“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by.” Robert Frost

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It’s been quite the while since I’ve written something. Partly because I’ve taken on a few new roles but also because I’ve encountered new struggles and dilemmas to ponder and overcome.  At times I thought I’d come to a conclusion or solved some of them, then I’d start writing and realise I hadn’t. But in time I’m sure I’ll come to understand these things better, if not completely.

I’ve just returned from a month gallivanting around the United States with my family. It was an amazing trip but it also presented massive challenges. Being with your family and only your family for an entire month is tough. I have to admit that for the most part we were waking up early and busy doing things all day. I found it hard to stop, sit down and dwell on God’s word and pray. It taught me the value of putting God’s word to memory. Many times bringing a verse to mind and meditating on it was all I felt I had the energy and time to do, and I found it most helpful.

I was also blessed with a letter a week from my boyfriend, who wrote me a devotion in each one. Each brought me to pray and pointed me back to Christ. One in particular helped. We were at the point in our trip where we were all at each others throats and patience and kindness was sorely needed on my behalf in the least. It was Luke 20:19-26. The chief priests, who are constantly following Jesus around looking for a fault, question him about whether or not to pay taxes. Jesus asks them whose image the coin bears. And they said, “Caesar’s”. Then Jesus said:

“Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s”. (v25)

But what bears the image of God? The answer is that you do. I do. We all do! So we should give ourselves to God. This reminded me that my family are also made in the image of God. They are precious, loved and saved by Him. Bought with the blood of his own son. So I need to treat them like that, giving myself to God and serving others selflessly.

I was also reading Little Women at the time. It might sound silly, but I’ve come to learn from their lessons. I was struck by how their mother lead them towards their Creator when they struggled with their faults. When Jo struggled with her temper she prayed for help to hold her tongue. When Meg struggled with a love of material wealth, she drew comfort knowing that she has a Heavenly Father that provides and loves her. When you’re around your family in close quarters for long periods of time, your flaws tend to come out. Sometimes you feel helpless to change yourself. But I drew comfort in the knowledge that I’m not on my own, Christ is working to transform me, to make me more like him. And it is through his word that we are changed. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart”(Hebrews 4:12). I also dwelt on the knowledge that:

“He who began a good work in you [believers] will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
Phil 1:6.

Finally, I saw so many wondrous things and some brought me to stand in utter awe at the glory, wonder, enormity and power of my God. As I stood on the edge of the Grand Canyon and flew over the Napali Coast in Kauai, I was blown away by what God had created with his very words. As I stood next to the roaring Niagara falls, I trembled at the power, it’s expanse and strength in the knowledge that my God is greater and just, but also compassionate and merciful.

There were also things that made me inherently sad. The people enslaved to their addictions in Vegas, sitting for hours in casinos fed on a false hope that grows their lust of money but never satisfies. A city plagued by prostitution and the cultivation of pleasure. Though it’s easy to blame the place, the issue is really the human heart, seeking to satisfy itself.

“Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.”
Romans 1:24

It pervades the whole earth, not just Vegas. I prayed that in their dissatisfaction they’d realise they are using the wrong things in an attempt to quench their need and that they’d find satisfaction and pleasure in God. I was really encouraged by how many street preachers and evangelists were there. Proclaiming hope to those that parade around proud of their sin. But we need this in every city.

This leads me to one of my dilemmas. I’ve struggled to understand exactly what tolerance is. Our world proclaims it as the highest of virtues and it does on the surface seem to bring peace and harmony. But does God call us to it? In Vegas, I found it so hard to be ok with people buying others for their own gratification, throwing their money away and revelling in such ‘pleasure’. But tolerance says that we’re to just leave them to their ways. I can’t just stand by and see people buy into a lie that will never satisfy, that will provide temporary pleasure but eternal pain.

It saddens me that the world preaches this as it’s highest virtue: to let people do what they want regardless of your knowledge of the consequence. I think tolerance is selfish. BUT, that doesn’t mean to disrespect, look down upon or abuse others. By all means, respect others. They are all made in the image of God, his precious creation. Love them. But is it loving to leave them to fumble around blindly looking for God? To renounce your calling as a believer?

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
Matthew 28:18-20.

Well, those have been my thoughts the past few months. I’ve learnt so much this year even though I didn’t come to any dramatic conclusions. If you’re a believer, I would like to encourage you to continue to live differently in this world spurred on by the word of God. And if you’re not a believer, to have a read of God’s word and see what he’s offering you. It’s well worth it.

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Doubts, Questions, Queries, Thoughts…

Just because I know you’re out there, I thought I’d just remind you that the ‘Itching Questions’ tab still exists.

I absolutely love questions. Even when I can’t answer them, they open an opportunity for thought.

Don’t be intimidated because I don’t know anywhere near everything and I never will.

Don’t be afraid because my aim isn’t to cut you down but to draw light on your questions/thoughts from the Bible.

Don’t hesitate because you might learn something you didn’t know before.

Don’t hold back because getting into the depths of the Bible is something I find fascinating and I can guarantee it’s worthwhile.

So there, hopefully that’s reason enough to just ask away.

Certainty in a World in Which Everything is Relative

This post kind of is an extension onto “Is there anything out there?” that I posted a few weeks ago. I got a little excited about it and posted a little spoiler earlier. So here’s some more on the subject if you’re interested.

So to sum up what the previous post said, it was something along the lines of…Christianity is the only religion whose information comes from outside this world. Therefore, it is the truth about God because it came from God not man.

