Sovereignty

On Facebook someone posted the most irreverent question I’ve seen in a while.

How can a God who Commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves be so limited in His own ability to love that He could love only some enough to elect them for salvation and then be able to hate some even lesser to reprobate them.

I’d add a comment here about how I felt about it but I’m very tired. That said, here’s my response:

In brief, here’s the way it works. God makes the rules. He’s God. He describes himself in scripture as the potter whose creations complain that he’s made them as he has but he’s still the potter. He can do what he wants. To presume anything else is to presume that you know better than he does. Why does he allow kids to die from cancer? Why does he even allow cancer in the first place? It’s because he’s God. I won’t understand every thing about what he does and I’m glad for that. If he’s a truly holy and pure God, my corrupted mind won’t be able to understand all of it. When I look at all of the things that took place in my life when he converted me – all of the people and experiences involved that shaped me into the man I was, all of the struggles I endured that led me to the place where all I could do was finally surrender my life into the hands of my creator, despite all of it that I’d normally claim as terrible, I thank God for all of it. He is my creator. He is my king. Who am I, as a creature under his control to take in his air that he owns and allows me to use to give me life and use it to attack him or belittle his authority over me?

If left to our own devices we’d never “choose” him, because to do so would be to violate the core of the sinful man. Ask any atheist if they feel they’re forced to hate a God that they swear doesn’t even exist? God chooses, in his love, to save some so he can demonstrate his communicable attributes of grace and mercy. He allows others to go to hell, where they’d rather be, because of their own desire to be as far from him as they can manage. Read Romans 1:18-32. Time after time it’s not God forcing anyone to do anything – it’s him, loving them enough to allow them to have what they want. They WANT this. The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against ALL ungodliness and unrighteous of men, but they don’t care. They suppress the truth of who God is and willingly choose to walk in sin. His attributes are made clear to them and they choose to abandon all of it in pursuit of the lie that they can be their own gods and determine what is right and true by their own volition. So he gives them up to their desires time and again. God doesn’t throw people into hell, he allows them to proudly walk in and lock the door behind themselves. The right question here isn’t “how does God choose to punish anyone”, but ” why would God choose to save anyone?”. I’m a failure. I screw up all the time. I willingly sin because I want that temporary freedom that I think I’ll get and I only receive the reminder that it was not only bad for me, but that it violated the one who died in my place to save me. I should be incinerated where I stand every moment of every day. Even on my best moment and with my best intentions I’m still a thousand miles from anywhere near where I need to be. The fact that God chose to save me boggles my mind every moment of every day. But here’s the fact – he did this by his own power and to his own glory because I know that I’d never do it on my own, and I thank him for it because that’s literally all I can do. I can’t work it off and I’ll never be good enough to be worthy of his saving work on my behalf. And for that I praise him.

God loves me and has a wonderful plan for my life. Sometimes that plan includes my wife going through horrible seizures, confusion, lack of mobility, and struggles with changes in medication. Sometimes that plan includes a lack of available finances so that we have to trust that God will help us to meet our needs despite everything that shows us that we should search out help elsewhere. Sometimes that plan means that we lose family and friends to cancer, or people we know turn on us for no reason at all. Sometimes it means that people we trust implicitly turn out to be pathological liars who only sought their own pleasure by contorting our lives around their deception. Sometimes it means that our best laid plans, no matter how well thought out or deeply conceived, will be shut down and abandoned.

God is the author of everything in our lives. We not only acknowledge this fact but we seek to live it out. At times that means that we lose friends and alienate ourselves from family members. It prompts uncomfortable conversations when opinions are raised against the solid Word of God and we are under pressure from family to relent to the opinion of those who we know to love us, or stand firm for the God who died to save us. Ultimately, trusting in Christ without living out what you say you believe only degrades the image of Christians and, by association, Jesus Himself, to the onlooking world.

My heart is bent toward legalism in everything I do. I want rules and regulations, not a God who says, “you’re forgiven” and leaves it at that. I search the scriptures for something that will give me a guiding principle, some sort of path to perfection, but it’s not there. That means that I struggle with the concept of understanding who I am as a Christian man on a daily basis. I want to serve this God who saved me but at some point my heart always brings the cart of my works, which were meant to be in gratitude for what He has done on my behalf, before the horse of His salvation and I end up trying to wrestle control of my life from God.

What does that mean for me now? I will, to the best of my ability, trust in God to direct my life and what I do by His own wisdom and plan for what He wants me to do. I acknowledge that I will fail on the way but I know that He is the one who is ultimately in control and I hope that I will remember to release control of the reigns when I find myself trying to grab them again and live my life for God according to my plan and not His. I will seek to stop making pronouncements for grand plans and ideas that I think will lead me to some next great plateau. I do plan to finish reading Calvin’s Institutes but that will come when God leads me back into it. I will finish reading all the books I’ve set before myself, but not to put them under my belt or to become a more respectable Christian, and instead so that I will be more able to appreciate the glory of God in as many facets of His character and nature as I can perceive and understand. In the end, I will trust in God to lead me and to control my life. Why? Because I know that He loves me and has a wonderful plan for my life.

