Sunday, November 28, 2010

Is there meaning in tragedy?

God instills meaning into every moment and event in history, through Him we can begin to find meaning in suffering. The nature of this world lends itself to tragic events. Fortunately, God speaks to us, so that we can find not only meaning, but salvation and relief from the sufferings of the world.

God infuses every moment and every event with meaning, and gives us confidence that He understands what we are going through. When Jesus instituted communion, He tied the past, present, and future together. 1 Corinthians 11:26 says, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup (the present), you proclaim the Lord's death (the past) until He comes (the future).” God’s knowledge of all events means nothing is insignificant to Him. If God knows when a sparrow falls, He certainly knows when we face tragedy (Matthew 10:29-31). In fact, God assured us that we would face trouble in this world (John 16:33), and that He has experienced our struggles personally (Hebrews 2:14-18; Hebrews 4:15).

Tragic events are a part of this mortal world. It is important to remember that God is not the source of tragedy. The vast majority of human suffering is caused by sin – all too often, the sin of other people. For instance, a mass murder is the fault of the murderer, disobeying the moral law of God (Exodus 20:13; Romans 1:18-21). When we look to find meaning in such an event, we have to understand why this world is the way it is. The hardship of this world was originally caused by mankind’s sin (Romans 5:12), which is always a matter of choice (1 Corinthians 10:13). God cannot prevent every tragedy without interfering in free will. Also, the suffering we experience in this world does three things. It leads us to seek God, it develops our spiritual strength, and it increases our desire for heaven (Romans 5:1-6; James 1:2-3; Romans 8:18-25; Titus 2:13; 1 Peter 1:7).

In the garden of Eden, God spoke to Adam (Genesis 1:28; Genesis 2:16-17; Genesis 3:9-19). He communicated in clear and direct ways, not in abstract concepts. God speaks to us today in the same way. In some ways, this is the most important meaning to be found in any tragedy. Tragic events demonstrate much of their meaning in the way we react to them. C.S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” This does not mean that God causes tragedy, but that He uses our reaction to tragedy to speak to us. Tragic events remind us not only that we live in an imperfect and fallen world, but that there is a God who loves us and wants something better for us than the world has to offer.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What does it mean to be one flesh in a marriage?

The term “one flesh” comes from the Genesis account of the creation of Eve: “And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:21-24).

The term “one flesh” means that just as our bodies are one whole and cannot be divided into pieces and still be a whole, so God intended it to be with the marriage relationship. There are no longer two entities (two individuals), but now there is one entity (a married couple). There are a number of aspects to this new union.

In terms of the duration of the union, Jesus states that it has always been God’s intention for a married couple to remain one unit until death parts them (Matthew 19:6). When divorce occurs contrary to God’s plan, you do not have two “wholes” but rather two halves that have been ripped apart. As far as emotional attachments are concerned, the new unit takes precedence over all previous and future relationships (Genesis 2:24a). Some marriage partners continue to place greater weight upon ties with parents than with their new partner. This is a recipe for disaster in the marriage and is a perversion of God’s original intention of “leaving and cleaving.” A similar problem can develop when a spouse begins to draw closer to a child to meet emotional needs rather than to the other partner.

Emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, financially, and in every other way, the couple is to become one. Even as one part of the body cares for the other body parts (the stomach digests food for the body, the brain directs the body for the good of the whole, the hands work for the sake of the body, etc.), so each partner of the marriage is to show like care for the other. Each partner is no longer to see money earned as “my” money but now as “our” money. Ephesians 5:22-33 and Proverbs 31:10-31 give the application of this “oneness” to the role of the husband and to the wife, respectively.


Physically, they become one flesh, and the result of that one flesh would be found in the children that their union produces; these children now possess a special genetic makeup as a result of the union. And even in the sexual aspect of their relationship, a husband and wife are not to consider their bodies as their own but as belonging to their partner (1 Corinthians 7:3-5). Nor are they to focus on their own pleasure but rather the giving of pleasure to their spouse.


