Archives for posts with tag: control

god-in-a-boxI like to keep my house tidy and well organized. If I can’t have clean, I can usually find peace with hiding the clutter. If I don’t have to look at the messy, irrational parts, I can pretend that they are not there. I can find comfort in considering only what I allow myself to see. I can define my surroundings with the appearance that I am in control.

Sometimes we try to do the same thing with God. We want enough of His presence to give blessing to our plans. We are so comfortable with our expectations and opinions and comfort zone that we assume He agrees us. We don’t actually want His input, unless it reinforces what we want to believe. We make decisions and assumptions on what is good and right, and then we require that God bless them.

Surely God agrees with me! Surely God likes the things I like and dislikes the things I don’t! Surely God recognizes the wisdom of my perspective! But what if He doesn’t? What if God is less interested in my opinion than in my testimony? What if my self-righteous indignation is more “self” than “righteous”? What if God is more concerned about the people I alienate, than in the validity of my perspective or personal choices? What if God wants me to represent His love, rather than put me in charge of straightening out those who think differently than I do? What if God wants to do a new thing or an old thing in a new way? What if God wants me to obey Him, and I want Him to obey me…and just stay inside the tidy box I build for Him?

The most cursory reading of the Bible reveals a God who is unpredictable. He doesn’t have a set response that applies in all situations to all people. He may deliver his people from their fears, or He may walk them through their fear to a deeper trust. He may destroy their enemies, or He may use the testimony of His people to change the hearts of their enemies. He may reveal His power, or He may give power to those who choose to obey.

The Bible also reveals a God who is always in control, even when he allows things His children don’t like. His goal is not to make us comfortable or content; His goal is to reveal His glory and increase our holiness. His goal is that all peoples know Him. What happens when we claim to represent God, but our words and behavior come from our own need to be right, rather than the love and righteousness and power of God?

Putting God in a box may mean that we separate ourselves from Him. Insisting that God confine Himself to our expectations may mean that our testimony to those watching us includes nothing more than our own preferences. Worshipping the God who will not stay in the box requires that we see Him as He is, not as who we’d like Him to be. Loving those around you may not include browbeating those around you into agreeing with you. There is no trust required for the things you can control. Faith kicks in when we remember that He is God and we are not, especially when He destroys the box and works in our world in ways we don’t like or don’t understand. Our job is not to draw boundaries for Him; our job is to honor the boundaries He draws for us.

How do you respond when God doesn’t confine Himself to what you think is right? Do you assume He isn’t in charge? Do you appoint yourself as judge and jury over those who see things differently than you do? Does your testimony give evidence of love or of condemnation? Do you give God the space to work His will in ways you didn’t expect? Are you mindful of how you represent Him to those around you, or are you more interested in proving that you are right and those who disagree with you are wrong?

May we seek His will, not our own. And may our faith in His power be manifested in our testimony.

Eph 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it might benefit those who listen.  

wtc

We don’t like risk. We spend billions of dollars per year on insurance and warranties; we study Consumer Reports before buying anything. We buy new and improved safety seats for our children; we put them to bed in flame retardant pajamas, make them wear bike helmets, and insist that their playground be built on at least 6 inches of tire rubber to lower the risk of injuries. We buy tamper proof containers, and put metal detectors in our buildings and warnings on our hairdryers to decrease the risk of harm. We buy insurance for our vacations and our cell phones, and purchase extended warranties for our electronics and cars just to decrease our risk of financial loss. There are at two huge bureaucracies in our federal government, the FDA and CPA, devoted to protecting consumers from anything produced that might harm us. We don’t like risk for ourselves.

But we love it when other people take the risk. We glamorize the bad boys who live on the edge; the people who don’t play by the rules and still beat the odds. We make heroes out of frontiersmen and cowboys, soldiers, policemen, and firemen because they are willing to take risks. We root for the underdog and the one who pushes the limits to succeed. We wait with eager anticipation for the daredevils to do a life-threatening stunt; watch rodeos and NASCAR, waiting for the crashes.

Our culture seem to have a love/hate relationship with risk. But the real truth of the matter is that risk is inherent is inherent in everything we do. Every choice you make – to do or not to do something, has a cost. We may try to minimize risks, but we don’t want miss out either. If you take the chance, you risk failing; if you stay safe, you can’t succeed or accomplish anything of much value.

When I look carefully at the great adventures of the Bible, I realize that all of the awesome revelations and miracles were predicated on situations I would have desperately tried to avoid. Noah’s rescue from the flood followed a hundred years of construction that would most certainly have branded him the town kook. David, the teenage shepherd, accepted the challenge of a giant that the best warriors in the army of Israel had already refused to fight. Daniel’s miraculous rescue required that he spend the night with lions. Mary Magdalen suffered with seven demons before she could know God’s deliverance. All the people Jesus healed struggled with physical ailments and hopelessness.

I don’t want to be afraid or ridiculed. I don’t want to be thrown into a fiery furnace or sold into slavery. I don’t want to be falsely accused or put in jail. I don’t want to pick up a snake or be swallowed by a fish. I don’t want to challenge the authority of someone who has the power to kill me. I don’t want to have to defy my government to obey my God. I don’t want to mourn or be in pain or suffer or know shame. But it is in situations exactly like those that the obedience of ordinary people displays the extraordinary power of God.

