Posts

Bad Things | Good People

Bad Things Good PeopleI’m often asked why bad things happen to good people.

Tornados have devastated much of my home town again. I have friends displaced by the tragedy and some whose lives will never be the same. Apart from the tragic, I have relatives who are getting older. Their bodies and minds don’t function like they once did. These friends and family are all good people. Why would a loving God allow something like this to happen?

Wiser minds than mine have explored this topic. Beyond this, I have a predisposition toward the simple answer. I don’t believe that just because something is painful, hard or difficult that it’s inherently ‘bad’ or that the answer to our question has to be complicated, incomprehensible or ponderously deep. I believe God challenges us to search for His answers. I believe He delights when we find them.

My bend toward the simple answer means I risk oversimplifying the issue. That’s not my intent. Some of you face deep hurts, genuine tragedy and life altering circumstances the likes of which I have never known. Please don’t allow the simplicity of my answer to cause you to believe I take lightly the situation you face.

I believe there are two reasons bad things happen to good people, two reasons a loving God would allow people to experience tragedy.

  1. Even good people make mistakes.
  2. In many circumstance, for God to keep you from experiencing tragedy, he would also have to take away your ability to choose for yourself. In essence, you would no longer be free. He would have to so directly control your life and choices that it wouldn’t be you choosing anymore. God, in his sovereignty, has decided to risk the probability that you will suffer for your bad choices rather than forcing you into obedience to his will.

Like I said, simple answers, but not necessarily satisfying.

Let’s dig a little deeper.

I meet with a group of friends every week to talk about how the Bible applies to our everyday lives. Recently, we’ve been talking about the book of Job. It’s the story of a man who is successful in every way. He has a strong, loving family. He is wealthy and influential. God points him out as a man who is ‘blameless’. That doesn’t mean perfect. It means that Job avoided willful disobedience.

You may know the story. Satan challenges God. Satan argues that the reason Job is a good guy is because God has so greatly blessed him. God takes the challenge. He gives Satan permission to test Job. In the process Job is left penniless, his children killed, his reputation tarnished and only his misguided friends and nagging wife to ‘comfort’ him. Job is the perfect example of someone who could ask the questions, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” and “How could a loving God let something that bad happen?”

The study guide we use identified seven reasons bad things happen to good people, seven reasons God allows tragedy to affect our lives. I’ve not added to the list, but I’ve broadened the explanation. When we face tragedy, understanding the reason can help us formulate our response. Knowing ‘why’ can help us make right choices in the future. So here’s the list:

JUDGEMENT | REPENTANCE

Sometimes people disobey God for so long his judgement falls. They’ve done worse than ignore him, they’ve willfully and deliberately rebelled against him. They’ve rejected his grace, mercy and forgiveness and chosen to do things their own way. They’ve gone past the point of no return. Sometimes our choices demand that justice be satisfied and judgement is the only option.

In the face of judgement the only appropriate response is repentance. Learn these eight words, “I’m sorry. I was wrong. Please forgive me.” It’s amazing what God can do through a penitent heart. It’s amazing how a marriage heals when you end an argument with your spouse with those eight words. When tragedy comes due to judgement repentance is the only option.

DISCIPLINE | RESPOND

My kids play sports. They discipline and condition their bodies so they will be ready when the coach trusts them with the ball. Be honest. Exercise hurts. Eating right requires a sacrifice. But the gain is worth the pain. The win is worth the effort. Sometimes the bad things that happen to good people are really preparation for something more significant in the future.

Discipline is the tool God uses to prepare us for the  next season in our journey. When discipline comes we have to respond. “Yes, Lord. Even if it hurts I will learn it. I will do it. I will follow you.”

PERSECUTION | FAITHFUL

God has made it clear that he values sacrifice more than survival. Sometimes the tragedy we face is the result of persecution. In the face of persecution we must remain faithful. Faithfulness gives us a front row seat to all the promises of God. Faithfulness says, “Because I trust God I will hold on. The story may not end as I expect, but it will end with a miracle like I could never imagine.” If the tragedy you face is persecution, hold on. God is giving you a front row seat to all the promises of His Word.

