Category Archives: suffering

Thoughtful Thursday: An Almighty, Good God Allows an Evil World?

Human Brutality, one of the World's worst evils.

Here is a response to a difficult subject: Evil and human suffering. Your comments are valuable here. Thanks for reading.

The following are comments from a former classmate Marty Schoffstall as placed within the comment section on blog site of Theology Professor Ken Miller.

From Marty:

Dr. Dorsey [professor of Old Testament Studies] says that the story of the prophets (a rather large portion of the canon) looks like this:

(1) God Is Allowing Wickedness…
For a season…. and the wicked to succeed in their opposition to Him to temporarily triumph over Him (and over those loyal to Him). He may allow them to spurn Him, mock Him, humiliate him, or persecute those who remain loyal to Him.

(2) God is redirecting their evil….
to accomplish his own good purposes. The deeds of the wicked play into God’s hands and are used by God to further his own semi-secret agenda. [During this time when evil appears to prevail], God’s children are encouraged to: (a) Trust God, (b) Wait patiently for the time when God will intervene and right all wrongs, (c) Remain loyal and obedient to him.

(3) Finally, God dramatically intervenes…
to defeat his enemies. God is vindicated the wicked are punished; and those loyal to God are rewarded.

Now as my old friend friend Dr. Cunningham from UVA who was a very competent Roman Catholic Theologian on the side used to say:

“…mercy and justice are always in tension. We want mercy for ourselves, and justice for the other…”

Eventually we grow a little wiser and want some mercy for the other as well; however, we can never give up the concept of justice completely. Some decisions are so revolting (like genocide) that they must rigorously opposed, some people are so broken (like serial killers, serial kidnappers, etc) that we invest enormous time and money in the criminal justice system to stop them, they are horribly corrosive to society, they must be stopped.

How do you respond?

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Can a Person Absolve your Sins? Drum roll please…

A penitent confessing his sins in the former L...

Image via Wikipedia (confessing to another)

About 500 years ago there was this spat. At the time, having your sins forgiven was a sort of pay as you go thing. It was a bit like a toll road.

The toll booth worker was the Priest. If you bought “indulgences” the Priest could better settle up your debt with God.

Handy little business model, especially when folks hope to avoid damnation, right?

This became rather upsetting. So these Reformer types started protesting. It was not so much to split from the Church, but to transform it–at first.

Of course, men can get pretty riled up about their new fantastic ideas (ever seen that?), and before anyone realized it, a huge split…others might say a heresy or rebellion… was cemented into place in history–forever changing the landscape of Christianity.

Spiritually speaking, some good was gained (and Catholics adjusted to these grievances by the 1960s with Vatican II), but as more and more people are beginning to realizing now, some very good and important things were lost because of going this route.

So, what is the real purpose of a priest, or priest-like figure? Is it necessary? Can absolution of sin come from a man in a white collar? What about a teenager in a crew neck? Or a lady with a scarf?

Drum roll, please…..

Oh!  Wait! Before, you start gathering firewood and a sturdy stake for my conflagration, please hear me out the entire way. (Then have at it; I’d like to hear from you.)

The I Timothy 2:5 “one mediator” verse is often used to underscore that Christ alone can forgive sins and be our mediator to God. It’s true. This was the mission of the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth.

But Protestants have, by the over-reactive trailblazing of the Reformers, missed quite a bit of the spiritual benefits of what Jesus’ brother James talks about:

James 5:16
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

What is James saying…that confession and other believers’ prayers are powerful and effective against sin? Yes.

GASP.
Okay, not a total gasp. But how does this play out? You may wonder…

This confessing to each other is not the same as be able to actually take Jesus’ place (obviously). James shows us that confession to each other works. It does something important. God wants it to be done this way.

It absolves us (because God absolves us). So, it is true that we personally experience the relief of our guilt being removed. We experience, in real terms, the agency of God’s forgiveness of our guilt. Someone is there beside us, standing in the gap for us, so we can be reconciled more thoroughly, more completely than we can experience it otherwise. It is God’s work; and we are agents of his ministry.

These confessors  to whom we confess become a flesh and blood representation of God’s love that promotes gracious forgiveness and offers wholeness. It offers us freedom from guilt (felt guilt, and feeling or thinking as if Christ‘s work is not complete). It puts flesh on our spiritual justification.

It seems we can’t handle our sin on our own too well, at all.

We are sinful, and it’s not a private matter.

Just confessing to God, and keeping our mistakes and sin to ourselves, is not the recommendation and requirement of Christ’s disciples.

The Community of God (i.e. the Church; our brothers and sisters in the Lord) plays a vital role in our spiritual growth and growth in grace. Confession ushers in that felt healing of the sin and guilt which weigh us down, and disables us.

