Last week at church we had a Bible study after worship. And one of the church members participating came up with great questions to a lot of real problems. Basically, we talked about what all great theologians struggle to answer and that is, “why does bad things happen to good people or to people who undeserve such catastrophes.
This should be a question that all Christians should struggle with because it challenges our notion of God and God’s relationship in the world. How we answer it really determines our concept of God. So, the basic problem in Christian theology and faith is as such:
God is all good/loving
God is all powerful
God is all knowing
So, the problem is that evil and sin exist in the world and why should this happen when we have a God who is all loving and good and all powerful? Shouldn’t that, by God’s nature, abolish sin and evil? Good question to ponder on a Wednesday!
If we say that God is unable to stop evil, such as the atrocity that killed children in the Ukraine by Russian rockets, or the person dying of cardiac arrest, who has served their church and community whole-heartedly. If God cannot prevent this from happening, then it would assume that God is not all powerful.
And if we say that God allows evil to exist then God is not all that loving at all! Or if we say that God is unaware when evil and sin affect the innocent then God is not al knowing. Which begs to wonder, if God is not all loving, all powerful, or all knowing, then is God really deserving of worship?
Now when I say innocent, I am assuming that all people are sinful. However, when a baby is abandoned in the hospital or in the street, that’s incredibly tragic. When children are bombed, that’s heartbreaking. When a person that has striven to make a world a better place but is diagnosed with cancer, that just seems unfair. What I am trying to say is bad things happen to good people all the time because the fact remains that evil and sin exist.
So how do we tackle this issue? As Christians what answers can we give to our fallen world? The problem for me is simply this. One is the gift of free will and our own unawareness of “the big picture.” I will do the best to explain. And even these two things I mentioned is not something that will make us comfortable at all.
God is all loving, I truly believe this because I felt it before. I felt it when I read, see, feel, or experience something that moves my heart, or even breaks it. I can sense that emotions swelling all around me. I know that God not just loves me but loves the entire world. I have experienced His forgiveness and grace countless of times. God is always going to love us. And when you truly love someone, you never imprison them for any reason. Even if imprisoning them for their own safety. God allows us to be free and allows us to live life how we see fit. For example, in the United States we have the right and freedom to own firearms. And yes, even though firearms can kill someone, we have the right and freedom to own them. By owning a firearm, we have the choice of being responsible and the choice to educated ourselves and others about gun safety. I am not saying that guns and good or bad, guns and guns. You see I realize each day I love my wife dearly. However, my love for her does not shield her from the possible pain that she may experience. For example, last year, she had to go to class during a bad winter storm. Now, to be safe, to keep her safe, I could have said, “No! You must stay home! You will get hurt!” But she needed to go, and all I can do is pray. She got into a head-on collision because of icy roads. I do believe that my prayers not just helped her survive, but all helped her come out of the accident basically untouched. Can’t say that for the car, but that’s fine.
Same thing for my children. I love them and would do anything for them. But I know that they must go to school, they have to experience the outside world. I can teach them the boundaries of the dangers of the world, but they will still get hurt at some point. When I tell my son not to touch the hot stove, he did it anyways and got burned. But instead of yelling and scolding him for not listening, I held him in my arms and tended his wound.
You see what love can do? Now I could take my children and my wife and lock them in a cage with nothing to harm them, no germs, no disease, no options of food, no options of play, no option to meet other people; just lock them in a cage or basement so that they cannot escape. They will be safe, I can provide always nutritional food and vitamins, clean water, proper clothes, totally sanitized, and provide learning tools that are only safe. Is that the right way to do things? Is that really love? Or is that fear? It sounds like living in fear more than love to me.
God is not a God of fear. God loves us and chooses to give us free will. As much as it might hurt us seeing us fall and suffer, at least we can count on Him to pick us back up even if we feel anger towards Him, He will always still love you. He understands you.
Also, we fail to see the “big picture.” Imagine our universe is like many small stars exploding. When a star explodes it is violent and impactful. When the explosion is set, we are left seeing this incredible sight of a nebula, that puts us in awe and wonder. Imagine when sin and evil impact or lives, is tragic, sometimes it is violent, but we never know the impact it takes on us. Sure, it may seem inevitable that our life is going to get worse, but that is the choice that we make. When we lose someone dear to us, it hurts us, we feel regret, we feel powerless, but the question to ask yourself is what you are going to do with your life to honor that person you just loved. I do not think the person you lost likes to see you struggling and living life in pain and being bitter. They too, like God, wants to see you thrive.
