Questions)

Friday, April 29, 2011

Science and the Bible

101 Scientific Facts & Foreknowledge

Science means knowledge, and true science always agrees with the observable evidence. Scientific research continues to unfold the wonders and mysteries of our universe. Interestingly, there is one book that has anticipated many of these scientific facts. That book is the Bible.
This booklet presents 101 scientific facts found in the Scriptures. Many of these facts were penned centuries before they were discovered. Scientific foreknowledge found only in the Bible offers one more piece to the collective proof that the Bible is truly the inspired Word of the Creator. How does this affect you? The last several pages provide the answer – you need to read them carefully.
Check it out @:

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

What is the Rapture?

What is the Pretribulation Rapture?

The rapture is an event that will take place sometime in the near future. Jesus will come in the air, catch up the Church from the earth, and then return to heaven with the Church. The Apostle Paul gave a clear description of the rapture event in his letters to the Thessalonians and Corinthians. "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words." (1 Thess, 4:16-18).
"Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal [must] put on immortality" (1 Cor. 15:51-53).
The timing of the rapture is not known. From the Word of God and from sound reasoning--something Jesus used quite frequently--I hope to prove the reality of the pretribulation rapture.
The word "rapture" comes from Paul's "caught up" remark in verse 17. The words "caught up" are translated from the Greek word harpazo, which means "to carry off," "snatch up," or "grasp hastily." The translation from harpazo to "rapture" involved two steps: first, harpazo became the Latin word raptus; second, raptus became the English word "rapture."

Scriptural Evidence for the Pretribulation Rapture

The Unknown Hour
When we search the Scriptures and read the passages describing the Lord Jesus' return, we find verses that tell us we won't know the day and hour of that event. Matthew 25:13 says Jesus will return at an unknown time, while Revelation 12:6 indicates that the Jews will have to wait on the Lord 1,260 days, starting when the Antichrist stands in the Temple of God and declares himself to be God (2 Thes 2:4). This event will take place at the mid-point of the seven-year tribulation (Dan 9:27). Note that some people only see a three-and-a-half-year tribulation. In a way, they are correct because the first half of the tribulation will be relatively peaceful compared to the second half. Nonetheless, peaceful or not, there still remains a seven-year period called the tribulation. When the Jews flee into the wilderness, they know that all they have to do is wait out those 1,260 days (Mat 24:16). There is no way to apply the phrase "neither the day nor the hour" to this situation. The only way for these two viewpoints to be true is to separate the two distinct events transpiring here: 1) the rapture of the Church, which comes before the tribulation; and 2) the return of Jesus to the earth, which takes place roughly seven years later.
The Marriage Supper of the Lamb
In Luke 12:36, the Word states that when Christ returns, He will be returning from a wedding. In Revelation 19:7-8, we read about the marriage itself. The marriage supper takes place before the marriage. According to Jewish custom, the marriage contract, which often includes a dowry, is drawn up first. The contract parallels the act of faith we use when we trust Jesus to be our Savior. The dowry is His life, which was used to purchase us. When it's time for the wedding, the groom goes to the bride's house unannounced. She comes out to meet him, and then he takes her to his father's house. This precisely correlates with the events according to the pre-trib scenario. Jesus, the Groom, comes down from heaven and calls up the Church, His Bride. After meeting in the air, He and His Bride return to His Father's house, heaven. The marriage supper itself will take place there, while down here on earth the final events of the tribulation will be playing out. After the marriage supper of Jewish tradition, the bride and groom are presented to the world as man and wife. This corresponds to the time when Jesus returns to earth accompanied by an army "clothed in fine linen, white and clean" (Rev 19:14).
What They Didn't Teach You in History Class
Many groups try to discredit the pre-trib rapture by saying most of the end-time events in the Bible have already taken place. A group of people called preterists claims that the Book of Revelation was mostly fulfilled by 70 AD. If the events described in the Book of Revelation took place in the past, I'm at a loss to explain some of the current situations I see around us: the rebirth of Israel, the reunification of Europe, the number of global wars that have occurred, and the development of nuclear weapons. During history class, I must have slept through the part where the teacher talked about the time when a third of the trees were burned up, 100-pound hailstones fell from the sky, and the sea turned into blood (Rev 8:7-8, 16:21). I think several people would have to question their opposition to the pre-trib rapture doctrine if they knew that the evidence provided to them was based on the understanding that most tribulation prophecies have already occurred.
The People of the Millennium
If Christ were to come back after the tribulation, rapture all the saints, and slay all the ungodly, who would be left to populate the earth during the millennium? Only the pre-trib viewpoint can account for this post-trib problem. The Church is raptured before the tribulation, a vast number of souls are saved during this seven-year time frame, and those who make it through the tribulation go into the millennium while the unsaved are cast into hell.
The Saint U-Turn
In the pre-trib scenario, after we rise to meet the Lord in the air, we will go to heaven and abide there seven years. At the end of that period, Christ will come down to earth, defeat the Antichrist, and cleanse the temple. In a post-trib rapture, we would rise in the air to meet the Lord, then do a 180-degree U-turn and come back down to earth. Revelation 1:7 states that Christ will appear out of the clouds and come down to earth. Zechariah 14:4 says that His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives. If He's already headed our way, why would we need to be caught up to meet Him?
"Come Up Hither"
Many pre-trib writers cite Revelation 4:1, which says, "come up hither," as a prophetic reference to the rapture of the Church, leaving Revelation chapters 1 through 3 as a description of the Church Age. After the shout to "come up hither," the Church is not mentioned in Scripture at all. The attention of Scripture switches from the Church to the Jews living in Israel.
Armies in Fine Linen
When Jesus returns (Rev. 19:18), an army follows Him. The army's members are riding on white horses, and they are clothed in fine linen that is white and clean. In Revelation 19:8, we are told that the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints. If the saints of God are returning with Christ to wage war on the Antichrist, then it is not possible to have a post-trib rapture without us running into ourselves as we are coming and going.
The Time of Jacob's Trouble
In several passages, the Bible refers to the tribulation as a time of trouble for the Jews. The phrase "Jacob's trouble" pertains to the descendants of Jacob. Jeremiah 30:7 says that this time of trouble will come just before the Lord returns to save His people. The final week of Daniel's 70th week is yet to take place. An angel told Daniel that, "70 weeks are determined unto thy people" (Dan 9:24). Scripture never mentions that the tribulation is meant to be a time of testing for Christians. However, some post-tribbers try to claim that they are the ones being tested during the tribulation. To make this so, they need to spiritualize the 144,000 Jewish believers in Revelation 7:2-8 who receive God's protective seal. Placing the Church dispensation into the same time frame as the seven-year Jewish dispensation, as the post-tribbers do, raises one good question: Can two dispensations transpire at the same time? In the past, God has only dealt with one at a time. Having both present during the tribulation would have to be an exception.
"He" That is Taken Out of the Way
Before the Antichrist can be revealed, Paul said a certain "He" must be taken out of the way. According to 2 Thessalonians 2:7, the "He" that must be removed is widely thought to be the Holy Spirit. It has been promised that the Holy Spirit would never leave the Church, and without the working of the Holy Spirit remaining on earth, no one could be saved during the tribulation. The removal of the Church, which is indwelt by the Holy Ghost, would seem the best explanation for this dilemma. The working of the Holy Spirit could go on during the tribulation, but His influence would be diminished because of the missing Church.
War or Rapture
(Rev 19:19-21) When Jesus returns at the end of the tribulation, He will be coming for battle. For those who believe in a post-trib rapture, it would be strange to meet your Lord and Savior just as He's rushing into battle. The idea that war and rapture could occur together is difficult to imagine, especially since they transpire at the same moment.
The Five Foolish Virgins
The wedding story that Jesus gave in Matthew 25:2-13, I believe, is a parable of the rapture of the Church. It explains how some will not be ready. Jesus clearly states that a group of people will miss out on an event, and will cry out to God to let them into the place where He resides, heaven. Although some try to put this parable in a post-trib context, it doesn't fit very well. The ones left behind in a post-trib rapture will not need to seek the Lord because they'll immediately be confronted by Him and His army of angels.
God Hath Not Appointed Us to Wrath
In 1 Thessalonians 5:9, Paul assures us that God has not appointed His people to wrath. This wrath is plainly God's anger that will be poured out during the tribulation. Pre-trib believers interpret this as meaning that Christians will be removed from the earth. Post-trib believers tell a different story. They describe this as meaning that God will protect Christians during the tribulation and pour this wrath out on the unbelievers only. This idea runs against the statement made in Revelation 13:7, in which the Antichrist is given power to make war with the saints and to overcome them. A post-trib view would make God's promise of protection from wrath into a lie. In years past, it was possible to think of being protected from the guns and swords of that day. Today, when any major war would involve nuclear and chemical weapons, it's impossible to expect that same kind of protection. When Nagasaki, Japan was bombed during World War II, the bomb exploded over a Catholic church. Everyone who was in the center of the explosion died--both Christians and non-Christians. The only way to validly interpret God's promise of protection from wrath is by viewing 1 Thessalonians 5:9 as the bodily removal of the Church from this world.
The Salt of the Earth
Jesus said, "Ye are the salt of the earth" (Matthew 5:13). When the believers are supenly removed, the earth will be plunged into spiritual darkness. When this happens, the Antichrist will then be free to control the world.
God Takes an Inventory
In Revelation 7:3, an angel descends to earth and seals the servants of God. Two bits of information about this sealing highly disclaim a post-trib viewpoint. The first item is the number of people sealed: 144,000. The second one is that all those who are sealed are from the 12 tribes of Israel. For the events in Revelation 7:3-8 to be true in a post-trib interpretation, either the Church has turned against God or God has turned against the Church. A post-tribber could write a thousand-word commentary about why the Church doesn't need to be sealed. Instead of trying to argue about why the Church is not mentioned or sealed, a pre-trib proponent could just say, "We're already in heaven."
Noah and Lot as Examples
The tribulation period is compared to the times of Noah and Lot by Jesus in Luke 17:28. Most people argue over whether the time frame Jesus was talking about in that passage was pre-trib or post-trib. In doing so, they miss an important point. The two circumstances that the Noah and Lot situations have in common are the removal of the righteous and the judgment of the unbelievers. From these two accounts, we see that God prefers to remove His own when danger is involved.

