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Paper to Pavement

 

You keep me searching
as deep calls to deep,
a heart filled with questions
that won’t let me sleep.

Your Word cuts like a knife
and from paper to pavement,
walking truth into life
is always time well spent.

– Jane Clark

Seasons of a Tree

A tree in splendid majesty,
reaches up its arms to Thee.
A million leaves unfurl and raise
to glorify and give You praise.

In wintertime, all bathed in white,
like diamonds, they reflect the light.
While barren, still inside the trunk
live the squirrel and the skunk.

As winter passes into spring,
awakening every living thing,
buds turn to flower, leaves abound,
then, whirling seeds spin to the ground.

As summer wakes, the shady trees
shelter honey-making bees.
Their branches stretch out far and wide
to welcome singing birds inside.

Squirrels hide their food stores deep
in autumn when the trees near sleep.
Leaves change to golden, red and brown,
then casting off, drift to the ground.

Through summer, winter, fall or spring,
You show Your care in everything.
The wonder of Your grand creation
inspires our imagination!

A masterpiece for all to see,
we’ll join the trees in praising Thee!

by Jane E Clark

Give me a dream to hold on to,
a reason to rise each morning.
How often feelings of desolation
come upon me without warning.

Help me know the difference
between what’s false and true.
Help me discern which voice is man’s
and which voice is from You.

Alone I cannot make it.
I need you every day.
There is no hope when I fake it.
I want a peace that will stay.

Give me a hope to cling to
and help me understand
the things I find so hard to take
are working in Your plan

to take me ever deeper
into the knowledge of
Your unsearchable mercy
and Your precious gift of love.

Help me know You, Jesus.
Hear me when I cry!
Incline Your ear unto me
and answer my heart’s “Why?”

Why have I been all alone,
while searching so for You?
There’s nothing more that I can find,
nothing more that I can do.

Alone, I cannot make it.
I don’t think You want me to –
so help me Lord to see You.
Help me Lord, to see.

by Jane E. Clark  (c) 1982

Little Blonde Heads

Our little blonde heads,
now tucked into bed
with a kiss and a prayer
and good nights all said.
 
Each day has its wiggles,
its tantrums and giggles,
that still to a sigh
as they snuggle in bed.
We tiptoe from their room.
Has the day passed so soon?
Did we play enough games?
Were enough stories read?
 
But as morning grows light,
sunny faces in sight,
assure us again
of a full day ahead.
A new chance to grow,
to listen and know,
to love and to treasure,
our little blonde heads!
 
Jane E Clark

~ 1989

To Your Glory 

by Jane E. Clark

Could mere words express Your glory?
– Songs do justice to Your grace?
Or an artist’s paintbrush bring to life
the wonder of Your face?

Could my hands give anything of worth
to hands that bore the nails for me?
Could my feet carry out the will
of Him, Who climbed up Calvary?

No, I can’t, on my own,
do anything of worth.
It is You who give first life.
It is You who give new birth.

Your Word will teach me how to speak.
Your Spirit give the song.
Your power, Lord, will work in me
to make the feeble, strong.

Exchanging Your grace for my shame
You took my cross, gave me Your Name.

You pour Your glory out today
into vessels made of clay
and make me worthy through Your grace
to gaze on the glory of Your face!

And because You love me so much –

My words do give You glory.
My hands can serve a King.
My feet can follow in Your steps
to minister and sing!

Your Words open my mouth to speak.
Your Spirit gives the song.
Your power, Jesus, works in me
and makes the feeble, strong!

Saying Goodbye

The news of your death didn’t really surprise me. You played tag with the reaper for years… half hoping you would lose.

I suppose I should have been sad. That would be the right way to feel. But I only felt relived. The face that haunted my dreams and alarmed my waking thoughts would appear no more. The condemning voices in my head could be stilled. My accuser was silent, at last. You couldn’t hurt me again.

Your life was a tragedy. I am sorry for the part I contributed to your undoing, but not sorry enough to try to fix it one more time. I had offered myself at that altar for too long.