NECESSITY | ENDURE

Some things just have to be. Childbirth is going to hurt. Medication may minimize it. The end result may cause you to forget it, but when a woman goes through labor they will experience pain like they’ve never experienced before. There’s no real formula for instant gratification for anything in life. Some things just take time. Some take practice. Some hurt. If you face a tragedy of necessity, endure. God will walk with you through the whole thing.

CONSEQUENCES | LEARN WISDOM

You learned it in physics. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. There’s a spiritual truth here too. Every physical choice has a spiritual consequence. Every spiritual truth influences the choice we make. If you drop something. It will fall. If you hit someone they will get hurt – then mad – and likely punch back. Our choices have consequences. Those consequences are often unavoidable. If the tragedy you face is the consequence for your bad choices then learn wisdom. Don’t make that same choice again. Do it differently next time and watch the outcome change.

NATURAL | SERVE

Our bodies get old. Our minds slow down. There will come a day when my body will simply wear out. It’s natural. Being old isn’t a punishment. Suffering the inconvenience and pain of old age isn’t the price of a misspent youth. Natural disasters fall into this category as well. We live in a world affected by sin. Even nature. The earth will shake, the wind will blow, the water will rise and recede. It’s the natural rhythm of life. If the tragedy you face has to do with age or natural disaster our response is to serve. As long as God gives me breath I can use who I am and what I have for the benefit of others. I can help others through tragedy. I can serve those who are aging and when I’m the one struck down by age I can pray, I can bless, I can honor those who help me.

MYSTERY | BE PATIENT

Sometimes tragedy comes and we simply don’t know why. The miscarriage comes. The accident happens. The diagnosis is unexpected. We don’t always know the why, but we can trust the who. God understands. God loves us and cares for us. I may not be satisfied with the mystery, but I trust the one who holds that mystery in his hand. When you face this kind of tragedy be patient, God’s not finished yet.

I don’t know what tragedy you’ve faced. You may think of yourself as a good person stuck in a bad situation. You may be like Job.

Whatever the case, remember these things:

  1. God can be trusted.
  2. Remain faithful – faithfulness gives you a front row seat to all the promised of God.
  3. Explore these seven reasons. They can be the road map that helps you know how to take your next step.

Epic Stories; Epic Quotes

Shall we play a game?

Can you identify the epic stories these famous quotes come from? Extra credit if you can tell us who said it.

  1. “In a day and night of misfortune, Atlantis sank into the sea.”
  2. “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.”
  3. “Say hello to my little friend.”
  4. “My precious.”
  5. “How do you know she’s a witch?”
  6. “May the odds be ever in your favor.”
  7. “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
  8. “I’ll be back.”
  9. “I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If it’s money, I haven’t got any. What I do have is a particular set of skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. So you can let her go now and that’ll be the end of it. Otherwise, I will hunt you down. I will find you. And I will kill you.”
  10. “Go ahead, make my day.”
  11. “Cry ‘Havoc!’ and slip the dogs of war!”
  12. “I feel the need, the need for speed.”
  13. “Be the ball.”
  14. “Attitude reflects leadership.”
  15. “Toga! Toga! Toga!”
  16. “The red zone is for immediate loading and unloading. There is no parking in the white zone.”
  17. “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
  18. “You can’t handle the truth!”
  19. “There’s no place like home.”
  20. “It take a great deal of bravery to stand up to your enemies, but a great deal more to stand up to your friends.”

I’ll post the answers tomorrow, but I’m guessing some google-crazed player will be able to get them all! Use the comments section to play. BTW…there’s a hidden movie quote somewhere in this article. Can you find it?

While you consider these quotes let me make an observation and ask a question. I’m guessing some of these quotes you answered almost immediately. I wonder how much time you spent ‘memorizing’ those lines. Another guess, but I’ll bet you didn’t try at all. For one reason or another simply know. You never sat down and tried to memorize them. You didn’t make it your goal to remember who said, “Live long, and prosper.” But for some reason you do. I can tell you why.

It’s because of familiarity. You’ve heard it so many times and in so many ways, you just know it.

I believe familiarity is the key to Scripture memory. Something else I know for sure about the Bible – we can’t live it if we don’t know it.

It makes taking the time to know what it says and what it means critical to the story of our faith. You can’t live it, if you don’t know it.

Remember that verse that say, “God helps those who help themselves.” What about the verse that says, “Cleanliness is next to godliness.”?

