Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Grand Weaver

Ravi Zacharias published The Grand Weaver: How God Shapes Us Through the Events of Our Lives in 2007. Here are some excerpts from the book that are most meaningful to me.

++++++

Introduction

Many people ask, "Why has God made it so difficult to believe in him? If I loved somebody and had infinite power, I would use that power to show myself more obviously. Why has God made it so difficult to see his presence and his plan?"

This is a fair and haunting question. Theologians refer to this as "the hiddenness of God". The skeptic uses stronger language, referring to him as the God who has absconded and left us with no visible sign of his existence.

As much as the question seems powerful, however, I contend that the answers we give must remind the questioner that maybe, just maybe, the question itself hasn't been carefully thought through. For example, how often would we want God to reveal himself? Once a day? Every time there is an emergency? Would we like to hear a voice every now and then, saying, "Trust me"? The interesting thing about this demand is that some have seen God's presence; some have heard his voice - yet it did not make it any easier for them to believe.

++++++

Chapter 1 - Your DNA Matters

To be able to accept the wonder and the marvel of one's own personality, however flawed or "accidental," and place it in and trust it to the hands of the One who made it, is one of the greatest achievements in life. ... Every little feature and "accident" of your personality matter. Consider it God's sovereign imprint on you.

++++++

Ch. 2 - Your Disappointments Matter

It does not surprise me that the book of Psalms is the most read and most preached-from book in the Bible. In this book we read of every anguish the human heart has ever felt, every emotion that ever surged through the human breast, every betrayal ever experienced on the human scene, every foible and sin ever expressed by the human will. All of this comes to us primarily through David, a man who experienced it all.

The single most important thread in working through your disappointments is that your heart and mind ponder and grasp what the cross of Jesus Christ is all about.

++++++

Chapter 3 - Your Calling Matters

Sadly, the drive to become number one is often the very thing that ultimately destroys a person. It simply cannot deliver the fulfillment we seek. Story after story bears this out.

The goal is to find the threads God has in place for you and follow his plan for you with excellence.

Sometimes it takes an entire lifetime to recognize God's calling.

What is a calling? A calling is simply God's shaping of your burden and beckoning you to service to him in the place and pursuit of his choosing. Finding your home in your service to Christ is key to noticing the threads designed just for you. It gives you that hand-in-glove sensation and provides the security of knowing that you are utilizing your gifts and your will to God's ends first, not for yours. When your will becomes aligned with God's will, his calling upon you has found its home.

Finding one's calling is one of the greatest challenges in life, especially when one has gifts that fan out in many directions.

God often reinforces our faith after we trust him, not before.

Fortunately, the Christian walk is not a clueless journey that begins with conversion and ends with heaven, while we mark time in between. No, God has designed us to work for his honor. 

The Christian's walk involves all three areas of life - the spiritual, the practical, and the logical - which are not mutually exclusive. God is an immensely practical being who also guides us with wisdom and reason.

Because we are all priests before God, there is no such distinction as "secular or sacred". In fact, the opposite of sacred is not secular; the opposite of sacred is profane. In short, no follower of Christ does secular work. We all have a sacred calling.

What is the first call for each one of us? It is to understand God's primary description of who and what we are. All the other accolades that people want to thrust at us are secondary.

In our callings, the ends can never justify the means. The means must justify themselves. This makes living as a Christian difficult because we often feel tempted to compromise our foundational beliefs in order to attain some pragmatic end.

In terms of Jesus' call on each of us, we are now that tabernacle and the dwelling place of God, a truth that is utterly unique and distinctive from all other faiths. ... We are the temple, and thus communion with God becomes personal and near. That is the backdrop of all of our callings.

Know that you are God's temple. Bathe your life in prayer. Live out your life in humility of spirit that serves for the right reasons. Seek the counsel and example of godly men and women. Finally, exhibit a commitment to the preeminence of Christ in all things. These are the components of a call. Self-glory, power, sensuality, and seduction of material gain impede such a call.

++++++

Chapter 4 - Your Morality Matters

It is critical to understand the similarities and foundational differences between various religions. In every religion except Christianity, morality is a means of attainment.

