Sunday, September 29, 2013

What do people mean when they say you are twisting Scripture?

A half-truth is a whole lie.
Yiddish Proverb

Beware of the half-truth. You may have gotten hold of the wrong half.

Twisting Scripture? Theologians have long pointed out that you can prove anything from the Bible. The atheist looks at scripture and sees errors compounded on more errors; the cultist looks on scripture and sees bizarre interpretations; the Christian looks upon scripture and sees the wondrous God that is described therein. Truth, like her sister Beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. But Truth, Reality insists, is an absolute, and they that ignore it do so at the peril of their souls.

I cannot count the ways that scripture has been twisted. Man, with a perverse heart, seems to have found innumerable interpretations that allow whatever behavior he wants to excuse. Yet, the message of the Bible has changed millions of lives, dramatically and for the better. There is no discounting of the testimony of saints like John Newton, Whittaker Chambers, or Chuck Colson. Dramatic changes happen in sin-stained lives as the God of the Bible is discovered to be true. But all of that, and it is true, does not belie the fact that messy perversions of the scripture have happened throughout history.

Why do the scriptures get so twisted? Those who do not see God seem nonetheless to be highly creative and imaginative creatures, and are capable of postulating the most bizarre propositions from scripture. Communism and slavery have both found their justification from the Bible, from those who would pervert its message. All sorts of other perversions have happened to the Bible, by these creatures, and the message of the Bible is muddied.

The Reformers thought that when the Bible was made available to the masses that things might finally change—that the word of God would get out and shine like it is supposed to. In large measure, they were right, and I have long maintained that Calvin and Luther’s greatest contribution to the church was in getting the Bible to the masses. But, as with most good intentions, there are always bad ends not foreseen. I do not think that any foresaw the rapid rise of cults that were allegedly based on the Bible. There were hundreds of such cults in the 1800s in America, and during the last century they seemed to multiply even faster. What can be done to combat the plethora of false messages?

I think the answer is found in the question: does God really mean what he says? If we do indeed think that he does, then we had better turn to the word and examine completely what he says. I remember that Satan originally deceived Eve, not by lying, but rather by telling half-truths. He cleverly suggested to Eve that the one law made by God was that they were not to eat of any tree in the garden. Eve seems eager to correct that impression, and cites God’s command only to leave the one tree alone. She erred by adding to God’s command, saying, do not touch it or you shall surely die. In that singular addition, do we not see the first “cult” being developed? Surely, the least we should learn from her error is that we need to find what God says, and stick to it exactly. There is an old Yiddish proverb that states it exactly, “A half truth is a whole lie."

And that is precisely the problem of heresy. Sometimes it is found in outright denial of scripture, but more often it is found in clever additions that are overlooked by those caught in such half-truths. Those of us who would find the real message of the word are caught in the middle between two extremes. On the one hand, some of those we are around deny the scriptures themselves, but, on the other hand, there are many who cleverly seek to change the message, to add to it, or to take away from it. Says Satan, “You shall surely not die”, meaning that God had to mean something other than what he plainly says. But Eve would have been so much better off had she just taken the simple sense of the command, neither adding to it, nor allowing herself to change it in the slightest. It is what it is.

To avoid twisting the scriptures, teachers are challenged to rightly divide the word of truth. In fact, Paul is concerned enough about Timothy (2 Tim. 2:15) to warn him personally to, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” By application, the verse extends to those who find themselves in Timothy’s shoes—namely those who would teach the word of God. In the New International Version, the word study found in the above verse is rendered “do your best”. From the original Greek, the word has the idea of being diligent. Thus both study and doing your best are good translations. We are to strive with all effort to teach that which the Bible has taught to the church throughout the centuries.

John Milton reminds us, “The end then of learning is to repair the ruins of our first parents by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love him, to imitate him, to be like him.”1 There is only one way to know God aright, and that is through rightly dividing the word of truth. Paul elsewhere says that we are to take the sword of the Spirit. Why the Spirit? Because, as he finishes the verse, the sword of the Spirit is the word of God. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that the word of God is living and active and sharper than any sword. Thus, when we teach the whole word of God, we are presenting the whole truth.

