Control’s Control

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

The One Who had all control laid it down to save our souls.

Scriptures of the Day:

John 11:48

“If we allow him to go on in this way, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away our sanctuary and our nation.”

John 12:10-11

“So the chief priests planned to kill Lazarus too, 11 for on account of him many of the Jewish people from Jerusalem were going away and believing in Jesus.”

John 12:27

“Now my soul is greatly distressed. And what should I say? ‘Father, deliver me from this hour’? No, but for this very reason I have come to this hour.”

A sinister character plots an innocent man’s demise while the dissonant tones from the background music come to a climax, piercing the palpable tension felt while we eagerly watch to see whether the righteous or the wicked will overcome . . .

This typical dramatic scenery has drawn many with the lure of the villian/hero storyline. Me, too.

Many years ago I am ashamed to admit that I was addicted to watching soap operas. True story. When I think back on it now, it is embarrassing. But there I was, watching the clock to make sure I did not miss an episode and clinging to every word to make sure that my favorite character was not duped by the newest control monger in town.

This addiction with soap operas ended when the LORD confronted me on it. “I will set no vile thing before my eyes . . . I will walk in my house with blameless heart . . . (Psalm 101). When I doubted whether or not God was really speaking I asked Him to shut off the television if He did not want me to watch it. And. The. Television. Shut. Off. Thinking it was just a coincidence, I turned the television back on and asked the LORD to confirm. And. The. Television. Shut. Off. Again.

So, that ended my fascination with soap operas and television, in general. But what was it that was so addicting about them in the first place?

Deep within we all want to know that the good guy wins. The thought of manipulative people wrecking people’s lives and plans by controlling their outcomes is unjust.

But even in the vilest plots of the enemy, the sovereignty of our God trumps it all. His will WILL be accomplished. No matter what. No one can control that outcome. It is done.

Even with this truth, man still strives to control in his folly. So how does control end up controlling us? The motivations for control are many. Here are just a few:

Fear. The Pharisees were motivated to kill Jesus because of fear – fear that they would lose control. What was it they were trying to control and why would they want to keep the living Truth from all people?

Power. They wanted to maintain the power they had and were blinded by their selfish pursuits and . . .

Jealousy. They did not want another leader to come and take away their audience. They were even willing to kill the man Jesus had just raised from the dead (Lazarus) to try and stop the fame of Christ from spreading. Wow. How did they become so blind?

We, too, can lose perspective and become crazed in our quest for control, if we are not careful. It might be a little matter, but it could become a big problem, causing dissension even in the body of Christ. In the end, we ultimately control nothing.

While God is always in control, the One Who had all control laid it down to save our souls. Jesus did not seek to control or to have deliverance from His suffering, but solely chose to glorify God, yielding His will to the Father. God was sovereignly in control at all times, even over the death over His own Son – and the Son trusted the Father in it all.

The fruit of our thoughts and actions reveals their source – is our behavior of God or Satan? Is the glory we seek our own or God’s? When we rid ourselves of fear and bitter envy and recognize that God is in control, we are free from control’s control.

 

Day 16: Understanding Sin & The Sovereignty of God

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

God redeems our mistakes and uses them to fulfill His perfect purposes.

Scripture of the Day:

Psalm 130:7

O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.

Romans 8:28 ESV

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Ephesians 1:18

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.”

Sovereignty is a word that at once evokes comfort and fear simultaneously. We want to believe in a God Who is all-powerful and all-knowing, in complete control of everything. We just aren’t so comfortable with the fact that the other side of sovereignty sometimes means this awesome God also sovereignly allows suffering into our lives.

We tend to translate the truth of God’s sovereignty into believing Christians will have a painless life – if they have enough faith. The mystery of God’s sovereignty is much more complex than our simple definition of what is good or bad, though.

Enter mankind and his sins. How in the world is God sovereign over that? 

As only our infinite God could, He weaves the reality of sin with His perfect plan and uses it all – for good. I know, we have all heard that verse many times, and frankly, it was not one of my favorite verses when I was smack dab in the middle of intense suffering. It was hard to see anything good that could possibly come from the mess I was in. But that was before I understood that my definition of good was skewed – in favor of me.

Dispensing with the perception that God’s sovereignty means inactivity on His part or a fatalistic, apathetic view on our part, we still have to wrestle with the reality that God sovereignly allows suffering. But without the pain we would not be grateful for the times when we do not have pain. 

If God knew ahead of time that we would sin, how is man to blame?

God’s foreknowledge of our sins does not equate to culpability on His part. We cannot have it both ways. Either we have free will and are able to choose to sin or not, or God creates us to be robots with no will of our own. Man’s free will and God’s overriding omniscience work in tandem and somehow amazingly God redeems our mistakes and uses them to fulfill His perfect purposes. In the hands of God, He is able to take what was meant for evil and use it for good.

