#43 – God is in Control (?)

This is #6 in the mini-series:
Uh, I don’t think so.
Highlighting misunderstandings that have robbed me of contentment.


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Of all the misconceptions we’ve looked at: ‘Blind faith”, Prayer, the Holy Spirit, Sabbath, this idea of God being in control has the most potential for impact on contentment.

God’s sovereignty can get into really hard territory:

So God willingly allows evil?
If God knows what’s going to happen, why pray?
If God controls what’s going to happen, why bother with anything?

For one thing, ‘control’ is a narrow, and not complete concept when we talk about sovereignty. God’s sovereignty. If we lived under monarchs, I think this would be easier to understand. Kings and Queens are even called ‘/Sovereigns/’ and perhaps it’s easier to see their ‘control’ is also ‘authority’ and ‘right-to-rule’ and ‘knowledge’ and more. However, it’s the well meaning ‘/don’t worry, God is in control/’ kinds of phrases that can often sit so poorly.

What do we believe about God being in control?

Over my life, and I know I’m not alone here, my understanding of God’s sovereignty has gone something like this:

God is in control, and I’m not sure what that means.
God is in control….but evil would be a sign he doesn’t care!
God is in control – but lets some things slip by,(?)
God is in control, but allows evil for our own good – somehow
Not sure God is actually in control
“God is in control” somehow – but not really “controlling”
God is in control – and I’m not sure I fully understand what that means – but I’m quite sure I believe it.

Look – I’m no brilliant theologian – I’m not even a weak theologian. I’m not capable of clearly articulating the interplay of human agency / free will and God’s sovereignty. I’m not able some days to even understand it myself.

But here’s where I’ve landed:

God is in control.
God is good

Often those two feel like they can’t be true at the same time…but I believe with all my heart that they are.

So while the idea of ‘blind’ faith – where we just turn off our minds is not what God is calling us to ….

There is also a time when we have to accept things we don’t understand.

If we understood God, and could figure Him out – then He’d be no bigger than us, no grander, no more powerful, no more complex, no more intelligent…

So either we accept that there are aspects of this world, and its creator that we will not understand in this life – or we settle for a god made in our own image.


DO THIS

Do yourself a favor and listen to this song…..May your struggles keep you near the cross.
May your troubles show that you need God.
And May your battles end the way they should.
And May your bad days prove that GOD is good.
May your whole life prove that GOD is good​

Like I said, I’m no theologian, so here are just two links to some thoughts that may be helpful to understand:

10 Key Bible Verses on God’s Sovereignty

Plunge your mind into the ocean of God’s ​


PRAY THIS

God I believe you are in control,
help my unbelief.
God I believe you are good
help my unbelief.
Amen

#42 -God wants us to do _____

This is #5 in the mini-series:
Uh, I don’t think so.
Highlighting misunderstandings I’ve had that robbed me of contentment.

READ THIS

We love the hero, the leader, the rise-to-the-top story. Movies that capture our collective imagination are seldom about individuals doing small things faithfully -but someone rising to the top. Leading a movement, a revolution, a rebellion. A leader, a president, a general. We have lists of the richest people in the world, fastest-growing companies, and the most expensive things.

This lust for big, bold, public acclimation has leaked into the church. There are actually lists of fastest-growing churches, pastors who live like celebrities, and ministry organizations doing huge things.

This seeped into my sense of what God was/is calling me to do. Surely it must be big! It must involve lots of impact. More is better.

I’ve come to believe that He asks us to be faithful, more than impactful.

To be doing something out of obedience rather than to be doing something big.

I don’t recall ever hearing of a movie about Mother Teresa – and I think that’s because the story doesn’t jive well with what we like to celebrate.

Lives of quiet, obedience tend to go unnoticed….at least by the masses.

I’m no longer sure God wants us (or at least me) to do BIG things, but rather whatever he is has for us to do.

Faithfulness to whatever we are called – no matter what that is.

DO THIS

When you think about what God has called you to….what comes to mind?
Is it some grander, larger, version of what you’re doing? Is it a drastic shift to something that seems more important? Is it something more public, or more strategic, or more …something?
I challenge you to wrestle with the possibility that he’s calling us all to lives of obedience. Perhaps small acts of kindness. Lives of quiet faithfulness.
Maybe.

