Archive for December, 2013

Predestination

Christmas Eve found me visiting at the church of a family member this year.  While the message was not about predestination, the topic was raised.  I had never heard of the doctrine of predestination until my teen years when my parents began attending a church that adhered to it.  What a disturbing thought!  The idea that God handpicks a certain few people out of the world to be his children, and tosses the others aside really bothered me.  It left me with this terrible uncertainty…how could I know if I was one of those chosen people?  There was no guarantee!  Even though I had asked Jesus in my heart as a four year old, I might not know if I was actually going to Heaven until I got there…or didn’t.  It was an awful feeling, and a weight that I carried until someone outside of that church described it to me this way:  God calls all people outside of the gates of Heaven to Him.  A sign above the gate says, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden.”  Those who chose to come to God enter the gates.  When they turn to look back where they came from, they see a sign above the inside of the gate that says, “You were chosen before the foundation of the world.”  As a teenager, that was enough to settle the matter for me.

On Christmas Eve I sat in church with my four boys, and several nieces and nephews, and cringed when the pastor made it plain that the doctrine of predestination was still alive and well in that church.  I missed the rest of the sermon because I was busy researching my Bible.  As the Lord has taken me through the past few years of my walk with Him, I have learned a very important lesson…read the Bible!  The context of verses is so important to understanding their true meaning, as is researching what the Bible says in other places about the same topic.  I have said this before in more than one post, but it is so important!  I don’t think I can emphasize it enough!  As I researched the predestination topic, I also prayed…the other vital part of learning what God says in His Word.  If you don’t have the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you read and study, you cannot understand the Word (1 Cor. 2:14).  There is my sidebar soapbox:-)

Let me show you the verses the pastor read.  Ephesians 1:4-5 (NKJV) – just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

The predestination doctrine is the view that God picks those whom He chooses, as He pleases, to be those who are called sons of God.  The first verse that came to mind in rebuttal to this was John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

“That whoever believes in Him….”  Doesn’t it bug the bajeebies out of you when the Bible appears to contradict itself?!  How can it be both ways?  Does salvation come to anyone who believes, as Jesus said in John 3:16, or is salvation given only to those favorites chosen by God, as some understand Paul to say in Ephesians?  Allow me to mix things up a little bit more for you.  John 1:12-13 – But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:  who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

If you read those verses just right, you might be able to see the messages of both Jesus and Paul!  But I didn’t put that verse in here to confuse you, I put it in to clear things up.  Lets take a moment to break this down.

John 3:16 says that whoever believes in Jesus would have eternal life.  That means the door is open to anyone and everyone, so long as they believe.  The call to salvation is to the world, the whole world…also stated in the same verse.  John 1:12-13 also states that anyone who receives Jesus has the right to become a child of God.

John 1:13 seems to indicate that becoming a child of God is through the will of God only, and could be seen as God choosing.  Put that together with Ephesians 1:4-5 and the idea that people are predestined to adoption as God’s children, and it appears that indeed only an elite few chosen by God will be His children.

Here is the problem.  John 3:16 is a direct quote of Jesus Himself…and the words of John 1:12-13, and Ephesians 1:4-5 are words written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of the same Jesus through John and Paul.  And yet, none of these three lied, or were wrong.

Salvation, adoption as children of God, is available to anyone and everyone who believes in Jesus (Jo 3:16, Jo. 1:12.  That is the plain fact of the gospel.  That salvation/adoption is offered and provided by the will of God, as opposed to the will of man (Jo. 1:13).  It is not something man can do for himself in any way, shape, or form.  So God chooses to adopt those who believe.  He doesn’t chose who will believe.  This is true.  It is established in the Scriptures, and it is our base.

Consider for a moment the audience.  Jesus’, and John’s audience in the book of John, are people who have not heard the gospel message.  The intent was to share the path to salvation.  This is what it is, this is how you get it…believe.  Paul’s audience, however, is a church of already-believers.  Their salvation has already been established.  So why talk about predestination, unless it is not their salvation that is predestined, but rather what comes with the salvation that is predestined for those who chose to believe.

God decided, from the foundation of the world, that those who would accept His plan of salvation (the sacrifice of Jesus as payment for their sins), would be predestined to adoption as His children.  First you believe.  Once you believe, then it has already been predetermined that you would be adopted as God’s child, but you, and every person to ever live, is first given the opportunity to chose whether or not to believe.  Conversely, those who do not chose to believe would then, by a natural assumption, be predestined to not become children of God.  But it always starts with the personal choice of each human.

In the beginning God knew that sin would enter the world that He had created, and that He would need to have a plan to save it from the natural course of destruction that came with it.  He also knew that not everyone would chose to accept His plan, no matter who much He loved them and wanted them to.  And He would not force them to.   So He decided, then and there, before any of us were here, pre-decided…predestined, that those who did accept His plan, who chose Him (not the other way around), He would adopt as His children, to be holy and without blame.

So going back to the illustration of the heavenly gates…God calls all people to Him.  The sign above the gate saying “Come to me…” is accurate.  Some turn away and choose not to enter.  But those who do enter turn to see, this:  I decided long ago that, if you entered these gates, I would adopt you…welcome my child.

 

I’m Alive!!!

As I sit here ready to write, I don’t honestly know what to say.  I have been going through a time of trial lately, and I feel led to share, but I don’t know what God will share with you through me.  It will be interesting to see where this post goes:-)  If God speaks to you through it, please share in a comment!  I would love to hear!

