Is God Good? (Part Four: Why didn’t Jesus abolish slavery?)


The slavery question is complex, but I want to share a few thoughts regarding why Jesus didn’t outright abolish slavery and why slavery is not advocated against in the New Testament.

Throughout scripture, God typically works from the inside out. He’s a God that cares that the cup is clean first on the inside and then on the outside. Outside appearance (if one seems good) is much less important than the heart of a person (if ones thoughts and desires are good). When it comes to slavery, it is the same idea.

How can we transform a corrupt and wicked system? Can we do it by forcing people to follow set rules and patterns? This almost never works. I don’t think many people would advocate slavery as an ethical system irregardless of their views on slavery for productivity or economical reasons. Yet, various forms of slavery have and do exist. It seems such tendencies of selfishness and ownership go hand in hand with human nature. And if this is the case–if slavery is a manifestation of unethical thoughts and desires within certain people–then the solution is to change those thoughts and desires. Would it be possible to transform the hearts of the masters to such an extent that they willingly set their slaves free? If so, this would be more efficient than forcing abolition.

So, instead of coming to the masters (the rich, the intelligent, the beautiful, the healthy, the prosperous), Jesus comes to the slaves (the poor, the weary, the beaten, the imprisoned, the prostitutes, those in physical slavery). Instead of dictating a system of rules to the ones who lead the world, He comes to the ones who are owned and weak and weary within the system. And what would you say to those ones? Slavery is wrong, it should be abolished? This is obvious. No need to tell the slave that he shouldn’t be owned–he knows that already. Instead, Jesus gave to the slaves and the lowly–to everyone who would listen–a better gift: an inner freedom.

Jesus did free the slaves, but He freed them from feeling oppressed. He promises that in Him is fullness of joy, perfect love, unprecedented peace, and hope that one day the corrupt system will be overturned in a physical way when He comes again to rule as King of the earth. This is an inside out process. The slaves receive freedom beyond what their masters are capable of experiencing. Oh the irony that those who think they are free are not while those who are physically oppressed can be free! But then the slaves can pass this freedom on to the masters, and as the masters are renewed internally they can begin to change the system. In this way, the weak minister to the strong. It is one of the great biblical paradoxes.

The fullness of this process has not yet come. God is still working to grant freedom to new hearts. But a time is coming when everyone picks a side–for God or against Him–and when that time comes, the Lord Himself will return to earth to free us in a physical way from the corruption of the world systems.

??Be sure to also read Part One, Part Two and Part Three of this series.


Is God Good? (Part Three: Why Did God Make Pharaoh’s Heart Hard?)


Be sure to also read Part One and Part Two of this series.

God hardened Pharaoh’s heart to demonstrate His Glory among Egypt and Israel and the earth so that the people would know He is God.  But Pharaoh wasn’t chosen as a tragic casualty so that his people would see God’s power; there is more to the story.

The Biblical account in Exodus 3-15 shows us that Pharaoh wasn’t pursuing to know the Hebrew God, and in fact was consumed with his own gods and his own ways.  In other words, he was already hardening his own heart to God, God just allowed for this to happen more quickly.  We also see that God has full knowledge of Pharaoh’s thoughts and intentions, and is making a good and righteous judgment by hardening Pharaoh’s heart.

This is a pretty long account, so I’m going to highlight just a few areas; I’d encourage those who are interested in this story to read and dialog with God about it more thoroughly.

