Wednesday, March 02, 2011

BAD THINGS AND GOOD PEOPLE

My wife and I watched a movie one time starring Michael Keeton where he was diagnosed with terminal cancer as his wife was carrying their first child. Told he would die before the birth of the baby, he began video taping himself telling of his childhood, explaining how to shave the proper way, reading some bedtime stories, and a host of other little things, all so his child one day would be able to know his daddy. He lived to hold his child, while bringing some healing to the bad relationships of his family of origin, and, all in all, it was a good movie with a worthwhile message.

Mary and I also recently attended the funeral of our son-in-law's Mom. Yesterday we delivered our family memorial gift to him. It was an 11x16 picture of him and his Mom put together digitally by Mary's sister and was as great a picture as I've seen in some time. He was overwhelmed by it. It really was a special moment for a special guy.

So I got to thinking about life and death...

We read in Psalm 91:13.. "Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet." I know this is a psalm with specific reference to the Messiah's victory over evil because the devil quoted verses 11 and 12 to our Lord in the middle of the temptation experience. "For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. They shall bear you up in their hands lest you dash your foot against a stone." [Or as one translation says..'so you won't even stub your toe.'] But it sure does give us some insight to this whole thing of bad things happening to good people.

In putting together some thoughts about it all here's what came out.

The lion, the adder, the dragon, as one writer I read said, "Remind us of certain kinds of dreadful events that happen to people." He went on to point out that the lion could be seen as those undisguised and obviously bad things that happen like disease or death. The adder could be understood to be the unexpected things such as accidents, and the dragon, the unfounded and foolish things that are feared so much which never come to pass. [Dragons aren't suppose to exist.]

All of the Psalm speaks of painful, hurtful, even tragic things that can happen to people for sure. But this Psalm is spoken specifically to the Messiah, as I said, and is in the context of why He didn't need to fear any of those possibilities. It follows verse 12 which the devil tried to use to get Jesus to operate in the power of His Divine nature to no avail. So the whole thing is personal to Him.

But the thing that intrigues me the most right now is that while Jesus was promised that the Angels were assigned to protect Him from all this so that He had no reason to fear what He saw, couldn't see, or the worst thing He could imagine, He still endured rejection, severe beatings, family abandonment, and finally the crucifixion.

Did the Angels forget to bear Him up and over those hurtful things? He said He could have called and they would have. But He didn't call and they didn't bear Him up over them. He thus attested to the fact that the lion, adder, and dragon things can happen to Him and to us and these identifiable, unexpected, and sometimes, self imposed painful things happen simply because there is no badge of exclusion for any person on this fallen earth. [He was here to share fully in our kind of journey in this fallen world.]

So, MAYBE the goal in life is not the escaping of the lion, the adder, or the dragon. It can certainly be concluded that their presence in His life is no indication that He was bad and was being punished. MAYBE we have no reason to fear them because MAYBE they are not the real issue at all. MAYBE the purpose of God is. Jesus fulfilled His purpose while in the midst of things like that and we certainly know what that purpose was and we are eternally grateful. MAYBE we should just fulfill our purpose too. When that's done, whatever the doctor says, however long we last in life, whatever pleasant or unpleasant things happen to transpire while we're here, MAYBE life is real life because it is measured in terms of PURPOSE more than in length of days or absence of pain or the presence of discomfort. MAYBE that's what "well done" is all about.

That's what I was thinking. I thought I'd tell you about it.

Paul B.

19 comments:

Rodney Sprayberry said...

I have been reading 1-2 Corinthians over the last month. I am struck by Paul's comment in 2 Corinthians 4-5

"Don't lose heart because the tent we live in is getting old and worn out and because we are experiencing light and momentary afflictions..!"

in light of 2 Corinthians 11:22-33!

It seems to me that Paul does not emphasize PURPOSE as much as he does PERSPECTIVE.

Paul's assumption seems to be "life happens and it can get tough! Yet everything that occurs in life is part of God's PLAN."

You get the distinct impression as you read his writing that he LIVES life as change and circumstances and opportunity dictate. So he prays and chooses and acts and hopes and dreams and plans and adjusts as life unfolds.

But PERSPECTIVE is what keeps him going...

Outwardly we are wasting away.

Inwardly we are being renewed.

Troubles and Affliction are temporary.

Yet, they produce eternal glory that outweighs them all.

We long for, groan for, and are burdened in this existence to "be swallowed up by life" (I love that phrase!)

Though we prefer to be out of this leaky worn out tent and home "where we belong" We all know (or need to remember that) we will be there soon enough! So until that time there is work to do, circumstances to face, opportunity to take...

Mrs. Austin said...

My question is how do you know what is metaphorical in the Bible and what is literal?

