If God is Good, Why Does Evil Exist?

In a recent conversation with a neighbor (we’ll call him Sam),  I had the opportunity to talk with him about the perplexing question about the existence of evil in light of God’s holy nature.

Sam came over and asked if he could talk with be about some things that were troubling him. He stated that he knew I believed in God, said that he was troubled by the recent reports of natural catastrophes, wars, disease, etc., and wanted to know if God really existed. I thanked Sam for coming to me and giving me the opportunity to share my views with him. I let him know that while I don’t have all the answers, I let him know that my views are based on my personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, through ongoing Bible study, and ongoing studies about God called theology.

Original Creation Vs. Fallen Creation

The first thing that I explained to Sam was that according to the Bible, God is an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving being that is only capable of doing perfect good. I then explained that according to the book of Genesis, in the beginning God created everything in our material Universe, including spirit beings that serve Him which are called angels, and ending with the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, the ancestors of the whole human race. Because God is good, everything He created was originally good. Today we can observe vestiges of that original goodness throughout creation; including in natural beauty and harmony that occurs in nature, as well as man’s capacity for love and compassion in spite of the existence of evil, all of which confirm God’s good and loving nature.

According to the Bible, when God created Angels, He created them as spirit beings to reflect God’s holiness and to serve Him. Evil came into existence when one of God’s most beautiful Angels (Lucifer) chose to rebel against God, reject his position, and seek to overthrow God. In doing so, he became the corrupt being known as Satan (or the Devil), and condemned himself and one third of the angels (now demons) that followed him to a future eternal punishment in a lake of fire we call Hell.

Moral Evil & Natural Evil

When God created Adam, the head of the human race, He gave Adam the ability to reason, love, procreate, and have a special father/son like relationship with God himself. In order for their relationship to be mutual and based on love, He also gave Adam a will, and the ability to choose obedience over disobedience. That choice came with a promise and a consequence. Because of God’s perfect and holy nature, disobedience would result in a broken relationship and separation from God in the form of spiritual death, and bring condemnation on Adam resulting in his physical death, which would be passed on to all of his offspring genetically. That is why every human being since then has been born with a nature that leans toward selfishness and rebellion, resulting in evil thoughts and actions know as ‘moral evil.’ Some examples of moral evil that come from humankind’s naturally selfish nature include anger, hatred, murder, unjust war, sexual immorality, adultery, rape, theft, disobedience, rebellion, lying, and more. All of which result in destroyed relationships and even premature death.

When God created Adam, He gave Adam authority over the entire earth and it’s inhabitants, and gave him (and mankind) the responsibility to care for it. When Adam disobeyed God, he subjected himself to Satan’s evil. This resulted in Adam and all of his future offspring (mankind) not only becoming slaves to evil, but it also brought all of the material creation that Adam was responsible for under Satan’s authority, resulting in disorder and decay in nature, known as Natural Evil. Some examples of natural evil include the things that were troubling Sam, including natural catastrophes like earthquakes, hurricanes, and volcanic eruptions, as well as natural diseases like colds, flu, high blood pressure, heart disease, small pox, AIDS, and cancer.

What is Meant For Evil, God Uses For Ultimate Good

When I finished explaining these things to Sam, I then explained that in a world where we experience both moral and natural evil, it can be difficult to reconcile the ideas that God is all-powerful and all loving, and that He himself is perfectly good, despite the fact that evil exists in His creation. We learn from the Bible that like any loving father, while he may have the power to make his child obey him, his love requires that he allow his child to choose whether or not to obey so that the child is able to express and reciprocate love for his father. When a child disobeys, a father’s loving response is to discipline the child in order to teach the child obedience, and to prevent the child from becoming self and others destructive in his rebellion.

Because God is all-powerful, He is able to use even moral and natural evil that occurs as a tool for discipline in order to bring correction to individuals, communities, nations, and even mankind as a whole. Because God is all-loving, He not only “disciplines those whom He loves” according to the Bible, He also demonstrated emphatically His perfect saving love while satisfying His perfect need for justice towards man’s unholy rebellion that required death, in that He sent His only begotten sinless Son Jesus Christ from heaven to earth to become a man, and as a man, subjected Jesus to the undeserving death on the cross in order to redeem all mankind from moral evil, subjection to Satan, and eternal separation from God. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, every person that acknowledges their selfish and rebellious nature (sin), and puts their faith in Jesus Christ is given God’s Holy Spirit, released from the penalty of sin (eternal death), restored into a right relationship with God, and given the power to resist and overcome temptation in order to grow and remain eternally in a loving and obedient relationship with God.