We often do not realize how fragile our world is and that everything that happens has a reason, regardless of it being good or bad. Even the smallest flap of a butterfly wing can change the course of history. It reminds me of the story of Job in the Bible. When Job, a good man suffers an incredible amount of tragedy. For the most part in the book, He stayed faithful, all the way until the end, when he confronts and gets angry with God. God responds to Job by telling Him you don’t know anything; you weren’t there when the universe was created. Basically, God is telling Job, that the universe is fragile, and you are not the center of it all. I know life stinks for you, but it doesn’t always have to be that. There is a lot of things going on “out there” and around you, and you have no idea how big of an impact would be made with a small change.
If God could just stop those missiles from landing on children in Ukraine, for the world to see, would the world be a better place? Would everyone just believe that God exist? I am not too sure that would happen. I think religious fanatics would use such a display to further their corruption of the religion. Try to create their own order and structure in the name of God.
The suffering will always remain, damage will happen in the world and in our lives. So, it is up to us. Remember Jesus told the disciples that all the power of heaven is given to you. Go town to town to exorcise demons, heal the sick, and feed the hungry. That message is given to us today. The powers of heaven are given to us to do the same. Instead of creating havoc and pain, use the gifts that God gave you to be compassionate to others, be the healing hands of a damaged world, and an example of peace to all you encounter. Jesus tells us if we have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can move mountains. Let today be the day that we move mountains.
Seriously, Spring is right around the corner. You can see glimpses of it peeking through the clouds. You have the spring rains, the longer days, the birds chirping in the morning, the chipmunks and squirrels running around. Also, not to mention yesterday I was staring at three rabbits as they stared back at me. The temperatures on average are starting to climb!
But it’s not just there yet. Even though some flowers are blooming, we can sense Spring is here, but we still have winter’s reminders of cold mornings. But the anticipation of Spring is really getting me on the edge of my seat.
It reminds me about how we should be excited about Easter. I was just on the phone with Orchid Huff, and we talked about the excitement of Easter. And this period of Lent is the anticipation of Easter to come! I love Easter, because it’s just a great symbol of the arrival of Spring.
On Easter day our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ rolled the tomb away from his grave. The darkness being pushed back, the warm soothing light emerges! Opening the tomb is the reawakening of new life that comes with accepting Christ in your life! It reminds us of our Baptism, the day that we become Christians and that day is all about living a new life. Spring season is as such as well! Winter has some of the coldest, longest nights of the calendar year. But Spring comes around, pushing the darkness back, allowing the warmth of the sun’s light emerge and create longer days of brightness. Spring is a renewal of life. Winter, the trees were barren of leaves and the grass brown and covered with ice and snow. Nothing was emerging from the cold ground. But Spring comes in, grass gets color, and the trees begin to bud and grow leaves. That ground that grew nothing during winter is now emerging with flowers poking through, awakening from the cold ground.
Spring is coming, it’s close and with Spring comes Easter! So, feel hope once again, feel renewed, feel the warm of the Son once again. Winters cold air and bitter winds will not imprison us anymore! Thanks be to God!
So happy for Eunkyung, who is now working in the Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit (CTICU) in UPMC Altoona! She is learning a lot and excited to work for a great unit in a great hospital. I know that God will continue to use her to help people in her field. She is a great example that determination and hard work will get you through anything. Regardless of the hurdles in life, she has done it. A mother of two children, immigrant to the USA, English as a second language, and many more hurdles, but she did it!
Not too long ago she received her first paycheck, and it was exciting. I told her to not worry too much about the loans on this paycheck, but celebrate it, she deserves it! She gave each one of us something special. That beanbag in the last blog I wrote about, came out of her paycheck, and she gave me a dashboard Jesus!
You may be wondering, what the heck is a dashboard Jesus? It is exactly the way it sounds. It is a little Jesus figurine that sticks to a dashboard of a vehicle, and Jesus just bops around as the car moves. I absolutely love it! I have a Jesus mobile!
Now I hope, as you guys are reading this, aren’t thinking now that I am some religious whack job, or that I am poking fun at Christianity. This dashboard Jesus gives me a ton of joy! It is fun, cheerful, and reminds me every time I get into the car, I really can’t get too frustrated driving around town. I must admit, I can get stressed driving, especially when someone is driving rude, or I think that the persons in other cars aren’t driving the way they are supposed to! But now I have Jesus with me in the car, and I feel happy. I can’t help but smile. And it reminds me that Eunkyung gave this to me, with her own independent financial self! All very cool to think about!
