Dear family and friends:

My heart sank a little,” Jacyln wrote, as she described a talk with her dad. But instead of another argument about why she wouldn’t participate in ancestor-worship at the Chinese New Year celebration, he exempted her by sending her on an errand. It acknowledged that she wouldn’t want to join in since becoming a Christian. God continues to provide for her.

You may remember Jacyln. As we related in our Dec. 2007 letter, she visited us from Malaysia, coming to Christ in our online Bible study in March, 2007. Since then, she’s been baptized, joined a church and a cell group, helped lead another lady to Christ—even given her testimony at the New Year’s service.

She’s now bringing a local co-worker, a seeker, to our study each week. She’s also sharing her faith with Ethan, a skeptical co-worker in Toronto.
He wrote this to her in response:

Sadly it seems that much of the pain and suffering in the world is a direct result of coming to God. Racism, sexism, war and genocide all gain justification from the monstrous teachings of God. See Genesis 19, Judges 19, Numbers 25 and 31, Exodus 34, and pretty much the entire book of Joshua. Number 15:32-36 is a particularly grievous example of the love of God. Here he commands that a poor man is stoned to death for collecting firewood on a Saturday.

How would you deal with such questions? Our instincts are to shelter a new Christian from things like this… and yet that’s not feasible in Jacyln’s world. Estimates are that fewer than 5% of her people are Christians. My approach was to offer assistance, rather than excuses not to engage with a skeptic.

For example, Genesis 19’s story of Sodom and Gomorrah show the problem is not just the homosexuality. Visitors are in danger of being sexually assaulted in the streets by mobs. The haughtiness in abominable deeds made it fitting for God to remove them, just as He said. (Ezek.16:49-50)

In a story that almost mirrors Genesis 19, Judges 19 doesn’t show how harsh God is, but how harsh things get without His intervention, when “every man does what is right in his own eyes.” (Ju. 17:6, 21:26)

Numbers 22-25 describes the prophet Balaamís impudent quest for gain in the face of Godís warnings. He wouldnít directly curse Israel, but taught the pagan king Balak how to get them to curse themselves. Depraved pagan sex-worship was the bait, and it worked. But it was also a blatant slap in Godís face. Judgment on the wrongdoers in Numbers 25 and on the devious provocateurs in chapter 31 therefore seems justified.

Ethanís vague reference to Exodus 34, along with the book of Joshua, points to Godís pledge to drive the Canaanites out of the land in vv. 10-11. This wasnít a vicious plan for world dominance. itís hard for us to understand the evil of these cultures. (Le. 18:21-25) Not simply an issue of freedom of conscience, this was offensive to the Owner of the land. It would not have been charitable to allow their degenerate sexual slavery and child sacrifice to continueóor worsen.

Godís foreknowledge at minimum implies that He knows the best course of action. But critics want to have their cake and eat it too. Under Godís direct rule, the complaint is, ďGod sponsors genocide.Ē In our day of revealed grace, itís ďIf God is good, why does He allow evil?Ē His redemptive purposes in this case required Him to contain it in a way he now chooses not to.

Finally, thereís the case of the poor man gathering sticks. Or is that the whole story? A look at the Sabbath Law (Ex. 31:12-18, Ezek. 20:10-26, Le. 35:2-3) and the chapter in which this story is found tells the rest of the story. More than just declining or being ignorant of the implications of Godís invitation to rest, the man was defiantly testing a law foundational to Israelís relationship with God.

He was a skeptic, like our friend Ethan. Iím grateful that, though God has given us the tools to deal with these kinds of objections, I donít have to deal with them too often. They tend to wear you out. Energetic rationalizers are their own worst enemy, and our energy is much better spent building into the lives of those who come to us sincerely looking for Jesus. Like Jacyln. Please pray for her and for us!

P.S. Please see our latest photos!