Romans 8

During my first year in Seminary, we memorized Romans 8. Although I can’t recite it today, one of my favorite passages is from that chapter:

The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. (Romans 8:16-17)

The Scripture continues:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)

Some of us go through great tribulations in this life. Others are blessed. But despite any of that, the two things that hold true from the passages above that keep me strong:

1) We are children of God and will inherit what He has prepared for us
2) No matter what we are going through, it’s not even comparable to the blessings that are to be during our eternal life.

Choices….

Choices – you have an option! Whether you are playing a game, buying a car, or simply picking out clothes for the day, you have a choice on what happens next. Will you play a domino that best fits your strategy for offense, or play one as a defensive tactic? Will you buy or lease a new car, or continue to patch your old ragged, oil leaking vehicle that you bought in 1992? Will you refuse to wear white after Labor Day, or conform to the norm and follow fashion guidelines?

Despite how much we think we don’t have a choice, we have choices every day.

A good example is that old shirt that my wife hates to see me wear week after week to work. “You can’t wear that again, it’s 10 years old.” Despite my wife’s best effort to get me to be more fashion conscious, the true fact is that I CAN wear it again, and I will (against her well-intended better advice).

But Why? Not why will I wear it, but why do we sometimes think we must conform to societal accepted norms and behaviors?
As I recall, Jesus specifically objected to many of the cultural norms of the day. In fact, I’m pretty sure he wore the same garments every day, without worrying about what others might say. So WHY and HOW did our society change so much that things that we should have choices about, we now weigh in to what the world accepts before making a decision?

Another good example coming to everyone’s house soon will be during Christmas: the black Friday sales and Christmas rush to buy the most famous toy for the 2014 season. Will it be Lego Fusion? Razor Scooters? Or maybe retro-Firby? Captain America? How about Atari-4D? Will you get sucked into the mix and stand in line for hours just to make sure that your child will get that much desired Christmas list fulfilled?

I don’t know about you, but I feel myself being influenced WAY TO OFTEN by the world. I wonder, what can I DO that will change not just me, not just how others see me, but how can I influence others to stop being influenced by the world? I know, that’s probably a paradox in itself, but hopefully you understand where I’m coming from!

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:2

suffer, suffer, suffer

“Blessed are you because you suffer.” Wow! …although we hear something like that in church, and it matches what the Bible teaches, it’s still tough to accept.

The supporting Scripture is Luke 6:22

“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!

Do you feel blessed when you suffer? My guess is that you feel hurt, not fortunate. So how do we, as Christians, rectify these differences?

“Knowing” that I am blessed because Scripture says so, is one thing, but to logically understand it requires further analysis (at least for me, as an engineer). The best way that I can comprehend, resolve, and accept this is to go back to Scripture. Not just the verse that describes me as blessed, but the whole “story” of the Bible. When one considers the full scope of the Bible, and our life (from an eternal perspective), I know that in the end, Christians “win.”

We might have a short time here on earth when we suffer, or endure persecution, but in the grand scheme of things, we ARE accomplishing God’s plan for our life, His Kingdom, and contributing to our future blessings. The time we spend suffering is truly not anywhere comparable to the blessings that are and will be returned for our obedience.

As Romans 8, verse 18 states:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

Tired? or thriving

Do you feel it’s hard to praise God when you’re tired? Sometimes I do. Today, I’m tired. In fact, I’m exhausted. I was awake half the night for no good reason other than sinuses. And now, half-way through the day, I can’t think straight, and my day still has 4 hours left.

The bible says:

28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”Matthew 11:28-30

So that’s what I’m doing. I’m giving over my temptation to take a nap and instead, writing this blog. And when I’m down and tired, I find the best thing to motivate me is music.

One song that is in the Top 10 Christian Music right now is by Casting Crowns, it’s called “Thrive.” <click link to left>

Are you thriving, or are you just plain tired like me today?

Difficulty 10: Age of the earth, 4 thousand or 4 billion?

The difficulty of creation vs evolution: relating to th earth’s age

  • So God created the world in 6 days, and then rested
  • Yet science boldly proclaims the earth is millions of years old

Which one is right? Just maybe, both are right, but how?

1)      Let’s take a look at the first 6 days

In Genesis 1:11-13

“Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit . . .13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.

How do plants and trees produce seeds and fruits (like the one Adam and Eve ate) in less than 24 hours?

This tends to show that either the days in Genesis 1 were longer than 24 hours, or that during that time, God created a “grown-up” universe (one that appears much older than it truly is). After all, God created Adam and Eve and ALL the animals in an adult life form (otherwise how would they survive without parents to care for them?). Why couldn’t earth, in its original state then, also be created “mature” and appear millions of years old to scientists?