We simply do not want anyone else to dictate our moral sensitivities; we wish to define them ourselves. This is at the heart of our rejecting of God's first injunction. It has very little to do with the tree and everything to do with the seed of our rebellion, namely, autonomy. We wish to be a law unto ourselves.

I recall that Malcolm Muggeridge once said that human depravity is at once the most empirically verifiable fact yet most staunchly resisted datum by our intellectuals. For them, H2O as the formula for water is indisputable; but in ethics, man is still the measure - without stating which man. That is the fundamental difference between a transcendent worldview and a humanistic one.
But the question arises as to what makes the Christian framework unique. Here we see the second cardinal difference between the Judeo-Christian worldview and others. It is simply this: no amount of moral capacity can get us back into a right relationship with God.
The Christian faith, simply stated, reminds us that our fundamental problem is not moral; rather, our fundamental problem is spiritual. It is not just that we are immoral, but that a moral life alone cannot bridge what separates us from God. Herein lies the cardinal difference between the moralizing religions and Jesus' offer to us. Jesus does not offer to make bad people good but to make dead people alive.

Approximately fourteen centuries before Christ (scholars debate the exact date), the Hebrew people received the Ten Commandments. An extraordinary first line gives the basis of the Ten Laws: "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20:2-3).
To miss the preamble is to miss the entire content of the Mosaic law... Here the Hebrew-Christian worldview stands distinct and definitively different. Redemption precedes morality, and not the other way around. While every moral law ever given to humanity provides a set of rules to abide by in order to avoid punishment, the moral law in the Bible hangs on the redemption of humanity provided by God. ...
No one is made righteous before God by keeping the law. It is only following redemption that we can truly understand the moral law for what it is - a mirror that indicts and calls the heart to seek God's help. This makes moral reasoning the fruit of spiritual understanding and not the cause of it.

A humble spirit, as it honors God, realizes how near and yet how far it is from God.

True fulfillment and the possibility of boundless enjoyment come when we do life God's way. We we do it our way, we only enslave ourselves.

++++++

Chapter 5 - Your Spirituality Matters

We human beings are incurably religious. We long to worship and will even create our own objects of worship. Take a trek around the globe and you'll see this is proven.

It is imperative that we know whether the object we worship truly deserves our worship and actually has the characteristics we ascribe to it.

Jesus challenged three different types of spirituality: traditionalism, legalism, and superstition.

The Modern Day Spiritualist: I find it fascinating how it has become worthy of a medal to say, "I'm a spiritual person." But what does that mean? I believe the speaker is saying, "I believe that there is such a thing as the spiritual beyond the physical - some combination of the mystical and the ethical. I believe that everyone must find something spiritual to hang on to in life." In the midst of these affirmations, however, two untruths get smuggled in. The first is that truth does not matter, only belief; and the second is that to be spiritual is to be Eastern.

The death of truth has been the greatest casualty of our time. ... Without truth, spirituality is nothing more than a confession that sheer matter alone does not answer life's deepest hungers. ... Spirituality does not give relevance to to life; rather, truth gives relevance to spirituality. ... Truth, with its handmaiden of grace, was incarnate in Jesus Christ.


++++++

Ch. 6 - Your Will Matters

The most important aspect of the Holy Spirit's presence: the power that he gives us to do God's will. "Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; bit those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires," writes Paul (Romans 8:5)

You Can Walk in Obedience: We are fully capable of exercising our wills to do what we have set our minds to do. Just observe those who follow earthly leaders.
This is where the hard questions of the Christian faith come to the fore. The gospel declares that the Holy Spirit brings about the new birth and that because of the Spirit's power within us, we gain the ability to do God's will. In other words, the new birth and the new walk are supernaturally bestowed. If by sheer power of the will even a "pagan" is able to comply with a tough set of rules for living, then what does it say of the Christian who supposedly is supernaturally endowed but lives a duplicitous life? This is a hard question for the believer to answer. Only in and through the power of the Holy Spirit is the Christian walk even possible.
So where does one begin? With self-crucifixion. We bury the self-will so that God's will can reign supremely in our hearts. Our will his no power to do God's will until it first dies to its own desires and the Holy Spirit brings a fresh power within.

