Even If …

The hand of God does not always reflect his heart. God loves his children, even though he sometimes does not grant the healing, blessing, or success they seek. James was killed by Herod, Stephen was stoned to death by the Jewish elders, Paul had a thorn in the flesh still. Yet God’s heart toward them was unchanged. Through any painful trial, delayed blessing, or denied healing, his assurance to the believer remains:

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”(Jer. 31:3 ESV)

 

As the Christian rock band Kutless reminds us, we know God is loving, good, and faithful even if…


 

Sometimes all we have to hold on to

Is what we know is true of who You areChild on hospital bed

So when the heartache hits like a hurricane

That could never change who You are

And we trust in who You are

 

Even if the healing doesn’t come

And life falls apart

And dreams are still undone

You are God You are good

Forever faithful One

Even if the healing

Even if the healing doesn’t come

  

Lord we know Your ways are not our ways

So we set our faith in who You are

Even though You reign high above us

You tenderly love us

We know Your heart

And we rest in who You are

 

You’re still the Great and Mighty One

We trust You always

You’re working all things for our good

We’ll sing your praise

 

You are God and we will bless You

As the Good and Faithful One

You are God and we will bless You

Even if the healing doesn’t come

Even if the healing doesn’t come

 

© Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, WAMA, INC. D/B/A WORDS AND MUSIC

A Reflection on Joy – Pope Benedict XVI

A striking reflection on joy by Pope Benedict XVI.


Pope Benedict XVISomething I constantly notice is that unembarrassed joy has become rarer. Joy today is increasingly saddled with moral and ideological burdens, so to speak. When someone rejoices, he is afraid of offending against solidarity with the many people who suffer. I don’t have any right to rejoice, people think, in a world where there is so much misery, so much injustice.

I can understand that. There is a moral attitude at work here. But this attitude is nonetheless wrong. The loss of joy does not make the world better – and, conversely, refusing joy for the sake of suffering does not help those who suffer. The contrary is true. The world needs people who discover the good, who rejoice in it and thereby derive the impetus and courage to do good. Joy, then, does not break with solidarity. When it is the right kind of joy, when it is not egotistic, when it comes from the perception of the good, then it wants to communicate itself, and it gets passed on. In this connection, it always strikes me that in the poor neighborhoods of, say, South America, one sees many more laughing happy people than among us. Obviously, despite all their misery, they still have the perception of the good to which they cling and in which they can find encouragement and strength.

In this sense , we have a new need for that primordial trust which ultimately only faith can give. That the world is basically good, that God is there and is good. That it is good to live and to be a human being. This results, then, in the courage to rejoice, which in turn becomes a commitment to making sure that other people, too, can rejoice and receive good news.

What’s a Worldview all about?

Boy with camera

Everyone has a worldview; we just don’t think much about it.

What is it anyway?

A worldview is like your conceptual picture of reality (the world, life, everything). It is how you ‘see’ things, and how this picture helps you make sense of the little things and the big things in your life. Compare it to a camera or lens through which you see the world.

Your worldview will shape how you view politics, education, relationships, entertainment, work, etc. It governs your outlook on life. It is the silent and unnoticed group of assumptions you bring to everything you do.

There are multitudes of worldviews, and it is not uncommon for us to mix elements of different worldviews together. For instance, many Nigerian Christians who are educated have imbibed aspects of a secular worldview such as the belief in an autonomous rational universe which can be known through scientific investigation, and a rejection of supernatural revelation in areas like education and politics. These same people, however, might believe in the existence of a personal God whom we can love and worship. Also, these people could believe strongly in the importance of community, which is an essential aspect of the African worldview.

On account of the plurality of cultures and worldviews in our modern world, many tend to have a divided outlook. In some areas of life we operate out of a particular worldview, but when considering some other aspects, we switch to a different one.

Developing a Christian worldview, therefore, means allowing the Christian understanding of reality to govern everything we think about or do.

And what is this Christian worldview?

The Christian worldview can be understood as a story in 3 parts: Creation, Fall, and Redemption.

God, who exists eternally as a triune being, created our universe as a good and beautiful realm to be further developed by the most special of all his creatures: humans. He placed them on earth as his representatives to rule over it in his name. But they rebelled against his authority and decided to live by their own wisdom. This act resulted in the Fall, whereby humanity has become morally and spiritually broken, humans suffer all kinds of miseries (think of violence, disease, heartbreaks, death), and the entire universe is in a state of disorder (think of hurricanes, drought, earthquakes). In his mercy, however, God has redeemed his universe by sending his son, Jesus Christ, to deal with the root cause of the whole problem: human sin. Through his death and resurrection, he conquered sin and all that has resulted from it. And he calls all people to embrace this redemption by trusting in Jesus as both their Saviour and Lord.

