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The Presidents Club

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The Surest Defense Against Evil

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The Triumph of Grace

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Contemplating God’s Sovereignty

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How Should We Then Live?

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Not a Timid Christianity

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Finishing the Race

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Because the Time is Near

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Revelation Song (YouTube)

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Where The Wind Blows

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Doing Great Things

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Recognizing a False Prophet

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The Power of Forgiveness

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Created for Relationships

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The Only Way I Know

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Faith: The Misunderstood Doctrine

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Our True Home Address

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‘Tis the Season . . . for L-O-V-E

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The Paris Terrorist Attack and the Problem of Evil

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Cherry Picking 101

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Love Sweet Love

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So Goes The Culture

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Idols of the Heart

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Divisions Are Not Always Bad

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The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

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The Voice of Faith

Hebrews 11v6

I’ve written on the subject of faith in several previous blog posts, and faith cannot be underestimated in the life of a believer in Jesus Christ. The most well known chapter in the Bible on the subject of faith (in fact, it is actually about faith in action) is Hebrews 11, which starts out with these three verses:

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Starting right out of the gate, if a person does not believe “that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible,” his faith is Jesus Christ is suspect, for God has clearly stated that it is so.

The remaining verses in Hebrews 11 (which contains a total of 40 verses), describe “faith in action” in the lives of many famous and obscure folks in the Old Testament, starting with Abel, Enoch, Noah, and Abraham through to Rahab, the prostitute, and ending with innumerable unnamed folks in the final verses 32-40:

And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

That promise came true in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus was and is the something better” that was planned “for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” And the fact that Jesus Christ has always existed with God even before he came to earth in human form is clearly stated in John 1:1-14:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

One must believe all of the above if one is a true believer in Jesus Christ. It is the foundation on which a Christian places their faith. They must also believe what Jesus stated to a Pharisee named Nicodemus during their conversation in John 3:1-21:

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness,so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son [Jesus Christ], that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

It is paramount that we understand and believe this if we claim to be a believer in Jesus Christ. Without this, any faith that we claim we have is faith in something or someone else.

While the people in the Old Testament did not experience Jesus Christ in the flesh, Jesus has always existed throughout the Old Testament (see article titled, Jesus in the Old Testament at this link), and that is why we find this statement at the end of Hebrews 11 in verses 39 and 40:

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

The “us,” of course, is us (and always has been down through the ages since the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ), and includes all true believers in Jesus Christ. And immediately following those two verses that end Hebrews 11 are the three verses that begin Hebrews 12:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses [the Old Testament folks we just read about in Hebrews 11], let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

hebrews 12v1Notice in those verses what we are to do. We are to . . . .

  • Throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles us
  • Run with perseverance the race marked out for us
  • Fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith
  • Consider him [Jesus] who endured such opposition from sinners so that we will not grow weary and lose heart.

And what does it states about Jesus? It states:

  • Jesus is the pioneer and perfector of faith
  • For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning it’s shame
  • And he sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

The Christian life is not a cake walk, but a battleground, and the joy that was set before Jesus was not found on this earth but in Heaven. And he had to endure the cross and it’s shame to get there and pave the way for us to go there, too, through his sacrifice on the cross for us. For those of us who believe, he, indeed, “bore our sins” as stated in 1 Peter 2:24:

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”

However, he did not take away the opposition we will experience as his followers. In fact, Jesus clearly stated that we are to “Take up your cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23).” Got Questions.org gives a clear answer as to what that statement means to us as followers of Jesus (quote source here):

Let’s begin with what Jesus didn’t mean. Many people interpret “cross” as some burden they must carry in their lives: a strained relationship, a thankless job, a physical illness. With self-pitying pride, they say, “That’s my cross I have to carry.” Such an interpretation is not what Jesus meant when He said, “Take up your cross and follow Me.”

When Jesus carried His cross up Golgotha to be crucified, no one was thinking of the cross as symbolic of a burden to carry. To a person in the first-century, the cross meant one thing and one thing only: death by the most painful and humiliating means human beings could develop.

Two thousand years later, Christians view the cross as a cherished symbol of atonement, forgiveness, grace, and love. But in Jesus’ day, the cross represented nothing but torturous death. Because the Romans forced convicted criminals to carry their own crosses to the place of crucifixion, bearing a cross meant carrying their own execution device while facing ridicule along the way to death.

Therefore, Take up your cross and follow Me means being willing to die in order to follow Jesus. This is called “dying to self.” It’s a call to absolute surrender. After each time Jesus commanded cross bearing, He said, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” (Luke 9:24-25). Although the call is tough, the reward is matchless.

Wherever Jesus went, He drew crowds. Although these multitudes often followed Him as Messiah, their view of who the Messiah really was—and what He would do—was distorted. They thought the Christ would usher in the restored kingdom. They believed He would free them from the oppressive rule of their Roman occupiers. Even Christ’s own inner circle of disciples thought the kingdom was coming soon (Luke 19:11). When Jesus began teaching that He was going to die at the hands of the Jewish leaders and their Gentile overlords (Luke 9:22), His popularity sank. Many of the shocked followers rejected Him. Truly, they were not able to put to death their own ideas, plans, and desires, and exchange them for His.

Following Jesus is easy when life runs smoothly; our true commitment to Him is revealed during trials. Jesus assured us that trials will come to His followers (John 16:33). Discipleship demands sacrifice, and Jesus never hid that cost.

In Luke 9:57-62, three people seemed willing to follow Jesus. When Jesus questioned them further, their commitment was half-hearted at best. They failed to count the cost of following Him. None was willing to take up his cross and crucify upon it his own interests.

Therefore, Jesus appeared to dissuade them. How different from the typical Gospel presentation! How many people would respond to an altar call that went, “Come follow Jesus, and you may face the loss of friends, family, reputation, career, and possibly even your life”? The number of false converts would likely decrease! Such a call is what Jesus meant when He said, “Take up your cross and follow Me.”

If you wonder if you are ready to take up your cross, consider these questions:
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing some of your closest friends?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means alienation from your family?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means the loss of your reputation?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing your job?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing your life?

In some places of the world, these consequences are reality. But notice the questions are phrased, “Are you willing?” Following Jesus doesn’t necessarily mean all these things will happen to you, but are you willing to take up your cross? If there comes a point in your life where you are faced with a choice—Jesus or the comforts of this life—which will you choose?

