Disappointed Or Disappointed With God?


Forgiving_Sins031I’m reading a book that, in part, discusses the Psalms, pointing out that some are laments or psalms questioning God, asking Him for answers, for change, for help, but in the end, the psalmist finishes in the same place as he started—with the same doubts and sorrows and fears.

In thinking about the various things that could trigger a lament, I realized there are human experiences that are disappointing—which is just another way of saying, we expect one thing to happen and it doesn’t. In fact, sometimes, the opposite happens or a different thing which looks worse than the circumstance we’re in, happens.

Take, for instance, the lame man who’s friends lowered him on a stretcher through the roof so that Jesus would heal him. Instead, Jesus says, Your sins are forgiven. How disappointed might that man have felt? He wanted to walk, expected to walk, but Jesus gave him a different kind of healing than he anticipated. Was he disappointed?

Scripture doesn’t say, but it wouldn’t be surprising if initially he felt disappointed.

Many other Jews were clearly disappointed with Jesus. They expected Him to be their Messiah coming to conquer and to set them free from their enemies. Of course He did those things—but the enemy He conquered was death, not Rome, and the freedom he gave was the freedom from sin and guilt and the Law, not political freedom from a repressive government.

Abraham’s descendents, enslaved by Pharaoh, were also disappointed with God though Moses led them out of Egypt. They wanted to escape, no doubt . . . until they were in the desert, with the Red Sea in front of them and Pharaoh’s army behind them. Or until they had no water. Or until they saw giants in the promised land. Clearly, God wasn’t doing things the way they expected, and they decided a return to Egypt was in order. Some wanted to pick a new leader and some wanted to pick a new god.

On the opposite end of the spectrum stand Joseph and Gideon and Samuel and David and Daniel and Jeremiah and Paul and Stephen and John and Martha and the widow with her last mite, and many, many others. They were at the end of their options and didn’t see God. They were in prison or oppressed by a foreign power, exiled, running for their lives, impoverished, alone, facing death, and they couldn’t have looked at their circumstances and thought, Yep, just as I planned it.

But their unmet expectations were not, in their eyes, more than a light, momentary affliction. They were not disappointed with God. He hadn’t failed them or forsaken them. Rather, He was the One passing through the waters with them, holding their hand through the valley of the shadow of death, gathering them in His arm and carrying them in His bosom when they had wandered on their own.

The point is clear. I can have my expectations foiled, even shattered, and still accept the fact that God’s way, different from what I’d anticipated, is good and right. I can seize the opportunity to praise Him, or I can shake my fist at Him, mouthing silly phrases such as, “He’s big enough to handle my anger.”

I’ve been disturbed for a number of years with the “it’s OK to be angry at or disappointed with God” attitude in the Church. Now I’m beginning to wonder if this unwillingness to bow to His sovereignty might not be behind some of the false teaching that seems so prevalent in our day.

It’s in the presumption that God is supposed to make me rich, that God is not supposed to be wrathful, that God is supposed to keep me healthy, that God is not supposed to mean it when He says, All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

In the end, such attempts to shape God into the image we want for Him are not so different from the Israelites fashioning a golden calf and calling it Yahweh. That generation of people who shook their fists in the face of God, wandered in the wilderness for forty years, then died.

Talk about disappointment.

Except, God never let them down. Not once. He gave them food miraculously, every day; kept their clothes and shoes from wearing out; protected them and led them with His presence, manifested as a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day. And yet things weren’t as they’d hoped. Their disappointment had nothing to do with God and everything to do with what they thought how God was supposed to be and what God was supposed to do.

Instead of seeing God as a great provider who would surprise them with the unexpected and care for them in ways they hadn’t imagined, they groused and complained and ultimately said they’d had enough.

Disappointment with God led them to death.

In contrast, disappointment that yields to God’s plan instead of our own, results in things like Paul and Silas singing praises in jail after they’d been beaten, which in turn provided an opportunity for them to preach Christ to their jailer and see unbelieving people converted.

Gun Control


AutomagVI grew up in a home that didn’t have any guns. My parents were pacifists. But that didn’t stop us kids from playing as if we had guns. Broken casters made perfect revolvers for little hands. I loved playing over at my cousin’s house where I could put on a gun belt and learn to quick draw a revolver.

