Chasing the Wind

By Ben Swift

Groundhog Day. Not only is this movie a classic but it has gifted us with a term to describe the relentless, repetitive drudgery in which we often find ourselves. “How was your day dear?” “Oh, just another Groundhog Day.” Nothing more need be said, message received loud and clear.

The fact that so many of us identifies with Groundhog Day speaks volumes about our propensity to reflect on life and our part in it. Surely there must be more to life than just another Groundhog Day?

It’s questions like these that take you down the path of existentialist thinking; a path that seeks truth and meaning; a path focused on the question of what it means to live as a human being.

If you’re anything like me, you will have at some point in time, found yourself bewildered by the pursuits of humanity. Maybe I’m just being cynical but I find many of the activities that we hold up in worship to be, well, kind of ridiculous. Now, I’m not for a moment claiming any self-immunity to these bizarre behavioral patterns but rather I’m finding myself identifying more and more with the words in Ecclesiastes, “This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”

In the western world, sports stars are held up as modern-day warrior gods; heroes destined for an eternal legacy. How else could we justify paying these individuals higher wages than brain surgeons? Just step back and think about golf for a moment. Millions of dollars dedicated to hitting small white balls into small holes in the grass with metal sticks.

Why else would we open our minds to the wisdom of pop stars as they spray insults about the greed of politicians whilst flying in their own private jets to record lip-sync sessions on commercial TV?

There maybe some truth to Lady Gaga’s suggestion that we were all born this way? But I believe the answers to our human condition can be better found in Genesis. Here we find the fall of humanity; the original seed of our desire to be our own gods.

“For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5)

It is here in the original paradise called Eden that the desire to be like God sent us into a world of self-serving, humanity-worshiping pursuits, all of which equate to chasing the wind. ‘One may best describe the fundamental project of the human reality in saying that man is the being who projects to be God… [and] God represents the permanent limits in terms of which man understands his being.’ (Olson)

To put it another way, human beings, while striving constantly to be their own gods, exist in a state of anxiousness. They are endlessly faced with the reality that they can never become the true God. They may suppress this knowledge, bury it deep in their self-constructed denial, but they can never escape the moral law written permanently on their hearts. It is God who defines divinity and truth. It is exclusively He who holds the keys to the shackles of death; salvation exists in Christ alone. Therefore, humans remain haunted by the limits of their own humanity.

It is for this reason that Kierkegaard – possibly the father of existentialist thinking – believed that humans can only desire the eternal fullness that God alone possesses. Humanity can only hold to the uncontrolled, unpredictable pleasures and pains of this finite life.

“No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning. Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it.” (Ecclesiastes 8:17)

Surely the only way out of the existentialist conundrum can be found exclusively in the one who is both fully human and fully divine; The Christ. He, having intimate knowledge of all that it means to be human and to be all powerful and unlimited as only God is, provides us with the narrow path to salvation. For this reason we must die to self, only to gain true, eternal life in Christ.

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

Undoubtedly for most of us, life will continue to serve up Groundhog Days but also days of overwhelming pleasure and pain. There will be times to laugh, times to cry and seasons for everything under the sun. But like the existentialists, may we use these experiences to dig deeper into what it all means, seeking the truth about who we are as limited human beings.

It’s time to stop chasing the wind and to start resting in Christ.

Notes:
Olson Robert, An Introduction to Existentialism, Dover Publications, NY, p. 59.

No Stairway to Heaven

By Ben Swift

“Faith in God transcends reason as it flows from the heart and the heart has its reasons, which reason knows nothing of.” (Blaise Pascal)

It’s an interesting thing to stop and reflect on what it means for something to flow from the heart. Perhaps Pascal’s idea speaks to us because deep down we all struggle as human beings to align all of logic and reason with our human emotions. We are, after all, more closely related to Captain Kirk than to Spock. While we might know something to be true within our minds, our hearts can seem to whisper alternative words of wisdom into our being, often blurring the lines between the choices we must make.

There’s a popular saying in western society, “If it feels good, do it.” The problem with this saying is that short term, temporary pleasure can often lead to long term harm. It can lay the foundation to a path that subtly veers away from the heart of God. When it comes to opening windows to our souls, we must be careful about who and what we let in. John Lennon may have pointed us to seek Mother Mary for wisdom but the truth is better found in the Word of God.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.” (Proverbs 4: 24-27)

When it comes to music, how are we to guard our hearts in this way?

