Every Christmas, the Christian blogs and articles start flowing on the biggest topic of the season. No, ironically, it’s not about the birth of Christ, but about whether you should or should not play Santa. In the mix of those articles and blogs, the well-esteemed Dr.William Lane Craig wrote an article criticizing the idea of playing Santa with your children. In it, Dr. Craig described in multiple ways the problem created for a child’s faith in God later in life: that children may try to associate God with Santa and find disappointment in God when they realize He is not a giant gift-giver in the sky.
He also said it’s a bad moral example to set for our children to perpetuate what he perceives as a lie: telling our children that some guy from the North Pole exists and brings presents to undeserving children all over the world by sneaking down their chimney and disappearing on a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer. Scripture teaches that lying is wrong - period. It doesn’t tell us to teach that some lies are ok while others are not.
Craig also mentions how Santa increases selfishness and it creates an entitlement attitude in our children, teaching them to expect rewards for their behavior. Finally, he discusses the issue of the damaging effects to someone’s faith by saying God is just as much a fantasy character as Santa is. Many atheists say God is no different than Santa, in that neither one exists. They equate their loss of belief in God with their loss of belief in Santa (…and the Easter Bunny…and the Tooth Fairy).
While some of those points seem to make sense, and have most likely encouraged those parents who choose NOT to play Santa that they are making a wise and healthy decision for their children, many parents disagree. It leaves those of us who do play Santa with our children wondering if we are now creating a future crisis of faith for our children. Are we horrible parents for “lying” to our children about Santa? Are we perpetuating another generation of greedy little skeptics? I thought it would be good to offer a dissenting opinion that would address these points raised by Dr. Craig (as well as a few others). I do want to remind everyone though that this is a non-salvific issue (meaning this is not salvation dependent) . Sincere and devoted Christians can fall on either side of this issue making it unhealthy and unhelpful to condemn the other side over this point.
1. First, are we bad parents for lying to our children? While I agree that the Bible does not say that some lies are acceptable and some lies are not, we want to insert some caution and common sense at this point -- because we “lie” to our children all the time!! And one day they will find out about them!! One day they will learn that, no, that stick figure they drew was not the most beautiful horse we had ever seen. And no, that dance they made up at the age of 6 would probably not make it on Broadway. And no, that lion did not really save from the evil queen those children who found a fantasy land by walking through their wardrobe. And so, no, there wasn’t a man in a big red suit who brought gifts to every boy and girl around the world. Will this lead them to believe we are giant hypocrites who disregard all the truth of the Bible? I seriously doubt it. Is it really a faith shattering experience when they discover any other childhood fantasy and story to be make-believe? Why does Santa have to be such a horrific experience? We see “lying” to our children about Santa as not so different from all the other things we “lie” to our children about. And besides, when the parents are the ones playing Santa, is it really such a lie to say that “Santa” knows when they’ve been good or not?
Furthermore, “playing Santa” does not really constitute lying to our children in the same way that most people claim. Here’s a question to get you thinking: are we lying to someone when we deliberately mislead them in order to surprise them, say with a surprise party on their birthday? The latter falls into the category of a ruse and though technically it could be called a lie, the intention behind it is vastly different. Is the intention behind playing Santa with your child the same as deliberately lying in order to avoid the truth? No, it’s playing a ruse and joining in on fantasy in order to have fun and create a sense of wonder and excitement for one’s children. It also can get their imaginations going on full blast as they try to figure out how Santa does what he does. Whenever our children would ask, how Santa works, we, with a wink and a smile, turn the question back on them: “Mommy, how does Santa get down the chimney? How does he get around to all the houses in the world in one night?” “Well, darling child, what do you think?” I’ve given the same kind of response when they asked at Disney World if Lightning McQueen was happy they had come to visit him.
The other issue this presents is the implication that our children one day will not be able to separate fantasy from reality. I believe most children know very well when something was just “a-tended” (that’s pretend for those who don’t speak my child’s toddler-ese). My youngest son has a very vivid imagination, pretending to be all sorts of things like poison snakes and even an animal that he has invented (which has included this pretend animal’s dietary habits and hunting calls). However, he definitely knows when he’s pretending and when he’s not. And when he is older he will continue in that discernment between the dinosaur he imagined lived in the front door and Jesus as described by the Gospels, just as he will discern between Santa and the Almighty God Creator. Granted, that is part of my job as a mom to make sure he understands the facts of the Scriptures and the evidence that shows it is truth. It is my job to show him the logic and reasoning that tells him when things are imaginary will be the same logic and reasoning that tells him God is real and Jesus has resurrected.
2. Second, will our children really think God is just like Santa? Santa is someone whom they cannot see who gives them extraordinary gifts which they do not deserve. Is this not what God does for us? Is not existence itself a great gift given to us by One we haven’t (yet) seen - not to mention all the wonders of creation that go along with it? And this Cosmic Gift-Giver has given us the gift of abundant, eternal life something we do not deserve and did not earn, yet it came at great cost to Himself. So if Santa can give gifts, how much more can the Creator of the Universe! In this way, God is akin to Santa but on a grander scale because God is so much more.
The problem comes though when people think God, as the Ultimate Gift-Giver, should give them everything they desire. Now instead of being disappointed that Santa didn’t deliver that shiny new skateboard, there is resentment when God doesn’t answer our prayers. Honestly, this association of Santa with God might be true, but this issue runs deeper than just the idea of Santa Claus. It stems from a deficient understanding of God and theology. Unfortunately, many adults view God as merely a gift giver to whom they are not morally answerable. God is the Cosmic Gift-Giver, but in His infinite wisdom and love, He doesn’t give us everything we ask for. This Cosmic Gift-Giver knows best. Like a loving parent, we may deny something our children demand, causing them disappointment and sadness, but it’s because we know that particular gift was not what was best for them.
Sadly, the root of this line of thinking oftentimes comes from within the church, not from the man in the big red suit. Many times devotions or children’s lessons will present a scenario where something bad has happened, the person prays, and then instantly everything works out. Without even using the word Santa, it has reinforced the misconception that praying always makes everything work out just how we want. Out of this faulty view of God, we will pray for certain things and then get mad when He doesn’t deliver. But that is not a sound, biblical view of God, or the purpose of prayer for that matter. That concept of God is a consequence of our assumption that we know what’s best and that we “deserve” whatever we want. This is a selfish, human nature trait to which none of us are immune. This flawed understanding of God, more so than a childhood game of Santa Claus, gives our children the impression that God is only there to grant your every request.
3. Third, will our Santa-believingchildren be more selfish and entitled than those who don’t play Santa? Well, the job we as parents have to remedy those traits runs much deeper than playing Santa. Children are naturally selfish and entitled. It’s one of those things that parents don’t have to teach - they come out that way (a great little microcosm of human nature). Our job is to try to show them humility and gratitude and generosity. So if a parent never teaches those things the remaining 364 days of the year, doing or not doing Santa on Christmas Day won’t make a difference at all. It all depends on the other instruction and training done in the home. So the concept of Santa is not the ultimate deciding factor on how grateful a child will be. In fact, the concept of Santa can be used instead to TEACH generosity instead of allowing it to teach greed and selfishness. We could teach our children to focus on the generosity of Santa in giving gifts to undeserving children to encourage them to do likewise for those in their community or for those around the world.