I introduced you to love. You were so unsure of yourself then. Dangerous and beautiful. In the beginning I was free, and you sought me out. But when I traded in all trust and bargained away all other friendship for your treasure, I wandered the streets hoping to see some sign of you. What began for me as pity, became passion… then, possession.

I began as your dream. You worshiped me once. But when I became a habit, you found fault with me everywhere. I wanted to please you. When had the balance changed? When I tried to walk away, so many times, you wouldn’t let me. I was yours and nobody else’s… but no longer loved. I was your slave.

I cried with you when your parents divorced. When they told you they’d only married because of you. Their bastard son.

Angry words, angry blows, desperate cries turned on me. You ran from the law, and from me. When I found you, you crushed me with words. When I ran from you, you beat me, or tried to kill yourself. When I wouldn’t let you, you tried to kill me. Oh, why wouldn’t you let me go? When I found the strength, if you hated me so much, why wouldn’t you let me just… go. But perhaps, you were possessed, too. For a long time, your demons were stronger than mine.

It took a little girl, to release me. Her tiny hand held mine and reached out to you. When you walked away… I flew.

You turned to my best friend, in your so-called grief. She poured out years of anger on you, for what you had done to me. You seemed so sorry.

Were you sorry?

She became your comforter. And I warned her not to believe you. But you were subtle. And who could not love you? So dangerous, and beautiful.

When she told me she was engaged to you, I cried for her loss. I wanted to believe you could love her. That you’d be good to her.

On the day you struck her, you knew it was over. All your tears could not make a difference then, though she never stopped loving you. You were her dream. But she wouldn’t let you abuse her. She was much stronger than I.

As years passed you tried to get us back. Even after we had found new loves and married, you would call. Sometimes I thought I saw your face on the street or at my door, and was filled with terror. Fearful dreams and waking visions continued for years.

When I heard the news that you were dead, I was relieved. I knew it was the alcohol that finally drove you to pull the trigger. The reaper came when another said no to you. You faced a world without love and couldn’t go on. I should be sad for you. Maybe I am, a little.

My best friend and I laid a rose on your unmarked grave and said goodbye for the last time. She wept, and I comforted her. Now that you are really gone, and cannot find me or hurt me anymore… maybe I will be sorry for you. After those four years of love and pain, you will always be a memory, locked away.

My great comfort and hope is that somewhere, your little girl grew up safe, and loved.

When I cannot find my way teach me Lord, how to pray
When my sin is all I see, set me free, Lord, from me.
When I’m lost and all alone guide my footsteps safely home,
with hope and strength to find peace to ease this troubled mind,
light to leave the dark behind.

Through the fires, Lord, I’ll trust You.
You have promised, I can rest.
And whatever happens, Your Word lets me know
You’re with me wherever I go.

Don’t hide Your face from me. Lord, I need you, desperately!
As I struggle through the grief, Jesus help my unbelief!
All your promises are true. This I know, but help me through
this wilderness of fear. Come to me, Lord, meet me here.
How I need Your spirit near!

Through the fires, Lord, I’ll trust You.
You have promised, I can rest.
And whatever happens, Your Word lets me know
You’re with me wherever I go.

In faith I seek Your face looking for amazing grace
rejoicing as I wait, till I stand at Heaven’s gate.
You are faithful, pure and true. All my hope can rest in You!
Sealed in love and kept in You, here I stand to worship You!
You have made all things new!

Through the fires, Lord, I’ll trust You.
You have promised, I can rest.
And whatever happens, Your Word lets me know
You’re with me wherever I go.

July, 1982

Don’t let me listen to him, Lord,
he’s trying to tell me lies.
He said You do not love me.
He said, there is no hope.
He said that I am worthless in Your eyes.

But Lord, that isn’t true
when I bring it back to You
and you show me in Your Word
that these are lies I’ve heard.

Help me discern the words I hear
without being deceived,
take each thought captive to the Truth
and prove what I believe.

