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Thread: I could almost get spiritual about this

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    Site Manager G R 'Scott' Cundiff's Avatar

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    I could almost get spiritual about this

    Being retired, I need to withdraw some money each year from my Nazarene Fidelity account. So, on Wednesday I initiated the paper work. One thing I always do is take a look at the stock market to see how it is doing on the day of my withdrawal.

    So I checked it out - it was basically flat, +20 points or so.

    We filled out the paperwork and I went to the office here where we are staying right now to use their fax machine. The lady was busy, but she pointed me toward the machine and said I was welcome to use it.

    I wasn't familiar with that particular machine, but it was straightforward enough so I sent the fax.

    When I got home I looked at the stock market again - and while I was faxing, it was announced that a Special Prosecutor had been appointed to look into Russian interference in the election.

    The Dow was down almost 500 points.

    Bummer! It wasn't a big hit, but it was a hit to my numbers - a good time to buy, not a good time to sell.

    Oh well, I thought, that's life.

    But then, the withdrawal never appeared on my account - just a notice that they were awaiting my paperwork.

    I waited a couple of days, called P&B, and was told that, no, they never received my paperwork.

    My guess is that I put the pages in backwards and sent them blank pages.

    So, I now have a do-over. I think I'll wait a few days and let the market settle down (it has already erased about a third of the losses).

    So, aside from the pesky fact that many Christian's withdrawals on Wednesday got hit by the loss, I could almost get spiritual about it - how the Lord caused me to put those pages in wrong side front to save me some money.

    If only I were a health and wealth preacher rather than a dyed in the wool Wesleyan I'd have a great sermon illustration.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Jim Chabot's Avatar

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    Re: I could almost get spiritual about this

    Quote Originally Posted by G R 'Scott' Cundiff View Post
    Being retired, I need to withdraw some money each year from my Nazarene Fidelity account. So, on Wednesday I initiated the paper work. One thing I always do is take a look at the stock market to see how it is doing on the day of my withdrawal.

    So I checked it out - it was basically flat, +20 points or so.

    We filled out the paperwork and I went to the office here where we are staying right now to use their fax machine. The lady was busy, but she pointed me toward the machine and said I was welcome to use it.

    I wasn't familiar with that particular machine, but it was straightforward enough so I sent the fax.

    When I got home I looked at the stock market again - and while I was faxing, it was announced that a Special Prosecutor had been appointed to look into Russian interference in the election.

    The Dow was down almost 500 points.

    Bummer! It wasn't a big hit, but it was a hit to my numbers - a good time to buy, not a good time to sell.

    Oh well, I thought, that's life.

    But then, the withdrawal never appeared on my account - just a notice that they were awaiting my paperwork.

    I waited a couple of days, called P&B, and was told that, no, they never received my paperwork.

    My guess is that I put the pages in backwards and sent them blank pages.

    So, I now have a do-over. I think I'll wait a few days and let the market settle down (it has already erased about a third of the losses).

    So, aside from the pesky fact that many Christian's withdrawals on Wednesday got hit by the loss, I could almost get spiritual about it - how the Lord caused me to put those pages in wrong side front to save me some money.

    If only I were a health and wealth preacher rather than a dyed in the wool Wesleyan I'd have a great sermon illustration.
    Good for you Scott! And you may be in luck. On the way home for lunch today, I heard on the radio that it looks like investors are thumbing their noses to the special prosecutor and the market is rebounding. Hope you catch it on a high!
    -Jim

    To know and to serve God, of course, is why we're here, a clear truth, that, like the nose on your face, is near at hand and easily discernible but can make you dizzy if you try to focus on it hard. But a little faith will see you through.

    Garrison Keillor
    Thanks David Graham - "thanks" for this post

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    Senior Member Bob Carabbio's Avatar

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    Re: I could almost get spiritual about this

    Quote Originally Posted by G R 'Scott' Cundiff View Post
    If only I were a health and wealth preacher rather than a dyed in the wool Wesleyan I'd have a great sermon illustration.
    Sounds like you have one anyway. You don't have to be a "Prosperity Preacher" to teach that God watches over His kids.

    I always remember the day that I was driving NORTH on Route 128 around Boston.

    I was 18, and me and 4 other fellows were driving up to Waltham to an Amateur Radio club meeting in my '48 Plymouth.

    Around Westwood, MA there a blind turn to the left on the highway, and I was in the Left lane. "Something" told me to move over, so I got into the middle lane, and no sooner than I did, a Car came out of nowhere the WRONG WAY down the Left Lane at highway speed, and passed us so fast the wrong way, that nobody else in the car even saw it.

    I think I know "WHAT" told me to move over. I wasn't even saved at the time - none of us were, and in a head on crash with a 120 mile per hour contact speed, the likelihood is that there would have been no survivors. I never found out about the "Wrong Way Car", so maybe he survived also.

    Not a Mistake like putting paper in upside down, but all from the same source. He's Got our backs - no question about it.

    Reminds me of the old joke - a Business man is late to an IMPORTANT MEETING, and there's NO parking available at the venue, and he's DESPERATE, so he calls out to God: "PLEASE find me a parking space!!! I'll stop padding my expense account, I'll tell the truth to my customers, I'll even quit cheating on my wife, with the accounts receivable secretary"!!!

    Just then, a Hummer pulls out of a parking spot RIGHT BY THE FRONT DOOR!!

    And the guy says - Oh!! Never mind, God - I found a spot.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Billy Cox's Avatar

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    Re: I could almost get spiritual about this

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Carabbio View Post
    Sounds like you have one anyway. You don't have to be a "Prosperity Preacher" to teach that God watches over His kids.

