Absent

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Does evil exist?

The university professor challenged his students with this question. Did God create everything that exists? A student bravely replied, “Yes, he did!”

“God created everything? The professor asked.

“Yes sir”, the student replied.

The professor answered, “If God created everything, then God created evil since evil exists, and according to the principle that our works define who we are then God is evil”. The student became quiet before such an answer. The professor was quite pleased with himself and boasted to the students that he had proven once more that the Christian faith was a myth.

Another student raised his hand and said, “Can I ask you a question professor?”

“Of course”, replied the professor.

The student stood up and asked, “Professor, does cold exist?”

“What kind of question is this? Of course, it exists. Have you never been cold?” The students snickered at the young man’s question.

The young man replied, “In fact sir, cold does not exist. According to the laws of physics, what we consider cold is, in reality, the absence of heat. Everybody or object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits energy, and heat is what makes a body or matter have or transmit energy. Absolute zero (-460 degrees F) is the total absence of heat; all matter becomes inert and incapable of reaction at that temperature. Cold does not exist. We have created this word to describe how we feel if we have no heat.”

The student continued, “Professor, does darkness exist?”

The professor responded, “Of course it does.”

The student replied, “Once again you are wrong sir, darkness does not exist either. Darkness is, in reality, the absence of light. Light we can study, but not darkness. In fact, we can use Newton’s prism to break white light into many colors and study the various wavelengths of each color. You cannot measure darkness. A simple ray of light can break into a world of darkness and illuminate it. How can you know how dark a certain space is? You measure the amount of light present. Isn’t this correct? Darkness is a term used by man to describe what happens when there is no light present.”

Finally, the young man asked the professor, “Sir, does evil exist?”

Now uncertain, the professor responded, “Of course as I have already said. We see it every day. It is in the daily example of man’s inhumanity to man. It is in the multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world. These manifestations are nothing else but evil.”

To this, the student replied, “Evil does not exist sir, or at least it does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is not like faith or love that exist just as does light and heat. Evil is the result of what happens when a man does not have God’s love present in his heart. It’s like the cold that comes when there is no heat or the darkness that comes when there is no light.”

The professor sat down.

God cannot be both good and evil any more than I can fully occupy two rooms at once. He is either one or the other, but rest assured, because goodness exists He is the source of that goodness. Darkness can’t create light, or the cold create heat, so it is the same to say that evil cannot create good, of any kind.

The sun stands as an amazing symbol of our dependency on God. This world relies on its existence for multiple reasons. Without the sun plants wouldn’t grow, the world would become as cold as space, and there would be no light. We would lose orbit, as would every other planet in our solar system, being flung out into space. Our idea of darkness, in other words, our “night”, would take on an entirely new depth. The sun is always reflecting it’s light off of our moon and the surrounding planets, without the sun those lights would blink out, and all we would see are very distant stars, from solar systems we would never reach. In a matter of weeks, our atmosphere would freeze and collapse, ending all hope that our planet could ever be salvaged.

It’s a terrifying thought, and yet, it puts things in perspective. Just as we depend on the sun, we depend on God, and not just on the deity of God, but on a good God. On a present God who concerns Himself with us, mere humans, and loves us enough to keep this world spinning, light shining, heat radiating, and goodness flowing.

There is an episode of Star Trek that comes to mind, Captain Kirk and his crew accidentally find themselves in a mirror universe, switching places with their mirror selves, who are practically opposites in every way. The mirror universe is barbaric and hostile, and it doesn’t take long for Mr. Spock (normal universe) to notice something is wrong, while in the mirror universe, Kirk is able to blend in. Mirror Spock finds it more difficult to uncover the truth. At the end of the episode, they discuss this difference leading to this thought-provoking quote:

“It was far easier for you as civilized men to behave like barbarians than it was for them as barbarians to behave like civilized men.” –Spock (Mirror, Mirror)

Evil cannot create goodness. God cannot deny Himself and create evil, which is merely His absence. And yet man has a choice in the matter. Though made in God’s image, we have been given free will, and the ability to turn from God. We are more than capable of being good (by our standards), or evil. Even serial killers can blend into society, and many of us wouldn’t know it if one sat beside us on the city bus. Very much like the phrase, “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” This is the big dilemma as well as the big hope, that we can choose goodness and love, that inwardly we long for it. And the dilemma is that even whilst we desire love, we can still do evil deeds.

