Why do we live in a world that contains pain and suffering when we believe in a God who is all powerful and loving? This is a question that is often asked by atheists and Christians alike. There are a number of ways of looking at this issue that are helpful in understanding where God is coming from and the purpose of pain and suffering in our lives. As well as understanding these issues there is an underlying truth that I find helpful to remember. This truth, put simply, is that our God has suffered too.
The God of the Bible enters into the pain and suffering. He enters, not for His own gain, but that others might benefit. John reminds us of what our Saviour endured for us in John 19. He was whipped, ridiculed, spat on and crucified. He went through pain and suffering, even though he had in Him the fullness of God (Philippians 2:6-8).
May we too come to accept that God has a plan in the midst of pain and suffering.
Is there really only one way to God?
Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one goes to the Father except by me.” Jesus obviously saw himself as the only way to salvation. Like with many truths that Jesus presents, it is always worth thinking about the emphasis that scripture places on it. It is helpful to remember the following:
1—Jesus is the only way to salvation. If asked about this, then we should respond openly and honestly. This is what Jesus does in John 14 as he chatted with his disciples.
2—We are called to love others, and to present the Good News in a way that draws others to Jesus. We neither deny nor water down the truth, but we present it thoughtfully, prayerfully and lovingly.
3—Paul in Acts 17:22-34 demonstrates how we can talk to people who believe in false religions in a positive way that does not put them on the defensive or result in an argument about who has the strongest god.
So, we might believe in the only true faith that leads to God, but in order to win others to the way, truth and life, then we must be prepared to be humble, gracious and loving, just like our Saviour!
It is a law of nature that sometimes things need to die for new life to occur. This law is not just found in nature, but in scripture too. To be people who are transformed by the grace of Jesus we need to come to an end in ourselves.
In Ephesians 4:22-23 Paul says, “So get rid of your old self, which made you live as you used to—the old self that was being destroyed by its deceitful desires. Your hearts and minds must be made completely new…”
When we reduce the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a set of theoretical principles, then we can miss the reality of what the Gospel works in our hearts.
So, do you believe that Jesus died for you? Are you united to Him? If you answer, "yes" then John tells us that we should be living lives fundamentally different to before we knew Jesus (1 John 1:6-7).
RPC wants to grow hearts that overflow with love for others. We have a vision of a community of people who have died to their old selves and have put on Christ. People who are no longer living for themselves, but for the good of those around them.
May Jesus work in our hearts so that we can make a real and lasting difference in the lives of others!
I have spent some time recently thinking about Jesus restoring Peter in John 21:15-19. Three times Jesus asked Peter if Peter loved Him, and it is generally accepted that Jesus is responding to Peter’s threefold denial of Jesus in John 18:25-27.
What has also struck me is the fact that Jesus tried to point out to Peter what Peter was like (Jesus predicted Peter's denial), but Peter wanted to deny the reality of who he was. Things could have been very different if Peter had instead asked Jesus to tell him his faults because he genuinely wanted to grow. The truth is, sometimes we need the lesson that can only be learned through experience!
I am so thankful for a God of grace. Jesus, who has not spoken to Peter since the Peter’s denial is the first to reach out, so that the relationship can be restored. Jesus does this well before the restoration on the beach in John 21. Mark tells us about it in 16:7 when the young man tells them to go and tell the disciples that Jesus has been raised to life. Look closely at his words, he says, “give this message to the disciples, including Peter…”
Peter denied Jesus. Jesus wanted Peter to know the Good News.
May we remember that when we fall short, we have one who pleads with the Father on our behalf!
The movie “Bruce Almighty”, starring Jim Carey, highlights to us that we cannot all get what we want all of the time. When Bruce answers the prayers of the residents of Buffalo with a “Yes to all” we find that so many people had prayed to win the lottery that with so many winners the payout for each winner was less than $2.
So, how does God determine which prayers he answers positively, and which ones he does not? Does it depend on the righteousness of the person praying, or the purity of the motives behind the prayer?
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 reminds us that there is a time for everything. Things that we might consider good, and things we might consider bad. There is a time, for example, for healing and a time for killing. The Wisdom writer reminds us that these things happen in the time that God chooses. We might put in requests seeking special consideration, and I believe God always hears these requests, and on occasion even responds positively. We simply need to remember that what happens, happens if and when God chooses it. Not us!
May we learn to accept the plan God has for our lives, as God works all things for our good and His glory!