Having Jesus on my dashboard of the car also reminds me that being a pastor isn’t always about seriousness. It isn’t always about dealing with stress of preparing a worship and a sermon. Nor is it about meetings and planning or making sure that the people I visit will get the best and correct counselling. Being a pastor is also about joy and laughter. I should never forget that. God called me to be a pastor, not because of my gifts He has given me, but because God knows that it would give me great joy. Thank you to Jesus who is riding with me all over Central Pennsylvania!
So, I wanted to buy a bean bag for the kids. And I went on Amazon to search for a beanbag. Something little and fun that the kids would enjoy. We already have one, thanks to Joyce Gordon for giving it to us, but the problem is the kids fight over it…. A lot. So, the solution was that we would buy another beanbag chair, so they don’t have to fight.
So, Amazon was the perfect place to order such an item. A ton of beanbag chairs, and we picked one that we thought could work. We looked at the pictures and thought yeah… this would work. But I am afraid we misjudged and miscalculated the size of dang thing. Apparently, the dimensions of the beanbag chair that were posted in Amazon were the packaging size, and not the product size. But I should have known better, because the package weighed 45 pounds. Do you know any kind of beanbag chair that weighs 45 pounds? I should have thought about it more.
So, for the past few days this thing has been growing. Apparently, it was vacuumed sealed and said it would take 4-5 days to fully “fluff” out. This picture you see was taken on day 3. And if you are curious about size comparison… above the beanbag is a 70-inch TV. This thing takes up about 1/5 of our living room now!
Now, if you are reading this and wondered why I shouldn’t just return it. I ask you…how?? This thing is 45 pounds and is the size of a mini cooper. I have no idea how to get it out of the door, find a box to fit it in, and get it to the post office. Totally unreturnable!
So, what’s the solution? Well, have fun with the dang thing! This thing is about the size of our couch, all of us can be on this beanbag comfortably and we have all taken naps on it, played games on it, jumped on it. And to be honest, it’s now part of the home. Sure, its size is intimidating, but it’s great with the kids! They both can enjoy it, lounge in it, relax, and most importantly, not fight for it. Plenty of room for both! When Amazon gives you lemons, you make lemonade right? Tghis beanbag has two more days to fully reach its potential size. Can't wait to see how big its going to be on day 5.
Today is the start of Lent, and well what we normally do for Lent is give something up for 40 days. The point in giving something up is that we realize that the material or stuff in our life is less important or less priority than other things. Normally, we would ask each other, “What shall we give up?” But after thinking about it for a while and having a good conversation with Rev. Dennis Braun, something popped in my head.
Rev. Braun is preparing the Ash Wednesday service for his church and he picked a great passage to preach on. He decided to go into the book of Job chapter 2. This is an amazing passage because instead about the concept of Lent being about giving something up for God, it tells us to return to God with all our hearts.
Sometimes we can focus so much on giving up something for God, it just sounds so negative. But what if whatever we plan on doing for Lent we change our approach of thinking. That is that everything we do, it is about returning to God with our hearts, with our entire being. That includes not just about the “stuff” but also our emotions, our actions, our habits, our schedules.
You see, it isn’t about stopping and giving up something, but it’s all about adding God into your already set life. Instead of giving up TV for God, what if you decide that when you watch TV, we put on some religious/theological lenses. How is God still speaking to you, even if the things we do seem mundane or unimportant.
Lent is all about adding God in our already demanding, busy life. It is about reminding ourselves that God is with us always in everything that we do and that God is your guide and companion in every aspect of human life.
Instead of focusing on what we should give up for 40 days, lets focus on what we could add that reminds us to embrace our faith. Think about what more we can do for 40 days. In whatever you do for God in these 40 days, make it meaningful and with great purpose. And whatever, you do, at the end of those 40 days, make it last for the future to come. Life is continual, and everything that we do, say, and believe is about a continual journey of faith.
God bless you all, and may this Lenten season bring you clarity and purpose!
Hey this is Rev. Brian Choi's random thought throughout my week. Most of this stuff, will probably be about family, church, fishing, music, movies, food, whatever I think of, hopefully it will have some sort of theological reflection (maybe).