God is NOT in Control

We’ve all heard people say it. Heck, most of us have probably said it. “Don’t worry about anything, God is in control!” (Ya’ll remember that Twila Paris song right?) It sounds nice. It makes us feel better, safer, free from responsibility and consequences. Too bad it’s just not true!

Some of you are wondering if I’ve gone off the deep end. Some of you will not read beyond the title because you don’t want to subject your faith to this sort of “secular thinking”. In Christian-ese, to say that God is NOT in control is practically blasphemous. But when we go around spouting out how God is in control of everything and everyone, we end up making Him look like a mean-hearted, sadistic being that the very people who need Him most can’t accept.

For example; some people are born with debilitating disease. To say God is in control, is to say God made them that way. But we know from the Bible that ALL disease is a result of the curse. It’s NOT God’s will for any of us to be sick or live in pain. So… was God in control when that baby was born? Absolutely not!!!

What about those who are born with a tendency toward homosexuality? We know that homosexuals start having those feelings the same time that heterosexuals start having feelings for the opposite sex. To say that God is in control is to say that God made them gay. (Which is what a lot of homosexuals say – I was born this way, God made me this way, so what kind of an evil god would MAKE me gay, then say being gay is a sin?) We know from the Bible that homosexuality is a sin. It’s NOT God’s will. So… was God in control when that baby was born with those tendencies? Absolutely not!

What about that horrific shooting that recently took place in Aurora, CO? Obviously God was not in control! To say otherwise is the same thing as saying God wanted those 12 people to be murdered.

No wonder the world thinks our God is full of hatred and spite and pettiness! It’s not because He’s in control, but because WE are, and we have been doing a lousy job of it.

Let’s follow the path of “In control”. In the beginning, God was in control. He made everything. He even made us. Then, he gave that control over to Adam and Eve and said “Ya’ll be in control. Replenish the earth and subdue it.” So they were in control until Satan came along and tempted them. So Eve ate the fruit, gave it to Adam who ate the fruit, and really it wasn’t about a piece of fruit, it was about control. They handed control over to Satan right there in the Garden of Eden.

So, God started His plan for getting the control back from Satan. It took a few thousand years, but He was eventually able to bring Jesus into the earth. So, when Jesus died, conquered death and Hell, and rose again, He took BACK control from Satan. So, here was God in control again! Then Jesus did exactly what God did in the Garden. He turned right around and gave that control back to His church (Matt 16:19). He gave us the keys. He gave us the authority. He gave us the control.

So now we live in this world with a constant power struggle going on. We have control and Satan wants it back. Sure he has the power to make stuff happen, but we have power over all the power of the enemy (Luke 10:19). I believe that one of Satan’s best tactics for getting control back from us is lulling us into believing that God is in control – not us! When we’re sitting around waiting for God to deal with something that WE are clearly supposed to deal with, then Satan has already won!

So that’s my sermon for today :)

Stop sitting around waiting for God to handle stuff for you. Jesus said “It is finished” and He sat down at the right hand of God. He’s not doing anything else except interceding on our behalf. The care and maintenance of this world is in our hands. And really, the image that the world has of God is in our hands. Most of the arguments against Christianity are based on what Christians have said about God. I know so many atheists who think that if God is real, then He’s evil – and for every one of them, without exception – it’s because of what they’ve heard and seen Christians saying and doing in the name of a God who is “in control”.

I Was a Problem Child

I was a problem child.

I’ve heard all the stories from my mother that point to this fact. I was born 2 weeks early in the middle of the night with, possibly, the most horrific birth-story you just don’t want to hear. (It ended with 57 stitches for my mom). And apparently my Terrible Two’s started at about 18 months and didn’t end until I started Kindergarten.

I was an exceptional child.

I’ve heard all the stories from my mother that point to this fact. I started walking at 6 months old. I could read and do basic addition when I was 3. I could stay on my part in 4-part harmonies when I was 6.

