Who is in control?

Chapter 3 is about the sovereignty of God. It starts a section that covers the next few chapters.

This chapter covers the premise that God is sovereign, all-powerful over all things. He refers to James 4:13-15 to remind us that all that we do is at God’s will.

He permits, for reasons known only to Himself, people to act contrary to and in defiance of His revealed will. But He never permits them to act contrary to His sovereign will. p36

Bridges is explaining that both the malicious and willful malevolent acts of others are under God’s control, and the mistakes and failures of other people. Nothing is too trivial or too big to be beyond His control.

His sovereignty is not always apparent, He directs and guides people and events and things through normal actions. As chapter 4 discusses, He guides the will of a person, yet that person is still acting on their own volition. We aren’t dependent on some miracle to be saved from something. We have probably been saved many times just through choosing one path over another.

Since we know God is directing our lives to an ultimate end and He is capable of doing all that He wills, we can trust Him.

Chapter 4 moves in to more detail about God’s sovereignty over people. He admits there is some mystery here, but he uses several pieces of Scripture to show what we have been told about God’s working in the will of people. He prompts people to act favorably toward His own, and He restrains people from acting maliciously toward His own. And sometimes He permits bad things. He doesn’t cause another to sin, but He uses the sinful act to meet His own plans.

The mystery is that the Bible clearly shows people are making real choices of their own will. God’s ways are infinite and we cannot compare His moving someone’s will to the way we would try to move someone’s will.

Then he talks about how we should respond in light of this – this is where it gets a bit convicting!

Confidence in God’s sovereignty in the lives of people should also keep us from becoming resentful and bitter when we are treated unjustly or maliciously by others.  p72

Bridges then looks at why we get bitter or stressed. It’s because our plans have been dashed or our pride has been wounded (p73). We should have only one agenda – God’s. When we have our own agenda, it will clash with God’s and cause anger and bitterness and stress. This fits right in with Del Tackett’s discussion about my script getting stepped on.

I should do my best, meet my responsibilities, and take my own part very seriously. No slacking just because “God’s sovereign”. But then I can rest in the knowledge that everything else is under God’s control. No frustration, anger, or bitterness. That would be so nice.

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Providence or Chance?

Ch 2 of the book Trusting God by Jerry Bridges talks about God’s providence, what it means, and what it means for us.

He refers to the book When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Rabbi Harold Kushner. Besides the argument that there really are no good people, here Bridges focuses on the decision Rabbi Kushner makes that we must choose between a God who is good but not all-powerful, or one who is all-powerful but not good. This seems the only way to explain why catastrophes happen, why there is so much suffering and pain.

Yet, as Bridges points out, the Bible doesn’t give us that option. The Bible clearly states that God is all-powerful and He is good. This leads to the subject of God’s providence. He points out verses that show God is sovereign over everything, big and small, all the time. God governs all events, directs all actions, and sustains all things. Everything has its being, at every moment, only because of God’s sustaining will.

The point to all of this is that we can trust God. He is good, he is always, every moment, working for our God. And He is all-powerful, so nothing can happen without His doing it or permitting it. The struggle with this, of course, is when really bad things seem to be happening. We seem quite willing to attribute good things to God’s providence. And we use the term often in a way that implies specific, limited acts. But we must find comfort in the truth. And the truth is that He is always governing everything, even the uncomfortable, painful, and tragic times.

We should find confidence in our suffering being under the control of an all-powerful and all-loving God. It has a meaning and purpose in God’s plan.

This brings me back to my statements a few posts ago. Everything that happens at work – every email, text message, meeting, tool hiccup, is all of God.

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Oy, how quickly we forget

I know to beware the weeks after a mountain-top experience. And even in re-reading Spiritual Depression by Martin Lloyd-Jones, he says he always watches someone very closely after such an experience, for the almost inevitable crash and depression that comes after.

Yet, I didn’t think I would forget so quickly. Or even worse, rewrite my interpretation and my plan of action so quickly.

