How a Just God Can Allow Evil – Part Three of Three

God Does Not Directly Will Suffering – But He Does Allow It.

Back in the Garden of Eden, God allowed us freedom to disobey him and to choose evil. He made us in His own image, remember; and God Himself can choose good or evil. When we chose evil, disobeyed God, and sin entered the world, so did suffering and evil.  In order for us to exist in God’s own image, which is a wonderfully precious gift from God, He had to allow us free will. And allowing us free will, He had to permit humans to choose evil. This also meant permitting the innocent to suffer because of the acts of the wicked. It meant allowing the possibility of sickness and death coming into the world as a consequence of Adam and Eve’s possible choice of disobeying God.

However, God’s primary and primordial will for humanity was absolute and unmitigated good. God is the healer, in His own way and time, of those who turn to Him. All things work together for good for those who love the Lord. (Romans 8:28). One day He will wipe away all our tears.

Though Satan and the wicked mean for us to suffer, God allows it for our good. He did this with Joseph who was sold into slavery by his brothers, a great evil for Joseph, in order for the great good of saving all his brothers and his father from death by famine. In Genesis 50:20 Joseph says, “You meant it to me for evil, but God intended it for good, to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Joseph became Pharaoh’s right hand man and fed all his family from the grain bins of Egypt.

Remember: it was not God’s original intention for you to suffer evil. It was His original intention for you to live with Him in paradise. “In God’s presence is fullness of joy, and at His right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11). He always wanted you with Him and happy, not away from Him and suffering. Remember: God does not will evil; He does permit free will to humans, though. And therefore He does permit evil into the finite world. But there is still the eternal world where He has plans to take us, if we will only accept Jesus. And there we will experience total joy together without any evil to hurt us. Heaven must enter into your calculations and judgments about God’s character.

God Can Turn Any Evil Into Good.

The crucifixion of Jesus was the height of evil because a totally innocent Man was utterly crushed by wicked men. Yet God turned this great evil into an eternally resounding good, making Jesus our Saviour based upon His perfect sacrifice for our sins. Just when the devil thought he had put an end to this pesky Messiah, the tables were turned and Satan wound up used by God to restore those to paradise who trust in Christ. It turned out that crucifixion was just the thing that we humans needed done on our behalf.

On a lesser scale, God also can and does turn evil events in our own lives into good. Just as Mary at the foot of the cross could not understand how God could get any good from Jesus’ suffering, often neither can we understand how good could come in our situation. We are only able to see the permanent nature of our loss. We must simply trust God and wait upon Him until it is the proper time to reveal to us why God allowed us to suffer. Mary trusted and cried, cried and trusted. Then God raised Jesus from the dead. Sorrow turned to joy. Tears disappeared.

Always remember that we see things only from our own self-limited perspective. God, however, sees the whole picture and is working for the good of all individuals. He works necessarily for our good together, ie. the good must be such that all the righteous prosper and so that each gets the same measure of mercy and justice that he metes out to others. (Remember, the measure you give is the measure you get, Jesus said, Matthew 7:2.)

God Is Not Limited By Evil Persons.

In fact, often the wicked fall into their own snares, just as Satan did. A less powerful God would not have allowed so much freedom of choice in the world; as it is, however, an absolutely powerful God has allowed true moral freedom of choice. Yet this does not threaten God; God is not mocked, but the wicked reap what they sow and get the same measure they give. (Galatians 6:7; Matthew 7:2). Satan will spend eternity in hell. Yet God does not just stand by and let all things go to hell. Read the book of Revelation. God even has history under His control, while still allowing us to have freedom of will. God really is a big God.

In fact this brings us to the mysterious paradox – God allows the wicked to choose evil, yet God guides the wicked into their own snares eventually because part of being wicked is to be blind to the truth. Thus the liar is easily deceived (Proverbs 17:4). God allowed Pharaoh to reject Him, yet each time Pharaoh hardened his heart against God, God was paradoxically at the same time hardening Pharaoh’s heart, simply by letting Pharaoh get away with evil, until God was finally ready to destroy Pharaoh utterly. Yet Pharaoh chose his path. Pharaoh was a bad and hurtful dude, as the teenagers would say. But as mean and nasty as he was, he did not hinder God’s plans for God’s people, not in the least. So don’t think that what evil people do to you is ruining God’s best for your life. They simply don’t have that power. God is in control of reality itself, and God will not be mocked by the wicked. They will reap what they sow, and so will you, in spite of your suffering. Remember how Pilate had Jesus beaten, torn, and crucified? He cut short Jesus’ ministry of healing and teaching. He limited Jesus’ visits among the poor and oppressed. He tortured and murdered the Son of God. Yet he stopped none of God’s plan.

God is Not Limited By Evil Circumstances.

The trials of affliction – pain and loss to ourselves or our loved ones – are never greater than the grace of God. God can wipe away tears. It is mysterious, yet it happens. You will have to wait and experience this for yourself. No one else can convince you but your own experience will convince you. All anyone can do for you is witness to you and tell you it happened for them.

Further, when you suffer, though the pain is very unwelcome, you enter into fellowship with suffering humanity everywhere and also into fellowship with God. God also suffers, and your suffering helps you understand Him. He is not above suffering just as you are doing. Since He shares your suffering (remember He suffered the murder of His Son), you have undeniable proof that it is necessary. You are not the only one. There are reasons you do not understand, but the fact that He is there beside you, with His own suffering, gives you courage to bear your own.

Suffering must be important if God doesn’t even spare Himself from it. He suffered when His Son died; and God suffers with us – He sees us hurting, and it hurts Him. He mysteriously gives you His own grace to bear your suffering when you draw near to Him. (I Corinthians 10:13; and remember Paul’s thorn in the flesh, II Corinthians 12:710, where God says to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”)

Suffering Produces Wisdom In the Godly.

The same sun that hardens the clay will melt the wax. Let’s seriously take another look now at what the Bible says to you in your suffering. “Whom the Lord loves, He chastens.” (Hebrews 12:6). In fact, He makes you holy by putting you through what He does; it is a sign that He has taken you to be His child that you undergo the discipline that suffering brings. All this is found in Hebrews 12:4-13. God’s chastening produces righteousness and peace in you, like it or not. It just does. So let it happen and stop being mad at God.

Don’t think this is saying that specific hardships and tragedies are punishments sent directly by God – it may sound like that is what is being said here, but it is not. Chastening is different from punishment. My football coach, Lamar Dingler, used to make us repeat tackle practice, not because he was mad at us, but because we needed it to become good football players. My nickname was Spider. I never was much good, all arms and legs; but I sure learned to love football. I loved it even though I suffered doing it.

Jesus Himself reminded us in Luke 13:45 that God doesn’t deliberately single people out for suffering. There He plainly said that the people on whom the Tower of Siloam fell were not more evil or guilty or sinful, even though unbelievers, than all the believers in Jerusalem itself, where the priests and people worshipped God. It was just an accident. That’s all.

The point is that you were not singled out to suffer. Jesus said the rain falls on the just and the unjust. Rather, you were singled out by God, after it happened, to profit from your suffering. He goes through it with you, stands beside you, and educates you into holiness through your suffering because you are His, while another person who rejects Him learns absolutely nothing from their suffering. You can choose worldly grief, and get further and further away from God and the truth; or you can choose godly grief. You can lay your head on God’s chest and bawl, and let Him hold you and mold you in your time of pain. The choice is literally yours. Will you be wax or clay, clay or wax? Will you harden yourself against God, or will you yield to Him and let Him melt and mold you?

