God Has Made My Life Bitter

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The Text
[God] “has made my life very bitter.” (Ruth 1:20)

The Short Word
The story in the Book of Ruth is very famous, but most of the emphasis is given to Ruth. Think for a moment about another star in the book: Naomi. In the Bible, it is clear that Naomi loved and trusted God, both before and after she voiced her complaint – in triplicate! – to the women of Bethlehem. Naomi said:
“The Almighty has made my life very bitter.”
“The LORD has afflicted me.”
“The Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”

In the end, things worked out very well for Naomi. But there was no way for her to know that in the middle of her suffering.

The Application
It’s okay to acknowledge that God has brought suffering into your life. It’s okay to say out loud that you’re unhappy about it. Love him and trust him anyway. And stop trying to tell God what time it is.

–Bob Young
[3/8/2011]

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1. Your comments are welcome.
2. Is there anyone you should share this link with?
3. I would be honored if you decide to copy and reprint my public writings, either in whole or in part. Please include my name and contact information.
(Bob Young, bobscorner@comcast.net)

Never Pass This Way Again

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The Text
“…the LORD has told you, ‘You are not to go back that way again.'” (Deuteronomy 17:16)

The Short Word
This summer I was able to go back to Memphis, Tennessee. I saw the first apartment that Penney and I lived in after we got married. It was nice to go back! There were good times and struggles, but we survived and grew strong.

Sometimes, going back is a bad idea. We don’t want to go back to an addiction once God has helped us break free. There are other things we shouldn’t go back to, as well. Sometimes our old way of life couldn’t be called an addiction, but we recognize that it was – at best – counterproductive.

Are you thinking of going back to an earlier way of life, or returning to a destructive relationship? I’m praying for you, that God will give you crystal clear understanding.

The Application
There is a reason God brought you away from there. Go forward.

–Bob Young
[2/23/2011]

—–
1. Your comments are welcome.
2. Is there anyone you should share this link with?
3. I would be honored if you decide to copy and reprint my public writings, either in whole or in part. Please include my name and contact information.
(Bob Young, bobscorner@comcast.net)

When God Said Shut Up

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The Text
“That is enough,” the Lord said. “Do not speak to me anymore about this matter.” (Deuteronomy 3:26)

The Short Word
The Persistent Widow is a favorite topic of sermons about prayer. You can read the story in Luke 18:1-8. The common teaching goes something like this: “If God doesn’t give you what you want, keep asking him over and over again. Sooner or later he might give in and let you have your way.” Another interpretation – one that makes God look like less of a pushover – goes like this: “God doesn’t say yes right away. He wants you to demonstrate how much you want it first.”

Well, in Deuteronomy 3:25, Moses tells us that he asked God for a favor one too many times: “Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan!” Moses already knew the answer; he just didn’t like it. It’s a measure of Moses’ character that he is the one who tells us that he went too far, and that God said, “Shut up!”

The Application
Anyone can accept it when God says, “Yes.” When you have learned to be submissive to God, you can accept it when he says, “No.”

–Bob Young
[2/21/2011]

Ask Bob # 45: “Is there such a thing as ‘Original Sin?’”

Stacy asked, “Bob – this is actually something that Anne Rice posted and I thought would be a good question for Ask Bob. Personally, I’m with Pelagius.
‘Do you believe in Original Sin? Can you explain? I don’t. I have never been able to believe in this concept, not even when I was a small child. Note this quote from Pelagius: “If sin is innate, it is not voluntary; if it is voluntary it is not innate.” Pelagius was condemned as a heretic. What do you think?”’”
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(My reply): Stacy, the term “Original Sin” is surrounded by confusion and controversy, and lots of people have trouble with it. Here are a couple of quick statements for those who won’t read my whole article.

THE SHORT ANSWER
1. I don’t care what Pelagius thinks. I care what is written in the Bible.
2. I don’t care what Anne Rice believes. I care what is written in the Bible.
3. I LOVE Anne Rice, and I’m a fan of her on Facebook. Statement #2 above has only one purpose, and that is to demonstrate that my beliefs and teachings aren’t influenced by people, but by what is written in the Bible.
4. The term “Original Sin” is not written in the Bible.
5. Because the term isn’t in the Bible, I’m not going to define it. I don’t even care about it.
6. In fact, any article about Original Sin is worthless. Burn it. When you’re done reading mine you can burn it, too.

ORIGIN OF THE TERM
The term is quite old. Saint Augustine (354-430 A.D.) wrote about Original Sin (reference: The Catholic Encyclopedia, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11312a.htm). The term is used to summarize beliefs that arise from the reading and interpretation of the following passages: Genesis 2:17, Romans 5:1-21, and I Corinthians 15:20-26.

PROTESTANT AND CATHOLIC DIFFERENCES
I am not Catholic, and I respectfully avoid making declarations about what Catholics believe. I do this because the Roman Catholic Church has very specific guidelines about who may write in the name of the church, and I, of course, don’t meet the criteria. Keeping that in mind, I can refer you to sources like The Catholic Encyclopedia, and I can say with confidence that there is an approved Catholic doctrine describing Original Sin. Quoting from The Catholic Dictionary, it can be summed up this way: “…the hereditary stain with which we are born on account of our origin or descent from Adam.” I know. I said I wasn’t going to define it. Well, I didn’t. I cheated, and let The Catholic Dictionary do it.

Protestant Christians and Independent Christians, on the other hand, are all over the map. There is no single unified answer to your question that would be representative of all Protestant or Independent teaching. Some are squarely aligned with the Catholic teaching. Some say that there is no such thing as Original Sin. Some say that we don’t inherit sin, but we do inherit a “sin nature,” by which they mean we all have a tendency to sin.

WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS
Let’s forget about Adam. Let’s talk about you.

I know that non-Christians hate this passage because of the way Christians have used it like a club, but it’s important to quote it here; please bear with me until you hear my explanation: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The truth of this statement is so self-evident that we have common, non-biblical expressions that speak the same truth: “Nobody’s perfect,” and “We all make mistakes.” We don’t just mean we occasionally misspell a word; we mean we lose control and do bad things that we later regret. We do things with full knowledge that they are wrong, and we say things like, “I just couldn’t help myself.”

Dear Reader, regardless of your belief about Original Sin, you personally have a need to do better. You aren’t perfect. And – face it – your rate of self-improvement doesn’t make the prettiest graph in the world. Yes, you’re right. My graph is stinky, too. That’s why I recognize the need for an Outside Resource.

For awhile in high school I carried a small New Testament in my shirt pocket. I thought I was witnessing. It was actually a pretty worthless gesture, especially considering the way I was living and speaking. But anyway, a friend who was not a Christian (I think his name was Denny) came up to me one day after Mr. Blackburn’s class and said, “Hey Bob, read me a good scripture from your Bible!” So I said, “As a matter of fact, I’ve got one for you, Denny. It’s right here. See? Read Romans 5:8. It says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (To understand the purpose of Jesus’ death, read Ask Bob # 40).

You may be more familiar with John 3:16. It says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

God is not wasting his time thinking about the origin of your sin. Instead, God is thinking about how to show you how much he loves you. He wants you. He longs for an intimate, fresh, alive, closeness with… you!

God doesn’t care if you understand sin. God wants you to understand him.

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Weeping And Praying

Author’s Note added on 5/29/2011: I wrote this article to answer the question, “Why does God allow rape?” You see, back on January 27 of this year I published an article in the “Ask Bob” series – specifically, Ask Bob # 42: “Why Does God Allow Rape?”. The problem is that Ask Bob # 42 was written to explain some passages in the Bible where rape is written about, and it gets a lot of search engine hits – but that article didn’t answer your question, about what happened to you. This article is dedicated to you – the rape victim who is searching for answers.
With care for you,
–Bob Young
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I am weeping right now. There aren’t literally tears flowing down my cheeks, but in my heart I am broken. Here’s why…

On January 27 of this year I published Ask Bob # 42. The title of that article is, “Why Does God Allow Rape?” Today – February 4 – someone found my blog using this search term: “why does god allow women to be treated bad.”

Google gave them my blog as a suggested match, and he or she clicked on the link. I think it was probably a woman. Actually, I’m convinced of it. So there’s no point in being politically correct; I’m going to write about her. Not her/him, not he/she. Her.

Some woman, somewhere, is broken-hearted tonight. I don’t know who she is; I don’t know what she has suffered. I can speculate. Was it physical or emotional trauma? Or both? Was it a husband? A lover? Was her Google search prompted by her shock, when she was treated bad for the first time? You know, I doubt very much that it was the first time. In that search phrase I feel a desperation, an aloneness, that comes from going through the same pain, over and over and over again.

When she searched, what did she hope to find? Counseling services? Government aid? An article on the psychology of abusive men? What she found was my link. A link that specifically talks about God. “Why does God allow rape?” And that’s what she clicked on. Out of all the links that Google presented to her, she clicked on the link that she hoped would answer her question: “Why, God?”

I am weeping because my article did not answer her question. Not even close. My fine theological treatise about the subject absolved God of all responsibility, explained the Bible passages in rational terms, reminded readers of the importance of social, cultural, and historical context… and did absolutely nothing to help this woman understand why her suffering goes on, and on, and on…

Her situation may or may not involve rape. She didn’t ask about rape; she asked about being treated bad.

Dear woman, come back to my page! Read my answer to you! With deep respect, here it is.

It is not only women who are treated bad. It is men. It is children. Black people. White people. Hispanics, Chinese, Indian. Gays and lesbians are treated bad. Fat people. Short people. Poor people. People with disfigurements and disabilities.

No religion has ever created a society that is free of evil on this planet, in this present age. But we do have a creator. So I will speak of Him. I will speak of God.

For the present time, he is allowing people to run amok. We have the ability to think our own thoughts. And they truly are our own thoughts; without coercion, without compulsion, without the restraints that can be built into, say, a computer program. And so some people think very bad thoughts, and do very bad things. Some of those things happen to women. Some of those things happen to you.

Where does God fit in all this? He is holding out his hand to you. He is ready to face your pain with you. He feels your pain. He is going through the valley with you right now. He is able to give you a strength that no cruel man or woman can overcome. God can transform you so that in spite of such inhuman treatment, you rise above it and demonstrate the very best of what a person can be. You can be a person who overcomes bitterness, who overcomes shame. You can be a person who stands back up, walks on, head high, smiling, and willing and able to help others. You can be that noble and righteous person who says, “By the grace of God, I have overcome!”

Father, I ask that you will cause this woman to come back to my blog and read these words. I ask that you will give her the strength that she needs to move forward with nobility, grace, and resolve. Make her mighty to conquer all enemies. Give her courage to get out of her situation so that it is no longer ongoing. If she doesn’t have answers, lead people to her that can give her answers. Lead her to them. Cause her to seek that which she needs to find. Destroy the lies that keep her trapped, Father! Show her that her feelings of hopelessness and helplessness are the devil’s lie. Give her a keen mind, clear vision, deep insight, utter resolve! Lead her to the place of safety! Give her friends, Father, so that she doesn’t have to face this alone. She has asked for you. Show her your love! In Jesus’ name I ask it, Amen.

Friend, will you add your prayer for this woman in the comment section below? Pray for her. Write it here. Show her you love her.

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