Who is responsible for my salvation? God CALLED Abraham to himself just as Jesus called Lazarus from the tomb. Both were dead in their transgressions and sin before Him and God was under no obligation to save any of them. All of mankind stands condemned before our holy and perfect Creator and God is not obligated to save any of us. WE acted in rebellion against HIM. If my daughter steals my car and drives it off a cliff, totaling it, but she herself is saved. Am I obligated to forgive her? Is there some law on the books that requires me to forgive her for this transgression of my trust? In the same way, God is not obligated to forgive anyone. He has, by His own choice and on His own terms, chosen certain people before time began to save them by sending His own Son to suffer and die in their place. Jesus willingly substituted Himself for these undeserving haters of God and God the Father accepted His sacrifice on our behalf. If God, in His mercy, has done all this work for you, then does the work necessary to bring you to true repentance and trust in Himself, imparting to you faith and love beyond measure, are you then capable of rejecting His good mercy and act of grace on your behalf? What kind of a harsh and uncaring God would allow that to happen to those whom He has forgiven for all of their sins? You are not capable of out sinning God’s grace, and you are not able to thwart the plans of a perfect, holy, and uncontrollable God who has purposed to save you from yourself to Himself.

For the past two years we’ve been using Alpha and Omega‘s Switched on Schoolhouse. It’s a computer based curriculum that includes games, puzzles, and video walkthroughs by professors and teachers that lead the child through each lesson. One of the other features which we really enjoy is that it also will do 95% of the grading for you and is a stickler for spelling. For instance, if they get an answer right but misspell it, the system will automatically deduct 1% for each misspelling. One of my favorite features is that both kids can do their schoolwork at the same time. Just install the network client version, point it to the database on the primary computer and it’s up and running. It is also a great savings point for us as we can use the same software over again since Kylie is two grades ahead of Caleb – just create a new “student” account and assign it the 7th grade workload and “BAM!” he’s ready to go.

At the end of the last school year, Caleb came to us and asked that he be able to use books for this school year. He had been having trouble with his handwriting and he really wanted to spend the time to improve it. We agreed, but opted to stay with the Alpha and Omega publications so that he would still stay in the same teaching style. Unfortunately, in order to order the Lifepac (the equivalent curriculum to SoS) for 6th grade it would cost us $275 + shipping. We only had roughly 1/3 of that available. I figured that I could purchase it next month, but by that time Kylie would have already been doing her school work for a week and a half. I prefer that they do their work at the same time which makes things easier for us.

So, last night we left to pick up Kylie from her babysitting job before heading to Young Marines and our path ended up taking us past the local homeschool supply store. They have a huge selection of new and used so we thought we’d swing by and see what was available. As we headed to the used section, I immediately found a Lifepac Bible for 6th grade that had EVERYTHING (teacher’s book, tests, workbooks) minus the first workbook. Right next to that was the Lifepac Math for 6th grade with the same contents. It turned out that just that day a man had come in with a full set minus the first book in each. The price? $15 each. All I had to do was to go home and order the first book from AOP at $5 each.

$15 x 5 = $75 + tax = $80.25

$4.75 x 5 = $18.75 + shipping = $23.75

Total: $104

My budget? $105

Conclusion:

1) God is sovereign in all things. He put it in the mind of the man to take his curriculum to the store on that one specific day at that specific time. The staff had time to organize and price it accordingly, then put it on the shelf. No one else picked it up (full sets are extremely rare to come by, especially with the workbooks in pristine condition), and it was exactly in our price range. God also orchestrated our day such that we would not just pick up Kylie early and head home so she could get dressed there as we would normally do, but our path took us directly past the homeschool store. Lastly, God put it in my mind to “just go and see what they have available”.

2) God knows the cares and concerns of my heart and He will meet them when they are in accordance with His will. In Matthew 6 Jesus told us:

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

~ Matthew 6:25-34

Given that information, I can conclude that God knows my needs and He will fulfill them. He knows the things that are pressing heavy on my heart and it is His desire to meet my needs. Psalm 37 concludes:

Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

~ Psalm 37:4

See that? Delight myself in the Lord – not with sports, or with television, or with vain ambition and HE will give me the desires of my heart. Does that mean that if the desire of my heart is for a Porsche then I’ll get one? Nope. Not even if I really, REALLY desire it. See, if I am delighting myself in the Lord, then my desires will conform to His desires. My wants will become His wants. In this process, along with my prayer life, I am opening myself up to God and revealing to Him my nature that, through the transformative process of sanctification, seeks after Him and desires to become more like Him in every way. Therefore, my desires, conforming to His purposes, will be fulfilled.

In this case we see that God has met our needs again. Occasions such as ours last night at the homeschool store are not rare and are anticipated when we see an issue coming up where we have a specific need that we know is outside of our ability to control. May God be praised for all things. For our salvation, for our needs, and for homeschool curriculum.

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(e.g., John 1 or God's love)

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