When our expectations for life are shattered, there is peace in resting in God’s sovereignty. We are seen by a loving God. He will never forsake His children. He is All-Powerful and able to take our circumstances and turn them around. The patience, perseverance and beautiful character formed in the midst make it all worth it.

How about when other people’s sin causes us pain?

Why do we blame Him in the first place when sin and free will cause most of the messes we encounter? The same free will we want for ourselves we cannot take from others, even if they wrought pain in our lives. Can God restore our faith when it has been dashed to pieces? Can He use the death of dreams to bring new life?

Yes and Amen! Will the pain ever stop and the shame ever go away? Absolutely! But we might be surprised at how God uses the very thing we scorn.

Like Paul who said he was “under great pressure far beyond his ability to endure…but this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God who raises the dead”, we begin to understand that we will be tested beyond our ability, but never beyond God’s. His grace truly is sufficient. We just need to learn how to access it when the world is upside down.

We can learn much from the Israelites. It was in their suffering that God made Himself available to them. When they were blessed before, they had forgotten God and were distracted with things of lesser value. Hardship had gotten their attention and had revealed to them that they were missing what mattered most – Knowing and enjoying God in this life that He gave.

For the Christian, there is hope in suffering because of our hope in God’s sovereignty. He is faithful and He is a Redeemer of everything that transpires in our lives, all for His glory.

Lord, I stand in awe of You! I am so grateful that You are in complete control. Help us to surrender to Your sovereignty and trust in You always.

This song by Chris Tomlin says it well. Our God is sovereign.

 

 

 

 

Mundane Monday: Undeserved Mercy

Undeserved Mercy

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Mercy would not be mercy if we could earn it.

Scripture of the Day:

Romans 9:15-17

For he says to Moses: “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then, it does not depend on human desire or exertion, but on God who shows mercy. 17 For the scripture says to Pharaoh: “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may demonstrate my power in you, and that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.”

Here it is, the beginning of a work week again.  We labor not in vain, though, if we labor in the LORD.  So often we work for our own glory or we try to attain favor or mercy based on merit.  It makes sense that we should earn what we have sought so hard to achieve . . . or does it?

In one breath the verse above can be discouraging to the workaholics among us who try avidly to curry favor only to see another given grace unmerited; but the fact that God’s mercy could never be earned is beautiful.

Our righteousness is as filthy rags, and any insight or ability we think we have was given to us, so we trust in God’s sovereignty in the mercy he grants us in all of life.  This is a vulnerable place to be and we can be tempted to cry, “not fair!” when a deed goes unrecognized, but resting in the perfect goodness of God and the reality of our deserved damnation causes us to fall to our knees in gratitude that God has mercy on us at all.

Mercy is evident throughout every part of our life, though it is often not perceived.  We do not see what we have been spared from, and what blessings we have received we might take for granted.  When we are tempted to become embittered at life’s vicious curve balls, may we remember what grace has been given to us – the obvious and the not-so-obvious mercies.

God’s mercy is not always seen as a blessing.  Sometimes His merciful hand prevents blessings which could ultimately be our undoing.

But the most important mercy ever to be received is the salvation God offers.  Every inclination of our hearts is steadfastly toward sin apart from the grace of God. What sweet grace opens our eyes to know that we are sinners and to receive His free gift of salvation!

We may never fully understand the mercy of God extended to us, but somehow in His sovereignty He chooses to reveal His mercy and love that we might know Him.  Life is a vapor, but for all eternity we have mercy!

Jesus, thank You for saving me!  Thank You for revealing my need of You.  When things have not gone as I thought they should, Lord I thank You.  Your mercies overwhelm me. You are good all the time.

“And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, proclaimed the gospel to Abraham ahead of time, saying, ‘All the nations will be blessed in you.'”  Galatians 3:8

Mundane Monday: Gifts are Hard Work

Artist and gift of hard work2 Timothy 1:6

“Because of this I remind you to rekindle God’s gift that you possess through the laying on of hands.  7 For God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power and love and self control.”

This verse is significant to me because I remember when hands were laid on me in 1988 and I was told that I would be singing and playing keyboard on stage for His glory.  I was a euphonium player at the time.  (Okay, let’s call it a mini-tuba for those of you who do not know what a euphonium is).  It paid my way through college and laid the foundation for music ministry with a degree in Music Performance.

I thought they got it wrong.  I was a brass musician who loved obscurity.  I could hide behind the music stand and not be seen.  Much has happened since that time and I marvel at the sovereignty and calling of God.  I did not know at that time that the LORD would use me to write songs for Himself or that I would serve on staff at churches.  I did not feel qualified then or now, but that is the beauty of walking with God.  He uses the weak things to bring Him glory, not experts or people righteous on their own – just broken people in need of His salvation.

