The Lesson Of The Bee


Some time 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 (v 15; 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. We’re just being honest.

Actually, no. While God does understand and forgive, while He’s certainly “big enough” to handle my puny complaints, while He already knows my heart, it’s still not right for me to accuse righteous God of doing what is not good. And where in Scripture to we learn that God values our honesty more than our trust?

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 hand stretched out toward me.

I don’t want to be that bee any more.

This post sans some small additions and revision first appeared here in August 2011.

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Published in: on March 18, 2015 at 7:12 pm  Comments (3)  
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God Is Good


"Golden sunrise" by "Fir0002/Flagstaffotos"

“Golden sunrise” by “Fir0002/Flagstaffotos”

God is great
God is good
And we thank Him
For our food.

Amen!

The quick little pray, repeated most often because of its brevity, nevertheless says a few powerful things. But are they truthful? God is great—definitely. But is God good? Really?

Evil is everywhere. A three-year-old gets cancer, and lives. But her life includes one trip to the hospital after another to treat various aliments brought on by the procedure used to rid her of cancer.

A seventeen-year-old girl, enjoying a summer swim, breaks her neck and is a quadriplegic for the next forty-seven years, and counting.

A missionary family in Afghanistan survive an attack on their compound by five suicide bombers, but three of their colleagues are killed in another incident weeks later.

A prominent Christian pastor’s son commits suicide. A prominent Christian singer’s son dies in an accident in their driveway. The adult son of a prominent Christian evangelist dies in an auto accident on his way to a crusade.

But God is good?

Well, yes, He is. As it happens, He looks at the big picture, the greater, everlasting story. He sees and knows what we cannot know.

Joseph languished in a prison after being sold into slavery by his brothers. His brothers! Then he refused to sin against God by sleeping with his master’s wife and ended up behind bars. Where he sat, year after year. Forgotten by the government official he’d helped. But not forgotten by God.

“And as for you, you meant evil against me,” Joseph later told his brothers, “but God meant it for good, in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (Gen. 50:20).

And so God works, out of our view, without our understanding, to bring about results we couldn’t predict, at a price we can’t come to grips with.

Take the early missionaries, for instance, starting with William Carey.

Once Carey’s family and team had evaded and overcome the obstacles before them they endured some crushing trials. Carey’s young son, Peter, died of dysentry, his wife went insane, his co-worker squandered all their money and bankrupted the mission. Sickness afflicted them all. Furthermore, after 7 years of tireless toil in India Carey still did not have a single convert!

However, Carey provides us with an inspiring testimony of steadfast perseverance. Utterly convinced of the sovereignty of God and standing on the promises and prophecies of Scripture, Carey kept on working. The Bengali New Testament was first published in 1801 – within a year of their first convert being baptised. By 1818 there were 600 baptised and discipled church members. (“What Inspired the Greatest Century of Missionary Advance?”)

Or how about the first American missionaries?

The first American missionaries to go overseas, Adoniram and Ann Judson, endured debilitating tropical diseases and vicious opposition and imprisonment under the cruel king of Burma. They also lost children to disease and laboured for 7 years before seeing their first convert from Buddhism. Ann Judson died in the field – only 36 years old. Yet by the time Adoniram Judson had died there were over 100 000 baptised church members amongst the Karen tribe! To this day the (mostly Christian) Karen people remain steadfast in Burma – an island of Christianity in a sea of Buddhism (“What Inspired the Greatest Century of Missionary Advance?”).

Is God good? Every child who died, every husband who labored alone on the mission field, every prisoner who stood faithful to his God, every wife who went to foreign places knowing that she most likely would not see her home again—each is a person God knew from the foundation of the world and loved, so much so that He willingly chose to suffer, taking on the sins of the world, so that we might have life eternal, so that the hardship of this world, the dangers and fears and abuses and cruelties would one day pass away and we would have joy eternal.

God takes crushed reeds and releases fragrant aromas. He uses clay pots to hold water-turned-to-wine. He makes a shepherd boy into a king and a murderous persecutor of His church one of its greatest evangelists.

The truth is, the evil we decry lies at the feet of sin and of humankind’s disobedience. God alone stands before us pointing the way out of the quagmire of our own making. We stumble, but He holds our hand. The waters pour over us, but He is with us. We walk through the valley of the shadow of death, but His rod and staff comfort us.

The death we decry and the ruination we fear simply are not the end of the story. The enemy of our souls seeks to blind our eyes so that we do not see the goodness of our God and the eternal hope He offers.

Sunrise over waterThankfully we have God’s sure promise—He is today as He was yesterday and the day before and the day before. In fact, He is as He was when He spoke this world into being and called everything He had made, good.

