Friday, March 9, 2012

Who is in Charge?

As we look at the world, many times it is easy for us to think that there is no rhyme or reason to what is happening. Images of wars, earthquakes, famines, dictators, and terrorists blanket the front pages of newspapers. Still closer to home, the loss of a job, a wayward teen, or the departure of a spouse leaves us reeling and the thought booms into our heads, "If God is in charge, why is all this happening?"

Ok, so this isn't an easy talk for a short blog but let's tackle a few simple thoughts.

1. If God micromanaged all human behaviour, then we would be robots instead of free moral agents. To say that God is to blame because a dictator oppresses his people, or a terrorist sets off a bomb is not logical. Either you want to be free to make your own decisions or you don't. If you want to be free to make your own mistakes, then you have to give the same liberty to the dictator and terrorist. I understand that the atrocities they commit are much worse, but they come from the same place...the human heart.

2. God did create a perfect world without evil. It is not His fault we are so messed up. The garden of Eden was perfect. It was Adam that sinned and ruined everything for everyone following him.

3. Trouble is a part of life. We would learn nothing about ourselves, each other, or our world if life was all gumdrops and rainbows. Scriptures tell us that the rain falls on the just and the unjust. In other words, everyone experiences pain and sorrow in some form or another. That's life; that's also how we grow. This is the category into which natural disasters fall. These disasters are a part of a planet that has been in decline since Adam sinned and the earth itself was cursed by God.

4. If we know nothing of disaster and evil, how can we appreciate the good and wonderful? How would we learn to be grateful, if all we know was beauty and love? How would we fulfill our role as light in the world if the whole world was light?

Now some misguided "super-spiritual' souls blame everything on God. If they fall off a ladder, they don't blame their own clumsiness, but rather attribute the fall to God's sovereignty. On the other end of the spectrum are those who do not see God's hand in anything at all. Both views are out of balance. God is sovereign, but some things are the result of our own sin or stupidity. God is in control of all, but He's generally not going to stop you from risky behaviour. You want to bungee jump and sky dive? Go for it! But don't blame God for results that good common sense could have avoided, ok?

So, God is in charge. However, the plan He has put in place necessitates the free will of man...and man has bungled things terribly. God gave us free will so that we would love and glorify Him out of a free and happy heart. Anything less than the total freedom of mankind is slavery and robotic subservience, and that was not what God wanted of His creation.

This is probably a topic we will take up again at another time. In summary, God knows all of the bad that I will face this week. Some of it will come as a result of my choices, some as a natural part of life. I don't understand all of the "why?" I just have to lean on the "Who" and trust that He loves me and is working in my life for my good and His glory.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Comparisons

It seems to me that comparison to others has become the new yardstick for "self worth". I put that in quotations because, I'm not convinced that our worth comes from within ourselves. But that is another talk for another day. Today we want to address the topic of comparing ourselves to others. Now there are two obvious problems with doing this.

1. You can always find someone better than you if you want to make yourself feel small. There are those who like to live in a continuous pity party, because of real or perceived inadequacies in their lives.
2. You can always find someone dumber, uglier, more out of shape, or less refined than you to make yourself feel big. Those who live in their own little ego trip find this mind game very useful to further their self delusions.

Whether you choose to compare yourself with someone 'bigger' or 'smaller' than you, who you choose to compare with tells you a lot about you.

We all have heard the term "compare apples with apples".  And that works pretty much only with objects. You can compare the price on two Ford F150 trucks on two different car dealer's lots. That's comparing apples to apples. People don't work like apples and automobiles. Every person is a unique blend of genetics, heritage, IQ, parenting, siblings, emotions, struggles, and victories. Even though someone is your age, in your social strata and has a lifestyle like yours does not make them your equivalent (your apple) for comparison. 

So, simply put, you can't compare yourself with another without revealing your motive in comparison. Who you choose to measure yourself against tells the story of why you are in the comparison game in the first place.

Well then; if it does me no good to compare myself to others, how then do I know if I have succeeded or failed? Let's think for a moment...
What is success? Again, another topic for another conversation. But simply put, success comes out of the intangibles of life like faithfulness, peace, contentment, and love. These things cannot be put upon the scale of comparison.

What do I measure myself against? Well, if I was going to measure a table, I would get a measuring tape. It has a standard of measurement that does not change. I can measure anything in the world with that tape and have a true picture of its dimensions. But if the standard of measurement is always changing (like other people) how do I know how I am truly doing? So, you realize now the need for a standard, a unit of measurement that does not change. 

May I submit to you that the only things that do not change in life are Jesus and the Bible? If Christ is our standard of measurement, we all fall short. But at least we know where we are. With Jesus as our measure we are no longer struggling with meeting the false expectations of a moving target. Also, by using Jesus as our measuring stick we avoid the inconsequentials of life like money, position, power, and prestiege. From Him we learn that those things do not make a success or a failure. From Jesus we learn to measure those things that last like love, kindness, obedience to our Heavenly Father, and charity toward others. If these are the things we measure and value, then comparison with others will become a childish game we once played in life's elementary school. 

Have a good day.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Spiritual Hypochondria

We all know people who have stunted their spiritual growth by putting too much stock in their own feelings. An inward look every now and then to check our motives is a good and profitable exercise. However, when feelings become our compass we find that we are blown about and drifting without an anchor. How we feel about things can be affected by our health, the weather, and others in our lives. Feelings are many times at odds with reality. Now we all need to feel, but feelings should have some basis in truth. For example, feeling married and being married are two different things. One is simply emotion, the other is fact.

When people get the cart before the horse (feeling before fact) they live their life on the roller coaster of emotion. Now, emotion is good. God made us emotional creatures. I'm actually a little worried about the mental health of those who never show any emotion. But God did ask us to trust in facts.

Feelings do not constitute Christianity. God gave us the higher, better and more intelligent concept of "knowing". Read the book of First John. Twenty-two times we find the word "know". First John was written to give us "know so" assurance of salvation. If you have the adoption papers you don't have to rely upon your feelings. We have been adopted by the Father. Now, it's always nice when you feel those emotions of relation, love, acceptance, and belonging. But whether or not the feelings are there, our reliance must be upon fact. Paul used the word 'reckon'. This is an accounting term that means to write it down in the ledger as a fact. Look at Romans 6:11 "Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord." Paul doesn't tell us to wrangle our emotions until we feel close to God. He tells us the facts. The old man is dead, we are alive as a new creature in Jesus. Now once we accept the facts, our feelings and ultimately actions follow suit.

Animals run on feelings and raw instinct, but human beings are supposed to act on faith, fact, intelligence, and principle. Look at Psalms 42:5 "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance." Simply put, we can either spend our time diagnosing our feelings, or we can cut through the stress of trying to "feel right" and trust in the facts as God has presented them. Isaiah said, Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee." Isaiah 26:3

Likely my favourite little poem says:

“Feelings come and feelings go, 
And feelings are deceiving; 
My warrant is the Word of God-- 
Naught else is worth believing. 

Though all my heart should feel condemned 
For want of some sweet token, 
There is One greater than my heart 
Whose Word cannot be broken. 

I'll trust in God's unchanging Word 
Till soul and body sever, 
For, though all things shall pass away, 
His Word shall stand forever.” 

― Martin Luther