Well last week we covered the topic of God’s role in things falling apart in the world in “Poltergeist of the World”. Jim it was good to lay out some of the things that have bothered many of us over the course of many years that seem to be so valid but, when held up to the Good News of God, just doesn’t match up?
Adam, I know you were looking for a short response here, but I had a few things to emphasize and/or expand upon … things that aren’t covered in what you are continuing on. The only real place to insert these comments are here at the beginning. :)
Adam, it’s like a Crap-shoot. When the dice are rolling in your favor, you can easily come to the conclusion that Fate or one of the gods is on your side. I’ve never been much of a gambler — I think I learned my lesson as a child when I lost all my money ($2) to a man spinning a wheel at a carnival — but I know full well that the odds are stacked against the gambler, and I know that despite the lure of easy money, the House always wins in the end. Many of our Christian teachings on the subject of God’s dealings with us are not much different from the viewpoint of those who have had a few winning streaks and now want to teach you their strategies.
I’m sure there are some whose ears perked up at the mention of the word Coincidence. So, is there a truth to coincidence … or must all things be viewed as the hand of God?
Just because God is the one who causes all things to work together for those who love him, should we assume that any or every observable event has anything to do with his working? I say this in view of the reality that although nothing is either too big or too small for God to have a hand in, people have invented superstitious beliefs through the assumption that God’s working can be figured out through outward observation.
Coincidence doesn’t suggest that God has nothing to do with any event but that the thing done may have little or nothing to do with how it might seem to pan out to any particular person or group. For example, I make a cake for my daughter’s birthday, but someone else — whose birthday happens to coincide with date my daughter was born — takes that cake because he assumes it must have been made for him. The fallacy of the other’s assumption may establish a superstitious belief that any cake made on one’s birthday belongs to the finder. Suggesting that the existence of two unrelated events might be a coincidence does not deny anything about either event, it only poses the real possibility or even probability that the two are unrelated.
The real question is this: Is God the one who is causing all the little interruptions in your life in order to teach you some specific lesson … or is it possible that you and I assume that some invisible spirit must be responsible for such things? Example: Traffic lights and my assumptions based upon what seems to be.
Can God change those lights if need be? Of course. But upon what basis do I assume that he must be doing it? While God could easily work within the scheduled settings of the regulated traffic patterns by delaying my approach, do I believe it is somehow a rejection of God’s sovereignty to suspect that my normally frustrating interaction with the traffic-control system is more likely a coincidence?
Consider this: If the gods have been blamed for their roles for interferring with the lives of men, how is any different when we as Christians simply change the name and blame the God of the Bible in the exact same way?
Well this weeks topic is entitled : Poltergeist of the World Part 2. [Looking for Security].
Jim, I remember my experiences in the church many years ago and how there were so many implications coming from those I fellowshipped with that we essentially had safety by keeping ourselves within the ‘covering’ of a local church. It was sort of an implied protective bubble, if you will. [fully bolstered with 1 or two Bible verses of course] . The things WE heard in MY day were things like: ‘God’ can [or will] protect us if we will “only walk with Him” or “follow His leading in our lives” [whatever that means to you] or the ever popular “if you will tithe and stay within the hedge and covering of our church [under the “authority”/protection of the Pastors wisdom], then you will be safe from stumbling and from all harm in the world. The odd thing is that we WERE often spared of the stresses of life [others praying for you„ giving to you] and many other things that seemed so preserving at that time?
Jim, do you think it is possible that many who have left the church because of the shameless preaching of Law have often second-guessed themselves when remembering these warnings of disastrous consequences for leaving?
First, I think it’s quite apropos to consider whether the Church is the only institution or structure where such a protective bubble might exist. After all, I venture to say that the family represents more of a universal protective framework. But doesn’t the covering you describe also extend to any close-knit group that is held together by strong leadership and a rigid set of guidelines? You see, that’s what fosters a sense of safety.
Then, too, we’ve got to take principle-based morality into account. For if one’s principles engender a sense of care, appreciation, and friendship, there will be positive repercussions … and you don’t have to be a Christian in order to live by Biblically-sound principles. Take for example the book written by Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People. For those who aren’t familiar with this book dealing with financial success, let me read an excerpt from a review on Amazon:
He teaches these skills through underlying principles of dealing with people so that they feel important and appreciated. He also emphasizes fundamental techniques for handling people without making them feel manipulated. Carnegie says you can make someone want to do what you want them to by seeing the situation from the other person’s point of view and “arousing in the other person an eager want.” You learn how to make people like you, win people over to your way of thinking, and change people without causing offense or arousing resentment. For instance, “let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers,” and “talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.”
Hey look, from what I remember, there’s a lot of good advice in this book, and I’m not going to try to pooh-pooh any particular principle or technique — but let’s just realize that they are techniques. The point is that you can learn how to win friends and influence people by following some simple principles for the purpose of advancing your own financial success. However, don’t assume for a moment that financial success is the only motivation. And by the way, if we can bring about favorable responses simply by employing techniques or guiding our lives by Biblical principles, can we also imagine the immeasurable effects of a living heart that doesn’t need a list of guide lines?