Commitment to Christ means taking up your cross daily, giving up your hopes, dreams, possessions, even your very life if need be for the cause of Christ. Only if you willingly take up your cross may you be called His disciple (Luke 14:27). The reward is worth the price. Jesus followed His call of death to self (“Take up your cross and follow Me”) with the gift of life in Christ: “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:25-26). (Quote source here.)

Therefore, we should expect opposition in this life, and expect it right up until we take our last breath. The joy that Jesus stated that was set before him in Hebrews 12:1-3 was found in Heaven, not here on earth. This life we are living is preparation for the next life. And that’s not often a message we hear today, but it is the reality of what Jesus had to say to those of us who truly follow him.

Faith isn’t found in the things of this world–money, materialism, success, careers, people, appearances, reputations, etc. Those things are all a part of life, but our faith should not be placed in any of  them. It can all too easily vanish and if we have placed our faith in anything but Jesus, we will be crushed under the weight of the loss when it happens. We are to “fix our eyes on Jesus (not money, materialism, success, careers, people, appearances, reputations, etc.) who is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (the NKJV states “author and finisher of our faith”).

Tucked away in Hebrews 11 is a verse often quoted by Christians (stated in the picture at the beginning of this post) that states (Hebrews 11:6):
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
It’s probably a sign of the times we live in here in America that often we think of God’s rewards as being given in the “here and now”–a better job, higher salary, financial prosperity, and any number of “things” we want, but that is not the reward that is spoken of in Hebrews 11:6. That God often and does bless us in this life with good things (and not just materially) is clearly stated throughout the Bible (click here for examples). However, rewards in the context of verse 6 can be understood by looking at the previous verse connected to it (verse 5). Here are those two verses (Hebrews 11:5-6):

By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

The rewards come when our race is done here on this earth. . . .

Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

 “. . . looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith,
who for the joy that was set before Him
endured the cross, despising the shame,
and has sat down at the right hand
of the throne of God.”
~Hebrews 12:2 NKJV

So where do we place our faith?

In who we are, what we do, what we have, or who we know?

Or in Jesus . . . .

YouTube Video: “Revelation Song” by Phillips, Craig & Dean:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

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God Always Has A Purpose

TransformedBack on June 22, 2013, I wrote a blog post titled, The Problem of Evil–Habakkuk Revisited.” It opened with the following paragraph:

Where is God in the midst of injustice, suffering, and evil? That question has echoed down through the ages and is still being asked today by both skeptics and believers alike. The skeptics point to it as some sort of proof that God doesn’t really exist, and the believers ask it because they don’t understand where God is in the midst of great tragedy, injustice, and evil.

We don’t have to look very far to see that evil is exploding all over our world today, especially in the Middle East right now. However, God did not create nor does He sanction evil. In fact, He cannot look on evil nor can He be a part of it. However, it is clear that evil exists. So let’s start off by defining evil. GotQuestions?org defines evil in contrast to good as follows:

Goodness has existed as an attribute of God from all eternity. While God is perfectly holy and just, He is also perfectly good. Just as God has always existed, so too has goodness as it is a facet of God’s holy character. The same cannot be said for evil. Evil came into being with the rebellion of Satan and subsequently entered the physical universe with the fall of Adam. As Christian apologist Greg Koukl has said, “Human freedom was used in such a way as to diminish goodness in the world, and that diminution, that lack of goodness, that is what we call evil.” When God created Adam, He created him good, and He also created him free.

However, in creating Adam free, God indirectly created the possibility of evil, while not creating evil itself. When Adam chose to disobey God, he made this possibility a reality. The same scenario had previously played out when Satan fell by failing to serve and obey God. So it turns out that evil is not a direct creation of God; rather, evil is the result of persons (both angelic and human) exercising their freedom wrongly.

While evil is certainly real, it is important to recognize that evil does not have existence in and of itself. Rather, it only exists as a privation (or a parasite) on the good. It exists in the same way that a wound exists on an arm or as rust exists on a car. The rust cannot exist on its own any more than cold can exist without the existence of heat or darkness can exist without the existence of light.

Despite the horrible effects of evil on our world, the Christian believer can take comfort in the words of the Lord Jesus Christ recorded for us in the Gospel of John, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). More importantly, we look forward with great anticipation to our home in heaven where the ultimate evil, death, will finally be destroyed along with the “mourning, crying and pain” which it inevitably produces (Revelation 21:4). (Quote source and complete explanation available here.)

Dictionary.com defines evil as:

1. morally wrong or bad; immoral; wicked: evil deeds; an evil life.

2. harmful; injurious: evil laws.

3. characterized or accompanied by misfortune or suffering; unfortunate; disastrous: to be fallen on evil days.

4. due to actual or imputed bad conduct or character: an evil reputation.

5. marked by anger, irritability, irascibility, etc.: He is known for his evil disposition.

GoodVsEvilSince God created us with a free will, because of our human nature, we are all capable of doing or being evil to others. While we were created to obey, enjoy and worship God, in our free will we chose not to do so, and it has been handed down to every single generation since Adam and Eve (see Genesis 1-3). Our adversary before us (whom Eve met and succumbed to–as well as Adam did through Eve–in the Garden of Eden) had the same option to obey or disobey God (see How, why, and when did Satan fall from Heaven?” at GotQuestions?org, and for the skeptics among us who laugh as the mention of the mere existence of such a being as Satan, see Does Satan Exist?” also at GotQuestions?org). However, it is not a topic I’ll be addressing on my blog since much has already been written about our adversary and his existence in our world by many others including scholars. The same goes for the topic of “free will” (see answer to the question, Is God sovereign or do we have free will?” at GotQuestions?org).

Suffice to ask this question: “Do we have the option between doing right (e.g., good) and doing wrong (e.g., evil) in thought, word or deed at any give moment in time?”

Answer: Of course we do, and we choose to do one or the other all the time. Evil lurks in all of us.

Before I go further with this topic, let’s read what Hebrews 6:1-12 has to say regarding our ability to understand spiritual matters (which reflects on the choices that we make on a daily basis):

Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so.

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.

Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your case—the things that have to do with salvation. God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

There are too many skeptics among us in the Christian world, let alone the rest of society, regarding deeper spiritual matters that clearly exist and are operating in our world. Too many people in the past several decades have said a quick and easy “Jesus prayer” in the hope of obtaining salvation without thinking anything further will be required of them beyond that point (and too many pastors and teachers nowadays don’t emphasize the need for spiritual maturity). That is not to say that salvation is gained through works (or by anything that we can do on own own). It is a free gift from God through Jesus Christ (see John 3:16-18), and we can do nothing on our own or in our own power to receive it. We must believe by faith in Jesus Christ. However, spiritual maturity and growing as a Christian is a vital part of the Christian life. Unfortunately, maturity in general has taken a hit over the past several decades in our society, not to mention in our relationship with God (for those of us who believe in Him), and it comes from our selfish desires that battle for supremacy within us, as stated in James 4:1-12:

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud
    but shows favor to the humble.”

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?

We have gained a rather flawed concept of what the Christian life is supposed to look like over the past several decades, and do not understand the ultimate purpose of God which has never changed since the beginning of time. He did not create us so that we can ask for and/or acquire all of the material possessions or money we can possibly get our hands on (although you wouldn’t know it by looking at our culture today). Read that passage in James 4:1-12 again (see above) if you think so or even tend to go in that direction. No . . . our selfish desires, greed, and accumulation of stuff is not God’s plan for us. That God gives us good things is one thing, but our cravings for more of them is quite another. And our greed for more of anything is truly evil at it’s very core.

God’s purpose from Genesis 1 through Revelation 22 is this:

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:8-9).

That’s it. It’s not about what we selfishly seek after or want more of that matters. It is about God and the salvation He has provided through Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection from the dead and His free gift of eternal life (see John 3:16-18) that matters. God didn’t send His Son to this earth so that we could have “bigger, better, more, more, more” of anything that we happen to crave. He is not a genie in a lamp to do our will at our whim or bidding because of our own selfish desires. We are here to do His will. And without spiritual maturity, we will never know what His will is for us, and we will keep on seeking after our own selfish desires and what we want while asking God to put His stamp of approval on it.

We often have this inane idea in America that success as a Christian is in the outward accumulation of all that looks good and acts like “success” in our society. And we erroneously think that anyone who doesn’t fit that particular model of success can’t possibly be on the right track. My guess is that John the Baptist (see John 1) wouldn’t have been welcome in many of our churches today neither by his appearance nor in his message. And what about the example of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11 who were wealthy and ended up dead? They were a part of the early church, but their motives were selfish. Our image of “Christianity” today often fits the model of the Pharisees far more then it fits what real, genuine Christianity is all about.

At this juncture, I want to make clear that I am not talking about money or material possessions in and of themselves as there is nothing wrong with either. Rather, it is the greed so many of us in America have allowed to take hold of our lives in striving for the accumulation of more money and material possessions at the expense of our relationship with God and others, and never being satisfied with what we have (see Hebrews 13:5). And that attitude has become pervasive in our culture over the past several decades, and it is diametrically opposed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This life is not about us and what we can get from it at the expense of others and our relationship with God. There is an eternity out there at the end of this life and nobody seems to be paying attention to that very clear fact. We in the Christian community are often striving for the same accolades, accomplishments, money and material possessions as the rest of our society, and we are entirely missing the point.

A.W. Tozer (1897-1963) wrote the following in a devotion found in the book, Tozer on The Almighty God,” compiled by Ron Eggert and published in 2004:

God Always Has A Purpose

God never acts without purpose—never. People act without purpose. I feel that a great deal of what we do in the church today is purposeless. But God never acts without a purpose. Intellect is an attribute of the deity. God has intellect and this means that God thinks; and so God never does anything without an intelligent purpose. Nothing in this world is without meaning.

God put the universe together with a purpose and there isn’t a single useless thing anywhere; not any spare parts; everything fits into everything else. God made it like that. . . .

. . .He created the flowers, for instance, to be beautiful; He created birds to sing; He created the trees to bear fruit and the beasts to feed and clothe mankind. And in so saying, these people affirm what the Holy Scriptures and Moses and the prophets and the apostles and saints since the world began have all said. God made man for a purpose and that purpose is given by the catechism; the answer is, “To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” God made us to be worshipers. That was the purpose of God in bringing us in to the world. (Devotion for November 30).

God is loveGod did not create us so that we could chase after everything that we want in this life. He created us with the same purpose He had in mind when he created our first ancestors, Adam and Eve, and that purpose is “To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” Read that last part again . . . “To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” Unfortunately, just like our first ancestors, we want what we want when we want it, and we really don’t trust God to give us what we need, and that separates us from God.

I’ll end this post with the passage from Hebrews 13:5:

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

“Never will I leave you;
    never will I forsake you.”

We need to start believing it, and not be filled with selfish motives like Ananias and Sapphira who ended up dead because of it. . . .

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones.
~Proverbs 3:5-8

YouTube Video: “God of Wonders” sung by Third Day:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here
Photo #4 credit here

The Paris Terrorist Attack and the Problem of Evil

With the beginning of 2015 only a few days old, the worst terrorist attack in France since 1961 took place on January 7th in Paris at Charlie Hebdo,” a French satirical newspaper, resulting in 12 deaths and at least 14 others wounded in the initial attack (source here). As of this writing (three days later) the two main suspects who were hiding in a print shop and a third suspect as well as an additional four hostages from a kosher grocery store have also died (source here). The story is still ongoing as of this writing. One of the suspects claimed allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS) and another to Al-Qaeda (source here).

An article published on November 18, 2014 in RT.com titled, Global terrorism on rise: Fivefold increase in terror-related deaths since 2000,” opens with this statement:

Almost 18,000 people were killed in terrorist attacks in 2013, a 61 percent increase from the 2012. Four terrorist groups, the Islamic State, Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and Boko Haram were responsible for two thirds of all such deaths around the globe.

Global terrorism is on the rise and there is no denying its impact mixed with both fear and resentment especially in Europe after this latest attack in Paris (see article titled, “‘Dangerous Moment’ for Europe, as Fear and Resentment Grow,” published January 7, 2015, in The New York Times). In the wake of this latest attack, “The U.S. government issued multiple new terror bulletins… in the aftermath of the Paris massacres, urging local police to watch for increased terrorism activity while cautioning American travelers abroad they are at risk of attack or kidnapping” (quote source here). While the problem of terrorism is growing around the world, the problem of evil which is at the core of terrorism has always been around.

