Monthly Archives: September 2013

How Old is the Earth, Really?

Creation Laura Sotka 2008

Why do some people say the earth is millions of years old, and others say it’s only thousands of years old? I am so confused. I hear one thing in church, and another thing at school. Why can’t science and the Bible agree?

What great questions, asked by a junior higher at camp. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE these kinds of questions.

Believe it or not, the answer can be found in one simple little verse buried in the 1st chapter of the 1st book of the Bible, Genesis 1:11 (New Living Translation).

Then God said, “Let the land sprout with vegetation—every sort of seed-bearing plant, and trees that grow seed-bearing fruit.

Do you see the answer there? I didn’t think so.

OK, then try this, Genesis 1:20-21.

Then God said, “Let the waters swarm with fish and other life. Let the skies be filled with birds of every kind.” So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that scurries and swarms in the water, and every sort of bird—each producing offspring of the same kind. And God saw that it was good.

Still don’t see it? Well then, let’s try one more, Genesis 1:25.

God made all sorts of wild animals, livestock, and small animals, each able to produce offspring of the same kind. And God saw that it was good.

Anything grab you about those three examples? What should grab you is this: God created a FULLY-FUNCTIONING (or mature) planet and universe.

At the moment God created plants, they were fully grown, bearing seeds, and able to provide food for the animals He would next create.

When God created birds and fishes, the oceans and lakes and rivers were instantly teaming with them. Birds were immediately flying through the air; fish were swimming in the oceans.

When God created the animals, they were immediately able to walk the earth, eat the food, and reproduce.

The same can be said of Adam and Eve who were immediately told to reproduce and populate the planet (Genesis 1:28).

Do you see it? God created a fully-functioning, mature planet.

This is what I want you to remember, one sentence that will absolutely harmonize what you hear in church and what you hear in school. Are you ready? Because when you read this next sentence, you will realize that there is absolutely NO CONTRADICTION between science and the Bible. Here it comes:

God created a YOUNG earth that looks very OLD.

Read that again:

God created a YOUNG earth that looks very OLD.

Think of this: If you had been onsite 5 seconds after God created Adam, you would not have seen a baby crying in a crib. You would have met a fully-grown adult, one who looked much older than he really was. 

Same with the plants, fishes, and animals. And even the stars. Read it in Genesis 1:16-17.

God also made the stars. God set these lights in the sky to light the earth.

Now let me ask you a question. How could the stars, which are millions of lightyears away from the earth (which means that it should have taken millions of years for the light of those stars to reach the earth), be seen on the earth immediately after they were created? Unless the Universe appeared to be millions of years old, even though at the moment of its creation it was only a few seconds old?

God created a YOUNG earth that looks very OLD.

You might also be interested to note that the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world is Jericho. I’ve looked at the excavations. Archaeologists have taken that city down to bedrock. And guess what they found? Jericho dates to around 9,000 BC. Making the earth around 11,000 years old.

If you add up all of the years of genealogies in the Bible, and account for the fact that there are gaps in the genealogies (meaning that the genealogies in the Bible are not meant, and do not claim to be, 100% complete) you come to the same conclusion: The earth is around 11,000 years old.

Yet, if you date a rock or fossil, the test will indicate that it appears to be millions of years old. Why the difference? Because…

God created a YOUNG earth that looks very OLD.

No different than when people look at me and think I’m only 41, when I’m really 61! (Ha! Just kidding. If only that were true…)

You get the point.

So let not your heart be troubled, my friend. What you hear at church and read in the Bible is true: The earth is very young. AND what you hear at school and read in science books is true: The earth appears to be very old. No contradiction. No cause for concern. God had it all figured out right from the beginning.

He always does!

Hope this helps. And thanks for the question!

And by the way, here is a fascinating ARTICLE that goes right along with this one. Read and Enjoy!!!

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Here’s a Riddle for You…

1377508_10151614373170841_365439202_nWanna take a guess? Then stop reading. Because the very next sentence contains a vital clue.

Leave it to Jesus to offer a blessing that includes the word “meek,” the word which the noted Bible scholar William Barclay called “the most untranslatable word in the New Testament.”

Dr. Barclay was right. As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, I know of no other statement made by Jesus that has been so universally mistranslated, misinterpreted, or misapplied.

