God’s Limiting Factor

I can hear the Reformed Theologians now: You Can’t Limit God. God is supreme. God is sovereign. God does what He wants to do without regard to man, beast, or nature.

But this Reflection is not about Calvinism versus Arminianism, or the misunderstood and misnamed Sovereignty-versus-Grace controversy; so let’s put those arguments aside.

I propose that humans are the only factor in limiting what God will do in our own lives. Not what God CAN do, but what He WILL do. Why? Are we superior to God? Absolutely not! Is God sovereign? Yes, absolutely!

God can side-step mankind when He wants to, and He often does. No one, including Lucifer, can thwart God’s ultimate plan. However, Scripture makes it clear that God does not mandate our lifestyle. We are not robots; therefore, God does not commandeer man’s will. God would receive no honor or glory if He programmed us to worship Him. Instead, He programmed us to be worshippers – but it’s our decision whom or what we will worship.

As I obey God, I can accomplish my part of His will on earth. He directs me in the decisions I make and the direction I go. But if I disobey Him, He does NOT direct me. He may direct other situations to guide me back to where He wants me, but it’s up to me to cooperate. God is omniscient: there’s no doubt about it. And since God already knows what I will do or not do, He already knows what He will do or not do regarding my life.

Scripture makes it clear that God hates sin; therefore, God does not make me disobey Him. But neither does He make me obey Him. Obedience is my decision. All through Scripture, and with assistance from the Holy Spirit, God implores man to listen to Him, to obey Him, to follow His leading. Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” That statement alone reveals our freedom of choice, and reveals that God does not make the choice for us.

Is God stressed out about my disobedience? Heavens, no. God is bigger than that.

God’s imploring or pleading with us is not because of His inadequacy, but for our benefit. God is encouraging us to grow in our relationship with Him so that we can cooperate with Him in fulfilling our portion of His plan both here on earth and throughout eternity. Yes: God has plans for us!

Genesis 1:26A says, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness ….” In that regard, God gave man a say-so about how he (man) will live.

Deuteronomy 28:1-14 spells out the blessings God promised Israel if they would obey Him, and verses 15-29 spell out the problems they would encounter if they deserted or rebelled against God. It identifies our freedom of choice without God’s intervention. But it also shows that God strongly desires us to obey Him.

Joshua 24:15 further clarifies it: “Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. (NASB)”

Then Deuteronomy 30:19 gives the conclusion: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants.”

Do you see it? God is clearly telling man to make a choice. You might ask, “So, what’s your point?”

You are the only person in the universe who can affect the quality of God’s interaction in your life. Therefore, you are the only one who can limit your relationship with God. Others may battle you, interfere with you, try to stop your progress in various ways. Others may hurt you, persecute you, belittle you, slander you, and so forth. Although God knows if and when that will happen, none of that can hinder your relationship with Almighty God if you don’t let it.

Not even Lucifer has the authority to control or guide you.

It is your response to people or reaction to those situations that affect your relationship with the Lord – either positive or negative – and that determines how God will interact with you.

God will not mandate your reaction, and you cannot react properly without His help. It is a team effort. So in every situation in life, no matter the circumstances, learn to look to the Lord to see how you should respond.

How God will use you in heaven depends on how you cooperate with Him here on earth. So choose Life. Choose Christ and live.

Memories of Dad

I was five years old, we lived in El Cajon, California, and the church building dad and the deacons built was completed. I was allowed to run in and around the building during certain phases of construction; but after completion, running in church was not allowed.

But I didn’t always obey my parents.

Reddy was my best friend, and when daddy wasn’t watching, we liked to run up the long flight of stairs on one side of the sanctuary, race in the upstairs hallway, and run down the stairs on the other side.

Dad warned me with, “I’ll tan your hide if you don’t obey me.” But for some reason, I did it anyway. I also went into his church office whenever I wanted to. After all, I was the pastor’s kid.

One Sunday morning dad had a personnel issue to handle, and told me to stay out of his office. I could obey that order. Until …

I told Reddy that Daddy was busy so we could run. “Goody!” Reddy almost shouted.

Up one side we ran, down the hall we raced, and ran down the steps on the other side. But getting ready to run down the steps on the second round, I tripped on the top step.

I tumbled head-over-heels all the way down. Miraculously, not a bone was broken and I wasn’t even bleeding anywhere. But my breathing mechanism had totally shut down!

In that situation, there was only one thing to do – Go See Daddy!

Not breathing, I burst into his office. Dad turned and was about to order me back out but saw that my face was turning blue and my mouth was wide open.

“Oh, my Lord!” I remember hearing dad say.

He quickly placed me over his knee, gave me a hard whack on the back which restarted my breathing, and said, “That’ll take care of you ‘til we get home!”

Now I had a different problem.

Back home after the church meeting, dad asked me what had happened. Fearfully, I admitted that I disobeyed him and tumbled down the stairs as I was running. (The picture is dad holding my sister, Sharon.)

I was amazed – and relieved – when dad pronounced, “Tumbling down the stairs was your punishment – this time.” Then pulling me to himself and wrapping his arms around me, he gently said, “Eugene, that fall was a hard lesson. Do you think you can remember not to run in church?”

There was only one answer: “Yes, daddy. I won’t run in church again.”

And I never did.

Three years later, we lived in Baldwin Park, California, and dad was in his final year of preparation to re-enter the US Navy as a chaplain. His schedule of seminary classes, being a pastor-husband-father, and sneaking in a few hours of sleep whenever possible, was quite full.

One Friday when I was sitting at the kitchen table with dad as he was finalizing his sermon for the coming Sunday, mom told me it was time for bed.

“Can I stay up with Daddy for a while?”

“No; it’s time for bed. Come on.”

“Can I PLEASE stay up for a little while? I don’t get to see Daddy very much.”

Dad looked up and said, “Eugene, if you want to stay up with me, you need to be very quiet. Don’t make a sound.”

“I’ll be quiet.” I never said something that fast before in my life.

Mom gave me a pencil (no pens back then), and dad gave me some paper. I was in heaven for another hour with my daddy. I have no idea what I wrote, scribbled, or doodled that night, but I remember the extreme joy of being with my daddy. And the well-worn Bible that dad was using that night is now in my office.

Dad is in heaven and our communication is over until I get there. But I do have the extreme joy of spending time with God – my eternal Father in heaven. He enjoys my visits.

God has an open-door policy, and continually invites us into His presence. Have you visited Him lately?