    I always remember the day that I was driving NORTH on Route 128 around Boston.

    I was 18, and me and 4 other fellows were driving up to Waltham to an Amateur Radio club meeting in my '48 Plymouth.

    Around Westwood, MA there a blind turn to the left on the highway, and I was in the Left lane. "Something" told me to move over, so I got into the middle lane, and no sooner than I did, a Car came out of nowhere the WRONG WAY down the Left Lane at highway speed, and passed us so fast the wrong way, that nobody else in the car even saw it.

    I think I know "WHAT" told me to move over. I wasn't even saved at the time - none of us were, and in a head on crash with a 120 mile per hour contact speed, the likelihood is that there would have been no survivors. I never found out about the "Wrong Way Car", so maybe he survived also.

    Not a Mistake like putting paper in upside down, but all from the same source. He's Got our backs - no question about it.
    The inverse of this argument plays well at funerals. "The Jones family of five was tragically killed in an unavoidable, freak traffic accident. Apparently God didn't cook up some random serendipity to save them like he saves everybody else."

    One of my favorite quotes from the movie 'End of Days'...

    When something good happens it's God's work. But when something bad happens he works in mysterious ways!
    In my experience, ascribing these sorts of things to God's protection is patently false and makes Christians look like holdovers from the superstitions of the Dark Ages.
    "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us wthout end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."
    - C.S. Lewis
    Thanks Tim Troxler - "thanks" for this post

  5. #5
    Senior Member Marsha Lynn's Avatar

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    Re: I could almost get spiritual about this

    Quote Originally Posted by Billy Cox View Post
    In my experience, ascribing these sorts of things to God's protection is patently false and makes Christians look like holdovers from the superstitions of the Dark Ages.
    I agree -- in theory. In practice, when that freak accident happens moments before I arrive on the scene, I can't help but be overwhelmed with gratitude for the 30-second delay that changed my schedule. And it seems better to express that gratitude to God than to my lucky stars.

    Rather than deciding God plays no role in how my days go, my way of dealing with the flip side of actually being involved in the freak accident is to look for the good even in that terrible happening and be grateful for it. And, no, that "good" is not more angels for heaven or a strong warning to sinning family members, but maybe something like praising the Lord that another person was delayed enough to show up 30 seconds later and not be involved in the accident.

    Even on the worst of days, there are always plenty of "it could be worse" scenarios to provide room for gratitude. I find having someone to thank for favors great and small to be one of the greatest blessings of the Christian life.
    Only the power of the Holy Spirit can get truth past the obvious.

  6. #6
    Assistant Site Administrator/Forum Host Kevin Rector's Avatar

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    Re: I could almost get spiritual about this

    My life verse is Romans 8:28 - And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. (NLT)

    There's some stuff to that:

    1. God's working... but that doesn't mean that God's going to get God's way because we still have free will. Sometimes it's not's God's plan A, or God's plan B or God's plan C... God may want a certain situation to play out, and several people may need to obey the leading of the Spirit for it to happen and one of those people may disobey. So, God starts working on plan B. But God never stops working for the best good for all God's children. It's a super complex web of good and it's constantly in flux. Way too complicated for my feeble mind to grasp. But I trust God, and I trust that God's working for my good.

    2. In order for me to access that good - I must be called according to God's purpose - not mine. So the good is for God's sake, not for my sake. I have to be surrendered to God's will and living into God's sanctified plan. Obedience to God is paramount.

    3. Bad happens and it is not God's will. Sometimes we're just unlucky (or un-fortuitous if you have trouble with the language of "luck") and it has nothing to do with God. I think of the children down the street from my house who were killed by the tornado a few years ago. God didn't kill them. It was being it in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    4. All praise for all good goes to God. No blame for any bad goes to God. That's my basic strategy.
    God is really good.
    Thanks Jim Chabot - "thanks" for this post

  7. #7
    Senior Member Billy Cox's Avatar

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    Re: I could almost get spiritual about this

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Rector View Post
    My life verse is Romans 8:28 - And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. (NLT)

    There's some stuff to that:

    1. God's working... but that doesn't mean that God's going to get God's way because we still have free will. Sometimes it's not's God's plan A, or God's plan B or God's plan C... God may want a certain situation to play out, and several people may need to obey the leading of the Spirit for it to happen and one of those people may disobey. So, God starts working on plan B. But God never stops working for the best good for all God's children. It's a super complex web of good and it's constantly in flux. Way too complicated for my feeble mind to grasp. But I trust God, and I trust that God's working for my good.

    2. In order for me to access that good - I must be called according to God's purpose - not mine. So the good is for God's sake, not for my sake. I have to be surrendered to God's will and living into God's sanctified plan. Obedience to God is paramount.

    3. Bad happens and it is not God's will. Sometimes we're just unlucky (or un-fortuitous if you have trouble with the language of "luck") and it has nothing to do with God. I think of the children down the street from my house who were killed by the tornado a few years ago. God didn't kill them. It was being it in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    4. All praise for all good goes to God. No blame for any bad goes to God. That's my basic strategy.
    I don't personally believe that God micromanages circumstances to this degree. In fact if there was a spectrum with your point of view on one end and Deism on the other, I would be far closer to the Deism end of the spectrum.

    I have a high view of faith; one that doesn't require me to exchange logic and reason for pre-modern superstition and a dualistic/animistic worldview. I believe God causes everything to work together for good, not by tinkering with the gears/cogs of individual circumstances, but by way of natural laws and principles that often correlate with positive outcomes. Additionally this working for good is a collective reality, not individual favoritism.