Through elementary school, I was the teacher’s pet for every single grade, except 5th grade, where I was the bane of that teacher’s existence. Through high school, I was either the darling or the devil. I made one of my 9th grade teachers cry because I told her she was an idiot and we both knew it was true. But another 9th grade teacher made me her aide because I was the best student she ever had.

For a long time, I told myself “Well, exceptional people are just a problem for ordinary, un-exceptional people.” So, I’ve assumed, since most people seem to love me, that most people are exceptional. And I’ve just ignored those boors who don’t understand me.

However, I’ve learned better.

I’m not one or the other. I’m both exceptional AND a problem! Some people love me. Some people hate me. Those who really know me do both with great regularity. It’s not a matter of what’s right or wrong with everyone else. It’s a matter of what’s both right AND wrong in me.

I think that the better we understand ourselves, and really appreciate both the exceptional and the problematic aspects of ourselves, then we’ll start to really be able to appreciate other people. Matthew 22:39 says to love your neighbor as yourself. So, if you don’t love yourself – and I mean all of you – your great parts and your horrible parts – then you can’t really love other people. If you think of yourself too highly, and pretend that you don’t have any flaws, then you’ll be overly critical of other people’s flaws. If you think of yourself too lowly and don’t see yourself as worth anything, then you’ll expect perfection from those around you and you’ll always be disappointed (because they will always let you down).

I’m still, and always, learning to love myself for who I am – the Exceptional, Problem Child.

Listening

I love the early morning. It is the best time to get really quiet and listen. I sit here in my recliner letting my ears take in the constant whirring of the central air blowing and the humming of the one light bulb that I have reluctantly turned on to protect my shins from the lurking furniture. I can hear the ceiling fan chasing itself around and around in a beautiful parody of our human tendency to expend most of our energy in futile attempts to catch an elusive dream.

I listen on, beyond the obtrusive, man-made noises that clutter my life, and I can hear birds singing and chirpily starting their day, I can hear my neighbor’s alpha rooster cuckooing his assertion of dominance over his harem of hens. There is the faintest sound of the wind rustling the trees in long, lazy waves as if the sounds of the ocean were carried by invisible hands nearly 200 miles just for me to enjoy this morning. It makes me feel connected to the earth as if it was a living creature and then, without warning, a memory of sitting on a soft lawn in Seattle a year ago washes over me.

Be still and know that I am God.

But I won’t get sidetracked today. I keep listening. And the further I listen outwardly, the more I hear inwardly. My heart beats a steady, slow rhythm. My lungs maintain a constant ebb and flow of air not unlike the sound of the wind in the trees. And then, right there, deep in the stillness of my soul. I can hear it.

Inside of me is a constant soundtrack of my faith. Today I’ve joined in the middle of a scripture recitation, “my heart is fixed; I will sing and give praise”. I know it is Psalm 108, but I have to look it up. Ah yes, I will awake early and praise the Lord among the people. I’ve read this dozens and dozens of times.

I don’t go through this listening exercise every morning, but I do it often enough to know the result is always the same. If I can pass by the human obstructions and the noise of this world, I can always hear the voice of my spirit and it is always speaking to me – well, ok, sometimes it is singing.

Facade

Merriam-Webster’s definition: 2. a way of behaving or appearing that gives other people a false idea of your true feelings or situation

Facades are wonderful things. Yeah – I just said that, and I’ll say it again! Facades are wonderful things!

Facades can be used to protect us from hurtful and harmful situations. Facades can be used to protect other people from the hurtful and harmful things we’re thinking or feeling. Facades must be used in order to get through some of the more difficult times that we all face in life.

When my dad died, my #1 role was to support my mother. Of course I was grieving. Of course my heart and soul hurt. But my mom needed someone to be strong for her, and the only someone available was me. So, I put on my facade and dealt with the things that needed to be dealt with and cared for her as best I could. And then a few days later, when mom had gotten through the worst of her grief, I let my facade down slowly and started my own grieving process. If it hadn’t been for a good, strong facade, I couldn’t have been the support she needed.

