Is It Ever Right to Question God?

Questioning GodI was in a conversation with some theologically astute friends and the concept of questioning God came up. On one side a friend said most assuredly that it was OK to question God and seek affirmation.  On the other side another friend said it is never right to question God because of His holiness. With two opposing viewpoints, what are we to do?

As the conversation was not heated and turned nonchalantly to other topics, the question lingered in my mind.

“Is it ever right to question God?”

How you answer this question has drastic implications on your spiritual life and understanding of reality.

So what did I do? I did what what I teach. Before searching google, before consulting my favorite authors, before getting man’s opinion, I turned to God’s Word for guidance and asked God for wisdom. And I’m glad I did. The journey is just as important as the destination. As I surveyed the many texts that illustrate this question, I found some surprising insights.

There are multiple cases in the Bible that explicitly say “Don’t test God” AND “Do test God”!

What am I to do with that!

I firmly believe in the unity of Scripture, so how do these narratives and principles work together? This was my task. Here is some of the data I sifted through.

Text that say or illustrate, “Don’t Test God”

  • Duet. 6:16 clearly says, in the context of the one of the greatest OT texts which all Jewish boys would have memorized, ““You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah.”
  • Matt 4:7 and Luke 4:12 both use Jesus’s own words.  “Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”  But note that the qualifier “as you tested him at Massah” is not tacked on like in the original reference. hmmmm. Interesting
  • So what is with the Massah case? Here in Exodus 17 the Israelites were free from Egypt yet due to their thirst they were asking “Is the Lord among us or not?”  They grumbled that Egypt would have been better than God’s plan. God commanded Moses to bring water from the rock for the people. This event was one of distrust and exemplified why that generation had to die off before proceeding into the Promised land. Ergo, testing/questioning God was very bad.
  • Another instance of testing God that ended badly is in Acts 5:9.  Annias and Saphira attempted to lie about their generosity. “Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord?” We know how that ended for them. Both dead. They toyed with God, questioning whether he would really notice, He did.
  • The Pharisees asked Jesus for a sign to know he was really the Messiah. He refused to allow himself and God to be questioned in this manner. In Matt 12:38 Jesus gives a major dis to the Pharisees and says “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” So, short of the resurrection, Jesus wasn’t giving any help to them.
  • A heavy hitter, a righteous man, Job, questions all his troubles in life. When God responds to the “questioning” He never addresses the question, rather He sets Job in his place. He reminds Job of who he is addressing. Job’s response is classic as well as something that some people should imitate more often. In Job 40, Job realizes what he has done, and puts his hand over his mouth. I imagine a gasp emanates from Job as God speaks “out of the whirlwind”. Needless to say, Job stopped questioning.
  • Isaiah 7:10-14  Evil King Ahaz did not want to test God even with a clear invitation to do so!

Texts that say or illustrate, “Do test God”

  • Here we are challenged to test God’s willingness to bless obedience. Mal. 3:10 – “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.”
  • 1 John 4:1 says we are to test spiritual things to determine if they are in line with God or not. – “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
  • We are to test what God’s will is Rom 12:2  “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
  • God’s willingness to forgive is couched in a “discussion” or opportunity to question with God.  Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
    though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
    though they are red like crimson,
    they shall become like wool.
  • Psalm 34:8 is a invitation to test God out, to experience Him, to “taste” Him to truly understand that He is good. “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!”
  • Gideon’s Fleeces are clear examples of testing that was allowed by God. – Judges 6:37 “behold, I am laying a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said.”
  • And perhaps my favorite example of testing, John the Baptist doubted if Jesus was really the Messiah.  So what did he do? He asked. – Matthew 11:2,3  “Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

Should we not question? Should we question? Ultimately, I believe this all boils down to a matter of the heart. God refuses to be mocked. He is holy and perfect in a way that demands our respect. He will not be questioned when it comes from a prideful, rebellious heart. Yet, God is a good Father. He knows what is in the heart of man and when we come with humility, admitting we don’t know all the answers, He welcomes us to find the answers in Him that we cannot find anywhere else. When it comes to questioning God, we must closely examine the condition of our heart.

Psalm 24 reminds us “Who can ascend the hill of the Lord? He who has clean hands and a pure heart…”

I am reminded of Chris Rice’s song “Big Enough” from decades ago. He put into lyric a humble heart crying for answers, and confessing that God is big enough to handle his uncertianty.  One line that may resound with you is:

When I imagine the size of the universe, and I wonder what’s out past the edges.
Then I discover inside me a space as big, and believe that I’m meant to be filled up with more than just questions.

Celebrating Reformation Day in Style

Tonight my church is celebrating Reformation Day. My good friend at TheWardrobeDoor.com posted some graphics that should be spread like wildfire through social media on Oct. 31st!  One of my favorites: When did your blog post earn a Papal rebuttal?

Enjoy!

kickin-it-old-school70 the-church-door84 imgsize 894905 indulgences reformation-day 4333157 reformation-day52 87181801 reformation-day71 the-church-door reformation-day-party 7155219

Lust

Lust is defined by Dictionary.com as “a passionate or overmastering desire or craving”. Here we can see the breakdown of lust and how the different aspects interact. This is paired with a biblical explanation through bible verses dealing with each component.

Click the graphic to enlarge.

lust infographic

Free Book Considering Pascal’s Wager

blaise-pascal-with-quoteThe gist of the “Wager” is that, according to Pascal, one cannot come to the knowledge of God’s existence through reason alone, so the wise thing to do is to live your life as if God does exist because such a life has everything to gain and nothing to lose

  • If we live as though God exists, and He does indeed exist, we have gained heaven.
  • If He doesn’t exist, we have lost nothing.
  • If, on the other hand, we live as though God does not exist and He really does exist, we have gained hell and punishment and have lost heaven and bliss.
  • If one weighs the options, clearly the rational choice to live as if God exists is the better of the possible choices.

