Women in pastoral leadership

This is a hot button topic! As a Foursquare pastor, I of course come down on the side in support of women in pastoral leadership, plus my wife is one! But I acknowledge it is a tough issue for many, and there are Scriptures that seemingly can go either way. What I feel is important is that we stand on what we believe, but not let it become an issue divisive to the Body of Christ. Our mission is to go and make disciples, not spend long hours arguing over several verses. At the same time, today I got a call from a pastor friend of mine who is in our town and who I’ve been fortunate to develop a good relationship with. His church lands on the other side of this issue and his wife is teaching on 1 Timothy 2:1-15 tonight at a women’s bible study. He was gracious enough to give me a call and ask me my opinion on this passage as a Foursquare pastor and one who agrees women can serve in pastoral leadership. 1) How great is it that we can have this kind of dialogue within the greater Body of Christ! Instead of picking sides and building bunkers, he’s wanting discussion on it! 2) Below is my response. Let me say a great thank you to Kelly Tshibaka, Jennifer Manginelli and Daniel Brown for their great book “The Problem With the Problem With Women in Ministry Leadership.” And yes there are two “Problem Withs” on purpose. Here’s my response to my friend:

The landing spot for this particular passage comes down to the original Greek word translated as “authority.” What’s interesting about this particular word is that it is not used anywhere else in Scripture. It is unique to this passage and this situation. The transliteration is “authenteo” which references someone who does not acknowledge any kind of authority over themselves but acts independently. Eve did not acknowledge that Adam had given her instruction as one in authority who had directly heard from God and set herself up as her own authority on the issue of the Tree and fruit. Foursquare would subscribe to the belief this passage does not restrict women from any pastoral/elder role as it does not use one of several other Greek words that clearly define “authority” as headship or leadership, but instead Paul intentionally used “authenteo” to describe someone who is unwilling to submit to higher leadership or instruction. It is a warning against self-appointed leaders and those that are unwilling to submit. 

On a personal note, this is a sticky issue for sure. Ultimately where I land is that the Scripture verses can be, I believe, logically exegeted either way. Wayne Grudem and John Piper in “Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood” disavow the interpretation I just gave for this verse. But the way I see it and read it, it truly can go either way. For some reason, however Paul chose to use a very specific word for this one passage that is not used anywhere else. If this were meant as a mandate against women in pastoral leadership it seems to me more time and attention would have been given to it and a more specific Greek wording regarding pastoral authority/leadership would have been used. 
At the end of the day, for me, I’ve seen too many women with powerful gifts of leadership at work in the church. It is very difficult for me to deny their call to pastoral leadership as the fruit is evident in their lives. This is true of women I personally know (including my wife) and the work of Foursquare’s founder Aimee Semple McPherson. I’ll be the first to acknowledge there are questionable elements to her life and story (as there are of nearly every “hero” of the bible) but there is no denying the incredible Kingdom-impact her ministry had and is still having around the world. If she had not been allowed to pastor and preach because she was a woman, there would literally be millions who would not have been saved over the course of 90 years of Foursquare ministry around the world.

3 Lessons learned from a recent hike

Yesterday was the last day of my three week “semi-sabbatical.” I call it that, because it wasn’t quite a sabbatical, but was a bit more than a vacation. More on that perhaps another time. My two boys and I have a love of hiking and backpacking. This has become such a great point of connection for the three of us in our lives. So we decided to take yesterday and hike to a place called Chasm Lake, just below Longs Peak (one of Colorado’s 14’ers) in Rocky Mountain National Park. The Chasm Lake hike is one that cannot be taken on a whim. It’s a 9.5 mile round trip hike with nearly 2500′ of elevation gain to almost 12.000′ above sea level, well above tree line. Additionally, the weather this time of year (mid to late summer) around Longs Peak is fairly predictable: after around 1pm you can expect somewhat severe storms nearly ever day. For this reason, hikes into this area should be started early, with plans to return back to the trailhead before the afternoon storms build up and unleash their fury!

