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“A Harsh Gift”
An Open Letter to the Church

I, Eutychus, called out of sleep by our Lord, a servant and teacher, address this letter to all those who have “fallen asleep” and “are heavy laden”. The Grace and Life abundant, which are promised of our Lord, be to you all.

Our brother Paul has written to the believers at Ephesus, I wish to extend the same greeting to all of you:
"Therefore I also, hearing of your faith in the Lord Jesus and love to all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that you may know what is the hope of His calling, and what is the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, (5:14) Therefore he says, "Awake, sleeping ones! And arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light." 1

I learned to be a teacher while in the US Army. There we were instructed to: “Tell ‘em what you’re gonna teach ‘em. Teach ‘em. Then tell ‘em what you taught ‘em.” So here it is:
  • I/you/we need to consciously school and train our perceptions and actively choose our res-ponses to the Father’s overtures. I/you/we need to choose to re-interpret whatever God brings us, as the best possible of all gifts.
  • All God’s gifts are good. As such our difficult times are not always the result of choices made.
  • This transformation is no magic wand affair; it is a learning process. This means there will be both successes and defeats. But it's a process through which we all must walk.
So let’s get to the teaching.

Jesus has freed us from captivity and saved us from the ravening enemy. But now we must move forward through the wilderness; taking continuing steps. The problem with the Exodus Israelites was that they were never convinced that God's intentions were always and only for their best good. They second-guessed, underestimated, and misinterpreted nearly everything He did with and for them. Another way of looking at their unbelief is that they believed YHWH was no better than the Pharaoh/god they'd just escaped. They were convinced that “I Am” was capricious at best and probably malevolent. Since we have their example of believing God's goodness to be evil, we need to resolve this issue for ourselves. Like Pilot asked of truth, we must ask, “What is Good?”

Let's look first at the examples of three of the best known, successful New Testament transformations, Peter, Paul and Jesus.  Yes, Jesus. In these three we see men of God who came to full reliance on the goodness of a loving Father and displayed a contentment and stability this affords.

Simon's reactions, while he walked with Jesus, were all over the map. If anyone needed discipline it was he.
“tell me to come to you on the water” ... “Peter got out of the boat … Save me“ 2
“You are the Christ” ... “Peter began to rebuke Him” ... “But He turned to Peter and said, “Get behind me Satan”
“But Peter said to Him, “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away ... even if I have to die with you.” ... “I do not know the Man”

yet Simon became Peter who lived out and then wrote:
"… he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. for this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."5

Paul, whose conversion was so complete that his name changed immediately, tells us that:
even though I was previously a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man. And yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief.6

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me--practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. … Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Then there’s that disturbing assertion in Hebrews, concerning Jesus:
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Al-though he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made per-fect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him .8

For my part I could stop right here and declare, “Selah!” I mean it’s all right here in these three sets of verses. These verses depict:
  1. A process -- not a magic-wand deliverance or blessing, one process, one process in which we choose to participate.
  2. Disciples moving through a course of training, one built precept on precept or ability on ability.
  3. God setting the sequence of this training tailored for each disciple. But in every case the goal of the training is that we cease being tossed about by our feelings.
  4. God willing us to master these lessons.
Let’s look at Luke 11:9-13:
"And I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone asking receives, … And what father of you, if the son asks for bread, will he give him a stone? And if a fish, will he give him a snake instead of a fish? And if he should ask an egg, will he give him a scorpion? Then if you being evil know to give good gifts to your children, how much more the Father out of Heaven …"

In this section of the Sermon on the Mount (found in both Matthew and Luke) Jesus breaks into the overall thought with a parable. I wonder if perhaps he noticed some adult taunting one of the children in the manner described. Perhaps teasing with a bait and switch tactic. Well He often used present events as fodder for discussion and correction. Look at His comments regarding good and evil.

The verb tense for ask, seek, knock, indicates that once begun we should keep on doing it. Kinda sounds like a Christmas list doesn’t it? Put it on your list and if you’ve been good and you're persis-tent you’ll get what ever it is. Certainly like Father Christmas, our Heavenly Father is looking for the opportunity to lavish good stuff on us, isn’t He? Is this how we are to envision God-our-supply, Jehovah Jireh? Well, whatever, Jesus drew the conclusion: if we being evil may still give good, it follows that He, being pure and holy, will give only good.

Let’s think on good and evil. After all it was the experience of the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, the first and only command in the Garden, which caused the confrontation and ultimate es-trangement between God and our original parents. God came to the garden for a daily visit; Man hid from and blamed God who'd given him the woman who, in her turn, blamed the serpent God had created.