4. This leads us to the fourth and most important point. Will playing Santa jeopardize our children’s faith when they get older? Many people claim that teaching our children about a mythical figure alongside teaching them about God will cause them to associate one with the other and, thus, invalidate the truth of who God is. Many atheists have linked their rejection to God to the rejection of Santa, often saying they grew up to discover that both Santa and God were a lie. I think we will now extend our reasoning used on our third point. It all depends on the other instruction done in the home. If God is never discussed outside of the one hour a week spent at church only every so often, then your children might very well reject the faith of Christianity – whether you “do” Santa or not. If your child is never taught the foundation of the truth of Christianity, then your child might very well reject the faith of Christianity – whether you do Santa or not. If you only teach the happy parts of Christianity, that God loves everything, that being a Christian means God will answer your every request, and that God is only interested in you being happy, then your child might very well reject the faith of Christianity – whether you do Santa or not. You see, Santa is not the problem. The problem is what and how things are taught in the home about God. In reality these issues and concerns about Santa highlight the importance of proper and consistent teaching in the home. It shows the importance of teaching our children that being a Christian does not mean we “get everything we want” from God. It shows the importance of teaching our children the many logical and intelligent reasons to believe that God is real and Christianity is truth. It exposes the problematic behaviorof just taking your children to church but never living out your faith or instructing them in the faith the other six days of the week. Those are the things that will cause a child to walk away from their “faith” when they are older - not whether or not you do Santa Claus.
And to be completely honest, you can do all of those things and STILL have a child leave the faith. Unfortunately, there is not some magic formula, that if you do “this” when they are young, they will never leave the faith. What Proverbs 22:6 says about training your children up is a proverb, not a promise. It means this is what you should do because it is the BEST way for you to parent your children, but this is not a guarantee that your child will then be saved. Our children must make that decision for themselves; we can’t save them because of our faith. We can only give them the best information, the best case for Christianity, the best evidence of a life changed by God, the best way of seeing that our eternal hope is found only in Christ, and then pray that they will choose to walk in the way of the Lord.
Some atheists as adults have chosen to make a correlation of Santa to God, comparing the rejection of one to the rejection of the other. Yet to those who have done their homework and have studied the rich theological discourse surrounding the concept of God, this is a poor excuse. The comparison between lack of belief in Santa and lack of belief in God only reveals how little the atheist knew about God to begin with. So, do not let these atheists make you feel guilty for playing Santa with your children! The problem goes much deeper than a little fun around the holidays.
In the end it’s a personal call that each parent should make. You know your child the best (apart from the Cosmic Gift-Giver, of course). If your child is of a particularly serious or literal bent, then play Santa with caution or not at all. And leave room for plenty of grace on this, too. If your child is devastated after learning that it was a ruse, apologize and have a frank talk with them about your intentions.
When all is said and done, I believe that playing Santa is not an ethical issue. I am with G.K. Chesterton on this one:
“What has happened to me has been the very reverse of what appears to be the experience of most of my friends. Instead of dwindling to a point, Santa Claus has grown larger and larger in my life until he fills almost the whole of it. It happened in this way.
As a child I was faced with a phenomenon requiring explanation. I hung up at the end of my bed an empty stocking, which in the morning became a full stocking. I had done nothing to produce the things that filled it. I had not worked for them, or made them or helped to make them. I had not even been good – far from it.
And the explanation was that a certain being whom people called Santa Claus was benevolently disposed toward me…What we believed was that a certain benevolent agency did give us those toys for nothing. And, as I say, I believe it still. I have merely extended the idea.
Then I only wondered who put the toys in the stocking; now I wonder who put the stocking by the bed, and the bed in the room, and the room in the house, and the house on the planet, and the great planet in the void.
Once I only thanked Santa Claus for a few dolls and crackers. Now, I thank him for stars and street faces, and wine and the great sea. Once I thought it delightful and astonishing to find a present so big that it only went halfway into the stocking. Now I am delighted and astonished every morning to find a present so big that it takes two stockings to hold it, and then leaves a great deal outside; it is the large and preposterous present of myself, as to the origin of which I can offer no suggestion except that Santa Claus gave it to me in a fit of peculiarly fantastic goodwill.”
I was talking with a friend the other day about his job and how things were going. He told me that things were getting really difficult and what was supposed to be a great opportunity for him was now rife with drama and stress - all those things that lead to a lack of fulfillment and overall unhappiness. The conclusion was that this job was clearly not where God wanted him to be. Things had become so difficult, so maybe God was closing the door on this place in order to move him on to something bigger and better -- or at least something not so miserable.
The thought occurred to me that I had been in a similar situation last year with the same kind of conclusion drawn. God had directed my path to an entirely new career, one that I had never sought out and one that I honestly had never desired. I went to school to be an engineer, not a teacher. So when this opportunity to teach both Calculus and Apologetics at a private high school was brought to me (combining my engineering background and my current heart for apologetics), it was clear to me this was where God wanted me to be. But when that first year got under way, it was so much more difficult than what I anticipated: ridiculously long hours preparing lessons; hours spent re-learning all that calculus I hadn’t done in 20 years; challenging parent conferences; figuring out a fair way to grade; trying to figure out how to keep teenagers engaged and learning. Pile on top of that the grief in the recent loss of my mom only four weeks before school started; the sleepless nights; the struggle to maintain this ministry; my oldest son starting kindergarten; my youngest now having to go all-day at pre-school. None of this was what I had planned for my life, career, family, and ministry. It was emotionally, physically, and spiritually the most draining and exhausting thing I’ve ever done. All at once.
Now, I know that compared to many jobs and many situations, this was not “difficult,” but it was certainly not what I thought it was going to be. I began to ask those same questions as my friend. If this is really God’s will, why is this so hard? If He brought me to this place, then isn’t it supposed to just “all work out”? Wasn’t it supposed to just all fold nicely into what I wanted my schedule to look like? Why did that first semester just feel like a black darkness of misery? Surely this means I had misunderstood God’s will. Surely this isn’t what God had really planned for me. I must have made a mistake because being in God’s will means that “doors are opened” and things are successful.
By the grace and strength of God, and the prayers of some cherished people around me, I survived that first semester. And by the second semester I could start to see the many reasons why God put me in that place, as difficult as it was. I had formed new and precious relationships. I had seen those kids have their eyes opened to the battle of ideas they would soon be facing out in the “real world.” And I grew to love those teenagers (and I re-learned Calculus too!).
What I wish I could have understood better at the time, and what I do understand now, is that being in God’s will does not mean things will be easy. We have the tendency to think that if God has called you into something then it’s going to be a smooth course of action. I don’t mean we think there won’t be any problems, but that the problems are supposed to be manageable. We even think that the mission is supposed to be successful. How often have we started down a path that we think God has led us down, and we hit a bump in the road, and then turn around thinking God has “closed the door” here? We think every difficulty must mean God doesn’t want us there and every easy open path means God wants us there. Think about how dangerous that can be to us! Have we ever stopped to consider that maybe the difficulties are there because it’s what Satan is trying to stop and the clear path is where Satan is trying to trap us? Or maybe the difficulties are there because God is teaching us and growing us so that we are equipped and able to fulfill the mission He has for us?
