What is “evil”?

President George W. Bush gained a lot of media attention when he called certain countries an “axis of evil”. Though the word doesn’t seem to get a lot of press coverage today, evil still exists. Anyone with a bit of familiarity with current events knows the existence of evil. We all know evil when we see it, but what does the Bible say about evil?

In normal use today the term “evil” is usually reserved for things that are really bad. Cheating on taxes is bad, but most people would not call it evil. Genocide is not just bad or wrong, it is evil. Though most rational people acknowledge the existence of evil, not everyone is agreed on the nature of evil. Some describe evil as an outside force working in this world. Satan is believed to be nothing more than the personification of evil. The Bible describes Satan as evil but never mentions evil apart from an act or an individual. Evil in the Bible is not an impersonal force. Evil is not an outside agency working upon people and events of the world.

Evil describes beings and actions. Angels are evil. People are evil. Deeds are evil. That which is evil is diseased and corrupted. It is infected, rotten and malignant. Evil is a corruption of what should be. Evil is not passive. Evil implies a willful, intentional action. Evil is not like a man being tripped. Evil is active in turning from the right path to follow a forbidden one. Evil is a moral description of a being’s or a deed’s corruption or sinfulness.

The Bible most often uses the word evil to describe something that is morally corrupt, but there are times when evil is used to describe something that is afflicted or destroyed. When God punished Jerusalem for her idolatry it is said He brought evil upon the city. God did not sin against Jerusalem. He brought destruction, sorrow and misery to the city as judgment for its sin. Evil describes events have bring ruin and calamity. They are evil in consequence though not evil in morality.

The presence of evil is a constant reminder that humans are moral creatures. People have a conscience and know the difference between right and wrong. The existence of evil is a testimony to the fact that things are not as they should be. The problem of evil points men and to women to God who will eradicate evil.

Though most people do not think of themselves as evil (the latest gunman probably did not think of himself as evil), all are evil. Everyone is corrupted by sin. No one is as God designed humans. All have turned from the proper path to follow their own corrupted desires. Evil is a reality, but not just in the world out there. Evil is a reality in the hearts of every person. Every heart has been corrupted by the rottenness of sin. This is why man needs a Savior. The wonderful news of the gospel is that through Jesus evil men are forgiven of their sin and made righteous. Evil exists, but God’s grace is much greater than the worst of evils.

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Are Encounters with Aliens True?

You may know someone who has been abducted by aliens. Since the late 1940’s tales of personal encounters with alien beings have circulated across America. Some accounts are entertaining, some strange, some disturbing and some terrifying. The widespread accounts of meeting aliens challenges the conclusion of those who deny the existence of intelligent, extra-terrestrial life. What is happening to these people? Can the accounts of alien encounters be explained? 

Since aliens do not exist they cannot be appearing to people, hovering overhead in strange craft or kidnapping hapless humans. Explanations of these events are possible without involving creatures from other planets. The possible explanations are as varied as the tales. Without doubt some of the stories can be written off as intentional lies intended to profit the teller in someway. Whether it be to sell a story or to impress friends some people have created alien abduction stories for their own purposes.

Another probable answer to some of the alien encounter stories is simply mistaken identity. Bright lights, weird shapes and strange noises can all be misintepreted as seeing an alien creature or vessel. A steady stream of alien stories, television shows and movies has primed minds to assume any strange or unexpected sight is an alien. Even those who don’t believe in aliens look at strange sights in the sky and wonder if they are seeing a UFO. Many alien sightings are nothing more than the result of someone leaping to the wrong conclusion. 

Other answers are not as simple to address, but are nonetheless plausible. Some stories of alien abduction have to be chalked up to various mental problems. Hallucinations, vivid dreams, mental handicaps and mental health disorders  explain some of these stories. The use of mind altering substances can have sufficient impact on a person’s senses that it creates false sensations- visual and auditory hallucinations or the inability to distinguish dreams from reality.

