Friday, 29 October 2010

Feelings and Faith

What happens when we are feeling sad, down, depressed? When we just have one of those days or if things are not going well? Do we give up? Or do we keep running the race set before us?

In a small group this week we ended up talking about praising God all the time. That the first chapter of Ephesians tells us that this is the ultimate point of our salvation: ‘To the praise of his glorious grace’. Someone said that this means that we should praise God the whole time. But I think this is not the case. After all there is a book in the Bible called lamentations, and there are psalms of lament, and then we have Job.

All of these describe people who are bringing everything before God, not just the good bits but the whole of there lives. Their lives are not perfect yet they bring the whole of their lives before God. Before we start to think that this is simply an Old Testament phenomenon, in the New Testament we are told to ‘bring everything before God in prayer and petition’. Yet bringing everything to God does not imply doubt in God’s goodness or power. Job brought his complaints before God yet still believed in him and knew that he was loved by him.

After all if you are truly in a relationship with someone you don’t only tell them the good things. They know a whole plethora of things about you from the big things down to the minutia. How superficial would your relationship be if the whole time that something was wrong you were pretending that everything was fine?

Another problem with the idea that we should be constantly praising God is that when we feel down and don’t praise God it becomes easier to doubt the truth because we then ‘can’t’ bring how we are feeling before God. Thus our relationship with God ends up depending on our fickle feelings. To avoid this dependence on our feelings we need to know the truth in our head. We need to be imbued by the word, its knowledge percolating our whole being. So that when we don’t feel like praising God, when things are going badly, we still know that our salvation is secure in Christ and that God does indeed love us, even if we’re not feeling it.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Raise a Cry: A poem

Raise a cry,
Sound a trump,
Lift your voice on high.
Lift your voices,
Praise to sing,
Of the one who came to die.

Shout it loud,
Sing it long,
Tell it to the crowd.
Tell to all that
Cross upon,
Jesus died for death to cow.

Sing well, men,
Loud and strong,
Not yet story end.
Sing sweet, women,
Long to tell,
Of the one who rose again.

Of the one who came to die,
Of the one who rose again,
Of the one who reigneth now,
Upon the throne of Heaven.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Path(s?) up a Mountain

All paths lead to God, don’t they? That was the question posed at a sermon I attended at church. Picture a mountain if you will, with God at its heights and us at the base. There are many paths from where we start, many ways that we can live our life but only one path will enable us to complete the climb. Only one path can draw us close to God.

Some people claim that all the paths up the mountain reach the top and that from the bottom we can simple not tell. That is true, we can only have knowledge of the mountain from someone who was once on top and able to look down and see all the routes and whether or not they reach the summit. In Christ we have such a person, God incarnate, he who was once high humbling himself and coming to us at the bottom of the mountain.

Whether you believe that or not, it is certainly true that Jesus considered himself the only ‘path up the mountain’.

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well” John 14:6-7.

Likewise the founders of other religions would have denied that other religions were true. In Islam, Muhammad taught that the teaching of Judaism and Christianity had both been corrupted and that he had been given the true revelation of God. Buddha decided that Hinduism was wrong and so founded Buddhism. Thus to say that you follow one of these religions and still claim that all ways ‘lead to God’ means that you do not truly follow the teachings of your faith. Thus it is predominantly agnostics who hold this view.

The main objection to the fact that one religion can lead to God seems to be (at least to me) that it is a particularly arrogant claim. To essentially say that this religion is correct and all the others are wrong stinks of unacceptance. This however misses the point; the arrogance of a claim does not impact upon its validity. I, for instance, could say that I’m absolutely great at maths, the fact that I’ve made this statement doesn’t alter my mathematical ability one iota, I either am, or I am not.

A second argument against this objection is that in saying that my belief (that there is only way ‘up the mountain’) is wrong they themselves are making an equally arrogant statement: namely that they are able to perceive fundamental truths better than anyone one of that faith.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

What do we believe?

What do we believe? How many of us can succinctly state what we believe. I, for one, find myself just rambling on; repeating key words and phrases that have truth in them but have become nothing more than clichés. So what do I believe?

I believe:

  • That God is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient.

  • That God is unique but not singular and has always existed in a relationship with himself.

  • That God created the world. (I’m still not sure how?)

  • That the world that God created was perfect; without spot or blemish
  • .
  • Man was in perfect relationship with God but that through free will man chose to distance himself from God by not obeying him.

  • That God was angry with man (but still loved him, hence clothing him).

  • That God is just and must see wrong punished, that he can not abide the presence of sin.

  • That from the first man to now everyone (except one) has fallen short of the perfect standard of God (and this inadequacy separates us from God).

  • Man can not mend the relationship with God (as he can not make himself perfect while his past wrongs still stand)

  • God loved man so much that, even though we were entirely at fault, he made a way for the relationship to be mended.

  • God sent his only son Jesus (who was himself God) to earth to die and face the punishment that justice demands that our wrongs deserve.

  • That through Jesus’ death on the cross we were cleansed and made new.

  • That everyone who accepts this free gift of God is made pure and spotless but that those who reject it remain slaves to sin and further alienate themselves from God.

  • That three days after his death Jesus came back to life and that to those who believe eternal life is also granted.

  • That Jesus later ascended to heaven and now sits at the right hand of God.

  • That there will be a new heaven and earth on which God will reign.

  • That there will be a day when God will come to judge the living and the dead and that those who are without sin (clothed in Christ’s robes) will live eternally on a new perfect earth and reign with Christ in perfect relationship once more, and the rest will be cast in to the depths.

  • That the Bible is the only true inerrant word of God, is a historical document and teaches us how to live as imitators of Christ.

I find this absolutely amazing. Whilst trying to write this I kept thinking of more and more points to write. However I have tried to keep this as concise as possible and it has certainly helped me see the big picture, an overview if you like, of what I believe. Looking using a wide lense rather than at each aspect individually is the only way I can see if everything I believe is logically consistent and ties together or whether my understanding of something is incomplete or wrong.

If you have time, I’d recommend that you give it a try. Write down what you believe, try and give some detail but don’t end up writing a thesis. Also if possible try and avoid clichés. This will mean that it is indeed what you believe and not what you are ‘supposed’ to believe. It would be nice to hear how you get on, and if this was helpful at all.