I cannot leave this without mentioning that there is only one way to interpret things. What I mean by that is not at all the way I interpret things. I am not trying to be pretentious here. Instead, what I mean is that God has intended what he said to mean something. Our job is to work out what he means. My Bible teachers at Biola used to say to me, “when the simple sense makes the best sense, seek no other sense.” I know that there are many passages of scripture which scholars look at, not understanding, and then seek to interpret them symbolically. But often history has revealed those interpretations not to be able to stand up, and often the plain sense of what God says comes through to the church. I do not pretend to understand Revelation, nor what God exactly intends to do, but is it not plain that the judgment of mankind and Satan are two prevalent themes? Perhaps we ought to take what God says as plainly as we can figure out. Dare we do anything else?

1. John Milton, Milton on Education, the Tractate of Education,: With Supplementary Extracts from Other Writings of Milton

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Does Jesus really love me?

It always seemed to me, before I became a Christian, that it was an absurd notion that the God of all creation would be concerned with me. I could see how there might be a God, but a God who cared for individuals who are just such a small part of the real estate of the universe? Not likely. And the same thing for all of mankind. A caring loving God was beyond conception. And when I looked at all the evil mischance in the history of mankind, I did not see the beauty that I thought would come with a beauteous Creator; on the contrary, what I understood of mankind seemed only to confirm my doubts.

But that is exactly what I found in my encounter with God—a God who intensely, personally loves me. Precious in the sight of all believers is that time when they know, specially, for the first time, that God indeed loves them for themselves. Rather than saying I found God, I should be pointing out that God found me, and in the brief moment before I was found, there were some poignant seconds where God seemed to reveal hundreds of times when His Spirit had been in my life, convicting me of his love and his truth. I cannot speak for others except by observation, but salvation to me was an intensely personal experience. It was an experience where all at once God seemed to flood my soul with an awareness of the multitude of times he had intervened in my life. I, who had tried my best to hold truth sacred to my soul, found that there was a Truth whom I had blinded myself to.

It was such a wrenching experience that I fell on my face and simply wept in awe at my sudden awareness of him, who had been there all along, in his deep mercy, and in his vast love, desiring that I should turn from my ways and acknowledge him. Unabashedly this is what I did for hours, turning to him, I thought, because I had at last found Truth to be irresistibly attractive. It was not at that point that I had any Christian nomenclature correct. I knew I had been wrong all those years of not following him—but I had not yet realized it was termed sin. I knew that I had found meaningful life in him, but I knew not about eternal life. All that was to be found out as I realized that God did indeed leave a handbook for man to find out about him. That awareness was soon to follow, as I hungrily sought his direction in the Bible.

But the point I would make now, is that the non-believer should be approached with the good news. I lament and cringe a bit when I hear my well-meaning friends tell someone they need to repent of their sins and be saved. Paul, in his message at Mars Hill, hones the gospel carefully, speaking of the unknown god, and thus brings the gospel in a highly tuned manner to the Greeks that needed to hear it. What I do not read in Paul’s message is his disdainment of the pagan Greeks, though surely his flesh cringed when he saw their many gods and many follies. He gave them the simple message, that God had sent his Son into the world, to die for our sins, and to be raised victoriously from that death. Hearing that message, the book of Acts tells us only a few men became followers by believing, but more wanted to hear his message again.

Had Paul not honed that message, I doubt that any would have responded with belief. I notice that the belief precedes the knowledge of sin, and the knowledge of the need to repent. We cannot stand long in the majesty of God, with all his vast glory shining upon us, without realizing our abject need of deep repentance. But repentance follows belief. It is no good telling a man to repent of his sins unless that man should find out that there is a loving God who does in fact have a plan for his life. Once I learn of the gospel—the good news that Jesus died at the plan of God for me, then and only then, do I see myself through God’s eyes, and repentance follows at once. Jesus, I think, had something to say about that when he referred to the man forgiven by another of a small debt, and then compared that to a man forgiven of a large debt. To get a man to repent of his sin when he is thinking only of that time he got drunk and did something reprehensible, is not that difficult, but neither does the man have a coherent idea of his need. He is still thinking himself to be basically a good fellow, a righteous man, who will graciously accept the forgiveness of God, and thus only understanding a smidgeon of his grace.

