Musings on Christianity 33

Musings on Christianity 33

Why Must We Deny Ourselves?

I confess I like my stuff. If I’m covetous of anything, it’s my time. I have always believed that time is one of only two true valuable things (love being the other). I am most unloving when I see “my” time being taken from me.

But this just isn’t how I’m supposed to be.

“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me,’” Matthew 16:24.

As I ponder this verse, I consider that one can’t possibly follow Jesus if one insists on going his own way. The only way to follow Jesus is to go where he goes and walk as he walks. That means the things that would cause one to step aside would have to deny that desire to stay with Him.

The most wonderful benefit to self-denial would be that you will arrive where Jesus is. Whatever this life has to offer, the Kingdom of Heaven is far greater (Romans 8:18). Matthew 16:24 is an eloquent summary of so many lessons that add up to the same concept.

When one denies himself, he shows his love for Christ by following him, and he shows his love to others in the sacrifice of those desires. I spoke about this at length in the previous chapter.

When one denies himself, he humbles himself for Christ. Those who humble themselves are lifted up by God (1 Peter 5:6-7). They receive God’s favor (James 4:6). Humility breeds wisdom (Proverbs 11:2). The humble one receives God’s guidance and instruction (Psalm 25:9).

When one denies temptation, they glorify God. We show that while temptation strikes, we rely not on our strength, but on God’s. When we are weak, He is strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

The book of Job in itself is a story of a test. Job is made an example for those who would deny temptation and continue to seek God even during the worst sorts of suffering of heart and body.

These are verses and thoughts I need. Time is indeed precious. It is indeed fleeting, but that makes it that much more important to use that time to glorify God. I promise, I’m not saying a man can’t take a few minutes to read or relax. God gave us the sabbath specifically so that we could rest (Mark 2:27).

I read The Heart of Anger by Lou Priolo to better help one of my sons through junior high, and I learned so much about myself. The relevant portion is that you can identify the idols in your life by what you’re willing to sin to have or what you’re willing to sin because you didn’t receive it.

As adults, we look at children throwing a tantrum and think about how spoiled they are. Why don’t we use that same judgement on adults or, more importantly, ourselves? This is a great failing in my life. Where I should have trained my heart and body to seek Christ, I trained myself to use every moment I possibly can to advance my goals. Yes, one should strive to accomplish the tasks set before them, but the main goal should always be to follow Christ. Every tertiary goal we have should still be directed toward honoring God.

  At this point in my journey I’m so trained in one manner I often find myself reacting to my sinful training before I even realize I’m seeking after what I want and not thinking about God at all.

We can even be sinful in our seemingly religious actions. This was the rebuke Christ offered the Pharisees in Matthew 23. All they did, they did for the appearance of piety, not to honor God. It was a pretense offered to only receive the acknowledgement of man rather than to glorify God. I’m ashamed to say I think I would have made a fine Pharisee. I love lists. I love standards. If one were to tell me, “Do X, Y, Z, and all will be well,” I’d blow that list out of the water.

But we should already know that there isn’t anything we can do to earn our way into Heaven. Our forgiveness is a gift of grace (Romans). When we deny ourselves, we accept God. When we seek His kingdom and His righteousness,  He provides for us (Matthew 6:33).

The more we make life about us, the less our lives are about God. No one can deny this truth. If our mind is on ourselves in what we do, it can’t possibly be on God. No one can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24).

I don’t pretend to be the most selfish man on earth. But I’m aware enough of my own heart to know how covetous I am of “my” time. But if I think of it as mine, it can’t be God’s can it? I’m battling this so often and so often finding that I’ve lost before I realized the opportunity I had to glorify God.

I’d challenge anyone to look at the things in life they value. If there is a thing so important, you’d harm, ignore, or resent others to obtain it or because you didn’t get it, you should probably think long and hard about what that thing is truly costing you.

I guess the thing I should do is try and challenge myself. If I’m angry that I’m being “interrupted,” I should ask myself, “Is what I’m doing worth the Kingdom of Heaven? Would I give up my salvation for this?”

To be clear, salvation can’t be lost! The challenge question is a check on my heart to glorify God in denying this part of myself rather than needing to ask forgiveness for once more sinning in whatever way I might be sinning.

It’s better to think on the Kingdom of Heaven and realize nothing here can compare than to realize and lament the fact that I’ve sinned to do or have something that just doesn’t matter.

For our panel: What are some other things people can do to take stock of the idols in their life? What other verses can one turn to when they find themselves as I sometimes find myself? For those who struggle so much to let go, are people such as I not saved simply because we’re struggling to let go? Are addicts condemned simply because of the difficulty of turing away from their addictions? If the answers to the last two questions are “no,” what verses can we turn to for comfort and strength as people struggle with and remorse their sin?

Musings on Christianity 30

Musings on Christianity 30

The Importance of Patience

The military trained me to be decisive. I learned problem solving. I learned how to take action. What I didn’t realize was how quickly my patience was eroding away. I think sometimes people equate waiting as not taking action. We don’t want to be lazy, but we can’t lose our perspective to such a degree that we become frustrated or angry that things don’t happen.

Maybe we have a co-worker who’s not as skilled as you, and so takes longer to complete a task. Maybe your children are being disobedient or acting out. All these test my patience. However, I can’t fail those tests. And that’s the topic of this chapter.

Patience is love (1 Corinthians 13:4-5).  Patience is wise (Proverbs 14:29).  Patience shows faith in God (Romans 8:25). Patience is better even than victory in war (Proverbs 16:32). Patience is a show of strength (Psalm 27:14). Patience is Godly, for he is slow to anger (Psalm 103:8).

As the world progresses to more and more immediate satisfaction, patience is eroding away from society.

Look at debt. I have $50 a month to spend. I could wait and buy that $400 TV eight months, but for those who want it at that moment, they go into debt, paying perhaps as much as $1,200 for a $400 TV because they wanted it that moment rather than waiting.

As parents, we tell our children constantly to wait. “Dad is working!” “Mom is making dinner!” “It’s not your turn!”

But how often are you willing to wait? Do you slow down and stop at the yellow light or do you step on it to be sure you don’t have to wait at the light? I’m guilty of all of these follies, but the important thing is to recognize them as folly.

This isn’t the same as not working diligently. In fact, I’d argue that working diligently for years is a demonstration of patience. After all, anyone can quit if they don’t get the raise they’re looking for or the weight-loss they’re trying to accomplish. 

