Monthly Archives: February 2013

“Why Won’t Some Atheists Leave Christians Alone?” [Review]

http://anatheistviewpoint.wordpress.com/2011/08/16/why-wont-some-atheists-leave-christians-alone/

I chanced upon this WordPress blog post apparently about religion and American politics – explaining why atheists, according to the writer, get so angry with Christians.  Now as a preliminary note, I should like to make clear that I have theological reasons for not lobbying Christian ethics in the political arena, although I accept that the demographic of Christians to non-Christians is not the same here in Britain as it is over the author’s side of the pond, and that nor is the political climate – and that this could be a potential influence too.  The author of this article criticizes religious conservatives for “forcing their beliefs into law”, but I cannot consider this an unhypocritical criticism as the liberals I know  tend to hark on about ‘fighting for political progress’.   The author likewise criticizes conservatives for trying to make a ‘Theocracy’, whilst anything except a secular government operating by humanistic atheist principles would appear abhorrent to her.  It’s all the same difference, as far as I’m concerned – what’s one woman’s “progress” is another woman’s “belief”, and both are being forced into government from either side in the hope of annihilating the other.  The difference is that what the conservatives are doing is given a more pejorative phrasing here.

It seems that anyone with strong convictions about how the world should be will try to garner as much support for them as possible – whether these convictions involve a God or not.  You believe that abortion is abhorrent?  You’ll want it to be made illegal.  You believe it’s abhorrent that abortion is illegal?  You’ll want it legalized.  As I said before, my reasons for not choosing to lobby for pro-life politics is bound up in my theological persuasion – and perhaps some environmental factors too.  But for those who do choose to do so, it would appear that both sides have their reasons; that both sides have their underlying presuppositions and justifications, and that these are mutually exclusive.  Let’s break down the facades here.  When two conflicting ideologies share the same space, then provided both have adequate ammunition and sufficient means to defend themselves, it’s not going to be a one-sided battle.  If they were not fighting to obtain the same prize they would not be fighting at all.

The author’s conclusion is this: “Stop preaching and stop trying to force your beliefs into law.”  A more neutral rephrasing of the author’s conclusion would be the following: don’t hold convictions.  Because anyone who tries to garner political support for their cause is essentially doing that.  Well spoke Christ when he said, “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division,” and “Whoever does not pick up his cross is not worthy of me.”  If we hold strong convictions, we should not expect peace from the rest of the world, and if we would remain Christians with strong convictions, we have to take all the flack we get for it.

The more pressing question for me is why atheists in Britain won’t leave Christians alone, where regular churchgoers account for 6% or 7% of the population, where 70% of the population put down ‘Christian’ on their census forms, where Richard Dawkins is widely revered for his ‘God Delusion’ book and believed by many to have swept the ‘God’ issue under the carpet along with his two remaining horsemen, where two thirds of the population don’t know the name of the first book of the New Testament, and where a thinly-veiled derision is poured on conservative Christians from all political sides – including the Conservative Party.  There doesn’t seem to be much left over here for an atheist to feel threatened by.  We Christians still trust in the words of Christ, of course:  “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”  No-one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs, says St Paul.  Fight the good fight of the faith, be prepared to give a reason for your hope, and keep running the race in such a way as to win the prize.

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Cracking the Epicurean Paradox…

…as put to me in the following statement from a Facebook private message:

If God is willing to abolish evil but not able, then he is not omnipotent.
If he is able, but not willing, then he is malevolent.
Is he able and willing? Then where did evil come from?
If he is neither able or willing, then why call him God?

Also, where does God reside if not within nature? If he doesn’t reside in reality, then he doesn’t exist.
Who created God?

