Brothers, Be Empowered by Providence

If you are a woman please don’t be offended by the title, for Providence can just as easily empower the female half of the world.   This is merely the title of an article I wrote in October, 2007, as one installment of a monthly column called Patros Logos, Greek for “A Father’s Words.”   Specifically, it was written for homeschool fathers for a newsletter that circulates across the great state of Iowa.  In these columns I write about my wife, my family, our adventures, our failures, our successes, our trials,  and our God.    (These columns can be found on our church website found on the right banner of the home page of this blog).

But…98% of what I write in these columns can apply equally well to all folks across the board…even those with no education so long as someone can read to them.  This column summarizes my belief in a fundamental characteristic of God.  I believed it in October of 2007 and I believe it in December of 2008, even as a big honking foreign mass rests in the left frontal lobe of my brain as it impatiently awaits its rude departure on February 12, 2009.   Here it is:

Over the past seven years of writing this column, I have often trumpeted the absolute Sovereignty of God in all things.  I can’t help myself.

I believe this is what the Bible teaches about the nature of God from first to last.  I believe that the entire Revelation of the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation demonstrates God’s glorious control over all things toward His own ends, which is His glory and our joy.

And I believe this without diminishing in any way the truth that we are also responsible sentient beings.  The devil makes us do nothing.

I think it is impossible to possess a truly Biblical world-view apart from this acknowledgement, every bit as much as I believe our view of the Bible hinges on whether or not we believe that every single word of it is literally “breathed out by God” (II Tim. 3:16).

If we grant that there is but one sentence in the Bible that is not true, then the Bible has lost all of its authority…for how would one know what could or could not be trusted?

Every Christian has to acknowledge a belief in the Providence of God….defined here as the practical outworking of His sovereignty in the every day stuff of life.

I don’t believe this because it makes life more sensible to me.  I believe it because it is true and consistent with the Word of God.

Not every Christian agrees.  There are plenty who act and speak as if they believe there is a Star Wars-like epic battle being played out…a sort of Yin and Yang dualism between equally powerful but opposite forces in this universe.  It may make for wildly popular movies but it also makes for some rather odious theology.

Even worse, however, bad theology means that we are fundamentally thinking and extrapolating life with false data.  This is bound to mess everything up.

Four years ago when I was adding a dormer to our 113 year old house, I eventually came to the point where I had to make a decision.   “Do I square the dormer with the world…or with the rest of the house?”  Trust me, any man crazy enough to rip the roof off his house and add a dormer knows that they are not the same thing.

I squared the dormer with the rest of the house.  It’s probably just as well that a physical addition to the house be a little out of whack to the rest of the world.  Trust me. The living contents of our home are also a little out of whack as well.  Some of us more so than others.

My point is simply this: It is impossible to build a dormer that is square to the house and the world if the house is no longer square to the world.

If we do not have a fundamental grasp of God’s comprehensive and loving authority and power and Sovereignty, then the way we see and interpret everything in this world will be catawampus to the way God really is.

Strangely, some of the greatest threats to the historical evangelical orthodox teaching about God’s sovereignty have come from within.

Gregg Boyd, a former Bible Professor at an Evangelical College, stormed the Christian world a few years ago with his bizarre teachings on the sovereignty of God.  His ideas were enthusiastically received by young and adult lemmings alike.

Referred to as the “openness of God”, this squalid belief insists that God does not even know all things….because they have not yet happened.

Boyd essentially asserts that man’s free will is what determines the end from the beginning…not God.

In this view everything that is contrary to God’s revealed will becomes a contingency plan…. a way for God to regain His composure and try again…if you will.

And so, when Adam and Eve blew it in the Garden, they disobeyed God’s clearly revealed will.  On this we agree.

However, do we really want to get into a position whereby we are forced to admit that the whole revelation of God which points continually to Jesus Christ crucified and risen from the dead, is little more than plan B?

Open theism is a bankrupt belief system that is not only unbiblical but neither can it provide anything of value to the troubled heart.  After all, God is waiting to respond to your next move, like some sort of cosmic chess match.

We don’t say “good luck” in our home.  However, if I were an open theist I would say it all the time…and mean it!

The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Great I AM, is either Lord of all or He is not God at all.

The story is told of a king in Africa who had a close friend with whom he grew up. The friend had a habit of looking at every situation that ever occurred in his life (positive or negative) and remarking, “This is good!”

One day the king and his friend were out on a hunting expedition. The friend would load and prepare the guns for the king. The friend had apparently done something wrong in preparing one of the guns, for after taking the gun from his friend, the king fired it and his thumb was blown off.  Examining the situation the friend remarked as usual, “This is good!”

To which the king replied, “No, this is NOT good!” and proceeded to send his friend to jail.