Now, to bring this back to what Adam is referring to, I’m not going to count upon a sense of safety that’s found under the covering of a pastor or a church simply because everything seems to be going well in my life for a period of time. After all, I’ve felt a similar sense of temporary safety by towing the line in other frameworks, like my own family, my school, my friends, my church, my choir, my youth group, my Bible college, and so on.
Adam, as to your question regarding those who have left the protective sense of safety of a church because of the shameless preaching of Law, I am well aware of the sense of dread that comes from wondering what might happen as a result. I mean, you can’t help but recall those admonitions and warnings that come upon those who leave the fold to become lone rangers. It’s like, what if those preachers are right?
If those who are truly born of God were to realize and bank on the reality that God wasn’t bringing upon them calamity for their “walking away from Him” but, that we simply grow through everything in life because of Christ in us, what would that do to many groups of believers today? [Do you think they would be formed without that sense of manipulating God?]
I tend to agree with that viewpoint. After all, the glue that holds many groups together is usually the very same thing that formed them in the first place. I’ve witnessed the demise of a few groups that lost the thing that got them started. When you bring the reality of God’s grace into an organized gathering that has been built upon a religious view of Christ, you’ll probably either end up with a split or an ousting of the perpetrators. Most people don’t want their boats rocked.
I mean, we could be talking about a church that outwardly believes that God has totally forgiven us in Christ, and yet these same people (especially the pastors or teachers) will be the ones to make the most noise at a suggestion like what you’re making here.
Jim in the last audio program you mentioned that we should consider how God has set up things in this world ‘according to a predefined course’. Would this be the same as a prearranged or even predetermined course? [Maybe mention true Sovereignty]
This is what truly confuses us, isn’t it? Temporal reasoning has caused people to assume that God must work according to that which makes sense.
Consider the following dialog taken from the movie The Matrix:
Morpheus: I’ve seen an agent punch through a concrete wall. Men have emptied entire clips at them and hit nothing but air. Yet their strength and their speed are still based in a world that is built on rules. Because of that, they will never be as strong or as fast as you can be.
Neo: What are you trying to tell me, that I can dodge bullets?
Morpheus: No, Neo. I’m trying to tell you that when you’re ready, you won’t have to.
Of course, anyone who has seen the movie knows that Neo didn’t become “ready” until after he was killed and came back to life. This is the same kind of not being ready that caused Peter to sink after he got off the safety of that boat and starting walking toward Jesus. He had simply been given a glimpse into the impossibility of a life that existed outside the framework of this world and its rules, but then the realities of the temporal world made their demands upon him.
The reasoning of a world that is built upon rules can never comprehend the workings of God, not even if correctly translated Bible verses are employed. As in the case of the agents of the Matrix, whose strength and speed exceeded that of mere mortals, the scholars of this world — including those of the religious world — cannot exceed their own natural and temporal limits. Computers may process data at speeds beyond imagination, but in the end they run into the same brick walls mankind has faced since the beginning.
By the predefined course that God has established in this world, I refer to how the world operates according to the limits of its bondage. Despite all the seeming improvements and changes of mankind, people still do the same things, they still think the same kind of thoughts. Although humans have imagined themselves as having achieved some higher form of civility, they respond and react according to the same primitive impulses.
As far as the predetermined course of God, man can only inwardly speculate according to what he observes outwardly. God’s sovereignty cannot be transcribed to the written page so as to make it understandable, except in bits and pieces of observable commands and events. This world’s logic would have us imagine that we can create a time-line or a complex web-like schematic of God’s working that would not only make sense, but also declare His handiwork. The truth is that by such time-lines and diagrams, we soon become more and more convinced that God has less and less to do with mankind at all. That’s what the more intelligent people of this world would tell you, isn’t it?
Jim I suspect many folks, in hearing that God is for us, despite where and what bad things we have going on in our lives only seem to feel frustrated for any lack of condemnation awaiting those who would make poor decisions to begin with. Then of course the ones whom they would like to condemn for their choices[and resulting consequences] find themselves already having to contend with the fear that they indeed will not have this elusive protection that is taught so plentifully in the church. What a dilemma eh?
For sure. You know, religious Christians love to quote the Biblical phrase “for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” Of course, there’s a logical reason speak these words in such ignorance — and yes, I mean logical — because its understanding corresponds perfectly to the rules of its bondage. Those who belong to this fleshly world cannot see past the limits of their fleshly vision. And if there’s one thing that irritates the fleshly mind, it’s the idea that someone else might get away with something I haven’t been able to. It’s no different from the jealousy we had as children toward a sibling that didn’t get caught like we had. That’s when we want to pull out the big cannons.