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one come to the Father except through me.”
John 14:6

‘The man from the outside”

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God , and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.”
John 1:1-2

Jesus was with God from the beginning but then he entered our history. He wasn’t just a creation that was made to fix sin because Gods plan went in a direction he never expected. Jesus was there from the beginning.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
John 1:14

This is still sort of a recap on the previous post. So basically, Christianity isn’t just a pile of guess-work. The Bible is how God reveals himself to man. ‘Now, at last, it is possible to know the truth about God. It is not discovered by the power of human reason or mystical experience, but through revelation.’ (Vaughan Roberts – Distinctives)

“No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.”
John 1:18

You might be thinking, hold on, Christianity isn’t the only religion that claims to be founded on revelations from God, how can you claim that Christianity’s revelations are the truth over other religions revelations?

Well, I can confidently say that Christianity is based on real history.

‘Your word is Truth’
Despite Jesus no longer being on Earth we still have access to the truth. The Old testament is seen as the truth. Jesus often quoted it and equated it to the words of God.
The Bible is a book written by humans, around 40 different authors all with different styles, personalities, occupations and historical contexts. Gods spirit spoke through them creating a written record.

How do you know it’s accurate?

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever-the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you will know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”
 John 14:17

This is a verse from the gospel of John where Jesus is explaining that he is going to leave them. They have a little freak out and don’t really understand and they keep asking him, ‘Where are you going?’ and ‘How can I follow you there?’ Here Jesus is promising to give them the Spirit of truth (The Holy Spirit).

“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have said to you.”
John 14:26.

So, Jesus left them with the Holy Spirit. What does the Holy Spirit do? In the verse above, the Holy Spirit was at work in the people who wrote the Bible, ensuring that what they wrote was accurate. Basically he’s saying, it’ll help you remember what’s gone down so that you can write it right and pass it along to other people.
 
“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.”
John 16:12-13

The Bible is revelation from God, the Spirit works in the authors of the Bible to make it true and accurate. But it then causes a conflict with a world of relativism. It becomes a claim of absolute truth in a world that doesn’t believe in absolute truth.

‘Our knowledge of truth does not depend on our imagination within the enclosed world of time and space, but rather on the revelation of the one who is from the outside – God himself.”
Vaughan Roberts – Distinctives

1. Know the Truth
So if the Bible is this revelation from God, accurate and true. The first step to take is to begin to learn it and know it.

“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.”
1 Peter 2:2

Peter writes in one of his letters that the word of God is what sustains and grows Christians. Being a revelation from God it is the thing that nourishes a relationship with God.
However, the world has shifted to value emotion over thinking. People now expect and seek this ‘direct experiential encounter with God’ and often they find it difficult to see how our minds fit into that emotional encounter.
That isn’t what leads to spiritual health, it is the truth of God that brings spiritual health. Therefore, knowing the truth must have priority over experience.’Only those who have responded in faith to the gospel of Christ have a true knowledge of God.’ pg 80
Basically, regular reading of the Bible and valuable teaching from the Bible are essential for growing in Christ. So you can imagine how important it is. David in one of his many songs wrote…

“Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long!”
Psalm 119:97

2. Live the Truth
Just knowing the truth isn’t enough. Often people call Christians hypocrites because they don’t live what they believe. It is not the Bible that is at fault, but the people here. Christians are all sinful and imperfect but that doesn’t mean we can’t do our best to live the truth.

“Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves, do what it says.”
James 1:22

Be careful that you don’t let learning from the Bible become a mere intellectual excercise, the purpose of believing it is to do it. Pray, ask God to help you put these things into practise. It’s not something you can just magically achieve over night. It’s also not something that God expects us to be able to do easily, so ask him to help you out.
To be honest, starting this blog has really challenged me in this area. It’s so easy to put minimal energy into acting on what you learn, particularly when people only have a vague idea of what Christians believe. So starting this blog and telling other people about what I believe and brought me to work harder at living what I learn.

3. Contend for the Truth
On the same note, this blog is also an effort of mine to contend for the truth. To clear up the stereotypes and falsity that has been placed on Christianity. 

“Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.”
Jude 3

Relativism reigns in this world. Christians are persecuted for their claim to have the only and absolute truth. Vaughan Roberts in his book ‘distinctives’ quoted from his local newspaper:

“The idea that any mere human…could have any conception of what God is thinking is surely laughable and arrogant in the extreme…There is no-one…who is so perfect in themselves that they have the right to go around criticizing the behavior of other people…A bit of compassion and tolerance is more appealing than a load of bile and bigotry.”

No one wants to receive that response and so often Christians shy away but that’s not something we can afford to do.
Be careful and critical of the teaching in your church, make sure that the truth is being preached and isn’t modified to accommodate for the worlds love of relativism. Gods word doesn’t need to be sugar-coated to attract attention, it needs to be revolutionary and strikingly different and its capable of being that on its own.

4. Proclaim the Truth
As I said in an earlier post, if you knew the cure for cancer you’d tell everyone, wouldn’t you? You’d be proud and eager to share it. Well, God has provided an escape from hell, a way out of the punishment that we all deserve. Is that not something to eagerly tell others as well?

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matt 28:19-20

Don’t just resist this movement of relativism, proclaim the absolute truth. We are called to be counter-cultural. The world is happy for us to believe what we want, it’s when we start sharing it that it becomes a problem. Often this is what limits our evangelistic goals to ‘people more like us’. We avoid those of other religions because we expect this reaction of being accused of stealing people away from their religions.
We have received the truth and it is our privilege to pass it on. Evangelism is underpinned by relationships. Jesus didn’t only preach it, he lived it.