Rock band ‘Kiss’ once filled the airways with the lyrics, “God gave rock and roll to you… put it in the soul of everyone.” While we could debate the truth of these words, there is something special about music; a divinely inspired art that alludes the analytical dissection of the neuroscientist’s scalpel. Music has the power to draw you in, speak to your inner being, call you to be a part of it and it a part of you.

For the Christian, one who seeks to live by the truth of Christ, this power that music holds can be both a source of enrichment but also of tension. Here lies the dilemma. When it comes to choosing our associations with music, where shall we draw our lines? And who gets to forge these lines, the self or God? And to top this off, how can we even tell who’s guiding the stick in the sand when almost every perspective can be justified with scriptural quotes manipulated to support a particular point of view?

When considering division within churches, music is surely one of the most common sources of division. But why? While there may be several explanations for this, the reason people feel so strongly when it comes to music is in the way it is played. These 12 notes in their various arrangements are closely tied to the emotions of the heart, whether we like to admit it or not. We could put on our Spock masks at this point and explain these musical tensions as generational biases or theological issues with the lyrics – both of which can hold some truth – but if we bail on Spock for a moment and invite Kirk back in, we will see more clearly that music is powerful in its ability to take us on different emotional journeys. While music may be soul food, not everybody thrives on the same diet.

As created human beings we have all been blessed with God-given potential in whatever form that might be. But if your potential is musical, how should your potential be developed and used? How far can you take and mold this potential before it is no longer about the glory of God but rather the glory of humanity? Surely these must eventually become the theological musings of all musos desiring to serve God?

When the philosophical dust settles however, it’s all about ‘glory’. If a star is born then let that star be a beacon that points to Christ. It’s not that Christ needs us to bring glory to himself or to the Father, rather it’s that we who have been called to him should feel compelled to acknowledge who he is and who we are in relation to him. The focus of how we live, the music we listen to and play, should be shaped in the light of this reality.

Let us remember that God lists joy amongst the fruits of the spirit. The joy that comes from music is a gift. Whether as a player or a listener, open up to some soul food. Let music do what it does best, expressing the reasonings of the heart that reason knows nothing about.

‘Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.’ (Martin Luther)

Beyond the Minefield

By Ben Swift

‘Insanity in individuals is something rare – but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.’ (Friedrich Nietzsche)

‘Risk taking’ seems to be a buzz term floating around the corporate and educational worlds of late. But risk taking in these contexts is far from the risk taking of the past. For those who grew up on old school playground equipment harbouring the risk of third degree burns as steel bars were superheated under the summer sun, or potential arsenic poisoning as splinters from the treated logs lodged into your blood stream, modern risk taking takes on a whole new meaning. Much of the old risk taking has been bubble wrapped and isolated from our well-protected lives.

While the laws of society may be protecting us from the freedom of risks such as those found in old school playgrounds, a different form of risk has evolved for the modern, western citizen. This risk often goes undetected until a person learns the hard way the price of breaking unwritten laws about what is politically correct to say in an ever-growing minefield of contexts. Terms of speech that were once perfectly polite and acceptable are now being angrily thrown back into the faces of those falling behind the current social benchmarks of acceptability.

I recently heard from a man who took the great risk of ordering a coffee on a flight to Canada. When asked by the air hostess how he would like his coffee, he answered, “White with one please.” No sooner had he put in his request he was advised that applying the terms ‘white’ or ‘black’ to coffee was completely unacceptable in this racially sensitive age. Shocked by this, the man who was of Indian descent and well aware of racial issues, became confused about how then to order his coffee. What could he say that would be less of a risk in offending any group of people? Did he need to explain that he would like his portion of coffee beans to be crushed, dissolved in boiling water with about 10ml of milk added?

Surely when it becomes a risk to use harmless words to describe how you would like your coffee in the off chance of breaking the unwritten, socially acceptable conventions of a group, there’s no other explanation, the world’s gone mad!

While it’s true that we all run the risk of unintentionally causing insult as our freedom of speech is narrowed by those who seek to protect seemingly every group other than those that follow Christ, how do those risks affect Christians?

Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias once suggested, “Truth by definition excludes.” This statement perhaps sums up the risk taking dilemma faced by those who seek to follow the truth of Christ in a world where truth is whatever you want it to be.