Mundane phsyical possiblities are not the only explanations for alien encounters. Satan is actively working on this earth to deceive people. Nothing says that Satan and demons cannot appear to people like strange alien creatures. Satan hates mankind. He desires to keep people blinded to the truth of the gospel. (2 Corinthians 4:4) He delights to add to humanity’s sorrow and confusion. (1 Petre 5:8) Satanic manipulation through demonic manifestation is a possible explanation for some experiences with aliens. This is not to say that all descriptions of alien encounters are demonic. Nor does this mean that those who see aliens are demon possessed devil worshipers. However, the spiritual realities of this world cannot be ignored. Satan is a crafty enemy of man who will stop at nothing to bring additional misery and trouble upon mankind. Any lie will suffice if it causes people to question the truth of the Bible. (Genesis 3:1-5)

Man does not know all there is to know about the heavens or the earth. Discoveries will continue to be made that will astound humanity. Though the universe is filled with strange wonders, theological and practical considerations lead to the conclusion that man is the only intelligent physical creature inhabiting the universe.

Finally, we must remember how easily the senses are deceived. Hunger, fatigue, stress, emotional disturbance, mental problems, drugs and alcohol all affect the perceptions of individuals. Experience should be supported by verifiable, reliable evidence. All experience must be examined and interpreted by the truth of God’s revealed Word. 

Is this world hell?

Life is full of trouble. Disease, poverty, malnutrition, natural disasters, oppressive government, wicked men, slavery and war bring severe suffering on humanity. The world is undeniably filled with searing pain. Some people see the misery endured during life and conclude that hell is experienced in this lifetime. Hell does not await after death. By their choices people create their own living hell. Wicked people bring hell to others.

The troubles of this life are terrible. Some people experience anguish that cuts deep into the soul. The book of Job says, “Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.” (Job 5:7) The Word of God never denies nor minimizes the suffering experienced in life. The Bible also never teaches that hell is experienced during this life.

The Bible consistently describes hell as the place of suffering and judgment after this life. Jesus teaches extensively on hell. All of his teachings on hell point to it as a place of future judgment. He gives stern warning to men to fear God who is able to destroy body and soul in hell. He warns His hearers to do whatever is necessary to avoid going into hell. He never suggests that men will suffer hell in this life.

Luke 16 speaks most clearly to this question. In that passage Jesus tells the history of a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus. “The rich man died and was buried; and in his hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments.” (Luke 16:27-28) The rich man lived his life and when his life was over he went to hell. How much more plain can it be? Jesus always described hell as the place of judgment waiting for men after death.

As bad as things are now hell will be much, much worse. The trouble of this world should warn us. For those under the judgment of God this life is as good as it gets. After this life is over the only thing awaiting is judgment, darkness, torment, and suffering beyond description. Jesus describes hell as a place “Where the worm dieth not and the flame is not quenched.”

If there is no hell, there is no logical or Biblical reason why there should be a heaven. The Bible presents a consistent testimony regarding the fate of men after death. The unsaved will suffer eternally in hell. The saved will rejoice eternally in heaven. If this life is all the suffering men will face, the Bible is a fraud. If hell does not exist Jesus wasted his life and died to no purpose.

The troubles of the world should remind us that we all long for something better. We know this world is broken. Right now the creation groans in agony. Suffering reminds us that things are not as they ought to be. God promises a day of redemption and judgment. Sorrow should lift our eyes upward to God who will one day remove all sin and all suffering. Distress should drive us to the feet of the One who punishes all evil and who saves all who seek His mercy.

Does God want people to be vegetarians?

America is consumed with food. No one is particularly surprised when surveys show that many Americans are overweight. Oddly enough it seems at times that the “healthy” people are most concerned with what they eat. Whole new markets have opened up to meet the demand for local grown, organic, fair trade, specialty suppliers.

The increase of health conscious eaters has produced a rising number of people who refuse to eat meat. Some Christian groups teach that God intends all men to be vegetarians. Others, Christian and non-christian, believe it is immoral to kill and eat an animal. Did God intend for people to be vegetarians?