Except that Jesus did not come up with this…

Believe it or not, Matthew 5:5 is a quote taken verbatim from the Old Testament, specifically the book of Psalms, even more specifically Psalm 37, and even more particularly Psalm 37:11.

Consequently, it is only in the understanding of that singularly significant psalm that we can correctly understand and apply Matthew 5:5, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” to our lives.

Let me assure you that the words of this beatitude were and are revolutionary. We are talking about a world view here, one that is not natural. No one by nature has a single strand of meekness woven into his or her DNA.

And yet, as we will soon see, meekness is essential for you and me to develop if we long to live dynamic, vibrant, victorious Christ-centered lives.MEEK

And since this is the only blessing out of the eight beatitudes that Jesus quoted from the OT, in order for us to fully understand, appreciate, and apply this third beatitude to our lives, we must first understand Psalm 37 from which it comes. A truly remarkable psalm! A genuinely heartwarming psalm. A psalm that will confer upon you the totality of the blessing that Jesus pronounced on the masses who gathered on that hillside that day to hear Him.

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The Fingerprints of Providence

FingerprintsJesus pronounced this amazing blessing on His followers: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

An amazing blessing to be sure. But is it an empty one? Who of us is actually “pure in heart”? Did not Jeremiah pronounce our hearts “desperately wicked”? Yes, I’m afraid he did.

And who of us can actually see God? Did not God tell Moses that “no one can see Me and live”? Yes, I’m afraid He did.

So what gives with this blessing, and its corresponding promise? Is this a bankrupt blessing? A pointless promise? At least as far as this life is concerned?

Oh, my friends. As you listen to this PODCAST, you are about to see some things that you have perhaps never seen before.

If this podcast is a blessing to you, PLEASE share it with your loved ones and friends. PLEASE “Like” it and “Share” it on Facebook and/or Twitter. I’d be most grateful, and so would they!

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“Why is my mom a crackhead, and why does she choose drugs over me?”

addictionNo junior higher should ever have to ask God a question like this. But that is exactly the question one middle school student asked when given the opportunity.

“If you could ask God one question, and knew that He would give you an honest answer, what would you ask?” One student’s response: 

“Why is my mom a crackhead, and why does she choose drugs over me?”

As I often say when talking to students at camp, I hesitate to speak for God. But I have a hunch as to how He might answer this heart-rending question. I believe that He would say this:

There are many, many kinds of addictions — alcohol addiction, food addiction, pain killer addiction, pornography addiction, sex addiction, nicotine addiction, gambling addiction, so many others — including, in the case of your mom, drug addiction. 

And the two things that absolutely break God’s heart about addictions are these:

1. Every single addiction causes things to break. Broken lives. Broken relationships. Broken hearts — your heart, and God’s heart. And once the pieces of our lives, relationships, and hearts lie broken, it’s so hard, if not impossible, ever to put them back together.

2. Addictions are so, so, so easily avoidable. No one is forced to become an addict. Meaning that countless lives, relationships, and hearts are so often broken needlessly.

Think of it this way: No one is born an addict. Your mom was not born a crackhead. Addictions were never a part of God’s plan for her life.

Addictions always begin in the exact same way: A person (your mom) made a choice. A seemingly innocent choice, or so it would seem at the time. A small choice. An apparently insignificant choice.

Of course, I don’t know the specific back story about your mom. But I do know, and over the years have met, scores of people with  a variety of addictions. And so far as I know, every single one of them at some point in their past made a fateful choice.

Your mom was either at a point of desperation in her life, and thought that smoking or swallowing or inhaling or injecting a substance into her body would dull the pain for just a few precious moments. Or she was with a group of friends just out to have a good time. Her friends were making choices. And they somehow persuaded her to make the same choice. So wanting to fit in, while in her mind minimizing the consequences, she made a choice. 

In either case, she made a choice that had disastrous consequences.

Disastrous because one choice will usually lead to a second, which will then result in a third, that then becomes a fourth. And as is true with every addiction, she eventually passed a point of no return. At some point, she yielded the control of her body to a foreign substance or improper impulse, something that God never intended for her to do.

And the result is a broken life, broken relationships (including her relationship with you), and broken hearts (including God’s and yours).

