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It’s a fair question.  We hear the statement all the time, and sometimes don’t even stop to think about it.  “Sure, sure,” we think to ourselves and quickly move on to the next thought.  And maybe those thoughts lead to a consideration of all the evil in the world, or our own suffering or injustice.  If our minds are still aimed at God, well, now what do we do?

I was sitting around a dining table last night and found myself in such a discussion.  At first I was just listening, but I was so drawn into the conversation that I soon began asking questions myself – and being asked more in return.  It was very challenging, to say the least, and time well spent.  I now feel I have a clearer understand of why I personally believe God is good.

There are a couple of answers we typically hear.  It’s very disconcerting to not have an answer for something, so we try our very hardest to make sense of something that just doesn’t.  The problem is, neither is comforting to the hearer.  If you’ve just lost your child or your job or your home, or if you’ve just been unfairly accused, it is of little value to hear that God caused it and will bring good out of it.  I don’t even believe that’s true.  Neither is it helpful to think that He merely allowed it.  That, in my way of thinking, makes Him out to be either impotent or uncaring or He just wasn’t paying attention.

And yet we say He’s good.

So what’s the answer?  I don’t pretend to know it, but here’s what I do believe:  God is good, and there is evil and injustice and pain and heartache in the world.  Both are true.

Of course this begs the question, why do I believe God is good?  For me, it is not just a matter of faith, or because the Bible says so or because anyone else says so.  I think human beings inherently know what good is, and we have found it to be the way the world should be.  I don’t see that to be the case with evil.  We don’t see that as right.  In fact, we try to fix it, or if we can’t we despair because we see no hope of the world or our circumstances being made right.  So we believe evil to be a perversion of good — never the other way around.  We don’t believe good is a perversion of evil, and that evil is the norm.

In my last post I tried to make the point that God is the Creator, the Originator of all that is.  Believing that to be the case, I have to look at Him as good, because we believe life to be good.  Our experience of it is not always good, and I don’t mean to minimize the pain we all feel or gloss over the problems in the world with a flippant platitude.  But because we know what it should be, we know that is what it was created to be.  And a good creation comes from a good creator.

I hope I have made my point.  These thoughts are new to me and I am not confident in my communication of them.  But I am absolutely convinced of their truth.

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We seem to be a people very skilled in arithmetic.  Oh, we would not see it that way, and we might even say we are not good in math.  But I beg to differ.

Let’s start with addition.  Don’t you find that we’re always adding to our list of essentials, making more and more things seem necessary all the time?  What was once enough no longer is.  The term “less is more” is a recognition of that and a call to return to something simpler.

And boy, are we ever good at taking away.  If the truth doesn’t quite suit our needs, we just overlook a fact or two and we’re looking good once again.

Mulitiplication?  Well, that’s just glorified addition.  It’s cipherin’ on a grand scale!  But division, now that’s not just taking away many times over.  It draws lines.  It separates and categorizes and causes all sorts of trouble.  It creates everything from minor squabbles to world wars.

So this got me to thinking about laws, specifically God’s laws.  He started out just saying one thing, but when people couldn’t handle that, He had Moses write down 10 more.  Then there were a few books written to explain how to live out those 10 essential things.  This was not overkill.  This was necessary.  But here’s the thing:  Some folks got all tangled up in the particulars of the law and they forgot why the laws were written in the first place.  Then, instead of thinking for themselves and applying a few principles to their lives, they became more concerned with the fine points.

Enter Jesus.  He has such a beautiful way of boiling it down.  You know what He said?  He said the most important thing we can do is to love the Lord our God with everything we’ve got.  That’s it.  And when we do that, we will love other people just as much as we love ourselves, which is really quite a bit.

That is the sum total of what God wants of us.  It’s all about love.  We must not take away from what He said, nor should we add to it.  If we do things because of love, it’s love.  If we do things without love, it’s meaningless.  And when we love Him, the rest comes naturally.

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Is that all God does?  I mean, from some folks, like insurance agents or news anchors or legal people, it’s all we hear about.  There is an earthquake, a huge flood or fire, a drought, and we call it “an act of God.”  Some who attribute the Almighty with these catastrophes would not even acknowledge His existence any other time.

I was sitting in class this week when I heard this term again, and I welled up.  Really, I did.  Our world is not as it was originally intended to be, and we see disaster all around, on a global level as well as a personal one.  But to point the finger at God, well, I think He deserves better.

OK.  In the Bible we read that He caused famine and pestilence and all kinds of horrors on Egypt.  Why?  Because He wanted them to be good to His people.  Egypt had enslaved Israel and HE WANTED GOOD.  That’s what He always wants.  He said, essentially, “Don’t make Me do this.”

