Hi this is Jim Daly with Focus on the Family. Before we get to our program today, I want to let you know about a fantastic Christian movie about to hit theaters through Fathom Events. The Thorn is a visual spectacle that beautifully shares the passion of Jesus. And you'll be able to see it on March 6th and 7th. We have a terrific interview with Paul AC from our Plugged In team and John Boland, the creator of The Thorn.
Go to PluggedIn.com slash Thorn to see that interview and to find out more. Psalm 145 says, God loves everyone and has compassion on all. So it's all the blessings you can think of that we often take for granted for sure. But these are blessings Jesus says, how is it that you're able to grow crops?
Well it's because God sends rain. He sends it to the just and unjust. That's Dr. Tim Muehlhoff and he's speaking about how God steps in to provide grace to all of us in the blessings that we experience in life. Tim joins us today on Focus on the Family and your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller and Jim, I'm going to run out of fingers if I count how many times in the past few years I've asked what's going on right now? I think a lot of people ask that, John. It's kind of normal to have that thought and many of our viewers and listeners have sent us, you know, emails and texts and other things asking similar questions.
Here's one from a listener. How can I hold on to my faith in God when things go wrong? As a Christian, I know that I'm supposed to give thanks in all things and look to the Lord for my daily needs. Yet I've been through some devastating experiences over the past year. How can I be thankful and trust God at a time like this? Man, those are heartfelt questions and I so appreciate the fact that she was willing to actually send that in and let us know where she was at and I'm sure we were able to give some perspective and hope to her. But it's a difficult question. It's hard to see what God is doing during a time when you're in a valley and I often talk about that.
You're going to learn a lot but it's tough. In the past couple of years, we've seen many injustices and we want to ask God, why? Why didn't he step in and correct it? And he could have done that with just his will, correct? But even when we are tempted to despair, the Lord encourages us in his word.
He says in John 16 33, I have said these things to you that in me, you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart, I've overcome the world. And that's a promise for the present but mostly for the future, you know, that we're going to have difficulties in this world. But praise God, we have something so much bigger than this that we're going toward.
Yeah, this is not the end. So our guest today is going to help us address that listener question and think through more on this topic. Tim Muehlhoff is a professor of communication at Biola University where he teaches conflict resolution, apologetics and family communication. He's a speaker with Biola Center for Marriage and Relationships as well. Tim and his wife, Noreen, have three sons and he's written a book that will form the foundation for our conversation today, Eyes to See, Recognizing God's Common Grace in an Unsettled World. Stop by our website to get your copy. The link is in the show notes or give us a call.
800 the letter A and the word family. Tim, welcome back to Focus. It is so great to be back. Thank you.
Yeah, it's good. And I so appreciate the topics that we cover from time to time. And, you know, we're just going to need to do more of it. Let's get into it. This is a great book you've written, Eyes to See, Recognizing God's Common Grace in an Unsettled World. And you start, or at least you mentioned in the book, something that we actually use here, too. Apollo 13. A, what a great movie.
Yes. And then B, what a wonderful illustration of how you need to work together to solve problems, et cetera. But you apply it a little differently. We kind of apply it in a management context.
How do we go about solving a problem? How do you apply it for God's common grace? Well, I gave a sermon and it's interesting.
You don't always know how people are hearing the sermon. So I simply told the story of Apollo 13, where they did a very simple task. They stirred the oxygen tanks. They had done it many times, but this time there was an explosion. And they're basically in space, but they cannot navigate their vessel. They blew the side of the spacecraft out.
I mean, it's stunning to watch if you watch the movie. But hey, there's mission control. Mission control has been there listening 24-7. They heard the explosion. Immediately, experts jump in.
They're on it as fast as humanly possible. And I just said, you know, God's mission control for us. As we go through life and something happens, God is there 24-7 and he's better equipped than mission control. And I thought, what a great sermon illustration. And I will never forget. Pat yourself on the back.
Just a little bit. I thought that was really good. A woman came up to me and she just simply said in a very hushed tone, she goes, you know, I'm really jealous of mission control because they actually talk to each other. I mean, the astronauts could hear the experts at mission control. She said, I don't hear from God and I'm in worse shape than they were.