I’ve been hiking in high mountains for nearly 15 years, first in the Sierra Nevada of California and now in the Rockies, multiple times above tree line, and a few summits of Fourteeners as well (a Fourteener is a mountain the is over 14,000′ in elevation. In the Continental United States there are no peaks higher than Mt. Whitney in California at 14,496′), and I consider myself a somewhat experienced hiker. Throughout this time, I’ve always been a very conscientious hiker, carrying a pack that is sometimes perhaps “overkill” in that I overpack to ensure I have what I need for the hike and just a bit more “just in case.” I’ve taken a few chances here and there, but never anything crazy. Interestingly enough, one of the worst situations I’ve found myself in was an unexpected thunderstorm while hiking Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina, a towering mountain at 5,945’! So with all of this, I had no trepidation taking my 10 and almost 8 year old sons to Chasm Lake yesterday.

Let me say this, the Chasm Lake hike is one of the most beautiful hikes I’ve ever taken. The lake sits in a high mountain cirque below Longs Peak and Mt. Meeker with several waterfalls cascading below and a high alpine, grass covered meadow fed by waters from the lake. Just above the lake is the formidable east face of Longs, and when you’ve arrived here, you know you’re in a special place. To this point, the hike was spectacular, the boys were hiking strong and enjoying the beauty and looking for added “adventure” by scrambling over any rocks I would let them. Riley even wanted to do a little “bouldering,” but in my cautiousness, I said “no” because even a twisted ankle at this altitude and distance from the trailhead could be very serious. At the lake’s edge we enjoyed our lunch, took some pictures and got ready for the hike down

Boys edit

So, all of that to get to the point of this post. If you look at the photo above, you’ll see a few clouds starting to creep over the summit of Longs. “Ooh adds a little drama to the landscape” may be a first thought, but in the high mountains that’s not a good sign. I noticed the cloud while we were there having lunch, and in mind there was concern- we needed to get down. We got packed up, and started down. About 20 minutes after the above photo was taken, a rumble of thunder echoed down the cirque. Oh man…. About that time, I began to pray, “Lord, keep us safe, and let us get back down okay.” I was concerned. I looked back and took this photo:

Clouds edit

The peak that 30 minutes before had a whisp of cloud on it was now completely enveloped and the clouds were moving downhill quickly. About 30 minutes later a bit of sleet began to fall on us as we were still above tree line, the sleet quickly turned to pea-sized hail and the rumble of thunder turned into a bit more of a roar (I will say this, we never did have any close lightening strikes, but at that altitude and exposure, any lightening is bad lightening). With the rain, hail, cloud cover and elevation the temperature quickly dropped as well, so we were out in a thunder storm, with no cover, being pelted with hail, getting soaked and getting cold. That’s not a good combo.

Today, looking back, we had an adventure!  Yesterday, it was a…challenge. This morning I was thinking about the trip and a few lessons came to mind. Lessons learned and lessons used. They can be boiled down into three words:

1. Discipline

2. Preparation

3. Discernment

1. Discipline:

Proverbs 6:9-11 says this: “How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.” This verse has always stuck with me, but I have to admit, not always does my life reflect the lesson this verse is teaching. It’s about discipline. Discipline to live a life of intentionality and purpose and not lackadaisical wandering. So often we don’t have what we want or achieve what we want, because we lack discipline. Oftentimes, we complain and despair, because our lives are not full of the accomplishment so many of us want. Sure, there are always extenuating circumstances, but I have come to learn the hard lesson that, too often, the lack I see in my own life is not God’s punishment or some sense of the world being against me, it’s my own lack of discipline. I don’t “arise from sleep” when I should and do a little too much “folding of the hands.” So what in the world does this have to do with getting caught in a hail storm on Longs Peak? I slept in a little too long yesterday, literally. My experience hiking has taught me that we needed to get an early start so we could get to Chasm Lake and back down before the afternoon storms rolled in. I said as such to the boys the evening before. We needed to leave the house no later than 7am so we’d be on the mountain by 8am. Even this timeline was pushing it, but it was my last day of vacation…. So how did I prepare? I stayed up too late playing Call of Duty (one of my stress relievers, I’ll have you know!) and got to bed way after I should have. When the alarm went off at 6am, I did a lot of “snoozing,” and we didn’t get on the mountain until after 9am. That hour would have made all the difference. We would have been back down in the trees, and below the level the hail was falling. My lack of discipline led to us being caught too high and too late, and we felt the sting of the hail! This is a lesson throughout our lives, opportunities missed due to lack of discipline in our lives holds us back, of our own accord, to so much God wants to do in and through our lives. Where is a lack of discipline affecting your life? What sort of God dreams have you had that still need to be accomplished?