The original creation was perfect. Before Adam and Eve sinned there was no death in the world. (Romans 5:12) Neither men nor animals died. When God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden He told them He had provided every herb of the field and every fruit of the tree as food for men and animals. (Genesis 1:29-30) Because there was no death we know that no creature ate meat before the fall.

After the fall God drove Adam and Eve out of the garden. He cursed Adam’s work with thorns and thistles. Much labor would be required for the earth to be fruitful. “Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;” Though Genesis 3:17 does not say so directly it seems that God intended men to continuing eating of the produce of the earth and not meat.

The next mention of men’s food is found after the flood of Noah. When Noah and his family had exited the ark and made sacrifices to God, God blessed Noah. God told him, “Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.” (Genesis 9:3) God clearly says that animals as well as produce will be food for men.

In the days of the Israelites, God again acknowledged that men would eat meat. He gave a list of animals that the Israelites were permitted to eat. He gave a list that the Israelites were forbidden to eat. God commanded the Israelites to eat meat on certain occasions. The passover feast was an annual feast given to Israel in celebration of God delivering them from Egypt. During that feast every family was to kill a lamb in the evening and eat all of it before the next morning.

The Bible never forbids men from eating meat. Before man sinned he did not eat meat. Now God has given to man flesh to eat. Vegetarianism is not sinful, but it cannot be viewed as a more Godly lifestyle choice. In 1 Timothy 4 those who would forbid other Christians from eating meat are said to be promoting “doctrines of devils.” Instead of forbidding carnivorey remember, “For every creature of God is good and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving.” Therefore “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” (Romans 14:5) If you eat meat do so with thanksgiving and to the glory of God. If you do not eat meat do so with thanksgiving and to the glory of God.

Are some sins worse than others?

Jesus said that if a man lusts after a woman he has committed adultery with her in his heart. If a man is sinfully angry with another he faces condemnation similar to that of a murderer. The entire human race was plunged into sin and condemnation because Adam and Eve ate one piece of forbidden fruit. Does this mean that all sin the same? Is committing murder as bad in the eyes of God as telling a white lie?

Sin is always wrong. Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount point to the severity of all sin. God in His holiness does not overlook a single sin, no matter how small or how justified it may seem to a person. No circumstance will ever exist where it is better to sin than not to sin. God hates all sin. Whether or not all sins are equal all are evil. The relationship of sin to other sin and the varying degrees of response to sin never justify committing sin.

The Bible speaks directly about the degrees of severity in sin. Sins can rightly be classified as greater or lesser. Jesus told Pontius Pilate that the priests who rejected Him and turned Him over to Pilate for execution had the greater sin. “Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.” (John 19:11) Though Pilate gave the official command to crucify Jesus and the Roman soldiers carried out the command it was the Jewish priests whose sin was greatest.

Evidence for different severities of sin is seen in the differing levels of judgment upon sin. Jesus warned cities of Galilee of the greater judgment waiting for them because they rejected Him. (Luke 10:13-14) Hebrews says, “He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” (Hebrews 10:28-29) Those who have greater knowledge of right and wrong are accounted as having committed a greater evil when they sin.

One word of caution must be given. Men often fail to measure the severity of sin according to God’s standard. God is not unjust because He regards sin differently than we do. We consider sin differently than God does because we have been infected by sin. Our ability to make a proper judgment about sin is compromised by our own sinfulness. God’s measurement of sin must be the one that controls all understanding about sin.

All sin is terrible. Some sins are more terrible than others. God alone determines what is sin, how serious is the sin and the consequences of sin.

How can I give thanks for everything?

How does a Christian give thanks for terrible events? Fatal disease, personal tragedy, national catastrophe, evil men and inhuman atrocities are just some of the grim things that are always occurring in this world. Should a Christian give thanks for things like murder or child abuse?

