Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I See Things Upside Down

This writing is not for the faint of heart and is a very difficult writing to wrestle with. I pray that you read this only when you have a clear mind and an open heart. It may very easily anger you, as it even does myself, but I pray that the truth of this burns into your heart in a deep, flesh-tearing but soul healing way.

"But it is not as though the word of God has failed." (Romans 9:6 ESV)

This verse has been on my mind for a while lately and is probably one of the most beautiful and strange sayings in the Bible. It is comforting to know that the Word of God cannot fail, but it may seem strange in the way that it is worked out. Picture yourself in the audience of the early church in Rome that received this letter. There were a lot of Jew and Gentile issues involving the Law in the minds of that church already and Paul's writing to this church was written in a way that laid out the plan of God for the world in a way that explained how all of the issues that the church was struggling with fit into that plan. Paul begins the letter and goes through the first 8 chapters talking about three basic things: the righteousness and faithfulness of God and believers being justified by faith in Christ. There is this climax going on in the book that leads to some very obvious questions to its first readers. What about God's promise to the Jews? Doesn't what happened to the Jews in God's plan call this whole letter into question?

And through the Holy Spirit, Paul reaches into this problem and makes it even more evident by reminding them of what God promised to Israel. And he even writes that it still applies to them. He says he is grieved immensely by something and then states the promises of God that were given to Israel and that those promises still stand and even mentions that the Christ was from them. He mentions it in kind of a bittersweet way and everyone who was hearing this the first time it was read was hung on the edge of their seat. And Paul states the craziest thing.

"But it is not as though the word of God has failed." (Romans 9:6 ESV)

And the shock fills the room.

And the shock...


the room.

What would you do if you were in the first crowd who heard that? How would you feel?

Maybe more importantly is asking: What do we do when something like this happens in our lives?

Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever prayed for something and got the answer to your prayer in ways totally different than you could ever imagine?

Paul does go on to explain how all of what he said is true as it applied to the situation but it blew the people's minds. Although the passage seems pretty clear in what it is saying, a lot of people will argue over what exactly the passage is saying but regardless of what the passage is saying is still does not change the shock of what the answer is. The people's minds were blown away.

I cannot count the anger and hurt I have had over what the Lord has brought into my life. If God would not have been the one sustaining me at that time, I would have walked away forever. I have been totally shocked at how God has chosen to work in my life and in the world. In fact, I still am. I know, at least on a small, small level, that God is working in all things for His purpose and my good but how He does it baffles me. There is still so much in my heart and mind that I cannot explain or reconcile or see anyway possible that this could have anything to do with the plan of redemption. "Aren't I so small and insignificant that this pain that has come into my life could go away or never have happened and God still accomplish His plan?" And the answer is


God has this amazing plan put together and is somehow purposing all of these things to display the glory of His grace. But we miss it; I miss it. I still do. I do not think the way that God thinks. I do not see what He sees.

A huge question that has bothered all humans throughout history is why evil is in the world. Why would God even allow a creature to come into existence that would rebel? God knew that Satan would rebel. It did not take Him by surprise. We may say that Satan had free will (which he did) but it does not change the fact that God knew that it would happen.

This leads us to a larger question. Why would God allow a being to come into existence that would even give a possibility of all the evil that has befell heaven and earth because of it?

Because God had a plan. Even before Satan was created, God had a plan that the most desirable thing in the universe would be most fully displayed. The display of His grace and mercy that is found in the most awesome thing to ever exist: God Himself in the person of Jesus Christ given to us by the Holy Spirit. The fullest display of the whole of who God is. There is no other way we would ever know what we as Christians appreciate the most in the whole universe.

This is a very scary thing to think about. It makes me angry, it makes me want to cry out at how God-centered this view is and scream about how unfair that it is. I feel the very depth of my humanity die in this experience.

But in this deep journey of God that He is showing me little by little, this road that has been Calvary to me, is slowly raising me from the dead in my flesh to unite myself more fully in the most glorious thing in the universe: the character of God shown in Jesus Christ. It was all purposed for that reason. And while I tread against God's plan constantly in my outer man and try to talk about it as much as I can so that anyone, maybe even myself, can grasp this more fully and most fully display the One thing that will be the Only thing that will ever truly satisfy me or anyone else, I pray that we would gain the vision of what God is doing and grasp onto Him because we have nothing else to grab onto. Nothing else but God will satisfy. Nothing else but God will satisfy.

Pay attention to the wording of these verses.

"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." (2 Cor. 4:16-18 NIV)

What is "preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison?"


It seems so strange that this is the plan that God would have and how He would set up the universe. God NEVER delights in evil or suffering though. His delight is only in that it is how we most fully see His grace and the fullness of who He is.

"Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
so great is his unfailing love.
For he does not willingly bring affliction
or grief to the children of men." (Lamentations 3:32-33 NIV)

God brings grief, but He does not willingly do it. Willingly translates literally as "from His heart". God does not "from His heart" afflict anyone. God does not rejoice in my suffering or anyone else's. But it is not pointless that it happens; it is purposed.

One day we will see that. Not today, but one day we will see it. And while I fight against this with all that I can, one day we will see that He is all wise in all that He has done and all good in all His ways.

Even in saying all that has been said and going as deeply as we have, let us not go too far into probing beyond what is written and was given for us to understand but let us rejoice in all of what Scripture teaches us as it all is there to point us to Jesus Christ. In speaking of the Old Testament Paul says:

"For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." (Romans 15:4 NIV)

Christ is the hope this verse is speaking of.

All of this we have spoken of is so backwards to the human mind. Even as I write this, there is a part of me that does not understand this at all. But it is the purpose of God and exactly what Scripture teaches. 1 Cornithians lays this out pretty clearly. You may have read it before but the magnitude of it has not hit you until now.

"18For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written:
"I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate."[c]
20Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.

26Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29so that no one may boast before him. 30It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord." (1 Cor. 1 NIV)

Father I pray that we may gain a much larger vision of You. I pray that you would break away our hostility to You being God and King. It was the sin of our first parents to become like You and much of what I believe and know as Christianity disguises itself but still teaches the same thing. May we realize how helpless we are to escape from You and the wrath You have against anyone who exalts themselves above You. May we know that fear and then see Jesus and realize what You have done to spare us from the deserved wrath that comes from the sin that You purposed but we in and of ourselves willingly did without it being forced for us to do. May we learn to see you in the severity of your power and cling more tightly to the kindness and the only hope we have in Christ. May we see how costly Christ was for You and the power and immeasurable spiritual blessings we have received because of Him. May we learn that from You and through You and to You are all things and cherish it. Break away the sin that has warped our minds that we may find true joy in being free from ourselves to make much of You. Thank you for the Covenant put forth in Christ that does ALL that is necessary to uphold Your Church. In the Powerful Name of Jesus that alone is Worthy, Amen.

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