Category Archives: God’s sovereignty

I Won’t Hide From Evil and Neither Will God

Standard

There’s a lot of beauty and good in the world, but there’s also a whole lot of evil. And while I think it’s good to focus on the good and the positive so that God is glorified, I also believe that to ignore or deny the evil that’s in the world would be foolish, and would actually glorify the devil more than if we worshiped him outright. A quote from C.S. Lewis might explain this better than I can,

There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight. ~ from the Preface of The Screwtape Letters*

Something I’ve been thinking about lately: The Bible says in the Book of Psalms that God has numbered our days,

You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. ~ Psalms 139:16, NLT.

I understand that to mean that God knows what will happen every day of my life, from the day of my birth clear through ’til the day of my death. What I’ve been thinking about is the day of my death, or more generically, the day of every person’s death. What I’m curious about is, does God ordain how a person dies, or just that he dies on a particular day? I mean, there are an almost infinite number of ways someone can die.

The reason I’m asking this is because when someone is murdered, (unless they’re killed in their sleep so they aren’t aware and wake up dead), they must experience extreme terror and horror right up to the moment of dying. I’m trying to understand what might be going through their mind during those hours and moments of extremity leading up to the moment of their death.

I’m also trying to understand how God fits into the picture. If someone is killed in a way that makes their last hours and moments full of mind-numbing, heart-stopping, hope-stealing and screaming terror that was caused by the person who murdered them, was that method of death ordained by God? I find it difficult to understand how God would want someone to experience that kind of negativity right before they die. If they’re already saved and they die like that, at least they have the hope of heaven. But if they’re not, in the minutes and hours, and sometimes even days, of terror and horror and fear before they’re murdered, how can they be expected to think clearly enough during that time to be able to call out to God for salvation?

Scripture says that God is both a just God and a merciful God. I’ve heard it said that since He’s both just and merciful, if someone dies in an unsaved state, He will take them where they’re at spiritually, and judge them based on their works. I don’t know how true this is, or if it’s true at all, but that’s what I’ve heard. A scriptural basis for this might be found in the Book of James,

For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. ~ James 2:13, NKJV.

Given the scenario I’ve described above, where someone’s ability to seek God is severely compromised, and the best he or she can do is cry out for help, God’s mercy is what is most desperately needed, not His judgment.

I could be wrong on that, but I hope I’m not.

 

*C.S. Lewis. The Screwtape Letters, HarperSanFrancisco, ©1942, Harper edition 2001, p. ix.

I Would Make a Terrible God

Standard

I would not want God’s job, not for any amount of money or the most amazing and desirable gift. For one thing, I would make a lousy God. I just don’t have the wisdom needed to do all the things God has to do, and make all the decisions He has to make. I have a hard time managing my own affairs, much less trying to oversee anyone else’s life.

For another thing, I wouldn’t want the responsibility. God must have incredibly thick skin to do what He does all day long without caring what people think of Him. I mean, He wants people to love Him because He wants a relationship with them, but He does what’s best for each person without regard for whether they’ll be happy about His decisions or not. There aren’t too many people who’ll be happy about having to suffer, but sometimes that’s what’s needed for the development of a person’s character. And I’m convinced that God is much more interested in our character growth and maturation than He is in whether we’re happy or not.

I realize that makes Him sound like a bit of an ogre, and He’s not. He’s a good God who loves His creation. The Bible says God is love,

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. ~ 1 John 4:7-8, NKJV.

It doesn’t say that God feels loving, though I’m sure He does. It says He IS LOVE. In other words, love is a part of who He is, not just how He feels. There’s a difference, and it’s reflected in His actions, as it speaks of in 1 Corinthians 13,

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NKJV. 

You could substitute the word God everywhere that the word love is used in that passage, because in essence they’re synonymous words for the same thing, because, as I quoted above in 1 John 4:8, God is love.

God feels intensely and deeply, but He’s not moved by His feelings, nor is He ruled by them. Feelings are notoriously unreliable, and if you let yourself be ruled and led by them your life will be stormy and unstable.

This is a lesson I’ve had to learn the hard way, and I’m still learning it. It’s not an easy one to grasp, but I’ve discovered that if I found my life on the solid rock of God’s Word, my existence, both day-to-day and longterm, is much more peaceful, joy-filled, and productive than if I live according to the shifting sand of my emotions. I still stumble, of course, but it’s much easier to pick myself up and go on, because I can always call on God. 