2. Preparation

The next two lessons are a little more positive in that they are lessons I’ve learned and heeded before and during our hike. I can be very much the planner, not always, but  most of the time. This includes preparing for anytime I’m going to be in the backcountry. Simple day hikes can turn disastrous  when the proper preparation is not in place. Longs Peak is a supreme example of this due to its location in Rocky Mountain National Park. RMNP is a beautiful place just north of Denver and easily accessible by tourists throughout the year. When the tourists, or new Colorado transplants visit they are immediately drawn to Longs Peak which dominates the Park and is a seemingly, easily accessible Colorado 14’er. But the reality is that gaining the summit of Longs is one of the most (if not the most) difficult, non-technical (does not require rock climbing or other mountaineering skills) climbs of any of the Colorado 14’ers. But folks see it nearby and think “I’ll hike up that.” I’ve climbed four 14,000′ peaks now including the tallest in the lower 48 states, Mt. Whitney, and a technical mountaineering climb of Mt. Shasta in Northern California, and I know there isn’t a single one you can just “hike up.” Additionally, anytime you are hiking above tree line, conditions can change rapidly with little warning. What this all means is any time you’re going hiking in the mountains you need to be prepared. So many injuries, or worse, in the mountains,  are due to lack of preparation and understanding of the task ahead. Jesus said in Luke 14:28-30 “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’” Whatever the task ahead, and no matter how much God may be behind the task, it requires understanding and preparation. The boys and I got caught high on the mountain when a cold, hail and thunderstorm blew in. That stunk, but we were as prepared as we could be. The night before I laid out our rain jackets and warm jackets (fleece for the boys, down jacket for me), just in case. “But Ben, it’s August for crying out loud!” You know, I thought exactly that, and almost didn’t pack the warm layers yesterday morning. Extra, unused weight is just more to haul up the mountain. Saving two pounds in the pack is two less pounds that has to be hauled nearly 10 miles and a couple of thousand feet up. But, my experience told me that even in summer it can get cold (last year my oldest son and I were snowed on in August on another Colorado 14’er), and storms are an almost certainty in the afternoon. So I counted the cost and knew it was best to prepare for anything, and I packed the rain jackets and the warm layers, and we needed them. So my lack of discipline got us in trouble, but my preparation got us through. What’s in front of you? Has God given you a vision for what’s next? Go for it! But make the necessary preparations to complete the goal well!

