Posted by: minnow | November 7, 2008

God’s Will and Our Choices

WOW! I must have a really whacked out version of the Bible. I just do not see the “this is God’s will”, “He is in control”, “we are puppets on a string” thing. The beginning and the end–I get that. The middle? God created, He gave man free will. He is always available but we have to choose. He is omnipresent, the very hills cry out of His glory. Yet we still must choose. Our bad choices reveal our need for God. Our good choices reveal our need for God. He is revealed but we must choose. His rules, not ours. At least that is how I see it especially when it comes to the “Let Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” thing. Heaven–the getting in part–is a totally different story. He is absolutely in control. And personally, I like it that way.

So, what brought on that little rant? Well, it started with me realizing I needed to get back to my “Counting the Costs” post of a few days ago because I promised I would take a look at the Church (or Building-Based Christianity) from more than a money perspective. Then the P&P posts happened and the election happened and my brain started to get all mushy and I felt like this overwhelming primal scream was about to let go and it suddenly dawned on me–all this stuff is related.

One of my biggest problems with Building-Based Christianity (as I have experienced it) is that it promotes notions like: “God is in control”. But then when someone gets cancer, or their teenager commits suicide, or they can not get pregnant even though the only thing they have ever wanted to be is a Mom, or… And, those in the building start saying really icky stuff like: “There must be some unrepentant sin in your life” or “It’s God‘s will” or “His ways are greater than our ways” or “Just give it to Him”. BLECK! Seriously, it makes me want to puke!

My theology is really simple. God created mankind. He put us in the garden and He gave us free will. When we chose to try and “do it” on our own He let us. He allowed us to experience our choice–a world that included death, a world that included cursing, the world outside the garden. He did NOT all of a sudden take away our free will. He continues to encourage us to choose Him, but He was not as easy to see as He once was, when we were in the garden. Then Jesus came, to show us how to “do it”, how to choose life, how to choose blessing, how to resist evil, how to ultimately defeat death. Following Jesus is as much a NOW proposition as an eternity one.

When those in the Building start adding rules and regulations or start identifying the “ins” and the “outs” we become like the Pharisees. When we demand obedience and adherence to our man-made doctrines, rules, and regulations, and threaten sanctions against those who do not “measure up” or special treatment for those who do, we become like the Romans. “You’re in” attitudes can be expressed (and promoted) in subtle and not so subtle ways: “tithe” counts, pastor appreciation month, invite and win a prize nights, service recognition Sundays, gossip…oops…prayer chains, to name just a few. Granted, every time you see these activities it does not mean a “you’re in” attitude is behind it. But as a reminder of how difficult walking out our salvation can be, may I quote a little scripture: “It is easier for a rich man to go through the eye of a needle than enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” In other words–the closer we get to the fire the more likely we are to smell like smoke (and burn someone else in the process).

Sometimes our good intentions leave people on their roads to destruction. My children have actually experienced more hate-filled treatment at the hands of people who call themselves Christians than the non-believers they try to befriend. My 16 year old was invited to join the Gay-Straight Alliance in his (public) school because he was one of the few non-judgmental people (let alone Christians) they knew. Sadly, some of the students in the “Christian” group at his school admonished him by saying he should have told “those people” they were an abomination and going to hell. And, we dare to justify this kind of hate-talk by calling it love. Honestly, I have actually had people tell me that thumping people over their heads with the Bible and telling them they are going to hell is the most loving thing we can do. Sorry folks, but I just can not find that verse in my whacked out version of scripture.

Let us look at it in the physical. If you got hit in the head with a book would your first response be to open up the book and start reading it? I do not think so, yet in the spiritual that is exactly what we expect to have happen. Over and over scripture tells us to forgive, to remove the log in our own eye, to live at peace whenever possible, to judge not. Yes, it also tells us what living like Christ looks like, but rarely (as in never) does it say we are someone else’s Holy Spirit.

Am I saying we should flee the Building? Refuse to submit to authority? Avoid Godly standards, so we can show how “tolerant” we are? If that is really what you think I have said go read one of the Gospels (or the Book of Romans). Christ’s harshest words were for the religious leaders of His day. And, I have a sneaking suspicion His mode of operation would not be any different today. Still, He did not let anyone off the hook completely. Instead He often sent them on their way with a powerful, “Go and sin no more.” Since we are called to be a witness to those who have not yet met Him let us do so with the same kind of love and humility He has shown us.