This oneness and this pursuit of the benefit of the other is not automatic, especially after mankind’s fall into sin. The man, in Genesis 2:24, is told to “cleave” to his wife. This word has two ideas behind it. One is to be “glued” to his wife, a picture of how tight the marriage bond is to be. The other aspect is to “pursue hard after” the wife. This “pursuing hard after” is to go beyond the courtship leading to marriage and is to continue throughout the marriage. The fleshly tendency is to “do what feels good to me” rather than to consider what will benefit the spouse. And this self-centeredness is the rut that marriages commonly fall into once the “honeymoon is over.” Instead of each spouse dwelling upon how his or her own needs are not being met, he or she is to remain focused on meeting the needs of the spouse.


But as nice as it may be for two people to live together meeting each other’s needs, God has a higher calling for the marriage. Even as they were to be serving Christ with their lives before marriage (Romans 12:1-2), now they are to serve Christ together as a unit and raise their children to serve God (1 Corinthians 7:29-34; Malachi 2:15; Ephesians 6:4). Priscilla and Aquila, in Acts 18, would be good examples of this. As a couple pursues serving Christ together, the joy which the Spirit gives will fill their marriage (Galatians 5:22-23). In the Garden of Eden, there were three present (Adam, Eve, and God) and there was joy. So, as God is central in a marriage today, there also will be joy. Without God, a lasting oneness will not be possible.

© Copyright 2002-2009 Got Questions Ministries

Monday, February 16, 2009

Book of Genesis


Author: The author of the Book of Genesis is not identified. Traditionally, the author has always assumed to have been Moses. There is no conclusive reason to deny the Mosaic authorship of Genesis.

Date of Writing: The Book of Genesis does not state when it was written. The date of authorship is likely between 1440 and 1400 B.C., between the time Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and his death.

Purpose of Writing: The Book of Genesis has sometimes been called the "seed-plot" of the entire Bible. Most of the major doctrines in the Bible are introduced in "seed" form in the Book of Genesis. Along with the fall of man, God's promise of salvation or redemption is recorded (Genesis 3:15). The doctrines of creation, imputation of sin, justification, atonement, depravity, wrath, grace, sovereignty, responsibility, and many more are all addressed in this book of origins called Genesis.

Many of the great questions of life are answered in Genesis. (1) Where did I come from? (God created us - Genesis 1:1) (2) Why am I here? (we are here to have a relationship with God - Genesis 15:6) (3) Where am I going? (we have a destination after death - Genesis 25:8). Genesis appeals to the scientist, the historian, the theologian, the housewife, the farmer, the traveler, and the man or woman of God. It is a fitting beginning for God's story of His plan for mankind, the Bible.

Key Verses: Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."

Genesis 3:15, "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."

Genesis 12:2-3, "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."

Genesis 50:20, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."

Brief Summary: The Book of Genesis can be divided into two sections: Primitive History and Patriarchal History. Primitive history records (1) Creation (Genesis chapters 1-2); (2) the Fall of man (Genesis chapters 3-5); (3) the Flood (Genesis chapters 6-9); and (4) the dispersion (Genesis chapters 10-11). Patriarchal history records the lives of four great men: (1) Abraham (Genesis 12-25:8); (2) Isaac (Genesis 21:1-35-29); (3) Jacob (Genesis 25:21-50:14); and (4) Joseph (Genesis 30:22-50:26).

God created a universe that was good and free from sin. God created humanity to have a personal relationship with Him. Adam and Eve sinned and thereby brought evil and death into the world. Evil increased steadily in the world until there was only one family in which God found anything good. God sent the Flood to wipe out evil, but delivered Noah and his family along with the animals in the Ark. After the Flood, humanity began again to multiply and spread throughout the world.

God chose Abraham, through whom He would create a chosen people and eventually the promised Messiah. The chosen line was passed on to Abraham's son Isaac, and then to Isaac's son Jacob. God changed Jacob's name to Israel, and his twelve sons became the ancestors of the twelve tribes of Israel. In His sovereignty, God had Jacob's son Joseph sent to Egypt by the despicable actions of Joseph's brothers. This act, intended for evil by the brothers, was intended for good by God and eventually resulted in Jacob and his family being saved from a devastating famine by Joseph, who had risen to great power in Egypt.