3. Discernment

Discernment is the ability, or spiritual gift, of recognizing the truth and reality behind a situation or person. I believe all of us have a certain degree of discernment to understand situations and people we encounter. The challenge is using it when our emotions are all over the place. Here is a random example of this that has just popped into my head: so many of us are plugged in and text, email, Facebook, etc with others. How many times have we received a cryptic text that has sent our thoughts flying all over the map as to what may be the hidden meaning behind the text message or Facebook comment? We start stressing and worrying about what may or may not have been implied. Now, how many times have our worst fears about the meaning behind the text message proven to be completely foundless? They put the smiley face emoticon with the tongue sticking out in there as a joke, not because they were trying to tell us they were mad by passive-aggressively expressing their anger/frustration at us through a small yellow circle on our smartphone. Now, what does this have to do with discernment? If we were having the conversation face to face, or even over the phone, we would be able to discern facial expression, body language or tone of voice. We would hear the joke or see the silly raspberry they gave us and laugh with them. Instead, we limit our communication to 140 characters and some silly Japanese invention of tiny icons to communicate. Discernment is so crucial to navigating life with people that are often good, sometimes bad, yet ultimately sinful. We worry about insignificant issues and fail to address the serious, because we fail to use our God-given discernment to examine the people and situations we find ourselves in. The author of Hebrews writes in chapter 5, verse 14, “ But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” Not only do we have discernment, but we need to practice and train ourselves to discern the world around us better, to “distinguish good from evil.” So back to the hike, a couple of things happened yesterday where I had to put my discernment to the test. First, before “the storm” my middle son fell and scraped his knee on a rock. Now there was some blood, as in a tiny little dot. When he fell and began to cry I immediately went to him as there were a lot of rocks and it could have been a more serious situation. At the same time, I know my son (and really just about any kid), and there can be times where a small dot of blood is paramount to amputation. I needed to discern the situation. Did he require a rest, a band aid, something more? Or could we just “throw some dirt on it” and move on? I picked him up, encouraged him and we moved on. I didn’t dwell on a minor issue. Later, “during the storm” my oldest son had delayed putting his rain jacket on, wearing only his fleece, and as the rain and hail continued to fall and the temperature began to drop he got soaked and cold. I had been pushing the boys to keep moving as fast as possible as this was the best recourse, get down in the trees. Riley (my oldest) had been leading with Ridge in the middle and me at the back making sure everyone kept up. At one point Riley dropped to the back of the line as we continued on. Somewhere in there, Ridge stopped and looked back and said “Riley has stopped.” Now, Riley is a tough hiker, and has made me proud by already summiting two 14’ers by the age of 10. I had never even seen a mountain that tall until my late 20’s and he’s already climbing them! He gets hurt and keeps going, he gets a bit cold and keeps going, but at this point, yesterday he was stopped in the middle of the trail nearly doubled over shivering. I asked him if he was okay and he responded, “I’m so cold.” All three of us were cold at this point, but this was different. Discernment told me this was a little more than just being chilly. We were high, it was raining, it was cold, and Riley had stopped walking. This wasn’t a minor boo boo, but a true situation to immediately address, perhaps even bordering on hypothermia. I pulled out my down jacket and his rain jacket and wrapped him up. At this point he’s wearing two warm layers and a waterproof layer in the middle of August. Over the next 20 minutes he continued down the trail and warmed up and finished the hike with laughter and jokes. This wasn’t a time to just tell my son to “suck it up” and keep moving, action needed to be taken. Fortunately, I discerned the difference. What is happening in your life that needs discerning? Are there minor issues you’re over-thinking and major issues your missing or avoiding? God gives us discernment to recognize good and evil, and we need that tool everyday.

I hope these lessons are helpful. I certainly don’t intend this posting to sound arrogant. The reality is, we had a great hike, but I messed up and put the boys and I into a situation that was not a good one. If I had been more disciplined and gotten us on the trail on time, we would have had a wonderful hike and I would have never even needed all that I had prepared for or needed to discern the severity of Riley’s need! But God uses all things according to His good purposes and some lessons were reinforced yesterday, and at the end of it all, we finished the hike with a smile on our faces and a warm heater in the car!

Finish edit

All Scripture references: English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

 

 

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Thoughts on the recent Supreme Court Decision on DOMA

Thoughts on DOMA

In the wake of the recent Supreme Court decision regarding the Defense of Marriage Act

 Recently the SCUSA struck down the 3rd part of the DOMA passed by Congress several years ago in an attempt to define marriage as between a man and a woman at the federal level. This law did not restrict states from passing their own laws in regards to defining marriage. We have seen several states, pass legislation that allows same-sex partners to either marry or enter into “civil unions” which bestows practically all the benefits legally given to heterosexual married partners at the state level. Colorado has a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, but a new law allows civil unions, bestowing many of the same rights as marriage.

What does the SCUSA decision mean?