I *will not* listen to him, Lord!
I will not listen to his lies.
I know You love me,
Your word is true,
and I am precious in Your eyes.

Before Time Began…

Genesis1:1 “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
1Cor. 2:7 “ We talk about God’s wisdom, which has been hidden as a secret. God determined this wisdom in advance, before time began, for our glory.” (Common English Bible)

2Timothy 1:9

God is the one who saved and called us with a holy calling. This wasn’t based on what we have done, but it was based on his own purpose and grace that he gave us in Christ Jesus before time began. (Common English Bible)

Titus1:2

Their faith and this knowledge are based on the hope of eternal life that God, who doesn’t lie, promised before time began.  (Common English Bible)
All these Scriptures would seem to indicate that there was a point when time itself had an actual beginning. But not all versions of the Bible use this phrase. In fact, most do not.

In most versions “before time” is translated: “before the world began” or “before the foundations of the earth.”

This is a pretty big difference. While it may seem insignificant – our understanding of the nature of the God of eternity hangs on the meaning of this phrase. Confusion about “time” has introduced some pretty silly and strange philosophies about how God can exist in eternity – while we exist in “time.”

So, how do we define time? Is it sequence? Duration? Or the measurement of it?

Before there was a sun and a moon, humans would not have been able to mark days or months. The time it takes the earth to orbit the sun is one year. The time to rotate once on its axis is one day. But what is a day on Jupiter? What is a year? They are not the same as earth, are they? So the measurement of time is relative to where we are and how quickly we are moving, in the solar system.

When was the first day, according to Scripture (Genesis 1)? It was at the beginning of creation. Days and nights were defined at that point. But does this mean there were no events prior to the creation of our universe? Were there no events prior to God speaking –  “Let there be light”?  If we believe the eternal God is the ever-living one, and has always existed, then He would have necessarily had to exist BEFORE the beginning of creation, in order to create it. Not only did the Father exist, but according to Scripture, so did the Son (John chapter 1).

So we do know that at least the Godhead existed prior to “in the beginning” that we refer to as our Genesis. Within that Godhead, was there thought? Creativity? Relationship? If so, there must have been sequence. There must have been duration. If this were not so, then God (who is unchanging in His nature – according to His word), changed from doing nothing, to doing everything.

Where there is action, there is a sequence of events. But God is alive – not like the stone idols of the nations. Time as we measure it came at a certain point for Him, and for us, but not duration. It would be impossible for God to have a beginning, Himself, and still be the Creator of all things.

Everything that happens is God’s will?

This statement implies that even wickedness is somehow in the eternal mind and plan of God, for His glory.

The saying “God is in control” quoted after a tragedy caused by human sin, has become so common, I don’t think most people ever question it. The absolute control of God seems intrinsically tied to His being God. But this supposed axiom does bring God’s goodness, into question. The problem of evil lies in direct opposition to the very nature of God and gives atheists room to challenge us on God’s character.

Here is what the unbeliever’s argument for the problem of evil looks like.

(A priori assumption: Christianity claims God is perfectly good and absolutely powerful.)

The Argument:
1. If God is perfectly good, then He is always willing to prevent evil and If God is infinitely powerful, then he is always able to prevent evil.

2. But God is either unwilling or unable to prevent evil (because evil does exist).

Therefore God is either not infinitely powerful or He isn’t perfectly good.
The conclusion that’s drawn by an unbeliever: The God of Christianity doesn’t exist.

For a logically valid argument (Constructive Dilemma) to be in error, there must be a false premise some place.

Whatever our opinions are, they should come second to what God says about Himself. Some things to consider:

Is God honest about His will, or has He been deceptive – saying the opposite of what He means to those who seek to follow Him?

Does God have absolute control at all times, or has He delegated to men and to angels, a power that is genuine?

Does His Word state that the wicked deeds of men are His intentional and good plan, or that He despises and would never command such a thing?

Doesn’t He say, instead, that He is able to USE whatever happens, to His glory?

I will address the Constructive Dilemma first.

If God is perfectly good”… This claim is substantiated in Scripture.

