159 – Why God is Good to Let Bad Things Happen

“If God is good, why does He let bad things happen?” This is the age old question called “the problem of evil”, more specifically said, “If God is all powerful and good, then why does evil exist? Something must give.” The cheating, easy, faulty answer is that “God is all powerful, but not all knowing” and other lazy solutions that diminish God. The better and shorter answer is not that God is “less” than we think of Him, but God is more than we think of Him. God is not “good”; God is “Holy”, ultra-good, and thus remains ultra-good without evil harming Him or His ultra-good plans.

Dealing with this question is essential to understanding the Biblical-Christian worldview. Part of the Biblical-Christian worldview and “the problem of evil” both relate to “redemption”, that moral rules are not sticks to beat others with in the public square; moral rules guide us to happiness and when we stray away from those good, helpful morals, we come back to them in love and friendship. That concept of “the good path”—stay on the path, return if you wander off—is the essence of Biblical-Christianity and the reason God is good because He allows bad things to happen.

God is the God of Means—He works through others. Jesus did miracles giving the fishermen many fish, but the fishermen still had to let down their nets as Jesus told them. Jesus fed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish—but the people had to pass the food around. Peter walked on water, but he first had to step out of the boat. God does miracles that we can’t, but He always—always, every time, no exception—does His work in a way that we have some ownership, responsibility, and participation in the results.

Sometimes life is hard because winning is tiring work. Other times jealous people are cruel. But, in everything, we have some ownership—of the bad so we can learn something and the good so we aren’t immoral to enjoy the results. That is good and that requires letting bad things happen. So, God doesn’t put an end to evil because ending evil is our responsibility.

157 – The Novice Connoisseur

Take some time to discuss colognes or attend a coffee tasting class. Watch some videos about difference in clothing fashion or ask a potter about different methods of working with clay. You don’t need to become an expert, just learn enough to appreciate people who are.

Of course, you need to have your own areas of expertise; excel beyond novice at those things. But, some awareness of other skills and arts will help you respect your fellow man. This is what it means to “never stop learning”. Continued learning fuels a life of mutual respect.

Two topics often overlooked are politics and Bible. Both of these are prone to “noob” mistakes. Everyone can read the Bible and vote in America, so everyone has an opinion about them, but these topics also require due diligence before understanding them.

Every opinion is equally allowable, but not equally guaranteed to work. You need a good reason for any opinion you have other than that “you just have an opinion”.

The Bible is literature, so grab some books on “Bible Hermeneutics”, Church history, and theology. JM Boice is good for theology. CS Lewis is good for deep thinking. Queen Elizabeth had a lot to do with Western Church history as well as politics. Read the US Constitution, Declaration of Independence, Mayflower Compact, and review other writings and history from early colonial America. Do a little homework in Bible and politics before being too opinionated about whatever first thought comes to your mind.

The Pilgrims introduced the Bible to America. The result was an economy injected with crafts and arts. Studying craftsmanship of that industrial effect grants a fuller understanding of what it means to be good at anything. But, don’t stop there. There’s always another art or skill to learn.

Go to craft shows and ask people how they made their stuff. Ask a competent friend to do some home or car maintenance with you. Ask some downtown local shop owners why their businesses succeeded; their answers might surprise you. These three are for all people: Bible, politics, and craftsmanship. They each require diligence. Make sure you appreciate and respect that, not just in yourself, but also in others.

155 – Perfection Is a Direction, not the Minimum

I attended college at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. It has many problems as does every institution. Thankfully, it’s not a “church”, it’s just an organization with the founding mission to “create gapmen” who intellectually and academically “stand in the gap” between over-educated preachers and the laity that just wants to understand God’s Word.

Moody teaches Bible, they don’t obey it perfectly since no one can. But, the world needs more people who know the Bible. In the end Moody, with all its problems, makes the world a better place by producing students who know God’s word inside and out. It helps. I would never ax that help just because it’s not finished arriving at perfection.

I won’t excuse injustice and I occasionally chase down wrongdoing with a fierce wrath, if so provoked. But, I’m glad Moody is there, injecting a world with people who actually know what God’s Word actually is and says. Part of the message of the Bible is imperfection. We are imperfect. If someone has a problem, saying so only proves that the person exists. Of course, if you have a solution to the problem, that’s another story. But, “Lay down, cry, and die,” is not a solution, it’s a sentencing.

