It’s Not Helpful!

I’ve been having a rather lengthy  Facebook conversation with some former students of mine, including one of my sons.  I guess it’s not surprising that it has taken  the form of a blog post in my head, so here it is.

Believers, Christians, often experience awful, horrible, heartbreaking events. Babies die, husbands or wives leave, life-threatening illnesses occur,  violent crime takes away our feelings of safety, value, and belief in God Himself. Severe persecution in some parts of the world  threatens believers every single day, and there is no escape from it.

These hurting people often cry out, “Why?  Why are these things happening?  Where is God?  Why is He allowing this?”  Some will get answers from well-meaning people, but those answers only serve to increase their sense of helplessness and abandonment.

One of those answers, which has become ubiquitous  lately, is,”Well, everything happens for a reason.”  And that is supposed to heal the wounds, soothe the heartache, and remove the grief.

It’s a vague, formless answer that carries very little power to help. In fact, it can create even more hurt because the suffering ones can’t find that elusive reason, and they just don’t understand. It has a sort of  New Age kharmic feel about it, because it is non-specific and indicates a vague faith in. . . . well, I’m really not sure. No person, no god, no ultimate arbiter of life events is mentioned.  Just that somewhere out there sits something or someone who orchestrates terrible events in our lives for some non-specified reason.

It makes no sense to me.

So, why DO bad things happen?

For me, the answer is both simple and complex.  My worldview is biblical.  I believe that God is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. He is holy, just, and sovereign; He is loving, merciful, and gracious. He cannot look on evil, so He provided the only possible perfect sacrifice to cleanse sin in the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit of God, born of a pure, virgin girl who was in the line of King David.  Jesus was the One Whose blood could cleanse sin, and Whose resurrection could provide victory over sin and death. You can read all about Him in the four gospels:  Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Why did God do all that?  So that we could find salvation and spend eternity with Him, because He loves us.  All of us.

Why doesn’t He, then, protect us from terrible events?

Because it’s not His job to do so. He never said He would.  What He did promise is that He would walk through the valley of the shadow of death with us (Psalm 23).  He promised never to leave us or forsake us (Heb, 13:5). He promised to be with us to the ends of the earth (Matt. 28:20).He never promised to prevent harm; He did promise to help us endure it.

Bad things happen because we live in a sinful, fallen world (Genesis 1-3). Satan is real. Evil is real. Jesus said that the rain will fall on the just and the unjust ( Matt: 5:45).

To accuse God of bringing evil into our lives is to believe the exact opposite of His true character. To demand that God should have prevented whatever happened is to demand that He conform to our wishes.

The Apostle Paul suffered greatly for his faith. Near the end of his life, knowing he was facing a painful and horrifying death, he said, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).  He did not complain about all the beatings, the stoning, the shipwreck, the snakebite, the imprisonment.  He accepted it as the price for his preaching the gospel wherever God sent him, and he rejoiced always because he knew God was always with him (Phil 4:4-5).

I know this is longer than my normal posts.  Just one more thing, and I’m done.

Instead of asking “Why,” we would do much better to ask for the what and the how. 

What can I learn from what has happened?  How can I begin to heal, or if necessary, to forgive, and move on from here? How can I use this to learn and grow, and to help someone else who is hurting?  How can I be a channel of blessing, showing the love of God to those around me in spite of the trouble that has beset me?

After all, no one suffered more unjustly than Jesus did.  He was the perfect Man, Who never sinned. Yet God allowed Him “to become sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor. 5:21).

Please don’t accuse and blame God for the work of Satan.  Put the blame squarely where it belongs.  Satan’s whole purpose is to destroy all that God loves.  Evil does exist, and it finds all of us to one degree or another.  No one is immune.  God’s job is NOT to prevent all believers from ever suffering harm and evil. It is not His fault that we suffer.

“Everything happens for a reason”  is not helpful. It just makes the sufferer feel more confused, and removes permission for that person to grieve. Instead of saying that, tell the person how sorry your are for his pain, and find some way to be helpful, to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

 

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Ponderings

I don’t know if it’s learned or just born-into-the-brain behavior. I only know it causes BIG problems in a marriage.

