He Doesn’t Control Some Things

  
That’s right.  He controls all things.  

Is a trumpet blown in a city,and the people are not afraid?  Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it? 

Amos 3:6

Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?  Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?  Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins? 

Lamentations 3:37-39

For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

Acts 4:27-28

And this is very, very Good News.  

The greatest comfort I can give a child of God, and I can only give it to a child of God (meaning someone who has been adopted by God through faith in Jesus Christ), is that God is in total, absolute control of your pain.   And the reason why that’s comforting for the Christian is that God promises to work all things together for the good of His elect.  

This is a God whose hand predestined the worst sin in history for His people’s rescue.  

He does no evil, but neither is He perplexed or surprised by any evil.  And He will work all things together for His good purposes.  

From the other side of Christ’s return, there will not be one moment of history, from Eden’s tree to Calvary’s Cross to Hitler’s Holocaust to Hell’s shut doors, where Satan will be able to say, “Well, at least He didn’t get to work that one out for His purposes.”  When all is said and done, God’s glory and beauty and His people’s good will be pulled from every page of history, even the bloody and awful and scary ones.  And the greatest proof of that is Christ’s bloody and awful Cross.  

Some of you who are born again and in chaos or agony need to internalize this.  

What is frustrating to the unbelieving heart is peace to believing one:  There is no sovereign but God.  

I am telling you to pray to the God who will roll up the sky like a blanket, who set the Milky Way spinning as though it were a top, who fashioned all our souls from His own creative heart.  This is not a God who will win at the last second on a Hail Mary.  I am here to tell you there is a King in the Heavens.  A King.  God is not a powerful figure with good intentions who can only do so much.  This is the King of all creation, and He is taking audiences with all who will call upon Him in faith.  

There is nothing that befalls us that is not ordained by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 

Keep all your gods, America.  I have met the only One who can save a man like me.  

This God is in control.

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A Plea That’s a Shove

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We are all entertained by something. We’re all made happy by and excited by and look forward to something. Every day. Every hour.

My short encouragement today is simply this: Savor Jesus Christ. Enjoy Him. Cherish Jesus of Nazareth more than anything or anyone.

Let His good control over the universe cause your fingers to loosen around the levers of your day-to-day life. Let His furious mercy for your sins incinerate your desire to impress people or God. Let the fact that He is returning, and that that is more certain than the next presidential or election or your next mortgage payment, give you perspective. Let it make you willing to leave comfort behind for better things if and when the time comes, because your soul and Jesus Christ are better things to keep than the world’s prizes.

His control, His mercy, His coming back. These things are unshakeably true. And they offer soul-calming hope for everyone who has repented and truly believed in Jesus Christ. They can give electrifying joy to every human being who has been born again, been born from above, who now sees the Kingdom and loves the King’s appearing. Because of course you can’t see the Kingdom or love His appearing if you haven’t been born again (John 3:3).

If you’ve forgotten these things, or if you’re saddened despite them, my encouragement is a challenge. A push. A shove that I myself was given this week, and God used it to bless me.

Here it is: Beg Jesus Christ to cause you to love Him and delight in Him. Knock on His door until your knuckles are bloody, if you must. Push through the crowd and grab ahold of His garment. Wrestle with His angel in faith until the sun comes up. Pray to God that He would provoke you to love Him and enjoy Him.

Guys, there is no greater prize than Jesus Christ. And the flip side of that is that there is no greater sadness than getting to the end of your life and realizing you never truly knew Him, or that you spent your days on lesser things.

“And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.’ So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, ‘He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.’ And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.'”

Luke 19:5-10 (emphasis mine)

Love and rejoice in Jesus Christ. And ask Him, plead with Him to help you do it, as only He can.

*Note: This post was adapted from an e-mail I sent to our church.”

A Humiliating Death

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One of the most humiliating events in my life is genuine repentance. Humiliating in a good way, though. It’s the sort of thing that reminds me who I really am and, more importantly, Whom I really need.

