Monday, February 18, 2013

Gratuitous Suffering?

Is there any such thing as gratuitous suffering or evil?  Since God is the One and only Alpha and Omega, He is the only One who could say whether there is or not.  To think we could presume to know the beginning from the end of our existence on this earth is pretty amazing.  We would have to in order to say that there is such a thing. 
The definition given by Webster for gratuitous is: 
  1. Uncalled for; lacking good reason; unwarranted.
  2. Given or done free of charge.
The definition itself determines that there can be no such thing.  Why?  Because we, according to Romans 6:23, are deserving of nothing short of eternal death - not ceasing to exist, but eternally dying.  There is only one person that never sinned and that is because he was not only 100% human, but was also 100% God, and that person is Jesus Christ, who gave his life so we wouldn't have to die eternally, but could spend it instead with Him and his Father God, be gifted with his Holy Spirit from the moment of salvation and begin eternity while still in our sinful flesh.
I am not saying that God causes suffering and evil because of our sinful nature.  Rather I am saying that suffering and evil came into existence due to our choice to heed Satan, believe his lies and serve him at the fall.  When Adam (male and female) chose disobedience to God's instruction, they gave Satan their birthright - authority over the world and its contents. 
Then God said, "Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground." Genesis 1:26
Therefore, the world came under the curse as well as us and we are the ones who placed it there.  We need to take responsibility for our actions and admit that we inherited sin nature, have listened to and obeyed it more than frequently and then repent-
1. To feel remorse, contrition, or self-reproach for what one has done or failed to do; be contrite.
2. To feel such regret for past conduct as to change one's mind regarding it: repented of intemperate behavior.
3. To make a change for the better as a result of remorse or contrition for one's sins.
and seek God's forgiveness.  We also need to accept His free gift of salvation through the blood sacrifice of Jesus' life for ours and desire to follow Him.  When we do so, we are placing our lives back under God's control and we gain back the authority that we threw so willingly to the wind.
(Jesus said) "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."
We have allowed suffering and evil, and there is a part of us deep inside that knows this, hates the fact and wants to be rid of it so badly that we blame it on the one who offers us the answer - God himself.  Christians are every bit as guilty of doing this at times as the rest of the world.  We get angry with God for not doing things our way, as if we have the all-knowing wisdom needed to run this world.
I pray for wisdom and understanding for all God's true children, that they might come to understand the depth, width and height of his love for us and begin to walk in it, rather than walking in distrust any longer.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Treasure in Heaven

I Timothy
17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
Matthew 6
19  “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  (spoken by Jesus)

As I read an article regarding a pastor's thoughts regarding the passage in Matthew, I realized he was simply making comparison statements of what others thought, neither indicating agreement nor disagreement.  Then something sparked inside me and made me become very attentive inwardly.  That warm feeling you get when you know the Lord is speaking directly to your heart and you need to listen came over me.
My heart had questioned, "Just what are these treasures in heaven?  (Besides crowns)

  • Crown of Righteousness 2 Tim. 4:8 To all who have kept the faith and longed and loved for His return
  • Crown of Rejoicing 1Thes. 2:19 To all who have helped bring others to Christ
  • Crown of Life James 1:12 To all who endure temptation & are faithful through trials and to those that love Him
  • Crown of glory 1 Peter 5:1-4  To all that serve and shepherd God’s people
  • The imperishable or eternal crown 1 Cor. 9:25 To those who have had self-control in all things and subdued the old sinful nature.
We evidently have a storehouse of some sort in heaven, or Jesus would not have spoken of it.  These rewards just well may be more than I had ever really considered before.  It always amazes me that God can speak to our heart without using actual words.
It hit me that I suddenly was understanding a portion of this storehouse that I hadn't before.  True treasure is found in Jesus, so the more we get to know Him, the greater the reward.  (That part I knew.)  Our storehouse fills up with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  As it fills we have it to make "withdrawals" from when needed.  The catch is, if we are not filling our storehouse, we will not have anything to spare. 

How do we fill it?  By partaking of the fruit given us by the Spirit at salvation.  It's there, we just have to put it to use.  If we do not, it doesn't grow.  I now wonder if this is what Jesus was talking about with the master giving talents parable.  When we invest our time and energy in service, our fruit is multiplied, just as planting, watering, and caring for fruit trees produces more fruit than planting and forgetting about it. 

Look at the parable of the fig tree.  If it doesn't produce fruit, it withers away.  There are many withering people out there.  They want to go to heaven, but they don't want to follow Jesus.  We cannot have it both ways.  Following Jesus isn't easy, neither is it difficult once you do it a while.  As a matter of fact, the more you do it, the more you want to do it.  If we could simply remember the simple statement Jesus gave us to help us on our way: You reap what you sow.  So may we sow the Fruit of the Spirit and reap it in harvest and have a storehouse running over!!