We spent a lot of time in the mountains at our cabin site, and my dad even went so far as to carve wooden rifles for us—much to my mom’s disgust, I might add.

Some of my favorite memories are water fights and rubber band fights and pine cone fights and Christmas wrapping cardboard tube fights, usually with my brother, but sometimes with my sister and me ganging up on him.

During one of our play gun battles, I remember my brother telling me I was shot, and dead, and had to stay down. I couldn’t get back up and keep playing. I thought about that for a while, decided it was no fun to play dead, and I’d find some other game. But what he said sank in—in real life, when someone got shot, they stayed dead. It made a huge impression on me.

All this to give you a bit of my personal background which forms my attitude toward guns. Honestly, I hate them. My nephew is part of a law enforcement unit, and I remember the first time he took out his gun to put it away. I’d never been that near a gun before, and frankly, it made me nervous.

But here in the US the second amendment to the Constitution ensures the right of the people to bear arms:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Couldn’t be much clearer. And until that amendment is changed, the citizens of the US will continue to own guns—all kinds of guns.

March_on_Washington_for_Gun_Control_051But with each new crime involving guns, there’s a louder cry for more gun control, as if the proliferation of guns is the problem.

If that were the case, then the failed car jacking that happened the other night here in SoCal, in which a 17-year-0ld stabbed his victim three times, should not have happened. After all, no gun was in play.

Come to think of it, the Boston Marathon bombing of 2013 shouldn’t have happened either because that mass murder didn’t involve a gun either.

If guns were the problem, then we could eliminate violence against one another simply by taking all the guns off the streets. But the reality is, people with hatred in their hearts who want to do bodily harm to others are not reliant upon guns.

I hate guns. But I hate more the empty diatribe against guns after a shooting, as if removing guns will magically fix the animosity inside each of us.

Nobody seems to ask why twenty people can be the brunt of bullying and never retaliate by shooting at someone or why hundreds can lose their job and not return to gun down their co-workers. The fact is, each of those people had access to guns in the same way that those who turned into killers did.

My point is, we have a far bigger problem than the presence of guns. We have a culture that no longer values forgiveness. Revenge is the response we approve. If in doubt, play back the news coverage of Osama bin Laden’s death. People cheered. Some danced in the streets and celebrated, the way people in Muslim countries did after 9/11.

We are more an eye-of-an-eye nation than we are a turn-the-other-cheek people. Plus we tell kids they DESERVE . . . pretty much whatever they want. So when they don’t get it, they respond just like Scripture tells us in the book of James: “You lust and do not have so you commit murder” (4:2). Sometimes that “murder” is the hatred in our hearts and sometimes it’s the actual physical act of murder.

But who is addressing that issue after the latest shootings? I don’t hear anyone saying, we’ve become a nation of greedy, selfish aggressors bent on making people do what we want them to do. Or that we’ve become hyper-sensitive to offense or short on love toward our neighbor or too insulated from each other or too demanding.

At the same time, we’re doing a poor job dealing with mental illness. We don’t know what else to do but medicate and hope the ill person keeps filling prescriptions.

How easy it is to shout for gun control when horrific mass violence takes place, but that’s the problem. We’re looking for easy fixes which means we are OVERlooking the real need—we’ve lost our moral compass and do not treat others the way we would want them to treat us.

Until we realize the enormity of our problem, no change in our gun laws will make a speck of difference in the inhuman treatment of one person against others.

Published in: on June 17, 2014 at 7:11 pm  Comments (2)  
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The Lesson Of The Bee


Not so long ago, I had a bee find its way into my bedroom. I don’t relish killing bugs, and less so bees, but this one was in my bedroom! What to do?

I ran through my options as I watched the angry little critter buzz to the top of the window screen, find no opening, and buzz back to the bottom. Again and again.

At last I figured out a way to avoid killing him. From the cupboard, I pulled down a goblet, then retrieved an envelop that fit nicely over top. I held the glass stem and approached the bee still bouncing against the screen in a futile attempt to zip outside.

In one quick move, I plopped the goblet over the wayward wanderer. As he flew into the bowl looking for escape, I slid the envelop between the screen and the lip of the glass. Got him!

Earlier he seemed mad. Now he buzzed with vicious frenzy.

Poor little guy, I thought. Wasting all that energy, so mad he’d sting me if I gave him the tiniest opening. Yet my only intention was to help him get exactly what he needed, the very thing he’d been looking for.