Unfortunately, when people don’t have a proper Biblical understanding of God and evil, their faith in God can come into question when they experience moral or natural evil personally. I believe that even though a person may have erroneous beliefs about God, whether from ignorance, or resulting from drawing wrong conclusions based on experiencing moral or natural evil in their lives, if a person is honest about their concerns and keeps and open line of communication with God and continuously studies the Bible in order to reconcile those concerns, God will help that person grow spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually in their knowledge of God, resulting in gradual corrections in their erroneous beliefs, just as it is written in Philippians 3:15: “Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.”

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Bibliography

Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Second Edition ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1984, 2001. Print.

The New King James Bible. N.p.: Thomas Nelson, 1979. Print.

Towns, Elmer L. Theology for Today. Mason, Ohio: Cengage Learning, 2008, 2002. Print.

A Plea to God’s People and a Plea to God Almighty

“Do not be conformed into the image of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  “The Holy Spirit will lead you into all truth.” “God’s Word is Truth.” “The Holy Spirit will take what is mine (Jesus) and declare it to you.” “I desire obedience and not sacrifice.”

The reason apostasy is so rampant and is increasing among churches, among Christians, is that so many of us have neglected the Word of God in its entirety.  We know the Gospel as it pertains to us individually, but we neglect Genesis through Revelation as the whole counsel of God, not searching out God’s plan of redemption, not searching out and understanding our own weakness and God’s provision for it, not searching out and understanding the strategy and tactics of our spiritual enemy, nor the tools of our warfare and how to use them effectively. “My people are destroyed (perish) for lack of knowledge.”

We are being told by the world and the spirit of Antichrist at work in the world what we should believe, and how the world defines Christianity and God’s love.  The world DOES NOT know AGAPE, and it cannot know AGAPE (Greek for God’s sacrificial perfect love) because the world is not of God and is under the influence of the evil one.  It only knows EROS (Greek for LUST). “The natural man cannot please God… and the natural man cannot accept the things of  God’s Spirit but considers them foolishness, and the natural man cannot understand the things of the Spirit, because those things are only discerned by the Holy Spirit.”

Receiving Agape, requires repentance based on conviction by the Holy Spirit according to personal revelation of God’s Word. Without God’ Word and faith in it, there is no repentance.  Without repentance, there is no transformation.

Repentance means we change our minds and direction about what the world says and what our feelings say, and INSTEAD line our will up with what God’s Word says is right, in opposition to what our feelings (EROS) and the world are telling us.

LORD God, Almighty, forgive us! We are so easily distracted, and to our own destruction!  We have neglected your Word, and have failed to obey your ways O God!  Have mercy on us, and help us turn from our wicked ways.  Grant us discernment O Lord!  Strengthen our weak wills by your Holy Spirit, and help us to recognize our deep need for the pure milk of your Word and to partake of it NOW, while it is freely available.  We are perishing for lack of knowledge!  You O God are not willing that any of us should perish, but that we all would turn to repentance.  O LORD, raise up men and women who know you and know your Word, and grant them boldness to proclaim truth and to preach your Word, and teach the whole counsel of God, empowered by your Holy Spirit, that many would hear and believe and repent and be saved in these perilous times. O God hear!, O God forgive!, O God have mercy!, O God act!

Military to Ministry

Last year while out to dinner, I had a chance to speak with a young Airman who was training to be a Pararescue Jumper (PJ).  As we spoke, the conversation turned to my taking classes for a bachelor’s degree in Theology and plans to attend Seminary, as well as my many years of service in ministry at multiple churches.  The Airman was curious to learn more about my having been a Marine and my transition into ministry.  He later emailed me for further details.

His main question was about being trained to be aggressive and demonstrate power, and that he thought that would be incompatible with being a disciple of Jesus Christ.   Here is what I told him, based on my personal experience:

I was in the Marine Corps for 7 months and was honorably discharged as a PFC (E-2) with disability in 1989. Basic training in the Marine Corps is designed to make every Marine a capable combat rifleman, without exception. While we were trained to be aggressive and exhibit power when in combat, we are taught discipline, honor, courage, etc. The training instills in Marines a confidence that comes through in our demeanor, but we are taught to be very disciplined and not be aggressive unless the situation warrants it, especially when dealing with civilians or non-combatants.
There are aspects of military training that are very compatible with ministry and serving the LORD, and there are things that are not compatible and have to be discarded.  In fact, there are many things about serving the LORD that I learned best while I was in the Marine Corps.  However, the one main thing that had to be discarded and must continually be prevented from taking control, is pride. I am continually learning that humility is actually more powerful.  Servant leadership, submission to authority, developing others, caring about people and doing what is best, but not always what is wanted or liked, are all part of the calling.
There are so many biblical examples, especially our Savior Jesus Christ, Creator God, who became a suffering servant and submitted Himself to the will of God our Father in Heaven, in order to demonstrate true humility without compromise, servant leadership, biblical discipleship.  The Centurion and Cornelius are two great godly examples in the New Testament.  David and his mighty men are great examples from the Old Testament.  (If David had followed God’s command for Kings found in Deuteronomy 17:14-20, he would not have fallen with Bathsheba and been guilty of her husband’s death).  Since we are all children of God through redemption in Jesus Christ, we are all best served in taking those principles to heart in order to be effective servant leaders who follow Christ.
Like Christ, in this life we are to be suffering servants by the leading of the Holy Spirit, so that having proven to be faithful, we will rule with Christ after the resurrection.  (See Matthew 25:23, and Joseph’s entire life in the Old Testament)