As a leader in church, there are times when I have to deal with disciplinary issues – it just comes with the territory. I rely on my facade to let me still be a compassionate and judicious leader while waiting for the right moment to deal with a problem. Without that facade, I would be irrational, emotional and potentially hurtful – causing major problems when a softer word, spoken at a later time, could handle the situation more effectively.

I know we’ve all heard that facades are bad and that we should be doing everything we can to break down the facades in our lives. But really, the only facades that are bad are the ones that we don’t know about. Right about now you’re probably wondering ” How can you not know you have a facade?” Facades we don’t know about are the ones that occur when we are deceived about ourselves. James 1:22 says “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” Galatians 6:7 “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” 1 John 1:8 “If we say that we have not sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

When you talk about prayer, but don’t pray – when you read about love but don’t show it to others – when you train others how to grow and develop, but you don’t practice what you teach – you are already deceived, you’re wearing a facade and you probably don’t even know it!

So yes – those facades are bad and need to be destroyed in our lives so that we can be all that we’re called to be. But just because one kind of facade is bad doesn’t mean they all are!

My 3-year old niece recently painted a picture for me and she asked “Is it pretty?” Well, to be honest, no it wasn’t – it was a great big mess and wasn’t pretty at all. Thank God for Aunt Facade!!!! I told her it was the prettiest painting I ever saw. I can do that in love with no conviction at all, because I know she wasn’t really asking about the painting, she was really asking “Do you love me” and that answer is YES all the way. But if I were to get hung up on YOU’VE GOT TO BE REAL ALL THE TIME NO MATTER WHAT, then she would have been hurt for no good reason at all.

So yes, I’ll say it one more again :) – facades are wonderful things!

Nightmares

I remember the very first scary movie I ever saw. OK – not really, my mom loved scary movies, so I’ve been watching them since I fell asleep at the Drive-In when King Kong came out in ’76. But I remember the first time a scary movie ever really scared me.

Springtime in West Virginia is always wonderful. The snow has melted, the trees are bright green once again, flowers are in bloom everywhere. School is out and everyone’s looking forward to summer camp. That is until that fateful spring of 1980 – when the horror movie to end all horror movies was released on this unsuspecting child of 6. I think it was my aunt who took me to the cinema, knowing how much I had enjoyed the truly macabre classics like Amityville Horror and The Exorcist as well as some less critically acclaimed gems such as I Spit on Your Grave and Last House on the Left, I’m sure she thought that this would just be one more horror flick that she could enjoy with me. I don’t blame her – there’s no way she could have known that this movie would effect my summer and actually my whole life.

The film I’m speaking of is Friday the 13th. I don’t know if it was the movie itself, or the fact that I was about to head out to summer camp, or just the fact that I was now old enough to really comprehend the horror of watching people being brutally murdered. I remember crying and trying desperately to tear my eyes away as camp counselor after camp counselor was stalked, hunted and ultimately killed in increasingly more and more horrendous ways. But I was stuck there in my theater seat, unable to move, destined to watch every single frame, feel every single stab, and experience every single death along with those poor people.

Their screams of terror bore into my very soul. The spray of their blood haunted my dreams. The sound of leaves crunching underfoot brought shivers up my back. For YEARS after I saw the movie. I developed a fear of the dark that I never had before. All of a sudden, I went from a easy-going, laid-back kid, to a jumpy, fretful and worried kid. I just knew that someday the bad guy would get me and hack me up into little pieces too.

It’s many, many, many years later now :) and while I still like a good horror movie from time to time, I don’t watch those slash and dice flicks at all anymore. I’m not convinced that some horrible man is going to hunt me down and murder me anymore, but if I want to be perfectly honest, I still have that dream every once in a while and wake up with my adrenaline pumping and my heart racing.

