THE GOODNESS OF GOD, THE ETHIC OF LOVE, AND THE EXISTENCE OF EVIL

A question I was recently asked and have been asked many times over the years is, “How can evil exist in a world created by an all-knowing, all-powerful and benevolent Creator?” All of us have probably mulled over the question, “Howgodevil can God’s divine goodness co-exist with evil that plagues all humanity?” Trying to satisfactorily address such a weighty subject in a short blog is impossible, but from years of studying Scripture, reading men more brilliant than myself, philosophical observations, and living in a world where evil and good, love and hate are diametrically opposed, I will attempt to tackle the question hoping to shed some light.

The Bible teaches that the supreme ethic that God has given us is love: love for Him and love for our fellowman. Jesus was once conversing with the Pharisees and the Sadducees when He was asked what the greatest commandment of all was. Jesus responded, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like unto it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:35-40). Jesus taught that we cannot truly love our fellowman until our love is first anchored in the One who lived the supreme ethic and demonstrated such love in His life. Jesus taught that our love for our fellowman must first flow from our love for God, whose nature of holy-love is moral not amoral.

Now even those who deny God’s existence will embrace Jesus’ words that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. In doing so even the atheist is contending that the ultimate ethic is love. The late atheist Christopher Hitchens stated that man has an innate awareness that we are to love one another, but he had no idea where that innate realization came from. Well, it stands to reason this innate awareness of love as the supreme ethic points to the existence of a Divine Lover who created man and planted it in his heart. So for one to say there is evil in the world is acknowledging that evil is known and measured against a standard or ethic of love. And it is love which places worth on other persons as being of value and something which must be valued and treasured.

Love for our fellowman, which flows from a love for God, is the pinnacle of all spiritual, intellectual and emotional attainment in the honoring of human worth and dignity. However, it is not really love where it is not freely given. That which is compelled is not love, for love must be freely expressed by choice. There can be no true love without an inherent weaving into the fabric of ones being the freedom to willingly give and receive love. You cannot have love without the freedom of the will. If we are forced to love it is not love but a mechanical compliance. If one was made to comply with the ethic of love then one would never be able to willingly express or experience the emotion of love by free choice. If we are forced to love then we would never choose willingly the supreme ethic. Our response would be robotic not free.

The story is told of Alexander the Great once commanding one of his generals to love him. The general replied, “I honor you, I respect you, I fear you, I will follow you into battle, but you cannot command me to love you.” Love must be freely given, it must be a choice for it to be love or otherwise it would be emotionless conformity. Love is not real unless we have the ability to not love.

Now the choice not to love also allows for the potential for evil to occur. So if love is the supreme ethic and freewill is indispensible to loving God and man, and God’s goal is for His creatures to freely love Him and our neighbor, then if God intervened to suspend the possibility of evil He would be violating our freewill which is a necessary component for love to truly exist and be experienced. Yet if we ask God to suspend that which we see as evil then the Lord must violate and suspend the one necessary element which is essential for love to be expressed willingly – freewill. Otherwise, it would not be love but force. In essence we are asking the Lord to suspend the one fundamental intrinsic dynamic that allows us to love – freewill. When love for God and one’s fellowman is embraced as the supreme ethic and free will to choose or reject that ethic then that helps shed light on why contrary consequences result when making the choice to reject love, which, again, includes the possibility of evil. But love cannot reign supreme if it cannot be chosen.

When one chooses to love the Lord and their fellowman in spite of witnessing evil consequences that can occur when one rejects the ethic of love, it is then one truly appreciates and experiences the emotions and sentiments that are enjoyed when one willingly embraces such an ethic. When we ask God to suspend the potential of evil we are asking Him to deny our free will, to deny our ability to choose love for the sake of love. Again, to force us to love is not love but compliance to that which is of a mechanical and robotic nature. It is during times of the rejection of love that we see the horridness of evil, but in contrast the magnificent overcoming power of love. It is in our capacity of the freedom to choose that the contrast between the two is clearly distinguishable.

And one truth that remains and reigns supreme, “We love Him because He first loved us…and He demonstrated His love for us that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (I Jh 4:19; Romans 5:8).  It is from that truth the ultimate ethic of love must first flow.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

 

 

 

 

OPEN AND CLOSED DOORS IN THE NEW YEAR

dooropenOne truth I have learned over the years is that the Lord opens doors of opportunities, service and blessings for us to walk through. But He also closes doors…and if He closes one door He will eventually open another one. As 2016 comes to a close and 2017 looms upon the horizon, no doubt many doors have been swung open throughout the year as well as doors having been closed. While waiting for a new door to open we must be patient when one shuts to not try and pry it open again while we wait for the new one to open. As a New Year approaches let us pray for the wisdom to know the difference.

