Why does bad stuff happen?

Have you ever:

  • Been gossiped about…
  • Been injured in a freak accident…
  • Been dumped in a relationship…
  • Contracted a disease…
  • Lost a loved one…
  • Lost a job…
  • Just “lost it”…

If so, what is the common denominator in all these situations? Isn’t it that they hurt? When bad stuff happens, it hurts, and because we don’t like to hurt we ask why bad stuff happens.

The answer, in a single word, is “sin.” You won’t read that word on the op-ed page of your favorite newspaper or on a CNN newscast. Scientists won’t use that word. Philosophers won’t use that word. Politicians won’t use that word. But God does!

In the book of Romans we read, “Just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). God is willing to identify the source of suffering and pain. It is sin. That’s why bad things happen.

But just knowing why is not real helpful. What we really want to know is what we are to do about the bad stuff that happens.

In that regard CNN, the scientists, the philosophers, and politicians will have something to say. They will offer a theory, a medicine, or a philosophy by which to live. Those answers to life’s problems, however, only create another problem. What do we do when the solution doesn’t work?

That’s when it is wise to turn again to God. He has something to say about bad stuff. He is willing and able to do more than identify the source, he has provided the solution. God has a plan for health and healing. God deals with sin–the source of hurt and pain–by removing it.

Romans 5:20-21: “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

If scientists could wipe out diseases, they would…
If politicians could end war, they would…
If philosophers could create bliss, they would…

But they can’t, so they don’t, and we keep asking why bad stuff happens.

If God could wipe out sin, he would…

And he has. Where sin increased, his grace–the love he has for undeserving sinners–increased all the more. That grace came to all in the perfect life of Jesus, in the sacrificial death of Jesus, and in the resurrection to life of Jesus. Jesus brings us God’s grace, and with grace come spiritual peace and health and joy that last forever. That’s God’s good answer to all the bad stuff.

 

How Can I Be Safe in a Terrifying World?

There are scary people and scary events in this world. But terror is not really outside of you. It’s internal. Terror is being so afraid inside that you are paralyzed outside, unable to live a normal life.

Because terror is internal, the solution to it has to be something that works internally. Lots of people try to work out internal solutions, such as “sucking it up” or “lifting themselves up by their own boot straps.” But those don’t seem to work.

Experts will tell you that you have to go outside of yourself to feel safe. They suggest a network of friends and reliable diversions to take your mind off what’s bothering you.

Do you want to feel safe? Real feelings of safety come from actually being safe. That’s where Jesus comes in.

He’s not called “Savior” for nothing. He has actually made us safe from the devil (1 John 3:8). He has defeated the worst enemy of all, death (1 Corinthians 15:55), rescuing us from the fear of what comes after death. He has saved us from hell by winning forgiveness for us (Luke 1:77).

When you get to know the power and love of Jesus, you can say and really mean things like: “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress. . .You will not fear the terror of the night. . .No harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent” (Psalm 91).

There are still scary people and things out there. You can still feel uneasy in scary situations. But when you have Jesus, you have real safety where it’s needed — inside.

Priorities

“Do you have the time?” That all depends. How do we answer that question …

  • If asked by the stranger on the street?
  • If asked by the PTA looking for a volunteer at your child’s school?
  • If asked by your supervisor to go on a business trip next week?
  • If asked by your five-year-old who wants to play some catch?
  • If asked by your soul that so desperately seeks some quiet time?

Do you have the time? In our day of cell phones, e-mail and social media, time has booked a jet ticket and flies faster than ever. There is no time for a handwritten note or for a home-cooked meal. There is no time for ironing dresses or polishing shoes. The list of deadlines keeps your palm pilot in your palm.

I have no easy answers for some days I feel just as tired. Thankfully, I’ve met one who made time. He made time to listen and laugh with people. He made time to hold and heal. Yes, he made time! Jesus created time and remains the master of time. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Yet at the fullness of God’s time he came into this world of time to free us. He took the most pressing demands of God and met them perfectly for you and for me. The deadline for punishment of sin he met on that cross. Now forgiveness through his blood knows no time limit. So our Savior invites us, “Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. You will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28).