PRAY THIS

God of Moses who lead a nation through the Red Sea,
who gave Samson super-human strength,
and Solomon wisdom, wealth, and influence.
You are also the God of the widow, the orphan,
the stay-at-home mom who leads by example,
the grandparent teaching about saints of old
the God of the student quietly standing for you.
Give us faith to do what you have called us to,
no matter how big or small it may seem in this life.
Amen

#40 – Father, Son & Holy ….

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This is the THIRD instalment in what I’m calling: “Uh – I don’t think so.” examining mis-held assumptions that cause discontentment.

One of the bad assumptions I picked up somewhere along the way that perhaps has been the most hurtful, most harmful, was my understanding of the Holy Spirit.

I grew up in a tradition that was not only very conservative in theology, but traditional in practice. This meant order, repetition, nothing unexpected. The frozen-chosen you could say.

God is a God of order after all.

However somehow along the line that shifted in my view that the Trinity was more likely to be: Father, Son, and the Holy Scriptures.

Those happy-clappy charismatic-types were highly suspect. HIGHLY suspect. Also, I often heard the phrase “Holy Ghost” which really did not help to any kind of understanding (and in our current form of the English language is a questionable translation of “Spiritus Sanctus”)

The Holy Spirit’s work was more abstract. It was probably very unusual, happened usually at some other time, or at least some other place. Miracles did/could happen – but I don’t think I saw The Spirit work them – they were something God the Father sent from heaven above like lightning.

Saying “The Spirit led me to ….” was not something that one just said…

I think the problem was that I compared one fairly extreme tradition towards the Holy Spirit, with the opposite. Never really just digging back through the bible to see what it actually said about the Spirit.

So please hear me out on this one. I would argue a Christian is someone who has received Jesus as Savior and Lord, is Adopted as a beloved child by the Father, and has received the gift of the Holy Spirit. If the Spirit gives us power and authority and all the things we need to live out our calling as followers of Christ, and children of God – how can we be content if we misunderstand him? IF we ignore Him? If we forget Him?

Contentment in this life will not come if we are trying to follow Jesus, yet refuse the power that He promised to give us to do so. We will never find deep, true contentment if we are children of the Father, but ignore the Spirit who came to encourage us.

This one is pretty big….and to be honest….I’m still working through it.


DO THIS:

Read Acts. It’s not that long. Or just read some parts. There was an absolutely fundamental shift in the way the disciples acted from Acts 1 to the rest of the book. The only change was their receiving of the Spirit. That HAS to mean something to us.

follow-up: read . Forgotten God by Francis Chan I’m reading it right now for probably the third time through. Still a TON there for me to learn


PRAY THIS

Holy Spirit
Triune God
I admit I don’t understand you
I either igrnore you, or obsess on you.
Help me to understand you.
Help me to see you for who you are.
the great counseller, encourager, healer, giver.
Ever present, and all powerful.
I pray in your holy and powerful name,
Amen

#39 – Workin’ for the Weekend

READ THIS

This is the SECOND installment in what I’m calling: “Uh – I don’t think so.” examining mis-held assumptions that cause discontentment.

Sabbath

The first time we moved to France, one of the things that struck me was their calendar. The French view Sunday as the 7th day of the week, calendars are laid out as Monday through Sunday (OK – lundi through dimanche).

This made sense to my logical brain. Of course! We call Saturday & Sunday the ‘week-end’ so it should be the /end of the week/. We treat Sat-Sun like a set so why break them up visually on the calendar. We work five days to earn two days off. “Everybody’s working for the weekend” after all. {if I just put the 1981 hit song in your head where it is going to live rent-free for the rest of the day…you’re welcome }This timing issue was one of the most recent pieces to fall in my mis-understanding of sabbath. One of our team-mates in Burundi once pointed out how he loves the week starting on Sunday – starting with sabbath. We don’t earn it – we start with this gift.


Sabbath is not a reward for our hard work. Sabbath is a reminder that we don’t earn what we have. It’s a reminder to rest in God, in his care. It’s a chance to say: 
I don’t deserve what I have, 
so I don’t earn what I get, It’s all a gift 
I’m not in control,
so if I take ‘the day off’ it won’t all go sideways. 
If I stop from my labor, it won’t all fall apart. 


My work is not the indispensable piece holding my world together.So I switched my calendars back, Sunday is now the first day of the week. I try to see it as a gift, not a reward. 
It’s a reminder that if I stop working God doesn’t – which reminds me whose work is really more important.