You clearly think Psalm 91:13 is a metaphor for human suffering. If someone who knew nothing about the Bible read it they might take it literal or interpret it differently. What makes you so sure that is what that passage is referring to?

And how come so many passages can be seen as metaphorical and not literal? When writing is not literal it can be open for debate and questioning.

Did the Bible purposefully make its writings unclear and vague to fool the common man into taking what he already believed to be true in his heart and mind and find it in that book?

For example if I wanted to own slaves I could probably find a passage in that book that would justify me having slaves. If I thought slavery was bad I bet I could find a passage that would support that as well.

It seems to me that with so many metaphors and parables that actual explanations come from what you already view to be true or want to be true.

I mean you have even stated in blogs and in person that you have interpreted certain passages one way for many years to only discover that you probably had it wrong the whole time.

I dont know. I have been thinking a lot about that and simply had to ask a professional Bible scholar.

Why is the Bible so vague?

Rodney Sprayberry said...

Mrs. Austin,

I am sure Paul will have some thoughts on this so I am not trying to speak for him.

Though I am no scholar, it is helpful for me to remember that every section in the Bible is not to be read the same way.

I believe that the Bible is not just divinely inspired but it is also a literary masterpiece! Each book has a different author was written for a different purpose at different times in different genres (narrative, history, gospel poetry, wisdom, apocalyptic, letters etc)

They were designed to be read differently. For example, Poetry and apocalyptic books will have more symbolism and metaphor that the narrative and historical sections.

A good Bible dictionary/encyclopedia can help sort all of this out.

Even with this knowledge it is still hard in some places to determine what is symbolic verses what is literal. But, in many places in the Bible it does helps make things a little clearer...at least for me!

I found that a desire/diligence to know what God intended a passage to mean usually leads to a fruitful search for answers. Even though I usually end up with more questions! :)

Hope that helps a little

Aussie John said...

Paul,

If escaping the lion, the adder, or the dragon is what it is all about, then I have failed miserably.

Never-the-less, from where I now sit (literally), having had chronic physical pain for some twenty years or so,quite a bit of mental anguish, I can agree with you.

If I had spent my time trying to escape these creatures, I'd have missed out on appreciating many of the blessings which have been mine.

To itemize them would take far too much of this space, but here's four which stand out at the moment:

1. The best wife in the world, to whom I've been married fifty years tomorrow.

2. Five great children whose behavior has never given me cause for concern, the baby now 42.

3. A home,five minutes from the Pacific Ocean, in which to rest my aches and pains.

4. An opportunity to spend the major part of my life sharing the best news that anyone could hear, that in this prodigal world, there is a loving Father who yearns for His children,showing them His love and the way home, by condescending to become a man who would pay the price of our prodigality.

That outweighs all the monsters!

traveller said...

Aussie John, congratulations to you and your wife for those fifty years together. You are an example for all of us.

Mrs. Austin said...

Thanks Rodney for your insight! :)

But even with everything you said it still draws me to the same conclusion that the Bible is simply a book with a lot of authors that wanted to make a society see things a certain way and simply invoked the word "God" and used some scary and romantic language to do it.

I just do not see a God using a written document to translate a message knowing how fallible a document is.

Surely God would know that people would take certain passages to mean one thing and others to mean another. And that many different branches of Christianity would emerge saying that they each know which way is the right way to interpret the book.

Why would God give one branch of Christianity the proper word of God and not the others? I can only conclude that God did not write the Bible because of the mere confusion it causes.

I am not trying to upset anyone with that statement it is simply my opinion after thinking about the history and the language and the many metaphors and the conflicts the Bible presents.

But I love reading the comments and this blog! It helps me to understand what Baptists believe the Bible to say.

And I really respect what Paul has to say because of the wonderful parent and grandparent he is. I know his heart only has love and compassion for others. Or else he wouldn't take comments at all on his blog. Especially from an Atheist. ;)

Thanks again Rodney for taking time out of your day to write me your thoughts.

Paul Burleson said...

Mrs. Austin,

I concur with what Rodney has said. I also would have to admit that no one can adequately answer your obviously sincere question with a few paragraphs of words on a blog.

I do believe that if you will continue to ask such questions with your attitude a genuinely searching one, as it so obviously is now, some insight will come.

Rodney said he.." found that a desire/diligence to know what God intended a passage to mean usually leads to a fruitful search for answers. Even though I usually end up with more questions! :)"

I totally concur and confess to that for myself.

I personally thought at one time that the bible was, indeed, the silliest book imaginable. Within a few months of that assessment I came to an experience that I cannot adequately understand must less explain, where the One about whom the book ultimately speaks and what He ultimately did, changed my life.