As a Christian, my lack of patience is a serious issue in my life. I ask that people pray for the Lord to help me be more patient. At this point, I’m humbled to see how often I lose my patience. I’ll be the last to point and mock at anyone who loses their cool, but each time I loose my temper is a failing on my point.

There are some hints to how to improve your patience:

Be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19).

Overlook an offense, for it is to your glory (Proverbs 19:11).

Don’t resist discipline (Proverbs 3:11).

If I try to see why I struggle with patience, the answer is because I struggle to do all of the list above. I let offenses bring me to resentment. I don’t like being told I’m wrong. I usually want to be the first to talk.

This is tough. At least, I struggle with it every day. The first step is recognizing when you’re focusing on yourself (your pride, your offense, your desire to be heard) and when you are being more thoughtful of others.

We’ve already talked about rebuking those who sin against you, and that’s perfectly holy so long as your goal is reconciliation.

Another thing you can do is practice self denial. If you want to play one more video game, turn the system off. You have every right to play a game, but turning it off is a way to tell your brain that you are in charge. If you want seconds, even if you’re skinny, deny that temptation. These little self denials are ways to put your body and heart under control. Avoiding debt is another way to do this. You can have that $400 TV, just make yourself wait the eight months and pay for it in cash. Delay gratification to avoid becoming enraged when you are denied gratification.

Again, it’s hard. Especially when you have the means to obtain things quickly, but the more you work on this, the more patient you will find yourself becoming.

For our panel: Why is patience so hard to maintain? What are some other ways to practice patience? When we find ourselves losing our patience, how do we hold fast to it? What are some of your favorite verses about patience? Why is patience referenced so often in the Bible?

Musings on Christianity 29

Musings on Christianity 29

What Does It Mean to Live by Faith?

The greatest challenge some may face in becoming Christians is also a mindset that best represents a Christian. Yes, all people should be God-centered but one can not be God-centered without having faith, and that challenges people.

Hebrews 11 is essentially a summary of the Old Testament, but it presents that summary from the perspective of faith. It begins by defining faith.

“Now, faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).”

This can challenge some people. What they want is “proof” or “reason to believe.” But if you have proof, you don’t need faith. I don’t need faith to know I’m 5-foot-6 or 178 pounds. I measure my self. I can weigh myself.

Faith is the trust that something is real or will come without any real evidence. When we act on faith, we glorify the God we serve in faith. This, I feel, is the crux of faith and the message of Hebrews 11.

We start again with creation. Scientists have been working to prove one theory for as long as I can remember, and while that theory is commonly accepted, it is far from proven. Why? Where evolutionists rely on evidence they still have yet to find, creationists live by faith. Is it wrong to seek to understand? No, but any evidence I seek is more to defend my faith than to secure it. This is because, “By faith, we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. (Hebrews 11:3).

To live by faith is to live as God commands, trusting you will receive the promises His word makes. The challenges come when something doesn’t go the way one would wish. I’m not immune to this. I didn’t want my mother to die. I didn’t want the corona virus to attack the world. This leads to the questions like, “why would God … “ and “why do … “ 

I wouldn’t argue it’s wrong to ask questions. Plenty of people asked God plenty of questions through prayer. Even that can be an act of faith. When things happen, and someone prays to God genuinely seeking his comfort and council, they glorify God.

But one can’t become lost because of the lack of answered desires. All of our best promises are to come when Christ returns. There are good things in store for believers, but as long as we are in the cursed flesh of sinful humanity, the pains of that curse will remain. But if we live by faith and walk by faith, the greater promises that will come when Christ comes again are ours.

When our prayers are unanswered, we continue to pray in faith. When our desires are denied, we move on in the faith that those desires weren’t a part of God’s plan. We have faith that God’s plan will lead us to our greatest joy, and that joy isn’t one we will have on this earth. Even if a Christian were to have the most ridiculously happy life a person could imagine on this Earth, not all of those days together would be in any way comparable to a moment in Heaven. People have probably heard the inverse of this from Romans 8:18, but both are true. Nothing is worth comparing, and that is the promise we trust in as we live by faith.

Does that mean we are never given assurance? Of course we are. The Bible is full of assurances of faith, and Hebrews 11 is just a short summary of so many examples. Christ being raised from the dead is in itself an assurance of faith, for he was the perfect, sinless man, who lived by faith and walked by faith. So when man, in his wicked rejection of Christ, led him to crucifixion, Christ accepted that humiliation. He walked in faith, knowing he was doing as the Father commanded, and the Father rewarded that faith with the resurrection that thus serves as the assurance for our faith.

So we’re called as Christians to live in faith that if we hold fast to Christ as our hope, we have been saved and are assured a place with him in Heaven.

So we can not allow despair or sadness to take our faith. If it does, then our faith was false, and we never had hope. Please read that carefully. It does not say despair or sadness is a symbol of a lack of faith. What I wish to emphasize is that if despair or sadness can cause one to turn away from faith, their faith was false.

This is what never giving up means. The guy who keeps struggling even when he’s lost 1,000 times shows that he has faith he can win just once. That is faith. The only reason one would have to stop is if he becomes convinced he won’t win. If faith is what keeps us going, than only its absence can be the reason we stop.

I urge you all to never stop. Pray when you are happy, sad, lost, confused, assured, confident, or in despair. Live as Christ lived trusting that you will receive the rewards He promised. Do not let the seasons of this world lead you to forget the glorious eternal life that is to come. Live by faith, and you will be commended.

For our panel: What is your favorite story of faith from the Bible? Do you have a personal trial of faith you would like to share? Does fear or sadness immediately mean you have no faith? How does one endure suffering in faith? Does the absence of answered prayers mean an absence of faith?

Musings on Christianity 26

Musings on Christianity 26

Should We Be Afraid?

I gave some thought to this chapter and how to go about it. As with most of my non-fiction, especially with this particular project, it usually becomes a free-flowing process. Where to start and what I’m trying to say are the only main issues of consideration.

In this chapter, I start with frightening news. As I type this, I am in the middle of a fourteen-day quarantine, as I had (or thought I had) been exposed to the Corona virus.

All those teenagers and young men and women refusing to practice social distancing or stay inside reflect my very own thoughts maybe as little as three years ago. I’ve been blessed to have a fairly illness-free life thus far, and, not too long ago, I was quite alright with the risk of being sick.