Work has not gotten any better. And to hear me talk, you would think it has gotten much much worse since my week of vacation in March. Mostly though, the only thing that has changed is that I get even angrier and more frustrated quicker.

Where is the Trust in all of that?

So what have I been telling myself (and others)? Why, that God must be trying to get my attention and get me to move on. I’ve become complacent and tolerate much more than I should. Oy. I can rationalize just about anything I guess.

Really, I don’t think I’m complacent. When I really stop to think it through, right now I am being financially responsible, and I am being sanctified. And I have a good job in many ways. And I am doing a good job in many ways. Sure, I’m not able to get it all done, we are all trying to do the work of a few people these days. But I get a lot of it done, and much of it is done well. It is really just about my attitude (especially since that is the only thing I can really control). The days that I am patient and calm and understanding are much easier to live with at the end of the day.

I pulled out my copy of Trusting God by Jerry Bridges and intend to work through it again, chapter by chapter. I am also re-reading Spiritual Depression by Lloyd-Jones. Both remind me that not trusting God, not believing His word, is a sin. The other day I was asking what difference it makes. The day to day is just so hard, how does it make any difference to be saved. But I know that it does – and the critical thing I need to remember is that I am not alone. I don’t go through it all alone. I don’t do it in my own strength (although when I try, that’s when it all fails and gets painful).

Maybe I should pull out another book, The Secret of Supernatural Living by Adrian Rogers. To be reminded of the truth I first realized in these pages.

It is so easy to miss what Paul is saying. He does not say to be filled by the Spirit but with the Spirit. We must not get the idea that the Holy Spirit is waiting outside of us to place into us what we need. p50.

It isn’t more of my own patience that I need, but to rely on His patience.

In the first chapter of Trusting God, Bridges compares pursuing holiness with trusting God. He admits that

obeying God is worked out within well-defined boundaries of God’s revealed will. Trusting God is worked out in an arena that has no boundaries. We do not know the extent, the duration, or the frequency of the painful, adverse circumstances in which we must frequently trust God. We are always coping with the unknown. p16.

He follows that with a reminder that “In order to trust God, we must always view our adverse circumstances through the eyes of faith, not of sense.”

Three truths to believe:

  • God is completely sovereign
  • God is infinite in wisdom
  • God is perfect in love

In that same chapter he quotes from Ecclesiastes 7:13

Consider what God has done:

Who can straighten

what he has made crooked?

If God has brought a “crooked” event into my life, only He can straighten it. I must trust God whether he does or not.

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Spain’s Top Experiences

Next section in the Fodor’s Spain is top experiences.

It mentions Feria de Abril in Sevilla – definitely an experience with horses and costumes and more.

Fresh markets – it’s where I did most of my shopping when I lived there. Sadly, hitting the farmer’s market isn’t as routine a thing for me here in the US. It mentions that the Boqueria in Barcelona is a great place to browse.

More about getting outdoors. There is a 57,000 acre National Park in the Pyrenees with waterfalls, caves, forests, meadows, etc… They mention hiking, El Camino (The Way), and another national park down in Andalusia.

Apparently the government-run hotels called paradors are unique and consistently receive rave reviews.

And of course the beach. Right after I got to Spain, the family I was staying with went to the beach and took me along. It was the first rocky beach I had ever been to.

Museums include the Prado in Madrid, the Picasso in Barcelona, a Miro museum in Barcelona, the Guggenheim in Bilboa, and a few others. The Museum of National Art of Catalonia has frescoes saved from the walls of abandoned chapels in the Pyrenees. They don’t mention anything about the Salvador Dali museum in Figueres.

Getting into travel advice – in Barcelona it’s better to walk or take the subway than a cab.

Food in Barcelona: instead of champagne order Cava, a sparkling wine from the Penedes region.  (Noting this for Anthony, as neither champagne or Cava appeals to me.) Crema Catalana (Catalan cream) for dessert – a custard dusted with cinnamon and confectioners sugar and burned with a blowtorch. (a la creme brulee)

Next up – Fun in Barcelona with kids. (Which is a great way to avoid the bars and overload of museums.)