Whether it be a door of opportunity, a door of service, a door of relationship, a door of fruitfulness, a door of usefulness, a door of friendship, a door of faith, or a door of a new beginning we need to pray that the Lord will give us the wisdom to know when to go through a door and the wisdom to know when He has closed a door. And when He shuts a door may we submit to His will until He opens a new one. The Good Lord opens doors for a reason and He, as well, shuts a door for a reason. Some doors are not meant to stay open forever, but only for a season.

As a New Year rises like the sun on a new morning, may the Lord give each of us new open doors to walk through which will bring our way new and fresh blessings, new beginnings, and new opportunities to be an effective servant for Christ.  And if the Lord closes a certain door let us not be disheartened, just start patiently looking for the door that He has planned to open for us.  Now we can push and shove as hard as we can against a door the Lord has closed hoping it will open again for us, and in the process miss the new open  door that awaits us. Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, once stated, “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”door-open-closed

If we do experience closed doors in our journey of faith the Book of  Hosea encourages us, “And I will give her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor (lit. trouble or turmoil)  for a door of hope” (Hosea 2:15).  The verse speaks of the Lord opening a door of fruitfulness and hope in the midst of the valley of despair, disappointment, and discouragement that often occurs when we confront closed doors. May the Lord give us patience and open our eyes to see the new one He places before us.

If we are truly trusting the Lord He will in His timing open the doors which need to be opened and close the ones that need to be closed. Again, let us pray for wisdom to know the difference. So let us as we face the New Year trust the Lord to open the right doors and close the doors that would be for our determent realizing He closed it for our protection and good, and He opens new doors for His service and our blessing.

Revelation 3:8 reads, “I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it.” My prayer is that we will walk close to the Lord so our spiritual eyes will recognize such doors and the courage to walk through them.

Blessings in the New Year,

Dr. Dan

WAS THE ANGEL GABRIEL RIGHT?

The angel Gabriel appeared unto an unsuspecting teenager named Marangelmaryy. He informed her she would be the vessel through whom God would fulfill His long-expected promise of bringing a Savior into the world. Stunned at heaven’s message to her, she was filled with bewilderment and trembling-wonder how this can be seeing she had never known a man. Yet she yields herself as a willing vessel, being told that the child being formed in her womb shall be called Emmanuel, meaning “God with us.” Was Mary delusional or was the angel right? Time would tell.

Not long after Jesus’ birth Herod is found giving the command to have all male children two years of age and under slaughtered to make sure he eliminates this one who some were calling the King of the Jews. Mary and Joseph have to flee to Egypt for safety. If this Child is to be “God with us,” why such a travesty following His birth? Was the angel wrong?

This Child that was to be “God with us” is found rebuking Mary when she seeks for Him to display who the angel promised Him to be. In public and in a tone that probably tore at her heart, He tells her at a wedding, “Woman, what have I to do with thee?” (John 2) and in Matthew 12 when she seeks to talk with Him Jesus responds, “Who is my mother or brother but those who do the will of God.” No doubt Mary thought, “If Jesus is ‘God with us’ why does He seem so distant? Why does He even seem harsh to me at times? Could the angel have been wrong?”

Throughout His ministry Mary witnesses, in spite of Jesus’ miraculous deeds, the many hurtful remarks made about Him and hears of the many plots to kill the One to whom she gave birth. If He is “God with us” why is He not being accepted? And horror of horrors, she finally stands at the foot of a cruel cross and watches in agony as her son is crucified like a common criminal. He heart is broken and torn, as only a mother can fully feel and understand, tearfully watching her Son die. Whatever happened to the promise of the angel that He would be Emmanuel, “God with us?”

Could the angel have been wrong? Mary got her answer to that question three days later as an angel announced at the open tomb, “He is not here. He is risen.” Excited women and startled disciples were running around echoing the angel’s message, “He is risen.” The angel Gabriel had not been wrong, Mary had only misunderstood. The resurrection of her Son made it possible for Him to fulfill what the angel had originally promised Mary, “He shall be God with us.” His resurrection proved Christ was who the angel had promised; now alive for evermore it is possible for His presence to be with us in every situation and circumstance of our lives.

Like Mary, we may ask, “If Jesus is ‘God with us’ why does He seem distant at times? Why does life seem at times harsh? Why does my heart still become broken by sorrow and heartache?” No, the angel was not wrong, but, like Mary, we have a misunderstanding about the message of Christmas.

The Christmas story doesn’t mean there will be no more trials or problems, but because of Emmanuel, “God with us,” we have a new way to approach them.

The Christmas story doesn’t mean we don’t still fail and sin, but because of Emmanuel, “God with us,” we can find in Him forgiveness for all our sins.