We needed a Savior, a connection to God. You see, even without our sun, our planet’s core would still put out some heat, but it would not be substantial, and we would struggle to draw it out. Eventually, as our planets were flung from orbit and we lost gravity, the core would grow cold. A core that today is as hot as the sun’s surface.

What I’m getting at is just like the earth apart from the sun could struggle on awhile, without it’s connection to the main source of heat and light, it would eventually die. In the Old Testament, we struggled to become pure, to be good. And it wasn’t enough, because we weren’t connected to the source of goodness. Then Jesus came and re-established that link, now with the Holy Spirit we can have salvation, we can be righteous, and can even be vessel’s for God to work through in power and might.

It is time we distinguish what God is and what He is not. It is time we stop attributing the sins of this world as either act of God or the absence of God. All that matters in this life are that we draw closer to Him, that we know who He is. I heard a song the other day that said, “it’s not what you have but what you believe,” that matters in the end. So many people believe that they know better than God, that they somehow have created good for themselves that exceeds God’s goodness. How foolish can we be? The only reason we are able to love at all is because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

I depend on a Good God.

I depend on a present God.

I depend on God.

So Will I

This song has really touched me recently, the lyrics are a beautiful representation of God’s great and reckless love for us. A perfect song to set our hearts and minds on Easter. I hope it blesses you as much as it has me.

God, at the heart of it all, pursuing you is all that matters. Not our careers, who we know, our wealth, our gifts, our service, or even the legacies we leave behind. Our lives are yours and our destinies all point to you.

Changing Tides

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“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”

-Leo Tolstoy

It is strange, looking back on our past selves. At times it can feel like you are reading someone else’s story. Lately, God has been growing and giving me a new perspective on life. A greater appreciation for the work He has done so far that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I don’t miss the old me, in fact, today, I would say that I am more “me” than I’ve ever been. What I mean is that God is restoring me to the image He first had in mind when I was created. Just as creation groans in longing to be restored, so do we.

Life has a way of pulling us away from the things we want most. We divvy up our time between family, work, church, and kids and forget that all of these areas can’t really be helped unless we first make time for God. He is why we are here, it’s all by Him and for Him. As I looked out over the ocean just a few short weeks ago, I was reminded of how small my problems really are, and that this world continues on, seemingly unaware of my personal woes. These waves won’t stop on my command or churn in response to my emotions. And why would I want them to? There is nothing more peaceful, more freeing than knowing God holds it all, these waves, my woes, and time itself…in the palm of His capable hands.

Do you know that you don’t have to fight your battles alone? Do you know that those heavy burdens you’ve been carrying can be laid at His feet? Cast your cares on Him for He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). Let the God of the universe fight for you, shield you, comfort you, and love you. Many pretend that God doesn’t exist, that He doesn’t care about mankind or it’s problems. If that were true, why create us at all? He doesn’t need our worship, He doesn’t need broken servants to carry out religious rituals…we exist because He wanted us to exist. Think about it, we exist because His love can’t be contained. God, on His mighty throne, looked around and saw that heaven wasn’t perfect because it was missing you…

We cannot overestimate His love enough, and that is where people try to limit Him the most. God would rather you doubt His ability than His willingness. God is mighty, God is all-powerful and omnipresent, but at the core of His being, God is first and foremost LOVE. And I am starting to uncover more of that love, that calls forth my true identity. His love washes away the dirt and grim and uncovers the gold every time.

These tides are changing, the question is, are you willing to change with them? Will you let His waves of grace carry you deeper and farther from the shore of your comfort zones, into His presence? Will you surrender your life to Him, trusting that His strength is enough to keep your head above the crashing waves? Is He truly, your anchor in the storm?