But it is not that way at all! We are forgiven a large debt, not just a few petty actions, and it is only then we begin to understand that Jesus really meant it when he said that he is not come to call the righteous, but rather the sinner to repentance. The righteous man will never understand the grace of his forgiveness; the sinner will never quite get over the immeasurable grace of forgiveness. The righteous man is blinded by his own deeds; the sinner is quite aware of his past and of what justice would bring, and receives mercy with thankfulness.

It is rather like a man who discovers that he has rather a deep cut on his finger, and goes to the hospital to get it stitched. However, upon arriving at the hospital, the technicians determine the man is in the middle of a heart attack, and rush him to emergency. But no, it is even a bit worse than that, for the same man gets to emergency, and the doctors find his heart is stopped, and that, if they do not immediately intervene that patient will die. If you want to love God a lot, you need to abolish the idea of the cut finger altogether, and concentrate on the heart that the Great Doctor has just got beating again. It is only then that you might begin to love much, just as you also are much loved.

What is man that you are mindful of him, cries the Psalmest. I do not pretend to understand why the Creator would even begin to care the least bit about me; but I know he does. I do not pretend to understand why he not only cares, but he cares the most he possibly could. All of his vast heavenly energies were spent in giving his Son on the cross. Having spent his all, he could spend no more. He had given everything to redeem what I could call worthless humanity.

But that is only the beginning of the story. The Son gave his all, that he might impart the Spirit, who is busy giving of himself to fill every believer. Neither shall any man pluck them out of my Father’s hand, declares Jesus. Every believer has the earnest expectation of being remembered, and loved, for all of eternity, and all of that is secure by the Spirit sealing us permanently in the body of the church. Paul says that no one and nothing shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.

Does Jesus love you? Yes, and a thousand times yes. Broken and crumpled as an old dollar bill we may be, but he still finds something in us to love, for he is able to see beyond that brokenness toward what he intends to make of us. “I am master of my fate,” proclaims the proud man. Yet he does not see that he cannot number his days, neither can he make one hair black or white. His wrinkles come in, his teeth go out, and time will bend him ever downward. His brokenness grows as he fashions his Ebenezer-like chains, a link at a time. He does not see or perceive that Jesus would melt all those links away, if he would only believe. And that is the real question: will you not begin to love the One who loves you so much? A journey of a thousand steps, but it begins with the one step of belief. “He that comes to me I will not cast out.”

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Why do we say, “it doesn’t matter”?

Why do we say it doesn’t matter? I imagine that is what Eve said to her snaky friend when he suggested she eat of the fruit and become like God. Eve, wondering about the one limit God had placed on her probably said, “It doesn’t matter. God is probably waiting for me to test him, and becoming like him is probably what he wants me to do anyway.” And Adam seeing Eve’s plight, must have said the same thing as he knowingly disobeyed, “It doesn’t matter.” The whole human race was affected, now for thousands of years, far more than Eve was willing to, or perhaps able to foresee. It did matter after all.

The Jewish people compiled a history of saying, “It doesn’t matter.” God would tell them to stop worshipping Baal, and they would murmur, “It doesn’t matter.” God gave them rules to follow, commandments to teach their children, and all they said was, “It doesn’t matter.” Their messiah at last did come, and their only comment, after waiting a thousand years? “It doesn’t matter.” One day soon, the Bible declares, they will mourn for him whom they pierced, and one that day, they will find that it did matter after all.

God designed marriage to be one man and one women, saying for this purpose shall a man leave his mother, and that the two will become one flesh. We today are not the first to tell God that it doesn’t matter. Civilizations buried in the ashes of history have long done the same thing, saying, “God, you are so outdated and conventional. Don’t you know it doesn’t matter?” But then we discover anew that it did matter after all.