Common-Sense Reasons for Believing in the Pretribulation Rapture

The World Test
One way to check the soundness of a doctrine is to see how the world reacts to it. One company put out a questionnaire that was used to screen prospective employees. One of the questions was, "Do you believe in the rapture?" If you answered "yes," your chances of getting hired would not be good. Some internet sites do not allow the topics of Rapture or Second Coming. They do allow topics such as sex, gays, and drugs. The only time the news media mentions the rapture is when someone sets a date and is proven to be wrong.
That Old-Time Religion
It used to be a rule of thumb that when one was visiting a church or listening to a preacher, one could assume the preacher believed in repentance, prayer, and the baptism of the Holy Ghost if he taught the rapture doctrine. It was also true that the churches on fire for God worshipped out of storefronts. Today, many of those storefront churches have moved into marble palaces and have strayed from their principal doctrines.
Birds of a Feather Flock Together
Whenever I look at all the groups that teach false doctrine and are highly focused on end-time events, I cannot find any that support the rapture theory. Some organizations, the Jehovah's Witnesses, for example, teach a false gospel and are heavily into Bible prophecy. Why, then, don't Jehovah's Witnesses teach a false doctrine that would be right up their alley? Could it be that the demonic forces that influence these groups know something that Christians opposed to the rapture don't know? The list of prophetically minded cults that reject the idea of a rapture goes on and on. Here are some more: the Mormons, the Worldwide Church of God and the Moonies, as well as leaders like Jim Jones and David Koresh.
The Church Would Rebuke the Antichrist
If the Antichrist came to power with the Church still here, I do not see how he could operate. When Hitler was fighting to take over England, a number of Christians were praying for victory. Hitler made mistake after mistake, and England outperformed its enemy at every stage of the conflict. It is difficult to measure the impact of intercessory prayer in physical warfare. Little is known of how great a role praying saints played in the defeat of Nazi Germany. If the Church were to reside on earth during the tribulation, I am sure she would give the Antichrist fits. In Revelation 11:3, the two witnesses alone give the Antichrist enough headaches. Millions of Christians who know their Bibles well would recognize the man of sin and pray fire down on his head. The post-trib view would have to plan on the Church just rolling over and playing dead the whole seven years.

We should all remember one thing: Knowing the Antichrist's mother's maiden name isn't the primary goal. Knowing Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and having your name written in the Lamb's Book of Life should be your number-one priority. The jailer asked Paul, "What must I do to be saved?" The answer was, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:30-31).
(By Todd Strandberg;

(Comments or questions...What do you guys think?)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

If God is Loving, Why is There Evil and Suffering?