The Christmas story doesn’t mean all our burdens are taken away, but because of Emmanuel, “God with us,” we are given an enabling strength to carry on.

The Christmas story doesn’t mean we will not have sorrow, but because of Emmanuel, “God with us,” He is there to comfort us and see us through to brighter days.

The Christmas story doesn’t mean loneliness will not sometimes visit us, but because of Emmanuel, “God with us,” we have the promise that He is always with us by our sides never leaving us alone.

The Christmas story doesn’t mean the world has changed, but because of Emmanuel, “God with us,” we have changed.

The Christmas story doesn’t mean our dreams and plans are not sometimes shattered, but because of Emmanuel, “God with us,” He gives us give new dreams, hopes and purposes that have eternal value.

The Christmas story doesn’t mean that sickness, disease and death will not eventually come to us, but because of Emmanuel, “God with us,” we find He is the resurrection and the life and those who believe in Him shall inherit eternal life.

The angel was right after all. The Christmas story means God in Christ is with us at all times. The Christmas story means it is possible to have a relationship with the promised Christ that is not subject to time, place or circumstances. Christmas means that we can say, “God with us” has birthed His presence into whatever circumstances and situations we go through.

The angel was right, Emmanuel is with us. That being true, the Christmas story can be experienced every day, all the year through.

Merry Christmas,

Dr. Dan

 

 

 

 

 

 

IT IS NOT ABOUT WHEN CHRIST WAS BORN BUT THAT HE WAS

the-birth-of-jesus-christJesus Christ was born. Now that is worth celebrating!! There are some, though,  within Christendom who oppose celebrating Christmas because as they contend, “Jesus was not actually born on December 25 and the early Christmas celebrations coincided with the pagan winter solstice feast in honor of Mithra, the unconquered sun-god.” The “first” celebration of Christmas (meaning “coming of Christ”) was observed in 336 AD, some twenty-four years after  Constantine, the Roman Emperor, declared Christianity the religion of the empire. Pope Julius I sought to replace the pagan feast with a new feast honoring and celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, the “Sun of Righteousness” (Malachi 4:2). In the years that followed the Christmas celebration slowly spread throughout Christendom.

I would not spend a minute arguing with someone who wants to object to celebrating Christmas because of its early origin. I personally don’t know anyone who seeks to celebrate the sun-god Mithra, but there are millions and millions of people at Christmastime who exalt Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Savior. If one fails to celebrate the birth of Christ who is the foundational reason behind Christmas then one truly misses out on experiencing the most wonderful time of the year. It is not important when Jesus was born, but that He was born…and that is worth celebrating whenever we choose to celebrate!

Now the question that I have had asked me many times over the years is, “If Jesus was not born on December 25, when was He born?” Without being dogmatic, let us see if we can deduce an approximate time of Christ’s birth by examining the Biblical record.

If it can be ascertained when Elizabeth conceived John the Baptist, then we can arrive at an estimated calculation for Christ’s birth. The Bible records that Zacharias, Elizabeth’s husband, was informed by the angel Gabriel that his wife would give birth to a child who would be the forerunner of the Messiah. Zacharias, a priest, was ministering in the Temple when the angel visited him (Luke 1:8, 24-26). Luke 1:5 tells us that Zacharias was a priest of the division of Abijah. It is discovered from First Chronicles 24,  the Talmud, Mishnah, and other Jewish sources that the division of Abijah served the second half of the fourth month of the Jewish religious calendar, which began in March with the Passover. This then would have been in mid to late June when Elizabeth conceived John the Baptist.

Luke goes on to record that it was six months after Elizabeth became pregnant with John the Baptist (June) that Mary was informed by the angel Gabriel that she had been chosen to give birth to the Christ Child (Luke 1:31, 36-39). So six months later would have been near the end of December when Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary and when she visited the home of Elizabeth to inform her that she had been chosen to be the mother of the Messiah (Luke 1:36).

So  fifteen (15) months after the conception of John the Baptist, Jesus would have been born. That would have been in the seventh month of the Jewish religious calendar, which would have been in late September. Such a time for the arrival of Christ would have been perfect timing with the most joyous of Jewish feasts, as the end of September was the beginning of the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles. It would only be appropriate that Christ be born at a time that would coincide with such a feast of thanksgiving and joyous reliance upon God’s grace and watchcare. Did John give us a hint of the time of Christ’s birth?  John 1:14 tells us that the Word (Christ) was made flesh and “dwelt” among us. The Greek word translated “dwelt” literally means He “tabernacled” or “pitched his tent” among us. Jesus came to tabernacle with man. So did Christ’s birth coincide with the Feast of Tabernacles? If so, it would have been a most fitting time. While this timeline some would consider speculation it seems to fit with the biblical record.

