Tag Archives: God’s Sovereignty

(Psalms 7-10) On Being A Human

We are often reminded that God’s ways are not always our ways. More often than not, we don’t understand why things are like they are. We wait for God to crush evil people or to relieve the burdens of His children. We wait. And it often seems God isn’t paying attention. It just doesn’t seem fair.

But the truth is, God’s patience is at play because He’s not as concerned about displaying our definition of “fair,” as much as displaying His grace and mercy toward people who need Him. His ways are not our ways. They are always better than our ways.

David reminds us we humans are made “a little less than God.” (8:5a) Yes, we are crowned with glory and honor and placed in charge of creation; to care for and rule over everything God made. But we are still NOT God, and never will be because we were not created His equal. We were created less than God.

Russel D. Moore addressed that in my Apologetics Study Bible (CSB Apologetics Study Bible, Holman Bible Publishers, 2017, p645) and pointed out that people who reject creation as described in the Bible, and especially those who believe in the theory of evolution, believe humans are created – or evolved – a little higher than animals.

That’s a different mind-set than believing we are created a bit lower than God. No wonder it’s so easy for many evolutionists to support abortion and euthanasia. They believe human life is no different from that of an amoeba, no more valuable than a rodent or an ape.

Yet the Bible tells us we are uniquely created in the image of God; like Him with a higher ability to think, feel, choose, deduce, plan, and recognize the difference between good and evil, than the rest of creation. Designed just one rung below God. But that rung isn’t close to God’s.

Closer, yes. But not even close to equal.

That’s why we bow to His sovereignty, we trust His plan even if we are unable to understand it. We who know Him because God created us with the ability to know Him (unlike anything else in all of creation), can rest in His righteousness and sing about the name of the LORD Most High.

LORD, our Lord, how magnificent is your name throughout the earth! (8:1)

(I Samuel 13-15) God Regrets

God’s Sovereignty is such a mystery. Some people believe life on earth is predestined to play out exactly how God causes it to be. Others think God set the world in motion, then stepped back to see how it would progress without His intervention. Some people place themselves somewhere in the middle, and believe God’s will will always be done no matter the choices we make, because if we make one decision, He will orchestrate situations which lead to His will, if we make another decision, God will manipulate circumstances in another direction to bring about His will. Still others believe something in between all of those.

(Let me say here that I know there is one indisputable aspect of God’s will that will ALWAYS be true. That is that anyone who believes in Jesus will be saved. It’s the “whosoever” of John 3:16. Anyone who comes to God on His terms, He will in no wise cast out. Take that to the bank!)

The question of God’s Sovereignty comes up when Scripture tells us God “regretted” making Saul king. Does that mean He wished He’d appointed someone else in light of what Saul did? Is God really saying hindsight is 20/20? Are we to assume this is the same as an unhappy husband regretting he’s married his nagging wife?

The definition of regret is: “a feeling of sadness, repentance, or disappointment over something that has happened or been done.”

I think what we see here in I Samuel is God’s expression of sadness and disappointment. God has nothing to repent for! Remember His will for Israel was that HE would be their king. They chose a human king instead. I think God mourned the inevitable pain their rejection of Him is going to cause. What Saul did was the tip of the iceberg as we will see as we read on in the Scriptures. And that made God sad.

When you watch your child make a decision that you know is going to end up hurting them, isn’t there a bit of regret, or sadness, or disappointment? It’s the same with God. He loved the people. He loved Saul. And it grieved Him to know how their choices were going to hurt them.

God was disappointed. But He was not surprised. After all He, in His Sovereignty, had already watched the scene played out before it happened. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t break His heart.

My Apologetics Bible said this about this passage: “(God’s) relationships with people are authentic and personal, not pre-programmed.” I tend to agree.

As I think about this passage this morning, I am determined not to cause God any disappointment or sadness. I pray that I – that we all – will decide to obey Him today and bring Him only joy. No regrets.

(Genesis 26-30) What is Bible Prophesy?

Did God arrange the circumstances surrounding Isaac, Rebekah, Esau, and Jacob so that His prophesy concerning the elder son serving the younger son would come true?

If you believe that, you are saying God caused Rebekah and Jacob to deceive Isaac. You are saying God caused them to sin in order to fulfill prophesy.

And you would be wrong.

Bible prophesies are not predictions of things to come in the future. Bible prophesies are reports of what happened in the future – past tense. God, who exists outside of time, has already seen the end. He knows what will happen in our future as a result of our choices. Our future. Not His.

