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Wit and Wisdom of Gateway Church Athens GA

As we begin our new church life … so too a new blog!

Category Archives: Daily Living

Season of Harvest

1 May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine on us—

2 so that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.

3 May the peoples praise you, God;
may all the peoples praise you.
4 May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you rule the peoples with equity
and guide the nations of the earth.
5 May the peoples praise you, God;
may all the peoples praise you.

6 The land yields its harvest;
God, our God, blesses us.
7 May God bless us still,
so that all the ends of the earth will fear him.

 

For many years, members of Gateway have been sewing in God’s fields waiting for the harvest — tilling and planting, watering and weeding. Tending the crop is hard work. Hard work, sometimes singed by drought; sometimes smothered by flood. The season of toil is never easy and often burdened with discouragement and dismay. But the wise and the willing never abandon the field, they go on daily with their buckets to water. They go on to pluck the weeds. They go on to rout out the pests. They go on to nourish. They go on. They move forward until the season turns and the fields yield. The harvest comes.

 

God promises that those who love and obey him don’t live for nothing – they don’t plant in vain. He says that what we sew, we reap – there is a harvest. A harvest that will witness to the glory of God and his goodness! We are in that season.

Jesus prepared his people for these times. Matthew 9 tells us that 35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.
36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.
38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

The ministers of Gateway are pressing into harvest today eager to bring in the bounty — listening to the call of God, following his will and moving with the breath of the Holy Spirit. It’s harvest time!

 

If you haven’t visited Gateway in awhile, come back and see what’s going on. If you’ve never joined us before, come experience God and be a part of his divine adventure.

Prepare a Fresh Pumpkin

 

To make your own freshly cooked pumpkin, quarter 1-2 small pie pumpkins, de-stem, seed and de-string them. Then steam them in a steamer over boiling water until very tender–the skin will peel right off. Then mash them using a stick blender or a food processor-hand mashing will sometimes produce lumps/strings so unless you like that, go for the stick blender/processor. Enjoy!

 

And don’t forget to roast your seeds for a tasty snack!

Autumn Pumpkin Pie

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups pumpkin puree, canned or fresh

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon all-purpose flour

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup evaporated milk, undiluted

2 tablespoons water

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 unbaked pastry shell (9-inch)

whipped cream or whipped topping, for garnish

Preparation:

Combine pumpkin, sugar, salt, spices, and flour in a medium mixing bowl. Add eggs; mix well. Add evaporated milk, water, and vanilla; mix well. Pour into pastry-lined pie pan. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes; reduce heat to 350° and bake about 35 minutes longer, or until center is set.

 

Cranberry Orange Relish

Ingredients:

2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, rinsed and drained

1 large orange

3/4 cup sugar, or to taste

Preparation:

Finely chop cranberries in food processor or put through meat grinder. Peel orange, without too much of the white pith, reserving peel; remove seeds and white membrane. Put orange and orange peel through grinder or chop in food processor. Mix all ingredients together and store in covered container in the refrigerator. Refrigerate several hours before serving. A delicious accompaniment to the holiday bird, or serve the relish with pork or wild game.Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

Ingredients:

2 cups flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup pumpkin puree

2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup oil

1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup molasses

1 egg, lightly beaten

Preparation:

Directions for cranberry pumpkin muffins
Combine flour, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Combine remaining ingredients in a separate mixing bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry, mixing just until the dry ingredients are moist. Do not over mix. Generously grease a 12-muffin tin and dust with flour or line with paper muffin cups. Fill muffin cups about 2/3-full with batter. Bake pumpkin muffins in preheated 350° oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until nicely browned. Remove pumpkin muffins from tins to wire rack to cool. Makes 12 cranberry pumpkin muffins.

