Saturday, January 23, 2021

Don't Panic in God's Plans or Purposes

(The months of January and February, I am dedicating my personal study to current and historical views concerning the conflict of kingdoms that Christians wrestle with at all times, but seem to be crystalizing in trend of current culture. Any one post can lead to mis-understanding and a mis-application. Also, there are unanswerable questions because much of this is applied through principles based on personal situations where there are often multiple responses allowed. My main goal is to flesh this out personally, and possibly inspire others to wrestle and prepare for future situations)

This has been such an encouraging and refreshing journey for me personally. I have no issues with how God chooses to orchestrate the circumstances of my life. His plan is better than my plan and His timing is so perfect.

Don't get me wrong- I fight Him so much... He likes our wrestling matches.

But what we have lost in this world of instant decisions and opining at the click of a button is a process of understanding and learning how we can be better by deliberation and patience.

I'm like any human... I can get red hot on an issue and my emotions bubble up right out of my mouth, or my text, tweet, email...

We live in a compartmentalized world - our homes, cars, calendars, activities are segmented. I sometimes liken this to a world of bubbles and we just float through with much less exchange and interaction that I understand former times to have been like.

It is getting worse- we don't even look at one another anymore. I am by nature an introvert (I know you don't believe that) but my Meyers-Briggs (see 4/26/2007 post) confirms what I have always known- that I live more inside than outside. But, in a strange way, I love to interact with others. Usually, just an eye contact and a nod, or smile.

In my last few years walking high school hallways, I continue to notice that a significant number of students did not look up and catch eyes a lot- not to me or anyone else. I sometimes even do a little experiment where I would and say a subtle but pronounced 'morning' as a student walked by and they never acknowledged any receipt of it.

Now this was in no way scientific or provable, but my fear is that privatization/compartmentalization has created isolation, especially in young people. And isolation is not good- "it is not good for man to be alone"- the darkness, loneliness, and silence can be deadly. Covid has exasperated this!

This is where God's Spirit is pressing me. I have gotten totally lost the concept of being in the world but not of it. Sure, some are 'in the world and OF the world' but just as extreme and fruitless are those who are totally 'out of the world'. This is not easy, it is messy, and it is a struggle- but we have to stay engaged or we will lose everything. And if Christ's voice goes silent- the darkness and decay will spread like gangrene.

Recently I re-visited some of my devotions from proverbs.

Proverbs 22:17-23:11 is interesting because it seems to borrow/use/parallel wisdom from an Egyptian pharaoh, Amenemope. Some people really get bent out of shape by this. These Egyptian influences can be argued to include some of Moses' writing as well. Skeptics or critics will use this as evidence that Bible is myth- Hebrew mythology no different than Egyptian or Greek mythology.

None of this bothers me- in fact if you study other faiths you will see that almost ALL belief systems contain some truth and can be articulated rather rationally and follow the laws of logic with some coherence. That is because at some point, everything lands on what is TRUE. If there is no final land or mass of substance i.e. truth- then all of it is endless mirrors and smokescreens. Some people supposedly got rich selling Amway distributions, but down the line someone actually had to buy some soap or there was no real revenue.

This does NOT mean that you can believe whatever faith system you want to and be OK. No- there are right and wrong answers. Just because something has some truth does not mean it to be THE TRUTH. And this is a point where we get hammered by popular culture- isn't is ARROGANT of me to think that I am the one holding the real deal? As politely as possible we respond- All truth claims are exclusive and can be construed as arrogant because truth does not budge. But it can be construed as well that ANY truth claim can seem arrogant even if the truth claim is that there is no truth. Saying Jesus is the only way to heaven is bold and exclusive, but saying ALL paths lead to God does the same thing. Our job is to speak this truth boldly, but also in love. Right, but not dead right.

A guiding principle helps me here- God made all things- there are a lot of neutral things that He made that we have turned into evil things by elevating them into ultimate things or abused them by breaching the boundaries of what the Creator intended. As Christians, full of grace and mercy, we can stand in full frontal view of these things and use them as teaching points- as education- and launching points for the gospel.