An Old Testament prophet, Habakkuk, wrote three short chapters addressing the question most of us ask in times like these: “Where are you, God, in the midst of injustice and suffering?” I wrote a blog post back on June 22, 2013, that addressed this question and I decided to reblog it after this latest terrorist attack in Paris. The original post is at this link and is published again below.

The Problem of Evil–Habakkuk Revisited

the-problem-of-evilWhere is God in the midst of injustice, suffering, and evil? That question has echoed down through the ages and is still being asked today by both skeptics and believers alike. The skeptics point to it as some sort of proof that God doesn’t really exist, and the believers ask it because they don’t understand where God is in the midst of great tragedy, injustice, and evil.

Of the sixteen writing prophets in the Old Testament, there is one who took our side and asked that question of God from our perspective–“Where are you, God, in the midst of injustice and suffering?” His name was Habakkuk and he wrote three chapters that appear in the book with his name on it in the Old Testament. Habakkuk was a contemporary of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zephaniah and prophesied during the final days of the Assyrian Empire and the beginning of Babylonia’s world rulership (source here). Little else is known about him other than what is written in his book.

Most of us (well, the believers among us) can certainly relate to the opening lines in Habakkuk (see below). Habakkuk levels two complaints and the Lord gives His answer each time, and then Habakkuk ends with a prayer. As stated in a study of Habakkuk in Bible.org, he was wrestling with the very issues we wrestle with (in fact, his name means“embrace” or “wrestle”)–“If God is good, then why is there evil in the world? And if there has to be evil, then why do the evil prosper? What is God doing in the world?” (quote source here). The study notes a similar thought in Zephaniah 1:12 coming from the Israelites who thought that “God did not do good or evil. They thought God was not involved and so continued in their sin.” However, “Habakkuk is one of the good guys. He fears God and does what is right, but it is getting him nowhere” (quote source here).

I think most of us (e.g., the believers among us) can definitely relate to that last sentence. I know I sure can. The study in Bible.org continues with a quote from a book on Habakkuk published in 1983 titled, From Worry to Worship, by Warren Wiersbe: “While Habakkuk begins by wondering or worrying about the world around him and God’s seeming indifference, he ends by worshiping God” (p. 8). Habakkuk has a fair amount of fear after God tells him what is going to happen in answer to his first complaint which brings about his second complaint and God’s second answer. The progression of Habakkuk through three chapters takes him from a place of fear, trembling, and complaints to trusting and worshiping God (source here).

With that in mind, let’s read the three chapters in Habakkuk (NIV):

The prophecy that Habakkuk the prophet received.

Habakkuk’s Complaint

How long, Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted.

The Lord’s Answer

“Look at the nations and watch—
and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe,
even if you were told.
I am raising up the Babylonians,
that ruthless and impetuous people,
who sweep across the whole earth
to seize dwellings not their own.
They are a feared and dreaded people;
they are a law to themselves
and promote their own honor.
Their horses are swifter than leopards,
fiercer than wolves at dusk.
Their cavalry gallops headlong;
their horsemen come from afar.
They fly like an eagle swooping to devour;
they all come intent on violence.
Their hordes advance like a desert wind
and gather prisoners like sand.
10 They mock kings and scoff at rulers.
They laugh at all fortified cities;
by building earthen ramps they capture them.
11 Then they sweep past like the wind and go on—
guilty people, whose own strength is their god.”

Habakkuk’s Second Complaint

12 Lord, are you not from everlasting?
My God, my Holy One, you will never die.
You, Lord, have appointed them to execute judgment;
you, my Rock, have ordained them to punish.
13 Your eyes are too pure to look on evil;
you cannot tolerate wrongdoing.
Why then do you tolerate the treacherous?
Why are you silent while the wicked
swallow up those more righteous than themselves?
14 You have made people like the fish in the sea,
like the sea creatures that have no ruler.
15 The wicked foe pulls all of them up with hooks,
he catches them in his net,
he gathers them up in his dragnet;
and so he rejoices and is glad.
16 Therefore he sacrifices to his net
and burns incense to his dragnet,
for by his net he lives in luxury
and enjoys the choicest food.
17 Is he to keep on emptying his net,
destroying nations without mercy?

2 I will stand at my watch
and station myself on the ramparts;
I will look to see what he will say to me,
and what answer I am to give to this complaint.

The Lord’s Answer

Then the Lord replied:

“Write down the revelation
and make it plain on tablets
so that a herald may run with it.
For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
it speaks of the end
and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it;
it will certainly come
and will not delay.

“See, the enemy is puffed up;
his desires are not upright—
but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness—
indeed, wine betrays him;
he is arrogant and never at rest.
Because he is as greedy as the grave
and like death is never satisfied,
he gathers to himself all the nations
and takes captive all the peoples.

“Will not all of them taunt him with ridicule and scorn, saying,

“‘Woe to him who piles up stolen goods
and makes himself wealthy by extortion!
How long must this go on?’
Will not your creditors suddenly arise?
Will they not wake up and make you tremble?
Then you will become their prey.
Because you have plundered many nations,
the peoples who are left will plunder you.
For you have shed human blood;
you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them.

“Woe to him who builds his house by unjust gain,
setting his nest on high
to escape the clutches of ruin!
10 You have plotted the ruin of many peoples,
shaming your own house and forfeiting your life.
11 The stones of the wall will cry out,
and the beams of the woodwork will echo it.

12 “Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed
and establishes a town by injustice!
13 Has not the Lord Almighty determined
that the people’s labor is only fuel for the fire,
that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing?
14 For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory
of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

15 “Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors,
pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk,
so that he can gaze on their naked bodies!
16 You will be filled with shame instead of glory.
Now it is your turn! Drink and let your nakedness be exposed!
The cup from the Lord’s right hand is coming around to you,
and disgrace will cover your glory.
17 The violence you have done to Lebanon will overwhelm you,
and your destruction of animals will terrify you.
For you have shed human blood;
you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them.

18 “Of what value is an idol carved by a craftsman?
Or an image that teaches lies?
For the one who makes it trusts in his own creation;
he makes idols that cannot speak.
19 Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Come to life!’
Or to lifeless stone, ‘Wake up!’
Can it give guidance?
It is covered with gold and silver;
there is no breath in it.”

