Tag Archives: acceptance

God Is Only Bound By God

Yesterday, while thinking about several things, my mind shifted to focus on my reaction to situations and how often I’ve witnessed the same reaction is in others. All Christians have hard times. If anyone ever told you that being a Christian meant never suffering, or never facing difficulty then they lied to you. If anyone is telling you that all you must do is claim the good results you want and they will magically be yours, I would ask them, “Then why didn’t Peter claim his deliverance from the cross upon which he died?” “Why didn’t Paul respond to his own hunger and thirst, referred to in 1 Cor 4:11, with such a claim of guaranteed abundance?” This idea that we can just claim our deliverance or our blessings is based on the same weakness that causes us ask, “God, why don’t you do something about this?”

I, like many others, found myself asking God that very question. We have recently faced some difficult burdens which have been quite hard and have left us in a state of being unsure about what the future holds. I found myself asking God why he didn’t do something about it. At that moment, a thought sparked. I realized where such questions come from. Questions about God in such things come from an assumption that we deserve his response—that something within us makes us worthy of God’s immediate attention to our current need. We, like Job, find ourselves believing God to be unjust in not acting on our behalf (Job 34:5). Of course, most of us are not bold enough to flat out accuse God, so we do the passive aggressive prayer, “God, why don’t you do something about this?”

I was guilty of assuming I deserved God’s intervention. Even if God chooses to let me go all the way through the most horrible of experiences, this does not make him unjust because no matter how horrible, I deserve fully anything God allows into my life. If it is to die, then I deserve death. If it is allowed for me to face financial ruin, then I deserve financial ruin. If it is to face persecution, then I deserve persecution (These are examples only, so please do not try to read into them what my family and I have been facing). The problem is that we see ourselves as far more deserving than we are. We are so used to claiming and defending our rights that we forget we have no such rights before God. God, as the author of our rights and as the one in whose image we are made, has full and unrestrained sovereignty in our lives. We can deserve nothing before him, because such would make us sovereign in that circumstance. The only thing that limits God, or binds him to any course of action, is his own nature. So long as his actions—in permitting, or stopping—does not violate his own nature, then his actions are appropriate and we are best to say, “Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?” (Job 2:10b NIV).

Does this mean we must stoically accept whatever comes from God and never question or plead with him? Well, if we take our lead from the Psalms of David, “the man after God’s own heart,” we know better. Just as David poured out his heart before God, and on occasion vented his spleen. Such is natural, and can be cathartic. It is often in such times, when I find myself venting at God, that he seems to sooth me with the “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12 KJV). However, this does not change the fact that demands for God to act show more about us than about him. They show that, at that moment, we presume to demand something from God, that some fact about us or our lives gives us leverage to force his hand. Such feelings show that we still place ourselves upon the throne—we seek the place of God. Such feelings show how much we (me included) still need to be transformed. Perhaps that is part of what inspires our suffering.

Do I deserve to have God act on my behalf? Absolutely not! Do I (in and of myself and based upon my own qualities) deserve anything good from God? Again, no! But this is not something to mourn. It should inspire us to celebrate how much he does for us. We can trust him, because of who he is. We can trust him to keep his promises, not because we deserve what was promised, but because he chose to promise and, in that way, bound himself to a course of action—sovereignly.

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Real Community

Today, while reading in Mary Moschella’s book Ethnography as a Pastoral Practice, I was reminded of too many experiences in local churches. She refers to Margaret Kornfeld[1] who differentiates between “real communities” and “pseudo-communities.”

A real community: “a place where people are free to be themselves and know that they will be accepted, a place where conflict can be expressed and resolved, and a place where diversity of opinion is offered.”

A pseudo-community: “may seem friendly at first, but it is really not a safe place in which to express an opinion that diverges from the group’s stated values. If you are different in a pseudo-community, you feel it immediately; you feel pressured, not safe. You sense that you do not fit in, that there is no room for difference of opinion, and you may ‘go into hiding.’”

Churches have for too long pretended to be real communities. Even our own church has a history in which we have actually been a pseudo-community. It is easy to be friendly with those who agree with you. It is easy to accept those who live like you do. The problem is that these are not the people we are supposed to be reaching with the gospel.

I hope our church will always strive to be a real genuine community where people, even different ones, are accepted. I know I have personally been guilty of causing some to feel uncomfortable, so my prayer begins for myself. I pray that Christ, in making us more like him, will make us more loving to those who are unlike us.

[1] Cultivating Wholeness: A guide to care and counseling in Faith Communities

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What will you withhold?

This morning, in my devotional time, I found myself asking a question that brought a great deal of reflection. Allow me to share, and I hope you will ask yourself the same question.

Consider this statement: “Lord, if [blank] is your will, I accept it.” Then ask yourself, is there anything you would not put in that blank? If so, then that’s an area of your life where you still remove Christ from the throne.

Truly submitting to the Lord means accepting whatever goes in that blank—no matter what it costs us or requires of us. Now, before you get too hard on yourself, this is not meant as an indictment. It’s a good exercise, because, until the day he has finished transforming you into the image of Christ, it is likely you will always have something (if you dig deep enough) which you would rather keep out of that statement.

I have to admit there are things I would rather not put there. I know this because I have found such things. Of course, this lets me know I have work to do with my Lord. This means I need to be broken by him. Of course, the Lord is very good at breaking. Funny, while there are things I still find myself holding back, being broken by God is something I no longer fear. I have learned that being broken hurts terribly (that is part of the definition of ‘broken’), but afterwards, there is such relief. As I write this, it just dawned on me that it’s similar to my visits to the chiropractor. When the doctor takes a hold of my head, I know that what he is about to do to my neck (a form of breaking it) will be painful.[1] It is even frightening—especially when a stiff neck is one of my regular complaints. Yet I willingly submit because I know that, afterwards, my neck will feel wonderful—the anticipated relief is greater than the fear which precedes it. While this is an overly simplistic illustration, it is not too unlike being broken by God. God often has to break who we are, to make us into whom he wants us to be. While this can be frightening, the relief is great. As you walk with the Lord over the years, and he regularly breaks you, in time you begin to see beyond the pain you will experience, anticipating the final relief.

So, when you look at that statement above and know there are things you would not place in that blank, get ready because those are the areas where he will break you. God shares his authority in your life with no one. He bought your life with the sacrifice of Christ, and he will play second fiddle to no one—not even you. The universe fits within that small blank and you can keep nothing from it.

[1] The first time the doctor adjusted my wife’s neck she screamed and cried so loud the entire office thought she was hurt. But within a second she was so happy to have relief.

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