    And to be clear, I don't judge anyone who sincerely believes in something that I couldn't swallow even with a spoonful of sugar, but I just won't go there with them. The best I can do is to quietly disagree with their point of view but keep my mouth shut to maintain the illusion of harmony - sort of like what most pastors surely do when people repeat non-biblical folk wisdom at funerals.
    "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us wthout end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."
    - C.S. Lewis

  8. #8
    Senior Member Marsha Lynn's Avatar

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    Re: I could almost get spiritual about this

    Quote Originally Posted by Billy Cox View Post
    I don't personally believe that God micromanages circumstances to this degree. In fact if there was a spectrum with your point of view on one end and Deism on the other, I would be far closer to the Deism end of the spectrum.

    I have a high view of faith; one that doesn't require me to exchange logic and reason for pre-modern superstition and a dualistic/animistic worldview. I believe God causes everything to work together for good, not by tinkering with the gears/cogs of individual circumstances, but by way of natural laws and principles that often correlate with positive outcomes. Additionally this working for good is a collective reality, not individual favoritism.

    And to be clear, I don't judge anyone who sincerely believes in something that I couldn't swallow even with a spoonful of sugar, but I just won't go there with them. The best I can do is to quietly disagree with their point of view but keep my mouth shut to maintain the illusion of harmony - sort of like what most pastors surely do when people repeat non-biblical folk wisdom at funerals.
    Again, I don't disagree -- in theory. And you could dismiss any story I have to tell as coincidence or natural laws at work. I'm actually inclined to do that very thing. I even believe and sometimes share with others a version of karma that brings the consequences of sin into the "right here, right now" with no need for divine intervention. But then I look at all the "coincidences" that occur, particularly when I pray, and it begins to look like more. To me. But not enough more to be "proof" of anything.

    I know I've shared this story before, but maybe it has been long enough to give it another run...

    Quite a few years ago now, I had a conversation with our closest (proximity) neighbor. I went away from it feeling like something I said could easily have been taken the wrong way. I felt a need to clarify, but didn't want to make a big deal about it. As I replayed the conversation I prayed for a "chance encounter" to clear things up.

    A little later I headed into town. Going past this neighbor's house is slightly shorter but involves more narrow unpaved roads with narrow steep hills, so we don't generally go that way. However, I decided to go past and see if she happened to be outside. Our dog at the time, as was her habit, chased me down the road. I caught a flash of movement from the other side of the car, there was a thump under my tires, and then the howling of an injured dog. At first I thought it was our dog, but the howling dog went flying up into the neighbor's yard so I knew it was theirs. With a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, I backed up and pulled into their drive. The howling brought husband and wife out into the yard. He went around to the back of their house trailer to check on the dog and she came over to talk to me. While we waited for the report about the dog, I said, "By the way..." and said what I wanted to say. Eventually, the husband came back around and reported he couldn't find any injury at all to the dog.

    Answer to prayer? Coincidence? The laws of nature at work? Yea, whatever. I went back to prayer and said, "That was the worst answer to prayer ever!"

    Coincidental inner voice: "But you got to say what you wanted to say, right?"

    Me: "Yes, but I HIT THEIR DOG!!"

    Coincidental inner voice "But the dog is okay, right?"

    Me: "....."

    Me: "You have a weird sense of humor, you know that?"

    Coincidental inner voice (quoting someone somewhere with a smile): "You should be careful what you ask for."

    Fortunately, it was a one-time coincidence. I haven't hit any other neighborhood dogs during our 37 years of living out here in the sticks. And I try to be careful what I ask for.

    Like I said, I would be right there with you in discounting the idea of God being involved in the details of our lives if it weren't for that stupid dog that somehow got loose that day. And this other time when... And the time before that when... In fact, I realized a few years ago that my aversion to making phone calls isn't nearly so bad as one might think simply because the people I need to see tend to "coincidentally" show up in front of me right when I need to see them. So much that I have come to rely on it. If I need to see them, I will. If I don't see them, I probably don't need to.

    I guess it's all part of small-town living. More chances for the coincidences I need to happen.

    I have read that God sometimes slips the curtain aside for those who are young in the faith and need more reassurance than those who have been around a while. I'm not sure why I get so many little glimpses of glory at this stage in my journey. As a woman in our testimony time once shared, "Sometimes God spoils me."

    But I RAN OVER THE NEIGHBOR'S DOG!
    Last edited by Marsha Lynn; May 24th, 2017 at 09:23 AM. Reason: Fix, fix, fix
    Only the power of the Holy Spirit can get truth past the obvious.
    Thanks David Troxler, Rich Schmidt, Gina Stevenson - "thanks" for this post
    Laughing Rich Schmidt - thanks for this funny post

  9. #9
    Senior Member Billy Cox's Avatar

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    Re: I could almost get spiritual about this

    Quote Originally Posted by Marsha Lynn View Post
    Answer to prayer? Coincidence? The laws of nature at work? Yea, whatever. I went back to prayer and said, "That was the worst answer to prayer ever!"
    I want to be clear that 'laws of nature' are not the same thing as 'natural law'. Natural law is the moral order written on our human hearts, even in the absence of religious training. The 10 commandments were not particularly innovative. They simply codify protection of life, property, family and legal integrity, along with a few monotheistic religious laws and our innate sense of fairness. Nothing new here.