As I think about this younger generation, I wonder what ghosts they’re going to grow up with. I’ve never seen a Saw movie, but you’re hard-pressed to find anyone between the ages of 20 and 30 who hasn’t seen at least the first one. What in the world must their dreams be like? As special effects and CGI gets more and more realistic, how damaging are these movies on our psyches?

I know that we all have nightmares from time to time, but if I can choose what to put into my imagination, then maybe it will help to control what comes out of it in the realm of dreams. So… if I could choose, I’ll choose nightmares filled with Smileys and Kittehs. You know, something I think I could take if it jumped me in a dark alley.

Wash, Rinse, Repeat

I was talking to a distant relative recently and they asked “So how’s life treating you?” and all I could answer was, “Oh, you know, the same old same old”. I honestly couldn’t think of anything interesting that’s happened in my life recently. This made me start thinking, is my life really that boring?

Of course not! I’m busy all the time, mostly doing things that I love with people whom I love. Overall, I’ve got a great life! So, why did I have that mental road-block? What made me resort to some lame, non-committal answer? It’s really been bothering me.

So I did the usual self-psych evaluation: Am I just trying to turn the attention off of me so that I don’t have to talk about myself or my life? No way. I’m just like anyone else, I love to talk about me. OK, am I just trying to avoid the typical long debate about my religious beliefs and how I’m “throwing my talents away”? Possibly… but no, I never mind having that debate. Plus, I actually tried and couldn’t think of anything outside of “I get up, I go to work, I go to church, I go to meetings, I work on music, I go to sleep”. Just a series of repetitive actions – wash, rinse, repeat.

Then it hit me – somewhere along the way, I had stopped enjoying my life! I got so caught up in the repetitive actions of day to day living that the reasons behind why I do what I do stopped being in the forefront of my mind and heart. WOW!

I’ve heard a lot of teaching about familiarity and how being too familiar with a person or thing can cause you to lose respect or take them for granted, but I’ve never thought about that applying to my day to day life as well. I’ve become so accustomed to being “busy” that I’ve started sleepwalking through my life, passing from one duty to the next like a zombie endlessly in search of brains. I’ve been taking my own blessed and happy and stressed and miserable life for granted! I’ve been washing, rinsing and repeating, completely forgetting that the whole point was to have some nice, clean hair that could be styled and worn out on the town with my man! (I’m a fan of the metaphor.)

So, the trick is to break the cycle in my mind, without necessarily breaking the cycle in actions and deeds, because stuff still has to get done. The sun still rises every day and sets every night, on and on without end. And our lives have to continue on through the duties and requirements of day to day living, but I’m learning, still and always, how to better enjoy the journey.

Times Like These

So… my body had a complete shut down on Wednesday. I mean, it just said “Nope, not gonna do anything at all today.” Just like this video. I guess that’s what happens when you go for weeks and weeks and weeks with no time off. When you leave the house at 7 every morning and don’t get home until 11 every night. Usually Sunday is one of my busiest days, but lately it’s been almost relaxing, what with that awesome afternoon nap! It’s times like these that I’m really, really thankful that I am surrounded by people who care about me and tell me “Go home and get some rest, the world isn’t going to stop if you’re not in the middle of everything.”

I’ve been feeling a LOT of pressure lately, it just seems like there’s too much to do in the time allotted. Too many places to be, too many people to please, too many deadlines to meet. It’s times like these that I’m really, really thankful that I’ve got an incredible team around me who are always asking “What can I do to help? Give me some of your burden and I’ll carry it for you.”

My morning worship time has been dead lately. I mean, it feels like every word I say just falls flat to the floor. It’s been hard to make myself get to my scheduled prayer time punctually and it’s been harder not to leave early. One of the reasons I love to spend time in worship is that I can “feel” God’s presence – but not lately. It’s times like these that I’m really, really thankful that my relationship with God is not based on emotions, but on His Word, which promises that He never leaves me or forsakes me – no matter how I feel.

So… in times like these – what are you really, really thankful for?

 

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