The ABCDs of a Willful Walk with the Lord:
Ask without pettiness - The Bible tells us to ask for the Holy Spirit.
Being before doing - I am a child of God related to my heavenly Father. I am not my own.
Convictions without compromise - A conviction is something rooted so deeply in the conscience that to change it would be to change the very essence of who you are.
Discipline without dreariness - If one can only see the need for and fruit of discipline, one can understand why it offers such great rewards.

G.K. Chesterton once said that there are many angles at which you can fall and only one angle at which you can stand straight. The next time you think about the power of your will, think not just of the immediate choice but of all the other compromises to which one ill-advised choice could lead.

++++++

Ch. 7 - Your Worship Matters

You and I simply cannot serve two masters. Even the devil knows that [in Matthew 4 he schemes to transfer Jesus' worship from God to him]. Here is life's essential purpose - to worship God in spirit and in truth (see John 4:24). All other purposes are meant to be secondary. When they become primary, they destroy the individual.

To worship means "to bow down" and "to serve". Worship means "reverence and action"....Worship is ultimately "seeing life God's way".

With the dimensions of the eternal and the infinite and the uncaused, so conceive of God as one essence and three persons is not unfathomable. It legitimately stays within the realm of mystery.

The book of Acts gives us the five main components of worship: the Lord's Supper, teaching, prayer, praise, and giving.

We have been led to believe that music is the centerpiece of worship. It isn't. It is included in "praise", one of the five expressions of worship.

Prayer enables you to see your own heart and brings you into alignment with God's heart. Prayer is not a monologue in which we imagine ourselves to be communing with God. Rather, it is a dialogue through which God fashions your heart and makes his dream of you a reality. It is truly the treasured gift of the Christian that through direct answers and not-so-direct answers, the follower of Jesus begins to love God for who he is, not for what he may get out of him.

Those of us who have enough must learn the art and the heart of giving if we are to be true worshipers. Spending more on ourselves and giving less to the world in need may be the very reason few take our mission seriously.

++++++

Ch. 8 - Your Destiny Matters

Jesus' home was with the Father (see John 8:14-29; 12:44-50). Jesus talked a great deal about his mission on earth, but as he drew closer to the completion of that mission, he spoke often of returning to the Father, from whom he had come. Jesus told the disciples that he had prepared a place so that where he was they - and we - could also be (see John 14:2-4). This simple description of being at home with God is the ultimate destiny of the follower of Jesus Christ.

Do you recall how fearful the disciples had become after the death of Jesus? They went into hiding, half hoping the story had not yet ended but knowing full well that they had little prospect of any good news (see John 20:19). The women visited the tomb just to pay their respects; not for a moment did they expect to find that the tomb was empty and that Jesus would appear to them there.

To not feel is to be dead in the truest sense of the term. To feel is to be alive. What is my destiny? It is to feel, to see, to have all of the senses finally converge in the fullest expression of purpose. Everything I feel and experience before I arrive at that heavenly home amounts to mere analogy. Everything in my heavenly home is consummate expression.

If Jesus were a charlatan or had deceived himself, he could have said, "I will spiritually rise again." Such a claim could never be proven false. But Jesus promised a bodily resurrection - a concretely demonstrable falsehood if it were not to happen. This is vitally important. Jesus made an empirically verifiable claim and then fulfilled it. This statement has profound implications. It means that these bodies of ours, which the apostle Paul describes as a "temple of the Holy Spirit" will some day be transformed to be like Christ's "glorious body," just as the Bible declares (Philippians 3:21). They will continue to exist and our individual identities and personalities will be translated into an eternal realm.

The design is beautiful. The promise is sure. The end result is profound. The answers will all be there. But the condition is clear: we must search for God with all our hearts. And when you are about to walk into eternity, may you also be able to say, as did my father-in-law, "Amazing! It's just amazing!"

END