  1. Ex 3: 19: God is giving Moses instructions on how to present his case to Pharaoh and says He knows that king of Egypt will not permit the Hebrews to leave except under compulsion (or ‘unless a mighty hand compels him’).
  2. Ex 7:3: God will harden Pharaoh’s heart that He may put on a bigger show–that He may multiply the signs and wonders in the land.
  3. Ex 7:22: Pharaoh’s heart is hardened because he sees that his own magicians can do the same ‘magic’ as the Lord–he doesn’t care to know God, but to have power, and he isn’t impressed by God’s power so long as his magicians can imitate it.  If he were to seek the Lord, it would be for the wrong intentions: to have more power and control.
  4. Ex 8:15: here Pharaoh hardens his own heart and it is clear his desire was for relief from the plague rather than an awe at the power of God.
  5. Ex 8:18-19: even when his magicians cannot imitate God’s power and admit to Pharaoh that “This is the finger of God” he does not listen.  He really doesn’t want to know God.
  6. Ex 9:16: God could have just killed Egypt to free the Jews.  He went about freeing them in this creative way so that His power and name would be proclaimed in ALL the earth.  He may have picked the Jews, but He’s always wanted everyone to know of Him and be His people.
  7. Ex 9:34: at some moments Pharaoh hardens his own heart…
  8. Ex 11:9-10: other times, God hardens Pharaoh’s heart, giving Him the chance to do even more miracles.

God is very much about free will (letting us make our own choices).  As a result, He will help us get wherever we want to go faster.  If we earnestly desire Him, we will find Him.  If we want to engage our own desires and run our own lives, He will let us do that too–in some cases speeding up the process of hardening our hearts so that the ‘smashing of the clay’ can be done sooner than later, or so that we can be a demonstration of His might.

So, when God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, it wasn’t a violation of Pharaoh’s will, but a hastening of the choice Pharaoh had already made.  It also provided for Pharaoh to have a final season of mercy as God did extravagant signs and wonders right before his eyes–signs and wonders that also gave the Israelites confidence and awe in their God, and allowed for the name of the Lord to be known throughout the nations (Ex 15:1-3, Ex 15:14-16).


Spring Cleaning and Spiritual Cleaning


I’m on an extended vacation visiting family and have been helping with some ‘Spring’ cleaning now that my youngest brother is off to college and my parents will have a large home to themselves.  It has certainly been interesting to sort through old linens and old memories.

So much of what I’d personally collected and designed over the years is so out of character with who God has re-created me to be.  I was throwing things out left and right, and even chose to destroy a couple pieces of art I’d made while being influenced by the wrong spirits.

I’ve learned that physical cleaning and spiritual cleaning often go hand in hand.  It is not within God’s nature to be cluttered, dirty, and deteriorating, but rather to demonstrate His glory: we are to be good stewards of what He’s given us (whether small or large).  There’s a reason why physically cleaning can be more relaxing and make things look newer and more valuable.  Simply: cleanliness is part of God’s nature, and the other is not.

Of course, both the physical and spiritual realms are important.  If you’ve never spiritually cleaned your home, it’s just as essential.  You keep your home spiritually clean by regularly inviting the presence of the Lord (spending time worshiping God through prayer, song, reading the Bible, talking admiringly about Him, et cetera), and by keeping out that which is detestable to Him.

That second part is especially important: getting rid of the detestable stuff.  If you own anything that isn’t pleasing to Jesus, especially if it’s been involved in a religious ceremony for other ‘gods’, it can be like a beacon to attract spirits who think they can make a home in those who are using the ‘demonically sacred’ item.  This can plateau your spiritual growth (and, in my experience, even invite tormenting demons–in my case, I wasn’t aware of the affect until I was advised to get rid of some things and the torment decreased).

You do this kind of spiritual cleansing by walking through your home and praying that if there is anything you need to get rid of that Jesus would make it clear.  Then be obedient to what you think you’re hearing–even if it’s your favorite book, or a great CD, or the token you bought abroad, or the necklace that’s been in your family for generations.   Nothing in this life can compare to knowing Jesus on a personal level.

There is a promise that if we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us (James 4:8), and one of the ways we do this is to chose to honor Him over every other thing by (as the verse says) “cleansing our hands”.  We physically and spiritually clean the best we can, and thus, invite His Spirit to come in to renew and strengthen the rest of us.


Is God Good? (Part One)


I’ve met so many people–both Christians and not–who struggle to believe in, connect with, or admire God because it’s hard for them to see Him as ‘good’; so this is post one in a series on God’s goodness.