27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” – Genesis 1:27-28

2)      Let’s consider the flood.

It is widely known and accepted by scientists that pressure and heat affect the properties of all natural items. Therefore, when the flood occurred, it could have affected the geological properties of items, causing carbon dating to be incorrect. Yet, carbon dating does not account for this known scientific effect.

3)      Let’s consider the word “day”

Throughout the Bible, we find the word “day” to be used as a period of time, not necessarily 24 hours.

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. – Genesis 2:1

Notice anything missing from this day, that was included in days 1-6? There is no “evening and morning.” It is purely possible that God continues to rest today, as part of the 7th day, because we never are told that evening has come. Hmmmm….

 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. – 2 Peter 3:8

So, if the Lord’s days are not equivalent to our days, then….?

SUMMARY: While we don’t know the answer or the true explanation of these things, we can do some comparative analysis. We know the Bible provides us with genealogies (some incomplete or with known gaps). These genealogies and analysis show the earth to be less than 10,000 years old. Science maintains the earth around 4.5 billion years old. So how do we explain the apparent difficulty here? Simple, either the earth was created old (like animals and Adam and Eve were as described in the Bible), or the days were longer than 24 hours long (also evident in Bible). Either of these is plausible, and yet, there may be yet another explanation that man has yet to discover.

Difficulty 9: age of accountability

This one is especially difficult for parents of young children.

The Bible tells us in Romans 5:14 that sin reigns in all people because of Adam. It almost seems unfair that generations of people are cursed because of what Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden. However, this is how imputed sin works. David in Psalm 51:5 reinforced this saying “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”

We also know that Jesus clearly stated that “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, except through Me.” Therefore EACH person MUST make a choice of Salvation.

How then do we grasp the concept for babies who don’t know Christ and seem innocent by nature? Are they Saved? Will we see babies who passed on in Heaven?

Intellectually, we know that babies, and toddlers to some age, don’t understand the need for Salvation, and therefore cannot accept Christ as their Lord. However, we also know that God is a Loving God. Therefore, He must provide a way for them.

For most, God does this through the Holy Spirit. For Christians, we have experienced the Holy Spirit on our day of Salvation, when we were convicted, and understood the need for God. We then made a choice. Christians, by definition, have accepted God. Others, whether agnostic, atheist or some other religion, have denied God after hearing the Good news.

For babies, however, they have not yet been introduced or understood the need to accept God. God gives everyone a choice to accept Him at an age that is appropriate for each person. For some, it may happen as early as age 7, or 6 or even 5. For many it happens sometime during elementary school. For others, this choice doesn’t come until adulthood.

God created us each uniquely, and comes to each of us at different times in our lives for a decision. The age of accountability is never outlined in the Bible, but because of God’s grace, we can be confident that He has a plan for all people.

In 2 Samuel 12:23, David reinforces this notion when his baby died. David was a Christian; he stated that “I shall go to him” meaning that someday he would join his baby in Heaven.

Difficulty 8b: evil and Free Will

A world without free will is not a world that I want to live in! The alternative then, is a world with free will; a world where humans have the right to be immoral, unjust, and evil.

By why would anyone want to live in a world with evil? And WHY would God allow this to happen?

Interestingly, evil makes good things better. Let’s take first a simple cup of water. In the deep south in August, an outdoor heatwave (unjust weather perhaps?, but not necessarily evil) makes a simple cold drink of ice water REALLY GOOD! A fateful flood where a baby is drowning (evil?) allows a simple human’s act of intuition, to save the baby, show bravery and heroism (an innate good that is brought to light only in a bad situation). Inherent evils allow “good” to rise triumphantly.

But what is evil anyway? We’ll actually discover that evil is a relative term (no NOT a “relative,” but a relative term, even though we probably all have evil relatives).

Is a lazy dad evil? Is he immoral? In our society, we would probably just say he’s lazy and a moocher. But let’s change the scenario, let’s populate a deserted island with just one family. The family goes around minding their own business creating a place to live. But the dad decides he’s going to rest. And not just today, but everyday. He never does anything but eat, sleep, and watch TV (assuming Charter has cable there :-). Is he just lazy, or now malicious because he takes and never gives? Does he now become a symbol of evil on the island?

We now start to see that evil becomes evil only when compared against “good.” Therefore evil truly doesn’t exist without good as the root. (Ooh, that’s scary!) But God designed us as good people (look into Genesis when what God created was “good”).

So, did God create evil? Or did He create good, and that which wasn’t from God, …that which was influenced by the Devil became less than good, and labeled evil? And as evil progresses without Godly influences, it continues to become more evil.