Sure, there is danger here- we are men who are as easily entangled with the world as anyone. But I wish we were less prudish sometimes and addressed real life issues, not with cringing embarrassment, but with beautiful gospel proclamation. Example: I constantly ask my players to consider the language that they allow on their playlists. We land on them pretty hard if we hear  it by way of their car speakers or weight room surround sound. We don't allow it- but I don't freak out if they have it- I don't act like they are super sinners for allowing it. Instead, I try to teach through it- why is this inappropriate? How do others see them? What does this message say about women? And what if they were a dad? And the conversations eventually lead back to the gospel.

Our weight room rules are not the gospel- it is my way of creating a healthy environment for the best, long term benefit- but I don't fall on the ground shrieking about their horrible sin. We turn it off, I give consequences to make sure they understand the boundary- and we move on.

But believers tend to be their own worst enemy here- I have been bashed over the years by Christians. Why do we teach "The Great Gatsby"? It had bad words. Why do we allow secular music on our highlight tapes or in our musical productions? Why did I reference a particular movie? My response is always measured and I have to be careful to try not to offend- but the bottom line is still- There IS truth here and I am reclaiming THIS TRUTH AS GOD"S TRUTH. This is an extreme example, but when Mick Jagger sings 'I can't get no satisfaction'- he is giving a gospel opening here. Paul even used this technique on Mars Hill with a pagan altar. "Shrewd as serpents- innocent as doves"- not removed...ENGAGED!

Does this mean we can't create greenhouse buffers for children and education? No, I fully believe you should protect the innocence and not be the one to spill the conscience- but the reality is that culture does filter in by osmosis- you find sin/worldliness in christian institutions usually in correlation to the mores of the culture. These places are not cocoons- they are labs to teach God's word and proclaim the gospel and instruct students with age appropriate material about how to discern. We don't scream 'unclean' - we teach and admonish. It is a tough balance and cannot be done by policy, it has to be done by leadership. It has to be a community effort as well.

The point here is that we can use movies, music, and yes, even non-christians, to teach God's truth .... what He desires and why we should trust Him. But this means we have to recognize it as well and not glorify it. Sin has consequences... but we are speaking to broken people and there is no need to break a bruised reed.

Now I know that could mean that I am using worldly wisdom as an excuse to see it all or do it all and justify it as educational- NO- How can we who died to sin still live in it? I just want us to be real and 'turn on ALL the lights' of God's creation and truth. 

The writer of Proverbs is wise to parallel wisdom of other cultures and faith systems because ultimately all men are in God's image and all truth is God's truth. All men have a capacity to know God- All men have sin- and all men need God's grace and mercy through the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ- and all men will appear before the Creator who is a just, wise, and fair judge. 

Am I a universalist? NO. Is it OK to hope that Christ will suffer none to perish?- YES. Will there be men and women who by utter defiance and rebellion send themselves to hell and foolishly turn down the free offer of forgiveness by repentance and faith? The Bible seems to say, sadly, YES.

We get a lot of this here in Proverbs CH 22:

verse 1 - A good reputation is more important than great riches- We all desire for our NAME to be a good name. Once our NAME is ruined- we have lost so much that not even great wealth can heal. I know this sounds like a broken record- but this again is why gossip is such a deadly sin. Satan is always attacking good men- and if he can't get them to sin- he will next start the whisper campaigns and see if he can tarnish their reputation with innuendo and even lies. We must all seek to eliminate that!

Famous verse 6- "Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it." #1 This  Proverb is a principle and NOT a promise. #2 Teenage rebellion is not necessarily a trend- it is funny how kids do end up like parents for better or worse. #3 Have your home filled with the things of God- in attitude and love as much as music and rituals- and your children will develop a taste for God and an ear for God. #4 This is a path you are engraving- a way- a habit- repetition is good- but at some point all you are doing is pointing and praying- you are not responsible for the product- you are to pray and press the process.

Finally, I love the END of Ch 22:

28 Do not move an ancient boundary stone
   set up by your ancestors.

This is one huge reason why I study the reformed fathers of the faith- we can glean from our previous heroes- progress is not always progress in the right direction.

29 Do you see someone skilled in their work?
   They will serve before kings;
   they will not serve before officials of low rank.

This is my biggest encouragement to just keep my head down and keep running. I just want to get better every single day. At some point, God will do as He wants- but my greatest joy is that today I serve at the pleasure of MY KING!

I get sad when I see so many Christians give in to the 'doom and gloom' crowd.... let's stand firm, be forgiving, and let our children see us steady in the storm!

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