1 John 1:5 “This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.”

Hebrews 6:18 “God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged.”

Proverbs 15:9 “The LORD detests the way of the wicked, but he loves those who pursue righteousness.”
James 1:13 “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted by evil, and he himself tempts no one.”

“then He would always be willing to prevent evil.” This part is more tricky and it’s where the atheists gain the most ground. Does goodness of God necessarily mean He must intervene whenever His creation is about to go off course? Does God indicate that His will manipulates the will of mankind in every case – or does His word indicate each man is given authority and responsibility for his own actions? Is volition a greater good, so that mankind can grow and learn – just as children do in a household – from their own mistakes?

The assumption that God must morally intervene is based on a view that interference is the highest good. We know God is able to influence or turn man’s heart or intervene – but does He always do so?

Deut. 30:19 “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.”

Gal. 6:7 “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap.”

Hosea 10:12 “Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers his righteousness on you.”

(If we refuse the offered mercy of God – He lets us alone, to our undoing.)

Romans 1:18-24The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts…”

In a few cases, the evil that men do falls into God’s bigger plan, though He never needed to compel them to sin. Corrupt men are in plenty supply, and have been used by God to discipline other nations or maneuver His people into place.  It cannot be said that God tempted them to do evil, but that He knowingly let them go in the direction their hearts would take them, and brought good out of it.

The next conditional begins with:

If God is infinitely powerful …

God is awesomely powerful. I will attempt to show through Scripture that though there was a time, in the beginning, when God retained all power and authority for Himself and there will be a time again when all powers and authorities will be given back, He has actually delegated powers and authorities. This delegated power is real, and not in name only.There is some power God does not retain for Himself at present. He has done this, by His sovereign choice. Those who retain this delegated power may abuse it. These powers are not absolute, but limited, by God. Whether they have done wisely or not, they will all have to give an account for what they have done with their power and authority.

DELEGATED AUTHORITIES ( – all to be submitted to as “unto the Lord”. What that means should be addressed another time.)

Angels

Daniel 12:1-3  “At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”
Eph. 3:10 “God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.”

The Church

1Cor. 6:3-4 “Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church?”

Heb. 13:17 “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

The Government (Rule of Law)
Romans 13:1-7 “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.  For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended.  For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.  Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.  Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Parents and Masters/employers.

Ephesians 6:1-8  Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—  “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”  Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.  Servants, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.  Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.  Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people,  because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do…”

 

Husbands and Wives (authority structure with mutual respect)

Ephesians 5:22-33 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,  and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.  In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body.  “For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.  However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.


*
An argument could be made that Adam’s authority to have dominion over the earth was handed over to Satan, by him. Satan is called the “god of this world” in Scripture, and Jesus didn’t deny that Satan’s offer of the kingdoms of the earth was legitimate … but that is not within the scope of this argument, so we’ll give the devil his due, another day.


All will give an account someday to God.

The last part of the second conditional is that God is able to prevent evil.
Argument: IF God has really delegated power and authority, then to prevent every evil deed would be mean He had not really delegated this power.

Question: So can man limit God by His disbelief and disobedience?

Ezekiel 18:23 “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?”

Matt. 23:37 (Jesus speaking) Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem! You who kill the prophets, and stone those who are sent to you! How often I would have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!

Isaiah 65:2-3 “I have spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts. A people who continually provoke Me to My face…”

As to the second part of the constructive dilemma:

“But God is either unwilling or unable to prevent evil (because evil does exist).
Therefore God is either not infinitely powerful or He isn’t perfectly good.”

By the previous verses (and there are others I could bring if needed), I have given evidence that God is not always willing to interfere, even when what is done is against His expressed will. Evil DOES exist because God condemns certain behaviors as evil.

He is not willing to remove the blessing of freedom from His creation, just to have His way at all times. He loved us enough and honored us enough to allow us choice. The choice is real and throughout Scripture, God tells us to choose wisely. We will have to answer to Him for our stewardship of this gift, but it is a gift, nonetheless.

