God is in control?

29 12 2008

I haven’t written in a while, but I’ve been mulling this one over for some time.

You’ve probably heard the phrase “God is in control.” When I hear it, I cringe. Here’s what I believe: God does orchestrate events, but he never violates man’s will. He created us with the awesome and terrible ability to make up our own minds, to choose the way that seems best to us. We all know how well that turned for the first couple. God’s will was for Adam and Eve to live in perfect obedience and intimacy with him. But they didn’t. And he let them.

He’s in control of the universe… but he values my (mostly foolish) decisions by not overriding them, and holds me responsible to live with the natural consequences of my choices.

I envision him like an orchestra conductor, directing each musician to fulfill his or her part. But it’s up to each person holding their instrument to play the proper note at the proper time.  The conductor can’t make anyone play.

I hated the popular Christian song a few years ago called “Jesus take the wheel.”  Sorry, but Jesus won’t run your life for you while you nap in the back seat. He doesn’t work that way.  He wants servants for his father’s house who can be entrusted with the estate. He wants to give you a portion of his wealth so you can invest and return more. He wants active participants in the kingdom work, not shrugged shoulders and the defeated call for Jesus to take over.

I struggle with this concept of control in the common everyday decisions I make. For example, it is up to me to decide how much to give to charity. God does not automatically debit my bank account. It’s my responsibility as his servant to find out what my master wishes, then do my best to carry that out.

I’m not saying that God doesn’t work in and through us. He doesn’t control me, but he works in and through me when I obey him, when I let him,  when I bow my will to his.  Unfortunately this doesn’t just happen. It takes active decision-making on my part.  I must choose moment by moment to listen to him, to trust him, to physically do what I hear him saying.

On the other hand, I’m not saying that my will supercedes God’s. He will work his plan for the universe out whether I play along or not. I cannot stop God from his grand work. But I sure can stop his work in me.

Even so, and thank God, he can redeem my mistakes. He turns my failures around. He conducts the grand orchestra in such a way to recover from my errors. He works all things together for the good of those who love him, and are called according to his purpose.


it is finished

27 11 2008

Finally finished The Divine Conspiracy.  Hopefully I can live out what I read.

The final few chapters are devoted to developing a discipleship plan.  For those with the responsibility of making disciples, he lays out a “curriculum for Christlikeness.”

The end is Willard’s vision of eternal life.  Importantly, he discusses death and our common misperceptions of it.  Once cleared, he uses scripture to illuminate the eternal world and our role in it.  This is critical to the committment to be a disciple, because you must know what you’re working toward.

In case you were wondering, the divine conspiracy (if I can sum up this weighty work in one paragraph) is that the Being greater than the universe slipped into our midst, becoming one of us.  This decision changed all of humanity for all time.  It can change me – right now.

the divine conspiracy, part 2

7 11 2008

In case you didn’t see it, I posted earlier about trying to read The Divine Conspiracy for the third time.  I’m over half way through now, and loving it (third time’s a charm I guess).

His scholarly style does take some getting used to.  The more I read the better I understand his approach to mapping out his subject matter.  I’m also getting better at reading his unique sentence constructions.  Though it’s getting easier, I can’t read too much at a time because it requires digestion.  Here’s a snippet:

The eternal life that begins with confidence in Jesus is a life in his present kingdom, now on earth and available to all. So the message of and about him is specifically a gospel for our life now, not just for dying. It is about living now as his apprentice in kingdom living, not just as a consumer of his merits. Our future, however far we look, is a natural extension of the faith by which we live now and the life in which we now participate.

But besides the mechanics of reading comprehension, how’s the book itself?  Very insightful,  thoughtful and intellectually inspiring.  I love his approach of starting with the assertion that Jesus was (is) the most intelligent person ever, so we should take seriously his teaching.  So often when we read Jesus’ words we skim over them out of familiarity, without really studying his teaching for application to our everyday life.  Willard methodically breaks down the central teachings of Jesus into readily applicable chunks of kingdom truth.

tightening your belt?

30 10 2008

How’s this economy affecting you?  I didn’t think it was, until I took a closer look at our finances.  I started using Mint (www.mint.com) to track all of our accounts.

It’s not pretty.  I’m relying on God as always, but it’s time to start living below our income.  We’re cutting expenses.  We’re going to give up cable TV.  We’ll reduce our driving if we can.  I sold a vehicle I didn’t need.  My wife is considering working (she’s been a stay-at-home-mom).  We may even decide to sell our house.

The odd thing is I have a great job.  My pay hasn’t kept pace with inflation though – especially the inflation in food and gas costs.  Health insurance has also eaten up more of my salary.

What about you?

trade the noise

16 10 2008

A few of you may have received an email from me inviting you to try a new music site I just stumbled on:

The idea is to let music fans legally download whole albums, in exchange for either:

  • a donation, you decide the amount, or
  • for telling five friends about the music you’re downloading.

So far I’ve downloaded two new albums for free: Derek Webb’s The Ringing Bell and Waterdeep’s Heart Attack Time Machine.

a new law

14 10 2008

From Derek Webb‘s album Mockingbird, in full sarcasm mode:

A New Law

(vs. 1)
don’t teach me about politics and government
just tell me who to vote for

don’t teach me about truth and beauty
just label my music

don’t teach me how to live like a free man
just give me a new law

i don’t wanna know if the answers aren’t easy
so just bring it down from the mountain to me

i want a new law
i want a new law
gimme that new law

(vs. 2)
don’t teach me about moderation and liberty
i prefer a shot of grape juice

don’t teach me about loving my enemies

don’t teach me how to listen to the Spirit
just give me a new law


what’s the use in trading a law you can never keep
for one you can that cannot get you anything
do not be afraid
do not be afraid
do not be afraid


9 10 2008

Have you heard of micro-lending?  I’m trying it out on prosper.com.  I’ve loaned somebody $100 , along with a bunch of other lenders for a total loan of $13,000 at 24% APY.  That works out to $140 for me if they take the maximum three years to pay it back.

That’s if they pay it back.  But I have to believe that a majority of the borrowers looking for micro-loans are honest.  With the credit crisis, it’s getting difficult to get traditional loans, so I’m all for helping each other out, one person to another.  If this first one goes well, I’ll put more money out there.  Either way, I’ll post here to let you know what happens.