Suffering Makes You Appreciate and Desire Goodness and Joy Even More.

Theologian Thomas Oden says suffering “puts goodness into bolder relief”. You see the diamond better against the dark black velvet on which it lies. Being separated from a loved one by death drastically increases our desire to be with that loved one. We begin to desire our heavenly home. Absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder. This does not deny the absolutely crushing nature of pain, nor its bitter cruelty. It is not intended to imply that God increases your suffering in order to increase your later happiness. God intends to redeem you from all your suffering in His own time. Since He is most merciful, we can assume it will not be one second longer than necessary.

Suffering Makes You Grow.

Calm seas never made a master mariner. “Opposition, tension, and struggle are necessary to growth, development, and healthy formation,” Oden says. The butterfly must struggle out of its chrysalis or else its wings will be malformed. The struggle causes the butterfly’s blood to flow through the wings so that they are not crumpled after it comes out, but functioning. It hurts to fall, yet fall we must if we are going to learn to walk. The only way to learn patience and perseverance is to suffer through trials (James 1:24). And losses. And pain. A good gardener gets a rose bush to produce roses by pruning it. And God is a good gardener. In John 15:1-2, Jesus says, “1“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He £takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” Note that God prunes you that you may bear more fruit.

Three Verses to Cling To and Ponder Again

Psalm 119:67 says, “67Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word.”

Psalm 119:71 says, “71It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.”

Psalm 119:75 says, “75I know, O LORD, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.”

Jesus was sure God loved Him. Jesus wants you to be sure, too! In John 17:23 says, “…thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” God loves you just as much as He does Jesus — Jesus said so! And that is the only explanation for why He was willing to give up His Son for you!

                                                                                          FOR FURTHER READING

Billheimer, Paul E. Don’t Waste Your Sorrows. Minneapolis: Bethany Home Publishers, 1977.

Eeits, Bob. Life After Loss. Fisher Books, 1992.

Gerstenburger, E.S. and W. Schrage. Suffering. Nashville: Abingdon, 1977.

Gutierrez, Gustavo. On Job: God Talk and the Suffering of the Innocent. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1985.

Hick, John. Evil and the God of Love. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1977.

James, John W. and Frank Cherry. The Grief Recovery Handbook. New York: Harper & Row, 1988.

Kolf, June Cerza. When Will I Stop Hurting? Dealing With A Recent Death. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1987.

Kreeft, Peter. Making Sense Out of Suffering. Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Books, 1986.

Langdorf, Joyce. Mourning Song. Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, 1974.

Lewis, C. S. A Grief Observed. New York: Bantam Books, 1961.

Lewis, C. S. The Problem of Pain. New York: Macmillan, 1962.

Oden, Thomas C. Pastoral Theology. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1983.

Schaeffer, Edith. Affliction. Old Tappan: Fleming H. Revell, 1978.

Schaeffer, Francis A. He Is There and He Is Not Silent. Wheaton: Tyndale, 1972.

Smith, Harold I. When You Don’t Know What to Say: How to Help Your Grieving Friends. Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 2002.

Yancey, Philip. Where Is God When It Hurts. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977.

How a Just God Can Allow Evil – Part Two of Three

A Biblical Statement of the Problem

Now get ready for a paradox: God is the Sovereign Creator of absolutely everything, including evil! In Isaiah 45:7, God says, “I make peace and create evil.” Job says, in Job 2:10, “What? shall we receive good from God,and shall we not receive evil?” Isaiah 31:2 says God will bring evil against evildoers. God even made hell for the wicked to inhabit one day. The devil exists because God sustains his existence. The devil simply wouldn’t exist if God didn’t sustain his existence.

This does not imply that God takes pleasure in evil; He doesn’t. Psalm 5:4 says, “You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil.” But sometimes it seems almost as if God doesn’t care when evil strikes us. King David said, Psalm 10:1, “Why, O Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” It does seem like that sometimes. God has His reasons, which hopefully will become clear as we go along.

God let the devil hurt Job. In fact, God brought Job to the devil’s attention! Job 42:11 says that the Lord indeed brought trouble upon Job, even though the Lord Himself says that Job was blameless and upright (Job 2:3). Job responded to his wife’s bitter demand that he curse God and die by replying, in Job 2:10, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not evil?” So Job recognized, rightly, that God was the original source of his calamities. (By the way, there are different Hebrew words, all of which are translated “evil” in the King James. In Job 2:10, “evil” means “trouble,” “the bad,” “trials,” “hurt.”)

Therefore we can’t deny, as we look at the example of Job, that God brings trouble on the righteous. He brought it on Job. And Job was blameless and upright, fearing God and shunning the doing of evil to others. Yet he “got it”.

Jesus is another example. Jesus was completely righteous; yet God deliberately brought trouble on His own Son. Isaiah 53:9-10 says, “though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth…yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer….”

At one point, God even abandoned Jesus. We all remember that Jesus cried out from the cross, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Now, we can accept that God brings evil on the wicked and the sinful. But why does He allow evil to strike the righteous; or worse, why does He strike them Himself with evil? How could He punish His own perfectly sinless Son and leave Him on the cross? How can this be fair or just or right? That is the question before us – why do the righteous suffer? And, more particularly, why am I suffering? Why are those I love suffering if they don’t deserve it? And finally, what is the meaning of life in which evil seems to roam free? How can God be pure love and yet allow to exist all the wicked people and the evil they do?

Biblical Hints at the Answer

Jesus, according to Hebrews 5:8, even though He was a perfect Son, still had to suffer in order that He might learn obedience. Earlier, the author of Hebrews says, in Hebrews 2:10, that “it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.” So we get from these verses two reasons for Jesus’ suffering: 1) to make Him obedient, and 2) to make Him perfect. It is almost as if suffering is necessary, like tempering steel, to make Jesus useful or complete. It sounds like it has absolutely nothing to do with punishment, but rather with maturity.

We get the idea in a number of other scriptures that God treats us the same way as He treats Jesus. Hebrews 12:6 says “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” The next verse says, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons.” The thought is concluded in verse 10, which reads: “Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.” Something about suffering hardship, or loving victims, or caring about others’ suffering, sets us apart, making us holy, and is for our own good. It makes us like our heavenly Father, to suffer – for He certainly suffers from evil just the same as we do.

This is very hard to understand or accept, yet Paul certainly backs this up when he says, Romans 8:18-19, “we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” He adds, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Like Paul, Peter concludes, I Peter 4:19, as though suffering were the easiest thing in the world, “So then those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.”

These men seemed to have no trouble at all accepting suffering and hardship as God’s will for them. And listen to James in James 1:2, who says: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

No, these biblical authors seem to have no pity for us. They seem to think, like the nurse holding the syringe with the big long needle in her hand, that suffering is good for us. But maybe, just maybe, they are not saying these things unconcernedly or casually. Maybe they have been through some form of post-traumatic stress disorder, and are closer to God for it, and have something to tell us that is very important.

