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Wednesday, 16 March 2011 10:46

The Problem of Evil

Written by Russ Brewer
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Here is a great "chain email" delineating the Christian's response to the problem of evil:
God vs. Evil

'Let me explain the problem science has with religion.' The atheist
professor of philosophy pauses before his class and then asks one of his
new students to stand.

'You're a Christian, aren't you, son?'

'Yes sir,' the student says.

'So you believe in God?'

'Absolutely.’

'Is God good?'

'Sure! God's good.'

'Is God all-powerful? Can God do anything?'

'Yes'

'Are you good or evil?'

'The Bible says I'm evil.'

The professor grins knowingly. 'Aha! The Bible!' He considers for a
moment. 'Here's one for you. Let's say there's a sick person over here
and you can cure him. You can do it. Would you help him? Would you try?'

'Yes sir, I would.'

'So you're good...!'

'I wouldn't say that.'

'But why not say that? You'd help a sick and maimed person if you could.
Most of us would if we could. But God doesn't.'

The student does not answer, so the professor continues. 'He doesn't,
does he? My brother was a Christian who died of cancer, even though he
prayed to Jesus to heal him. How is this Jesus good? Hmmm? Can you
answer that one?'

The student remains silent.

'No, you can't, can you?' the professor says. He takes a sip of water
from a glass on his desk to give the student time to relax.

'Let's start again, young fella. Is God good?'

'Er..yes,' the student says.

"is Satan good?'

The student doesn't hesitate on this one. 'No.'

'Then where does Satan come from?'

The student falters. 'From God'

'That's right. God made Satan, didn't he? Tell me, son. Is there evil in
this world?'

'Yes, sir.'

'Evil's everywhere, isn't it? And God did make everything correct??

'Yes'

'So who created evil?' The professor continued, 'If God created
everything, then God created evil, since evil exists, and according to
the principle that our works define who we are, then God is evil.'

Again, the student has no answer. 'Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred?
Ugliness? All these terrible things, do they exist in this world?'

The student squirms on his feet. 'Yes.'

'So who created them?'

The student does not answer again, so the professor repeats his question.
'Who created them?' There is still no answer. Suddenly the lecturer
breaks away to pace in front of the classroom. The class is mesmerized.
'Tell me,' he continues onto another student.

'Do you believe in Jesus Christ, son?

The student's voice betrays him and cracks. 'Yes, professor, I do.'

The old man stops pacing. 'Science says you have five senses you use to
identify and observe the world around you. Have you ever seen Jesus?'

'No sir. I've never seen Him.'

'Then tell us if you've ever heard your Jesus?'

'No, sir, I have not.'

'Have you ever felt your Jesus, tasted your Jesus or smelled your Jesus?
Have you ever had any sensory perception of Jesus Christ, or God for that
matter?'

'No, sir, I'm afraid I haven't.'

'Yet you still believe in him?'

'Yes'

'According to the rules of empirical, testable, demonstrable protocol,
science says your God doesn't exist. What do you say to that, son?'

'Nothing,' the student replies. 'I only have my faith.'

'Yes, faith,' the professor repeats. 'And that is the problem science
has with God. There is no evidence, only faith.'

The student stands quietly for a moment, before asking a question of His
own. 'Professor, is there such thing as heat?'

'Yes.'

'And is there such a thing as cold?'

'Yes, son, there's cold too.'

'No sir, there isn't.'

The professor turns to face the student, obviously interested.

The room suddenly becomes very quiet. The student begins to explain.

'You can have lots of heat, even more heat, super-heat, mega-heat,
unlimited heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat, but we don't have
anything called 'cold'. We can hit up to 458 degrees below zero, which is
no heat, but we can't go any further after that. There is no such thing
as cold; otherwise we would be able to go colder than the lowest -458
degrees.'

'Every body or object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits
energy, and heat is what makes a body or matter have or tran smit energy.
Absolute zero (-458 F) is the total absence of heat. You see, sir, cold
is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure
cold. Heat we can measure in thermal units because heat is energy. Cold
is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it.'

Silence across the room. A pen drops somewhere in the classroom, sounding
like a hammer.

'What about darkness, professor. Is there such a thing as darkness?'