Or even worse, have we ever stopped to consider that maybe the difficulties are there because it’s what God is trying to do? I think about the life of David. God sent Samuel to Jesse’s house when David was just a young boy. And he was anointed as the next king of Israel. But he spent the next 8 years fleeing for his life, hiding in caves, and seeking shelter from the enemy. Eight years. Eight years, folks. Could you be on the run for your life for eight years before God actually brings to pass what He promised you? Or would you conclude that you made a mistake in thinking God wanted you to be king and then decide to move off to another place and be a shepherd? I mean, the path for David to move off and be a shepherd would certainly have been easier. Can’t you hear the conversation now? “Well, clearly God closed the door for me to be king because Saul really wasn’t having any of that. There was just so much drama surrounding it. And in my wanderings I came across this little piece of land JUST when this guy put up a for sale sign. Clearly God just opened the door for me to go back to being a shepherd.” On the contrary, God was using that time to test David in his faithfulness and to teach to be David fully dependent on Him.
We can see the same thing with Joseph. When he was 17, he had a prophetic dream that his brothers and parents would bow down to him. And instantly that happened! Nope. Joseph was first captured by his brothers, sold into slavery, moved to Egypt, worked as a slave, falsely accused of rape, and thrown into prison. Thirteen years after his dream – and after going through more than you and I could imagine – Joseph was made overseer of Egypt. But it was another nine years before the dream of his brothers bowing before him became a reality. Yet everything that happened along the way was part of God’s plan for the salvation of His people. Genesis 50:20, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” The fulfillment of God’s plan included slavery, imprisonment, and twenty-two years of a less than comfortable life for Joseph.
David, Joseph, Paul, John the Baptist, and so many others were right where God wanted them to be, yet their journeys were difficult and long. But in each of those circumstances, God was still faithful; God was still present. It says God is not so much interested in our comfort as He is in our obedience. He desires our willingness to follow Him over our happiness. So maybe we should stop using our comfort level and happiness to ascertain God’s will. I look back at last year and I see how even with the strife and difficulty, I was still right where God wanted me to be. The hard times was not God “closing the door,” but instead it was God teaching me something new. Besides, as my dad always says, if it were easy, they’d get anybody to do it.
Or is it all relative...
The Senate hearing on Judge Kavanaugh has much larger implications than just who gets to fill an empty Supreme Court seat. It is ultimately determining if we are going to continue to be a nation of laws or if we are going to allow our post-modern mindset to continue to sink us into the mud pit of emotion-based decision making. After the testimony given last week by both Judge Kavanaugh and Ford, the news analysts went crazy trying to decide who was more sincere or whose testimony was more convincing. The problem with all of this is that it doesn’t matter who was sincere or convincing. This isn’t like they’re trying to convince us of their favorite flavor of ice cream. We’re talking about an event that either did or did not take place. It matters what the facts are.
This is the problem with post-modernism, which says that truth itself is relative. It uses phrases like “My truth is different from your truth” or “What is true for you may not be true for me.” Or in the words of a former President accused of sexual misconduct, “It depends upon what the meaning of the word 'is' is" (and that case had physical evidence to corroborate the accusation). People like to embrace the post-modern ideology because it seems so freeing. It makes all things flexible enough to include anything. Our society thinks that “truth” is just so limiting and exclusive. The proposed solution is to just move beyond truth to make it subjective to the individual. That way no one is answerable to anyone. You can’t tell me what I did was wrong – because your truth is not my truth!
Well, at least post-modernists got one part right. Truth is limiting and truth does exclude. Truth, by definition, must exclude the false. So when we hear the testimony from Judge Kavanaugh and Ford, it doesn’t matter who appeared more sincere, it matters what the truth is. The truth of what actually happened 36 years ago should exclude all statements that claim something different. If what Ford claims is the truth, then it shouldn’t matter “how sincere” Judge Kavanaugh appeared. If what Judge Kavanaugh claims about what happened 36 years ago is the truth, then it shouldn’t matter “how sincere” Ford appeared. Isn’t this what this nation should be about? Especially when we’re talking about someone who is going to sit on the Highest Court in the land?? Don’t we want the Supreme Court Justices to rule according to the facts and merits of the case in relation to the Constitution instead of how they feel about it or how emotionally drawn to the defendants they are?
For example, in 2006 three Duke Lacrosse team members were wrongfully accused of raping a stripper at a party. At the time of the case, the media drew every social-justice line you could draw between these young men and the woman accusing them of rape. As we watched the case unfold, you could either feel sympathy for the young men whose reputations and careers were being destroyed or you could feel sympathy for this young woman whose life was ruined by this horrific event. But only the truth can determine where your sympathy should fall. Your sympathy for the young men is only valid if they were wrongfully accused. Otherwise, how could anyone possibly sympathize with three men who gang raped someone at a party, no matter what her profession was? And your sympathy for the young woman is only valid if these three men really did that to her. Otherwise, how could you possibly sympathize with someone who fabricated this story just to get attention? The point is only the truth of the situation, not her truth vs. their truth, but the actual truth can tell us the proper way to feel about this case. Turns out we could sympathize with these kids whose lives were destroyed – and a coach who stood by them who lost his job – because they were wrongfully accused.
On the other hand, in California Brock Turner was convicted of raping an unconscious girl. Through the trial and especially during the sentencing, his attorneys and family begged for sympathy for Brock. He was an Olympic-hopeful swimmer at Stanford and his future was now jeopardized; his reputation ruined. Were Brock actually innocent of that crime, then we would be justified in sympathizing with his plight. However, that pesky thing, the truth, comes in and shows us that we should not sympathize with his ruined future, but sympathize with the young girl who was the victim.
It wasn’t the Duke Lacrosse players’ truth vs. the accuser’s truth. And it wasn’t Brock’s truth vs. the victim’s truth. It was the absolute, objective truth of what happened. It wasn’t who appeared more convincing or more sincere, but who was right. These examples highlight the failings of post-modernism. Truth is not subjective What does the evidence say actually happened? Whose story can be corroborated by something other than just an emotional response?
This is where the idea of absolute, objective truth is not only necessary, but in a way it is more freeing than post-modernism. The facts and evidence tell us what happened so that we are no longer drug around by unreliable emotions, fickle desires, and personal biases. We can instead determine what the facts are, what the absolute truth is, and make decisions based on that. And from that position of knowledge of the truth, we can then allow our emotions to follow – feel anger towards one party because it is fully justified. Feel sympathy towards the other party because it is fully justified, not just because we prefer that person, or the situation was horrible, or they cried a lot on the stand. But feel that way because it is truth, and therefore it is right. That is the proper order of things. The danger to our society is when we allow the emotional circumstances of something and the fluid definition of “subjective truths” rule over our judgments. This won’t just cost us a controversial Supreme Court seat, but the very moral fiber of our society itself. Innocent until proven guilty? No longer. Guilt or innocence decided by an emotional plea by one party? Apparently so.
Due to both my overwhelming schedule and life this past year and the difficulty I’ve had in finding the right words for a new post, it’s been over a year since I’ve been able to sit down and write. It was a struggle to figure out how to break radio-silence after that amount of time. So I thought a more personal post to explain the silence and my thoughts in the silence would be fitting.