Suffering is supposed to drive us deeper into the arms of God. King David says in Psalm 119:67, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.” King David also quotes God as saying, Psalm 50:15, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor Me.” Yet we know perfectly well that the biblical authors had their moments of real doubt and pain. King David also wrote, with a lot more anguish in Psalm 10:1, to God: “Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” Job, in Job 16:12, says: “All was well with me, but he shattered me; he seized me by the neck and crushed me. He has made me his target….”! It is all very well that we know the “correct” biblical answer to the question of suffering – that it is for our own good and we must endure it and turn to God; but this answer may not be very satisfying. Hearing another person say, “Come on in, the water’s fine!” may not encourage us at all to jump in the water. We know good and well that it’s cold. The nurse with the syringe says, “This won’t hurt!”; and we say, “Sure! Right!” and cringe. We see someone we care about being tortured or injured past recovery, and it makes us confused. The Bible answers our question – godly suffering is good for you – but the answer seems unreal somehow. So let us consider the problem of pain and evil a bit more philosophically. Let us unpack what we already know about God and evil. Then we will look at the Bible’s answer and see if it gives any more comfort or sheds more light.

God Made the Best Possible Universe, and That Includes the Possibility of Evil

Let us consider the existence of evil again. We said that God created evil along with everything else. Remember our verse: Isaiah 45:7, “I… create evil.” Yet we note that on the day of creation “God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:9). In fact God saw that it was all good, very good. Yet evil was created as well, along with the good. When God gave us the mighty gift of free will, that included the ability to choose to hurt or bless others. And thus creating the great good of free will resulted in the possibility of evil. Eve chose to believe Satan’s lie and eat the forbidden fruit. And evil entered into the world – as a consequence of the gift of free will.

How can this be? Let us suppose that you are the inventor of electricity. You are faced with a dilemma, because as soon as you invent electricity, with its great capacity for good, you create along with it the possibility of people being electrocuted by hair dryers falling into their bathtubs. The evil comes into existence parasitically on the coattails of the good.

In other words, if you will have airplanes then you must have airplane crashes; if you have gravity to keep us attached to the earth, then you must have death by falling from a cliff. If you are to have an orderly universe with natural laws of space and time, cause and effect, up and down, with all its inherent good, then you have to recognize that along with the good you create the risk of evil, evil in the sense of painful consequences from wrong choices. Evil, in other words, is a logical corollary of the existence of good. When you create the one, you create the other by default. When you create marriage and sex, babies and families, a very good thing, you create the possibility of the wrong choices of adultery and divorce; when you create life, you create the possibility of death and the wrong choice of murder; when you create possessions, you create the possibility of people choosing theft, and so on. So let us let God off the hook for having created evil. This is still the best possible universe. In order for the good of free will to exist, then its logical opposite, evil, in the sense of people choosing to do wrong, has to come into existence too.

Never forget what a courageous thing God did when He gave us free choice. He made it possible for Himself to get hurt, just so He could give us that best of gifts, free will. Free will is what exalts us so highly and is why God cares so much about us.

God Made Us In His Own Image and That’s Part of the Problem

God was in fact so courageous and bold as to make us in His own image. He gave us free will. We could choose between good and evil, right and wrong. God also chose to make the universe a place of cause and effect, a place in which there would be real consequences; otherwise there could only be stasis, sameness. However, when He created something good He necessarily along with it made it possible for things to go wrong and evil to exist and have real consequences. You know the story of the garden of Eden…

So would it have been better for evil never to have existed at all? Would it have been better that we be robots in a static, nonmoving and unchanging universe where neither good nor evil, pleasure nor pain was possible? God obviously didn’t think so. God is a daredevil. He is also one super dreamer and artist. God is a big God. He decided to go right ahead and create the whole universe. He flung the stars and made the moon, the earth, Adam and Eve! (And He made good more powerful than evil, whether we think so or not.) Nevertheless, we humans got into trouble right away, as we recall, in the Garden of Eden. Next we will look at God’s will regarding suffering.

TALKING TO GOD – Part Two of Two

My Own Experiences of Talking to God

Directly hearing God’s voice. When I was 14, my Mom divorced my Dad. Dad tearfully said goodbye to me and my brother, and drove off in his car to join the Air Force and live far away. I was crying and walking across the back lawn to the little apartment where our mother had taken us to live. I said, “Well, I guess I don’t have a daddy any more,” and I heard God speak to me in my head, “I’ll be your Father.” I knew God had spoken to me, there was absolutely no possibility of it being anyone or anything else. It was God. He came back to me just as strongly at bedtime. I was crying myself to sleep and God did not touch me, yet somehow I felt that He tucked me into bed. I went straight to sleep.

Another time years later, when I was an associate pastor, again crying myself to sleep worrying about our youth leader leading our youth astray, I heard God speak to me lying in the bed. He just said my name, “Wally!” and I felt His emotions – wry humor at my worrying so, frustration that I wouldn’t let go and let Him handle it, and a loving, calming Fatherly command to relax and stop worrying. Again, I immediately relaxed and fell asleep.

Miraculous signs along with hearing God’s voice. In college, I was rejected by a young woman I had spent two years courting. I wanted to kill myself because she was dating other young men. I had begged God to let me have this girl and told God, foolishly, that I was willing to give up whatever future He had for me if only He would give her back to me. I sat on a park bench, utterly forlorn and miserable and broken because the harder I had tried to get her back, the further from me she got. I said to God, “Well, if You want me to believe in You any more, You’d better show me some kind of sign.” The wind blew in my face. I said, “If that’s You, make the wind blow hard.” It blew hard and trees were swaying every which way, trash was blowing across the ground all around me. I said, “If that’s You, make it stop.” There was this immediate, intense calm in all directions. Everything stopped.

I told God, “If You want to say yes to my questions, blow on the right cheek of my face; if no, the left.” I sensed God’s agreement, and I began to question Him with yes or no questions. My first question was a callous one – are You as mean and hateful as I have been thinking You are?” Noooo, the wind blew on my left cheek. “Do You really love me?” Yessss, the wind blew on my right cheek. I got up off the park bench and began to walk. I walked for nearly 15 minutes, talking to God in this fashion, until I began to get anxious from such close proximity to God. I asked Him to quit and go away because I couldn’t take it any more, and He went away.

Next day, I went at it again with Him, and the next, all week long. Finally, I was talking to Him directly. I said at the end, “You say You love me, but I am too emotionally drained to love You back. But when I get the energy, I will love You back; only all I ask is that You love me anyway until I can love You back.” Immediately it was as if I had a daydream, in which in my imagination I could imagine a giant hand and arm coming from the sky to shake on it, and I felt God’s mind thinking, “It’s a deal.”

Another time I….well, there have been many other times over the years, but only three or four as vivid as the park bench thing. All completely different. All related to me really needing to talk to God and get His response.

Regular communication is important. If you only talk to God when you have a need, that warps your relationship with Him. Jesus said in the sermon on the mount to some people who used His name, “I never knew you.” The way to prevent Him never knowing you is to talk to Him a lot! Let Him in on your life! He can’t say He didn’t know you if you spend your life talking to Him all the time. Letting Him into your heart includes letting Him look over your shoulder, and certainly includes talking to Him about everything. To start talking to Him, just start thanking Him for stuff. If you want Him for your Friend, then treat Him like a friend before you start asking him for stuff.

Interfering Voices

Satan. Satan’s voice is easy to distinguish from God’s. God’s words always give you the feeling of no hurry, a calmness, and there is no sense when God speaks that He is being pushy and demanding or threatening. Satan’s stuff is imitation, very rigidly holy sounding, and it usually requires you to act immediately, demanding immediate obedience, or else. God always gives you the choice; you are free to obey or disobey. Satan can’t pull that off – he has to threaten. After Satan talks, you invariably feel anxious. After God talks, you may feel convicted or reassured, but you can sense even when it is really important that you still can say no and God will accept that no without getting angry with you. If God is angry with you, you will know it; but He still lets you run your own life if that is what you choose. If you have given yourself over to Him, He just quietly reminds you of it, or you are aware, but it is still your decision to follow Him or not.

