God Is Not Logical

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Those of us who believe in God credit him with being in control of “all things”. And we mean it. He is control of absolutely everything. We run into trouble, though, when we start trying to piece that together logically. We try to add up the causes to equal the effect or lay out the events in sequence so that they make sense. But God doesn’t always make sense. He is a puzzling being who often leaves us baffled and frustrated.

God is good and loving. He doesn’t do bad things. But he’s in control of bad things. So that means he is responsible for tragedies without being at fault for them. Huh? That doesn’t make any sort of logical sense. By our logic, 2+2 = 4 and anyone responsible for bad is guilty of it.

Those delightful debates over election and soteriology rest in the fact that God doesn’t make logical sense. God decides who will be saved and who won’t; He chooses His elect. Yet we’re all responsible for our own actions and face judgment for our sins. It doesn’t seem particularly good to judge people for actions that were predetermined beforehand. Or is it that each of has free will and chooses pour own way, and somehow God is sovereign over our liberty. Logically, that doesn’t make sense either. It sort of lets God off the hook, but it sounds dumb. Now I’m flustered.  God makes no sense.

What if our seeking to “make sense” of God is based in the wrong place? What if 2+2=4 isn’t the right system of thought for understanding God? We seek to limit God to something we call logic, but what if that isn’t enough?

God is not logical because logic is for the finite and the fallible. It is a structure created and given by God so that beings with limited knowledge cold solve problems and have a reasonable world. Logic is a framework for understanding created beings and their doings, but God is not created. He is not finite. And He is not bound by logic. What we see as the ultimate basis of understanding is not ultimate at all. It is a created thing too.

To say God is not logical isn’t to say he is illogical. No, God is beyond logic. He is, as the bible puts it, “inscrutable”. He is outside our ability to understand. What we understand of God is but a sliver of who is, revealed to us out kindness. He doesn’t fail to make sense. To accuse Him of such is blasphemous. We simply don’t have the limitless knowledge to understand him.

It is fair to say that God doesn’t make sense but not to say that God isn’t sensible. It is never fair or right to make a judgment of God based on a lack of logic. Think of a father who can stay up late, drink caffeine, and watch scary movies but doesn’t let his second grader do the same. Why is that ok? What’s right for the parent isn’t always right for the child. The child won’t understand this, may get frustrated at it, but must abide by it. It’s what’s best. In the same way (only infinitely more so) what’s right in the mind of the creator won’t be understood by the created as right all the time. It’s not that He is playing us; we simply cannot understand. It may be frustrating, but we must abide by it. It’s what’s best.

photo credit: bitzcelt via photopin cc

Blessed To Not Be Blessed

Winning the lottery is like throwing Miracle-Gro on your character defects
–Quote from a TV show on the lottery.

Sometimes we’re blessed to not be blessed.

What I mean by “not to be blessed” is not blessed in the way we think we should be.  Or the way we want to be.  God is so wise that sometimes he withholds blessings from us because he knows we couldn’t handle them.  That we’d forget him.  That we’d fall too much in love with this world.  That we’d ruin ourselves.  That it would throw Miracle-Gro on our character defects.

Psalm 84:11 says God doesn’t withhold blessing from his children:

No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.

God withholds NO good thing from those he loves.  So if God does withhold something from us, we can know that it must not be a good thing for us.  We might think it would be a good thing, but we need to trust God’s wisdom.  He knows what we’re made of and what would tempt or ruin us.  He knows that winning American Idol wouldn’t be good for most of us.  Lots of money wouldn’t be a good thing for most of us.  Too much honor and adulation wouldn’t do most of us good either.  Agur, author of part of Proverbs says:

Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me,
lest I be full and deny you
and say, “Who is the LORD?”
or lest I be poor and steal
and profane the name of my God.
(Proverbs 30:8-9)

I’ve got to admit, it’s hard to pray this prayer.  I can easily pray “Don’t give me poverty,” but I don’t add the second part, “or riches.”  Because I think riches would be good.  I want more than just needful food.  I want to feast on steak and cake and cookies.  Agur says it’s just as dangerous to be rich as it is to be poor.  He says if we’re poor we can be tempted to steal, which profanes God’s name.  But when we’re rich we can be tempted to deny God and say “Who is the Lord?”  If have everything, you can think you don’t need God.