There are men who seem to believe that their contribution is to earn a paycheck, and that’s it.  They’ve put in their eight hours, they provide financially, and nothing more is required.

That, of course leaves EVERYTHING else up to the long-suffering wife and their children, as they grow older, and can help shoulder some of Mom’s burden.

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These men truly seem to believe that all their wives do all day is–well–not much. A little cooking, a little cleaning.  Not much else, even though the men do nothing at all about maintenance of the house and property. If they enjoy doing so, they may engage in some yard work, sitting on a riding mower until the grass is cut. That’s how they “help.”  If the kids need to be driven to games, lessons, etc., that’s Mom’s job. Grocery shopping, Mom’s job. After all, what does she do all day but sit around watching the soaps?

One would think, in these days of women working outside the home just as much as men do, that this  type of behavior would be a thing of the past. Sadly, it’s not. Do the men learn it from their fathers?  Or is there a male gene that convinces them they have no business doing “women’s work”?

I am blessed to have married a man who never hesitated to change a diaper, soiled or just wet.  Never hesitated to mop up vomit  or snot, just figuring it needed doing and he was right there. He told me years ago, as he was cleaning up a wiggly child, that he actually enjoyed knowing he was making the baby comfortable and keeping diaper rash away.

Believe me, his willingness to lend a hand in no way diminished his masculinity, and I respected him all the more for seeing that I was nearing the end of my patience.  He was not a man who came home, expected to be treated like a conquering hero, and sat down for the entire evening while I cooked, cleaned up, got the kids to bed. He was a part of the process, unless he was unusually tired from the work he did.  When that was the case, I understood and expected nothing.

Maybe that’s part of the problem, though, for women whose husbands give nothing but their paychecks. Those women have learned to expect nothing, and guess what?  Nothing is what they get. If they do ask for help, they get “What do you want from me? I work my tail off all day to provide for you, and I’m tired!  You’ve had all day to sit around doing nothing.  No, I’m not going to help you. Figure it out.”

Those women do—they figure it out.  And they go to bed feeling lonely, unloved, unwanted and unappreciated. Their husbands don’t understand that getting all lovey-dovey at that moment isn’t exactly appealing to their worn-out, disappointed wives.

As I write, I’m realizing that this mostly applies to an older generation in which the wives were mostly stay-at-home wives and mothers.  Their husbands must have often thought that their wives had a pretty cushy time of it.  Unfortunately, there are women who don’t do much but the absolutely necessary, if that.  Maybe it’s in retaliation for feeling disrespected because they aren’t making any financial contribution. I don’t know.

What I do know is that this is an age-old problem, and it takes the romance out of a marriage pretty quickly. At some point, maybe I’ll write something directed a wives who expect their husbands to do far more than is reasonable. There is, after all, another side to every story.

 

Just Thinking About Things

Yesterday, our friends  Pete and Marge drove us up to JFK airport in New York so we could spend a couple of hours with our grandson Kyle, who was on his way home to South Dakota from a mission trip to the Dominican Republic.  We hadn’t seen him for nearly two years, and it was just wonderful to have this opportunity.

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After Kyle was on his way, we headed through the departure area to get the elevator to the first floor.

It was chock full of people, from all different nations, standing in lines that seemed miles long as they waited for check-in. Hundreds of people, and just in one terminal of that vast airport.

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Pete was pushing the wheelchair I was using, and we both commented on how incredible it is to think how many people are in the air at any one time, flying all around the globe, crisscrossing each other’s flight paths, and, for the most part, landing safely and going on with their lives.

And then my mind took a different turn. I thought about all those thousands of people traveling around the globe, and what it will be like for them when Jesus calls all believers to Himself, and takes us home to heaven. We call it The Rapture, because the Greek word, harpazo, is translated in the Latin version to rapio, and it means to snatch away. 