And she just simply walked away. Wow. And that just really hit me that we set people up in an interesting kind of ways because we say things that are biblically true. God loves you and God is aware. He knows when a sparrow falls. He knows the hairs on your head and he is all powerful. Well, that kind of sets up people because it's like, well, then didn't God hear the explosion that just happened in my marriage? Did God not hear the explosion that just happened because of the pandemic?
We are financially going under and I scream for a response from mission control and I get nothing. So, I mean, how do you answer that? If she were back with you in front of that stage and not walking away and waiting for your answer, what would you say to her? Well, I eventually did reach out and grab her.
Yeah, I found her. And here's what I love about what focus does is we normalize conversations. We normalize it. Like she spoke in hushed tones because I wonder why, because she would think people would think less of her for asking a question that the psalmist asked. So I sat in her question, like, why don't we hear more clearly from God? Why don't we see overt acts of God like we do in the Old Testament?
And that is what really led me to sit down and start to think about what could be one sliver of the answer. And that's where I rediscovered common grace, something that we don't often talk about, but that God's common grace is one answer to what we call the problem of evil, the problem of suffering. And I think it's an important way that God is interacting with everybody in the world, both Christian and non-Christian, responding to their pain and suffering. And in that context, I mean, again, in that moment with that woman, she's looking for an audible voice to tell her what to do, tell her how to get out of the ditch that she's in. And we get that.
We would all love that. But at the same time, the Lord has purpose in the subtleties. And that is common grace. Common grace is really knowing those things and not looking beyond those things that are right in front of you and recognizing and recognizing them. And that's what I like about what you've written and I used to see. Let me move to another story you had, because again, it just paves the way for our conversation. I think your son had an art project or something like that.
But what took place with your son's art project and what did that show you? So it's not just adult followers of Christ asking these questions. We are seeing a massive exodus today from evangelicalism. One man, John Marriott, who's a researcher at Biola, is studying deconversion. And he says among millennials, for every one person who converts to Christianity, four deconvert.
So we're seeing a massive... Within a certain age group. Within a certain age group, right?
So let's go even younger. So my son is in elementary school and they are doing a fundraising project, which they go around and they collect pieces of art and you auction them off. The theme was America. So you show up that night and everybody's done the predictable, right?
Fireworks, apple pie, baseball. And the way the fundraiser works, it's kind of ingenious. You go there knowing your child's artwork has been selected. Now you have to buy it. Well, you're going to buy it, but I know you have to buy it. So I jack the price on it. It's a good cause.
And you just look at your friend going, dude, keep going because I know you have a daughter who has some art. So it was all these great pieces of America. Well, they saved my son for the last. And they just said, here's one interpretation of America.
And they turn it around. Now, this is elementary school. It is a picture of an airplane crashing into twin towers. You could have heard a pin drop. So you can imagine the conversation in the minivan heading home. Hey, buddy, awesome airplane. You know, I mean, it's like, but why did you choose that?
You could have chose anything. And this is an elementary school. So he's how old? What's elementary school? Elementary is what?
K through six. Yeah. He goes, Dad, I don't get it. Did God know it was going to happen? And I said, yeah, buddy, he did. He could have stopped it.
I said, yeah. He goes, I don't get it. But it's like I was blown away, one, that this is my young child who, by the way, because of the Internet, has access to everything, every bad thing happening in the world.
My son's either getting glimpses of it. And so now he's trying to reconcile the faith he's been brought up in to the fact that, yeah, God could have stopped that. And so that that added more fuel to the fire of what am I going to say to my son to resolve this issue?
And that, again, is common grace, is that God is looking for human partners and that with this partnership, he is giving us medical discoveries, medical inventions. He's helping with security, self-defense. I have a black belt in Kung Fu. I teach self-defense at domestic violence shelters in Orange County.
But you take a dart and throw it into a map of the world. There was a self-defense system that originated in that part of the world. And most of these self-defense systems are virtuous. Like Kung Fu, you never start a fight.