I say all of that to say this: It’s not personal. Your mom is not choosing a drug over you. She never did choose a drug over you. Please read that again because I want you hear that. She is not choosing drugs over you.

I have no doubt that if your mom could turn the clock back to the split-second before she made her first disastrous choice, she would make a different choice the second time around. Never have I ever had an addict tell me that they are thrilled that they became addicted, and that if they had it to do all over again, they would become addicted again. Never. And that “never” applies to your mom as well.

Now, I know that none of this can repair a broken life, broken relationships, and broken hearts. But it can do the following:

1. You need not think about your mom’s addiction in terms of acceptance or rejection, as if she is accepting drugs and rejecting you. Please believe me: It is not personal. If someone could wave a magic wand and release her of her addiction, your mom would jump at that opportunity. But as you’ll learn in life, there are no magic wands.

2. Your mom needs you now more than ever. Even if she seems to be pushing you away. She needs you to show her the highest form of love in the Universe. We call it unconditional love. The same kind of love that God has for you, and for your mom.

God loves your mom no matter what, addictions included. I mean, if anyone should feel rejection, as if your mom is choosing drugs over Him, it’s God. But He “gets” that it’s not personal with Him either. So in spite of her addiction, God loves your mom. You now have a golden opportunity to learn to love her in exactly the same way that God loves you. God will always love you, no matter what. As I learned a long time ago,

“People need love the most when they are the most unlovely.”

So does your mom.

3. Every time you feel the pain of your mom’s addiction, this can be your most powerful reminder and motivator to be very, very careful about the choices that you make. Choices about what you do with your body, and what you put into your body. Especially when you are tempted to think that you can get away with it, that you will beat the odds. The four deadliest words that I know for a Christ-follower are these: 

“I can handle it.”

“I can handle it if I just take one drink.” “I can handle it if I take that one drug.” “I can handle it if…” I beg you, beg you to be very, very careful about what you do with your body, and what you put into your body. Because it’s a devastating thing to become a slave to any addiction.

I leave you with this. A simple instruction which, if your mom had read this and taken it to heart, would have protected her life, her relationships, and your heart from being broken. It may be too late for her; it is not yet too late for you.

The Apostle Paul was thinking of dear, precious people just like your mom when he wrote this:

Some of you say, “We can do anything we want to.” But I tell you that not everything is good for us. So I refuse to let anything have power over me… We are not supposed to do indecent things with our bodies. We are to use them for the Lord who is in charge of our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:12-13, Contemporary English Version).

If you will make a choice to live according to 1 Corinthians 6:12-13, then out of the ashes of your mom’s addiction will result the beauty of your God-honoring life.

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Good Mourning!!!

SunriseDid you know that there are nine different Greek words used in the New Testament to refer to grief, sorrow, sadness, mourning? Nine!

As you are about to discover in this PODCAST, there needs to be a variety of words because sadness is such a large part of our daily lives.

If you think about it, the whole of human history is a solemn story largely written with the ink our tears. 

Sorrow, sadness, grief, and mourning are often the threads of which the human tapestry is woven.

Yes, it’s OK to mourn, to feel sorrow, to know sadness, to experience grief. On multiple levels, with multiple levels of intensity. The biblical writers understood this, legitimized this (if I may use that word), so that we need not feel guilty, ashamed, or somehow unspiritual or spiritually inferior when we do.

Sorrow and sadness are legitimate human emotions. 

In fact, there are times in each of our lives when it would be inappropriate not to feel sorrowful or sad, or to mourn. Indeed, there is a wealth of insight, a richness to the human experience that can only be realized in the shadows of life. As our Arab friends so often say, “All sunshine makes a desert.”

So it probably will not surprise you to learn that the word translated mourn in Matthew 5:4 — “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” — is the strongest of those nine Greek terms.

Consequently, if you have ever mourned, or are mourning now, you will receive enormous comfort from God Himself as you listen to this podcast. Simply click HERE to listen in. (Or click on the Podcast Player in the upper right hand column, titled, “Listen to my latest podcast here.”)

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“Why did God take my parents from me?”

“Why did God take my parents from me?”

This question from a Junior High/Middle School student, asked at a Christian camp just a few short weeks ago.