'Yes,' the professor replies without hesitation. 'What is night if it
isn't darkness?'

'You're wrong again, sir. Darkness is not something; it is the absence of
something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing
light, but if you have no light constantly you have nothing and it's
called darkness, isn't it? That's the meaning we use to define the word.'


'In reality, darkness isn't. If it were, you would be able to make
darkness darker, wouldn't you?'

The professor begins to smile at the student in front of him. This will
be a good semester. 'So what point are you making, young man?

'Yes, professor. My point is, your philosophical premise is flawed to
start with, and so your conclusion must also be flawed.'

The professor's face cannot hide his surprise this time. 'Flawed? Can you
explain how?'

'You are working on the premise of duality,' the student explains.. 'You
argue that there is life and then there's death; a good God and a bad
God. You are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we
can measure. Sir, science can't even explain a thought.'

'It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully
understood either one. To view death as the opposite of life is to be
ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing.
Death is not the opposite of life, just the absence of it. 'Now tell me,
professor. Do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?'

'If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, young man,
yes, of course I do.'

'Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?'

The professor begins to shake his head, still smiling, as he realizes
where the argument is going. A very good semester, indeed.

'Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and
cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavor, are you not
teaching your opinion, sir? Are you now not a scientist, but a preacher?'

The class is in uproar. The student remains silent until the commotion
has subsided.

'To continue the point you were making earlier to the other student, let
me give you an example of what I mean.'

The student looks around the room. 'Is there anyone in the class who has
ever seen the professor's brain?' The class breaks out into laughter.

'Is there anyone here who has ever heard the professor's brain, felt the
professor's brain, touched or smelled the professor's brain? No one
appears to have done so. So, according to the established rules of
empirical, stable, demonstrable protocol, science says that you have no
brain, with all due respect, sir.'

'So if science says you have no brain, how can we trust your lectures,
sir?'

Now the room is silent. The professor just stares at the student, his
face unreadable.

Finally, after what seems an eternity, the old man answers. 'I guess
you'll have to take them on faith.'

'Now, you accept that there is faith, and, in fact, faith exists with
life,' the student continues. 'Now, sir, is there such a thing as evil?'

Now uncertain, the professor responds, 'Of course, there is. We see it
everyday It is in the daily example of man's inhumanity to man. It is in
the multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world. These
manifestations are nothing else but evil.'

To this the student replied, 'Evil does not exist sir, or at least it
does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just
like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the
absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is the result of what
happens when man does not have God's love present in his heart. It's like
the cold that comes when there is no heat or the darkness that comes when
there is no light.'

The professor sat down.
Saturday, 12 February 2011 20:51

HPI Baja 5B Monster RC Car

Written by Russ Brewer
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Ever seen a monster RC Car called the HPI Baja 5B? If you're like me, more than likely you've never heard of HPI or their amazing Baja 5B Remote Controlled racing buggy. For those of us who think of R/C cars as being little foot-long jobbers that you get at Toys-R-Us , that is about as close to what this is as a house cat is to a Siberian Lion. Check out this video of the HPI to see it in action--keep in mind this is only the fourth time we've driven it around. I'm sure we'll increase the intensity as we get familiar with the controls!



The HPI Baja 5B dune buggy is the mama bear of racing cars. It's called a 1/5 Scale car which means it's a gigantic beast! It's about three feet long and about a foot and a half wide. We haven't weighed it yet, but I'd say it's about 30 pounds. It runs on regular gas, has a clutch, differential, brake, oil-filled shockes, and even posi-traction! You can see from the video, it sounds like a chain saw and it's top speed is way too fast for me to handle, let alone my nine year old son!


This incredible machine was given to my son in kit form this past 2010 Christmas. When I first spread out the parts, the job looked pretty daunting. There were several hundred extremely intricate parts. The manual was twice as thick as a typical Sports Illustrated magazine, had very few words and was packed with myriads of CAD diagrams that screamed "brain-breaking tough!"

My son and I took my time looking over the parts and familiarizing myself with the steps and procedures. About a month ago, the friend who gave us the car came over for dinner. He showed us his techniques for assembling the car, explained some of the processes and gave us hope that we could manage. The next day we began working on it.