Now I have a wife. Now I have three children. I’d endure any illness. I’d happily welcome any misfortune if it kept my family safe. But how do I keep them safe from me? Also consider my family history. The very idea that I’m a threat to those I love harkens my own mind back to a life of an abusive biological father and an oath to never be a threat to my children. Now, this is different. I might be sick. I’m not in myself the threat, but I carry the threat in me. There’s something there perhaps to consider, but I set that thought aside to stay on the main point.

Believe me when I confess I have been afraid. Believe me when I say I was worried. But where does fear actually come from? Psychologists have studied this far more than I have, but whatever dictionary you use, that emotion is based by a danger or threat.

Non-believers can have every reason to be afraid. Their lives and their possessions are all they have. I would appreciate and sympathize with a non-believer who is afraid of dying or losing his wealth or getting sick. This is because the threat of the things a non-believer has represents the loss of something critical.

But Christians have something greater than all of those things. Does that mean that the things we have don’t matter or that they aren’t dear to us? Absolutely not. However, the first thing a Christian knows is that no possession, or person is more important than God. Here is where people might balk or lash out. Here is where people become indignant.

We need to refer back to the most important law:  “‘Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might (Deuteronomy 6:4-6).’”

One may argue intellectually that love is infinite. It is. You can love many things all at once. But Jesus expanded on that command in Luke Chapter 14 verses 26-27.

“‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”

Readers, that is the line drawn in the sand. The choice to step over and stand with Christ is one I leave to you, but that is the line.

“Hate?” you may ask in outrage. “What sort of God wants me to hate at all?”

That word is a problem of translation. You see, the Greeks had three words for love. A better meaning (though less word-for-word literal) would be “Whoever doesn’t love Me more than … ”

Again, I would understand any parent saying, “I’ll never love anything more than my child!”

Again, readers, understand I’m not telling you what to do. I am, however, showing you the mindset of a true Christian, based on the word of God.

An angry parent may be angry because while I say “more than,” the parent hears “instead of.” Please review these words and realize that is not the case.

Indeed, we are to love others as we would love ourselves. That is the other half of the law Christ gave as the most important. So we are to love others sacrificially. Love endlessly. However, when we love, we love God most.   

I have to express this thought because I can’t show you why you have no reason to fear if you still value things more than God. The love of God, valuing Him more than anything or anyone is the reason we have nothing to fear.

Neither I nor God’s word are telling you not to love anyone. But when you love God most and value Him most, you’ve placed God, the infinite, all powerful, and unchanging source of all things, on His proper throne.

And if you have Him, nothing can harm you.

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died — more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword (Romans 8:31-35)?”

Again, fear comes when something important to you is threatened. But what happens when the most important thing in your life is the infinite, immortal, unchanging God? What’s anyone going to do to Him?

“What about our Earthly things?” you may ask. “They matter to me?” Of course they do. I love my family. I love all the wonderful gifts God’s given me. I love my life. I love my home. I love my job. I love my health (more on that later). But these are the gifts, and I’ll never put them (any of them) above the one who gave them to me.

Again, you may balk at this. You may have this mental image of me shunning my children and my wife. But to do so would violate the law of God. I can’t frustrate my children or be unloving to my wife for God’s sake without violating that very same God’s commandment. If you read these words in outrage and indignation, it’s only because you see these words as an either-or situation.

I want to give my children to God. Not in a psychopathic heretical sense, but in the same Christian, holy sense I and my wife have given ourselves to God. If I’m doing anything I’m giving the children I love to Him just as He gave up His son only son for me. I don’t want my children to worship me any more than I’m not going to start worshiping them. And that is what one does if they make the child the center of their universe.

A thing I’ve learned over the years is you can’t worship the child. Are love and worship synonyms?  Only in as far as you elevate one thing you love above another. I love cookies, but I’d never eat a cookie again if I had to choose between them and my sons. However, if my sons demanded to have only cookies for every meal, I could obey them if I choose to worship them. However, I love them, and I don’t want them to die of some sugar-related malady. The love I have for my children does not mean they control my actions.

However, the love I have for God means He does have control of my actions. This is the distinction to loving Him more than my family. There may even be some times when a choice may have to be made, but that would distract from the point of this chapter, and it’s just so much more rare a situation than one need consider when it comes to reasons for fear.

So at this point, you can choose to accept my words or (more importantly) the words of the Bible or not. I had to explain them in order to provide the comfort God brings.

If I give my life, my family, my home, my well being, over to God, then I am His. He can (and will) do whatever He wants to me.

The reasons that means I have no need to fear are many:

God is good (1 Chronicles 16:34).

God is merciful, gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth (Exodus 34:6).

God is upright (Psalm 25:8).

God is righteous (Psalm 92:15).

God is a stronghold in times of trouble (Nahum 1:7).

God is mighty (Deuteronomy 10:17).

God is faithful (1 Corinthians 1:9)

God is love (1 John 4:7).

What need is there to fear when God is in control of your life?

You see, Christ himself told us to be anxious for nothing; don’t be afraid of anything (Matthew 6:25-34).

God will always provide. We’ll never fail to get what we need (Psalm 23).

Yet even knowing this in my flesh, there are times when I fear. This is the subject I discussed with my children the day before I typed this very chapter. I spoke to my children about the faithfulness of God.

When we fear, believers have God to turn to. This, is comfort.

It’s comfort because I know the almighty, all-knowing, loving God of the universe is in charge, and His plan is perfect. Yes, I will be sad, but I can take comfort in knowing what happens is part of his plan.

Yes, readers, even this disease is part of His plan. Whether He sent this virus in his Holy judgement or He’s using Satan’s attempt to thwart that plan, it’s all part of that plan. I’m not particularly enjoying this part of the plan, but I trust it.

So my sons and I sat down and read several Psalms. I let them find chapters that speak about God’s faithfulness. They chose Psalm 2, 3, and 18. They read those chapters, and we talked about what they mean. We didn’t ask, “what do you think that means?”  I hesitate to endorse that sort of self-centered reading. Rather, we considered the literal meaning of the words (this is basic hermeneutics).

After discussing it, I asked my sons what they’re afraid of. They each gave a list (they were very worried their Dad had COVID-19). Then, we used those Psalms as examples. 

I asked my sons, “What do Christians do when the are afraid.”

They answered, “Go to God.”

“How?” I asked.

After a moment or two of thought, they said, “Pray!”

So we prayed together. Each son named his fear and asked God for help.

Minutes later, I got a text. The individual who I had come in contact with and been exposed to COVID-19, had just got his test results back. Negative.