You may remember those words, but they’re not actually in the Bible – unless someone recently added the books of First & Second Opinions. You see, when we don’t know what the Bible says it’s hard to do what the Bible says. Worse, it’s easy for someone to trick us into thinking they know what the Bible says. It’s easy for us to be fooled into doing something we shouldn’t.

People make the best decisions they can based on the information available at the time. If only someone had taken the time to write down the wisdom of God so we could learn His thoughts, His ways, His intention for our lives. It would make the choices we face so muh easier.

Wait.

Someone did. You see my point. Knowing God’s will, doing God’s will starts with knowing God’s Word. Knowing His Word – memorizing it and understanding it – isn’t something for the brilliant only. It’s for anyone. It’s for you. You can memorize God’s Word. Memorization isn’t about ability. It’s about familiarity. How can you become more familiar with God’s Word today? What can you do to keep it in front of your eyes, fresh in your thoughts and an ever present help in times of trouble?

You can become familiar with God’s Word. Start with a plan to read it regularly. Write down those verses that seem particularly helpful to you. Review those words that encourage you or challenge you or cause you to think. Become familiar with what He says and the examples He gives. One day soon you’ll look back to discover you know things you didn’t know before. You’ll remember the words of faith that will guide you through times of decision and difficulty. You’ll find your decisions informed by God himself. And suddenly, when the time for difficult decision making finally comes, you’ll just know. You’ll know God’s way because you’ve memorized His Word, not because you’re brilliant or skilled, but because you’re familiar with what it says.

Your life will become the epic story filled with epic quotes inspired by God.

Maybe you could start with words like these —

“So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me void, but shall accomplish the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11

A Life Worth Living

Philippians 1:9-11

I believe my quality of life is measurably better because I try to live by the principles I find in Scripture.

You might think this boring, but I’ve never been addicted to anything. I’m not upside down deep in outrageous debt. I have a great relationship with my wife and kids. I have friends I enjoy and trust, a church I love and a life worth living.

I am blessed.

I can’t really take credit for it. I’ve made my share of mistakes. Stupidity runs genetically through me. But in spite of my own gaffes and guffaws, whether or not I’m popular, powerful or rich, my life is shaping up to be an exciting story worth living.

I’ll go back to my first statement. I believe my quality of life is measurably better because I try to live by the principles I find in Scripture.

Let me be clear. I don’t try to live by what someone told me the Bible said. I don’t try to jump through some kind of spiritual hoop in order to please a benevolent, but rigid dictatorial deity. That’s not who or what God is. I take the time to regularly read the Bible. I talk with friends about what they think it means. I pray about it. I ask God for wisdom and understanding. I meditate on the words and try to focus my attitudes and actions around following the principles I find. It’s not new age. It’s not strange.  It’s not mystical. It’s practical. It’s real.

And it works.

Philippians 1:9-11 says, “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

This is my prayer for you today.

Get Some Rest

It’s Saturday.

a.k.a. – The Sabbath Day – a time for rest.

I’ve always pushed myself. I like how it feels to go further than you thought you could go, accomplish more than you imagined possible and do more while the sun shines! There are still new things to see, projects to pursue, another mountain to climb and more interesting people to meet.

I’ll sleep when I’m dead.

But that’s not really what the Bible says.

  • Proverbs 23:4, “Do not overwork to be rich; Because of your own understanding, cease!”
  • Ecclesiastes 3:1, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.”
  • Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
  • Psalm 127:2, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep.
  • Proverbs 3:21 & 24, “My son…keep sound wisdom and discretion…When you lie down, you will not be afraid;
    yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet.”

Sometimes, the most godly thing you can do is rest.

Words

The words we know are like a programming language. We may feel. We may imagine. But words give clarity, definition and direction to our thoughts, attitudes and actions. Political candidates and marketing experts look for just the right words to persuade your purchase. Preachers craft their message to inspire, convict and convince. The words we dwell on set a course for our future. The words we speak affect relationships and determine the depths of our influence.

Consider the following:

  • The words we know determine the thoughts we think.
  • The thoughts we think determine the attitudes of our heart.
  • The attitudes of our heart determine the choices we make.
  • The choices we make define the quality of our character.
  • The quality of our character becomes the legacy of our lives.

It sounds like a ‘successories’ poster, but just because it’s cliche’ doesn’t mean it’s not true. It begs a question.