One of the many things I LOVE about junior highers is the raw emotion that lies just beneath the surface of so much of what they do and say. There is no pretense with these young teens. They haven’t yet perfected the game-playing the characterizes so many of us older people. What you see is more often than not what you get. They are real. And so many of them are really hurting.

I cannot even begin to imagine the wounds behind the 8 words that this one student would ask of God is he or she knew that He would give them an absolutely honest answer.

And while I am a pitifully poor substitute for God, I do have a sense of how I believe God would have answered that question, and will share that answer now as if I am talking directly to the student.

Death is an intruder in the human race. When God first created the world and pronounced it “good,” no one died. No one needed to die. Death was a foreign concept. An unwelcome guest. Not even an entry in the dictionary of human conversation.

When God one day (sooner rather than later, I think) recreates this world, the first thing God will banish from the “New Heaven and the New Earth” is death. Through the pen of the Apostle John, God declared for all the world (and you and me) to hear,

“God will wipe away every tear from (our) eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain. These things of the past are gone forever.” (Revelation 21:4).

I do definitely believe that God would tell you that when your parents died, it was as if a part of His heart died right along with them. Just as Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus, so Jesus wept when your parents tragically left this earth. In fact, the tears that you are now shedding in remembrance of your parents God is storing up in a bottle, and counting every one (Psalm 56:8). No tear is ever shed without God knowing about it, and grieving right along with us. Right along with you.

There is a theme that runs through the Bible. It’s not particularly obvious. We have to dig a little deeper to discover it. But once we do, it’s amazing how often we will see this theme repeated throughout the unfolding biblical story.

The theme is this: Whenever someone loses one or both parents prematurely (through death, or divorce, or some equally painful family tragedy), and is therefore forced to grow up in the absence of one or both parents, it is proof-positive that God has a very special plan and purpose for that individual. A special plan and purpose for you!

I really want you to hear that. So let me repeat this all-important sentence: 

Whenever someone loses one or both parents prematurely (through death, or divorce, or some equally painful family tragedy), and is therefore forced to grow up in the absence of one or both parents, it is proof-positive that God has a very special plan and purpose for that individual. A special plan and purpose for you!

Think of the people whom God mightily used in Scripture. Almost without exception, he or she was someone who lost one or both parents at a relatively young age.

Abraham left his homeland and most of his family when he made the move from Ur to Israel. While en route to the Promised Land, his beloved dad died. Abraham settled in Beersheba and started his new life without the benefit of a mom or dad to guide the way. Just think about how much God used Abraham, whom He later referred to as, “the friend of God” (James 2:23). Yes, God certainly had a powerful plan for Abraham, didn’t He? There never would have been a Jesus if there wasn’t first an Abraham.

Joseph’s beloved mom died when he was a younger boy. He was then betrayed by his brothers. As a consequence of that betrayal, as a teen Joseph was removed from his home, taken captive to a foreign land, and forced first to live as a slave, and later as an incarcerated criminal for a crime he never committed. Joseph did nothing to deserve any of this. Just when it seemed like Joseph needed his dad the most, he couldn’t reach him. But he could reach God. And God eventually used Joseph to save his people from the starvation of a famine that threatened to wipe them out. Yes, God certainly had a powerful plan for Joseph, didn’t He? There never would have been a Jesus if there wasn’t first a Joseph.

Moses was forced by circumstances beyond his control to be raised by a woman who was not his mom. He, like Joseph, grew up apart from both his parents. Yet, Moses is the central figure of the Old Testament, the deliverer of God’s people from 400 years of slavery in Egypt, and is considered even today the single most important individual in the minds and hearts of the Jewish people. And for good measure, “There has never been another prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face” (Deuteronomy 34:10). Yes, God certainly had a powerful plan for Moses, didn’t He? There never would have been a Jesus if there wasn’t first a Moses.

Ruth married a young man whose dad had died when he was still living in his home. After their marriage, he died, leaving Ruth a widow. She might have been without a husband, but she was never without God. Ruth adopted the Jewish people as her own people, and their God as her God. And believe it or not, Ruth became the great grandmother of King David, the direct descendant of Jesus. Yes, God certainly had a powerful plan for Ruth, didn’t He? There never would have been a Jesus if there wasn’t first a Ruth.

Esther saved the Jewish people from certain annihilation. Of Esther’s childhood we read, “When her father and mother died, Mordecai adopted her into his family and raised her as his own daughter” (Esther 2:7). To this day, she is a hero of the Jewish people, and rightly so. Every year on Purim, her story is read, and every little Jewish girl dresses up in costume as Queen Esther. Yes, God certainly had a powerful plan for Esther, didn’t He? There never would have been a Jesus if there wasn’t first an Esther.

Are you beginning to see the pattern here? It’s everywhere in the Bible! You are not alone!

Of course, I could go on and on with example after example. But my space and your time is limited. So I’ll give you just one more.

Jesus lost his dad, Joseph, when he was growing up. Joseph is not mentioned again after Jesus was twelve. As Jesus hung on that old rugged cross, He stopped dying long enough to provide for the care of His widowed mom, Mary. He asked His beloved apostle, John, to take her into his home because Joseph had long since died. Yes, God certainly had a powerful plan for Jesus, didn’t He?

And as if all of that wasn’t enough, get this! God has granted to you a very special, precious, and unique relationship with Him that only comes to those who have lost one or both of their natural parents. And just to punctuate this point, God even calls Himself, “A father to the fatherless” (Psalm 68:5).

Oh, and BTW (by the way), FWIW (for what it’s worth), one final thought: You are reading the words of a guy who, as a teenager, lost his dad too (to divorce, abandoning my mom, two younger sisters, and me), and not too long after that, to death. So trust me, I “get it.”

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The Inevitable Casualty of a Culture in Collapse

height_144_width_144_safehavenIt is mentioned 611 times in the Bible. In the book of Psalms — which consists of the prayers, the heartfelt pleas of God’s people as they (we) reach out to Him — it is mentioned 147 times.

It is the universal cry of the human heart. As proof of that statement, consider this: Down through the millennia of human history, our most precious literature is replete with references to this elusive quality.

Yet, in our culture, in our day, I hardly ever hear it mentioned anymore. It has indeed become a casualty of a culture in collapse.

In its place, we are witnessing a coarsening of our conversation. Hate-speech fills our airwaves. Violence fills our streets. And an increasing sense of isolation floods our souls.

In this PODCAST, as we continue with our rich and rewarding study of Jesus in High Definition, we will rediscover together this missing facet of a dynamic faith.

Simply click on the podcast player (where it says, “Listen to my latest podcast here”) in the upper right hand column of this blog page, sit back, and enjoy.

You will be encouraged!

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When the “T” in LGBT Hits Our Own Homes

“How do I as a parent begin to explain to my teenagers that their older cousin whom they’ve looked up to all their lives has decided that he may have been born a boy, but he feels more like a girl? That he is now taking female hormones, beginning to dress as a female, and is looking at legally changing his name from that of a guy to a girl? That he is now living with his lesbian girlfriend? I am at such a loss here. I didn’t see this coming AT ALL. So many questions… How do I still love my nephew, but not approve of his choices? Do we have holiday dinners as usual? Do I choose as a parent that he isn’t a good influence on my kids and therefore can no longer have them around each other? I am so lost here.”

anguish1

It’s not just campers at Christian camps who ask questions; adults ask them too, daily. Questions that come to me via email, snail mail, and social media of all sorts. Questions that they would ask God if given the opportunity and with the assurance that He would give them an honest answer.

As I’ve made clear, repeatedly and emphatically, I am not God. I hesitate to speak for God. To the best of my ability, I can only attempt to offer an answer from the Word of God. And I do so with fear and trembling in my passionate pursuit of respecting the Truth and getting the answer right.

Now, having offered all of those disclaimers, I’ll give it a shot, answering these questions exactly as I would as if we were at camp together.

Believe it or not, you have just been handed a golden opportunity to share a teachable moment with your children. As teenagers, they are old enough to be told the unvarnished truth about their cousin, and about your personal struggles with his lifestyle choices. Your struggles mentally and emotionally are what they are, and are perfectly legitimate. It’s OK for them to see you struggle.

As you let them into your soul, they will see as never before in real time, right before their eyes, how you as a committed Christ-follower, as a parent, as an uncle or aunt, are attempting to respond biblically to this new information about your nephew.

Without in any way minimizing your shock, pain, and confusion, let me ask you to consider a couple of questions as you try to process all of this new information. (Trust me, I am processing this right along with you. So if my thoughts seem to be developing as I write this, they are!) 

  • Would you be asking the same questions — about holidays, contact with their cousins, etc. — if your nephew was heterosexual and living with his girlfriend? Or living at home but sleeping with his girlfriend? Or was into Internet porn?
  • What if instead of something sexual, you discovered that he has cheated on tests at school? Or gossips? Or abuses alcohol? Or uses illegal drugs? Or has been caught telling lies? Or is disrespectful to his parents? Or acts or talks proudly or arrogantly? Or has anger-management issues? Or uses profanity? Or was married and subsequently divorced? 

What I am getting at is this: Is the fact that his behavior falls in the category homosexuality or lesbianism the thing that drives your discomfort, and generates these questions? 

I find it intriguing that God explicitly states,

There are six things the Lord hates—no, seven things he detests: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent, a heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong, a false witness who pours out lies, a person who sows discord in a family (Proverbs 6:16-19).

I cite this passage to suggest that if we are consistent, then we would be asking all of your same questions about any family member (or friend) involved in any of the issues that God explicitly states that He hates — including the telling of lies, or having proud-looking eyes!

Point is, we all do things that God hates. This being the case, how should we be treated with regard to holiday meals or contact with teenage family members?

“Consistency, thou art a rare jewel.” Thus my question, asked in all sincerity, is this: How do we respond with consistency when we are talking about LGBT issues?

I will not presume to tell you what to do. I can only tell you what I would do. 

I, too, have a nephew whom I love and respect. If he were to confide to me some lifestyle choices with which I personally disagree, it would make absolutely no difference in how I treated him, or how I would respond to him. 

Because you know what? It’s not up to me to agree or disagree with his or anyone else’s lifestyle. Who am I to sit in judgment of another’s lifestyle choices? (And in the interests of full disclosure, truth be told, I, too, have made some choices with which I disagree! No one, including me — especially me — can claim a monopoly on perfection.)

Did not Jesus say to us, “Do not judge others”? Yes, He did — Matthew 7:1. Did not Jesus say to us, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (the her being a woman caught in the act of adultery)? Yes, He did — John 8:7.

There is one (and only one) exception to my it-would-make-absolutely-no-difference statement: If anyone in my life, be it family or friend, was a clear and present danger to my family, that would be a game-changer. By clear and present danger I mean this: It’s one thing for someone to use illegal drugs; it’s quite another to entice my children into using drugs. It’s one thing to be sexually active outside of marriage; it’s quite another thing to display predatory sexual behavior toward my children. It’s one thing to have anger-management issues; it’s quite another thing to threaten bodily harm to my children.

See the difference?

Back on point, my nephew is not accountable to me for his choices. How he chooses to live his life is between him and God. My love for him is unconditional. I cannot think of anything that would change that. His lifestyle is, quite frankly, none of my business. 

So were I to receive the exact same bombshell revelation that you just received, I would be surprised, shocked, taken aback. But at the end of the day, in terms of my relationship with and love for my nephew, it would change nothing.

That’s where I currently sit on this issue (emphasis upon the word “currently”). But as I continue to process this, I would LOVE to hear from you. Tell me what you think (respectfully, please). We can certainly agree or disagree and remain friends. These are not easy questions. There are no easy answers. I am open to hearing your take on this subject.

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“Why? God, Please Tell Me, Why?”

Why did You let my father molest/rape me?  (He went to prison for  this, was tried and convicted.)  I just want to know why?  I am in pain.

rejectionAs stated in my previous post, from time to time (at a rate of one or two per week) I am going to answer questions that I received from Junior High/Middle School students last month at camp. I asked them to write down for me the one question they would ask God if given the chance.

I will answer each question as if I am speaking directly to them…

I know you are in pain. Pain that I cannot even begin to imagine.

Let me start by stating right up front that “Why?” questions are the most difficult questions to answer. We don’t always know the reasons why.

Oh sure, I could tell you that we live on a fallen planet where bad people do really bad things to good and precious people like you. That this is all the result of Adam and Eve’s sin. That it’s ultimately the devil’s fault. And while there is some truth to each of those statements, you deserve better than a trio of trite clichés, none of which is an adequate explanation for the pain you carry every single day.

