Out of Control?

Do you think the world is just out of control? Reading the headlines, watching your favorite news channel, and hearing others speak, it would certainly seem so.

Ground assaults. Airliners shot out of the sky. Senseless tragedies. Wildfires. Endless, mindless stabbings. It seems so out of control.

But take heart and take heed…

Who else has held the oceans in his hand?
Who has measured off the heavens with his fingers?
Who else knows the weight of the earth
or has weighed the mountains and hills on a scale?
Who is able to advise the Spirit of the Lord?
Who knows enough to give him advice or teach him?
Has the Lord ever needed anyone’s advice?
Does he need instruction about what is good?
Did someone teach him what is right
or show him the path of justice?
No, for all the nations of the world are but a drop in the bucket.
They are nothing more than dust on the scales.
He picks up the whole earth as though it were a grain of sand.
(Isaiah 40:12-15, NLT)

God is trust-worthy. He is worship-worthy.

I’m trusting Him today. How about you?

Divine Coincidence?

As many of you know, I’ve been reading a series of books by James Bryan Smith. First, The Good and Beautiful God; next, The Good and Beautiful Life; lastly, The Good and Beautiful Community. Everyone at Church on the Hill has been reading these books, as Pastor Brandon has been preaching from them in a nine-month series entitled “The Disciple’s Pathway”. All the small groups are working through them in unison as well. The series has had a tremendous impact on my life and I heartily recommend them.

I’ve enjoyed them so much that I’ve searched out more books by the same author and I’ve found two more: Embracing the Love of God, and a piece of fiction, Room of Marvels. I’m reading these two books a little bit each day.

James Bryan Smith is a chaplain and theology professor at Friends University in Kansas. He was a close personal friend of singer/songwriter Rich Mullins, who died in an auto accident in 1997. In fact, when Rich was at Friends University, he spent two years living in a makeshift apartment in Smith’s attic. The two became very close friends.

The book, Room of Marvels, chronicles a period of time in the life of a man who is a spiritual leader in his church and his community, but who has reached burnout and despair after the death of his toddler-aged daughter, his mother, and his best friend in an auto accident — all in a span of a couple of months. After reading a short while, it seems to be more of an auto-biographical piece of fiction than anything else, recounting Smith’s own struggles in life, and with death and tragedy.

This past week, God has brought a tremendous intersection of… well, I don’t even know what to call it. I’ve been training a gentleman named Tom, who answered a Craigslist Help-Wanted ad to do some property evaluations. We’ve spent several hours together this past week, and one thing led to another, and I asked him about his background – where he went to school and so forth.

He answered, “I went to Friends University.”
“Huh?!? What? Really?” I replied.
“Did you know… do you know… of an author, a teacher/professor named James Bryan Smith?”
“Well, there was a chaplain by the name of Jim Smith.”
“Oh my goodness.”
“And he was best friends with Rich Mullins when he died in that car wreck.”
“Yes! Yes!”
“Yeah, I knew Rich, too. That was so tragic. In fact, I played with Rich in the last concert he played at Friends.”
“Wow,” was about all I could mutter, trying to figure out what God was trying to do here.

I explained to him all I’ve been reading, and he didn’t realize “Jim” Smith was such a respected and prolific author. We finished our work together that day and I mentioned that I didn’t want to miss what God was trying to do or trying to teach me with this divine “coincidence”. Tom then said, “It probably is more for me than for you.” Not knowing what to say, I just let that hang there in the air, and we continued to finish up the work for the day.

The next day, in the midst of our work, I mentioned that we should have coffee together, and he eagerly agreed. We meet a little later today.

I’ve been in prayer ever since we agreed to meet, using the prayer my friend Donna taught me this week: “I want your will, God. Nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else.” I don’t know what to expect or where this might lead but I’m going in with my eyes and ears wide open.

Stay tuned.

Another Way?

Yesterday, a friend of mine sent me an email which said:

“Chapter 2 in the book (Tullian Tchividjian’s God + Nothing = Everything) talks about the everything that we had in the beginning and everything that we will have in the end, and makes the statement,  ‘Between Genesis 1 and the last pages of Revelation, there unfolds an epic story marked by incalculable tragedies…’

“I agree with the above, but want to relate a question posed to me by a missionary turned atheist: Given the great epic of tragedies, suffering, etc., couldn’t God in all his wisdom have done it another way? How would you answer him?”

Here’s how I responded:

“My wife and I talked about this somewhat. She made the best point possible:

“‘Yes, God could’ve found another way, but in the process, would’ve taken away our choice.’ We chose poorly and the ‘epic tragedies’ began. God gave us the freedom and, in the beginning (before sin), the Kingdom. We chose wrong and have been choosing wrong ever since. That is why we needed a Savior.

“I would say your missionary-turned-atheist friend has had an epic tragedy in his own life, and because of his choices or someone else’s choices (possibly his church or denomination), he suffered greatly… to the extent that he couldn’t persevere in his faith.

“As my wife said, ‘We make it difficult. It’s really quite simple. We try to blame God for everything (or question everything), when we’re the ones we should be blaming.’ She’s a wise lady.”

Some may think that’s an over-simplification, but I’m not so sure. Yes, there are seemingly random tragedies in this world – car accidents, for instance. But in the very beginning, our ancestors chose wrongly, and the tragedies began. Sin, disease, death, and decay all began with the Original Sin.

Jesus came to redeem it all, and although the time for complete redemption has not quite come, it is coming soon. He is coming soon.

For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ. Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. (Romans 5:17-18, NLT)

Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. (Romans 8:20-21)