Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

“Believe it or not, Christianity is not about good people getting better. If anything, it is good news for bad people coping with their failure to be good.” ~Tullian Tchividjian

As a Christian, there is a certain question that is bound to arise when speaking with someone who has recently encountered tragedy. I’ve had this question asked of me by both people who’ve professed faith in Christ, and those who’ve claimed to possess no faith whatsoever (though, in a previous post, I’ve pointed out how everyone has faith). In a culture that frequently attempts to ignore the realities of evil, sin, and death; when encountering circumstances where we must—it leaves us having to ask ourselves some difficult questions. This question always seems to be one of them: Continue reading

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A Well-Placed Faith

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, NASB).

Whether we acknowledge it, we all possess faith. We all worship someone (e.g. ourselves) or something. For most of us—possibly all of us—we worship that which we perceive as truth; thereby, placing our faith in it. Our faith in that truth is what establishes our beliefs; subsequently, driving our actions.

How does it establish our beliefs?

Glad that you asked 😉 Continue reading

Seek Him More: The Zacchaeus Narratives

Zacchaeus Converted
He entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man called by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and he was rich. Zacchaeus was trying to see who Jesus was, and was unable because of the crowd, for he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way. When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” And he hurried and came down and received Him gladly. When they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:1-10, NASB)

ZACCHAEUS’ STORY: TWO NARRATIVE PERSPECTIVES 
During the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry, Zacchaeus is the chief tax collector for the city of Jericho. We read about him in Luke’s gospel (Luke 19:1-10) as he encounters Christ. The common interpretation of this scripture—the one that I’ve heard from pastors on multiple occasions—serves as a powerful message of our Lord’s grace and salvation for the repentant.

There is another narrative perspective, however, that warrants consideration. This second narrative involves group prejudice, and the subsequent societal discrimination of a righteous man. If adhering to this alternative perspective of Zacchaeus’ encounter with Christ, we receive a cautionary tale of how group prejudices negatively shade our perceptions of reality.

These two narratives are distinctly different interpretations based upon our presuppositions of Zacchaeus’ character and integrity, with theologians and pastors offering compelling arguments for each. From what I can discern, both narratives appear to offer complementary messages that follow scriptural hermeneutics. Thus, both are shared herein. Continue reading

Prejudice

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:43-48, NASB).

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matthew 6:254, NASB)

THE INCREASINGLY COMMON PRACTICE OF EXHIBITING GROUP PREJUDICE
The intense hatred and divisiveness that is commonly seen whenever checking the news or conversing through social media is harrowing. Much of it seems driven by group prejudices towards various classes and ideologies. Regardless of our race, ethnicity, gender, social class, educational background, or ideological worldview, we’re all susceptible to prejudicial thought and behavior.

None of us are immune. Continue reading

Like A Child

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:1-4, NASB).

But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart, took a child and stood him by His side, and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great” (Luke 9:47-48, NASB).

INTRODUCTION
My mother has often told me that I was born an old man. When I finally asked her for clarification, she answered, “You were a serious kid, and very aware of your surroundings.” Continue reading

Feeling Pressure: Fear Versus Faith

The only pressure I’m under is the pressure I’ve put on myself.
~Mark Messier, NHL Hall-of-Fame player (Oilers/Rangers)

Pressure is something you feel when you don’t know what you’re doing
~Chuck Noll, NFL Hall-of-Fame Coach (Steelers)

‘Pressure’ is a word that is misused in our vocabulary. When you start thinking of pressure, it’s because you’ve started to think of failure.
~Tommy Lasorda, MLB Hall-of-Fame Manager (Dodgers)

Courage is grace under pressure
~Ernest Hemingway, Author

Whatever you see—any good results—are all from the pressure
~Ziyi Zhang, Author

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AUTHOR’S NOTE: The following post intentionally applies a secular position through its majority, eventually applying a Christian perspective near its conclusion. The rationale for this decision is that it will help non-Christians see the general relevance of the topic, while also highlighting my view that a Christian perspective for addressing moments when feeling pressure (or confronting those poorly dealing with pressure) is best. This post focuses on issues that I believe are both prevalent and pervasive within the culture in which I find myself. I attempt to be as thorough as possible in my logic and as reasonable as possible with my justifications. What I do not claim is omniscience or perfect clarity on this issue—or any issue. Therefore, I welcome thoughtful dialogue with anyone who may disagree with any or all of my positioning | Any bold, magenta words within this post are hyperlinks that provide useful, supplemental information. If the magenta hyperlink is followed by (a), for example(a), then there is an available blog or appendix page that allows for a deeper look into the topic hyperlinked.

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INTRODUCTION
Feeling pressure. Who doesn’t feel pressure at one time or another? But for as frequently as we feel pressure, do we even understand why we feel it? And, what is “pressure”—really? Continue reading

A Healing Faith

“The ultimate purpose of reason is to bring us to the place where we see that there is a limit to reason.”
~ Blaise Pascal

“The greatest healing therapy is friendship and love.”
~ Hubert H. Humphrey

“Righteousness and faith certainly are instrumental in healing the sick, deaf, or lame – if such healing accomplishes God’s purposes and is in accordance with His will. Thus, even with strong faith, many mountains will not be moved. And not all of the sick and infirm will be healed.”
~ David A. Bednar

“The practice of forgiveness is our most important contribution to the healing of the world.”
~ Marianne Williamson.

