Thanksgiving and the Sovereignty of God

Many of us will sit around this Thanksgiving and share what we are most thankful for over the last year. It is a good time to reflect. We will thank God for family, for time, for experiences for opportunities and for the blessings of provision. We may express thankfulness for safety and/or healing. But in light of the Biblical teaching on the Sovereignty of God over the events of our lives, I challenge you (and by speaking this out loud, or at least in writing . . . myself) to expand our offerings of thanksgiving.

If God is sovereign (I believe He is AND it brings me no peace removing that attribute from Him) then there are a whole lot of things that I must be thankful for. I will be thankful for the unique challenges I and my family will face in the first half of 2011, because they will make us, like never before, depend on Him. I am thankful for the mistakes I have made, because they have reminded me of my own sinfulness and more importantly, the Grace that God has afforded me through His Son Jesus Christ. While I am thankful for the lives of the grandmothers that I lost this year, I am also thankful for their deaths. I must admit, that I feel bad even saying this, but I am reminded that God’s Word tells me in Psalm 116:15, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Since I believe that God’s timing is perfect and that they are in His presence right now, what is there not to be thankful for?

I think we have, over the years, taught ourselves to be thankful only for the pleasant things. However, Paul tells us in First Thessalonians 5:16-18 to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (If you are searching for God’s will for your life, start here!!)

I am challenging myself (and you) to truly express your thankfulness to God for ALL His blessings, those that are pleasant and those that are not so pleasant.


Shutting Up

I realize that what I am about to say is a direct contradiction to what I am about to do. In fact, the very nature of a blog contradicts what I am about to write. Therefore, I am going to keep this short.

Recently, I have been spending a lot of time with Francis Chan’s Forgotten God. In that book, he encourages us to quit talking and listen. We are excellent at the front end of the communication cycle. We like to hear our voice and read our writings, but do we really listen. (I am well-aware that this is a personal struggle of mine.) In particular, do we listen to God.

Here is my encouragement. Let’s shut up for a while and listen. Listen to God. See if He hasn’t been trying to speak to you. I’m gonna shut up and listen.

My Response . . . My Prayer

I was saddened yesterday to hear of another college student who has “walked away” from their faith. I was tempted to engage in a battle of wits seeking to convince them of the error of their thoughts and those of their “professors.” However, as I thought what I might say, it dawned on me that there was nothing new I could say. This student is bright and perceptive. Furthermore, they know the truth. They had been taught it by their parents, teachers, and youth pastors. They have simply chosen to walk away from it.

In my own journey, I came to this same crossroad in 1984. I remember thinking to myself, I either accept what this professor tells me and disregard COMPLETELY what Scripture says, or I embrace God’s truth. I chose the Truth, and while I haven’t followed it perfectly for the last 26 years, I am so thankful for God’s mercy and grace.

I’m left with,”How do I respond to these students?” Well, I have a couple of things I can do. I can continue to love them. I can continue to pray for them, specifically,  that God will breakthrough the walls they are erecting. I can pray for their parents, who I KNOW are hurting over these decisions. I can be ready to talk if they should come to me. And, I can trust God to be faithful in all circumstances.

I am reminded of Paul’s words in Romans 1:22-25 – “Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanging the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” This passage paints a bleak picture,  However, it is followed by a whole book that talks of God’s love and mercy and grace.

Lord, guard the hearts and minds of these college students. Protect them from the schemes of the evil one. Draw them to Yourself. Help them not to buy into the lie, but You immerse them in the Truth. May they feel Your Love; experience Your Grace; know Your Forgiveness; and live in Your Peace. Strengthen their parents with an ever-growing sense of Your presence in their lives. Amen.

Spiritual Callouses

I remember in high school having some wicked callouses on my feet. Participating in Cross County and Track required many miles of running.  The sensitive parts of my feet would develop callouses (hard thick layers of skin), which ultimately prevented “hot spots” and blisters.  Additionally, due to the increased thickness of skin there was a lack of sensitivity and feeling.

This is OK for a runner.  But when we allow spiritual callouses to desensitize us to the hurt and pain around us we are in danger.  As we studied the parable of the Good Samaritan yesterday morning, I was touched by this thought.  Yes, I realize the “racial” issues inherent in the parable between Jews and Samaritans. Yes, I am aware of the Jesus’ teaching on who our neighbor is.  But, I was especially pricked by the callousness of the two individuals who could just walk by without helping.