I have a long journey ahead of me, full of challenges. Life can only get harder from here..and yet, looking back…I find that I do not wish to return to what once was or to remain where I am now. I’ve tasted and seen and now I can’t go back to not knowing, I can’t return to a life of emptiness. He is worth it all, He is worth giving my life for…God, I just want more of you, please take me there…

 

 

The Truth of Salvation

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“It is our privilege to know that we are saved.” 

-Dwight L. Moody

In a classroom full of kids who have grown up in Christian homes, it isn’t uncommon to see confusion on their faces when asked how they know (without a doubt) that they are saved. During a summer church reading program, I asked the children how they are saved, expecting to hear, “because of Jesus”, instead they all replied, “through being good.” I am saddened by this response, recognizing full well what that kind of thinking can do to a person. How can you truly earn forgiveness? What could we ever do to fully earn something so out of our reach? That is why Jesus made it clear that it is solely a “gift” to be received, while death is all that we can and have fully earned (Romans 6:23).

The confusion doesn’t start with the children, who really just mirror the confusion of the parents on the matter. Many Christians today find this a debatable topic, and how dangerous it is to be divided on this important of an issue. Our beliefs must be clear in order for those who were lost to really know when they have received salvation. Entrance into heaven isn’t based on some lottery ticket draw, leaving all to question if they will get lucky or not.

I believe the religious spirit has made such matters superficial with no depth. They recite God’s Word out of ritual only and yet believe that they must reach a standard worthy of acceptance or forgiveness from God. As if Jesus’s death was only the beginning and not the answer, the end of all such debates. And so, how do we know we are saved? What is the defining factor that divides the saved from the lost?

It’s all about the heart, as God explained to Samuel:

“…The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

We see this throughout the scriptures, as these examples further show:

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8)

The verse from Proverbs sums it up for me, our actions are the direct result of what’s in our hearts. Therefore, simply saying “yes” to Jesus at a church service should be followed by an outward “change” in our actions. Actions will either prove or disprove the truth behind our words. And so I really believe it’s as simple as that, a saved person’s life is a transformed life.  Are they perfect? No. Do they still sin? Yes, but their sin is followed by a conviction of the Holy Spirit within them and true repentance which should lead to freedom. In other words, what they did and how they felt about sin before they were saved should be different after, if they truly gave themselves to God and allowed Him to enter their hearts. Hence the phrase, “the old man has died and the new man has been born.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

A saved soul should be different than an unsaved one, but remember, only God can truly see the heart of an individual, therefore, salvation is a personal matter, that each believer in Christ should know for themselves as surely as they know their own hearts. It is not a matter we can speak of for others whose inner hearts are known only by themselves and God. Though, if one were to ask for advice they need only look toward their actions and character to determine truth.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)

And here it is, the answer plain as day. Proving that the HEART must declare with the mouth that Jesus is Lord.

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” (Romans 10:9-10) 

If forgiveness of all sin is for the believer to receive? What does the Bible mean by saying there is an unforgivable sin? Doesn’t that put into question whether one is really saved?

I’ve heard Christians say, based off of this verse, that God hates some sin more than others. That there are some things that go beyond Jesus’s sacrifice to wash clean. So let’s look at the verse in question.

“Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. “Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.”‘ (Matthew 12:31-32)

This verse took place directly after Jesus’s miracles of casting out demons was ascribed by the Pharisees as works of demons rather than the works of the Son of God. Keep in mind, this was blasphemy against the Son, as the Holy Spirit had yet to come down. The unforgivable sin is referring to those who resist the convicting power of the Holy Spirit and falsely attribute works of the devil to Him, which is a willful act of defiance against the truth. As Hebrews 10:26-27 states:

“For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES.”

To willfully reject God, even whilst knowing in your heart what is Truth (by the Holy Spirit). Which translates to denying salvation up to death. In doing this, you freely chose self over God, death over life, wickedness over righteousness, the wages over the gift, and eternal hell over eternal heaven.