 

Southern Pecan Pie

Ingredients:

1 cup light corn syrup

1 cup brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup melted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 large eggs, slightly beaten

1 heaping cup pecan halves

1 pie shell, unbaked, 9-inch

Preparation:

In a large bowl, combine corn syrup, brown sugar, salt, butter, and vanilla; mix well. Add slightly beaten eggs and blend well; stir in pecans. Pour into the unbaked pie shell. Bake in a preheated 350° oven for 45 minutes, or until set. Cool pecan pie and serve with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Pumpkin Bread

Ingredients:

***Filling***

1 package (8 ounce) cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 large egg

1 tablespoon finely grated orange peel

***Bread***

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ginger

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 cup pumpkin puree, canned or homemade

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, optional

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 325°. Lightly grease two 8x4x3-inch loaf pans. In a medium mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon flour, 1 egg, and the orange peel; beat until smooth and creamy. Set aside.

Into another bowl, sift 1 2/3 cup flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg; set aside. Put pumpkin puree, vegetable oil, 2 eggs and 1 1/2 cup sugar in a large mixing bowl; beat well. Stir the pumpkin mixture into the flour mixture just until combined. Fold in the pecans or walnuts, if using.

Pour half of the pumpkin bread batter evenly into the two prepared loaf pans. Spoon cream cheese mixture on top of pumpkin batter layer and then pour on the remaining pumpkin batter.

Bake in preheated 325° oven for 60 to 70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool bread in pans for 10 minutes; remove to a rack to cool completely.
Makes 2 loaves.

 

Baked Apples

Ingredients:

6 large baking apples

3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 tablespoon butter

Preparation:

Wash and core apples, then remove a 1 inch strip of peel around the middle of each apple; place in a 2-quart shallow baking dish.

Combine sugar, raisins, cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar in a small bowl; fill the center of each apple and dot with 1/2 teaspoon of the butter. Add just enough water to baking dish to cover the bottom of the dish; bake, uncovered, at 350° for about 30 minutes, or until apples are tender. Baste with juices occasionally. Serve warm with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream.

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Matthew 6:19-21 (ESV)

19  “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20  but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

I am on a business trip at the home office.  The meeting is all day Thursday and part day on Friday.  Last night we had a meeting at a local restaurant that I’ve eaten at numerous times in the last 15 years.  It’s in a really nice section of town.  We were finishing up dinner when one of my coworkers received a phone call.  “Hey it’s you” he said and gave me the phone.  I picked up the phone and listened but there was nothing there.  They asked me why my phone would be calling him.  I told them android phones do that at times, just ask my wife!

We get ready to leave and I saw it.  Someone had taken a bat and broken my passenger side window and stole my phone.  It was like my phone was calling the guy across the table and asking for someone to save it.  Of course, no one did!

I asked the Lord for help.  A plan came to mind and I pursued it including getting a replacement phone.  I borrowed my bosses phone and called Julia first thing.  We had what I would call a vigorous discussion about my leaving the phone in the car.  She has warned me repeatedly about it.  I wasn’t worried about it though.  I knew right where it was.  It was right by my ipod.  Oh by the way, did I mention that I can’t find my ipod either?  She was right and I was wrong.  That’s not the issue here.  The issue is she is my God given partner in life.   By divine right She has a say in my life.  The Lord speaks to her just as surely as He does me.  He just speaks to her differently than me. 

As I worked through the evening issues with insurance, and car window repairs many thoughts came to mind.  Forgiveness was one.  So I asked the Lord to forgive the little tattooed, skin headed weasel that stole my stuff.  Before I said amen, I asked the Lord for painful boils, razor burn on his head and infected tattoo’s and other physical afflictions as well.  I wanted to make sure I did the “Christian” thing and forgave the little thief!

As I am prone to do, I asked the Lord what was the lesson here?  What is there for me to learn through this?  There are a number of obvious lessons.

First of all, stuff doesn’t matter.  I am a stuff’s kinda guy.  I have a lot of stuff, although not as much as I had when I left home yesterday.  The scriptures tell us not to put our trust in rust (my version).

The second lesson is forgiveness.  Clearly I understand that (see my above prayer for forgiveness).

The next question was a bit more complicated.  “Where was the protection we prayed about before I left home?”  I truly wasn’t upset, but I thought it was a legitimate question.  Well the Lord protected me by not allowing me to go outside and catch him.  I would have gone after him.  I know I would have.  Then the Lord spoke to my heart about being 60, being overweight with a bad shoulder and arm and attacking a 25 year old thief that just used a baseball bat to break into my car.  I got the picture!  (Thanks Lord.)