Only a good God can make good things only and always. Only a good God can redeem and rescue from the dominion of darkness in order to bring us into the kingdom of His beloved Son—that would be Jesus who is the living proof that the resurrection to everlasting life is our sure hope. We will, in fact, one day walk in newness of life, encompassed by the unadulterated goodness of God.

Published in: on July 8, 2014 at 8:56 pm  Comments Off on God Is Good  
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The Problem Of Evil And God’s Goodness


sunrise-over-the-field-1377784-mSome atheists dismiss the existence of God in large part because of the existence of evil. One line of thinking is that if God existed He is either not good, not powerful, or not caring. He could not, they believe, be good, caring, and powerful and co-exist with evil.

What irony that these skeptics don’t turn around and scrutinize goodness. From where do acts of kindness from strangers originate, or the encouragement from a verse of Scripture or the ethereal beauty of fog wisps floating in and out of trees or pier pilings?

Who can explain the transformation of the Huaorani people in Ecuador after Jim Elliot’s death? Or the message of forgiveness Corrie ten Boom preached after losing her father and sister under Nazis cruelty? Who can explain Job’s restoration of wealth after losing all or Joseph’s rise to power in Egypt after being sold into slavery?

In other words, who can explain Romans 2:28 – “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

How could a God who was not good work all things together for good? And Christians see time and again God’s hand working tragedy into triumph, suffering into sanctification, sacrifice into salvation.

Only God’s goodness can be credited with such miracles as Ruth experienced. The widowed immigrant at the edge of poverty becomes the great-grandmother to Israel’s greatest king, in the direct line of the Messiah.

Who could write such a story? People today would think it too … good, too sappy, too sweet. But that’s God, isn’t it. He goes beyond what we think could possibly happen. He gives more, loves more, sacrifices more.

He takes brokenness and makes a vessel fit for a king, takes a wayward woman and makes her His bride, takes discarded branches and grafts them into His vine.

He hunts down the lost, comforts the grieving, answers the cry of the needy.

Above all, He gives Himself. He sent His prophets to teach the rest of us what we need to know about Him. More, He Himself came in the form of Man, then gave us His Spirit and His written Word.

God’s goodness is imprinted on the world. We have the starry sky, the harvest moon, billowing clouds, flashing lightening, crystalline icicles, yellow-red leaves, falling snow, crashing waves, the rocky grandeur of mountains, and on and on. How can we look at this world and not see God’s goodness?

How can we think that the good things we enjoy are accidents of nature or results of human endeavor? Nature is morally indifferent and Mankind is marred. God alone is good, without wavering, without exception.

May He be praised now and forevermore.

Originally posted in 2010 under the title “God’s Goodness.”

Published in: on November 5, 2013 at 6:17 pm  Comments Off on The Problem Of Evil And God’s Goodness  
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Who Then Can Be Saved?


Jesus’s disciples asked this question of Him — then who can be saved? A man who stood before Christ declaring that he’d kept all the Law, went away grieving because Jesus asked one more thing of him — all he owned.

Jesus explained it was as hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven as it was for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. Then the disciples’ question, essentially asking, Who can give what it takes?

Jesus responded by saying, No one. It really is impossible for you … but not for God.

Who in the world is saved?

In the twenty-first century the question of the day, spurred on by writers like Paul Young (The Shack) and Rob Bell (the soon-to-be-released Love Wins) is this: since God can save, does He save all? The understood corollary is, If not, is he not an ogre? (And since we choose to believe he is not an ogre, then he must save all.)

I am not frightened by the questions. I think they’re valid, even fair. But questions about God should be answered by God, not by people imagining whatever they wish about Him. Consequently, we should look at what Scripture has to say about who can be saved.

First, the Bible makes it abundantly clear that everyone isn’t going to be saved. Jesus is the only mediator between God and man. People not accepting Jesus will have no mediator.

Everlasting life is promised to those who believe on the name of God’s only begotten Son, Jesus. Forgiveness for sins comes from no other name. Those not believing on His name will have no forgiveness.

He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
– John 3:18

In addition, Jesus spoke often of a divide — those who follow and obey Him separated from those who don’t. He said this divide would split families, that some would think they were on one side of the divide only to find out on the judgment day that they were on the other, that few would actually be on the road to salvation and many would be marching toward destruction. He told story after story that ended with disbelieving or disobedient people thrown into outer darkness or into a place of fire where there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

So, is God an ogre? I mean, if ALL these people are doomed for eternity, and He has the power to save, then how can He be considered as anything but the cruel being atheists like Christopher Hitchens and emergents like Mike Morrell claim — if the God of the Old Testament existed (which neither of them believe).

