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If We Knew What Was Good For Us

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:9-12

Image result for oopsGod is good–infinitely good. And we are created in His image to be good.

Yet sin spoiled our hearts, so that we are averse to God from birth. Everyone has gone astray to their own way [Isaiah 53:6], and though, as Christians, we all still ultimately fall short of the glory of God [Romans 3:23], still goodness calls from deep within us to our Heavenly Father [Psalm 42:7].

Eternity is seeded in our hearts [Ecclesiastes 3:11].

We each know that good exists, and while we understand just a glimpse of true goodness, we hunger and thirst for more of it. We want it all for ourselves. Though some are willing to see others’ need for goodness and to meet it [Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31; Romans 5:7], many sinfully look to no one’s good but their own.

These same people often believe that if God is good [which He is], then nothing bad should ever happen. They want to define a good God as one who walks around like a Bubble-wrap Fairy Godmother, ensuring that nothing ever goes wrong for them personally.

These same people often reject the idea of their own sin nature. They then reject the understanding of sin’s evils manifest in the world. From here they blame God for not really being a God at all or, if they can’t in good conscious deny Him, then they accuse Him of not really being good and refuse to know and love Him.

How ironic that it is the very goodness of God that cause so many to reject Him when His goodness is what every heart longs for.

Jesus assured his hearers that not only does God know how to, He actively gives of His infinite goodness to all of Creation without fail. And certainly when we ask, we receive of His goodness. Herein lies the rub. Because what we demand of God is not always good for us. And the worse consequence that He can give us is to give us exactly what we insisted on outside of His will to begin with.

So why do so many think that God is only good if He is their personal genie of the lamp, granting their every whim?

He gave us life and He sustains it in every way. He show us the way, the truth and the life [Genesis 2:7; Acts 17:28]. He gives more abundant life each day we spend with Him [John 10:10]. He gives eternal life when we lay our earthly selfishness aside and recognize Him for who He is. When we ask for His forgiveness for our sinful natures–yes, the ones we were born with–and believe on His Son Jesus, and Him crucified [John 3:16].

When you pray, do you seek God? Or do you hand Him a laundry list of your good ideas for life? Do you trust God to guide you in the best that He has for you?



If God Is Good, Then Why Is There Bad in the World?

“With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:6-8

Image result for tearsGod is good. And He is infinitely so. But what is that goodness? What does it consist of or pertain to? How and when does it manifest?

Many cultures have mythologies of gods that are sinister but powerful. The Greek and Roman pantheons were worse than the most corrupt human beings, acting selfishly in all their ways and disposed by whim to mistreat humans it suited their own immoral pleasures. Their character couldn’t have been further from the truth of who God is.

Good is the opposite of evil. God is not bad in anyway [Psalm 92:15]. He is morally upright, but more than that, He is generously kind and loving to all. His infinite goodness is the source of every blessing and joy, the source of our hope and the wellspring of His love and goodwill–mercy and grace–toward humankind.

He created for all our needs and faithfully provides for them, though we are unfaithful about cultivating our relationship with Him [Matthew 5:45] and though we fail to thank Him for His faithful beneficence.

He keeps His creation in motion, patiently waiting for more of mankind to turn and recognize Him as God [Genesis 8:22; 2 Peter 3:9].

He hears our prayers and provides us with His Spirit to overcome just as He did. Because He is good, we can have peace [John 16:33], joyful strength [Nehemiah 8:10], hope in Him [Isaiah 40:31] and contentment waiting for our heavenly home [Matthew 11:29 & 10:24]. Because He is good, He strengthens us in our present circumstances [1 Peter 5:10-11]. Because He is good, He made a way to reconcile with us so that we could spend eternity with Him [John 3:16].

But our present circumstances are exactly the rub for so many who choose to walk away from belief in God. They shake their fist at heaven and ask, If God is good, then why is there bad in the world?

God is infinitely good. But His adversary, the devil, is full of every kind of evil intent toward us. Satan is angry that he will never attain heaven and angry at human beings that we can be redeemed. And he does everything he can, in his limited power of deception, to keep as many of us from coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ [1 Peter 5:8].