Before beginning, I must pause to admire Epicurus’ (and his translator’s) rhetoric, which features in the initial paragraph.  Poetically speaking, it’s a job well done, and must undoubtedly provide much catharsis and pathos for atheists – as well as overwhelm uninformed theists when the sustained, progressive reasoning breaks of into a disorientating accumulation of pithy questions that scale the page faster than they can be intellectually grasped.   The poetic aspect of the text aesthetically and intellectually flatters the cause it supports, as the catchy, lucidly expressed maxim requires minimal  intellectual exertion to merely parrot, and maximal exertion to refute.  The two-way nature of a debate between physical actors conceals the fact that it is not the parroter whom the theist is refuting, but the late Epicurus himself; and that the atheist, safe behind his flat-packed bulwark of borrowed, accessible genius, can pitch his shot in strong whilst scarcely needing to lift a finger, thanks to Epicurus’ talent as an aestheticist.  I wish to make it clear that this is not a poetry competition or a contest in flattery, and that I propose to deconstruct the questions at my own pace and with the level of verbosity that my considerably inferior intellect requires to make itself understood.  I also wish to maintain that the self-evident facts and goings-on of this world are often anything but flattering in the eye of the human beholder, and I see no reason why metaphysical truths should necessarily be flattering either – that is, to people in the eyes of each other, or to God in the eyes of people who unconditionally refuse to worship him.

The accompanying questions and statements in the second paragraph I understand to be personal assertions of the writer of the message and do not appear to be part of the Epicurean question.  Together, they carry an underlying condition that “naturalism” necessarily equates to “reality” and is thus arbitrarily the only worldview of philosophical legitimacy.  This condition presupposes the conclusions about a non-material God that the question supposedly seeks: a non-material God cannot reside in a non-material realm because an alternative definition of “reality” as constituting anything except material “nature” is not negotiable: ergo, “On the condition that nothing that is immaterial can exist, and that God is immaterial, I challenge you to convince me that an immaterial God can exist” .  Unless conceptually freed from this straitjacket of philosophical preconditions, God of course cannot exist.  Nonetheless, the question of whether naturalism is the only possible worldview of philosophical legitimacy – provided that the statements were turned into a question that is falsifiable – would constitute a debate in itself.  I do not have the time or resources to address that debate now, however.  I will draw on this last paragraph in my discussion, but as it is presented as an aside, an “also”, to the Epicurean questions, then the paragraph will not constitute the central object of my argumentation.

As a further preliminary note, regarding Epicurus’ riddle, how one defines ‘evil’ and how one conceives of it is a matter of great importance.  It is evident that people of different societies and cultures have different ideas about what ‘good’ and ‘evil’ are.  This leaves us in a position of relativism whereby there are so many different opinions that a universal definition of good and evil such as the one that Epicurus presupposes cannot exist.  Epicurus was writing before the age when researchers were ethically obliged to take account of their own subjectivity in light of other cultural realities; Epicurus would have us believe that what he thought of as ‘good’ and ‘evil’ was the absolute definition of those terms.

As concerns the debate, I am only interested in defending one God, and that is the God of the Bible, who is Sovereign and Lord over creation and chooses to reveal himself to man through divine inspired writings.  This perception of God is according to Evangelical theology of the Calvinistic school which posits that the Bible is the infallible, inerrant Word of God, according to its own testimony and the conclusions laid down in the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy .  This is the God and the view of God that I am defending.  The God of the Bible is a Sovereign God who does what he wants, applies to himself the descriptors he wishes to apply to himself in the Bible, and defines the descriptors by the acts he chooses to define them by therein also.  By ‘Sovereign’, I mean Lord and King over every aspect of creation.  The following article provides a basis for this definition in layman’s terms: http://www.theopedia.com/Sovereignty_of_God

Epicurus’ society believed in the Ancient Greek gods and they had no authoritative manuscript tradition defining and describing their gods, therefore the definition of the gods in relation to what they conceived of as ‘good’ of ‘evil’ was already fair game – and Epicurus treated it as such.  But standing out from the carnival of relative ideas, the Bible defines good, evil and God in its own terms.  These concepts are not, therefore, fair game when the God of the Bible is the subject of debate.  If God is Sovereign, then the divine status of the Bible as the Word of God serves to transcendentalize its definitions, which God makes transparent or opaque in their interpretation and ordering to whomsoever he chooses.

  • Here are some logical preconditions in addition to Epicurus’ that also must be the case if God is to be Sovereign:

God does not have to be approved of by man for his activities to be transcendentally legitimate.  (Romans 9:18-23)

If a Sovereign God chooses to reveal certain things about himself to man, then this is his bidding.  Man, whose capacities are beneath those of his maker (evidently man is time-bound, culture- bound, subject to material decay , subject to diverging from God in his thinking, and limited in cognitive capacity), is not in a position to accuse God of being wrong (Isaiah 29:15-16).