    The reason I bring it up is because it is light years better than the ancient belief that gods/devils are inexplicably fascinated with dinking around with humans, blessing us or cursing us for their own entertainment, or from boredom, or from love, or whatever reason we project on them. Some people see 'answered prayers' as evidence of God's existence and/or goodness. This is circumstantial evidence at best and is vulnerable to misinterpretation and huge amount confirmation bias. What do we do with all of the unanswered prayers or the countless situations where the religious/spiritual formula doesn't play out the way it's supposed to?

    In contrast, I see our hardwired moral awareness as far more compelling evidence of a living God who is good. I doubt that he cares one iota about whether I have a sore throat today, and how inconvenient that might be to the things I need to do at work today. Likewise, if my throat is feeling better, mere minutes before I need to use my voice in a leadership meeting, I doubt that God reached down from heaven and touched my throat so as to spare me from some minor inconvenience.

    Some might say that there is no harm in hedging one's bets - praying to God for piddly things just in case he really does micromanage every little event in the universe, but I think there is harm in thinking of God as a genie following us around and granting wishes when we ask just right and when it suits his unknowable will to do so. I think there is harm in training our mind and the minds of others to make sense of the world using placebos and falsehoods. Sooner or later a true crisis will come along, and an infantile faith based on night-lights and security blankets will not be enough to sustain us.

    This is no judgment on those who believe that God is heavily involved in every aspect of human existence, but I am suggesting that there is a more excellent way.
    "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us wthout end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."
    - C.S. Lewis

  10. #10
    Site Manager G R 'Scott' Cundiff's Avatar

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    Re: I could almost get spiritual about this

    Quote Originally Posted by Marsha Lynn View Post
    As a woman in our testimony time once shared, "Sometimes God spoils me."
    I did the original post mostly in fun but I have to say that this line made me nod in agreement. Honestly, I don't think we are wise to try to set parameters for the Lord. It's his grace and he can dispense it however he wants, even to those who are (in my opinion) not as deserving as someone else is.

    He can also dispense it in ways that mess with my theology.

    Many times I've mediated on this quote from Neil Strait from my prayer journal: "God's grace and help are more real than I have ever thought."

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    Assistant Site Administrator/Forum Host Kevin Rector's Avatar

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    Re: I could almost get spiritual about this

    Quote Originally Posted by Billy Cox View Post
    I don't personally believe that God micromanages circumstances to this degree. In fact if there was a spectrum with your point of view on one end and Deism on the other, I would be far closer to the Deism end of the spectrum.

    I have a high view of faith; one that doesn't require me to exchange logic and reason for pre-modern superstition and a dualistic/animistic worldview. I believe God causes everything to work together for good, not by tinkering with the gears/cogs of individual circumstances, but by way of natural laws and principles that often correlate with positive outcomes. Additionally this working for good is a collective reality, not individual favoritism.

    And to be clear, I don't judge anyone who sincerely believes in something that I couldn't swallow even with a spoonful of sugar, but I just won't go there with them. The best I can do is to quietly disagree with their point of view but keep my mouth shut to maintain the illusion of harmony - sort of like what most pastors surely do when people repeat non-biblical folk wisdom at funerals.
    Either I have done a poor job of describing my position of you've done a poor job of understanding it or both. I don't believe in "superstition," and I don't believe that God "controls" or "tinkers," with our situations. An example. Perhaps God, because of immense wisdom knows that Pastor "A" would make a great fit with church "X." Pastor "A" is currently pastoring at church "Y" where perhaps pastor "A" has used up her political capital and is no longer particularly effective. Through the Spirit God lays it on Pastor "A's" heart that perhaps it's time to brush off the resume and perhaps she has the idea to send it to the district where church "X" is located. Perhaps through prayer and discernment the DS of that district feels a compulsion to include her resume in the pile for church "X." But there's a cantankerous old fool on the board who doesn't listen much to the leading of the Spirit and talks the board out of looking at Pastor "A's" resume (after all, she's just a girl)... and pastor "A" ends up at church "M".

    Perhaps God's plan all along was for her to be at church Y - but because of free will and disobedience on the part of a board member God moved on to plan B, or plan "M" in this case. We can sit back and say God doesn't do that - but I believe Romans 8:28 and I'm not a deist.

    I do reject any kind of Calvinism or theology that asserts God "controlling" things. God always needs to work around our free will and the potential that we will be disobedient or simply not listen to God's leading - or maybe not be able to discern it. God's like a great chess master who can always look lots of moves ahead and come up with another plan based on our moves (and it's staggering the number of moves that can be made and so the permutations of possibilities that God needs to take into consideration).

    Plus - there are also times where we have multiple options and God just might not care or be involved at all. There are probably lots of time where God just says, "do what you want and I'll bless your choice." That's working for our good too.

    Plus - there are lots of times that God chooses to not intervene and to simply allow life to happen.

    The point is - we don't know which is which - that's why we glorify God at all times - give him credit for the good and don't blame him for the bad.
    God is really good.
    Thanks Billy Cox, Karen Troxler, Marsha Lynn, Gina Stevenson - "thanks" for this post

  12. #12
    Senior Member Billy Cox's Avatar

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    Re: I could almost get spiritual about this