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More thoughts on trust and anger

Del Tackett has worked with Focus on the Family and is the creator of The Truth Project which I’ve heard accolades for.

At the Ligonier National Conference this year, he spoke on the meta narrative – the big story/purpose. He started with a quote from a post modernist that scoffed at the idea of a bigger story that can give an encompassing explanation, saying it is just a tool to legitimize some version of the truth. (And most post modernists scoff at the idea of absolute truth.)

Then Del Tackett asked, as Christians, do we believe that there is a meta narrative, and that it is a good one, even when it brings hardship, pain, suffering, and rejection.

He then read Isaiah 47:9-11, Jeremiah 29:11, and Phil 2:13 which state clearly there is a plan and purpose of God, and that it is for our good. Do we believe that?

He showed how Jesus showed that truth is absolute, universal, unchanging, exclusive, non-contradictory, and the ultimate reality. There is a danger when a worldview loses touch with reality and is based on what we want to be true.

Jesus also showed that truth is objective and knowable. And truth is consequential. Ignoring or rejecting truth has consequences.

He ended with some consequences of losing sight of the meta narrative. It leads to the death or relationships. If everyone is only interested in their own story, then we know that every other person is only looking to us to see how we can enhance their own script. There is no sacrifice.

That leads to isolation, alienation, rejection of authority, and loneliness. This results in anger. We get angry when someone steps on my script, someone does something that goes away from my version of how my life should go. He pointed to Elijah, Moses, David, and others who got angry when their script wasn’t played out just right.

This leads to hatred and bitterness, which can lead to depression and despondency.

The final question is – are you going to base your Christian walk on how you feel or on what you believe is really true?

He showed how in the Garden of Gesthemane, Christ went to God 3 times, probably as an example to us that we must continually give up our script.

Not my will, but Thine

Not my story, but Your story

Not my script, but Your script

For me this fits right in, of course, with the words from Trusting God by Bridges. Everyone who comes into my life (good or bad), everything that happens to me, is permitted and providentially and sovereignly brought about by God.

At work – this means every email, every text message, every meeting, every phone call, every todo.

All of it is of God – how will I react?

Too often I get angry or overwhelmed.

Another great place to see this play out is in my marriage. When something doesn’t go exactly my way – when Anthony steps on my script, how do I react?

My short list of reactions that I wrote yesterday:

Pray for God’s provision – 2 Cor 9:8

Express gratitude that God loves me so immediately and dearly – 1 Thess 5:16-18

For gentleness in my response – Col 4:6

Plea for patience and peace and equipping to resist pressure and anxiety – Phil 4:19, 2 Tim 1:7

God is faithful!

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Trusting God

I’ve mentioned before the monthly free audio book at ChristianAudio.com and what great books they have offered. The free audio book last month was Trusting God by Jerry Bridges. I’ve been listening to it for the past week or so and really enjoying it. Enough that I’ve bought the paper copy to mark up and meditate on.

He does a great job of explaining scripturally how we know that God is sovereign because he bases the fact that we should trust God on the fact that He is trustworthy. Then he talks about how to react when people hurt us or anger us. God allows everything that happens to us, nothing is out of His control, so our reaction is to be in light of that.

He even points out we should never complain about the weather – as it is also from God.

Good stuff – a book with some real meat in it!

Chapter 1 post

Chapter 2 post

Chapter 3 & 4 post

Chapter 5 & 6 Post

Chapter 7 post

 

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Travel and trips

According to Fodor’s Spain 2012, May and October are optimal months to visit Spain. Of course, last time I went I arrived in August and left in May – so I covered most of the months, while missing the really hot summer.

There are high speed train tracks in Spain now, so you can get from Barcelona to Madrid in about 2 and a half hours. That’s new since I last visited in 1989. In 2010 Catalan (the region where Barcelona is) banned all bull-fighting. Other regions have NOT followed suit.

Top attractions include La Alhambra in Granada – so glad to see that still tops the list. I went there the year I lived in Spain and it was indeed a great place to visit. Toledo is next on the list, which is kind of funny since it’s an entire city, not just one specific building or site. But it is worthy of a visit – such an interesting city. We went there too, back in college.