Again, the exact time when Christ was born is not important, what is important is that He was born. And in the birth of Jesus Christ the Creator took upon Himself the form of a servant and clothed Himself in human flesh to “tabernacle” among us. His destiny went beyond a wooden manger filled with straw, but a rough wooden cross where He as humanity’s Substitute was nailed… it was there He paid a sin debt that He did not owe but that you and I could never pay.

To the heart that has by grace been awakened to the amazing and marvelous truth of Christ’s finished work on the cross, the joy of Christmas dwells in one’s soul every day. While there was no room in the inn for Christ on the night of His birth, those who have experienced His birth in the inn of their heart can celebrate Christmas daily. While there are those who like to wrangle over the exact time when Christ was born, this I know…He was born and to those who know Him as Savior the joy of the Christmas season can dwell in one’s heart 365 days out of the year!!!

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

 

 

SING JOYFULLY – THE ANGELS DO

A few years ago I had a question asked of me that I have never had asked me before or since! It was a good question to ask, it being the Christmas season. The question was, “Does the Bible say that angels sing?”  The person asking me the question was under the impression angels sing, but someone had told them there is no place in the Bible where it says angels sing. Must we abandon our singing of, “Hark The Herald Aangels-singingjpgngels Sing”?!?!

I think there is Biblical evidence that angels do sing. One truth is for sure, the Bible does not say they don’t sing!

Job 38:7 seems to clearly indicate that the angels sang at the creation of the world. “The Lord answered Job out of the storm. He said…’Who marked off its dimensions?…who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set or who laid its cornerstone – while the morning stars sang together and all the angles shouted for joy?’” (Job 38:1-7).   In this passage the words “morning stars” is another term for angels and is an example of Hebrew parallelism, where the second line of Hebrew poetry repeats the same idea as the first line in different words yet they have the same meaning. In other words, the “morning stars” (angels) sang and shouted for joy at creation.

Whether angels sang or not was never a question with the Jews. Found in Jewish tradition is the belief that in order for angelic songs of praise and worship to be heard before the throne of God at all times the angels sang in shifts.  In the Midrash, which is a collection of Jewish teachings as found in the Torah, is recorded that when Moses spent his forty days with God that he knew what time it was by the angels changing singing shifts.

When it comes to the Christmas story it reads, “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men’” (Luke 2:13-14). Some will point out that the word “saying” is used not “singing.” However, to focus only on the word “saying” is too narrow of a focus. It also says the “heavenly host” (angels) were “praising God.” Doesn’t praise imply singing as well? Just what is praise? Praise according the dictionary is “the offering of grateful homage in word or song, as an act of worship, a hymn of praise to God.”

The word praise points us to singing. Praising the Lord and singing are inexorably connected. Praising the Lord on such a joyous occasion as the birth of Christ how could such praise not lead to singing? The announcement of Christ’s birth was not sterile and mechanical. It would be unimaginable to think the angels didn’t sing at the birth of our Savior.  It would be unimaginable to think that whatever the angles had to “say” their praise naturally flowed into in joyous singing.  To say otherwise is to rob the Christmas story of its wonder, joy, and heavenly excitement.

The eloquent British preacher, Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), in a Christmas sermon entitled The First Christmas Carol, preached on December 20, 1857, said of the angels, “They sang the story out, for they could not stay to tell it in heavy prose. They sang, ‘Glory to God on high, and on earth peace, good will towards men.’ Methinks they sang it with gladness in their eyes; with their hearts burning with love, and with breasts as full of joy as if the good news to man had been good news to themselves.”    To Spurgeon’s words I say, “Amen.”

The angels sang at creation and at Christ’s birth, and we find angels singing in the book of Revelation. Throughout Revelation chapters four and five are filled with reference to “angels,” “living creatures,” “the four beasts,” “twenty-four elders,” and “every creature which is in heaven” (5:13), worshiping, saying, singing, and praising He who sits on the throne. It is obvious the terms are used interchangeably to speak of singing as the meaning, not just speaking. Revelation 5:8-10  reads that the four beasts and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb (Christ), “having every one of them harps and golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of saints, and they sung a new song, saying….”

While the four beasts and twenty-four angels were singing the next verse says the angels joined in with them. When speaking of the angels, Revelation 5:11-12  declares, “And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing.’”  While the term “saying” is used, it is most clear the terms sung (v. 10) and saying (vs.10-11) are used synonymously as, again, verse 9 reads, “and they sung a new song, saying…” With chapters four and five of Revelation bathed in song, praise and worship, it is rather obvious that singing is implied and is the meaning, not just speaking.