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Rector View Post
    Either I have done a poor job of describing my position of you've done a poor job of understanding it or both.
    I don't think that either applies.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Rector View Post
    I don't believe in "superstition," and I don't believe that God "controls" or "tinkers," with our situations.
    We may differ on what these terms mean. I will illustrate based on the examples you provided.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Rector View Post
    An example. Perhaps God, because of immense wisdom knows that Pastor "A" would make a great fit with church "X." Pastor "A" is currently pastoring at church "Y" where perhaps pastor "A" has used up her political capital and is no longer particularly effective. Through the Spirit God lays it on Pastor "A's" heart that perhaps it's time to brush off the resume and perhaps she has the idea to send it to the district where church "X" is located.
    This is precisely what I would describe as 'tinkering' or 'applying influence' that would not otherwise occur to the human actors.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Rector View Post
    Perhaps through prayer and discernment the DS of that district feels a compulsion to include her resume in the pile for church "X."
    ...more tinkering, presuming that God also 'lays it on the DS's heart' to present Pastor A's resume to church 'X'.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Rector View Post
    But there's a cantankerous old fool on the board who doesn't listen much to the leading of the Spirit and talks the board out of looking at Pastor "A's" resume (after all, she's just a girl)... and pastor "A" ends up at church "M".
    I respect that this diverges from the Calvinist hard-line view of God's absolute sovereignty. In the Calvinist way of thinking, he cantankerous old fool could no more resist the will of God than a junebug could stop an 18-wheeler. A Calvinist would resolve the dilemma by saying that whatever ends up happening was the will of God all along and that the impressions of Pastor A and the DS were mistakes necessary to bring Pastor A to Church M.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Rector View Post
    Perhaps God's plan all along was for her to be at church Y - but because of free will and disobedience on the part of a board member God moved on to plan B, or plan "M" in this case. We can sit back and say God doesn't do that - but I believe Romans 8:28 and I'm not a deist.
    A Deist could also also believe Romans 8:28, but arrive at that belief only by a route that most evangelicals would find theologically unacceptable.


    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Rector View Post
    I do reject any kind of Calvinism or theology that asserts God "controlling" things. God always needs to work around our free will and the potential that we will be disobedient or simply not listen to God's leading - or maybe not be able to discern it. God's like a great chess master who can always look lots of moves ahead and come up with another plan based on our moves (and it's staggering the number of moves that can be made and so the permutations of possibilities that God needs to take into consideration).
    I mostly agree with this metaphor, though it verily easily falls into the Calvinist idea that God controls everything. If God is able to 'work around' our free will, why would he not also work around our disobedience or our inability to discern his leading, ultimately steering us to the outcome that he wanted all along - which a Calvinist would agree with wholeheartedly.

    Staying with the chess metaphor, I could agree with the idea that human frailty/imperfection leads God's plan A to get shot to hell, and he adapts with plan B or plan R, etc. all of which can get shot to hell too, and somehow God's side achieves checkmate in the end...or maybe God loses in the end because he chose to rely on an unreliable partner, and ran out of ways to salvage a win.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Rector View Post
    Plus - there are also times where we have multiple options and God just might not care or be involved at all. There are probably lots of time where God just says, "do what you want and I'll bless your choice." That's working for our good too.

    Plus - there are lots of times that God chooses to not intervene and to simply allow life to happen.
    I believe that this ^^ is God's strategy in the vast majority of cases. Because he has infused us with the image of God, he can sit in the stands and watch things unfold and not feel compelled to call the plays or to be both quarterback and wide receiver and offensive line all at once. We aspire to bring about good by way of control and power, but this is not how God works.

    I personally believe that Romans 8:28 is a statement of faith that God's promotion of good is direct in a 'critical few' situations but is indirect or downright passive the rest of the time. When we insist that God's activity has to be direct intervention, we are imposing our own views of power and influence onto God. This view greatly underestimates the power of design to influence how things unfold.

    A casual reading of the Bible leads us to think that God's direct intervention is continuous, but if we were to lay out the narrative on a chronological time line, the accounts of God's direct activity are few and far between. Take the story of Abraham for example. It can best be describes as a whole lot of silence punctuated by a few key encounters. God leads Abraham to leave his father's home and go somewhere else, and then... silence. God promises that Abraham will be the father of a great nation and then... silence, and no babymaking.

    While I don't believe that the biblical narrative is the sum total of everything that God does during the lives of the people in the stories, the silence greatly outweighs the direct activity. I see no reason to think that this dynamic has changed.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Rector View Post
    The point is - we don't know which is which - that's why we glorify God at all times - give him credit for the good and don't blame him for the bad.
    We don't really need to know whether God is influencing circumstances through direct intervention or indirectly by design or even taking a century-long nap. God chooses to work with unreliable partners, so when things go sideways, God shares in the blame. If God was intent on avoiding the blame, we would not have the story of the Cross. Instead, Jesus specifically forgives us from the Cross, not because we are blameless but because love is greater than blame. In the Cross, God takes all of the blame and we are wrong to try to protect him from it. This is the fatal flaw in virtually every theodicy ever devised.

    People killed Jesus Christ and God takes the blame for it, not reluctantly nor with sadness, but enthusiastically and with a shout of victory. I can think of no love greater than this.
    "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us wthout end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."
    - C.S. Lewis

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    Assistant Site Administrator/Forum Host Kevin Rector's Avatar

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    Re: I could almost get spiritual about this

    Quote Originally Posted by Billy Cox View Post
    We don't really need to know whether God is influencing circumstances through direct intervention or indirectly by design or even taking a century-long nap. God chooses to work with unreliable partners, so when things go sideways, God shares in the blame. If God was intent on avoiding the blame, we would not have the story of the Cross. Instead, Jesus specifically forgives us from the Cross, not because we are blameless but because love is greater than blame. In the Cross, God takes all of the blame and we are wrong to try to protect him from it. This is the fatal flaw in virtually every theodicy ever devised.