Likewise, Jesus' parable deals with good and evil as relates to the nature of gifts requested and giv-en. The analogy indicates at least three perspectives from which the gift may be evaluated, giver, supplicant and observer. We recognize that, “how much more” describes the Father’s intentions. As I am responsible only for myself, the observer’s viewpoint is irrelevant. Being myopic I will observe through the lenses of need, desire and/or comfort-level. While sometimes our interpretations match God’s, more often they do not. I see what God gives me, and if it’s not exactly what I expect I react pronouncing it, “No Good!” Being subjective, I lay an interpretation on the gift based simply on how I react to it and name it evil. I fail to evaluate the gift’s actual nature or God’s intentions. I simply react. For example, God speaks to Jonah giving him a mission and a message and yet, his reaction is to run the opposite direction spawning tremendous harm vs. God’s message being delivered.

Our fore-sires while in the Garden of Eden, acted in full partnership with Father God in the accomplishment of His goals. Even Jesus set aside his wishes, “not my will”, so that the partnership goals, our reconciliation to the Father/Judge, might be accomplished. It is likely that my limited vision will cause me to see God’s gift as something other than, perhaps entirely opposite from, that which He may intend. Instead of God’s fish and loaf I’ll see a serpent and stone. Perhaps what I perceive as evil or bad may have been meant, designed, and provided by a loving God as fact the best of all conceivable goods. Being a full partner, my reactions to God’s gifts fundamentally impact them. I may cause what God intends for good to become evil.

This was certainly true of my own mother and me. I interpreted her bossiness and need to control as unwillingness to recognize that I was no longer a child. It was the making of many an argument and hurt feelings...until I married. It took my new wife to point out that my mother, whose own mother had neglected and abused her, knew only the language of control. My wife caused me to see that my mother, in her language, was shouting her love as loudly as she could. Like learning a new language, I schooled myself to willfully reinterpret as love that which I continued to perceive as shrewish. My mother’s love no longer rejected, she learned new 'vocabulary' and it healed hurt feelings.

As we encounter persons and events we react and our feelings are revealed. All too often we are motivated by, and usually allow, our feelings to lead. Only rarely do we choose how we’ll respond. Yet, time and time again scripture commands us: “Choose this day … “ and “Reckon yourselves to be dead”.10  David goes so far as to instruct his soul, “Bless the LORD, O my soul. Praise the LORD!” 11

I have a friend who, when asked, “How are you doing?” often replied:
“I’s doin’ so go-o-o-d. If I’s doin’ any better, it’d be illegal and they’d throw me in jail!”

For Him, I know it was a choice. He was reporting how he was choosing to face his world as well as messing a little with the questioner's mind.

So, in honor of my friend and on the authority of scripture, I proclaim this message to you: “It’s all good!!” No matter how it may appear.

As Christians, scripture enjoins us:
"Give thanks to GOD--He is good12 -- for, No evil will befall you13 -- everything created by God is good14 -- Therefore, give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.15"

So what is good? You may think, “Such a simplistic view can not be all the truth.” or “No person can be expected to do be thankful all the time!” After all “Everything can’t possibly mean every thing.” “Certainly these four verses can’t represent the entire council of God on the subject.” I mean ‘good’ can’t possibly include those tragedies which take the life of a young child or a beloved spouse or leave one maimed by an Iraqi I.E.D., can it? Are there actually different goods? Maybe it's that good has more than one meaning. Perhaps there’s an Old Testament and a New Testament good? May-be there's a when-I-feel-like-it good? We must live so how do we choose which to live by? Do we choose how to respond or merely react like a pool ball caroming off random bumpers?
How about from God’s perspective? Why does God act, what is His motivation? What is God after? What is His greatest concern for us? … Our comfort? … Our pleasure? … Our interests? … Our hopes? … Our fears? … Our health? … Our ministries? Well, what does scripture tell us?

Concerning the end of a God-initiated captivity in Babylon, Jeremiah prophetically proclaims: “I know the plans I have for you"--this is the LORD's declaration--"plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”16 Just what are these plans? Peter told us. We are to be, “partakers of the divine nature”17. Continuing from before creation this is God’s most passionate hope, His persistent and all-consuming goal, and that to which He has predestined18 each of His children. Even Satan knows this and persuaded Eve and Adam to sin, citing God’s goal for them (“your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as God, knowing good and evil” 19). What the Father desired for the first Adam He accomplished in the second, Jesus, and extends via reconciliation and adoption to you and me. And it’s for sure that God, “the Author & Finisher of our faith20” , has a plan to see it happen.