Just like that, more than a week of concern and worry melted away. We’re still going to complete the fourteen-day quarantine as an added measure, but I sometimes marvel at how quickly God works in my life.

I don’t expect God to immediately give me whatever I pray for. I prayed for some 20-something years before I met Julie. God answers in His time in accordance to His plan.

However, in this tiny, glorious example, I offer this to you to say that we can always have faith and trust. We need not fear.

But what if that test came back positive? What if I get sick tomorrow?

My faith isn’t based on God giving me what I want. My faith is based on the list I gave above. I trust God. If I face death, I face it knowing I’m returning home to Him. If I face hardship, I face it knowing he’ll provide for me. And when I feel fear approach, I know I have God to turn to. I can tell him my fears and (as those Psalms all did) praise Him, reminding myself of his characteristics.

Does this mean I’m going to go licking toilets or jumping off buildings? No! Why? Because there’s a big difference between faith and challenge. We’re commanded not to put the LORD our God to the test (Deuteronomy 6:16). 

What it does mean is I can obediently (in accordance to his command) do as I should and have courage because I know He is with me, and He is with you too if you are indeed among his redeemed.

For our panel: What verses do you turn to when you are afraid? What are some distinctions between lack fear and lack of wisdom? How would you explain loving God most? How would you describe fear? What scripture would you have someone turn to if they were struggling with fear?

Musings on Christianity 24

Musings on Christianity 24

Why Read The Bible?

In my time growing as a Christian, one of the things that took me longer than most to understand was the value of reading the Bible. I’m not even sure why when I consider my personality. In the Navy, I hated the idea of people telling me what they thought. I had several people say, “That’s not the way to do it,” or “That’s against policy!” I always wondered, “Where are they getting all these rules?”

I don’t know that every person who ever corrected me or yelled at me (not that it happened a metric ton in the Navy) or even talked to me about policy was ignorant about it or not, but one day someone sat me down to show me what I’d done wrong. Instead of yelling or barking about ephemeral concepts, he printed the actual Navy policy in question. He let me read it. There wasn’t a debate. There was no yelling. There was no overly-long lecture or self-elevating speech. It was policy, and allowing me to read it made it about what the regulation said. I loved it. It was simple and true with no bias toward emotion or personal preference.

From that day, I always wanted to look at the policy. At my current job, I periodically read my unit’s information guide because I really do want to do what is right. That’s always been a guiding principle of mine, and so I grew to love the law. Why then, did I never read the Bible?

Please don’t misunderstand. There were several times and periods of my life where I read the Bible. What I didn’t do was read and study it daily or read it all the way through even once.

One day, while talking to one of my protégées in the Navy, I told her how important it was for one to always read the policy. For some reason, that was the moment I realized I was avoiding the source. I was angry at “organized religion.” I was angry at “Bible thumpers.” Now I realize a great deal of those “Bible thumpers” hadn’t read the Bible (at least not all the way through). They’d shout at people whatever scripture they thought was relevant, but they did it from the mindset of convincing others to do what they want rather than focus on what God wants.

We see this all the time. We see it in people who falsely claim that people of color are cursed (they’re not). We see it in people who falsely claim that people of different nationalities are lesser (they’re not). Those people love picking one verse out of context and running with it.

But the Bible is one book with sixty-six parts. If you don’t study and see how they go together and interact, your doctrine will be wrong. That doesn’t mean a person can’t study for certain things. This very book is a Biblical research project, and that’s what led to this particular chapter. You see, those who would degrade the word of the Bible probably do so because they encountered several of the people who abused it (like those above).

It was hard for me to believe the Bible was the word of God. (Wasn’t it written by men?) It was hard for me to believe the historicity of the Bible. (How could the things in the Bible be true?) What convinced me? Sure enough, I actually decided to sit down and read the whole thing. I had questions, but I didn’t declare those questions inconsistency and put it down. Rather than let my questions become reasons to stop reading and growing, I let my questions drive me to seek answers. Rather than check history, archeology, and science (real science driven by fact and not “commonly believed” bias), I checked those things against the Bible, and thus far, the Bible has won every time.

Even in the most easily recognized areas of dispute (you’re saying the world was created in six days? What about … ) the very things people use to dispute the word of God are not provable by the very science they claim debunk the Bible. The theories of the universe and evolution (and other long-held beliefs called “science”) are at-best theories that scientists are seeking to prove. The best of those scientists are objectively seeking truth based on that hypotheses, understanding that a hypotheses is just that. The worst of them have the same dogmatic rigidness they accuse a Christians of having, believing without real evidence or even the scientific desire to seek consistent evidence on the subject.

While I believe I have a scientific mind, I don’t have the scientific knowledge to prove anything, nor will I try. What I will say though is even a casual investigation into man’s biggest questions from the Bible are only (at-best) as challenging as the same “proofs” scientists have been striving to find.

If I were more scientific, the remainder of this chapter would be used to help secure one’s faith by using scientific evidence to prove the validity of the Biblical record. (Or even prove the truth of it. Truth and validity aren’t the same thing.)

That science is being conducted, and the information is out there. I’m studying it as we speak. I’m just not as versed as I’d like to be, and any effort I make in that vein will only cause more skepticism. 

Instead, I want to use my time in this chapter to tell you what reading the Bible has done for me.

Reading the Bible keeps me centered. I’m a passionate man. I’m a man of high emotion and drive. I’m also one who believes in doing what is right. I’m not without error by any means. I get distracted at work. I can be argumentative. But when I see someone doing something I know is wrong, I can be pretty unloving about how I point it out. I hope I’ve grown in this, and the people who know me have said this is true. But I was pretty thunderous in my rebuke of people who “weren’t doing it right.” I was also pretty hypocritical, pointing out the wrongs of others without any regard to my own transgressions. 

Reading the Bible puts my mind on God and his commands and how a person should live. It gives me balance between love and truth. It gives me humility when I want to be prideful. It gives me patience when I want to be hasty. It gives me discipline when I want to be wrong.

Reading the Bible gives me knowledge. A few years ago when I had so many questions, I could use those questions to excuse what I wanted to do or avoid things I knew I should be doing.  A good portion of the Bible (the epistles), are all about guiding young believers in their walk and helping them grow. The answers are there if you read and seek. Reading the Bible (go figure, in the same way you’d read any book) gives me scope. I see how things come together. I better understand doctrines that used to elude me.

