The amazement of God is manifest through the birth of a child.
The love of God is understood while holding a grandchild in your arms.
The wonder of God is displayed in the majestic movements of a butterfly.
The creativity of God is revealed by the diversity of His creation.
The splendor of God is visible with the vastness of the universe.
The ingenuity of God is shown in the complexity of the DNA.
The hope of God is offered through a Baby in a manger.
The grace of God is realized through a blood stained cross.
The joy of God is obtained through the new birth.
The peace of God is achieved by trusting in Him.
The awesomeness of God will be displayed at the second coming of Jesus Christ.
The kindness and goodness of God will be lavished throughout eternity on those who know and love Him.
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If parents and grandparents have a love for their children and grandchildren that is beyond comprehension or explanation, how much more is the depth of love our Creator has for each of us. No wonder Jesus gave His life to redeem us.
I looked at the sky on a cloudy day – Feeling so lost for I had lost my way. For some reason and I don’t know why, I felt that I was living a lie.
I reflected on my life and where I had been – I thought, could I go back and start over again. I’d make everything right of this mess I was in – All my mistakes and all of my sin.
I felt so empty – way deep to the core – I didn’t think I could take any more. I found myself kneeling, speaking a prayer – Not knowing where from, the words were just there.
They weren’t mechanical, for they came from my heart, Not sure what it was that made me start. I found my head bowed as I started to pray Not really knowing just what to say.
But the words, they were coming as I prayed aloud And looked up as a sunbeam pierced through a dark cloud. This ray of sunshine; this bright beam of light Awakened God’s wonders, displaying His might.
This instant awak’ning filled my whole being – Not just the shaft of light but some Thing unseen. I closed my eyes and prayed harder still, Asking forgiveness, as was His will.
Then I thought about Jesus and the stories I’ve heard; Vowed to read the Bible and bathe in His Word. Two weeks passed; I’d been deep in the Book – Was I unsure of something? I gave a re-look.
My Bible’s now tattered but I’ve been made whole – And I prayed and thanked God and gave Him control. Now I walk with purpose – He’s shown me the way; In all of His righteousness I plan to stay. To this day I’ve found peace that comes from above Bestowed only in grace with His blessings of love.
All believers know the stress of suffering as Jesus foretold (John 16:33; Luke 9:23). Jesus was well acquainted with our griefs: Isaiah described the pain of the coming Savior centuries before in chapter 53 verses 3 and 4.
Times of stress and grief are not easy on anybody, but believers have a Savior who understands their predicament. Do not be afraid to cry out to Him, because He does hear us. Run to Jesus Christ when suffering comes. He understands and He cares.
The apostle Paul suffers in a Roman prison due to the persecution set in motion by the infamous emperor Nero – he knows that his death is imminent. So what does a dying man say to a “child in the faith” such as Timothy? Paul points Timothy to the source where he will find the strength to face the challenges of ministry and Roman persecution:
You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:1).
This verse is a straightforward charge to “be strong.” It is a command and not a suggestion. To “be strong” is a continuous action not a one time reaction. Likewise, the Christian today who faces difficulties, challenges, persecutions, oppression and the like, Paul’s command resonates with us centuries later – “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” Remember our Master’s words:
These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).
My 11 year old daughter asked me a question that I am sure all of us have asked at some point in our lives, “Why does God allow bad things to happen to us?” In thinking of how best to answer this question and make sense to an 11 year old, I recalled the story of the “Wolfpack” kids.
These kids were members of the Angulo family. They lived in a small apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The six sons and one daughter were home-schooled by their mother Susanne, and except for rare occasions they were not allowed to the leave their apartment. Their father, Oscar, was a Peruvian immigrant and he felt New York would “contaminate” his children. In order to protect them from the dangers outside their apartment, he not only kept the door locked, but he possessed the only key to unlock it. In this environment, the father had complete control over their lives, and as the mother stated in an interview, “I felt like I didn’t have control over my choices.” Their father may have created an environment to protect them from danger, but in the process he deprived them of their freedom.
While God is sovereign, He permits human freedom. Thus, He did not create us like puppets, controlling our every move and decision. Nor did he place us in an environment where, like a tyrannical dictator, we were compelled to honor Him. Instead, as we see in the Garden of Eden, He created mankind with the freedom to choose whether to obey or disobey Him (Genesis 3). With the potential of choice came the consequences of choice. As we find in Genesis, Adam and Eve chose to disobey, and with their choice (sin) came the consequences: pain, suffering and death (Romans 5:12; 6:23).