Your own voice. Just ask yourself when you “hear” or “feel” what you think is God’s answer, “Did I just make that up?” Usually if it is God, you realize after a little thought that you just simply would not have said that to yourself. Sometimes, reading the scriptures, we can misapply a verse to ourselves. But if you will just check with yourself, you will be able to tell – maybe with more practice – whether God is really the one saying it, or if you are just saying it to yourself.

You Can Do This

The more you need to talk to God, the easier it should be. When you really have something important to say to Him, it’s easiest of all. Meanwhile, chatter to Him all you want. Some find it easier talking to Jesus; some, to God. I have learned to talk to both. Jesus likes me to just call Him Jesus, oddly enough; He gets tired of me calling Him Lord, but not doing all He told me to. It is more comfortable for Jesus to just be my friend, and He wants me to call Him Jesus. He wants to know me personally and not professionally, so to speak. Same with me and God. I know He’s the Almighty on the throne, with all power; but He would rather me crawl up in His lap and just be His little boy. I can say anything I want to God, because He knows I love Him and we’re that comfortable talking to each other. Even though sometimes I am bad and don’t listen, He still is patient with me. Only rarely has He warned me that I have gone too far.

Conclusion

Jesus said, John 10:14, “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me….” Try it yourself. Keep trying till you succeed. Don’t go all religious on God or on Jesus. Pour it all out. Then just listen. One of these days, you are going to realize that you really are in touch with God. You shouldn’t expect long speeches from God. Just expect to “read His mind.” He will open His mind to you and you will feel His emotions in reaction to what you are saying to Him. Lots of times now, I just say to Jesus, “Jesus, it’s Wally,” and He instantly knows the whole deal without me saying another word. Then I feel for His mind and know His thoughts directly, with no need to wait for some long drawn out speech from Him. It’s instantaneous. If I missed something, I just feel for His mind again, and there it is.

Talk to Him! Then listen for Him! That really is Him you have been hearing in your heart/conscience! Now start asking better questions! The better your questions, the more helpful His answers will be. He is waiting for you to begin the conversation.

TALKING TO GOD – Part One of Two

Things that Inhibit Closeness to God

Fear. Some people just cannot believe they can talk to God personally, because they fear Him so much they are afraid to get close to Him. They are afraid of rousing God’s wrath. They can’t believe God wants to talk to them personally because maybe He is too busy with ruling the world, or something. They fear interrupting God. Maybe their earthly parents bit their heads off when they were children; perhaps they sought attention at the wrong time in Mommy or Daddy’s mind. Now, years later, many people are simply afraid.

Unbelief. Some people simply don’t believe God can enter their mind and carry on a conversation with them. They think other people are faking it when they say, “God told me…”. Maybe they tried it several times and they didn’t “hear” anything; or couldn’t be sure what they were hearing was God or just their own self speaking. They just assume they don’t have the “gift of prophecy” to hear from God, so they stop believing God would or could want to speak directly to them in their mind.

Guilt. Some people believe God has forgiven them, but really doesn’t like them that much that He would speak to them directly. In this world, there are people who are polite to you but really won’t open up. Perhaps you said something offensive to them a long time ago, or they know something bad about you, and you sense that they really don’t like talking to you face to face. Some people feel that way about God. They know what the Bible says about God’s love and forgiveness, but they can’t really believe in their heart that God would just come right out and talk to them.

Woundedness – anger at God or someone else – unforgiveness. When someone is badly hurt, as for example when they witness a parent commit suicide or get regular beatings from a parent or experience rape by a member of the family, they typically encase their heart in a huge inner scab or scar. They have difficulty understanding the feelings of other people, because they have been hurt so badly that they have lost the ability to be sensitive or empathetic. They have become so focused on their own feelings that they have real difficulty picking up what other people are really like, or are really feeling. They make bad guesses about other people because their heart has been so hurt. They have an invisible shield around themselves to protect their heart, but that same shield that keeps them from hurting also keeps them from feeling other people. They also have trouble feeling God or sensing God’s feelings toward them. They have to have everything spelled out to them. They are crippled in their ability to feel.

Bad theology. Some people have been taught that God is so holy, He gets angry at the least little sin. God has no patience. Better not rile God. Don’t expect any answers when you pray. Others have been taught that God only speaks to super-saints – the rest of us must just guess, read the Bible like reading tea leaves, or hunt verses that sound like something they hope God is saying to them. Still others hunt proof texts to assure them they are doing the right thing. When they pray, they are never sure if God is hearing them or not. And they are constantly seeking guidance from God because they are afraid to just walk up to God inside their minds and ask Him point blank. They don’t believe God wants them to know anything, wants to keep them in the dark about His will. They don’t have any idea if God is willing to fulfill a request, because they cannot sense what God’s will for them might be.

Superstitiousness. Some people think they need a Ouija board to talk to God. They use the Bible like a Ouija board, flipping through it with their eyes shut. (I have done this.) They long to have Urim and Thummim, they long to cast lots. They want a definite answer and are unable to believe they could just talk directly to God, so they practice what amounts to a weak form of magic in order to get in touch with God, kind of like Saul and the witch of Endor. Saul went to the witch to consult Samuel, instead of just directly talking to God himself.

Just never tried it, or tried it and failed. People look for signs, ask other people for guidance, anything but talk directly to God. They just never have been able to make direct contact with God. Huckleberry Finn said that he tried prayer but it didn’t work. He prayed for a fishing pole so he could go fishing one day. Next day, he came upon a fish hook in the dusty road, he said, but God never gave him that fishing pole and line and cork, etc. so he stopped praying to God.

Biblical Examples of Talking Directly and Indirectly to God

Jesus talked directly to God. Moses talked directly to God. Abraham talked directly to God. St. Paul talked to God about the thorn in his flesh. God told him that His grace was sufficient for him. Elisha slapped the Jordan river after Elijah went to heaven in the chariot of fire, and asked out loud, “Where is the God of Elijah?” Hannah knelt at the altar and talked to God, but didn’t get her direct answer from God but rather from the priest Eli. Jacob wrestled with the angel of God and talked to him during the wrestling match. Adam and Eve talked to God directly. King David sometimes talked to God directly, seated in the temple; and sometimes the prophet Nathan brought word to David. Many of the prophets, like Isaiah and Jeremiah, talked directly to God. And Jesus talked to God. Mark 1:35 says, “And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose up and went out, and departed into a desert place, and there prayed.”

Laying fleece. Gideon laid out a fleece in order to be sure of God’s will. It was a great help to him, and it increased his faith. He literally needed a miracle before he could be sure that God had been the one directing him. Note that seeing the angel of God disappear in smoke was not sufficient for Gideon! One miracle was not enough to convince him. John the Baptist’s father also said, “How can I know you’re for real?” to Gabriel. Gabriel punished him for doubting him. Doubting Thomas needed to touch the wounds in Jesus’ side and feet and hands before he would believe. The Pharisees, you remember, kept asking Jesus for signs but Jesus said if they wouldn’t believe what they were seeing in Him, nothing would convince them. Jesus told the story of the poor Lazarus in the bosom of Abraham and the point was that if they wouldn’t believe the word of God, even someone rising from the dead wouldn’t convince them. My point is: people need and long for a sign to convince them that they indeed have made contact with the supernatural, with God, for real. Even Moses needed the burning bush.