Just so long as I remember that being God is God’s job, not mine. And I would make a terrible God anyway.

I’ve Made Peace With My Past

Standard

I probably could have broken this into two posts, but it felt like it was important to keep in one piece. So here goes…

I’ve spent the majority of my life hating and regretting my life, and wishing I’d been born to different parents, in a different family, in a different life than the one God gave me. I was also angry, even enraged, at God for placing me in my family of origin, because I felt like He’d done it on purpose, especially considering that He knew what would happen to me in that family. The Bible says God knows the end from the beginning,

Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, “My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” ~ Isaiah 46:9-10, NIV.

What that said to me was that God knew from the beginning of time that He would place me in a family where I would be abused within an inch of my life, where my mother would try to kill me during my infancy, and my father would play Russian Roulette with his revolver between my legs to threaten me if I told anyone what he was doing to me. Yet He still chose to put me in that family, knowing in advance the terror and horror I would experience throughout my childhood, and knowing as well that I would barely survive to adulthood.

I could not understand how God could do this to an innocent child! What had I ever done to deserve this?

What I couldn’t appreciate or comprehend at the time was that the being I knew as God was completely different from the God of the Bible, and the God of the Bible was who God really was. The one I knew as God was actually patterned after Harry, my biological father. That God was mean, impatient, egotistical, angry, abusive, a rager, selfish, violent, and He hated me. That God had told Harry many times to abuse me and rape me because He, God, hated me.

I didn’t know it then, but that God was actually the devil working through Harry, trying to obliterate me, because God, the real God, the God of the Bible, had a plan for my life, and the devil didn’t want God’s plan to come to pass.

The devil tried hard, to be sure. As I stated above, My mother tried to kill me a number of times during my infancy by drowning me in the bathtub, or suffocating me with a pillow, but was unsuccessful because one of my alters, Deadsally (I had to become multiple in order to survive), would come out each time and make me stop squirming so my mother would think she’d succeeded and stop trying.

Also, Harry started threatening to kill me when I was about two, as I related above, and in addition, I tried suicide nine times as an adult. Fortunately none of those attempts succeeded either.

I’m so glad that God is more powerful than anything the devil can do!

I spent a lot of years feeling angry at God for what I endured, because I didn’t understand that God, being God, and therefore sovereign, can do whatever He pleases, and even though His plan might look perfectly terrible to us, ultimately it’s a good plan. It’s all a question of His sovereignty over my life, and I have to be willing to let Him have control,

But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? ~ Romans 9:20-21, ESV.

I have to trust that God knows more and better than I do, and I’m so grateful for God’s kindness and patience with me as I learn to trust Him. And I’m so grateful that He was willing to patiently wait for me to find out that He’s the exact opposite of everything the devil and Harry made me believe He was, and is.

I discovered that God was a good, kind and loving God over a period of years as I read the Bible from cover to cover several times, and then allowed people to pray for me, and then, finally, over the last four years, I took some online classes through Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM). The courses I took were through RZIM’s Academy, and they were wonderful. They helped me to increase in boldness, and become less fearful when talking to other people about Jesus ~ something that had always been a huge problem for me. They also helped me to be more logical in my thinking.

The class that helped me the most, however, was the one called “Why Suffering?” This course was life-changing for me, because it helped me to see my childhood in a whole different light.

The class presented a new theory of theodicy that really helped me to see things from a new and different perspective. The term “theodicy” was coined by Gottfried Leibnitz back in 1710 to vindicate the existence of an all-good, all-powerful God given the presence of evil in the world.

In the “Why Suffering” course, one particular theory of theodicy was proposed, called the Non-Identity Theodicy Theory. This theory was originally put forth by a man named Vince Vitale, who did his PhD dissertation on it, and the “Why Suffering” course was kind of formulated around it. I’m glad it was, because learning about it set me free.

The basics of Vince Vitale’s theory are that when I think about myself in the world of suffering that we all live in, I’ve often wished myself to be in a world with much less suffering. And then I’ve thought, “Why didn’t God create me in that other world where there’s much less suffering instead of this suffering world that I’m actually in?” But wishing to be created as me in that other fantasy world with no suffering is actually a philosophical and biological impossibility.

