Scripture Journal Challenge: Closing Argument

I was a debater and raised my kids as debaters.

There’s unique beauty in crafting an argument so it crescendos to an irrefutable conclusion.

For the the master orator, nothing is more satisfying than watching her audience lean in and anticipate the glorious finale.

Paul has been leading us to these verses since he began laying the foundation in chapter one of Romans.

So what should we say about all of this? If God is on our side, then tell me: whom should we fear? 32 If He did not spare His own Son, but handed Him over on our account, then don’t you think that He will graciously give us all things with Him? 33 Can anyone be so bold as to level a charge against God’s chosen? Especially since God’s “not guilty”verdict is already declared. 34 Who has the authority to condemn? Jesus the Anointed who died, but more importantly, conquered death when He was raised to sit at the right hand of God where He pleads on our behalf. 35 So who can separate us? What can come between us and the love of God’s Anointed? Can troubles, hardships, persecution, hunger, poverty, danger, or even death? The answer is, absolutely nothing.

Romans 8: 31-35 VOICE

In today’s vernacular (Melanie’s paraphrase):

“So here’s the deal, guys. What else is there to say? If God has provided for our salvation through His own Son-bought and paid for us-who else can make a claim? And if He was willing to pay that high a price for us, what is He going to withhold from us? No one can overrule God. No one can deny the evidence that the sin debt has been paid. The only thing that could separate us from God’s love is sin and that’s been handled. So, yeah, life can be really hard. We might even have to face death before we come into our full inheritance. But we don’t have to worry. It’s handled. It’s settled. It’s done.”

Paul’s closing argument is simple.

Remember, this is no contest of equals. There is no yin/yang dual universe where darkness has power enough to overcome the light. God has the devil on a chain. Sin mars creation and wreaks havoc but even all that awful is being woven together into a tapestry of beauty and usefulness that one day will display the glory of God and His love for us.

God is for us. REALLY for us.

So who can be against us? (That’s a rhetorical question, by the way.)

No one.

QUESTIONS:

  • What does it mean to you that “God is on your side”?
  • Are you ever afraid? Why or why not?
  • What do you do with that fear?
  • Consider writing these (and any other verses we’ve looked at) in your own words. When we make them personal, they are easier to remember.
  • Do you agree that Paul has made an iron-clad case for the supreme authority of God? Why or why not?
  • What makes it hard for you to believe that nothing separates us from the love of God? Can you bring that to the Throne of Grace and lay it down?

PRAYER:

Father God,

Too often I think the world is like a giant tug-of-war and I can only hope and pray You win. It’s hard to remember that You are still in control when so many things seem out of control.

Help my heart rest on the rock of Your sovereignty and goodness. Open my spiritual eyes to see how You are working all these things-the good, the bad and the heartbreaking-into Your plan of redemption and restoration. Give me strength to believe when my own is fading. Make Your Word my guide. Thwart the schemes of the enemy to tear down my faith and breach my wall of hope.

Thank You for grace, mercy, love and courage.

Amen

At The Intersection of God’s Sovereignty and Free Will: Accidents and Miracles

I want to say up front that I am no theologian.  

I am, instead, a sincere follower of the Lord Jesus Christ who reads the Bible and tries hard to understand what it says and let it inform my worldview.  

I know I’ve written about this before but it comes up again and again in bereaved parent groups so I’m sharing MY perspective one more time.

Here’s the question: 

If God is sovereign (meaning all powerful) then why didn’t He save my child?  

Here’s my answer: 

God is sovereign.  There is no one more powerful in the universe.  He can and sometimes, does, interject directly in the affairs of men.  If He chose, we would be like automatons, simply doing precisely what He wanted us to do.

God has given man free will.  And that means that while there is a perfect plan and will of God for my life, for your life and for every life on this planet, I can choose not to follow it.  He will not force me into compliance.  I will often make foolish or sinful choices and may very well suffer the consequences.

The world is tainted by sin.  Our bodies are prone to sickness, disease, genetic abnormalities.  People make not only foolish choices but sinful ones-acting evilly against another person-causing harm and death.  Until the devil has been utterly cast out, we will continue to suffer in a world that is not at all as God originally intended it to be.