Part of that question was why didn’t you warn me?  Well the answer is simple.  He did warn me.  Many times through Julia he warned me.  I chose to ignore it.  I will not ignore her again!

Through God’s mercy and grace I’m simply out a phone and an ipod that my insurance will most likely cover.  But I am also a much wiser man.

Lord: Thank you so much for your grace and mercy.

General David

I just wanted to drop you a note and let you know I was thinking about you. Your lovely wife gave me your address and I have been trying to find time to write. It’s now 06:15 and I thought I would simply take the time. I’m sure you’re relaxing and catching up on some shut eye since it’s so early.

Things are going well here in Dawg country unless of course you are a Braves fan. Seems there aren’t that many around here lately. Any way things at church are getting interesting. I’ve been blogging on the book “The Goodness of God” by Randy Alcorn. Every since Tom asked us to reconsider our mission statement of “Helping people experience God” I’ve been doing that exact thing. It’s funny, but you pop into my mind during this entire exercise, especially recently. Let me tell you why.

I have been reading a book by a pastor in Oklahoma, Craig Groeschel. “Chazown”. It’s the Hebrew word for vision. This book challenges the individual believer to take risks for God. He poses a series of questions that I put on a business card (one enclosed for you). Here are the questions:

Chazown (pronounced khaw-ZONE)

Passion: What do you absolutely love to do?

Impact: What do you do that has significant impact on others?

Secret Belief: What do you secretly believe you can do but never tried?

What gifts do you have that you have never put to use?

Here is where you come in. You took a big risk for God. While I am sure you’ve asked yourself “What was I thinking” more than once in the last few weeks, still, you searched out God and you took the steps. What an inspiration that is for me personally. What I admire about is that you had the guts to do it and trust God to take care of your family. You and I haven’t spoken much in recent months. That’s my loss and I am sorry I haven’t taken the time to be more available. But I wanted you to know what I believe the Lord want’s me to say to you.

I want you to read Luke 4:1-30. This is where Jesus announces who He is and what His mission is. Then he proceeds to talk to everyone about 2 incidents in the old testament. The widow at Zarepath (1st Kings 17) and Naaman the Syrian (2nd Kings 5). When the congregation heard what He said, they exploded with rage and wanted to kill him. They were going to pitch Him off the cliff but Luke tells us he simply walked away. While there are months of sermons in here just a couple of points for you to consider.

Read the stories Jesus referred to in the passage. They are remarkable. The widow woman was in the midst of a three year drought. You can bet water and meal were at premiums and very scarce. She had no resources to draw upon and things are so bad, she is getting ready to make a biscuit or two and then die. Along comes Elijah and asks her for the first biscuit and drink. She says ok and does it. She risked EVERYTHING she had for God and God came through for her in a big way, the meal and oil miraculously never ran dry. Then after that experience was over, her son dies mysteriously. Elijah again calls on God and He comes through with another miracle.

Naaman on the other hand was very wealthy and yet had a disease no one could help him with. He took a risk and did the simple thing God asked him to do and washed in the river Jordan and he was healed.

You’ve stepped out in faith and God will honor that big time. Tom spoke last Sunday of Oral Roberts and his faith. Bob Tuttle described Oral as a man who would lower his head and run at a brick wall expecting God to move it before he hit it. You know what? God always did.

The actions you’ve taken are tough. You’ve had the faith to do what you believe God has called you to do. He will honor that for you David in many ways. There will be many times when you will ask yourself “What was I thinking?” Yet don’t’ despair and don’t give up. NEVER NEVER NEVER give up (Sir Winston Churchill). Remember, Jesus had things to do for God as you do. When they were going to kill him He simply walked away. He hadn’t fulfilled what he was called to do. It wasn’t his time yet.

Lord: Keep my friend David in your arms. Keep his lovely wife and his two wonderful sons and protect them while David is away enjoying the leisurely life of the military. Encourage him Lord when things look horrible as they often do in military training. Let him know you love him and we love him Lord.

Oh and Lord please let the Holy Spirit awake David in the morning and not allow him to oversleep. He needs to get to breakfast on time so he can have strength for the day!