This is the Christian worldview in summary. But we can still flesh it out to discover the individual ideas involved in it. In his classic book, The Christian View of God and the World*,  theologian James Orr, gives us just such an outline:

  1. The Christian view affirms the existence of a Personal, Ethical, Self-Revealing God.
  2. The Christian view affirms the creation of the world by God, His immanent presence in it, His transcendence over it, and His holy and wise government of it for moral ends.
  3. The Christian view affirms the spiritual nature and dignity of man—his creation in the Divine image, and destination to bear the likeness of God in a perfected relation of sonship.
  4. The Christian view affirms the fact of the sin and disorder of the world, not as something belonging to the Divine idea of it, and inhering in it by necessity, but as something which has entered it by the voluntary turning aside of man from his allegiance to his Creator, and from the path of his normal development. The Christian view of the world, in other words, involves a Fall as the presupposition of its doctrine of Redemption.
  5. The Christian view affirms the historical Self-Revelation of God to the patriarchs and in the line of Israel, and, as brought to light by this, a gracious purpose of God for the salvation of the world, centring in Jesus Christ, His Son, and the new Head of humanity.
  6. The Christian view affirms that Jesus Christ was not mere man, but the eternal Son of God—a truly Divine Person—who in the fulness of time took upon Him our humanity, and who, on the ground that in Him as man there dwells the fulness of the Godhead bodily, is to be honoured, worshipped, and trusted, even as God is.
  7. The Christian view affirms the Redemption of the world through a great act of Atonement—this Atonement to be appropriated by faith, and availing for all who do not wilfully withstand and reject its grace.
  8. The Christian view affirms that the historical aim of Christ’s work was the founding of a Kingdom of God on earth, which includes not only the spiritual salvation of individuals, but a new order of society, the result of the action of the spiritual forces set in motion through Christ.
  9. Finally, the Christian view affirms that history has a goal, and that the present order of things will be terminated by the appearance of the Son of Man for judgment, the resurrection of the dead, and the final separation of righteous and wicked.

This outline will form our outlook or perspective from which we think  and live in the world.


*The entire book is available online at www.ccel.org

Optimism is not Hope

Ballon over water

The world is full of pessimists, people who see little chance for a light at the end of our world’s dark tunnel. In such an atmosphere, the optimist stands out as a voice for possibility in the midst of despair. He is likely to be hailed as a visionary or denounced as a romantic. While he is more useful than the despairing pessimist, they both suffer from a similar problem: their viewpoints are not dependent on God’s revelation. They are human responses to the human situation without any input from the God who rules over history.  As a result, they are alike unhelpful. Optimism can seem like hope, but it lacks a concrete basis. It can steer men forward for a while, but they will eventually ask: “How can we even be certain?”

On the contrary, hope – Christian hope – is an expectation of future good based on God’s promise and his redemptive work in history. It is optimism, with certainty, that truth will prevail at last; that the universe, broken and corrupted by sin, will be renewed at the return of Christ; that our loved ones, who died in Christ, are not really dead but only asleep; that HIV and cancer will not have the last word; and that God’s righteous rule, which the saints have prayed for throughout history, will be finally realized.

The great theologian, J.I. Packer, sums it up beautifully:

“Optimism hopes for the best without any guarantee of its arriving and is often no more than whistling in the dark. Christian hope, by contrast, is faith looking ahead to the fulfillment of the promises of God, as when the Anglican burial service inters the corpse ‘in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Optimism is a wish without warrant; Christian hope is a certainty, guaranteed by God himself. Optimism reflects ignorance as to whether good things will ever actually come. Christian hope expresses knowledge that every day of his life, and every moment beyond it, the believer can say with truth, on the basis of God’s own commitment, that the best is yet to come.” 

This is truth we can hope in.

Hope in troubling times

Looking for Hope

Looking for Hope

It is so tempting to withdraw into cynicism after all the events of the past few weeks. We might ask ourselves, “Is there still hope for our world?” “Can any person or society still speak positively of our universe?” It might seem all that is left is for the Great Judge to bring his swift judgment and put an end to all the mess we hear and read about daily.