Do angels sing? I think the answer is obvious. God has created “every creature which is in heaven and on the earth” (Rev. 5:13), with an inner propensity for singing and exhorts us to sing and make melody in our hearts to Him (Eph. 5:19). At Christmas time if you listen closely you can hear angels singing all around us of the Good News that a Savior has come to dwell with us.

This Christmas let us lift our voices in song with the chorus of angels who on that first Christmas night sang joyfully of our Savior’s birth. This Christmas let us raise our voices in praise and joyful song for our great God who came to walk amongst us. As we sing of the Christmas story we continue that crescendo of praise heard on that first Christmas night and that has continued to echo down through the ages.  Sing joyfully. The angels do.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

I AM THANKFUL I LIVE IN SURRY COUNTY

I am thankful I live in Surry County, North Carolina. The population is a little over 72,000. Much of the county is covered with gently rolling hills and valleys.  Located in the Appalachian Mountain region of western North Carolina,  the wthankrulestern third of the county lies within the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and, as well, found within the county is the western end of the Sauratown Mountain range.  The mountainous and rolling terrain, coupled with the many rivers and streams that flow throughout the county, can make for breathtaking scenery.

As beautiful as the scenery is throughout the county, that is not the main reason I am thankful I live in Surry County. When I watch the news and see all the unrest taking place in many parts of the nation because of disagreements over an election, I am thankful I live in a county, that while people may not always agree on politics, and even religion, they still remain on speaking terms with their neighbor. They still throw up a hand and wave when you drive by.  They are able to put differences aside to aid a neighbor in need.

While I have friends that voted different than I did, neither of us have organized a protest march, looted, trashed a car or burned down a building. It is wonderful to live in a county where people are still friendly to one another even though they may not all embrace the same political ideology. It is good to live in a place where people are still civil, considerate, courteous, respectful, and agree to disagree without harming their neighbors over the outcome of an election. It is  good to live in a place where people know how to move on with their lives. You see, people in Surry County have bigger issues to contend with  than who won or lost an election. Many are too busy trying to make ends meet, feeding their family, paying their bills to worry about marching in the streets over petty politics.

Some who live in metropolitan or urban areas may consider those who live in counties like Surry County, to be a bucolic area where people enjoy riding four-wheelers in the mud, hunting, driving pick-up trucks with a rifle hanging on a gun rack attached to the rear glass, having every once in awhile to dodge a cow in the road, and looking for a place to pass a tractor while driving on a country road. Yes, people in Surry County have a southern accent and still consider using the word “ain’t” to be proper English. Of course such people are stereotyped as being unsophisticated, uneducated, and back-woodsy. I believe the news media calls us Rednecks.

And of course, these same “Rednecks” grab their KJV Bibles and rush off to church on Sunday mornings to worship with those who they may disagree with on politics. While at church those same people who disagree on various issues, shake one another’s hands, hug one another, asking how the others family is doing, sit beside one another and sing hymns, pray together, laugh and cry together, and before departing from one another say, “If you need me for anything let me know.”  And they mean it, too.

Surry County is place that proves you can disagree with people and still be friends, that you can disagree and still be civil, you can disagree and still respect one another, you can disagree and still lend a helping hand to a neighbor in need. You see, you don’t have to agree with someone on every issue to be their friend. You don’t have to agree with someone on every issue to be kind and respectful. You don’t have to agree with someone on every issue to treat them like a Christian ought to treat others. You just have to follow the words of Jesus, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”

I am most thankful to live in Surry County where it seems the people I encounter throughout the county, either consciously or unconsciously, live by the Golden Rule. Just as the rolling hills are part of the county, I have found the Golden Rule the unwritten rule that seems embedded in its citizenry. Those who don’t understand can call us back-woodsy, they can call us Rednecks, but I don’t know of another place I would rather live.

You may not live in Surry County, but if you live in a similar place where people still respect one another regardless of whether they agree or disagree on every issue, then count your blessings and give thanks you live in such a place.

As Thanksgiving approaches I for one am thankful I live in a place like Surry County.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

 

 

 

 

 

THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION FROM A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE

As Election Day is fast approaching my head is hurting from listening to all the “experts” give their analysis of who will win. Some “experts” say Hillary has it locked up and Trump has no chance. Other “experts” predict Trump will capture a narrow victory. Who is right?

There is only One who knows with certainty how it will all turn out…the Good Lord. No matter who is elected it will not take the Lord by surprise. He is not sitancientdaysting in the heavens wringing His hands wondering who will win. He will not have to tune-in to FOX News or CNN to see who won. I have one vote and I will exercise my right to cast it. After casting my vote, no matter who wins I am confident and I believe as a Christian that whoever is elected President the Lord in His sovereignty has a divine purpose in it all.