Every day he invites you to experience rest amidst the hassling madness of modern life. Pop a Bible tape into your car radio and listen to his love. Buy a day by day Bible verse calendar and drink your morning coffee pondering God’s eternal love. Hold the hands of your loved ones and ask the Savior to help you find time for him and for each other.

Can God take my guilt away?

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

“I wish I could take it all away,” Mom whispered to her suffering five-year-old son. He had the flu for a couple of days now, and Mom’s heart was broken. As he lay in his bed suffering from the chills and a fever, there wasn’t much Mom could do except give him some children’s flu medicine and just be there for him. Mom felt helpless and wished she could take it all away from him. She even wished she could have the flu instead of her son.

When children are sick, the love of Mom and Dad really starts to shine through. In a heartbeat, parents go to extra lengths to make sure their kids are feeling as comfortable as possible. If you’re a parent, you’ve been there. You make sure their pillow is extra fluffy. You bring their favorite juice box. You provide their favorite movie to watch. And any time you hear them call, you quickly respond with, “What can I do for you?” The love of Mom and Dad goes so far that if they could take the sickness away, even become sick instead of their child, they would. But they can’t, and it hurts.

Has there ever been a time when you wished you could take it all away? Not just a sickness of a child, but something you did that you really regret? Maybe it was something you did to end a close relationship with a friend. Maybe you said something to a family member that you wish you could take back. Maybe it was something that only you know about, but it haunts you each day.

It’s at moments like those that God’s love really starts to shine through. He knows your sin, your guilt, your regrets. But he doesn’t just wish he could take them away. He did take them away. He forgave them all! He took your sin and guilt away when he put them on his only Son. He loves you so much that he had his only Son, Jesus, die for your sin so that you wouldn’t have to. God forgave your guilt and now considers you right with him because of what Jesus did for you.

Wish your guilt and regrets could be taken away? They were. In their place he gives you forgiveness and eternal life. Now that’s a love that shines through!

Where is contentment to be found?

A farmer who had lived on the same farm all his life began to long for something better. He finally decided to sell it. He listed it with a real estate broker who promptly prepared a sales advertisement for the farm. The ad, of course, listed all the farm’s advantages: ideal location, modern equipment, healthy stock, and acres of fertile ground.

When the farmer saw the ad in the paper, he hurriedly phoned his real estate agent. “I’ll buy it!” he exclaimed. “It’s exactly the place I’m looking for!”

Contentment is a matter of perspective. How many times have you lived out the cliché, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone”?

There is a place where contentment is found, and you don’t need to take a religious pilgrimage to find it. Look at the people, possessions, and pleasures in your life and see them not as your own but “on loan” from God. He gives them to you for a purpose. He wants you to take care of them, and to manage them faithfully.

Some people have received talents from God that are most appreciated by the company’s upper management. Other people have received talents that are noticed most by two-year-olds as they live securely in a loving home. Both kinds of people can be content.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” one Bible writer happily urges. “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:4,12-13).

Contentment is a happiness and appreciation that comes from God tapping you on the shoulder and saying, “I’d like you to do something for me. It’s not the same as everyone else is doing, but I know you can do it well. Here’s what I want you to use.”

Rejoice! No matter what the circumstances, you can be content when you see what you have as a gift from God. Part of that gift is the purpose behind it, an improvement project that improves not just the gift, but also the one to whom it is given.

Perfection

A group of special friends comes over for dinner. You spend hours preparing for the meal. You vacuum your house or apartment. You bring out the best dishes in your cabinet. You want everything to be just perfect. Any food improperly cooked, or signs of a dirty house, could take away from the specialness of the evening. Everything must be perfect.

Our desire for perfection can be seen not only in the home, but also in the workplace. Your employer expects you to do your job well. Mistakes will cost the company time and money. If a company is to run efficiently and profitably, everything must be just so, perfect. Further, you feel the best when you have done your job perfectly. And what about your leisure time? What is it that keeps you coming back to play that round of golf again and again? Isn’t it those few perfect shots in a round that motivate you to return again and again?