And then it hit me. So often I act just like that bee. I find myself in a mess of my own making and try furiously to free myself, often repeating the same futile steps over and over. Then, when things seem to get worse, not better, I rail against God, not realizing that He’s using the very circumstances I hate for my good.

How much simpler if I obeyed God and refrained from grumbling and disputing, if I trusted Him instead of blaming Him, if I turned to Him in dependence instead of away from Him in stubborn willfulness. After all, my buzzing about is no more profitable than was that little bee’s.

God, on the other hand, sees the big picture, knows what’s best, and has much more regard for me — love, actually — than I had for the miscreant I set loose from my bedroom.

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing,” Philippians 2:14 says. Now there’s a novel idea. ;-)

What does me in, though, is what Paul says next:

so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world (emphasis mine).

By this one thing, refraining from grumbling or disputing, we will accomplish what Christ called us to do — serve as lights in the world, even the crooked and perverse world.

I’m thinking the first grumbling or disputing I need to eliminate is any directed at God. We’re so quick in our culture to say that it’s OK for us to rail against God. He understands. He forgives. He’s big enough to handle it. He knows what I’m thinking anyway, I might as well say it.

Actually, no. What I should do when thoughts of disgruntlement come into my mind, is confess them and seek God’s forgiveness.

Who am I to accuse God of wrong doing, or of falling down on the job, or of not keeping His promises? I’m really no different than an irate bee buzzing madly to get what I want, ignoring the helping hand stretched out toward me.

I don’t want to be that bee any more.

From the archives: this post originally appeared here at A Christian Worldview Of Fiction in August 2011. Somehow it escaped being one of the under-three-stars posts. ;-)

Published in: on May 20, 2014 at 7:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Tested By Fire


Fire is a refining agent. Cheap stuff burns up–paper, straw, twigs, logs. Gold, on the other hand, purifies.

The Apostle Peter alludes to this process in his first letter to the Christians of the first century. They faced a lot of persecution because of their faith, and he noted that fact:

In this [your salvation] you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:6-7)

According to Peter, faith is of greater value than gold because even gold will eventually perish. But faith, even when tested by the fires of persecution ends up bringing praise and glory and honor when we see Jesus.

It’s an amazing thing. This trust in God, this dependence on Him even in the worst of circumstances actually is cause for joy. Peter again:

and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory (1 Peter 1:8)

How ironic, then, when contemporary Western Christians approach trials as opportunities to express anger and disappointment toward God.

I do believe we should be truthful and of course that includes truthfulness when we’re talking with God. But there’s a difference accusing God because that’s how I honestly feel and confessing to God because that’s how I honestly feel.

The first might sound something like this: God, why did you let this unfair thing happen to me? I am so mad at You right now. I thought you were on my side, looking out for me. You really let me down.

The other might be something like this: God, this bad thing happened and it makes me so angry. I know that’s not an attitude demonstrating trust in You. I’m worried and fearful and want revenge. I know none of that brings you glory. Please, God, forgive me and help me find a way out of those debilitating reactions to a place of trust. Help me to find in You exactly what I need.

One reaction makes God out to be the culprit and the other recognizes Him as the rescuer. The first pushes Him away, the second draws near to Him for help.

The bottom line is, accusing God of wrong doing, no matter how honest the person is being about their emotion, is still saying about God what is not true. James says, “For God cannot be tempted by evil and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” God does not do evil. How then is it honest to express anger toward God by accusing Him of something He is not?

I’ve heard Christians, time and time again, toss off their tantrums as something God is big enough to handle. The issue is not whether God can handle our sin. We know He canceled our sin debt at the cross. The issue, instead, is whether we should justify our sin and even applaud it as being real.

It’s much the same as the church in Corinth boasting about their tolerance of sin in their church. We today act as if we are doing some great good to hurl angry charges at God because … well, because we feel angry and we need to be real with Him.

What happened to trusting God in the midst of trial?

Here’s what the prophet Habakkuk had to say about the matter:

Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the LORD,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. (Hab. 3:17-18)

Where’s the exultation of the contemporary Western Christian? I fear it is reserved for our honest emotions we hurl at God rather than for He who is with us when the waters and the rivers overflow, who walks with us through the fire and flame.

