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If God controls the nations….

21 Dec

2 Chron 20:5-6  Jehoshaphat stood before the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the Lord’s temple, in front of the new courtyard. He prayed: “O Lord God of our ancestors, you are the God who lives in heaven and rules over all the kingdoms of the nations. You possess strength and power; no one can stand against you.

Biblical Christians accept, without pause, the fact that God controls nations.  Numerous passages in the Bible teach this.  Consider just a smattering of examples:

  • The formation of the people of Israel, created by God from one Babylonian pagan, Abraham.
  • Or God sending Cyrus to capture and subjugate rebellious Judah.
  • Or arranging for Caesar Augustus to desire a census so that Mary & Joseph would travel to Jerusalem and Jesus would be born in Bethlehem instead of Nazareth

So, my thought is this:

If God controls the nations, then He also controls individual people and events.

How else do nations run, if not by very little details!

This past year I read David McCullough’s historical account of the Panama Canal.

God worked mosquitos, personality traits of leaders, weather, and human sin all together to bring America to the point to successfully take over the construction of the canal from the French.  When the French began construction in 1881 of this, their second significant canal after the Suez Canal, no one in Washington, DC even dreamed that America would complete this project.

But there were many details that God sovereignly organized into one surprising result.

Even the non-Christian deist Benjamin Franklin recognized the ‘butterfly effect’ and memorialized it with this rhyme:

“For the want of a nail the shoe was lost,
For the want of a shoe the horse was lost,
For the want of a horse the rider was lost,
For the want of a rider the battle was lost,
For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail.”

Christians more easily recognize that God is the source of all these details, but where we (ME!!) fail is in applying this FACT to the personal details of our lives.  What great peace I forfeit when I fail to remember that God is in fact lovingly directing all occurrences according to His GOOD purposes.  This includes those details/events:

  • that others mean for evil (just consider Judas’ betrayal of Jesus)
  • natural disasters like earthquakes and droughts due to the Fall (‘all of creation groans in pain ‘ – Romans 8:22)

This logical gal is going to remind herself daily:

  • If God controls the nations, then He is controlling the details of my life right now.
  • If God is God, then He is good.
  • Therefore, the good God controls the details of my life right now.

That’s enough for me.

Reformation Logic – If God did this, then for sure….

2 Nov

95-theses This past Monday was the 499th anniversary of Martin Luther’s penning and dispatching to Albert of Brandenburg (Archbishop of Mainz) his 95 arguments for reforming the church.

One of the central beliefs among the reformers was the doctrine that guilty sinners are justified ONLY by faith in Jesus’ atoning death and righteous life on their behalf.  Using ‘shorthand’ this is called ‘the justification by faith’.  Prior to this tectonic shift back to original Christianity, the church had taught with a growing force that salvation was dependent not just on faith but also on works.  One had to MERIT heaven.

So where does logic fit in?  Have you heard of reasoning from the greater to the lesser?

If so, then you’re in for a boatload of comfort!

Here’s how the argument goes:

If God has given you faith to trust Him to save you from deserved wrath, then that same faith is sufficient for you to trust Him when He says He will provide grace for every other one of your needs.

The greater and ‘harder’ work is rescuing us from our certain prideful or oblivious march along the path toward hell.  That cost the Father His Son. The ‘lesser’ work is rescuing, helping, provisioning, guiding, healing, and meeting our needs in this life through faith.

There’s even a promise from God backing up this conditional IF/THEN statement.  Romans 8:32 – For He who did not spare His own Son, will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all other things?

How does that comfort me?

When I’m afraid about something difficult facing me later today or next week, then I ‘admonish’ myself like this:

  • Maria, you have trusted God for the gift of eternal life, why would you doubt His promise when He tells you NOT to fear the here and now? The same Word that holds out His offer of salvation also declares His willingness to be with you and to provide exactly what you need at the right time. To doubt this God for the lesser when He has already given you the greater just doesn’t make sense, Maria!!

Dear friends, there’s a constant negative, world-shouting message of fear and false reality.  We MUST vigorously and repeatedly recall the truth.  Our faith in the biblical God is a gift and our most precious possession. But like a muscle, if we don’t strengthen it every day, it will not remain static, but grow smaller.