Surely to follow Christ is to risk offending anyone who seeks affirmation and acceptance for a lifestyle or belief system that sits outside biblical teaching?

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

When Jesus claimed to be the exclusive way to God, he knew very well that for his people this would cause division and hardship. Why else does he refer to the Christian life as one that involves taking up a cross?

“Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven. Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:32-34)

When it comes to Christianity, there’s no escaping the flow on effect of subjecting your life to the exclusive truth that is Christ as revealed in Scripture. If the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, are to be read, interpreted and understood as the Word of God, there must be a flow on effect as we listen to God speaking into the way we live, inwardly, outwardly, collectively and individually.

It is here that the risk is no longer a risk but a guarantee of rejection from the world. If we stand for Christ exclusively, without carefully selecting which sections of Scripture we agree with and disregarding what remains, we will stand apart from the world. The divisiveness that Christ spoke about is not the result of his intention to destroy relationships but rather that, out of love, he calls people to stand apart from the world in truth so that they may live in his saving grace.

When what is being normalised in society lies in contradiction to the teachings of Christ, what will we do? When issues associated with injustice, sexuality, education, politics and religion confront us, where will we turn for answers? To make this even more difficult the institution of the church too often creates confusion that leads to divisiveness by conforming to the pressures of the surrounding culture; trading the rock of Christ for the sandy foundation of the world.

As the seasons of life continue to change, bringing new and recycled issues to our doorsteps we need to remember that our responses do involve risks. The question is how do we weigh up those risks and what are the costs? It may just come down to some heated discussion but it also may become the tipping point between truth, life and death.

The good news however is that the human right to life found in Christ alone is a right that cannot be taken away, even if it becomes politically incorrect; even in death.

Set Free

By Ben Swift

I’ll tell you what freedom is to me: no fear. I mean really, no fear! – Nina Simone

There’s an old proverb that suggests that as pressure makes diamonds, a situation where a person is placed under pressure enables them to demonstrate their full potential.

While it may be true that diamonds – crystals of pure carbon formed under the influence of high temperatures and extreme pressure – sparkle with beauty, human beings, although carbon-based life forms, do not always shine when under extreme pressure. In fact, the varying, unrelenting demands and pressures of life for seemingly unending periods of time can lead to chronic stress, a far cry from the alluring nature of a diamond.

While the Christian life by no means provides an escape route from the reality of the pressures of life, it does throw hope into the mix; a light at the end of the tunnel so to speak.

There are many stories of people who throughout history have shown remarkable resilience in the darkest of circumstances. But what is it that enables some people to endure the unendurable? What fuels the souls of the seemingly unbreakable in the face of intense adversity?

Film makers have often been good at addressing these questions as they go to great lengths to portray the lives of people living through extreme circumstances. The fictional film ‘Shawshank Redemption’ perceptively illustrates the power of genuine hope found in a place where most would succumb to the seemingly helpless situation they find themselves in. The main character, Andy Dufresne, a falsely convicted murderer, finds himself in a prison where abuse of all kinds routinely runs rampant. Something is different about Andy, however. As his friend and fellow inmate, Red, describes, “He had a quiet way about him, a walk and a talk that just wasn’t normal around here. He strolled, like a man in a park without a care or a worry in the world, like he had an invisible coat that would shield him from this place.”

While this character’s hope came from a fictional place there have been many accounts of people who have attributed their psychological, spiritual and mental survival in places such as war camps and prison cells to the hope they have in Christ and the freedom that accompanies this hope.

Thankfully not all people are subject to the extremes of torture, starvation and abuse as occur in war and prison. No human being is exempt however, when it comes to the struggles of life and certainly no one can escape from themselves. Isn’t it true that wherever you go, wherever you try to hide, there you will be? The older one becomes, the more this reality will have set in and left its mark. Perhaps this is why we so often see or imagine greener grass on the far side of the hill only to find it ruined shortly after arrival by the dragging shackles of the ‘self’. Is it no wonder then that the Scriptures teach us that we must die to self in order that we may live?

