God’s sovereignty

QUESTIONS THE BIBLE ASKS YOU #4

Have you noticed that life so often seems to be a battle? Instead of out into the world, it can feel like we are going off to war!

A normal day can be like a walk through a briar patch with thorns clawing at us from every side. And who knows when the next monster is going to leap out of a hiding place to attack us.

These monsters are not just in the world, some of them are in our own fears, failures and accusations. God who has saved us forever and is committed to caring for us just as long, reminds us He is our greatest reality by asking us this question:

If God is for us, who can be against us?

Here is God’s question to us in its context from Romans 8:31-39  

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 

Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 

Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Do you have a confident answer to God’s question?

SERMON LEFTOVERS 11.24.14

“Living in God’s Big Plan”                  

James 4:13-17

In James 4 we are challenged to consider how we plan and to consider God’s place in our plans

Our best laid plans are untrustworthy

We don’t have the power to ensure that our plans will work

Our best wisdom – has corruptions and insufficiency

Our best strength – runs out and can be overwhelmed by a simple cold

Even if life appears to be going our way, we have expiration date

Bottom line: there is little we can make go our way (our children are exhibit A)

James is not against planning, as v15 shows us

He is chiding us for planning as if we have life in our back pocket

What is Jame’s criticism if planning is okay? 

It is the arrogance of self-sufficiency v16

The word used for arrogance is also translated “pride of life” in 1 John 2:16

Pride of life is thinking life is our playground rather than God’s Kingdom

Life belongs to God!  All living that ignores Him is “evil” (v16)

It’s arrogance to live as if we are in control and only accountable to ourselves

James adds that we “boast in” our arrogance (or self-sufficiency)

When we treat God as if He is for emergencies we boast in ourselves

When we are content & take joy in our independence, we boast in ourselves

Animals live without considering God, as do demons and unbelievers; will it be true of Christians as well?

James wants to make sure our perspectives are in focus

1.  Is the perspective we have about ourselves in focus?

“Come now” in vs 1 is a blunt call to reality (i.e. Get real!)

We should know that we are limited in our wisdom

So rejoice God has given us His word:  perfect, unfailing truth (2 Peter 1:3-4)

We should know we are limited in what we can do

So rejoice that the Holy Spirit who lives in us, is flowing as rivers of living water

We should know this world is broken and our time limited

So see life as both everlasting and temporary; let both truths guide our plans

2.  Is our perspective about God in Focus? (v15)

We gain little help if we see the truth about ourselves, without seeing the truth about God

All things are made by His hands, and they remain in His hands

God is not simply a powerful God; He is the only Sovereign God! (1 Timothy 6:15-16)

Full clarity will say “Amen” to God’s sovereignty 

3.  Are we in focus about the big plan in which God has placed us?

God is doing the most extraordinary things

He is making all things whole, new, perfect and at rest – forever 

We are included in God’s beyond-amazing plan

We are in the middle of it, God is using us!

Every day you are in it. All our actions and prayers can be part of it

What does it mean to live by God’s big plan? 

1.  God’s way is always first

Nothing should rise above it (not our desires, hurts, relationships or careers)

How big of a check can God write on our life?

2.  God’s way is always in hand

We will intentionally use our life to serve Christ’s Kingdom

3.  God himself is where we go for contentment

We stop depending on relationships or our favorite soul-soothing habits

James has one more comment on this matter (v17)

Failure to do what we know is right, is sinful

James is uncovering an area of sin we minimize: our failure to depend upon God

If we rarely read God’s word – we are not depending upon God

If prayerfulness is not an integral part of how we live – we are not depending upon God

If we expect people to sustain us – we are not depending upon God

If we live disconnected from the Church which God established – we are not depending upon Him

Whose big plan are we living for?

WHEN LIFE GOES CRASH

In his book, “Standing Next to History: An Agent’s Life Inside the Secret Service”, former agent

Joseph Petro tells this story about a trip to Moscow by President Nixon.

“Secret Service agents were staying in guest quarters at the Kremlin.  One night after work, they all got together in one of the rooms for a nightcap and started looking around the room to see if they could find the listening device that they knew the KGB had invariably planted somewhere.  They looked under the lamps and under the tables and finally pulled back the rug to find something strange.  It was a brass plate held in place by a screw.  Having decided that this was the bug, they took it apart to see what it looked like.  They used a coin to unscrew the cover, and all of a sudden they heard a huge crash, as the chandelier in the room below came loose from its fixture and fell to the floor.”

Very smart people, make mistakes of all sizes. Everyone knows what it’s like to hear a loud “crash”, in the midst of their crafty plans.

Just when we are tempted to think we have figured life out, our life is jolted by the tremendous crash caused by our plans. It could be failures in parenting, messy romantic relationships, the “I’m-going-to-help-fix-this-person” fiasco, or the sure fire financial plan that ends up shooting blanks.

It’s not that we don’t have intelligence, but we cannot get around the reality that life is complicated and in all of life’s situations there is more than what meets the eye.

