Does God Allow Suffering In The World and Why God Allowed Good Things Happen To Bad People?

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Does God Allow Suffering In The World?’

© September 24, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin September 24, 2017

Based Upon a Message Originally Shared with BLCF on August 31, 2008

BLCF Bulletin August 31_08

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                     Opening Hymn #182: Marvelous Message We Bring; Choruses                      Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings Responsive Reading #670: The Day of the Lord (from 2 Peter 3)                    Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Does God Allow Suffering In The World?’

Let us pray…

I would like to begin today’s lesson by reading the headlines of a few recently posted news articles:

Harvey, Irma, Jose, And Now, Maria — Is The 2017 Hurricane Season The Worst One Yet?                                                                           https://www.dogonews.com/2017/9/23/harvey-irma-jose-and-now-maria-is-the-2017-hurricane-season-the-worst-one-yet

Floods kill over 1,200 in India, Nepal and Bangladesh                              http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/08/floods-kill-1200-india-nepal-bangladesh-170826230610924.html

Third earthquake hits Mexico in September, this time of magnitude 6.8 https://globalnews.ca/news/3764935/earthquake-mexico-magnitude-6-8/

Everybody knows of someone has personally suffered a personal tragedy that has caused us to question our faith. Perhaps they have suffered such tragedy in their own lives.

In fact our Lord personally suffered to the point of death on the cross and just before his death, Jesus asked a question often spoken by others in the wake of tragic circumstances, Mark 15:34 (ESV):

34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

So through his son, God has experienced some an example of the human suffering that happens in the world to innocent people. Jesus was innocent of any sin, yet he died a horrific death.

Suffering and pain was not brought to this world by God, but as a result of disobedience to God. In Genesis 2:16-17 (ESV), we read:

16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat[a] of it you shall surely die.”

Footnotes: a. Genesis 2:17 Or when you eat

We know the consequences of the temptation by the serpent and the consequences of disobedience to God is the judgment of death. And that Jesus took upon himself the punishment of death so that we may be good or sanctified unto God, if by faith we accept the  gift of salvation.

This verse from Genesis 2:17, helps us understand the consequences of disobedience to God. But how do we reconcile tragedies which occur to an innocent person or someone who has strong faith in God?

You may remember the story of Joseph, a son favored by his father, but seemingly forsaken by his God. Sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, Joseph rose to a position where he could have measured revenge upon his family.

Instead, Joseph showed them compassion and was instrumental in saving the Jewish people at a time of famine. God had a plan for the Jewish nation and it was implemented after Joseph endured much suffering.

In 1997, I experienced job loss twice within a year: once when corporate downsizing by my employer ended a 17-year term of and again when a four-month contract ended .

In our society we often tend to mistakenly identify who we are with what we do. And if our job is lost due a corporate take-over, we may feel that we have no value if our job falls-victim to a corporations restructuring.

That year of my life, I found to be a time of personal challenge to both my confidence and my faith. At that time of challenge, I found myself revisiting the Book of Job, which gives the account of a man of faith who was tempted and challenged, though he never allowed his circumstances to diminish his faith in God, as we read in Job 1:1-12 (ESV):

Job’s Character and Wealth

1 There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed[a] God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.

Satan Allowed to Test Job

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan[b] also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? 10 Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” 12 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

Footnotes: a. Job 1:5 The Hebrew word bless is used euphemistically for curse in 1:5, 11; 2:5, 9 b. Job 1:6 Hebrew the Accuser or the Adversary; so throughout chapters 1–2

Job was tempted over and over, by Satan. But Job never renounced his faith in God. Even Jesus was tempted by Satan and the Lord met the challenges with Scripture and the comfort of the Holy Spirit:

Matthew 3:16-4:17 (ESV)

16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him,[a] and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son,[b] with whom I am well pleased.”

The Temptation of Jesus

4 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up,     lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

Jesus Begins His Ministry

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount

12 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,     the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16 the people dwelling in darkness     have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,     on them a light has dawned.”

17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Footnotes: a. Matthew 3:16  Some manuscripts omit to him b. Matthew 3:17  Or my Son, my (or the) Beloved

After a year of searching for employment, a head-hunter found my resume, which led me to being hired at a job, perhaps one of the best I ever had. At the time I recall my father remarking: ‘Sometimes good things happen to good people.’ This comment spoke volumes to me, as dad had seen that through my suffering I was faithful to my God and, as had happened gto Job, He did not allow me to endure more than I could bear.

In the years to follow, I would again be personally challenged three more times again by corporate restructuring and down-sizing. However, each time I kept my faith and the Lord provided for my needs.