–One problem: rationally choosing to live in light of God’s [probable] existence is a far cry from repenting of your sins and trusting in the work of Jesus Christ on your behalf by grace through faith. —
Here is a FREE book today on the topic. Click the link below.

Untrumpable: How Betting Against God Is A Fool’s Bet Or What Pascal Should Have Said

41Lo4XNlCcL._SX314_BO1,204,203,200_
One of the most important questions upon which man will ever be forced to wager is
this: given our uncertainty about the afterlife, so what? In this book, Moore argues that our uncertainty about the afterlife should matter to us greatly, if we are wise. And in order to complete the failed task that Blaise Pascal initiated, the provision of a sound and valid argument about how to wager on the afterlife under uncertainty, Moore argues for and defends the following new argument.

In brief:

1. Foolishness occurs under the following conditions:
(a) when one is aware of a severe threat to his or her most relevant interest,
(b) when one knows how to minimize the risks to such an interest against such a threat and
(c) when, in the face of such a threat-awareness, one flouts his or her risk minimization know-how,
opting to hope solely in luck’s favor.

2.The possibility of a just and severely retributive afterlife counts as a real and severe threat to our most
relevant interests (and it is the only sort of afterlife possibility that does so).

3. Despite our uncertainty about the afterlife, we know how to minimize our risks against such a threat.

4. Therefore, given both that we are aware of such a severe threat to our most relevant interest and that
we know how to minimize our risks to such, whenever we choose not to live in accordance with such
know-how we are acting foolishly.

After carefully building his case for this conclusion, Moore lays out its implications, responds to many foreseeable objections and, in the final chapter, closes with a fitting and uncommon defense of Christianity as a beautiful and wise hope.

Moral Apologetics – kindle deal –

Check out a great deal on a great book. Moral Apologetics, by Mark Coppenger is on sale for 2.99 at Amazon. Click HERE.

Dr. Coppenger was by far my favorite professor while studying at Southern Seminary. Behind the wit and humor, he is a godly man with an incredible intellect. Once he took me and a group of students to a philosophy conference in Chicago. He opened his home to us for the night and treated us like family.

It is easy to recommend a book that is so full of knowledge by someone you know and respect because you have seen their life in action. Go check out Moral Apologetics as a guide to pushing back against the cultural and religious critics of our day.

2015-10-15 10.17.48 HDR

“A tour de force of apologetic thought.” – R. Albert Mohler Jr.

Here is what the back of the book says.

Have Christians grown accustomed to those who defame the Church?

Whether it’s a best-selling author who claims “religion poisons everything” or an atheist comedian whose punch lines aren’t hassled by the burden of proof, foes of the faith continue to declare Christianity morally deficient without much resistance.

In Moral Apologetics for Contemporary Christians, Mark Coppenger mixes compelling references—from classic philosophers to modern entertainers— to reasonably push back against both harsh critics and less intense cultural relativists, contending that Christianity is morally superior to its competitors as well as true.

Coppenger doesn’t avoid uncomfortable realities like the misbehavior of many Christians and false teachers, but he sets the book’s course in defense of his faith with evidence that a Christian approach to life makes people and societies flourish, while those who turn their backs on genuine Christianity are more liable to behave wickedly.

“I hope to help replenish our cultural confidence,” he writes. “We have a great moral story to tell, and it surely points to the Author of Light and Life.”

Mark Coppenger has rendered a great service to the Christian church in the twenty- first century. Moral Apologetics is a special gift to all of those faithful Christians who believe that Christianity brings new life to the mind as well as to the soul.
Richard Land, President, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, Nashville, Tennessee

This book is a tour de force of apologetic thought, revealing ethical issues to be apologetic opportunities. Fascinating on every page . . . get ready for a guided tour through contemporary culture and Christian apologetics.
R. Albert Mohler Jr. President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Mark Coppenger is professor of Christian Apologetics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, kentucky, and director of the Seminary’s extension in Nashville, Tennessee. He holds degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div.) and Vanderbilt University (Ph.D.).

Raising the Next Generation – Proverbs 22:6

1410655386Proverbs 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Familiar words but a heavy implication. Are we training the next generation in the truth and passing on our faith? I was able to preach on just this issue to our congregation.

Listen to it here.  .

We must pass along something solid. The bedrock of our faith is: 1.) Who God is, and 2.) What He has said:

  • In a generation losing its grip on right and wrong we must train them in morality, because God is Good.
  • In a generation accepting relativism we must train them in absolutes, because God is unchanging.
  • In a generation rejecting the Bible as authoritative we must train them in Truth, because God has spoken honestly.
  • In a generation slipping into desperation we must train them in Hope, because God has sent Jesus Christ.

Who are you training up? Are you passing along bedrock? Remember the next generation needs us to put Proverbs 22:6 into action.

Sermon Illustration: The Backwards Bike

We all know the phrase, “It’s as easy as riding a bike”.  Here we have a great lesson on how we train our brains to think a certain way, and it is really hard to adjust that pattern.

Really hard.

This experiment made one small adjustment to a normal bicycle, making it impossible to ride without extensive retraining of your brain. The main point driven home by this backward bicycle: you view the world through an interpretive bias, whether you realize it or not.

How have you developed your interpretive grid? What guides the way you view the world?

This video is very cool. It shows how we truly function in reality, with something “as easy as riding a bike”.

Blessings, Adam