Many critics of the Christian faith believe that the existence of evil and suffering in the world disproves the existence of the all-powerful, loving God described in the Bible.
Atheists say, “If God is loving He would put an end to evil. If He is all-powerful, He could put an end to evil. Since evil persists, the all-loving, all-powerful God described in the Bible must not exist.”
Have you heard people reason this way?

Wherever I have traveled in the world and have had the opportunity to talk with skeptics, atheists, and nonbelievers, this has again and again resurfaced as the most common intellectual objection that people have when it comes to belief in God. So, if there is any issue related to the defense of the Christian faith, that we as Christians should know how to respond to, the problem of evil must be near the top of the list.
This evening I want to examine and respond to some of the tough questions about evil and suffering. My hope is that our study will:
1. Answer some of the questions that you might have about this issue.
2. Equip you to better answer the questions about evil that nonbelievers raise.
3. Encourage you if you are suffering yourself. Although most of what I say will be directed at dealing with the intellectual challenge that evil poses, my prayer is that God would use some of what I say this evening to bring encouragement and hope to those of you who are suffering presently.

SKEPTIC (popping up on PowerPoint slide): All right Charlie, you heard my opening argument. I think the existence of evil disproves the existence of God. What do you have to say to that?
CHARLIE: I disagree. I think the existence of evil is actually proof that God exists.
SKEPTIC: Are you serious?
CHARLIE: Dead serious.
Atheists face a big dilemma when they point at things in the world and say,  “God would not allow this evil to take place.”
Here’s the problem. There can be no such thing as evil apart from the existence of God. Why not?
Without God, without a moral law giver, we would not have any objective (real) standards (laws) by which we might deem something to be evil. We would not be able to conclusively say, “Kidnapping children and murdering them is evil.”
In an atheistic universe, where no moral laws exist, there could be no such thing as evil. And yet evil does exist! The existence of evil is the number one reason most atheists give as to why they don’t believe in God. They are convinced that there is evil. They point to things like slavery, racism, rape, kidnapping, molesting children, murder, and they say, “These things are truly evil.” And rightly so! These things are evil!
Well, it is this evil that actually exists that verifies there is an actual, objective, real moral law in the universe. But there can be no such thing as an objective moral law apart from a moral law giver, God.
So as complex as this might sound, the reality of evil is actually evidence for the existence of God, not against it.
SKEPTIC: Well, that’s an interesting way to look at it Charlie, but if God exists, He should put an end to the evil and suffering.
CHARLIE: Oh, He will. The Bible tells us that God is going to put an end to evil and suffering. There is coming a time when Jesus will return and we’re told in the Bible that God:
Revelation 21:4
“…will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
Just because God has not yet ended evil, does not mean that He will not end evil. It’s just going to happen according to His timing, not ours.
SKEPTIC: Well, great, but why doesn’t He just intervene right now and put an end to all the evil we see?
CHARLIE: Well, think through this with me. For God to put an end to evil and suffering, God would have to stop every act that causes any suffering. To do that, He would have to stop those who cause the suffering.
This would include:
• anyone who has ever stolen anything
• liars
• adulterers
• murderers
• fornicators
• anyone who has ever acted selfishly or hurt anybody’s feelings.
And we could go on and on (bad drivers!). The list would not only include those who were caught causing the suffering but all those who never got caught. And not only would the list include those who broke our government’s laws but all those who deviated from God’s standard of righteousness.
CHARLIE: That list is going to be pretty long isn’t it?
SKEPTIC: I guess so.
CHARLIE: Wouldn’t that mean He would have to put a stop to you too? Haven’t you, by your own actions, caused some of the suffering that exists in the world?
SKEPTIC: Ohh...I guess so.
CHARLIE: Well, then, you should be thankful God allows evil. God has not destroyed evil because He would have to destroy us. By permitting evil and suffering to continue for the time being, God is actually showing the world mercy.
SKEPTIC: I never thought about it like that.
Now, as I said a moment ago, there is coming a day when God will stop evil (2 Peter 3:7-13). He will judge sinners, put them away forever, and create a new Earth where there will no longer be any death, mourning, crying, or pain (Revelation 20-22).
In the meantime, God is using the suffering that exists for good. (See Gen. 50:20, Rom. 8:28, Philippians 1:12). Often, when a person is suffering, they turn to God and receive the kind of help they truly need, a relationship with God Himself.
I’ll talk more about how God works in and through suffering later.
SKEPTIC: Well Charlie, let’s suppose there is a God. The God of the Bible can’t be the loving God that Christians believe in, for the God of the Bible says that He is the one who creates evil in Isaiah 45:7. Surely a loving God would never create evil.
Let’s look at Isaiah 45:7. It is a verse that atheists and critics of Christianity are fond of quoting when they bring up the problem of evil. I do find it slightly humorous that atheists actually like to quote the Bible if it seems to support something they want to say. Well, this is one of those verses!
Isaiah 45:7
“I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.”
SKEPTIC: Haa!! There you go! If the God of the Bible is the creator of evil (“I make peace, and create evil”) then I don’t want anything to do with Him! A loving God would never create evil.”
Well, what are we to think about that? First off, this passage of Scripture only reads this way in the King James translation of the Bible. If you have a King James translation of the Bible, you might circle that word “evil” in your Bible at Isaiah 45:7. The Hebrew word there, translated “evil” by the King James translators is the word “ra.”
A better translation of “ra” is actually “calamity” or “disaster.” And that is the way that the more modern translations translate the word (e.g., NKJV and NASB). The word calamity describes an event that causes great and often sudden damage or distress. Isaiah 45:7 is not saying God creates evil (that which is morally wrong). It is speaking of the disasters or the calamity that come when God executes His righteous judgment against sinful people.
Thousands of years ago a man riding by the ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah on his camel seeing dead people all over the place and smoke rising from the two cities, might have asked himself, “Why does God allow the evil slaughter of people like this?”
Well in reality, the “disaster” he was seeing was not the result of evil men slaughtering innocent people, but a direct and righteous judgment of God on evil. The people of Sodom and Gomorrah were guilty of “exceedingly grave” sins the Bible says in Genesis 18:20.
They had become a dangerous cancer and threat to humanity; they would not repent, so God destroyed them. There was nothing evil about the judgment or the calamity (“ra”) that God wrought against them.
God is not the author (creator) of evil.
SKEPTIC: If God is the creator of everything (as you Christians suggest) and evil is something, then how can you say that God is not the one responsible for the existence of evil?
Good question. Let me ask you a question congregation:
Is God the creator of everything? Who says Yes? Who says No? Who thinks this is a trick question? Who won’t raise their hand this evening no matter what I ask? Okay, very good.
The answer to the question is Yes. The Bible tells us that this is the case in Colossians 1:16:
“For by Him all things were created that are in Heaven and that are on Earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.”
Uh oh. If God created “all things,” as this verse and others teach, does that mean that God did create evil?
Well, let me ask you another question: Is evil something? What is evil? Are there evil molecules or atoms floating around? Is evil some slimy blue goo that accidentally gets on people and causes them to do bad things?
No. Evil is not something you can touch. The Bible teaches that evil is not a thing that God created, but rather: a departure from the way things ought to be.  In other words, we might say that evil is:
•  a non-conformity to the way things ought to be
•  a non-conformity to God’s will
•  a deviation from God’s standard
So in response to the critic’s charge that God, being the creator, must have created evil, we say: God is the creator of all things, but because evil is not a thing, it does not follow that God is responsible for the existence of evil.
SKEPTIC: If God is not directly responsible for the origin or existence of evil, then where did evil come from?
We contend that evil, rather than being a creation of God, is the result of mankind using his freedom to depart from God’s will.
SKEPTIC: So you’re saying that the Bible places the blame for evil at the feet of man, not God.
SKEPTIC: Okay, but the Bible says that everything God created was good. Right?
SKEPTIC: Well, how could truly ‘good’ creatures like Adam and Eve have done that which was evil?
The Bible does say that everything God made was good. In fact, Genesis 1:31 states that everything God made was “very good.” But, we disagree with the skeptic who believes that good creatures (such as Adam and Eve were) are incapable of doing that which is evil.
We believe that one of the good qualities God created mankind with was free will. Freedom to choose between opposing options, morally speaking, is a good thing.
Even atheists will concede that freedom is good. You never hear people marching through the streets shouting out: “Down with freedom! We don’t want to have choices! Put us back into slavery!” Never. People march for freedom and for liberty. Free will is a good thing. So God created mankind with free will.
Evil originated with what humans (free moral agents) did and continue to do with their free will, not with God making a less than perfect world as described in the book of Genesis.
SKEPTIC: All right, but I still think God (if He exists) is the one to blame for the presence of evil! According to the Bible, He’s the one who created the people with the free will who commit evil!
CHARLIE: Well, let me ask you this. If a man stabs somebody with a knife, who is to blame? The knife company who made the knife or the man who did the stabbing?
SKEPTIC: Well, obviously, the fault is with the man who misused the knife, not the knife maker.
CHARLIE: Ahhh, well the same is true when it comes to the presence of evil in the world. The world God made was very good. The sin, evil, and suffering that has come into the world is a result of mankind’s misuse of his freedom.
And not only did evil originate with mankind’s misuse of freedom, the majority of evil today is the result of men continuing to misuse their freedom.
Think of how much better life could be on the planet if there were no criminals, no corruption in politics, no wars. Think of the billions of dollars that could be spent on improving the quality of life for people if it didn’t have to be spent fighting evil doers in wars.

