Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate;
only love can do that.
—Martin Luther King Jr.
This is a great Q&A from the GraceThruFaith site. And while you’re reading the rest of this at their site, please take the time to browse the the wealth of good information and resources there.
Are there degrees of sin?
Q. I do not believe God considers all sin to be the same. I base this on the words of Jesus. He was responding to Pilate who had said, “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” In John 19:11, “Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” I realize that any sin, no matter the magnitude by our earthly standards, separates us from God. We all need salvation through Jesus. Even so, don’t you think that Jesus’ words in John 19:11 means that God does in fact see sin in degrees?
A. Pilate was an unbeliever who didn’t have any idea who Jesus was. He was acting in ignorance. But at some level the priests who handed Him over had to know they were putting the Son of God to death.
Read the rest here.
Originally published at TRC Magazine (The Relevant Christian) on April 30, 2014.
By Anna Popescu
This prophecy of Habakkuk tells of a struggle and triumph of faith which took place in the soul of the prophet himself. “It begins with a sob, and ends with a song; and it is in the process from the one to the other that the little book discloses the heart of its meaning to us.” —Dr. Harold L. White
How long, O LORD, will I call for help, and You will not hear?
I cry out to You, “Violence!” yet You do not save.
Have you ever questioned how God seems to be working—or not working—in your life? We might be struggling with financial problems, wondering how much longer we can keep a roof over our heads. Perhaps we’ve been praying for such a long time for a specific need, and still don’t have the answer. Maybe we’re living a life filled with physical pain that doesn’t ever seem to end.
And then there is all the crime and evil in our society. The unborn and young children are still being exploited and preyed upon. Too many people feel entitled to have it all without making any effort to earn those possessions. Christianity is being mocked as never before. Our values and beliefs are constantly being laughed at, provoked, and demonstrated against. The claims of open-mindedness seem to embrace everything but Christianity.
Then we look around at the people who seem to sail through life with hardly a care. They have lots of money, the latest tech gadgets, gorgeous clothes and cars. It seems to us that they are never lacking anything.
So we may ask ourselves: Why doesn’t God answer my prayers? Doesn’t He love or care about me anymore? Can’t He see how I’m struggling just to get through each hour of the day?
Beloved, things are no different today than they were back then.
Habakkuk had a big problem. He was looking at all the injustice in his world and wondering why God wasn’t taking care of it. He knew God was just, righteous, and punished evil, but it seemed to him that God was doing nothing to punish the sin and violence he saw all around him. In fact, to Habakkuk, it looked like God was simply ignoring all the wrongdoing and wickedness. Habakkuk’s heart was broken, and in his anguish, he believed God did not care.
Why do You make me see iniquity, and cause me to look on wickedness? Yes, destruction and violence are before me; strife exists and contention arises. Therefore the law is ignored and justice is never upheld. For the wicked surround the righteous; therefore justice comes out perverted. —Habakkuk 1:3-4
Habakkuk lived in a time of some very evil kings. The people of Judah had strayed very far from God, away from Mosaic Law, and had chosen to follow their own path rather than God’s way. Habakkuk became very concerned that God apparently did not care that His chosen people were living such sinful lives, and wondered why God wasn’t taking care of this. How could God ignore such obvious corrupt behavior from His own people?
At this point, Judah was about to be invaded by the Chaldeans who lived in southern Babylon. These Chaldeans (also called Babylonians) were intelligent, aggressive and loved war. They worshiped many idols rather than the One True God. Habakkuk was appalled that God would punish Judah by allowing such a corrupt people to invade them.
J. Vernon McGee described the scene this way:
“The people of Judah apparently felt that they were God’s little pets and that He would not punish them for their sins.”1
Habakkuk was concerned that if the Jews were indeed God’s chosen people, why didn’t God do something? Why was He allowing this to happen to them?
He is about to see that although God’s ways don’t seem to make sense in this case, God is still in control.
Look among the nations! Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days—you would not believe if you were told.
For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that fierce and impetuous people who march throughout the earth to seize dwelling places which are not theirs.
They are dreaded and feared; their justice and authority originate with themselves. Their horses are swifter than leopards and keener than wolves in the evening. Their horsemen come galloping, their horsemen come from afar; they fly like an eagle swooping down to devour. All of them come for violence. Their horde of faces moves forward. They collect captives like sand. They mock at kings. And rulers are a laughing matter to them. They laugh at every fortress and heap up rubble to capture it. Then they will sweep through like the wind and pass on. But they will be held guilty, they whose strength is their god.