This especially “smarts” when I think about the number of people I drive by or walk by daily that have needs that I could meet.  It “smarts” when I think about the amount of food I waste in world filled with hungry people.  It “smarts” when I hear about the foul water that many people are forced to drink, while I water my yard for hours a week.

Oh Lord, help me not to become calloused to those around me.  Help me to feel the pain of others. Give me the strength and wisdom to help.

Over in an Instant

Yesterday four U. S. Air Force personnel lost their lives in a tragic accident.  The C-17 (a Strategic/Tactical Airlifter) crashed near Elmendorf Air Force Base, near Anchorage, Alaska.  My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of these brave airmen.  May our God provide them a peace that exceeds human understanding and use this incident to glorify Him and further His kingdom.

I’ve flown about 400 hours in various military aircraft, only once was a scared (the aircraft commander – a young Captain – did a great job saving that C-130 and the crew . . . and me).  But stories like the one at Elmendorf remind me of the brevity of this life. From accidents like the one mentioned above to flag-draped coffins returning from war-zones to auto accidents to disease to suicide to genocide on the news, to endless lists of names in the local obituaries, we are one short breath away from leaving this life and all that we love about it and entering into eternity.

Tim McGraw sings a song entitled “Live Like You Were Dying.”  In the song he sings about a “bucket list” (things you want to do before you “kick the bucket” – also a major motion picture starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman).  He mentions sky-diving (on my personal “bucket list”) climbing mountains, riding bulls, etc., etc.

It is no different for those of us who love Jesus.  We also are a short breath away from eternity.  What if we lived like we were dying (after all, all of us are).  What if we took every opportunity we were given to worship God, what if we took every opportunity we were given to share our faith, what if we took every opportunity we were given to love other people with more than our words.  When we breath our last, those opportunities vanish like a vapor.

No regrets . . . when my life is over in that unexpected instant, I want to enter into the presence of God with no regrets.

Trusting God . . . even with the weather

A friend of mine and I have been reading together and discussing Jerry Bridge’s book entitled Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts.  My Calvinist/Reformed understanding of the sovereignty of God has been reaffirmed time and again by his challenging words.    I found myself saying “AMEN” several times.

But I discovered in a little section on weather, that “understanding” the sovereignty of God and “living out” the sovereignty of God are two different things.  It wasn’t his discussion on tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, etc. that challenged me.  I’ve never been in any of those.  While my heart goes out to those who have been touched by these, the Lord has thus far insulated me from those things.  The thought that DID punch me in the stomach was his talk of “inconvenient” weather.  If God is sovereign, what do I do with snow that delays my flight or rain that cancels my golf outing.  Even worse, do I have the right to complain about the humidity or the wind. “It’s too hot!” “It’s too cold!” “It’s so humid!” “Man, I hate this wind.” The complaints go on and on.

See the sovereignty of God is not exclusive to the big events, but also heat, cold, rain, snow, wind, overcast, traffic (I had to throw this one in, because of my “unique” impatience with it), etc. It challenges not our understanding of God’s control, but our response to God’s control.  We must not only realize, but also live out the understanding that if it comes from God, it is perfect, it designed, and it must be good.

The Roof Over Our Head

Last night it STORMED!  Lots of rain, the lawn needed it, the flowers needed it.  I was glad it rained.  But I was also glad I had a roof over my head to protect me from the rain.  While I was glad it was getting wet outside, I wanted it to remain dry on the inside.

As I went to the basement freezer to get get some Breyer’s (No Sugar Added) Vanilla Ice Cream (a nightly ritual), I heard a drip, drip, drip.  That was disconcerting, because it meant that the integrity of my roof was in question.  (I believe the problem is around one of the vents.  Easily fixed with a little epoxy . . . I hope.)

That one little leak in that very big roof can cause a lot  of damage and be costly to repair, if it continues unchecked.  Pretty good illustration of what happens when a believer always Satan to exploit a “little” leak.  I may be spending significant time in the Word.  My prayer life may be vibrant and active.  My life may be characterized by heartfelt worship.  I may take great care keeping myself pure.  But, if I don’t control my anger or I gossip or I act unlovingly to other people, my walk and witness are damaged.

I Peter 1:13-16 (ESV) reminds us of our calling.

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Allow the Holy Spirit to point out the “leaks” in your “roof” and then take action to fix them.  A little leak can do a lot of damage.