As C. S. Lewis points out, most of the evil and suffering in the world has been produced by human beings with whips, guns, bayonets, gas chambers, and bombs. [C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, p. 89.]
Ahhh, but critics raise another good question at this point.
SKEPTIC: If the evil and suffering in our world originated with mankind’s misuse of freedom (and continues because of his misuse of freedom), why didn’t God just create a world without human freedom?
That’s a good question. God certainly could have created a world without freedom. But a world without freedom would have been a world without humans. Would it have been a place without hate? Yes. A place without suffering? Yes.
But it also would have been a world of robots. Why?
Well, to guarantee a world free of suffering, God would have to have created a world in which sin (that brings about suffering) never takes place. To do that God would have to have created creatures without free will (i.e., without the freedom to sin). The creatures would had to have been creatures that God pre-programmed to always do what God wanted them to do.
What do we call creatures that do exactly what we preprogram them to do? Robots. God would have to have created a world of robots!
Can you imagine a world of creatures walking around saying: “I love You God. I worship You God. I will obey everything You say. Here’s another song for You.” Could God have created creatures like that?
Sure. He certainly could have done that, but the fellowship, the worship, and so on, would all have been meaningless to God!
In order for a meaningful, genuine, loving relationship to exist between God and people, people must be free, free to love Him or free to hate Him. If there’s no choice allowed (or free will), love is not meaningful.
Has anybody ever told you that they love you? Obviously, it’s a blessing to hear those words. But what if someone was holding a gun up to some stranger’s head, forcing the person to tell you: “I love you!”
Well, that profession of love would be meaningless to you. Why? The person was coerced. He or she had no option. She had to say she loved you. She had no choice.
The same would be true for God if He had created us without free will. A relationship with robots who have no freedom or free will would be meaningless to God.
So God saw it worth it to grant mankind real freedom. You can freely love Him or hate Him. You can freely obey Him or sin against Him.
That freedom that God has given us, although it allows for the possibility of evil and suffering to take place, also allows for real love, the highest good, to take place.
And a world in which real freedom exists, is the very kind of world that most people want today. Do a little survey on the street sometime.
Ask people if they would like God to force them to live their lives in accord with all of His holy commandments twenty four hours a day with no freedom to do otherwise.
No way! The answer on the streets will be, “Absolutely not!” Most people want the option to move freely about (often times from one unholy pursuit to another).
So in this respect, God has given mankind the very world that mankind actually wants to live in, a world in which true freedom exists. Unfortunately, our misuse of the freedom God has given us is what has led and does lead to so much suffering.
SKEPTIC: Well, yes freedom may be good. And there is a lot of evil that results from mankind’s ‘misuse’ of it. But I have a hard time believing in a God who would allow hurricanes and earthquakes and other natural ‘evils.’
Well in response, first off, I’ll point out that none of these things (hurricanes, earthquakes) are inherently evil. There is nothing immoral about an earthquake or hurricane.
A lot of times the suffering related to these natural phenomenon is closely connected to man’s exercise of his own freedom. For example, take hurricane Katrina. If you build a city like New Orleans on soft sand, silt, and clay, straddling the Mississippi River, just inland from the ocean, several feet under sea level, in an area known to flood–you’re going to have problems. Don’t blame God when the whole city ends up under water.
We need big storms. They bring lots of fresh water up from the ocean to water hundreds of miles of dry wheat and corn fields, so millions of us can eat! There’s nothing wrong with rain.
SKEPTIC: Well, what about earthquakes?
Again, there is nothing evil about an earthquake. In fact, geologists tell us that tectonic plate activity is good for the health of the planet. The relief of the Earth’s internal pressure is what keeps the planet from exploding. The movement of the Earth’s plates also recycles nutrients that collect in the ocean and returns them back to the continents. In order for plants to grow and to continue to nourish humans, the crust of the Earth must be replenished. But if you decide to build a skyscraper in San Francisco, right near a fault line, where major earthquakes are known to strike, you are asking for trouble. God’s not forcing anybody to live in a tall building right near a fault line!
I think the angels are probably looking down on us wondering, “Why do they do that? What are you doing?!"
You may have heard that on January 9, 2010, a 6.5 earthquake hit northern California just three days before the 7.0 quake in Haiti. No people died in the California quake and an estimated 230,000 died in Haiti. Why such a difference in the death toll?
Well, there are a few factors:  the California quake was not quite as powerful as the one in Haiti; the population density of the areas was different, and so on.
But in the United States, we place a high value on human life and so we take safety very seriously. So we have strict building codes. We send out building inspectors. We come up with evacuation plans. We offer first-aid courses. We have standards for construction materials. And as a result, many of our buildings, especially the newer ones that were built under these more up-to-date building codes, are much safer when an earthquake hits.
When a country like Haiti, that has been run into the ground by corrupt politicians, does not follow stringent building codes (and is largely unable to because their government has squandered the billions of dollars in aid that has been sent to them in the past) a lot of people are going to die when the Earth’s plates shift.
We shouldn’t blame God for it.
SKEPTIC: What about tsunamis? The suffering that tsunamis bring is not the result of corrupt politicians.
Again, there is nothing inherently evil about a tsunami. They occasionally happen and we all know that. If you choose to build a home right at sea level on the beach, you’ll have to live with that decision. The view is nice, but you must realize there could be trouble. Don’t blame God if a large wave rolls through your living room.
SKEPTIC: But Charlie, even if the suffering that comes when buildings fall and cities flood is connected to the decisions we make (and even sin), couldn’t God STOP some of these events?
He certainly could. And I suggest that He does.
I believe God does stop (or prevent) certain events. Life could certainly be much worse! But when He does prevent tragedies, loss of life and so on, what happens? Life continues on as though He hasn’t done a thing. To the onlooker, it appears that  God hasn’t stopped anything. It’s just another great day!
SKEPTIC: “Maybe He should put up a visible sign or something to let us  know that He’s stop- ping or preventing something.”
CHARLIE: You mean like a rainbow or something?
SKEPTIC: Uh...Yeah.
When God does prevent something, a good portion of humanity goes on their happy way, ignoring God, sinning, thinking there is no need for God (“Who needs God? Everything is great! The sun is shining. My house is standing. I’ve  got a good job, a spouse. Life is wonderful.”)
And then they die and judgment falls on them for their sins. And they go to Hell. That’s not good.
God does not want a person to live a care-free, comfortable life only to wake up on the other side of death still in his sins. So God, in His wisdom, does permit some suffering. And much good comes as a result.
Allow me to share with you eight ways God uses suffering for good. You might jot these down.
1. God uses suffering to help advance the gospel.
In Philippians, chapter 1, Paul said:
Philippians 1:12-13
“But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard.”
Paul was in prison, unjustly, and he writes the Philippians and says, ‘Don’t worry about me. Rejoice. God is working here in a powerful way!’
On another occasion mentioned in Galatians 4:13, Paul said it was “because of a bodilyillness I preached the gospel to you the first time.”
If Paul had not been suffering from some sort of physical condition that required him to stop in Galatia, the people of Galatia may have never heard the gospel.
In God’s eyes, it is far better that one man or woman suffer for a short time here in this life, than a large group of people suffer for all eternity!
Are you suffering in some way? There may be people–people whom you love and have been praying for–that may be drawn to faith in God as a result of seeing you walk with the Lord through the valley you are in. This is one of the reasons that God allows suffering (to advance the gospel).
In fact, sometimes, it is our unwillingness to suffer that hinders the gospel! Believer, what’s the worst thing that could happen to you from a human perspective? You die? Death is man’s greatest enemy isn’t it?
But as Christians we have a totally different perspective on death than nonbelievers. Death is no longer our enemy is it? The Bible says that death has been swallowed up in Christ’s victory (1 Cor. 15:54). We don’t look at death like the world does.
Paul said that to be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8). “To depart and be with Christ,” he said, “is very much better” (Phil. 1:23). We don’t grieve in the face of death like the nonbeliever.
Jesus has overcome death! Do we sorrow when one of our children dies? Absolutely, but not like the world sorrows because we realize this child has gone into the presence of God and we will see them again.
Christian, in the face death, we need to keep a heavenly perspective: Believers in Jesus Christ are leaving this world behind for a much better one!! Hallelujah for that!
A second way God uses suffering for good…
2. God allows suffering to draw people back to Himself.
Many prodigals, who would have been content to continue running away from God, have been drawn back to Him through some adversity.
When the prodigal son in Luke 15 “began to be in need” and found himself eating the food that the pigs ate “he came to his senses” (v. 17) and went home to his father. The Bible says:
2 Corinthians 7:10
“...the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret.”
Notice that. Sometimes it is the will of God for you to suffer! Why? Well because it produces repentance. Are you suffering in some way this evening? If you are, I encourage you to examine your life! God may be allowing your suffering to wake you up to some area of sin in your life that He wants you to abandon.
C.S. Lewis, in his book The Problem of Pain, wrote: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
I agree. Pain does have a way of waking people up. It has wisely been said that, “Some people will not look up until they are flat on their back.” Evil and suffering can shock people out of their lives of indifference to spiritual things.
Now, it is important to point out that although God does use suffering for good, a person’s suffering is not always related to sin:
Psalm 34:19
“Many are the afflictions of the righteous.”
Even the righteous suffer. And there are good reasons why God allows the righteous to suffer:
3. God allows suffering to train you to live a righteous (and therefore more joyful) life.
Suffering as a result of sinful behavior is something God uses to train us to live a righteous life. Suffering has a purifying effect upon those who are willing to accept it for that purpose.
A person who spends time in the hospital because of some sinful activity is going to think twice before he’d engage in that activity again. Suffering trains us to live a righteous life.
The Psalmist said:
Psalm 119:67, 71, 75
Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word….It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes….in faithfulness You have afflicted me.”
4. God allows suffering to keep you humble and to humble the proud.
Pride is a sin that leads to a host of destructive sins. And God knows the danger of it. So, with Paul for example, God permitted Satan to afflict him with some degree of suffering to keep Paul humble. In God’s great love for Paul, He permitted a thorn in his flesh. That’s mentioned in 2 Corinthians 12:7.
5. God allows suffering to help build perseverance, character, and hope.
Romans 5:3-4
“And not only that, but we also rejoice in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
As you endure adversity, you are trained to persevere. Your character is changed. And your hope (confidence) in God is strengthened.
God is more interested in you knowing Him and in your character than your comfort! The greatest goal of the Christian life is not happiness and freedom from pain, but knowing God and Christlikeness. Your character has eternal ramifications. Your personal level of comfort does not.
6. God allows suffering to help you develop compassion, kindness, and sympathy for others.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
As God brings you out of a season of suffering, you are much better equipped to comfort others who are (or will be) suffering.
I know personally that I have far more compassion today for people who are suffering in some way, because of the suffering that I myself have endured. Suffering truly does help develop compassion!
7. Suffering can help bring praise and glory to God.
We read of one example in John 9.
John 9:1-3
1 And as He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?” [Why the suffering?] 3 Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was in order that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

