Tuesday, November 18, 2014

God Can; God Does; God Will. God's Time.

My parents had not been in town a week before my father had us sitting in a pew at the church where I grew up. When family vacation straddled a Sunday morning, we were guests in whatever Methodist church opened its doors. Church has always been a part of my life even when I wasn't a part of it. The guilt that would grip me from time to time on a Sunday morning, the pull I would feel to return to what I knew was home, the longing I had to be wrapped in it's familiar embrace -- especially when I was going through some mess I'd created... Church has been my second home longer than any other place. I've been to churches that fit, and churches that didn't. I've been greeted warmly, and completely ignored. I've sat, stood, and kneeled. I've shared a cup, dipped into a cup, and sipped from plastic cups, their crackles echoing for hours after they've been introduced to the tile floor of a sanctuary during prayer. I've worshipped in a myriad of ways, and heard countless sermons -- some good, some bad, some which immediately stirred the spirit, and some which simmered for a period of time. One of the "simmerers" bubbled up again this week...

Abraham of the Bible. He was promised by God, that at one hundred years of age, he would have a son. Someone recently pointed out this was not an immaculate conception; Abraham believed, and "got busy," he said. Not exactly a pretty picture, but definitely a poignant one. Abraham was so convinced that God could -- God would -- he lit the candles, put on the Lyre for Lovers CD, dumped the lamb from Tamar's Takeout onto the good plates, and made a little romance with giggling Sarah.

That Sunday, the pastor asked for a show of hands:

"Who believes God can heal and prosper them?"

Almost every hand went up. Then:

"Who believes God will heal and prosper them?"

A pitiful showing. And this was in church! I would think there was a Christian or two present. This pastor then spent the next twenty minutes or so demonstrating what a faithless lot Christians can be, and how we needed to move toward changing the way we thought about God's love and provision for us. Claim God's promises. Not a bad thing, right? Well, I walked out of that service questioning my faith -- deeply. Why were we always struggling to make end meet? Why was I divorced? Why were some of my relationships strained to the point of breaking? I must be doing something wrong, right? I need to get me some faith! Wrong. If faith healed everyone, not a Christian would be in Glory. We'd all be here, rich, healthy, smiling, getting along with each other fabulously.

This week I read this statement:
"God wants us to focus our faith in His ability, not necessarily His willingness, to fulfill our prayer requests."
There might be some truth to that, but I think we're still missing the point. The Bible is a collective, a tapestry woven throughout the history recorded in its pages, a letter -- God's letter to each of us -- not a reference manual. You can't take a story or verse and say, "Ok, this is it, the key to what God wants me to know about..." I heard a woman quote James 4:2 last week ("Ye have not because ye ask not.") in reference to opening up another cashier to handle the long line at Aldi! There's no magic formula. You can't just quote a verse and expect to have a thorough understanding of how God works. Relationship with God is just that -- relationship, and good relationships are never one-dimensional.

Almighty God is the Creator of all life; He has the power to do as He pleases. God can. But God is no holy vending machine. Some who were sick have been made completely whole. Praise God, He does that. But God is also looking at a universe-sized picture, and that includes a body of folks who've endured some stuff for the sake of God's plan -- and some who will continue to endure it until the day they meet God face to face. The Bible is full of promises that we can believe are true because God is not a liar. God will. But it's all in His time. He has a plan -- a good plan, a perfect plan.

So does the diabetic thank God for healing him -- one day? Does the homeless young mother of three thank God for the eventual food they will eat at their eventual table in their eventual home? Certainly. Almighty God is a God who calls things that are not as though they are (Romans 4:17). Why would He do that if they were not meant to be? I'm not talking about God getting you that job as BeyoncĂ©'s personal assistant or dropping that new F-250 off at your front door. But providing food, or a way to get to work, or healing for you and your family? God will -- on this side of Heaven or the next. In the meantime, thank God for it now. 

Abraham was ninety-nine when he stepped out in faith. Besides, there's nothing wrong with a little goat cheese by candlelight.
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