DO THIS

This coming Sunday – try to conceive of the day as a gift to start the week – not a reward for the previous week. Imagine Sunday as a day of rest – that you can take because the world’s functioning does not depend on you, it depends on God.

Make it a true Sabbath rest (however you choose to do that) – but ensure you imagine it as given, not earned. 

PRAY THIS

Creator God who worked,
and then rested.
You have called us to work,
and you have called us to rest.
Give us true Sabbath rest. 
True, deep, contented rest.
Amen

#38 – Workin’ for the Weekend.

READ THIS

This is the SECOND installment in what I’m calling: “Uh – I don’t think so.” examining mis-held assumptions that cause discontentment.

Sabbath

The first time we moved to France, one of the things that struck me was their calendar. The French view Sunday as the 7th day of the week, calendars are laid out as Monday through Sunday (OK – lundi through dimanche).

This made sense to my logical brain. Of course! We call Saturday & Sunday the ‘week-end’ so it should be the /end of the week/. We treat Sat-Sun like a set so why break them up visually on the calendar. We work five days to earn two days off. “Everybody’s working for the weekend” after all. {if I just put the 1981 hit song in your head where it is going to live rent-free for the rest of the day…you’re welcome }

This timing issue was one of the most recent pieces to fall in my mis-understanding of sabbath. One of our team-mates in Burundi once pointed out how he loves the week starting on Sunday – starting with sabbath. We don’t earn it – we start with this gift.
Sabbath is not a reward for our hard work. Sabbath is a reminder that we don’t earn what we have. It’s a reminder to rest in God, in his care.

It’s a chance to say:
I don’t deserve what I have,
so I don’t earn what I get, It’s all a gift
I’m not in control,
so if I take ‘the day off’ it won’t all go sideways.
If I stop from my labor, it won’t all fall apart.
My work is not the indispensable piece holding my world together.

So I switched my calendars back, Sunday is now the first day of the week. I try to see it as a gift, not a reward.
It’s a reminder that if I stop working God doesn’t – which reminds me whose work is really more important.


DO THIS

This coming Sunday – try to conceive of the day as a gift to start the week – not a reward for the previous week.

Imagine Sunday as a day of rest – that you can take because the world’s functioning does not depend on you, it depends on God.

Make it a true Sabbath rest (however you choose to do that) – but ensure you imagine it as given, not earned.


PRAY THIS

Creator God who worked,
and then rested.
You have called us to work,
and you have called us to rest.
Give us true Sabbath rest.
True, deep, contented rest.
Amen

#37 – Don’t Think…just believe.

READ THIS

{This is the first instalment in what I’m calling: “Uh – I don’t think so” examining mis-held assumptions that cause discontentment}


When i was younger I somehow came to the conclusion that ‘blind faith’ was the most pure kind. Belief that stands in the face of what is right in front of you. I think it went something like this: Jesus rising from the dead seems impossible; therefore it IS impossible; therefore believing it is a ‘really strong faith.’This lead to discontentment as I have always been a very logical person (yet always coupled with childish child-like humour!) and so this often didn’t sit well deep within me. 


Later in life I was exposed to Christian Apologetics – where believers use real historical evidence, and logical thought to lend support to the claims of the Bible and the church. This sat much better with my mind that was always trying to find explanations. However these claims felt like they were in a separate category. They were some kind of ‘small proofs’ to support specific claims of the Bible (resurrection, creation, crossing the Red Sea etc) – but just made you felt a bit better about the whole ‘blind faith’ bit that got you into this in the first place. 


In my mind the ‘purest faith’ was one that stood in the face of the evidence – it wasn’t supported by it. /Blind faith/somehow seemed ‘stronger’ or better because it was standing all on its own. 
I’m 40-whatever now (no that’s not being cheeky – I honestly have to either calculate or ask my kids) but I realize there is still so much baggage I’ve carried with me about my faith that is just incorrect assumptions that I absorbed decades ago. 


This idea that we shut off our minds when we come to faith robbed me of a lot of contentment, for years of my life. 