Being Fruitful

Have you ever picked up a piece of fruit and taken a bite, only to find that the inside is rotten?  I love bananas, and when I go grocery shopping, I usually bring home a bunch of them.  I try to inspect them carefully, looking for any bruising, and generally pick a bunch that are still slightly green because I know that they’ll ripen by the time I start eating them.  A few times, I’ve peeled that last banana and have taken a bite, only to find that it’s mushy, the center is brown and has started to rot. It’s not pleasant.

In the same way that we examine fruit at the market in order to get the best and avoid the bad, we are to examine ourselves to make sure that we are producing good fruit by the Spirit of Christ, and not rotting on the inside. In 2 Corinthians 13:5, Paul challenges each of us to examine ourselves to see whether or not we are in the faith, and whether or not (the Spirit of) Jesus Christ is in us.  So it is possible to determine of ourselves, whether or not the Spirit of Christ is in us.  We can examine our own thoughts, as well as our own actions and compare them to how we are expected to act according to the Scriptures, especially the New Testament.  In Matthew 7, Jesus said that ‘a good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit’ and that we would know true and false servants of Christ by their fruit (e.g. their actions and the results of their actions.)

WIth that same concept in mind, Jesus further develops the idea by using a grape vine and it’s fruit as an example of our relationship with him. In John 15:1-8,  Jesus states that he is the “true vine” and that people are the branches. Jesus makes it clear that people are to both abide in Jesus, and allow him to abide in them.   Our salvation and security comes from abiding in Jesus, for it is from him that we receive abundant and eternal life. According to Jesus in verse 6, if a person (branch) doesn’t remain in Jesus, he or she will be cast into the fire and are burned. This is a clear reference to the lake of fire that burns forever and ever. In verse 9 Jesus tells how to remain and abide in him, by abiding in his love, which is demonstrated through keeping his commandments.

Fruitfulness comes from allowing him to abide in us through learning his words and keeping them (verse 7), and through keeping his commandments to love each other. The entire passage shows that as we are established in our relationship with Jesus by faith in him (abiding in him), and grow in our fellowship with Jesus and others by learning and obeying his commandments (he abiding in us). By doing this, there is a progression of fruitfulness shown in the passage. Bearing fruit (verse 2), bearing more fruit (verse 2), and bearing much fruit (verse 5).   In verse 8 Jesus shows how we can tell whether or not we are truly his disciples, if we are bearing much fruit through faith in him and obedience to him and his commandments.

Finally, we read in Galatians 5 what that fruit is, and what our lives should be producing. ‘The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If these things aren’t present in our lives and increasing, then it’s possible that we’ve hindered the work of the Holy Spirit in us through harboring unforgiveness, leaving our first love, or even outright rebellion.  By continually examining ourselves and prayerfully asking the Holy Spirit to reveal problem areas, we are given the opportunity to repent and receive internal healing and become fruitful once again.

The Deity of Jesus Pt. 2

In his Gospel, John set out to make it clear that Jesus, the Word of God that was both with God and was God from the beginning, had become a human being and lived among his people. John accomplished this by writing about eight specific sign miracles of Jesus that related to eight “I AM” statements in which Jesus clearly stated his deity, all of which occurred during the three and a half years of his earthly ministry. Signs were extremely important to the Jews. Throughout the Bible God manifested himself to his people through signs. John writes: “Now Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book; but these (signs) are recorded that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name. (NASB)”

The first sign that John records in his gospel was the turning of water into wine at a wedding feast in Cana of Galilee. Being able to change water into wine clearly demonstrated his power as the Creator, Jehovah. The water would have taken the Jewish mind back to the beginning of creation, when God’s Spirit hovered over the waters and created all things, including Adam and Eve, the first married couple ordained by God.