Reading the Bible gives me confidence in my faith. That same period I had questions, I also used those questions to feed my doubt about Christianity. Reading the Bible removes that doubt. Do you worry that there are inconsistencies in the Bible? Don’t, while there are parts that don’t match exactly, the Bible is amazingly consistent from Old to New Testament.  Most of the reasons things don’t line up exactly have more to do with the intended audience of the work than errors in factual reporting.

This is something I teach my students. A journalist writing a story for Navy News Stand is going to format a story very differently than if he were writing it for the Yuma Daily Sun. The facts are in there. Some are left out because they matter less to one reader than another. Some are emphasized because they’re more important to one audience than another. But there is no one verse of the Bible that directly contradicts another. Only a passive scan of the Bible with the intent to find discrepancies (rather than a thorough reading with the intent to find truth, in this case to learn what it really says and why) would find evidence. However, that evidence of discrepancies never holds up against a careful reading of all the context and other accounts.

I’ve come to learn this by reading the Bible carefully. I had doubts. I may have even started my first full read through of the Bible expecting to find discrepancies and inconsistencies. They just aren’t there.

Reading the Bible fills my spirit. My human heart is prideful, arrogant, resentful, and unkind. Do I reflect those qualities more than say … a maniac? No, but just because I’m not as evil as one man doesn’t remove those characteristics from my flesh. My flesh is weak, but my spirit is so very willing to grow, and it is the overcoming of those fleshly desires that glorifies God. Reading the Bible strengthens my spirit. It arms me with the tools I need to be loving in my rebuke and humble in my mindset. I need this so much. The more I read, the easier it is to recognize when I’m thinking with a self-centered mind. (I think. I want. I believe.) The more I read, the more readily I think with a god-centered mind. (What does God say? What does God want me to do? How are my actions glorifying Him? How am I bearing Him fruit?)

There are other books that speak about the historicity, validity, and truth of the Bible, and the panel is more than welcome to contribute to those subjects. But a communication teacher who has only read the Bible all the way through one time probably isn’t going to convince anyone of those things. But a guy who reads twenty-thirty five books a year talking about what reading this book does for him? That’s probably a bit more effective. If you haven’t tried it, try it. Even if you just read it for the sake of reading anything, you’ll see how the whole story comes together in a beautiful and comforting way.

For our panel: What are some other reasons to read the Bible? Did you have any doubts in your walk in the faith? How did reading the Bible remove those doubts? Was there a particular portion of the Bible that was harder for you to believe or help others believe? How did you use the Bible to learn the truth, or how did you find certainty?

Musings on Christianity 17

Musings on Christianity 17

What Is The Good News?

Have you heard the good news? If you’re like me someone has approached you and asked you that question. Maybe you rolled your eyes and said you weren’t interested (like I did). Maybe you said that you have, and it’s great (like I did). Maybe you said no (like I did) and got several different versions of that news (like I did). Maybe if you were that last person, that made you wonder what the good news really was.

I’m quite sure that the few people who gave me their good news truly believed it was the good news. I’m sure one of them gave me the actual good news, but the fact that I received different news led me to doubt any of them were right.

Naturally, if you’re reading this, you may doubt that I know the answer to this question. For the record, I don’t know anything. This has nothing to do with my knowledge and my wisdom. Those are terrible references. This good news comes not from me, but from the Word of God.

Here’s a quick outline:

1) Man was dead in sin (Genesis 3).

2) The price of sin had to be paid. That price is blood, and the sacrifice must be of one who is without blemish (Deuteronomy).

3) Jesus Christ came from Heaven to Earth and died to pay that price (Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19).

4) Christ was raised from the dead, which broke the bonds of death and gave victory and justification for those who believe in Him (Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, and John 20).

A brief tangent:

Notice how the good news takes us from the beginning of the Bible to the end. The Bible is the story of God and his work in the lives of humanity. To truly understand that work and understand God, one must read the whole thing.

That seems silly to have to say. If there was a movie out there one wanted to talk about, he’d watch the whole movie. If one wanted to talk about a book, they would see fit to read the book. Christianity (perhaps religion as a whole) is the only thing people seem to feel completely at liberty to discuss without actually understanding what it is. Why? I don’t have the answer. I have theories, but I honestly would like readers to look in themselves and ask, why am I so resistant to read this book before discussing it.

Now, there are those who say, “I’m not interested in reading it, and I don’t want to discuss it.”  As a mortal, rational thinker, I couldn’t really argue with you. If you aren’t interested, you aren’t. However, for those of you who find yourself saying, “Well I think this is who God is,” or, “To me, God is …,” I humbly request you spend some time with his own testimony about Himself. 

Tangent over.

I’ve actually already covered the first item on the list in great detail in Chapter 12. To review, a person may want to show they’re comparatively better than another mortal man, but compared to a perfect and Holy God, we fall short. We are not perfect. We have sinned. Our sin condemns us.

That’s not very good news. On its own, no. However, most of the best things happen in bad situations. To reword that, we feel the most joy when a situation turns out right when it looks like its could end at its worst. The good news starts with the fact that we needed salvation.

The second item on the list simply informs us of the price that must be paid to redeem one from sin. If none of us are perfect, none of us is able to pay the price. I discussed this in  Chapter 12 as well. The price had to be Christ. He had to endure all the pain and suffering we deserved in order for us to be redeemed.

That leads us to the good part of the good news. He did. Christ willingly came. God, because of his abounding love for us, sent His Son down to Earth to pay the price for our sins so that we could be saved. He died, and the price has been paid, once for all.

However, death, while the payment for sin, still isn’t quite as great as it could be. I mean, redemption from sin is the most important thing we could ever have, but like an old TV informercial, “Wait! There’s more!”

The resurrection of Christ is the defeat of death. This is how we can have faith that we will have perfect, bodily resurrection if we are indeed in Christ. His resurrection broke the bonds of death and guarantee our eternity when Christ returns. Again, our redemption is by grace and is wonderful in and of itself, but to be redeemed and guaranteed eternal life? That’s good news.

So why does the good news have to include these four elements? There are a few answers to this.

First, we have to understand how much we need Christ. According to a 2003 poll conducted by the Barna Research Group in Oxnard, California, two-thirds of Americans believe they will go to Heaven, implying they believe in such a place. Of that number, which, according to the survey holds from the previous decade, half of them believe they will go to Heaven because they can earn it by good deeds. 

This is why I needed Chapter 12. Without a clear understanding of why we needed salvation, we can’t possibly appreciate Christ’s glorious gift.