I am not as personally righteous, as upright or full of integrity, as I would often like to think I am. I am called to be blameless, as our father Abram was in Genesis 17, but I am still a petty and fleshly man in a hundred ways. I lash out when something I idolize is taken from me (comfort or approval come to mind). I ignore the Lord when tired or frustrated. I harbor bitterness in the recesses of my mind and heart, replaying conversations over and over in my head, with the other person cast in the worst possible light and myself in the best.

Paul said in an inspired, God-breathed way (in Romans 7) what I am trying to communicate imperfectly:

“For we know that the Law is spiritual but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. for I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.

Repenting of doing what God has helped me to hate, of my idolatry, my anger, and my self-centeredness, is humbling. My church has other men who follow Jesus who are faithful, humble, and bold enough to hold me accountable. So I confess my sins to them. And it’s a very painful and yet gratifying thing to tell two other men who love you that you threw a temper tantrum at home for not getting your way, and that you don’t want to do it again because it’s being a bad husband and dishonoring your Savior. That’s a pride-killing, illusion-deflating event. When you do it, you realize you’re not really all that grand. You aren’t a breathtaking, special example of the best humanity can offer. No epic Hans Zimmer soundtrack is going to play as you fulfill your honorable and righteous destiny of perfect self-sacrifice. No, you’re one in a long, long line of wicked men and women redeemed by Jesus Christ who must be led, like stubborn sheep, to what is good for them.

That is a far less attractive option to someone who desires to be god. So the solution is for me stop trying to be god.

I am a citizen of a kingdom with a gracious Sovereign. I am a former traitor whose old cowardices and treacheries run deep in the habitual parts of his blood and marrow, so deep that they fling out at even the slightest inconvenience. Though my King lives in me (and what a glorious a truth that is!), I am still warring with my flesh, my carnality, my sarx. I am still trying to beat into submission the Wade who wants to be god and be praised, who wants everything to serve him instead of living as a grateful slave to the only One truly worthy of worship.

To confess and then turn away from (the definition of Biblical repentance) that behavior, and the fleshly heart that courses it through my veins, is difficult. It means admitting I’m one of those many sheep, and that I still wander from the path. It means honestly confessing that I still need a Messiah every bit as much as I did when I was an unregenerate rebel, though my sins are now thankfully atoned for by His blood. It also means that the Jesus who pleads my case and disciplines my soul will get all the glory, because I am clearly still a greedy young man who can’t keep his act together. That it’s ultimately by the sheer grace and the steady hand of God that I have been kept in the faith. That He acknowledges my sweat and work to serve Him, but that those steps were already prepared for me to walk in anyway, and if He hadn’t given me the strength, breath, and friends necessary to complete them, I would’ve staggered in the opposite direction long ago. Turning away from sin and towards the Jesus who forgives and changes me is humbling.

But it is also sanctifying, maturing, helpful to others, and (most importantly) God-glorifying. It produces a Wade more dependent on the Father, His Son, and His Holy Spirit and less dependent on himself. It brings God glory because the people who hear my confessions or see my repentance are confronted with where the glory really lies.

If you haven’t repented of your sin and you are a follower of Jesus Christ, I encourage you to do it right now. Confess to Him (and to a trusted brother or sister in the faith if possible) and turn away from it and towards the Messiah. He knows our sins, and we are not impressing Him by pretending to be better than we really are. He knows that we are worse than the masks we wear.

If you are not a believer in Jesus Christ, or are not sure if you are, I entreat you to give up on any illusions you probably have of self-goodness or righteousness. I’m sure you were the victim in the past of some wrong, but your greater identity is as a perpetrator and not a victim. I know that that is tough to hear, but it is the only place where healing and forgiveness are. Before being adopted by God the Father through the power of Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit, my greater identity was as a violator of God’s commands, an assaulter of His authority, and a traitor against His goodness. I needed to stop replaying all the wrongs done against me and instead ask forgiveness for the far greater wrongs I had committed against God.

