TRUTH ~ by Man’s Will or God’s Grace?

So then it depends not on human will or exertion,
but on God, who has mercy.

Romans 9:16 ESV

As deists, Voltaire and Diderot attacked Christianity—“their primary weapon aimed at the church was ‘truth’.” (Dr. Bruce Shelley, Church History in Plain Language*)  “We think that the greatest service to be done to men,” said Diderot, “is to teach them to use their reason, only to hold for truth what they have verified and proved.” What did these men know of “truth” in their young years of their own “enlightenment?”  What had they proven by their own “reasoning” in their latter years?  What did they have in the end?

Man may create happiness for himself while he is able to think clearly, when everything seems to be in his control, but this does not last. God has proven His work of grace, not only through His written word (which “reasoning” discards), but in the reality of life to its very end.

God proved the truth of His grace to me in 1994 as I, for three weeks, watched my dad gradually consumed by esophageal cancer.**  How could he “reason” for himself what was happening to him?  What was truth to him, at that point of his life?  He had only the mercy (which he had asked for) and the grace of God, which we all experienced together.  He could no longer eat or drink.  He could do nothing but wait for his final breath. He was never on morphine, and so was aware of everything going on around him. He could hear, (until now I had not realized that as a work of God’s grace), and we had those last days to sit by his side, to sing to him, to read the Father’s precious words of truth.  God’s grace was strikingly evident in Daddy’s humility, and his peaceful spirit of acceptance in his last week, and at the end.  He died on Labor Day—his epitaph, “Resting in the Lord.”

For five years we experienced the devastating effects of dementia in Mother’s life. She had no means of “reasoning.”  Nor could we, even though we could still think clearly—clearly in that we could accept that God was sovereign, in control of all things.   Though we could not understand through our own reasoning, we were learning more and more to trust in God’s mercy and grace for what each day would bring. (And we failed many times—for who is prepared ahead of time for such things.)  Her last month was spent in a nursing home, much to our grief; but we were not able to care for her any longer.  I could not “reason” with that.

But, even there, in her last few days, God’s hand of mercy and grace sustained us and held us together.  She had been unresponsive for almost four days.  Jerry and I sat with her those last few hours.  Monday was my birthday, and I prayed, “Father, please don’t let her die on my birthday.”  At twelve midnight the nurses were in and out, checking her vital signs.  The younger nurse asked the older (who was wearing the white cap, and the white uniform), “Shouldn’t we give her something?”  The older nurse answered, “No, she is at peace.”  A few minutes later, as I detected her breathing to be very shallow, and holding her hand, I stood and recited Psalm 23 for her.  When I finished, she took her last breath.  I looked at the clock.  It was 12:38. I could not have willed that; it was God’s grace.

A most recent example is of Ed, 86, still a member of our church, but no longer attending.  He has dementia (Alzheimer’s Disease) and now lives with his daughter, Cyndi,  and her husband in another state.  In her last email she wrote of how she reads the Bible to him, and he will quote with her much of God’s Word, as she reads.  It is not by his “reasoning” but by God’s grace, that he recalls the Word of truth that he has hidden in his heart.

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace,
who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself
restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
This is the true grace of God.  Stand firm in it.
1 Peter 5:10-12 ESV

*Our pastor is sharing this study with our membership.  **”Daddy” was my first book, in which I recorded the working of God’s grace in those three weeks.

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God Is Making His Own Movie

Christian filmakers are gathered in San Antonio this week for the annual Christian Film Festival.  As I think of the creativity of the young men who are making movies that depict the truths of God in real life I remember years ago when I thought that what we are livingimages in this world is but a movie.  At first I considered it a movie of our own making, but since then, in discovering the sovereignty of God, my thoughts have turned to the idea that it is His movie and not ours. (As you read the following, please forgive any of this weak-minded professor’s thoughts with which you may disagree.)

We are but members of the cast that He has planned and created for His own purposes. The plot is His. He is the producer, His Holy Spirit the director, Jesus Christ the lead character.  The script is written around Him.  The script ~ the Scripture ~ is given to those whom He has cast.

The opening scene is darkness in which He shines His own Light.  He arranges the scenery of the heavens and earth, then the characters in their places.  From there the plot is set.  The Light will always be rejected by the darkness.  The prince of darkness will through every episode be at war with the goodness that comes from the prince of Light.   Throughout the Scripture that He has written there is the antithesis.  Every character in his place is with or against the Light revealed in His Son, Jesus Christ.  As all are relegated to the  darkness through the disobedience of the first character Adam, God reveals His plan to deliver some, so as to show His power and His mercy.

The most poignant scene is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ; the suffering that is prophesied and fulfilled in His death is the means of victory over the prince of the darkness (Jesus came to live in the darkness in order to deliver His people from it).  It is the central point of the story; that by His resurrection from the dead He will bring those who believe in Him, and follow Him, to their new home with Him, and to a heavenly Father, who is the unseen power behind all that is happening.

In the remaining scenes we see His people continuing in a warfare with the prince of darkness.  Their Prince of Light has gone on to make preparations for their arrival; but He must prove them as His  “children of light:” so through the wilderness of the world ~ that was depraved when man first sinned against the Creator ~ His people fight the good fight, contending for the faith that was given through His Son, Jesus Christ.  They must go the same way He did, through the trial and tribulation of this world.

We each have our part.  We must know it; study and memorize the Script(ure); and practice it as we are directed by His Holy Spirit.  We must interact with the other characters; gather with them each week for the rehearsal of that great day for the last scene.  What a spectacular ending (or should we say beginning) when all things, both in heaven and earth, shall be gathered together as one, in Jesus Christ.  (Ephesians 1:10)

“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout,
with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God.
And the dead in Christ will rise first. 
Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them

in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.
And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 

 Therefore comfort one another with these words.”  
1 Thessalonians 4:16-18