Bad things happen to good people.

We live in a broken world. It all started in a perfect Garden,  thousands of years ago when the first humans were unable to obey a simple command and sin began to multiply in this world. Since that time, sin, which is at work in all of Adam and Eve’s descendants, compels us to be in charge of our own lives; to live without God. Living in a sinful world means we deal with accidents and sickness and all kinds of tragedies that happen to good and bad people alike.

If it were not for God’s mercy (when He withholds what we really deserve for our sinfulness) and grace (when He generously gives us what we could never deserve) our lives would be filled with the horror of constant tragedy, pain, and separation from all that is good. At this very instant, God’s goodness is being poured out all over the world because He loves us in spite of our rejection of His only Son, Jesus as the Master, King and leader of our lives.

Is God powerful enough to stop tragedies like the death of a teenager in a car accident? Yes, absolutely! And He does prevent accidents all the time – but not every time. That’s what we find so difficult to understand and accept.

Why doesn’t God stop all the bad things from happening? Because He loves us. God understands how foolish it would be to let us have our own way all the time. If I got my way and what I want every time, I would soon think of myself as god.

We have finite minds and that makes it difficult to understand an infinite God. Every day we grapple with the limitations of being human. But God is not limited. We can only guess what might happen tomorrow but God knows every detail.

Don’t reject God because He doesn’t measure up to your standard. My measuring stick and your standard is broken and faulty. God is trustworthy because He is all-powerful, always present, and knows everything. Even when everything seems to be going wrong, God is still in charge.

Trust God.

Not a Private Spiritual Journey

Franklin* waved to me when he walked in the door of the restaurant where I was eating by myself. He sat down and talked as if we were long-lost buddies. Actually, I hardly knew him and struggled to recall his last name. I’d seen him in church a few times and vaguely remember a short conversation we once had. He said, “I know you think I need to be in church, pastor, but I enjoy most Sunday mornings out hunting in the timber. I think that’s worship when I can just breathe in the wonder of God’s creation. Don’t you think that’s just as good as being in church?” (*not his real name)

I said, “I think it’s great to enjoy God’s creative work, but that’s not a substitute for being part of a household of faith. It’s not an “either/or” choice but a “both/and.” We cannot ignore the need for personal time with God or enjoying His creation but we also can’t afford to miss the community of fellow Christ-followers and the challenge of corporate worship!

Following Jesus is not a private spiritual journey lived out independent of the fellowship of believers and the needs of others. A clear distinctive of the life of faith is that Jesus calls us into community with God and one another. No one truly comes to Christ only to be left alone.

The continuing work of redemption, sanctification, and reconciliation takes place in community. God’s presence is made real in Koinonia, through the proclamation of the Word; in worship; as we care for each other; and by serving one another in Christ’s name.

We are “members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (Eph 2:19-22).

Scripture, the writings of great men of Faith, and our own experience confirms a deep conviction that God reveals Himself in and through the “Body” as we gather for worship, encouragement, and serving one another. The early Christians knew that “the Most High does not live in houses made by men” (Acts 7:48).

The language used in the Old and New Testaments to describe the presence of God always underscores the community of God’s people. Practicing the presence of God is never a private, solitary experience. Personal devotion is not in isolation from the biblical community. It is no more possible to follow Christ apart from the church than it is to have a shower without getting wet.