Harold Kushner authored a book which made popular the phrase my father quoted to me, as Rabbi Yitzchok Kirzner observes in aish.com:

Harold Kushner, a Conservative rabbi, followed precisely such an approach in his best-selling book When Bad Things Happen to Good People. Few “Jewish” books in recent decades have had a greater impact upon those dealing with life’s personal tragedies. Kushner is regularly cited, in both the Jewish and non-Jewish media, as an expert on suffering and a variety of other ethical issues.

 Kushner came to the topic of suffering through a terrible tragedy in his family: He and his wife lost a young son to a particularly perverse degenerative disease – premature aging syndrome. He has thus paid a heavy price for the right to talk about suffering. Though we shall be very critical of Kushner’s conclusions, nothing we say should be seen as a personal criticism of him, or an attempt to in any way diminish the awful suffering he had to bear. It would be contemptible to pass judgment on another’s experience of a tragedy of such magnitude.

If we are critical of Kushner’s ideas, ¡t is only because he has offered his views to the public as a consolation to those suffering emotional distress or pain and as an authentic Jewish response to the problem of suffering. As we shall see, they are neither.

While Kushner is in some sense a believer in God, his own faith was severely tested by the prolonged agony that he and his wife endured. He felt the need to construct a theory that would reconcile his tragedy with Judaism’s belief in God’s benevolence.

 He concluded that to maintain his belief in God he must reject either God’s benevolence or His omnipotence. He chose the latter course. God, in Kushner’s view, created the world and provides the foundation of moral principle. But He cannot quite control the world He created. He hopes for our good and He sympathizes, as it were, with us in our pain, but He is powerless to do anything about it.

 As to why a God Who had the power to create the entire universe in the first place would create one that He is powerless to control, Kushner basically shrugs his shoulders and contents himself with noting that the world is relatively good for most people most of the time. We might designate this theory as “randomness plus God.”

Unable to understand why a good God would allow individuals to suffer, Kushner ends by neatly defining the question away. He cannot even conceive of the possibility of any understanding, and so concludes that we have no answers because there are no answers. Much of what happens ¡s nothing more than random chance. Pain and tragedy are a necessary consequence of a world over which God does not exercise complete control.

http://www.aish.com/sp/ph/why_harold_kushner_is_wrong.html

This illustrates the great danger to Christians who are challenged by personal tragedy and give in to the temptation to feel that they are victims of overwhelming circumstances beyond their control and that God has no power or interest in intervening, as God is aware in tragic circumstances, but content in strictly observing them.

If this were true, God would have not likely created Adam and Eve and would have never intervened through the messages of the prophets and God would have never have chosen to give us Jesus, to die for our circumstances. And further, God would not have allowed Jesus to perform his miracles, the most noteworthy being his resurrection from the grave or the gift of the Holy Spirit. As far as bad things happening to good people, this only happened once and He volunteered! And the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ for our salvation indicates that God, through His Son, Jesus, provides the means for good things (our salvation) to happen to bad people (sinners – all have sinned).

In his publication, I Wonder Why Bad Things Happen to Good People, posted on the site day1.org, the Reverend Charles D. Reeb comments on the experience of H.G. Spafford:

H.G. Spafford had the following experience. In 1873, his wife and four children sailed from New York to France on an ocean liner. Mr. Spafford was unable to make the voyage with his family because of business commitments in Chicago. He told them goodbye, promising to meet them in France in a few weeks.

At two o’clock on the morning of November 22, 1873, when the luxury liner was several days out, ¡t was hit by another liner. Within two hours, the ship sank. Nine days later when the survivors landed at Wales, Mrs. Spafford cabled her husband these two words, “Saved alone.” When he received her message, he quickly booked passage on a ship to Europe to join his wife. On the way over, the captain called him into his cabin and said, “I believe we are now passing over the place where your family’s liner went down.”

Well, that night in the mid-Atlantic, filled with much pain and sorrow, Mr. Spafford wrote five stanzas, the first of which contained these lines:

“When peace like a river attendeth my way,                                                         

When sorrows like sea-billows roll,

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,

It is well, it is well with my soul!”

And these words have been a part of one of the most popular hymns in the church today. Little did Spafford know that his words would give comfort to so many people.  God turned his scar into a star.

We can’t control the fact that bad things will happen to us. They just do, and one day we will find out why. But the one thing we can control is how we respond to the bad things that happen to us. We can get bitter or better! We can stay angry at life and at God and never move on, or we can give our pain to God and allow him to do something beautiful with it. Then we’ll be able to say with confidence:

 I will be untouched in the midst of fire

I will stand firm in the midst of a storm

I will not crack in the midst of chaos

I will not lose heart when the world is torn

I will not fear when the heat blazes

I will not fret when drought comes

I will bear fruit in the midst of all of it

I will march to a different drum

I will discover victory in tragedy

I will trust in El Shaddai

I will laugh in the face of death

I will wave evil and pain goodbye

http://day1.org/955-i_wonder_why_bad_things_happen_to_good_people

Going back to Jesus’ words, we the Lord cried in pain and anguish atop of the cross in Mark 15:34 (ESV):

34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

This leads us to explore why does God allow bad things to happen to good people, or perhaps we should ponder why, through the salvation of Jesus, we should ask ourselves: Why God Allowed Good Things Happen To Bad People? Quite an interesting thought!