Well, there are two things that I think need to be considered. Firstly, as Sam pointed out to Frodo in the book and movie The Lord of the Rings, and our own careful reflection will confirm, there is still much that is good in our world. It’s not all bad. God hasn’t abandoned his world. We still enjoy his goodness in the gentle morning breeze, the soothing rain, the smiles and care of our loved ones, the tokens of love we find in a good meal, music which delights and inspires, the opportunity to do meaningful (though sometimes poorly rewarded) work, and much more. Let us not lose sight of these. For they are whispers of love from a caring God to his beloved humans.

Secondly, there is hope for our troubled world. Not a vague desire that something good might turn up in the end, but a firm assurance that the evils we observe and experience will be dealt with and will cease to be. This is the promise of the gospel. Not only will evil be removed, but the universe itself will be renewed and there will be a new heaven and a new earth. In this realm, there will be no tears for there will be nothing to cry over. A brand new world in which God and Christ will dwell with their redeemed ones.

Christ already introduced this era when he defeated death through his own death and resurrection – a new era, the age of God’s kingdom, which he will perfect at his return.It is to this present goodness and assured hope that he calls all humans in every nation. He does not call humanity to despise joy and happiness; he calls us to enjoy true joy and lasting happiness in this renewed world. Such joy as we can only faintly grasp in our present state.

Why not reach out to him?

The clock is ticking…

Where is God?

The truck which rammed into a crowd in Nice, France after the driver was killed.

Tragedy in Nice, France

The past several days have been alarming. Different tragedies broke out in different nations with the rapidity of lit firecrackers. The gory headlines include:

  • Police shoot two black men in two separate incidents.
  • Sniper shoots and kills 5 police officers in Dallas.
  • Conflict in South Sudan. Over 300 killed.
  • Man rams truck into a crowd in the city of Nice, France. At least 84 people dead.
  • Attempted coup in Turkey. Over 160 killed.

In such times of crisis, it is not unusual to hear that familiar question: “Where was God?” Why didn’t he do something about the innocent children who were murdered in Nice? Why didn’t he protect Alton Sterling and Philando Castille from the policemen who shot them? Why couldn’t God keep the 5 Dallas policemen alive? In moments of intense grief, it is normal to ask questions in order to make sense of tragedy. And my heart goes out to all those who have been personally stung in these atrocities.

While it is necessary to ask questions, we often ask the wrong questions. Instead of asking where God is, I think we should be asking: “Where am I”, or “Where is my society, in relation to God?”

These incidents confirm again and again that our world is broken. Things are not as they should be, and our world needs to be put right. Human nature is capable of so much mindless evil (and whoever said evil is rational?); advances in technology sadly seems to correlate inversely with our moral character. In the age of WiFi, we experience so much racial hatred, and all our technological sophistication only makes it easier for a man in France to subscribe to a heartless creed.

And we ask where is God?

Actually, God is where he has been all along since the foundation of the world.

He was there when the first human family rebelled against him and decided they could make out the meaning of life on their own. God was there when nations and societies spurn the light of nature and devise substitute gods for themselves. God was there in 1789 when citizens of France ushered in the modern world with their cry of ‘No king, No God’, a creed which still virtually governs our modern (and postmodern) world. God is there when, instead of reaching out for him, modern man devises all kinds of plans to solve economic, political, and social issues. God is always there, but the problem is that modern society has habitually seen him as the problem rather than the solution. We should run to God and not from God.

Can we change that narrative?

Instead of seeing him as a God to point fingers at, can we see him as a God to stretch our hands to? And I do not refer to something which only individuals in their private rooms should do. This is a responsibility which our modern governments and societies have long ignored. To the modern society, God is irrelevant; he is a relic of our medieval past. We have outgrown him. Sadly, our troubles and crises seem to have outgrown that conceit. Human wisdom has shown itself inadequate to solve human problems; they reach deeper than we tend to think.

We must bury our pride and become truly human once again, by remembering the God who made us and who has redeemed his creation through the work of Jesus Christ.

God’s hands are stretched out to transform not just our individual hearts but our entire societies. He can heal racial strife. He can give the terrorist a better cause to fight for, and with better weapons than guns and explosives. He can cure our lust for power by teaching us that power is a tool for service. He can satisfy our deepest longings for relationship and meaning, and resolve our anxiety over the great question of personal and social identity. Through him, and by coming to terms with Christ’s work of redemption, our lives, our institutions, and our societies can be transformed again.

But it will require us stretching out our hands in return.