I believe in the pre-Tribulation Rapture.  I know there are many who disagree, and that’s up to them.  I’m not writing this in order to start an argument.  I’m just picturing how it will be if, for instance, the pilots of some of those planes are believers, and suddenly they are gone!  People seated next to each other in close quarters are going to disappear. Planes will go spiraling out of control jf both the pilot and co-pilot are taken, leaving passengers screaming in terror. It will be a wonderful split-second of time for all who have trusted Jesus for forgiveness and salvation; it will be the beginning of terror and confusion for those who remain, wondering what happened, and dealing with the chaos that will ensue here on earth.

What should we be doing right now?  Easy.  We should be sharing Jesus Christ with all the people we can, every day that we can.

Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly!

 

As November Draws to a Close

I’m feeling a little nostalgic this morning. I guess that always happens at this time of year.

November has surely been an interesting month here in the States. A long and bitter election campaign finally ended on Nov. 8,  but the fall-out, I’m afraid, is going to continue for a very long time.  This whole ordeal has been hashed over and talked about ad nauseum, and I have nothing new to add that hasn’t already been said.  I do have some concern that the ugliness will affect the inauguration, and I’ll be glad when that’s over, too.

America is like a heaving ocean in a terrible storm.  Our police officers are in danger in a whole new way in this hate-engendered racial strife.  I pray often for their safety. Racial strife; class hatred, poor against rich; the rhetoric of socialism that has divided so many in our nation; fear of almost everything–all these factors are contributing to a breakdown in the fabric of our nation. I don’t know if it can be healed. As long as our colleges and universities are teaching our young people to hate America, there just doesn’t seem to be any good outcome.

I saw an article yesterday in which a black educator said, “We send our young people to universities, and they come back to us as babies.”  He’s right.  Who ever heard of such silliness as young adults needing a “cry room,” a safe place, a comfort dog, canceled tests, and so on just because they get their feelings hurt?   Because their candidate didn’t win? Because they’re being taught that their way is the only acceptable way, and everything else is to be feared and protested, and that it’s okay for them to destroy property and other people’s  safety because they’re unhappy?

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My dad was a WWII veteran.  I’m glad he’s not here today to see, only three generations later, how today’s young people have desecrated the freedom he pledged to fight and die for. I’m glad he’s not here to see an American university remove the American flag because it “represents terrorism.”  The flag itself is not sacred.  What it stands for, however, is sacred. America is not a perfect nation, because it is comprised of human beings.  It is, though, a place that has been a refuge since its inception for so many who were fleeing persecution in other places around the world.  It was the place to come where anything could happen, the poorest immigrant could rise to wealth and influence. It has also been the place people come to when they need medical help that is unavailable to them in their socialist systems.

Immigration has always been part of the American picture, and I’m not opposed to people coming here to improve their safety, their status, their health.  I am, however, opposed to people coming here with the openly stated purpose of taking over and changing us to their repressive, violent, and freedom-sucking way of life. They are not coming here to become Americans.  They are coming here to make us bow to them.  They are not hiding their purpose.  They are defiantly waving it right under our noses, and still we think we have to let them in.

Well.  This is not really the direction I was planning to take this morning, but there it is.

I love America.  I am proud to salute the American flag. I respect the policemen who have been colored with the black crayon of hatred.  I pray for them and their families. I love the freedom I have to worship God without fear, and I see the very real possibility of that freedom being destroyed.

It makes me sick, frankly, to see Thanksgiving and Christmas turned into nothing more than shopping opportunities. How much my country has changed, and how sad it makes me.  As God becomes less important and selfishness rules, we need to pray.  Christians, people of God, people who say the love the Word–we need to pray as we’ve never prayed before.  He is still God, no matter who says He isn’t.

Trying Not to Lose my Temper!

Honestly, it gets a little harder every day.

I just read an article about the cast of “Hamilton” giving Mike Pence a message.  He was there for the performance, and when a cast member asked him to stay to hear their “message,”  Pence was booed. Then he was told that this cast was concerned that THEY would not be protected by Trump’s administration.They are a diverse group culturally, and I suppose it’s safe to assume sexually and spiritually as well. The guy who was delivering the message sounded so noble.  In reality, he was just spewing the same old liberal trash that we’ve been subjected to ad nauseum for eight years, and which is getting louder as so many people storm the streets, accusing Trump and all conservatives of being the haters.