20 The Lord is in his holy temple;
let all the earth be silent before him.

Habakkuk’s Prayer

3 A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet.

Lord, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.
Repeat them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.

God came from Teman,
the Holy One from Mount Paran.
His glory covered the heavens
and his praise filled the earth.
His splendor was like the sunrise;
rays flashed from his hand,
where his power was hidden.
Plague went before him;
pestilence followed his steps.
He stood, and shook the earth;
he looked, and made the nations tremble.
The ancient mountains crumbled
and the age-old hills collapsed—
but he marches on forever.
I saw the tents of Cushan in distress,
the dwellings of Midian in anguish.

Were you angry with the rivers, Lord?
Was your wrath against the streams?
Did you rage against the sea
when you rode your horses
and your chariots to victory?
You uncovered your bow,
you called for many arrows.
You split the earth with rivers;
10 the mountains saw you and writhed.
Torrents of water swept by;
the deep roared
and lifted its waves on high.

11 Sun and moon stood still in the heavens
at the glint of your flying arrows,
at the lightning of your flashing spear.
12 In wrath you strode through the earth
and in anger you threshed the nations.
13 You came out to deliver your people,
to save your anointed one.
You crushed the leader of the land of wickedness,
you stripped him from head to foot.
14 With his own spear you pierced his head
when his warriors stormed out to scatter us,
gloating as though about to devour
the wretched who were in hiding.
15 You trampled the sea with your horses,
churning the great waters.

16 I heard and my heart pounded,
my lips quivered at the sound;
decay crept into my bones,
and my legs trembled.
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
to come on the nation invading us.
17 Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.

(Source: Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®)

From-Fear-to-FaithIn so many of our church settings today, this is a vision of God that we don’t often hear about. As I read through the words in Habakkuk, I can understand his fear and trembling as it is my same reaction. In fact, with all the talk of “God’s favor” that is so pervasive in many segments of Christianity in our culture, it smacks of a certain “unreality” to what we are used to hearing. In fact, it’s almost like we want to do a double take to make sure we read it right. God is raising up a foreign nation (the Babylonians) to come and destroy Judah? And the Babylonians are really wicked and powerful and no one can stop them? (See Hab. 1:6-11.) While verse 11 indicates that the Babylonians will be held responsible for their wickedness, God is using them to bring about His purposes.

At this point the study on Habakkuk in Bible.org states the following:

Most of us have been praying for the evil in our society hoping for revival. What if God sent the Soviet Union [e.g., Russia] or Saddam Hussein [this study was written before his death] to conquer America, to instill communism or a dictatorship, imprison all Christians, etc. What would you think about that answer? Would you say God didn’t answer your prayer?

This points us to another principle we can learn from Habakkuk. God doesn’t always give us the answers we want or expect. We usually have it in our mind how we want God to answer our prayers. When He does it differently, how do you respond?

[Note: The Soviet Union was dissolved into 16 independent nations on December, 25, 1991 and is now referred to as Russia. Saddam Hussein, who was the President of Iraq from 1979 to 2003, was executed on December 30, 2006.]

This leads to Habakkuk’s second complaint found in Hab. 1:12-2:1. First, he acknowledges that God is everlasting. The study in Bible.org brings up God’s immutability–that God does not change. It states “the fact that God does not change is important because it means God keeps His promises and He has made promises to Israel. Habakkuk knows that God will not totally destroy Israel because of His covenant promises. That is why he says, ‘We will not die’” (quote source here).

Habakkuk also acknowledges that God is too pure to look at evil and that He cannot tolerate wrongdoing, and he asks, “Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?” (v. 13). Yet even though he still doesn’t understand God’s answer, he believes in and places his trust in God.

If you’re like me, at this point we are looking for something positive–anything positive. This is not good news, yet God has His reasons. So after Habakkuk levels his second complaint, the Lord answers (see Hab. 2:2-20). After reading those verses, we discover that the enemy–in this case, the Babylonians–are puffed up, arrogant, greedy, never satisfied, and “gathers to himself all the nations and takes captive all the peoples;” and they are also dishonest, violent, sensual, and full of idolatry. In other words, as the study in Bible.org states, “God’s answer is this: Don’t worry about the Babylonians. They will get theirs, too.” But let’s not overlook a very important portion of verse 4 that is for us (e.g., for those of us who believe) in the midst of all the tragedy, . . . but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness” (e.g., by faith). That is what we (e.g., believers) are called to do in the midst of any circumstances that we find ourselves in whether good, bad, or downright awful.

At the end of the Lord’s answer is this verse (Hab. 2:20): The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.” God is in control. Way too often and most of the time we relegate God to our level of understanding. And in our own effort to understand God, we make Him like us, and that is a very grave error on our part. As Isaiah 55:8-9 states:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
    declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

At the start of Chapter 1 Habakkuk was low and despairing because of the evil all around him, and by the beginning of Chapter 2 he is standing watch, waiting for the Lord’s reply, which is found in Hab. 2:3:

“For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
    it speaks of the end
    and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it;
    it will certainly come
    and will not delay.”

In the rest of Chapter 2 God describes the enemy and the end that will come to that enemy. However, what the Lord had revealed to Habakkuk about the enemy was still to take place in the future, and even though he knew what was coming was going to be awful, he also knew the ultimate end of that enemy. And Chapter 3 opens up with Habakkuk praising and worshiping the Lord with these words (Hab. 3:2):

“Lord, I have heard of your fame;
    I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.
Repeat them in our day,
    in our time make them known;
    in wrath remember mercy.”

As the study in Bible.org concludes, “Habakkuk now understands and offers a prayer of praise because God is in control. He pleads for mercy in the midst of the judgment (Hab. 3:1-2); he praises God’s majesty and power (Hab. 3:3-15); and he promises to wait on the Lord (Hab. 3:16-19)(quote source here).

While none of us knows what the future holds, like Habakkuk, we know Who holds the future. While injustice and evil abound all around us, that is not the end of the story. Not by a long shot, folks. And that’s the message of Habakkuk, going from fear to faith and worshiping God for who He is (through Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord). And if we truly know and believe in Him, we know the ultimate end of the enemy . . .

And we know that in the end . . .

God wins . . . .