God is infinitely good, but we, His Creation, are sinful and therefore predisposed to love self and thereby wrong others in pursuit of self [Matthew 7:12 & 22:36-40; Mark 12:28-34; Luke 10:25-28 & 16:31].

As believers, we must realize that we were redeemed to be a light of God’s goodness to this world, just the way He intended us to be from the Creation [Matthew 5:14-16].

Does God’s goodness flow through your life to others? Do others understand that God is good because they see His good work in your life [1 Peter 2:12]?


Temptation’s Deception

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

Image result for temptationGod is faithful. He does not tempt us–which leads to sin and death, but rather our own desires do [James 1:13-15]. Yet through it all, no temptation is so great that we are incapable of resisting it [Genesis 4:7]. And especially when we see and know that God faithfully provides a way to escape the temptations that come.

What are these escapes? Well, the original Greek term here is ekbasin which literally translates issue. Moreover, the Greek term commonly translated as endure it is actually hypenenkein or to carry on under it. I don’t know about you, but this renders a different image in my mind.

When we are tempted–which, remember, comes by our own sinful desires [James 1:13-15]–God will bring the issue to light so that we can carry on under the pressure of the temptation. You see, in a way, it’s like the Garden of Eden all over again for each us. Not that we each usher sin anew into the world, but we each face the choice to love God or love self.

Why is that Adam and Eve weren’t tempted to eat from the tree of life and live forever? That tree also stood in the center of the garden near the tree of the knowledge of good and evil [Genesis 2:9]. Satan played on their desires, but also their ignorance. Since they didn’t know death, they didn’t understand that life could be taken from them. So they chose the love of self. Question God. Ignore God’s words. Satisfy self’s desires. Gain more for self.

God told Cain that he didn’t have to choose sin as his parents had done [Genesis 4:7]. Though we are all sinners [Isaiah 53:6-8; Romans 3:23], willful sin is a choice. Willful sin can be mastered. Including the willful sin to deny God’s existence and refuse to understand His Word so that we can plea ignorance of the law–except we can’t. Satan played Cain’s desires, but also his anger. In the end, Cain chose the love of self. Reject God’s words–both His law and His preventative admonitions. Indulge self’s desires by satiating self’s anger. Gain more for self.

In both accounts, the sinners had a choice. Yes, the temptation was there. But so too was the more excellent way [1 Corinthians 12:31].

You see, the biggest deception about temptation is that, while we temporary indulge and satisfy self, we do not gain the more that we desire. On the contrary, we lose the very thing we seek [Matthew 10:28 & 39 & 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24 & 17:33; John 12:25]–a full life [John 10:10]. All of the temporary riches and positions hold empty promises, but laying them aside to pursue the kingdom of heaven in this life brings eternally abundant life [Matthew 6:19-20 & 19:24; Mark 10:25; John 3:16].

Are you listening for God’s faithful voice in the midst of your temptations? Will you take His more excellent way so that you can carry on under the weight of them?


Standing on the Faithful One

“For the word of the Lord is right and true; He is faithful in all He does.” Psalm 33:4

Image result for standing on a rockIn the beginning, God said, Let there be–and all of Creation sprang forth. The Word of God spoke light and life into existence. More importantly, the Word of God has sustained, does sustain and will sustain all that He made–without question about whether He can or will.

God is faithful.

The work He began, He is and will see to the end, unswervingly [Philippians 1:6]. As the Psalmist says, God’s law is perfect and His statutes are trustworthy, His precepts are right and His decrees are firm [Psalm 19:7-9].

Law–that system of rules and regulations that govern word and deed. The world’s system is imperfect–it is flawed and lacking. But God’s law is flawless and complete. And He carries out His perfect law without fail.

Statutes–God’s laws in writing. Again, the world’s written laws are unreliable, even corrupt. People of prominence or those with connections in authority leverage their position to gain immunity. Lawmakers themselves often violate the very laws they write and expect their constituents to uphold, but find loopholes to escape the consequence. But God’s Word, His written decrees, are trustworthy. We can depend on God to always do what He said He would do–whether it be heavenly blessings for repentance and right-living or whether it be consequences for sin.