Bible prophesy demonstrates that God is who He claims to be. He does not orchestrate life on earth. We are not puppets. This is not a video game He’s playing. God doesn’t manipulate your or me or the Presidential election.

But He knows what happened in our future because He is already there.

There are certainly times when He intervenes, when answers to prayer defeat Satan, when our obedience results in blessing instead of judgment. And God can tell us what those results will be because He saw them happen before we experienced them. There are times when Scripture tells us things happened so that prophesy would be fulfilled. Or, these things happened so that we would make the connection between these things that happened, and the Sovereign God who told us it would happen.

When we read about, or see in our lifetime, Bible prophesy fulfilled, let’s let it cause us to fall on our faces before our Sovereign God who is not bound by time. Let it encourage us to know that He is with us, and will be with us all the way. Let’s realize that nothing happens that will surprise Him because He’s already seen it happen.

Bible prophesy is a gift. It allows us to get a glimpse of God as He was, is, and always will be. Then, to think this awesome God loves us enough to die for us so that we can be with Him is beyond amazing.

I pray we will read Bible prophesy with the intent of knowing God better instead of trying to put circumstances on a timeline. It’s not about the prophesy. It’s about the God who has already been there, done that.

Bible prophesy is all about God.

Chosen Or Not? (Matthew 22)

Does God choose to save some people, and choose to not save others? Matthew 22:14 says that is clearly the case. Like it or not, God in His Sovereignty clearly accepts some people and not others.

BUT… do not take this verse and expect it to stand on its own. Read the first 13 verses of this chapter, too.

The invitation to the king’s banquet went out to everyone. Some people rejected it on their own. Others dropped what they were doing and accepted the invitation. But one who accepted the invitation was rejected by the king.

Why was this man rejected? Had he received the invitation by mistake? Was the invitation never meant to be extended to him because the king didn’t have him on the guest list? No! The man was rejected because he had come to the banquet on his own terms, not wearing the clothing provided by the king.

The man wasn’t rejected because the king didn’t want him there. The man was rejected because he himself had rejected the king’s provision.

Here’s God’s plan of salvation: Jesus died to pay the death penalty for every sinner who has ever lived. Forgiveness and eternity is extended to ANYONE who accepts it. Jesus died once AND FOR ALL. And God chooses to save anyone who comes to Him on His terms.

Also in God’s sovereign plan is the invitation. Scripture tells us God is drawing all men to Himself. He came to seek and to save that which was lost – and we are all lost because all have sinned. He continually reveals Himself to the world through nature and the Gospel so that no one has an excuse when on that day, every person will give an account for their response to God’s grace.

God doesn’t write anyone off until they stand before Him wearing their filthy rags instead of His own righteousness through the blood of Jesus. Many are called. But only the few who accept His invitation according to His demands are chosen.

That means you! If you have never gone to God on His terms, through His Son Jesus, by repenting of sin and accepting forgiveness through His blood, God has chosen to reject you. No one goes to the Father except through the Son. That’s God’s sovereign plan. He’s very clear about that.

But rest assured… if you come to Him today and accept what Jesus died to give you, you will stand before the King of kings wearing the proper attire, the righteousness of Jesus!

I’m praying for you.

God Is Revealed (Ezekiel 38-39)

God’s punishment for sin will always be evident in this world, because there will always be sin in the world until He comes again. Natural disasters will happen. Evil men will do evil things. There will be disease, and war, and heartache and suffering. There will continue to be times when God removes His protection, and even His children will suffer because of their sin.

But!

There will always, ALWAYS, be times of grace, of mercy, of victory when people humble themselves and repent of sin. God will always, ALWAYS bless those who obey Him.

Why? So that the world and everyone in it will recognize that God is Holy. God is Sovereign, God is who He says He IS and there is no other. This world is about God.

As I read His Word I understand that Truth. And here is the best part of that. God wants a relationship with me! God wants to protect and bless me as though I was His only child. Like a loving Father, He will discipline my rebellion, correct my self-centeredness, punish my disobedience. And like a loving Father, He will always, ALWAYS forgive me when I come to Him, humble myself, and repent.

May God be seen in me through every circumstance of life. May people recognize the Holy, Just, Fierce, and Forgiving God He is by watching Him work in my life. May I be a living example of His grace because:

God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

Everything that happens, the good and the bad, happen to point people to Jesus, to reveal God in all His holiness and goodness so that they will come to Him for forgiveness, and enjoy a relationship with the Sovereign, Holy God He is. I love to think that I may have a part in His plan, to reveal this wonderful God to a world that needs Him!