But life’s complications don’t have to cause panic or depression.

Because our God is Sovereign Lord over everything!

From the rise and fall of empires, to the ebb and flow of ocean tides; our God knew about every twist and turn before the first molecule in the universe was brought into existence.

God is fearless

God is never surprised

God has never experienced worry

God is not merely wise, He is all knowing

When we live for the Kingdom of Christ, we can be confident that what we live for will be victorious and we will be vindicated.

Knowing these things doesn’t make life easy – but it does give us rest.

We will still hear the occasional crash or good plans gone wrong – but for those who trust in Christ, even the worst crashes take place in the eternal care of His hands

MAKE LIFE MEANINGFUL

Yesterday, I brought up the uplifting truth that God is sovereign over this big, complicated and messy world.

Fortunately, I had the help of Pastor Josh Blount, who brought his insightfulness to how the reality of God being sovereign over all that happens, encourages us to represent Christ in all that is happening.

Today, I am sharing one more related thought from Josh’s article “Encouragement to Evangelize”.

In the quote you read yesterday, Josh helped lift the burden of making the gospel work in people off our shoulders.

Now, he excites us with the potential that God’s sovereignty places in our simple and routine lives:

“Do you see what all this means for evangelism? Every moment is bursting with eternal significance! Oh, there’s mystery here, to be sure. We choose. God controls. And yet our choices matter. And yet God is not subordinate to our choices. That’s a mystery, but a precious mystery—a mystery that changes how you view the guy lifting weights beside you at the gym and the elderly lady who just moved in next door. The conversation you strike up or the moving help you offer all fit into the cosmic, eternal, glorious plan of God. “There are no ordinary people,” C.S. Lewis said. And, we might add, no ordinary moments.”

Oh that we may see that it’s God who makes life significant – a significance that reaches into the furthest corners of forever! Once our heart has been grabbed by this truth, God will have our actions as well.

Read the entire article

WHAT TO DO IN A BIG COMPLICATED WORLD

We live in a big and complicated world!

At least to us it sure seems this way.

The moment we think we understand how life works – a huge new wrinkle jumbles all we thought we knew.

However, to God – our God, this world is not complicated at all.

Oh, He sees it as quite messy, but the answers to how it all should work are always clear to Him. God is never confused, surprised or anxious. That truth alone calms my worried and wearied soul.

This reality that God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is sovereign over everything in the universe no matter how great or small, should lift our hearts and spur our actions in many ways.

One of these encouragements is in the area of bringing the gospel to people around us. Josh Blount, the pastor of Living Faith Church in Franklin, West Virginia, makes this observation about God’s sovereignty:

“Do you see what all this means for evangelism? The burden doesn’t lie on us! God, in his triune glory, is the great Evangelist. For the glory of his name and the good of his people, God is at work to spread the gospel around the world. He uses everything to accomplish his purposes. Everything. Every single thing. Weather patterns. Wars. The clash of empires and the explosion of technology—and a warm greeting in the checkout line, a hot meal waiting when the neighbors return from the hospital.”

May our confidence in God’s sovereignty encourage us to be more active in making His name known!

Read the entire article

FROM A DARK PLACE

Depression is a dark place that not only burdens us, for unnecessary reasons it also shames us. No one wants to struggle with depression, and no one wants to be known as the weak person who cannot find their way out of this darkness.

For Christians who struggle with depression, there is the added fear of appearing as someone who is lacking in faith or godliness. Not to mention the internal struggle of wondering “why doesn’t God deliver me?”. You are not alone in this lonely place.

Keri Seavey, is a pastor’s wife who walked through this deep valley. She writes:

I wrestled with thoughts about God’s goodness and love. My clandestine fears had apparently given way to cruel doubts concerning his character.

Many famous Christian leaders throughout history spent years fighting this battle; discouraged by their bouts of depression, and frustrated that they couldn’t even understand where their depression came from.

Keri Seavey has given us a gift by sharing her struggle. Through her article, Keri helps us whether we walk through depression or know people who do.

SERMON LEFTOVERS 5.05.14

“God is Present and Sovereign”                

Exodus 7:14-10:29

God raised up Moses to lead his people out of bondage in Egypt. But Pharaoh dismissed the idea saying,

“Who is the Lord that I should obey his voice and let Israel go?  I do not know the Lord” (Exodus 5:2)

God uses a series of plagues to humble Egypt

The plagues are more than motivation for Pharaoh to release Israel; they are a response to his dismissal of God 

At least eight times in these chapters God says he is doing this so “you may know” who is Lord

The plagues are not random manifestations of power

Each plague is meant to show the impotence of an Egyptian deity

They also reveal that Pharaoh is powerless before the Lord

The plagues are an escalating demonstration of God’s sovereignty

And they are an escalating outpouring of his judgment

Overview of the first 9 plagues

1.  The Nile River becomes blood (7:14-25)

The Nile represented the life of Egypt, now it flows with death

Egyptian magicians were able to duplicate this sign

Pharaoh’s heart “grew” hard and he “walked away”