For a more in-depth analysis of “The Problem of Evil” see my research into evil at this link.

Difficulty 8a: Evil

If God is the creator of everything and the source of love, how could He allow evil into our world?

A not so famous person once wrote: “If God is sovereign and in control of everything, God is responsible for evil, therefore God is evil.”*  This is the stance that many atheists take, leading them to yet a final conclusion that God can’t exist. However, their thought process is flawed, because if we reverse their thinking: 1) God doesn’t exist, 2) God is evil, 3) God is responsible for evil, 3) God is in control…. Notice anything wrong? If God doesn’t exist, how could He be evil, or responsible for anything?

Another process to consider then is:

1)      God is in control [sovereign]

2)      God knows what will happen (both good and evil) [omniscient]

3)      God allows both good and evil to occur (even though He is in control)

4)      God is therefore responsible for good and evil

Why then does God allow evil if He can prevent it?

The answer may just lie in Scripture. Take the story of Job, for example. Job was a righteous man; yet God allowed terrible things to happen to Him. In the end Job’s faith was stronger than ever. Was God responsible for the evil? Or did He just allow it to happen?

The answer can be found in Free Will. If God had not given us Free Will, He would not allow us to sin. There would have been no need for a Savior, no reason for us to love God. In fact, God would have made us all love Him. However, that type of love is shallow. It is a one-way relationship that is not mutual, but forced through design. A mutual relationship is one where love can grow strong, and praise and worship are sincere.

A world without free will would be like shopping for a TV Provider: “You can use any provider you want, as long as it’s Charter Cable.” That’s right, no Satellite, no U-verse, just Charter. Doesn’t that make you feel happy? Oh, yeah, and you get to choose either the “Premium” package or the “Premium” package….that’ll be $300/month. Don’t need internet, too bad, that comes with it, another $75/month!

. . . blog to be continued tomorrow . . .

* source to be acknowledged in tomorrow’s blog

Difficulty 7: When do you go to Heaven?

This question first implies that the person we are talking about is a Christian.

Jesus told us in John 14:6 that “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Assuming that one believes and trusts in Jesus, then the question of when we go to Heaven is valid.

Does a person go straight to judgment and Heaven or do they “fall asleep?”

Let’s first look at Scripture to understand the text:

  1. 13 …we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. – 1 Thesallonians 4:13-17
  2. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.– 2 Corinthians 5:8
  3. Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment – Hebrews 9:27
  4. Jesus said to the thief on the cross beside Him: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” – Luke 23:43
  5. I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; – Philippians 1:23

These verses appear very contradictory. Some would claim that the first verse says that once our bodies die, we remain in the ground until the Lord returns.

However, the second verse implies that when we die, we become “absent” from the body and go immediately to Heaven.

The third simply implies that at some point after death, all people will face judgment.

The fourth statement, addressed to the thief, may be understood as a personalized fact dealing solely with that one individual, or a universal truth about everyone.

The fifth statement returns to the implication that once we leave earth (depart) we are with Christ.

Based on these, many experts believe that our spirits will depart our bodies immediately upon death, and go to Heaven (or Hell). When Jesus returns, our bodies will be resurrected, our spirits will join the new bodies, and we all (including those in Hell) will face judgment for eternal sentencing.

I used to be a large proponent of soul sleep. Now I realize that I could have been wrong. I’m not admitting a mistake, just acknowledging that I don’t know for sure. But it might not be the only doctrinal thought I’m wrong on. However…

We don’t need to know the timing of when our spirit faces Jesus or even when our body is resurrected, we just need to know that Jesus is the one who can and will make it happen. I’m leaving the “how” and “when” up to Him. After all, I still don’t know how it’s possible that God just spoke and the world was created, but I know it happened. Thankfully I don’t have to rely on my intelligence to figure it all out.

Think about this, even Jesus does not know what day He will return, only the Father in Heaven, but . . .  Jesus knows He’s coming back.

And the good news for those who are unhappy with their current bodies? 1 Corinthians 15:50-54 summarized states that our bodies will be raised imperishable—that is, a perfect body, one without disease, decay, or death. In this life our bodies wear out and die. With resurrected bodies, we will be perfected in Christ and imperishable. That’s right, no more diets! 🙂

The epitaph of Benjamin Franklin when he was young summarizes what we need to remember – it’s not about the details or even the timing, but all about the Author and His plan:

The Body of B. Franklin
Printer;
Like the Cover of an old Book,
Its Contents torn out,
And stript of its Lettering and Gilding,
Lies here, Food for Worms.
But the Work shall not be wholly lost:
For it will, as he believ’d, appear once more,
In a new & more perfect Edition,
Corrected and Amended
By the Author.