You always protect yourself. So God knew we're going to grow up in a very violent world and we are going to need to protect ourselves. And I think God gave the idea of these self-defense systems and some of them were designed specifically for women who are at great risk. So, again, this is God partnering with people, saying, listen, I know the violent world you've created and I'm going to give you inventions, ideas, tools that are going to help rectify that. So that ultimately was my answer to 9-11 is, yeah, some people did some really, really bad things. So now when we travel to Grandma's, I just want you to pay attention of all the security things we're going to go through, right? You're going to have to walk through a metal detector.
You can't take liquids. Those are all ideas of safety that we either can say, well, that came from some really smart people, or we can say, like James says, every good gift comes from God. So for me, it has exploded how I look at the world and don't deny the evil.
That'd be profoundly unhealthy. But now I also see the good God's using to counteract the evil. And again, I think common grace is one of those ways that he is currently answering. Let's give that definition to common grace.
What does it mean for someone who may not know what that means? Yeah, common grace simply, I love the word common. It is the blessings he gives to both Christians and non-Christians. He gives it to humanity.
Psalm 145 says, God loves everyone and has compassion on all. So it's all the blessings you can think of that we often take for granted, for sure. But these are blessings, Jesus says, how is it that you're able to grow crops? Well, it's because God sends rain.
He sends it to the just and unjust. So there are certain constants in our world that God gives us that we can do agriculture, scientific discoveries, even the very way that we think we tend to take for granted. But problem solving, being able to think hypothetically, these are amazing gifts that God's given the human race. And they're fallen.
They've been affected by the fall. But all of these good gifts can either be used for good or for bad. That's interesting. It's so true. And I think we do look beyond that because we over complicate life and we're looking for that audible indication from God. But yeah, he's bringing the answer we need in ways that we may not even see. To your point, you experience gratefulness for science, as you're referencing when you discovered that your wife had cancer.
Describe that and your revelation about what she experienced and what you experienced. Yeah. So all of this is coming.
I haven't started writing the book yet. It's just this idea that's percolating. And then, you know, like many of your listeners, we get that horrible news that Noreen, in fact, has cancer. Now, the major question is, has it metastasized?
How much has it spread? So we make an appointment and we're going to get a full body scan that is going to give us either the worst news you can imagine or it'll give us medium news or good news that it's localized. So you can imagine we've prayed.
We have a marriage group that we belong to and they're praying. And again, you're tempted to say, God, can you just take away the cancer like right now? And I know you can.
So please do it. Would it be great if the full body scan, the technician came out and said, excuse me, why was I taking this test? Well, because my wife has cancer and he says, no, she doesn't. I mean, I would tell that story. And I've heard of that story, frankly. Which, Jim, can I be honest with you? Just makes it a little bit more frustrating.
Yeah, no, it's true. I can understand that. I've heard those stories. And wouldn't that be a great testimony?
Yeah. So we're sitting there in the lobby waiting to be called. And I took Norine's hand and I said something. I said, thank God for this hospital. Thank God for this tech who went to school to learn how to use this multimillion dollar machine. And thank God that this machine is going to find the cancer and then we can deal with the cancer. And Norine just looked at me.
She said, amen. And I realize I often don't do that. Like, I don't say thank God for my glasses or thank God for a car, even though it breaks down.
But thank God for the car. So that was another inkling of like, man, I need to do that more. And this is Focus on the Family. That's Dr. Tim Muehlhoff. And we'll hear more from that story in just a moment. The book that Tim has written that captures so much of this perspective he's been sharing thus far is called Eyes to See, recognizing God's common grace in an unsettled world. As you can tell, it's really practical and it's so inspirational in terms of how you see things. So get a copy of that book from us today.
The link is in the show notes or call 800 the letter A and the word family. You know, Tim, something Jean and I talk about frequently, actually, this may sound like really weird conversations to have. But, you know, she's a math whiz.
She always was. And I think I referred to it, you know, in my own way. I called it punctuated enlightenment. In other words, one day, Jean and I were talking about calculus and and she was really good at calculus.
And she said, you know, it's pretty easy to understand it, regurgitate it. But I'm not Newton who created it. I mean, she had this awe about the fact that Newton figured it out.
