Sovereignty of God

Does Everything Happen for a Reason?

Minnesota Golden Gopher basketball star Trevor Mbakwe’s virtually unprecedented sixth year on the college round-ball scene is in the books. He has made peace with the circumstances that undoubtedly delayed a professional career on the hardwood. “I definitely didn’t plan on being in college for six years,” Mbakwe told a reporter, “but everything happens for a reason.”

Everything?! Most people who think long enough about that notion cannot live with the discomfort of it. Within this subset, those unwilling to identify blind, impersonal chance as the reason behind everything that happens, generally prefer a God who is—in one way or another—incapable of stopping the bad things that happen to good people.

Reasonable arguments could be marshaled in defense of the “everything happens for a reason” position, including the notion that a personal, sovereign God furnishes the reasons. But here, I simply relay a story.

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Making Sense of It

To many of us the outcome of Tuesday’s election is incomprehensible. In multiple ways, it doesn’t make any sense. But if forty six years of life’s puzzles have taught me anything, it’s that when you’re inundated by the incomprehensible, it’s time to focus for a while on what is clear and certain.

Often enough the incomprehensible starts to make sense somewhere in that process.

Maybe you don’t need what follows, but I did. Just passing it along.

Four things that are still true after Tuesday

1. God is perfect and unchanging.

For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob. (Mal 3:6)

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. (Jas 1:17)

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From Japan to Joplin

quoteReprinted with permission from As I See It. AISI is sent free to all who request it by writing to the editor at

What is the Biblical Perspective on “Natural Disasters”?

Earlier this year, the massive loss of life and utter devastation to property that afflicted northern Japan as a consequence of a massive earthquake and tsunami were appalling by their massiveness. In subsequent weeks and months, a series of property-destroying and death-dealing tornadoes repeatedly afflicted the heartland of America, most recently in Joplin, Missouri. While the death and destruction in Japan were much more extensive than all the storms collectively in America, the much closer proximity of these American storms to us in south central Kansas, particularly the tornado in Joplin (a city just three-plus hours away by car , and one we have driven through dozens of times), gives them a much greater immediacy. What did happen there could easily happen here.

The prominence of such tragedies in recent news raises a serious question: Why? What cause was behind these disasters? Can a direct line from cause to effect be traced? What was God’s divine purpose in all this?

The natural reaction

The first and natural (and usually wrong) impulse is to say, “It must have been deserved. Something these people did brought this on themselves.” That was the theory of Job’s friends in trying to reason through the cause of his multiplied calamities. That was the speculation of Jesus’ disciples, too, when they saw the man born blind in John 9. Surely his parents or he himself committed some specific sin (which in the case of the man himself assumes divine foreknowledge of a future heinous sin and a preemptive strike, of sorts, by God).

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Disasters, Calamities and Evil in the World: Is God Asleep at the Switch?

Japan Burial

I preached a sermon recently about why God allows disaster, and that sermon is the basis for this article. I present this to my Sharper Iron brothers and sisters knowing that many of you are far more learned than I, particularly in the realms of philosophy and apologetics. I do not claim to be in the same league as C.S. Lewis or other great thinkers. So I encourage you to enjoy this article for what it is, a relatively simple (but practical) explanation of disaster, tragedy, and evil in the world based upon key Scriptures.

As a pastor, one of my most challenging responsibilities is to comfort the grieving. People can suffer in horrific ways. But one need not be a pastor to observe or experience these sad realities: life has a way of educating us all.

The earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan killed thousands and left multitudes in utter despair. Many of us are praying for the survivors and contributing toward relief to this once great nation now in shambles.

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Of God and Basketball Victories

On the evening of March 30, 2002, in the city of Atlanta, Georgia, the Indiana Hoosiers upset the Oklahoma Sooners in a “Final Four” contest of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Following the game, Indiana coach, Mike Davis, credited God for giving Indiana University the victory. “I have a lot of people praying for me,” he told the press, “God has placed His favor on me.”

Let me be the last to object to any praise going to God in the media. A man steps up to the microphone and declares that God factors into his view of the world, including the world of basketball—I’m with that! I lauded Mike Davis’ courage to proclaim his faith to the world on that occasion and I laud him still.

But I must admit, as a man of faith, that I’m growing increasingly uncomfortable with the array of athletes and coaches announcing through a microphone their euphoric gratitude to God moments after an athletic victory over their opponents. My discomfort has nothing to do with bringing God into the sports world—he’s there anyway, kudos to those who acknowledge reality. My discomfort stems more from the message that seems to be subtly communicated by such public expressions of divine adulation.

I fear the message is conveyed that God plays favorites, dolling out victories like a cosmic vending machine to those willing to acknowledge Him publicly as the dispenser of their triumphs. I’m also troubled by the fear that thoughtful viewers may well ask why God refuses to hear prayers offered in behalf of losing teams? And why did, in this instance, coach Davis and his Hoosiers lose the championship game two nights later? Did their prayers fail between Saturday and Monday evenings? Did God’s favor, which rested on Davis’ head on Saturday, dissipate by Monday night? Did Coach Davis, his team, or some obnoxious Hoosier fan somewhere do something wrong on the Sunday sandwiched between those two game days?

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God Is Sovereign!

Of all of the theological issues that have arisen in the last couple of decades, the matter of what God is like has to be one of the most crucial. As A. W. Tozer has written, “[T]he most portentous fact about any man is…what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God” (A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, 7).

Of course, all orthodox Christians agree that God is a Trinity, three persons in one essence. But just how powerful is this God? Does He control all things, even the details of life? Does He even know all things past, present, and future? Some evangelicals seem to be unsure.

Other evangelical theologians are passionately arguing the negative: God is neither in full control of the world, nor does He even know the details of the future. According to these Open Theists,

God knows a great deal about what will happen….he knows everything that could happen and what he can do in response to each eventuality. And he knows the ultimate outcome to which he is guiding the course of history. All that God does not know is the content of future free decisions, and this is because decisions are not there to know until they occur. (Richard Rice, The Grace of God and the Will of Man, ed. Clark Pinnock, 134)

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