Should we expect a life of pure bliss and free of distress? We all get flat tires at the worst possible times. Like Job, we may suffer tremendous loss. We may enjoy Abraham’s success or find our-selves wandering a wilderness, perhaps even for years. We may know tremendous, abiding love like Isaac and Rebekah. Some will even experience death of ministries or separation from those valued most. We may even experience, like Jesus in Gethsemane, the deepest of agonies. But look up.  Hope abounds! “God, He is good!”

When we take a peek into God's thinking; we glimpse God’s three-fold plan of action showing that we are to:
Conform to the image of His Son, displaying His creative mastery21

Transform continuously by the renovation/regeneration (reformed in the newness) of our think-ing/mind, proving His will22

Change into [the Lord’s] image with ever-increasing glory, without shame or fear of punishment23
Let's delve more deeply into three action items and develop or flesh out the “how” of God's plan.

God is never passive. In Romans 8:28-29, Paul tells us “God causes all things to work together for good” (NASB). This verse shows that God considers every joy, heartache, spiritual insight, fleshly reaction, rock cast and each betrayal we experience as threads in the tapestry of our life depicting the image of His Son. The concept of God’s permissive will is, I believe, a misunderstanding. I fail to see any interaction with God in which He is not in charge or control. In fact, Paul goes on to say that God “predestined” us “decided from the outset to shape [our] lives” (MSG). Hence, we are never on our own, purposeless, or adrift. Nothing happens by accident and no event is outside His plan or thwarts His intentions for us, not even our own choices. I must also comment on consequences. All choices have them and God doesn’t always unscramble our broken eggs. This is not to say that our choices define God’s will. Rather, His foreknowledge and skill as The Master Chessman allow Him to build a plan that accounts for all possible choices and He’s realist enough to not pine over spilt milk. The moment we freely take a choice God adopts that choice as Plan A and He weaves it into His pattern for our good – our conformation to Jesus’ image.

God’s methodology: Later, in Romans 12:1-2, Paul reminds us that, as soon as we are reborn and adopted into the family of God, He sets about transforming what we value, converting the way we choose, washing out our minds, and releasing our very thoughts from bondage to this world’s system. This is the means by which we become the living proof of God’s “perfect” will, we become “a living and holy sacrifice”.

God’s ultimate goal: 2 Corinthians 3:18 shows us that through His fellowship, influence, teaching and discipline my life is: “being changed into his image with ever-increasing glory”. Or it could be said that my life, my Christian witness, like a mirror, reflects more and more perfectly His celestial image as He polishes the surface. Toward the accomplishment of this end everything He brings into my life and each decision I take is used as steel wool, gritted compounds, or jeweler’s polishing rouge. And, with each stroke, He removes imperfections and smoothes the reflective surface of my life so that others may clearly see Him. We possess no light of our own. He is the source of Light24 and Truth25 -- we reflect His light and image in a dark world.

God actively weaves every life experience, transforming each of our values to align with His, with the ultimate aim that we both resemble and reflect Him with increasing accuracy and brilliance.

Goodness and evil are theological terms and much debated. But as I see it theology must also be practical and applicable. Further, all genuine theology must find its roots in the nature of God. He is the standard against which all theology must be measured. If what you believe isn’t revealed in scripture as part of His nature, it’s dogma. Therefore, Good must be defined by His nature as revealed in His word, for “faith comes from listening, and listening comes through the word of Christ.” 26

Let's look at a color unique to God--Good. It’s the product of four pigments blended together on the Artist’s palette. These are: God's Nature, God's Intentions, Sources of Good/Evil, and Our On-going Salvation. We'll begin by examining three key elements of God’s nature which play into an under-standing of Good: Love, Faithfulness, and Wisdom.

1. Good is based in God’s nature: Love, Faithfulness, and Wisdom
"And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin … "27

"O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting."

"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."

"Taste and see that Jehovah is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him."
A. God is Love
"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God, and knows God. He who doesn't love doesn't know God, for God is love."31

"Let love be without hypocrisy, shrinking from evil, cleaving to good."

We all know exactly what “God is love” means don’t we? After all it’s perfectly clear...God = love. Have we any doubt or uncertainty regarding the definition of love? OK shout it out! How do we, how does scripture define love?
"No one has greater love than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."33
"But God commends His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. "

"Whoever has this world's goods and sees his brother having need, and shuts up his bowels from him, how does the love of God dwell in him? My children let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth."

"Now the goal of the commandment is love out of a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith."

Definition of Love: To choose to do what is best for all concerned, to actively seek the highest good, to value the needs and welfare of others equally with my or your own.

What does this mean with regards to God actions toward us? It means that His every thought, ac-tion, choice and gift can only be for our best:  God who IS LOVE can do no other. He can’t play pranks on us. He won’t act out of vengeance. In fact, He extends mercy because it is the best of all possible choices. His challenge He is also moral judge and cannot capriciously ignore justice, it must be satisfied.
"The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning."37

That God’s mercies are renewed every morning is one of the most hopeful thoughts of which I can conceive. But how can a loving Father practice mercy and also impartially administer justice. Perhaps the following parable will help us understand how our Abba pulled it off.