Sometimes God uses sickness or poverty to “hem us in” – to keep us back from harmful things we’d pursue if we were healthy enough or rich enough.

If God isn’t pouring out on you the “good” we think you should have – whether it be wealth, a wife, a husband, a child, a job, a break, health, a home, whatever – it might be that if you had it, it might not be for your good.  God is out for your best, which is to know him, and be conformed to his likeness.  So seek to be content to have Christ alone.  If we have him we have the infinite riches of God.  We have all the good God can give us.  If God hasn’t given us something we’ve asked for, we can seek him for it, but then let us trust his wise providence.  He’ll give it to us if it’s really good for us.  He’ll withhold it if it’s not.

God will prune us.  He’ll cut off branches that don’t bear fruit.  But he won’t throw Miracle-Gro on the weeds in our hearts.

And that’s something to praise him for.

Originally published May 7, 2012

Do You Imitate The Creative Generosity of God?

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When it comes to giving and receiving gifts, I have a one track mind. When people ask me for a Christmas list, the list I give them is books, all books, and nothing but books. And when I start shopping for gifts, my first thought is, What have I read lately? I have to work to be creative here, otherwise my gifts will all end up having dust jackets and ISBN numbers. Maybe you know someone like me. Every year you get the same generic card with a hastily scrawled signature, the same subscription to the jelly-of-the-month club (you don’t even like jelly), the same kind of hideous tie with Walt Disney characters on it. Money was invested, but certainly no thought! None of us want to be that kind of gift-giver. But, as a Christian, have you ever thought about why creativity generosity is a good thing? Here’s the short answer: creative generosity reflects the character of God.

If you were to catalog all the ways God has blessed you in the last week, the last month, the last year – how creative has God been as he lavishes his goodness on you? Think of examples from every sphere of life: favor with a co-worker or client. An evening of joy and rest with your family. A vacation that refreshed you in body and soul. A good conversation with a friend. A sermon that spoke to you or a song that brought your hope. God’s goodness is not one-size-fits-all, nor is it a short playlist set on “Repeat” mode. In countless ways –often small and unnoticed by us – God litters our lives with expressions of his creative care. “The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works,” David says in Psalm 145:7.

There are two ways we respond to the creative bounty of God. First, take notice of it! Look for those small kindnesses of the Lord that brighten everyday life. An example: recently I realized at 8:30pm that I needed a prop for a teaching I was giving the next morning at 8am. I ransacked my house but couldn’t find what I needed. I called a friend – no success. A second friend thought he might have it, but wasn’t sure where to find it in his storage shed. He gave me permission to come try my luck. I don’t want to be up all night looking for this, I thought as I drove to his house. Please let me find this quickly, Lord. I stepped into his building, and the first thing I saw was my prop, sitting out on a bench in plain sight. Was it life-changing? No. Was it a genuine expression of the care of my Father, who knew it would stress me to be up late looking for my prop? Without a doubt. He is kind in all his works.

But there’s a second way we respond to God’s creative generosity. Imitate it! Look for the small ways you can bless those around you. If you have someone stay the night at your house, leave a chocolate on the guest room pillow. Do a little investigative work to find out their favorite dessert and serve it. Discover that daily chore that your spouse hates and take it for them. Make note of the book a friend says they want to read, and buy them a copy (sorry, the bookworm is back). Our days contain hundreds of opportunities to show creative kindness and generosity to the people God brings into our paths. And those actions, done in faith, have a deeply theological value: we are imaging God, our Creator who providentially orders all our days, and our Redeemer who graciously uses every situation to bring about good in our lives. He is kind in all his works, so be eager for opportunities to be kind in all your works.

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Eph. 5:1-2).

We Know Something Nobody Else Knows

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And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

We who have trusted in Jesus know something. We know something no one else knows. It is one of the great secrets of life and one of the keys to consistent, deep, abiding joy. What do we know? That our sovereign God, Jesus Christ, the Lord of history, who reigns on his throne for us, causes all things – ALL things – to work together for our good. Really? ALL things? Yes. All things.

All of history. Kingdoms and rulers, wars and discoveries.
All that has happened in our lives – Where we were born, the country, state and town you live in, the language you speak
The period of history we live in
Our education (or lack of)
Every event in our childhood and teenage years.