    People killed Jesus Christ and God takes the blame for it, not reluctantly nor with sadness, but enthusiastically and with a shout of victory. I can think of no love greater than this.
    We're not nearly so far apart. But you must get past the notion that God's direct intervention is coercive or based on power - it's not. It's gentle - like the whisper, more like suggestion. When it comes it's usually God using humans as agents of his miracles. God strength is made perfect in our weakness after all. It's the witness of the faithful to bring transformation to those who experience their lives - compelled by the Spirit of God within them (which is a direct intervention of God). When I say we don't blame God - what I mean is that we resist the temptation to make God the author of evil as so many are tempted to try and do.
    God is really good.

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    Host CE and Gen. Disc. forums David Parker's Avatar

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    Re: I could almost get spiritual about this

    And I just want to say that this thread is why I love NazNet.

    Where else can you get such a thoughtful discussion on topics like this?

    And this topic is one I spend far too much time thinking about...so I very much appreciate each of these posts.
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    "Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may." ~ John Wesley

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    Senior Member Bob Carabbio's Avatar

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    Re: I could almost get spiritual about this

    Quote Originally Posted by Billy Cox View Post
    In my experience, ascribing these sorts of things to God's protection is patently false and makes Christians look like holdovers from the superstitions of the Dark Ages.
    "Ah well", she said. And then she died.

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    Senior Member Marsha Lynn's Avatar

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    Re: I could almost get spiritual about this

    Quote Originally Posted by Billy Cox View Post
    Sooner or later a true crisis will come along, and an infantile faith based on night-lights and security blankets will not be enough to sustain us.

    This is no judgment on those who believe that God is heavily involved in every aspect of human existence, but I am suggesting that there is a more excellent way.
    Now I'm curious. What role, if any, does prayer have in your more excellent way?
    Only the power of the Holy Spirit can get truth past the obvious.
    Thanks Gina Stevenson - "thanks" for this post

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    Senior Member Marsha Lynn's Avatar

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    Re: I could almost get spiritual about this

    Quote Originally Posted by David Parker View Post
    And I just want to say that this thread is why I love NazNet.

    Where else can you get such a thoughtful discussion on topics like this?

    And this topic is one I spend far too much time thinking about...so I very much appreciate each of these posts.
    It has certainly got me thinking. Years ago, a friend told me about a family member who became a Christian and was rejoicing in answered prayer in the form of parking spaces at the mall and such. Ever since I heard that story I have been grateful for the health to easily walk from farther away. How ridiculous to pray for ease in life when God gives us strength for challenges and challenges help us build more strength. I would have appreciated Billy's phrase "infantile faith" to describe faith that relies on convenient parking.

    I'm not sure when or how prayer became such an integral part of my days. I don't pray for convenient parking at Walmart. I'm more grateful now than ever for the strength and energy to walk from further out. But I certainly wouldn't hesitate to whisper a prayer if I needed to park somewhere and couldn't find any place at all. Worse, I pray when I shop for clothes! I consider clothes shopping to be a waste of time and do it as infrequently as possible and then only so there is something in my closet to put on in the morning and then forget about for the day ahead. I am not above asking the God who clothes the lilies of the field to clothe me as well. Preferably without a lot of time or money investment on my part. I have better ways to spend my resources.

    Worse, when I lose something I need and can't find it, I pray about it as I search. I mean, if you're already hanging out with someone who knows where that lost item is, doesn't it make sense to mention that you would like to find it and request a bit of help?

    The thing is, if I leave a clothing shop empty-handed or never find the lost item I "needed," it doesn't hurt my faith in God in the least. My version of "infantile faith" at this point in my life is faith that falters at every bump in the road. And if my prayers are answered I don't go around telling people about it. Spoiled children are probably better off thanking their benefactors in private than bragging about their good fortune to their little friends. (Especially if they don't want to be sold into slavery in Egypt.)

    Tomorrow I have an appointment with a specialist whom I expect to have the results of a pathology report. When I last spoke with him he was pretty confident the results would be benign, but I have heard the word "malignant" twice before in such settings and suspect it's just a matter of time before I hear it again. The fact that his specialty includes the word "oncology" is not exactly reassuring.

    Cancer is inconvenient and expensive. It can result in death, but thus far that has not been the case for me. I (and my husband) get all the inconvenience and expense without the carrot on the stick. (Well, maybe not all of it. I have yet to experience chemotherapy, for which I am deeply grateful.)

    Am I praying the word will be "benign" tomorrow? I'm certainly hoping for that! And hope is sort of like prayer, isn't it? Whether I turn that hope into actual words of prayer or not, it is there in my heart and the one who knows my heart sees it there. Along with... not fear so much as dread. I really don't want to fill my calendar with medical appointments that focus life on me and my health. There are SO many better ways to invest my days than dealing with medical issues. It's worse than shopping for clothes! But maybe it's what I'll be doing for a while. Sigh. If it's the road I need to travel again I should probably invest in some good shoes.

    This must be the ultimate in "infantile faith." I pray that God will help me find clothes to buy, but mostly in the face of cancer say, "Oh no, not again. I don't have time for this. Could I please opt out this time around? But if I have to, I guess I have to." Then I forget to mention it to friends who would pray for me. Having already shared my opinion on the matter with my God, who created and treasures me and whom I love and serve, I'm not sure why I need others to talk to God about it unless it's for their own benefit. And, really, if they are looking for opportunities for intercession, there are others who need it more than I do. Or if someone for some reason really wants to spend time praying for me, I'll gladly give them a list of needs that won't revolve around physical issues. I have good resources for dealing with medical issues if I can come up with the time and accept the relatively insignificant cost not covered by insurance. Wisdom and creativity and the fruit of the Spirit are not nearly so available in the commodity market.
    Only the power of the Holy Spirit can get truth past the obvious.