Precepts–thought and behavior regulators. The world’s patterns of thought and behavior don’t align with Our Creator’s design and are, therefore, incorrect. But God’s thoughts steadfastly transcend our own [Isaiah 55:8]. And He constantly desires to restore right thought and behavior patterns so that we may have life to the full [John 10:10; Romans 12:2].

Decrees–legal orders. The world’s authoritative orders are inconsistently meted out and enforced. As such, decrees can be whimsically reactive. They also tend to peter out over time. Not so with God. When He commands, the command faithfully stands. He is not wishy-washy that He should change His mind. He does not show favoritism that He should enforce the command with some and not others. He does not forget or lose interest or need to change His commands to accommodate for some new development in world history.

In all His ways and in all His words, God is faithful. He adheres, unwaveringly, to the truth of His nature in all things.

As we are made in His image–while we cannot ourselves make perfect laws, statutes, precepts and decrees–we can faithfully stand on the ones given to us in loving wisdom by our God who is right and true.

Are you faithfully standing on God’s Word?


A Rubber Resolution?

“And He passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished;” Exodus 34:6-7a

Image result for measuring tape on woodGod is faithful. That is, He is constant, steadfast and resolute. He sticks unwavering to His purposes and promises.

Faithful is a good trait. Yet in this day and age, where bad is called good and good is called bad [Isaiah 5:20], God’s faithfulness is exactly why many choose to turn their back on Him. In general, people want God to be faithful in His love, goodness, kindness, mercy and grace–as long as it applies the way they expect it to, satisfying each of their desires. But they don’t want Him to be faithful when it comes to His sovereignty, justice and holiness, for example. Because justice means that there is a moral law that we each must adhere to, and that there are consequences if we don’t.

In our self-as-god mentalities, we want to be our own sovereign and determine what is just for our situation–especially if it means opposing God’s holy precepts to fit our perceived needs. In this way, we are not being faithful–steadfast and constant–as God must be.

With God, who is transcendent, moral compliance is black and white–no shades of grey. Either we have forgiveness of sins or we don’t. Either we behave in godly ways or godless ways. Either we glorify Him with our lives, or we dishonor Him. Either we obey or we disobey. It’s like building a house with a rubber band for a ruler, stretching the measuring stick to make it say that the boards are the right length even when they’re truly not. And if every board is slightly off from the true measure, the house will never stand!

Consider that the opposite of a faithful God is one who is careless, cold and corrupt. One who is dishonest, fraudulent and negligent. One who is undependable, unscrupulous and untrustworthy. But these are all words that describe unfaithful human beings. These are the marks of sin in our world, not the hand of God.

God is faithful, we can depend that He will always forgive the repentant sinner. We can trust that He will maintain the seasons, days and years until He renews and restores His Creation [Genesis 8:22]. We can rest assured that He will keep His promise never to destroy the earth again in a worldwide flood [Genesis 9:11]. He was faithful to send His Son, Jesus, to carry out the plan of redemption instituted from the advent of sin [Genesis 3:15] despite the rampant unfaithfulness of human kind in every generation since. And He will be faithful, when the time has reached its fullness, to send Jesus to gather us home [Matthew 13:32 & 24:36].

God is infinitely and eternally faithful. And we are made in His image. We were made to return His faithfulness–to be steadfast in our love for and faith in Him. Do you?

We were made to reflect His constant love and forgiveness to others in our lives. Do you?


Everywhere Here

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” Psalm 139:7-12

Image result for hiding in shadowsGod is omnipresent. He is everywhere here. There is no place where He is not, no place where we can step out of His presence or hide from Him. And why should we want to?

It is the sin in our lives, the guilt and shame when we recognize that He is holy and we are unworthy, that lead many to try to run away from the presence of God. But it’s like running on a treadmill–though miles and days and years may pass, running from God gets us nowhere good, fast. We find ourselves still bound by the same guilt and shame of the same sin, still seeking to hide ourselves from God’s presence but still having to face Him all the same.