From reading the biblical history of Israel the Lord (1) placed (allowed) leaders in power to use them to give the nation a reprieve to repent from their self-destructive ways resulting in spiritual revival, or (2) He allowed the wayward nation to receive the kind of leader they deserved and placed such leaders in power to use them as instruments to bring about just-judgment upon a society that had become saturated in sin as the result of turning their backs on the Moral Lawgiver. There are occasions judgment upon sin is giving a nation or an individual over to more sin. This is clearly seen in Romans chapter one as Paul declares the Lord at times gives man over to his own self-destructive ways. Such judgment is the inevitable consequence and reaction of God’s holiness to the sin which opposes it.

From a Christian perspective judgment upon sin transcends the purpose of vindictiveness, but vindicates the Lord’s nature of holy-love. The ultimate goal of judgment is for the purpose of the destruction of sin (which is self-destructive) and the establishment of God’s holiness and love wherein is found life and liberty. This is clearly seen in the cross, as there the sin of humanity was dealt with in holy-love. And the march of history is the working out of what was accomplished in Christ upon the cross, as there He dealt with sin, His holiness was satisfied and vindicated, and it was made possible for humanity to experience restored communion with the Creator. The cross ever towers over the wrecks of time as a reminder to a forgetful world that there is a holy God who reigns over all creation and lovingly seeks to bring man back (reconciles) into communion with Him.

The fact that God invaded time in the person of Jesus Christ reveals He not only is involved in history, but that He is Lord of history. The cross of Christ and His subsequent resurrection reveals man cannot thwart the ultimate restorative purposes of God for His creation and His creatures. The book of Daniel clearly teaches that God raises monarchs to the throne and He sinks them as He pleases. History has shown kingdoms come and kingdoms go, but He who is called the Ancient of Days ( Daniel 7:22) not only transcends history but invades history with His presence in Jesus Christ.

God is sovereign in his rule over the final outcome of history, but He does not deny the freedom of man to make his own decisions even to his own destruction. Pharaoh thought he was standing against the Lord and stopping His purpose, but he found out in the end he was simply a pawn in the hands of an all-wise and omnipotent Creator. In spite of Pharaoh’s evil ways they were directed by He who is Lord over history to contribute to the deliverance of the Hebrew people from bondage in Egypt. While my desire and prayer is to see this nation avoid being led further away from the Judeo-Christian ethic and sinking deeper into a cesspool of moral self-destruction, I place my trust in a sovereign Lord whose desired ultimate will shall not be thwarted by any person  no matter how powerful or evil they may appear to be. Even though  the Lord often allows nations to walk in their own ways (Acts 14:18), the Lord is above and over history and will have the final say as to its unfolding.

Therein lies the Christian hope that the Lord rules in the affairs of man even when it appears darkness is extinguishing the Light  The Master Chessman is always behind the scenes making moves not always visible to the physical eyes.  If the world is not ruled by a Heavenly Governor, then the affairs of man are left to impersonal laws of relativism…which invariably leads to wholesale materialism and plunges humanity into the darkness and hopelessness of atheism.

So be assured my Christian friend, regardless of who is elected President they will be a vessel in the Hands of a sovereign God who will direct the leader’s ways to bring about the unfolding of His desired purposes. I will tend to my responsibility and vote, and then leave the working out of the results to the One in whom I trust and know holds the past, present and future in His hands.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

 

A HERO OF THE EVERYDAY MAN

I was filled with sadness when I learned of the death of Arnold Palmer. He was 87 years old. He was one of those figures you thought would live forever. My eyes welled up with tears as I watched news reports informing viewers of his passing. The man was an icon. He was a man who was larger than life. He defined the word “legend.” He was a hero of the everyday man.

My father being an avid golfer, I grew up watching Palmer play golf on TV. My father did not have many heroes, buarnold-palmert Arnold Palmer was one of them. For my father all the world stopped when the King was playing golf. He was the honored guest in our home each weekend.

Palmer  was a man’s man. His passion was contagious. People drew inspiration from his accomplishments. He captivated his fans with his amazing shots. You cheered when he was triumphant and heartbroken when he lost.  He was not only a great golfer, but  he was a great gentleman. Joyous in victory, he was always gracious in defeat.

Back in the mid-1990s when the Senior Tour came to Tanglewood in Winston-Salem I went to watch him play. For some four hours I was part of Arnie‘s Army. There were times that day I came within a few feet of him. I was in awe watching him swing a golf club. I was in awe of him period. I don’t remember what he shot that day. I didn’t care, for I was part of Arnie’s Army. I remember his broad shoulders and massive forearms. He was a Popeye come to life. Oh my how he could crush a drive. He possessed an air of confidence that was mixed with genuine humility. When he made a good shot the crowd would roar and he would acknowledge appreciation to his army with that trademark swashbuckling smile of his and an appreciative nod. I will forever be grateful I got to watch him at least once play golf.

