Archive for the ‘Hope’ category

God is the Fulfillment of the Desires He Built into Us

April 10, 2019


“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!” Psalms 51:1-2 ESV

I have written about how we can’t throw out the Old Testament and accept the New Testament in its place, as modern sensibilities might suggest. (See, for instance, Jesus and the “Old Testament God”) The Old Testament is the seed for the New Testament. Everything revealed in the New Testament was first revealed in the Old Testament. The Old Testament finds its fulfillment in the New Testament.

Moderns tend to want to view “the Old Testament God” as something different from the God revealed in the New Testament by Jesus, but Jesus affirmed the Old Testament.  Jesus says that the Old Testament anticipated and pointed toward him. (“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” Luke 24:27)

The Bible verse of the day quoted above was prayed by David in Psalm 51. David expressed the desire of all of us when he asked God to have mercy on him, to “blot out” his transgressions, to wash away his iniquity and to cleanse him from his sins. We all have a conscience and a desire and need for the cleansing of our consciences.

We do have the capacity to ignore our consciences and to deny that desire for forgiveness. If we do that too often and too long, our consciences become callous and dull; the desire for forgiveness diminishes; and we no longer have the sensitivity God built into us that drive us toward Him. Psychology tells us that we all have that conscience, but we do have choice in how we respond to it.

C S Lewis talks about how our desires and our needs have a correlative reality in something that fulfills those desires and needs. He observes that we hunger, and there is food to meet that hunger; we thirst, and there is water to quench that thirst; we have sexual desires, and there is conjugal love we have with another person that fulfills that desire… at least temporarily.

That those desires are only temporally met and satisfied, says Lewis, suggests that there is something else, something more. We also have a deeper and more fundamental longing within us to know God and to be known by God, to be forgiven by God and for eternal life and relationship. CS Lewis says that the reality we know, the satisfaction of temporary longings and desires, is some evidence of a more fundamental and satisfying reality that will fulfill our enduring and deepest longings.

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Another Look at God In Light of the Evil in the World (Postscript)

March 29, 2019

Self Portrait by Joni Eareckson Tada


This is a postscript in a series of blog posts that, frankly, could go on. It follows what was to be the conclusion of a series on the problem of evil – Another Look at God in Light of the Evil in the World (Part 4). Why does evil occur and God doesn’t prevent it? If God is God, and He is all-powerful and all-loving, why does He allow evil, pain and suffering?

I do need to bring this to a conclusion, but I have some final thoughts. I also have some experiences to relate: not mine, but of someone who knows pain and suffering better than I.

We have to admit that, if God is God, and if He cares, and assuming He could prevent the pain and suffering in the world, why doesn’t He?! What gives?

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Another Look at God In Light of the Evil in the World (Part 4)

March 29, 2019


I have tackled the problem of evil – why is there pain and suffering in the world if God is good and all-powerful? – in a series blog posts, beginning with an introduction, followed by Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. The impetus for the blog posts comes from the explore God discussion that was happening at over 800 churches in the Chicago area over the winter of 2019. The series of blog posts was more specifically inspired by the discussion of The Problem of Evil and Suffering on Veracity Hill between Kurt Jaros, the host, and John Peckham from Andrews University

The problem is easy enough to state, but it’s difficult to resolve, if, indeed, there is a resolution. Although not every religion maintains that God is personal, volitional, all-powerful and all-good, the problem of evil. Not every world religion faces the problem head on. Buddhism, for instance, posits that evil doesn’t really exist; it’s an illusion.

I have been exploring a Christian response to the problem, but it’s all pretty academic unless and until we are overwhelmed by evil, pain and suffering in our own lives. At the point of real evil, pain and suffering, an academic response doesn’t seem to satisfy.

Just last week, in the midst of thinking through the issues and writing the blog series, a tragedy of overwhelming proportions happened right in the city where all my kids went to school. An apparently disgruntled employee on the cusp of being fired from his 15-year position at a local manufacturing plant in Aurora, IL, opened fire on employees in the plant, killing five of them and wounding six other people, including six police officers responding to the alarm that went out. The youngest victim was a 21-year old college intern who started his internship in the HR department that day.

When a person is reeling from pain and suffering that hits close to home, especially from such a senseless, intentional and indiscriminate act of violence, the academic answers ring hollow and fall flat.

Without letting go of any of the attributes of God that are revealed in the Bible, we can work through the problem intellectually and logically to a solution, as I have tried to do in the summary that is contained in the previous blog posts. In some ways this solution is like the theory of gravity for Christianity. We can understand it, but knowing the cold, “scientific” facts are no consolation after falling off a cliff.

What remains, after we have worked through an intellectual solution to the problem, is the emotional, existential weight of the problem of evil. This is where we live. The weight of the problem of evil is hard to shake, quite frankly, when the pain and suffering becomes personal. When we come face to face with evil, pain and suffering in the world in our personal lives, an intellectual response isn’t enough.

This is exactly when people turn to religion and to God for comfort and answers…, or turn away. If all that Christianity has to offer is an academic response, what is the use?