About a year later, the king was hunting in an area that he should have known to stay clear of. Cannibals captured him and took them to their village. They tied his hands, stacked some wood, set up a stake and bound him to the stake.

As they came near to set fire to the wood, they noticed that the king was missing a thumb. Being superstitious, they never ate anyone that was less than whole. So untying the king, they sent him on his way.

As he returned home, he was reminded of the event that had taken his thumb and felt remorse for his treatment of his friend. He went immediately to the jail to speak with his friend.

“You were right,” he said, “it was good that my thumb was blown off.” And he proceeded to tell the friend all that had just happened. “And so I am very sorry for sending you to jail for so long.  It was bad for me to do this.”

“No,” his friend replied, “This is good!”

“What do you mean, ‘This is good’?  How could it be good that I sent my friend to jail for a year?”

“If I had NOT been in jail, I would have been with you!”

How about us?  We will never know this side of Glory the many and varied ways that God has worked out His purposes in our lives.

Two and a half months ago my family attended a Bible and missionary conference in Michigan where we had the privilege of hearing from a mission group called Russian Ministries.

This ministry (founded by Peter Dyneke) was responsible for smuggling thousands of Bibles into the former Soviet Union before it began to fall apart in 1989.

Russian Ministries continues to carry on the important work of training Russian Nationals to reach the Russian people, with a special interest in unreached people groups where the gospel has never been known.

Several representatives of Russian Ministries spoke at various times during the week giving updates of God’s amazing work.

A Russian pastor, by the name of Anatoly shared several times during the week.  He is the pastor of a church in the Yamal Peninsula (northwest Siberia) in a village that when translated means “the ends of the earth.”  This peninsula consists almost entirely of permafrost and extends for 400 miles out into the Kara Sea.

This is a rugged region where the entire economy exists in reindeer.  Reindeer are everything here…transportation, food, and the livelihood of almost every person who lives in this region.  The average life expectancy for a male in this region is but 40 years and 50 years for a female.  Nearly all the children in this region leave their homes at age 6 to go to a “boarding school” (like an orphanage) for 10 years.

Sadly, there is no word in the Yamal language for love. The people live in teepees and the women are known as the master of the teepee and the husband is considered nothing more than a guest.  This is a region where Anatoly says the best gift that a husband can give his wife is not flowers or jewelry, but rather a stack of firewood.

This is my kind of woman!  Even I could get that consistently right!

In recent years, Anatoly and Russian Ministries began praying about reaching an unreached people in an even more remote region of Siberia with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

After much prayer and planning, the ministry arranged to have humanitarian aid and Bibles flown by helicopter into this village along with two Russian Christians, in the middle of winter.  Their intent was to deliver these supplies and Bibles in person, meet the people, and make plans for a future visit.

They hired a pilot with a helicopter and loaded the supplies.  At the last minute, the pilot said that the load was too heavy and that the two missionaries would have to stay behind.  They trusted the pilot to do what he said he would do.

The missionaries were discouraged that their plans to travel with the supplies and Bibles had been frustrated, but they sent the aid and Bibles off with prayer.   The pilot took off in the direction of the village.

Little did the missionaries know that the pilot never intended to deliver the supplies.  Instead the pilot kept for himself all of the humanitarian aid and chucked the Bibles out the door of the helicopter into the vast wilderness of the Arctic tundra.

But for God, this would be the end of the story.  But as Exodus 15:11 says of God, “Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods?  Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?”

It just so happened that at the exact moment that the crooked pilot tossed the Bibles out of the helicopter, a man was crossing the tundra with his reindeer sled.

This man, as they later found out, had at that very moment, and for some time before, been thinking of how all of the gods and idols in his system of belief had done nothing for him.

He had been thinking of how good it would be simply to know the truth about this universe.  In the next moment he saw Bibles dropping from the heavens.  He picked one up, looked around him and saw that scores of Bibles had fallen all around him and were now lying on the ground.

He picked up all the Bibles he could find and took them to his village, which, believe it or not, just so happened to be the same village the missionaries had been targeting with the gospel.

When the missionaries arrived in the spring of the next year, they found to their amazement that there were already 30 people who had come to know Christ in this previously unreached people group.

Even before any person had spoken the gospel to them, God through His Word, had already worked powerfully in the lives of many people, even while from the human vantage point it seemed that it had all been a miserable failure and a shameful waste of resources.

The lesson we need to take away from this true story is that God is in control.  Regardless of the tribulations and trials we may undergo, all of these tribulations and trials are under the hand of an Almighty God, who is not only all-powerful, but He is also good and loving in all of His ways toward us.

Jesus put it this way in those last hours before His death, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.”   Jesus made it and He owns it…every square inch!


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