Habakkuk was understandably confused at this point. Although he knew how wicked the people of Judah have become, and heard God say that He will yet set things right, he doesn’t see why God would use such a wicked people to chastise Judah. After all, they weren’t nearly as bad as those awful Chaldeans!
Habakkuk protests first against the violence and injustice of his countrymen in Judah (Habakkuk 1:1-4), and then against the violence and injustice of the Chaldeans whom God is sending to punish Judah.2
Yes, God answered Habakkuk’s first question but God’s answer confuses Habakkuk so much that he has another, even more troubling question:
How can a holy God use a sinful nation to accomplish His purposes?1
Are You not from everlasting, O LORD, my God, my Holy One? We will not die. You, O LORD, have appointed them to judge; and You, O Rock, have established them to correct. Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, and You cannot look on wickedness with favor. Why do You look with favor on those who deal treacherously? Why are You silent when the wicked swallow up those more righteous than they? Why have You made men like the fish of the sea, like creeping things without a ruler over them? The Chaldeans bring all of them up with a hook, drag them away with their net, and gather them together in their fishing net. Therefore they rejoice and are glad. Therefore they offer a sacrifice to their net and burn incense to their fishing net; because through these things their catch is large, and their food is plentiful. Will they therefore empty their net and continuously slay nations without sparing? I will stand on my guard post and station myself on the rampart; and I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me, and how I may reply when I am reproved. —Habakkuk 1:12-2:1
In essence, Habakkuk is lamenting:
LORD, I know You are in control but You are holy and righteous, so how can You possibly allow this? And then, in spite of his confusion, Habakkuk returns to what he knows to be true: the LORD is almighty, unchanging, holy, just and absolutely faithful. Habakkuk knows that whatever and however God is working in this situation, it must be righteous because God is the Righteous One: “LORD God of Israel, You are righteous, for we have been left an escaped remnant, as it is this day; behold, we are before You in our guilt, for no one can stand before You because of this” (Ezra 9:15).
I will give thanks to the LORD according to His righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High. —Psalm 7:17
For the LORD is righteous, He loves righteousness; the upright will behold His face. —Psalm 11:7
The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether. —Psalm 19:9
I will come with the mighty deeds of the LORD God; I will make mention of Your righteousness, Yours alone. —Psalm 71:16
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all it contains; let the field exult, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy before the LORD, for He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in His faithfulness. —Psalm 96:11-13
Can’t you just imagine Habakkuk’s bewilderment at these series of events? I can feel Habakkuk’s confusion and anger at God’s strange way of dealing with people who refuse to worship Him and Him alone. He asked God, “Why are You allowing this, but how can Your way be just?”
Habakkuk see the Chaldeans as self-serving–a people who honor their own cleverness. They refuse to worship the LORD, but instead worship the works of their own hands. In verse 1:16 we read that they are worshipping the fishing nets that bring up huge catches of fish. Really?How far they have strayed from their LORD!
Habakkuk’s why was not meant to challenge God’s sovereignty. He was simply confused and asking God for clarification. Questioning God is not wrong as long as we do it with a sincere heart.
“It is entirely different to wonder why God allowed a certain event than it is to directly question God’s goodness. Having doubts is different from questioning God’s sovereignty and attacking His character. In short, an honest question is not a sin, but a bitter, untrusting, or rebellious heart is. God is not intimidated by questions. God invites us to enjoy close fellowship with Him,” from GotQuestions.org: Is it Right to Question God?
Beloved, are things any different today than they were in Habakkuk’s time? Violence and chaos surround us. We are daily inundated by news of catastrophic weather all over the world, like hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, tsunamis, wildfires, and the list goes on.
What about the diseases and chronic pain illnesses that plague mankind? And what about trying to make ends meet when we can’t even find work? How can we afford health insurance when we can hardly pay for the basics such as housing, food and clothing? How do we rationalize all the casualties of war?
Where, oh where, is our God in all of this?
Beloved, hang tight with me while I explore Habakkuk’s change from gloom to glory.1 Next time we’ll sit with him while he waits and dwells on God’s attributes, confirming what he knows to be true:
God always knows best and always works for our good and His glory!