  1. awesome Minnow. I tried to conquer this in my post … His sovereignty & our free will. It’s hard stuff…

    Life has consequences. SOME are direct results of our own personal sin… some are results of natural consequences of a fallen world… but we can’t always decipher which are which… and there’s so much danger if we get into the blessings/struggling as a judge of a person’s spiritual health/maturity…. look at Job and his friends ya know??!! So I apprecaite so much your thoughts here.

    As far as the 2nd part of this post……. I as always am just sort of in the middle ground here as far as the “Bible thumping”…. in fact my most recent post talks all about this. I absolutely recognize the need to be loving over preaching. Caring over condemning. Merciful over condemning… BUT I also have seen enough of my friends growing up and even today get caught up in this, “love is all that matters — peace to all” movement…. if love (of each other) is all that matters — there would be no need for our Savior.

    there are a few different factors at play though. We should interact with non believers a lot different than believers. so those are 2 separate things really. Non believers don’t need to know all they are doing wrong — they need to know who loves them despite their junk…. BUT I absolutely believe that we can not lose our moral saltiness — and this is in our example…. but also sticking up for morality with our words in our part of the body. Very rarely will we talk directly to an individual person about their sin specifically — but I’m saying – not to be afraid to ‘thump’ the Word of God. whatever that means. We ALL have been the brunt of some judgemental, arrogant person who looks down their noses at us and thinks they are better……. but I think that to help counteract that stereotype — the thing to do would NOT be to NOT EVER thump the Bible…. the thing to do would to show people how to talk about sin/immorality in a loving, non jdugemental way. The devil is so tricky to try to want us to avoid talking about right & wrong in any way shape or form. Without right & wrong — we won’t recognize our need for The Savior! I absotely believe yes we have to build the relationships first… that we have to listen to the Spirit….. but I believe we aer so watered down from the original early church — before you know it, the devil will have convinced us we are all okay, that sin is all a grey area, all moraltiy is relative and there wil be so much confusion as to what sin is — and if there’s no sin, there’s no need for a savior.
    phew that was a lot of words.

    so my point is — again I’m in the middle ground. we need that balance. God would never allow us to see sin to put it on people’s shoulders and condemn them…… He allows us to see sin so we can call it for what it is – and then say — go to the Savior – let Him take it off of you – let Him help you get back on track! We ALL wil get off track – a lot — but let’s use this lamp we have, the word of GOd to help light each other’s paths…. If The Word is our lamp — imagine if we combined all our lamps — and used our own individual lamps to shine onto each other’s paths as well as our own — there would so much less wandering & detours! the path would be SOO bright and we’d all be able to cling together better. but like we all know — there needs to be that trust first. need to have a relationship first. and it needs to be done the way teh Spirit leads you to. when He leads you to.

  2. Thanks for your honest outpouring of emotion and insight, Minnow! Preach it, sister!

    I really love what you said about how following Jesus “is just as much a NOW proposition as an eternal one.” This hooks right up with how God has focused my attentions lately. And, if we think about it: all we ever have is NOW. Yesterday was a now moment in the past and tomorrow will be a now moment in the future. So, why not reside in the only reality we have, where God lives, right now? Ooh, I’m feeling a juicy post coming on…

    Also, while reading your words about Bible thumping and how some Christians tend to treat non-believers, and reviewing Randi’s thoughtful comments…I got this totally random idea. It rocked my face off! Here it is…

    What if we are called to love unconditionally and expose sin — but we’ve just got it reversed? What if we’re suppose to love others unconditionally and use the Bible’s more serious admonishments on ourselves — not the other way around? It’s so easy to understand our own sin and call upon God’s mercy that’s new every morning for ourselves. And, to be honest, it’s a lot easier to look for sinful examples in the behavior of others, rather than questioning our own motives. What if, somehow, everything both you and Randi have said is absolutely true — but most of us are just applying it in reverse?

    This reminds me of a bumper sticker I saw yesterday: “Comfort the disturb. Disturb the comfortable.” Ooooh, I can taste freedom now!