The more I learn about God, the deeper my understanding of his character and his plan, the more I don’t want to be separated from him. I am an ordinary woman with real fears and weaknesses who worships the God who has all power and has promised to redeem me, and I want my life to display evidence of the extraordinary God I serve. But in order to do that, I’m going to have risk trusting and obeying His plan, even when I really like my plan.

The irony is that we control so very little. On August 17, 2001 my family visited the World Trade Center. We spent one hour in security lines. They knew they might be a target because they had already been attacked in 1993, and they were serious about security. They wanded each of us, they went through my purse and the boys’ backpacks, we were sniffed by dogs who could detect explosives, and each of us had to walk through a metal detector so they were absolutely sure we didn’t have weapons. 3 ½ weeks later, the people in charge of security for the World Trade Center on 9/11 again did everything they could to prevent the attack they expected.

The problem was that they weren’t expecting the attack that actually occurred. Their limited perspective and understanding didn’t prepare them for what really happened. Your limited perspective and understanding of the future won’t prepare you either. But your daily obedience to God’s call on your life will prepare you.

Those who choose to trust God more than they fear what they cannot control see the glory of God right here on earth. No matter what choice you make, it will cost you something. You can miss God’s presence and blessing, you can forfeit your front row see to God’s power at work in your life, if you insist on being your own God and reject any course of action that has risk. You’ll never see God’s power as clearly as when you finally realize you are not in control at all. Our choices don’t diminish or increase God’s love for us, but they do determine whether or not we allow God’s story to become our story. God doesn’t ask us to approve his plan or necessarily like what he asks us to do; but he does require that we obey…even when we can’t see the possibility of a happy ending. It is in those moments of obedience that He gives us the desires of his heart and a front row seat to see his power. If you refuse to do anything different, you will never accomplish anything new. Refusing to take risks keeps you tied to what has been, rather than what can be. Trust Him with what is to come.

Without Warning

We live in a culture that puts a warning label on nearly everything. We are warned against smoking, diving into the shallow end of the pool, or using the hair dryer in the bathtub. Labels insist that we “shake well before using” or “take with food”. Signs warn us that trespassers will be prosecuted and unattended cars will be towed. Children should not stand in grocery carts, and no one should stand on the top rung of a ladder. We may fire a “warning shot” or hear a “warning bell”. Our society tries desperately to predict all outcomes and avoid everything that is dangerous or unpleasant. Too often, our need to feel like we are in control subordinates common sense and adventure to a flimsy façade of safety.

Sometimes God sends warnings. He warned Noah about the flood and Joseph about the impending famine. He warned Elijah about the coming drought and the coming rainstorm. He warned Joseph to get Mary and Jesus out of Bethlehem before Herod’s troops arrived. He warned Peter that Satan was going to “sift” him and that he would betray Jesus three times before the rooster crowed. But when God sent warnings, they required action.

Sometimes there is no warning. Medical emergencies and accidents are never scheduled for our convenience. We have our day all planned and suddenly the phone rings, the toilet overflows, the car gets a flat tire. If we knew when the stock market crash would occur, we would get our money out in time to save it. If we knew the policeman was running radar, we’d have slowed before we rounded the curve. Even Publisher’s Clearing House surprises the winners.

We go through each day of our lives expecting them to be predictable, but, every once in a while we face a moment that changes our future without warning. We meet our soul mate or the one who will inspire us to become more than we are. There is a surprise diagnosis on a routine medical exam or a sudden crisis that totally refocuses our priorities. An opportunity appears or a natural disaster wipes out our security in a moment. We face life changing moments with no warning, and how we handle them indicates what we believe about God, our character, and our priorities.

The Bible is full of stories of people who wake up one morning, just like every other morning, with no warning that their lives were about to change. Joseph went to check on his brothers and ended up in a pit before being sold into slavery. Moses was tending sheep when he saw the burning bush. David was delivering provisions to his brothers in the army when he heard the taunts of Goliath. Who knows what Mary was doing when Gabriel appeared. Peter, James, and John went on a hike up the mountain with Jesus and ran into Elijah and Moses. The disciples were having a prayer meeting when wind raced through the room and tongues of fire landed on their head. Paul was headed to Damascus to arrest some Christians when a bright light interrupted him. The Samaritan Woman went to get water from the well, and met the love of her life. Their priorities changed in an instant, and their lives changed forever.

God does not promise to warn us, but he does promise us his presence and power, no matter what the circumstance is. How we respond to the warnings, how we respond to events that don’t come with a warning, are probably the best indicators of what we believe about God. We are not guaranteed tomorrow, but we are promised forever if we choose to love him and obey him. He has warned us that he’s coming back for us and that we will be judged. We don’t have the timeline, but we do know his expectations. Embrace God’s interruptions in your life. Choose to live each day expectantly. See all that happens as an opportunity to know his presence and have a front row seat to his activity in your world. Sometimes you will be surprised by delight; sometimes it may be fear or tragedy; always God is with you.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good for those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Acts8:28)