How sad that we rob ourselves of His comfort and presence and even protection because we’re so busy venting our honest emotion.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you. (Isaiah 43:2)

Published in: on June 13, 2012 at 6:46 pm  Comments (7)  
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“Vengeance Is Mine, Not God’s”


A couple days ago I wrote about God’s judgment. Though the article didn’t generate any conversation, it did receive some negative feedback. I’m not surprised because we live in a day when people calling themselves Christians pooh-pooh the idea that God will actually be sending anyone to hell, while others question whether or not they might be nicer than the Almighty. Or maybe they’d prefer a different name for Him — the All Tolerant One, perhaps. But I jest, and this really isn’t a matter for levity.

The fact is, we humans find it easy to label others as bigots or hate-mongers or hypocrites. We have no problem criticizing each other to our faces. We can even yell at God and tell Him how disappointed or angry we are at Him. But far be it for us to believe God can do the same thing in return. No, no. He’s supposed to stand meekly by and love.

But that idea is nonsense. We get angry at the things we perceive to be wrong. Why shouldn’t God, in whose image we’re made?

Someone may counter that it is fine for God to get angry, but not fine for Him to give sinners consequences, especially ultimate consequences. That position, of course, strips God of His power. So He’s a loving God who can get angry when a child is molested, but He can’t punish the evildoer.

How then is He loving? Real love, as author and speaker Gary Chapman (The Five Love Languages) said in his sermon on Sunday, is expressed in God’s anger toward sin and the wicked.

Psalm 136 includes God’s divine intervention against Egypt and other nations standing against Israel as an evidence of His lovingkindness.

To Him who smote the Egyptians in their firstborn,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting,…
He overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting…
To Him who smote great kings,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
And slew mighty kings,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting:
Sihon, king of the Amorites,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
And Og, king of Bashan,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting (vv 10-20)

Other passages in Scripture declare God’s acts of judgment to be the very way in which He showed Himself so that the nations would know Him, turn from their sin, and come to Him.

His intention in correcting those who forsake Him is to bring them back:

O LORD, do not Your eyes look for truth?
You have smitten them,
But they did not weaken;
You have consumed them,
But they refused to take correction.
They have made their faces harder than rock;
They have refused to repent. (Jeremiah 5:3)

When rejection is complete, God acts on behalf of those who are being sinned against:

So their houses are full of deceit;
Therefore they have become great and rich.
‘They are fat, they are sleek,
They also excel in deeds of wickedness;
They do not plead the cause,
The cause of the orphan, that they may prosper;
And they do not defend the rights of the poor.
‘Shall I not punish these people?’ declares the LORD,
‘On a nation such as this
Shall I not avenge Myself?’

“An appalling and horrible thing
Has happened in the land:
The prophets prophesy falsely,
And the priests rule on their own authority;
And My people love it so! (Jeremiah 5:27-31a – emphasis mine)

An appalling thing, God says, when we spurn His authority and take it for ourselves. Such is the false teaching of our day.

Here are a few comments to a couple recent controversial articles, apparently made by Christians. This person agrees that Christians need to grow up, then he says:

I choose to find redemption in the gospel of Christ and yet feel empowered to refuse to accept the feudal rantings of many religious leaders.

Or there’s this one:

are all of you out there so naive and stupid not to see the propaganda

Then there’s this one:

As a Chrisitian, I do not want to come under the same umbrella as those that hate, undermine, are haughty and proud, and who cause millions of people to avoid even looking at Christianity as an option because of the behavior of many christians in their hate-mongering, their pride, their ‘holier-than-thou-attitude’.

Or how about this helpful question:

What rock are you living under?

Yes, these are people who claim to be Christians, though I don’t know if they all would claim God doesn’t have the right to judge. It’s quite clear, though, that they believe they DO have the right to judge.

Maybe it’s time we Christians take a hard look at our own attitudes. God is rightfully angry at sin and wickedness. What are we angry about? And are we taking it upon ourselves to reap vengeance with our words?

Published in: on March 16, 2012 at 7:33 pm  Comments (9)  
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The Lesson Of The Bee


Not so long ago, I had a bee find its way into my bedroom. I don’t relish killing bugs, and less so bees, but this one was in my bedroom! What to do?

I ran through my options as I watched the angry little critter buzz to the top of the window screen, find no opening, and buzz back to the bottom. Again and again.

