LUCK, CHANCE AND ACCIDENT and THE CHRISTIAN

I used to be a strict Calvinist believing that God determines and wills everything that happens in this life. But I have come to understand that in life there is such a thing as accident and chance referred to by some as luck. Bad luck.

Wars, famines, disease, tsunamis, earthquakes, accidents and bad people cause things to happen that a loving Father would not ‘cause’. There’s a verse that I will paraphrase. Jesus is speaking to his disciples about bad things going on in the world and the danger they might be in for. It’s in Matthew 10. Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid of the planes that go off course or the bullet coming your way, or that illness that’s driving you mad. These things can torture you. They can kill the body but not the soul. The soul belongs to me. There is nothing that happens in your life by chance or designs where I am not involved with you. If you hurt I hurt. My image is in you and that image will not be destroyed.”

See, God can work in and through any circumstance in our lives to orchestrate some good, good according to God’s will. God’s will we might not understand while in our earthly bodies, but it is a will that is ultimately good. I think it is well to say that while we don’t understand God’s will, we understand the heart and purpose of God revealed in Jesus on the cross where he brings all God’s good purposes for humanity to fruition.

I have a good friend who died some years ago. His wife said that God had numbered all his days and my friend’s time had come. He suffered through cancer and died too young as many do. While the grief she felt was not a subject for theological debate nor was I going to argue with the Scripture she knew so well. Psalm 139. Though now I would suggest that the part of Psalm 139 about all our days being numbered might have been the Psalmist’s understanding of God’s sovereignty at that time.

When the disciples related to Jesus some tragic events where people were killed and they were wondering what those folks might have done wrong, Jesus replied to them that it was not their sin that caused the towers to fall but that the disciples should pay attention to their own lives and relationship to God. See Luke 13.

It was no one’s fault that a certain man was born blind but the disciples always wanted things explained and Jesus said it was nobody’s fault but in this instance Jesus healed the man and brought attention to the love of God. That love is not absent in other tragedies, no matter the belief, because Christ is there, crucified and taking that seeming separation, like his own on the cross, and bringing glory to bear on every situation. Wow I am sorry for that long sentence.

When I get onto an airplane I am taking very little chance with my life. But what chance there may be I will surrender to my God. I pray that when the time comes that I die or am dying I will surrender that to God. Perhaps with complaint but still in the presence of God. I will trust in the faithfulness of my Lord than in myself.

We all groan while on this earth. Some groaning is more evident than others. And when we see children suffering and dying we run to the Master to ask why this has to happen. There is a grief that only Christ can truly understand and redeem. He told his disciples that in this world they would have tribulation, problems untold, but that he had already overcome this travail through his own suffering and his presence.

There may even come a time when I want to forget God but now in my lucidity I want to pray that God never forgets me. And Christ is that assurance.

Yes, God does answer prayers and brings certain things to happen and prevents certain other circumstances. These answers are a constant reminder to us of God’s presence. And that is with our physical bodies. There are untold matters of healing of the soul and forgiveness of sin and reconciliation of the whole world to God that are worth celebrating too.

When God told Abraham to count the stars, if he could (Genesis 15), God was telling Abraham that the souls of all humanity would be blessed through what God was doing with Abe. That’s Good News.

So I want to make apology if my words in anyway seem to minimize God’s love or role in God’s creation. I rather want us to understand that this world turns WITH God, no matter how it seems. When I read of the unfathomable evil in this world I do not understand why it is allowed. But I trust the God who is able to overcome, and will do so for this world.

So let us go out and live, surely praying that God be with us, asking for help and thanking God that God so loved the world he gave his only Son. And if God gave us Jesus will God not give us everything we need to enter God’s Kingdom forever.

So if you are reading this and have experienced tragedy or know of suffering please be assured THAT NOT A SPARROW FALLS TO THE EARTH APART FROM THE PRESENCE OF GOD. And in the words of the old gospel hymn,” if his eye is on the sparrow then I know he’s watching me.”