In conclusion, I suggest we consider when happens, when force is applied to an egg: if the egg is broken by an outside force, life ends. But if an egg is broken from the inside, life begins. And by faith in the sanctification and the gift of the Holy Spirit inside of us, our new life begins.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #328: Anywhere with Jesus I Can Safely Go

Benediction – (Romans 12:2):

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

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Does God Allow Suffering In The World?

BLCF: why_God_allows

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Does God Allow Suffering In The World?’

© October 5, 2014 by Steve Mickelson

Based Upon a Message Originally Shared With BLCF on August 31, 2008

BLCF: Bulletin October 5, 2014

BLCF: why-bad-things-happen

Announcements and Call to Worship:                                                                   

Responsive Reading #650 (Trials and Temptations – from James 1 and 1 Peter 1);  Prayer                                                                                             

 Opening Hymn #410: O What A Wonderful, Wonderful Day; Choruses                                             

 Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings

Scripture Verses: Mark 15:34, Genesis 2:16-17, Job 1:1-12, Matthew 3:16-4:17   

                                                                                                                                

BLCF: when-storms-come 

Let us pray…

I would like to begin today’s lesson by reading a couple of recent news articles which were posted online:

The following headline comes from bbc.com, last updated at 08:27 ET on October 2, 2014:  

 

Ebola Outbreak: Five Infected Every Hour in Sierra Leone

BLCF: 2014_ebola_virus_epidemic_in_West_Africa_svg

A leading charity has warned that a rate of five new Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever, cases an hour in Sierra Leone means healthcare demands are far outstripping supply.

Save the Children said there were 765 new cases of Ebola reported in the West African state last week, while there are only 327 beds in the country.

Experts and politicians are set to meet in London to debate a global response to the crisis.

It is the world’s worst outbreak of the virus, killing 3,338 people so far. There have been 7,178 confirmed cases, with Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea suffering the most.

Save the Children says Ebola is spreading across Sierra Leone at a “terrifying rate”, with the number of new cases being recorded doubling every few weeks. It said that even as health authorities got on top of the outbreak in one area, it spread to another.

The scale of the disease is also “massively unreported” according to the charity, because “untold numbers of children are dying anonymously at home or in the streets”.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-29453755

The second article published by the Toronto Star online comes from The Canadian Press News Service, published on October 3, 2014:

Toronto Doctors Testing 3 Kids with Muscle Weakness for Enterovirus -D68

BLCF: map-of-paralysis-cases

Three children suffering from muscle weakness are being tested in Toronto to determine whether they’ve been infected with enterovirus – D68.

Dr. Upton Allen, chief of infectious diseases at the Hospital for Sick Children, says they expect to receive the results early next week.

There have been dozens of confirmed cases of enterovirus-D68 in western and central Canada, which usually causes only mild cold symptoms such as fever and runny nose.

But a small number of infected children have developed polio-like symptoms, including one in Hamilton and two in British Columbia.

Doctors in Hamilton are testing three other patients who have displayed similar neurological symptoms to see if enterovirus D68 is the cause.

Alberta health officials say they’re investigating whether four children with respiratory illness coupled with paralytic symptoms are also infected.

http://www.thestar.com/life/health_wellness/2014/10/03/toronto_doctors_testing_3_kids_with_muscle_weakness_for_enterovirus_d68.html

BLCF: God-allows-suffering-pull-quote

Everybody knows of someone or has personally experienced a personal tragedy which has caused us to question our faith. While suffering to the point of death on the cross, Jesus asked a question often spoken by others in the wake of tragic circumstances, Mark 15:34 (ESV):

34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

BLCF:Mark15=34

So through his son, God has experienced the human suffering that happens in the world to innocent people. Jesus was innocent of any sin, yet he died a horrific death.

Suffering and pain was not brought to this world by God, but as a result of disobedience to God. In Genesis 2:16-17(ESV), we read:

16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat[a] of it you shall surely die.”

Footnotes: a. Genesis 2:17 Or when you eat

 BLCF: forsaken

We know the consequences of the temptation by the serpent and the consequences of disobedience to God is the judgment of death. And that Jesus took upon himself the punishment of death so that we may be good or sanctified unto God, if by faith we accept the  gift of salvation.

