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The Disruption of Redemption

What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use? What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? As he says in Hosea: “I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,” and, “In the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘children of the living God.’” Romans 9:14-26

I have another sinus infection it seems. My head hurts and my body aches. If I end up with antibiotics again, it will be the 4th round since Thanksgiving. Last night at bedtime, after Ellie asked if she could just go on to sleep without our normal routine, she got up complaining of shortness of breath and felt like a hand was pressing down on her chest. After a call to Children’s Healthcare, we ended up going to the closest ER which is Piedmont Hospital. After a couple of hours, we were finally taken back to a “room” around 1:15/1:30. Around 3am she had an EKG and X-ray which showed all was fine and clear and we got to go home just after 4am.

A friend of mine who has a long history of chronic illness has encountered another bout with it. We talked about the deep sense that the storyline of illness isn’t changing and it’s a rotten storyline. The thing about illness of any kind is it doesn’t just mess with your body, it messes with your mind and heart. For me last night, I was scared when Ellie for the first time in her life complained about not being able to breathe as she grabbed her chest. Then this morning I was angry at the loss of a night’s sleep and the perpetuation of my own body’s ailments and refusal to return to health and strength for more than a week. Then I began to feel condemned for being that wife/mom/person who is just always sickly and needy and inefficient. Sick body, sick mind, sick heart.

As I was lying in bed this morning with a pounding headache and a numb feeling face, I started to ask the question, “Is this Satan’s attack or God’s good design?” Hopefully, you noticed even more quickly than I did that the question isn’t valid because it assumes there are two separate but equal powers at work on my life. That is not the biblical picture at all, no matter what 80’s and early 90’s Christian literature tried to make me believe.

Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Job 1:8-12

God does not just give the tides their limits, the rain and the seasons their times, and the days of our lives a specific number that cannot be increased or decreased apart from His will. He also limits Satan, who can only do what God gives him permission to do.

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. James 1:12-14

Adam and Eve were dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed to be their own gods and decide for themselves what is right and wrong rather than trust and submit to the care and authority of God. Those desires existed in their hearts before they sinned. Satan exposed them. God’s redemptive plan isn’t merely to create moral people like the Pharisees aimed to be, because that simply results in white-washed tombs. God’s redemptive plan is body, mind and heart. The new heaven and new earth will not be comprised of pre-fall Adams and Eves whose desires are to be their own gods though they never act upon it. We will be post-redemption purified images of a holy God in all of our capacities. Sin will not be possible because our hearts will be fully transformed.

But why didn’t we just start out there to begin with? I don’t really know, but here is my guess for today: God’s disruption of my will in the past 24 hours, whether by using Satan’s attack or my flesh’s fears, doubts, anger and physical limitations, shows me more clearly my need for Him and my resistence to Him. The test isn’t a pass or fail, but like Ellie’s EKG and X-Ray, it gives me a clearer picture of what exists below the surface. Like Pharaoh’s episode with God’s people, every trial is “raised up” to exalt God’s ability to be a life-giving God over any competitor, including me. My anger arose this morning because things refuse to go the way I want them to go. I’m not parenting as intentionally and lovingly and I so want to do. Terrell is doing all the work on our house that I want to accomplish but just can’t seem to tackle. Terrell has been making the most amazing meals that don’t even occur to me on a good day. And here is a quote that struck me in the midst of this state yesterday:

“We like to talk about having the faith to be healed – what about the faith to be sick?” – Mike Mason

My anger comes from a feeling of condemnation for not being and doing and ordering life as I want to be and do and order. The test of faith, to use that phrase, is whether I will believe that my righteousness and rightness is in the being and doing and ordering of the person and work of Jesus alone. Do I have the faith in His person and work to be at rest and peace during sickness, setbacks and what I perceive as disruption? Do I have the faith to believe that He disrupts with a snake in the Garden and sinus infections and celiac’s and bi-polar and all night hospital visits to help me transfer the object of my faith from myself and my accomplishments to Jesus and His?

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