Thursday, June 17, 2010

Understanding Why There is Evil and Suffering

One time, while a few of us were doing spiritual surveys near the National Theater here in Bucharest, I had an interesting experience with a young lady in her late teens or early 20's. When I asked her if she believed in God she said "no!".  I asked her why and she told me that her father had died two months before and since God didn't save him she didn't believe He existed. 

I could see she was in a lot of pain and angry, my heart grieved for her. I know what it is like to lose a parent to death. It feels like they are wrongly ripped away from you. Why does it feel like that? I think because God has put eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Because of this we sense in our hearts that death is not the way it was suppose to be. You see this same thing play out with Jesus as well in John 11:28-37. He knew that he was going to bring Lazarus back to life but when he saw the impact his death had on his family and friends Jesus wept. He knew it was never the Father's desire for death to enter the picture. Death was not the way it was suppose to be!

Why did a good God allow evil and suffering? That is one of the most common questions people have about God. A lot of people reject the idea of God because of all the evil and suffering they see. But what is ironic is the fact that without God there is no such thing as evil and suffering. No right or wrong. What is, just is and nothing more. The idea of justice and morality can only exist if there is a God. Anything else is just an illusion.

Do you wonder why God allows evil and suffering? Have you spent time thinking about this? Have you rejected God because of something bad that happened to you or the ones you love? Do you have family or friends that have rejected God because of evil and suffering? 

Check out the video and links below as they have some great insights about this issue. Open your heart to God and let Him show you that He knows all too well about the effects of evil and suffering. He sent His son to the cross to deal with it once and for all.

Here are links to four excellent articles that look at the problem of evil and suffering:

Monday, June 07, 2010

John Wooden's "Pyramid of Success"

John Wooden's influence went far beyond the basketball court. He is well known for his "Pyramid of Success". It has been used by countess businesses, organizations and individuals all over the world. You can learn more about it in the book he authorized titled The John Wooden Pyramid of SuccessTo learn more about John Wooden check out his official website at Coach John Wooden and John Wooden - Wikipedia.

Click here to download PDF
In the video below you can hear from John Wooden himself about what true success is from a talk he gave at TED in 2001. There are subtitles for 11 languages including Romanian.

A Look at John Wooden and His Father

This past Friday John Wooden passed away at 99 years of age. When I heard the news it brought tears to my eyes. I grew up loving basketball and Mr. Wooden was the greatest basketball coach who ever lived and, in my opinion, he was the greatest coach ever of any sport.

I use to love watching UCLA, which was the team he coached, when I was in grade school, junior high, senior high and my first few years of college. I remember fantasizing as a young boy to be playing basketball at UCLA and I am sure I was just one of millions of boys in America and beyond.

What made him great? Well, he was a very successful coach, winning more games and championships that any other coach ever. But if you look behind the wins what you see is a man of godly character. Where did he get that from? Well, he got it from his father who was a Christian and from following Jesus himself. You can tell by his words and actions that he and his father were men shaped by their love of God and the Bible.

Here is a quote John tells of advice he got from his father on how to have a successful life, "Be true to yourself, help others, make each day your masterpiece, make friendship a fine art, drink deeply from good books — especially the Bible, build a shelter against a rainy day, give thanks for your blessings and pray for guidance every day." Wise advice which we would all do well to heed.

Fathers, it would be well worth your time to investigate how John was influenced by his father and to put to practice the things you learn. Another place to look is in Proverbs in the Old Testament. (I bet that is where John's father found the wisdom to live and to pass on to his son.)

Make it your life's goal to leave your children a legacy that will not only influence them in their lives but will touch the lives of all those they come into contact with as well. If you look at all the lives John Wooden touched in such a profound and good way doesn't that stir something in your heart for your own kids?

If you want to impact the lives of your own children then you need to let Jesus impact your own life. Jesus said he came to give us a rich and satisfying life (John 10:10) and that he did. Take a hold of His life so that he may impart this abundant life to you.

We live in a time when most people have turned their hearts from God and the influences of His Word to be ruled by their desires and passions. Where individualism, materialism, pragmatism, and love of self rule the hearts of people. We shouldn't be surprised by this because the Apostle Paul warned us about this in 2 Timothy 3:1-5.

Do you call yourself a Christian but live by the values of this corrupt and dying world? If so, I urge you to repent. Don't make excuses for yourself, confess your sin then turn from it to Jesus and ask him to change your heart and empower you to live the life he wants for you and then get into the Word of God and start obeying it.

If you are not a Christian then I urge you to deal with your rebellious heart now before it is too late. Admit your sin to God and turn in your heart from your sin back to God and place your trust in Jesus and all that he did for you. Give him his rightful place as King in your heart and love and serve him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. If you are not sure yet about doing this then please read my previous post Why Should Seekers Consider the Gospel?

When you look on the news today you can't help but worry for your kids about the kind of world they are growing up in. I believe, from reading the Bible that we are probably getting close to the end of time. It seems like all the pieces are being put in place for that final seven years before Jesus returns. Time is short so don't put this off. Make the most of the time you have.

Follow Jesus with your whole heart and be a man of godly character. But be careful not to just live a moral life without Jesus. There are going to be a lot of good, religious people in hell. Don't be one of them.

I will end with two quotes from John Wooden to think about,:

"Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are."

"I have always tried to make it clear that basketball is not the ultimate. It is of small importance in comparison to the total life we live. There is only one kind of life that truly wins, and that is the one that places faith in the hands of the Savior."

Here are a few good blog posts and videos I have come across on John Wooden:

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Why Should Seekers Consider the Gospel?