God has also set certain universal principles in place.  Gravity.  Physics.  Biology.  Each operates without His direct intervention according to the laws He created to give us a world that works in predictable fashion.  We have electricity in our homes because of these laws.  Internal combustion engines work a certain way, over and over and over.  When I get sick, my body temperature rises in an attempt to create a hostile environment for the invading bacteria or virus.  I depend on these laws every single day.  

In my son’s case, he made a foolish choice to drive too fast in a curve.  His motorcycle left the road (physics) and he could not maintain control nor stop it before he hit something.  His body could not sustain the blow (biology) and he died.

So many times people ascribe the word “miraculous” to someone who survives a nasty accident or is healed from disease.  It may be that God in His mercy DID miraculously deliver one person or another.  But it may be just as likely that the same laws of physics and biology (things we do not completely understand) which doomed my son, guaranteed their survival.  I cannot compare my life to theirs or my son’s accident to another.

COULD God have intervened?  Absolutely!  Did He?  No. 

But can I ask Him to step in and prevent these natural consequences when I would be very upset should He do it other times?

See, I want God to stop pain in MY life.  But (if I’m honest) I’d rather He allow it in the lives of others (those who molest children, for instance).  I want Him to reach down into this world He made and keep ME and MINE safe.

If He was reaching down all the time, this wouldn’t be the world I know, it would be a world where He was chess master and we were all pawns on the game board.  

The God I serve invites me to follow Him.  

He does not force me to make that choice.

It’s an uncomfortable mystery that I do not understand.  But I am satisfied that one day it won’t even matter.  

Because every question I have will melt away in the overwhelming joy of Heaven.  

trust god in the light

 

 

Don’t Dare Hope

My prayer list is very short.  It’s been whittled down to the basics.  I don’t ask for much and I expect less.

But today I will be waiting with bated breath to find out if a prayer that’s been lifted up for months will be answered.

It’s risky business to ask when the answer may be “no”.  If I’m honest, I’m not sure my heart can take it.

I am confident that I will see Dominic in heaven when I get there.  My heart rests assured that the blood of Christ is sufficient and my salvation sure.

BUT….

I do not dare hope anymore that when I pray specifically for someone or something it will come to pass.  Oh, I believe God HEARS my prayer, that He knows the desire of my heart, that He COULD grant my request.  But I no longer rest my head on the pillow of peace, settled in my spirit that the “effectual fervent prayers  of a righteous man or woman availeth much.”

I will be the first to admit that to hold both thoughts simultaneously seems impossible and contradictory.  Yet I do.

Because I’ve learned the hard way that my prayers are not God’s “to do” list.  He is sovereign, not me.  His plans may or may not conform to mine.  His work in my life may very well include pain and sorrow and disappointment.

Sometimes I just want that old naive hope back.  I want to erase this dark knowledge from my heart.

Especially when someone I love needs my prayers.

I want to believe.  I want to trust.  I want to rest assured that not only is my prayer heard, but that it will be granted.  But it is oh, so hard!!!!

So I offer the only prayer I can still lift up with absolute confidence:  I plead mercy and grace.

I pray that God may have mercy on my fragile spirit, that He may grant my desire and strengthen my faith.  And I pray that regardless of the outcome, He will give me the grace to accept it.

It’s the best I can do.

 

 

 

 

 

Living Without Answers

We are a people who love a good mystery as long as it leads to a good ending-bad guys vanquished, questions answered, motives revealed and a tidy resolution.

But real life is rarely so neat and squared away.

Just consider your average doctor’s visit.  Diagnosis is often a result of trial and error when a simple blood test or throat culture is unavailable to confirm or rule out a particular malady.  Yet we blunder forward, trying this and that until something either works or the illness runs its course.

Relationships are even trickier.  We stand toe-to-toe with others hoping we understand what they are saying or not saying, feeling or not feeling-all the while forced to act and react in the space between.  It’s a wonder we aren’t all at war with one another.

And then there are the big “What ifs?” and “Whys?”

The cosmic questions that rock our world and threaten to undo us.

These are the questions that filled my mind and kept me awake at night after burying my son.  Questions I was free to ignore before they took up residence in my soul and echoed in my head with every thump, thump, thump of my beating heart.