But at this point, I must bring a clarification. Some will say that God made everything, so He must have made evil, too. They may quote the book of Job which says, “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.”

So, isn’t this a contradiction to my proof?

No, it isn’t.

Evil (meaning wickedness) never comes from God. In Him there is no darkness, no sin, no shadow of turning from His holy nature. But, evil (in the King James version), may also be translated – catastrophe or disaster. When God brings a disaster in judgment, it is because of His holiness. It is right and just for Him to condemn those who are evil and unrepentant and to bless those who are good, forgiving the sins of those who turn from them (Ezekiel 18).

Scripture indicates that evil appeared when free will creatures made a decision to turn from God. Ezekiel 28:11-17, is a parable about the King of Tyre compares him to Satan. In this passage, we can see how the devil became an evil being.

“‘You were the seal of perfection,
full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
13 You were in Eden,
the garden of God;
every precious stone adorned you:
carnelian, chrysolite, and emerald,
topaz, onyx, and jasper,
lapis lazuli, turquoise, and beryl.
Your settings and mountings were made of gold;
on the day you were created they were prepared.
14 You were anointed as a guardian cherub,
for so I ordained you.
You were on the holy mount of God;
you walked among the fiery stones.
15 You were blameless in your ways
from the day you were created
till wickedness was found in you.
16 Through your widespread trade,
you were filled with violence,
and you sinned.
So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God,
and I expelled you, guardian cherub,
from among the fiery stones.
17 Your heart became proud
on account of your beauty,
and you corrupted your wisdom
because of your splendor.
So I threw you to the earth;
I made a spectacle of you before kings.

So we can see that the devil was perfect in all his ways until the day sin was found in him.

According to Genesis 1, when God had completed all His creation, He called it very good. Evil, then, had to come about after this point.
It is likely that Satan fell from his high position at the time he tempted Adam and Eve. The curses God made on those who had sinned in Genesis 3, include a curse for the “snake” that had tempted Eve.

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Gen. 3:15 This is a prophecy indicating that Satan would give a lot of trouble to mankind and in the end Jesus would destroy the power of the devil, though he would be wounded in doing so.

So is God good? Yes, absolutely. Is God infinitely powerful? Not at present – because He has delegated some power. He is not willing to prevent the consequences of our actions, because we do learn from them, and consequences are important for justice, as well. Evil exists, and it is not God’s doing that it does. Not everything we consider evil, is really evil – since we cannot see as God does. Wickedness is evident, but disaster and suffering may have a purpose. After all, look at the suffering of Jesus Christ. That is the ultimate picture of the evil men do, and the suffering of an innocent, bringing about the greatest good. In these things, we can trust God – who knows a lot more about it than we do. We can be sure that He is constant in His nature. He is good. He is loving, but He is just and will not be mocked. Therefore, it is appropriate to honor and love and yes, even fear Him – but this is our choice. God will not force love. In fact, love cannot be forced.

As all other questions are answered, I’ll address the final two.

1. Does His Word state that the wicked deeds of men are His intentional and good plan, or that He despises and would never command such a thing? The Scripture is FULL of admonition to repent of evil and do good, and declares continually God’s anger at wickedness.

Jeremiah 32:35 “They built high places for Baal in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molek, though I never commanded—nor did it enter my mind—that they should do such a detestable thing and so make Judah sin.”

While this section could go on for practically the length of the Bible, I’ll just add The Ten Commandments as an example. He has given a standard of morality that shows His own holiness.

2. Doesn’t He say, instead, that He is able to USE whatever happens, to His glory?
In Romans 8:28, the Apostle Paul says, “All things work together for the glory of God.”

When He rewards righteousness, God is glorified.
When people repent and God forgives them, His mercy is shown, and He is revered.
When people will not repent and cause great harm, and God brings justice, He is glorified as just.

The “problem of evil” in the world, is not really a problem after all.

And because “God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should attain eternal life”, He does not always get His way.

And yet, His will IS that we choose. Free will is the greater good, with a risk, because love must be free.