All in all, it wasn't really that hard afterall--in fact, it was a lot of fun! There was definitly a learning curve--some steps even took hours to complete, but once we learned how everything assembled, similar/duplicate steps later on took only a short while. 

The assembly took all levels of skill--from very easy (our six year old was working on parts) to very complex (where even I was stumped). But at the end of the day, the parts came together and the car began to take shape. The whole project took just over a week to assemble--and that's with no marathon days. I called HPI once with a couple of questions, among which I asked about how much time it should take to assemble. They said 10-15 hours. While that's very funny, I'd say we were still just in the 25 hour range. And now that it's running, it's really awesome to see all that work blasting through an open field at 30 miles per hour. Plus, as we are getting it full of mud and needing to keep it up, my son knows how to take it apart and clean it up.
There is one problem point to mention that might be helpful to others. Once the car was all assembled, the brake wouldn't work. I could apply it, but it had no stopping power. Like a real car, not having a brake totally limited it's functionality and safety. Made for a pretty tame ride. So we worked on it for a while and I eventually called HPI. They didn't have a silver bullet solution but mentioned that everything should twist and turn freely--which mine didn't. I decided to tear apart the whole brake component to examine the build. It turns out that the key metal rod that twists via the servo and activates the brake assembly went into a copper bushing that had gotten slightly damaged during the installation phase. Seeing that it didn't twist freely, I bored it out with a file until the steel rod swiveled easily. Then, after I reassembled everything, I recalibrated the radio to the brake, so that more pressure was applied. In the end, the brake worked beautifully.  

So, if you crave a super fast, super noisy, super fun toy--take a look into the HPI Baja 5B. I've got to say, this thing is really cool--genuinely lots of exciting thrills. We are so grateful for this totally unexpected uber-blessing.

Enjoy the videos!




Here's one that shows the power and speed of the HPI Baja 5B, you can hear the crowd of kids who began to amass while we were taking the car through it's paces:


Here's another video that has a pretty fun crash. Unfortunately, soon after this another crash sent us home with a broken shock tower, keep in mind though, that crash was about 20 times worse than this one in the video. We were able to repair the car with $25 in new parts (the $25 was for two sets) and about an hour of father/son work.




Tuesday, 12 April 2011 22:55

Books Every Christian Should Read and Own

Written by Russ Brewer
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A major part of developing a strong, balanced walk with the Lord is having (and using) a good library. Solid Christian books  with the right tools to help you grow in Christ. Here's a list I posted a while back but have updated and annotated. It contains, IMHO, the most important books that every Christian should own and regularly use as they increasingly understand who God is and who He has called us to be.

Reference Books:

Unger's New Bible Dictionary. Moody, rev. 1988 ($25) - When you're studying the Bible, you need a tool that helps you understand what's even being talked about. A Bible Dictionary is like an encyclopedia, it's arranged by topic and covers nearly every topic and people group mentioned in the Bible. A decent Bible Dictionary is about 25 bucks and usually are just one volume, if you can afford a few extra dollars a much better alternative is the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia mentioned below.

Better: Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Zondervan, 5 Vol, 1976 ($100) - This is a classic tool that's not just for Bible scholars. It's five volumes of helpful information on thousands of topics. If you're any kind of student of the Bible, this resource will certainly help. One of the first tools I bought as a new believer and I still consistently use this.

The Moody Atlas of Bible Lands, Moody Press, 1985. ($35) - While we all know what an atlas is, this tool is much more. It not only provides maps, it shows various routes that the biblical people followed. It makes sense of the myriads of people groups, cities, terrain, governments, etc.

An Exhaustive Concordance ($15-25) - There are various exhaustive concordances on the market--the classic is the Strongs Concordance. Perhaps the best is the NASB Concordance. Most people think of concordances as quick ways to find a verse that contains a specific word. While that's true, the power of this tool is not so much in finding verses, but how they index those words to the word in its original language with a succinct, helpful definition of that word.

Better: Bible Software such as Logos Library System ($50-100) - While an Exhaustive Concordance is good, computer software is usually better and faster. My favorite is Logos/Libronix. The thing to understand, however, is that if you're just looking for an electronic concordance, you can get pretty good free Bible software. I'd say save your money. However, if you want to build an electronic library of books, then Logos/Libronix is the way to go.