  3. Randi–I love your heart! Your passion for the Body is almost tangible. Thank you for that!
    I have a bit of a problem with your conclusion that if love was all that mattered we’d need no savior. Loving people does not mean they are sin-free. It doesn’t mean that sin hasn’t taken its toll on their lives. It doesn’t mean that the garbage doesn’t stink. But we give ourselves too much credit when we think that we, and not the Holy Spirit, have the power to change people’s hearts and minds. The consequences of sin are a pretty good indicator that something is wrong in someone’s life. Rarely do they (we) really need the particulars pointed out. But we do often need help finding the courage, strength, self-forgiveness to head in a new, healthy, God-seeking direction. My experience has been that I get to that place a lot quicker via love. Think about it. God’s response to our need (sin) was such powerful love that He sent His Son. Does that mean we pretend sin, evil doesn’t exist, look the other way, join-in? Never. But let me tell you resisting looks a whole lot different than attacking and there are considerably fewer needless casualties of “the war”.
    Shelby–missed seeing you this week! Been checking your blog to see if you have a new post so I’m excited to hear one might be bubbling to the surface! I think your point is dead on! Thump our own sin. Love others. One caution–we often thump ourselves without remembering that we too can be forgiven (are forgiven) and so we walk around condemned instead of set free. I think you probably already get that–we’ve had enough conversations about loving others AS WE LOVE OURSELVES, but just in case I wanted to mention it.

  4. Thanks Minnow.

    I’m pretty torn…. I get what you say about the Spirit….. but that that makes me think that you think that ALL people will be changed eventually, because the Spirit will… and it’s just not true…. especially if the devil confuses us so much that we don’t even know what sin is anymore. without knowing we are sinning, there is no need for a savior.

    I guess because I have a lot of Jewish friends… and friends that practice other religions or no religion…. and I absolutely know that some have got caught up in the “love is all that matters” —- to have eternal life you just have to love the most people….. type of mentality. And so that is why I’m saying love without the Truth (the salvation plan) leads to death. I absolutely 100% like I’m sure you do .. believe that Jesus Christ is THE ONLY way to the father and to eternal life with Him…. but love, acceptance of all ideas as long as there is love…. is no good.

    yet I know myself and I know I’ve never really “thumped” at anybody haha — but I think my point is when asked, we must answer from the Word and not be ashamed of what it says in there… and not just say, “love is all that matters”. I’d say this happens quite frequently to me – do you only say, “yeah the Bible tells us to stay away from ___ ” — no. you always talk about Jesus when you talk about the right/wrong to show people there’s a way out and forgiveness.

    When not asked directly – that’s the time to listen to the Spirit…. sometimes (rarely) he’ll ask you to confront the person directly – for those people that are you extremely close with and have that relationship built… but he’ll lead you which way to go… again never to condemn but to lead them back to Christ… like Jesus said to the lady at the well, “that’s right you have lived with 5 men” (sorry I don’t have the energy to look up the quote) — a very factual and none emotional statement that pointed out the truth which lead to her needing Him. that’s the sort of ‘way’ I believe we are called to do it sometimes. there are totally ways to talk about sin… with having the correct tone, and correct words that cmoes out of the correct heart to not break somebody down but to build them up and help them get back on track. Pointing out your own weakness that you need help with as well. I can say this way it’s only

    and then the 3rd scenario is just talking about morality/right/wrong on blogs/ in small groups —whatever- yes absoultey it needs to be talked about. we can’t be afraid to coem across as thumping — because we won’t if we talk about teh Savior. So many people have misinformation about what The Word says and I think it’s so important to talk about what’s true. to talk about what the Bible says — not the christian friends/parents told them was ‘rule’ because that was the rule in their house, not teh Word of God.

    I think that’s all – thanks for this challening dsicussion – I LOVE it! 🙂

  5. Randi–Don’t get messed up with symantics. God does not insist we use the word “sin” to talk about what isn’t right in our lives. That said, it is my conviction that people who do not know Jesus in a personal way do know that something is missing in their lives. I also believe they can recognize Jesus in other people when they see it but they only see it when those people are walking in love, mercy, and grace. Please do not get me wrong–I am not saying never talk about Jesus. I am not saying don’t talk about Godly living. I am saying beating people up with the “law” is not the same as telling people about what Jesus has done for them. And sharing our own stories is a whole lot more compelling then outlining the dos and don’ts of Christian living. And for the record, I don’t think you Bible thump. But the kids who admonished my son for being kind to some gay students were not preaching Jesus; they were preaching hate.

  6. yes well said. I think we’re thinking the same thing as in wanting the same changes — but I’ve seen one extreme and you’ve seen the other! which is so interesting. I love all the different perspectives I get to see on blogs – this is great.

    It’s just such a hard thing to put into words — what it really means to be christlike with both believers & non believers.

    I was thinking —- I think what we’re getting at – is that Jesus never made them feel GUILTY. It’s like – He wasn’t afraid to point out right & wrong. He wasn’t afraid to step on toes to those who were self righteoues. He wasn’t afraid to talk about sin. The early church wasn’t afraid to point out impurity and call for repentance…. but there wasn’t a guilt trip. It wasn’t to break people down — but to show them how they could be built up.

    🙂 thanks as always minnow

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