All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6). It’s not a pretty picture, but it’s true. You have seen someone trying to clean up their own mess before, and that this just ends up making things worse as long as they continue doing more of whatever caused the mess in the first place.
The book of Revelation is perhaps the most controversial book in the Bible among Christians. Even sincere, Bible-believing Christians seem to come up with more widely varying interpretations of this book than of any other passage or prophecy. The variety and severity of these disagreements can be intimidating or discouraging to the simple reader, who may feel that there is no one Truth to be found within its mysterious pages. But it is vitally important to remember that God did not inspire the writing of Revelation to bring confusion, but hope and joy to his suffering church.
The question of evil and suffering is never a theoretical one. We all experience real and deep pain and wickednes. However, for the Christian believer (who recognizes there is a God), there are only three logical possibilities for the evil things that happen in this world:
The phrase “Just Do It” is a trademark of the Nike shoe company, coined in 1988. Hugely successful, the “Just Do It” ad campaign allowed Nike to increase its market share from 18 to 43% in just 10 years. Nike’s objective was to target every person regardless of age, gender or physical fitness level – customers associating their purchases with the prospect of achieving greatness. Students of the “Just Do It” campaign have observed that the campaign was so successful because it was both “universal (it) and intensely personal (just do).” Like most truth-claims, Nike’s campaign has some truth to
He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground … Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark (Genesis 7:23). The worldwide Flood is sobering to consider. In Noah’s day, at a real point in time in actual history, every person on earth was drowned except the eight who were in the Ark. This is the greatest catastrophe in history, and no other event — tsunami, earthquake, hurricane, or volcanic eruption — even comes close. This was not a “natural” or normal kind of catastrophe.
Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied” (1 Samuel 17:45). David was victorious over Goliath because he trusted the invisible God with very real and visible and impending problems. But remember this! It is easy to look at someone else’s successful battle, after the fact, and take for granted the outcome.
Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13). I was thinking recently about cases where a person who has been a professed believer, maybe even a well-known Christian leader, falls into public sin or even apostasy, and walks away from the Christian faith. Sadly, there have been many such cases in the news lately. We often think, and maybe even say, afterward that in hindsight there were some tendencies we could see in that person’s life that led to their eventual demise:
Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God (Genesis 6:9). In the midst of the Flood narrative, in which we are told that God saw all the world as corrupt and decided to destroy every breathing creature, we read in contrast that Noah was righteous, blameless, and walked with God. From there, of course, we learn that out of all humanity, only Noah and his family were saved from the Flood. The obvious question that this passage forces on us is this: what kind of person escapes the judgment of God?
Our first and primary obligation is certainly to the local church. The Bible is very clear on the fact that we are to financially support those pastors who minister to us spiritual things, by ministering to their physical needs (1 Corinthians 9:7-11; 1 Timothy 5:17-18). The Scripture is equally plain regarding our obligation to support the poor and needy within the body of Christ (1 Timothy 5:16; 1 John 3:17).
Jesus paradoxically describes those as happy who are poverty-stricken in their souls. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). As upside-down and inside-out as this may sound, if we believe Jesus then we certainly want to know what he is talking about. What does it mean to be “poor in spirit”?
Do not fear, only believe (Mark 5:36). As you read this, you may at this moment be filled with hope and expectation … or you may be filled with dread and anxiety about the future. Either way, Jesus’ simple words to a suffering man speak volumes. Jesus invites us to rest in him, now and always. But why should we trust Jesus? How can we be certain that he has our best in mind, or that he is working for our good?
The appointed time has grown very short … For the present form of this world is passing away (1 Corinthians 7:29,31). God himself has set the bounds of this universe, and it will not last forever. Therefore, every day that passes is God drawing the earth closer to its eventual and inevitable conclusion. And not only is this world finite, but our individual time on it is more limited still. As James reminds us, our life is like “mist,” here and then quickly gone.
And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley, and Lot journeyed east. Thus they separated from each other (Genesis 13:10-11). Abraham and Lot now face the opposite temptation from what they faced in chapter 12, when there was a famine in Canaan; now they experience the equally great challenge of prosperity in Canaan.
I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another (Romans 15:14). Paul, writing to everyday and average Christians in the church at Rome, insists that every Christian should be “able to instruct.” Paul gives two criteria for our being ready and able to give the right kind of counsel: being full of goodness, and being filled with knowledge. We can’t help others draw closer to God if we are not ourselves walking closely with God.