Foreshadowings: Many New Testament themes have their roots in Genesis. Jesus Christ is the Seed of the woman who will destroy Satan’s power (Gen. 3:15). As with Joseph, God’s plan for the good of mankind through the sacrifice of His Son was intended for good, even though those who crucified Jesus intended it for evil. Noah and his family are the first of many remnants pictured in the Bible. Despite overwhelming odds and difficult circumstances, God always preserves a remnant of the faithful for Himself. The remnant of Israelites returned to Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity; God preserved a remnant through all the persecutions described in Isaiah and Jeremiah; a remnant of 7000 priests were hidden from the wrath of Jezebel; God promises that a remnant of Jews will one day embrace their true Messiah (Romans 11). The faith displayed by Abraham would be the gift of God and the basis of salvation for both Jew and Gentile (Ephesians 2:8-9; Hebrews 11).

Practical Application: The overriding theme of Genesis is God’s eternal existence and His creation of the world. There is no effort on the part of the author to defend the existence of God; he simply states that God is, always was, and always will be, almighty over all. In the same way, we have confidence in the truths of Genesis, despite the claims of those who would deny them. All people, regardless of culture, nationality or language, are accountable to the Creator. But because of sin, introduced into the world at the Fall, we are separated from Him. But through one small nation, Israel, God’s redemptive plan for mankind was revealed and made available to all. We rejoice in that plan.

God created the universe, the earth, and every living being. We can trust Him to handle the concerns in our lives. God can take a hopeless situation, i.e. Abraham and Sarah being childless, and do amazing things if we will simply trust and obey. Terrible and unjust things may happen in our lives, as with Joseph, but God will always bring about a greater good if we have faith in Him and His sovereign plan. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Monday, February 2, 2009

Why won't God heal amputees?

Some use this question in an attempt to "disprove" the existence of God. In fact, there is a popular anti-Christian website dedicated to the “Why won’t God heal amputees?” argument: http://www.whywontgodhealamputees.com. If God is all-powerful and if Jesus promised to do anything we ask (or so the reasoning goes), then why won’t God ever heal amputees when we pray for them? Why does God heal victims of cancer and diabetes, for example, yet He never causes an amputated limb to be regenerated? The fact that an amputee stays an amputee is "proof" to some that God does not exist, that prayer is useless, that so-called healings are coincidence, and that religion is a myth.

The above argument is usually presented in a thoughtful, well-reasoned way, with a liberal sprinkling of Scripture to make it seem all the more legitimate. However, it is an argument based on a wrong view of God and a misrepresentation of Scripture. The line of reasoning employed in the "why won’t God heal amputees" argument makes at least seven false assumptions:

Assumption 1:
God has never healed an amputee. Who is to say that in the history of the world, God has never caused a limb to regenerate? To say, "I have no empirical evidence that limbs can regenerate; therefore, no amputee has ever been healed in the history of the world" is akin to saying "I have no empirical evidence that rabbits live in my yard; therefore, no rabbit has ever lived on this ground in the history of the world." It’s a conclusion that simply cannot be drawn. Besides, we have the historical record of Jesus healing lepers, some of whom we may assume had lost digits or facial features. In each case, the lepers were restored whole (Mark 1:40-42; Luke 17:12-14). Also, there is the case of the man with the shriveled hand (Matthew 12:9-13), and the restoration of Malchus's severed ear (Luke 22:50-51), not to mention the fact that Jesus raised the dead (Matthew 11:5; John 11), which would undeniably be even more difficult than healing an amputee.

Assumption 2:
God’s goodness and love require Him to heal everyone. Illness, suffering, and pain are the result of our living in a cursed world—cursed because of our sin (Genesis 3:16-19; Romans 8:20-22). God’s goodness and love moved Him to provide a Savior to redeem us from the curse (1 John 4:9-10), but our ultimate redemption will not be realized until God has made a final end of sin in the world. Until that time, we are still subject to physical death.

If God’s love required Him to heal every disease and infirmity, then no one would ever die—because "love" would maintain everyone in perfect health. The biblical definition of love is "a sacrificial seeking what is best for the loved one." What is best for us is not always physical wholeness. Paul the apostle prayed to have his "thorn in the flesh" removed, but God said, "No" because He wanted Paul to understand he didn’t need to be physically whole to experience the sustaining grace of God. Through the experience, Paul grew in humility and in the understanding of God’s mercy and power (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

The testimony of Joni Eareckson Tada provides a modern example of what God can do through physical tragedy. As a teenager, Joni suffered a diving accident that left her a quadriplegic. In her book Joni, she relates how she visited faith healers many times and prayed desperately for the healing which never came. Finally, she accepted her condition as God’s will, and she writes, "The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that God doesn’t want everyone well. He uses our problems for His glory and our good" (p. 190).