2.  Frogs (8:1-15)

Frogs represented the goddess of fertility (Pharaoh had tried to crush the fertility of Israel)

The magicians were again able to duplicate it, but they couldn’t stop it

Pharaoh pled for help and gave in, but hardened himself when relief came

3.  Gnats (8:16-19)

From now on the Egyptian magicians could not imitate the plagues

Pharaoh hardens his heart once again

4.  Flies (8:20-32)

From now on the area where the Israelites lived is untouched by the plagues

The land was “ruined”, yet Pharaoh hardens himself

5.  Pestilence on Livestock (9:1-7)

Pharaoh checked to see if the livestock of the Israelites were untouched, but he still hardens his heart

6.  Boils (9:8-12)

Moses used ash from the brick making kilns where the Israelites were used as slave labor

Now God touches the Egyptians bodies

This time we are told the Lord hardens Pharaoh’s heart and he ignores Moses

7.  Hail (9:13-35)

This was a terrifying and highly destructive storm of massive hail mixed with lightening

We are told the Egyptians are starting to fear the Lord

Pharaoh pleads for relief and hardens himself when it comes

8.  Locusts (10:1-20)

Now even Pharaoh’s servants urge him to let the Israelites go

Again, Pharaoh says he sinned, pleads for help and then the Lord hardens his heart

9.  Darkness (10:20-29

This was a supernatural darkness that could be “felt”

Finally in arrogance Pharaoh actually tries to threaten Moses

God uses these plagues to enlarge our view of him 

He is the only Sovereign God (9:13-17)

We can defy God and think we are in control, but the end is emptiness and futility

God even used the hardness of Pharaoh’s heart as his instrument

He is the only Judge over his world

These hardships were only signs, there is eternal wrath coming to all who deny the Lord

He is the covenant God (6:5-7)

His people had to walk through severe difficulties, but it all had purpose

We can now see that none of it was empty for them; so we can believe it never is for us

These plagues set the stage for a great deliverance

God will not only free his people, all the surrounding nations will also learn to fear the Lord

These events also point to the greater deliverance Christ would bring

Christ’s earthly ministry produced works that brought the reverse of the plague’s judgments

And Jesus brought a deliverance that is total and eternal

Exodus continues to teach us that God is always present, fully faithful and totally sovereign

DO YOU ACTUALLY BELIEVE THIS?

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You say that you believe that God is sovereign and in control of all things. You definitely love Romans 8:28 which tells us, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

So what does it look like to live according to this belief? Or, to put it another way, how do we show God who truly is sovereign, the trust that He deserves?

Here are just a few suggestions. I am sure you can think of a few more.

In fact, why not write them down in the comments, so we can all be encouraged by your additions to this list!

1.  With our Anxieties:  Remember that everything which causes us stress, has always been in God’s eternal plan. If God is never anxious or uncertain, then we can rest in His confident sovereignty.

2.  With our Obedience:  If God is in control, then everything He commands is not only best, it is un-improvable.  Do we really think some other way or wisdom will be a greater benefit in the end?

3.  With our Pursuit of Him:  What could be more urgent, than to draw nearer to God. Nothing will benefit us more, than to have a heart that loves God more

4.  With our Doubts:   It’s not our place to ask “Why, God?” The far better question is “How do you want me to respond”?  Let our doubts be like a mist under the sun which quickly burns away

5.  With our Possessions:  It really doesn’t make sense to grasp so tightly to our possessions, when they all belong to God who will not withhold any good thing in our forever with Him. Let us trust God to give us what is needed, when it is good to have it

6.  With our Worship:  He is always Lord of all, and He is unceasingly praiseworthy!  May our praise be tied to who God is, not what we want Him to fulfill.

The Psalmist writes, ‘The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice!’ (Psalm 97:1)

Do you believe God reigns today?  Then today we should rejoice!

HELPFUL WISDOM ON SUFFERING

In this 9 minute video discussion led by John Piper, Matt Chandler and David Platt talk through how painful suffering AND true joy can exist within the same human heart. These men use their own experience as examples for the rich biblical truths that lead their conclusions.

Aster this past Sunday’s message which dealt with suffering and hope, I thought this video would be a great follow up for us

God’s Goodness in Your Pain from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

DID GOD KILL MY DOG?

A 12 year old asks a youth leader a question which was very big in their mind – “Did God kill my dog?” In trying to answer the question, the youth leader created further confusion and ended up stuck in a theological corner and couldn’t find his way out.

There are real answers to questions about God’s sovereignty (His rule over all that exists). Even though God’s sovereignty involves truths that we do not fully see or understand, we don’t need to sound like theological jello when answering hard questions about it.

And yet as Marc Cortez points out in this article on his Everyday Theology blog, we do need to be careful in answering the right questions clearly. I think you will find Marc’s thoughts to be clear and helpful as he describes “Three mistakes we make when talking about the sovereignty of God”.