I know this because I’ve wished for this very thing with my whole heart many times. Why couldn’t I have been born into a different and better family with parents who loved me and didn’t beat the crap out of me every time I turned around?

As a result of taking the “Why Suffering?” course, I’ve come to realize that my wish, wholehearted as it was, was an impossible one to grant.

Rats!

The reason was all too logical. If I was born into a different family with different parents, I wouldn’t be me, because I would have different DNA. Once I saw that, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to come from a different family, because, while it meant that I wouldn’t have suffered the hell of my childhood, it also meant that I wouldn’t have the close relationship with God that I do.

And my relationship with God has become the greatest and sweetest treasure of my life, one that I wouldn’t give up for anything, not even at the cost of gaining a better childhood with better parents.

I’m reminded of the passage in Mark’s Gospel,

‘Truly I tell you,’ Jesus replied, ‘no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for Me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age…along with persecutions ~ and in the age to come eternal life.’ ~ Mark 10:29-30, NIV.

Author and Finisher

Standard

I love the phrase, “…the author and finisher of our faith…” in Hebrews 12:2. It’s talking about Jesus, of course. I like the way the NIV puts it,

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of [our] faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. ~ Hebrews 12:1-2, NIV.

It’s like my faith ~ my story ~ is a book, and Jesus is its author. He’s the One who began my story, and He’s the One who will finish it, as it says in Philippians,

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. ~ Philippians 1:6, NLT.

I love the Bible. It always tells the truth. The verses I quoted above tell the truth about God’s activity in my life. And the cardinal truth can be found in this verse in Hebrews,

Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” ~ Hebrews 13:5, NLT.

Throughout my life ~ through all the abuse, all the times my mother tried to kill me, all the horrendous and terrible things my father did to me, all my suicide attempts, even during the period where I was enraged at God ~ through all of it, God was there, keeping me alive, shielding me from the worst of the abuse, and even protecting me from myself.

He’s never failed me, He’s never forsaken me, He’s never abandoned me, plus He’s given me beauty for ashes, and the oil of joy for mourning, as it says in Isaiah,

To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified. ~ Isaiah 61:3, NKJV.

God has given me so much beauty in my life! He’s been so incredibly good to me, and He continues to be so on a daily, minute-by-minute basis. The cross is the best, most beautiful gift He could ever give me. It’s the best demonstration of true love anyone could ever give to another person, as it says in the Gospel of John,

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. ~ John 15:13, NLT.

Revenge Is God’s Job, Not Man’s.

Standard

I think I know why vigilante justice is wrong. It occurred to me that vigilante justice is man’s attempt to get revenge when God said specifically that vengeance was His responsibility. It says in the Book of Romans,

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” ~ Romans 12:19, ESV.

And Paul is quoting Moses in the Book of Deuteronomy when he says that (Deuteronomy 32:35).

That says to me that revenge is God’s job, not ours. I often wonder if the reason people practice vigilante justice is because they either don’t believe God exists, so they feel they have to get justice themselves, or they don’t trust that He’ll get the justice they want, or need, or think they deserve for that crime. Either way they’re wresting control of when justice is served out of God’s hands, and into their own hands.

When someone has a vested interest in seeing a particular person convicted for a crime, regardless of that person’s actual guilt or innocence, if the person is acquitted then the one with the personal stake in his conviction can be a prime candidate for vigilante justice because he didn’t get his desired outcome.

God knows the whole story. He can see the whole picture, whereas we only know what we can see and hear and feel. We will never know another person’s motivation for what they did, and we won’t usually know if that person is lying, unless they break down and confess that they lied.

What if the person we’re pursuing is actually innocent of the crime we’re accusing him/her of? Even though we think we know who committed the crime, we don’t know everything, and we might be wrong. There’s no such thing as a perfect murder where God is concerned because God knows everything, EVERYTHING, and even if the real killer is never apprehended here on earth, God still knows who did it. That person will still have to face God’s justice and judgment in the end, regardless of what happens here on earth.

I know it’s hard to trust God about something so personal and painful as when someone dear to you has been attacked and/or murdered. I’ve been a victim of serious crime myself, and I know how difficult it is to trust God when you’ve been deeply wounded.