Those seeking God and the truth should consider the gospel and make every effort to understand it because the gospel alone is "the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes..." (Romans 1:16). Being good will not save you, going to church will not save you, your parents can not save you, being smart will not save you, nothing in this world can save you, only the gospel can save you.

Realize the problem of belief in the gospel is not an intellectual problem but a heart problem. We are in rebellion against our creator and prefer the darkness to the light. We want to be our own gods so we can seek life, happiness and satisfaction on our own terms rather than find them in God. We suppress the truth because we love sin (Romans 1:18-25). This is true for me and this is true for you.

When Jesus was on the earth He said many amazing things, loved many people and did many miracles, including raising people from the dead. Yet, in spite of everything He said or did, many people who had seen or heard what He had done shouted, "Crucify him!" when Pilot gave the crowd a chance to let Him go. They chose to let a murderer go free rather than Jesus. This just proves that if your heart is hard nothing on this earth will convince you of the gospel.

One time last summer, while sharing the gospel in a park here in Bucharest, I asked a 20 year old guy who had a 14 year old girlfriend, "If God is real, would you want him in your life?" He thought for a while and then finally said, "That is a tough question to answer". I told him it wasn't hard to answer but that he didn't want to admit to himself that he didn't want God in his life because he loved sin more. He looked shocked when I said that but after thinking about it for several seconds he said, "You are right."

If you come to God in arrogance and anger saying, "Prove yourself to me to my satisfaction or I won't believe in you!" you will never find Him. The Bible tells us God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (see James 4:4-10). In order to find God and the truth you need come before Him in humility and ask Him, "If you are real please open my heart up to you and give me understanding of the gospel." Humility is the secret to finding God.

A basic definition of the gospel is that it is the good news of what God has done through His Son Jesus Christ to restore His reign and rule over all creation and bring reconciliation to all those who repent and place their trust in Jesus. But there is a lot more to really understanding the gospel in its fullness. 

I have written a 34 page booklet that you might find helpful as you begin your quest to understand the gospel. It looks at the gospel in detail and includes lots of Bible verses as well. You can download a pdf of it here: Letter Size (US) or A4 (Europe).

I became a follower of Jesus through some friends who showed me Jesus by their love and by giving me a Bible and helping me to understand it. It is in the Bible where you will find the complete message of the gospel. I would suggest getting the New Believer's BibleNew Living Translation as it is a good and very understandable translation. To begin, read the four gospel accounts and then read the book of Romans as it is the book richest in gospel truths. The New Believer's Bible also has lots of notes to help you better understand what you are reading.

If you have doubts or are struggling or have questions about believing in God or believing that the Bible is really God's word you should check out the websites below. They have articles, audio and video explaining every possible question you could ever think of. In addition, some of the sites have audio and video debates between Christians and atheists on a wide variety of subjects. You can even look on YouTube to find them as well.

     Always Be Ready

     Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry

     Ravi Zacharias International Ministries *

     Reasonable Faith

     Stand to Reason

Remember you will never find God on your own. You need Him to reveal Himself to you. So go to Him in humility and ask Him to reveal Himself to you. You have everything to gain if you do and everything to lose if you don't.

Someday you will stand before Jesus and give an account of your life. If there is any sin at all you will be sentenced to hell where you will experience the wrath of God forever. You say you don't believe in hell. Well, Jesus does! He said, "If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched…" (Mark 9:43)

If you have turned from sin back to God and placed you faith in Jesus and all that He did for you then you will not have to stand before Him in judgment because He already suffered your punishment for you. Instead, you will spend all of eternity in God's presence as a part of His family on the new earth after God restores all things.

Sound too good to be true, but it is. Take a hold of the gospel so it can take a hold of you!

* For an example check out this 4 1/2 minute video by Dr. Ravi Zacharias:
       How Can a Good God Allow Evil? Does Life Have Meaning?

Check out this related article: Sexual Immorality and Five Other Reasons People Reject Christianity

Here is a link to a post with the video, slides and handouts of a teaching I did titled Why Do People Refuse to Believe in God?

The Transforming Power of the Gospel

This morning I came across a very good blog post by Elyse Fitzpatrick titled The Transforming Power of the Gospel. In it she shows that only the whole gospel message has the power to change us and she gives a specific example to show how it works out in real life.

I encourage you to check it out. Spend some time thinking about what she says and then put what she says to practice in your own life. If you do, you will discover that the gospel is indeed "the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes..." (Romans 1:16)

Here are two paragraphs from Elyse's post to give you a taste of what she says:
In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul writes that the gospel message is not only the cross, it is the incarnation, the sinless life, substitutionary death, bodily resurrection, ascension, reign and return of Jesus Christ. It is the story of the incarnation (God without flesh cannot die, v. 3), his sinless life (the death of another sinner cannot atone “for our sins” v. 3), his substitutionary death and burial in our place, his bodily resurrection procuring our justification and freedom from bondage to sin (v. 1-2, 4), his ascension and reign (revealing Himself to Paul on the road to Damascus, v. 8) and His victorious return for his bride (v. 24-25). Incarnation, sinless life, substitutionary death, bodily resurrection, ascension, reign and return: the gospel.
Here is the concluding paragraph to her article:
It is the whole message of the gospel that has the power to transform impatient, guilty, selfish, despairing idolaters into free and joyful worshippers of the Living God. The whole message of the gospel includes His incarnation, sinless life, substitutionary death, bodily resurrection, ascension, reign and return.  Seeing Jesus and His glorious work is the only power strong enough to transforms us from “one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18) or as John Owen wrote, “Here in this life, beholding the glory of the Lord [true believers] are changed into his likeness. Hereafter they will be like Him for they will see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).