The Bible commands Christians to give thanks in every thing, give thanks for every thing and give thanks all the time.
“In everything give thanks.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
“Giving thanks always for all things.” (Ephesians 5:20)
“In every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” (PHilippians 4:6)
“Do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him.” (Colossians 3:17)
“By Him therefore let us therefore offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name.” (Hebrews 13:15)

How can a compassionate Christian obey these commands?

This is done with that realization that giving thanks for bad things is not treating evil as if it is good. Giving thanks for calamity does not deny the painful reality of suffering. Consider the most inhuman evil ever perpetrated in the world. The rejection of the Son of God followed by His unjust execution is the most horrible thing to ever happen. Yet Christian’s always thank God for Jesus’ death on the cross. In the Lord’s Supper Christian’s gather to remember and give thanks to God for the death of Jesus. Jesus Himself gave thanks at the first Lord’s Supper. Though He knew the suffering waiting for Him Jesus gave thanks to God in that time of great personal agony. Jesus did not deny the horrors of what was coming. He knew them, looked them full in the face and thanked God. Christian’s can thank God for terrible things without acting as if evil is good or pain is pleasant.

Giving thanks is not just about the thanking God for the pleasant things we receive from Him. It is easy to give thanks for the answered prayers, a nice home or a pay raise. Giving thanks is about more than these blessings. Giving thanks is about recognizing God’s good hand in everything that happens. Giving thanks looks above the circumstances to acknowledge the good purposes and perfect wisdom of God.

We give thanks because we recognize that temporary benefit is not the most important thing. We can be grateful for painful circumstances because they are working in us eternal good. God’s primary interest is not in increasing our comfort or in helping us achieve our dreams. God’s concern is with our eternal gain. Giving thanks looks beyond the present to the promised. Continual thankfulness looks past the temporary to the eternal good that God is working.

We give thanks because God is good, God is sovereign, God is accomplishing the eternal plan promised in Scripture, God is redeeming men and God is using every situation to change the Christian into the likeness of Jesus. We give thanks because no matter how much the situation changes, God is the same and He is always accomplishing what is best for those who love Him.

What about yoga?

Yoga is one of the most popular forms of exercise in America today. A recent article on meditation may have prompted some readers to wonder if Christian’s should include yoga as part of their exercise routine.

Yoga began as part of the spiritual practices of the eastern religions. The classic yoga positions and poses were not designed to stretch and strengthen muscles. They were designed to carefully position and align the individual’s seven chakras. In eastern mystical religions, for example, Hinduism and Buddhism, the chakras are a person’s energy centers. An individual’s spiritual power flows from the chakras. Misaligned or blocked chakras result in illness, poverty and powerlessness.

Yogic meditation is a way to realign and open up the person’s energy centers. A properly aligned chakra enables self-expression, increases intuition or taps the hidden power within. This spiritual practice is still a vital part of many mystical religions in America and the Far East.

Yoga’s unique, challenging poses have an undeniable physical benefit. Stretching the muscles and holding a pose requires a degree of muscle control that can not fail to increase health and strength. These physical benefits can be received without any involvement in mystical practices. If yoga is practiced without resorting to mysticism then no Biblical prohibition would forbid the Christian from participating.

If yoga is practiced in conjunction with the religious principles then it would be wrong for a Christian to participate. The practicing yoga as a means to align the chakras, make some connection with the divine or tap into a hidden source of strength is engaging in pagan spiritual practices. Christian’s must have no part of the religious practices of false religions. (2 Corinthians 6:15-17)

Mystical religions present a view of God, man and salvation that contradicts that of the Bible. The mystical religions believe man is a manifestation of the great Divine Reality. The divine reality is the source of everything. The goal is to be rejoined with the divine. The individual draws closer to this goal through meditation, including yogic meditation.

Mysticism changes the truth of man’s spiritual existence. The problem of humanity is not a misaligned or unenlightened spirit. Man’s problem is a broken spirit that has rejected the One true God. The solution to the spiritual problem of man cannot be found in realignment or in becoming one with the Divine. Man is unable to solve his problem.