This verse from Genesis 2:17, helps us understand the consequences of disobedience to God. But how do we reconcile tragedies which occur to an innocent person or someone who has strong faith in God?

You may remember the story of Joseph, a son favored by his father, but seemingly forsaken by his God. Sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, Joseph rose to a position where he could have measured revenge upon his family.

Instead, Joseph showed them compassion and was instrumental in saving the Jewish people at a time of famine. God had a plan for the Jewish nation and it was implemented after Joseph endured much suffering.

 BLCF: He-Understands-Our-Pain

In 1997, I experienced job loss twice within a year. Danka had taken over Kodak Service and my 17-year term of employment was lost to a corporate restructuring. My next employment was a four-month contract, which ended at the term’s end. In our society we often tend to mistakenly identify who we are with what we do. And if our job is lost due a corporate take-over, we may feel that we have no value if our job falls victim to a corporations restructuring.

For me, the next year was a time of personal challenge to my confidence and faith. At this time of challenge, I returned to reading the Book of Job, a man of faith who was tempted and challenged, but who never allowed his circumstances to diminish his faith in God.

BLCF: Keeping-the-Faith-When-Life-Falls-Apart

Job 1:1-12 (ESV) Job’s Character and Wealth

1 There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed[a] God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.

Satan Allowed to Test Job

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan[b] also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? 10 Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” 12 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

Footnotes: a. Job 1:5 The Hebrew word bless is used euphemistically for curse in 1:5, 11; 2:5, 9 b. Job 1:6 Hebrew the Accuser or the Adversary; so throughout chapters 1–2

Job was tempted over and over by Satan, but Job never renounced his faith in God. Even Jesus was tempted by Satan and Jesus met the challenges with scripture and the power of the Holy Spirit.

BLCF: Sometimes-the-bad-things-that-happen-in-our-lives-put-us-directly-on-the-path-to-the-best-things-that-will-ever-happen-to-us

 

Matthew 3:16-4:17 (ESV)

16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him,[a] and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son,[b] with whom I am well pleased.”

The Temptation of Jesus

BLCF: matt4-10

4 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up,     lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

Jesus Begins His Ministry

BLCF: Jesus_with_disciples

12 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,     the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16 the people dwelling in darkness     have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,     on them a light has dawned.”

17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Footnotes: a. Matthew 3:16 Some manuscripts omit to him b. Matthew 3:17 Or my Son, my (or the) Beloved

BLCF: Jesus

 

After a year of searching for employment, a head-hunter found my resume, which led me to getting a job with Deiphax Systems. I remember my dad remarking: ‘Sometimes good things happen to good people.’ This comment spoke volumes to me, as my father had seen that through my suffering I was faithful to my God and, as with Job, He did not allow me to endure more than I could bear.

In the years to follow, I would be personally challenged three times again by corporate restructuring and down-sizing. However, each time I kept my faith and the Lord provided for my needs.

BLCF: Keeping Faith

Harold Kushner authored a book which made popular the phrase my father quoted to me, as Rabbi Yitzchok Kirzner observes in aish.com:

BLCF: When_Bad_Things_Happen_To_Good_People

 

Harold Kushner, a Conservative rabbi, followed precisely such an approach in his best-selling book When Bad Things Happen to Good People. Few “Jewish” books in recent decades have had a greater impact upon those dealing with life’s personal tragedies. Kushner is regularly cited, in both the Jewish and non-Jewish media, as an expert on suffering and a variety of other ethical issues.

 Kushner came to the topic of suffering through a terrible tragedy in his family: He and his wife lost a young son to a particularly perverse degenerative disease – premature aging syndrome. He has thus paid a heavy price for the right to talk about suffering. Though we shall be very critical of Kushner’s conclusions, nothing we say should be seen as a personal criticism of him, or an attempt to in any way diminish the awful suffering he had to bear. It would be contemptible to pass judgment on another’s experience of a tragedy of such magnitude.

If we are critical of Kushner’s ideas, ¡t is only because he has offered his views to the public as a consolation to those suffering emotional distress or pain and as an authentic Jewish response to the problem of suffering. As we shall see, they are neither.

While Kushner is in some sense a believer in God, his own faith was severely tested by the prolonged agony that he and his wife endured. He felt the need to construct a theory that would reconcile his tragedy with Judaism’s belief in God’s benevolence.

 He concluded that to maintain his belief in God he must reject either God’s benevolence or His omnipotence. He chose the latter course. God, in Kushner’s view, created the world and provides the foundation of moral principle. But He cannot quite control the world He created. He hopes for our good and He sympathizes, as it were, with us in our pain, but He is powerless to do anything about it.