If God defines himself, good and evil in his own terms, then no human definition can override God’s. (2 Timothy 3:16)

God can do whatever he wants (Psalm 115:3).  This includes withholding knowledge from man, revealing things in ways that some men find confusing, and acting in ways that are incomprehensible to man.

  • Regarding Epicurus’ stipulations about what a God should or shouldn’t do, and taking into account the logical preconditions for a Sovereign God above, we know the following about the God of the Bible:

God is eternal, immortal and invisible and the name he gives himself is “I AM WHO I AM”. (1 Timothy 1:17) (Psalm 90:2) (Exodus 3:14)

God is Spirit and resides in heaven, and is not personally visible in the natural world except through his manifestation in Jesus Christ: (John 4:24), (Psalm 2:4) (John 14:5-11), (Daniel 2:28) (Philippians 2:6-8). There is a spiritual ‘realm’ and heavenly ‘places’ (Ephesians 6:12).

Humanity was created with the purpose of giving God glory.  (Isaiah 43:1) http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/why-did-god-create-the-world

God has an ulterior plan (which exists for his glory) and does all things to bring about this plan in the time he allots for it to take place. (Ephesians 1:11) (Psalm 75:2)

God is in control of all things, including evil, which he allows to temporarily exist for the sake of ulterior goals, which include the ultimate destruction of evil. (1 Corinthians 5:4-5) (Psalm 94:23) (Mark 3:24)

God allows evil to exist for a reason.  (Psalm 34:21)

http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/ask-pastor-john/why-does-god-allow-satan-to-live

http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/why-not-destroy-the-devil-now

https://littlecloudsong.wordpress.com/2011/12/19/a-kingdom-divided-how-god-used-evil-and-suffering-against-itself/

God’s ultimate plan involves completing the abolition of evil from the world one day.  (Revelation 12:19)

  • Conclusions that may be drawn from these observations:
  1. God alone has the prerogative to define evil.
  2. God is willing to abolish evil.
  3. God is able to abolish evil.
  4. As he is Sovereign, God controls evil and uses it to bring about its own abolition.
  5. As he is Sovereign, God abolishes evil according to his own plan and he fulfils his purposes according to the ways and the timings in which he has chosen to fulfil them.
  6. Evil comes from refusal to cooperate with God.
  7. As he is Sovereign, God has not chosen to reveal to man how or why spiritual and mortal beings have the capacity not to cooperate with him in his created order.
  8. God has chosen to reveal to man that the natural world and “reality” are not synonymous with the exclusion of a spiritual reality.
  9. God is what he calls himself in the Bible, according to the works described in the Bible that testify to the epithets he gives himself.
  10. God is to be called God because God demands it, as Sovereign, for the sake of his glory.
  11. God is eternal.

Not to us, O LORD, not to us,
But to Your name give glory
Because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth.

Why should the nations say,
“Where, now, is their God?”

But our God is in the heavens;
He does whatever He pleases.

Psalm 115:1-3

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When to be Wary of a “Biblical” Idea

There are certain words, used in certain fields, that have the magical ability to grant legitimacy or illegitimacy to anything they’re applied to, simply by virtue of being used. Like Midas, these words can turn anything they touch into gold. One such example is the word “scientific”. If someone claims that their method is scientific, then it’s bound to be good, right?  Another word like this is “democratic”. Others are “equality”, “tolerance” and “ethical”. Marks and Spencer is described by a lot of people as an “ethical” shop – therefore it’s surely a good place to shop, right?  Now in Christian spheres, we have the word “Biblical”. If someone calls a phenomenon or an idea ‘Biblical’, it means it’s pretty sound by Christian standards.

But here’s the thing.  These words are powerful, and unless people have a chip on their shoulder they don’t always look into the implications of what they mean or the connotations they have.  For instance, does merely calling something “scientific” make it scientific, or are there real life implications attached to this label that have to be fulfilled in order for it to apply, that are being overlooked? To consider another example, is a clothes shop ethical just because the word ‘ethical’ is plastered across its store front window?  Why was there all the palaver about the horse meat scandal? At least partially because the product did not turn out, upon further examination, to be what it said on the label. I feel that the same set of problems potentially applies for the word ‘Biblical’, and this worries me.  If you like an idea, you can call it “Biblical” and people will agree with you; if you don’t like an idea, you can call it “unbiblical” and people will leave it alone. What does this have to do with the Bible? Not necessarily very much, as long as the label acts as its own justification. Unless the label is peeled back, the lid is taken off and the contents are tested, people’s trust can all-too-easily be breached. In the case of the horse meat scandal, the consequences were lawsuits and financial ruin. In the case of Biblical exegesis, the consequences can be all-too-easily brushed aside. The assumptions behind our tendency to place automatic credence in the label ‘Biblical’ are as follows:

[Bible = the Word of God] + [The Word of God = infallible] = [“Biblical” = infallible].
And unthinking people, forgetting that certain real life conditions have to apply for something to be as “Biblical” as someone says it is, and forgetting that there’s a middle man applying the quotation marks in this equation, might deem anything labelled “Biblical” to be infallible – just like that.  Just utter those magic words and you could get off Scot-free; no homework required, and no questions asked – and what being “Biblical” actually implicates in real terms might be completely overlooked. People forget that between the word and its designation there is a person applying it, and that that person has a fallible mind and possibly an agenda, and might sink to any depths to garner support for said agenda, including pretending that he actually knows what the Bible says about this thing that he’s touting as ‘Biblical’.

I do not mean to say by this that this ‘sinking to any depths’ is always done with a deliberate malicious intent to deceive; but if you have invested your whole life and perhaps your career in the things you believe in, and you want others to believe in them too, then it is tempting to fudge a translation of something to make it ‘fit’, or to quote a Bible passage that perhaps only tangentially relates to what you wanted your reader to take away with them. People often don’t mean any harm, but when they’re aware of the debates that are raging around them that are all trying to attack their point of view, the temptation to find ways of defending it at the price of integrity is significant, as well as the temptation to over-compensate by emphasising a certain doctrine above others in a way they shouldn’t.

What I find ironic is that many people are more eager to pronounce of the Word of God fallible than they are to declare the same about unsupported statements concerning it – when in reality the Word of God – written, as it is, by supernaturally inspired men – is the text that has most justification for its claim to infallible status.    I think that this might be partly owing to etiquette.  Even if the the average punter were aware of the middle man’s authorial presence, who would dare be so impolite as to imply that he hasn’t done his homework? Who would think of being so darned unchristian as to mistrust his judgement – and not only that – but to go out of his way to prove him wrong?  How untrusting!

It’s time to wake up. The Christian faith is a battle, not a tea party. Truth matters, and there is only one Word on which we need to hang our hat: the Word of God. If anyone claims that something is “Biblical” or “unbiblical” and doesn’t refer back to the Word, then the jury’s still out on it. In fact, don’t stop there. Look at the evidence they give carefully, because ‘Biblical’ can mean anything from ‘being a hit in a Bible concordance search’ to ‘being representative of conservative evangelical Christian beliefs’. The distinction matters. There’s something disenchanting, I know, about approaching media with a default attitude of ‘suspicious’.  But if we’re searching for truth – and the term ‘Biblical’ is claimed by Calvinists, Wesleyans, Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Charismatics and the like – then in itself the word cannot be taken on face value.  Unless we’re happy to do what C.S. Lewis calls ‘wait in the hall’ of mere Christianity; that is, to adopt a form of Christian faith so devoid of specific tenets that it is not directly contradicted by any denomination that claims to be ‘Biblical’ but likewise cannot qualify a person for membership of any church, then the usage of the word ‘Biblical’ has to be investigated carefully. I am not a Postmodern; I believe that God invested his Word with meaning.  Randy Newman says in his book ‘Bringing the Gospel Home’ that when trying to explain the gospel to family members we must remember that the true gospel is very ‘easy to miss’ in the midst of all the packagings and listener-friendly nuances we try to give it.  No kidding.  If something as foundational as Christ’s atoning death and Resurrection is easy to miss, then how much easier to miss must everything else be…?