One final anticipation of some protest. There are many passages in the Bible that indicate God as the cause of EVERYTHING. There is some of that perspective but we have to put them all together and use the minds and hearts God gave us to search God’s heart. Our spirits and God’s spirits can do this together.

Will anything ever separate us from the love of God? NOT A CHANCE.

MY PRAYER

Lord Jesus I come to you because I need some good serious learning from my God.

I am thinking about violence today, Lord. It’s overwhelming. It’s ubiquitous- in families, on the streets, in churches, at concerts and against all kinds of people. It’s on an international scale. We are fearful, anxious and angry.

I am thinking of you Lord who had every reason to be violent against your enemies, against those who were so set against you. Paul wrote somewhere that vengeance belongs to you but you never exercised it. Oh maybe against a few tables in the Temple but not against your adversaries. You wept over those who resisted you. You forgave a thief in his dying moments. You pardoned all your accusers and executioners. Somehow you are even going to restore your whole creation, the good, bad and ugly. Please give us some of your spirit to know how you are doing this.

When we consider your life it doesn’t seem that you were afraid. If anything, you looked evil in the eye and took it to the cross with you. You even let it take you to the cross. That was your own loving scheme to destroy the power of evil to hurt us. With just a word you drove the demonic powers to their ruin.

How is it that we have moved so far away from you? We’ve taken to protect our own little kingdoms instead of trusting yours first. Fear has caused us to amass more weapons of violence than ever. How did things get so bad?

Certainly there are ‘bad’ people out there but it seems that your goal was not to destroy them but to create a community that would be able to influence them, be agents of change for good in this world.

How often, Lord, did you tell us ‘fear not’ even for the people out to kill our bodies but couldn’t harm our souls. I’m not sure that assurance is planted in my own soul never mind taking it to the world. Have we gotten to the pointe of protecting ourselves so well that we think or act like we don’t need you?

And Lord, what about all this family abuse, sexual and otherwise. It’s rampant and now every day someone is being accused of assaulting others. Can we not find loving ways to combat this and other forms of evil? Is your church become impotent, prayer less, and loveless?

You know, Lord, that much of it starts with anger- plain ole simple egotistical anger. It’s in my own heart so I’m not judging others. Even conversations about violence bring anger to a boil in conversations that become heated arguments.

I feel like there are two kinds of people going into the Temple again to pray. One is standing and praying. Thank you Lord that I have this all figured out. Thank you for my righteous ways of violence against those who are my and your enemies. And the other person is simply praying, ‘Lord Jesus have mercy upon me, a sinner.’

Jesus, wasn’t there a time when you could have called 10,000 angels to come and rescue you and destroy your enemies but somehow you would rather trust you life to your Father. How did you do that? Can I do that?

Lord you could have come and taken the world by storm and simply destroyed your enemies but instead we are told you gave up all you power, your equal standing with God and humbled yourself to the point of becoming a servant and even further- to the place where you gave up your life. And in that same place we are told to have YOUR attitude, YOUR mind. Why does that make so many of us afraid? Why are we ruled by fear? Have we needed to replace the crucifix with some sort of gun or a tank or a nuclear bomb? That would look ridiculous and maybe that’s how it does look to you.

I fear Lord that you will leave us to ourselves with our greed, our boasts and guns and you will go to the poor, the vulnerable, the people who most trust you. Maybe you have already? Please don’t abandon us. There are many trusting people right here in our own nation, in our communities of faith who really want to know you and know your ways and know how you love so well. You are our fortress, our rock.

And Jesus, you tell us not to try to overcome evil with evil but rather with good. How can such good infiltrate the masses of terrorists seeking to destroy us? Maybe, just maybe we’ve not tried the good enough. The loving way seems weak and we have to entrust its results to you. Please help us towards that way, to beat our swords and egos into plowshares and instruments of peace and righteousness. It’s not about being strong is it? It’s about the power of love, isn’t it?

Jesus, I fear we have created a culture of violence that is hard to reverse and our little attempts seem so futile and risky. Violence seems to be our choice to resolve conflicts everywhere. Please help us all, perpetrators and victims to see this is not the way you set before us. We are to choose life, not death.

