The Old Preacher

Viewing the World through God's Word

Category: Sovereignty of G

Free Will or Predestined?

You have to listen to this.  I did, and I recommend it.  It’s not how-many-angels-on-a-pinhead theology.  It’s personal.  It impacts our lives.  It helps ground us in God’s love in Christ.  And it leaves us rejoicing. 

It did me.


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No Control

When I was in high school (no, not a one-room schoolhouse!) six of us “serious students” (probably cutting class together)packed into a friend’s small car.  (Don’t remember its make or anybody’s name; memory densely foggy).  Down a steep hill.  Too fast.  A sudden left turn onto a suburban side street.  Too sharp.  Like an amusement park ride, car tipped and rolled.  (We weren’t amused.)  Thankfully no one was hurt.  Car landed on a soft lawn, and we, packed tighter than sardines, therefore couldn’t bounce around inside like a pinball machine.  But I remember this:  a frightening feeling of being out of control.

A rare feeling, especially at that age.  Ah, youth!  Teenagers can control just anything.  Not that nothing never intimidated me.  Indeed, teachers and tests and test grades did.  Presenting a three-minute speech in front of thirty classmates did.  Yet, with few exceptions, I was king of my kingdom.  I was in control.

A delusion:  I was not.  Years later, when my father was dying at home, I, the “king”,  had no control.  I could pray and comfort, but not heal.  More years later, when my mother was dying in the hospital, comatose, I couldn’t even awaken her to say, “I love you, Mom.”

The youthful control-delusion bleeds over into young adulthood.  We find our place in the work-world and begin to climb the ladder.  Little question that we can.  Work hard; you can be on top!  It all depends on us.  We can reach our goal, however high, because this is America.  Anyone can grow up to be president.  We hold the reins of our vocational destiny.

Ultimately, finally, we awake to realize the delusion.  The insight doesn’t come like a light suddenly flipped on in a dark room.  Rather it comes in a multitude of individual, isolated experiences of no control.  Until the accumulation of those individual experiences, like a foot-deep snowstorm, blankets us with the knowledge:  so little power we wield.

At almost 73, I’ve learned—not completely yet, but much—I control little.  In Mourning into Dancing, Walter Wangerin writes, “In physical sickness we feel the dust we are and suffer the knowledge that we do not control even the corpus in which we ‘live’.”  I was pretty healthy my whole life.  Until nine years ago.  Two major back surgeries and a dozen tests led to this diagnosis:  primary lateral sclerosis.  Unlike colds and flu, there’s no getting better.  No resting up a few days until health returns.  It won’t kill me, but it won’t go away and will worsen.

Corpus isn’t only our control-less experience.  No control over a spouse who wants out . . . over being fired unfairly from a job . . . over the tax rate you must pay . . . over (of course) the weather.  Like a few years ago when we vacationed at the Florida Panhandle.  Rained every day.  No spigot to turn it off.  “Come on, God!” got nothing but more rain.  The list of “no control” winds on and on until it reaches the last “no control”—death.

Here’s a scary thought:  no one in a position of world power really controls what happens.  Sure they exercise power.  Obama’s executive actions affect our lives.  Hillary or The Donald will impact America.  But, even with their best policies, too many variables will produce a myriad of “unintended consequences.” 

So:  are we trapped in a speeding car turning sharply and rolling over and over?  Is that life?  Are we all without control grabbing for a temporary handle?  Here’s old good news to consider . . .

The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.
(Psalm 103:19)

This is  the psalmist’s way of telling us Someone is in control of “all”:    The LORD.  God, the Father of Jesus.  God of the Bible.  His reign rules over all.

Makes you wonder why we don’t all run to him.  He’s not a tyrant.  He is love.  He is good.  He is wise.  He is merciful and gracious.  What fools we are—we who can control virtually nothing—not to run to him who will send us from himself for all eternity if we don’t run to him now . . .

Here’s more old good news.  It centers in the most dynamic, transformational event in human history . . .

Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 
but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness. 
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself
and became obedient to death– even death on a cross! 
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name, 
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
(Philippians 2:5b-11)

Before that day when every knee must bow, this is the day to willingly surrender to him.  To the One who indeed is Lord, in control of all things.  Even our next breath.  Even our eternity.  And he’s coming.  And when he does he’ll even take control of our corpus . . .

. . . we eagerly await a Savior from [heaven], the Lord Jesus Christ, 
who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control,
will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
(Philippians 20,21)


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Does God Really Exist?

P.AllanI mean God as revealed in the Bible.  The Triune God.  God the Father.  God the Son.  God the Holy Spirit.  Occasionally (thankfully not often!), especially when I’m hurting and he seems silent, I wonder if all this God-talk is just that—talk.  A creation of humans ages ago passed on from generation to generation until we have a “sacred book” all about him.  (Please tell me I’m not the only one who sometimes wonders if God is really there!)

On those occasions I return to three realities—two objective, one subjective.

First, the universe.

Random?  Chance?  When I see photos of the galaxies and read the intricacies of the human body, I shake my head and marvel at the naturalist.  I realize then that naturalism is an ideology, not science.  So much complexity, so much power, so much beauty.  The universe screams, “INTELLIGENT DESIGN!”.   And when I look at humans, when I listen to us communicate and love and, yes, even hate, I scream “PERSONAL INTELLIGENT DESIGNER!”  The jump from there to God is a mere step.  If God doesn’t exist, how then does the universe?  Because the universe exists, God does.  What I see, taste, touch, hear and smell isn’t just universe, it’s creation at the word of the Creator God the Father through the Son by means of the Spirit.  Yes, God really exists!

Second, Jesus’ resurrection.

He never really died?  Disciples stole the body?  Come on.  All such  theories on their face are laughable.  Twelve disciples suffered martyrdom (and God alone knows how many other believers) refusing to recant their testimony that crucified Jesus the Christ ROSE FROM THE DEAD.  As prophesied.  According to hundreds.  They laid down their lives rather than deny what they had seen with their own eyes and heard with their own ears.  Chuck Colson, now with Jesus, pointed out how hard it is to keep a conspiracy quiet.  Had the disciples stolen the body, somebody eventually would have snitched.  Besides, what happened to the body?  If Jesus did rise from the dead, he’s all he claimed to be.  The resurrection joyfully shouts, “God really exists”.

Third, the Holy Spirit in my spirit.

This is the subjective reality, a sense, a feeling, an inward witness.  John Piper talks about the Bible being self-authenticating.  That is, when I seriously read it, it authenticates itself.   Something tells my mind and heart that it’s truth.  I would call that “self-authenticating” power GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT.  He makes the written word “come alive” so I know it reveals reality.  The same is true when I quiet down to pray and deeply think.  There’s an inner sense that God is there.  He really exists.  I just know that I know.  The Bible and the Spirit tell me so.

I could mention more, but these are my three bottom-line realities when painful circumstances whisper to my rational mind, “Maybe God isn’t there after all.”  When I hit those bottom-line realities, I bounce back up.  All things, then, become possible.  Nothing is random or chance.  I’m not alone.  And no matter the circumstance, he wins in the end—and I do too, because I am his through faith in Jesus his Son, indwelt by his Spirit.

Francis Schaeffer memorably titled one of his books, He Is There and He Is Not Silent.  Yes, he is!


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