At last I figured out a way to avoid killing him. From the cupboard, I pulled down a goblet, then retrieved an envelop that fit nicely over top. I held the glass stem and approached the bee still bouncing against the screen in a futile attempt to zip outside.

In one quick move, I plopped the goblet over the wayward wanderer. As he flew into the bowl looking for escape, I slid the envelop between the screen and the lip of the glass. Got him!

Earlier he seemed mad. Now he buzzed with vicious frenzy.

Poor little guy, I thought. Wasting all that energy, so mad he’d sting me if I gave him the tiniest opening. Yet my only intention was to help him get exactly what he needed, the very thing he’d been looking for.

And then it hit me. So often I act just like that bee. I find myself in a mess of my own making and try furiously to free myself, often repeating the same futile steps over and over. Then, when things seem to get worse, not better, I rail against God, not realizing that He’s using the very circumstances I hate for my good.

How much simpler if I obeyed God and refrained from grumbling and disputing, if I trusted Him instead of blaming Him, if I turned to Him in dependence instead of away from Him in stubborn willfulness. After all, my buzzing about is no more profitable than was that little bee’s.

God, on the other hand, sees the big picture, knows what’s best, and has much more regard for me — love, actually — than I had for the miscreant I set loose from my bedroom.

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing,” Philippians 2:14 says. Now there’s a novel idea. ;-)

What does me in, though, is what Paul says next:

so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world (emphasis mine).

By this one thing, refraining from grumbling or disputing, we will accomplish what Christ called us to do — serve as lights in the world, even the crooked and perverse world.

I’m thinking the first grumbling or disputing I need to eliminate is any directed at God. We’re so quick in our culture to say that it’s OK for us to rail against God. He understands. He forgives. He’s big enough to handle it. He knows what I’m thinking anyway, I might as well say it.

Actually, no. What I should do when thoughts of disgruntlement come into my mind, is confess them and seek God’s forgiveness.

Who am I to accuse God of wrong doing, or of falling down on the job, or of not keeping His promises? I’m really no different than an irate bee buzzing madly to get what I want, ignoring the helping hand stretched out toward me.

I don’t want to be that bee any more.

Published in: on August 30, 2011 at 5:43 pm  Comments (5)  
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Anger and Sin and God’s Work Anyway


A friend of mine recently told me about an online encounter with someone who claimed his anger wasn’t sin. And yet he was so mad he was leaving the cyber-community in which this discussion took place. No apparent interest in reconciliation or a willingness to confront with a desire to restore relationship. No thought that he was letting the sun set on his anger and was therefore indeed sinning.

That storming-off-angry guy reminded me of something I recently thought concerning Paul. Yes, the apostle. I think he might have been a similar storming-off-angry guy.

He had to be at least “righteously” indignant before his encounter with Christ, because he was dedicating his time and energy to killing Christians.

But when he became a Christian, all that old nature was gone, wasn’t it? Well, yes, in the sense that God forgave Paul and clothed him in the righteousness of Christ. But no, in the sense that Paul still struggled against sin in his life. As he said in Romans 7, “I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate” (v. 15).

Why do I think anger was part of what he struggled with? For one thing after his first missionary journey, he and his partner Barnabas, who the Holy Spirit called to minister together, split because they had a disagreement.

Paul suggested they revisit the churches from their first trip, and Barnabas was evidently agreeable—except he wanted to take John Mark along. John Mark, who later wrote the gospel of Mark, had started out with them on the first trip but left right about the time the persecution started.

On this second trip, Paul refused to take John Mark along. Barnabas insisted. Paul refused. Barnabas insisted. “And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another” (Acts 15:39a).

Sharp disagreement. Though the Holy Spirit had called them together, hey separated. Seemingly as a result of Paul holding a grudge against John Mark. Or at least, not forgiving him, not being willing to give him a second chance.

And what did God do? Despite the disagreement, He used both missionary teams to further the gospel. Paul chose a new partner—Silas—and Barnabas set out with John Mark.

But that’s only one incident, and Barnabas might have been the angry one. Except I’m not convinced only one angry person would create a “sharp disagreement.”