One more drink won’t matter, whispers the small voice to the young man. After decades of having the one more drink, the young man wakes up old, bereft of all the rich promises of his aspiring youth, and he too, finds that it did matter after all.

Marrying her? What an outdated convention! The man and the woman live together, and all seems as if it might work out. But then hard times come, and one or the other decide that the relationship is over. Too bad about the kids, but they will have to figure out a way of getting by. The thought of giving myself for life to someone is just too much. But decades later, alone and senile and bereft of the very children he sired, he goes into that darkness, finding out that yes, it did matter after all.

We lie, we steal, we cheat. We think that as long as we are okay most of the time, God will overlook our little faults. We forget that we get so little recompense when we sell our integrity.
We make promises to our children. We think they won’t notice or remember our promises and so, we refuse to keep them.
We make youthful promises to ourselves that we will not compromise our ideals, but our race to senility strips those ideals one by one, and betrays us at the end.
We take that drug because it really does make us feel so good. It is just one time, and surely no one has ever felt this good before. We do not realize that we are swapping feeling for the core of who we are, and too often we slip into that night with great feeling betraying life itself.

“What does it matter” echoes its cry down the annals of history, and at each turn, people find out that it did matter after all.

Beware of the cry of today. People are told that there is a Savior, one who brings the forgiveness of God, that we might have life, have it abundantly, and have it eternally. It doesn’t matter is their cry. There is more than one way to heaven. Surely God will make an exception in my case, and will overlook my sin. After all I meant well.
But the words of Jesus ring truly, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.” Do not make the mistake of telling yourself the lie. The lie has rung its way through history, and has been shown to be wrong every time. It does matter after all, and Jesus did mean what he said.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

What does the Bible mean when it says we ought to put on the whole armor of God?

Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. Ephesians 6:11

I notice that when all the pieces of armor are added together, there is no piece that guards the back. Spurgeon long ago commented about this, “'Tis hard going on, but we cannot retrace our steps, for we have no armor for our backs. Suppose we should take to reasoning, suppose we should give up the fundamentals of our faith, what would remain to us?”1 There is no turning back for the Christian, only pressing forward toward the high calling of Jesus Christ. Does that mean that the Christian will not suffer defeat in battle? By no means!

What does it mean then? God has, I think, called us to live a life of faith, a faith that presses forward into whatever he has called us, and some of the time, that ends in utter defeat, but according to the province of God. God simply is greater than evil, though that in no way denies the evil of our world. While it is true that in the near future defeats may come, all will prove victorious in the end. The prayer of Christ haunts my soul with its uplifting words, “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost” (John 17:12). None of them is lost. Ever. May I point out that most of those apostles died a death of martyrdom? Yet still they win! The victory is ours in Christ, though we may have temporary defeats in this world.

In particular, I think the verses are referring to setting yourself up, or building yourself to be able to stand “against the wiles of the devil”, and thus the verses are encouraging us to take upon ourselves the weapons that God has given us. It is to those weapons that we must look if we are to at all understand how to arm ourselves.

Before I explain those weapons, I would like to note that here is yet another place where we are told to stand, and yet if I understand scripture at all, it is God who stands in us. The mixture of the will of man and the sovereignty of God is blended in a manner that we cannot fathom or separate. God both clearly sanctifies, or separates us for his holy purposes, but he also calls upon us to sanctify, or separate ourselves to his purpose. Man’s will and God’s sovereignty are mixed together inseparably in a manner that is absolutely unfathomable to man. It is all God working in us, and still we are responsible to give ourselves to him. Who, besides God, could ever understand how they work together?

Stand, says Ephesians, girded with truth and the breastplate of righteousness. Every Christian has the truth of the gospel, and every Christian is to keep themselves with the righteousness that is by faith. Staying centered in the Spirit, being quick to confess and agree with God about your sins, and looking with the Spirit onward to the high calling of Jesus is precisely what we are called to do. I am reminded of the little boy David when he faced Goliath and said, “Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts.” It is only through faith that we can have victory at all, and if we are to beat our Goliaths, we must come in the name of the Lord of hosts.