What kind of words do you know?

Imagine what might happen if you took the time to get to know better words. I’m not talking about increasing your vocabulary – the world already has too many pompously loquacious voices rambling their insubstantial verbosity without end. I mean better words. Words that bring life. Words full of wisdom. Words that cause us to see the world more clearly. Words that help us understand people and circumstances in ways like we’ve never before imagined.

The Bible is often called ‘God’s Word’. What if the words we knew were God’s Words? Would our thinking become more godly? Would attitudes become more grateful? Would we make better choices? I believe so.

Peter said to Jesus, “Where else would we go? You have the words of life.” (John 6:68) Open up the Bible. Learn some new words and put them to good use.

The Parent Trap

Recently I’ve been plagued by a question. It has to do with my kids. I have four children. My daughter is my oldest. She’s nine. The rest are boys; six, four and nearly two. They are great kids. I love being a dad. With each passing moment I’m reminded of the fact that we are drawing closer and closer to the teenage years, that lovely time of life when boundaries are tested, strings are slowly cut and children cross the threshold from being kids to being adults. I’ve seen first hand how difficult raising teenagers can be and not too long from now I will experience this beautiful mess for myself.

Some people approach this time of life like Mark Twain. He said, “When a child turns twelve you should stuff them in a barrel, seal the lid and feed them through a knot hole. When they turn 16 you should plug the hole.”

See here’s the challenge – and it leads in to my question – I’ve seen horrible parents raise incredible children and I’ve seen incredible parents raise children who relentlessly reject everything about their own heritage. So I have to ask…

Is the quality of my parenting measured by the character of my kids?

It seems like the obvious answer would be ‘yes, of course’. You always judge a business by the product they produce, so if family is your business then your children are the best barometer or your skill as a parent. Unfortunately, experience doesn’t demonstrate this to be true. Kids who grow up with great privilege make wrong choices. Others who grow up with every odd stacked against them become exceptionally successful. Our children are not a product. They are people. Therefore, our success or failure as a parent can’t be solely determined by the content of their character. Their must be something more.

So I look to Scripture. Like many things, it seems we’ve gotten our measurement of success backwards. Today we judge parents by their kids. In Scriptural times kids were judged by their parents. Consider Solomon. The Bible identifies Solomon as the wisest king Israel would ever know. During his reign the nation was unified and experienced almost universal peace. Silver was so abundant during the reign of Solomon that they stopped counting how much of it they had! Can you imagine being such a successful leader? The Bible tells us that political leaders all over the world sought out Solomon’s wisdom on everything from economics to agriculture, from political prowess to social justice. To suggest that Solomon was successful is a massive understatement. Yet when Solomon sits down to write his book of Proverbs (wise sayings), how does he start? Does he give his resume? Does he tell of all his great works? Does he mention the fact that his kingdom is greater and more successful than his father’s before him? No. As he begins his magnum opus on all things wise Solomon states simply, “The proverbs of Solomon, the son of David…” Solomon was king, the most successful king Israel would ever know, yet in his time of greatest triumph he wasn’t identified by his works. He was identified by his father.

Scripture does this a lot. The history of the Israelites after Solomon is not nearly so joyous. The kingdom splits and one king after another rises to take the throne and attempt to lead both Israel & Judah. Do you know how each king is evaluated? Either they walked in the ways of their father David or they didn’t. From one generation to the next everything was measured by the example of their father David. But there’s more here than that – it’s difficult to illustrate the number of times God looked to the leaders of Israel and said, “I will bless you…because of my servant David.” By this time, David was long gone, yet his influence remained. WHY? Because he was a great parent? NO. Because he was a godly man. The Bible calls him a man after God’s own heart.

And that’s the answer to the question.

We can’t judge the quality of our parenting by the character of our kids – it’s not an accurate measurement. Kids are not products to be produced, they are people to be led – to be influenced. If the quality of our parenting is measured by the character of our kids then God must be the worst father ever. And we know this simply is not true.

Listen to this – God wants to free you from the pressure that as a parent you are not enough. It’s true. He wants you to understand something. As a parent, YOU WILL NEVER BE ENOUGH. You can’t attend enough games or watch enough recitals. You can’t discipline enough. You can’t be gracious enough.  You can’t write enough checks to guarantee your child a successful, happy, holy life. As a parent, you will never be enough. So stop trying.