The God of the universe also is one who expects perfection in the people he has created. The Bible says, “Be perfect, for I the Lord your God am perfect” (Matthew 5:48). God knows that if his people are going to be what he expects them to be, they will be perfect.

The big problem here, as we all know, is that none of us is perfect. Some of that food that we prepared for those guests doesn’t always turn out right, our house has dirt and spiders even though we clean it often. That perfect golf shot slices and ends up just off the green. The assignment at work ends up with a mistake or two. The same holds true in our relationship with God. He has given us 10 commandments. But we break them. We say harsh words. We think bad thoughts. Being the just God that he is, our God must punish us. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Fortunately, a person named Jesus came into the world. He wanted to rescue us. Thus, he lived a perfect life. And that perfect life has been credited to us. We receive Christ’s perfection as our own. Then he died a death for all the times we messed up and weren’t perfect.

Jesus is God’s perfect solution to our imperfection.

Jesus is the King

Luke 23:35-43
The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at [Jesus]. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.” The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Jesus is the King

It can be difficult and disheartening to navigate through a political campaign and election. Have you ever gotten the feeling that some of the people involved are self-serving? That they care more about themselves than those they hope to represent? They aim to win at all costs. They will promise anything. They tear down their opponent with half-truths and lies. During an election does it ever feel like some of the candidates, the media and even the general public are simply being self-serving?

Jesus is the King. However, Jesus steered clear of politics. He wasn’t interested in overthrowing the government, winning a popular vote or saying things just to get big headlines or people’s approval.

An interesting thing Jesus, the King, said: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” This wasn’t a campaign speech to score popularity points. This was Jesus’ holy, sincere and loving mission. Jesus came to live, suffer, die and rise for sinners like you and me.

As the King, Jesus was suffering and dying, while people watched, mocked and taunted him. They said: “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”

They had missed the point. Jesus, the King of the Jews (and of all people), hadn’t come to escape pain, win votes and rule an earthly kingdom. Jesus came to live, suffer, die and rise for sinners like you and me.

Many of the people and the rulers just did not get it. But a criminal crucified right next to Jesus did. Before he died, the criminal turned to Jesus and made a request: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Jesus, his King, responded: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Jesus, your King, came to serve and give up his life for you. He rose and now rules for you. Do you know this? Do you trust your King? Those who do will be with their King forever in paradise.

Justice in Due Time

How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. – Habakkuk 1:2-3

Was God’s prophet preaching this 2,500 years ago or just last week?

When Habakkuk looked out his front window, he saw violence and injustice. The bad guys just did whatever they wanted to. All of Habakkuk’s neighbors seemed OK with injustice and violence. They took advantage of evil to advance their own cause without any concern for the people getting hurt. Habakkuk could not understand how God allowed all this wrong to happen. Wasn’t he a just God? Wasn’t he a loving God? Habakkuk prayed and prayed the Lord would set things right, but nothing happened.

Sound familiar? Today people abuse their authority to take advantage of others. People disrespect authority to hurt others. People jump to conclusions and ignore facts just to prove their point. No one seems concerned about the people getting hurt. Most people just want to win the argument and advance their personal agenda. Why doesn’t God punish the evil doers? Why does God tolerate all the destruction and violence we see in this world? Why doesn’t he bring an end to conflict and peace to strife-torn hearts?

God answered Habakkuk’s prayer by explaining he would bring justice in his own time and way. God told Habakkuk to be patient and trust that God would do the right thing at the right time–which God did.

Do we really want God to bring justice in our time? Think about it. Have I lost my temper? Have I cut people down with my words? How concerned am I really about people getting hurt by others? What am I doing to help relieve the pain of the suffering? If God pays back people what they deserve, will he be paying me a visit? Do I really want to beg God to bring justice to the world?

Our God already has. On a cross outside of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, God brought justice to this world. He blasted Jesus with all the punishment deserved by all the violence and evil and wrong committed by the human race. God’s Son unjustly suffered in our place. Jesus took that burden because he did not want us condemned. He wanted us forgiven.