 As to why a God Who had the power to create the entire universe in the first place would create one that He is powerless to control, Kushner basically shrugs his shoulders and contents himself with noting that the world is relatively good for most people most of the time. We might designate this theory as “randomness plus God.”

Unable to understand why a good God would allow individuals to suffer, Kushner ends by neatly defining the question away. He cannot even conceive of the possibility of any understanding, and so concludes that we have no answers because there are no answers. Much of what happens ¡s nothing more than random chance. Pain and tragedy are a necessary consequence of a world over which God does not exercise complete control.

http://www.aish.com/sp/ph/why_harold_kushner_is_wrong.html

BLCF: wheres-God?

This illustrates the great danger to Christians who are challenged by personal tragedy and give in to the temptation to feel that they are victims of overwhelming circumstances beyond their control and that God has no power or interest in intervening, as God is aware in tragic circumstances, but content in strictly observing them.

If this were true, God would have not likely created Adam and Eve and would have never intervened through the messages of the prophets and God would have never have chosen to give us Jesus, to die for our circumstances. And further, God would not have allowed Jesus to perform his miracles, the most noteworthy being his resurrection from the grave or the gift of the Holy Spirit. As far as bad things happening to good people, this only happened once and He volunteered! And the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ for our salvation indicates that God, through His Son, Jesus, provides the means for good things (our salvation) to happen to bad people (sinners – all have sinned).

BLCF: Romans_3_23

In his publication, I Wonder Why Bad Things Happen to Good People, posted on the site day1.org, the Reverend Charles D. Reeb comments on the experience of H.G. Spafford:

H.G. Spafford had the following experience. In 1873, his wife and four children sailed from New York to France on an ocean liner. Mr. Spafford was unable to make the voyage with his family because of business commitments in Chicago. He told them goodbye, promising to meet them in France in a few weeks.

At two o’clock on the morning of November 22, 1873, when the luxury liner was several days out, ¡t was hit by another liner. Within two hours, the ship sank. Nine days later when the survivors landed at Wales, Mrs. Spafford cabled her husband these two words, “Saved alone.” When he received her message, he quickly booked passage on a ship to Europe to join his wife. On the way over, the captain called him into his cabin and said, “I believe we are now passing over the place where your family’s liner went down.”

Well, that night in the mid-Atlantic, filled with much pain and sorrow, Mr. Spafford wrote five stanzas,  the first of which contained these lines:

  “When peace like a river attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea-billows roll,

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,

 It is well, it is well with my soul!”

 And these words have been a part of one of the most popular hymns in the church today. Little did Spafford know that his words would give comfort to so many people.  God turned his scar into a star.

We can’t control the fact that bad things will happen to us. They just do, and one day we will find out why. But the one thing we can control is how we respond to the bad things that happen to us. We can get bitter or better! We can stay angry at life and at God and never move on, or we can give our pain to God and allow him to do something beautiful with it. Then we’ll be able to say with confidence:

I will be untouched in the midst of fire

I will stand firm in the midst of a storm

I will not crack in the midst of chaos

I will not lose heart when the world is torn

 

I will not fear when the heat blazes

I will not fret when drought comes

I will bear fruit in the midst of all of it

I will march to a different drum

 

I will discover victory in tragedy

I will trust in El Shaddai

I will laugh in the face of death

I will wave evil and pain goodbye

http://day1.org/955-i_wonder_why_bad_things_happen_to_good_people

 

Going back to Jesus’ words cried in pain and anguish atop of the cross in Mark 15:34, which led us to explore why does God allow bad things to happen to good people, perhaps we should ponder why, through the salvation of Jesus, the Lord allowed good things happen to bad people?

BLCF: great-things-happen-from-the-inside

Think about the example of an egg: if it is broken by an outside force, life ends. But if an egg is broken from the inside, life begins. And by faith in the sanctification and the gift of the Holy Spirit inside of us, our new life begins.

BLCF: greater_is_He

 

Let us pray…

 

Communion Observance: Responsive Reading #663 (1 Corinthians 11)  

BLCF: Communion_Sunday                

Closing Hymn # 401: When Peace like A River Attendeth                                     

Benediction – (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17):

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace,  comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.

BLCF: 1-samuel-16-vs-7

 

Staying on the Path to Salvation through Humility and Forgiveness

BLCF: Why do bad things happen to good people

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Staying on the Path to Salvation through Humility and Forgiveness’ 

© July 20, 2014 by Steve Mickelson

Originally Published February 28, 2010

BLCF: Bulletin July 20, 2014

BLCF: God is a NECESSITY

 

Announcements and Call to Worship:

Responsive Reading 667: Humility and Exaltation (Philippians 2 and Matthew 23); Prayer 

Opening Hymn#248: And Can It Be That I Should Gain; Choruses                                  

Tithing & Prayer Requests: Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings  

Scriptures: 2 Chronicles 7:14, Philippians 2:1-11,Micah 6:8, Matthew 18:3-4, Matthew 6:14-15, Luke 23:34 

 

Let Us Pray…

 BLCF: Gandhi

I would like to begin my message with a quote from Mahatma Gandhi:

Things that will destroy man: Politics without principle; pleasure without conscience; wealth without work; knowledge without character; business without morality; science without humanity; worship without sacrifice. 