DO THIS

If you’re struggling with this I suggest reflect on the following:

One day an expert in the law stood up to test Him. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
What is written in the Law?” Jesus replied. “How do you read it?”‘
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus said. “Do this and you will live.
Luke 10:25

Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. – 2 Tim 2:7

When you read this, you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ Eph 3:4

Jesus’ parable of the good soil: “the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields,…” Matt 13:23

At least Ten times in Acts that Paul is said to “reason” as a method of telling others – including Acts 17:2,4,17; 18:4,19; 19:8,9; 20:7; 24:25


PRAY THIS

God who created our minds,
Who gave us logic, intellect,and curiosity
Who gave us the ability to think as well as to love and believe
Guide us to a place where we truly love you with all our heart
all our soul
and all our mind.
Amen

READ THIS

{This is the first instalment in what I’m calling: “Uh – I don’t think so” examining mis-held assumptions that cause discontentment}


When i was younger I somehow came to the conclusion that ‘blind faith’ was the most pure kind. Belief that stands in the face of what is right in front of you. I think it went something like this: Jesus rising from the dead seems impossible; therefore it IS impossible; therefore believing it is a ‘really strong faith.’This lead to discontentment as I have always been a very logical person (yet always coupled with childish child-like humour!) and so this often didn’t sit well deep within me. 


Later in life I was exposed to Christian Apologetics – where believers use real historical evidence, and logical thought to lend support to the claims of the Bible and the church. This sat much better with my mind that was always trying to find explanations. However these claims felt like they were in a separate category. They were some kind of ‘small proofs’ to support specific claims of the Bible (resurrection, creation, crossing the Red Sea etc) – but just made you felt a bit better about the whole ‘blind faith’ bit that got you into this in the first place. 


In my mind the ‘purest faith’ was one that stood in the face of the evidence – it wasn’t supported by it. /Blind faith/somehow seemed ‘stronger’ or better because it was standing all on its own. 
I’m 40-whatever now (no that’s not being cheeky – I honestly have to either calculate or ask my kids) but I realize there is still so much baggage I’ve carried with me about my faith that is just incorrect assumptions that I absorbed decades ago. 


This idea that we shut off our minds when we come to faith robbed me of a lot of contentment, for years of my life. 


DO THIS

If you’re struggling with this I suggest reflect on the following:

One day an expert in the law stood up to test Him. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
What is written in the Law?” Jesus replied. “How do you read it?”‘
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus said. “Do this and you will live.
Luke 10:25

Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. – 2 Tim 2:7

When you read this, you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ Eph 3:4

Jesus’ parable of the good soil: “the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields,…” Matt 13:23

At least Ten times in Acts that Paul is said to “reason” as a method of telling others – including Acts 17:2,4,17; 18:4,19; 19:8,9; 20:7; 24:25


PRAY THIS

God who created our minds,
Who gave us logic, intellect,and curiosity
Who gave us the ability to think as well as to love and believe
Guide us to a place where we truly love you with all our heart
all our soul
and all our mind.
Amen


#36 -OK then, what IS my identity ?????

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Last week we looked at how we try to find contentment in NOT being part of some group – and the week before how we try it through identity WITH a group.

Today we examine how we need to stop looking around for some identiy that we hope will bring contentment, fulfillment, peace.

Followers of Jesus know – at least in their heads – that their identity is with Jesus. They KNOW that verses like Galatians 2:20 say “..it is no longer I who live, but Christ living thorugh me.” 

But that’s hard.

It’s hard to give up trying to find our identity in something – out there. 

Some group, some team, some tangible community. Something that we can see and feel.

You see – the Bible doessn’t say find our identity in being “a christian” or in blonging to a church. But in Christ.

It’s easier to say “I’m a German Lutheran” or “I’m a Southern Baptist” or whatever – becauase that gives us a sense of belonging to a group of other people. Like being fans of a sports team. 

However – we are to find our identity in Christ. 

In christ alone.

We will only be content when we can center ourselves, and find out identity there.

Not in groups of other Christ-followers – but Christ. 


DO THIS

If a stranger were to ask you “what are your religiosu beliefs” or “what’s your faith?” – how do you respond? 

What is the center of your identity? 

Is it Christ? Or is it some other – maybe good thing/group – but not truly Christ?


PRAY THIS

Jesus, 
Be The Centre
Be My Source, Be My Light, Jesus
Jesus, Be The Centre
Be My Hope, Be My Song,
Amen

[Lyrics: Michael Frye]

#35 -At Least I’m not them – because they’re Wrong

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Last week we looked at how we can tie our contentment to our identity as part of a group – political, religious, sporting…whatever. We find identity in a community, and our contentment gets hitched to them for better or worse.

Today we look at the flip-side – basing our contentment on NOT being part of a group.