The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge. Various editions ($20) - Other than my Bible, this is probably the most powerful resource I have. It's a cross-reference tool that is on hyperdrive. When you're reading a verse, often you wish you knew other places in scripture that address the same topic. If you go to a concordance, there may be hundreds of references that would take too long to look up. But this tool provides the best relevant references that are not based solely on specific words, but on the topic/concept.

Vines Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Thomas Nelson Publishers, rev. 1984 ($25) - Once you have learned to use a concordance, you'll find that you will probably want even more explanation on word meanings. This is basically a Greek dictionary for English readers--it will give you the Greek word, is keyed to the Strongs Concordance number system, and gives you a far fuller definition of a word meaning.

 

Theology

Packer, JI. Knowing God. Intervarsity Press, 1973 - While it sounds like this might be some kind of touchy-feely book, its actually a classic introductory systematic theology. It's not basic nor is it simplistic. It's a helpful, useful explanation of God.

Grudem, Wayne. Bible Doctrine. Zondervan, 1994 and 1998 ($30) - A systematic theology is a tool that seeks to "systematize" Bible teaching on various topics. There are loads of these on the market. Often they make things of God more confusing for the reader. Dr. Grudem's book does just the opposite. It's a great read. For those who sincerely want to understand what things of God is all about, this book will be an exciting and challenging read. They will have many "a ha" moments as Dr. Grudem unravels the complex lines of truth.

Better: Grudem, Wayne, Systematic Theology, Zondervan, 1994 - This is one of my all time favorite books. I use it all the time--even in the past couple of days. When I have a question about a specific doctrine, I consult Grudem's work first. This is just like his Bible Doctrine book above, just with far more depth. IMHO, it basically makes other one-volume systematic theologies (and I have many) unnecessary.

 

Commentaries

Walvoord and Zuck. The Bible Knowledge Commentary. 2 Vol. Chariot Victor Publishing, 1983 ($60) - A commentary is a book that helps explain the meaning of a Bible passage. Unfortunately, many commentaries aren't worth the paper they are written on. Years ago, before I had a decent library, I'd waste countless hours reading bad commentaries, not finding any real help, and ending up frustrated and discouraged. The great thing about this commentary is that it's extremely succinct; you can drop in, look up a verse, find helpful information and get on with your day.

 

Bible Versions (most precise to least precise)

Greek Interlinear

King James Version

English Standard Version

New American Standard Version

New King James Version

New International Version

The New Living Translation

Study Bibles

MacArthur Study Bible, Word Publishing, 1998 ($35).

The Life Application Study Bible. Tyndale Publishing

Zodhiates, Spiros. The Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible. AMG, 1990 ($25).

 

Ancient Background Information

Freeman, James. Manners and Customs of the Bible. various editions ($15) - When you're reading a verse, often you'll read something that is clearly cultural. You'll be wondering what in the world is going on. This is the book for you. It identifies the key items that are better understood when laid against their cultural/historical backdrop. It's arranged by passages that follow the biblical order so it's very easy and quick to use.

 

Top Ten Books Every Christians Should Own and Read Besides the Bible, in order.

Pursuit of God, AW Tozer - My favorite book on walking with God.

Mere Christianity, CS Lewis - A great explanation for the reasons why our faith in Christ is sound. Dinesh D'Souza's book What's So Great About Christianity? is better, but it's longer.

Screwtape Letters, CS Lewis - A great way to get a sense for the spiritual battle we face when we leave Satan's lordship and surrender to Christ's.

The Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges - A key part of growing in Christ is growing in Christlikeness. This book lays out with quick, succinct precision how to pursue a path of increasing holiness and purity.

The Gospel According to Jesus, John Macarthur - Ultimately, what's more important that a sound understanding of the Gospel? Macarthur's book lays out the Gospel in a way that is not only clear, not only powerful, but you'll end up with strong convictions that so much of our lives in Christ hang upon a proper understanding of the Gospel.

Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life, Donald Whitney - Few good things come to the growing Christian without personal discipline. This book lays out most of the primary disciplines that all Christians should master. It is not nearly as stuffy as it sounds, but rather is practical, helpful, inspiring and motivating.

