One of the most controversial subjects in the church is that of creation. Did God create the world in billions of years, or six, 24-hour days? Did it happen by a Big Bang, or did God breath creation into existence a few thousand years ago? Did animals evolve on their own, under God’s direction, or were they created in less than a week? What kind of day is “yom” referring to? How does a believer reconcile faith and science?
I don’t have to pray about that!
Have you ever heard someone explain that they didn’t need to ask God about a particular situation? Perhaps you’ve been that person—so confident that you already know God’s will that you don’t need to confirm it? There seems to be an agreement in the church that some things are so obvious, we don’t need to check in with God about them.
I suppose you could make a case for instances where God’s will is clearly stated in the Bible. We probably don’t need to ask Him whether or not we should murder that annoying neighbor, for example. Nor do we need to pray about if we should cheat on our spouse.
Remember these bumper stickers? I haven’t seen one in a while, and that’s a good thing. Perhaps we’ve come to realize that we need to let God be in charge, instead of relegating Him to co-pilot status. We know that God needs to be in the pilot’s seat. Yet, how often we forget!
It isn’t just us. The problem started way back in the Garden of Eden. Look at Genesis 3:1-7. Everything up to this point was good. Adam and Eve had meaningful, productive work, a lovely place to live, and all their needs were being met by God. Of course, it didn’t stay that way.
Satan slithered into view, and challenged Eve with, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” Notice that he’s suggesting something that God did not say. In fact, it’s far from the truth. God had provided the fruit for food.
Eve is quick to correct him: “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” However, she doesn’t get her facts quite right either. I’ve always wondered—God gave that commandment to Adam before Eve was around (Genesis 2:16-17), so she got her information secondhand. Who added that bit about touching?
In any case, Satan first calls God a liar, then appeals to Eve’s desire for autonomy: “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
How enticing! Once we are like God, we can go our own way, make our own decisions, plot our own course. We won’t need Him anymore. Satan plants the seeds of distrust—God is lying. He is withholding something desirable, something good. He doesn’t have your best interests at heart.
We all know what happened next—instead of trusting God’s love and wisdom, Eve depends on her own analysis. The fruit is safe to eat. It looks good. It’s tasty. As a result, Adam and Eve ate the fruit that God had commanded them not to eat, and we’ve been trying to rely on ourselves, usurping God’s authority, ever since.
Over the years I’ve asked a number of non-Christians why they don’t accept God’s offer of relationship. The answers have varied, but there’s a theme, one that a friend from my high school years expressed best—“I believe in God, but I don’t want Him telling me what to do. I can make my own decisions.” Nothing has changed since the garden.
Even those of us who claim to be believers struggle with this desire to be in charge. We want God to be in our life. We may agree with this alternate bumper sticker…
… but when it gets down to the wire, we want God to bless our plans, while we stay in control.
This was brought home to us recently. Pete was asked to look over some plans for the expansion of a well-known ministry. There were plenty of spreadsheets, lots of technical details, and alternate plans for every contingency. It all looked pretty impressive, and their goals were laudable.
But as Pete read, he was surprised and disappointed by what was missing—any mention of dependence on the Holy Spirit. This was a ministry, but their documented processes were no different from those of any secular corporation. Where was their reliance on God?
When asked about the lack of spiritual input, they explained that leaving it all in God’s hands just seemed too fuzzy. Instead of relying on God’s direction, their board wanted everything nailed down, with predetermined procedures and measurable outcomes. In their desire for control, the Holy Spirit was excluded.
Praying for God to reveal His will, then waiting on His answer, feels so… unpredictable. We want to know where we’re going, how we’ll get there, when we’ll arrive, and how we’ll pay for it all. Jesus simply says, “Follow Me.” We want all the facts before we make a decision. God says, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1; italics mine.)
God is asking us to go far beyond trusting what we can see, to trusting Him. He’s inviting us to come onboard without asking about possible turbulence, the duration of the flight, or planned stopovers (although we do know our final destination). Just hand him our baggage, fasten our seatbelts, and see where He will take us. He guarantees it will be the journey of a lifetime.
By the time you’re as old as Pete and I are, life has thrown some pretty dramatic curve balls. There have been periods of calm, joy, success, and everything going just right. And then there are those times when all hell breaks loose (literally), the enemy attacks, and you wonder what in the world God is doing!
Pete’s recent medical adventures (see my March 15 post: Pete Tries to Go to Heaven… Again) have proved to be both a “what in the world!” experience and a huge opportunity to know God better. One thing that God has impressed on me over the last few months is that He is in charge even when everything is going crazy.
Spring may have finally arrived. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and flowers are beginning to bloom. It’s amazing how the beauty of nature can lift my spirits.
I’ve been thinking lately how that beauty is no accident. I’ve never met a person who was indifferent to a glowing sunset, spectacular mountains, or the white sand and turquoise water of a tropical beach. While standards of human beauty change somewhat from culture to culture, and generation to generation, an appreciation for the beauty of nature is universal.
This has been an amazing two weeks. I didn’t get to post anything last Friday. Here’s why:
It all started Thursday, February 28, when my husband, Pete, went to the YMCA to work out on the elliptical. He does this almost every day, works hard, and is in good shape. However, this time, he had just gotten going when he collapsed and his heart went into ventricular fibrillation.
It was 3 a.m. and I was lying in bed trying to pray. A few days earlier, Pete had been in a horrific accident halfway around the world, and I couldn’t sleep, knowing he was in the hospital so far away. But as I once again attempted to formulate a prayer for his healing, God interrupted me with a voice so clear, I couldn’t have missed a single word: “Don’t pray for Pete’s healing. I’ve got that covered, and lots of other people are praying for that. Just thank me. Pete is my son, and with him I’m well pleased!”
Wow. As Pete had been attending a huge missions conference at the time of the accident, I knew that thousands of people around the world were praying for his recovery. Apparently, I wasn’t supposed to be one of them. (How often does God tell you not to pray for something?) And I was more than grateful that I still had a husband!
The pastor at the church I was visiting was adamant. “God only speaks through the Bible.” He went on to explain that while God spoke through dreams, prophets, angels, and a “still, small voice” in the Old Testament, now that we have the completed Bible, Scripture is the only way God still communicates with us.
On December 5, 2012, American medical doctor Dilip Joseph and two colleagues are driving back to Kabul, Afghanistan, after serving villagers that morning at a rural clinic. Suddenly a man waving an AK-47 blocks their path. More armed men jump out of hiding. For Dilip, it is the beginning of a nightmare—he’s being kidnapped by the Taliban.
So begins the description on the back of a very exciting book—a true story describing the events that forever changed the lives of Dr. Joseph and his companions.
I’ve been highly distracted for the past two weeks. Our daughters and granddaughters have been visiting, and I’ve been playing games, taking photos, cooking meals, and hugging—lots of hugging. What I haven’t been doing is writing blog posts. In fact, I totally missed last Friday, in spite of my best intentions. Instead of writing, taking time away from family that we don’t get to see nearly as often as we’d like, I thought I would cheat a bit.
The following is one of the very first posts I ever wrote for this blog. Yes, it’s listed in the archives, but if you’re like me, you rarely—if ever—hunt back through the old posts for something to read. I think my point is just as important today as it was when I wrote it almost ten years ago. I hope you agree.