It seems that there comes an age when a person’s body just starts to fall apart.  Sometimes one thing after another.  Or in my case, a few things all at once.  At the end of October this year I was diagnosed with Reynaud’s Disease…or possibly Phenomenon.  There is a difference.  The disease means that is all I have and nothing more.  If it is the phenomenon, then Reynaud’s is simply a symptom of something more.  Reynaud’s, for those who don’t know, is basically a circulatory issue that causes me to have a high intolerance for cold…works well this time of year in Iowa;-)  I frequently wear gloves both indoors and out, summer and winter, as my hands become painfully cold when exposed to cool temperatures, including air conditioning in the summer.  I will be tested in January to see if this is a symptom of a rheumatic condition called Lupus (an auto-immune disease).

While this situation came to the fore front, it also became apparent that it was time for another painful situation to come to a close…time for a hysterectomy.  This needed to be done on a time-table so that I wouldn’t miss too much lesson time with my students, and wouldn’t leave me waiting, and suffering until summer break.  So the date for surgery set for December 13th, the week before Christmas vacation.  With four boys in the house, and Christmas marching ever nearer, I knew there was a lot of preparations to be made!!

There wasn’t a lot of time to think about all that was going on…just time to do!  One morning, however, as I broke down before God in the shower (the bathroom is the only quiet place in my house), and allowed my fears to rise, I felt the strong arms of God wrap around me, and heard Him remind me that He is faithful.  I began to cling to that one promise as my one solid lifeline.

In the meantime, I was witnessing God bringing a number of Godly women through various trials of their own.  God had shown me several months ago that He is bringing up the women of His church for work in these end times.  And I knew, as I watched, and prayed for them, that He was preparing them for something more.  I also knew that God was allowing me a foreshadow.  He showed me that I was also going to go through a trial.  I didn’t know what it was, how long it would last, or when it would be.  He waited for me to surrender myself to Him…to His faithfulness.

During this time God used the book “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young to speak to me in very clear ways.  As I tried to give myself over to God, and place myself in His hands for an uncertain future, He gave me this message from “Jesus Calling”:  “You are approaching a crossroads in your journey.  In order to follow Me wholeheartedly, you must relinquish your tendency to play it safe…in your private thoughts, you are still trying to order your world so that it is predictable and feels safe.  Make Me the focal point of your search for security.”  I took a leap of faith and told God I would trust Him to bring me through whatever He was about to take me into.  That was hard, I will admit, but I knew that He was right…I was trying to order my world and play things safe.  If I wanted Him to be able to continue to use me, I needed to give Him the next level of me.  I wrote the message from the book on a card and kept it in my Bible.

The day before my hysterectomy, with thoughts of possible infection dancing in my head…still trying to figure out what God was going to take me through, God gave me the following message…again from “Jesus Calling”:  “I am taking care of you.  Feel the warmth and security of being enveloped in My loving presence.  Every detail of your life is under My control.  If you could only see how close I am to you and how constantly I work on your behalf, you would never again doubt that I am wonderfully caring for you.  That is why you must live by faith, not by sight; trusting in My mysterious, majestic Presence.”  I cried.  I wrote it on a card, folded it small and stuffed it into the little zippered pocket on the back of my glove…I knew that would be going with me to the hospital.  In the days that followed, I pulled that card out and read it, and cried, a number of times…and continued to cling to God’s promise that He is faithful.

The surgery went well, and the first few days went well.  I was released from the hospital the day after, went home, and enjoyed drug-induced rest…until the drugs began to wear off, or react, or whatever it was that happened.  Suddenly I found myself so dizzy I could not lift my head from a hanging position.  I sat on the couch, head down, eyes closed, and vomiting (sorry) for hours.  I cried and cried…like a little girl.  Somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew that God was there taking care of me and being faithful.  That was what He promised me.  I couldn’t feel Him.  I couldn’t hear Him.  But I did not give up belief that He was there.  I clung to His promise as tightly as I could.  My son called me in to the church’s prayer chain.  I asked my husband to call a dear friend and powerful woman of God to come over.  She came and prayed over me, then she sent out a prayer call to her friends and a number of women in our church.  I was covered.  Because of the sickness caused by the pain medications I then went into a time of severe dehydration.  This lasted for several more days.  No more vomiting, but continued dizziness and nausea.  The pain medications had long worn off, but, thank God, I was not experiencing much pain from the surgery.  Although I would have tolerated that much more than what I was going through.  I’m sure God knew that…what is a trial if it is something we can already handle on our own?  Right?

Finally, after enough fluids to sink a ship, I began to feel more normal.  Today is the first day that I did not wake up to dizziness or nausea.  I still need to keep the fluids high and increase my caloric intake to build my strength, but I am on the road to recovery…from the dehydration.  Of course, I still need to rest and recover from the surgery!  But that will come, too.  Today is the first day in many that I have been able to focus on my God in prayers other than pleas for help, and read His Word just to savor it.  It feels soooo good!!!  🙂

And did God have another message for me?  Oh yes, He did!  Again, from “Jesus Calling” this morning:  “My plan for your life is unfolding before you.  Do not fear your weakness for it is the stage on which My Power and Glory perform most brilliantly.  As you persevere along the path I have prepared for you, depending on My strength to sustain you, expect to see miracles–and you will.  Miracles are not always visible to the naked eye, but those who live by faith can see them clearly.  Living by faith, rather than sight, enables you to see My Glory.”  John 11:40 – Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

I have.  And I pray that I will live by faith to see the miracles that are coming.  What is next, Lord?  I know You are faithful!!!!  Amen…let it be so!

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