In a kingdom, a long, long time ago a King declared a law against thievery. Theft was such a large problem that he extended the law to apply even to the aristocracy. This made it necessary that he sit in judgment of all such cases. It was proclaimed that anyone convicted of theft would suffer the loss of both eyes.

Time passed … judgments were rendered, and theft was reduced. Then one day he was required to sit in judgment of yet another aristocrat accused of theft, his own son. The evidence revealed his son’s guilt. As judge he had no choice but to pronounce him guilty. After all He had made the law, so it would apply to all equally.

The trial ended and the king spent a sleepless night considering his roles in this affair. He was: King – lawgiver, Judge – Enforcer and Father – Life-giver. How could he justly and lovingly balance all these facets?

In the morning the judge rose from the throne to pronounce the only sentence possible -- Guilty! Further the king affirmed the law’s requirements of loss of two eyes. Then he descended the dais, removed his crown and stole of office setting aside his scepter. The son would loose one eye and the father declared that his own eye would be the second. Both justice and mercy would be fully satisfied.  

God demonstrates His love by daily renewing his outstretched, endless mercy. “…God commends His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” 38Jesus’ death and resurrection provided the means by which God might satisfy the requirements of both justice and mercy. God’s consuming passion is that our relationship with Him be vital and intimate producing trees of life that feed and restore others. It would be counterproductive were our Father to introduce poison into our experience for it would produce death rather than life. Here the “how much more” principle comes into play.

But, will His love prompt Him to prune our life’s branches? “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away. And every one that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bring forth more fruit.” 39  “In this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, so you shall be My disciples.” 40  But note:  He removes those branches that are either unfruitful or already dead. Then, at the proper time, the remaining fruit must be thinned. Some fruit is removed and some allowed to become even more richly flavorful. In this instance love must make the hard choices to seek the highest good.

God’s commitment to our best good will energize Him to accomplish that which causes us to most resemble His Son. His Love motivates Him to keep at it until we master the lesson.

B. God is Faithful (Unchanging/Everlasting)
"God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM"; and He said, "Thus you shall say … l, 'I AM has sent me.' "41

"Do I change, O house of Jacob? … Do not My words do good to him that walketh uprightly? "42

"… the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness nor shadow of turning."43

"Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid …, for the LORD your God … will not fail you or forsake you."44
"Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments."45

The verse in Exodus introduces God as “I Am”. The intention of this naming is that “I am already that which I ever shall be”. One of my teachers used to say that she was “leaning so heavily on God that should He ever move, she would fall on her face.” I was asked to pick which aspect of God’s nature is most important to me … faithfulness was my answer. I reasoned that if God, “I AM”, ever changed, even once in the slightest, it would mean that I could never again have reason to trust Him. Yes, faith always includes an element of leaping. Yet, that leap is never into the dark.  He is the “Father of Lights” and we have reason to trust Him.

On the one hand, Faith is a gift from God that is expressed through us to a specific goal. This type activity of Faith is often characterized as miraculous. It is a specific gift aimed at a specific need. On the other hand, we walk in Faith daily as we walk with our hand in His. “Walking in the Spirit is no more than doing the next small thing God asks of you.”

In both cases a leap will be experienced. But a faith leap isn’t into the abyss. It is into the arms of our faithful Savior who “will not fail” “to a thousandth generation”. He is the reason behind faith. Obedience to His commands is the impetus for all faith. Faith can only be faith IF and WHEN it is in response to His commands. “Faith” that is not an act of obedience is presumption.

God's faithfulness informs us of several facts. Firstly, once He determines the course that is to be pursued, He will exert every force and use any tool in its accomplishment. He may unscramble our bad choices or allow us to experience their consequences. He may protect us from, or choose to lead us through, the results of choices made by others intent on our harm. No cost to whomever will be considered too dear. No matter how many times we must repeat a lesson He will never tire until we master it. Time has no meaning to our Father in His efforts to bring about our best good.

C. God the Only Wise God
"To God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever."46
"The report of your obedience has reached everyone. Therefore I rejoice over you. But I want you to be wise about what is good, yet innocent about what is evil."

"To the only God, who alone is all-wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever! Amen."

"Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory forever and ever."

Henry, commenting on Romans 16:27, wrote, “He only is perfectly and infallibly wise; he only is originally wise, in and of himself”.