That's a whole nother level of understanding. But to me, it's that God enlightenment moment that he knew in the history of mankind at that moment. Newton, in my opinion, gave him the ability to see it. And that's what you're saying, this application where we have major breakthroughs, the MRI scan.
How about I met somebody the other day, a descendant of the guy who created the ice machine. I mean, just little things that make our life more convenient. But is that a fair way to look at those good gifts that are coming from God through people who have innovation and enlightenment and can figure out calculus before anybody else has?
Well, it's going to come down to your world view. Some of your listeners have heard the story of the creation of penicillin. Right. Which Fleming in the 1920s, he goes on vacation. And though he's brilliant, he's kind of sloppy in his laboratory. So he goes on a two week vacation. He comes back. He's a little bit annoyed because fungus is growing on some of the Petri dishes he didn't clean.
But they're not growing on all of the Petri dishes. And that really caught his attention. He goes, I need to figure out why. Well, he writes an obscure paper on penicillin, gives it at a conference to like 10 people and then files it. Fast forward to World War Two.
Britain's soldiers are dying in bloody trenches. And one researcher is tasked with you need to find a medical discovery to save our soldiers from dying from disease. He finds the obscure paper in archives and he goes, oh, my goodness, this penicillin thing, we need to mass produce this.
And so without penicillin, we'd be in the Dark Ages. So when I knew I had a book is when I heard a joke. Now, your listeners have probably have heard this joke. So forgive me.
I'll tell it really quickly. A man gets word via radio that there's going to be a flash flood. Take go to higher ground. He's fine. He's a Christian. God's going to save him.
So he does nothing. Water start to rise. Now he's on the second floor. A boat comes by and they say, jump in the boat. We'll take you to safety. He goes, no, I'm good. God's going to save me.
Now the flood waters have really risen. He's on the roof and a FEMA helicopter comes by, drops a ladder, says, climb up. He goes, no, God's got me. Well, he drowns. Now he's in heaven and he's talking to God and he's mad. He goes, why didn't you help me? And God goes, what do you want? I sent you a radio message, a rowboat and a helicopter. Now, I really realized I'm that guy on the roof because I want so flood waters are rising. Wouldn't it be great if God miraculously saves me?
Now, what would that look like? I don't know, crosswinds that blow the water away from the house, a hand that temporarily lifts me up. But if I get saved by the rowboat, I'm just a little bit disappointed because I'm like, Lord, I prayed you would save me.
And I don't know, a rowboat. It kind of sounds like expectations. Totally. Yeah. And we know how that sets marriage.
Expectations determine a whole marriage, what they do with God as well. So if we're saying, God, I want you to act, but I've already prefigured what that action will look like. It can't be a rowboat. It's got to be something supernatural.
And by that, I mean there's no human interaction. Yeah. And some are asking what happened with Noreen? Did the cancer, did that?
So good news, it was localized and a very talented, she went through certain procedures and now she's cancer free. Well, and again, some people will get a different diagnosis and we recognize that. But Tim, you're the professor at Biola.
So let me ask you some of the hard questions. I mean, when you look at that, a skeptic may say, you know, you're kind of covering for God, Tim. I mean, you're saying he won't always or very rarely is he going to intervene with some kind of magnificent, supernatural ladder, whatever that might be.
It's going to be rarer than you want it to be. And then you're going to say, OK, there's just common grace. You know, people discover medical treatments and all that.
The skeptic, I think, could say you're just giving God a way out. Those are just normal human developments. That's the course of research and development.
These things are going to happen. I don't believe that. I'm trying to represent that perspective. You're the professor. How do you come back to that common grace and say, well, you can have that perspective, of course. But God doesn't first of all, God doesn't need an excuse. But how do you what do you say? Well, I'm a huge fan of Blaise Pascal, a brilliant French believer who, by the way, died at age 32.
Very young. But he said any religion worth its weight in salt must answer one profound question. And that is the hiddenness of God. And I love the honesty of Pascal because I'll be very honest with your listeners. There's times God seems very hidden to me.
And this is a Christian college professor. But there's something about Pascal's admission that is freeing to me because this is a man who powerfully follow God intellectually, emotionally. So it gives me freedom to step back a little bit, like with the psalmist, who say, God, where were you? We went to battle and we were obliterated on the battlefield.