Be that as it may, what about an incident that happened on that second trip with Silas. In Philippi Paul and his new partner were doing what they did—meeting with people in the place of prayer and baptizing believers—when a girl with an evil spirit started following them. “These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation,” she cried out. Day. After. Day. (Acts 16:17b-18a)

How did Paul react? I would think he’d kind of like it. I mean, he had his own PR person, for free. I imagine people weren’t ignoring Paul and Silas with this girl trailing them. I mean, she was a person people used to hire to tell their fortunes, and here she was, for free, telling the crowds that Paul and Silas were proclaiming the way of salvation.

Apparently Paul didn’t see it the same way:

But Paul was greatly annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!”
– Acts 16:18b (emphasis mine)

Great miracle! And undoubtedly the girl was joyful to be free of the evil spirit.

Her masters, not so much. They seized Paul and Silas, dragged them into the marketplace and before the chief magistrates accused them of throwing the city into confusion and advocating illegal activities, “being Jews.”

A crowd rose up against them, stripped off their clothes, beat them with rods. Then they arrested them, putting them in the “inner prison” with their feet in stocks. It took an act of God (an earthquake) to release them. In the meantime they testified of their faith in God by singing praises to Him.

When the prison door opened, the jailer attempted suicide because he feared the prisoners had escaped. Paul and Silas stopped him, told him the way of salvation, and baptized him. But not him only—his whole household.

So here’s the point. Paul and Silas could have had an effective witness and brought many to Christ because of the girl who followed them telling people they were proclaiming the way of salvation. Paul’s anger—or annoyance, at least—landed them in jail. But God’s plan wasn’t thwarted. He used the circumstances to bring people to Himself.

And I wonder, could it be He also was delivering correction to Paul concerning His anger? Just a thought.

Published in: on July 7, 2010 at 4:02 pm  Comments (4)  
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What Are Satan’s Specialities?


No doubt Satan wants to distort our perception of him, but that is not his only scheme. Because “he is a liar and the father of lies” ( John 8:44b), he lies about … pretty much everything—God, mankind, creation, good, evil, the saints, the angelic forces, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, you name it. I suppose we could say, Satan’s number one specialty is to distort the truth.

John 8:44 also says he “does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him.”

Truth, of course, is synonymous with God and His word, so we can know that ideas contradictory to Scripture most likely have their source in Satan. The amazing thing is, he’s proved he’ll even distort the Bible.

After tempting Jesus for forty days in the wilderness, he came at Him with three more attacks, each questioning Christ’s deity. In the first instance Jesus answered Satan with Scripture. The devil must have thought he could catch Jesus using His own strategy, so he quoted a couple verses from the Old Testament when he told Jesus to throw Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple.

As an aside, the technique to distort the meaning of God’s Word didn’t dissuade Jesus from continuing to use Scripture to thwart the temptations, demonstrating what Paul later said in Ephesians—the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God is our weapon when we battle spiritual forces.

Because Satan distorts Scripture, it should be no surprise to learn that he also takes the word from the heart of those who hear it. Jesus explained this when he unpacked the parable of the sower for His disciples:

the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved.
– Luke 8:12

Another of Satan’s specialties is to use our anger against us. Paul warned us to let go of anger so that we wouldn’t give Satan something to work with:

BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.
– Eph 4:26-27

When Paul wrote to Timothy, he explained more fully. Holding on to anger leads to all kinds of problems Satan can use to snare us or those with whom we disagree:

The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
– 2 Tim 2:24-26 (emphasis mine)

How different this approach is from the snarky, mocking criticism I see so often from a number of bloggers who claim purity in their theology.

How is it we miss the fact that Satan must gloat over things like anger toward God, condemnation of a brother or sister in Christ, our ignorance or lack of use or distortion of Scripture?

If we really believe we are in a war against the enemy of our souls, we need to make sure we’re not shooting our own with friendly fire or neglecting or misusing the weapons at our disposal.

Published in: on June 14, 2010 at 10:30 am  Comments (4)  
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What Happened to a Just God?


Is God just? Scripture says He is, but you would hardly know it to read some of the fiction that is popular today. Or to hear some of the sermons broadcast over the airwaves.

Interestingly, my church’s (First Evangelical Free of Fullerton) weekly periodical, Newsbreak, included a select number of high schoolers’ creedal statements based on a meditation of Matthew 16:13-20—including Jesus’s question, “Who do you say that I am?” While three published statements focused on things like God’s love and our purpose, the fallen nature of the world, salvation, and our eternal destiny, one started out like this:

I believe in a jealous God, one who demands our complete faith.