One of the easiest things to happen when we strongly identify with a group is we see who ‘the other’ is. It quickly reverts into an US vs. THEM mentality.

At least I’m not a member of THAT political party.
At least I’m not a fan of the Calgary Flames.
At least I don’t belong to THAT church.

We find our sense of contentment, of belonging, and security being tied to not merely being IN a certain group – but in demeaning the OTHER.

We can only be successful if THEY fail.
We can only win if THEY lose.
We can only be right if THEY are wrong.

We are content when we can compare ourselves to someone else – and ensure we are better / more right / more successful.

Now we’re not only basing our contentment on some fallible group of sinful humans – but on comparing ourselves to another group we deem more unworthy.

This attempt to find contentment will not only fail – but lead us to pride, arrogance, and contempt for our brothers and sisters.

DO THIS

What group are you glad/proud you’re definitely NOT part of?
What group REALLY gets under your skin?
You KNOW they’re wrong. You know they’re on the wrong side.
You KNOW they support the wrong cause?
Name them.

Now pray for them.

Pray sincerely that God would show that group his favor.
THat they would see him more.
That they would know him better.
Pray that God would reveal what you can learn from them.

Even if they are the fans of Chelsea Football Club, or people from Toronto, or Democrats, or fans of country music. Whatever.

PRAY THIS

God
Help me see your image in those around me
Those I disagree with
Those image-bearers I don’t agree with.
Give me your eyes to see your divinity in everyone I honestly don’t really like
Help me reveal your love to those I disagree with.
You have done so much more for me – and for that I am grateful.
Amen

#34 – Identity-based Contentment

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We all tie our identity to something -or rather some things.

Sometimes we show allegiance intentionally and overtly, like wearing a hat from our favorite sports team. Sometimes we do it less intentionally, like sporting a t-shirt emblazoned with the logo of a clothing company. Other times it comes us in conversation, like our allegiance to a political party.

However, human beings seem hard-wired to attach themselves to something we see as bigger than us. Something that makes us part of a community of some sort.

However, when too much of our identity is tied to anything other than God – we are giving over our contentment to something fickle, unreliable, and unpredictable. We tie our fortunes to something that we have zero control over.

We all know what someone who is a die-hard fan of a team looks like the morning after they lost the big game.

While this contentment tied to something else is not a bad thing, we need to keep it in check.

If we claim our relation to God is stronger than our affinity for our sports club, does it show?

If we claim our love for the church is stronger than our ties to our political , can others tell?

DO THIS

What symbols, items, things, ideas, memberships, team hold incredible value to you?
Are you giving over your contentment to the control of these things?
What sports team’s loss, or political party fortunes, or whatever – can crush you?
How much of your contentment – are you giving away to something that is guaranteed to fail you at some point?

PRAY THIS

God
our refuge and rock.
Solid and never changing.
We know you won’t let us down,
yet we act like you might, so we hedge our bets.
We want to be all in with you and your people,
yet we feel stronger allegiance to so much else.
Give us purer love for you,
and more consistent love for others.
Amen

Talk to you next Thursday!

~George

#33 – Cracks & Light

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You may be thinking “wait…I thought you told me to stop looking outside myself for contentment?”
Well, yes. But — sometimes we need to.

This week the message is simple.
It may even seem repeated.
It may seem too easy.

But if you’re like me, you need to hear this over and over and over.

You always have something to be thankful for.
You always have rays of sun through the clouds.
You always have hope.
Always.

This week some friends are dealing with a potentially life-altering outcome from a simple bicycle accident. But what message do we hear from the husband at the bedside in the ICU?

Positive outlook. Gracious responses. Heartfelt thanks.
Hope.

(is there really a more beautiful thing in this world than hope in the face of adversity?)

There is always something that you can find to be thankful for.

There is always someplace God is shining light in.

Look around and you will always see some redemption, some healing, some life, some love, some grace.

Often we’re just too inwardly focused to see it.

DO THIS

“There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
Leonard Cohen

What does that mean to you – right where you are, right now?
What evidences of brokenness – are actually ways that redemption is getting to you?

PRAY THIS

God I don’t fully understand why you allow so many horrible things,
pain and suffering, and brokenness and heartache, and sickness and death.
BUT…
When I look I can see your love and healing and care and resurrection.
I see your lights through the cracks.
Help me focus on the light getting to me,
Instead of the cracks.
Amen