Monday, February 28, 2011

Bitterness Introduction

Bitterness is deceptive. Bitterness destroys. And if we’re not careful, it will quietly sneak into our lives, and ruin them. But how is it that we end up bitter? What thoughts lead to bitterness?

Bitterness is a result of dwelling on negative thoughts about another person or circumstance. It can be because someone hurt you or did something to you, because someone is not doing what you want them to do, or simply because you are angry with a circumstance you have no control over. It may begin with anger or it may be subtle derogatory thoughts. Either way, it is destructive. In my upcoming posts I hope to evaluate bitterness and a biblical response.

Nearly every person has experienced bitterness in their life. You may not even realize it—but if you think about it carefully, you probably have. Bitterness manifests itself in various forms. So we need to learn to identify the bitterness, destroy the wrong thoughts and actions, and replace them with biblical truth.

I started working on this idea a while ago, but it is finally finished. While the posts like this are mainly what I planned for my blog content-wise, my last two “sets” of posts have been more worldview-related as I’ve shared things I believe. The following 5 posts will cover the topic of bitterness. I pray that these upcoming posts will be encouraging and helpful!

Katie

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Good God in an Evil World? pt. 5

So is God truly good? Absolutely. It is our sinful hearts that lead us astray, and Satan, the father of lies, who tempts and deceives us. God has nothing to do with wickedness (Psalm 5:4). He is perfectly holy and righteous. While God allows evil to continue for now, He is still in total control. The Westminster Confession describes that
“The most wise, righteous, and gracious God does oftentimes leave, for a season, His own children to manifold temptations, and the corruption of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled; and, to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon Himself, and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for sundry other just and holy ends.”
One day He will return with trumpets announcing His return, and He will rightly judge all the evil every deed. Until He returns, we must look ahead at what He will do in the future, knowing that right now, any evil, sin, or corruption will not allow sin to continue forever, and God is not a lesser god because He allows it to continue now. Instead, He is a merciful God who is gracious to allow us to live even now, and we should thank Him continually that He has allowed us to even have the ability to know Him and to be forgiven. Thanks be to God, that whatever we face, we can trust that He is working it our for our good, that He is in complete control, that He can use those circumstances to reveal Himself in new ways to us, that He disciplines us to return us to Him, and that ultimately, He will return one day, and make everything right! Instead of getting caught up in the evil we see, we can look to God who has all things in His hands, and is orchestrating every event to fulfill His perfect plan.

Katie

Monday, February 21, 2011

Joy

"The ultimate ground of our rejoicing can never be our circumstances, even though we as Christians recognize that our circumstances are providentially arranged. If our joy derives primarily from our circumstances, then when our circumstances change, we will be miserable. Our delight must be in the Lord Himself. That is what enables us to live with joy above our circumstances. As Nehemiah puts it, “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10). Perhaps that is one of the reasons why the Lord sometimes allows miserable circumstances to lash us—that we may learn this lesson.…Whatever the mysteries of evil and sorrow, they do have the salutary effect of helping believers to shift the ground of their joy from created things to the Creator, from the temporary to the eternal." (emphasis mine)
D.A. Carson, Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians

How hard this quote hits me! I know it's easy for me to rely on external things for my joy, but what I am learning now is that my joy should not be the result of my circumstances, but should be evident through whatever circumstances I face.

 All I want in life is such circumstances as may best enable me to serve Thee in the world.” 
Valley of Vision 
"Those who look to Him are radiant" Psalm 34:5
"In your presence there is fullness of joy" Psalm 16:11

Katie

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Good God in an Evil World? pt. 4

Even Christians have struggled with the question of how God could be loving and allow evil. And while some have resorted to limiting God’s power or declaring that He lets us have our will, we do not have to negate the sovereignty and perfection of God because we see evil in this world. In fact, believers are confident that we will not have to face the evil and sin of this world forever. Someday Christ will return triumphantly to judge. 2 Peter 2:7-10 explains to us:
“But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.”

