Tag Archives: God’s Sovereignty

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 care 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.

March 26 – God’s Sovereignty

Joshua 12-15

Caleb went to Joshua and reminded him that 45 years earlier, Moses had promised him a certain portion of the Promised Land. Now Joshua was assigning property to the Jews, and Caleb wanted to be sure Joshua gave him the land Moses had promised. So Joshua assigned Caleb that land.

Later, Achsah, Caleb’s daughter, asked her dad for springs of water to go with the land in the Negev he had already given her and her husband. Caleb gave her the springs.

These days, with the election coming, and with such unrest in our country and the world, I often hear it said, “God is Sovereign.” Many people seem to believe that means God will put whoever He wants in the White House, that He is exacting punishment on the world by causing some people to be suicide bombers. Some seem to take the attitude that we might as well sit back and let God do His thing because, after all, He is Sovereign.

But I don’t think that means God is up there playing a game of chess with our lives.

Would Joshua have remembered Moses’ promise to Caleb had Caleb not reminded him? Would Caleb have thought to include springs of water with the land he gave his daughter had she not asked? Would the Israelites have received the Promised Land had they not fought for it?

We won’t know the answers to those questions because Scripture tells us what actually happened. Had the requests not been made or the wars not fought we would be reading a different account.

Yes, God is absolutely, without question, Sovereign. He is the Supreme Ruler. He is the ultimate Power. But God has also chosen to exist in time while we are on earth.

Actually, He’s already at the end of time, too. He’s already returned for His own in the realm of eternity. We just haven’t experienced it yet, trapped in minutes and seconds.

The Bible tells us over and over how important our choices are. Why would our choices make any difference if God was “in control?”

Does God have a will concerning who occupies the White House the next four years? I am certain He knows who will be our next president. It will be the person who gets the most votes, and voting is a choice each of us must make.

I think God’s will is for Christians to fight for our land. He wills that we choose morality, obedience, and that we make our voices heard. I think His will is that we vote and make our position known. I think His will is that we take action and not sit back and assume He’s going to do it all.

If we sit at home and think that, because God is Sovereign, His will will be done with or without us, we are sadly mistaken. There are dozens of examples in the Bible where God wanted to bless His children but could not because of their choices. More than once He “gave them over” to their choices. And those times certainly couldn’t be described as His will for them.

I know that God is in control. I know He knows the end from the beginning. I know that He knows when life on earth will end. He is Sovereign.

But God’s Sovereignty does not let us off the hook. God knows what will happen if Christians stand up for themselves like Caleb and Achsah did, like Israel did when they fought for the land.

But He also knows what will happen if we don’t.

That chapter hasn’t been written yet in the realm of time. Our choices will make the difference. Yes, God knows what we are going to choose. But He wants us to choose Him. That’s His will. Everything else will fall into place, if we choose God.

Dear Sovereign God, it is comforting to know that You are who You say You are. You are all powerful, all knowing, ever present. But You, in your wisdom have given us the ability to make choices. And those choices, according to Your will for Your creation, determine life on this planet. I pray that Your children will choose You, that we will intentionally put on Your armor, that we will purposefully choose to obey You, and that we won’t just sit back and assume You are going to do a great work in spite of us. May we not give up, thinking there is nothing we can do to change the tide. You can and do great things when we choose to be vessels through which You accomplish Your will. May You find us choosing to be faithful.

 

Jan 14 – Answers From Questions

Job 38-39

When I was getting my Masters Degree in School Counseling, we had to study many different counseling theories. Some I liked and used. Some I didn’t. But I learned to ask questions of the person sitting in front of me to help them find the answers they were often looking for.

In the chapters we read today, God finally speaks to Job. The very thing Job wanted to happen happened. But instead of getting answers, Job hears God ask dozens of questions. Questions like: Were you there when I laid the foundation of the earth? Have you ever in your life commanded the morning? Have the gates of hell been revealed to you? Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades? Who can count the clouds by wisdom…? Is it by your understanding that the hawk soars?

There must be about fifty or so such questions in these two chapters. And, of course, none of them are answerable by Job. But in the asking, God is helping Job understand some things about himself, and about God.

God laid the foundation of the earth. He can tell you the number of clouds in the sky. That’s the reality Job is learning. Our Creator is not our equal. Our Creator has rights we don’t have. Our Creator can do what He wants without your permission or approval.

I hope you read the chapters in Job today. You will come away feeling pretty small in light of who God is. As you should. But hear me when I say, if you keep reading God’s Word you will find that this great God loves you, died for you, and wants you close to Him.

Let’s keep reading! This is good stuff.