(He he he he ha!)

The most difficult element of Christianity is by far the problem of evil.  Where did it come from and how did it get here.  Those two questions have been the subject of countless books, articles, blogs, coffee table discussions, home fellowships, editorials and well you get the picture.  We must understand what Scripture teaches us about the origins of evil if we are to have a worldview that accurately reflects Biblical principles.  This blog is long, because of the inclusion of the Scriptures describing satan.  I felt is was important to actually include them here because I wanted you to read them in the amplified version.

On page 10 of “The Goodness of God” the author describes two kinds of evil, primary and secondary.  This sets a foundation that makes sense to me.  Primary evils (murder, rape, robbery, adultery and so forth) provide fertile ground for secondary evils to flourish.  This is a very good classification scheme.  So with this framework, let’s dig into how sin started.

How the Rebellion Began

The Bible gives us some enticing peeks into the spirit world.  While I truly enjoy reading other peoples accounts of their “encounters” with the spirit world, I do not rely on them for guidance.  I know what people say they have seen and experienced.  I know much of it is interesting and gives us some new ideas to pursue and think about, but they are not to be given serious weight unless they align with the Scriptures.

So what does the Bible say about the origins of evil?  Well the book of Ezekiel 28:12-19 (AMP) gives us some insight into satan’s origin and activities.

Son of man, take up a lamentation over the king of Tyre and say to him, Thus says the Lord God:

You are the full measure {and} pattern of exactness [giving the finishing touch to all that constitutes completeness], full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.

You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, the carnelian, topaz, jasper, chrysolite, beryl, onyx, sapphire, carbuncle, and emerald; and your settings and your sockets {and} engravings were wrought in gold. On the day that you were created they were prepared.

You were the anointed cherub that covers with overshadowing [wings], and I set you so.

You were upon the holy mountain of God; you walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire [like the paved work of gleaming sapphire stone upon which the God of Israel walked on Mount Sinai].

You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created until iniquity {and} guilt were found in you.  Through the abundance of your commerce:

you were filled with lawlessness {and} violence, and you sinned; therefore I cast you out as a profane thing from the mountain of God and the guardian cherub drove you out from the midst of the stones of fire.

Your heart was proud {and} lifted up because of your beauty;

you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I lay you before kings, that they might gaze at you.

You have profaned your sanctuaries by the multitude of your iniquities {and} the enormity of your guilt, by the unrighteousness of your trade.

Therefore I have brought forth a fire from your midst; it has consumed you, and I have reduced you to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all who looked at you. All who know you among the people are astonished and appalled at you; you have come to a horrible end and shall never return to being.

Many Biblical scholars believe this to be a word to the King of the city of Tyre as well as directly to the prince of the power of the air actually ruling the city of Tyre satan himself.  This is an amazing insight into satan’s background.

Isaiah 14:12-17 (AMP) gives us a further look into satan’s activities.

How have you fallen from heaven, O light-bringer {and} daystar, son of the morning! How you have been cut down to the ground, you who weakened {and} laid low the nations [O blasphemous, satanic king of Babylon!] And you said in your heart, I will ascend to heaven; I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit upon the mount of assembly in the uttermost north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.

Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol (Hades), to the innermost recesses of the pit (the region of the dead). Those who see you will gaze at you {and} consider you, saying, Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms?–Who made the world like a wilderness and overthrew its cities, who would not permit his prisoners to return home?

I think these two sets of Scriptures give us a very clear view of our adversary.  In order to sharpen the picture even further, let’s take a look at the names the Bible assigns to our adversary.