Adam and Eve
At this point, you may be asking the same question my daughter did, “How is it fair for us to be punished for the sins of Adam and Eve?” While it is true that we are all subject to the consequences of Adam and Eve’s sin through birth, we are all still as guilty as they are, for each of us has also used our freedom to disobey God’s commands. In other words, each of us is accountable for our own sin (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8). Yet, despite our consistent abuse of the freedom God has given us, He still chooses to be a Father that extends mercy and grace to those who ask for it (John 3:16-17; Romans 6:23).
Why Does God Allow Bad Things To Happen?
The first time I asked this question there was a family which was very close to mine. Their daughter at the age of 13 was diagnosed with cancer. Within a year of her diagnosis she passed away. I found myself asking that very question, “Why?”
If it is true that God is all knowing, then certainly He knows how to prevent this girl from getting cancer. If it is also true that God is all powerful then He should be able to prevent her from getting cancer. And if it is true that God is all loving then He would want to prevent her from getting cancer and dying. Yet, this young girl in the prime of her life, died. Why?
A neighbor wanted to know why her husband of 45 years had to die of cancer and a friend wanted to know why his wife no longer loved him and was leaving him for another man. This very question probably pervades the thinking of every person who has been affected by a natural disaster such as hurricane Sandy.
With a heavy heart I watched the news and witnessed the devastation left by hurricane Sandy several years ago. I was grateful the damage in our area was not as bad as anticipated, but it was hard to see the many people who lost their homes and businesses. A friend of mine called to ask for prayer as their house suffered significant water damage from the storm.
Seeing the images of flooded neighborhoods, burning houses and people without electricity, a particular story stuck in my mind: During the storm, two young boys were killed when a large tree fell into their living room. I instantly thought of my own son and wondered how these families would cope with the loss of their sons.
I wondered why these boys had to die this way. My feelings at that moment were the same way as when I woke up on the morning of July 20, 2012. After going through my morning routine and following breakfast, I turned on the television to check the weather for the day; only then did I learn of the tragic shooting in a Colorado movie theatre. I am sure many of you had the same initial reaction I did, “How could someone do this?” This question (repeatedly asked through every tragedy) leads to other questions, which ultimately leads us to ask: “Why does God allow bad things to happen?”
It is not always possible to give a satisfactory answer for the Why question. But I can point them to the Who! By pointing them to Jesus Christ, I know from personal experience that even in the uncertainty of pain and suffering, we have hope. Several years ago my family faced the painful ordeal of a miscarriage. As I walked with my wife and children through this, the only thing we could hold onto was the hope we have in Jesus Christ.
I shared this hope with a friend of mine who was dying with cancer. When he was healthy, he and his wife did a lot of traveling. I asked him where was his favorite place, and he began to tell me all about Aruba and how beautiful it was; how nice the people were. As he described the beauty of Aruba, it was like he was back there sitting on the beach watching the waves.
A few days later in the hospital I reminded him of our conversation about Aruba, which instantly brought a smile to his face. I began to share with him of a place God had prepared for him that was so much greater than Aruba. I told him about how much God loved Him and how He demonstrated this love by sacrificing His life so that he can go to this place for eternity.
The Heart of Christianity
Like my 11 year old daughter and myself, we may not fully understand in this life why bad things and tragedies happen or why God did not prevent that tree from falling on the house that killed those two young boys. Yet, we can be assured of the depth of His love for us. We can be certain that in the midst of life’s difficulties He is with us – a God who responded to evil, pain and suffering by sending His only Son to die on a cross, offering us the opportunity to live in eternity with Him. We can know the love of a Father Who desires to provide His children not only true freedom, but also eternal blessings. This is the heart of Christianity, and it’s the best explanation of hope to a world full of pain and suffering.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away… And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:1-4).
There was no other way for God to show the depth of His amazing love throughout eternity other than through the cross of Jesus Christ. Sure, He could just tell us how much He loves us or lavish every imaginable blessing on us. But that would not fully display the depth of His love: only His crucifixion ordeal manifests His abundant grace:
All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God (2 Corinthians 4:15).
Jesus’ suffering and death serves as an everlasting reminder of God’s displeasure and intolerance for sin and rebellion. How can fallen humanity, who brought sin and death into God’s perfect creation, pay the price to satisfy God’s Holiness, Righteousness and Justice? Since “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) we are without hope. Yet, the sinless Son of God shed His precious blood to appease God’s wrath due us and make the way for restored relationship with our Creator. And Jesus’ resurrection provides us confident assurance:
We know that the One who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in His presence (2 Corinthians 4:14).