Exercise the logical mind that God has given you!

 

 

 

Reasoning from facts about the future

7 Sep

I came upon the following Scripture this morning as I was searching for an essay I had saved about the death of a beloved dog.  Our neighbors had to say goodbye to such a good friend and they are struggling with the hole he has left in their hearts.

As I was rereading the essay, the author referenced the passage below.  The prophesy about the lion’s diet floored me.  Read on:

Isaiah 11:  6-9

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,

and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,

and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;

and a little child shall lead them.

The cow and the bear shall graze;

their young shall lie down together;

and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,

and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.

They shall not hurt or destroy

in all my holy mountain;

for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord

as the waters cover the sea.

Lion eating meat

I had to verify it, but according to what my Google search engine pulled up, lions in their present state eat meat and not straw.  And oxen are herbivores.

If that is the case, then God’s word to John about the future as recorded in Revelation 21:5 takes on new and specific significance concerning animals:

“Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

Why should I be startled to learn that the God who created every thing that exists is also the same God who changes dispositions, tastes and digestive systems!

Here, then, is how I reasoned from that deduction.  My reasoning actually takes us back in time.  I am painting a hypothetical scenario, which I cannot prove conclusively, but I find satisfaction in stretching my mind thoughtfully:

If God changed man’s fundamental nature ( from being able to CHOOSE obedience to Him before the Fall into being able ONLY to sin as a consequence**), then it is feasible in the new heavens and new earth God will alter man’s fundamental nature anew

If God in the future will change a lion from a carnivore to an herbivore, then God in the past before the Fall may have created the lion to be different than his present predatory state

Why am I spending energy thinking through these rational possibilities?

Welcome, reality in a fallen world!

My body doesn’t work well when I eat the foods I crave.  Breads, oatmeal and starches appeal to me, but they clog up my system.  I do better eating meats.  Meat costs more than starches. And due to some financial decisions we altered our meals this summer to include non-meat dinners every other night.  Think beans and grains.  But they clog up my system.

Therefore, I have reluctantly accepted the evidence that eating beef, pork, chicken, fish and eggs is what God has chosen for me.  This diet goes with the ‘boundary lines (that) have fallen for me in pleasant places’ (as God defines my safe space! – Psalm 16:6).  This way of eating is what He calls GOOD, for me, in this current world.

My conclusion?

  • If the manner in which animals feed today in our corrupted world has been scarred, then maybe the reason for my slow and inefficient digestive system has also been scarred.

It makes logical sense, then, to accept these limits and gracefully live within them and look forward to a future world.

 

More than one way to solve a problem

15 Jun

My purse was too small.  So I did what all illogical women do, I bought a new purse.

That wouldn’t have been too poor a decision except for 3 factors:

  • I loved this leather, back pack-type purse
  • My husband had given it to me about 5 years ago as a ‘just-cuz’ present
  • I’m a one-purse gal

I keep standard items in my ‘daily essentials-carrier’ like:

glasses, checkbook, wallet, EXTRA card carrier for all those preferred shopping relationships, notebook, almonds, a foiled 3-oz tuna pack, round Eos lip balm, business cards, spare batteries, pens, the other car’s spare key and a bulky makeup pouch with all the emergency supplies one might need.

What I love about the purse is that it’s a hands-free bag one can sport as a small backpack or sling over the shoulder.  Not to mention also that it is leather and minimalist.

But it’s TOO small (there’s always a price to pay, isn’t there!).  There’s only one way to arrange the above items so that all fits as efficiently as possible.  And several times a week, I seem to need something from one of the bottom residents.  Which means I need table space to take everything out, retrieve the item and repack.