Palmer reflected values and a character that many sport “stars” of today seem to be lacking. Unlike some of the selfish and spoiled-brat  “stars” of today, Palmer realized golf would not be what it was without the fans, and he always sought to gratefully show his appreciation to them. He never lorded his greatness over others but made his fans feel they were responsible for and shared in whatever greatness he might have obtained. His charismatic  personality endeared him to people of all walks of life. He was a man who could dine with queens and presidents, but was more at home with the common man. He never forgot his own humble beginnings, and  identified with those who cheered for him on every swing.

Arnold Palmer transcended golf. His philanthropy was well known, as he gave to many charitable causes without fanfare and never for the sake of notoriety, but for the purpose of helping others who were less fortunate. He earned much and received much, but he, as well, gave much, much more back.  It was said at the death of Julius Caesar, “We shall never see his like again.” That can be said of Arnold Palmer. He most certainly was the King who wore his crown well.

Another hero of the masses has gone to his reward. While those who grew up watching his memorable swing are saddened at his passing, there is thanksgiving in the heart for the privilege of having watched a giant of a man walk amongst us.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

SEEKING ANSWERS IN THE FACE OF EVIL

The nation is in shock once again at another senseless and cowardly act of violence, this time occurring very early Sunday morning in Orlando, Florida. The horrific evil actions of a madman resulted in the worst mass shooting in USA history. Such acts of maliciousness, and obviously planned out evil leave us in shock and shaking our heads. As well it leaquestions-and-answersves us with questions that cannot be easily answered. What in the name of all that is loving and that is morally responsible would cause someone to commit such a horrific act to fellow human-beings?

While it is true we are reminded once again that evil does exist in the world, a deeper question needs to be asked. What is to be our response when such atrocious acts shake like an earthquake the very foundation of our Christian faith? What is the Christian answer in the face of evil?

I certainly don’t claim to have many answers in the face of such heartbreak, and if anything I have a lot of questions myself. I always do when unspeakable evil takes place. However I would like to offer some reflections from a biblical perspective. In the midst of such awful tragedy the question of “Why” can never be answered and will drive us to spiritual desperation trying to find an answer.. However, when our minds want to ponder “Why” we must turn our attention to the “WHERE” in the midst of our “Whys.” Where are we to turn, not necessarily for answers, but for strength and comfort in the darkness of our unanswerable questions? The answer to that question is found in a divine WHO.

Man was created with the capacity to have a relationship with his Creator, yet when that relationship is neglected man, as well, has the capacity to commit horrific evil. Our capacity to walk with God or walk away from God, can result in men making choices that at times seem to be those of angels and at other times choices that resemble those of devils. The result of our choices can have both individual and societal repercussions for good or evil. Sadly, too often our sinful, selfish, and godless choices and behavior are like harsh winter winds that have no respect for who its cold winds blow upon. What are we to do, where are we to go when the cold winds of evil viciously blow upon our brow?

The foundation of the Christian faith rests upon Jesus Christ in whom God has acted in history when He clothed Himself in our humanity. That a holy God has acted continued in Christ’s cross, His resurrection and His sending us “another Comforter” – the Holy Spirit – to abide with us forever. As man our God has wept through human eyes, as God He a seeks to lift us out of our sin and suffering, rather that suffering  be the result of  our own bad choices or as the result of the evil and violent behavior of others. As Christ wept with Mary and Maratha at the death of their brother, Lazarus, so He weeps with us over the consequences that sin, whether it be ours or someone elses, can bring into our lives.

We must not forget that Jesus Christ bore in his physical body, as he hung on the cross, the very worst evil that mankind could inflict. Yet in the midst of the darkness of the worst of evil which Christ experienced He was victorious, and in His victory He provided for us Light in the midst of our darkness, comfort in the midst of our pain, and hope in the midst of what appears hopelessness and senselessness. He has promised that even in tragedy, He can make all things new.

We must not forget that because of God’s suffering with Christ on the cross, as He tasted the evil and sin of all mankind, and His triumph over it all, we gain the assurance that God can and will be with us in our suffering and pain. God, who in Christ on the cross was the greatest Sufferer of all, is the assurance we will ultimately obtain victory even though tears may temporarily fill our eyes.

P.T. Forsyth has written, “God is able to empathize with all human suffering because He has, in the event of the Cross, experienced the height of suffering…God spared not His own Son from suffering, and in the midst of suffering rose above it; then even in the most dreadful things that man can produce He bids us to follow Him in our sufferings so that His victory might be actualized in us.”