The names of satan

Name Reference Definition
Abaddon Revelation 9:11 a destroying angel
The accuser of our brethren Revelation 12:10 against one in the assembly, i.e. a complainant at law; specially, Satan
The adversary I Peter 5:8 an opponent (in a lawsuit); specially, Satan (as the arch-enemy)
Apollyon Revelation 9:11 a destroyer (i.e. Satan)
Beelzebub Matthew 12:24 Mark 3:22 Luke 11:15 dung-god; Beelzebul, a name of Satan
Belial II Corinthians 6:15 worthlessness; Belial, as an epithet of Satan
the Devil Matthew 4:1 a traducer; specially, Satan: false accuser, devil, slanderer.
dragon Revelation 12:9 and 20:2 probably from an alternate form of derkomai (to look); a fabulous kind of serpent (perhaps as supposed to fascinate)
the enemy Matthew 13:39 from a primary echtho (to hate); hateful (passively, odious, or actively, hostile); usually as a noun, an adversary (especially Satan)
father of all lies John 8:44 a falsifier
god of this world II Corinthians 4:4 god is used generically and refers to Satan
king of Babylon Isaiah 14:4 confusion; Babel (i.e. Babylon), including Babylonia and the Babylonian empire
king of Tyrus Ezekiel 28:12 a rock; Tsor, a place in Palestine. Satan is the false rock. Christ is the true Rock.
little horn Daniel 7:8 a horn (as projecting); by implication, a flask, cornet; by resembl. an elephant’s tooth (i.e. ivory), a corner (of the altar), a peak (of a mountain), a ray (of light); figuratively, power
Lucifer Isaiah 14:12 (in the sense of brightness); the morning star: lucifer (the king of Babylon). Satan is the false morning star. Christ is the true morning Star.
man of sin II Thessalonians 2:3 Satan was the first to sin. See Ezekiel 28:11-19
that old serpent Revelation 12:9 and 20:2 old = original or primeval
serpent = (through the idea of sharpness of vision); a snake, figuratively (as a type of sly cunning) an artful malicious person, especially Satan
power of darkness Colossians 1:13 "shade" or a shadow (literally or figuratively [darkness of error or an adumbration])
prince of the power of the air Ephesians 2:2 prince = a first (in rank or power)
power = privilege, i.e. (subjectively) force, capacity, competency, freedom, or (objectively) mastery (concretely, magistrate, superhuman, potentate, token of control), delegated influence
prince that shall come Daniel 9:26 a commander (as occupying the front), civil, military or religious; generally (abstractly, plural), honorable themes. See II Thessalonians 2:3-4 and Revelation 12:7-9
prince of Tyrus Ezekiel 28:2 a rock; Tsor, a place in Palestine. Satan is the false rock. Christ is the true Rock.
prince of this world John 12:31 prince = a first (in rank or power)
world = orderly arrangement, i.e. decoration; by implication, the world (in a wide or narrow sense, including its inhabitants, literally or figuratively [morally])
rulers of the darkness of this world Ephesians 6:12 rulers = a world-ruler, an epithet of Satan
darkness = shadiness, i.e. obscurity (literally or figuratively)
Satan Job 1:6 an opponent; especially (with the article prefixed) Satan, the arch-enemy of good.
serpent Genesis 3:1 properly, to hiss, i.e. whisper a (magic) spell; generally, to prognosticate
son of perdition John 17:12 ruin or loss (physical, spiritual or eternal) also to destroy fully (reflexively, to perish, or lose), literally or figuratively
II Thessalonians 2:3
the tempter Matthew 4:3 to test (objectively), i.e. endeavor, scrutinize, entice, discipline
the wicked one Matthew 13:19 hurtful, i.e. evil (properly, in effect or influence) figuratively, calamitous; also (passively) ill, i.e. diseased; but especially (morally) culpable, i.e. derelict, vicious, facinorous; neuter (singular) mischief, malice, or (plural) guilt; masculine (singular) the devil, or (plural) sinners
   

Scriptural Forensics and if it walks like a duck ….

As you study the word keep in mind satan’s characteristics.  Also keep in mind what the Bible tells us about Jesus’s ministry:

1 John 3:8 [But] he who commits sin [who practices evildoing] is of the devil [takes his character from the evil one], for the devil has sinned (violated the divine law) from the beginning. The reason the Son of God was made manifest (visible) was to undo (destroy, loosen, and dissolve) the works the devil [has done].

When Jesus was accused of casting out demons by demons, Jesus’s response was classic:

Mark 3:24-26 And if a kingdom is divided {and} rebelling against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided (split into factions and rebelling) against itself, that house will not be able to last. And if Satan has raised an insurrection against himself and is divided, he cannot stand but is [surely] coming to an end.