Assumption 3:
God still performs miracles today just as He did in the past. In the thousands of years of history covered by the Bible, we find just four short periods in which miracles were widely performed (the period of the Exodus, the time of the prophets Elijah and Elisha, the ministry of Jesus, and the time of the apostles). While miracles occurred throughout the Bible, it was only during these four periods that miracles were "common."

The time of the apostles ended with the writing of Revelation and the death of John. That means that now, once again, miracles are rare. Any ministry which claims to be led by a new breed of apostle or claims to possess the ability to heal is deceiving people. "Faith healers" play upon emotion and use the power of suggestion to produce unverifiable "healings." This is not to say that God does not heal people today—we believe He does—but not in the numbers or in the way that some people claim.

We turn again to the story of Joni Eareckson Tada, who at one time sought the help of faith healers. On the subject of modern-day miracles, she says, "Man’s dealing with God in our day and culture is based on His Word rather than ‘signs and wonders’" (op cit., p. 190). His grace is sufficient, and His Word is sure.

Assumption 4:
God is bound to say "yes" to any prayer offered in faith. Jesus said, "I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it" (John 14:12-14). Some have tried to interpret this passage as a carte blanche from Jesus promising His agreement to whatever we ask. But this is misreading Jesus’ intent. Notice, first, that Jesus is speaking to His apostles, and the promise is for them. After Jesus’ ascension, the apostles were given power to perform miracles as they spread the gospel (Acts 5:12). Second, Jesus twice uses the phrase "in My name." This indicates the basis for the apostles’ prayers, but it also implies that whatever they prayed for should be consonant with Jesus’ will. A selfish prayer, for example, or one motivated by greed, cannot be said to be prayed in Jesus’ name.

We pray in faith, but faith means that we trust God. We trust Him to do what is best and to know what is best. When we consider all the Bible’s teaching on prayer (not just the promise given to the apostles), we learn that God may exercise His power in response to our prayer, or He may surprise us with a different course of action. In His wisdom He always does what is best (Romans 8:28).

Assumption 5:
God’s future healing (at the resurrection) cannot compensate for earthly suffering. The truth is, "our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18). When a believer loses a limb, he has God’s promise of future wholeness, and faith is "being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" (Hebrews 11:4). Jesus said, "It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire" (Matthew 18:8). His words confirm the relative unimportance of our physical condition in this world, as compared to our eternal state. To enter life maimed (and then to be made whole) is infinitely better than to enter hell whole (to suffer for eternity).

Assumption 6:
God’s plan is subject to man’s approval. One of the contentions of the "why won’t God heal amputees" argument is that God just isn’t "fair" to amputees. Yet, Scripture is clear that God is perfectly just (Psalm 11:7; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-6) and in His sovereignty answers to no one (Romans 9:20-21). A believer has faith in God’s goodness, even when circumstances make it difficult and reason seems to falter.

Assumption 7:
God does not exist. This is the underlying assumption on which the whole "why won’t God heal amputees" argument is based. Those who champion the "why won’t God heal amputees" argument start with the assumption that God does not exist and then proceed to buttress their idea as best they can. For them, "religion is a myth" is a foregone conclusion, presented as a logical deduction but which is, in reality, foundational to the argument.

In one sense, the question of why God doesn’t heal amputees is a "gotcha" question, comparable to "Can God make a rock too big for Him to lift?" and is designed not to seek for truth but to discredit faith. In another sense, it can be a valid question with a biblical answer. That answer, in short, would be something like this: "God can heal amputees and will heal every one of them who trusts Christ as Savior. The healing will come, not as the result of our demanding it now, but in God’s own time, possibly in this life, but definitely in Heaven. Until that time, we walk by faith, trusting the God who redeems us in Christ and promises the resurrection of the body."


© Copyright 2002-2009 Got Questions Ministries