So, when you address problems and people addressing problems, pay attention to whether a “complaint” is acting like a proposed solution or if it is an attempt to deliver a cease and desist order. Where we are concerned with the core topic of the fact that sin will always exist in every one of us in this lifetime, the only thing that needs to cease and desist is the expectation that people be perfect in order to exist.

Sunday morning “Churchianity” is one of the best—if not the very best—at expecting perfection, but only achieving pretended perfection, which is nothing more than pretension. Once a religious institution of a religion that teaches “imperfect pursuit of perfection” pretends to be perfect, it’s time for it to cease and desist.

Only God is perfect. The most godly people can do is pursue perfection. Requiring perfection in order to pursue perfection just doesn’t make sense. Being imperfect, we need reminding.

154 – Test Everything

Marketing must match its product, both the content and the method. Sometimes, “not marketing” at all is the best kind of marketing. We never know. Never believe someone who claims to tell you the right way of marketing a product. If a business must reinvent itself every five years—and introduce new products every year—and come out with multiple advertisements for each product—that puts marketing on the more extreme list of things that need constant reinvention.

Some skills and theories never change, such as color theory and typing speed. But, non-changers are few. Think beyond the billboard itself. Is a visual ad even necessary? What about strategic logo placement or contributing to a needy open source software project? To some extent, the best products market themselves.

Of course, when you have a hammer in your hand, everything looks like a nail. That explains the marketers who want everything to be done via one specific action plan of, say, social media. Those marketers happen to be familiar with that particular marketing avenue: social media. Stay shy of such people, they want to sell you something.

In order to know if something works, it must be tested. Whether in product development or software development, flaws are found by trial, error, and stress. Tradition carries beauty and wisdom, but even traditions can be tested and come out wanting. It is the test, not the tradition, that proves a thing valuable.

Writing endless blog posts just because everyone else is writing endless blog posts doesn’t mean consumers will have more time to read every piece of blogosophere spam—though many copywriters would have us think so. Copywriting is useful, but not over-useful. Stay focused on your mission—on your pivotal purpose.

Marketing “lets people know”. We market ourselves all the time. It’s called “fashion”. Economic recessions zero impact on cosmetic sales. That doesn’t prove makeup is a “need”, but that individual marketing is a marketable “need”. The same psysiological programming that drives people to spend emergency money on hairspray also drives those same people to post pictures and “statuses” on the “bragosphere”. We know that because recessions test markets. Test everything and everything will make more sense.

153 – Reject Sympathy

People in your life will pretend to offer your sympathy. Reject it. Be kind. Be thankful. They may be friends who will be loyal to you a long time. But, don’t let sympathy go to your heart.

No one can sympathize with your situation like Jesus. He grew up human and died on a Roman cross. Jesus knows pain and hardship better than anyone else. Friends will encourage you, everyone needs this. Sometimes you must be the friend to encourage others. But, sympathy misplaced can lower your standards. If you need a shoulder to cry or lean on, don’t turn it into a crutch.

When Frodo and the fellowship departed the caves after crossing the Bridge of Khazad Dum, where Gandalf had just fallen, they did not have the luxury of sympathy. “Giving them a moment” would have spelled their death.

Many people offer sympathy, understanding, excuses, lowered standards and, in the end, if you accept and act on those opportunities to pause and grieve for yourself, you will be overrun. This is why quiet times and regular prayer are vital.

Spend every waking moment you can in a state of fellowship with Jesus through his Spirit. When you have a strong emotional connection to Jesus, you don’t the usual, addictive, seductive, ensnaring sympathies from people who can’t help you anyway. Unwarranted sympathy is, after all, an impostor—a counterfeit—of real understanding and fellowship that only comes from the one, perfect human—the one human who can identify with you the most.

Jesus understands you. He knows your situation. When only one set of footprints mark the sands of painful times, those were the times when he carried you. Don’t give into self-sorrow and drop your guard along with your standards, all in the name of so-called “sympathy”.

Cry when you need to; Jesus gave us tears. Cry with your friends. Deal with your pain. Talk with your friends and open your heart. But, don’t let sympathy grow into an undue addiction. Anything good can be used in the wrong setting and, sympathy notwithstanding, end up baiting you into a state of weakness that you might not grow out of this side of Eternity.