When you have to analyze a situation and there is no one around that was an eyewitness, you resort to the basic principle of forensics: Every contact leaves a trace.  Every time satan gets involved in a situation, he leaves a trace.  The above scriptures give you his playbook.  He hasn’t altered it and continues to use it against each of us every day.  Look at the results of the situation.  If it looks like a duck, if it walks like a duck, if it smells like a duck, it’s a duck.  If it steals, kills and destroys, it’s satan’s handiwork.

Why Evil is Evil

The Bible has a broad definition of evil.  Evil is anything that flows not from loving God but rebelling against Him.  Randy brings an interesting point to light.  Good can exist without evil, but evil can’t exist without good.  Metal can exist just fine without rust, but rust can’t exist without metal.

I can get my arms around this analogy.  It makes sense in many ways.  Evil is corruption.  Look at this definition:

corrupt: adjective
 
1.    Guilty of dishonest practices, as bribery; lacking integrity; crooked: a corrupt judge.
2.    Debased in character; depraved; perverted; wicked; evil: a corrupt society.
3.    Made inferior by errors or alterations, as a text.
4.    Infected; tainted.
5.    Decayed; putrid.

Do any of those definitions strike a familiar cord?  I have worked with plant material my entire professional career.  I understand corruption and decay.  I’ve made a good living over the last 40 years dealing with the results of terrestrial corruption.  We all have seen the damage disease can do to people, animals and crops.  Some human diseases are insidious such as AIDS, meningitis and cancer.  These can kill quickly or slowly, but kill they do.  Recently on the news was the tragic death of several teenagers from a “brain eating amoeba”.  All they did was go swimming in a lake.  One boy simply used a nasal wash from tap water and was infected.  They all died within days.

We just dealt with hurricane Irene.  Joplin and Tuscaloosa were laid low by tornados a few months ago.  Earthquakes in Japan and Tsunamis in Indonesia killed hundreds of thousands.

Rom 8:19  For [even the whole] creation (all nature) waits expectantly {and} longs earnestly for God’s sons to be made known [waits for the revealing, the disclosing of their sonship]. For the creation (nature) was subjected to frailty (to futility, condemned to frustration), not because of some intentional fault on its part, but by the will of Him Who so subjected it–[yet] with the hope that nature (creation) itself will be set free from its bondage to decay {and} corruption [and gain an entrance] into the glorious freedom of God’s children.  We know that the whole creation [of irrational creatures] has been moaning together in the pains of labor until now.

God warned Adam that the day he sinned would be the day he would die.  He died spiritually as soon as he ate and although he lived for many years physically, the die was cast and sin was turned loose on mankind and the earth.

Gen 2:17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil {and} blessing and calamity you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die. 

We learned in Genesis chapter 3 Adam started the entire process of corruption by doing the one thing God told him not to do, thus he committed the first sin.  Sin then turned corruption loose and after so many years, we see it’s bitter fruit all around us.

Gen 3:17-19 And to Adam He said, Because you have listened {and} given heed to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, saying, You shall not eat of it, the ground is under a curse because of you; in sorrow {and} toil shall you eat [of the fruits] of it all the days of your life. Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth for you, and you shall eat the plants of the field. In the sweat of your face shall you eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you shall return.

Two kinds of evil: Primary and Secondary.

Moral wrong doing is primary evil.  Suffering as a result of primary evil is secondary evil.  I saw an excellent example of both types of evil today on one tv show.  A man was coming home from work and discovered his wife had been brutally killed at home.  (Sounds much like David Jansen in “The Fugitive”).  The police went to work and figured this man had killed his wife.  Circumstantial evidence “proved it” and he spent 25 years doing time for a crime he didn’t commit.  Then DNA evidence proved his innocence and he was released from prison.  (He isn’t bitter, because during his time in the pen, he became a Christian and God did a work in his life!).  The primary evil of murder collected an innocent man in it’s wake and produced the secondary evil of a wrongful conviction.