Yesterday I watched a video of riots somewhere, I don’t know where. There was a line of police officers, helmeted and probably wearing kevlar, because this is dangerous duty for them. A young woman had a pool noodle that she kept bopping over the head and face of an officer, who finally had enough and snatched the noodle away from her. She reacted by uttering one shriek after another and curling up in fetal position while  other rioters rushed to her aide.  Poor little thing,  she’s grown up in the age of “everyone gets a trophy” and she really had no idea what it was like to be told “NO!”  Either that, or she planned the whole thing ahead of time, hoping to get a cop in trouble.

Let’s talk for a minute about the safety of some other people:  Business owners who hold strong beliefs based on the Bible. They are asked to bake,  cater, provide flowers, etc. for a gay couple.  Because they believe gay marriage is not approved in God’s Word, they politely decline. They end up being sued, forced out of business, ruined: and all the time, there were plenty of other businesses nearby that would have been glad to accommodate the couple.  But no,  everyone MUST bow to what the LGBT community demands, or they will find their stores vandalized and their money gone.

Would someone please explain how that is acceptable?  For good, decent, law-abiding citizens running a private business, everything they have is on the line if they don’t appease people who are participating in something they cannot condone.They’re not making threats; they are glad to serve customers coming into their stores, and it doesn’t matter where they stand politically. But they’re not allowed to practice their religious convictions, even though no one is harmed by their doing so.Even though there are many other options for them to  use in planning their weddings. None of that matters. They are “haters” because they hold to their beliefs.

I think all the nonsense taking place now in reaction to Trump’s victory is hateful. If it had gone the other way, there may have been a few Trump supporter who would have staged a protest; however, I am confident that it would never have been as long-lived, ugly, and relentless as what is happening now on the streets of our cities.

Okay, I’m done.  And I welcome your comments on a couple of conditions:

  1.  Be reasonable, not hateful.  Don’t call me or anyone else ugly names.I am a well-educated professional, not an ignorant low-information voter.
  2.   No profanity; no vulgar language; no swearing.  And no threats.

If you can’t refrain from those behaviors, then I will not publish your comment. If you disagree with me and want to be treated with respect, then you have to give me the same.

A Thought for Today

“Good government generally begins in the family, and if the moral character of a people once degenerates, their political character must soon follow.”
― Elias Boudinot

History has shown this statement to be true over and over again.  So instead of calling our leaders ugly names, instead of becoming way less than Christ-like in our words and attitudes about the present sad offering of Presidential candidates, we need to do some self-examination.

Was there “good government” in your family? Were you grounded in God’s Word?  Were you taught manners, respect, the value of hard work, and the good stewardship of your finances? Were you taught to be decent toward others, even those with whom you disagree?

No family is perfect, but we do tend to pass on to our children what we learned growing up.

So if you were allowed to set your own boundaries as a child; if you were permitted to throw tantrums, if your parents were obedient to your every whim, then that’s most likely what you are passing on to your children.

Or, if there were things you felt were unfair when you were growing up, you’re probably not requiring that thing of your own children.That philosophy teaches them pretty quickly that if there’s something they don’t like, then they shouldn’t have to do it.

I’m not completely sure when good government in the home fell apart in America. Some would point us back to the permissive parenting styles of child psychologists like Dr. Benjamin Spock. His book does seem to have been something of a landmark in parenting practices.

I never read it. Neither did my parents.

I’m about to make a very general statement here that will probably get me into a lot of trouble, but here goes:

If you came from an orderly, Christ-centered,  well-governed home, you’re probably not out there with screaming, looting, rioting, angry people who know no other way to express themselves and wouldn’t care if they did.

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Government, as Hillary believes it should, must NOT be the primary molder and shaper of our children. No government ever gave birth to a baby. Parents conceive babies together in an act of mutual love and caring, and no government should ever have the right to snatch that baby and leave the parents with nothing more than a guardianship role to play in the child’s life.

