Is God Really In Control?

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Heartbreaking is probably the best word I can use to describe the aftermath of superstorm Sandy that ravaged the eastern coast of the U.S. this week. But the use of this word is by no means limited to recent events. We could also speak of what seems like a relentless assault of hurricanes, monsoons, tornados, droughts, earthquakes, tsunamis, etc. that continue to extract a heavy toll of human suffering.

Heartbreaking could also refer to the pain and emotional distress that humans inflict on each other. The sex-slave trade prospers, as does that of forced labor. Even in civilized countries, the word injustice can be used with increasing frequency. And then there are the wars. O the wars! How many untold millions have suffered and died over the past 100 years? The toll of war is staggering—especially when innocent children are caught in the crossfire, or displaced into refugee camps.

I understand that the phrase “God is in Control” is comforting for some, but not for me. When I think of control, I envision God pushing the buttons and pulling the strings to make all that happens, happen. I do not believe that this is an accurate (or Biblical) way to describe the source of all that is heartbreaking. Ours is not a world in which God is in control in this sense of the word. If He is, then the Creator of our Universe would be uncaring at best, and mercilessly cruel at worst.

Psalm 24 describes God as the King of glory. As the sovereign ruler of the Universe, God reigns as the highest possible authority. No one can tell Him what to do or question His actions with any authority. Every created being is ultimately accountable to the King; and the Bible makes it quite clear that all words and actions will one day be judged.

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Sovereignty does not mean, however, that our Creator somehow incites or guides all child molesters, for example, to do their dastardly deeds. God certainly possesses the ability to influence human decisions, but He has willingly chosen to limit Himself in this area.

I am not saying that our world is completely out of control, however. Any limitations on God’s part are entirely self-imposed, and evil does have its boundaries. This is all very difficult to grasp, but our inability to thoroughly understand these things does not make them any less real. God is somehow able to take our choices and work them toward His sovereign purposes. That is what makes Him God.

God reigns as the sovereign King of glory! Every Christian can stand on the promises that He is indeed the ultimate authority, that every evil deed will be accounted for, and that God will work all that hell throws at us to our benefit. He can do that. He is God.

Others often attempt to do what God can do, but their methods are very different. There was a time long ago when Lucifer and one third of the angels staged a coup in a futile attempt to ascend to the throne of glory (Isaiah 14:12-14). Their plot was easily defeated, and having been thrown to the Earth, they then ensnared the entire human race in their quest to establish their own kingdom of supremacy. But humans and demons do not have the power and authority to reign in the same manner as God. Thus, they are compelled to resort to methods of control, manipulation, and intimidation.

This is where Christians too often fall prey to the tactics of our fallen world. In seeking what we think is right—or simply what we want—we are prone to employ the same political arm twisting tactics of the demonic kingdom. In essence, this involves a continuous quest to wrestle dominion from God, seeking to rule our world independently of our Creator. In the long run, such methods serve only to further promote the heart-wrenching suffering of the human condition.

What is the answer? The advance of the kingdom of God—that domain where the sovereign King of the Universe reigns over His willing subjects. Far from possessing the passive, apathetic mindset which embodies much of our world, those who fully participate in God’s kingdom are motivated by extreme measures of faith and love to do amazing deeds, as the advance of His kingdom always brings with it healing, wholeness, and hope.

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The line between seeking to control people (and circumstances) and facilitating the coming of God’s kingdom may at times appear to be very fine, but it is a well-defined line nonetheless, and not simply a matter of semantics.

The human condition is indeed heartbreaking, but we can take comfort in knowing that our God reigns (Revelation 19:1-6)! And if our God reigns, we can act and pray with the authority of His kingdom to make a very real difference in this broken world. Let us seek to influence the world of politics through faith and love without falling prey to its controlling methods.

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Tornado Alley

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Have you watched the news recently? The increased frequency of natural disasters is insane!

April of this year marked a record number of tornadoes across the U.S. and unfortunately far too many deaths. Crazy happenings in an increasingly unstable world!

The natural instability of our climate seems to correspond with the political and spiritual instability of our world. We do indeed live in tumultuous times!