I believe in a wrathful God, an all powerful God who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah with burning sulfur and fire, and snatched away every first born son of the Egyptians.

—Michael Jones, Troy High School

I wonder how many Christians would include those two statements in a personal creedal statement, let alone start with them.

But isn’t God’s character as a just Judge as much at the center of the gospel as His love and mercy? For without His jealous demand of an exclusive relationship with those He loves, without His unbending judgment against sin, why would we even need a Savior?

Who needs to be forgiven when no offense has been recorded? Who needs Jesus when sacrifices to Molech will do, or looking deep inside for the secret in all of us will bring us to a higher plane, or whatever the latest road to spirituality proclaims?

Make no mistake. The God of the Bible hates sin, to the point that He punished two of His first priests, Aaron’s sons, by putting them to death. He brought plagues on His people for disobedience, caused the ground to swallow another group of rebels, and sent fire from heaven even on their families.

For some reason, perhaps because of God’s mercy extended through His Son, many today discount the clear evidence of God’s wrath, even when He says, Vengeance is mine, I will repay.

Somehow, lost in the preferred image of Christ is the truth that Jesus clearly taught that those who rejected Him would be judged accordingly. He said it in parables, He said it in exposition, and He said it to the faces of the Pharisees (“how shall you escape the sentence of hell?” Matt. 23:33b, NASB).

So in this day of tolerance, do such strong statements and stories of judgment (such as God’s clear decree that the people of Israel were to utterly destroyd the nation of Amalek) embarrass Christians? Are we ashamed because our God is jealous? Because He punishes sin? After all, the rest of the world seems to be all about forgiveness and acceptance and understanding.

Ah, make no mistake. God understands. Therein is the missing piece—He knows the hearts of Man, that they are desperately wicked, deserving of death.

We, on the other hand, have convinced ourselves that Man is actually good and entitled to riches and pleasure and a life of comfort and ease.

It’s just that this mean ol’ god spoils it for us. Why won’t he cooperate and make life better, especially since I’ve done my part? He ought to step up, to come through with his end of the bargain. And honestly? I’m furious with him for missing opportunities. Why is he taking so long to give me my blessing?

Apparently, we don’t believe in a wrathful God, but wrathful Man is just fine. 8O

Published in: on October 13, 2009 at 4:35 pm  Comments (4)  
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At the Heart of Complaining


Legitimate cries to God appear everywhere in Scripture, but perhaps the book of Psalms has the most concentration. Rescue me, get even for me, keep me … those kinds of pleas intermingle with why? where are You?

Some people today use the Psalms as proof that it’s OK to rail at God. I don’t agree. As Nicole said in her comment to yesterday’s post, the difference between crying out to God and complaining is in our heart.

Complaining, I’d suggest, is actually complaining against God. It’s not a request for Him to intervene but an accusation that He messed up.

Back to the Israelites. When they were in legitimate, life-threatening danger from the on-coming Egyptians, they didn’t just say, Save us. They said, Why did You bring us out here to die? We knew this would happen. Didn’t we say that to Moses back in Egypt when he told us the plan?

Same song, second verse when they needed food. Followed by the third verse when they needed water. It was never, God will supply because He brought us here, knows our needs, won’t leave us or forsake us. Rather it was an inference that the people knew better than God what their circumstances should be.

Here I see myself.

And unfortunately, many in my culture. We American Christians seem to have adapted a sense of entitlement, perhaps because we believe in a Bill of Rights. In addition, we say we have been endowed by our Creator with the right to life, liberty, and happiness.

Of course, I changed the wording on that last point, but truth be told, the way I wrote it is exactly what Americans believe, and unfortunately what American Christians continue to hold on to.

So here we are, a day before the USA celebrates Independence, the day before our nation’s birthday, and I think, sadly, we’ve missed the central point of what our founders wanted to establish. Rather than entitlement, we were to be a nation of people responsible for what takes place.

But even that principle, when taken to the extreme, is off base. It can breed political activism instead of prayer. Expectation of governmental solutions instead of God’s answers. Grumbling and disputing instead of contentment.

I can’t get that image out of my head of Paul and Silas, beaten and in chains, singing God’s praises in the middle of the night.

Would American Christians be doing the same? Would I?

Published in: on July 3, 2008 at 10:48 am  Comments (2)  
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