Thus far my logical thought process:

Premise: My purse is too small

Conclusion: Therefore, I need a larger bag

I’m always checking out purse selections when we happen to be in a store, which is not all that often.  So last week I was delighted when I just ‘happened’ on a selection of purses at a hiking/outdoor store while returning an item. There was a backpack-style bag, maybe a fourth larger than my daily ‘porte-stuff’. Perfect, I thought.  Since it was early in the new month, I decided I could spring for this spontaneous purchase. But I knew what I must do if I wanted to remain true to my values.  As an aspiring minimalist, I have taken on the rule of “Bring a new item into the house – Eliminate the old item”

What I had not counted on were two unintended consequences:

  • my husband was shocked AND hurt that I threw out the old purse he had given me
  • the larger purse just didn’t slide on as easily as my old one and seemed less secure

I ruminated for 24 hours and then voilà, the lesson from the  Elevator Problem Story hit me.  Malcolm Gladwell had written about this in one of his books.  Apparently elevators moved too slowly for those waiting to board on different floors.  When design engineers were assembled to brainstorm about increasing the speed of elevators in a multi-storied building, one young maverick re-identified the problem.  It wasn’t that the elevator moved too slowly, but that people grew bored waiting!  I’ll let you click on the above link to read his accepted solution that worked and cost far less to implement.

The point was, I had incorrectly concluded that I needed a larger purse.  If we revisit my so-called logical syllogism from above, you’ll notice there is only one stated premise:

Premise: My purse is too small

Conclusion: Therefore, I need a larger bag

A 2nd premise is missing, thus what is written is an ‘enthymeme’, an argument with an unstated premise or conclusion.

In my mind, I thought there was only one possible premise:

Premise 1:  If one’s purse is too small, then one needs a larger bag

Actually, it’s not that I was incorrect about that premise, but that the premise was not complete!

My Eureka moment came from realizing that I had mis-diagnosed the problem.  It wasn’t that my purse was too small, but that I thought I had to fit all those items into it.  My ‘essentials’ had not even been up for re-evaluation.  My pre-supposition had been this: All that my purse currently carries is essential. As soon as everything was back on the table, so to speak, it was clear that I could pare down what I carried every day.

So with some quick and honest tallying of how often ’emergencies’ arise and the substitution of a less-bulky loyalty card carrier, I eagerly ran to the trashcan outside and retrieved my oldie but goodie beloved friend.

Purse

 

Here is my completed premise that brought about my happy result:

Premise 1: If one’s purse is too small, one can remove some items or secure a larger bag

This logical gal needs some more practice in applying reason to everyday ordinary problems!

 

 

Gospel logic

18 May

God is able to make all grace abound to you that always having all sufficiency in all things, you may have an abundance for every good work. 2 Cor 9:8

I sometimes struggle with feeling as though I have SUFFICIENT time to do what I want to do – read during a period of the day when I am most alert.

So anytime I hear mention of the concepts of ENOUGH or SATISFACTION, which both can be described as contentment with the current supply, my ears perk up.

The other day, I was thinking about how  I might logically frame my feeling of sufficiency. Here is an initial attempt:

Premise 1: If I have all sufficiency in money, time and health, I am content

Premise 2: God has said that He is able to provide me with complete sufficiency

Conclusion: I should be content because I have access to my sufficiency by asking Him regularly for what I need

If the above reasoning is true, then why might I still struggle with a sense of lack or not enough?

Immediately the Holy Spirit reminded me of the PURPOSE for which God promises to provide me sufficiency.  Not primarily (so it might seem) simply to please myself, but instead to do the work that HE has planned for me to undertake.  In Ephesians, Paul reminds us that we are raised from the walking dead to being alive in Christ to undertake and carry out the works that God has planned for us.

For we are His workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Eph 2:10

(an aside, the Greek word for workmanship is poiema which some have rendered as ‘poetry’)

Okay – so when God gives us grace that translates into sufficiency, He says that it is not for our good pleasure (my reading), but to do the work that He has pre-ordained for us.

Hmm…is that disappointing?  Well, ça dépend! (that depends, as the French say).

Jesus said: My food/meat is to do the will of God who sent me and to accomplish His work – John 4:34  And food is the Greek word broma which means:

  • aliment which refreshes, delights or truly satisfies the mind

It seems that God is VERY efficient.  He has so created work both to accomplish His purposes AND to refresh me. I can be assured that looking to God the Father for what will ultimately satisfy me involves letting HIM assign and organize the work I am to do.

Left to please myself, I might think what I crave for restoration are the time and energy to READ.  But I am beginning to see that maybe I am not wise enough as the created being to know what is best for me.