Some folks would say that the unity of the Church is a nice, but unattainable ideal for us to maybe try to pursue as we are able. I say that Christian unity is a matter of life and death—especially on two particular fronts.

1. For those who do not know the saving grace of God. One of the primary missions of the church is to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20). In recent years this has amounted to getting people to make a decision for Christ. The two can be painfully different. A disciple is someone who is a learner of Christ and connected to a local body of believers. It’s within this context that true transformation takes place.

What is it that draws unbelievers to local churches? Love!

Jesus Himself said, “By this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35 (NASB)

The converse is also true. When people don’t see us loving one another, they will quickly assume that our faith is shallow or even fake. They’ll be pushed away from Christ instead of being drawn toward Him.

All of the most well-designed outreach programs in the world will amount to very little if we do not love one another. Christian unity is a matter of life and death for the unsaved.

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2. Unity is a matter of survival. I believe that we are slowly entering a time of increased Christian unity to be accompanied by a last days’ harvest of souls. But not all will be saved and the ideal of the universal unity of mankind cannot be achieved without compromising our faith. As a result, there is an F5 tornado brewing and the Church of Jesus Christ will be right in its cross hairs. The day is coming when Christians will need one another simply to survive the onslaught.

In times of intense persecution denominational lines mean little, but if we do not begin to build cross-denominational relationships now, we’ll be ill prepared for the coming storms.

As important as these two arenas may be, there is a third reason to pursue unity that should deeply stir our hearts—our love for our God. He desires that His people would be one even as He is one (John 17:22). If we truly love Him, we’ll love one another.

Regardless of our primary motivation, every one of us is called to preserve the unity of His Spirit in the bond of peace!

More Secrets for Permanent Weight Loss!

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The world around us, which promises so much, isn’t making any significant deposits into my joy account these days. In fact, it’s been quite a drain recently. I suppose that much of it is linked to the economy and, of course, the continually rising price of fuel. Just when the economic outlook begins to brighten, chaos erupts in the Middle East, creating an unnerving sense of instability all across the globe.

But this isn’t all we’re dealing with! Consider the following: Massive federal debt with extreme partisanship and no viable solutions. Local and state governments struggling to stay afloat. The gap between rich and poor continuing to widen. Global warming and natural disasters. New diseases and ineffective antibiotics. Continued moral decay in all facets of society. The collapse of the nuclear family. Increased violence. A broken educational system. A declining Church.

The mention of each issue (and they are brought up continually) gives the feel of yet another weight being piled upon our already strained shoulders. Add on other concerns and the burden can at times seem unbearable.

A primary problem is that these are burdens we were never meant to carry—at least not in the form of worry or anxiety.

Isaiah prophesied of the coming of Christ: “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders . . . .” Isaiah 9:6 (NASB)

This is really good news, but it does bring some questions to light. I mean, if you look at the state of our world, it may not seem like He knows what He is doing. This is where our understanding of the kingdom of God is crucial.

While I don’t believe that God directly controls all that takes place in this world, He does reign, ultimately steering even negative forces toward His sovereign purposes.

Photo by mira66 (CC By 2.0)A huge problem arises, however, when humans try to usurp God’s authority by seeking to control their own lives and all that’s around them. The sad state of our world is due to man’s quest for control and independence from God. Unfortunately, this is exactly what we are doing when we carry the weight of the world on our backs. We’re trying to shoulder burdens that only God can bear. (Herein lies the power and beauty of the Lord’s Prayer)

The result of our independence? Pain. Frustration. Worry. Anxiety. Exhaustion. A withering faith.

“And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world [Or age ] and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” Matthew 13:22 (NAS)

Christ is speaking here of Christians—people who willingly receive God’s word. Ouch!

So how do we shed the weight of unnecessary burdens? Some choose the road of irresponsibility, developing an “I don’t care” attitude. This approach, however, is totally inconsistent with God’s heart.

1 Peter 5 is a chapter well worth reading in its entirety, but I’ll just quote verses 6 & 7: “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” (NASB)

Surrender control of your concerns to God.

Pray for Him to work in each particular situation.

Believe that He will do awesome things according to His good will.

You may feel lighter already but the secret is learning to do this as a way of life!