DOMA itself basically said states did not have to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states where it was legal

  • For instance, my wife Casey and I were married in North Carolina, but our marriage has been recognized in Virginia, California and now Colorado
  • Similarly driver’s licenses are recognized across state lines no matter the issuing state.
  • DOMA deemed states were not required to recognize same-sex marriages in the same way

DOMA also states the federal government would only recognize marriages between a man and woman

  • The term “spouse” can not be applied to same-sex couples
  • This is important for several legal rights and in issues such as tax filing and protections

This so-called “third clause” is what SCUSA ruled on.

Two women, (Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer,) legally married in Canada and then moved to New York where their marriage was viewed as legal

  • Thea Spyer died leaving her rather substantial estate to her partner, Edith Windsor
  • The surviving partner attempted to claim the “spouse exemption” on the estate taxes
  • The IRS denied the exemption based on the 3rd clause of DOMA: a same-sex partner could not claim “spouse” status
  • Amounted to a payment to the IRS of nearly $400,000

SCUSA deemed the 3rd Clause unconstitutional in a 5-4 ruling, arguing it violates the 5th Amendment and deprived Edith Windsor of her liberty to be in a relationship with whom she chooses

It made no specific ruling on the legality of same-sex marriage at the federal level

  • The Court’s lack of ruling on this, basically choosing not to rule on this, means it is still up to each individual state to determine whether or not to legalize same-sex marriages or civil unions

While not going so far as to say the federal government deems same-sex marriage and civil unions legal (which is ultimately a function of the Congress), it is a step in that direction

What does this mean as a Christian?

First we must talk about the question of whether or not homosexuality is a sin.

All sex outside of heterosexual marriage is sin

  • Fornication, (sometimes referred to in the bible as “sexual immorality) or sex before marriage, is considered a sin. (Matthew 15:19, Mark 7:21, Acts 15:20)
  • Adultery, sex while married with someone who is not your spouse is a sin. (Exodus 20:14, Matthew 5:27-28, 1 Cor. 6:9)
  • Homosexual activity is no more or less sinful than heterosexual sin outside of God’s plan, but it is still sin. (Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Cor. 6:9)

Christians often have a bad habit of viewing homosexuality as “worse” than other sin

  • Christians tend to “go up in arms” against those living a homosexual lifestyle, but do very little towards the heterosexual couple that’s sleeping together outside of marriage
  • Christians also have a very bad habit of forgetting Romans 3:23, that says ALL have sinned and fallen short. I like to call this the “equal opportunity clause.”
  • We’re all in need of Jesus’ grace and forgiveness, all of mankind.

God’s design for sex is in heterosexual marriage

  • Genesis 2:24: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
  • Jesus reaffirms this verse in Mt. 19
  • Any sexual act outsides of this definition of marriage is sin

Also, we must understand, sin is anything that separates us from God and is a commitment of “cosmic treason” against the Creator

  • All sin leads to death (Romans 6:23)
  • Murder to gossip
  • Societal consequences may vary, but the spiritual consequences do not vary

At the same time:

  • Leviticus 20 specifically calls homosexual activity as a sin
  • Romans 1 says the same thing, specifically speaking to lesbianism as well

There is no caveat for “loving relationship” as a reason to defy the guidance God has given us when it comes to our bodies and our sexual activity

God made our bodies and declared heterosexual, marriage as good and the only right place for sex

So as Christians who believe the bible to be the word of God, this is what we believe in regards to homosexuality

  • Let me reiterate, at the same time, sin is sin…
  • active homosexuality is no worse or better than any other sin that all of mankind struggles with
  • I like to put it this way, little old Sister Sally that gossips about everyone is just as much a sinner as the mass murderer. Again, societal consequences may differ, but spiritual consequences do not.

How do we respond?