September 7; Changing Anxiety Into Joy

Daniel 11b3 6-12:13; Psalms 93-96

Often when I read the psalms God will hit me right where I live. I’ll hear something on the news, or someone close to me will share something that has me concerned, or I will have something happen that shakes me. Then, when I read God’s Word, it’s like God is addressing that very thing that is on my heart. He is amazing!

I’m not going into detail today about what is specifically heavy on my heart because that which is on your heart is very likely something quite different. But I want to share with you what God has said to me through His Word about handling our concerns and battles. I think it applies to us all.

In Psalm 94 the writer begins by pointing out the things that are wrong in the world, that wickedness is seemingly going unchecked. But then we are reminded that God created us with ears, do we think He can’t hear? He created us with eyes, do we think He can’t see? The psalmist calls us foolish for thinking God can ever be caught off-guard. He knows every thought we have. We can rest assured that the things on our hearts are on His heart, too.

The psalmist points us to Scripture, the place where God teaches us, where we find relief from our trouble, where we are assured that as God’s inheritance we are not forsaken. It’s the place where I love to go to hear God’s heart-beat.

Then lastly, the psalmist tells us if we are fighting a battle, God fights with us. When we fall, He catches us. When we are weak, He is our fortress and refuge.  Then in verse 19, listen to this:

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.

You remember Philippians 4:6-7, don’t you?

Be anxious for nothing but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I Peter 5:7 says,

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

So I guess today, as my heart is heavy, as I find myself worrying about people I love, I am reminded that God wants to be in this with me. He wants to be my rock and my refuge. He wants to teach me, assure me, love me through it.

He wants to change my anxiety to joy. And I am going to let Him!

Daniel 7-12; Daniel’s Prayer

Daniel’s heart-felt prayer reveals his agony over his sin, and the sin of God’s people. They were in captivity, prisoners of the Babylonians, and God had made it clear that captivity was a just judgment for their sin. They didn’t like it. But they deserved it.

It probably wouldn’t hurt us to be praying like Daniel prayed, too. We could use a bit of repentance these days, couldn’t we? Ann Graham Lotz wrote a study on Daniel’s prayer, and it’s a good one for today. If you’re inclined, I recommend it.

Why pray, though? Really. Doesn’t a Sovereign God already have things worked out the way He wants? Matthew Henry says this:

“God gives us leave not only to pray, but to plead, not to move him (he himself knows what he will do), but to move ourselves and encourage our faith.” (Commentary in One Volume, Zondervan Publishing House, 1961; page 1098)

God wants us to pray, to plead with Him, to boldly enter His throne room and lay our requests for ourselves and others, at His feet. But I respectfully disagree with Henry about one thing. Scripture gives many examples of God being moved by our prayers.

Hezekiah’s prayer in 2 Kings 20 bought him 15 more years of life, after Isaiah told him God said for him to get his affairs in order. Hezekiah’s prayer moved God.

God was moved when Manasseh prayed in 2 Chronicles 33, and God returned him to Jerusalem.

Jesus said he wasn’t going to heal the Gentile woman, until she pled with Him. He healed her. (Matthew 15)

However, our Sovereign God sees today as the past. So He knows whether or not we prayed for someone.

Do you remember the comic books that had alternate story-lines? You’d get to a certain place in the story and the character would have a decision to make. If you wanted the character to make one choice, the book would direct you to a certain page. If you wanted another choice, you’d be directed to a different page. Same character, different outcome.

I think prayer is a little like that. Someone has a need. And God knows what happens if we pray. He sees the end result of our pleading with Him to answer our prayer on that person’s behalf, to move Him to action. But He also knows what happens if we don’t pray, if we never ask Him to move in the life of that person. Same person, different outcomes.

The difference is prayer.

Two weeks ago, our much-loved pastor announced his resignation, to the shock and dismay of us all. God is undoubtedly leading him to pastor a church in another state. Now we are faced with the responsibility of filling the pulpit left vacant by this dear man.

We all, as members of this body of believers, want God’s will in this matter. Should we assume that will happen because God is Sovereign, and will bring His man right to us? Or should we pray?

We’re praying!

The Bible teaches us God hears and answers prayer. So we’re praying. The Bible teaches us God is moved by our prayers, that He is free to work in us when we pray. Pray on!

I know God does have a will as to who our next pastor should be. And He’s not going to play games with us to see if we can figure it out, and call the right man. But God isn’t going to force anyone on us, either.

