Sometimes, Life Stinks.

Sometimes, life just plain stinks.

Last week, my orthopedic surgeon informed me that I need a total hip replacement.

Yesterday, I lost my job.

My immediate reaction to both issues was to get angry, then depressed. And honestly, I’m still more than a little upset.

How should I, as a follower of Jesus Christ, respond when bad stuff happens?

First, it’s important to understand why evil exists.

God created this world sinless and perfect. There was no death, no illness, no unemployment, and no sin. There was no anger, no depression, and no crap to deal with. It was a perfect world.

Until Adam sinned.

17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’:

“Cursed is the ground for your sake;
In toil you shall eat of it
All the days of your life.
18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
And you shall eat the herb of the field.
19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:17-19)

12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— 13 (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. 15 But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. (Romans 5:12-15)

All of the sin, death, illness, anger, natural disasters, depression, other problems, and other evils are a direct consequence of Adam’s sin. Adam’s sin changed the perfect world that God designed, and polluted it.

However, we can’t blame it all on Adam. Our sin has added to the problem.

Sometimes, bad stuff happens as a direct result of our own sin. We make bad choices that lead to bad consequences.

But sometimes, bad stuff happens, and it has nothing to do with anything we personally did; it’s a result of the sin in the world. It can be the result of demonic activity, and it can also be the result of God’s judgement for the sin of society. Evil can have different causes, but those causes all trace back to the same root cause – sin.

In any case, how should followers of Jesus Christ handle the crap that life serves us?

For me, the key is to realize the sufferings of this life are temporary. The perfection God planned for the human race will be realized in eternity.

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:4)

And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. (Revelation 22:3)

Life on this earth is but the blink of an eye in the grand scheme of eternity. The junk we live through in this life is only temporary. For followers of Jesus Christ, the current life is the worst it will ever be; for unbelievers, unfortunately, this life is the best it will ever be.

The other thing is that, even though we must face a lot of pain and suffering in this world, as a Christian, I have the Holy Spirit living inside me to comfort, guide, and direct me through the junk of life.

33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 
As it is written:

“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)

While I’m still hurt, depressed, and scared about both my hip and my job situation, I am holding on to the promises God has given me in His word. God never promised to keep His followers from the difficulties of life, but rather promised to walk with us through the difficulties. And, while I know I’ll struggle during the next days (or weeks, or months, depending on when I find another job and/or have my surgery), I know that God is with me through the process, and that He is in control of the situation.

Pushing People Out of the Church – Part 5

A while back, I read an article entitled, “8 Ways Christian Fundamentalists Make People Convert — to Agnosticism or Atheism,” published by skeptic Valerie Tarico on the left-wing, anti-religion, news-and-commentary website Alternet.org

While most of the articles on this site are either offensive or just plain silly, this article caught my interest, because it contains some truths that Christians need to understand.

People who reject Jesus Christ ultimately do so because they choose to suppress the truth (Romans 1:18-19). However, there are also many things that those in the church do to push people away. As Tarico states, “if you read ExChristian testimonials you will notice that quite often church leaders or members do things that either trigger the deconversion process or help it along.”

I’ve found that I can often learn a lot by listening to what skeptics say about their perceptions of Christianity. This series looks at the eight reasons Tarico highlights.

Reason #5: Disgusting and Immoral Behavior

The priest abuse scandal did more for the New Atheist movement than outspoken anti-theists like Christopher Hitchens (God is Not Great) , Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion) , Sam Harris (The End of Faith ) or Bill Maher (Religulous) ever could. To make matters worse (or better, depending on your point of view) Bill Donohue of the Catholic League seems to be doing everything possible to fan those flames: On top of the abuse itself, followed by cover-ups, he is now insisting that the best defense of church property is a good offense against the victims, and has vowed to fight them “one by one.”

The Freedom from Religion Foundation publishes a bi-monthly newspaper that includes a regular feature: The Black Collar Crime Blotter. It features fraud, drug abuse, sex crimes and more by Protestant as well as Catholic clergy. The obvious purpose is to move readers from religion isn’t true to religion isn’t benign to religion is abhorrent and needs fighting. Moral outrage is a powerful emotion.

The Fallacy of Using Morality as an Argument Against God

answersingenesis.org

For the atheist, life exists purely as the result of chance mutations occurring within a chemical soup. People, trees, bacteria, and frogs are nothing more than complex chemical reactions. Morality is nothing more than just another biochemical process. Within an atheistic worldview, there is no basis for determining value for anything aside from human opinion. Morality cannot logically exist for the atheist. Good and evil cannot possibly exist within a universe that defines everything by chance. In an atheistic belief system, only human preference can define standards of right and wrong and such preferences may shift from person to person and culture to culture. For an atheist to argue that anything is immoral is irrational from an atheistic worldview.

Yet, atheists do believe in absolute morality. They do believe that certain actions are absolutely wrong, and others are absolutely right. Why? Because that’s how reality works. In the real world, absolute right and wrong do exist. The atheist must accept the existence of moral absolutes in order to function in reality, despite the fact that absolute morality cannot logically exist in their worldview.