For evaluation criteria of the validity of any so-called ‘evidence’ that might be provided in support of the “Biblical” label, I can’t give an exhaustive list. However, if you do find something a bit fishy and want to challenge it, then before going to the trouble to build up an argument for an opposing view, consider the following for starters:

  • Are the quoted verses being taken out of the context of their paragraph/chapter/book?
  • Is the text being interpreted in a manner contrary to its overall function in light of the New Covenant? (To give an example, for Christians, the Old Testament commands have a different significance in the light of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ from the meaning they had when they were first given.  There is a large section of laws in the Old Testament about foods that are or aren’t acceptable to eat, whereas in the New Testament, Peter declares all foods acceptable, and it is Peter’s statement that is binding for Christians living under the New Covenant – i.e. us.  To use the Old Covenant implications of those passages to support an argument that isn’t bound to Old Covenant times is to misapply the Old Testament)
  • Can the quoted passage be linked to an ongoing theme in the Bible, or is the quoter trying to make it represent their own agenda?
  • If so, is the quotation representative of other resurgences of that theme, which might show it to be more complex than the quoter is making it out to be?
  • Is the ‘evidence’ being wrung out of the wording of only one translation of the Bible?
  • Does the evidence hinge on a misconstrued definition of the “original Greek” word for x, y or z?
  • Do reputable commentaries and study Bibles include, decline to mention, or positively reject the interpretation that the quoter gives?

In some cases you might also want to check whether what a person says accords with the writings of the Apostolic Fathers.  I must stress however that this is slightly dangerous ground and can open lots of cans of worms that you might not have the time or the energy to pursue. The Apostolic Fathers are not always right, but for certain kinds of enquiries they can be very helpful.  Letters and treatises written by people who were directly discipled by the apostles are likely to be pretty good indicators of what the 1st century church actually believed, even if it erred in places. Our authority is Scripture; I’ve made that clear, and actually by reading the Fathers you can appreciate just how highly they regarded Scripture too.  But there are times when people come up with certain interpretations of Scripture that they claim to be ‘historical’, and at this point to refer to your Westminster Confession claiming that it is representative of ‘historic’ Christianity seems somewhat moot. It can be helpful, for instance, to consult the Church Fathers when a person says that a certain doctrinal point goes ‘right back to the early church’ and then backs himself up with a certain interpretation of a Bible passage.  A close-up look at the early church might tell us how ‘early’ that piece of doctrine actually is and how long that particular Bible passage has been interpreted in that way, and by whom.  In other words, it can falsify their claim that that doctrinal point was held by the very early church (or it can affirm it).  But as the very early church was subject to the Word of God and could err, so must we be subject to it, knowing that we too can err.  An even closer look at the early church can help us determine whether a doctrinal point is present in the early writings in the exact form given by the person who ascribed it to them, or whether the doctrine has been ‘interpreted’ into the writings or has ‘evolved’ out of them via nuanced readings. But it is important to set some boundaries regarding what extent your own Biblical hermeneutics ought to stand or fall on the conclusions of such a study, knowing that the conclusions you draw will not signal the end of the whole debate as it rages on, and that there are people who know much better than you do what sorts of questions and ways of responding to questions are likely to produce valid answers.  It is also safer to start reading the Fathers with a supporting commentary or a translation from an author or publisher you trust. I’m not a Patristics scholar but I know from experience that in fields like this it is easy to fall into a pothole if you aren’t familiar with how the internal debates play out or what’s at stake, or what counts as acceptable practice in the field. Not knowing Greek or Latin could already make you vulnerable to translators who might not state their theological a priori in the way that Bible translators do; a commentary, we would hope, at least states its allegiances.  The upshot of this is that if you’re going to ‘do’ Patristics and come out undeceived then you have to be prepared to do it properly and probably with your eyes wider open than you’re used to keeping them.

If you want to launch an intellectual offensive, then be my guest.  But if a person provides evidence to support the ‘Biblical’ label, and you can pick out fallacies in the evidence they provide and the conclusions they draw from it, you might not have to go that far.  What’s the difference between something deemed to be “Biblical” and something deemed to be “unbiblical”?  Sometimes an honest analysis of the Bible; sometimes only an agenda.

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If you feel like a ‘second class’ Christian, this is for you.

For all of you who are trusting in God and feel unworthy or inadequate to serve Him – and maybe feel like giving up.  For all of you who are troubled; who perhaps feel like you’re not made of the same ‘stuff’ as some of the inspiring ‘super Christians’ in your church and don’t feel like you ever will be.  I’ve believed in the lie too.  J.C. Ryle (1816 – 1900), an evangelical writer and former Bishop of Liverpool, has a few words for you.

Extracts are taken from J.C. Ryle (1857) Expository Thoughts on Mark (out of copyright), accessible online at http://www.gracegems.org/Ryle/Mark.htm
[Last accessed 4th February 2013]

Corresponding Bible passage: Mark 1:29-31 (World English Bible):

“Immediately, when they had come out of the synagogue, they came into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. He came and took her by the hand, and raised her up. The fever left her, and she served them.”

