All Things Work Together for Good

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” If I had to choose only one example of this verse coming true in my life, it would be my brother’s death.

My only sibling, Jason, was fourteen months younger than me. Growing up we were similar athletically and academically. But during high school he started partying and abusing drugs. He dropped out of school and received his GED. We were encouraged when Jason enlisted in the Army. He joined the 82nd Airborne, which involved jumping out of planes. He said he developed pain in his knees. We don’t know if that was true or an excuse to obtain prescriptions from the military hospital. Either way, this is when he became addicted to pills.

Jason separated from the Army after four years of service. He started breaking into people’s homes and raiding their medicine cabinets to satisfy his addiction. He was arrested and I still remember how difficult it was the first time we visited Jason in jail. We had to speak to him on opposite sides of the glass. He was released, but soon after was arrested again. Unable to find a job because of his criminal record, he moved across the country hoping to rejoin the military. That was the last time we saw Jason. A few months later, I received the phone call from my dad that Jason had overdosed in a motel room.

How Did Jason’s Death “Work Together for Good”?

I was in my early twenties, single, and teaching elementary school at the time. I threw myself into my work, hoping to stay distracted from the grief. It didn’t work. I was struggling. Continue reading “All Things Work Together for Good”

What The Fall Teaches About Marriage

The Fall took place when Satan attacked Adam’s headship. Genesis 3:1–4 says:

Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”
And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’”
Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.”

There’s an important contrast between the creation account in Genesis 2 and The Fall in Genesis 3:

  • In Genesis 2:16, “the Lord God commanded the man.”
  • In Genesis 3:1 and 4, “[the serpent] said to the woman.”

God spoke to Adam, but Satan spoke to Eve. Why? Satan knew Eve was “the weaker vessel” (1 Peter 3:7). Part of the reason God placed Eve under Adam’s headship was for her own protection.

The Choices Adam and Eve Faced at The Fall

When Satan tempted Eve, she had two choices:

  • She could trust her husband who had given her God’s command, thereby submitting to him.
  • She could trust the Satan, submitting instead to him.

Sadly, Genesis 3:6 reveals her choice: “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.”

At this point, Adam also had two choices:

  • He could obey God who gave him the command, thereby submitting to Him.
  • He could obey his wife, submitting instead to her.

Adam chose to obey his wife instead of obeying God. Genesis 3:9–12 gives us the outcome of that decision:

Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”
So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”
And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”
Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.”

It’s significant that the conversation about The Fall took place between God and Adam. God didn’t address Eve until Genesis 3:16 when He explained how sin’s curse would affect women.

Who was Blamed for The Fall?

Continue reading “What The Fall Teaches About Marriage”

Don't Test God

In May 2012 Mark Wolford died after handling a rattlesnake during service. He’d just turned 44 and he said, “It is going to be a homecoming like the old days. Good ‘ole raised in the holler or mountain ridge running, Holy Ghost-filled speaking-in-tongues sign believers.” Yesterday I read about Jamie Coots who died Saturday after he was bitten by a snake and refused medical treatment. He’d previously survived a bite that cost him most of the middle finger on his right hand, not seeking medical attention then either, letting it rot to black before it finally broke off. It’s unfortunate the first incident didn’t serve as a gracious warning to stop what he was doing.

Maybe Mark and Jamie had really good intentions. Maybe they wanted to show their faith in God. Maybe they were trying to make God look good. Maybe they were trying to increase the faith of others. Maybe they were trying to convince people that God protects His children. Instead, they created tragic situations. Wives lost their husbands. Children lost their fathers. Parents lost their sons. People lost their friends. There can never be a good outcome when there’s at best a misunderstanding of Scripture, and at worst a twisting of it.

Jamie, Mark and others with the same beliefs base their actions on Mark 16:18 (and if you’re interested, here’s a great message by John MacArthur and an answer on GotQuestions.org  discussing Mark’s Gospel ending at verse 8, excluding this often misunderstood and misapplied verse). The only parallel situation in Scripture is when Paul was bitten by a snake and unharmed (Acts 28:3-5), but it would be wrong to look at that situation and believe it’s normative or prescriptive for us.

As much as Mark and Jamie’s deaths hurt those closest to them, the greatest tragedy is the shame their actions brought on Christ and His Church. Unbelievers look on and say, “Man, Christians are crazy.” When Mark died I remember the number of comments I saw criticizing Christianity, and with Jamie’s death the same is taking place. After David’s sins with Bathsheba and Uriah (2 Sam 11) God told David, “By this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme” (2 Sam 12:14) and that’s what I think whenever I read about situations like this.

There are at least two errors at work in these situations:

  1. First, there’s a misunderstanding of Scripture. This goes all the way back to The Fall when the serpent tried to get Eve to question what God had – and hadn’t – said: “Did God really say…? (Gen 3:1). The devil has always wanted people to question and misinterpret God’s Word.
  2. Second, there’s a testing of God. Even if it’s under the guise of faith, you’ve got people trying to force God to act and submit to their will, instead of humbly submitting to His will.

Snakehandling

A Tale of Two Kingdoms

The greatest earthly kingdoms in history pale in comparison to the two greatest spiritual kingdoms in history: the world (the devil’s kingdom) and the Kingdom of God. The battle between them has been raging for thousands of years. Since the kingdoms are spiritual, the battle between them is also spiritual but no less militaristic than our wars as the occasional glimpses in Scripture reveal…

Elisha was one of the most amazing men in the Old Testament, given a real window into the spiritual realm and the conflict taking place around us. One time his servant thought the two of them were terribly outnumbered, but Elijah told him, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “LORD, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the eyes of the servant and he saw…the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (2 Kin 6:16-17)

One of the most fascinating discussions of the battle occurs when an angel tells Daniel a demon known as the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood him in battle for 21 days until Michael the archangel arrived to help (Dan 10:13). The angel also said he had to return to continue the fight against the demon, because soon another demon called the prince of Greece would come and only Michael the prince or guardian of the Jews would assist him (Dan 10:20).

Revelation 12 describes a battle in heaven during the Great Tribulation between the devil and his equal, Michael the Archangel. Currently the devil has access to heaven (Job 1 & 2), but verse 7 says, War broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” Within a few short years of this defeat the Second Coming takes place and the devil is imprisoned during Jesus’ thousand year reign. After the Millennium he’s released for a final rebellion that ends with his army being destroyed by fire from heaven, and him being cast into the lake of fire (20:9-10). Finally the conflict between the two kingdoms come to an end. The devil’s kingdom is completely destroyed and the Kingdom of God is completely victorious.

Which side are you on? In Matthew 12:30 Jesus said, “Whoever is not with Me is against Me.”

Here’s a sermon I preached on 8/11/13 discussing the two kingdoms in more detail as well as the greatest example of single combat that’s taken place between their captains: Jesus and the devil.