2017 was the worst year of my life, and while I can’t yet say this about everything that happened in 2017, I can see in some of those things how God truly does work even the crappy things for His glory and for the good of those who call upon His name. The fall of 2017 brought yet another career change. So far God has taken me from engineering, to being a stay-at-home, to writing a book and founding a ministry for Christian apologetics, and now He has combined all of those experiences and skills to bring me to a high school teaching position - teaching 12th grade apologetics and AP Calculus. The change was more difficult and time consuming than I ever predicted - mostly because of what all had happened at the beginning of 2017.
February 2017 brought the diagnosis that my mom’s leukemia had returned and it would require a very difficult stem cell transplant. May 2017 brought the news that she could not have the stem-cell transplant but would have to rely on a clinical drug trial. June 2017 brought the diagnosis of pneumonia and her decision to stop treatment. And on July 4, 2017 I was holding my mommy’s hand when I had to say good-bye to her. It is a horrible reality every day yet still an unimaginable nightmare that can’t possibly be true. I miss her every day. Every day there is something that I can’t wait to tell her…only to be reminded that she’s not here to hear it. Every day I wonder what we would be doing together if she were still here. Every day I feel like there was still something left for me to, and then I find that it’s because my days still don’t seem complete until I’ve talked to her. I’ve realized even after a year that it is a pain that will never go away. It is simply a pain you just have to live with.
Yet in my pain I know that she is experiencing perfect joy as she is finally with her Lord and Savior. And I know that my good-bye wasn’t good-bye forever, but more like “I’ll see you soon” because my mom loved Jesus. And I do too. However, in this situation, many people would wonder why I would still say that because Jesus didn’t “answer my prayer.” I had prayed relentlessly for her healing - not just me, but countless others who loved the beautiful, Godly woman that she was. She was always so joyful and so kind. I can definitely say that after a year, I still have no idea why His answer was different from what I wanted. But I can also definitely say that God is still real and God still loves and cares for me. Because, you see, God’s existence and love for me exists outside of how happy and comfy my life is. That is a truth…whether He had healed my mom or not. Those truths have no bearing on whether I get “my prayer answered” or not.
How can I say that God still loves me if He would take away someone so special, so dear, so important to me? Because I can see how much God hated this too. He hated it enough to do something about it. No, I don’t mean that what He did about it was heal her (although I desperately wanted that to be the case). It’s because He did something about death overall. He hated that His precious creation had chosen the path of sin, and pride, and rejection of Him – because He knew what that meant for us. He knew that part of His character is perfect Holiness (something we truly can’t fathom). So He can’t be in the presence of unholiness. But if the creation that He loved were sinful, how can He possibly remain with His creation and still be His other attribute: Just? That sin issue has to be dealt with before God’s creation can be in His presence…yet that is what God wanted because of yet another attribute of God: Love!
If God is perfectly holy so that He can’t be in the presence of sin, and perfectly just so that He must judge sin (which we would want someone who is good and holy to do), yet perfectly loves His sinful creation so that He desires relationship with us, what can He do? Well, He can pay the penalty for that sin Himself. The judgment has been made on sin – and it is death. This is where my personal situation falls. Death is an unavoidable part of our existence. It is what happens eventually to all of us, whether it is at the ripe old age of 102 or too soon at the age of 63 like my mom by a wretched disease or even in the youth of life by a tragic car crash. Death will come to us all because we are in this sinful world. The fix to that is to stop death. But if God stopped death here, meaning He made us eternal in this world, that would truly be a miserable existence. We wouldn’t want eternity where there is sin and suffering and pain and injustice. What we really want is for this to not be the ultimate point of our existence.
When Jesus came down to earth, if He could heal the sick, give sight to the blind, make the lame walk, but could not do anything about death, His existence here would have been useless. His claims as God would have been nullified. But when Jesus died on the cross and resurrected, this was how God fixed our problem of death. Death was defeated here on earth and our eternity in God’s presence was made possible. That was how much God hated what happened to my mom. Though I would have given anything to have my mom healed of her leukemia, to have her by my side as I raise my children, to have my children see her life as an example of Godliness and faithfulness, it would have still been temporary. Death would have still come. But now it’s not our time on earth together that is temporary, it is the separation at death that is temporary. Jesus came to give us life and give it more abundantly. Death has been defeated. So now it is no longer good-bye, but I’ll see you soon, mommy.
My husband and I both for a time worked in the aerospace industry (of course I no longer do, but he still does). The other day we were discussing the future of the space industry, the new ideas for different launch vehicles, and the goals being set by different companies. As we talked about the explorations of the past, through things like the Voyager program, and the hopes for future explorations, I became once again amazed at the unfathomable vastness of this universe. It's size and expanse is truly incomprehensible to us.
Look at some of the facts about this universe:
Then in 1977, as part of exploring this vast universe, The Voyager Program launched two spacecraft, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. The probes explored the planets and moons of the outer Solar System over several decades as it traveled toward interstellar space. On March 20 2013, Voyager 1 became the first human-made object to leave the Solar System and is now the furthest human-made object from Earth, currently 124.34 Astronomical Units away (more than 11 billion miles from our sun). Voyager 2 is speeding along at more than 39,000 mph, but will take more than 296,000 years to pass Sirius, the brightest star in our night sky.
While on its journey, in 1990 Voyager 1 turned its camera back on our home planet and took a picture. This became known as The Pale Blue Dot. Seen from 6 billion kilometers away, the Earth appears as a tiny blue speck in the depths of space. It reminds us how seemingly insignificant the earth is by comparison to the vast expanse of the universe.
However, as small and insignificant as we may seem, we are strangely unique. We are the only planet that is capable of sustaining life. Yet, if we believe that God uniquely created us, that humans on this earth were made in the very image of God, it brings up an interesting question. Why all this stuff in space? Why are all of those huge stars and galaxies and planets necessary? Why are we surrounded by all of this?
Well, it made me wonder. Why would God go about creating all of that? And I understand that much of it really is in place for our benefit. The sun gives us things necessary for life; the moon controls our tides; the gravitational pull of Jupiter protects us from meteor strikes. But then I realized - it just speaks to the awesome wonder of our Creator God. Why wouldn't He fill up space with other wondrous things?
The best analogy I could think of us with our own backyards. No matter what size yard you have, we all try to add something to it simply to enjoy looking at it. And it's not always situated in the same spot. You spread it out. In one corner you plant an azalea bush (or two or three because in the south we love azaleas). In another corner you might have a rose bush surrounded by smaller daisies. And in between you have a small rock garden with a fountain and lilies in the water, maybe a few pansies around the twists and turns of a path. Then you have a nice apple tree in the middle to give you some shade. We do all of that to enjoy the beauty of what we can plant - create - and cultivate. You are the master of your yard and you can design amazing things simply to see their beauty and grandeur.
Think about what all that looks like to something small and insignificant, say, the ant. He's so tiny so all he sees are these monstrous colors spread out across this huge expanse. And he wonders why did someone put that camellia bush so far away that he can barely see it? And it will take him years to travel out there to it, just to see what it smells like.
Consider what all that can also reveal about the gardener. I love to design gardens and pick out different plants and colors and combinations. But I am TERRIBLE about them actually surviving. My son even asked me during one gardening project, "Are you putting that plant in the corner there so it can die too?" So if I had an even bigger yard, you would see how truly inept I am at gardening. But when you have a master gardener and you give them a large space, we usually sit back amazed at the beauty they can create. So the larger the space to garden, the more you can tell about the gardener.