Of the three aspects of God’s nature we're discussing Wisdom is perhaps the most difficult component to understand and digest well enough to make it useful. In the Old Testament wisdom is often seen as evidence of one who is breathed upon by the Holy Spirit. Paul prays that, “the Father of the glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom.” 50 Webster’s defines wisdom as: discriminating between what is true and what is false; between what is fit and proper, and what is improper … Discrete and judicious in the use or applications of knowledge.

In short, Wisdom assesses the choices available and balances out the needs represented, determining the best good. Father God, through Jesus’ sacrificial accomplishments, is shown to be Wisdom’s fount. He alone was able to balance fully the needs of Justice and Mercy returning us to pre-fall intimacy.

If you care to, it would be worth your while to read and compare two sets of wisdom’s self-portraits: Proverbs. 8:12-36 and James 3:17.

The theology of Good, as God’s nature reveals it, is clear. Out-loving Father is deeply motivated to assure that the very best of all possible eventualities occur. His all-encompassing Wisdom informs Him of all the options available, then winnows them all determining the very best and loving course for me balanced against all the needs of all concerned. Every choice God makes concerning me is based on the outcome of this winnowing process. His Love then brings to bear a consistent and persistent God-sized force aimed at this one goal. And once thus engaged, His Faithfulness will not allow Him to relent or alter His course regardless of the time, cost, or pain required to bring it to fruition. Consider that JHWH prepared, plowed, planted and weeded the soil of Moses' life for eighty years prior to realizing forty fruitful harvest years, a two-for-one investment. How long has He invested in you?

Has God made an explicit commitment to any particular course of action? If so, how might His inten-tions affect our concept of what’s good and not? If it is true that Good is based in a loving, faithful, all-wise God's nature, then how may it be implemented if not by the plans and intentions this Good God has for us?

2. Good is defined and implemented by the intentions of our Good God and Him alone
"For I [alone-gnb] know the plans I [am planning] have for you, declares the LORD, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. You will seek me and find me. When you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have dri-ven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.” 51

Jeremiah, considered by many to be the Prophet of Captivity, makes it clear that God had ordained subjugation, dispossession, and captivity. Delightful imagery? But, Jeremiah also reveals God’s ultimate aim: seek, find, restore, and return. Each of God’s actions is always a considered element of an overall plan: A plan having “a future and a hope”, a plan centering on being “gathered” into His presence even when He may have seemed very distant, and a plan that takes the long view.

God’s long view may span generations or even millennia and cross national frontiers. Examine Ruth. Elimelech together with his wife, Naomi and two sons immigrate to Moab to avoid famine. There both sons find wives from local women. All three males die after 10 years, leaving three childless widows. Naomi expresses her brokenness, “No, my daughters, my life is much too bitter for you to share, because the LORD's hand has turned against me."52 Ruth alone determines to remain with Naomi and responds, “Do not persuade me to leave you or go back and not follow you. For wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you live, I will live; your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.”53 These grieving widows return to Bethlehem, at the beginning of the harvest, where Naomi renames herself Mara, "Bitterness".54

Long story short, Ruth attracts the attention of a local farm owner, Boaz, who edges out a closer relative and redeems the plot of land owned by his deceased relative, Naomi’s husband. In so doing, he accepts the God-ordered responsibility to marry Ruth, continuing Elimelech’s line. Already we see a significant investment on God’s part. But this is only the beginning. To Boaz and Ruth is born Obed, who sired Jesse, who sired David, who became King. From David, through many generations, came both Mary and Joseph, Jesus’ earthly parents.55 The famine drove Naomi to Moab where she was to experience bitter grief. Was it a gift or a judgment? Was God justified in its presentation? Did He intend ill or good? If a gift, it certainly was a harsh gift.

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also pre-destined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren." 56

From the nanosecond that God foreknew, He predestined – God's knowledge is perfect, without fault, error or lapse, and by its very nature, predetermines. The intervening millennia haven’t changed or altered His determination in any fashion. And more than simply allowing, He set about to cause, mold, force, and/or weave every element of our lives into a pattern that resembles Jesus’ image. The Father is enabled by our love for and trust in Him. He weaves the elements of our lives into a tapestry depicting the life of His Son. Any aspect of my life that I freely place in His hand, he is able to weave into the tapestry of His design. Those I hang onto He works around, but the flaw is apparent.

Imagine this picture:  God sitting in front of a frame on which He’s weaving a tapestry. He’s in hea-ven while we observe from here. What does the Weaver see? God actively weaves each choice/event into a wholesome, beautiful pattern of His choosing. Which side of the work do we see? How might that appear to us? Coherent or random? Finished or dangling threads? Discernible, total mystery or even an image antithetical to God's intention? We have to trust in the Weaver’s skill and vantage point because, from our perspective, the pattern is, well … sketchy.