Oh the depths of the wisdom of God!  His grace knows no limits and His association with fallen man is beyond words.  He does not need us, but He chooses to use us.  How can it be?

After seven years of serving as a volunteer at my church, God opened the door for me recently to be on staff as the worship leader.  I thought God was through with me serving in this role, but all the heartache, all the pain of the past seven years that caused me to set aside formal ministry have been used by our glorious God who wastes nothing.  Perseverance, dependence on Him, His faithfulness – just some of the jewels found along the way.

I just got a message this morning announcing that the five songs I recorded this summer are completed and will be available for digital download later today.  How can it be?  It has been sheer determination and one of the hardest things I have done to work full-time as an executive assistant and do the work of ministry in the evenings and weekends, balancing family time and homeschooling, but even this was ordained by God and the difficulty was necessary to work the character in that God desired.  Through this time the Seeing Deep ministry was birthed.  I am humbled and stand in awe of God and what He has done.  The difficult process we find ourselves in as we try to follow God’s will is necessary as we are so very needful of the lessons hardship infuses into our being.  When redeemed man who was once an enemy of God is used by a Holy God, it is no small thing.

Sometimes we can feel forgotten and useless, like all God has spoken to our hearts will never materialize.  We might even miss the fact that it already has been accomplished because we perceived the will of God differently.  We might think we are supposed to be in a certain position, but God brings about His will in time.

The gifts God has given us are to be developed, not just used.  It is hard work.  We can sit on the gifts and use excuses to explain why we are not using them, but it is the stewardship of those gifts in obedience to God that pleases Him, no matter How He decides to use them.  Each talent, each aspect of Who God made us to be was given to us not for us to claim as our own, but borrowed treasure to be invested for His Kingdom and glory.

It is a beautiful place to be at to be unconcerned with the results of our obedience and completely consumed, instead, with glorifying Him and sharing His message of hope and healing through song and word.  It is a miracle, indeed.  It is not a place I could ever claim to have arrived at, for it is a constant surrender and awareness of our need of Him to bring us to that place of being all about Him.  Fear of failure and of man threaten to undermine the seedling of faith that bursts in the work God has called each of us to do in our lives, but God.  Oh, that He might be glorified!

So today if you feel your calling will never come to fruition and like your life is passing you by, work at the gift and trust God with His timing and process.  It will not be easy and the enemy will come against you.  It will take your all, but it will be worth it and the rewards, eternal.

Lord, to You be all the glory!  Thank you for using us at all!  What an honor and a privilege it is to write and sing songs to my King!  Thank You for the grace and strength.  Enable us to be faithful to You, Almighty God!

What is Your Egypt: The Sovereignty of God

Egypt

Exodus 2:24-25
God heard their groaning, God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the Israelites and God understood.”

Exodus 3:9
“And now indeed, the cry of the Israelites has come to me, and I have also seen how severely the Egyptians oppress them.”

Why did the Israelites have to be held captive in Egypt? God knew the Israelites would starve had it not been for sending Joseph to Egypt, and that a difficult calling. Blessed in the land of Egypt, later they found themselves resident in a land that discriminated against them and persecuted them viciously. Was this what God intended?

What I love about the story of the Israelites is God’s amazing sovereignty throughout. He brought the Israelites to Egypt because He knew a famine was coming. He chose Moses from a Levitical tribe. He had Pharaoh’s daughter find Moses, which preserved his life, then provided his sister, Miriam, to find his mother as a nursemaid. Later, God would have Moses find Jethro, who would become his father-in-law, and then lead Moses to deliver His people from Egypt to the promised land.

Perhaps you are in Egypt now – not the literal Egypt, of course, but a time of suffering and testing, holding you captive. Have you believed the lie that you will never be set free? Assuredly we cannot escape Egypt unscathed or scarred by the painful memories of that experience, but we can see those oppressive moments redeemed and used for good in our life and in the lives of others. Reflecting on how God provided for the Israelites and always knew the end can give courage to our souls that this same God will not abandon us. He knows. He sees. He understands.

Sometimes surviving in and even recovering from Egypt can take awhile, but knowing that even in those moments of sorrow, God has intentions far beyond what we could imagine. Nothing is wasted in God’s kingdom. Seemingly forgotten in your Egypt, God knew all along how He was going to fashion the fabric of your life with material that was deemed ugly combined with what He deemed beautiful. By the way, God still hears the cries of His children…cry out to Him today, not just for yourself but for others, too, who need some encouragement during their stay in Egypt.

Lord, thank You that You are sovereign! Nothing is hidden from You and You are faithful to weave our difficulties with moments of triumph, all for your magnificent glory!