In the midst of our heart-felt sobs and tears, if we listen closely we can hear the comforting voice our Savior saying, “I understand, for I, too, have suffered and am touched with the suffering and pain that touches you.” Our Christ is not indifferent, He is the Chief sufferer and giver, He is one who has paid the greatest price to secure for us atonement and the comfort that God is with us in our suffering. Forsyth says, “On the cross of God’s incomparable suffering is that it provides us with a concrete model of faith to emulate in our times of suffering: that of the crucified Christ.”

We may never logically understand the suffering that touches us and those we love, but we with the conviction of faith understand that what Christ did on the cross He did for us all. On the cross he took our sin, our heartache, our brokenness, our grief, and our questions; and with a holy love that can’t be intellectually grasped but can be experienced, He entered into a realm of suffering that is beyond our comprehension that we might know His abiding presence in every circumstance and situation of our lives.

The message that Christ’s death and resurrection proclaims ever echoes in air — that Christ, by His resurrection, is able to be present in our every situation – both good and bad. Found in the One who overcame death He seeks to help us be overcomers in the “death situations” in our lives.

That Christ lives means we are not alone in our suffering, He is with us. While the world can be cruel, evil, bringing us sorrow, and leave us with many unanswered questions, we must remember that in Christ we find comfort, hope and His presence that enables us to continue on in faith as we wait for that Day when He makes all things new and dries every tear from our eyes.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

REMEMBERING OUR FALLEN HEROES

Memorial Weekend is upon us and Memorial Day is Monday. The meaning of Memorial Day transcends simply gathering with family and friends for a festive cookout or a day when many have off from work. In this politically correct day in wMemorial Dayhich we live the true meaning of Memorial Day is lost to many and, sadly, its meaning is not often taught or fully appreciated. It is a time we pause to remember our fallen heroes.

There are several stories on how Memorial Day actually began. One of the first observances in honoring the war dead occurred in the southern state of Mississippi. On April 25, 1866, in Columbus, Mississippi, a group of women were decorating the graves of Confederate soldiers who had fallen in the battle of Shiloh. A grief-stricken mother, after decorating the graves of her two sons who died fighting for the South, walked over to two mounds of dirt at the corner of the cemetery to place flowers on the graves of two Union soldiers. As she respectfully placed the flowers on the barren graves, someone said to her in a rebuking tone, “What are you doing? Those are the graves of Union soldiers.” Responding in a voice filled with compassion and sympathy, the mother softly stated, “I know. I also know that somewhere in the North, a mother or a young wife mourns for them as we do for ours.”

Such a loving act of kindness was one of the seeds that were planted in the soil of a fractured nation that grew into what became known as Memorial Day. In May of 1868, three years after the Civil War ended, Decoration Day was observed when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers in Arlington National Cemetery. General John Logan stating, “Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”

Each year afterwards more and more states recognized Decoration Day, honoring all those who lost their lives in the Civil War. By the turn of the 20th century Memorial Day ceremonies on May 30 were being held throughout the nation. After WWI the day was expand to honor and remember those who died in all American wars. In 1971 Memorial Day was declared by Congress a national holiday, being observed on the last Monday in May.

It is only fitting that on this special day we pause to honor those who have faithfully served our country and the some 1.2 million American service men and women who have died in our nation’s wars. It has been said of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country, “Not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions, but there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of men.”

Because evil seeks to suppress life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, freedom always comes at a price. Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter written to William Stephens Smith, November 13, 1787, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural [nourishment].”

Samuel Adams, a Founding Father who helped draft the Articles of Confederation, stated, “The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil Constitution, are worth defending at all hazards.”

This country just didn’t happen; it began on July 4, 1776 when 56 brave men signed their names to a document known as the Declaration of Independence pledging together their lives that we might have the United States of America. Let us not forget our Founding Fathers sacrifices and those who have served this great country and those who shed their blood that freedom might still flourish.

While it would be more than wonderful if no more wars were fought, we live in a world where liberty must be defended as long as freedom-hating tyrants exist. As Americans we may not always agree with the wars that we as a nation find ourselves involved in, but we must always rally around those who put their lives on the line to keep us free from tyrannical rulers and those who seek to oppress freedom and liberty. These freedom-defending men and women are the real heroes amongst us.

This Memorial Day as we gather with family for cookouts, as we embark upon family outings, as we enjoy the freedoms we too often take for granted, let us pause and give thanks to the Good Lord for all those who have served and those who have sacrificed so much. As well, let us breathe a silent prayer for those serving on foreign soils that are separated from their families that we might be able to be with ours.

May God Bless (and have mercy upon) the United States of America.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan