Is it wrong to question God or His motives?

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? (Psalm 22:1)

This psalm of David is quoted by Jesus while hanging on the cross. So the answer is a definite “Yes!”  Not only can we question God, I would suggest that we are commanded to do so.  There are two understandings of testing God in scripture.  One is seen when the Israelites grumbled in the desert saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”  This questioning met quick retribution, and is not the form of testing that I am referring to.  On the other side, we see Job blame God, “Why have you made me your target?”  He speaks freely of what God has brought against him, and calls Him to answer in a court of law.  In the end, the three friends that attempted to defend God, received this conviction, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.

What we have in the story of Job, is a picture of true faith growing.  In all of Job’s statements, he never questioned God’s presence, or doubted that He was in control.  Rather, he cries out to the One that he knows.  He calls God to uphold righteous standards.  He blames God for his suffering.  He asks “Why?”

How did God respond? By questioning Job with unanswerable questions. He called upon the testimony of creation, from the starry hosts to the most unique of creatures to the fiercest untamable creatures.  He calls Job to explain these creatures, to provide for and tame these creatures, to create the vast expanses, to answer God.

In the end, Job repents and proclaims, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.”  His God got a lot bigger.  He had head knowledge before, but now he is inspired.  He had called God to account for what he knew about God, and now he knew far more of God.

Faith is similar to a scientific model.  We build scientific models because they have predictive and explanatory power.  By testing those models, we refine them, and they converge to a better understanding.  If we never rely on that model, then our understanding will never improve.  Likewise, I can say there is a God, but until I live my life based on that understanding, I will never understand Him better.  I may believe that God is a magic genie that responds to my use of certain incantations; however, if I never live by that understanding, my beliefs will never be changed.  If I believe there is no God, but live as if there is one then my belief will never be tested.  This is the difference between faith and belief.  Faith is put to work.  Belief stays in the head.  I have heard it said, “The greatest distance known to man, is the 12 inches from the mind to the heart.”


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The heavens declare the glory of God

(aka – How can we see God – Part 3)

I recently took a small troop of Trail Life boys and their parents on a campout at a nearby lake. We were blessed by one of the leader’s love of astronomy. As he began setting up his collection of telescopes, I wasn’t sure if they weren’t weapons-of-mass-destruction. By day we saw sun spots that could swallow our earth, and the radiating fingers of solar flare activity.  By night we saw several planets, the moons of Jupiter, and the rings of Saturn.  We saw the nearby stars, globular clusters, galaxies, and nebula. We talked about the vast distances that the light had traveled to arrive at our home. We talked about how our own solar system was moving between two spiral arms of the Milky Way galaxy.  We talked about how the Kuiper belt outside our solar system and the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter stabilized our own orbit.  We talked about how the arrangement of the large planets shields us from large asteroid collision. We have previously talked about how the mass of our planet is exactly what is needed to hold onto water vapor (atomic mass 18) but allow methane (atomic mass 16) and ammonia (atomic mass 17) to escape.  The moon also is precisely at the maximum mass that could yield a stable oscillation, but provide the maximum tidal motions. I could go on listing many more examples of the majesty and beauty  and fine tuning of the physical world, but instead I will reference a growing list of fine tuning features necessary for life on earth.

Some have leaned on multiverse discussions to explain that life eventually had to appear given an infinite number of universes.  Such arguments admit that they find themselves in a hole, and do not address the fine-tuning we see on our earth.  There are an estimated 50 billion trillion stars in the universe.  Based on our solar system, there could be 5×1023 planets.  However, excluding the fine-tuning of the universe, the fine tuning features required for advanced life on earth still greatly exceeds this number of planets by 101031 times.

Some have looked at the vastness of the universe and concluded that it seems too wasteful.  I say that God has shown us the extravagance of His love.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? (Psalm 8:3-4)


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Don’t let my ego get involved in my ministry

I heard those words from three different people on three different topics on three consecutive days.  In all three situations, they were applying the advice to themselves.  After the third time, I finally realized that God was speaking those words of warning to me.

I recently took on an elder role in an affluent congregation with lots of opportunities for service and too many ways to become overwhelmed.  I am one of two new elders who are about 20 years younger than the existing body of elders.  Suddenly, many more people are pulling on my time and watching my actions.  It has been so overwhelming that I have struggled to be focused at work.  I have found that God has prepared me through a lifetime of experiences – minister’s kid, repentant legalist, committed unifier of the church, believer/atheist/believer, father, husband, 20 years at this congregation, well connected to other ministries in the area, philosopher, engineer,…  The list could go on.  Still I wonder why I am here and if this is where God will use me best.  I have recently considered returning to school for an apologetics emphasis, even mentioned Oxford to Judy.  I have often started my book, but it usually stops when a minister derides those who want to write a book.  Nevertheless, I have lots of God-give wisdom.

Isn’t God lucky to have me!

There it is… the pride that brought ruin to David and countless others.  Ugly isn’t it.  Lord rescue me from this body of sin!  Use me in your work, but strengthen me to keep my ego out of my ministry, out of my family, out of my work, out of my life.  Let them be Your ministry, Your family, Your work, Your life.  Let me die to self, so I can know the freedom of serving You truly, and You only.

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Why do some find God so easy and not others?

I just got back from Camp Barnabus where I helped young adults with physical and mental struggles find ways to use their gifts.  I was blessed so much more by them than they were by me.  The best I could do was push them up and down hills in a wheel chair and try to do a lot of listening.

One camper is doing 4 weeks of service there.  His application states that he had the mental age of a 12 year old even though he was over twice that age.  The first night we all sat together and were asked how we planned to help the next day.  His response, “I..I..I think I..I  am going to change the world.”  No exclamation point.  Just a matter of fact statement.  The next day, I found him trying to read the first chapter in Luke from his King James Bible.  Many of the words did not make sense to him, so he asked me to read till breakfast time.  The next morning as we gathered our stuff to head upstairs, he told me he wanted to commit his life to Christ.  From what I could see he already knew God, so I wasn’t sure what he meant by that.  As I spoke to the other staff about this, they assured me this was something he said regularly and that any ritual that could be done had been done.  As we talked that night, he said, “I..I..I just feel like a child when I think about God.”  Of course!

Ironically, that next day I met a much higher functioning young lady about the same physical age.  She could navigate the ropes course with no assistance, had a black belt in Taikwondo, was a medalist in the special olympics, and reminded others about these things frequently.  However, she had stopped “doing the church thing” a long time ago.  She had no need for that sort of thing or having God in her life.

What was the difference?  Was it the difference in mental age?  I doubt it.  Was it because one of them had been told something that the other had not?  It did not appear to be the case.  One looked around at their simple world and sensed that God was with them.  The other looked around at their own accomplishments and did not sense that God was not with them.

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

Perhaps they were both correct.

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How can we see God?

I keep coming back to this question and seeing it in different ways.  A couple of weeks ago, I asked my son if he knew I loved him.  His response was a definite “No”.  How ironic… There are children who desperately want for anyone to love them but no one does. Then there are children who are loved intensely, and, yet, are blind to it.  Which situation is more perverse?

God must wonder the same thing.

“I gave them many diverse foods that would stimulate the senses, bringing them pleasure as the were nourished.  I created beauty all around them, beautiful sunsets, delicate flowers, and vast landscapes, and gave them a sense of awe.  I created a vast zoo for them to be able to explore themselves and the things around them.  I gave them things to play on, play with, and challenges to conquer.  I placed the stars and galaxies just so they could see how great I am and how special they are treated in this vast universe.  I put them in communities to meet their relational needs.  I created their minds and bodies so miraculously that they will forever pursue replicating its wonders.  I endowed them with self-awareness, to be able to judge their own actions and placed my laws in their hearts.  I even made each one unique so they could learn to love more fully.  …but they still do not see me or know that I love them?”

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What rules/knowledge are important to be saved?

Another great question, son.

We have touched on this question before.  Refer to…

Perhaps it is best to start with who is forgivable: fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, homosexuals, thieves, the covetous, drunkards, revilers, and swindlers to name a few.  All things are lawful but not all things are profitable.  This seems like little help.

Perhaps we should consider what rules are required.  However, even in the law, God cursed the people for loosing God in the rules warning them…

So then, the word of the Lord to them will become: Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule; a little here, a little there so that they will go and fall backward, be injured and snared and captured.

What about knowledge?  Perhaps we must know the name of God.  Unfortunately, no man knows the heavenly name of God.  Even when Moses asked him His name, the response “I AM who I AM” seems more of a truth statement than a name.  Even rejecting Jesus in the flesh is forgivable.

The one requirement is the spirit of God.  If the spirit of God lives in anyone, he is truly alive.  If the spirit is not present, he is walking dead.  The problem is that man is not in control of such a relationship.  God alone can bestow it after searching our heart.

In the end, I cannot answer this question.  I am not the final judge.  However, know that God is searching the hearts of all men.  He longs to gather all men to himself; however, he ultimately bestows mercy on those whom he ultimately chooses.

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Do we really have free will?

It is a question that has divided Christians for a long time.  The Calvinists on one side claim that God picks and chooses whom ever He fancies and there is nothing we can do about it.  The Armenians on the other hand claim that whoever chooses God will be saved.  The Bible clearly suggests both.  Is this a contradiction?  Perhaps we just need to bring the question down to our level.

Imagine I am a human with the ability to create and transform creatures.  Imagine also that when I transform one creature into another it still holds many of the characteristics of the old creature.  Also imagine that my ultimate goal, is to create creatures like myself that I can love.

This is where the analogy gets ugly…

Now imagine that I have created a bunch of special rats that I want to make into humans.  (My son keeps a pet rat; believe it or not, they are quite loving.)  I have endowed these rats with self awareness and free-will.  Each rat is unique.  Some are strong and aggressive.  Some are weak and timid.  Even with these highly advanced rats, I observe a pecking order.  The stronger are the first to eat; they tend to abuse the smaller ones.  The weak tend to be abused by the rest.  I created these differences because I am more interested in their heart than their bodies.  Since my purpose is to love on these creatures, I am looking for those that would return my love.  Because they do not understand my purpose, I give them a simple rule, “Share your food so that all can eat.”  As I watch them interact, some of them begin sharing with the weaker rats.  Others continue in their abusive ways.  Still others, seem to  be enforcing the rule upon the rest of the rats without sharing themself.

After watching them for some time, none of them have evolved into humans.  They cannot.  They are just advanced rats.  However, I have noticed several that I want to share my gift with.  One by one I pick them up and breathe on them.  Immediately, they are transformed into humans like me.

Slowly they begin to realize what has happened to them.  They are so excited, but then they notice the remaining rats going about their routines.   Eventually, they inquire what will happen to the other rats.  I inform them, that they will eventually be destroyed.  I then ask each to return to the rat world to teach more creatures about love.  One by one, I recast them to look like rats, but really they are humans in rat bodies.  As they scurry off on their mission, they hold a secret that the other rats cannot fathom.  They will speak of it plainly, but the other rats cannot comprehend fully what they are saying.  Only I can truly reveal what it means to be like me.

In much the same way, God is about his work of shaping man into his image.  He is watching over the human population.  He is testing the hearts of men and revealing himself and transforming those he chooses.  There is no knowledge, action, words, or affiliation that can dictate our adoption.  Likewise, there is nothing than can withhold us from God’s gift if he chooses to bestow it.  Yet as he bestows his gift, he commands that those adopted ones, tell others of what is available.  So free will is a necessity for God to test our hearts, but our choice is never adequate.  Only God’s election can complete the process that he intends for us.

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Why is the divorce rate in and out of the church the same?

I have often heard this statistic quoted from pulpits and talk shows, but the truth is actually much more interesting than this fiction.  For specific details refer to this article and its references.  Here is a summary of what it says…

  • Active participants in faith are far less likely to divorce than secular couples.
  • Passive or marginal participants in faith are far more likely to divorce than secular couples.

This is not really surprising given that throughout the Bible, the greatest judgement falls consistently on those whose faith is only superficial.  By contrast, those who recognize their weakness are embraced by Jesus.

These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.1

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.2

You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?… The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be…  As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!3

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.4

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How can sinful people tell me how to live my life?


Even God himself will not tell you how to live your life.  Instead, he places choices and consequences before us and leaves it up to men and women.  A good friend, an atheist, often says that morality is simply “long term thinking.”  He is correct; I just think longer term than he does.  Nevertheless, God often works through our brokenness.  He chooses the foolish, weak, base, and despised to show His strength so that no one can boast.

Consider your mother and I and the rules we have tried to teach you.  We have taught you to keep our mind and body pure.  We have held up prayer throughout each day and at times of crisis.  We have held up the Bible.  We have taught order.  We have taught responsibility and integrity and respect.  Yet, we are such bad examples of these.  We were unsuccessful at keeping our relationship pure before our marriage.  As a result, sex has been a continual struggle for us.  My prayer life often looks more like a checklist than a discussion, and I rarely make those quiet times that are needed to feel God’s presence.  At its best, my personal study has been patchy, only by the grace of God can I still bring to mind those things that I have read a once or twice.  Our house is far from an ordered and consistent.  I have not modeled respect in our relationship.  I have tried to hold onto my integrity, but God often reveals hidden motives or half truths in my speech.  I have often let things fall through the cracks or onto your mother.  So what can I say?  How can I hold up these rules?

Rather than hold up my moments of brilliance, I will hold up my moments of weakness and darkness.  It was in those moments of weakness that I finally humbled my heart.  It was when I was crushed that I was driven to my knees and finally felt God’s presence.  It was at the time of giving up on God, that He was able to teach me His word.  As the clutter overwhelmed me, I found peace within, and knew it was of God.  When those disrespectful words leave my lips, I find God rebuking me and know He is with me.  When I most feel above reproach, God reminds me where I came from and how quickly I can fall.  When the responsibilities seem too much, I find the God that limited himself to my existence and perservered through it all.

You see, I will continue to hold up those rules for your own good, but my strongest advice is to hold onto God.  In Him, expect to find strength to walk as He walked.  In your weakness, find His presence, His rebuke, and His shaping.  Rejoice in it all.  Rejoice when you find He has made you more than you thought you were.  Rejoice when you find that you must still lean on Him.  Know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.

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Why was it necessary for Jesus to die on a cross?

This question should haunt any believing Christian.  An all powerful God could solve the problem anyway he wanted.  Why choose a tortured death?  Jesus cried out from the cross, “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?”  While this statement raises many more questions, it is important to note that even the son of God asked “Why?”

Some have simplified the answer down to a math problem.

  • God is righteous + Man sinned = A death is required

Personally, I do not find this equation helpful.  It makes God seem weak or, at best, the victim of his own foolish vow.  It reminds me of the ruler returning from victory who promised the first thing he saw to God.  When his daughter ran out to greet him, he was grief stricken but followed through with his vow.  Is this really the best explanation we can come up with?

Consider Malala Yousufzai.  She was the young girl of 14 who publicly spoke out for the education of women in Pakistan.  Two taliban men shot her at point blank range on a busy street.  The world was horrified, even the islamic world.  Street protests in Islamabad drew tens of thousands of demonstrators against their action.  Never had a protest in Pakistan been so successfully waged against those extreme islamic viewpoints.  What made this movement so compelling was because the actions were so hideous and performed against someone so innocent in full view of so many.

Jesus on the cross was just such a demonstration.  It was made even more profound by the perfect innocence of its victim and the brutality of the death.  The demonstration of perfect love brutalized by the hatred of the world lifted up for all to see makes it impossible to remain neutral.  The law alone could not show us how utterly attrocious sin was. However, Jesus’ gift and the actions of the mob both condemned sin and revealed righteousness.

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