Our sin is a rejection of community (aka The Bride of Christ) and an act of selfishness.

Our sin is a destructive thing. Socially and spiritually destructive.

Confession and absolution, (the kind you might say/declare out loud to another person) restore us at a core level. To ourselves, to God, and to community (aka The Bride of Christ).

In this way, we act not as God, but on God’s behalf. We minister.

It is simply true that he forgives us. We concur and offer social restoration, and remind the confessing one of God’s gracious work and love for us.

We minister to each other, on equal footing, and we may offer God’s grace to a brother or sister who cannot yet properly apprehend it. We can accept their confession and offer forgiveness, so we speak the Truth of God’s Kingdom into their life. We help set the captives free. (Not because God can’t do it without us, but because he wishes to use us this way.)

YES. We may say, “You have confessed, and you are forgiven. God absolves you. I, too, forgive you. Go in peace, and rest in his love.”

Please offer this to others. Ask for it on your behalf, too.

Will you comment on this topic, please? Your input is vital on this one. Thank you.

Guest post from fake blog writer

Guest post from fake blog writer (and also the story of being nearly Punk’d)

I was asked by “Elizabeth” to post a guest blog and link to what turned out to a fake blog they claim is for people “excited by the prospect of veiled links to the education industry in the form of blog posts”. Now I don’t know about you, but to me, this marketing trickery is so fantastic, and doesn’t sound the least bit manipulative, especially if you’ve gone to 8 years of fake evil medical school. ~coughing while slurringFailunder my breath~

But, I’m a girl of my word. I told them I would post it, AND link to them, which was incredibly nice of me, since they were seriously wasting my time. Yep. You bet ‘cha. I will do just what I said.

One smallish adjustment though…. Since they bill themselves as almost educational, their submission could only be almost worthy of being posted on this fine specimen of a blog you have before you, and I will almost post it here.

After I read the submitted piece by “Andrew Hall”, (a blind, autistic, amputee from Tuzla, with only two working thumbs),  I was SO UNDERWHELMED that I thought it was a good fit for my humor site, that is equally underwhelming.

I made up the thing about Andrew. I’m not sure about his situation, at all.

On a personal note: So, sorry “Andrew”, this is a bit of a downgrade for your humor piece, but thank you for trying. Keep your chin up, because I’ve heard (from an Indian-themed movie) that blind singers get the most money; I think you will do fine. You can sing, right? Bless your heart.

Anyway, you may click FAIL to go to their fake site, and read the submission here.
I’m only sorry I can’t give you what you can never get back: the 6 minutes of your life you wasted here today.

Thursday’s 5 Minute Retreat (4 of 5)

Lay down your stones

Ed Cyzewski invited me to carrying on with his 5 minute Retreat series this week. Today is day 4 of 5. I hope you find this brief exercise a way to create a bit of time and space in your day to refocus and reenergize. May God bless you.

This retreat would be best to do if you have a stone or brick handy. If it’s not easy to search for one outside, find something else, that feels weighty in your hand, like a paper weight, book, full water bottle, etc. Yes, I realize that sounds weird. Indulge me for a few minutes, k?

Before we start, please take a few steps to
prepare yourself to take a short rejuvenating break to refreshen your day and your spirit. Together we will gain new perspective. So, please eliminate potential distractions nearby. (Silence your phone, computer, shut your door, etc.)

Ready?
Here we go!

Hold your stone or object in your hand.

Close your eyes and take a few deep, slow breaths. (Be aware of where you are. “Be where you are.” That is, push the chatter of your mind aside, purposefully, for this short and set amount of time.)

Now as you gain awareness of yourself in the spot where you are, be very aware of the weight of the object in your hand. Concentrate on that sensation for a bit. With your eyes closed, notice its bulk, size, “weightiness”, and stay with that for about 60 seconds. (That will feel like a LONG time. But, please do hang in there, friends!)

Now think of the things weighing you down in your day this week. Everybody has something. Do you have conflict in a relationship, too much to do, deadlines, struggles, car trouble, illness, loneliness, frustration? What is bothering you RIGHT NOW?

Think about how those things in your life really do feel like a weight resting on top of you. They are pushing you down. They feel heavy.

Now, feel the weight of the stone or object in your hand, and make the conscious association, of what weights you down with this weighted symbol of it that you are holding.

Feel their weight, and recognize that you want to be free of it. You want new strength and relief. You want to claim that release.

Talk to God briefly about your particular struggle/s, all while clutching your stone or object.

If you can say this next bit out loud, I recommend it. If that will be too awkward because of your surroundings, try to repeat this a few times in your mind:

God, I am laying my weight down. Take it from me. I willingly lay it down for you to pick up.

(Repeating this for your ownership of this act will help you a lot.)