That’s all I’m saying.  When these things happened in the Bible, there was purpose.  They weren’t random acts of meanness from a celestial killjoy.  God was not displaying His power and killing people and causing grief “just because.”  He always had a point.

Which is exactly the point.  There was a warning, a prophet, a forerunner to tell people what would happen if… whatever.  It is unfair, unkind, and unbiblical for us, today, to say, for example (and this angers and saddens me greatly), that God is judging a particular region or people when they experience natural disaster.  Where was the warning?  Who predicted this in the name of God?  This is an afterthought said, mistakenly, in God’s name, in hate and disgust and fear.  He is not party to it.

Does God not do good?  YES!  YES!  I see it all the time, and so do you. Why is there goodness and beauty in the world?  Why do we understand justice and liberty?  Where did we get our standards?  Where do creativity and diversity come from?

I want to acknowledge His acts and thank Him.  And know that He is good!

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I was in a play recently.  I’d been wanting to do it for a  number of years, always with an eye out for a venue that would have me.  I saw a play listed in a local calendar of events, and the fine print indicated that it was community theater.  I sent off an email, and I was on my way.

I confess to more stress than was appropriate.  I let it overtake my life for the five weeks of rehearsal.  What if I mess up my lines?  What if I miss my cues?  What if I’m paralyzed by stage fright?  I’m quite sure it shortened my life.  There was not a thing I could do to get my heart to calm down.

The production went quite well.   None of my fears came to fruition.  And by closing night, I was actually a bit too relaxed.  I felt like each audience member was a guest in my house, and I wanted them to feel welcome and taken care of.  I sat on stage and looked out into each face, just enjoying the moment.  I didn’t miss any of my cues – but almost!  So there’s a lesson in this.  I could have believed what the director said all along, that as we knew our part, the whole thing would come together.  Just like life.

Since then, I’ve seen a DVD of the whole production.  My first thought was, “Why couldn’t we have seen this before we went on stage?  It would have helped to know better what we should have been doing.”  Then I thought of the director.  It was his job to see the whole picture.  It was my job to follow his direction.  Simple.  All I had to do was trust that the director knew what he was doing, that he was mindful of the finished product, that he was skilled in his ability to bring the story to life.  I didn’t need to see how I looked or hear how I sounded, I just needed to believe what he said.  It involved listening and following directions.

You see my point, don’t you?  If we could listen to God like that, we could stop worrying, stop wondering how we’re doing, and relax.  He’ll tell us when we’re off script, when we’re out of character, when we’re upstaging others in the cast.  He’s got the big picture in mind, and we’re part of it.

But there is the matter of the script.  Sometimes we want to write our own, or change the one He has given us.  Sometimes we even want to be in a different play.  But there is no other play, and there is no other director.  So I will play my part as best I can, under His skillful direction.  And in this play, my heart can be at peace.

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I wish I’d studied sociology in school.  Don’t you think the trends we see are fascinating?  I’ve been thinking lately about the T-shirts people wear, the bumper stickers we put on our cars, the mugs we carefully choose each morning, the flags in our gardens, the tattoos some folks decorate their bodies with…  But I didn’t study sociology, or much psychology, or anthropology for that matter.  I’m just an observer.  I could be wrong, but doesn’t it seem like we just want to be known?  (And why am I even blogging, you wonder!)

We live in a time when we’re very individualistic.  We seek to create or at least discover our own identity.  We want to be different.  We want to be noticed.  We choose our own style, our own hair color, our own lifestyle, our own college major.  We do it all in the name of freedom.

But wait.  No!  What was I thinking?  We don’t want to be different.  We want to fit in!  We want to be accepted for who we are, but who we are had better be something like who everyone else is.  I can only wear outdated clothes if the date happens to be back in vogue.  I can’t listen to country music if I’m within earshot of anyone who would not approve.  I must learn to like shushi.

So it seems to me, we want to be known, but we are careful about just how much we let others see.  I don’t mind if you know that I like Saturday Night Live, so I’ll drink my coffee from my More Cowbell mug.  But to let you know that I keep my freezer inventory on my laptop, well, that may be another story.

In light of this, I was thinking of how Jesus talked about how we can know Him and be known by Him.  Does that sound inviting to you?  Do you think He would still love you if He really knew you?  If we admit our faults to Him will He reject us?   It seems to me it’s all about trust.  When I said that we don’t let others know everything about us, it’s because we don’t trust them to love and respect us if they do.  We fear their ridicule and rejection.  But what about with God?

I want to invite you, encourage you, to let God know you.  I mean really know you.  Tell Him your fears, your dreams, your faults, your joys.  Even in your most solitude of times, you’ll never be alone.  And you’ll always be loved.

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