Again, I say, that question, is God an ogre — a cruel, terrifying being — needs to be answered by going to the Bible. Within the pages of Scripture, I learn that what God created is good, His acts are good, His words are good, His plans are good, His gifts are good, His promises are good, His lovingkindness is good, His Spirit is good. In the end, Jesus states it outright:

And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.
-Mark 10:18 (emphasis mine)

If those asking if God is an ogre say they believe Jesus, then they should take Him at His word, concluding that God is good, not cruel. [By the way, Jesus as God Incarnate, is also good. That He asked, Why do you call me good? served to show that the guy he was talking to didn’t really think Jesus was God, or good.]

We see from Scripture, then, that not everyone will be saved and that God is not an ogre. How can the two both be true? Don’t we have to believe either one or the other?

This seems to be Rob Bell’s approach, judging from his promotional video. I could stop right here and say, trust in God is accepting what He has revealed, even if I don’t understand how these apparently conflicting elements can both be true.

But in this case, we don’t have to stop because God has given us so much more upon which our faith can stand.

First God doesn’t hide the truth about sin. He stated from the beginning that rebellion against Him would lead to death.

At this point, some might argue that it shouldn’t, that God doesn’t have the right to sentence people to death or that death is too harsh a punishment. Essentially those people are saying God shouldn’t be allowed to be the judge, another way of saying God shouldn’t be allowed to be God. Or they are again accusing Him of not being good. Ironically, what God has done about sin proves His goodness more than anything else.

At the start, God warned Adam about the consequences of doing what He told him not to do. When Adam sinned anyway, God illustrated the consequence right away by making an animal sacrifice. But He also kept His word, and eventually each person except Enoch faced physical death.

God’s work throughout history has been to save Mankind from the consequences of our sin, culminating in He Himself becoming the needed sacrifice. How is it that people miss this when accusing God of wrong-doing?

He died to satisfy the penalty His justice demanded. We don’t have three gods. Jesus is not at odds with His Father. God is not wrathful and Jesus loving.

The penalty for sin was one the triune God required and the triune God paid. The Father’s wrath was the Son’s wrath. The Son’s sacrifice was the Father’s sacrifice. We cannot split God and make Him out to be three individuals operating as if they were independent from one another.

The mystery of God, manifesting Himself as three yet being one, does not allow us to accuse Jesus of being less just or the Father of being less loving. God, in His mercy, went to the cross — the Father sending, the Son dying — to provide reconciliation with sinners.

But reconciliation is not a blanket pardon. God stipulated that those who believe will be saved.

that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved
– Rom. 10:9

In the end, the matter is simple. We can believe what God said or what some men have imagined.

Published in: on March 2, 2011 at 12:37 pm  Comments (11)  
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God’s Goodness


Men like atheist Christopher Hitchens dismiss the existence of God in large part because of the existence of evil. One line of thinking is that if God existed He is either not good, not powerful, or not caring. He could not, they believe, be good, caring, and powerful and co-exist with evil.

What irony that they don’t turn around and scrutinize goodness. From where do acts of kindness from strangers originate, or the encouragement from a verse of Scripture or the ethereal beauty of fog wisps floating in and out of palm trees and pier pilings?

Who can explain the transformation of the Huaorani people in Ecuador after Jim Elliot’s death? Or the message of forgiveness Corrie ten Boom preached after losing her father and sister under Nazis cruelty? Who can explain Job’s restoration of wealth after losing all or Joseph’s rise to power in Egypt after being sold into slavery?

In other words, who can explain Romans 2:28 – “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

How could a God who was not good work all things together for good? And Christians see time and again God’s hand working tragedy into triumph, suffering into sanctification, sacrifice into salvation.

Only God’s goodness can be credited with such miracles as Ruth experienced. The widowed immigrant at the edge of poverty becomes the great-grandmother to Israel’s greatest king, in the direct line of the Messiah.

Who could write such a story? People today would think it too … good, too sappy, too sweet. But that’s God, isn’t it. He goes beyond what we think could possibly happen. He gives more, loves more, sacrifices more.

He takes brokenness and makes a vessel fit for a king, takes a wayward woman and makes her His bride, takes discarded branches and grafts them into His vine.

He hunts down the lost, comforts the grieving, answers the cry of the needy.

Above all, He gives Himself. He sent His prophets to teach the rest of us what we need to know about Him. More, He Himself came in the form of Man, then gave us His Spirit and His written Word.

God’s goodness is imprinted on the world. We have the starry sky, the harvest moon, billowing clouds, flashing lightening, crystalline icicles, yellow-red leaves, falling snow, crashing waves, the rocky grandeur of mountains, and on and on. How can we look at this world and not see God’s goodness?

How can we think that the good things we enjoy are accidents of nature or results of human endeavor? Nature is morally indifferent and Mankind is marred. God alone is good, without wavering, without exception.

May He be praised now and forevermore.

Published in: on November 19, 2010 at 6:50 pm  Comments (5)  
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