YouTube Video: “God’s Not Dead” by the Newsboys:

Photo #1 credit here (Peter Dejong @Associated Press)
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here

Divine Perspective

Plane View New York CitySometimes when a trial (like long-term unemployment) never seems to end, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that there is a “bigger picture” going on “out there” in God’s economy beyond our own little world. James 1 does tell us that our trials come to test our faith (and there’s no set time limit on any particular trial) which–if we allow it to–produces perseverance. And verse 4 states: “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” However, there is a much larger picture going on in this world and our own personal trials do not just have an effect on us, although many times it may seem like it. In the broader picture, everything in God’s economy is wrapped up in this one verse, 2 Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” And that promise encompasses the entire world.

Four years ago this month I created this blog as an attempt to put into words what it’s like to be long-term unemployed. Of course, at that time I had been unemployed for one year and three months which seemed to me to be Way. Too. Long. In fact, after nine months of sporadic blogging accompanied by a whole lot of frustration at still being unemployed, I gave up on blogging and just wanted to FIND. A. JOB. . . .

Three months later (and now three years ago) I fired this blog back up in July 2011 at which point I had been unemployed for two years and three months. And it just took off from that point . . . and I mean like the wind. This month (July 2014) I’m celebrating four years of blogging on WordPress.com even though those first nine months are lost forever in cyberspace and there was a three-month cooling off period before I started again. Oh, and did I mention that the length of unemployment has now (to date) skyrocketed to five years and three months . . . Sigh . . . .

Who knew? I sure didn’t. However, over the course of these past five plus years living in the land of the unemployed, my view on life has considerably widened. There is something about the daily routine of work and other responsibilities that gets in the way of really “seeing” our world and it stunts our reality. Albert Einstein once stated, “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one” (quote source here), and that may be somewhat true in our own small world on how we perceive our own set of circumstances. However, on a broader scale, it simply isn’t true. For example, 9/11 wasn’t “merely an illusion.” Neither were the Nazi Germany death camps that killed more than six million Jewish people and many others during World War II.

This evening I ran across a short devotional in Our Daily Bread that doesn’t actually show up until later in the month (sometimes I have a tendency to peek ahead). It’s titled, Divine Perspective,” written by Poh Fang Chia, and she mentions a devotional passage found in Habakkuk 2:2-14. Here’s what she wrote:

Divine Perspective

For the revelation awaits
an appointed time;
it speaks of the end
and will not prove false.

Though it linger, wait for it,
i
t will certainly come
and will not delay.
~Habakkuk 2:3

Jason took a trip to New York during spring break. One afternoon he and some friends piled into a cab and headed for the Empire State Building. To Jason, the ride on the ground seemed chaotic and dangerous. But when he got to the observation deck of the skyscraper and looked down on the city streets, to his amazement he saw order and design. What a difference a change in perspective made!

Habakkuk learned a similar lesson. When he looked at life from his earthly vantage point, it seemed that God was indifferent to the evil permeating society (Hab. 1:2-4). But God gave him a divine perspective and showed him that life is more than what it seems. The deeds of men cannot thwart the purposes of God (Hab. 2:3).

Those who don’t show any regard for God may seem to prosper at the moment, but God will ultimately right all wrong. God acts sovereignly in all that comes to pass so that everything works toward His good purpose. God’s plan will surely take place and be on schedule (v. 3).

We can’t sort out the whole picture from where we are in life; only God can. So let us continue to live by faith and not by sight. From His perspective, all things are working together for the believer’s good and for His honor.

Sovereign Ruler of the skies,
Ever gracious, ever wise,
All my times are in Your hand,
All events at Your command. ~Ryland

Our times are in God’s hands;
our souls are in His keeping.

Live by Faith - HabakkukNow I don’t know about you, but “the ride on the ground” over these past five plus years of mine are much as Jason described above–chaotic and sometimes even dangerous. And I haven’t yet had the opportunity to see my total situation from a bird’s eye view looking down on it as an outsider might view it (e.g., the broader picture that is really taking place). However, in Jason’s situation, he was able to get out of the chaos and onto the observation deck high above it where he could look down and see that there was actually order and design to what he had just experienced. In other words, he saw a much larger picture and the chaos he personally experienced was just a tiny part of it.

As the author stated above, “Habakkuk learned a similar lesson. When he looked at life from his earthly vantage point, it seemed that God was indifferent to the evil permeating society (Hab. 1:2-4). But God gave him a divine perspective and showed him that life is more than what it seems. The deeds of men cannot thwart the purposes of God” (Hab. 2:3).

A year ago in June I wrote a blog post on Habakkuk that included all three chapters in the Old Testament book named after him. The blog post is titled, The Problem of Evil–Habakkuk Revisited (available at this link). Habakkuk could see the evil all around him and wondered, just like the rest of us do today, where God was in the midst of all that evil and asking God when justice would finally show up. And God responded by telling him there was something much bigger going on and that it was “awaiting an appointed time” (Hab. 2:3).

As stated in my previous post, in the rest of Chapter 2 God describes the enemy and the end that will come to that enemy. However, what the Lord had revealed to Habakkuk about the enemy was still to take place in the future, and even though he knew what was coming was going to be awful (see Chapter 2 for details), he also knew the ultimate end of that enemy. And Chapter 3 opens up with Habakkuk praising and worshiping the Lord with these words (Hab. 3:2):

“Lord, I have heard of your fame;
    I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.
Repeat them in our day,
    in our time make them known;
    in wrath remember mercy.”

This brings us back to the subject of our own personal trials. We can’t see the overall picture as we are too close to it, yet God has a much bigger picture in mind that goes way beyond what we are experiencing. Of course, sometimes, just like Habakkuk experienced after God explained to him what was going to happen “at an appointed time,” the answer is disconcerting but ends with the demise of the enemy. We, as believers, are told in Hab. 2:4, See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright—but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness.” There’s that word again–faith–which brings us back to the reason trials enter our lives in the first place–to test that faith and produce perseverance (see James 1).

The same theme is found in Hebrews 10:36-39:

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For,

“In just a little while,
    he who is coming will come
    and will not delay.”

And,

“But my righteous one will live by faith.
    And I take no pleasure
    in the one who shrinks back.”