Man’s spiritual need was met by Jesus. When a person trusts only in Jesus to forgive her sin and reconcile her to the Father, God’s Holy Spirit takes up residence within her. The spiritual problem is repaired by God. Jesus fully satisfied the justice of God upon sin. Those who trust Him are made the children of God and have all the benefits of eternal salvation. No human exercise will improve upon what Jesus has completed.

If yoga is treated as nothing more than an exercise routine it presents no spiritual problem, though it may present some physical challenges, to the child of God. If relied upon for salvation or spiritual gain yoga is worthless.

Should Christians cremate their loved ones?

Europeans and Americans have long placed great importance on burying the bodies of their dead. Even in times of war or great poverty the energy was invested to inter the body. Rich and poor alike sought to give their loved ones a proper burial. America’s west in the late 1800’s illustrates the importance that was placed on interring the body. A man could be gunned down in the streets of a western town, unknown to any one, but someone would dig him a grave. Boot Hill may have been filled with anonymous cowboys, but even the most despised were given a “decent burial”.

Over the last several decades America has seen a steady increase of the number of cremations. Some statistics show that nearly half of all deceased are cremated. For Christians considering what to do with the body of their loved ones this can be a difficult decision at a very difficult time. To make this matter even more challlenging the Bible does not give any commands for or against burning the bodies of the dead.

This does not mean the Bible is silent on death and burial. The Bible consistently shows burial as the standard practice of the people of God. Multiple examples of this could be given, starting with Abraham and ending with Jesus. Clearly burial was the normal practice of all those in the Bible. Burning of bodies is only mentioned a few times in the Old Testament and is always associated with judgment. Achan was burned after being stoned to death for his disobedience to God’s command to not take anything from the city of Jericho. The book of Leviticus prescribed two cases when a person’s body was to be burned and both were commanded as part of punishment for specific sins.

The example of the Old Testament must be considered by the Christian. Burial was the normal practice of the Old and New Testaments saints but that does not necessarily mean the Bible teaches burial is the only permissible treatment of a dead body. Generally those who oppose cremation offer theological reasons as the basis for burying the dead. Two of those theological reasons are the resurrection of the body and the dignity of the person.

Often funeral practices are a reflection of the beliefs of the culture. Much unconscious symbolism can be found in the modern tendency to have no funeral or to replace the funeral with a party. Burial points to the future resurrection of the believers. A Christian burial reflects the teachings of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 that the body is sown in the ground and will spring up again as something greater. The sown seed will spring up into a full, greater existence and the Christian, like that seed, looks forward to springing up again with a glorified body into eternal life. (This does not at all imply that the resurrection of the body is in any way dependent on a proper burial.) Burial points to the Christian’s expectation of resurrection.

Burial respects the dignity of the person who is created in the image of God. While Christian burial does not attempt to keep the body in a pristine a condition for as long as possible (though modern embalming and entombing practice seem to have that effect) it does seek to treat with respect the person who has died. Genesis 1:26-27 states that God created mankind in His own image. Though sin has marred this image Genesis 9:6 and 1 Corinthians 11:7 indicate that man still bears the image of God. That which is a reflection of the image and glory of God is worthy of respect. Cremation intentionally destroys the body and has been seen by many cultures as a sign of contempt. The apparent disrespect in burning a body is not in keeping with the respect due one who is the image of God.

The Christian should give careful thought to the Biblical teachings regarding death, resurrection and the dignity of the person. However, when all things are considered the Bible gives no direct instructions regarding the disposal of dead bodies. The Bible nowhere forbids burning a body after death, nor does it command burial. Crematiòn is a matter of liberty in which each Christian and each family must seek to reach a Biblical conclusion as best as they are able. Each Christian must be careful to not bring an extra measure of suffering on those mourning the loss of a loved one.

Will we still have birth defects in heaven?