The point is, it occurred to me that the vast expanse, wonder, and grandeur of space - and how much of it is even still undiscovered - all point to the vastness, wonder, and grandeur of our Creator. He is using this universe like His giant garden, planting a galaxy here, a planet over there, and stars all around. He does it with the same purpose that He made us - to bring glory to Himself. It is why we should be in even more awe that a God so incredible who could create the wonders of this universe would care so deeply to desire a relationship with the seemingly insignificant person that I am.
When John the Baptist was sitting in prison, he sent his disciples to ask Jesus if he were the Coming One or if they should look for another. And Jesus responded, "Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them." Jesus pointed to the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies of the miracles that would be worked through the Messiah. It was by these miracles that Jesus proved His deity. It was by the spoken word of Jesus that these works were done instantly and completely. It was that feature that signified to the people that these incidents were supernatural and thus done by someone who is Himself outside of this nature. Granted, these were first century times so they didn't have all of the modern medical devices that we have or all of the scientific instruments and knowledge that we have. But they knew when people were dead. They knew when a person had been blind their entire life, or when they had leprosy, or when they were paralyzed. It wasn't the fact that they didn't understand how nature worked that made the crowds flock to Jesus for healing. It was the fact that they knew how nature worked that told them something un-natural was taking place. The lame don't suddenly get up one day and carry their mats off and the dead don't suddenly walk out of tombs out of a natural process. The people knew it was a supernatural process that could instantly and completely do these works.
The Miracle of the Paralytic
In Mark 2:1-12 (also in Matthew 9:1-8), four people bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus while He is speaking in a crowded house. There was no way for the friends to carry their paralyzed friend's stretcher through the crowd so they climbed onto the roof, dug a hole, and lowered him down before Jesus. Jesus first tells the man that his sins are forgiven, but to show His authority over all things, Jesus tells the man to rise up, take up his mat, and go home.
I honestly didn't think about the completeness of this healing until I had children, which may seem like an odd connection. But after I had my first son, I was able to see the long progression for someone learning how to walk. A child is typically seven to ten months old before they are able to push themselves up on their hands and knees to crawl. Around ten or eleven months, they will start trying to pull themselves upright. Around the one-year mark a child will begin to take those first few wobbly steps. They'll typically take the next six months to one year gaining coordination and balance before they are able to really walk or run. The funniest thing to me was watching how long it took a child to learn how to jump. After conquering running, my son wanted to start jumping. But for the first several months, he would just bend his knees and swing his arms - building up for a huge jump - yet never leave the ground. It was absolutely hilarious! It wasn't until he was three years old that he could actually jump off the ground.
Now let's go back to Jesus' miracle with the paralytic. When Jesus said, "Get up," the paralytic did not have to go through any of those stages to be able to stand up, bend over, pick up his mat, and walk out. Granted, we weren't told if this man had been lame since birth, but for any significant period of time of being immobile, some form of rehab would have been necessary if this healing were of natural means. But there is none of that here. This man is instantly and completely healed. Think about anatomically what all was healed supernaturally and instantaneously. His muscles were no longer atrophied. His joints were not tight and cramped. His bones, ligaments, tendons, muscles, and nerves worked perfectly - the instant Jesus spoke. His balance was perfect to be able to stand up and then bend over to lift an object. He legs were perfectly coordinated to lift one leg at a time and walk. There was no learning curve. This man who came in paralyzed, unable to move, was instantly and completely healed so that he could walk as though he had been walking his entire life. (To see this illustration even further, take a look in Acts 3 where Peter and John healed in the name of Jesus a man who had been paralyzed since birth who then stood up and leaped!)
Even people in the first century could recognize that kind of healing is not from a natural process. Jesus did not use therapy and ointments to eventually cure the man's ailments. He supernaturally did instantly what nature does slowly. Though this is just one example, you can see that with all His miracles. The nobleman's son was healed the moment Jesus spoke in John 4:53. The man's withered hand was instantly healed in Matthew 12:13. The woman with the flow of blood was healed the moment she touched Jesus' hem.
The Miracle at Cana
The same thing is seen in the very first miracle Jesus worked in the New Testament in John 2 at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. They had run out of wine, so Mary went to Jesus. Jesus told the servants to fill the water pots with water, draw some out, and then take it to the headwaiter. Instead of drinking water though, the headwaiter drank wine, a substance that was chemically different from water. And it was not just cheap wine either. It was the good stuff. The headwaiter commented that most people serve the best wine first and then serve the cheap stuff. But this wedding had saved the best wine for the end! In this miracle, Jesus instantly and completely turned water into high-quality wine. Wine typically takes at a minimum 10-15 days for the fermentation process to complete. But the longer it ages, the better it is. So at this wedding feast, how old would the headwaiter say the wine was? Chemically, how old was the wine? But Jesus had only just then changed it from water into wine! Jesus did instantly and completely what nature does slowly.
To reassure John the Baptist, Jesus pointed to these works that give witness to His deity. However, in John 5:39-47 Jesus also refers to the Scriptures that give witness to His deity. In verses 45-47, He says, "Do not think that I am the One who will accuse you before the Father. There already is one who accuses you: Moses, the very one in whom you have placed your hope for salvation. For if you believed and relied on the Scriptures written by Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me personally. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” The Jews knew what Moses had written but did not believe it. If they doubted those scriptures, then of course they would doubt His words. After the Resurrection, Jesus instructed the disciples. "Then beginning with Moses and throughout all the writings of the prophets, He explained and interpreted for them the things referring to Himself found in all the Scriptures." (Luke 24:27) According to Jesus, the Scriptures that give witness to Him and that are valuable for instruction begin with the writings of Moses.
The Miracle at the Beginning
So what did Moses write about Jesus? Some commentaries may reference Deuteronomy 18:15 as a Messianic prophecy. But that is short-sighted for two reasons. First, Moses didn't only write Deuteronomy. He wrote four other books as well. And if we think Deuteronomy is credible enough to cite Messianic prophecy, then we must find his other books credible too. In other words, if we go about saying that Genesis and Exodus do not qualify as legitimate sources of Scripture from Moses, then who are we to say that Leviticus, Numbers, or Deuteronomy are? When Luke says that Jesus taught from the scriptures "beginning with Moses," why would we think that does not include Genesis? Those were the very first words written by Moses. It doesn't say that Jesus started teaching from the Scriptures about Moses' life but that He started from the words of Moses. He said specifically, "But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?" Maybe we should ask ourselves that today. Furthermore, the first Messianic prophecy we receive from Scripture comes from Genesis 3.
The second reason it is short-sighted to only reference Deuteronomy is that it forgets the Triune nature of God. Because humans are limited in their capacity, we sometimes find ourselves separating out the Trinity into three different Gods. That is simply because it is a difficult concept for us to comprehend. However, we must remember that it was not just God the Father at creation, God the Son at the crucifixion, and God the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. It was the Godhead three-in-one, ever present. John opens his gospel with this very point. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made." The Word was Jesus, and Jesus was in the beginning making all things. Without Jesus, nothing was made.
In talking about Jesus, Paul says in Colossians 1:15-17 "He is the exact living image [the essential manifestation] of the unseen God [the visible representation of the invisible], the firstborn [the preeminent one, the sovereign, and the originator] of all creation. For by Him all things were created in heaven and on earth, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities; all things were created and exist through Him [that is, by His activity] and for Him. And He Himself existed and is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." Paul says again in Ephesians 3:9, "and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ." Jesus was there at the beginning, at the creation of all things. God created through Jesus Christ and all things were created by Jesus, through Jesus, and for Jesus.
