Wednesday, April 15, 2009

In Control or in Power?

This may be an issue of mere semantics but I am going to address the issue of whether God is in "control" or not. This issue of God in control or in power was raised in a recent CPE Plus class that was led by Rev. Danny Doss. He raised the question about whether God is in control or in power. I believe that , before we can go any further,we need a working definition of power and control. Power is defined as the ability to act or accomplish something. Control, on the other hand, is focused around dominating or exercising restraint or command over something.
    Let add the needed disclaimer:God is omnipresent, omniscience, and omnipotent. Anthanasius said, "Omnipotence may be defined as the perfect ability of God to do all things that are consistent with the divine character." Thomas Aquinas said, "Omnipotence does not include the power of God to act in ungodly ways."
    God is all-loving. God's essential nature is love. This is the secret: absolute love guides God's exercise of God's omnipotence and omniscience in the affairs of human-kind. What God does with what God knows is always conditioned by what decisions will help to advance in mature and healthy persons.  Greatness of character and personality is not formed by a smooth, easy life. We have all discovered that it is through the difficulties even more than the pleasures of life, that we are impelled to grow. It may be true that God will not give us more than we can handle, but many have seen those limits tested, and at least in their minds, exceeded. God is able to use all that happens to us to bring us to a place of greater trust and dependency on God. God's occasional interventions are "perfectly timed" to help us without negating our freedom.  This freedom is our free will. God gave us the ability and the choice to choose good or evil; to do what is right or what is wrong. If God's essential nature is love, then the question of God's possibilities is a question of the possibilities of divine love. God does and wills nothing else than that wherein divine love realizes itself. God can do anything that love can do.(Grace, Faith, and Holiness, Dunning, 201).Augustine said, "Nothing that God conceives and wills to do is beyond God's ability or power to accomplish."  God loved us so much that He gave us free will. He gave us the freedom to choose.
    We need to realize that God gave us this freedom, knowing that we might use it unwisely. God knows what God is doing. He has that power. God allows the consequences of our choices and the rigors of the reality of living in this glorious yet broken world. God is in power; He has all power as God limits God's control to give us freedom, and God intervenes in our lives to express God's power in ways that move (strongly encourage) us toward God's calling- to become like Christ.  "God does not exert the kind of coercive power that directly determines all historical processes unilaterally."(Thomas C. Oden, The Living God, 76)
    Aquinas said, "God does not always necessarily exercise every conceivable form of power in every situation, for God has also the power to withhold influence, and to allow other powers to influence and other wills to have their own effect. "
    As human beings, we are permeated with an incredible amount of power. We have power beyond our understanding and imagination. By contrast, we have control over very little in our lives. We cannot control the economic or family situation we are born into, or the wounds and limitations  of our families. We cannot control the weather or what obstacles we may encounter each day. We can only control our attitudes and responses to what life throws at us.
    But, with God the situation is turned around. He has both power and control. In the case of control though, I believe, He never "forces" us to do what He  wants us to do. God never dominates us or commands us to do or not to do something. Yes, He does strongly encourage us to do what is right but He  never imposes His control over us to impel us to comply with his wishes. He does possess the power to do this but He will not force us to do anything.
    "If God chooses not to control all things, however, then there is something you can do about it. As a morally responsible free person, you can make choices  that maximize your safety and minimize your vulnerability against other free people who have chosen evil. The world is perhaps still scary, but less so than if  the Creator himself had the kind of character that made him willing to ordain child kidnappings and the power to ensure that what he ordains will certainly be accomplished."
    God is analogous to the bird in the book titled, "The Shack" by William P. Young. Young wrote, "Most birds were created to fly. Being grounded for them is a limitation within their ability to fly, not the other way around." (97) God, I believe, chooses to self-limit Himself in order to allow us to have freedom and free will. If God chose to exercise control over us to the point that we had no free will then we would merely be biological robots doing exactly what God wanted us to do when he wanted us to do it.God has all power to be able to control all of our thoughts, words, actions and deeds, but he chooses to limit Himself so we may freely obey or disobey Him.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Camouflaged Christian

Camouflaged Christians

     Hunting season is not yet upon us but the idea is that when you go hunting it is better to be camouflaged so the animal being hunted cannot see you that well. When we hear the word "camouflage" most people think of a hunter in the woods that is blending in with his surrounding or of a soldier who has disguised himself for the purpose of not being discovered. The Bible is clear that Christians are in the army of the Lord.
     Unlike our earthly armed forces, God's army is never to be dressed in camouflage. We are to be constantly ready, alert and prepared to stand for God. We are never to disguise our identity or be ashamed that we are indeed enlisted in the most powerful of all forces known to mankind.
     However, and unfortunately, there seems to be reluctance today among some of God's army personnel to identify themselves as true believers of the gospel. To keep from being considered "radical," too many Christians are willing to blend in with those who make no claims of believing in any form of Christianity--every day but Sunday. They hear and share filthy jokes; they may encourage and promote dishonesty; they are greedy for self gain; they pretend blindness to all forms of employee/employer abuse. Even engaging in illicit relationships is not beyond them. No one can see them. They are in perfect camouflage--indistinguishable from the world.
    Yet, often these same individuals will be extremely active in their church activities. It is as though on Sunday the "whole armor of God" is worn with pride and honor, all ironed and polished; but in the workplace there is often not the slightest hint of ever having enlisted in God's army.
    While no one desires to be mistreated or passed-over for job promotions, if standing up as a child of God is what causes us to be persecuted, then that is exactly what God expects of us. Are we going to be ashamed at the appearing of Christ? Or are we going to be ashamed when it is time for us to vacate this temporary dwelling place we call earth? Please remember that it was Jesus Christ Himself who said if we're ashamed of Him; then He will be ashamed of us.
    We must remember that church membership does not guarantee that we are enlisted in God's army. Anyone can claim to be enlisted; but it's not those that talk only, but those who "walk the talk" and wear the garments of Christ's salvation openly, unashamedly and with honor who are numbered among the soldiers in God's army. This means seriously and honestly seeking to live holy lives and never being willing to camouflage our position in Christ.
    So take off that camouflage! Never forget that Almighty God has saved us, Benevolent God blesses us, Creator God guides us, Supporting God promotes us-- and when our earthly battles have ended, God will receive us into that blessed eternal Kingdom where all who have worn God's garments of salvation with honor will receive their "just reward."
    "Well done thou good and faithful servant" are not words that "camouflaged Christians" can expect to hear when they face God at the final judgment. Our position in Christ is to be as open and displayed as Christ was on the cross so ALL can see. The cross was not camouflaged; it was not hidden. It was on a hill, called Golgotha, where all could see it and where sin's debt was paid. So take off that camouflage so all can see that you are a Christian, a soldier in God's army and not ashamed of it.

Rev. Jabe Fincher
Irvington/Zirlott Road United Methodist Churches