Right now all the world suffers and groans under the curse of sin. Everyone bears in their body the effects of sin. Some show the effects more plainly. Cancers, diseases, scars, mental disorders, emotional turmoil and a host of other effects of living in this sinful world afflict mankind. Romans 8:22 says, “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.” All creation groans in pain and longs for the day of redemption when the miseries of sin are put aside forever. What will the body of the beleiver be like after death? As said in an earlier article, immediately after death the spirit of the redeemed enters into heaven. The physical body remains on earth to decompose and be destroyed. At the day of resurrection, the bodies of all believers will be taken up into heaven. At the resurrection all believers will be given glorified bodies.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 that the glorified body will be like and yet unlike the earthly body. This glorified body will be physical, but it will be free from all the effects and curse of sin. “It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” The resurrected body will be free from all the corruption and defects of the earthly body. Revelation 21:4 says, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”

The curse of sin has wide reaching physical effects. Because of sin, there is sorrow in marriage, sorrow in childbirth, sorrow in work and sorrow throughout the entire universe. (Genesis 3) The redemption of Jesus does more than pardon of the men from their guilt. The redemption of Jesus accomplishes the full removal of all the effects of sin. Because of Jesus’ death on the cross there is coming a time when the curse of sin on this world will be removed. When that happens, there will not be any more sorrow, pain nor tears. All the miseries of this lifewill be removed.

Those who have suffered lifelong diseases, mental retardation, massive deformities, genetic defects, will in heaven be free of those things. Some wonder how the person can remain if the entire being is so radically changed. The analogy of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 is helpful. A corn kernel bears little resemblance to the stalk which grows out of it, yet the stalk is unmistakably corn. An acorn and an oak are far different in appearance, but there is no question they are the same. This earthly body is but the seed which will be put into the ground. That which will spring from it will be greater, free from all flaw and without all the innumerable consequences of sin.

What are the most important things for a Christian to consider as he votes?

Our nation is racing towards the climax of the election cycle. Right now we are in the middle of the presidential primaries. On Tuesday the states of Michigan, Mississippi and Idaho will be having presidential primary elections. Every election leaves the Christian with a some very difficult decisions. The Bible informs every area of the believer’s life. This includes electoral decisions. How does a careful Christian honor God in his voting choices? Because no election is a clear cut choice between good and evil the Christian has to give more weight to certain issues when casting his ballot. What does the Bible says are the most important things to consider when voting?

Proverbs 14:34 says, “Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” Christians must consider which candidates will promote Biblical righteousness. The likelihood of finding a candidate with whom you agree completely is almost nonexistent. The possibility of finding a candidate who has a largely Biblical morality seems to be getting slimmer and slimmer. The reality is the Christian will probably have to chose the “lesser of two evils”. In doing so, much discernment must be exercised. The Christian must not vote for candidates who have built their political platform on the promotion of immorality and godlessness. Whenever possible, Christians should seek to vote for those candidates who have shown themselves to be promoters of Biblical righteousness (not necessarily of the ten commandments, but of those things which are in line with Biblical morality).

Romans 13 declares that God ordained the government to be a terror to evil doers. One must select officials who will punish evil. Government officials, from the lowest to the highest, are the servants of God. He appointed them, even the worst of them, to restrain evil. This means elected officials must be restraining evil in their own lives. Proverbs 29:2 says, “When the wicked bear rule, the people mourn.” A wicked man in power is not going to promote justice. He is not going to restrain evil. The Christian should seek those leaders who are honorable men of integrity that will uphold justice.

A Christian should not vote for a person just because the candidate professes of Christianity. While some politicians do have a credible testimony of salvation, far too many take the name of a Christian to attract Christian voters. A competent person of integrity may lead with greater ability and righteousness than a nominal Christian who crafted an identity to attract Christian votes. Nor should a Christian vote with the assumption that the right leaders will fix America. While our elected officials wield great influence over the direction of America, the needs of this nation are heart needs. The transformation of the heart is only accomplished by Christ. No elected leader, no legislative body, no judge and no system of laws will ever make a person truly righteous. Vote with hope but do not place that hope in men. Trust in Jesus, hope in the eternal kingdom He has secured and remember only the gospel will change this country.