The World According to kcillini77

October 18, 2007

Hope – but hope in what?

Filed under: America,Christianity,Church,Faith,Hope,Prosperity,Shawnee,Westside — kcillini77 @ 8:38 pm

There is a reason prosecutors don’t want to go to court without physical evidence or eyewitness testimony. They may know the party in question is guilty as hell, but with the burden of proof placed squarely on the shoulders of the prosecution, circumstantial evidence is generally not sufficient for a conviction. Often this frustrates us when we hear about someone being released from custody when we all believe that person committed a crime. But when the system works and prevents an innocent person from being sentenced unjustly, we reaffirm the reason that our justice system declares every individual innocent until proven guilty.

In the same way, anyone who claims to hear directly from God bears the burden of proof. I am not referring here to the promptings of the Holy Spirit as to the right thing to do. The Bible makes clear that the Holy Spirit dwells within those of us who have accepted salvation by belief in the death and resurrection of Christ for remission of our sins. The Holy Spirit guides us, prompts us, reminds us of who we serve and helps us to make choices that honor God. What I am referring to is those who claim to have heard directly from God what the results of their actions will be or what the future holds.

As my church searches for a new pastor, a number of speakers from other churches have been filling the pulpit each week. Though the church provides the topic to the speaker, theological differences are readily apparent from week to week. One of the visiting speakers is a gifted orator. He’s engaging, funny, and commands the attention of all in attendance. But I am troubled by the thrust of his messages. On a past visit, he was talking about our need to trust God for everything. As an example, he talked about being lost on a bike ride and beginning to ask God at each crossroad, “left, right, or straight?” Once he started asking this question fervently and listened to the answer that popped into his head he soon arrived in a town and was treated to pizza and an espresso. He also described a time where he charged through figurative barriers and roadblocks to buy a house, only to find it a financial disaster. Having learned his lesson, he now asks God for the go-ahead on all housing decisions and has made a profit on every house he has sold since that time.

A couple of weeks ago, he returned to our church to speak about how we as Christ followers are to be marked by hope. Here, he cited a story about a woman embroiled in a bitter child custody dispute that nonetheless kept a smile on her face and insisted, “God will not take my child from me.” As time went on, she was reconciled to the father of her child, he came to faith in Christ, and they were married. Another anecdote concerned a man who faced up to some illegal financial dealings and spent time in prison. One day he told his cell mate, “Today is the day I’ll be released,” a prompting he believed was from God, and lo and behold he was released that day.

Though I certainly consider this pastor a brother in Christ, I’m not buying what he’s selling here. I find myself playing the role of a juror, and I cannot accept the conclusions presented because they are based solely on circumstantial evidence. In retrospect, with the outcome known, these experiences are presented as powerful testimony to the hand and voice of God at work. Related by a gifted speaker, they are even more poignant. But can they stand up to cross-examination? Let’s look at them a little more closely.

The stories of the bike ride and the house purchases were presented in support of the point that we need to trust God in everything and that we need to know that He desires the best for us. Sure, we need to trust God for everything, but as He tells us, His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8). God desires the best for us in view of eternity. Sometimes the best for us may be persecution, financial ruin, physical pain, even the death of us or someone we love. If someone asks God, “left, right, or straight,” and he ends up pedaling until he dies of thirst, what is the implication? That he didn’t have a close enough relationship with God to be led to a town? That he didn’t listen correctly? Or that God just wanted him dead? If someone hears God say to buy a house or marry that girl and things don’t go according to plan, what does that say about God? What does it say about the person?

I know of a young man battling brain cancer. While external evidence points to his slow deterioration, his girlfriend continues to insist he is improving and declares, “God will not take him from me. God’s will is to heal.” She is certain. If her boyfriend miraculously recovers, it will no doubt be a testament to God’s great power. But will it be a testament to the hope and faith of his girlfriend? It will certainly be interpreted as such. But what if he dies? What does that tell us about her faith? What about his? What does it tell us about God? To the woman involved it will mean, at least for a while, that God abandoned her or perhaps doesn’t even exist. Should we draw the same conclusion?

What if the woman in the speaker’s story had lost her custody battle? What if the man had not been released from prison on the day he felt sure he would? Can we draw direct conclusions about the character and nature of God from these circumstances alone? Does his failure to meet human expectations imply He is not to be trusted?

The Bible makes clear that God loves each and every one of us and desires that none should perish. But it also makes clear that in this life we will face many trials, much heartache, pain, and at some point, physical death. While we are not to be faulted for desiring favorable circumstances and happiness on this earth, they are not promised nor to be expected.

I do not doubt that God was at work in the incidents to which the speaker referred. I believe God is at work in all circumstances, but for His purposes, not ours. And because of this, I think it is careless at best to use these examples as evidence to prove the points being made.

Let’s look one more time at one of the stories. When the speaker talked about his house situations, the inference that can be easily drawn from the way it was presented is that God desires that I make a profit on the sale of my house. I don’t get rich, but I don’t lose money on the deal. If I ignore the warning signs that God gives me I may reap some consequences through a financial loss. In other words – listen to God: good things happen. Don’t listen: buyer beware.

With this message, someone who has lost their shirt in a business deal can reasonably assume they did not follow God’s will. If they listen better next time, financial success will follow. Similarly, someone who has made money on business deals could infer that things are right between them and the man upstairs. Neither is a correct or logical perspective given the nature of God we know from the Bible, who “causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45)

Rather, perhaps the message should be, “The Bible is full of wisdom regarding financial decisions. I’ve made some poor choices in my time and paid dearly for them. As a result, I now approach each decision prayerfully and seek advice from His Word and from wise counsel. But I know that no matter what the outcome of my financial dealings, God is in control and He will provide my needs in all circumstances.” This message is rooted in scripture and will not give false hope to the woman who has made lots of money, nor will it cripple the faith of the man who bought a house only to have it destroyed in a fire a month later.

Looking back on our circumstances and seeing how God has worked is always amazing. Setting the bar in advance for Him is dangerous and foolish. I pray that as my church moves forward we will be washed in the Word that states that God desires the best for us, but not on our terms. And I pray that we will be marked by hope – a hope in an eternity spent with Him no matter what our circumstances here on this orb.

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I’m a lazy bum

Filed under: Uncategorized — kcillini77 @ 6:44 am

All apologies to anyone who has checked my site recently.  As Kristi pointed out, I have not posted in a while.  Lately I’ve been spending way too much time after Brinton’s in bed watching the latest TV shows and/or sports.  Tends to take away from my reflective time.  I do have something written up on paper that I just need to take the time to type.  Look for it in the next couple of days.  I am still here – don’t worry!

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