I laid a fleece before going to the mission field. God had spoken to me, I felt, and so had He to my wife. We got a job with a mission agency. Our mission agency was sending us to Colombia, South America, to be part of a church planting team. I wanted to be sure God was the One sending us. I asked God for permission to lay a fleece. I said, “I don’t plan on asking outright for money, but only to go preaching at churches that will have me; and my message will be, ‘God is calling us to the mission field; is He calling you too?’ If You move in their hearts to give, I will know You are calling us for real. If not, I will know it’s all just in my head.” The result was that we received completely voluntary donations sufficient to cover the whole four years we were gone.

Why Do the Righteous Suffer? – Part Two of Two

So then, let’s look at some biblical reasons why the righteous suffer.

Suffering perfects and completes us. James 1:2-4 says, “2My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

Suffering brings us to holiness and righteousness. Hebrews 12:10-11 says, “7If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. 9Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? 10For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. 11Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

Suffering teaches us obedience. Hebrew 5:8 says,“8though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.”The very next verse says that Jesus’ suffering perfected Him, and He went on to be our Saviour.

Suffering tests our faith, and lets the Lord know if we are ready for ministry. Matthew 4:1 says, “1Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” As soon as Jesus passed these satanic tests, He began His ministry.

We all deserve suffering since we all have sinned, and deserve death. (Romans 5:8 says, “8But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 6:22-23 says, “22But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. 23For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

God lets us suffer to produce righteousness in us and to give us a share in His own holiness. (Hebrews 12:10-11, quoted above). I Peter 4:12-13 says, “12Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:   13But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”

Suffering causes us to keep God’s word. Psalm 119:67 says, “67Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word.”

Suffering teaches us to distinguish right from wrong. Psalm 119:71 says, “71It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.”

We will come to see that God has afflicted us in faithfulness. Psalm 119:75 says, “75I know, O LORD, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.”

Suffering is one way God chastens us, proving His love, making us holy. Hebrews 12:6-10 says, “My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: 6For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth… for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.”

God rains on the just and the unjust alike, and allows suffering to fall on the just and the unjust alike. In Matt 5:45, Jesus says, “…your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Suffering shows what is in our hearts. Luke 2:34-35 says, “34And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;   35(Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” I Corinthians 3:13 says, “13Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.”

“GOD SAID NO”

Author Unknown

I asked God to take away my pride,

And God said NO.

He said it’s not for Him to take away

But for me to give up.

I asked God to make my handicapped child whole,

And God said NO.

He said, her spirit IS whole,

Her body is only temporary.

I asked God to grant me patience,

And He said NO.

Patience is the by-product of tribulation.

It isn’t granted, it is earned.

I asked God to give me happiness,

And God said NO.

He gives blessings,

Happiness is up to me.

I asked God to spare me pain,

And He said NO.

Suffering draws you apart from worldly cares

And draws you closer to Me.

I asked God to make my spirit grow,

And God said NO.

He said I must grow it on my own.

He will help with regular pruning.

I asked God if He loved me,

And He said YES.

He gave His only Son to die for me. And

That’s why I will be in heaven with Him one day.

So I asked God to help me

Love others as much as He loves me.

And He said:

“Ahh! So you finally got the point.”

Our loss causes us to wake up to what it is to be blessed. A Confederate soldier wrote these words after the Civil War:

I asked God for strength, that I might achieve;

I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.

I asked for help that I might do greater things;

I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.

I asked for riches, that I might be happy;

I was given poverty, that I might be wise.

I asked for power that I might have the praise of men;

I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things that I might enjoy my life;

I was given life that I might enjoy all things.

I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I had hoped for.

I am among men, most richly blessed.

Some encouraging scriptures:

Psalm 30:4-5, “4 Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. 5 …weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

Isaiah 51:11, “11Therefore the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away. 12I, even I, am he that comforteth you….”

Jeremiah 31:11-14, “11For the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of him that was stronger than he. 12Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, …and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all. 13Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, both young men and old together: for he will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow. 14And …my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, saith the LORD.”

John 16:19-22, “19Now Jesus … said unto them, …20Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, … and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. 21A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. 22And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.”

The Holy Spirit of Jesus will be your Comforter. Just ask Him. Jesus will be there with you through it all.

Why Do the Righteous Suffer? – Part One of Two

Why do the righteous suffer? Because calm seas never made master mariner; and the Lord sends rain (good and bad) on the just and the unjust. Yet the rough seas and storms and bad rains we go through are never pleasant. Like St. Paul, there are times when we can despair of life itself. Let us examine what suffering is, and why God allows it.

Here are some of the common symptoms of great suffering, loss, or grief. Not everyone experiences them all, but some people do:

– Flat emotions. Inability to feel anything. Neither joy nor grief touches you. Your face reflects that your feelings are numb.

– Irritability. Desire to be alone. Unfriendliness. Feeling tired all the time. Constantly needing to take a nap. Insomnia at night.

– Loss of interest in your hobbies. Overeating or undereating. Need to medicate – prescription meds, alcohol, tv, etc.

– Inability to cope with the tasks of life, such as cooking, making the bed, cleaning, shopping. Dread of facing the world.

– Bad decisions. Carelessness. Wasting time. Missing appointments. Forgetfulness. Avoidance of planning. Suicidal plans.

– Others have difficulty in dealing with you because you won’t cooperate for very long. You won’t help yourself.

– Uncontrollable crying, grief, and sorrow, or feelings of terrible loss, overwhelm you at times, usually when you are alone.

– You feel angry at God, or frustration with Him. God doesn’t seem to be listening nor caring. You feel despair, no hope.

God Himself suffers – Remember that He rent the Temple veil upon the death of His Son? It also hurts God when YOU suffer! Therefore there is something profound about suffering, if God Himself must suffer.

Jesus suffered — Heb. 5:8, “though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.”

Psalm 119:67 says, 67Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word.”

Psalm 119:71 says, 71It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.”

Psalm 119:75 says, 75I know, O LORD, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.”

Jesus knew about sorrow:

–  John 11:35, “Jesus wept,” at the tomb of Lazarus.

–  Isaiah 53:3-5,“3He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.”

The mourning is itself a sign that you have godly hope and faith in God: You choose to mourn in a godly way, ie. without anger, only when you believe that God has happiness stored up for you in the future. The Bible speaks of ungodly grief. Paul says, in II Corinthians 7:10, “  10For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.”

Those who are truly ungodly have only the sorrow of the world, which leads to suicidal feelings. Those in true despair, who have no hope, may weep; but their sorrow is not in a godly way, because they have no faith that there could be anything better. They weep and gnash their teeth but they do not mourn in the sense Jesus uses the term, for biblical mourning is the suffering of the loss of joy by a person who knows that there can be such a thing as true joy, and values it.

God can and will turn your sorrow and mourning into joy and gladness and dancing:

–  Isaiah 51:11, “Therefore the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy [shall be] upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; [and] sorrow and mourning shall flee away.”

–  Ps. 30:4-5, “Sing praise to the LORD, You saints of His, And give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.  For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning…. 11You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness….”

God shall wipe away your tears: Revelation 21:3-5, “3God himself shall be with them, and be their God. 4And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. 5And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.”

–  Joseph wept for a season, but God turned all the evil his brothers did to him to good, saving Israel and Egypt from famine.

–  Sarah wept for a season, but God comforted her with a son, Isaac.

–  Hannah wept for a season, but God comforted her with a child, Samuel.

–  Ruth wept for a season, but God comforted her with a husband.

–  Job wept for a season, but when he stopped blaming God, God restored to him double.