While we may struggle with how God could continue to allow so much evil and suffering, we must look to Scripture to understand that He does not desire for any to perish, and is patiently waiting, desirous that all come to repentance. However, it is also clear that the Lord Jesus Christ will come again, and on that day every work on earth will be judged. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 describes this day:
“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”
In the midst of suffering and evil of this day we can easily become discouraged, wondering how long the Lord will continue to tarry. But the end of this passage says to “encourage one another with these words”, reminding each other that the Christ will return, and it will be a glorious day! Evil will not triumph. Christ will be triumphant and all those who did not believe in Christ for salvation will be sent to eternal punishment. Right now we can only know what we see—and when we see suffering, death, and destruction around us we wonder how a loving God could allow such things. But there is a seen and unseen part of history. Ultimately, our finite minds can only experience and know the seen part of present history. Because of this, we don’t always understand what or why something is happening. However, the great God of the universe knows exactly what is happening, and all is to bring honor and glory to Him. John Piper conveys,
“The suffering of God's people will be rewarded in the end with the stupendous privilege expressed in [2 Thessalonians 1] verse 10: the Lord will come ‘on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at in all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.’ No more suffering. The kingdom has come. The church has been made worthy by her trials. The enemies of truth are swept away in eternal destruction. The saints are given everlasting rest. And Jesus Christ is glorified on his throne forever and ever.”
We can trust that in the end, all will be made right, and we will not question what happened here on earth, because all will point to the perfect plan of God the Father.

Katie

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Good God in an Evil World? pt. 3

Even though suffering can clearly be for sin, it is not always the case. But even when there is no sin involved on the part of the person suffering, God can also use that to reveal new things about Him to us. He can turn the difficulties in life into a time of deeper seeking Him, deeper dependence and reliance on Him, and greater spiritual growth as we look to Him for strength. 1 Peter 4:13 reminds us to “rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” Often when people are doing well, they become very self-sufficient, thinking they can handle all that life brings them. It is only when they are faced with tragedy, sickness, suffering, or death that they begin to realize that they are very powerless. In this midst of struggling, for those that turn to God and rely on Him, He often reveals Himself in greater ways and becomes more treasured to them. God is then able to comfort and sustain those who are experiencing affliction or tragedy.

While I have not faced intense suffering or tragedy, I can attest to this truth. The times in my life when things have been difficult or I haven’t understood why something was happening have been the times I have to call upon the Lord because I see my utter weakness and dependency on Him. We are tested when we are prospering, or when we are suffering. But most often we fail the test when we prosper, because we don’t rely on God. God chooses circumstances for our lives to bring greater spiritual growth, not greater happiness. Life is not about being as happy as we can be, but glorifying God in everything. Samuel Rutherford explains,
“Let God make of you what He will, He will end all with consolation, and shall make glory out of your suffering.”
The Lord can then use those times of weakness, the times of hardship, to turn our hearts towards Him, because the faulty things we were building ourselves upon were torn down. God promises to be with us, and even when we go through the deep waters, He will sustain us (Isaiah 43:2). When John Bunyan was separated from his family and thrown in prison for preaching the gospel, he attested to this truth. He explained,
"I never had in all my life so great an inlet into the Word of God as now [in prison]. The Scriptures that I saw nothing in before are made in this place to shine upon me. Jesus Christ also was never more real and apparent than now. Here I have seen him and felt him indeed. . . . I have seen [such things] here that I am persuaded I shall never while in this world be able to express... Being very tender of me, [God] hath not suffered me to be molested, but would with one scripture and another strengthen me against all; insomuch that I have often said, were it lawful I could pray for greater trouble for the greater comfort's sake."
God is in absolute control and uses our circumstances, however grim or unfair they may seem to us, to work in our lives by revealing more of Himself to us. As John Piper articulates, “This is God's universal purpose for all Christian suffering: more contentment in God and less satisfaction in the world.” And this proves true for many Christians as they experience suffering. It is not a bad thing, but fills us with greater joy as we look forward to our future glory, worshiping God for all of eternity.