God providentially allowed this man to suffer with blindness for a time so that “the works of God (v.3) might be displayed in him.” The most important thing in the universe is that people come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior. Well, your suffering, as was the case with the blind man, gives opportunity for God to do an amazing work and bring glory to Jesus through it.
8. Your suffering can help keep others from suffering.
An example of this is seen in the life of Joseph in the book of Genesis (Gen. 37-50). His brothers were wrongly jealous of him. They cast him into a pit, then sold him as a slave down to Egypt, where he ended up in prison, wrongly accused of a crime he did not commit. What a trial! Yet years later Joseph was able to say to his brothers:
Genesis 45:5, 50:20
“It was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you…You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
Joseph rightly saw that God had sovereignly worked in the midst of the suffering to bring about great good–“the saving of many lives” (Gen. 50:20).
And the Bible is full of accounts like these that display God’s remarkable ability to accomplish great good in the midst of trails and suffering. We see this in a very clear way in the life and death of Jesus Christ.
The arrest, mistreatment and murder of Jesus was the biggest crime committed in the history of the human race! Sinful, evil men mocking their Creator, leading Him away to die an excruciating, horribly cruel death, nailed to a wooden cross, where He hung bleeding to death, struggling to breathe. This was the grossest, most vial, evil sin ever perpetrated by the human race.
And yet, the Bible teaches that it was through Jesus’ suffering that God brought about the greatest good that has ever occurred.
Because of Jesus’ suffering, you can now have your sins forgiven.
God allowed the evil actions of men to help accomplish His goal in making a way of salvation possible for you and me.
What an amazing God we have! If God can bring about this incredible good (everlasting life for sinners) from the greatest evil ever done, surely He can work in the midst of your suffering! And indeed that is what He is doing.
And as you walk through the valleys of life, keep in mind that you are walking with a God who...
•  knows what it’s like to suffer.
•  has a plan to end evil and suffering!
•  won’t forsake you in the midst of your suffering.
•  is working all things together for good in the lives of those who love Him!
Oh my brothers and sisters, Your heavenly Father is good. He loves you. I encourage you to look to Him and trust in Him!
( By Charlie H. Campbell; Director of The Always Be Ready Apologetics Ministry)