You might be saying, “How can I trust God when He allowed me to be so savagely hurt?” But I’ve come to know that it was God who protected me from the worst of the abuse. If God hadn’t been there I wouldn’t have survived. I would be dead, because those who were abusing me would have killed me, or I would have succeeded in one of my suicide attempts. And you might respond, “But if God is as powerful and as good as everyone says He is, then why was I abused at all? Why didn’t He stop the abuse from happening altogether?”

Unfortunately, there are some questions for which there just isn’t a satisfactory answer this side of Heaven, and this is one of them. The problem of evil is one of the great mysteries of the Christian faith, and it’s also one of the main reasons people give for doubting God’s existence. The argument usually goes, if God is omnipotent then He could have stopped the evil from happening, and since He didn’t then He must not be omnipotent. And by the same token, if He’s completely good, then He wouldn’t have allowed the evil to happen in the first place, and since the evil did happen, then He must not be completely good.

My response to those arguments is that the people proposing them aren’t considering all the factors. There is the all-important detail of man’s free will. God created every single human being with a free will, and He cannot violate that will in any way at any time, otherwise it wouldn’t be free. God desires humans who will freely choose to fellowship with Him, and He can only get people who will make that choice by creating them with a completely free will. And that means a free will to reject Him just as much as to choose Him.

I can say that God is absolutely faithful, and He solved the problem of evil once for all at the cross. Colossians 2 says,

He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, He disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by His victory over them on the cross. ~ Colossians 2:14-15, NLT.

In addition, it says in the Book of Revelation,

I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. ~ Revelation 1:18, KJV.

Jesus triumphed over Satan at the cross, and took the keys of hell and death away from him at that time, and as a consequence, death has lost its sting, as it says so well in 1 Corinthians,

“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:55-57, ESV.

Even though Christ dealt with Satan at the cross, making a show of him openly as it says in Colossians, we won’t see the complete outworking of that victory until Christ returns at His Second Coming.

I think I’ll stop now. I’ve covered a lot of ground here, and meandered around a bit. I probably could’ve made this into two posts, especially because it got kind of long, plus I ended up on a different topic than I started out on, but I’m not sure I want to. Maybe I can tie it all together.

When someone is seeking their own justice, which is basically what vigilante justice is, they’re committing murder because they don’t trust the criminal justice system. Trying to exact your own justice is the wrong way to go about it. Killing another human being is always wrong no matter what, except if it’s in self defense.

God must be the judge, not man, and He works through the criminal justice system, as flawed as it is because it’s run by human beings. We need to trust that the truth will come out in God’s timing. You can’t hide anything from God. It says in the Book of Numbers,

But if you fail to keep your word, then you will have sinned against the LORD, and you may be sure that your sin will find you out. ~ Numbers 32:23, NLT.

So that’s all, folks!

I Hate When That Happens!

Standard

The other day I was on my way to a therapy appointment when I came to a huge traffic jam blocking my route. Traffic going the opposite direction was flowing smoothly, but on my side it was pretty much a parking lot. It became abundantly clear in fairly short order that I would be late for my appointment if I didn’t do something drastic.

This was an important appointment for me, because McT and I had scheduled a two hour time slot. I’d never had a two hour therapy appointment before, so I was really looking forward to this session.

I managed to stay calm for a while, until I realized for sure that I was going to be late. I called McT and left a message with that information, and told him that I was very frustrated about the fact that I wasn’t going to get my whole two hour session. In fact, I wasn’t just frustrated, I was yelling-out-loud pissed, and my anger was mostly at God.

I hate it when I feel angry at God. When I get angry at God it never feels right or justified, but sometimes circumstances get all messed up, and everything goes contrary to my plans.

I know the saying that says, If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.

But I’m just not mature enough yet to be able to not get angry when something happens, especially if a lot of somethings happen, to mess up my plans. It always feels like God made it happen that way on purpose. I know that probably sounds ridiculous, but it’s the way I feel.

A Hope Deferred, and a Decision Made.

Standard

A long time ago, many, many years, in fact, I wanted to be a doctor. That’s all I ever wanted to do from the time I was ten years old. And my grandmother encouraged me in that desire because she bought me these marvelous books of medical illustrations by this guy named Frank Netter, who was a physician, but he was also an artist who specialized in doing beautiful and highly technical medical illustrations.

Frank Netter is dead right now. He died in 1991. But they’re still using his books of medical illustrations.