So what about the adage: Where sin is, God cannot be also? Doesn’t that mean that there are places where we can hide from God? That we can bury ourselves deeper in the muck and mire of sins and God will never be able to look on us again. Not so. This adage is not a scripture verse, but rather a pithy distillment from a sermon taken out of context. It is the message that sin separates us from God [Isaiah 59:2] twisted to an inaccurate point.

A more accurate scriptural statement would read: Where sin is, God is not embodied. Though He does see us in our sins, He is not embodied in the temptations that lead us to sin [James 1:13-15]. He does, however, envelop us in that everywhere-here-omnipresence even while we are still blatantly sinning [Psalm 139:11-12], indiscriminately doling out love and grace and mercy so that all may see Him and come to a saving faith in Him [Matthew 5:44-45].

Because as long as we have this life, the Lord may be found, His salvation accepted [Isaiah 55:5-7]. And being omnipresent, He is everywhere here with us so that when we seek Him we find Him right beside us. And so that when we turn in repentance to give Him our hearts, He is right there to accept us–to redeem us–and to make us clean and whole. No lines. No waiting. No crossing the world on fire and waves to find a distant, impersonal God.

Do you know the God who goes with you? Have you met Him? Have you called out to Him and made Him your closest friend and constant strength?


An Impossible Challenge

“Do you have an arm like God’s, and can your voice thunder like His? Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor and clothe yourself in honor and majesty. Unleash the fury of your wrath, look at all who are proud and humble them, crush the wicked where they stand. Bury them all in the dust together; shroud their faces in the grave. Then I myself will admit to you that your own right hand can save you.” Job 38:32-36

Image result for man pushing a boulderGod asks Job so many questions leading up to this moment. Not because He needs Job’s counsel but, in true God fashion, because He wants to instruct him. In response to His own questions, God challenges Job further. Show yourself to be the God Satan told you you could be [Genesis 3:5; Isaiah 14:14]. Go ahead.

Except that Satan lied, and even Job knows it.

All his life, Job faithfully praised our Creator God. Even when he lost everything and his wife told him just to turn his back on God and die [Job 2:9], Job held firm to his trust in the Almighty. His friends came with less than Godly counsel in his time of greatest loss. And at the end of very long, very judgmental tirades against their buddy, God had something to say.

Show yourself as mighty as I AM. And if you succeed, then you can be your own god. An impossible challenge.

All human strength–whether the might of brawn or sword or schemes–together cannot scratch the omnipotence of God.

Though we can observe God’s steadfast power at work in nature, we can only comply with His laws to maintain the life He created. We cannot create new plants out of nothing. We cannot make plants act other than He designed them to act [i.e. make oak trees grow underwater]. Though we have noted how life reproduces, science can never explain why life generates more life. But God made all things out of nothing [Genesis 1:1]. He designed their every attribute. And He knows the why behind life.

Though we can enjoy the beauty of the sun and stars, for danger of incineration and for sheer distance, we cannot even approach them. But God hung each in place. He knows their blueprint as intimately as He knows each and every one of us [Matthew 10:30; Luke 12:7; Hebrews 4:12], and He alone fuels their light.

Though we build ships and airplanes to cross the seas and have circumnavigated the globe and dove to great depths, what human being can control the ocean? God not only reigns it in, regulating its tides, but He dug its depths with a Word.

Every creature, save one, obeys the Creator. Bees pollinate and make honey. Trees and grass scrub carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. Cats keep mice populations in check. Ecosystems with their communities and food webs all work together in God’s design. All except for human beings.

We choose not to obey the stewardship commands given at the Creation [Genesis 1:24-26]. We choose not to love God and to love one another as ourselves [Matthew 22:38-29; Mark 12:30-31]. We choose to deny God’s power–though it is evident all around us–in an effort to try to usurp the control for ourselves.

But who are we that God should fear or answer to us?

Does your life flow out of a reverence for God’s omnipotence?