In America, government was designed to serve and protect, not to  control and supervise us in the smallest details of our lives.

When that balance of power shifts, and government becomes primary in influencing families and children, then any nation is in deep trouble.

America is no exception.

 

Thinking Biblically

I was going to title this post Heartburn,  but I think I’ve already used that.  And this title is probably more to the point, anyway.

This is not a new concept. When I went looking for an illustration, they were abundant. Hundreds of other people have written recently on this topic.

And yet–look at the incredible election cycle we’re enduring, just for starters. Neither of the candidates thinks biblically, and that’s all we need to know about why we’re in this mess.

However, this post is not intended to be political; it is intended to be very personal, as if you and I were sitting together, perhaps in my counseling office.  I can’t hear all of the pain and problems you’re dealing with, but I can tell you this:  The answer lies in learning to think biblically about your situation.

 You can get some good advice from people who aren’t particularly biblical thinkers.  We go to unsaved doctors and dentists and so on all the time and follow the directions they offer us. But when it comes to matters of principle, matters of relationships, matters of walking wisely in this worn out old world, then you need to go to God’s Word.

Thing is, we can’t think biblically if we’re not reading the Bible; if we’re not studying, not under good biblical preaching, not learning and growing in the Word.

It is that with which we are filled that controls our thoughts, behaviors, words and emotions. If we are filled with lust, then that’s what will be evident in our lives.  If we are filled with hatred, anger, bitterness, envy, self—then that’s what will be manifest in our lives, no matter how hard we try to cover it all over with a gloss of spirituality.

We live in a world that bombards us with lust. Advertisements, billboards, prime time TV, so-called music that is full of anger, violence, and lust; all these things are tempting us at every turn.  I’ve had more than one man in my office tell me that it’s really hard for a normal man to maintain a pure mind these days.  Actually, I think that’s always been the case; I think it’s just getting worse as we move farther away from biblical concepts of thought, behavior, appearance, and language.

Yes, I have heartburn.  I have deep concerns for young men entering a world that tells them pornography is just fine; that the objectification of a woman’s body is no big deal; that masturbating to porn is normal and healthy because, you know, a man has needs.

I am even more amazed that (usually, not always) younger women are becoming more involved in watching porn, finding it exciting, stimulating, fun.  They see no problem with it, and think I’m just too old-school to understand.

No, I’m not.  I do understand.  I also understand that rattlesnakes will kill  you if you play with them. I avoid what I know can cause me terrible harm.

The problem with porn is that it’s a fake relationship that requires nothing of the watcher; at the same time, it creates a lack of interest in the watcher’s spouse, because sexual needs are being met while watching porn.

You may think it’s spicing up your sex life. In actuality, it’s slowly poisoning your mind and emotions, and you will pay the penalty in a broken marriage or a broken life. It’s evil. It is not biblical, it does not come from God.

Keep in mind that the first thing Adam and Eve noticed after they sinned was NOT that they had disobeyed the God of Creation; it was NOT that the fruit left a bitter aftertaste. No, it was that they were naked. The very first thing the scaly finger of Satan corrupted after the Fall was human sexuality, and we’ve been having trouble with it ever since.

I could go on at length here, but I have neither the time nor the energy at the moment. Maybe there will be more along this line on this blog on Fridays, I don’t know.

What I know is that it’s time Bible-believing Christians stop participating in what the world tells us is okay.  It’s time we acknowledge to fellow believers that we’re dealing with sin in our lives, and to ask them for prayer and accountability. The Bible tells us to confess our sins to each other (James 5:16). That doesn’t mean we go into gross detail. It means we admit that we’re tempted, have fallen to something sinful, that we need the prayer support of our brothers and sisters in Christ. That’s all.  It’s time that our prayer requests not be just a list of physical problems. Nothing wrong with holding each other up in prayer for health issues, but really, is that all we have to pray about?

Philippians 2:5.  Colossians 3:16. Galations 5:16.  Just for starters.