Lord, we need you grace to be sufficient in our weakness. I want to trust you more, be more expressive of your world conquering love, seek you more, plead with you more to be present to those involved in violence.

And all the while I want to pray for those who mourn, those who are too weak to even speak for themselves, like the little 18-month-old child and the unborn, those whose countries are on the brink of annihilation because the big nations are preparing for war.

And Lord please have mercy upon all your people in all your creation that they may have a resurrection to eternal peaceful life with you that they couldn’t have on this earth.

And Jesus, my own confession is that I am not all that peaceful. I think to live in your love but my first impulse at any kind of hurt is to be angry inside and on the outside. Please help me to establish your life in my life that I may speak and act as one who walks with the Prince of Peace.

MOMENT BY MOMENT

The leading of God for our lives is moment by moment. Not far into the future. When Jesus called the disciples he did not give them a blueprint for tomorrow. He said, ‘Follow me’ with the understanding he meant ‘now’.

Don’t worry about tomorrow. Give us today our daily bread. Don’t think too far ahead. It brings fear and less trust in the Father for what we need today. The Israelites learned that, in the wilderness, as they sought for more manna than God wanted to provide. Not a good scene.

If we think too far ahead it may be that we substitute our own plans for God’s divine guidance. Sometimes we can even plan God out of the picture. What we need is GRACE FOR THE MOMENT, the discipline of saying to God, ‘What now my Lord?’ Shall I turn left or right or keep going? And then let’s not be afraid of make that spiritually motivated impulsive choice. If there be any miscalculation, God will show us- Moment by moment.

blessings for this day.

george

Anxiety about Anxiety

Jesus said that we should not be anxious. He added that it had to do with food, clothing and long life. But he didn’t leave us with simply that command. He went on to talk about how God cares for the creation and certainly cares about us even more.

I am of the mind that his caution against anxiety was because things like fear and anxiety can keep us from following him into the experiences of life where we are needed and find the most meaning. And to the extent that fear and anxiety keep pulling us back, turning away from his call, well, it seems fitting he would keep teaching us as he did his disciples in those first years that we can place our confidence in him and keep going.

That doesn’t mean we won’t feel anxious or even dread at certain things in our lives because anxiety is a sign that we are alive and not just resigned to some kind of fate, even the fate of being guided by God.

So in this real world of our the best way to address anxiety is to admit it and keep listening to Jesus and others’ assurance of God’s care for our lives so that we can move ahead.

I have a son who this very day is having surgery. Is he anxious? You bet. Is he going through with the surgery? You bet. Because the doctors and friends and family have all told him it is going to be ok.

I have a good friend and if I tell him I am anxious about something he will tell me he understands and that he knows that within me is the great desire to follow my Lord wherever he calls me. (Hopefully) That friend encourages me and lessens my anxiety.

Let’s just saying that anxiety is the uncertainty about living in freedom. Freedom is good and sometimes it’s scary. The Israelites were given freedom to leave Egypt but with that freedom and all the miracles accompanying it they were scared to death and often just wanted to go back to Egypt where in bondage they felt safe. We cannot live in bondage anymore, not if we are going with Jesus. So let’s keep our eyes on the pioneer of our faith, the one who went through hell for us. Let’s just stay with him and do what he asks of us. He put us together and he knows how this body soul and mind works best. The Kingdom is now.

And just this morning I read this from Hebrews. Check this out:

12: For you have not come to something that can be touched, to a burning fire and darkness and gloom and a whirlwind 19 and the blast of a trumpet and a voice uttering words such that those who heard begged to hear no more. 20 For they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountainit must be stoned.”21 In fact, the scene was so terrifying that Moses said, “I shudder with fear.”

22 But you have come to Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the assembly 23 and congregation of the firstborn, who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous, who have been made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks of something better than Abel’s does. (NET Bible)

Now when I read a passage such as that I think, ‘wow, am I in good company or what.’ So then let’s keep on keepin’ on. Jesus will be with us always.