Jesus said in John 16:33In the world you have tribulation {and} trials {and} distress {and} frustration …  It’s no wonder.  We live on a planet whose forces are corrupted and we are surrounded by people who are corrupted through a sinful nature.  Yes, I think tribulation, stress and frustration are going to be more the rule of the day than the exception!

If you can objectively stand up and take a “50,000 foot view” you can see that sin has had the opportunity to multiply, hide, grow and expand almost limitlessly for thousands of years.  We exist daily in an environment where we are in constant contact with both primary and secondary evil.

It’s simply God’s abundant Grace that keeps the whole thing together and keeps us alive!

Col 1:17 And He Himself existed before all things, and in Him all things consist (cohere, are held together).

Heb 1:3 He is the sole expression of the glory of God [the Light-being, the out-raying or radiance of the divine], and He is the perfect imprint {and} very image of [God’s] nature, upholding {and} maintaining {and} guiding {and} propelling the universe by His mighty word of power. When He had {by offering Himself} accomplished {our} cleansing of sins {and} riddance of guilt, He sat down at the right hand of the divine Majesty on high.

Next week: Rebel Forces attempt an overthrow of the kingdom!

I want to give you the outline of the book.  There are 11 very interesting chapters.  I plan on following the order of the chapters, but I will supplement many of the ideas in the chapters with other author’s material.  Authors such as CS Lewis, Brady Boyd, Joni Ericson Tada and many others have a lot to say on the subject of suffering and I want to get every one’s perspective.

The 11 chapter headings are:

1.    Tragic Choices: Determining the origins of Evil and Suffering
2.    What’s wrong? I am: Accepting the reality of inherited sin
3.    Alternative Answers: Examining Explanations for Evil and Suffering
4.    A Clash of Worldviews: Investigating relativism, atheism, and the "problem" of goodness
5.    The Great Drama: Reviewing the roles of evil and suffering in Christ’s redemptive work
6.    Why so much evil?: Questioning why God allows Evil and delay’s justice
7.    God’s control and our freedom: Discovering how God rules despite our choices
8.    Are we promised prosperity?: recovering a Biblical view of health and wealth
9.    The World we long for: Exploring God’s eternal solution to evil and suffering
10.    Wanting more clarity: wrestling with the reasons for our suffering
11.    What we can do: Finding perspective in our suffering
   
Today we start on chapter 1, "Tragic Choices".

The book begins with a story we are all familiar with.  Somebody’s child is killed in a car accident.  The father (who is a pastor) rants and raves at God asking the understandable question: “Why?”  Then he makes a statement I found insightful.  He states:
    “In the silence I began to hear the voice of God … then, without any announcement, when I became silent, God spoke to my soul.  He had an answer for each of my three questions.”

When it comes to asking why, I think I must move to the head of the line.  Why is my middle name!  In one of our recent adult classes, the teacher mentioned that she had asked God this question: “Where were you when the sexual abuse was going on?”  I asked God the same question.  Where were you?  I found what the pastor said was true.  When I became silent, God gave me some very specific answers to my question.

When it comes to suffering and all of the associated pain and grief that goes with it, it’s ok to ask questions.  I think this pastor’s brief testimony brings out some excellent points we should remember.

1.    You have to cultivate the ability to hear God.
2.    It’s ok to ask questions.  God will answer you, He wants to communicate with you.
3.    It is hard to hear God in the middle of a storm.

Elijah is a good example of hearing God.

1 Kin 19:11-13 NASB ¶ So He said, "Go forth and stand on the mountain before the LORD." And behold, the LORD was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the LORD; {but} the LORD {was} not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, {but} the LORD {was} not in the earthquake. After the earthquake a fire, {but} the LORD {was} not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. When Elijah heard {it,} he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, a voice {came} to him and said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"

I think this speaks of God’s presence in the middle of the storms we face.  With all of the noise and tumult we experience when we are in a storm, we must remember to listen for the small voice, the quiet voice.  That is the voice we want to follow.

Jesus spoke of hearing God’s voice:

John 10:3-5 NASB "To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. "When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. "A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers."

Hearing from God has two immediate benefits that I can see.

