Does a GPS system operate like Our Heavenly Father?

085May 20, 2017 marks 30 years of working for Mayo Clinic. My how time flies. Part of being honored by Mayo is being allowed to choose a gift from an on-line catalog. There are thousands of choices for consideration. As I scroll through the countless pieces, I realize that there isn’t really anything that I need. A bicycle would be nice but I already have a bicycle, albeit it doesn’t always shift so well. Finally, I settle upon a Global Positioning Device. My hubby and I have never owned one and have always laughed at those who use such things, sometimes to their detriment. Does no one think anymore? Now, I shall see if I can join their ranks. Maybe it will help to lessen our total frustration of trying to navigate together when we go traveling.

I open the box when the device arrives. There are no directions. The manufacturer must think that everyone is capable of figuring out electronic boxes. After finally getting it mounted in the car on the only place that the suction cup will stick (right in the middle of my radio screen), I decide to see if it can find my hubby’s apartment or shop in town. “Unable to find address” is the only response I seem to elicit from it. Oh, great. The next day, Sunday, we decide to drive to the Bluegrass Gospel Music session, part of the Bluegrass Festival, being held at Houston, MN. This is the perfect opportunity to try out this device. I soon realize trying to type in the address while we are driving is impossible. I am getting more and more frustrated as the car bounces just a little each time I hit a letter. Finally, I am able to input the street address but it has no place to enter the city and state. Fifteen minutes of failing at getting correct input, then having it tell me no such address exists leave me fuming and agitated.

Alright, I say to myself, we are just trying to have a nice day and I am getting totally bent out of shape over a small box that talks to us. I take a deep breath. Finally, I am successful in having it recognize where we are trying to end up. It does faithfully lead us to the right destination. Going home is much easier. Since I previously entered our home address, I just need to hit “Go Home” to start the little brain thinking. We soon discover that we can mess with its little computer brain. Each time we turn the wrong way, it patiently recalculates, and tells us to turn again and again in an effort to get us back going the way it thinks we should be going.

105All of a sudden, it hits me. A GPS system is like our Heavenly Father up above. Once we decide we want to follow Him through life, He plugs in the “home” address. He gives us the steering wheel to the car (free will) and tells us to drive towards home. All along the way, He guides us with his calm gentle voice. If we turn the wrong way, His voice keeps talking to us, trying to get us back on the right road towards home. He doesn’t condemn us. He doesn’t scream at us. He doesn’t scold us. He just gently recalculates each time we make a wrong turn and instructs us again and again until we finally turn back in the right way. And unlike the GPS that has no instruction manual, God has given us an instruction manual. We just need to remember to read it.

Our Father Reflects a Picture of God

102June has long disappeared into July but today I was reminiscing about that month– a month that holds bittersweet memories. Both my mother and my father’s birthdays were in June. Father’s Day is in June. It is with sadness that I look back at this month. Am I sad because my parents are gone to their everlasting abode? No, but I am sad over the legacy that they left, the acceptance of responsibility never uttered, the reconciliation never achieved. In my heart I have forgiven them but there is always a certain part of unfinished business left dangling – a wondering if there is a regret in the place where they have gone.

As a result of all this, I have always struggled with the image of God that I obtained from my father – the image of a being with endless power who sternly looks down at me with condemnation and uses me arbitrarily to accomplish his desires. He does not particularly care about me and whatever “love” is shown me is offered me IF I fulfill his demands. Not a very appealing picture of our Father in heaven if that picture of my earthly father is transferred to Him. But over the years, through the genuine love and caring of my husband, I had been able to develop a picture of a God who loves us first of all, has our best interest in mind, and calls gently for us to follow Him as He wants to have a relationship with us.289

My husband and I, when we got married, chose a church that preached the simple message of the gospel – the gospel that I responded to as a child in the Mennonite church. God loved us so much that He sent His only Son to die for the sins of the whole world on a cross so that mankind might have an everlasting relationship with Him should he so choose to accept God’s gift. As a child, I accepted God’s gift of salvation and became one of His children. I had become quite comfortable in my beliefs. Everything made sense. However, a few years ago, I began to notice more people coming into our church who would talk about their lives as if they were pre-determined by God. I found that rather odd and troubling as one of the other beliefs that had been engrained in me was that we, as image bearers of God, are able to make choices in our lives that affect the course of our life. If fact, this belief is the one that allowed me to step out into the unknown in faith while escaping my father’s oppressive control. I shudder to think where I would still be today if I had believed and accepted that all of life is pre-determined from before the world began.

Several years went by during which I did not understand that the sovereignty of God was being defined as divine determinism. One day while listening to a John Piper video in Sunday School, Mr. Piper was talking about this everything being pre-determined idea when he said, “Yes, I am a Calvinist.” What’s a Calvinist? I had no idea. I went home and began researching on the internet. Whow! I was shocked with what I found and more shocked to realize that something I had hoped to never encounter was in the midst of seemingly the most evangelical of churches. It was the belief that “God is the all-determining reality: that is every single thing that happens has been rendered certain (ordained) by God because there is nothing God does not either directly or indirectly cause (including sin).”

For those of you reading this who have no idea, from this belief springs several principles outlined in Calvinism by an acronym -TULIP.

T stands for Total depravity which most Christians would agree with. We are totally sinful and cannot save ourselves. What would be in dispute would be the belief that goes along with this that we are also totally unable to believe the Gospel message without God making us believe (or regenerating us before giving us salvation).

U stands for Unconditional Election or the belief that God arbitrarily chose, through no action or attribute of the creature, before the world was formed, who He would give the gift of salvation to (predestination) and who He would “pass over” or damn to hell.

L stands for Limited Atonement or the belief that Christ died only for those who God pre-elected and not for the whole world.

I stands for Irresistible Grace or the belief that if God has chosen you to be one of His “elect” that you cannot resist His saving you.

P stands for Perseverance of the Saints. In other words, since it is already pre-determined who will be saved, one’s salvation (if so chosen) is guaranteed.

After much reading and research, my mind and my faith were in a turmoil. Everything I have ever believed was called into question. How is it possible that people could interpret the Bible in this manner? All I could see in the Calvinistic god was my father. A god who did not really love me. A stern hard hearted being who used his created beings as puppets only for His “glory.” A god who was incomprehensible and schizophrenic. And a father who, apparently, was pre-destined to destroy his family with his pride and selfishness. I was left with so many questions and few answers. How can people interpret the Bible in so many ways? Who is right? Is there any way to escape from this pit of despair where I do not know what I believe and have no one that I can trust to make sense of all this? It is a very lonely place to be.
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I finally came upon a book called Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed: Black Holes, Love, and a Journey In and Out of Calvinism by Austin Fischer that paralleled the emotional and spiritual journey of myself and helped me to return to my former belief system. I can rest in the comfort that God does love me and reaches out for a relationship with me. I only need to accept his gift through faith.073