Jesus causes all good things to work for our good:

First of all, Jesus’ own life was and is for our good, both in eternity and now. Every word he spoke, every action, every miracle – they all work for our good now, especially the cross and the resurrection.
All of heaven, the angels and saints above.
The Bible and prayer – how powerful they are!
The church, worship, giving, preaching, serving, the gifts of the Spirit, working through conflicts with brothers and sisters – it’s all for our good.
Our families – our dads, moms, brothers, sisters, children, grandparents.
Our friends.
Books, music, art, technology, medicine, computers, the internet, television.
Jesus causes all of creation – the stars and galaxies, gravity, the laws of thermodynamics, plants and animals and birds and bugs (yes, I tell myself, even our two dogs) to work for our good.

It’s easy to see how God uses all good things for our good. But we know by faith that Jesus causes all evil and bad things to work together for our good. Jesus turns to our good:

Every sin we’ve committed. By no means does this encourage us to sin for sin offends our holy God. We may look back on our sins with deep regret and sadness, but Jesus is so great he causes even them to work together for our good. Jesus also uses:
Our temptations and struggles
All things from our past, tragic or sad
Every evil in the world
Satan and demons
Every trial, affliction and tragedy we face now
Every sad thing
Every sickness and disease
Every lack
Every failure, or poor decision
Every bad thing someone does to us, every sin someone commits against us.

But wait, there’s more: Jesus works together for our good:

Times of waiting
Unfulfilled hopes
Joy, sorrow
Hunger, thirst
Weakness, pain, confusion, misery, boredom, emptiness. You get the idea.

Why do all things work together for our good? Because Jesus is on the throne, sovereign over all, and he loves us. He works day and night for our good. Not one single thing that happens to us is outside his control or purpose for us.

And what is our “good?” To be like him, to know him and enjoy his fellowship and love. To be holy like he is, and have his image stamped upon us. To be overflowing with the fruit of his Spirit. To be filled with his joy forever.

Let us remember this today and give him praise for everything that happens to us. Let’s praise him for as much as we can. For every good thing and every bad thing. Someday we’ll see how Jesus’ divine genius worked them for our eternal everlasting good.

Bundle Up – and Behold Our God

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Tuesday I went for a short run after work. It was 4:30, and the temperature was 15°. I hope to regain feeling in my face by Easter. Aerobically speaking, I think I could have achieved the same result by pouring burning oil into my lungs. Now while you may not be dumb enough to go for a run in the recent cold weather, if the multiple headlines using the words “Polar Vortex” were true, many of you experienced temperatures equally as cold if not colder.

So here’s a question: what can we learn from a cold spell? (Apart from “Stop running, you idiot.”) Is there anything a polar vortex can teach us about our God? Actually, there is. Listen to this description of God from Psalm 147:16-17:

“He gives snow like wool; he scatters hoarfrost like ashes. He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs; who can stand before his cold?”

Who can stand, indeed? When the temperatures plummet as they have in the last few days, we stand witness to a fresh glimpse of the power of God. Our weakness and frailty before creation is brought starkly to our remembrance. Despite all our modern technology, our synthetic fibers and engineered heat systems, the best we can do is minimize the effects of the cold. If we attempt to face the frigidity without any protection, we will suffer the consequences. The power of the cold is a display of the power of God.

There’s also another aspect of God’s character shown: his goodness. Why isn’t our planet constantly bombarded by freezing, sub-zero temperatures? What makes the majority of our world, most of the time, a warm and hospitable place for weak humans to live? The goodness and wisdom of the Lord. Yes, scientifically speaking it has to do with weather patterns and atmosphere and ozone and all that – but as Christians we understand that’s just another way of describing the wise and loving care that God has lavished on our planet. God created a world that would sustain human life, and even after our rebellion against him he still sustains us and makes our lives possible. The cold we’ve been experiencing will pass. Warmth, spring, and summer heat waves will return. But imagine if God instead unleashed the full power of his cold on our planet – who could stand then? Polar vortexes demonstrate not only the power of God, but also his goodness to men and women on planet Earth.

The polar vortex may have left, but it’s still winter. Cold temperatures are the order of the day. So when the mercury plummets again, make sure you bundle up. Instead of a run, maybe stay home and drink hot chocolate. But as you bundle up to face the cold, remember to behold the power and goodness of our God and Creator. Who can stand before his cold?

Photo by NASA Goddard  Photo and Video