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Victims of Abuse Find Comfort and Healing in Christ

March 8, 2019


Unfortunately, the world today is full of people who have suffered abuse at the hands of other people. For reasons we may not fully understand, victims of abuse often become abusers, themselves. The abuse begets abuse, and the cycle may continue for generations.

The abuse may take the form of parent to child, spouse to spouse, boss to employee, slave owners to slaves, and even governments can wiled oppressive control over the people subject to their authority. People in positions of power abuse people in positions of vulnerability. We haven’t advanced all that much as beings for eons. In some ways, we might have become more sophisticated about the abuse, but the abuse continues, generation after generation.

The Jewish people of Judea, modern Israel and Palestine, were oppressed and abused by the Roman government in the First Century when Jesus walked the earth. Jesus began his public ministry by reading from the prophet Isaiah,

“The Spirit of the LORD is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free….” (Luke 4:18, quoting from Isaiah 61:1)

But he certainly wasn’t concerned only with the oppressive rule of the Roman government. He was concerned about all people everywhere who suffer abuse. (more…)

Carried Off to Babylon

February 21, 2019

Panorama of partially restored Babylon ruins and Former Saddam Hussein Palace, Babylon, Hillah, Iraq


“Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord.” (Isaiah 39:6 ESV)

This is a follow up blog piece to Here Today Gone Tomorrow. The story of King Hezekiah, and especially Isaiah Chapter 39, is, illustrative of our tendency to hold on to things in this world in this life contrary to what God intends for us. Jesus was clear in his urging for us to lay up our treasures in heaven, and not to focus on accumulating treasures on earth.

Hezekiah was a pretty good king as kings of Judah go. Many of those kings turned away from God to idol worship and other behaviors influenced by the pagan culture of the nations around them. These were the people who were never completely driven out of the Promised Land as God instructed. The people of God and even their kings became corrupted by those influences and succumbed to them.

The descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob split into two camps early on after the people rejected the rule of judges and wanted kings like the nations around them.  They split into the nation of Israel and the nation of Judah. By the time King Hezekiah came around, the nation of Israel had been overrun, captured and exiled to Babylon. During Hezekiah’s reign the people were hanging on by a thread, with the threat of Babylonian exile dangling like the sword of Damocles over the remnant, Judah, that remained.

Hezekiah turned to God when circumstances were dire, and when his death was imminent. Like most of us, though, the King was ultimately very short-sighted. He focused on the immediate and on what he could protect in this short life. He didn’t appreciate the bigger picture.

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From Abandonment to Acceptance

January 2, 2019

Abandonment


I began posting the stories of people whose lives have been dramatically changed from a myriad of different backgrounds when they entered into a personal relationship with God. That was 2015, and I have continued to post these stories from time to time as I came across those stories thought to seek them out.

I haven’t really thought much about it, other than the fact that these stories are compelling, and I felt they needed to be shared. In 2018, however, for the first time one of these pages of stories was the most “read” page on the site. For that reason, I think it makes sense to began sharing the stories as part of the regular blogging that I do.

If there is one thing that stands out to me it is this: There is an amazing consistency in all these stories. Though these stories literally span the gamut of human experience, of people with widely divergent backgrounds in almost every imaginable way, they all ring true to the same theme.

The common denominator is the person of Jesus Christ. These stories are personal evidence that Jesus rose from the dead two millennia ago, and lives on through the Holy Spirit, whom He promised, who continues the work Jesus began in the flesh.

The apostle Paul told a crowd of Greeks and Romans at the Areopagus in Athens many centuries ago that God desires that we would seek Him, reach out for Him and find Him, “though He is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.'” (Acts 17:27-28) These stories are evidence of the truth of those words that are as vitally true today as they were in Paul’s time. 

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews said, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) John, the apostle who was perhaps closest to Jesus of any follower, said that Jesus was in the beginning with God (John 1:2); all things were made through Him (John 1:3); and that all who receive Jesus have the right to become children of God. (John 1:12) Jesus, Himself, said, “Before Abraham was, I Am!

He lives today, and the stories of people who have encountered him continue daily, weekly, monthly and yearly. The stories on the page linked below are of people who have experienced abandonment in their lives but found acceptance in God through Jesus Christ.

via Abandoned

Finding God

December 12, 2018


“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

This is one of the more encouraging and hopeful verses in the Bible. It had a profound impact on me when I was first reading the Bible. I took it to heart, and it guided me into a relational position with God.

As with any verse or passage in the Bible, the depth, nuance and layers of meaning can be drawn out by focusing on the context. We can tease the meaning out further by considering application of it to my own life.

The context here is a letter written by the prophet, Jeremiah, to his people who had recently been exiled to Babylon. Though Jeremiah’s letter was written to a particular people in a particular time and place under particular circumstances, and it was particularly relevant to them, it has application to us today. Some people claim that an ancient verse like this that was written to a specific people in a specific time for a specific purpose shouldn’t be applied to modern life. I beg to differ.

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Ted Parker, Jr.

Photographer of People, Music and Life - Husband-father-son-brother, son of the King. Soli Deo Gloria

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