Tuesday, July 12, 2016

"Rain" Discussion: Why a Loving God Allows Suffering

Takeaways from Rob Bell's NOOMA 001
Originally written: 9.22.09 (pre 'Love Wins'); updated 7.12.16
The BIG Question: Why does an all-loving God allow pain, suffering, and tribulation to exist in the world? Why does God let bad things happen to us...even for those who are committed in their walk with the Lord?
Answer: Because God loves. He's not only loving...He is love...unconditionally...every second, every day.
With that said, it's important we recognize God's love not only in light and calm, but also in dark and storm.

'Cause truth is: while it's easy to associate God's love to smooth sailing, sunny days, and the greeting of ocean sounds resonating with a noon snooze, we can't forget...

a) ...we live in a fallen world where people are more passionate about the consequences of sin compared to their tolerance and/or ignorance of it...and...
b) ...God is a God of grace who uses our brokenness to make his love and truth known...just as much as he's a God of peace and rest. Thus, it doesn't make any sense to challenge God's authority and/or judge him as passive in light of hardships he has no part in instigating.
Think of it this way: If God sought to eliminate suffering, would there not be a removal of revelations and manifestations where his love could be more transcendingly experienced as well?
Take Peter, for instance, as he's sinking into the Galilean waves. Did he not have the truth right in front of him when we started to sink...we he started to doubt and lose heart? How often is the answer  right in front of us in times we exalt the billowing waves of life!?!
See...I think it's imperative we understand how to bridge this gap. Granted, a mere blog post can only go so far, but at the same time, we gotta engage the discussion at some point...though perhaps you're like an older me wondering 'what's the use'? After all, our finite minds can't possibly comprehend all the reasons why God "allows" bad things to happen. We are not God; therefore, we are not all-knowing. I get that...
However, is not the existence of mystery indicative of a God who conceals for his glory as much as he reveals for his glory...who protects us by giving us room to pursue him in smooth and tough times? Maybe I'm off, but I gotta believe at least part of the answer to 'why a loving God allows suffering' exists here.
At any rate...as we will later discuss...
  • The presence of suffering can actually allow us to experience God's love more deeply (whether the suffering is rooted in sin/a byproduct of the fall...or an attack of the enemy).
  • Whatever batters our confidence, our hope, our joy is best seen as an invitation to desperately seek God for discernment while trusting in his ways.
For the grandest mysteries embedded in life's greatest disappointments can't always be captured and rationalized into a coherent, explicit statements that 'float our boat'. Instead, why not accept the good news...that God has achieved victory through Christ on the cross, is currently making countless situations right as we speak, and will ultimately redeem all pain and suffering in due time.

For "all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28) for God "knows the plans [He] has for [us], plans to prosper [us] and not harm [us], to give [us] hope and a future..." (Jeremiah 29:11).
Photo creds: NOOMA 001; jenhatmaker.com

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Saturday, July 9, 2016

4 Secrets to Surviving Social Media (Part 1)

I’ll be straight-up honest: I haven’t been the best social media user in the history of social media.

Like many, I’ve abused it as a weapon, an unbridled mouthpiece, a tool to gauge my identity/worth, a means to self-preservation…I could go on.

Granted, much of this occurred during a prodigal, collegiate past, but even now, the struggle can be real from time to time.

So when I recently came across the following YouTube video (see below), I couldn’t help but laugh and cringe simultaneously…

I mean…you talk about hilariously painful relatability. Man…

But in all seriousness, I think the content here is worth discussion. ‘Cause when we consider the contrast between the virtual life and what is actual from God’s perspective, we find substantial divergence in what it means to really 'be’.

With that said, here are a couple of takeaways gained after watching the clip…

Conviction #1: Time to check my social media to see who loves me online. #blessedlife

Ok, so I could drill down on the “to see who loves me” line; however, I’m going to target #blessedlife since the answer here covers what leads up to it.

When I say “blessed”, what immediately pops into your head? Whether it’s a person, a possession, a right, or a job…chances are what instantly surfaces is a picture reflecting a pre-existing reality.

For instance, when I ask myself the question, my mind cuts straight away to my wife and son; however, as awesome as they are, I know the presence of them in my life isn’t what makes me blessed. Rather it’s the truth they have been planted in my life the same way I’ve been planted in God’s hands that makes me blessed. See the difference? For “to make” implies a creation I can’t take any credit for.

So when it comes to what it means to be blessed, the answer is: our lives have been planted in God’s hands and He is constantly making them fruitful, durable, and prosperous.

Think about it: When God blesses man, what happens? He’s helped, strengthened, renewed, and ultimately…made better, right? On the flip side, what happens when man blesses God? Well, we know God can’t be helped or strengthened given he’s perfect in all his ways; however, he can still be exalted and glorified through praise, thanksgiving, and admiration.

Therefore, I submit to be blessed is to bless God as he blesses us…knowing he delights in us as we delight in him.1

Conviction #2: Where’s my phone? It gives me life!

How many of you have forgotten to charge your cell phone overnight and woke up to a dead battery? As a result, you left for school/work late…all the while thinking, ‘Man, I wish I could reset my day and start over fully charged!

No doubt, we’ve all been in situations in which we were low on juice (whether it be joy, compassion, patience, lovingkindness, etc.)…and needed a recharge.

The problem is: we don’t always plug into what gives us life (i.e. the heart of God)... right away.

Sometimes, we forget to plug in completely, other times we plug into the outlet of self-gratification. Other times, we’re plugged into too many outlets…and as a result, we blow a fuse.

Yet, when we consider the summation of Genesis 2:7 + Job 33:4 + John 1:3-4 + Job 10:12, we find all the sense in the world to rely on God as our ultimate ‘life source’…

The Lord God formed man of dust…and breathed into him the breath of life. Yes, the Spirit of God has made us…the breath of the Almighty gives us life. Even now, His care preserves our spirit; He gives to all people life and lovingkindness…as all things that come into being…come through Him.

Bottom line: No matter where we are, what we’re doing, we should always be willing to ask ourselves, ‘who or what am I dialed into’?

‘Cause truth is: At the end of the day, a gadget with an Apple or Droid logo doesn’t give us life. Sure, phones can reveal where “life” is taking place…it can give temporary charge to our electronic products, but it certainly can’t charge the heart, the mind, the soul the way God (and God alone) can.

Thus, it makes no sense to waste energy (or go over our minutes) on what ultimately drains our charge.  Instead, why not realize the best life is the life in which God is the only source of anything and everything everlasting?

Looking ahead…stay tuned for a guest post from my wife, Lyssah, as she finishes out this mini-series with our next two conviction points:
  • We compare and scroll so we’ll measure up
  • My fomo leaves me with #nochill…the World Wide Web is #bae for real
‘Til then, if you have any comments/questions/prayer requests, etc., feel free to hit us up below.


~ Cameron


1. See Psalm 1:1-3 – “Blessed is the onewho delights in the law of the Lord, mediates on it day and night…and becomes like a tree planted by streams of water which yield fruit…who leaf does not wither…”

Photo creds: reallifechurch.org & scaredpoet
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