Living By The Book, Howard Hendricks - Every Christian needs to be men or women of The Book. We need to know how to read, understand, interpret and apply God's Word. Not only does sound understanding give us strength and confidence in our walk with Christ, but it also becomes a more effective tool for the Holy Spirit as He takes what we know correctly and He applies and enables us to live by it. This book offers clear, easy methods that will help you carefully approach a passage and understand it as the author meant.

How to Give Away Your Faith, Paul Little - A major component of being in Christ is sharing the Good News with those God has placed in our lives. This book explains the need and method of sharing your faith. It's a quick, helpful read.

Knowing God, JI Packer - Mentioned above, this book helps the student of God to understand their Lord better.

The God Who Is There, Francis Schaffer - We live in a philosophically sophisticated age. Often the world looks at us smugly and treats believers like back woods hillbillies. Yet this book is a tour-de-force of the rationale for the reality of God. While it's a challenging read, it's still accessible and enjoyable for most people. It will give you the clear conviction that Christianity is the only worldview that truly makes sense of the world.

 

So these are some of my recommendations, what are some of yours?

Tuesday, 14 December 2010 07:52

Leadership Principles from the Life of Moses

Written by Russ Brewer
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Leadership Principles from the Life of Moses

I have been reading through Exodus in my quiet times lately and here are some practical leadership principles that I have been encouraged by:
1) Often God's leaders have humble beginnings (e.g. Moses being born into a peasant's home).
2) At times, God's leaders have great opportunities for skill development (e.g. Moses growing up in Pharaoh's home).
3) Often times, immature future leaders see great injustices and act impertinently. They have the ability to see what is wrong and what needs to be changed, but they lack the proper judgment to know what the best course of action would be. Likewise, they lack the proper self control to respond in the wise, measured way that Christ would (e.g. Moses killing the Egyptian).
4) God's leaders are not perfect (e.g. Moses killing the Egyptian).
5) Because God's leaders are not perfect, and many commit serious sin, He will only greatly uses those who come to the point of full humility.
6) God's leaders respect and honor Him (e.g. Moses taking off his shoes before the Lord in Exodus 3:5).
7) It may take many years before God's leaders are properly and fully humbled, fully to the point of obeying the Lord rather than their own flesh (e.g. Moses going to Midian.
8) God will give His leaders clear vision, as in Exodus 3:7-10, and His leaders must find a way in their hearts to surrender to His direction and obey.
9) God's leaders may (and should) feel a strong sense of inadequacy, this allows them to fully rely upon God so that what is accomplished is of Him (e.g. Moses saying to God, "who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?" in Exodus 3:11).
10) God's leaders will often be blind to their own potential (e.g. Moses asking God "Who am I?" which is a silly question considering that he was the only Jew in the land who personally knew Pharaoh, had a relationship with him, understood him, and had the personal training to know how to conduct himself before Pharaoh).
11) God's leaders must be fully obedient to Him, pure in all aspects of their lives. This principle comes form that strange couple of verses in Exodus 4:24-26 where God was angry with Moses for not circumscising his son. It was Moses' wife, Zipporah, who recognized the need for absolute righteousness in all respects, so she circumscised the boy. When God has enlisted a person into His leadership, they had better not trifle with disobedience.
12) Often God will provide other people who will help carry the load--God did this wth Aaron, who was a co-leader with Moses after Exodus 4.
13) Often, people will not believe or respond properly to the notion that they are accountable to God. When Moses first told Pharaoh about God's call upon the Jews, he said, "Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, nor will I let Israel go." (Exodus 5:2).
14) Sometimes our first attempts to lead may result in a worsening of the situation, but even if people pronounce condemnation upon us, the Lord might be in that situation none-the-less. This happened with Moses and the Jews when he first sought to deliver them. Rather than obliging them, Pharaoh made their tasks harder. Rather than being grateful to Moses, the people condemned Moses and said, "Let the Lord look on you and judge, because you hvce made us abhorrent in the sight of Pharaoh..." (Exodus 5:21).
15) Sometimes, things will get worse before they get better. This was the case with Moses, Pharaoh and the Jews. Their situation worsened and when Moses complained to the Lord, He said "Now you shall see what I will do..." (Exodus 6:1).
16) Often the Lord will allow perplexing problems into our lives to demonstrate His power. He said as much in Exodus 6:7, "...then you shall know that I am teh Lord your God..." Likewise, the Lord is about His glory and His name. At times this may mean that His leaders will endure hardship and mocking from those who disbelieve.
17) Sometimes the people will be so frightened, exhausted, hurt, scarred that they are unable to heed the voice of their leaders. This was the case with Moses in Exodus 6:9 where it says, "Moses spoke thus to the children of Israel; but they did not heed Moses, because of anguish of spirit and cruel bondage."
18) Regardless of the people's reaction, God calls His leaders to be faithful and lead, as He did to Moses in Exodus 6:10-12.
19) Leaders need to encourage and strengthen those around them (Deut 3:28) and not be embittered against those who may surpass them according to God's design.
Wednesday, 08 December 2010 23:16