It took a very long time for me to learn to live with them unanswered. And there are still moments when I scream aloud and raise my fist to the sky, demanding an accounting.

But most days, I can rest in that space between the asking and the answer-if not exactly at peace-then at least in a state of suspended animation.

And that may really be all God expects of me this side of heaven.

Job never did get any answers.

He stood before God speechless and in awe.

That’s pretty much where I am right now.

I don’t have to like it.

I don’t have to understand it.

I only have to be willing to admit that He is God and I am not.  

Job answered God:

“I’m convinced: You can do anything and everything.
    Nothing and no one can upset your plans.
You asked, ‘Who is this muddying the water,
    ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?’
I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me,
    made small talk about wonders way over my head.
You told me, ‘Listen, and let me do the talking.
    Let me ask the questions. You give the answers.’
I admit I once lived by rumors of you;
    now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears!
I’m sorry—forgive me. I’ll never do that again, I promise!
    I’ll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor.”

Job 42:4-6 MSG

 

Repost: Surrender

“Follow Me,”  Jesus said to the twelve.

“Follow Me,” Jesus said to me when I was just a child.

“Yes,” I replied-not knowing or counting the cost. 

If it was a single commitment without opportunity for turning back then it would be easy.

But it’s not.  

Read the rest here:  Surrender

Repost: Sparrows DO Fall

I have never subscribed to the theory that the Christian life is free of pain and suffering.

But there are some who do.

Christian bookstores are filled with titles touting the path to joy and happiness, the way to wealth and material success.

Read the rest here:  Sparrows DO Fall

He Will Hold Me Fast

 

I’ve mentioned it before.

I’ve encouraged others not to resist.

But I want to be absolutely clear:  Losing my son made me doubt EVERYTHING.

I grew up going to church, listening to Bible stories, hearing “God is in control”, “Jesus loves me”, “prayer moves mountains” and  (even though it isn’t true) being “good” gets rewarded.

The prerequisite, of course, was receiving Christ, being “saved”, trusting Jesus.

I did that when I was eight years old.

And I leaned in and studied Scripture, fashioning my life around the Holy Word.  My home rested firmly on the solid rock foundation of belief in Jesus and the sovereignty and sufficiency of God.

For heaven’s sake!  I spent twenty years homeschooling my kids!  We might skip a math lesson but we never missed a chance to note how biblical principles and biblical truth informed our worldview and guided our choices.

I know, I know, I know that I don’t deserve special treatment.  I know that God does not promise to exempt any person from hurt and heartache as long as we walk this earth.

But somewhere I got mixed up.  

Somehow I thought that if I did all the right things, made all the necessary personal sacrifices, read the right books, walked the right path, my heart might be spared.

I was, oh, so wrong.

So when I had to bury my perfectly healthy, vibrant, brilliant, loving son who was here-one-moment-gone-the-next, I had to take a little while to decide how much of what I used to believe I could still believe.

I had to pull out all the verses, all the suppositions, all the theological arguments upon which my faith had rested and test them against my new reality.

Is God sovereign?  Does He have control?

I decided that He is and does.

Based on His Word and my own life experience, I am convinced that God is in control.

But His control does not routinely override the laws of physics He has put in place to rule the world.  His control does not always spare someone the natural consequences of choices made by free will.  His control does not always supersede the sinful brokenness that abounds on this earth.

So, here I am.  Left with absolute rock solid faith in the few, most important things upon which my hope can rest.

Christ died.

Christ rose.

Christ will come again.

Death is conquered.

Heaven is sure.

Redemption has been paid for and restoration will be complete.

I know by painful experience that His ways are not my ways and His thoughts are not my thoughts.  

my-thoughts-are-higher

I do not understand everything.  

But I cling to what I can understand.

Doubt is not sin.  I don’t try to talk myself out of it anymore.

Because the One Who made me holds me fast.

Those He saves are His delight
Christ will hold me fast
Precious in His holy sight
He will hold me fast
He’ll not let my soul be lost
His promises shall last
Bought by Him at such a cost
He will hold me fast

~He Will Hold Me Fast, Getty Music