The typical Christian response usually falls on two sides

1)   Hardened, politicized war as seen in the early days of the pro-life movement

  • Not usually motivated by love
  • Violent, or at the least, vitriolic protest

2)   Conversely: allow culture to dictate theology, which usually results in moving away from orthodox Christianity in favor of “getting along”

Both are wrong

As Christians, I believe we must:

  • Hold to a biblical view of sex, marriage and family that is not condemning but enticing
  • Contend for love and heterosexual marriage to be seen as a beautiful and desirable thing
  • Cultivate caring relationships with those in the LGBT community so as to have a foundation to express the love, grace and acceptance of Jesus (this should be the case throughout our lives, not only with those of the LGBT community)
  • Lovingly stand firm on a biblical foundation, even though it is more and more outside the cultural norm, of one man, one woman, married for one lifetime
  • Understand the battle is spiritual not physical, according to Ephesians 6:12
    • The wrong response of a politicized war aims to battle the physical side of this issue and that’s not where the real war lies

Let’s fight the SPIRITUAL battle while lovingly and with care leading people to Jesus

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Easter at Summit

I’m very excited about the upcoming weekend to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and how we’re going to celebrate at Summit Church. Easter weekend encompasses an amazing amount of emotion and meaning. There is Maundy Thursday, the celebration of Jesus washing the feet of His disciples, showing them that to be great, one must serve. Then what is known as Good Friday, the remembrance of Jesus’ torturous death on the cross, in which he paid the price, the penalty for mankind’s sin and mistakes, giving His life so that we do not have to die spiritually. Then the unbelievable celebration on Easter morning, because Jesus rose from the dead, alive and in victory over death, taking our sin, then defeating the effects of sin and Satan’s goals of destruction in our life. Wow! For fun we’re also throwing in an Easter egg hunt on Saturday! The biblical significance? None really, but sometimes it’s good to come together as a family and just have fun, and we’re inviting our neighbors from all over Longmont to the Boulder County Fairgrounds to have fun with us.

Summit’s observance of the Easter weekend begins Friday night at 7pm with a video presentation of Jesus’ crucifixion. This will be a time of observance and reflection of the gravity of Jesus’ sacrifice. We are asking that you enter the church quietly, preparing your hearts’ for the presentation. We will conclude with a self-directed time of communion. There will also be childcare for ages birth-9, and we are asking for parents to utilize this as the material is somewhat graphic.

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We’ll then shift our focus to celebration on Saturday morning at 11am for our Easter Egg Hunt at the fairgrounds! There will be hot dogs, cotton candy, a bounce house and of course egg hunts for various ages with some special prizes. We’ll be at the picnic pavilion at the corner of Hover and Nelson, we hope to see you there!

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We finish the weekend celebrating Jesus’ resurrection from the tomb fully alive as Christ and Messiah, saving us from our own sin and eternal death. We’ve all messed up, when we’re honest with ourselves we know this to be true, and as hard as we may try, we just cannot save ourselves. Because Jesus paid the price for our sin on the cross and rose from the dead defeating death we don’t have to save ourselves. Please join us as we celebrate all that Jesus has done for us on Easter morning, March 31 at 10am!

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Thoughts on Evil and God

In the wake of the evil in Newtown, CT

This is the outline of what I shared at my church, Summit Foursquare Church, in Longmont, CO. I wrote this down after reading several great articles on evil and God as well as my own pondering and prayer. I’ll be honest: when I first heard the news my first reaction was not one of love or grace, but anger. I have a 6-year old son (and a soon-to-be 9 year-old son along with a 4-year old daughter) and I realized I wanted to hurt the person responsible. That’s the truth of it. But I believe, God is good. Even in light of this tragedy…

The question is there as to how this could happen?

  • And if we’re so bold, how can God let this happen?
  • In this state (Colorado), there is the memory of Columbine and very recently Aurora

Why?

We can try and explain it sociologically

  • He was a troubled genius with mild autism
  • His parents divorce caused deep hurt
  • Some other reason that may emerge as the investigation continues…

But none of these can really explain why a 20 year old man would walk into an elementary school with forethought and intent and wantonly murder nearly 30 people mostly 6 and 7 year olds.