Second, these four things together complete the news. This is something I do know. I teach it for a living. Any news story has four essential elements: The who, the what, the when and the where. The why and how give us context. So any time we can get all six elements, we can be assured the audience has complete understanding.

If this were a story one of my students had to write, the good news would read something like: “Jesus Christ died on the cross in the First Century A.D. in Jerusalem to pay the price for the sins of humanity and was raised three days later for humanity’s justification.”

Where is the how element? I usually tell students to save that for what’s called the bridge of a news story: “Christ, the only perfect, blameless human in all of existence, was the only person able to pay for the sins of humanity as God’s own perfect passover lamb.”

This is basic news principles used to explain what the good news and why one needs it in its entirety to understand it.

The last reason the good news has to include these elements is that it gives us our hope and the assurance that our hope is possible. We hope in eternal life. To simply say that Christ was raised from the dead is cool, but I can name at least two people who never actually died (Elijah and Enoch). I can name another few who were raised from the dead (Jairus’ daughter and Lazarus).  There are more, but I can actually name those two. Jesus was also raised. However, only Christ died and lived again. He did so and never died a second time (Lazarus the Jairus’ daughter did).

This is significant because if Christ could die for all of our sins, then his resurrection is also ours if we believe in Him. Think about it. As our substitutionary sacrifice, he paid the price we couldn’t pay. So His resurrection, His eternal life, can also be ours.

To forget about Christ makes the equation invalid. Without Him, we don’t have the proper payment for our sin. Without Him, we only have at best a second batch of years until we die again.

The problem comes when people know Heaven exists, but they want to find other ways to get there. Here is where everything comes to simple binary logic. A person either believes they are perfect and they can impress a perfect and holy god with some perfunctory acts of service, or a person realizes they are not perfect and they can’t do a darn thing to impress a perfect and holy god.

We can dress that binary math up any way we want, but it all comes down to one of those thoughts. I’m obviously of the latter mindset. This book is my attempt at a reasonable way to express that. When I break it down to those two, it can seem cold, but sometimes people need to be confronted with the choice they’re making. For those who don’t believe in a Heaven, there’s no real point in debating how to get there.  So this chapter provides a foundational look at the doctrine of salvation.

Research data pulled from this article.

For our panel: If we decide to accept the good news, how do we move forward? In your experience, what causes people to resist accepting the good news? How should one respond to hearing other interpretations of that good news? Why are those other interpretations dangerous?

Musings on Christianity 14

Musings on Christianity 14

What Good is Faith?

Some people seek faith in times of trials. Some times that faith is proven true, and sometimes that faith is proven false. What happens is that people associate, “God gave me what I want” as confirmation of His existence, and they associate, “God didn’t give me what I want” as confirmation of His rejection or even that He doesn’t exist.

The trouble with that metric is that people forget He’s sovereign. Our God, the creator of the Earth and the fullness therein, our God, the creator of the universe, has a perfect plan. For us to hang our belief in Him on a desire, no matter how important, is to forget that he is wise beyond measure (Romans 11:33).

That doesn’t stop us from doing it, and when we don’t get what we want, we cry out in anger, “What good is faith!?”

I have to reply to that question with another question. What was your faith in? Is your faith in God? If so, trust Him. He may deny your supplication. It doesn’t mean He’s abandoned you or that He doesn’t love you. It doesn’t mean that you’re not saved. If He gives you what you want, that’s not exactly confirmation of your salvation either. At best, it’s evidence.

But we constantly use our own trials as a test for Him rather than understanding that 1) we should never test God (Deuteronomy 6:16 and Matthew 4:7) and 2) those trials we face are our tests. I don’t believe they are unkind tests done just to hurt us. Instead, they are trials that allow us to strengthen ourselves and glorify God. That doesn’t make our trials fun, but this is the crux of this chapter.

The good of faith isn’t so that we can get what we want, and that’s how most people perceive it. The good of faith is so that we know that no matter what happens, God is with us (Psalm 23:1-6).

When my mother was diagnosed with cancer, I had all the faith in the world that God would heal her. From my point of view, He did. He healed her of every pain and sadness and called her to Heaven. That’s not exactly what I had hoped for, but the good of my faith wasn’t to keep the person I wanted to keep, it was to have hope that the God I serve knows what I need. Everything He does is for my good (Jeremiah 29:11-13).

If we make our faith conditional on the idea of what we want, then our faith will be in vain. This is because if our faith is based on obtaining desire, we’re not showing faith in God; we’re showing that we feel He exists to serve us rather than the other way around.

That’s not to say faith isn’t rewarded in the graceful, generous granting of prayers. In the last chapter I showed you just how wonderfully God grants prayers. Those who pray to Him, He hears (Jeremiah 29:11-13). 

Too many people though consider their faith a test, which is an insult to God right off the bat (Deuteronomy 6:16). People think, “God, if you do this for me, I’ll believe!” 

There’s just not a lot of evidence that thought is true. “God if you get me out of this bad situation, I’ll be yours.” That’s exactly the sort of thing the Israelites said while they were slaves to Egypt. God answered the prayer, and they grumbled every step of the way to the promised land and beyond.

Let’s take this back a few levels of infinity. Have you or has your child ever said, “Dad, if you do this for me I promise I’ll … “

Did you keep that promise?

If you’re like me, you answered “… sometimes?” And you know what, sometimes we prove true to our word to God. Gideon was a coward. He wanted to have faith, but he truly needed signs. So he asked for some. They were very specific signs too. God graciously, patiently answered those prayers, and Gideon became a great hero because of the courage God gave him (Judges 6-8).

But even a casual search of the Bible shows just how quickly people forget that they cried out for God, got what they wanted, and then turned away from him.

On the same token, even the most devout servant might pray for something hoping God will grant his supplication. That prayer may be denied. The point of faith is that we trust God has a reason. On the eve before his crucifixion, Christ, our Lord and Savior, God in flesh, the son of God, prayed that God would, “let this cup pass from me (Matthew 26:36-56).” 

That’s a powerful verse to me. The son of God asked if it were possible that he not be crucified. I’ve never heard many people preach or speak on this, but it is so important and so telling. Here is the point of faith.

It’s not the request. “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me;” it’s the trust in whom one’s praying to. “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

And that is the answer. The point of faith isn’t getting what you want. It’s knowing that even if you don’t get what you want, your father in Heaven knows what’s best not just for you, but for all.