I will only add that the books of the Bible were all written within their immediate context, using ideas current at the time. Those passages that seem so weird to us use language which was common at the time, picking up terms and phrases which were in usage then,

My experience is that the closer we study the historical, literary and cultural background of the various books of the Bible, the more we things begin to make sense.

Rodney said this..."They were designed to be read differently. For example, Poetry and apocalyptic books will have more symbolism and metaphor that the narrative and historical sections." I agree.

I would add that they were written with a progressive revelatory picture of God culminating in the full picture we have in the Person of Christ. it is this progression that is often not recognized by many who read/study the biblical materials.

Megan, excellent questions. Thank you for gracing this blog with your comments.


Aussie J,

That, my friend, says it all. Your four points speak to all that has been asked about in this comment section. Thank you...again.


Traveller,

Good to hear from you again.

I would love to hear from you, even privately if you prefer, on the subject matter of the last post. Sincerely.

Gary said...

Paul: Very thought provoking post I'd like to fulfill my purpose, but I seem to have a difficult time finding it. I'd like to know how to do that when nothing really seems to be evident, and a feeling of uselessness tends therefore to persist. This would make a great sermon for you on your next gig at Emmanuel, by the way! Gary

Anonymous said...

Hello Mrs. Austin,

I'm glad you like Paul's blog.

One of the great saints of the Church came to believe in God late in his life and wrote about it, this:

"Late have I loved Thee, O Beauty so ancient and so new! Too late have I loved Thee. And lo, Thou wert inside me and I outside, and I sought for Thee there, and in all my unsightliness I flung myself on those beautiful things which Thou hast made. Thou wert with me and I was not with Thee. Those beauties kept me away from Thee, though if they had not been in Thee, they would not have been at all. Thou didst call and cry to me and break down my deafness. Thou didst flash and shine on me and put my blindness to flight. Thou didst blow fragrance upon me and I drew breath, and now I pant after Thee. I tasted of Thee and now I hunger and thirst for Thee. Thou didst touch me and I am aflame for Thy peace...."

St. Augustine

When I read what you wrote, I thought about him who also wrote
""You have made us for Yourself, Oh Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee."

Thanks for letting me share.
I respect your honesty.

I can't help but hope that the Good Shepherd Who has guided your path to Paul's blog will also guide you safely Home.

Christiane

Mrs. Austin said...

Christiane: I did not know anything about St. Augustine so you might have given me some good reading material. :) You and Rodney are very sweet and should be the example of a Christian and not the exception.

I have found that Christians can be a negative force rather than a positive. They are one of many reasons why I dislike the Christian faith.

It is nice to talk to believers that can be civil and simply listen before they make their statements. And when you do make your statements their is no judgment but rather compassion. I thank you for that.

Paul- You are probably right...it might need a bigger forum than a comment section to go into the debate. But I would love to know more about how you came to "know Christ" and why you have devoted your life to telling other people about Christ.

Rodney Sprayberry said...

Mrs Austin,

Thank you for your transparency and kind words. Yesterday was my 42 birthday so I spent most of the afternoon and evening celebrating with my family. So I read your responses to both myself and Christiane late last night

A few thoughts...

It is sad that many blogs, churches and people are neither civil or safe for struggling seekers with questions. Thankfully this blog is both.

I had a professor once who encouraged us to "follow truth no matter where it leads even if that means giving up you most cherished piece of theology."

I have reflected on that over the years and tried to take it to heart.

I think I understand what he meant.

Truth is far from relative but it is not always rational. Truth (or maybe what is true about reality...see earlier post from Paul) is relational revelation. That is why Jesus said I am the way, truth, life.

Do the scriptures accurately reflect this reality? I believe that they do. And like Mark Twain once said, It is not the parts of the Bible that I don't understand that trouble me...it's the parts that I do!!!

God is not displeased with honest questions...about Him...about the Scriptures...about life (even the painful parts..as have been discussed in this post).

In fact, I believe that God would rather us "wrestle" with Him and our understanding of who He is than live and serve Him with pretense!

So ask and wrestle and question.

Two final thoughts, one from the OT and one from the NT. They are helpful to me to remember


The Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you (truly) seek Him He will be found by you.

1 Chronicles: 28:9

Jesus said (to a bunch of religious insiders...like myself)

You diligently study the scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These Scriptures testify about me yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

John 5:39-40

Blessings to you

Paul Burleson said...

Gary,

I think our "purpose" can be understood relationally best. ]A opposed to performance.] If our thinking is about "being" instead of "doing" for example, we can see a purpose in being a person who is a resource for others in order to make their life better, whether this is as a co-worker, friend, parent or spouse, etc.

In the same fashion, our purpose in "being" goes to a level beyond our senses physically when one is able to be someone who knows God and enjoys Him forever as the Westminister Confession says.