I believe when faced with these events we have to face a truth that we rarely deal with in our modern, supposedly enlightened culture: evil      

  • Evil is the end-result of sin and separation from a good and loving Creator
  • Paul writes in Ephesians 6 that there is a battle, and that battle isn’t with ourselves, it isn’t a battle of poverty, or angst, or a battle against a troubled childhood, it isn’t a battle of the mind or a battle of our emotions
  • It is a battle with evil, quite plainly, but perhaps not quite simply
  • There is God who is good and only good, and there is Satan who is evil and only evil, and mankind has given Satan a foothold in this world through our sin and rebellion against the Good God
  • That foothold leads to acts of pure evil as we witnessed this past week
  • It is a moral evil that is the result of a man’s decision

How can a good God allow this?

This isn’t God’s desire

  • Some may use this as an argument that God is either non-existent or that He is not truly good

But God’s original plan of Creation has been broken by the choices of His greatest Creation: us

In Genesis 3 we read that Adam and Eve walked side by side with God in intimate relationship

  • Everything was good
  • Just as God had created
  • Just as God had intended

But God in His love and goodness did something else: He gave His greatest Creation an incredible gift

  • The freedom to make decisions
  • We are not mind-numbed automatons that God created for His fancy as playthings
  • We have a spirit and a soul and choice
  • God is love, and desires for His creation to love Him
    • To love is to make a choice

With that choice comes options

  • Adam and Eve had everything they could possibly want
  • But Satan came into that Garden and began to exert his purely evil influence to destroy this peace God had created
  • He taunted Eve and then Adam with a choice to defy God
  • So through Satanic influence, but human choice, evil came into our reality

Because God is good, and man became not good, we were separated from direct relationship with God until Jesus came to pay the price for our evil

But evil still exists

Why doesn’t God obliterate evil…

I don’t know

But I know that we as humans value freedom over slavery

With that freedom comes the ability to do great good, but also the ability to make evil decisions

The best example we have is watching children grow up

  • I want to control my children’s every decision
  • But I don’t-and sometimes they do some really stupid things
  • But true joy as a parent is when we see our children freely make good decisions
  • I believe it is the same for God

He has chosen to let us choose…

Why doesn’t God intervene?

I don’t know…

But we’re in good company

Writers of the bible asked this question too without receiving good answers

  • Jeremiah
  • Habakkuk
  • Job in Job 40, God specifically tells Job he cannot understand the ways of God
  • In Luke 18 Jesus predicts his torture and death and the disciples did not understand why, the meaning was hidden from them
    • Imagine them: Jesus has done amazing works and claimed to be God, why in the world would He need to die, to be tortured…from their perspective it made no sense….
    • But in this God showed He is ultimately good

God does not always answer “why” but He does show himself good

God, in His goodness, is with us in our suffering

Additionally, this is a God who came down to live as a man so he could share in our suffering and then be fully able to comfort us in our suffering

His cousin Lazarus died and Jesus wept, he grieved

This is not some aloof god hidden on some cloud swept lofty peak

  • This is the God Incarnate who lived and suffered and died for us and then rose from the dead to now comfort us in our suffering, because He knows suffering first-hand

…for good

Romans 8:28

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

The disciples didn’t understand why Jesus would have to be tortured and killed

God’s original plan at Creation was not for His son to have to die as the penalty for mankind’s sin

But we know that Jesus’ death worked for the good of all mankind

God can make this tragedy turn out for some kind of good

We may not see it, or understand it, but it is what I choose to hold on to in the midst of this uncertain world

Philip Yancey, the author, says, “…it seems that the only alternative to disappointment with God is disappointment without him.”

  • What he means is this: we must acknowledge disappointment will happen in this life
  • We can choose to walk through it alone and hopeless without God
  • Or we can choose to walk through it holding on to the eternal plan and love with a God who intimately knows our pain and suffering having experienced it for himself

This is perhaps not a fully satisfying response, but I can tell you, it is for me

In John 6 Jesus has chased away many of his followers with talk of life and death and he turns to his disciples:

“Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” 68 But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. “

 I choose to hold on to the eternal promise of Jesus

  • He’s done too much in my life
  • He’s done too much good for me to walk away
  • He’s forgiven too much sin in my life
  • The cross is too real to me and is enough to overcome the evil actions of mankind
  • I choose to trust Him and His love
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