( Comment or questions, feel free!)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Watch this Rap:

10 Reasons to Believe in Christ rather than Religion

Religious activity has been viewed as everything from a stairway to heaven to a salve for a person’s conscience. But, what is religion—and is it enough? This pamphlet offers ten reasons to believe that religion cannot meet people’s deepest needs. Instead, we are pointed to a personal relationship with God through His Son.

Christ Is Someone To Know And Trust

Christ is more than a system, tradition, or belief. He is a Person who knows our needs, feels our pain, and sympathizes with our weakness. In exchange for our trust, He offers to forgive our sins, to intercede for us, and to bring us to His Father. He cried for us, died for us, and rose from the dead to show that He was all He claimed to be. Conquering death, He showed us that He can save us from our sins, live His life through us on earth, and then bring us safely to heaven. He offers Himself as a gift to anyone who will trust Him (John 20:24-31).

Religion Is Something To Believe And Do

Religion is believing in God, attending religious services, taking catechism, being baptized, and receiving communion. Religion is tradition, ritual, ceremony, and learning the difference between right and wrong. Religion is reading and memorizing Scripture, offering prayers, giving to the poor, and celebrating religious holy days. Religion is singing in the choir, helping the poor, and making amends for past wrongs. Religion is something that was practiced by the Pharisees, those Scripture-loving, conservative, separatistic, spiritual leaders who hated Christ enough to call for His death. They hated Him not only because He broke their traditions in order to help people (Matthew 15:1-9) but because He saw through their religion to their hearts.

Religion Doesn’t Change Hearts

Jesus likened the religious Pharisees to a group of dishwashers who clean the outside of a cup while leaving the inside dirty. He said, “Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness. Foolish ones! Did not He who made the outside make the inside also?” (Luke 11:39-40). Jesus knew that a person can change his image without changing his act (Matthew 23:1-3). He knew that religious credentials and ceremony cannot change the heart. He told one of the most religious men of His day that unless a person is “born again” by the Spirit, he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3). Yet from that day until now, many of the most religious people in the world continue to forget that while religion can give attention to outward appearance, only Christ can change the heart.

Religion Makes Much Of Little

Jesus spoke to religionists who had a passion for detail when He said, “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue, and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone” (Luke 11:42). Jesus saw our tendency to make rules and to focus on “morally correct” behavior instead of keeping our eyes on the bigger issue of why we are trying to be so right. While the Pharisees were big on knowledge carried out to its logical conclusions, they forgot that God doesn’t care how much we know until He knows how much we care. It was this greater “why” that the apostle Paul had in mind when he wrote, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. . . . If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1,3).

Religion Offers The Approval Of Men Rather Than God

Jesus reserved His strongest criticism for religious people who used their spiritual reputation to get social attention and honors. To such religionists Jesus said, “Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces” (Luke 11:43). Then, speaking to His disciples, He said of the Pharisees, “All their works they do to be seen by men” (Matthew 23:5). Jesus saw clearly into the practice of religion, which holds the opinions and attention of man to be more important and desirable than the approval of God.