–  Jeremiah wept for a season, but God gave him a vision of Israel’s return from captivity.

–  Ezekiel wept for a season, despairing of his life, but God saved him and eventually took him to heaven in a chariot of fire.

 Jesus will mend your broken heart:

–  John 16:20, “Verily, verily, I say to you, ye shall weep and lament, and…ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned to joy.”

–  Luke 4:18, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me … he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted….”

Jesus wiped away the tears of many:

–  The widow of Nain, Luke 7:11;

–  Mary Magdalene and Martha at the death of Lazarus, John 12; and Jairus, Luke 8:41.

–  Peter was rescued by Jesus from the Sea of Galilee. Peter was restored when Jesus said three times, “Feed My sheep.”

Mary wept for a season, but God raised her son from the dead.

Jesus wept for a season, for Lazarus; in the garden of Gethsemane; and on the cross; but God raised Him from the dead and gave him us.

–  So turn your ungodly sorrow into godly sorrow. Repent of any unbelief and hardness of heart. Let your heart turn tender as you grieve and mourn your loss, believing that joy does exist and that God is able to restore it to you.

Sometimes you can’t find relief from the pain from those who hurt you until you have forgiven them. Then you can let out all your grief and be healed of your sorrow:

  • When the Japanese invaded Korea, they killed many old and defenseless men, leaving many widows. When Christianity came to South Korea, some of these women finally were able to give up their hatred for the Japanese.       They cried bitter tears as they relived their grief all over again. But after they had shed those cleansing tears which came with forgiveness, a group of these Christian Korean women decided to do a wonderful thing. They decided to knit garments, sell the knitting, and send a Korean missionary to the Japanese soldiers who killed their husbands. Every day, their mourning was comforted by their actions of love toward their enemies! That Korean missionary won many Japanese soldiers to God, and then they mourned for their sins and found healing in their turn through repentance and trusting in Christ.
  • When Corrie ten Boom forgave the concentration camp guard responsible for her sister Betsie’s death, a flood of love and joy filled her whole body. The guard came to her in a revival service in Germany after the war. He asked her, “Can you forgive me? He held out his hand. Corrie said she couldn’t raise her hand at first, but she did. Then, as she took his hand, the hand of the man who had beaten her sister and left her to die, warmth rose up her arm and then filled her whole body and she felt the presence of the Lord all within and over her. That was a great reconciliation, a profound forgiveness, and it pleased God.

What the Bible Says About Concealing and Revealing

To everything there is a season. Sometimes the biblical way is to conceal a matter, but at other times the godly way is to reveal a matter. Here are some scriptures to guide you in situations. This article talks about relationships with your mate, but the principles would apply to anyone with whom you are in a meaningful relationship or covenant.

SHOULD I CONCEAL IT?

There is a time to conceal things from your mate. According to the Bible, here is a list of the types of things you would be better off keeping to yourself:

                1) Keep rash, bitter remarks to yourself. (Proverbs 12:18, There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health. Proverbs 29:20, Seest thou a man that is hasty in his words? There is more hope of a fool than of him. Proverbs 12:16, A fool’s vexation is known at once….) Doubt and jealousy are examples of this.

                2) Keep from arguing until you have had a chance to think it through from every angle. (Proverbs 25:8 Go not forth hastily to strive, lest thou know not what to do in the end thereof, when thy neighbour hath put thee to shame.) Why say something to which your mate immediately fires back the perfect putdown? That will just make you more defensive. No, stop and think before you insert your foot in your mouth!

                3) Don’t put down your mate when they say something foolish. Proverbs 26:4 says, “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.” Matthew 7:1 says, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” Give them time to think and to retract it later. This includes not showing contempt or harshly judging them for what they did or said.

                4) Don’t keep bringing up the past sins of your mate; that is unforgiveness, and it tends to kill their love for you. Proverbs 17:9 says, “He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends.” Proverbs 10:12 says, “Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.”

                5) Bite your tongue from answering your mate before they have finished speaking and explaining their case. (Proverbs 18:13, He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.)

                6) Don’t always tell your mate everything you are praying to God about. In Matthew 6:6, Jesus says, “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” Your relationship with God is what will sustain you toward your mate when your mate is not sustaining it. So keep it confidential when necessary, as Jesus advises you to.

                7) Don’t slander your mate — especially if your mate truly wronged you or did something really wrong — to your best friend, especially if they are of the opposite sex. Proverbs 10:18 says, “He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool.” Psalms 101:5 says, ‘Whoever privately slanders his neighbour, him will I [God] cut off: he that has a high look and a proud heart will not I suffer.” In other words, it is plain old hatred when you talk about your mate’s sins behind their back. So don’t do it! Be that loyal!

                8)Never say something you don’t really mean just to get an effect — you may be dismayed much later to learn your mate really took you at your word. We are most tempted to exaggeration when our mate is refusing to act as if he or she hears us. The problem is, they are listening better than we think. We may be truly sorry for blowing things up to make a point.

SHOULD I REVEAL IT?

There is a time to reveal things. According to the Bible, here is a list of the things you definitely should not conceal, but should confess and reveal:

                1) Reveal your plans to your mate. Proverbs 15:22 says, “Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established.” This will keep your mate from getting angry, and keep you from falling apart. It is an example of the kind of communication you owe each other. Not telling plans is a symptom that things are really bad.

                2) Don’t hide your successes from your mate. In Matthew 5:15 Jesus says, “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.” It is a sign of hostility and alienation when you don’t let your mate in on your little daily triumphs that have made you happy with yourself.

                3) Don’t conceal the love you feel when you feel it. Proverbs 27:5 says, “Open rebuke is better than secret love.” John 3:20-21 says, “For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.”

                4) Let your mate know, tactfully, when you are boiling inside at them; it’s not fair to hide it until it explodes all over them. In Matthew 18:15 Jesus says, “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.” Proverbs 10:18 says, “He that hideth hatred with lying lips … is a fool.”

                5) Tell your mate the truth, and do not hide it from them. Proverbs 4:24 says, “Put away from thee a deceitful mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.” Do you really need to be reminded of the importance to a relationship of openness and honesty? I think not!

                6) Admit your sins to your mate. It’s the only way! Proverbs 28:13 says, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” James 5:16 says, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.”

                7) Don’t just tell your mate when you want to make love; reveal to your mate your desire for them in a romantic way that goes beyond lovemaking. Proverbs 5:15-18 says, “Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well. … Let them be only thine own, and not strangers’ with thee. Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth.”

                8) Admit your weaknesses in good humor to your mate. II Corinthians 12:9 says, “And he said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” The only reason you wouldn’t want to laugh about your weaknesses with your mate is that they might use it against you. But in a healthy relationship there is a ground rule that one never does that! Get your mate to agree to stop trying to win out over you, so you can admit your weaknesses and become intimate!

God’s Justice vs. ‘Social Justice’ or ‘Fairness’ – Part Two

In God’s kingdom, mercy is voluntary. It is not enforced by any law but the moral law of love. However, even mercy has its element of reaping and sowing. Jesus said, as has been mentioned, that the merciful will be given mercy. If you sow mercy, God will see that you reap mercy. When government intervenes to take from the diligent and give to the lazy, they may bestow what they call social justice – but it is not biblical justice. It is government approved stealing. It ruins people’s morals to give them something for nothing, and to take from those who have just because they have earned it. It makes politicians corrupt.