I can remember the dilemma you refer to as it played out while I was counseling a brother who stopped by to confess his sexual indiscretion from earlier that evening. I remember confirming total forgiveness through Christ, and I witnessed an amazing transformation taking place within him that showed up in an expression of pure joy. However … I felt obligated to make sure he understood the consequences of his action, so I pulled out the story of David and Bathsheba. Forgiven, and yet having to deal with the consequences. It broke my heart to see his face drop and to witness the joy vanish.
For those who would tell me that I did the right thing, I would respond by saying that I’d rather have done the living thing. You see, I was afraid my message of gracious irresponsibility might get back to the pastor of the church we both attended. Yeah… that’s the kind of stuff I went through as I struggled against my own understanding of Christ. Revelation is so much better than religious insight, is it not? :)
Whenever we become aware of something in our lives where we might not have made the best decision for ourselves and others, it’s at that moment that we hear so much of the voice of this authoritative sounding condemnation..but is that God? Is this the way God intended us to live unto Him?
You know, while it may be the path many of us come down in the process of having the dirt of religion cleared away, it in itself is not the way God has intended us to live. The preachers of righteousness want us to believe this voice of condemnation is how God speaks to us — with all those Thus saith the Lord’s — but in truth, God speaks to us in Christ. I remember the scrutiny regarding many of the decisions I made, some where I prayed about it ahead of time and maybe sought some godly counsel, but more times than not, after being made aware of not having done so. The fact is that I usually didn’t act simply because I got nothing one way or the other. That’s a dead-end road of another kind.
Jim do You think we block our own selves from learning [to do things differently] when we are so preoccupied with figuring out what God must be “teaching us”in the midst of the failure we come to see?
Take for instance a situation were you might have gotten excited to buy a house. You had the down payment, felt the desire to buy one but, didn’t really “pray” about it or “wait on the Lord” for it to happen “in His time”. Lets say the bottom of the deal fell out and you were stuck with no home for a matter of months. What kinds of things must we have to contend with in our minds at that point? I can tell you, it would be mostly condemnation for being so ‘eager” to buy the house and not slowing down…..
You know, I don’t think I could come up with a more counterproductive perception of life than that of living under the premise of trying to figure out which of the many things I’ve thought, said, or done has displeased God … and then, which one, or perhaps, which combination of those things has brought on the chastisement. I know this much, concentrating on the thing that needs to be dealt with or fixed often keeps it from happening.
When I became a teenager, I went through a clumsy stage. Try these figures on for size: in the 6th grade I weighed in at 72 pounds, at the beginning of the 9th grade I weighed 99 pounds … my Gym coach figured I’d break a hundred by the end of the year … I hit 128. The following year approx. 145, then 155, then 172 (where I remained for decades). Anyhow during those years, I couldn’t keep up with all the changes my body was going through, and I spilled a lot of things. My dad commented on it, as if maybe I wasn’t sufficiently aware of it. The more he criticized, the more I tried to concentrate on not spilling … and the more I spilt anyhow. One evening, I was asked to bring my dad some coffee. As I got close to the table (he was on the other side), he said something to the effect that since I was so clumsy this might not be a very good idea. I was so focused on not spilling, and I was intently watching that cup of coffee that I tripped and spilt the coffee. It hit the table and ran all the way to the other side … and ended going down his lap. I’ll never forget the hoop and holler he let out as the coffee burned him. My mom laughed and declared that he brought it on himself for making me so insecure. And that is the way of the Law, isn’t it? And yes, this kind of preoccupation definitely blocks seeing the reality of any situation.
And isn’t this the very same thing we’ve learned to do regarding our decisions? Of course, for most of us, we’re not talking about all of our decisions, but those that seem more important. Yeah, major ones, like buying a house. We often become so preoccupied with what we think God thinks about it, that we get totally blindsided. I mean, on the one hand, you’ve got a sense of the God who can bring about the impossible, while on the other, we’re faced with our Christian responsibility. I have vivid memories of daring to stand against the world because of a God who is not limited, and then having it all stifled by a clear lack of an answer. Was God testing my faith so that I should simply walk without fear … or was He quiet because He wanted me to wait? No wonder I felt the need to simply jump sometimes. Had I not been so preoccupied with the possible consequences of my decision, I may have noticed some of the glaring indicators by which those without God were making much better decisions than myself.
Many might be asking themselves if you have taken away the thought[belief] that God will somehow magically protect them from all bad decisions through the agency of prayer and asking spiritual men for their wisdom. The might be left with a sense of fear and insecurity in the realization that there isn’t someone magically protecting you from all deception and harm in this world.
Many institutionalized christians might be asking themselves if you haven’t somehow taken away the “protection of God” in all of this? I mean most of us were taught that we would find a sense of safety in God through the agency of prayer[s] and sticking to church members advise[that of Pastors etc.].They might be now left with a sense of fear and insecurity in the realization that there isn’t someone upstairs magically protecting us from all harm in this world….