Still, we see the denial of our supplications as rejection. But is it true? Have you ever asked your earthly parent for something and was told no? Does your parent not love you? Sure, there are some who actually think or even know their parent doesn’t love them. It’s a sad truth in this world, but on the whole, most people I know have at least one parent they know loves them. And that parent did not in any way give them everything they wanted when they wanted it. Heck, my mom actually came pretty close. I struggle to think of a single thing I wanted that she didn’t eventually give to me, but they’re out there. I remember once wanting to join the chess club (or some such club). My mom said no. Oh was I mad. I was a selfish, spoiled little brat. I gave my mom hell for denying me this one thing. I’d have to work darn hard to think of another example, but I flipped when this one stupid thing was denied me. I was somewhere between 12 and 13.

What I deserved in that moment was punishment. She didn’t. But even in my selfish, childish tantrum, I knew she loved me. Even when being denied what we want, most of us know our parents love us, and God is infinitely more loving, infinitely more compassionate.

Our faith isn’t for the sake of obtaining what we want; it’s for the sake of holding on to the only real hope we have. God’s will be done, not our own (Matthew 26: 39). If we trust His will, we can know that whatever happens, whether we like it or not, it’s all part of a perfect plan.

For our panel: What are your favorite Biblical examples of faith being rewarded?  What do we do, or how to we stand strong, when our most heartfelt supplication is defined (the death of a loved one)? Why do we so easily fall away so quickly after we get the very thing we begged God for in our time of need? How can we guard ourselves against doing that?

The 2020 State of the Weech

The 2020 State of the Weech

Greetings all,

Three years ago, I made a commitment to give this my best effort for eight years. I’ve tracked that (in a way) by doing my annual State of the Weech. It’s my chance to let you know what I’m up to and what my plans are.

me2019 was a pretty good year in my opinion. I managed to release yet another four titles: Repressed, Sojourn in Captivity, The Repressed and Sojourn paperback flip book, and Stealing Freedom.

I can only say with confidence that I’m going to release two titles this year, and even that is going to be challenging, but I will do my best.

So without further ado, here are my plans for what I hope is a fantastic 2020.

March 1 (or sooner): Testimony: A Trial of Faith. This is the book adaptation of the blog series I wrote while my mom battled cancer. I put a lot of thought into whether or not to release it, but it feels like the right thing to do. All the royalties from the sales of that book will be donated to the American Brain Tumor Association. This project has way more to do with my love of God and my love of my mother than any artistic pursuit, but I have the proofreading edits back from Sarah, and I’m making my way through that final draft now. March 1 is probably the realistic date for that given how a book rollout (or as best as I know how a rollout) goes. My goal is just to have this project create a way to send the ABTA some donations.

caught-front-cover

Even more on this! Once Sojourn comes out, I’ll release a single flip book which will contain both Repressed and Sojourn. I love flip books, and this gets me another physical book I can sell at conventions. Also, both these stories feature compelling young female characters, and I think they’ll fit well together.

Feb. 26: OffWorld, featuring Hazel Deep Block Terror Squad. This has been a dream project for a long time (since I was in junior high school). The comic by me and Collin Fogel, my best friend from junior high, came about organically, but I couldn’t be happier. I’m hoping to have copies of issue 1 available when I go to Four State Comic Con if not sooner, but you’ll be able to get it at your local comic book stores by Feb. 26. Please contact your local comic shop and ask them to order copies.

Fall of 2020: Betrayed: Book Two of the Oneiros Log. I know you’ve waited for this book, and I have the Alpha Draft going. I think it looks good, and the Alpha Readers thought well of it too. The goal is for that book to be my main priority (after Testimony). I’ll get that title out as soon as I can.

Now I’ll just run down the list of projects I have in various stages of development. I’ll try to order them by how I think they’ll get released, but it’s just too hard to tell.

new-lion-iconDiscovered: I changed the name from Hunted, but it’s the same project. If I release another book in 2020, it’ll be this book. I’ve finished the plotting to this story and started the overall outline. I’ll jump straight to this when I’m done with Betrayed.

Sonnets for my Savior: I’ve completed this “draft,” or blog series. I’ve given it to my pastors for review. If they decide it’s scripturally sound and we have enough sonnets left after editing, I’ll publish a physical edition of that series of poems.

Musings on Christianity: If you follow my blog, you’ve already seen I’ve started that as my Christian work. The blog is happening now, and once I’m able to get it reviewed, it may be formatted into a paperback, but that will also depend on pastoral review. I’m sincerely hoping to get what I hoped would be a panel to actually be a panel. As it stands, it’s really more just me contemplating questions I’ve asked myself as I grew in the faith.

reapedThe 1,200: This was actually something I intended to release a while back, but it just felt like getting The Oneiros Log done was the right call. If you liked The Journals of Bob Drifter, you might get a kick out of some of what happens. And if you look very closely, you might see some familiar faces. I might actually weave this in while editing Betrayed and/or Hunted. The question is when it will come out. I’m going to take a hard look at this story and make sure it works. I’ve developed quite a bit as an author, and so this story deserves an edit with my now more-critical eye. I plan for this to be released sooner rather than later.  That’s exactly what was on my last blog. I’m still mulling over some pretty big decisions on this story, but it will be what I intend to work on and publish as my next full length release.

New Utopia: I finished a draft of this story and realized it was two books. I intend to go back into this and expand each half into a duo-logy.  It’s a fun story. I call it Mistborn meets Avatar. Again, this only needs revisions and edits, but everything is pretty much waiting until The Oneiros Log gets finished.

Mercer: This is a series I plan to write like episodes of a tv show. Each season will have a specific plot, and each season will consist of a run of novellas.  I call it Dresden Files meets Bones. I thought I’d start working on it last year, but life had other plans. I will absolutely start working on it when Oneiros is done. Episodes from this series will be released while I work on the larger projects.

shepherdPerception of War: Images of Truth: So I was pretty deep into the discovery draft of that story when I started dancing around other projects. Sojourn became a priority, and now I’m gearing up to start this epic series. Images is the first book of at least twelve. It’s my special forces in space saga. However, that draft isn’t done, so what will happen is I’ll chip away at this while I’m editing 1,200.

Leah Saldawn and The Nick of Time:  I wrote the discover draft to this ages ago (Saleah wasn’t in high school yet, and now she’s all grown up!) I let it sit because it’s unrelated to other books and for a much younger audience (10-16). I don’t like leaving things on the shelf, so I’m not sure when I’ll fit it in, but I will eventually. There’s a thought about seven books here, but we’ll see how things go. This one’s written, so it will get published.