Jesus calls mercy one of the weighty matters of the law, Matthew 23:23, along with justice and faith. In other words, the law of God is based on justice, mercy, and faith. God has lots of rules concerning mercy for the poor and needy.You can snack on the grapes or corn as you walk through another man’s vineyard or fields. The poor can glean the fields of the rich after the harvest, and a righteous farmer will leave the corners of his fields for the poor.

However, there is no punishment for refusing to be generous. Generosity, as a form of mercy, is voluntary. And God Himself is generous with the poor. In the temple, and on special days, the poor don’t have to sacrifice an ox; they can bring doves instead. But coveting is a sin, whether done by the rich or the poor. But that does not mean that the poor shall be favored in court.

God says to treat rich and poor with the same justice. In Exodus 27:3-6, God says do not favor the rich and wrest judgment from the poor because the rich pays a bribe; but neither shall you favor the poor just because he is poor. They get the same justice in court.

Nothing makes God angrier than when the wicked pervert biblical justice and mercy. See Isaiah 59:1-4, “1Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: 2But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. 3For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness. 4None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity.” Amos 5:21-24 says, “21I hate, I despise your feasts, and I will take no delight in your solemn assemblies. 22Yea, though ye offer me your burnt-offerings and meal-offerings, I will not accept them; neither will I regard the peace-offerings of your fat beasts. 23Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy hymns. 24But let justice roll down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.” When the judges become corrupt, all of society suffers from criminals. That’s when Jesus would get out His whip of cords again.

Socialists pervert God’s word when they take God’s justice to refer to socialism. It does not! In the verses just quoted, justice means the law of reaping what you sow; the measure you give is the measure you get; and violence and stealing is wrong for rich or poor. It does not mean robbing from the hard working wealthy and giving to the dope dealers, shirkers, and bums. It does mean caring voluntarily for the truly needy, but it does not mean creating a government who steals through unjust taxation.

In societies based on God’s justice, the diligent and lazy get very different outcomes. God’s economics is based on “Thou shalt not steal” and “You reap what you sow.” God says neither rich or poor may steal from the other. Both get exactly what they’ve earned. Rich and poor are treated alike.

Furthermore, God’s justice is designed to prevent evil. God requires more than merely an eye for an eye. According to God’s law, if a thief steals one sheep from you, the thief owes you back not one but four sheep. For rapists, the punishment is to be put to death. Based on this principle, U.S. courts awarded punishment money to the states who sued the tobacco industry. If you swear falsely against another in God’s court system, you must pay double what the punishment would have been to one you falsely accused.

God recognizes that some will choose to behave with perseverance and diligence, while others will behave foolishly. Some will work hard and prosper. Others will be lazy and become poor. Thus, II Thess. 3:10 says, “If any will not work, let him not eat.” Letting the lazy starve is the opposite of fairness but the essence of justice. The lazy should not be rewarded for laziness. But what, you ask, about the poor who are not lazy, but injured somehow?

God’s justice also rewards doing good. Proverbs 19:17 says, “17He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.” God’s mercy and lovingkindness are part of God’s justice. God rewards those who show mercy to the injured poor such as widows, orphans, and wounded. God’s justice says to individuals that when they give to those they deem needy, God will bless them for it. Jesus said “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” The welfare system kills our motivation toward mercy and love, because it breaks God’s law against stealing; but God’s justice actually motivates us to show mercy and love.

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord. (Psalm 33:12) When a society bases its laws on the biblical principals of justice and mercy, and faith in God, it will be blessed. Psalm 43:1 says, “1Judge me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation: O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man.” We must push with all our might against injustice and sin wherever we find it, regardless of our political views, if we would please the Lord. As elections approach in this year of 2014, let us keep God’s righteousness and justice uppermost in our hearts to guide us!

Kitchen Diplomacy – Part Five of Five

  • Do like Dale Carnegie. Dale Carnegie had three big winning techniques in talking to people:
    • “Don’t criticize!” Criticism of others shuts off their interest in listening to you. If you want to gather honey, don’t kick over the bee hive. Therefore, avoid arguing; never utter the words “you’re wrong”; when you are wrong admit it quickly. Never make a point at your partner’s expense. Never lay blame.
    • “Appreciate!” Become genuinely interested. Listen. Find out how your partner really feels. Care about how they feel! Be sympathetic and empathetic.
    • Bait your hook right.” Fish don’t like strawberries and cream like you do – they like worms. So, when you make your offer or your request, be sure to phrase it in terms of the other person’s interest rather than your own.
  • Do positive things!
    • Flirt! Remember how? You can still do it when you are married!
    • Talk! Come on, open up.
    • Encourage! Why not?
    • Give unconditional positive regard! This means:
      • Attribute the best and noblest motives to your partner. Believe the best.
      • Use reflecting speech: when your spouse is trying to tell you something important about feelings or opinions or relationships, first think hard; then say back to your spouse what you understand they are saying.
      • Use active listening. Ask questions to learn more.
      • Don’t ask rhetorical questions – it puts people on edge.
      • Don’t ask questions with ulterior motives. Ask to really get more information.
      • Don’t interrupt or override your partner.
    • Poke lighthearted fun at your foibles! It will endear you.
    • Create affectionate terms for your partner! “Loves,” “Bee-bee.”

Figure out “where are we now.” Sum up anything that you gleaned or gained from your meeting. Suppose that you were working on a new financial budget because your insurance rates went up. Your mate said, “We have to get the money for higher insurance premiums from some of these other categories in our budget.” So you negotiate. Each of you winds up with $10 less allowance per month to spend on yourselves personally; you will go out to eat less; you will spend less on your clothing budget. But you are still needing $50 a month more and you are out of time, or just tired. So you agree to meet next time to continue figuring out a mutually agreeable solution as to which other categories need to give up money to pay the insurance premium.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Suppose everything went right and you figured out, with each other, the perfect solution. Fine. You don’t need to meet again until something else comes up. Realistically, however, often you won’t work out the answer in one meeting. Don’t get frustrated – you’re working on it! You are already way ahead! You have established a means of communication that is going to work to take away your deepest frustrations with each other! So give it time. Above all, remember to NOT compete, NOT make it about winning or losing. It’s not about being right; it’s about being in right relationship. Just keep meeting. Pray! And see if God doesn’t help you find the answers together. It wouldn’t hurt to pray for His help, by the way.

Do something loving for each other afterwards. Minister to each other. She might cook him his favorite food. He might watch a “chick flick” with her, or mop the kitchen floor (at last). You might make love that night.

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Don’t lose hope. Zig Ziglar tells the story of an old man who was wandering in the desert, dying of thirst. The old man ran across an old timey water pump. Beside the pump was an old coffee can, filled with water, covered with a plastic lid. There was a note lying on top of the lid, held in place by a rock. The note said,

You’ve got to prime the pump! You must have faith and believe, You’ve got to give of yourself before you’re worthy to receive.

The old man knew how those old pumps work. There is a leather sealing washer in the throat of the pump. When you push the pump handle up and down, the leather washer moves inside, up and down. If the leather is dry, there is no suction, and this is where priming comes in. You must prime the pump – pour water down its gullet until the leather washer swells up and gets tight in the throat of the pump. Then you must continue to pump the handle. Each time you pump, you move the water in the pipe upward, about a foot each stroke. If the water is 200 feet below ground level, it will take 200 strokes to lift the water to the throat of the pump. If you quit in the middle, the water gradually goes back down the pipe. You must keep up a sustained pumping until the water at last reaches the mouth of the pump. Out pours the cold, clear water! Once you have gotten the water all the way up, it is easy to keep the suction. No more priming is needed. You can get water with each stroke at your leisure.