Ephesians bids us to shod our feet with the preparation of the gospel. One of my aims as a young man was to commit large portions of the Bible to memory. This I did, and over the period of many years, I have memorized many great passages of scripture. But when we come to the Word, we really are coming to something which would teach us of the Infinite, and now with forty years of being a Christian, I have realized there are many gems to yet be appreciated within Bible study, and if I am to get them, I must dig diligently. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God” says the Bible, and God has many treasures left for those of us who will search the scriptures. Shodding your feet is a lifelong process, and one I suspect may continue with us in the hereafter.

The shield of faith is still required, even for a sixty year old man. I find myself under attack as a voice will whisper in my mind, do you really believe that? It is just too fantastic to be true. At such times, I must take the shield of faith, and reply to that voice, yes, I believe that because I choose to believe God. I find it ironic that even when I know God so well, and have experienced his hand in many years of my life, that it is still by faith that I must walk when those doubts assail me. Particularly hard for me is all the evil in the world that an older fellow becomes aware of. I am by no means sophisticated enough to realize the evils of the world, and yet, I do become more aware of both the wickedness of many men, and of the world. Believing in a God of Goodness and Mercy, and seeing a frighteningly evil world requires faith, trust in God that does go beyond what I know to that of which I have assurance. We must walk by faith.

The helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Carrying forth the message of salvation with the Word of God to back it up is the highest and most important calling of the Christian life. If the message of Christ is to be believed, the world is hell-bent, and it is only by the life-changing message of salvation that any will be saved. Our family members and our friends are many times without this knowledge and the burden to carry the message to them, as frequently and boldly as we can, is a burden to eclipse all else. Jude reminds us to snatch them from the fire, hating even the clothing stained by their lifestyles. If we truly loved and believed God in this message, I believe that our hearts should be broken continually for those around us. Paul says, “For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” So ought to be our attitude towards our friends and family and countrymen.

In everything, I ought to pray. My God loved me enough to send his Son. My God loved me enough to set his Spirit inside of me, to hear me, to aid my prayers, and frequently to answer those prayers. Let me come boldly before the Throne of Grace, to know that he is filled with mercy and tenderness toward me, not because of anything I am, but because he chose to love me. What power I have in prayer! Oh God, help me that I might avail myself of you in prayer, and seek your power in reaching a lost world.

1. Spurgeon, Charles (2011-10-05). The Essential Works of Charles Spurgeon: Over 60 Books, Sermons, and Devotionals (Illustrated) (Kindle Locations 16653-16654). . Kindle Edition.
2. Ephesians 6
11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;

3. Isaiah 59
17 For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

What does the Bible mean when it says all things work together for good?

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

When I am trying to answer a question like this one, I like to start from the negative, because I think there is much confusion on the part of Christians about this verse in Romans. In other words, I want to start defining this verse by explaining what it does not mean. It does not mean that everything is rosy in this world, and that all things will work out in every situation. I have heard my friends misquote this passage during their times of hurt. Particularly, I am thinking of when they have experienced the loss of a loved one, and then they will sort of aimlessly throw this quote into the air, and act as if they believe it, but they are about as credible as an atheist swearing on the Bible. Life has brought them more trouble than they know what to do with; they are swimming in pain, and yet they know the goodness of God, and they desperately are reaching for something to assuage their grief and reconcile the goodness of God with their horrible hurt. The trouble is that this verse is not about life possibly going seriously wrong, and the promise gets misapplied in their great need.

Perhaps it would be beneficial to turn to an Old Testament example to explain what I mean. Joseph had eleven brothers, ten of whom were a problem for him. Joseph and Benjamin were what we today would call full brothers, that is, they shared the same mother and father. They got along well, and loved one another. The other boys were half-brothers. They had a different mother, but they all shared Jacob as a father.

Joseph was 17 and had a dream. The dream was okay, but the problem was that Joseph told the dream to his half-brothers, and they hated him for it. Remember the dream? They were binding sheaves of grain, but Joseph saw his sheaf rise and stand above all the others, and the others bowed down to it. Now, Joseph was already the favorite of his father, and naturally his brothers despised him for it. But when he proclaims the dream to his brothers, they hate him even the more.