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)

And so never fear, as a child of God, that you have committed the unforgivable sin
because a true Christian would never commit it. If a proclaimed Christian were to commit such a crime than the problem really is that he was never saved to begin with. This also shuts down the debate that one can “lose” their salvation once they have acquired it. A true Christian is one who has encountered the transforming love of God.
It would be like Paul going back to persecuting Christians after his road to Damascus experience. That just doesn’t happen because once the Holy Spirit has entered your heart, nothing else can. Demons can not possess you and they can not truly influence you without you relinquishing your authority over to them.
Jesus’s gift is freely given for all, but not forced upon anyone. Our free will is the deciding factor. And that’s the truth of Salvation.

The Patient Lion

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Aaron and I have returned from our anniversary trip to Fort Myers, Florida. And this whole week I’ve struggled to readjust to freezing Ohio weather. A small taste of hot weather has made me grow impatient for summer! I mean only a few days ago I was on a beach getting sunburnt and now I’m here with a coat, gloves, hat, and boots shivering. It amazed me still that this complete temporal change could occur in only a two-hour flight.

While we were away, our massive dog, Kota was cared for and thoroughly spoiled by my parents. Now that I am home, she has demanded treats and has howled for extra attention. Just this morning, Kota was acting strange and wouldn’t leave me in peace, until I realized that her new toy was stuck under the couch. After retrieving it for her she became her normal less frenzied impatient self. Though her complete shift in character gave me something to think about.

As Christians we are called to be patient, in fact, it’s a virtue. But often, especially in America, patience is considered more of a gift or a skill than a commonality. Working with children has taught me patience, and having patience towards others is directly rooted in love as 1 Corinthians 13 states first, “love is patient…” Combine that with God being the very definition of love (1 John 4:8), and you will discover that God is patient.

Is patience only a righteous attribute?

Watching movies, particularly hero movies, I’ve discovered that the most dangerous villains often had spent years making the perfect plan, all the while the hero was unaware until almost too late, what the villain was scheming. A great deal of patience went into their master plan, bidding their time until the right moment to strike.

Satan is our sole villain and you can bet that his plans are just as crafty and thought out. He isn’t dumb, God didn’t create him that way. He was a high-rank angel, gifted in many ways, and when he was cast from heaven he didn’t go alone but had somehow influenced one-third of the angels to fall with him. And now, he has studied mankind and knows just how to snag us. His attacks are calculated, sometimes they are even subtle. A few small lies here, a few twisted words there, and after a while, all those mini lies end up closing up around you like the many tiny threads of a spider web, entrapping you in a slew of deception.

It’s the subtlety that can kill. There are many organisms or bacteria that can attack the body quite severely before a person is even aware of what has happened. And so what do we do to combat such tactics?

When you watch a predator stalking its prey there are two things warring against each other, it’s only a matter of what will cave first, either the prey’s defense will falter or the predator’s patience will run out. I guess you could say that it’s patience against patience because the first to move usually starts the attack. For example, if you break eye contact with a stalking tiger it will pounce, and if a lion takes a hurried step to soon the gazelle will hear it and take off.

To combat any calculated enemy you must first know how they attack. Just as satan has studied us we can easily study him in return. Second, we should be equipped at all times on how to defend ourselves and immediately stop satan in his tracks. Reading God’s Word, meditating on it as well as worshipping God and praying. Even seeking discernment wouldn’t hurt, though I believe that gift develops through first seeking God and building your relationship with Him.

Wear God’s armor at all times, and never let yourself become lazy or passive. It says that satan is a roaring lion seeking who he can devour. Be ever vigilant and take heart, satan stands defeated, we hold the authority as we patiently await the coming of Christ.

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”

-1 Peter 5:9

The Flame

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With each heartbeat, and breath intake

The flame did grow and dance

Reflecting in her brilliant eyes

Cascading light within a glance

 

The fire burned into the night

It’s eternal blaze unaltered

And in the light of its great warmth

Two souls did sleep unbothered

 

Oh how the years did seem to fly

So much had gone and passed

But the flame still burned so very bright

And swayed the lover’s dance

 

It’s golden light still illuminates

The dark and dusty room

Where two souls once embraced

Below a cold and winter moon

 

The flame you see is but a symbol

An embodiment of the heart

Come to life the moment when

True love finds it’s start

 

Is your flame of passion lit?

If so, how does it burn?

To find a love as true as theirs

Let’s hope it’s now our turn.