BLCF_Newspaper

If you picked up a newspaper his morning you may read the following headline and news story:

Tanks and military units penetrated deeper into Gaza on Friday as the Israel Defence Forces’ ground offensive entered its second day.

At least 20 people died and many more were injured as intensive tank fire across eastern Gaza ravaged buildings and led to mass civilian casualties in the area.

The latest figures reported by health officials in Gaza, now estimate the total number of dead to be 316, a rise more than 60 since the offensive first began.

IDF reports say that “40 Hamas terrorists” have been killed during the operation so far, with many of the underground tunnels used by the group destroyed.

Three Israeli soldiers were injured, including one seriously, in a gun battle in northern Gaza; while one more was injured after being caught by sniper fire on Saturday morning.

With the number of people to die as a result of conflict in Gaza now topping 300, UN chief Ban Ki-Moon is set to travel to the region today in a bid to end the fighting between Israel and Hamas.

After 10 days of fighting, the Israeli military launched a ground operation in Gaza. As the violence escalates, here is what you need to know about the latest Gaza conflict:

What triggered this round of violence?

In June, the bodies of three Israeli teenagers — Eyal Yifrah, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Fraenkel, 16 – were found in the West Bank. Israel blamed Hamas for the murders, although the militant group denied any involvement.

Read more: http://www.ctvnews.ca/world/israel-gaza-conflict-what-you-need-to-know-1.1919373#ixzz37zaL8swn

Much of today’s news media contains a litany of stories describing the sadness of when innocent lives are lost or to quote a well-known book:

When Bad Things Happen To Good People

BLCF: Kushner

 

When Harold Kushner’s three-year-old son was diagnosed with a degenerative disease and that he would only live until his early teens, he was faced with one of life’s most difficult questions: Why, God? Years later, Rabbi Kushner wrote this straightforward, elegant contemplation of the doubts and fears that arise when tragedy strikes. Kushner shares his wisdom as a rabbi, a parent, a reader, and a human being. Often imitated but never superseded, When Bad Things Happen to Good People is a classic that offers clear thinking and consolation in times of sorrow. Since its original publication in 1981,When Bad Things Happen to Good People has brought solace and hope to millions of readers and its author has become a nationally known spiritual leader.

When my younger sister, Rhona, died from blood poisoning related to an abscess bedsore, it was very difficult for my dad. No one wants to outlive his or her child. Rhona’s last words to dad were: “I am not ready to die.” I believe that the whole family was surprised by her untimely death at age 42, as she successfully represented the disabled and elderly segments of Toronto through her Star Tracks Talent Agency (Star Tracks © 1998 Estate and Heirs of Rhona Winifred Mickelson – All Rights Reserved).

When a child dies, the surviving parents and family are not only struck by their own mortality, but are distinctly aware of the loss of someone who is close with whom there will be no more conversations, no more laughter or jokes. For a parent they sense a loss of someone who was to carry on with the family name. Lost are the hopes, dreams, and aspirations that the parent has for the child who is gone. Such a loss can be very difficult to accept, the causes hard to reconcile, and for those outside the family, such loss hard to understand.

Such was the case in Nickels Belt, Pennsylvania, when Charles Roberts, a 32-year-old milk truck driver, burst into an Amish schoolhouse in rural Pennsylvania on Monday, October 2, 2006 and killed five schoolgirls execution-style and then shot and then killed himself. Initially, the public viewed the tragedy as another case of a disturbed individual acting out his psychosis by killing innocent victims. It was just another school shooting by a man who was described by neighbors as a soccer dad, a seemingly good husband, and hard worker who just snapped. A rambling letter written by Roberts prior to his death blamed his emotional state upon a personal loss, some years previous.

The scope and scale of the tragic loss of life at the Amish schoolhouse paled in comparison to the reaction given by the families of the five victims towards the killer Roberts and the Roberts family.  Even though the act of violence against an Amish schoolhouse by an outsider had shaken the community to its core and in spite of Amish community’s feelings of shock, disbelief and then grief; there were of Amish people coming down to support those who had suffered this tremendous loss, both Amish as well as Roberts’ family. Within a day of the shootings, members of the Amish community, friends and family of the slain girls called upon the parents, widow and children of Charles Roberts to embrace the shooters family, to show forgiveness towards the killer and to support the Roberts in their time of personal loss and grief.  This reaction of forgiveness stunned the public and the media.