I want to begin by showing that the Bible testifies that He is good.  In later posts I will focus specifically on how we can see God’s goodness within the Bible stories that seem mostly negative (and perhaps this can move into discussion of how God is working in our day-to-day lives).  If a specific Bible account has particularly bothered you or a friend in terms of God’s goodness, please comment about it below and perhaps I will address it specifically.

Here is one of my favorite psalms in which David testifies of the Lord’s goodness:

Men shall speak of the power of Your awesome acts / And I will tell of Your greatness. / They shall eagerly utter the memory of Your abundant goodness / And will shout joyfully of Your righteousness.

The Lord is gracious and merciful; / Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. / The Lord is good to all, / And His mercies are over all His works. / All Your works shall give thanks to You, O Lord, / And Your godly ones shall bless You. / They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom / And talk of Your power; / To make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts / And the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom. / Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, / And Your dominion endures throughout all generations.

The Lord sustains all who fall / And raises up all who are bowed down. / The eyes of all look to You, / And You give them their food in due time. / You open Your hand / And satisfy the desire of every living thing.

The Lord is righteous in all His ways / And kind in all His deeds. / The Lord is near to all who call upon Him. / To all who call upon Him in truth. / He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; / He will also hear their cry and will save them. / The Lord keeps all who love Him. / But all the wicked He will destroy. / My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord, / And all flesh will bless His holy name forever and ever.  (Psalm 145:6-21)

I love David’s account here of God’s character.  If God is who David says He is, than He’s not just good but abundantly good in a way we can physically remember!  He’s not just righteous, but righteous in a way that will cause us to shout for joy if we truly experience it!  He is enough to satisfy every living thing, near to all who call on Him in truth, and protecting all who love Him.  Perhaps what catches me the most is that He is “good to all”, which means that even as He is destroying the wicked He is good!  This can be a bit mind-boggling, so is worth breaking down.  We will spend many more posts on this (though perhaps not consecutively–especially as I am currently out-of-state visiting family). 🙂


God is Love; What is Love?


The Bible says that God is Love (1 John 4:8, 16).  The Greek word for this particular kind of love is ‘agape’ meaning ‘unconditional love’–a love without cause.  But we know the pure essence of this love can’t be found in earthly language (even Greek!) because it’s representing a  spiritual entity, so the better place to find what this means is in the rest of the scriptures.

Song of Solomon 8:6 says that love is as strong as death, it’s jealousy as severe as Sheol, and its flashes are flashes of fire–the very flame of the Lord! Love is the flame of the Lord!  This is a pretty intense Love!!  We should be praying into this!  It’s also interesting that love and jealously go together!  (The Lord’s jealousy, by-the-way, is like ‘passion’ and ‘zeal’, rather than ‘envy’ or ‘covetousness’.)

The Lord, being Love, is jealous for our hearts!!  He will never stop pursuing and refining us because He wants ALL of us!

In Hosea, the prophet Hosea is told by God to marry a prostitute.  She keeps running away from him, and even bears another man’s child, but Hosea continues to chase her and bring her back.  This is the same love that our Lord shows, and, in fact, Hosea’s story is a living demonstration of God’s love for the Jewish people who He chose and will never forsake.

But whether Jewish or not, God has this same burning desire for all people.  God will do whatever it takes to get our attention (just as a suitor who is passionately wooing his beloved).  Unfortunately this also means that if our attention is set on another (any fleshly love or secular pursuit), then He may have to get our attention in a way that’s uncomfortable to us–not because He doesn’t love us, but because He DOES!


The relationship of good and evil


There is a clear dichotomy between what is of God (good) and what isn’t (evil)–there are no gray areas (which I’ll post about later).

BUT, unlike ‘natural world’ dichotomies, good cannot be defined by its absence of evil–it just IS (just as God Himself is, was, and will be!).

You see, God exists as the pure paradigm of good, regardless of whether evil does or doesn’t exist. And evil exists because, in being purely good, God allows for free will. From the point He began to create, both in the heavens (angels) and on the earth (humans), His creations had (and have) the freedom to become any kind of vessel.