A simple answer to all the violence.

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I look at all that is going on in our country and the world. Shootings and violence seem to be escalating daily. In some cases it just seems to be worse due to expanded media coverage that amplifies the picture. However, no one can deny the expansion of outright disregard for the lives of others and the determination to take life in violent ways.

As I study the scene the question comes to my mind, is there a simple explanation for it all? Are we making it more difficult than it really is? Are we looking for answers in all the wrong places? Are we attempting to make it something that it really isn’t? Are we exploiting the violence for personal agendas? Are we habitually or ignorantly ignoring the primary reason for it all?

At the risk of oversimplifying, could the reason for the escalation of killings and cold-blooded violence be traced back to a country and a world that insist on turning farther and farther away from God, Jehovah God,? Instead, the world, out of arrogance and self directed ambition, has turned more and more to its own ways. Over the last few decades, especially in America, there has been an intentional, by government and individuals, movement to turn from a belief in and an adherence to God. As a result, the downward spiral in our country has escalated.

So is it too naïve to just say that the reason for what we see, more than anything else, is the result of turning away from God and the truth of Scripture? Every man and womanhatred has chosen their own way. And when God is eliminated from the picture what we are experiencing is inevitable. We are left with no moral or spiritual code and every person becomes their own god and the value of life goes down exponentially.

Having stated that, I fear the future more than the past or the present. As America and Americans, as well as the rest of the world, moves farther away from Jehovah God and Scripture the violence picture will most certainly escalate.

We can look to gun control or mental health solutions or a number of other plans to stop violence. But none will provide any long term improvement. My observation is that our only hope is for the people of America and the world to turn back to God, Jehovah God rather than no god or some other god that advocates violent killing of innocent people.

So where are you with God?

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Sometimes there are just no answers–Final part, “When God doesn’t make sense”

We continue, for one more post, our discussion of, “When God Doesn’t Make Sense.” Sometimes, in spite of our best efforts, reasoning power and the comfort and advice of others, we just can’t figure out what God is up to or why certain things have happened in our life. It just doesn’t make sense. We are left with one big question; WHY? In those times, more than ever, I think there are some difficult yet vital things God wants to say to us. We have already looked at God insistence of, “Let Me be God.”

A second and final thing God says to us is, “Trust Me.”

Referring to some of those great Old Testament Christians in Hebrews 11:13 it says “Each of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised but still believing, still trusting.”  They trusted God and had faith up until the time of their death.  They went through often long agonizing trials.  Many of them often failed.  And the reality is sometimes God’s purpose is accomplished not by delivering us out of our difficulties but by demonstrating Himself in the midst of life’s problems.

Again, that is not an easy step.  Sometimes the gap between my personal pain and the ability to trust God seems so wide I’m not sure I can cross it.  I’ve learned that trust is not a once for all step but rather a moment by moment struggle.

Here are a few simple things that I am still learning about what it means to trust God.

1. Trust is a choice I make.

I’ve been told that the Chinese word for “crisis” also has at its root the word “opportunity”.  Every crisis is an opportunity for me to deepen my relationship with Jesus Christ.  And I’ve become convinced that God is more interested in seeing my response to difficulty than supplying me with all the reasons for my difficulty.  There’s a great nugget tucked in the middle of the book of Job.  Going through all that he’s going through, all the questioning, all the dialogue in the middle of chapter 13 there is one phrase where Job’s faith surges and he declares for the entire world to hear, “Though He slay me yet will I trust in Him.”  It was a choice he made.

If there’s a common denominator to be found among those who encounter Christ it is the willingness to choose to trust when all of life screams out that they should not.  The essential character quality is a humble willingness to leave some questions unanswered and a quiet decision to believe that God is good even when all the evidence seems contrary.

Trust! Trust is a choice I make.  The second lesson I’m learning is…

2.  Keep one eye on heaven.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen for what is seen is temporary and what is unseen is eternal.”  He says it even more directly in 1 Peter 2 (the Message) “Friends, this world is not your home.  Don’t make yourselves cozy in it.” 

In generations past one of the favorite topics of Christian songs was heaven. But I find that there aren’t many Christian songs written about heaven any more. I think it’s largely because our lives are comfortable and convenient.  And without realizing it we begin to put our roots down in this world and we kind of like it.  And thoughts about heaven are pretty far from us.  It is only sometimes in pain that our world gets rocked enough that we get a new perspective.  And we realize that this life doesn’t last forever.  And this world really isn’t our home and that we have the promise of heaven.  And like scripture says, “Life is like a vapor, here today and gone tomorrow.”  When life gets hard and unbearable the Lord’s encouragement for us is to remember you’re not home yet.  Heaven is your final destination so keep one eye there.

3.  A third lesson that I’m learning is that the more I get to know my Father, the more I trust Him. 

I love Psalm 34:18 which says, “The Lord is close to the broken hearted.  He rescues those who are crushed in spirit.”  It reminds me of the story of the little girl who was having trouble sleeping one night so her father came in and lay down on the little bed beside her.  When he turned off the lights and lay beside her she began to reach out her hands for his face because she said, “Daddy, if your face is toward me I can sleep.”

I’m convinced that the most important thing for some of us is not finding God’s answers or even finding God’s purpose, but finding God’s presence in our pain.  Some of us need to rest in the reality that God’s face is towards you.  He has not forgotten you.  He is not mad at you.  You matter to Him.  It’s not that you lack faith.  It’s just that right now God has purposes of which you maybe don’t understand.  But it doesn’t mean that He has forgotten you.  You can trust Him.

As the years have gone by and as I’ve walked with the Lord these years I’ve come to the place of knowing that as my Father, He can be trusted.  And I need to be constantly reminded of that fact. I don’t always have to understand His reasons.  But the more I know Him, the more I trust Him. 

One final statement before we end.  I can let God use my problems and pain to demonstrate His power.  The brightness of God’s glory and power is seen most brilliantly against the dark backdrop of human suffering.  Without a doubt, the greatest example and the most graphic example of this is the cross.  God brought incredible good out of the incredible suffering of Jesus on the cross.  And the Bible says that Jesus voluntarily laid aside His immunity to pain and entered our world and He did so that you could have a relationship with Him, so that I could have a relationship with Him and so that He could walk with us through our times of pain. 

The Bible says that He was broken and despised and rejected and scoffed at and nailed to a tree and out of that immense suffering now is the possibility and opportunity for you to have eternal life.  I don’t fully understand why, but God has determined to do His most significant work through pain and suffering.  There are some things in life that God can only do in us as a result of pain. 

The apostle Paul, one of the greatest men in the Bible, the Bible says was afflicted with a thorn in the flesh.  And time and time again he prayed to God that God would remove it.  And it was not removed.  It certainly wasn’t lack of faith.  But God has an answer for him.  2 Corinthians 12:9 God says to Paul “My gracious favor is all you need.  My power works best in your weakness.”  Then Paul says, “Now that I understand this I am glad to boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may work through me.  For when I am weak then I am strong.”

Could I pose a possibility to you today?  Could it be possible that what our world really needs is not necessarily more miracles, even more healing?  But for average men and women, ordinary people like you and I, to find the strength, to find the joy and the peace and the ability to trust God in the midst of our suffering.  That maybe God’s greatest power is that we walk through our pain, not just that we get delivered out of it.