Religion Makes Hypocrites Of Us

Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like graves which are not seen, and the men who walk over them are not aware of them” (Luke 11:44). What looks better than being dressed right, attending religious services, and doing things that mark us as decent, God-fearing people? Yet how many religious scholars, ministers, and faithful followers withhold honor and encouragement from their wives, attention from their children, and love from their doctrinal enemies? Jesus knew what we often forget: What looks good may have a heart of evil.

Religion Makes A Hard Life Harder

Because religion cannot change a heart, it tries to control people with laws and expectations that are not even kept by the religionists who interpret and apply the rules. With this “burden factor” in mind, Jesus said, “Woe to you also, lawyers [experts in religious law]! For you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers” (Luke 11:46). Religion is good at describing high standards of right behavior and relationships, but poor at giving real and merciful help to those who realize they have not lived up to those expectations.

Religion Makes It Easy To Deceive Ourselves

It’s been jokingly said, “I love humanity. It’s people I can’t stand.” The Pharisees acted out a similar idea, but it wasn’t funny. According to Jesus, the Pharisees prided themselves in honoring and building memorials to the prophets. The irony is that when they met a real prophet they wanted to kill Him. Barclay says, “The only prophets they admired were dead prophets; when they met a living one, they tried to kill Him. They honored the dead prophets with tombs and memorials, but they dishonored the living ones with persecution and death.” This is the point Jesus made in Luke 11:47-51 and in a parallel passage in Matthew 23:29-32. The Pharisees had fooled themselves. They didn’t think of themselves as prophet-killers. Religionists don’t see themselves as the God-rejecting people they are.

Religion Hides The Key Of Knowledge

One of the greatest dangers of religion is that it causes us to be a danger not only to ourselves but also to others. To the very religious biblical experts of His day Jesus said, “Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered” (Luke 11:52). Religionists take away “the key of knowledge” by distracting people from the Word of God and from a “right attention of heart” by the unnecessary additions of denominationally correct traditions and expectations. Rather than leading people to God, religionists shift the focus to themselves and their own rules. Religionists are those who trust the beliefs and actions of their religion to do what only Christ can do.

Religion Leads Its Converts Astray

In Matthew 23:15 Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.” Converts of religion are in double jeopardy. They bring a double enthusiasm to their new way of life, and with zeal they blindly defend their blind teachers. They put themselves in the trust of people who have exchanged a system of rules and traditions for the life, forgiveness, and relationship of an infinite Savior. Religion is important in its place (James 1:26-27), but only when it points us to the Christ who died for our sins and who now offers to live His life through those who trust Him (Galatians 2:20;  Titus 3:5).

You’re Not Alone

You’re not alone if you find yourself honestly unconvinced about whether Christ rose from the dead. But keep in mind that Jesus promised God’s help to those who want to be right with God. He said, “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether My teaching comes from God or whether I speak on My own” (John 7:17 NIV).
If you do see the reasonableness of the resurrection, keep in mind that the Bible says Christ died to pay the price for our sins, and those who believe in their heart that God has raised Him from the dead will be saved (Romans 10:9-10). The salvation Christ offers is not a reward for effort, but a gift to all who in light of the evidence put their trust in Him.

(RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI) (Comments or questions, feel free!)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Your Work Matters to God

Many Christians hold a decidedly unbiblical view of work. Some view it as a curse, or at least as part of the curse of living in a fallen world. Others make a false distinction between what they perceive as the sacred—serving God—and the secular—everything else. And others make it into an idol, expecting it to provide them with their identity and purpose in life as well as being a source of joy and fulfillment that only God can provide. In their excellent book Your Work Matters to God,{1} Doug Sherman and William Hendricks expose the wrong ways of thinking about work, and explain how God invests work with intrinsic value and honor. Rick Warren echoes this idea in his blockbuster The Purpose Driven Life when he writes, "Work becomes worship when you dedicate it to God and perform it with an awareness of his presence."{2}
First, let's explore some faulty views of work: the secular view, some inappropriate hierarchies that affect how we view work, and work as merely a platform for doing evangelism.
Those who hold a secular view of work believe that life is divided into two disconnected parts. God is in one spiritual dimension and work is in the other real dimension, and the two have nothing to do with each other. God stays in His corner of the universe while I go to work and live my life, and these different realms never interact.
One problem with this secular view is that it sets us up for disappointment. If you leave God out of the picture, you'll have to get your sense of importance, fulfillment and reward from someplace else: work. Work is the answer to the question, "Who am I, and why am I important?" That is a very shaky foundation—because what happens if you lose your job? You're suddenly a "nobody," and you are not important because you are not employed.
The secular view of work tends to make an idol of career. Career becomes the number one priority in your life. Your relationship with God takes a back seat, family takes a back seat, even your relationship with other people takes a back seat to work. Everything gets filtered through the question, "What impact will this have on my career?"
The secular view of work leaves God out of the system. This is particularly unacceptable for Christians, because God calls us to make Him the center of our life.{3} He wants us to have a biblical worldview that weaves Him into every aspect of our lives, including work. He wants to be invited into our work; He wants to be Lord of our work.{4}

Inappropriate Hierarchies: Soul/Body, Temporal/Eternal

In this article, we're examining some faulty views of work. One comes from believing that the soul matters more than the body. We can wrongly believe that God only cares about our soul, and our bodies don't really matter. The body is not important, we can think: it is only temporal, and it will fade and die. But if that view were true, then why did God make a physical universe? Why did He put Adam and Eve in the garden to cultivate and keep it? He didn't charge them with, "Go and make disciples of all nations which aren't in existence yet, but they will be as soon as you guys go off and start making babies." No, He said, "Here's the garden, now cultivate it." He gave them a job to do that had nothing to do with evangelism or church work. There is something important about our bodies, and God is honored by work that honors and cares for the body—which, after all, is His good creation.
Another wrong way of thinking is to value the eternal over the temporal so much that we believe only eternal things matter. Some people believe that if you work for things that won't last into eternity—jobs like roofing and party planning and advertising—you're wasting your time. This wrong thinking needs to be countered by the truth that God created two sides to reality, the temporal and the eternal. The natural universe God made is very real, just as real as the supernatural universe. Asking which one is real and important is like asking which is real, our nine months in our mother's womb or life after birth? They are both real; they are both necessary. We have to go through one to get to the other.
Those things we do and make on earth DO have value, given the category they were made for: time. It's okay for things to have simply temporal value, since God chose for us to live in time before we live in eternity. Our work counts in both time and eternity because God is looking for faithfulness now, and the only way to demonstrate faithfulness is within this physical world. Spiritual needs are important, of course, but first physical needs need to be met. Try sharing the gospel with someone who hasn't eaten in three days! Some needs are temporal, and those needs must be met. So God equips people with abilities to meet the needs of His creation. In meeting the legitimate physical, temporal needs of people, our work serves people, and people have eternal value because God loves us and made us in His image.