Unfortunately, the realities of my life, kept me from fulfilling that dream, (the abuse I suffered as a child made it so I’m not able to handle much in the way of stress, and medical school is very stressful), and I never even got accepted to medical school. I took the MCAT ~ and did poorly ~ and I applied to one school, but I wasn’t accepted, I’m sure because my MCAT scores were too low. My GPA from UCI was good, 3.46, but it probably wasn’t good enough.

It was a crushing blow, because, as I said, that’s the only thing I’d ever wanted to do with my life.

That was over thirty years ago, back in the mid-’80’s, and to this day, I still don’t know what God wants me to be when I grow up. Once I lost that dream I was never able to find another. I tried music for about a year, but couldn’t stomach the idea of having to practice for hours at a time. I thought about being a therapist, but at my age, graduate school ~ plus the years and years of collecting hours for licensure ~ feels impossible.

I still might consider it, however.

I’ve thought of art, but not as a career.

I just can’t seem to find anything that suits me enough that I’m willing to put forth the time and effort necessary to make a career out of it.

I guess, more than anything, that makes me feel like an extraordinarily lazy person.

Harrumph!!

I do like to write, and I think I’m fairly good at it, but I don’t know if I’m good enough to be able to make a living at it. I’ve been told that my poetry is publishable. I’ve also been told that I should write and publish my story, because God has worked miracles in my life, and He’s set me free from a lot of my abusive childhood, and He’s continuing to heal me from the rest of it. I thank God for that. I’m just not sure if I’d be able to do a proper job of putting it in written form so people would want to read it.

Publishing my poetry doesn’t feel too intimidating because it’s already written, so all that would be needed is to find someone to publish it. Writing my story is another matter. That feels completely daunting to me, because, not only would I have to write it, but I’d have find someone to publish it, and I don’t really know how to do either one.

Maybe I should just do it and let God worry about the rest. If I’m doing what He wants me to do, then how it gets done is really His problem, isn’t it?

Yup, it is!

Maybe I should take a creative writing class with an emphasis in writing a memoir. That might help get me started.

Now I just have to figure out where such a class might be located…

God Is God, So He Doesn’t Have to Play God.

Standard

I had an interesting insight on the sovereignty of God recently.

I used to have big problems with God’s sovereignty in my life, because it seemed like it was God’s sovereignty that allowed me to be abused. And it used to make me SOOO ANGRY, because it felt like God wanted me to be abused, and it felt like cosmic child abuse.

I went through a whole seven-year period where I was enraged at God because of that, until I finally realized I was barking up the wrong tree ~ I was asking the wrong questions. I should have been asking who, what, and where questions instead of why questions. And once I started asking the right questions I actually got answers. God showed me where He was while I was being abused ~ which was all I really wanted to know in the first place.

But I realized recently that when someone is demanding that God explain Himself about something He’s done in that person’s life, what they’re really saying is, “How dare You play god with my life!” That made me laugh when I thought about it. How dare God play god with someone’s life? He IS God! He isn’t playing god, He’s BEING God! There’s a significant difference. The Apostle Paul says in Romans,

But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? ~ Romans 9: 20-21, ESV.

It seems to me Paul is saying here that God, because He is the Creator, has the right to do whatever He wants with the people He creates, and while those people can ask questions of Him, and pray for answers, they don’t have the right to demand explanations for His decisions.

You wouldn’t like it if your son demanded to know why you were taking him to the doctor’s office if his ear hurt, and then refused to go because he didn’t like the prick of needle from the shot. You would know why you were doing it ~ because the kid has an ear infection that needs to be healed, and if the doctor doesn’t give him an injection he could go deaf, or even die if it gets bad enough. You can see the big picture. You can see the end result, whereas the child can’t. The same holds true for God. The Bible says,

Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish. ~ Isaiah 46:10, NLT.

I like the way the NIV says it as well,

I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’ ~ Isaiah 46:10, NIV.

What that says to me is that God knew everything that would ever happen to me before I was ever a thought in anyone’s mind. He knew every decision I would make, and every thought I would think. He also knew every decision He would make about me. The Bible also says He knows the day I’m going to die, something I find quite comforting.

Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. ~ Psalm 139:16, NIV.

The reason I find that comforting is because now that I know that, it’s something I don’t have to worry about anymore. It’s God’s problem, not mine. All I have to do is go through my days doing my best to glorify God in all I do, basing my life on His Word, and God will take care of the rest.

Such a deal!