But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

We are to live by faith, and trust God for the outcome. And in living by faith we, like Habakkuk at the beginning of Chapter 3, end up praising and worshiping God for who he is, because He is ultimately in control all the time.

While we may only see the chaos . . .

That’s not the whole picture . . . .

For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
    it speaks of the end
    and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it;
    it will certainly come
    and will not delay. ~Habakkuk 2:3

YouTube Video: “Let God Be God” (2009) by Phillips, Craig & Dean:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

The Problem of Evil–Habakkuk Revisited

the-problem-of-evilWhere is God in the midst of injustice, suffering, and evil? That question has echoed down through the ages and is still being asked today by both skeptics and believers alike. The skeptics point to it as some sort of proof that God doesn’t really exist, and the believers ask it because they don’t understand where God is in the midst of great tragedy, injustice, and evil.

Of the sixteen writing prophets in the Old Testament, there is one who took our side and asked that question of God from our perspective–“Where are you, God, in the midst of injustice and suffering?” His name was Habakkuk and he wrote three chapters that appear in the book with his name on it in the Old Testament. Habakkuk was a contemporary of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zephaniah and prophesied during the final days of the Assyrian Empire and the beginning of Babylonia’s world rulership (source here). Little else is known about him other than what is written in his book.

Most of us (well, the believers among us) can certainly relate to the opening lines in Habakkuk (see below). Habakkuk levels two complaints and the Lord gives His answer each time, and then Habakkuk ends with a prayer. As stated in a study of Habakkuk in Bible.org, he was wrestling with the very issues we wrestle with (in fact, his name means “embrace” or “wrestle”)–“If God is good, then why is there evil in the world? And if there has to be evil, then why do the evil prosper? What is God doing in the world?” (quote source here). The study notes a similar thought in Zephaniah 1:12 coming from the Israelites who thought that “God did not do good or evil. They thought God was not involved and so continued in their sin.” However, “Habakkuk is one of the good guys. He fears God and does what is right, but it is getting him nowhere” (quote source here).

I think most of us (e.g., the believers among us) can definitely relate to that last sentence. I know I sure can. The study in Bible.org continues with a quote from a book on Habakkuk published in 1983 titled, From Worry to Worship, by Warren Wiersbe: “While Habakkuk begins by wondering or worrying about the world around him and God’s seeming indifference, he ends by worshipping God” (p. 8). Habakkuk has a fair amount of fear after God tells him what is going to happen in answer to his first complaint which brings about his second complaint and God’s second answer. The progression of Habakkuk through three chapters takes him from a place of fear, trembling, and complaints to trusting and worshiping God (source here).

With that in mind, let’s read the three chapters in Habakkuk (NIV):

The prophecy that Habakkuk the prophet received.

Habakkuk’s Complaint

How long, Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted.

The Lord’s Answer

“Look at the nations and watch—
and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe,
even if you were told.
I am raising up the Babylonians,
that ruthless and impetuous people,
who sweep across the whole earth
to seize dwellings not their own.
They are a feared and dreaded people;
they are a law to themselves
and promote their own honor.
Their horses are swifter than leopards,
fiercer than wolves at dusk.
Their cavalry gallops headlong;
their horsemen come from afar.
They fly like an eagle swooping to devour;
they all come intent on violence.
Their hordes advance like a desert wind
and gather prisoners like sand.
10 They mock kings and scoff at rulers.
They laugh at all fortified cities;
by building earthen ramps they capture them.
11 Then they sweep past like the wind and go on—
guilty people, whose own strength is their god.”

Habakkuk’s Second Complaint

12 Lord, are you not from everlasting?
My God, my Holy One, you will never die.
You, Lord, have appointed them to execute judgment;
you, my Rock, have ordained them to punish.
13 Your eyes are too pure to look on evil;
you cannot tolerate wrongdoing.
Why then do you tolerate the treacherous?
Why are you silent while the wicked
swallow up those more righteous than themselves?
14 You have made people like the fish in the sea,
like the sea creatures that have no ruler.
15 The wicked foe pulls all of them up with hooks,
he catches them in his net,
he gathers them up in his dragnet;
and so he rejoices and is glad.
16 Therefore he sacrifices to his net
and burns incense to his dragnet,
for by his net he lives in luxury
and enjoys the choicest food.
17 Is he to keep on emptying his net,
destroying nations without mercy?

2 I will stand at my watch
and station myself on the ramparts;
I will look to see what he will say to me,
and what answer I am to give to this complaint.

The Lord’s Answer

Then the Lord replied:

“Write down the revelation
and make it plain on tablets
so that a herald may run with it.
For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
it speaks of the end
and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it;
it will certainly come
and will not delay.

“See, the enemy is puffed up;
his desires are not upright—
but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness—
indeed, wine betrays him;
he is arrogant and never at rest.
Because he is as greedy as the grave
and like death is never satisfied,
he gathers to himself all the nations
and takes captive all the peoples.

“Will not all of them taunt him with ridicule and scorn, saying,

“‘Woe to him who piles up stolen goods
and makes himself wealthy by extortion!
How long must this go on?’
Will not your creditors suddenly arise?
Will they not wake up and make you tremble?
Then you will become their prey.
Because you have plundered many nations,
the peoples who are left will plunder you.
For you have shed human blood;
you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them.

“Woe to him who builds his house by unjust gain,
setting his nest on high
to escape the clutches of ruin!
10 You have plotted the ruin of many peoples,
shaming your own house and forfeiting your life.
11 The stones of the wall will cry out,
and the beams of the woodwork will echo it.

12 “Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed
and establishes a town by injustice!
13 Has not the Lord Almighty determined
that the people’s labor is only fuel for the fire,
that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing?
14 For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory
of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

15 “Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors,
pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk,
so that he can gaze on their naked bodies!
16 You will be filled with shame instead of glory.
Now it is your turn! Drink and let your nakedness be exposed!
The cup from the Lord’s right hand is coming around to you,
and disgrace will cover your glory.
17 The violence you have done to Lebanon will overwhelm you,
and your destruction of animals will terrify you.
For you have shed human blood;
you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them.

18 “Of what value is an idol carved by a craftsman?
Or an image that teaches lies?
For the one who makes it trusts in his own creation;
he makes idols that cannot speak.
19 Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Come to life!’
Or to lifeless stone, ‘Wake up!’
Can it give guidance?
It is covered with gold and silver;
there is no breath in it.”