So our prayer is for wisdom to recognize God’s leading. We are pleading with God to make His way known, that we will move only when He moves us. We want God’s first and best choice for our fellowship. So we’re praying that we will know God’s mind and heart in this matter, and that our next pastor will know it, too.

You can bet I’m praying.

I do like what Henry said in the quote above about praying moving us. About prayer encouraging our faith. When I spend time talking to God, pouring my heart out to Him, loving on Him, I am changed. I am encouraged.

So today, I can honestly tell you I’m excited about what’s ahead for our church, because I am praying.

 

 

Isaiah 60-64; God Made Me Do It, Or Not

If you’ve ever been a school teacher, I imagine your grading system has come into question at least once. You’ve probably heard the accusation from a student or parent, (hopefully not from an administrator) “Why did you give so-and-so that grade?”

I started my career working with elementary students, but somewhere along the line I found myself in the Middle School. It was an adjustment, and I learned a lot from my fellow-teachers.

One man in particular, an 8th grade math teacher with the reputation of being a tough grader, said something in a mid-term parent/teacher conference that came to mind today as I read Isaiah 63. We were sitting in a circle getting ready to talk to the parents of a very intelligent boy, a straight A student from elementary school. But on this occasion, these parents were obviously angry.

We hadn’t even finished introducing ourselves when the dad pointed a finger at the math teacher and demanded, “Why did you give my son a C?” I’ll never forget the teacher’s reaction. He calmly opened his grade book and said, “I was feeling generous.”

The teacher then proceeded to show the parents their son’s missed assignments and low test scores. He also pulled out a piece of paper, a letter he had written to the parents two weeks earlier expressing his concern over their son’s lack of progress. There was a signature at the bottom of the letter. But the dad had to admit it was not his handwriting. (This was way before email, cellphones, and texting)

This example came to mind when I heard Isaiah say:

Why, O Lord, do you make us wander from your ways and harden our hearts so we do not revere you? (63:17) (emphasis mine)

I know some people can read this as an example to support their interpretation of God’s “sovereignty,” that He causes everything to happen. I’ve heard someone say that God planted a cancer cell inside them, or that God caused an accident on the highway to bring about His purpose. But is that what this verse supports?

If you read on you’ll hear Isaiah tell us he’s addressing a sin problem.

But when we continued to sin against them, you were angry. How can we be saved? All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags, we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and made us waste away because of our sins. (Is 64:5b-7)

I read Isaiah’s question in 63:17 like the question the dad asked of the math teacher in that conference. And I hear God say: If you don’t do your assignments and do poorly on your exams, this is what happens.

I know that God’s will is that we enjoy a relationship with Him based on the blood of Jesus, that we walk in His ways, that our hearts are tender and sensitive to His ways. I know God’s will is that we allow Him to work in and through us to reach others for the Savior.

And I know that if we allow sin to exist in our lives, there are consequences to pay. It’s not that God presses some “harden that heart” button.” This is a warning that sin causes hardened hearts. Sin causes us to wander from God’s way. That’s how He made us. That’s what He wants us to know through the words He inspired Isaiah to write.

Another thing I know is that God does not make any of us sin. Going our own way is a sin. A hardened heart is a sin. And God wants us to know that unless we confess our sin, unless we repent, we will end up out of His will, and committing the sin of a hardened heart. He is very clear that He will not bless that, so don’t expect Him to.

But there is good news. God does bless His people. Listen to what else Isaiah penned:

Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides You, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him. You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember Your ways. (Is 64:4-5a)

That’s God’s will. That’s what He wants to do in our lives. May we be people who wait for Him, who gladly do what is right, who remember His ways, and obey Him from tender, pliable hearts that seek only to please Him.

Then brace yourself as you see God act on your behalf, as He gives you the help you need, as He blesses you beyond your wildest imagination. He won’t make you love Him. He won’t make you obey Him. But He will bless You when you choose to. Count on it.

 

 

 

Genesis 26-28 God’s Perfect Will

The last couple of days I have been looking into the idea of predestination. It is sadly a concept that has divided God’s Church, and I believe unnecessarily. I know many of you hold tightly to one end of the spectrum or the other. And I don’t imagine my thoughts will change anyone’s opinion. Smarter people than me have debated the issue more eloquently than I can ever hope to do. But, dear one, recognize your position as an opinion. I am just going to share mine.

I looked up the Greek definition of the word proorizo. And I found that there is not just one emphatic definition. But among those I found are: pre-established boundaries, pre-determined limits, foreordain.