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. … Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."57

These verses may be properly interpreted in either or both of the following ways:
rejoicing + incessant prayer + thankfulness = Will of God
“this” (whatever you face) is the will of God.  Therefore rejoice, pray, and give thanks.

Whichever interpretation is adopted, its fulfillment encourages the activities of the Holy Spirit, ulti-mately rendering one blameless, even until Jesus returns. Good = our becoming conformed to Je-sus image. But interpretation seems to be critical. Any two witnesses will make different reports of the same events. Consider Job and his wife:

"Then his wife said to him, "Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die." But he said to her, "You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips."58
"… the LORD accepted Job. The LORD restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends, and the LORD increased all that Job had twofold. Then all his brothers and all his sisters and all who had known him before came to him, and they ate bread with him in his house; and they consoled him and comforted him for all the adversities that the LORD had brought on him. And each one gave him one piece of money, and each a ring of gold. The LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning."

 Job’s wife saw God turning away from Job and the removal of His blessing, if not His outright cursing/judgment. And then she counseled him to give up, to “curse God and die.”

Job saw God being Sovereign and whatever He chooses to give as consistent with His nature and fully in concert with their relationship. And the end of the story God displays that his plans always include restoration and open acknowledgment.

Perhaps this is the proper time for an aside. Please note that even according to the Father’s testi-mony Job was a righteous man. Therefore the troubles he endured were in no way related to any sin, shortcoming, or wrongdoing. Obviously his faith was not the door through which Satan was able to attack him. Job’s troubles were God’s choosing and instigation. Therefore, when difficult times come our way, our first question must be, “What are you teaching or trying to accomplish through me, Lord?”

3. God is not the only actor on the world’s scene. What of the other sources of bad intentions?
A. Other People
"When they saw him from a distance and before he came close to them, they plotted against him to put him to death."60

"But then those 'fathers,' burning up with jealousy, sent Joseph off to Egypt as a slave. God was right there with him ... "

"Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an Egyptian officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the bodyguard, bought him from the Ishmaelites, who had taken him down there. The LORD was with Joseph, so he became a successful man. … So Joseph's master took him and put him into the jail, the place where the king's prisoners were confined; and he was there in the jail."

"'You shall be over my house, and according to your command all my people shall do homage; only in the throne I will be greater than you.' Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.'"
"And you, you intended evil against me, but God meant it for good."

Joseph is possibly the most striking example of God wrenching control of the evil others intend and using it for His ends. Joseph explicitly confirms that, “God knew your plans, brothers, and wove your evil intentions into His plans for the salvation and well being for many.” Not even the harm others intend is outside the good that God will always bring to fruition.

B. Satan
"The LORD said to Satan, 'Have you considered My servant Job?' …Then Satan answered the LORD, 'Does Job fear God for nothing? … But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.' Then the LORD said to Satan, 'Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.' So Satan departed from the presence of the LORD."65

"Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers."

 These verses reveal a clear pattern in both the Old and the New Testament:
  •   God initiates or Satan accuses
  •   Satan demands access
  •   God authorizes, sets limits
  •   Satan attacks, obeying God’s restriction
  •   God restores
Do we need attempt to determine the source of what is coming at us and, based on that knowledge, choose how to react? Ultimately, does it really matter? Does it matter if we can attribute any given choice to a particular originator? What’s important here, the source of the action or our response to it? Well let’s look at the possible motivations of each the possible actors. Say it comes from:

GOD Any choice taken will always be the best possible of all available options. And it will always produce good fruit. This is true even if the medium of its delivery appears harsh or is cloaked in the chas-tisement of loving father with children.67 We accept whatever He may give us with open hands and a thankful heart, knowing it is the best of all possibilities.
SATAN Always intends the greatest damage possible, especially as it affects the Father. Ultimately Satan’s efforts blot out the light and blind one to the truth. Sa-tan must operate within the strictures set by the Father-who-loves-us. Even Satan must obey the word of God and it galls him. In submission to the Father we counter the dart with the application of God’s word (See Jesus in the wilderness) and/or praise God directly ignoring Satan, (see Job). Knowing that Satan requires God’s permission, we rest in the certain knowledge that ultimately God will restore. So we hang onto the Father’s hand.
Rarely do we of Adam’s race take any choice from pure motives, either wholly selfless or selfish. Often we are completely unaware of the motivations, which push us toward one option over another. We’re almost totally unaware of the immediate consequences and all but wholly unaware of and for the most part don’t care about the unintended consequences of the option we may select. Regardless of who makes the choice:
1) Confess to God, which means, “to agree with”, committing the situation into God’s hands.
2) If it was your poor choice or rebellious act, ask for God’s forgiveness. If it was another’s choice, forgive and ask God to clear it from heavens rap sheet.
3) Finally, refer back to the “GOD” response.
SUMMARIZATION: Regardless of the Actor: submit to God, accept His viewpoint with thankfulness, trust in His Grace, and remember His promise to make all good .68