151 – Heavenly Fascination

Pop culture has always tried to mimic the grand splendor of Heaven. From the Garden of Eden, devils have spread lies as truth, “wowing” humanity with their twisted perversions of the awesomeness beyond Earth. Those ideas have always floated around society and literature in whatever form of mass media exists at any particular time, whether in lore, poetry, music, theater, books, comics, or video.

Whatever imagery of Heaven and the heavens beyond Earth you see in pop culture, the real thing is better. Know the real thing by knowing God’s Word.

Images of Heaven and truth from pop culture were not invented by pop culture, they were invented by God and expressed in Heaven before Earth was made. Even mischaracterizations of God and Heaven carry some truth. These not only include beauty, fantasy, and technology, but they also include ideas like Zen. Just as music and math began as man-made religions, many other worthy sciences are only religious because of misunderstanding. Zen, wisdom of Buddhism, psychology, and other “life sciences” hold fragmented truth, just as Thomas Aquinas said, “All truth is God’s truth.” The calmness of Zen is better known by the peace Jesus made when he calmed the waves. That peace first existed in Jesus’ prayer life.

Don’t allow secular sciences outdo your own diligence. Pray in a way that takes your heart and mind to the place of peace that’s greater than the peace of Zen; God’s Word will tell you what it looks like as you study diligently. Just as any apprentice must work and study to become a master, so God the Master expects you to study and perform the grunt work that will make you strong and teach you to calm your heart to enjoy the peace of the moment.

Part of knowing Heaven involves knowing peace and stillness. No stillness is greater than the stillness God spoke of in which to know Him, “Be still and know that I AM God.’

Heaven itself is an expression of God’s own imagination. With God’s peace in your heart, your imagination will blossom into reflections greater than Heaven. As you become fascinated with God’s beauty, pop culture’s “lesser” expressions will bore you.

149 – Bible: The Best Academic Study

Nothing will prepare you to read and understand poetry, stories, culture, history, and any literature better than reading the Bible. This is because of the Bible’s quality, time span, depth, and complexly woven story line.

The Bible begins at the start of recorded human history, even earlier. Adam and Eve lived before 4,000 BC; 1,500 years passed before Noah and the flood, but only ten chapters passed in Genesis. The rest of Genesis spans another thousand years. That covers many vital events of history in just a few short writings.

Then, those events prepared all other events through the rest of the Bible. Moses came along almost two thousand years after Adam and Eve, over two thousand years before Jesus’ day. Everyone in the Old Testament learned about Moses—thereby shaping and bringing context to their stories.

One by one, more events unfold in the Bible. Kingdoms and families rose and fell for hundreds of years, many of them with little mention. But in those eras, people told stories of the people before them, Moses among many others. Those people died and people in the next era told stories about them—and the next era—all with little mention. Some of this is recorded in the Bible. Different events—centuries and millennia apart—all different cultures that were built on the previous—they would talk about the societies before them. This shaped who they were. They were all connected.

Then, we finally read a longer story in the Bible with more details. Noah was linked to Ruth. Samson was connected to Jonah. The more we study, the more connections and themes we see. The more we learn about what archaeology says about those times, the more we see how accurate the Bible is. We progressively learn more about this complex, interlinked story; but we also learn more about history—our real history.

Then, we have poetry, wisdom literature, cultures, and ancient languages. These also connect to the real events of our history. By understanding what’s in the Bible, we can understand any other literature much more easily because nothing runs as deep. Yet, those who don’t study the Bible never understand why diligent Bible students do.

147 – Whatever Your Hands Find to Do

The specific work you do in your life does not need to be planned, told, assigned, or felt wonderful about. “Chasing your dreams” went from mantra to controversy in the late 2010s. “Don’t chase your dreams, just make money” became the new slogan. To the contrary, don’t do either one. Instead, chase whatever your hands find to do.

Do whatever you can do well. Don’t do a thing only if you like it. Everything becomes boring eventually. “Chasing” one’s dreams is actually a form of being passive. It’s great to “make” your own dreams, but they must be God-sized and planned, otherwise you’re just fantasizing. Along the way, you will need to go down paths and roads to complete the dreams you grew in your heart. Those paths are the work that your hands find to do all on their own.