The old man had a choice: drink the water in the can, and hope to make it across the rest of the desert with an empty water bag and leaving no water behind for the next person; or risk everything on priming the pump. The old man made his decision. With trembling hands he poured a little bit of water into the pump; then a little more, until finally the leather caught. He pumped and pumped, primed and primed. Just as he had used the last of his priming water, he felt a clunk in the pump handle as he stroked. He knew he was now solidly pulling water! He pumped and pumped, hot and exhausted, but not quitting until finally out came cold, clear water in gushes and gushes. He quenched his thirst. He filled his water bag. And he filled the can, carefully putting the note back in place under the rock for the next desperate visitor.

This story is a parable of your life. Are you going to “drink the water in the can,” settling for the immediate pleasure of expressing your hot and righteous anger at your partner but putting your entire future together in jeopardy? Or are you going to “prime the pump,” going for the far better and more lasting reward of improving your relationship? If you choose to prime the pump, realize that you won’t get any reward at all until you have worked and worked. If it takes “200 strokes” to bring up the “water” in your relationship, for goodness’ sake don’t stop at 199 strokes! In other words, after all that work to negotiate, don’t blow it with an argument. Then you’ve lost all your effort. Instead, continue until you get the cool, clear water of right relationship. Continue until your conflict is truly resolved, so you can enjoy your partner.

Happy negotiating!

 

Kitchen Diplomacy – Part Four of Five

  •        Come out of that doghouse: When you realize your mate feels in the doghouse, quick! Get them out of there! This rule means each of you works all the time to remove blame from the other. Men, work especially hard because women tend to stab themselves with this one; they need lots of reassurance. And women, please make sure you have not fallen into the habit of motivating your husband by subtle messages of contempt for him. It’s easy to put him in the doghouse; are you woman enough to get him out of there? (Read Ephesians 5:21-35.)
  •        Hi!: You are watching your favorite football game or reading your book and your mate walks by. You say, “hi!” This means, “You can interrupt me even when I’m busy.” Be always available, and do not be irritated.
  •        No whining: This is a funny rule, because it means the opposite – you are free to whine and complain about your burdens in life all you want, and your mate will take you seriously; the idea is, once you say “Of course there is no whining,” then you whine! Your mate is obliged to give real sympathy. Love means being bearing one another’s burdens, including crying when your mate is crying. Saying “no whining” means that the person with the painful burden is admitting that they are going to let themselves be cheered up eventually. One caveat: you can’t use this one as a means of blaming, quarreling, or subtly accusing your mate. You use this one when you genuinely need moral support from your mate and you want their arms around you.
  •        I’m grouchy: When you realize you are grouchy, say in a small child’s very pitiful voice, “I’m grouchy.” Your mate then responds, magnanimously, “I know.” Suddenly it’s a beautiful day and the grouchies are gone. This is especially good after packing, during the first minutes of a road trip in the car, when you both are rather hot and irritated. Or any other time you come home grouchy.
  •        Of course, I’m perfectly capable: Your wife asks, “Did you remember to…” do whatever it was. You reply, “Well, this time I did. Of course, I’m perfectly capable of forgetting!” This should make her snort approvingly. She knows you are perfectly capable. This routine makes it clear that you did not take offense at her asking.
  •        Just Checking: Here the wife needs to know if her husband has remembered something. She asks the question and he gives the answer to let her know that he did indeed remember to do whatever it was. But she doesn’t want him to be offended that she asked. She gets a crafty expression on her face and, playing the suspicious wife, she says, “Just asking” or “Just checking.” The implication is that she is making fun of herself for being so suspicious, so she exaggerates her suspicion on her face. She is actually admitting that he did her a favor not to get bent out of shape for her questioning, and possibly doubting that he would follow through. This can be quite funny when the woman plays “suspicious wife.” It makes the man the innocent hero, if he is bright enough to see it. (Don’t try this when he is too grouchy!)
  •        Where did you hide my car keys: The husband pretends to be suspicious and asks “Where did you hide my car keys (wallet, important paper, etc. etc.)?” The wife responds, being a smart aleck, “Right where you left them.” The point is that the husband jokingly recognizes and admits his male tendency to blame his wife unfairly; and she jokingly sticks the blame back where it rightfully belongs. The result is much less tension and much less blaming. It can take the sting out of what could have been a bitter argument if you will let the joke be on you.
  •        Poor Me: This is a mock request by the man for sympathy he knows he is not going to get. When the man loses at Yahtzee at bedtime, or has done some awful job and is tired but no chance to rest, he says, mournfully, “Poor me,” and the wife’s response is to snort, “Right, poor you!” I say this when I have to mop the kitchen floor, scrub the bathtubs, or take out the garbage. What “poor me” does is assure your mate that you aren’t feeling sorry for yourself. Then the wife doesn’t have to walk on eggshells thinking you are grouchy. Don’t be grouchy! Say “Poor me” instead. [Obviously, insert your own name.] Your mate will be only too glad to show no sympathy! Or you can ask, as a variation, “Why don’t I hear violins playing?” The response is for your wife to rub two fingers together in imitation of a cricket, showing her abundant sympathy.
  •        God’s Wisdom May Come Through My Mate: A serious one. Each one has a basic understanding that they will occasionally hear God’s wisdom and guidance for them if only they listen carefully to their mate. There is never any contempt, therefore, for your mate’s advice or opinion. You never take it as bossiness or nagging. Instead you listen for God’s voice. You have to discuss this one and make it a ground rule by saying it out loud to each other occasionally – “I’m listening for God’s guidance through you, and maybe I’m getting it right now.”
  •        Murphy’s Law of the Kitchen: Whenever both spouses are in the kitchen, they will need to be in that same spot. So have fun with it. He says “I did it on purpose.” She says whatever comes to mind of an exasperated nature. Or he says, “This is your half of the kitchen” and then puts his finger on her side and says “See what I’m doing! See what I’m doing!” Or simply start bumping hips and wind up kissing.
  •        It’s My Own Fault, But… The idea here is that you make sure your mate doesn’t think you are blaming them when you bring up a problem. For example, “It’s my own fault, but I can’t find my car keys.” A variation on this is mock blame. See below.
  •        Mock Blaming: In this one, you mock blame your partner for what you yourself have done. For example, as already mentioned above, “Honey, now I’m in a hurry; where did you hide my car keys?” Answer: “Right where you left them.” It’s just a funny little ritual making fun of blame. (And don’t you dare really blame your wife, men, under the pretense of “joking” — that’s not funny at all.) Another example: The mate who is on a talking jag at bedtime and can’t seem to shut up says, to the silent partner who wants to go to sleep, “Now if you’ll just quit talking I can finally go to sleep.” This is just before the pillow fight breaks out. Or else she says….nothing and just lets you stew in your own juice. Women are good at that sort of thing. Devious.
  •        Let Them Have It: Suppose you read the paper every morning at breakfast, but this particular morning your wife has it and is reading it. Instead of getting upset, simply go get that other thing you’ve been reading. If you view your wife as a rival, then she has taken something of yours. But if you view her as a team mate, your buddy, then she has just as much right to the paper as you do, and you will want her to have it. In exchange for postponing your morning newspaper reading, you get a wife who is amazed at your self-control, knows you love her more than the newspaper, and has satisfied her urge to test your love. As St. Paul used to say, “Why not rather be wronged?” instead of quarreling over the small stuff.