On the cross, God’s justice collided with God’s love. On the cross, God punished all wrong-doers by punishing Jesus. On the cross, God forgave all wrong-doers by punishing Jesus. Relying on Jesus as our Savior, we can look forward to meeting God without any fear. Because of Jesus, God will welcome us into heaven.

God will also take care of justice here on earth–in his own time and his own way. Sometimes we will have to wait patiently for God to act. Most importantly for us, we know God has already acted to forgive our sin. We never have to fear that he will punish us. Jesus took our place!

 

Crime

Are you worried about a rise in crime in your area? Have you been a victim?

Crime is a serious matter in the eyes of God. He wants us all to be under the rule of law, so that “we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:2). God invites us to respect and to pray for our government and for our judicial system (1 Timothy 2:1). He expects us to obey the law ourselves (Romans 13). He expects the government to punish those who don’t obey the law (Romans 13:3-5).

Jesus understands what it is like to be a victim of crime. He was wounded and beaten and mocked and spit on. He was accused of things he didn’t do. He has sympathy for those who are suffering in a similar way today (2 Corinthians 1:3-7)

But Jesus’ reaction to criminals is a little surprising. When he was being punished for crimes he did not commit, he said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Two criminals were hanging on crosses next to Jesus when he was crucified. When he saw that one of them trusted him, he said to that criminal, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

How could Jesus say such things about bad people and to bad people?

Jesus could say those things because as he hung on the cross, he was willingly taking the punishment for the sins of all of the criminals who ever lived. In fact, he took the punishment for people who aren’t even criminals. On the cross Jesus suffered the eternal punishment that all people deserve (Matthew 27:46) so that he could tell everyone in the world that their sin is forgiven (2 Corinthians 5:19,20).

Because of what Jesus did, God can say to sinners, “I forgive you.” God forgives them, even criminals.

Can a Christian Fight in a War?

The well-known song poses the question, “War! (huh-yeah) What is it good for?”  It also provides the singer’s opinion as to the answer: “Absolutely nothing!”

Whether we agree with the singer’s conclusion or not, war is an ongoing occurrence in our world today, and will continue to be until Jesus returns (Mark 13:7). Such a reality may lead us to question whether or not it is acceptable in God’s eyes for a Christian to fight in a war.

In Scripture, we do not find a nice, simple list that God gives of acceptable reasons for fighting in a war; neither do we find a list of unacceptable reasons.  So we are left to apply some biblical examples and principals to help us arrive at an answer to the question at hand.

As God guided his people throughout Old Testament history, there were many occasions on which he commanded his people to wage war against enemies.  Often times this was an effort to keep the sinful practices of neighboring nations (e.g., idolatry or sexual immorality) from influencing Israel.  Not only did God specifically tell his people to go to war in some cases, but he also gave his blessing by granting them victory.  It would seem to be a contradiction then for God to command the Old Testament believers to go to war if fighting in a war was unacceptable to him.

In the New Testament John the Baptist preached a sermon once.  Afterward, some soldiers approached him and asked how they could show that they were sorry for their sins.  John didn’t tell them to stop sinning by serving as soldiers or that they couldn’t go to war, but said, “Don’t exhort money and don’t accuse people falsely – be content with your pay” (Luke 3:14).  Certainly we would expect some sort of admonition if it was wrong or sinful to serve as a soldier.  Moreover, we would hardly expect to hear the apostle Paul use the term “soldier” in a complementary manner in his letters if serving as a soldier was contrary to God’s will (Philippians 2:25; 2 Timothy 2:3,4).

Finally, war is a responsibility given to governments by God. “[The government] is God’s servant to do you good.  But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing.  He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:4).  God has given governments the responsibility of upholding justice.  Governments then carry out that responsibility by enlisting people to serve in various agencies, like police forces or the military.  Therefore, when a person serves in that capacity, the person is serving as a representative of the government.  The Christian then can in good conscience serve in such a role knowing that he is both serving God’s representatives in the government (in keeping with the 4th Commandment), and serving and protecting his fellowman (in keeping with the 5th Commandment).