I honestly don't get it. I think of Jesus, God incarnate, saying on the cross, my God, my God, why have you forsaken me? So I love the fact that the heroes of the faith and Jesus himself went through periods. The Garden of Gethsemane, him weeping, God, take this cup from me.
It's OK to be in that place. And yes, I'm attributing things to God. I cannot ultimately prove. But I think there's some arguments that present really interesting answers and what I would say is proof. But in the end, the writer of Hebrews says without faith, it is impossible to please God. So based on God's wisdom, he set this whole thing up that he is not providing indisputable proof in the fact that you would never need faith. Well, and I love that that reliance on faith.
I believe that. I think the Lord smiles when he knows he has your heart through faith, not through an observable, materialistic conclusion that we, especially in the West, so want. We want it linear. We want it logical.
We want to see it, taste it, touch it with our own senses. And the Lord's going, no, I'm going to leave it right outside of that range because I want to know I have your heart without all of that affirmation. Tim, right at the end here for the listener, we heard from at the beginning of the program that comment I shared, which basically said, how can I hold on to my faith in God when things are going so wrong? What would you say to encourage them today? I'm sure they're listening or watching us right now.
Someone who's in a deep valley. It's a great question, and it's one that I continue to wrestle with. I'm going to change the question just a little bit. How do we know God loves us? That is a profound question. And the answer to that question is going to determine if you can stay in the faith or not. Because we're in the West, because we tend to need materialistic in the West, I very quickly say I know God loves me because of my bank account, the health of my kids, my health. Your blessings.
My blessings. And Paul takes a radically different answer to this one in the book of Romans. He says something kind of crazy in Romans 8. We are more than conquerors, but we are sheep being led to slaughter.
We are equally both. He's prefiguring Nero's persecution that is right around the corner. He says, what can separate us from the love of Christ?
And he goes into this litany of things. Can famine do it? Can persecution do it? And he's saying, no, no, guys, by the way, you're going to get persecuted.
I promise you it's going to happen. He says even death. Even death. But they said, but don't equate that with the love of God. So how do I know God loves me? Because Jesus died for me.
Right. And that's what he says in Romans 8. Tim, if you're asking me the question, is my love contingent on your health or the health of your wife with cancer? The answer is no, because I have children who I deeply love that have died of cancer, Tim. And I have children I deeply love who have lost children to drowning accidents. Do not come to me and say nothing bad can happen to the Milha family because bad things happen in a fallen world.
Don't think that I don't love you anymore. Now, in one way, that's really satisfying to me. In one way, it is not satisfying. I mean, I can't imagine listeners who have lost children and be sitting there saying that is not a very good answer. But it seems to me that's what Paul hangs his hat on.
And this is a man who is about to be persecuted. Yeah. Tim, this has been so good. I mean, what a great book.
I used to see. I want to come back, fill in some more of those blanks, ask the tough questions of the professor. So let's come back tomorrow and continue the dialogue. Can we do that? Love it. OK, good. Let's do it. And to the listener and the viewer, I don't know where you're at in your spiritual development and your honest questions about God.
What is this happening to me right now? But we're here for you. And I think a great way to get perspective is through Tim's book. I used to see like any time we're touching on content like this, we're scratching the surface. There's so much greater and good content in the book itself. So get a copy. And in fact, do it by entering into ministry with us. Why not send us a gift for fifteen dollars and get a copy of the book? And that way, families are helped. All the proceeds go back into ministry, not into shareholders pockets.
So why not do it that way? It's a win win. Help us.
If you can do it monthly, great. A one time gift is great. And we'll send you a copy of Tim's book as our way of saying thank you. And our number is eight hundred. The letter A in the word family or donate generously.
The link is in the show notes. And let me recommend that you reach out to our counseling department if you're finding yourself in a place where you're feeling hopeless or discouraged. We can set up an initial conversation for them to talk with you and pray with you and point you to some further help. And again, the number to call is eight hundred. The letter A in the word family. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I'm John Fuller inviting you back as we continue the conversation with Dr. Tim Muehlhoff and once again, help you and your family thrive in Christ.
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