What I can tell you is this: Jesus was born into an equally pain-filled world. Within months of His birth, a very bad man by the name of Herod wanted desperately to kill Him. Herod thought of Himself as the “King of the Jews.” So when the Wise Men showed up asking for the whereabouts of the authentic “King of the Jews,” Herod exploded. He ordered every baby boy in Bethlehem two years of age and under to be mercilessly slaughtered. Herod’s murderous rampage caused the streets of Bethlehem to flow with the blood of these innocent toddlers.  The anguished wails of their moms and dads, brothers and sisters, echoed throughout the town.

Like you, a part of me cries out to God the single most painful question you or I could ever ask: Why? Why did so many innocent children have to die such a horribly bloody death? Why did innocent moms and dads have to watch helplessly as their government slaughtered their children? Why didn’t God stop the slaughter? Why did God let Herod get away with it?

Well, nowhere in the story (Matthew 2:16-18) does the Bible answer that hauntingly elusive question, “Why?” But it does answer an equally important question — perhaps an even more important question — “Where?” As in, “Where were You, God, when this senseless slaughter was taking place?”

The answer? (Read this slowly, and allow the power of this answer to sink into your soul.) Jesus was right there in the middle of the horror.

Remember that He was the object of the hate. He was the target of the murderous thugs who rode into Bethlehem that night. He was the focus of the frightful rage that erupted into the slaying of all those little kids. He was right in the middle, sharing and feeling the pain of every baby boy who died in His place. He cried bitter tears as He heard the gut-wrenching cries of all those mommys and daddys who lost their children because of Him. He was right there in the middle of it all.

Thankfully, through the intervention of an angel, Jesus didn’t die that night. But the day did come when Jesus died an even more horrific death at the hands of these same Romans. On that dark day, Jesus died for you, Jesus died for me, and Jesus died for every baby boy in Bethlehem who had died for Him on that infamous night. Yes, every single baby butchered that night was greeted in Heaven that night by the waiting and welcoming hands of God.

Good  ALWAYS wins; evil ALWAYS loses. Always.

OK, so now watch this: Where was God during that entire time that you were being horribly molested by your dad? Right there beside you. Sharing your pain. Feeling your fear. Cradling you in His arms while you cried. And promising that what your dad intended for evil, God will use for your good. And for the good of many, many people.

One of my Old Testament heroes is named Joseph. His brothers tried to murder him. At the last minute, they changed their plan and sold him as a slave. He was purchased by an Egyptian and forced to live in a foreign country, away from all of his family and friends. He was falsely accused of rape and wrongly imprisoned. He suffered unimaginably as he rotted away in an Egyptian dungeon for nearly 13 years for a crime he did not commit. 

“Why?” Why did God let that happen? Why did God let the brothers get away with that? Why didn’t God stop them?

We don’t know why. But we do know where. Where was God during those years of imprisonment? Right in the dungeon with Joseph. 

After 13 years, Joseph was miraculously released from his cell (just as you were finally released from your prison of molestation and rape). Even better, God then used Joseph to save His people from the ravages of a famine that hit their land. And when Joseph faced his brothers who had sold him as a slave, he said something that I hope you will memorize. Words that changed my life; words that can change yours as well. Because what was true of Joseph is true of you. Joseph said to his brothers: 

You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people (Genesis 50:20, New Living Translation).

Your dad tried to harm you. But God will now transform your pain-filled heart and violated body into the beautiful and radiant person that you are now becoming. God is so good at that. He takes the ashes of the wrongs that we suffer and transforms them into something breathtakingly beautiful to behold. A whole new YOU!

Just think of all the young women you will be able to help and heal someday because of your story. Think of how God allowed you to survive the darkest of nights so that His sunshine of this new day can sparkle through you to others. Think of how His power spared you from a situation that could have been so much worse. Think of the radiant diamond that you have become after being crushed so many, many times.

The very fact that you could come to a Christian camp and be given the opportunity to ask of God that one most important question — Why? — proves where God was while that was happening. Right there with you.

He is with you now.

And I promise you that the very thing your dad did to harm you is the very thing that God will now use to bring SO MUCH GOOD to so many, many people. Yes, the day will come — sooner rather than later — when you will be able to pray,

God, I would never want to go through that again. But I thank You for allowing me to go through it once.

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