BLCF: power-of-forgiveness

Dr. Donald Kraybill, co-authored: Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy, and wrote the following:

One of the fathers who lost a daughter in the schoolhouse and had another one seriously injured said, “Our forgiveness was not in our words, it was in what we did.” What did they do? How did the Amish enact forgiveness?

Two days after the shooting the Amish formed the Nickel Mines Accountability Committee to disperse, with fiscal integrity, the financial gifts of goodwill that were suddenly coming from people around the world to help the suffering families. Composed of seven Amish leaders and two outside businessmen, the Nickel Mines Accountability Committee decided to give a proportion of the funds they received to the widow and children of Charles Roberts. In time, the committee received about $4.2 million from generous donors around the world.  

One of the most striking expressions of forgiveness occurred at Charles Roberts’s burial on the Saturday after the shooting. Roberts was buried in the Georgetown cemetery, about a mile from the school, beside his firstborn daughter whose premature death nine years earlier he blamed on God and gave as the reason for his murderous acts. Over half of the people in attendance were Amish. They spontaneously decided to attend. Some had just buried their own daughters the day before. After the burial they hugged the widow and the parents of Charles Roberts. It was a remarkable act of grace. The funeral director supervising the burial said, “I realized that I was witnessing a miracle!” The Amish families bestowed other gracious acts of kindness on the family of Charles Roberts. Some sent meals and flowers to his widow. At Christmastime children from a nearby Amish school went to the Roberts home to sing carols.  

Another remarkable facet of the Amish response was the absence of anger and rage. One Amish woman said, “When I saw the bodies of one of the little girls at the viewing it just made me mad, mad at the evil, not at the shooter.” In my interviews, I probed for anger toward Charles Roberts but I detected only deep sorrow, not anger. When I asked about Roberts’s eternal destiny, one Amish minister said, “I can only hope for him what I hope for myself, that God will be a merciful and loving judge.” Deep pain and sorrow seared the hearts of the Amish parents. Even months after the tragedy, the memory of the event brought tears to the eyes of many Amish people. “I couldn’t preach in church for several weeks because when I tried, I just cried and cried,” said one grandfather, a minister who lost a granddaughter in the schoolhouse. The Amish are not stoic people; they experience the emotions of pain and suffering like the rest of us.

But for all the Amish, as well as for fellow Christians at Bloor Lansdowne alike,  the strength to forgive is found is found through humility and the God’s grace.

BLCF: theologys-toughest-question

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, well known for his Christian walk, once said: “Forgiving is one of the most difficult things for a human being to do, but I think it means looking at some slight you feel, putting yourself in the position of the other person, and wiping away any sort of resentment and antagonism you feel toward them. Then let that other person know that everything is perfectly friendly and normal between you…One of the most basic principles for making and keeping peace within and between nations. . . is that in political, military, moral, and spiritual confrontations, there should be an honest attempt at the reconciliation of differences before resorting to combat”

BLCF: Diane-McKelva-Forgiveness

J. C. Ryle on the subject said:“Humility and love are precisely the graces which the men of the world can understand, if they do not comprehend doctrines. They are the graces about which there is no mystery, and they are within reach of all classes… [The poorest] Christian can every day find occasion for practicing love and humility. “

BLCF: amish_grace

To understand the reaction, we must understand the Amish. There are about 200,000 Amish who live in 27 states and 350 geographical settlements. They came from Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries and have lived lives largely separate from mainstream American society ever since.  They have a Biblically based understanding of their way of life, and they seek to apply their unique ways in terms of their selective use of technology, the way in which they interact with the outside world. Because the Amish are pacifists, they see the school rampage as a test of faith. Part of their faith practices includes not only reciting daily The Lord’s Prayer, but actually incorporating the message of the prayer in their everyday life. As one member of the Amish community stated, “There’s strength and forgiveness and not having the kind of bitterness that we think possibly caused this terrible tragedy.”

BLCF: Amish

But in order to achieve forgiveness, the Amish live a life of humility. Their manner of dress is simple and unassuming. They shun modern technology, preferring to travel by horse drawn carriage than by automobile. They live off the power grid; don’t have gas lies, any phones, any radios or televisions, no computers. They have no commercial insurance policies; say for life or property insurance, no credit cards, no loans. If an Amish suffers a loss, his support network is the community of fellow believers, who draw close to the person to provide care and support. The Amish learn the Way of humility from the Scriptures:

BLCF: forgiveness

2 Chronicles 7:14 (ESV)

14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

BLCF: Christ-our-healer-

Philippians 2:1-11 (ESV) Christ’s Example of Humility

2 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[b] being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Footnotes: a. Philippians 2:5 Or which was also in Christ Jesus b. Philippians 2:7 Greek bondservant

BLCF: forgiveness_liberates

 

But you may ask. Does God really command or require us to be humble?