Third on the list is La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. I never made it to Barcelona while in Spain, so I haven’t seen this church which has been in progress since 1882 and is still probably 30 years away from completion. The Guggenheim in Bilboa, another place I never visited. But it sounds fun when the museum itself is as interesting as the art in it.

Museo del Prado in Madrid – I did make it there. Even though I’m not a huge admirer of art, I do recognize some of the great pieces and it was fun seeing them in El Prado.

Merida’s Roman Ruins is another place I never got to, although I did see other Roman ruins near Sevilla. Cuenca’s Hanging Houses and San Lorenzo de El Escorial are more places I did not see. Something about attending classes kept me from traveling all over the country.

The last entry on the list of attractions is the Mezquita in Cordoba – I did make it there. Some interesting architecture, and a symbol of the Catholic-Muslim-Catholic history of the country.

Not in the list of attractions, but in the list of events to consider is the Feria in April in Sevilla. I was there for that, quite a contract to the Semana Santa (Holy Week) that comes before it. Horses, bulls, wonderful costumes. Lots of fun.

And way in the top left corner is Santiago de Campostela, a site traditionally approached by foot.

I, of course, find it fascinating, but not something I will probably ever have time to do.

I’ll be back to talk some more about Spain – then and now.

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Writer’s Block

Seriously – I keep thinking, yeah, I’ll write on my blog.

But when that blank white screen comes up I can’t think of a thing.

So, we’ll just do some quick takes to get something out here.

First – one of the women at church has a wicked sense of humor, and a fun life, and writes so well about it all. I love reading Erin’s blog. Now, if we could just find time for dinner so I can hold Annie before she’s too big!

Reading Erin’s blog is similar to chatting with my co-worker in Boulder with 2 small children. No matter how bad my day is, I’m not cleaning up poop or dashing off to remove something from a small mouth. It always puts my whole day back into perspective.

Speaking of, work has actually been going well. I don’t think anything there has changed. Still crazy schedule and too much work and demanding users who can’t read the pages of helpful documentation I have put out there. But I have found Christian artist Mandisa, and her song These Days has become my anthem around here. I printed the lyrics and put in my prayer journal, I play the song often during the week (along with all the other songs on her latest album), and I work hard to remember that my happiness is not the point. And if God is using this for my good, then cooperating is a whole lot better than pitching a little (or big) fit.

These Days

I’m running again. Having a treadmill for days when the weather is questionable or my schedule just means I have to run when it’s still dark and cold outside has definitely helped. But the weather has been so nice that I’ve run outside a few times lately too. Part of me wishes it would get a little bit easier. But I also know I’m not working at it seriously enough to really get better. It isn’t something I want to devote that much time to. So, I’ll just plod along.

Speaking of running, a friend (who is moving out of state, boo hoo) wants us to run the Princess Half-Marathon at Disney in FL next February. The good news – she doesn’t run faster than me, so we’ll be able to just go at it slow and steady and enjoy it!

I had 2 friends over for dinner last Friday and it was so wonderful. Great conversation – about all kinds of things. I love the friends I have in my life right now. I am truly blessed!!!

Last note – on Library Thing, I’m hanging with a group that is reading through some of Steinbeck’s shorter novels. We’ve read Cannery Row and The Wayward Bus. This month is The Winter of Our Discontent. I read The Grapes of Wrath a year or so ago with our little book club at church and enjoyed his writing then. It’s been a pleasure to work through some of these books. Looking forward to the rest of the year.

Night all!

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Women’s Ministry

A few weekends ago I spent a Saturday listening to the ARP Women’s Ministry Coordinator, Elizabeth Burns, present a session on “Re-thinking the Ministry of Women” in Gastonia. This was a bit of a sacrifice for me, because at the same time was the annual Elder/Deacon training under Mark Ross and I try hard not to miss an opportunity to hear Mark Ross. But they were recording him so I’ll eventually get to hear it. And there are fewer opportunities right now to hear Elizabeth Burns speak.