It really is amazing how quickly a skill will just fall into your lap that you didn’t choose. Such skills often start as odd jobs, childhood-adolescent obsessions, and more often than not some combination thereof. It’s up to you to be grateful for the odd job requests that come your way. Some people are grateful at first and ingrates later. Consider celebrity self-destruction stories. If you must learn early on to be grateful for the very doable work that comes your way, all the better. Romance is similar. Everything grows mundane sooner or later. Don’t let boredom be your lighthouse to steer you away.

Interestingly, some of the most profitable business sectors are the most boring and non-glamorous. Consider toilet paper, toothpaste, bad coffee, stationary, disposable razors, disposable pens, disposable… anything. Even the biggest, most evil corptocratic brands have found the secret to money: Boredom, it’s not going out of style and no one will notice it.

Few famous people are known for their daily work. Many acclaimed actors return to theaters. Paul Revere was a silver smith who started an insurance company after the Revolution.

If your hands have found something boring to do, all the merrier. Heaven probably played a role in it, so work like it. Heaven doesn’t reward us for what our hands find, but how well our hands work.

146 – Resisting Isn’t Always Strongest: Stay on Course

When someone accuses you, they want you to defend yourself. Don’t follow the debate agenda they set for you. Concede some of their points, explain yourself, but focus on the agenda you know is most responsible for you to push. Sometimes that means not defending yourself and admitting a fault, even when you must pay a punishment for it.

It happens when a power monger feels threatened in his fiefdom or a lazy farmer’s cash cow wants to leave the farm. No one accuses people without it affecting the accuser personally. People mind their own worries and chase their own dreamy ambitions until someone disturbs them; then they start searching for faults that they really don’t care about one lick, just to try to get rid of the “trouble maker”.

Accusers rarely care about what they accuse others of. Accusation either a weapon against competition, retribution for being outworked, or a way to distract from one’s own misery.

On occasion, someone will be genuinely injured and will thus seek justice. But, even then your responsibility must stay the same: Pursue the path of doing the right thing.

If you have wronged someone, don’t contend or defend. Confess, own up, make it right, tell the truth, and do the work of restitution to fix as much damage you caused as you can. In fact, take up the cause of the victim you victimized. Have your own “come to Jesus” moment—we all need those from time to time. That’s easy to figure out.

In the face of gossip, slander, and people who just want to stir up trouble, Paul had a lot to say about hate mongering. There’s a difference between seeking justice and smearing everyone for every little mistake ever made. Justice involves restoration toward hope and a future; that’s much more difficult when a gossiper has been out and about as a negative busy body.

When you confront accusers, your first question should be about “standing”—has the person been injured by you, otherwise it’s gossip, even in the name of “journalism”. Accusations are often an attempt to put people on defense, redirect them, then destroy them. Stay your course of fair, worthy pursuits.

145 – Build People

Invest in friendship. When you find a good friend, take time out for a productive conversation. When time’s up, good soldiers are glad to get back to work. Don’t waste time and call it “friendship”.

True “fellowship” has a known and defined purpose, a task to achieve or discuss. Talk over coffee. Talk along the way—on a run, swim, flight, climb, workout, walk, or commute. But build friendships, don’t just shoot the breeze about surface conversation that you all hope will never go anywhere. Know when to jest and joust. Be hearty in humor, but keep your substance.

When it’s time to sit and “just be” with people, that’s no waste. Set aside time for quietness also, just don’t become addicted to an idle life. The best friendships in which to share mutual silence are the friendships built while working to achieve something excellent.

The greatest friendships are often between parents and children. As you age, be a cheerleader for your parents and don’t dwell on whatever they did that irritates you. Most people who get hung up in life are hung up on what their parents did or didn’t. But remember, your future is not about your parents, it’s about your future. Encouraging your parents will make you strong enough to overcome whatever weakness they handed down to you. They might have their own “parent” issues; dealing with yours just might deal with theirs as well and you’ll find a new best friend.

If you’re a parent, make the task easier for your kids: Do some homework and get a third opinion before you execute your “perfect plan” to make things better for the next generation. If you’re a young parent, don’t presume—like everyone else—that you’ll be the first in human history whose kids don’t talk back. Love shines brightest as a choice, not a passing feeling. Don’t overbear and know when to protect your space, but don’t be the “professional” who helps everyone but his own family. And, don’t be the parent who runs off to have an affair because the marriage no longer feels like a high school prom.

Friendship is a choice that starts in the little things.