Micah 6:8 (ESV)

He has told you, O man, what is good;     

and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness,[a]     

and to walk humbly with your God?

Footnotes: a. Micah 6:8 Or steadfast love

Just as our weakness and imperfections are made strong and perfect through the power of the Holy Spirit; a humble believer will become the greatest…

Matthew 18:3-4 (ESV)

And he said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

BLCF: why_do

Steve Marshall in an article on overcoming depression entitled: How forgiveness has healing power over depression states the following:

Healing through forgiveness and growing through humility. Accepting your depression and finding that it is no more than a curtain on the stage of life, your life. What is the real spiritual connection between depression and forgiveness? Is there a causal connection? Can depression be alleviated from a “heartfelt connectingly” deep forgiveness of myself and of others made by myself? Forgiveness always helps because to forgive is to embrace the loving option. Love heals depression by allowing it’s healing “of the opening up of yourself to yourself and of the opening up of yourself to others” to take place. For essentially depression is a sign of your closing down to yourself and to life. The way to allow growth through and past your depression is to start forgiving yourself for having allowed this degree of closing down of yourself to yourself and to life to have taken place. Depression is a really deep, painful and lonely place to be, but it’s very deepness is what allows you to grow. It is true in life that you grow most from the deepest pain and the deepest feelings and that your most penetratingly painful experiences will often teach you the most. And so depression as I have just said allows you to feel feelings more deeply and this then will open the other side of depression in you and which is forgiveness. When you are feeling any feeling other than happiness or experiencing any state other than love, it is time to think about forgiveness. Forgive yourself first by just accepting yourself, for acceptance is the always the first step of forgiveness. The second step is to acknowledge that depression is a part of life and of your life and to look for the hidden jewels hiding within the darkness of depression. Forgiveness is the candle or the light in this darkness that will allow you to see the jewel and which is your soul sparkling and shining with a glimmering hope. That hope is that real hope that you will at last contact your real self as soul and that this contact will now begin to turn you around, and then after that the next step is humility. It takes true humility to forgive, and true forgiveness makes you humble. It goes on from there, and you will find that when you can touch yourself as soul, and feel a little of your true value, and accept that you have indeed a unique purpose and unique gifts and that you are a part of God’s overall plan for all of life, you will maybe realize then that your part in it all is just simply to be you.

And you may ask what Christ said we may expect if we do not forgive those who have wronged us? Let us read from Matthew 25, verses 31-46 for the answer:

BLCF: sheep-goats

Matthew 25:31-45 (ESV) The Final Judgment

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’

BLCF: do_to_others

In other words, we will be judged according to how we have treated others. We cannot expect forgiveness and salvation if we do not forgive others. And we cannot forgive others if we have not humbled ourselves in the eyes of the Lord. Or to put it a little more clearly:

Matthew 6:14-15 (ESV)

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

And if we must remember Christ words, while nailed to the cross, through His anguish and pain the words He spoke were of suffering but forgiveness:

BLCF: Father-forgive-them

Luke 23:34 (ESV)

34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”[a] And they cast lots to divide his garments.

Footnotes: a. Luke 23:34 Some manuscripts omit the sentence And Jesus… what they do

So we can see that one of the requisites for our Salvation is humility and in order to be forgiven, we must first forgive. These are not guidelines but a path which we may walk. Like the Amish, a way of life. The scriptures become alive for you and me only after we chose not just to speak the scripture, but to live the scripture. To demonstrate by our actions humility before the Lord and forgiveness to others who have wronged us.

Danish philosopher, theologian, and psychologist Soren Kierkegaard once said: Christ did not appoint professors, but followers. If Christianity … is not reduplicated in the life of the person expounding it, then he does not expound Christianity, for Christianity is a message about living and can only be expounded by being realized in men’s lives.

Humility and forgiveness are the sacrifices we must make to be worthy in God’s eyes of receiving Christ’s gift of salvation. His sacrifice for our forgiveness was great; by comparison what we must sacrifice is small. Be humble, be forgiven and receive the gift of salvation.

I conclude this morning’s message the same quote from Mahatma Gandhi that I used at the beginning:

Things that will destroy man: Politics without principle; pleasure without conscience; wealth without work; knowledge without character; business without morality; science without humanity; worship without sacrifice.

Let us pray…

BLCF:Forgiveness-

Closing Hymn #546: Sing the Wondrous Love of Jesus 

Benediction (Romans 15:5-6):                                                                                     

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,  that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

BLCF: grace_empowers_med