4. Good is demonstrated through our on-going conversion
"There is no fear in love, but perfect [completed 69] love casts out fear, because fear has punish-ment [The thought of being punished is what makes us afraid. CEV]; and the [one] fearing has not been perfected in love." 70

Perfect love is that love which is fully equipped and prepared, enabling the beloved to know that he/she is always accepted, in all conditions sought, and never forsaken under any condition. Love breeds trust as surely as expectation of punishment breeds fear.

But what do we do with Peter or Paul? They seem to indicate that fear, effort, and suffering are re-quired for love’s perfection.
“So, then, my beloved, … cultivate your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is working in you both to will and to work for the sake of His good pleasure.” 71

"His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, … For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."

We have been endowed with “all things that pertain to life and godliness”. We may liken this to having been endowed with the Father’s Spiritual DNA (SDNA). Like a newborn baby, we possess all God’s SDNA. He chooses which elements, when, and by which triggers they become activated. Then the Holy Spirit establishes a training program that educates us in the use of these newly activated abilities, disciplining and strengthening us in their use.

Peter continues, describing a ladder of sorts. One climbs from Faith  ArrowVirtue (moral excellence) Arrow Knowledge Arrow Self Control (temperance, alert discipline) Arrow Steadfastness (perseverance, endurance, passionate patience) Arrow Godliness Arrow Brotherly Affection Arrow Love Arrow which process prevents one from being ineffective or unfruitful.

Then Paul forces us to deal with the degree to which Jesus’ humanity made him dependant upon the activity of the Holy Spirit.
"Have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Although he was in the form of God and equal with God, he did not take advantage of this equality. Instead, he emptied himself by taking on the form of a servant."73

And the writer of Hebrews disturbs us with the assertion that Jesus’ suffering was the Master’s teaching tool, instructing Jesus in obedience.
"For Jesus, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared, though being a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things He suffered. And being perfected, He became the Author of eternal salvation to all those who obey Him, being called by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek."74

Jesus, while here on earth, learned. These verses clearly confirm that He did learn and that this training was occasioned through that which He suffered. Suffering is never quick and usually in-volves multiple occurrences. In fact Paul lists longsuffering as a fruit of the Spirit.75 Once again a process is required to accomplish God’s intentions for us as testified to by His own son’s willing-ness to undergo suffering even though He asked to be released.

Ultimately we see: God’s Faithfulness won’t allow Him to rest until He has accomplished what His Love and Wisdom have determined is best for us. Moreover, the Father shows Himself re-morseless and relentless with regards to its accomplishment. In His economy there is no price too high for Him or us to pay. In fact He instructs us to “count it all joy”. 76

Romantically, we may cling to the notion that good is only and always warm, fuzzy and comfortable and that certainly a loving Father would only want such for His kids. Conversely, evil must be the opposite, cold, prickly and painful, and so we reject the notion that God would choose any of them as gifts for us. But He is sovereign (He answers to no one) and He declares, “your ways are not My ways” 77, so how He defines a thing is likely not to coincide with how we might describe it.

Then there’s the fact that we sought for and accepted His gift of salvation. In doing so, we willingly acknowledged His Lordship over our individual lives. So His definition is the one that matters! It is the one we must live by. In fact, He, Himself, is what matters. It is in his very person and character that we find Good. God testifies that, “He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the sons of Israel.” 78 The children of Israel refused to get beyond the surface of God's character and as a result they were always “tossed about by every wind of doctrine”.79 They never learned to love Him, their devotion was always prefaced and determined by what He could do or had done for them, as they perceived it.

We have taken the concept of Good and searched across scripture to find what God might tell us about it. It is said that scripture is its own best interpreter. I have attempted to cast a wide net across scripture so that we might rest comfortably in the broadest of possible interpretations. What do I ex-pect you to have learned here?
  1. God is committed to and consumed with the one goal that we be conformed to the image of Je-sus. Though Son, He was perfected through what He learned and suffered. He endured and was victorious, through the activity of the Holy Spirit. We will be, likewise, victorious.

  2. God is presently weaving a life-story tapestry. It is woven from the elements of each of our lives which depicts a two-fold story. On one level the tapestry recounts the sacrifice of the Perfect Substitute, His only Son, Jesus. The subtext is specific to each of us and the tapestry tells the story of what our interactions with Jesus produce.