20 The Lord is in his holy temple;
let all the earth be silent before him.

Habakkuk’s Prayer

3 A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet.

Lord, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.
Repeat them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.

God came from Teman,
the Holy One from Mount Paran.
His glory covered the heavens
and his praise filled the earth.
His splendor was like the sunrise;
rays flashed from his hand,
where his power was hidden.
Plague went before him;
pestilence followed his steps.
He stood, and shook the earth;
he looked, and made the nations tremble.
The ancient mountains crumbled
and the age-old hills collapsed—
but he marches on forever.
I saw the tents of Cushan in distress,
the dwellings of Midian in anguish.

Were you angry with the rivers, Lord?
Was your wrath against the streams?
Did you rage against the sea
when you rode your horses
and your chariots to victory?
You uncovered your bow,
you called for many arrows.
You split the earth with rivers;
10 the mountains saw you and writhed.
Torrents of water swept by;
the deep roared
and lifted its waves on high.

11 Sun and moon stood still in the heavens
at the glint of your flying arrows,
at the lightning of your flashing spear.
12 In wrath you strode through the earth
and in anger you threshed the nations.
13 You came out to deliver your people,
to save your anointed one.
You crushed the leader of the land of wickedness,
you stripped him from head to foot.
14 With his own spear you pierced his head
when his warriors stormed out to scatter us,
gloating as though about to devour
the wretched who were in hiding.
15 You trampled the sea with your horses,
churning the great waters.

16 I heard and my heart pounded,
my lips quivered at the sound;
decay crept into my bones,
and my legs trembled.
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
to come on the nation invading us.
17 Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.

(Source: Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®)

From-Fear-to-FaithIn so many of our church settings today, this is a vision of God that we don’t often hear about. As I read through the words in Habakkuk, I can understand his fear and trembling as it is my same reaction. In fact, with all the talk of “God’s favor” that is so pervasive in many segments of Christianity in our culture, it smacks of a certain “unreality” to what we are used to hearing. In fact, it’s almost like we want to do a “double take” to make sure we read it right. God is raising up a foreign nation (the Babylonians) to come and destroy Judah? And the Babylonians are really wicked and powerful and no one can stop them? (See Hab. 1:6-11.) While verse 11 indicates that the Babylonians will be held responsible for their wickedness, God is using them to bring about His purposes.

At this point the study on Habakkuk in Bible.org states the following:

Most of us have been praying for the evil in our society hoping for revival. What if God sent the Soviet Union [e.g., Russia] or Saddam Hussein [this study was written before his death] to conquer America, to instill communism or a dictatorship, imprison all Christians, etc. What would you think about that answer? Would you say God didn’t answer your prayer?

This points us to another principle we can learn from Habakkuk. God doesn’t always give us the answers we want or expect. We usually have it in our mind how we want God to answer our prayers. When He does it differently, how do you respond?

[Note: The Soviet Union was dissolved into 16 independent nations on December, 25, 1991 and is now referred to as Russia. Saddam Hussein, who was the President of Iraq from 1979 to 2003, was executed on December 30, 2006.]

This leads to Habakkuk’s second complaint found in Hab. 1:12-2:1. First, he acknowledges that God is everlasting. The study in Bible.org brings up God’s immutability–that God does not change. It states “the fact that God does not change is important because it means God keeps His promises and He has made promises to Israel. Habakkuk knows that God will not totally destroy Israel because of His covenant promises. That is why he says, ‘We will not die'” (quote source here).

Habakkuk also acknowledges that God is too pure to look at evil and that He cannot tolerate wrongdoing, and he asks, “Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?” (v. 13). Yet even though he still doesn’t understand God’s answer, he believes in and places his trust in God.

If you’re like me, at this point we are looking for something positive–anything positive. This is not good news, yet God has His reasons. So after Habakkuk levels his second complaint, the Lord answers (see Hab. 2:2-20). After reading those verses, we discover that the enemy–in this case, the Babylonians–are puffed up, arrogant, greedy, never satisfied, and “gathers to himself all the nations and takes captive all the peoples;” dishonest, violent, sensual, and full of idolatry. In other words, as the study in Bible.org states, “God’s answer is this: Don’t worry about the Babylonians. They will get theirs, too.” But let’s not overlook a very important portion of verse 4 that is for us (e.g., those of us who believe) in the midst of all the tragedy, “. . . but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness” (e.g., by faith). That is what we (e.g., believers) are called to do in the midst of any circumstances that we find ourselves in whether good, bad, or downright awful.

At the end of the Lord’s answer is this verse (Hab. 2:20): “The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.” God is in control. Way too often and most of the time we relegate God to our level of understanding. And in our own effort to understand God, we make Him like us, and that is a very grave error on our part. As Isaiah 55:8-9 states:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
    declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

At the start of Chapter 1 Habakkuk was low and despairing because of the evil all around him, and by the beginning of Chapter 2 he is standing watch, waiting for the Lord’s reply, which is found in Hab. 2:3:

“For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
    it speaks of the end
    and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it;
    it will certainly come
    and will not delay.”

In the rest of Chapter 2 God describes the enemy and the end that will come to that enemy. However, what the Lord had revealed to Habakkuk about the enemy was still to take place in the future, and even though he knew what was coming was going to be awful, he also knew the ultimate end of that enemy. And Chapter 3 opens up with Habakkuk praising and worshiping the Lord with these words (Hab. 3:2):

“Lord, I have heard of your fame;
    I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.
Repeat them in our day,
    in our time make them known;
    in wrath remember mercy.”

As the study in Bible.org concludes, “Habakkuk now understands and offers a prayer of praise because God is in control. He pleads for mercy in the midst of the judgment (Hab. 3:1-2); he praises God’s majesty and power (Hab. 3:3-15); and he promises to wait on the Lord (Hab. 3:16-19)(quote source here).

While none of us knows what the future holds, like Habakkuk, we know Who holds the future. While injustice and evil abound all around us, that is not the end of the story. Not by a long shot, folks. And that’s the message of Habakkuk, going from fear to faith and worshiping God for who He is (through Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord). And if we truly know and believe in Him, we know the ultimate end of the enemy, and we know that in the end . . .

God wins . . . .

YouTube Video: “Through the Fire” by the Crabb Family:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

 

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