According to John Walvoord in the Bible Knowledge Commentary, the wine represented joy. God’s creative work brings joy to him and to his creation. (In the beginning God looked upon all he created, included Adam and Eve and saw that it was very good. Genesis 1:31 NET) Walvoord also contrasts Jesus turning water into wine as a sign of joy, with Moses turning water into blood, a sign of judgment in Exodus 7:20. The I AM statement of Jesus that corresponds to this first sign is found in John 15:1-8 when Jesus proclaims “I AM the true vine…” and again “I AM the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me—and I in him—bears much fruit…”(NET Bible). The sign miracle demonstrates that Jesus is God the true vine and the source joy (the wine) for those who believe in him.

This sign also relates to the fifth sign that John recorded in his gospel of Jesus walking on water. After Jesus fed the 5,000 and knew that they wanted to make him king, he departed to a certain mountain. His disciples get into a boat and head across the Sea of Galilee from Tiberius to Capernaum. After they rowed in rough seas for a few miles, Jesus comes walking across the water to the boat saying, “It is I, do not be afraid.” Just as God’s Spirit hovered over the waters at creation, now as Jesus Christ, he walks across the waters of his creation. This sign of Jesus power over his creation demonstrates that Jesus is Jehovah, the Almighty God. In John 18:5, 6, Jesus states “I am…I am” clearly communicating that he is Jehovah.

Walvoord, John F., and Roy B. Zuck. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983.

Net Bible: New English Translation. [Spokane, Wash.]: Biblical Studies Press, 2003. p. 1990.

Prayer Request from Sidewalk Prophets

Christians please pray – just got this update from the Sidewalk Prophets band 11 minutes ago:

“Brothers and Sisters… we received this email from a close friend and supporter of our band today. We ask that you take 3 minutes right now and pray for all involved. Please spread the word. We ask that you take this request seriously…this isn’t a tv show or a movie. It is real life and happening as we speak. We love and appreciate each of you! -SWP
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A friend from Ohio just got a text message from her brother asking her to shower him and his parish in prayer. He is part of a mission team and ISIS has taken over the town they are in today. He said ISIS is systematically going house to house to all the Christians and asking the children to denounce Jesus. He said so far not one child has. And so far all have consequently been killed. But not the parents. The UN has withdrawn and the missionaries are on their own. They are determined to stick it out for the sake of the families – even if it means their own deaths. He is very afraid, has no idea how to even begin ministering to these families who have had seen their children martyred. Yet he says he knows God has called him for some reason to be his voice and hands at this place at this time. Even so, he is begging prayers for his courage to live out his vocation in such dire circumstances… And like the children accept martyrdom if he is
called to do so. She asked me to ask everyone we know to please pray for them. These brave parents instilled such a fervent faith in their children that they chose martyrdom. PLEASE surround them in their loss with your prayers for hope and perseverance. She was able to talk to her brother briefly by phone. She didn’t say it but I believe she believes it will be their last conversation. Pray for her too. She said he just kept asking her to help him know what to do and do it. She told him to tell the families we ARE praying for them and they are not alone or forgotten — no matter what. Her e mail broke my heart. Please keep all in your prayers.
Thanks

How Can We Prove that Jesus is the Messiah?

God has given us archaeological evidence, historical evidence, and more importantly, eyewitness testimony.

“On the mouth of two or three witnesses, let a matter be established.” (Deuteronomy 17:6 and 2 Corinthians 13:1)

We have the eyewitness testimonies of Moses, Samuel, Amos, Habakkuk, Ezra, Nehemiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and so on.

We have the eyewitness testimonies of those who saw, heard, touched, and were touched by Jesus Himself.  Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Mary, Peter, Paul, James, Jude, and so on.

You have your eyewitness testimony, I have mine.  Others have theirs.

All of these eyewitness accounts are after the fact. But there is one eyewitness account that is greater than all of these.

God’s testimony.  You see, He says that He alone is God and that Jesus is His Messiah, the Savior of the world and His only begotten Son, and that we would know it without a shadow of a doubt because unlike all the other eyewitness accounts that were after the fact, God’s account was before the fact.
He told us the end from the beginning. He told us who Jesus would be BEFORE he came. (Isaiah 46:9-10)

Prophecy is God’s eyewitness account and Jesus fulfilled over 365 pinpoint prophecies when He came the first time.

But God’s eyewitness account isn’t done yet.  There are still many more things that God has said that are being fulfilled today, and are going to be fulfilled tomorrow an on into the future, until He has accomplished all His plans for saving the human race, both Jews and Gentiles, people from every family, every language.

But not everyone will be saved, only those who believe all the evidence that God has so painstakingly provided, guarded, and communicated to us through the Bible, and through His people, and through the miraculously continued existence of the Jewish people that Satan has tried but failed to annihilate over and over again.

So God says to all of us: “do not be faithless and unbelieving, but believe and keep believing the truth I have given you.” And Jesus Christ says: “You believe in God, believe also in me.” (John 14:1)