The sin-sick soul is not merely cured, and then left to itself.  It is also supplied with a new heart and a right spirit, and enabled so to live as to please God.

[…]

There is comfort here for all who are really serving Christ, and are yet cast down by a sense of their own infirmity. There are many in such case. They are oppressed by doubts and anxieties. They sometimes think they shall never reach heaven at all, but be cast away in the wilderness. Let them fear no longer. Their strength shall be according to their day. The difficulties they now fear shall vanish out of their path. The lion in the way which they now dread, shall prove to be chained. The same gracious hand which first touched and healed, shall uphold, strengthen, and lead them to the last. The Lord Jesus will never lose one of His sheep. Those whom He loves and pardons, He loves unto the end. Though sometimes cast down, they shall never be cast away. The healed soul shall always go on “serving the Lord”. Grace shall always lead to glory!

You might still have questions.  That’s all very well, you might say, but what am I supposed to do when hard times actually hit and I’m in the thick of them?  Why don’t the ‘super Christians’ seem to get spiritually shipwrecked, too?  If this is you, read on.  If it isn’t, read on anyway.

“We learn, in the second place, to what remedy a Christian ought to resort first, in time of trouble.  He ought to follow the example of the friends of Simon’s mother-in-law.  We read that when she “lay sick with a fever”, they “told Jesus about her”.

There is no remedy like this.  Means are to be used diligently, without question, in any time of need.  Doctors are to be sent for, in sickness. Lawyers are to be consulted when property or character needs defense.  The help of friends is to be sought.  But still, after all, the first thing to be done, is to cry to the Lord Jesus Christ for help.  None can relieve us so effectually as he can.  None is so compassionate, and so willing to relieve.  When Jacob was in trouble he turned to his God first – “Deliver me, I beg you, from the hand of Esau.” (Gen 32:11.)  When Hezekiah was in trouble, he first spread Sennacherib’s letter before the Lord – “I beseech you, save us out of his hand.” (2 Kings 19:19.)  When Lazarus fell sick, his sisters sent immediately to Jesus. “Lord,” they said, “he whom you love is sick.” (John 11:2)  Now let us do likewise.  “Cast your burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain you.”  “Casting all your cares upon Him.”  “In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God.” (Psalm. 55:22; 1 Pet. 5:7; Phil. 4:6.)

Let us not only remember this rule, but practice it too.  We live in a world of sin and sorrow.  The days of darkness in a man’s life are many.  It needs no prophet’s eye to foresee that we shall all shed many a tear, and feel many a heart-wrench, before we die.  Let us be armed with a formula against despair, before our troubles come.  Let us know what to do, when sickness, or bereavement, or cross, or loss, or disappointment breaks in upon us like an armed man.  Let us do as they did in Simon’s house at Capernaum.  Let us at once “tell Jesus”.

Are you really serving Christ?  Do you want to be really serving Christ?  Are you not sure whether you are or not?  Step out in faith for Christ, trust Christ, and when it hurts, tell Christ. Keep on being led by Jesus and relying on Jesus and trusting in Jesus and crying out to Jesus.  I find it a little odd that Ryle doesn’t mention, amongst the examples of godly men he gives, Jeremiah the ‘weeping prophet’, or King David the psalmist, or even the very Logos and Prince of Peace, praying to the Father in Gethsemane that he was “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death”.  These godly ones spared themselves no dignity before God.  They found it hard.  They didn’t just ‘tell’ Him that it hurt – they fell on their faces, wept, bawled and sweated blood.  It is okay to do that.  We aren’t failures because we find it hard.  We just have to bring our needs before Jesus.  Remember Luke 18:17: “Most certainly, I tell you, whoever doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a little child, he will in no way enter into it.” What do little children and Christians both do when they’re facing trouble?  They cry out for help.  That grounded, solid guy from church whose whole face radiates with joy, who is always delighted to see you and always happy to help; whose speech is always godly, and whose diary is full of appointments with the people he ministers to – how did he get like that?  Possibly by believing in his forgiveness in Christ, knowing himself a child of God, stepping out boldly in faith, relying on God’s help, and crying out to Him when it hurt.

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