  3.  In this effort no choice taken by others or me, whether intended for good or ill, is beyond our Master-Weaver’s ability. The material my life provides the Master is the basest, stiffest and most common hemp. Nonetheless, He collects it, sheltering it in His palm as if it were the finest hand-carded yarn. He softens this pile of waste with a mixture of His tears and mine and then warms it with His breath. Then, even though it is totally ill suited for fine art, the Master-Weaver interweaves my twine with the perfect yarn of Jesus’ life into His masterpiece.

  4. Our father God delights in giving gifts of all shapes and sizes, anticipated and un-looked-for. Some are fun and others may appear harsh. Each is offered to us from the hand of a loving Father, who will always give what is good for us and through us to those whom we will bless in turn. Ultimately we will come to take both “good” and “evil” from the God’s hand and learn “to be content in whatever circumstances”80 He may lead us.
What God requires or expects of you and me is that we make a choice and keep making it. We may remain, as most of us do, tossed around by how we feel, what we perceive and how we react to that which we endure daily. Or we can commit to open the door at which Jesus knocks81 and place our foot onto the path His word illumines82. It is true that we don’t know the path’s destination or even the weigh points along its course, but we “know whom we have believed in”83 and that He is both, “author and finisher of our faith”84. All He’s asking is that we walk hand-in-hand with Him down whichever path He may choose responding with love to His choices. This requires that we live on what we know of God: His good nature, His intentions for our welfare, and His Master-Weaver abilities. In so doing we will no longer be, “infants, tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine”86.


1. Eph. 1:15-18, 5:14
2. Matthew 14:28, 30
3. Mark 8:33
4. Mark 14:29, 79
5. 2Peter 1:4-8
6. 1 Timothy 1:13
7. Philippians 4:8-13
8. Hebrews 5:7-9
9. Joshua 24:15
10. Romans 6:11
11. Psalms 104:35
12. 1 Chronicles 16:34 Give thanks to GOD--he is good and his love never quits.
13. Psalm 91:10 No evil will befall you Nor will any plague come near your tent.
14. 1 Timothy 4:4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be  rejected if it is received with gratitude
15. 1 Thessalonians. 5:18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
16. Jeremiah 29:11 Holman Christian Standard Bible
17. 2 Peter 1:4
18. Rom 8:29
19. Genesis 3:5
20. Hebrews 12:2
21. Romans 8:28-29 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (29) For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren
22. Romans 12:1-2 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. (2) And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
23. 2 Corinthians 3:18 As all of us reflect the Lord's glory with faces that are not covered with veils, we are being changed into his image with ever-increasing glory. This comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
24. John 8:12
25. John 14:6
26. Romans 10:17 International Standard Version
27. Exodus 34:5-7
28. 1 Chronicles 16:34
29. Psalms 145:7-9
30. Psalms 34:8
31. 1 John 4:7-8
32. Romans 12:9
33. John 5:13
34. Romans 5:8
35. 1John 3:17-18
36. 1 Timothy 1:5 EMTV
37. Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV
38. Romans 5:8
39. John 15:2
40. John 15:8
41. Exodus 3:14
42. Micah. 2:7
43. James 1:17 MKJV
44. Deuteronomy 31:6
45. Deuteronomy 7:9
46. Jude 25 HNV
47. Romans 16:19
48. Romans 16:27 GNB
49. 1 Timothy 1:17 MKJV
50. Eph. 1:17
51. Jeremiah. 29:11, 13-14
52. Ruth 1:13
53. Ruth 1:16-17
54. Ruth 1:20
55. So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations. And from David until the carrying away into Babylon, fourteen generations. And from the carrying away into Babylon until Christ, fourteen generations. Now the birth of Jesus Christ was this way (for His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph) before they came together, she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:17, 18 MKJV
56. Romans 8:28-29
57. 1Ths. 5:16-18, 23
58. Job 2:9-10
59. Job 42:9-12
60. Genesis 37:18
61. Acts 7:9
62. Genesis 39:1-2, 20
63. Genesis 41:40-41
64. Genesis 50:20
65. Job 1:8-9, 11-12
66. Luke 22:31-32
67. see Hebrews 12:5-11
68. Romans 8:28
69. Strongs G5046
70. 1 John 4:18
71. Philippians 2:12-13
72. 2 Peter 1:3-8
73. Philippians 2:5-7 GW
74. Hebrews 5:7-11
75. Galatians 5:22
76. James 1:2
77. Isaiah 55:8
78. Psalms 103:7
79. Ephesians. 4;14
80. Philippians 4:11
81. Revelations. 3:20
82. Psalms 119:1
83. 2 Timothy 1:12
84. Hebrews 12:2
85. Micah 6:8
86. Ephesians. 4:14

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