1.    You can hear him concerning comfort.  When you are in the middle of a muddle, you need comfort.  That’s the Holy Spirit’s job description.
2.    You can hear him for directions.  Obviously, when you are in serious difficult situations you need to have guidance and understanding of how to proceed.  Again, this is what the Holy Spirit does, provide guidance as well as comfort.

John 16:13-14 "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. "He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose {it} to you.

As I write this, I learned one of my favorite athletic personalities just revealed she has the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.  Pat Summitt has been a model of leadership in the world of women’s athletics.  She is a fine Christian woman and a strong leader.  I am sure she would agree she find’s herself in a difficult situation.  She probably was caught off guard by this.  Yet her response is indicative of her strong faith.  I pray for her and hope you will too.  This statement from the Tennessee athletic department speaks for the impact of Pat Summit’s life:

For Pat to stand-up and share her health news is just a continuing example of her courage. Life is an unknown and none of us have a crystal ball. But I do have a record of knowing what Pat Summitt stands for; excellence, strength, honesty and courage.

He is right when he says life is an unknown.  This fact alone is why it is important for us to prepare for life’s unknown elements as much as we can by studying God’s word and developing an intimate relationship with Him.

“The Goodness of God” by Randy Alcorn is a book that strikes a nerve deep within my heart.  He dives into a subject that has long been one of the most perplexing to mankind, “Why is there suffering and evil”.  My own testimony as well as that of so many others at Gateway is one where this question has more than passing relevance.  Everyone we know deals with this problem.  Some more than others. While we can always find someone who has experienced more or less than we have, the question always comes back to the big “Why”?

The author lays a foundation for us in the introduction to the book:

To come to grips with the problem of evil and suffering, you must do more than hear heart-wrenching stories about suffering people.  You must hear God’s truth to help you interpret those stories. … You will not find relief unless you gain perspective.

Before I started this study, these scriptures from Isaiah were forefront in my thinking:

Is 55:8-9 Amp For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.

The ideas that God “allows” suffering or the companion thought of God “causes” suffering to teach us are prevalent thoughts that I want to understand.  God “allows” everything, so for me, the idea that God “allows” my suffering is a non starter.  You will either go crazy trying to think your way around that particular thought or end up in a place that is unscriptural.  But the idea that God causes suffering and pain in order for us to learn about Him is difficult for me to accept.  Yet there are many great thinkers and Christian writers who seem to think that exact thought.

The purpose of this study is to get some of these ideas out in the open and wrestle with them.

There are a couple of other really good points in the introduction I want to touch on.  First of all, how we answer this question will radically affect the way we perceive our world and God’s place in it.  The problem of evil and suffering is the basis the “new atheists” claim they don’t believe in God.  So as Christians, we need to study and understand what God says about it.

2 Tim 3:16-17 Every Scripture is God-breathed (given by His inspiration) and profitable for instruction, for reproof {and} conviction of sin, for correction of error {and} discipline in obedience, [and] for training in righteousness (in holy living, in conformity to God’s will in thought, purpose, and action), So that the man of God may be complete {and} proficient, well fitted {and} thoroughly equipped for every good work.

The second benefit of this study will be in exposing what the author calls “inadequate theology”.  When evil and suffering show their ugly heads, you may discover (as I have) that your theological underpinnings simply won’t hold up under the weight of life.  This process of learning can be extremely difficult and painful.  It can then become a turning point in your Christian life.  The destruction of weak, inadequate theology is a good thing.  It is important that the foundation of our life is built on the solid ground of God’s word and not the shifting sands of popular ideas.

The idea of this study is for us to be able to understand the character of the Gateway community.  We have seen suffering and pain and God seems to send us those who need ministry in the difficult situations of life.  I believe in pursuing this study, we will see more clearly where God wants to take us and who we are a a body of believers.

I plan on supporting the book with other ideas and thoughts from many other authors.  I find this study is an ever expanding one for me.  I want to know what the great thinkers thoughts are on this subject.  Of course, what God says about it is what really counts.  I think following the paths and rabbit trails of life will give God plenty of room to work with as He teaches us more about His good character and His love.

One last thought, this blog will be less than effective if you don’t participate.  Please comment and post your thoughts.  Only in that way can we learn what God wants for us.