Now set down your weight. Release it. Lay it down, with purpose. (If you are outside, you may want to throw it down, or put it in a trash can. Or, maybe that’s just me. OH! And watch out for glass. It can sneak up on you, just as you let your stone fly.)

NOW–Feel the weight lift. It’s GONE.

Breathe deeply.

Now walk away.

And thank God.

Thanks for coming along today, and daring to experience life a bit differently. I hope this is helpful to you in a special way. I’d love to hear about your experience, if you’d like to share it here.

Are You Discouraged?

Oswald Chambers

 

 

Oswald Chambers meditation:

. . . when Moses was grown . . . he went out to his brethren and looked at their burdens —Exodus 2:11

 

Moses saw the oppression of his people and felt certain that he was the one to deliver them, and in the righteous indignation of his own spirit he started to right their wrongs. After he launched his first strike for God and for what was right, God allowed Moses to be driven into empty discouragement, sending him into the desert to feed sheep for forty years. At the end of that time, God appeared to Moses and said to him, ” ’. . . bring My people . . . out of Egypt.’ But Moses said to God, ’Who am I that I should go . . . ?’ ” (Exodus 3:10-11). In the beginning Moses had realized that he was the one to deliver the people, but he had to be trained and disciplined by God first. He was right in his individual perspective, but he was not the person for the work until he had learned true fellowship and oneness with God.
We may have the vision of God and a very clear understanding of what God wants, and yet when we start to do it, there comes to us something equivalent to Moses’ forty years in the wilderness. It’s as if God had ignored the entire thing, and when we are thoroughly discouraged, God comes back and revives His call to us. And then we begin to tremble and say, “Who am I that I should go . . . ?” We must learn that God’s great stride is summed up in these words— “I AM WHO I AM . . . has sent me to you” (Exodus 3:14). We must also learn that our individual effort for God shows nothing but disrespect for Him— our individuality is to be rendered radiant through a personal relationship with God, so that He may be “well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). We are focused on the right individual perspective of things; we have the vision and can say, “I know this is what God wants me to do.” But we have not yet learned to get into God’s stride. If you are going through a time of discouragement, there is a time of great personal growth ahead.

Have you thought about discouragement in this way?

Your thoughts or comments are encouraged.

MLK: Love Your Enemies

 

Pastor, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

 

 

The following is an excerpt of the last portion of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech entitled,

Loving Your Enemies
November 17 1957

…And our civilization must discover that. Individuals must discover that as they deal with other individuals. There is a little tree planted on a little hill and on that tree hangs the most influential character that ever came in this world. But never feel that that tree is a meaningless drama that took place on the stages of history. Oh no, it is a telescope through which we look out into the long vista of eternity, and see the love of God breaking forth into time. It is an eternal reminder to a power-drunk generation that love is the only way. It is an eternal reminder to a generation depending on nuclear and atomic energy, a generation depending on physical violence, that love is the only creative, redemptive, transforming power in the universe.

So this morning, as I look into your eyes, and into the eyes of all of my brothers in Alabama and all over America and over the world, I say to you, “I love you. I would rather die than hate you.” And I’m foolish enough to believe that through the power of this love somewhere, men of the most recalcitrant bent will be transformed. And then we will be in God’s kingdom. We will be able to matriculate into the university
of eternal life because we had the power to love our enemies, to bless those persons that cursed us, to even decide to be good to those persons who hated us, and we even prayed for those persons who despitefully used us.

Oh God, help us in our lives and in all of our attitudes, to work out this controlling force of love, this controlling power that can solve every problem that we confront in all areas. Oh, we talk about politics; we talk about the problems facing our atomic civilization. Grant that all men will come together and discover that as we solve the crisis and solve these problems—the international problems, the problems of atomic energy, the problems of nuclear energy, and yes, even the race problem—let us join together in a great fellowship of love and bow down at the feet of Jesus. Give us this strong determination. In the name and spirit of this Christ, we pray. Amen.

[full speech here.]

Please leave your comments. Thank you.

Innocence and Purity

 

My diagram for a "System" of Purity

 

Our freedom allows us to make choices that determine our purity and our innocence. So, freedom always includes responsibility, and purity can be regained. It is innocence that is untried.

In the cases were guilt may plague us, we may seek healing in the spiritual discipline of life confession, and then find it our acceptance of love and forgiveness. This happens best in Community, with the support of siblings in Christ.

This is also an act of worship.

Please share you thoughts on this, or a related theme.

Or you may tackle one of the following. Thanks.

• What have been your influencers with regards to purity?

• How has the media impacted your view of purity?

• What is the biggest struggle regarding your faith and your purity?

Resource used: Pages 126-8. Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us (Adele Ahlberg Calhoun -IVP Books ©2005)
For further reading: “Real Sex” -Lauren Winner