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Disclaimer: This post is written for a Christian audience, and may be challenging for those adhering to a different worldview.

INTRODUCTION
Ever been hurt? Consider the following questions:

  1. How many of us are broken and need healing in some aspect of our lives at one time or another?
  2. How many of us struggle to heal without success?
  3. How many of us abandon any hope for our healing, and accept a permanent reality of brokenness?

In response to the first question, addressing it from the perspective of a professed Christian, I would suggest that we are all broken to some degree—the circumstances of living in a world of sin. Moreover, I would assert that at some point in most of our lives we have suffered through immense pain and utter brokenness. When considering the second question, I would have to believe that most of us try—at least initially—to find means of healing when we view ourselves as being damaged or broken. And if we are individuals who respond to the third question in the affirmative, then we are probably resting in a self-perceived, inescapable despair…

For any of us who are currently residing in such a state of despair, the following scripture should come as a comfort and provide impetus for restoring hope: Continue reading

Kindness: Pay It Forward

“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.”
~Lao Tzu

“A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love”
~Saint Basil

“Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you”
~Princess Diana

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see”
~Mark Twain

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For the past few months, the young professionals group at my church has been conducting a scriptural study on fruits of the Spirit. Recently, we investigated kindness as a fruit of the Spirit. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul provides a list of these fruits:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23, NASB).

As has been emphasized in other posts that I have recently written on fruits of the Spirit, certain characteristics are present among them all. A few core commonalities among fruits of the Spirit; they are: Continue reading

Joy: Following An Eternal Perspective

“I believe that a trusting attitude and a patient attitude go hand in hand. You see, when you let go and learn to trust God, it releases joy in your life. And when you trust God, you’re able to be more patient. Patience is not just about waiting for something…it’s about how you wait, or your attitude while waiting.” ~Joyce Meyer

“We’re never so vulnerable than when we trust someone—but paradoxically, if we cannot trust, neither can we find love or joy.” ~Walter Anderson

God’s plan for enlarging His kingdom is so simple—one person telling another about the Savior. Yet we’re busy and full of excuses. Just remember, someone’s eternal destiny is at stake. The joy you’ll have when you meet that person in heaven will far exceed any discomfort you felt in sharing the gospel.” ~Charles Stanley

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The purpose of this post is to examine the scriptural meaning of joy. More specifically, it will attempt to address the following three questions:

  1. What is joy?
  2. Are their types of joy?
  3. How can we experience more joy?

Continue reading

Peace through Love and Forgiveness

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”                    ~ Mother Teresa

“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love.”                    ~ Francis of Assisi

“The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend” ~ Abraham Lincoln

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UNDERSTANDING PEACE AND ITS IMPLICATIONS
At Sunday school a few weeks ago, our young professionals group examined the biblical meaning of the word “peace.” After reviewing definitions from a number of sources, and considering these definitions against scripture, we arrived at a succinct definition:

Unity absent conflict

While not typically included within a secular definition, unity is an essential component of biblical peace. When realizing that unity is necessary for biblical peace, we should become aware that how we pursue such peace differs from the traditional, secular definition of the word. While some people may seek “peace and quiet” by avoiding others and finding environments absent noise and disturbance, biblical peace cannot be achieved in this manner. For Christians, biblical peace is about establishing healthy relationship with God and others. Moreover, it requires believers to be at peace with all people (including non-believers) as much as it depends on them (Romans 12:18).

The Christian understanding of God’s being is emblematic of biblical peace. Christians believe in a Trinitarian God—three persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) in one God—existing in perfect harmony. God is never at conflict with Himself. As sinners, the same cannot be said of our relationship with Him. Continue reading

Discernment: The Black, White, & Gray

“Teach me good discernment and knowledge, for I believe in Your commandments.”                     ~ Psalms 119:66, NASB

“Discernment is God’s call to intercession, never to faultfinding.” ~ Corrie ten Boom, author

“Some people think they have discernment when actually they are just suspicious…Suspicion comes from an unrenewed mind; discernment comes out of the renewed spirit.” ~ Joyce Meyer, Battlefield of the Mind: Winning the Battle in Your Mind

“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, ‘When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; And He will reign as king and act wisely And do justice and righteousness in the land.”     ~ Jeremiah 23:5, NASB 
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INTRODUCTION
One of the most difficult aspects of life is to be able to discern right from wrong; making fruitful decisions from wise discernment. Theologian John MacArthur defines discernment as “the process of making careful distinctions in our thinking about truth.” The Merriam-Webster dictionary provides a similar definition, defining discernment as “the ability to see and understand people, things, or situations clearly and intelligently.” And Christians are called to be discerning: Continue reading