Does God have a predestined will? Absolutely. The Bible is clear about that. But what I want you to consider is what that will is. Did God predestine boundaries, or did He predestine individuals?

God so loved the world…

He is not willing that any should perish.

I submit that before creation God predestined a plan. Giving humans free will, they would need a Savior. God, before He made the heavens and the earth, determined that Jesus would spend time on earth, die, and rise again to pay for the sins of every human being. That was His perfect will.

There are a lot of examples in Scripture of how God intervened in the lives of people to bring about His purpose. But we must remember that we are reading the result of choices these people freely made. For instance, Isaac would have blessed Esau. Esau was the first born, a man’s man so to speak. And Isaac chose to place his final blessing on his oldest son.

However, God had told Rebekah before the twins were even born that the older would serve the younger. That didn’t matter. Isaac planned to give Esau the blessing anyway.

You know the story. Rebekah and Jacob conceived a plan to deceive Isaac, to steal the blessing intended for Esau. And they succeeded. The result was exactly as God had said it would be.

Now some of you will say that God did that; that God arranged the events to bring about His plan. I wonder. Does God cause people to sin in order to manipulate circumstances? Jacob lied repeatedly to his dad. The Bible tells us lying is a sin. Did God make Jacob sin?

James 1:13 says: When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by there own evil desire and enticed.

Remember that God has seen the end of everything long before we who live it one minute at a time experience it. And when God tells us what is going to happen – and then it does happen – we see He is Sovereign, Omniscient, the One True God. What I don’t see is a god who pulls strings, who manipulates people, who chooses some people to go to heaven and some to go to hell. I don’t see a god who shed his blood for some and not for others. I see a God who knows what is ahead because He has seen the choices we make before we make them.

I go back to the analogy of watching a movie with one who has already seen it. They can tell me what’s going to happen because they know the end from the beginning.

I think the thing about either side of the issue is to remember that our choices are eternally important. Your choice to speak or not to speak to that neighbor about Jesus may be the difference between heaven and hell. Some people live as though God wrote the script and they are just delivering the lines. That God will bring about His will with or without us. And if we choose to do nothing, well, that must be in the script.

Go into all the world and preach the Gospel…

Fight the good fight of faith…

How can they hear unless someone tell them…

If you are wondering what God’s will is for your life, it’s to know Him, it’s to accept His Son as your Savior, it’s to obey Him, to tell others about Him. He’s not going to make you. But He won’t stop bugging you about it, either. Not until you draw your last breath.

I guess you know which side of the issue I’m leaning toward. I would rather get to heaven and hear God say the choices I made in this life really didn’t matter, than to hear Him say the choices I didn’t make mattered a great deal.

 

August 10 – Rejected Silver

Jeremiah 4-6

Several of Team USA’s Olympic athletes have given God the glory for their successes. That’s not unusual in sports, as often you’ll see a ballplayer point to heaven after getting a hit or scoring a touchdown.

But a couple of athletes have gone a step further and said their identity isn’t in being an Olympic medal winner, but rather in Christ.  There is some meat in that testimony.

I remember watching an awards show a while back where several of the winners began their acceptance speeches with a shoutout to God. Six or seven people stood in front of millions and said something like, “I want to first thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” I always pray that testimonies like these will speak to hearts and draw people to the Lord.

But that night I cringed, when one award winner began her acceptance speech holding the statue in the air and said, “First of all, I am NOT going to thank any god. I did this. Me.” And it made me sad when she received a thunderous applause for her statement.

Being anti-God has become more commonplace these days. It seems God haters are bolder, more vocal, and accepted more and more. That’s why I think it’s refreshing when people like we’re seeing in the Olympics publicly and sincerely proclaim the Lord.

I thought about that when I read Jeremiah 6:16-17. That’s an in-your-face defiance of God. I shake my head and wonder how anyone could be that blatant in their rejection of the Creator Himself. That’s a bit like Chad le Clos shadowboxing in front of Michael Phelps before their race. Like saying, I’m not afraid of you, you’re nothing to me.

But instead of taunting a swimmer, you’re taunting the Sovereign God of the Universe. That is serious business.

Jeremiah tells us those who continue to deny God are “rejected silver, because the Lord has rejected them.” (6:30) Those who continue to deny God will never have the last word.

le Clos looked mighty foolish when Phelps won that race; his grandstanding meaningless in light of the superior swimmer. And that’s nothing compared to those who continue to deny God in light of His Power.

You’ve got to know who you’re dealing with here.