Katie

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Good God in an Evil World? pt. 2

Another reason God sometimes allows suffering and evil is to discipline His children. Hebrews 12:5-6 states, “Do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” Proverbs tells us that a father who loves his son is diligent to discipline him. Such is the case with God. Job chapter five describes one who is disciplined by the Lord as blessed. This discipline is not hateful or vengeful, but the loving discipline of a Father who desires for His children to return to Him. If we are unrepentant about an area of sin, God will chastise us in order that we might repent and our relationship with God be restored.

In the Old Testament, God repeatedly warned the Israelites about what would happen to them if they turned from Him to worship other idols or if they did not do what He commanded. Leviticus 26:14-29 describes the increments of discipline that the Lord would enact should the Israelites fail to follow Him. The purpose in the progressive chastisement is to turn His children back to Himself. If we remain stubborn, the discipline gets harder in order to break and humble us. So when we face suffering or challenges, we must first search our hearts to see if there is any sin in them.

In the story of Jonah, when Jonah tried to run away from God because he feared where God wanted to send him to preach, he snuck onto a ship sailing far from Nineveh. But God sent a mighty storm that terrified everyone aboard the ship, and Jonah knew that the storm was due to his disobedience. He told the sailors to throw him into the sea. God was trying to get Jonah’s attention. Jonah had clearly disobeyed, and God could have let him drown, but instead He sent an enormous fish to swallow him alive, so that Jonah might become repentant.

In Psalm 119:67, the Psalmist acknowledges, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your Word.” God desires for His children to obey Him, and disciplining them for disobedience is what our loving Father has to do so that we might return to Him and keep His Word. Don't take lightly the discipline of God the Father!

Katie

P.S. To those of you who saw this in Reader a few weeks ago, sorry about that! I accidentally scheduled it wrong.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Good God in an Evil World? pt. 1

The question of why evil exists is a difficult one, but one that nearly every person has sought to elucidate. Thousands of various answers have been suggested. It is a struggle for people to believe that a good God could allow evil things to happen. Man has a challenging time accepting that there could be a good God in the midst of tragedy, suffering, and evil. Archibald MacLeish, a 20th century poet, expressed, "If God is God He is not good, if God is good He is not God." It seems absurd that God could be in compete control and yet let such horrible things happen on a daily basis. Yet this leaves man in a miserable and hopeless state, having to endure with trouble and powerless to deal with the evil around. In fact, this is the reason that many have contrived ideas about their own utopias, because they do not see that man is sinful, and think if we change our environment we can correct the wrongs of this world. Instead of subscribing to the answers the world tries to give, Christians turn to the source of all truth, God’s Word. Our problem is not with our God but with our understanding of Him, the reason we have sin now, and the final end. In order to accurately understand the problem of evil in our world, we must study what has been called biblical theodicy.

Theodicy is described as the branch of theology that defends God's goodness and justice in the face of the existence of evil. Using that definition, I would like to explain how a good, loving God could be sovereignly in control in the midst of evil. Out of the eight elements of biblical theodicy, the four I am covering in the next several posts are Satan, discipline, revelation, and eschatology.

In order to understand why evil exists at all, we must go back to the beginning. Evil was first conceived when Satan, an angel in the presence of God, decided that he wanted to have the authority and power of God Himself, confidently assuming that he could defeat the Lord Most High. God cast him out of heaven because of his wickedness. Since then, he has been deceiving and lying to try to turn people against God. We know from Genesis chapter 3 that Satan disguised himself as a serpent and tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden. When Eve chose to believe him, along with her husband, both were cast out from the garden. Ever since, Satan has continued to seek out people to destroy. 1 Peter 5:8 says that, “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” This prowling deceiver is said to describe himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), accuse the children of God (Zechariah 3:1), and deceive (Revelation 12:9). However, despite his power over this world, he does not have unlimited authority. As we learn in the book of Job, Satan prowled around the earth, but the Lord was the one who gave him permission to test Job. We also know from 1 Peter 5:8-9 that Satan is trying to destroy Christians and their joy. Satan then, is one of the reasons we have evil around us today.


Katie