The first session (before lunch) was a good set-up of why we need women ministering to women. Pastors and Elders fill important roles, and women ministering to other women are also important.

She spent time explaining why God must be our all in all. We must be an intentional Christian, not an incidental Christian. She mentioned that God is the only one who can corral our emotions and keep them in check.

The reminder that woman’s purpose is to be holy and to glorify God, not to be busy was important. We can fill our schedule with “good” things but miss out on the better things. We get too busy with the many distractions in the world. We are supposed to be in the world, but not of the world.

She had us spend some time alone filling out a worksheet to help identify where we spend our time. The goal, of course, was to think about our priorities and if we are doing the right things. None of the things on the list were wrong, but all are open to an unhealthy balance. Spending more time on ourselves, other people, technology, instead of time with God and doing what God wants us to do.

This questionnaire wasn’t always easy and fun to fill in. It can be irritating to be expected to think about the things we do, find most of them are either necessary (to keep our job) or other-centered (taking care of the needs of others). But as the day wore on, I found my heart opening a bit more to admit that perhaps some of the needs of others were more my assumptions and self-imposed requirements, rather than things I really needed to be doing. Can I relax my grip on some things, un-schedule a few things?

We need to remember that the world places value and worth on the wrong things as end goals. We become convinced that everyone else is content and satisfied and happy. This is where true ministry happens. As we reveal truth – about our lives not being perfect and about our Savior being the perfect answer to it all.

After lunch she continued to build on this.  Women’s Ministry should be about showing how to live as Christians. We should be encouraged, refreshed in spirit, and built up in faith. Then others will be drawn to those same qualities and seek the ultimate answer. We need a place of safety, confidentiality, and godly love. I loved this description because it is exactly what I feel my Circles provide for me.

She encourages this kind of ministry to be once a week, not just once a month. We need an umbrella of godly sanctuary and it should become all consuming. Only when God is our all in all can we find the indwelling of the spirit to power true ministry.

The second session worksheet was a series of statements we often make when discouraged or overwhelmed and verses where God’s statements show the truth.

Then she ended with a definition. Ministry is a lifestyle of devotion to advancing others’ faith and comes at personal expense.

My own conclusion: I need to count the cost and recognize my own dependency on Christ, but choosing not to be in ministry is not an option.

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Blessings in being sick!

I haven’t posted anything all month. Wow.

It’s been a good month in general. Always fun to start a new year. But the past 8 days have been less than fun. Last Saturday I had a sore throat and even after sleeping a whole lot Sunday afternoon, I struggled through the week. Head cold, morphed into the sneezing and runny nose, then finally this weekend there was more coughing. And it felt like it was in the chest, finally.

Today made day 8, plus some good friends expressed concern yesterday that I was still struggling with this. (And my mother mentioned pneumonia.) So I put in a call to the doctor’s office today. They would have preferred I wait until tomorrow, but I had 1 meeting today and I have 8 meetings tomorrow, so however you do the math, today was the better day to spend waiting in the doctor’s office.

While I’m sitting them I have the thought that maybe I should have just gone to the Minute Clinic or some  thing at the drug store instead of a full-blown doctor visit. But while I’m here, I’ll just have him look at the spot on my forehead that hasn’t healed in a year, even with some major TLC the past 3 months.

Sure enough, the actual doctor visit (after an hour in the waiting room) took just a few minutes. He agreed if it was getting worse instead of better on day 8 it’s time to try antibiotics. Then, his usual question “anything else while you are here” so I pointed out the spot on my forehead which really is just a minor blemish. Until he said “I’m really glad you pointed that out, that is <insert technical term> which is precancerous.”  My options were freeze it off right then, a cream to do the same thing on my own time, or surgery. Notice none of the options were just not worry about it.

So, we did the freezing right there in the office. It stung!

But now I’m back home, first antibiotic pill taken, and waiting for the forehead to heal. I would not have made an appointment just for that spot on my forehead and my next general visit won’t come until Sept. But God had other plans.

 

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