Tipping Point

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18

We all have a point where we break. It can be in different ways, like wages being spent before the next pay day ending in poverty, or a health issue where the body eventually succumbs to the sickness that landed that loved one in hospital, and of course there are other tipping points.

However, the biggest trigger point for our ‘tipping’ is anger, or frustration, usually with someone and not something. Paul knew our human limitations when he wrote the book of Romans. Of all people, bearing in mind all the people he had met and witnessed to, he knew the feeling of frustration where someone, or some people could not be reached with reason or fine argument. That included the folks in the churches he had started and then left before they had enough time to become mature and stable.

I believe Paul is telling us to do our best to keep the peace, and even make peace, BUT (big but) if it is not possible due to the other person’s attitude, manner, or un-Christ-like character, that by itself will not stand in the way to alter our salvation. The onus is on us to try our best to live at peace with everyone, but when that peace runs out or is just not possible, we can have a clear conscience. This becomes even more of a minefield when the difficulty arises from a conflict or difference with another Christian. The tipping point can then become a source of conflict between Kingdom brothers or sisters and the fellowship is therefore broken.

If a difference is not able to be resolved in brotherly love, our Christianity is found to be in question. Unfortunately, I have also discovered that my tipping point can come faster and earlier with some believer’s unmoving theology, than with the open minded unbeliever.

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Mine or Minefield?

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.     2 Tim 3:16

For the Christian, when choices and differences arise (and they do) the Bible is our place to go for the answers. However, there is no guarantee that we’ll find something that ‘fits’ with our preconceived notions. The Bible when used as a tool to rebuke us is a real minefield, and we must be prepared to be opposed in our thoughts and manner through its pages.

However, the Bible is also a mine of good and useful advice to the seriously seeking Christian. The rebukes become a source of teaching and correction to our self seeking and wayward lifestyles.

I think it depends on how devout and serious we are about the life we lead and the example shown. Although Scripture is the final authority on all things spiritual, somehow we can still find our favourite verses which cover and confirm our point of view. Then we can hold our head high and say those words which effectively shuts down any other view, “The Bible says, and I believe the Bible every time”. If that is true, then by definition, one person’s interpretation and use of any verse is the only correct one, and until you line up with that Biblical view, you are in error. That is when Scripture becomes a minefield of epic proportions and cannot always be countered successfully, or with the needed grace.

I love the old Scottish observation of the proud mother of her son in his first military parade, who was heard to say, “Look, a’body’s oot o’ step but oor Jock”. It might be funny in that story, but not in matters of Scriptural interpretation. So, what is the Bible to you and me? Is it a minefield of rebuke, or a mine of welcomed training in righteousness?

His Will!

But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. My feet have closely followed his steps; I have kept to his way without turning aside. Job 23:10,11 NIV

You may have seen my recent piece where I confessed to overthinking some things, well here is one of those hoary chestnuts which I wrestle with, and have done more recently than in my early faith walk. The fact is, it was never in question, or an issue at any level in church circles until recently. The issue is the free will that God has given us to choose His way, or reject it.

The old patriarch Job had more real problems to contend with than any of us will ever face, and his faith was unwavering in spite of his friends advice, and yes even his wife who told him to ‘curse God and die’ and be done with it. The big lesson to be taken from the life of Job is his full, complete faith in a God he couldn’t see. He had no knowledge of Jesus, or God’s ultimate plan of salvation, but Job believed that his God knew the way Job would take. God didn’t decide what Job should do. The choices were Job’s to make, but it is clear that God knew the way Job would take. There is a vast difference between God knowing our path, and deciding that path for us.

An argument made by some professors and students of theology is this: Since our gift of free will is real, does this mean that God cannot know our decisions until we make them of free will, only then and not before? OR, although in free will, God does not make our decisions, but He, being God, knows what those decisions will be beforehand? The fundamental question at stake is God’s omniscience. Is He really ‘all knowing’? Do you have any thoughts on this?

I am reminded of this verse from Isaiah 55:8,9 (ESV) For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Downcast?

For when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. 2 Corinthians 5-7

 

Being depressed is a dreadful medical condition, and not to be confused with feeling low or downcast. I think I would be right in believing that we all go through a period of darkness, or some would describe it as a wilderness. In any case it’s not a good place to be even when it can be understandable, and not to be compared with clinical depression.

 

When you or I feel down or very low in spirit, where do we go? Who would we turn to on a human level? For those who have a life partner, he or she will naturally be your go to person, but what if you are on your own, or for a reason best known to yourself you cannot share something with your life partner? The verse makes it clear that in the final analysis, it is “God who comforts the downcast”, but I believe it is a big help to be able to talk to a trusted friend. Not a casual acquaintance, but someone you can trust who will not spill your deepest cares to a third party. Paul’s earthly help came in the form of Titus, his trusted friend.

 

Never underestimate the strength and importance of your trusted friend. We all need one at some point in our life, and maybe more than once. They are not a substitute for God and His unconditional love, but important nonetheless. I love the way the Psalmist expresses it in Psalm 23:4 when he says: “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me”. He is with us “through the valley of the shadow” and I know we can all identify with being in a deep valley with no one else to lean on but God.

 

No one suffered loneliness like Jesus when He hung on the cross and His Father God had forsaken Him for a period. So, take heart my friend, your low time will pass eventually. Lean on Jesus who understands completely, and your trusted friend if you are fortunate enough to have one.