Getting God to do what you want

Written by Russ Brewer
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So often, I meet people who are trying to get God to do what they want. They'll try anything--anything from bartering with God, to various "do-gooder" actions, to trying to buy God off with gifts of money or time. It's pretty common. This may sound ludicrous to the average person when all is going well for them, but for those who are anxious or desperate, these kinds of steps become a bitter reality; they are desperate, they've tried everything, and when nothing else seems to work, they turn to God.

Sadly, it's not unheard of for a religious charlatans to take advantage of this common dilemma for people. In my opinion, most modern TV evangelists are essentially hawking a method to manipulate God-- they say that if you want God to do some particular thing all you have to do is follow a certain set of steps--namely send that particular TV evangelist lots of money to demonstrate your faith--and God will respond by bringing to fruition whatever it was you "claimed" by faith. Here's the problem with all of this: God is not a genie, He's not a vending machine, He's not at our beckon call, waiting to fulfill our latest wish.

The problem is that so often we want God to act on our terms--when and how we think is best. We are convinced that this particular pressing matter is not a fanciful whim but something of major importance that God must provide. We want a spouse, we want healing, we want a certain career, we want a specific lifestyle. We want, we want, we want.

And so often, I've heard people mutter in disgust that God didn't fulfill His end of the bargain therefore they don't believe in Him, or won't follow Him, won't honor Him, or something along those lines. Since God didn't do what they wanted, they won't do what He wants from them. But this mindset is fraught with problems!

First, it misunderstands the nature of God's supreme wisdom. So often the thing we want is truly harmful to us or detrimental to the plan He has for us. Case in point: when I was a new believer, I knew a beautiful young model who was a customer in my parent's store. I began praying that God would make it so that I would date her. Now, that's a crazy idea. This woman was a million miles away from the Lord. She was on a different life-track than me. And let's be realistic, I'm a pastor and that's not exactly the kind of life that would endear the fidelity and devotion of a young model. As it turns out, God knew what was best for me all along and now I have a fabulous wife and marriage. It took time for me to figure out that my Heavenly Father knows best.

Second, this mindset misunderstands the nature of God's supreme will. The average person thinks that God is actively involved in making us happy and comfortable. But that's not what going on at all! I've heard so many people say words to the effect that "God wants me to be happy". Now what we need to accept is that hard truth, that as dissonant as it sounds to our minds, God does NOT necessarily want us happy (I'll explain in a moment). We need to realize that we are all under God's judgment--even me, a pastor. The Bible says that all of us have sinned, all of us have gone astray, all of us have cast off God's rule from our lives and all of us seek to live as Lord of our own lives. Rather than giving us happiness in life, God's most important goal our our lives is that we come to Him in repentance so that we can get back on track with His will for our lives. Think about this, if we're striving for things that God does not want for us, why would He want to encourage us along a path that He knows is not in our out best interest?

What people don't understand, is that one of the main reasons for the pain and misery in this world is to prove to us that life is NOT perfect and that we need a savior. The goal of pain is to bring us to God, that we might come to Him and be reconciled to Him. God is the highest source of all that is good, and joyful and meaningful in this world. However, as long as a person seeks to find happiness in something not rooted in Him, then He will not condone, support or encourage them on their path. They will never find the peace and joy they seek because true peace and joy only come from Him and He will not give these gifts to those who do not seek to find them in Him. So often, people want God to coddle them in their rebellion and sin when in reality He is calling them to utterly abandon their old life and living their new life in Christ.