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    Re: I could almost get spiritual about this

    Quote Originally Posted by Marsha Lynn View Post
    How ridiculous to pray for ease in life when God gives us strength for challenges and challenges help us build more strength.


    I mean, if you're already hanging out with someone who knows where that lost item is, doesn't it make sense to mention that you would like to find it and request a bit of help?


    Tomorrow I have an appointment with a specialist whom I expect to have the results of a pathology report. When I last spoke with him he was pretty confident the results would be benign, but I have heard the word "malignant" twice before in such settings and suspect it's just a matter of time before I hear it again. The fact that his specialty includes the word "oncology" is not exactly reassuring.

    Cancer is inconvenient and expensive. It can result in death, but thus far that has not been the case for me. I (and my husband) get all the inconvenience and expense without the carrot on the stick. (Well, maybe not all of it. I have yet to experience chemotherapy, for which I am deeply grateful.)

    Am I praying the word will be "benign" tomorrow? I'm certainly hoping for that! And hope is sort of like prayer, isn't it? Whether I turn that hope into actual words of prayer or not, it is there in my heart and the one who knows my heart sees it there. Along with... not fear so much as dread. I really don't want to fill my calendar with medical appointments that focus life on me and my health. There are SO many better ways to invest my days than dealing with medical issues. It's worse than shopping for clothes! But maybe it's what I'll be doing for a while. Sigh. If it's the road I need to travel again I should probably invest in some good shoes.

    This must be the ultimate in "infantile faith." I pray that God will help me find clothes to buy, but mostly in the face of cancer say, "Oh no, not again. I don't have time for this. Could I please opt out this time around? But if I have to, I guess I have to." Then I forget to mention it to friends who would pray for me. Having already shared my opinion on the matter with my God, who created and treasures me and whom I love and serve, I'm not sure why I need others to talk to God about it unless it's for their own benefit. And, really, if they are looking for opportunities for intercession, there are others who need it more than I do. Or if someone for some reason really wants to spend time praying for me, I'll gladly give them a list of needs that won't revolve around physical issues. I have good resources for dealing with medical issues if I can come up with the time and accept the relatively insignificant cost not covered by insurance. Wisdom and creativity and the fruit of the Spirit are not nearly so available in the commodity market.
    My younger brother, Bruce, is working his way through pancreatic cancer. Our conversation and prayer early on (10 months ago) included something very similar to what I hear you saying, "Lord, since we have lived in your love for all these years, we do not believe that it is required for us to somehow believe that if we crank up the number of people who are praying for Bruce that you will relent and heal him. Do you mind if we just trust and obey while we are walking in your love and presence through this storm?"

    Recently, the "Smith kids...5 of us" vacationed in Iowa so we could all have time with Bruce, just in case. I watched Bruce and I watched us all demonstrate trust. For me/us it just doesn't work to have a faith that somehow kicks into desperation based on circumstances.

    My favorite cartoon is from 30 years ago, or so, and is the depiction of a sheep walking through a pack of wolves and holding onto the hand of Jesus. The caption noting that the sheep is looking the wolves in the eyes and pointing to Jesus, "I'm with Him!"

    There is something about graduating into a relationship of trust with the Lord that is ethereal (extremely delicate and light in a way that seems too perfect for this world), other-worldly. Not to say that I am perfect in this regard, but there is something to be said about Christian aging...for that consistency in a right direction.

    Your words in this post inspire me beyond description. Thank you!

    Friend,

    Wes

    PS. Bruce has another surgery scheduled for this Friday. The medical opinions range from "waste" to "this is your ticket to another 20 year." We prefer another 20 years, but when it gets right down to it, what does it matter? (I do not like how that sentence reads, but I must leave it, because I/we believe it.) We are "with Him" and, ultimately, with each other, either way. Somehow that definition of trust is vital, necessary, essential, ideal, blissful, comfortable, enjoyable in a lifelong development of friendship with Him.
    Thanks Marsha Lynn, David Troxler - "thanks" for this post

  19. #19
    Senior Member Billy Cox's Avatar

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    Re: I could almost get spiritual about this

    Quote Originally Posted by Marsha Lynn View Post
    Now I'm curious. What role, if any, does prayer have in your more excellent way?
    First of all, it is not *my* more excellent way but is an allusion to 1 Corinthians 13 and Paul's putting away childish things metaphor.

    I think differently than many Christians about prayer. A few years ago, a small group leader posed a question about what I ask for when I pray. It threw me for a loop for a minute because my prayer doesn't consist of much asking, except for wisdom a la James 1:5.

    By contrast, I see prayer as an exercise in acknowledging a will outside of my own. With this view in mind, it doesn't make much sense to recite my wishlist - which is more or less a recounting of what *my* will is. Prayer in my world involves a lot more reflection on situations and relationships - not in terms of me telling God how I want them to unfold, but in striving to see God's hand in it and possibly to discern how God would like to see it unfold, and if I get around to *asking* it is for the wisdom to know his will and the courage to be part of his will on earth as it is in heaven.

    I hope this makes sense, as I struggle to express this point of view without people feeling judged or belittled by it.
    "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us wthout end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."
    - C.S. Lewis
    Thanks Wes Smith, John Kennedy, David Troxler, Gina Stevenson - "thanks" for this post

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    Re: I could almost get spiritual about this

    Quote Originally Posted by Billy Cox View Post
    First of all, it is not *my* more excellent way but is an allusion to 1 Corinthians 13 and Paul's putting away childish things metaphor.