Discomfort: Leaving Our Cocoons For Christ

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish.” ~ Pope John Paul II

“As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” ~ Luke 9:57-58

INTRODUCTION
I returned from a trip to Virginia earlier this May in a poor state of mind. During the long drive back to Georgia, my thoughts wandered; pondering circumstances that I have no control over. For most of the week following, I struggled with anxiety… Continue reading

Quicksand

“We all have a personal pool of quicksand inside us where we begin to sink and need friends and family to find us and remind us of all the good that has been and will be.” ~ Regina Brett, journalist
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We know how the story goes…

Our hero is wandering through the jungle with some companions, and one of them treads upon quicksand. The companion quickly sinks—making every effort to escape a sandy grave. At the absolute last moment—as the entrapped companion is nearing submersion—our hero finds a vine or branch for them to grab hold; pulling them out and saving them from a certain demise.

The reality, however, is that quicksand is rarely, if ever, as dangerous as presented in the movies… Continue reading

FROZEN in Fear and its Relationship to Love

 “Love will thaw. Of course!” ~Queen Elsa

“Wanna build a snowman?” ~Princess Anna

INTRODUCTION

Frozen is a wonderfully constructed animated movie that I believe speaks at surprisingly great depth about the relationship between fear and love. As is true in real life, all of the characters in Frozen—except for, maybe, Olaf the snowman—have unique challenges in dealing with fear and loving others in a healthy manner. After having watched the movie a few times, I believe that the movie’s screenwriters developed the characters to possess personalities that would accurately reflect their behaviors in the story–grounding this fantasy tale with a realistic human element. Within this writing, I share my thoughts about how fear affects the ability and manner in which the movie’s major characters exhibit love towards one another—as well as its likely effects on their self-perceptions. With each character’s fears being different in scope and focus, these fears influence their ability and manner in which they love others to varying degrees. Character examinations will begin with Hans of the Southern Isles–who very well may not be capable of anything other than self-love. Concluding these examinations shall be Queen Elsa of Arendelle, who in my opinion is the most complex–and in many respects, the most realistic–character within Frozen. If you are curious as to how I can justify a woman whose magical powers can control winter’s elements as the most realistic character in the movie…you will just need to read onward. Continue reading

Hope Beyond Hope

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” ~Desmond Tutu

This writing was originally posted on Facebook in October, 2009

A few years ago, I had a meaningful discussion with someone who has been a major figure throughout my life–we’ll call him “Adam” (not his real name). During our conversation, I asked him a question that I had considered asking him for some time. Adam has always been someone with a superseding sense of responsibility and obligation, but I cannot remember an instance where he used the word ‘love’ in appropriate context towards another person. While we were traveling and he was a captive audience, I took the opportunity to ask Adam why he never used the word “love,” instead, making any good and right action of his a matter of responsibility–of obligation. Continue reading

Seeing Shadows

“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

The Importance of a Good Reputation

Scripture supports the rationale that a reputation should be greatly valued.  In the Old Testament, we are told that “the memory of the righteous is blessed,” while “the name of the wicked will rot (Proverbs 10:7 NASB).”  Proverbs 22:1 (NASB) further supports there being value in a good reputation; proclaiming that “a good name is to be more desired than great wealth.”

Given the importance appropriated to inheritance and family legacy within the entirety of Old Testament scripture (see Abraham, Isaac, David, etc.), a good reputation was (and is) highly valued within Jewish culture.  The New Testament, likewise, encourages Christians to place a high value on one’s reputation, as overseers (elders) “must be above reproach,” and “respectable (1 Timothy 3:2).”

That being said, what is a “good reputation?”  How shall it be defined for purposes of this note? Continue reading

Filling The Cup

Originally posted on Facebook–September, 2009

A dove spreads its wings and flies against a backdrop of colors courtesy of a rainbow; a buoyant breeze guiding our winged friend across peaceful skies. It is a beauty visible though unattainable, past our physical reach. Unfortunately, we live in a world susceptible to floods. These floods subside, but leave pain, suffering, and mourning as remnants of its prior presence… Continue reading

Unpacking Faith

The more I walk down the road of life, the more I become aware of how little I know. It is the unexpected elements that are assuredly present in every person’s life that guarantees such a realization for all but the totally ignorant or the innocently naïve. Socrates, a Greek philosopher who lived nearly five-hundred years before the birth of Christ, said it well when he said, “The only true wisdom is in knowing that you know nothing.” Socrates did not know Christ; therefore, he was correct in what he said. He never knew the “Truth.” Continue reading

Mulligans

Originally posted on Facebook–October, 2009

I cannot profess to being a golfer. While I have traversed the greens of various courses, the balls I play tend to disappear into the surrounding wilderness. A typical shot for me generally goes air, tree, then see—as in see it go “kerplunk” in nearby water or “thumph” into sand.

In general, to golf is to battle against my natural inclination to possess as much control as possible in the outcome of my performance. Golf is a test of patience, a negotiation with nature, and a psycho-analysis of self. And so, with many activities of such a challenging nature, it lends itself to failure and sometimes cheating—uh, I mean “rules forgiveness.” Continue reading