Then our "doing" can take any shape we choose. "Whatever we find [choose] to do we will do it with all our might as unto the Lord and not unto men." [To be seen by men for what we do.] That's how the scripture says we're to be in any thing we do

This way of thinking for me gives purpose to the most meaningless tasks that any day might bring. It transforms daily routine into a ministry wintin itself. Every day becomes an adventure. It may be a bit silly to some but it's life changing to me.

Aussie John said...

Paul,

When genuine disciples of Jesus Christ learn the important truth of your response to Gary, "church" will take on genuine new life and meaning.

traveller said...

Mrs. Austin, in your words I observe not only a civil but kind and warm person who is genuinely seeking for answers. These are very fine qualities in any person and as you suggest sometimes lacking among those who claim to follow Jesus. It is difficult for me to understand why this attitude is reflected in those lives. But I must admit I am short of the person I would like to be and who God wishes for me to be.

May I also say there are many times when I struggle to understand portions of the Bible and to understand God. One thing that often helps me is to see the Bible not as its component pieces but the sweeping story of its entirety. It seems to me the Bible is one of God's ways of telling his story of activity in his creation. It is a grand story of God expressing himself by creating all that exists, including humans. This wonderful event is marred by human choices but God desires to restore his creation to its intended purpose and original condition. While there are many human failings along the way it is the story of God never giving up on humans but always moving toward the grand renewal of all creation, which one day will occur. It is a story of wondrous hope in a world with so little hope. So, I look for how each of the components of the Bible fit into this grand story.

May your journey continue to bring you closer to the understanding you seek.

Mrs. Austin said...

Traveller and Rodney:

I am not sure I am on a religious journey or not. I simply love learning new things and especially religious beliefs. They are fascinating to me.

I wasn't always an atheist. Through school and critical thinking I came to the conclusion that God was no more real than Santa.(I was 14 I believe) But my family was Lutheran. Not really practicing Lutheran more of we went to a Lutheran church on Christmas and Easter and a few other times throughout the year.

And I had never really read the Bible either. My family likes to have the preacher explain what is in the book rather than doing it themselves.

But when I did decided to read the Bible...oh man was I shocked at what was in there. Slavery, prostitution, incest, murder, sacrifice, and a lot of other things that simply had me appalled. It made me want to get my family and others away from such a religion.

The Bible itself is the main reason why I do not like the religion. I have not found one story that has any merit of being from a god. And if the Bible truly is the word of God, heaven help us all!

But again I find it so interesting! And I like Paul's blog because I can ask him critical thinking questions without him finding it offensive.

I am pretty sure that I will never be a theist. If scientific evidence is found that their is a God then I will be the first to convert. Until that happens I am just going to be reading and commenting.

Rodney Sprayberry said...

Mrs Austin
I am pretty sure that I am not alone (from those of us who frequent this blog) in saying "Regardless of where your truth journey leads you.You are a welcomed addition to the kind of dialogue this blog encourages."

Have you by chance read "the signature of God" by Francis Collins
You might find it intriquing if you have not

Blessings to u

Anonymous said...

Hi RODNEY,

I like your recommendation of Francis Collins writings for Mrs. Austin to examine, if she chooses.

He has an interesting focus on the 'Natural Law' which I can relate to ethically, morally, and in faith.
He points to considerations which are of interest for all people who value ethics and humane behavior, not necessarily only those people 'of faith'.
The connection Collins makes of the natural law with faith is an interesting one, although he has been criticized for some of his applications.

Good choice, Rodney.
He's an interesting read.

Christiane

Rodney Sprayberry said...

Christiane

I am glad you approve :)

I do not agree with everything he says but it is a FACINATING read! Definately thought provoking!

Rex Ray said...

This is my first time to 'look over' Paul's blog since my computer crashed in February.

Mrs. Austin, you may never read this, but your pleasant questions in search of truth caused me to think in my own life when I didn't want God. My twin brother and I were told we 'couldn't walk a fence – we had to choose God or the devil.' Those words didn't convince us because at nine years old we were good at walking fences.

At some time in life, all of us rebel against believing or accepting God.

While walking in a pasture, our three-year-old grandson asked what a cow skull was. Learning that cows died and people died, he started bawling his head off. Being told we would all be happy in heaven, he said: “I don't want to go to heaven – I like this planet!”

My five-year-old niece died of fever in China. Her last words were” “Mama which one is our house?”

A few years ago, I heard a Muslim tell how he accepted Jesus the first time he attended a church in Tokyo. The pastor was my friend who had asked me to get a crew to remodel their church. The Muslim was facing deportation and the promise of death if he did not renounce his faith. He was asked what would be his greatest disappointment if he was killed. After awhile, he said, “When I face Jesus, I'll have to say I'm sorry I knew you for such a short time.”