And so, the miracle, the supernatural event, of creation was done by the very words of Jesus, instantly and completely. When Jesus spoke, it happened immediately and fully. Jesus spoke light into existence and it immediately appeared and was completely accomplished. When Jesus spoke, the trees, the rocks, the animals, the birds, and the fish all came into existence immediately and completely. The nothingness was immediately and completely changed into something - this universe and all the variety of life that exists. Jesus supernaturally did instantly what nature would do slowly. Nature would slowly change water into wine, but Jesus did it instantly. Nature would slowly heal broken bodies, but Jesus did it immediately by the His spoken word. Those are the works that bear witness of His deity. And those are the words of Moses about Jesus from the very beginning that testify to Jesus. If we can't believe the words of Moses, how can we believe the words of Jesus?
It has been a while since I have posted, but these past several weeks I have been spending cherished time with my family. On March 7, 2016 my mom was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). Mom went through an intense six-week chemotherapy treatment at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. The care she received there and the love and support from the staff was incredible. When she left at the end of that treatment, she was in remission. She took additional chemo through the summer of 2016 as a precaution to keep her in remission.
But on February 21 of this year, a regular blood check showed that the leukemia was back. She went through another several weeks of chemo back at the myelosuppression unit at Vanderbilt. The plan was to get her in remission again and then do a stem cell transplant. At the end of her chemo, my brother was identified as the match to be her donor, and we were getting everyone prepped for the transplant. Four days before the transplant we were told the leukemia was back yet again. She was put on a clinical drug trial that was extremely hard on her body. She start running fevers and was dehydrated from the nausea the drugs caused. So they admitted her back into the hospital. From there, things continued to go downhill. No matter what the doctors did, that leukemia just kept coming back. It was almost like the drugs were just making it mad - and it came back with a new vengeance each time.
On July 4, my mom was finally done with her battle. And because she loves Jesus with all her heart, I know that He called her home to be with Him as He promised in John 14:1-4. "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know."
What I wanted to share with you though is something my dad wrote. They were married for 42 years. And throughout this challenge, my dad had been writing to share with others what was going on with mom, not just the medical, procedural updates, but what God had been doing through this as well. So I've posted below his thoughts as we knew that mom was nearing the end of her battle and the end of her time here with us. It was an encouragement to many who knew my mom and knew what we all were facing in this. I hope that it can provide some encouragement to you as well.
Jan Update June 21, 2017
This may not be my final update but it will be near the end. We had hoped that the trial drug would bring this horrible disease into remission and we would go on to the stem cell transplant but it didn’t it didn’t work. The disease just seems to get angrier with each treatment. The wonderful staff at Vanderbilt University Medical Center has done everything they can do but it is just beyond their control. These are great people, kind and loving and very good at what they do. We could not have selected a better place to fight this fight. However, our loving God and Father has a different plan for Jan and for me. Some people may say that if there is a God then He must be mean or uncaring in this matter. Or may say this is proof that there is no God. But that is so sad and so untrue. God has held us in His arms all through this process and He proved that He loved us in that while we were still sinners, still unworthy, He sent His Son Jesus to die for us. He personally provided a gracious path to salvation, requiring nothing of us but putting our trust in His provision. In Galatians 2:20 Paul said, “The life I now live in the body I live by faith (by adhering to, relying on and completely trusting) in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
I was thinking while I have sat so many hours watching sweet Jan struggle with this challenge that I now have a very small, micro understanding, limited as my human mind is, of the emotions God the Father had as Jesus hung on that cross on that Friday afternoon 2,000 or so years ago. Never has absolutely perfect love and absolutely perfect hate existed side by side in the same moment. God looked at Jesus and all of His creation and loved like no other could love. God loves because that is His character. God loved the Son, and God loves all of us. But at the same time God hated. He hated the sin that had required the cross. He hated the sin that had spoiled His perfect creation. And He hated the sin that had perverted and corrupted man who was made in His image. When sin entered the world, death came into the world. God warned Adam that this would happen if he did not obey. After the fall God could have destroyed His creation and just walked away but His perfect love would not allow that. So to put His glorious majesty on display He made a promise to Adam and Eve that there would be One born of woman who would be 100% man and 100% God. He would know no sin and would therefore be the perfect spotless Lamb that could make atonement for man’s disobedience. God would Himself pay the sin debt of His creation. God Himself stepped out of the throne room of heaven to save us. The Creator saved the creature. So God knows perfect love and proves it by loving us and sacrificing Himself for us while we are still sinners. But He hates the sin that put all of this into motion. John Murray wrote, “God loved the objects of His wrath (that’s us) so much that He gave His own Son to the end that He by His blood should make provision for the removal of this wrath. It was Christ’s to deal with the wrath that the loved (that’s us) would no longer be the objects of wrath, and love would achieve its aim of making the children of wrath (that’s us) the children of God’s good pleasure.”
In a very small way I understand what He felt. I sit and look at Jan and I love her so dearly. And yet at the same time I hate this disease that has ravaged her that was the result of sin. Not something that she had done or I had done. God is not angry with us or punishing us. This is just the natural consequence of a sin that came into the world and corrupted His perfect creation. So as God loved us and loved the Son and yet hated Sin, I love Jan and hate the Sin that brought all of this corruption into our lives.
But what about Jan, sweet Jan? She knows her Lord and Savior and although it is scary she understands that she is going to a place where there are no more tears, no more sorrows and no more death and disease. She knows this because she knows the promises of God and she knows the character of God and she knows the peace of God, that peace that reassures the heart; that peace which transcends all understanding; that peace which stands guard over our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Jan knows where she is going and what glory awaits her there. We have already discussed this and we are going to be reunited one day. We are to meet at the south gate of heaven and I will be with her forever. In 2 Samuel 12 it records a child that was born out of the relations of David and Bathsheba. From birth the young boy was quite ill and David fasted and prayed all during the illness and then the child passed away. David got up washed his face and changed clothes and his servants were confused. David said nothing could be done for the child at this point. Then he said, “Can I bring him back again? I will go to him [when I die], but he will not return to me.” David knew one day he would see his child. And I know one day I will see my Jan.
Man looks at life as being a determinate time. It is finite from when we are conceived until we pass away. God does not look at the life of His children that way. He sees it as from the point in time we are conceived projecting out as a ray into eternity. So God looks at His children moving on to be with Him as merely a change of venue. There is not end to our life just a change of location, a change of scenery, and a change of experience.
But you say, “Isn’t that tragic, isn’t that such a loss?” Well yes. It is a terrible loss for me, her family and all who are left behind. But for Jan this is her reward. Our Lord will usher her into heaven saying, “Well done my good and faithful servant.” In the gospel of John chapter 11 the apostle tells us about the passing of a good friend of Jesus. When Jesus arrived in the town of Bethany, Lazarus had been dead 4 days. Mary and Martha, Lazarus’ sisters, were distraught. They knew Lazarus was in heaven and that he would be raised in glory on the last day. But they were overcome with grief, just as I am. The shortest verse in Scripture then says, “Jesus wept.” Jesus was not weeping for Lazarus because Lazarus had his reward. Jesus wept for Mary and Martha and their unquenchable grief. He wept at the sin that had brought about death in the beginning. He knew He would raise Lazarus from the dead but still He wept. I believe that Jesus is weeping now, not for Jan because He will take care of her, but for me and all her family and friends. We will suffer loss and she will receive glory. It does not record Lazarus’ words after Jesus raised him from the dead and gave him life, but I think I know what he said. Don’t quote me but I think when Lazarus walked out of that tomb and saw his Lord and Savior he said, “Why did you do this Lord? I was just fine, everything was great. Now I have to go back and plow the field, pull weeds, pay taxes and go through all of this again.” I won’t swear by that but I think he may have thought that even if he didn’t say it. Lazarus had his victory and Jan will have hers.