The Journey – Detour

I hate it. You get onto a familiar and well known road, put your mind into neutral, and start thinking of all the things you want and need to do for the day. It’s easy to take this road, because you have taken it a hundred times. And then you see the sign ‘Detour Ahead’! Now you have to start to rethink your route and fast!

 

You are in uncharted territory, and in an unknown place. Even with a compass and map it is hard to find your bearings. It’s so easy to miss the way back onto the road that leads to our destination. Our earthly detours are no different from our spiritual ones. We get muddled in our thinking so easily, and sometimes wonder why we were brought down this way. What’s your detour? Illness, finances, death of a friend or family member, even doubts of church and faith? There are more, but you can insert your own spiritual detour.

 

One thing is certain, to get back onto the right road for our eternal destination, we must follow the signs. In our case those signs can be from good trusted friends, a pastor, the small voice of conscience, but mostly God’s Word which will get you home every time! And by the way, you’re not the only one who has ever suffered the wilderness of a detour!!

 

There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death. Proverbs 16:25

Omniscience of God?

When it comes right down to the basics of my faith, I admit to being Bible based as far as my intellect allows, so it may appear to be a bit old fashioned to some. It seems to be going out of style, but I hold to the ‘Omnis’ of the Christian faith but I notice they are being questioned, if not attacked, by the very church leaders who should be protecting them.

 

You see, I believe in, and defend the fact that God is Omnipresent, Omniscient, and Omnipotent. The one which is mostly under attack by some academics and theologians, is the thought that God isn’t really all knowing (Omniscient). It is only a matter of time and circumstance when others will fall under the academic gaze and red pen of the professors of liberal theology who want to carve out a name for themselves and make unnecessary changes.

 

Do you remember the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes? It is based on the fact that although the Emperor was in his underwear, the inner circle of the royal court kept telling him that his imaginary fine clothes were real and exquisite. It was in these royal courtiers’ interests to bask in the reflected glory of the Emperor, and as long as they could convince everyone else that their leader was dressed in the best, their place was secure.

 

It took a child who was innocent of the selfish game being played on his Emperor, to shout that the nation’s respected leader wasn’t wearing any clothes! The game was up for those who led the Emperor into his mistaken and false identity. So, why tell that old story? Because there are students and professors of theology who want to be seen as clever as their theological peers and heroes who claim that the outlandish theology of Omniscience is actually untrue and outdated, and that we have been labouring under a falsehood for a long time. The thing that troubles me most, is that the basic belief of free will, held by the majority of Christians, is used to disprove the omniscience of God.

 

What about you? Do you believe that God is omniscient? Or do you believe our free will means that God is like us in that He only knows those things that He CAN know, and only then after we have exercised our free will? It is a serious question that I believe needs an answer at both personal and corporate church level.

Elitism?

Christians are a funny lot. No, make that a strange bunch. We have those on the fringes of faith who barely know much about the Bible, but their hearts are soft, safe and pure. They may be poorly educated but they are the salt of the earth. Then at the other end of the spectrum we have the well educated academic and the well read Bible scholar, different people but both of whom see themselves as elite, and better than most Christians. They are very different people, but each one will feel elite, whereas the soft hearted Christian is lowly and humble.

 

So, why am I saying this? It’s because recently I came across a Christian who falls into the well read Bible scholar, and who has decided that he must take the Bible literally. That’s ok I hear you say, but let me continue. We all know faithful ones who may differ on their beliefs about the Garden of Eden, and if it was an apple or a fruit that Eve took. Literalists and those who take that part of the story as picture language, seem to get along fine because we can see where they are coming from.

 

BUT (big BUT) what if the literalist believer says that the earth is really flat, and then rolls out many verses of Scripture to support that belief? In order to hold the flat earth principle, many things have to be thrown aside as conspiracies of the devil. Things like, man never being in space and certainly never walking on the moon. The curvature of the earth’s surface first calculated around 300BC is a lie of satan and we have all been deceived by the master of lies by devilish conspiracy theories. There was much more as I listened to my friend expound his own late belief that the earth is flat, but the main thing that came across was the elitist way he spoke. Those who didn’t believe like him were not as Biblically wise as he is. They had not properly studied and believed the Word of God, and so were not in the place he was. Make no mistake, there are many others like him across the world. The small group of Christians with me who listened, heard him in respectful silence, but wore a confused smile of disbelief. I say that because we found his new found ‘discovery’ to be harmless because he still fully believes Christ as Saviour, and all the other main characteristics of salvation.

 

However, having said all that, I find the educated, academic scholar to be more dangerous in their elitism. They use bigger words and advance their own theories about interpretation and many times do not back it up with Scripture, whether understood literally, pictorially or even in poetic form. As new ideas emerge from their theses or dissertations, it can puff up and produce a sense of worth which shows them above others. Sometimes then, basic and fundamental tenets of our faith are questioned, and we are prone to accept them because they come from a lettered theologian that we are expected to respect.

 

Give me those Christians who enjoy a simple faith every time, who barely know much about deep theology, but who read the Bible with a clear head, and an open heart which is humble, soft, safe and pure. Turns out I know just one Christian who believes in a flat earth, but what about you? Do you or anyone you know believe in the flat earth theory, Christian or not??