You can only become a “new creation” through Jesus Christ. How could heaven be heaven, filled with “old creations” in a fallen state polluting heaven with the same sins which polluted earth: gossip, vulgarity, jealousy, envy, revenge, pride, arrogance, lies, thefts, sexual immorality and perversion? Those who refuse to accept God’s great mercy, forfeit all He has prepared for those who love Him! They have no other option but to be where God’s light and loving presence is not.
God’s personal invitation to spend eternity with Him was delivered by His own Son. A familiar, yet profound, Scripture gives us a glimpse of His amazing love for His creation:
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16).
In the previous blog, I shared with you my fifth and sixth New Life Resolutions: 5) Conform my life to the standards of God’s Word regardless of what it may cost me in this life; 6) Start and end each day in communion with God so I can know Him more and what He requires of me. Let us now examine New Life Resolutions seven and eight.
Resolution 7: Reflect in an authentic way to others the transforming power and reality of Jesus Christ in my life.
In a conversation on religion, a friend of mine, who had emigrated to America from a Middle Eastern country, told me that he would never become a Christian. When I asked him why he said, “When I first came to America, I saw Christians living like the world on Saturday and then worshiping God in church on Sunday.” Like my friend, I have heard others say similar things as hypocrisy among those who label themselves as Christians has become one of the main reasons people reject the Christian faith.
This reality is why I want what to resolve to live out my faith in Jesus Christ in an authentic way. Living this way does not entail perfection, as all of us will fail in this life. What it does entail is allowing God to be Lord over every area of our lives, striving to be consistent in how we live both in public and in private; seeking godly repentance when we fall short (2 Corinthians 7:10; 1 John 1:9); and reflecting a transformed life marked by the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24). As we live in a fallen world, may we all take to heart these words by the apostle Peter:
Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world (1 Peter 2:11, 12).
Resolution 8: While I should grieve over the wickedness in the world, I will still approach non-believers with the same love and grace that Jesus has shown me.
We serve a holy and righteous God (Revelation 4:8) who grieves over the wickedness in the world, and one day He will come back to judge all that are ungodly (1 Peter 4:5, Jude 14b, 15; Revelation 20:12, 13). Therefore, we also should grieve over the wickedness in this world, and not find entertainment and pleasure in it. However, we also serve a loving and merciful God, who loves us so much that He sent His only Son to die for our sins (John 3:16). This reality should make all of us stand back in awe and wonder at the depth of God’s love for us.
And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God (Ephesians 3:18, 19).
Recognizing the depth of God’s love for me has helped me view unbelievers not as my enemies but as my mission field. This is the case because their ultimate need is no different than mine, which is we all need a Savior to set us free from our sins (Romans 3:23; 1 John 2:2). In fact, as Paul reminds the Corinthians, the very behaviors that sent Jesus to the cross, were once practiced by them, but now they have been cleansed, made holy and right with God through Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Once we experience the grace and mercy of God, which we do not deserve, we should feel empowered to show the same grace and mercy to others. The most effective way to demonstrate this is through the same love that God has shown us. In fact, love is the most powerful way for us to show others an authentic and transformed life.
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
In the next blog we will examine the final two New Life Resolutions. Until then, may we all continue to live a life of resolve.
Pastor Joe Marzano was a youth pastor for eleven years when he and his wife made the decision to step away from their church because it had drifted from the Word of God. During some time in the wilderness, and after much prayer and the leading of the Holy Spirit they decided to start a church. They knew, however, that they needed some Biblically sound direction. That is when Pastor Joe decided to call BRM (Bill Rudge Ministries).
“Bill was a great encouragement to me,” said Pastor Joe. “He supplied me with some materials that helped show me the error I had been taught as well as the new truth and freedoms in Christ. It was a definite breath of fresh Scripture.”
Pastor Joe now leads a church called Grace in the Wilderness Fellowship. He states,
“The church I pastor now, Grace in the Wilderness Fellowship, is based on the Word, Sola Scriptura. The Bible is more than sufficient, it is our lifeline. I have been blessed with people who have a hunger and thirst for God’s Word. Last November, we celebrated our 20th anniversary as a church. I want to thank Bill, Karen, and Dr. BJ, as well as the entire BRM ministry, as they were lovingly praying for us at a crucial time in our life. When others said we would fail, Bill and others encouraged us like Barnabas did with Paul. I am grateful for this ministry, and twenty years later we are constantly reminded that the Lord is faithful. Blessings to the Rudge family and ministry.”
Pastor Joe Marzano is on Bill Rudge Ministries Board of Reference, and Grace in the Wilderness Fellowship is a faithful supporter of BRM.