Repentance is a terrible violence done against the pride of the self. It is merciless in bringing down the self-righteousness in our hearts. So I ask you, plead with you, to surrender that pride and repent. I’ll be doing it later this evening, and so I know the stubborn pull of the flesh in the opposite direction. It is a daily one. The “I’m not in the wrong!” or the thoughtless, formless, furious defense of your take in an ongoing debate or your position in a fractured relationship. I know that pull. But sin always begets death, and so those pride-defending, sin-denying avenues lead only to graveyards and ghost towns. Repent. The death of pride is always a good thing.

Its bones make great fertilizer.

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

From 1 John 1

Wonder

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A young man gets up from his face, his three friends joining him, and says this:

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him.”

That’s Daniel, overjoyed and awestruck and in love. But not with a pretty girl, and not with a new career path. His mind wasn’t reeling over a massive natural beauty like the Grand Canyon or the humongous rainforests of the Amazon Basin.

Daniel was impossibly exhilarated because the God who spoke photons and atoms into existence had just told him what the king had dreamed.

Nebuchadnezzar had demanded his fake soothsayers tell him his dream and interpret it or die. Those were their options. And since they only had false gods to go to, their prospects were grim.

But Daniel, knowing he and his small cohort of believers in the God of Abraham might get tragically caught in the wildfire of Nebuchadnezzar’s wrath, prayed for what the impostors couldn’t.

Daniel went to a real God in the midst of a culture of idol-lovers.

And God did what God does to those who see Him: He inspired speechless, kneeknocking awe.

Wisdom. God’s knowledge is unlimited. He not only knows what Napoleon’s favorite color was and how many shrimp are in the Pacific Ocean right now and which would’ve been the best bus for Rosa Parks to keep her seat on. No, He also intimately fashions this world and its tragedies and its wickednesses and its beauties and its redemption. He has never sinned and never will, and yet Peter says in Acts that His breathtaking wisdom predestined the worst sin ever ravaged against Himself: the sacrificial murder of the Messiah.

God knows why warm summer rain stirs my heart and makes me think of my childhood even if I don’t. And He knows and is in absolute control over each of my awful treacheries, though they are purely mine.

But wondrously He also knows and is in control over the only cure for me, the only rescue I could ever have.

Might. The world’s armies would scatter into the wind like spent ashes before the fire and power of the God of Jesus Christ. He is the definition and source of power.

He charts and determines and ends the reigns of presidents and prime ministers and chief financial officers and PTA members (just as He told Jeremiah He did with Nebuchadnezzar).

It was through Jesus Christ that the powerful core of our sun, hot enough to melt the diamond in my wife’s wedding ring, came into being. He spoke the light of the darkness into its powerful being.

The sky that makes us tremble when it looses its hailstones or rains meteorites on our ground was created by His Word.

He could pluck our solar system from its arm of the Milky Way, and He could stop our galaxy’s spin as though it were a child’s pinwheel.

His power is unending.

And it is unspeakably, incalculably good.

Light. In Him there is no darkness. There is no shadow or deceit or shallow, ignorant anxiety.

His holiness, His charity and honesty and commitment to what is valuable and truly worthwhile make our best deeds look petty and filthy.

He is glory while we steal glory. He is truth while we despise truth, and run from it, terrified of its power to convict us. He is love, while we abuse and cheapen love in the name of self-gratification.

The perfectness of God was hanging from the wooden Cross outside Jerusalem.

At the same time Pilate’s hands dried from dirty water he vainly hoped would clean them.

While the very ones in need of rescue and redemption spat and called down curses from a Heaven they thought they loved, the only One holy enough to make Satan shriek and tremble hung and bore the wrath of God and the hate of men.

But our darknesses, and Satan’s, are never enough to destroy Jesus.

And His holy body was raised to the right hand of the One whose goodness would blind and kill anyone who saw it full-on.

This is the God of Father, Spirit, and Son who made Daniel sweat, who dried his mouth and made his head spin.

Be breathless before God.

See Him in Jesus Christ, and in His Word, and be breathless with wonder.