We are a product of our collective experiences. Now the world categorizes these experiences as good things and bad things. Or happy, joyful experiences and traumatic, tragic experiences. And interestingly all that the world’s or man’s philosophy can come up with to understand or ease our minds to all of this is to say, “Celebrate the joyous times and look at the tragedies as that which will make you stronger.” Friedrich Nietzsche said, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” That is really the best man can do. It’s not bad, maybe even a little pithy. But let’s look at God’s way of thinking. God says there are not two bags of life experiences but only one. Yes, this one bag contains good and bad, joyful and tragic, experiences. God says they are all meaningful, all profitable within His calculus. How can that be? I mean tragic things are tragic by definition. If they weren’t tragic…well they wouldn’t be tragic, they would be good. However it is all in how you approach them. Look at Romans 5:1-5 “Therefore, since we have been justified (that is acquitted of sin, declared blameless before God) by faith, (Let us grasp the fact) we have peace with God (and the joy of reconciliation with Him) through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we also have access by faith into His (remarkable state of) grace in which we (firmly and safely and securely) stand. Let us rejoice in our hope and confident assurance of (experiencing and enjoying) the glory of (our great) God.
And not only this, but (with joy) let us exult in our sufferings and rejoice in our hardships, knowing that hardship (distress, pressures, trouble) produces patient endurance; and endurance proven character (spiritual maturity); and proven character, hope and confident assurance (of eternal salvation).
Such hope (in God’s promises) never disappoints us, because God’s love has been abundantly poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
God tells those who are His children, those who have come to Christ by turning from their sin and accepting His gracious gift of salvation through Christ, that they can and should rejoice in everything in that bag of experiences. Do what? We can find joy or rejoice in everything that comes into our life as a child of God? Well, yes, that is exactly what He is saying. And not only can we rejoice because it builds our character but because in the life of a person who loves God and therefore is called by God for some purpose he can know with a certainty that all that is in that bag of experiences will work through God’s plan for some good. Look at Romans 8:28 “And we know (with great confidence) that God (who is deeply concerned about us) causes all things to work together (as a plan) for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose.”
We can with confidence look in our bag and see all of these life experiences and classify them all as a tool within the plan and purpose of God to bring about some greater good, all to His glory. So the bad experiences we endure, although not pleasant and we may grieve for having walked that road, for the child of God, that experience will pay dividends. We may never see it to fruition but we can know by the sovereign promise of our God that it will come to pass. We don’t have to be anxious or worry about these experiences but can rejoice in them. When Peter and John were hauled before the religious leadership and reprimanded for preaching about Jesus they were beaten and warned and sent on their way. And it says in Acts 5:41 “So they left the council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy (dignified by indignity) to suffer shame for the sake of His name.” Given what Christ had done for them, they thought it was an honor to suffer just a little for Him.
And in all of this we don’t have to worry, we don’t have to be anxious or fretful or panicky or even uncomfortable because the Lord is right beside us in dealing with the challenge or the after effects and nightmares that may come after the challenge. Philippians 4:4-7 “Rejoice in the Lord always (delight, take pleasure in Him); again I will say rejoice! Let your gentle spirit (your graciousness, unselfishness, mercy, tolerance and patients) be known to all people. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything (every circumstance and situation) by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving continue to make your specific requests known to God.
And the peace of God (that peace that reassures the heart, that peace) which transcends all understanding (that peace which) stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus is yours.”
For the child of God the entire bag of life experiences is of one value because all will be used by God to bring, through His plan and purpose, some eternal good, and all to His glory. In this I don’t know who may come to Christ and then lead others to Christ or do great things for the sake of the gospel because of Jan’s beautiful inspiring spirit. Jan has had an amazing impact on all those she has come in contact with and many who have just heard about her challenge. For a year and a half she has done her job and done it well. I am so proud of her and love her even more because of her witness. Her strength and her faith have served her well. She has been used of God and what greater privilege can be bestowed on the child of the Father than that.
Thank you all and may God bless each of you.
The latest Defend the Faith posting can be found at Mama Bear Apologetics. The article link is below...
Typically when I go to different venues to speak or teach, I begin by explaining the importance of being able to defend your faith. I illustrate the kinds of questions that we as Christians must be prepared to answer. We are in a time where we can’t just quote scripture; we must understand the logic behind what we believe, and the validity of those beliefs as grounded in truth. I usually give personal examples of the skepticism that I have encountered through my career as an engineer. I quickly realized that before I could tell people how to have reconciliation with God for their sins, they must first understand that there is a God.
That is why it is so important to teach our children why Christianity is true – so they can be prepared for those conversations. But teaching our children apologetics can’t stop with just defending God’s existence, the truth of Scripture, and the deity of Jesus. It must continue with the apologetic defense for a complete Biblical worldview, which includes a Biblical worldview on cultural issues. We can’t tell our children to believe Christianity “because the Bible says so.” Similarly, we can’t we tell them to respond a certain way to social and cultural issues just “because the Bible says so.” Now, don’t mistake what I’m saying here. I am not saying that we are not using the Bible to form our views on social issues (otherwise I wouldn’t have called it a Biblical worldview). What I am saying is that we must actually explain what the Bible says on those issues...
To continue reading, go to mamabearapologetics.com/congratulations-youve-defended-bible-now/
I am in the process of finishing up my second book which tackles the existence of suffering. But while in some conversations on the topic, I’ve encountered a challenging idea that I wanted to address here. Many people struggle with the perceived conflict of a good, loving God and the existence of evil and suffering. The explanation for how those two coexist encompasses the concept of man’s free will. We have the ability to make our own choices and thus at times we must face the consequences of those choices. Now, this reasoning doesn’t account for all types of suffering; there are many examples of suffering that is not due to our actions. But many times our suffering comes as the cost of making the choice to disobey God or the choice to sin. Not always, but sometimes. In those cases, our suffering may simply be the natural outflow of our actions. For example, if you choose to smoke your entire life, then the natural consequence may be that you develop certain types of cancers and diseases. That would be a natural consequence of your free-will decision to engage in that activity. Biblically, we could use Samson as an example of that. He chose to stay entangled with deceitful women and therefore eventually paid the price by being betrayed by one of those women.
Sometimes our suffering is a result of judgment for our free will choices. When your free-will choice is to violate the laws of the state, then you will face punishment for those crimes, which involves pain and suffering. Biblically, we know that God does judge against wickedness and sin. He passed severe judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah for their wicked ways. They freely chose to walk in disobedience, therefore, they faced suffering as a consequence of those choices. I see this constantly with my children. Out of their free will, they may choose to jump on the couch. They then face the natural consequence of falling and getting hurt, as well as the consequence of punishment when they get spanked for jumping on the furniture.