The Sacred/Spiritual Dichotomy; Work as a Platform for Evangelism

Another faulty view of work comes from believing that spiritual, sacred things are far more important than physical, secular things. REAL work, people can think, is serving God in full-time Christian service, and then there's everything else running a very poor second. This can induce us to think either too highly of ourselves or too lowly of ourselves. We can think, "Real work is serving God, and then there's what others do" (which sets us up for condescension), or "Real work is serving God, and then there's what I have to do" (which sets us up for false guilt and a sense of "missing it").
It's an improper way to view life as divided between the sacred and the secular. ALL of life relates to God and is sacred, whether we're making a business presentation or changing soiled diapers or leading someone to faith in Christ. It's unwise to think there are sacred things we do and there are secular things we do. It all depends on what's going on in our hearts. You can engage in what looks like holy activity like prayer and Bible study with a dark, self-centered, unforgiving spirit. Remember the Pharisees? And on the other hand, you can work at a job in a very secular atmosphere where the conversation is littered with profanity, the work is slipshod, the politics are wearisome, and yet like Daniel or Joseph in the Old Testament you can keep your own conversation pure and your behavior above reproach. You can bring honor and glory to God in a very worldly environment. God does not want us to do holy things, He wants us to be holy people.
A final faulty view of work sees it only as a platform for doing evangelism. If every interaction doesn't lead to an opportunity to share the gospel, one is a failure. Evangelism should be a priority, true, but not our only priority. Life is broader than evangelism. In Ephesians 1, Paul says three times that God made us, not for evangelism, but to live to the praise of His glory.{5} Instead of concentrating only on evangelism, we need to concentrate on living a life that honors God and loves people. That is far more winsome than all the evangelistic strategies in the world. Besides, if work is only a platform for evangelism, it devalues the work itself, and this view of work is too narrow and unfulfilling.
Next we'll examine at how God wants us to look at work. You might be quite surprised!

How God Wants Us to See Work

So far, we have discussed faulty views of work, but how does God want us to see it? Here's a startling thought: we actually work for God Himself! Consider Ephesians 6:5-8, which Paul writes to slaves but which we can apply to employees:
Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.
It's helpful to envision that behind every employer stands the Lord Jesus. He sees everything we do, and He appreciates it and will reward us, regardless of the type of work we do. I learned this lesson one day when I was cleaning the grungy bathtub of a family that wouldn't notice and would never acknowledge or thank me even if they did. I was getting madder by the minute, throwing myself a pity party, when the Lord broke into my thoughts. He quietly said, "I see you. And I appreciate what you're doing." Whoa! In an instant, that totally changed everything. Suddenly, I was able to do a menial job—and later on, more important ones—as a labor of love and worship for Jesus. I know He sees and appreciates what I do. It forever changed my view of work.
God also wants us to see that work is His gift to us. It is not a result of the Fall. God gave Adam and Eve the job of cultivating the garden and exercising dominion over the world before sin entered the world. We were created to work, and for work. Work is God's good gift to us!
Listen to what Solomon wrote:
After looking at the way things are on this earth, here's what I've decided is the best way to live: Take care of yourself, have a good time, and make the most of whatever job you have for as long as God gives you life. And that's about it. That's the human lot. Yes, we should make the most of what God gives, both the bounty and the capacity to enjoy it, accepting what's given and delighting in the work. It's God's gift!{6}
Being happy in our work doesn't depend on the work, it depends on our attitude. To make the most of our job and be happy in our work is a gift God wants to give us!

Why Work is Good

In this article we're talking about how to think about work correctly. One question needs to be asked, though: Is all work equally valid? Well, no. All legitimate work is an extension of God's work of maintaining and providing for His creation. Legitimate work is work that contributes to what God wants done in the world and doesn't contribute to what He doesn't want done. So non-legitimate work would include jobs that are illegal, such as prostitution, drug dealing, and professional thieves. Then there are jobs that are legal, but still questionable in terms of ethics and morality, such as working in abortion clinics, pornography, and the gambling industry. These jobs are legal, but you have to ask, how are they cooperating with God to benefit His creation?
Work is God's gift to us. It is His provision in a number of ways. In Your Work Matters to God, the authors suggest five major reasons why work is valuable:
1. Through work we serve people. Most work is part of a huge network of interconnected jobs, industries, goods and services that work together to meet people's physical needs. Other jobs meet people's aesthetic and spiritual needs as well.
2. Through work we meet our own needs. Work allows us to exercise the gifts and abilities God gives each person, whether paid or unpaid. God expects adults to provide for themselves and not mooch off others. Scripture says, "If one will not work, neither let him eat!"{7}
3. Through work we meet our family's needs. God expects the heads of households to provide for their families. He says, "If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."{8}
4. Through work we earn money to give to others. In both the Old and New Testaments, God tells us to be generous in meeting the needs of the poor and those who minister to us spiritually. {9}
5. Through work we love God. One of God's love languages is obedience. When we work, we are obeying His two great commandments to love Him and love our neighbor as we love ourselves.{10} We love God by obeying Him from the heart. We love our neighbor as we serve other people through our work.
We bring glory to God by working industriously, demonstrating what He is like, and serving others by cooperating with God to meet their needs. In serving others, we serve God. And that's why our work matters to God.
1. Doug Sherman and William Hendricks, Your Work Matters to God. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1987.
2. Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002. p. 67.
3. Philippians 1:21
4. Romans 12:1, 2
5. Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14
6. Ecclesiastes 5:18-19, The Message.
7. 2 Thess. 3:10
8. 1 Tim. 5:8
9. Leviticus 19:10—Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the LORD your God. Ephesians 4:28—Let him who steals, steal no longer but rather let him labor performing with his own hands what is good in order that he may have something to share with him who has need. Gal 6:6—The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him.
10. Matthew 22:37-39
© 2004 Probe Ministries.

About the Author
Sue Bohlin is an associate speaker with Probe Ministries. She attended the University of Illinois, and has been a Bible teacher and conference speaker for over 30 years.