Morality can only exist if there is an absolute standard of right and wrong. Atheism has no such absolute standard. Such an absolute standard can exist only because the absolute God exists. Atheists cannot acknowledge this; they must believe in absolute morality without acknowledging the Absolute basis for such a belief. Such a belief is irrational and illogical, yet they cling to it, because they refuse to acknowledge God.

Christian Immorality

Although the argument is irrational from the atheistic worldview, Tarico makes a valid point. Immoral behavior by Christians is a serious roadblock for many to receive the Gospel. Although it’s true that many of the examples cited by atheists involve people who aren’t true Christians, many examples do involve true believers. When Christians sin, non-believers notice. And, since all Christians sin, non-believers are going to see Christians do some horrible things.

How should Christians respond to this?

  1. We need to understand that what makes us Christians is not our superior morality. What makes us Christians is reconciliation with God through the blood of Jesus Christ. Our sin separates us from God; the righteousness of Jesus Christ restores our relationship. It’s not our morality; it’s all Jesus. Not only do we need to understand this truth, but we need to make sure both the non-believers and other Christians in our lives understand this as well.
  2. We need to live our lives in obedience to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. When we do sin, we need to repent. We need to be transparent about our sin, and sincere in our repentance. Those around us will see our sin; they need to see the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives as we overcome the sin.
  3. We need to pray for our Christian brothers and sisters, especially those in leadership roles. We need to pray for strength to avoid temptation and sin, and we need to pray for sincere repentance when sin occurs.
  4. We need to hold each other accountable, especially our Christian leaders. When sin becomes known, we need to hold each other accountable for that sin, and for repentance.

Nobody likes a hypocrite. Christians claim that Jesus Christ makes a difference in our lives. When non-believers see Christians embrace sin, it seems reasonable to see the hypocrisy as negation of the claim that Jesus Christ changes lives. We need to be honest about our shortcomings, and absolutely not view sin as acceptable. We need to allow others to see the Holy Spirit working in our lives. We will never be perfect; but when we fall short, we need to humbly do whatever is necessary to remedy the situation.

There are many people, both inside and outside of the church, who are undecided about where they stand in relation to Jesus Christ. Our job is to allow the Holy Spirit to use us to draw people toward Him, not to push people away. How we respond to sin is a major factor in whether we push people away, or draw them toward Jesus Christ.

Open Mouth, Insert Foot

The Taming of the Tongue

Usually, when I get in trouble, it’s because I’ve said something stupid.

Sometimes, I’ll say something sarcastic, and somebody gets offended by it.  Other times, I’m angry, and I say something in the heat of the moment that I later regret. Or, I’ll blurt out something before I’ve really thought about what I’m saying.

Open mouth, insert foot.  I’ve done it so many times, I’ve developed athlete’s tongue.

Why is it so hard to not say something stupid?

Sometimes, the problem is that I like to hear myself talk too much.  In my arrogance, I think everybody’s got to hear what I have to say.  Sometimes, however, I just need to learn to shut up.  Proverbs 18:21 tells us,

21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
And those who love it will eat its fruit.

When I talk, there are consequences for my words.  My words can either point towards life in Jesus Christ, or towards death apart from Him.  When I start talking just because I love to hear myself talk, I will “eat of the fruit” of my words – I will suffer consequences for my speech.  Proverbs 10:19 tells us,

19 In the multitude of words sin is not lacking,
But he who restrains his lips is wise.

In other words, when I talk too much, I’m going to eventually say something stupid and sinful.  So, if I’m wise, I’ll just shut up.  James 3:8-10 tells us even more bluntly:

8 But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.

Why is it that “no man can tame the tongue?”  All of us were born with a sin nature inherited from our parents, who inherited it from the first man, Adam.  We were born with bodies cursed by Adam’s fall in the Garden of Eden.  When a person receives Christ as Savior, we receive a new nature; however, we’re still trapped in our cursed bodies and in a fallen world, until the transformation is completed after we die, or are raptured.  In Romans 7, Paul explains it this way:

13 Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. 16 If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.

So, for the time being, in this present life, Christians are stuck with the physical bodies and brains we were born with, until we get new, perfect ones in eternity.  What do we do about the stupid things we all say, in the mean time?  Psalm 34:12-14 tells us:

12 Who is the man who desires life,
And loves many days, that he may see good?
13 Keep your tongue from evil,
And your lips from speaking deceit.
14 Depart from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it.

We must consciously choose to control our tongues.  Although we will never be able to control everything we say in this life, with reliance on the Holy Spirit, we can certainly say a lot less stupid stuff.  The key is to focus on the things of God, not the things of this world, or about ourselves, as Paul puts it in Philippians 4:

8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

The things we focus on in our minds are the things that will come out of our mouths.  If we want to stop saying stupid things, we need to stop thinking about stupid stuff.  If we want to say things to build others up and draw others toward God, we need to be thinking about the things of God.  Taming the tongue is something we cannot do in our own strength, wisdom, or power; it is only through depending on the grace and power of God through Jesus Christ that the tongue can be controlled.