Before I hit my eight-year mark, I hope to have ten full-length novels published. That was always the benchmark three years ago. The idea is if I have ten novels, and I’ve been working for eight years, I should see some sort of profit in this business adventure. Thus far, I’ve been encouraged that I’m losing less money each year, but the goal is for this to be a source of provision, maybe even (the dream of dreams) a full time occupation.

You can help with that. If you’d like to, please, purchase one of my books. Give it a read. Offer a rating and review. Recommend it to a friend. The only way this is going to truly take off is with your help.

Whatever happens, I’m still humbled at how much has already happened. I currently have ten titles available, and I’m 30% toward my goal of ten full-length books.

I’m also humbled by each of you, readers. I’ve had the honor of speaking with a number of you about my books and hearing how excited you are about the next one. That sort of encouragement makes it so it’s hard to wait to publish the next story.

This is still wonderful evidence of God’s role in my life and his generosity. He also gave me people like you to talk to and hear from. I truly appreciate all that you’ve done, and I hope you’ll continue this journey with me.

Thanks for Reading,
Matt

 

 

Musings on Christianity 1

Musings on Christianity 1

Musings on Christianity

Introduction

In this project, we seek to better understand Christianity. We also seek to apply Biblical principles to life issues. In this blog series, the goal is for this to be an online panel in which I pose questions and offer an introduction. These introductions will be my interpretation and application of scripture. As I’ve mentioned before, I haven’t even attended seminary. I’m not a pastor. I’m just a man studying the word of God and working to apply it to his life. My sincere hope is that the elders of my church, Hope Bible Church in Columbia, Maryland, will contribute to the discussion. I also hope that other pastors around the world will join in intelligent, loving discussion of these topics.

We seek to operate in truth and love, which is an essential combination. If any should feel compelled to comment, I humbly request that you support your opinion with scripturally based supporting comments. You are more than willing to add personal application, but we seek a historical, grammatical hermeneutics based discussion which will help Christians, or people who are curious about the faith, gain wisdom on how to approach topics of faith and life. For consistency, please use the ESV. I’m not claiming it to be better than other versions of the Bible. It’s just the version that I as moderator am currently using, and I believe strongly that consistency is essential in any academic discussion. You are more than welcome to then include other translations of the Bible to add further clarification, but I’d appreciate it if we begin with on version and then branch out.

Please be advised that your comments are subject to being included in this book. By placing a comment you consent and permit me to include your comment in the final version which will be sold.

I will be the editor and compiler of this book. As such, I retain the right to include or omit any comments. My hope is the elders of Hope Bible Church will review and edit the project for hermeneutical accuracy.

The inspiration for this blog series is a combination of the concept from the book Right Thinking In a World Gone Wrong by John MacAurthur and several thoughts, discussions, and questions I hope to understand better as I grow in the faith.

The end goal is to produce a published book which will provide readers with answers to questions and scripturally-grounded mindsets to apply to life’s issues and situations.

We sincerely hope this series of 52 weekly discussions (or at least I hope there will be discussions) will provide comfort and wisdom through the only source equipped to help man face the world in which we live.

 


 

 

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People

If we’re going to confront questions about faith or Christianity, let’s just start right off the bat with one of the biggest, if not the biggest, questions.

Why do bad things happen to good people?

This questions has a major fallacy that must be addressed:

There are no good people.

“And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Luke 18:19)

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

“For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, adultery coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7:21-23)

“The Lord looks down from haven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.” (Psalm 14:2-3)

A point of pride for man is the desire to proclaim himself good, when that’s just not the truth of it. I’m not good, and neither are you. If we declare ourselves good, we do so only in comparison with man. We can certainly look upon man and pridefully declare ourselves better than one and less than another, but then we make man that standard by which we measure ourselves, and this is the improper standard. We can surely look to one another on our journey, but the foremost standard by which we should always evaluate ourselves is God himself, and compared to a perfect, holy God, we fall so very short. (The last part is paraphrased from Romans 3:23.)

Some read scripture like this and feel compelled to turn away. Who wants to be called a bad person? Who wants to be condemned? But this is less an accusation or inherent condemnation than it is a simple fact of our own, broken, human condition. I am not good, and neither are you. I’m not claiming to be the worst human, I’m just not pretending to be anywhere near the same level as God. Neither am I declaring you, reader, the worst human ever. However, if we are human, we are not good.

So what is this question really asking? It’s asking why bad things happen to people regardless of their level of evil. You may add to this question the sub topic of why do evil people thrive while the good suffer?

This isn’t always true. Personally, I’ve had some wonderful things happen in my life. I’ve also seen my share of tragedy. But isn’t it hard to see people we love suffer? Isn’t it infuriating to see someone who’s wronged you receive rewards you seek? I know it bothers me, but should it?

First, let’s not forget that humanity suffers. The richest man alive with the most children has suffered in some way. The most wretched person, homeless and starving, is still alive or was still given life. If we focus on our suffering, we forget or even cast aside any blessings we’ve received. We’re like children who are well-fed, housed, and genuinely loved by our Father who forget it all and declare our parents horrible because we didn’t receive our most recent desire, or we’ve just come upon some misfortune.

“For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45)

What do we do when someone who’s transgressed against us receives rewards and we don’t? Sure, it stinks to feel passed over, but this world isn’t the reward. The greatest reward is to be in the presence of God in His kingdom. Does this mean I don’t want a promotion or to sell more books? Of course not, but  I hope to be very careful before I start looking to others who have worldly things.

“be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.” (Psalm 37:2)

A parable I seek when I need comfort as I suffer and others who I arrogantly declare are more evil than I am receive wealth and happiness, is the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31).

People will receive on this earth, and people will lose things on this earth. However, I’m a bit wary of hoarding worldly things. This doesn’t mean I didn’t work to be debt free or I’m not working to ensure I have a three-month emergency fund. However, if God appeared to you and gave you a choice: All the money and joy you desire on Earth at the cost of eternity afterward, or all the pain and misery you fear at the reward of joy and glory for eternity afterward, which would you choose?

Then consider this: As bad as things have gotten, have you never had one moment of joy or pleasure? If not, then I offer my genuine prayer for comfort and peace to you. Yes, bad things happen, but they happen to all people. No person is good. If we focus on the rewards of eternity, we can find comfort.

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)

For our panel: Must people suffer? What about children? What does suffering do for us? How does suffering help us if it does? What scripture can we seek to find comfort or gain understanding?

Thank you for reading,

Matt