Third, it misunderstands the nature of God's dealings with us. Again, when people want some thing--often they are asking for an outright miracle that disregards the laws of science, consequences, reality, etc. The average person has a poltergeist view of God--that He should make things levitate across the room to do things like: prove His reality, make our lives easier, guide us in decisions, etc. This is not how God works with us. He is not out to suspend the laws of nature to placate our whims. In nearly all cases, God wants us to proceed the old fashioned way--through careful obedience to His prescriptions.

Fourth, trying to manipulate God is rooted in a fundamental misunderstanding about how we determine and/or learn God's will. Along with these ideas and matters I've already mentioned, people seem to think that God will communicate His will to them through wild and fantastic signs. I've heard about people driving by signs as they were praying, and taking the message of the sign to be a message from God. Yikes! That's just an absurd, Ouji board view of how God talks with us. The reality is that God has given us broad and specific instructions in His Word; the Bible. The Bible contains everything we need for life and godliness. We don't need anything else. All we have to do is learn what it says, and prayerfully live out what we've learned. That's how God guides us and directs our steps. As we follow God along the path, there will be plenty of times where the expedient route seems easier, better, happier, wiser, etc. But the scriptures say that there are ways and routes that seem right, but really lead to death.

So with all of these points that I've listed, rather than seeking to manipulate God, what we really need to to is seek Him to be able to surrender our whole lives and hearts to God. His will and plan for us is best. He is wiser, more righteous, more loving than us and what He wants is vastly superior to what we even want. The peace, joy and satisfaction that we are looking for in life will not come from us getting God to do what we want, but rather when we learn to trust Him, walk with Him, obey Him and then to be filled with the love, joy, peace and strength that He supplies.

So, those are my thoughts, I'd love to hear yours.
Wednesday, 01 December 2010 11:35

Ways to Get the Family Talking

Written by Russ Brewer
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Some Ways We Like to Build Family Relationships

1) Family Devotions: On many/most nights when I'm home, we break out the Bible and read a verse or two as a family. Almost always we read from the Book of Proverbs--it's a great collection of God's principles for successful living. We usually read two or three verses, discuss them, and then apply them to our lives. Before we close, I ask each person to share how that verse should impact their lives. Then, when we close in prayer, each person prays that specific item to God, asking His help to live out those principles. The purpose is to teach our kids the principle that God's Word speaks to specific situations in life, that His ways are the right way, and that we can only live out His ways by Him working in and through us. We often give out little candies as rewards so the kids love it. Also, for the Christmas season, see our page on how we celebrate the Advent here

2) Family Board Games: Hopefully every family plays games together. Some of our favorites are Chicken Soup for the Soul and WizDumb. Both of these games are designed as glorified conversation starters. Not only do they help us get to know one another better, but they are good for loads of laughs--and it's important for the family to laugh a lot. Another thing we've done is created a board game together. After a couple of years, the kids still ask to pull it out and play it. It's not that hard to create a game and it builds another level of appreciation into the moment. 

3) Watching Sports: While we do occasionally watch a family movie together, I find that watching sports allows us still to develop relationships. Often I'll explain the principles or strategy to the kids while the game is on. Likewise, the little bios of the players usually provide great fodder for conversations about life/decisions etc.

4) Playing Sports: I find that one of the great "Ah, that was great!" activities we do is playing sports together as a family--usually this amounts to Roller Blading, Biking or Swimming. The best, though, is touch football. I find that touch football uniquely gets everyone involved at a level where they are engaged, excited and having a blast. The older kids are designated QB's and Corinne and I are designated receivers. The youngest is the designated Full Back who does a great time running his routes, unless he runs wildly in the wrong direction, which happens about once a game.

5) Ministry Together: It's so important that our children see that Christ is real and working in our lives. One way that they can see that is when we are all in a place where He is working in us and through us. Therefore, when possible we like to involve our kids in ministry with us. Two are still a bit young for this, but our oldest has really thrived with the opportunity to serve along side us in the office and on Sundays.
What are ways that you get your family talking?
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