Archive for March, 2014

Imaginary gods

March 19th, 2014

If we get our idea of God wrong, then everything else is wrong. Distort God and we distort faith itself. The ancient people addressed in this text lived in a world where many fashioned material images and proclaimed them as divine. Biblical faith reminds them and us that no such images or idols can replace the true and finally invisible God.

Nowadays we are more inclined to pursue false imaginings of God. Our childhood backgrounds, our many life experiences, our basic temperaments, all can shape our concept of God. And this applies even to those who faithfully read their Bibles. It is all too easy to pick and choose bits of the Bible to reinforce these pre-existent notions of God.

So we proclaim the stern moralistic God, the indulgent easy-going God, the hand-wringing wimpish God, the efficiency-expert God. And we may even back this up with Bible verses. When all the time we are simply projecting what is inside us and mixing it up with some partially grasped truths.

How many people have been turned off God by such distortions? How many, who seem to have turned their backs on the Christian faith, have actually rejected a misinterpretation of it? Getting God right is paramount. He made us in his image, we are not to make him in our own.


Two Truths for Coping with Suffering

March 16th, 2014

I have found great help from two truths God gave me at a time in my life when I was bombarded with a series of unexpected and unfair blows (from my perspective). In my darkest hours, these principles become my anchor of stability, my only means of survival. Afflicted, confused, persecuted, and rejected in that situation, I claimed these two truths and held on to them like wild waves, strong winds, and pounding rain grabbing hold of the mast of a ship at sea. God took me through the consequences and kept me from becoming a bitter man.

Because they worked for me, I pass them on to you. At the risk of sounding simplistic, I would suggest that you not only write them down where you can read them often, but also that you might commit them to memory. The day will come when you will be thankful you did, I assure you. They have scriptural support, but I’ll only list a couple of verses for the sake of brevity and clarity.

Here is the first truth to claim when enduring the consequences of suffering: nothing touches me that has not passed through the hands of my heavenly Father. Nothing. Whatever occurs, God has sovereignly surveyed and approved (Job 2:3-6). We may not know why (we may never know why), but we do know our pain is no accident to Him who guides our lives. He is, in no way, surprised by it all. Before it ever touches us, it passes through Him.

The second truth to claim is this:everything I endure is designed to prepare me for serving others more effectively. Everything. Because my heavenly Father is committed to shaping me into the image of His Son, He knows the ultimate value of this painful experience (2 Corinthians 1:3-7). It is a necessary part of the preparation process. It is being used to empty our hands of our own resources, our own sufficiency, and turn us back to Him—the faithful Provider.

And God knows what will get through to us.


Alternative histories

March 7th, 2014

There is much debate and even confusion about how God specifically guides us. It is likely that his guidance is not so much in specifics but in the general area of becoming more like Jesus. But there is no doubt he is at work in our lives helping us steer clear of false trails and prompting us to take the right paths. But sometimes we need to be still in our thoughts and our lives, and look for the little things, as these could be the message that we are waiting on.

Little things, such as a bird hovering over us and landing on our head, or the butterfly swiftly fleeting around us to catch our attention as we walk. Sometimes it may be just a phone call with no-one at the other end, just as we were thinking of our loved one, or as we were sad in our thoughts.

It is therefore interesting to speculate on what might have been had we taken different decisions or took certain actions in the past. How would our lives have worked out? We can never know. What appeared to be coincidences or random happenings may not have been quite so accidental. Perhaps God was behind the scenes causing us to do this rather than that.

Such speculation might be interesting but ultimately futile. We can only be sure God had his eye on us and knew our future even when we did not. We can only be sure we are where we are now and it is where we are now that we love and honour him. We might have experienced all sorts of alternative histories but we can never know what they look like.

Our God has guided us, in both obvious and mysterious ways, to this point. He will go on doing so. We might have chosen another life story to live, but our present story is the only one we have. We might wonder what might have happened if things turned out differently, but in the end it is best to simply give thanks for what has happened and to live life to the full in the only life story we have.