They plot to kill him, but because of the conscience of Reuben, they sell him into slavery instead, and carry back a bloody coat of many colors to his father, who then grieves for his son. Joseph is sold into slavery, and ends up in prison. Can we apply Romans 8:28 to him, and say that all things work together for good? Not quite yet.

It is only when the Pharaoh has a dream and learns of Joseph’s gift of interpreting them that things begin to work out for Joseph. Ultimately Joseph is reunited with his father and brother, and the very dream that he started with is fulfilled as his brothers bow down to him, the second in power in all of Egypt.

The Bible records the saying of Joseph here, and the very reason I think the story is so pertinent, is because of what he said. The half-brothers, still lying and with unrepentant natures, make up a story about Jacob’s deathbed wish. Joseph is supposed to forgive his brothers. I believe Joseph not to be at all fooled, but he weeps anyway, and proclaims, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

Thus we have it. God is able to take the evil actions of others, and fold them into the sovereign plan for overall good. In this case, the good took a decade or more to work out, and there was plenty of evil along the way. But God sovereignly rules over even the evil events of the world. There are no surprises for God. If he were able to even be surprised once, the certainty of the outcome of the world could not be known. Yet the Bible has written the end in the beginning for all ages to read; God tells us that he laughs in derision at the kings of the earth who plot vainly against him (Psalm 2).

What is to be learned from Joseph’s statement? First, I would say that all that happens is not good. It was not a good thing to be hated by your own brothers. It was not a good thing to be sold into slavery. It was not a good thing for Joseph to be thrown into prison because of false accusations. But every thing not good is woven beautifully into the magnificent tapestry of God, and one day soon, God willing, we will see that tapestry and appreciate its grandeur.

Joseph’s example needs to be applied to the grief-stricken person who has lost his loved one. Is that good? Should he be claiming that death is good? By no means! God tells us that precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. Death is brutal, and God never intended death for man in his original plan, and death we are told, is the last enemy, and shall eventually be abolished itself. Indeed, there have been multitudes in history who have been persecuted and have been killed because of their faith. Is that a good thing? By no means!

Yet, even the death of a saint can be folded into the plan of God. How so, you may ask? In history, Christians have long noted that the blood of martyrs is frequently the seed of the next-generation of Christians. Sometimes, as in the example of China today, the persecution and killing makes the nation as a whole begin to seriously look at this man, Jesus, and that has caused revival to break out in one of the most godless nations in the world.

But also, we must remember that we but see the bottom side of the tapestry, with all its many strings hanging down, and we frequently think it a total mess. God’s ultimate design is only visible from the top side, and I think it rare when we on earth see the top side. This we know—that God tells us that he has reserved a very special place in heaven, honoring those martyrs who gave themselves to their Lord. Revelation tells us that God intends to especially honor those martyrs with much recognition (7:14). Their eternal state is going to reflect the honor that God has designated for every saint that undergoes martyrdom, and it would be a mistake for us to judge the evil death of martyrs without first seeing his precious care of them.

So there is a sense in which everything in the world works together for good, because ultimately it works into the final plan of God, who is quite capable of turning evil to fit into his plan of good. While our hearts die a little bit with each of the martyrs that we hear about, the plan of God will take even this great evil and turn it into a good plan. There is a sense in which the grieving saint that we talked about at the first is correct when he cites the verse—God is bringing ultimate good even when death occurs. But the act of death itself is not good, just as it was not good for Joseph to be sold into slavery, or cast into prison. Faith in his goodness depends on the long term viewpoint, not giving up the recognition that much is wrong in our world today, not pretending that all is well even when we see something awfully wrong, and instead realizing that we desperately need our savior and our king.

One thing more. There is a very real sense in which we are in a “no-lose” proposition. Paul the apostle, I believe, recognizes this when he declares that we are more than conquerors through Jesus. Nothing will separate us from God—neither death, nor suffering, nor wickedness, nor even Satan himself. We cannot lose because God will not lose. Those that wait on him will see longings fulfilled in a literal tree of life.