Stop trying to be a great parent. Stop trying to meet every need. Stop trying to give every gift. Stop trying to enforce enough rules. Stop trying to be cool enough, relevant enough or hip enough. You will never be enough. You simply CANNOT be God for your children.

When my daughter was first born she had some respiratory problems and spent 7 days in ICU. Once she got home we had to give her IV antibiotics through a pique line in her head. There was one evening I was holding her and considering the future I had planned for her when I was struck by this one thought – As her father I want to protect and provide for her, but there are so many things I simply will never be able to do for her. I will never be able to protect her from a broken heart. I will never be able to save her from the lies of cruel people. I won’t be able to keep her from making foolish choices. I can’t do these things for her, but I know the God who can. So I resigned myself to this one thought – I can’t guarantee my children a successful, happy or holy life, but I can give them an example to live up to. I can be like David and provide an example worth imitating. I can strive to live in such a way that when future generations look back they can hear God say, “I will bless you…because of my servant Chad.”

There’s a world of Scripture to back up this style of parenting.

  • I Corinthians 11:1 says, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.”
  • Philippians 3:17 says, “Brethren join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.”
  • 2 Timothy 2:2 says, “These things you’ve heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful people who will be able to teach others also.”

It begs a follow up question – Do I have a life worth imitating and what does a life like that really look like? Scripture answers that question too:

  • Galatians 5:22 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Against such there is no law.”

Did you catch the last phrase of that verse? ‘Against such there is no law…’ In other words, you can’t get enough of these things. More than that – you can’t give enough of these things! Am I, as a father, as a man, as a leader living a life worthy of imitation? Is what I’m producing in my life and the life of others characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control?

This is the challenge of parenting:

  • Too much LAW and children REBEL.
  • Too much GRACE and children become entitled or spoiled.

How, as  parent, do I know when it’s time to lay down the law and when it’s time to give grace? There is a fine line between DISCIPLINING and COACHING.

  • Discipline is about right verses wrong.
  • Coaching is about choosing good, better or best.
  • Discipline calls for justice and judgement or grace and mercy.
  • Coaching calls for patience and self control.
  • Discipline calls for discernment.
  • Coaching call for wisdom.
  • In moments of right versus wrong we DISCIPLINE.  When correcting bad behavior we DISCIPLINE. These times are always crystal clear. My kid just lied about something. It’s time for discipline. My child was caught cheating on a test. Spanking, grounding – pick your punishment, corporal or capital, a wrong must be righted. My teenager ignored curfew. Car keys are lost. Discipline is always about teaching a child the difference between RIGHT & WRONG.
  • COACHING is always about teaching a child the difference between good, better and best. Should my child play sports or music? How should they spend their time, more on academics or building significant friendships? Choosing baseball over piano isn’t about right verses wrong. It’s about good, better or best. How is your child ‘bent’? What are their natural abilities, interests and experiences? Where do they excel and how? There’s no right or wrong here, simply good, better or best. As a parent how can you draw the best out of your child?

There is certainly more to parenting than this.

  • Luke 15 tells the story of the Prodigal Sons – I say ‘sons’, plural, because both sons in the story are far from the heart of their father. One son rejects the Father and rebels against the example he set. The other son ‘religiously’ tries to earn the love of the Father by always obeying every rule. Though, for all those years, he continued to live under the same roof as his father, he becomes bitter and as estranged from his father as his younger brother.

I’m struck by the fact, in the story of the Prodigal Sons, that never once is the parenting skill of the father questioned. Instead the father is shown as an example of patience and love; grace and mercy; justice and judgement. He is a picture of God our father. I wonder if you’re the rebellious son or the religious son? Either way you’ve become estranged from your father, not because you have a bad dad, but because of your bad belief and bad choices. Like the father of the Prodigal Sons, God stands ready to receive you by His grace into his family and will celebrate when you come.

God is a perfect father. He has shown us what to do, told us what to do and now he is saying to every parent – now go do it yourself. Stop trying to be a great parent. Start becoming a godly example for your children to follow. You can’t be God for your kids, but you can be exactly the father or mother God designed you to be.

God Bless,
Chad

BTW…Ezekiel 18 talks about this is as well. Give it a read and let me know what you think.