Freedom in a sovereign God

Great post on Desiring God about God’s will and its authority over all other authority.

Which means that our comfort comes not from the powerlessness of our enemies, but from our Father’s sovereign rule over their power. This is the point of Romans 8:25–37. Tribulation and distress and persecution and famine and nakedness and danger and sword cannot separate us from Christ because “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:35–37).

This is where a faith in God’s complete sovereignty has really relieved a lot of my previous worry. Things will occasionally go bad, but none of those things is ever outside of God’s control, which makes them ultimately for my good. It’s faith in the power of God to finish His redemption plan that gives me hope that even a sinner like me will make it.

Focus and dimming vision

It’s always amazing to me how we focus on God and the periphery things, those things that don’t really matter, become dim. I go through times when I know God is calling me to cut things out and focus. I’m in one of those times and what that looks like is deleting all the distracting things off my phone and taking a break from Twitter and Facebook. Basically all the things I have trained my mind to constantly move to in order to stay distracted. After removing them it takes a few days for the muscle memory to stop.

Complete a to-do item, check Twitter.

Finish a call, check Facebook.

Wrap up a project, play Angry Birds.

Now in place of all those things it’s take a few minutes to pray, read the Bible or any of the other five theology and ministry books I’m in the middle of. It took a few days to calm my brain down and have it realize it doesn’t have to be stimulated by something new every 30 seconds. I think it also serves to lower my stress level in general.

It’s amazing how those things that ate up so much of my time now appear lifeless and dim to my vision.

32

It’s 3:04 a.m. as I write this. I can’t remember what time I was born 32 years ago. I think it was in the 3:00 a.m. range, but I could be wrong.

For whatever reason I can’t sleep.

32 years down.

I wonder what God has for me in the next one.

The American dream

I can do it. That is the driver of the American dream. Given enough hard work and effort I can achieve the dream. And at times, that dream looks so sweet. A couple of kids. A couple of cars. A house with a couple of floors. Vacations at Disneyland or exotic beaches.

And for all that, all we have to do is work hard. Used to it was working 40 hours a week. Now it’s 60. We’re always chasing.

More.

Newer.

Better.

Faster.

All of it based on “I can do it.” My struggle this July 4th is my understanding of the gospel which says I can’t do it. I can’t run fast enough to outpace my sin. I can’t work hard enough to be justified. I can’t buy enough stuff to fill that hole in my soul.

I can’t.

And yet I try. I run and work and buy. And sometimes, through God’s grace, I achieve. The joy of success floods over me but like every wave that has ever crashed on the shore, it fades. It doesn’t last. That’s the dirty secret of the American dream. Not only does it not last, it doesn’t satisfy.

So then why? Men and women have sacrificed their lives so that I might be free. Free to run and work and buy, but I want more. God put me here in this time and place. It has to be for more than just that. Look across the globe at the suffering and sorrow in some countries. There are places where people are ripped from their homes and killed for what they believe. There are places where food is so scarce people go days or weeks without a real meal. But God placed me in a place of physical safety and comfort.

And in some ways I think God placed me in a place more dangerous than all of those. How easy is it here for my soul to wander? How easy is it for me to fool myself into thinking I can do it and I don’t need God? We don’t live in a place of great physical danger, but we do live in a place where we can be sucked in by shiny things that won’t satisfy. We live in a place where we are constantly chasing but told to chase the wrong things. We live in a place where we’re increasingly okay with that. We know these things won’t satisfy, but we continue to chase.

Anyone who knows anything about Spider-Man knows the great line that changed his life: “With great power comes great responsibility.” God did put me here in this time and place. He put me in a place of abundant resources and technology. And it isn’t just to terminate on my temporary joy. My joy is the end goal, but not temporary or perishable.

This 4th of July, I’ll cook something outside, enjoy a cold Coca-Cola (from a glass bottle), watch Jaws, see fireworks and hug my children. I’ll be thankful for all those who have sacrificed so that those things can happen. And I pray I don’t waste those sacrifices on the shiny lure of the American dream.

I can’t do it.

He can.

Various and sundry

It’s been so long since I’ve written a real blog post, I barely remember how to start them. That’s why you get this awkward intro. Looking back at the history of my writing, it’s odd for me to go long stretches without saying something. Over the last few months I feel like I’ve had things to say, I just haven’t had the time to pull the thoughts from my brain and place them here. And so this post serves as a stretching of muscles. I’m trying to remember how it was that I used to write on a regular basis.

We survived the long stretch of the spring baseball season, only to enter summer, which has somehow been just as busy. Cody and Colton’s teams both finished somewhere at the back of the pack, but they both had fun and learned a lot. Conner’s made a run at the championship and ended up in third place. It was the most fun I’ve ever had on the baseball field.

Since joining Life Church in February, we’ve once again become sucked into ministry which seems to eat a substantial amount of time. More so than actual church work though, we’re spending a lot of time really getting to know people we’re doing life with. It’s honestly something I’ve never been good at, but I’m learning.

My business continues to grow and branch out. Not as quickly as last year, but still growing, slowly but surely. Always with me at the helm, questioning everything we do all the time. Does that ever stop? That uncertainty that comes, not only with developing a business, but with knowing the decisions I make help or hurt the future of my family. It’s the odd position of always having to be sure of what you are doing, but never actually being sure.

In a few weeks I get to preach on the Gospel. All the study that goes into that has me examining my life to see all the places where the Gospel of Jesus really doesn’t have a hold. It’s a process of God prying my fingers off the things I want to control. It’s a battle He is winning, and I’m thankful for that. The transformative work of Christ is by no means easy or even fun, but I can see changes for the better.

Maybe that’s the source of my introspection this hot July evening. Maybe it’s my impending 32nd birthday. I tell myself I’ve accomplished a lot in my 32 years but the other side of my brain knows I probably could have done more, made better decisions here and there. But my deep-seeded theology about the sovereignty of God tells me I had to make every decisions the way I made it. He has been very gracious in my life and I should be more thankful for that.

As a rule, getting older doesn’t bother me. A big part of me relishes the idea of being in my sixties or seventies and really enjoying the wisdom of age along with finally having an excuse for my cantankerous nature. But, every so often, I have the occasional day when I acknowledge that I am getting older. My kids are growing rapidly and before I know it will be out of the house. I tell myself I’m looking forward to that day so Becca and I can start a different chapter in our lives, but I know the day one of the kids leaves my house I’ll be devastated.

God has blessed us with some of the most amazing friends in the world. Tomorrow night they will descend on our house for hamburgers (hopefully), margaritas (definitely) and swimming. We’ll swim and splash with our kids. We’ll relish the fact that their oldest just had his cast removed and is on the way to recovery. We’ll stay up entirely too late and talk. We’ll probably spend a lot of time dreaming about the future of the people God has entrusted us to care for in the church. And in that time I’ll take a moment and thank God for all he has done and I’ll forget that I’m about to turn 32 and anything else that’s bothering me.

But for now I get to be quiet and introspective and listen.

And that’s okay every once in a while.