    I think differently than many Christians about prayer. A few years ago, a small group leader posed a question about what I ask for when I pray. It threw me for a loop for a minute because my prayer doesn't consist of much asking, except for wisdom a la James 1:5.

    By contrast, I see prayer as an exercise in acknowledging a will outside of my own. With this view in mind, it doesn't make much sense to recite my wishlist - which is more or less a recounting of what *my* will is. Prayer in my world involves a lot more reflection on situations and relationships - not in terms of me telling God how I want them to unfold, but in striving to see God's hand in it and possibly to discern how God would like to see it unfold, and if I get around to *asking* it is for the wisdom to know his will and the courage to be part of his will on earth as it is in heaven.

    I hope this makes sense, as I struggle to express this point of view without people feeling judged or belittled by it.
    I get this. You don't know how much I get this...well, yes you do because you know me. :-)
    Thanks Billy Cox - "thanks" for this post

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    Re: I could almost get spiritual about this

    Answered prayer is absolutely the easiest thing on earth to deal with. I don't think I've ever known of anyone to wring their hands about how to deal with an answered prayer. And I know that God always answers either yes, no, or wait. Despite the difference in spelling, the latter two carry a lot of the same impact. In fact, the 'wait' answer, in some respects, may be more difficult. A clear no tells us that it's time for plan B (or C or Z).

    One of my favorite hymns has a stanza that speaks to this:

    'Teach me to feel that you are always nigh; teach me the struggles of the soul to bear,
    To check the rising doubt, the rebel sigh; teach me the patience of unanswered prayer."

    I suspect that most of us, no matter how 'un-Pentecostal' we may be in our thinking, no matter how much we attempt to include the 'according to your will' component in our prayers, still are 'name it and claim it' or 'word of faith' in our dreams. There's probably always a residual 'God, giving me this could've as easily been in your will as saying no' in our emotions.

    Yeah, it's the 'unanswered prayer' stuff that can keep, I suspect, even the most devout awake at night.
    Thanks Gina Stevenson - "thanks" for this post

  22. #22
    Senior Member Marsha Lynn's Avatar

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    Re: I could almost get spiritual about this

    Quote Originally Posted by Billy Cox View Post
    I think differently than many Christians about prayer. A few years ago, a small group leader posed a question about what I ask for when I pray. It threw me for a loop for a minute because my prayer doesn't consist of much asking, except for wisdom a la James 1:5.

    By contrast, I see prayer as an exercise in acknowledging a will outside of my own. With this view in mind, it doesn't make much sense to recite my wishlist - which is more or less a recounting of what *my* will is. Prayer in my world involves a lot more reflection on situations and relationships - not in terms of me telling God how I want them to unfold, but in striving to see God's hand in it and possibly to discern how God would like to see it unfold, and if I get around to *asking* it is for the wisdom to know his will and the courage to be part of his will on earth as it is in heaven.

    I hope this makes sense, as I struggle to express this point of view without people feeling judged or belittled by it.
    ^^THIS is what you're saying with your picture of a distant, uninterested God?

    In that case, other than the distant, uninterested part, you are preaching to the choir when you preach it to me. I have no use for "wishlist," "God is the ultimate genie" prayers. I think we are somehow saying the exact same thing about prayer while using words that make it seem like we're on opposite ends of the spectrum.

    Save
    Only the power of the Holy Spirit can get truth past the obvious.
    Thanks David Troxler, Gina Stevenson - "thanks" for this post

  23. #23
    Senior Member Billy Cox's Avatar

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    Re: I could almost get spiritual about this

    Quote Originally Posted by Marsha Lynn View Post
    ^^THIS is what you're saying with your picture of a distant, uninterested God?

    In that case, other than the distant, uninterested part, you are preaching to the choir when you preach it to me. I have no use for "wishlist," "God is the ultimate genie" prayers. I think we are somehow saying the exact same thing about prayer while using words that make it seem like we're on opposite ends of the spectrum.

    Save
    Or it could be that sometimes I think the Deists have a better read on the truth, but then my religious indoctrination kicks in and I talk myself back into thinking that God gives a whit about our mundane decisions. (and they are all mundane)

    I sometimes wonder, if the Bible was being written today, would today's events be worth writing about or are we living in the gaps between notable events? Maybe these aren't the days of Elijah, but are instead the days of some obscure Bible character known only by his name and who he begat.
    "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us wthout end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."
    - C.S. Lewis
    Thanks Marsha Lynn, Rich Schmidt - "thanks" for this post
    Laughing Marsha Lynn - thanks for this funny post

  24. #24
    Assistant Site Administrator/Forum Host Kevin Rector's Avatar

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    Re: I could almost get spiritual about this

    Quote Originally Posted by Billy Cox View Post
    (and they are all mundane)
    But this is where you are wrong, dreadfully wrong. There are in fact a million and one mundane things in life. But you don't get to declare that ALL things are mundane. You don't have that power. The things you think mundane may, in fact, to someone else be glorious and beautiful and life giving. Things you think tedious and exhausting and pointless might be the very fabric of awe and glory from a different view point.

    In fact, it's the carrying on in the face of the every day that makes the human race so incredibly incredible. The waking up to another cup of coffee and another day at the office for no apparent reason other than it's another day at the office. "It's another day" can be one of the most beautiful things in the world. Last week a lady in our town only saw the mundane for being mundane and couldn't find any reason to keep going. A true and utter tragedy when really all around us is pure awe. The mundane things make a tapestry of life that is amazing when they get woven together.
    God is really good.

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