I’m slowly learning to depend on my Maker to know what kind of high-grade octane nurtures, protects and optimizes my spiritual engine.

high octane

Sobering logic

30 Mar

 

Alfie

What’s it all about, Alfie? You know what I mean,” so commented with subdued irony the Michael Caine character in the 1966 British film, “Alfie”.  A very important thought, maybe this was first time that Alfie had looked beyond the present moment to something more than pleasing himself.

Most human beings, unlike other mammals, DO ask the big questions of life.  Rightly so, for these issues are not whimsical ponderings, but life-altering in their implications and answers.

I haven’t seen the movie, but reading the synopsis of it see this link, gave me a sense of the emptiness of Alfie’s (Alfred) life of womanizing.  I thought about the movie and how people either do or don’t take seriously the metaphysical and very serious matters confronting each of us.

The most important choice any human must make can be framed this way as a conditional major premise:

  • If we have lived attached to Jesus Christ in this life, then we will live together with Christ in the next life (which lasts forever)
The converse is true: 
  • If we have NOT lived attached to Christ in this life, then we will NOT live with Christ in the next life (which lasts forever)

Reality is, a decision must be made in this life.  There is no karma, no second chances once we die.  There are only two paths, one with Christ and one without.

These facts are not my opinions; they come from Jesus himself.  He is the one who declared:

  •  “I am THE way, the truth and the light.” John 14:6a

So think deeply, dear logical Joe and Jane.  As pastor and teacher Dr. R. C. Sproul counsels, ‘This moment counts forever’.

2 roads

 

The logic of assurance of faith

9 Mar

If you are a Christian, do you struggle with knowing for sure that all the promises of Christ are actually for you?  That you will be eternally with God when you die?  That you won’t have to face judgment, followed by sentencing for your crimes against the Creator and Sustainer God of the universe?

Assurance of salvation

There’s actually a logical way, I think, to know for sure whether you are IN Christ and under no condemnation from God the Father or excluded from Christ’s saving work on your behalf.

As I was thinking about this topic the other morning (prompted by reading from Puritan William Gurnall’s work on the armor of God) I mused about the state of our spiritual health before my husband and I actually became Christians.

Until the age of 22, we had NO doubt that we were Christian.  The topic never came up.  We were baptized, confirmed members of the Episcopal Church.  That denomination’s current (or at least de facto) doctrine teaches that all those who are baptized are in fact Christians. End of discussion. Period.

But once we heard the ‘bad news’ of our natural state (“all have sinned and fall short of God’s standard….and deserve death” – combo of Romans 3:23 and Romans 6:23), we grasped with haste the ‘good news’ of Jesus’ atonement and fulfilling of the Law on behalf of those who will receive it by faith.

That’s when occasional doubts about our actual salvation began to jab at our assurance of pardon and peace. Those fears bothered us! The very fact of our DIS-stress over our eternal future is likely a healthy clue and evidence to the saving faith we actually possess.

But over the years, I’ve come to see how clear thinking and a logical hypothetical true statement can bolster my confidence that what Jesus has done actually DOES apply to me.

Ephesians 2:8 teaches Christians that only by a GIFT have we been saved from God’s rightful wrath. (For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God)

Gift of faith

By a gift, not by baptism, or confirmation or any work done by a religious person or us!

When I start to second-guess myself, I am tempted to imagine or hypothesize….

  • What if I believe this fact (that I’ve received the Gift) TODAY, but tomorrow I DON’T believe?  How do I know that I TRULY believe?  Maybe I’m fooling myself?

But with the temptation, the Holy Spirit reminds me of  Gospel logic so I can plug that hole in the dike holding back false fears and guarding that precious gift faith.

Here’s my pre-supposition based on Paul’s teaching in Acts:

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” Acts 16:31

The Bible defines this kind of faith or  ‘belief’ as relying on/counting on/ trusting in.

Premise 1: Either I am relying on my own merit and works to be righteous enough to please God OR I’m relying on Jesus’ work for me to please God

Premise 2: I’m not relying on myself to please God

Conclusion: Therefore, I’m relying on Jesus’ work offered to me to please God

It’s as simple as that.  I have to keep asking myself this fundamental question:

  • Maria, who are you trusting in, you or Jesus.

That’s usually enough to quiet the doubts.  What about you?