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God,
that He may exalt you at the proper time,
casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.
Be of sober spirit, be on the alert.
Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion,
seeking someone to devour.
But resist him, firm in your faith,
knowing that the same experiences of suffering
are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.
After you have suffered for a little while,
the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ,
will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.
To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.
—1 Peter 5:6-11
1 Thru the Bible with Vernon McGee ©1982. Thomas Nelson.
2 From John Piper’s sermon: The Just Shall Live by Faith.
This is from several years ago and my appreciation for this song has not diminished. Enjoy!
My daughter shared this MercyMe song with me the other day and I couldn’t believe I had never heard it before. It is awesome and humbling to think of God as the I AM, isn’t it?
So sit back and relax for a few minutes while you let the words of this song wash over you. I know you’ll enjoy it as much as I do!
If for any reason you cannot view the video, you can read the lyrics here.
There is a great question and answer section on Billy Graham’s site titled “Answers.” Today’s post is from there and is an excellent reminder for all of us. While you’re there, please check out the wealth of resources at Billy Graham’s wonderful site.
Q: I admit my faith is weak, but I know it would be strong if I could only see Jesus with my own eyes, even for just one minute. Why shouldn’t I ask God to do this for me?
A: God has already given you everything you need to make your faith stronger. Instead of praying for Jesus to appear to you somehow (which He never promised to do), you should be praying instead for the discipline to use the means He has given you to strengthen your faith. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).
I often think of the similarity between physical strength and spiritual strength. What do we need to stay physically strong and healthy? We need two things: food and exercise. If we don’t eat, we’ll grow weaker, waste away and eventually die. And if we don’t exercise, we’ll also grow weak and won’t be useful or helpful to others.
Read the rest here.
“That will be ten dollars.” Miriam looked expectantly down at her customer, who couldn’t have been more than five years old.
The tiny girl carefully placed several coins on the counter. “Is that enough?”
Miriam could see right away that there was not nearly enough to pay for the pink slippers. What to do now? She looked down again at the little girl. Her simple sundress was clean but neatly patched in several different areas.
“Who are these slippers for, sweetie?”
A bright smile lit up the girl’s face. “It’s my Mommy’s birthday.” She stroked the slippers with her index finger. “They’re so soft. Maybe now Mommy can walk.”
“Oh, I’m sure your mother will love these.” Miriam frowned. “Does she have trouble walking?”
The little girl shrugged. “She sits in a chair with big wheels.”
“You mean a wheelchair?”
The little girl’s face brightened. “Yeah, a wheelchair! I forgot the word.” Then she frowned. “I got enough money, don’t I? I saved it from my ‘lowance for three whole months.”
Miriam looked around. “Did you come here alone?”
“Yep.” She nodded. “It’s real close. I got a tire swing in front of my house!”
Miriam raised her eyebrows. She knew which house the little girl was talking about, a tiny bungalow a few doors down the street with a wheelchair ramp down one side of the front steps. The house was in desperate need of repair. In a small town like this, everyone knew that the Clarks had been going through bad times since Joe Clark’s warehouse job had been eliminated. He had been looking for work for the last six months.
“I’ll tell you what,” Miriam made a quick decision. “Since this is a birthday present, I’ll wrap them up for you.”
The little girl watched in fascination as Miriam placed the slippers in a box and deftly covered it with wrapping paper and ribbon. “There, all done.” She handed the package to the little girl, who hugged it close to her body.
“Thanks, Lady!” She took a few steps but then frowned and turned back. “It’s enough?” She pointed to the money still on the counter.
Miriam smiled. “It sure is. Now why don’t you get that present home to your mother?”
The little girl’s face lit up and she thanked Miriam again before leaving the small drug store.
Miriam picked up the thirty-seven cents’ worth of coins and stared at them for several seconds. Then she reached into her purse under the counter, drew out a ten-dollar bill and stuffed it and the coins into the cash register.
Beloved, did you know that You can approach God with the same kind of confidence this little girl showed toward Miriam?
It is somewhat overwhelming to think of God’s throne of grace as being so easily accessible, but that’s exactly what God wants. He yearns for us to be comfortable enough with Him that we will not hesitate to bring our cares and concerns confidently to Him so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.