Why Free Will?
If God gave us free will to choose how we respond to Him yet knew we would suffer from our choices, then why did He give us free will in the first place? The short answer is that God wanted us to love. He didn’t make us to be robots only responding in obedience because we were forced to or obligated to. God desired loving fellowship from His creation. But to have love, it must be freely chosen and freely given. We can understand that in our earthly relationships as well. Love from another person is only real if the person has a choice to love or to not love. It is the same way with God. However, when we choose to not love God and to not walk in obedience then we suffer the consequences.
This line of reasoning can help us understand that God can exist even though there is suffering. However, recently I have encountered a new question in relation to this argument. What about when we die? As Christians, we share with people how in Heaven there are no more tears, no more pain. So is there free will in Heaven? If you answer yes, then why is there suffering here but not in Heaven? It says we are capable of having free will but not having suffering. But if you answer “no,” then apparently God does want robots programmed to obey Him. It says He would require people to love Him once they are in Heaven because He would have removed their free will.
On the surface it appears to be quite the conundrum. To answer this we must understand the doctrine of salvation. Even though there is a distinct moment of salvation for a believer that is not where it stops. Granted, the process of salvation may appear in some churches today to mean walking down to the front of the church and signing a membership card, but that is not it either. The process of salvation involves three phases: justification, sanctification, and glorification. Justification is a one-time work of God resulting in the believer’s salvation. The sinner confesses their sins before a just and holy God and receives the forgiveness offered through Jesus Christ. In that moment, they are declared innocent in God’s judgment over sin; they are justified through the payment made by Jesus on their behalf. Once the believer has been justified, then sanctification begins.
Sanctification is a process, beginning with justification and continuing throughout life. If justification is the starting point of the line that represents one’s Christian life, then sanctification is the line itself. At the point of justification, the believer becomes a “new creation” and the old things are to pass away (2 Cor. 5:17). What does that mean? It means we are no longer to live as slaves to sin but to live as God’s forgiven child. Paul describes this in Romans 6 as reckoning ourselves to be “dead indeed to sin, alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We are not to let sin reign over us as though we are to obey its lusts. Instead we present ourselves as instruments of righteousness before God. However, we still live in a sinful and corrupt world. The threat of sin and temptation of the lusts of the flesh are all around us. Therefore we must daily die to ourselves, to put away those fleshly desires and to desire the righteousness which is from God. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” It is a continual thing where God is changing our hearts to no longer desire the sinful things of this world. He transforms us to desire the things of God.
What Does This Have to Do with Free Will?
What does this have to do with free will? Well, whether you have become a believer or not, you still have free will to choose disobedience or obedience to God. But once you have become a believer, your desires have changed to truly want to do the things of God. You now desire to please God instead of please yourself. According to Romans 8:5, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.” Paul explains this again in Galatians 5:16-17, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” There is this battle between the desires of the flesh and the desires of the Spirit – and they are diametrically opposed. Once you have received justification in salvation then you are in the Spirit. The sanctification that follows is the process of growing the believer to desire the things of the Spirit. You can still freely choose disobedience but the desires of your heart are now to do the will of God instead of your own will.
But that is much easier said than done! The great apostle Paul even tells of this struggle. “For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.” (Romans 7:19-20) So Paul, having been justified, now desires to do the will of the Lord but because there is still sin here, he struggles and fails – as do the rest of us! It means I am not unique in my struggle of things of the flesh against things of the Spirit. He wants to do good, to obey God; and he wants to not do evil, to not disobey. Yet because of the presence of sin still in this world he finds himself doing the opposite. It is here where the believer longs for the final phase of our salvation: glorification.
Glorification: Our New Nature
Glorification is God's final removal of sin from the life of the believer in the eternal life. God’s glory will be realized in us; instead of being mortals burdened with sin nature, we will be changed into holy immortals with direct and unhindered access to God’s presence. It is the culmination of sanctification. We will no longer have that human nature that our spirits continually fight against. We will have a completely new nature.
We often think about it as one day receiving our glorified bodies that are free from disease, weakness, and frailty. But what makes those bodies free from disease, weakness, and frailty is existing in the absence of sin. And now we can start to see how we have free will in Heaven, yet no suffering there. Revisit the struggle that Paul describes. We desire to do good. We want to obey. But because of sin, we struggle. We are tempted, and we fail. What if those fleshly lusts and temptations were no longer around? What if you were free from the presence of sin? Then we can fully accomplish our true desire in our heart – which is to obey God and walk in His ways.
Look at the words from Hebrews 12:1-2 calling us to live our lives in godliness. The author says to, “Lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” So what if there were no weights anymore? What if there were no sin to easily ensnare us? Then we can live in that full godliness, in full obedience unto Christ. When we make those choices to walk with God, then there is no place for suffering. There is no suffering sin’s natural consequences if there is no sin. There is no suffering punishment for disobedience if no one disobeys. There is no need for trials to grow our faith and lead others to salvation if our faith is fully realized and all have salvation. There is no need for pain from discipline if we are all walking rightly with God. We will be unencumbered by the flesh to freely choose that which we truly desire, which is God. We will have free will and our will is to obey God. We will have no suffering because we will no longer stumble in our choice of obedience due to the presence of sin.
Defend the Faith Ministry has now teamed up with Mama Bear Apologetics. The following blog is my first post with the Mama Bears. We have a common goal to help moms (and dads!) understand the importance of teaching their children how to defend their faith. The moment we begin to instruct them in Biblical knowledge is the same moment the world begins to scheme to take that knowledge way. Therefore, from the earliest stages of raising children, we must be ready to defend that knowledge against the skepticism from the world. I hope you'll follow along in this journey of equipping others to Defend the Faith and encouraging the Mama Bears to protect the faith of their children.
I graduated valedictorian from a nationally ranked International Baccalaureate high school. I finished summa cum laude with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in engineering – all in five years while playing on a volleyball scholarship. Fresh out of college, I was a project lead on a new device for the PAC-3 missile system. Later I worked as a systems engineer for a new launch vehicle program at NASA. At that point, my husband and I were expecting our first child. And God rocked my world. Not just with motherhood, but by calling me to quit my job and stay home with our son. I never thought I would do that! My plans were to continue working my way up at NASA, but God’s plans were different. I went from reviewing the main propulsion system design on a rocket to keeping up with how often my son pooped each day. I went from assessing launch pad capabilities that support the launch vehicle system requirements to singing nursery rhymes and teaching shapes and colors. And it made my head hurt. It actually made my head hurt to change from my engineering career to my mommy career (let’s face it, it is simply an unpaid, no-vacation-allowed career). And now this little guy that rocked my world will be starting kindergarten this fall, and he has a little brother just 20 months behind him. Yikes. And that definitely still makes my head hurt!
Don’t get me wrong. I love what God has called me to. I was surprised as all get out, but God always knows what He’s doing. I’ll admit, some days it is still hard to remember why I left a place where my opinion was valued to go somewhere that I’m lucky if anyone acknowledges that I’ve spoken (ok, usually yelled) their name. I went from being trusted with decision making on NASA design implementations to being questioned if I know that “aten” is not a word.
While on this course of teaching these little guys their colors, how to read, and why those sounds shouldn’t be made at the table, I’m trying to instill in them the truth about God.
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