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

When life appears as a vast ocean in which we struggle to stay afloat, how comforting it is to feel a solid foundation under our feet. The waves may continue to envelop us with their wild fury but the rock on which we stand holds us tall and steady in the white wash; our emerging faces finding comfort in the warm glow of the sunshine above. On Christ the solid rock we stand; a foundation of truth eternally anchored in the Triune God. This truth, God’s enduring, unchanging truth, cannot be moved or broken. Rest and salvation available to the exhausted water treader being pulled every which way by the currents of life, trying desperately to maintain control in their own strength.

Surely this is the truth of which Martin Luther King spoke as he powerfully proclaimed, “So if the Son [Christ] sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

It is the reality of who we are in Christ that has the power to set us free from any situation in which we may find ourselves as we come to the realization that he is with us in all circumstances. There is nothing that can be done to us that can put an end to this reality. The world and even death have been defeated. When Jesus uttered his final words before giving up his spirit on the cross, he confirmed, “It is finished.” (John 19:30) The word finished in this part of Scripture means, ‘paid in full’.

The apostle Paul truly understood the power of hope in Christ as he often suffered for his faith. It is for this reason we can be encouraged by his words:
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

While the unrelenting pressures of this life may not make diamonds out of us, we have something immeasurably more valuable than any precious jewel – the chance to really live for something infinitely bigger than ourselves. Here we find hope. Here we are set free. Here we live in Christ.

The Heart of God

By Ben Swift

“The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.” This almost throwaway line has become somewhat cliché in modern conversation but I suspect its origins are more closely tied to a place of great tragedy and loss. Deep down, it probably speaks to some of our greatest fears. As we naturally come to deeply love the people and things of this life, doesn’t the potential of losing them sometimes become more emotionally crippling than even the fear of death itself?

When things go wrong and they always will at some point in our lives, we often seek to blame someone or something for the injustice that has taken place. The ultimate blame however, is often directed at God himself.

As if by some divine rite, mere human beings often stand in judgement of the Judge; accusing little clay pots finding fault in the work of the Master Potter.

Surely if God were a God of love he would end our suffering and bring about peace and prosperity for us all? How can a God who really cares appear so withdrawn from the cries of his creation?

“I cry out to you, O God, but you do not answer; I stand up, but you merely look at me.” (Job 30:20)

But have we really humbled ourselves enough to really consider the answers to these types of questions? And what of the consequences? For if God really was to eliminate all suffering he would have to eliminate sin and consequently all of humanity. There would be no one left to enjoy the peace.

For these are human questions and like Job we need to hear God’s answers, even when they stand far apart from the opinions of the world. We need to draw closer to the heart of God.

God’s ability to relate to his image bearers and the depth of his love are infinitely greater than we can ever comprehend. He does however, place in our possession, powerful, historical and scriptural accounts that through the work of his Spirit, can take us to a place of understanding; a place where our heart strings may become entwined with his, if even only for a moment, as we come to grasp just a little of the sacrifice he has made for us.

A powerful lesson can be learned about the depth of God’s love for us when we consider the story of Abraham and his beloved son Isaac. For a parent, the thought of losing a child and for some the experience of losing a child is as devastating a blow that life can deliver. So when Abraham is asked by God to sacrifice his precious son we can come to understand the mental torment this would have brought about.

A.W. Tozer in his book, ‘The Pursuit of God’, expresses Abraham’s torment on the night before he would sacrifice his son: The sacred writer spares us a close-up of the agony that night on the slopes near Beersheba when the aged man had it out with his God, but respectful imagination may view in awe the bent form and convulsive wrestling alone under the stars.

Interestingly, it’s at the point when we come to empathize with Abraham in the sacrifice he was willing to make for God that we can truly understand a little of the depth of love God has for his people including us. When all seemed lost for Isaac and his final heart beat was fast approaching, God intervened.

“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” He said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” (Genesis 22:12)

Surely as God provided not only a ram in place of Isaac, but also his one and only Son with whom He is well pleased, we can start to comprehend the true sacrifice made by him, an act of love so profound that while our hearts were far from him he was crucified for our sin.

‘Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and to cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.’ (Isaiah 53:10)

And so it is that the Triune God shows love for his image bearers in that the Father has given the Son with whom he is well pleased, the Son has given his life for the ransom of many, and the Holy Spirit has been given so that we may grow in faith through the life changing grace offered to us.

The truth is that God is far from being removed from the lives of his people. He knows all about suffering because he knows all about relationship. After all, the three persons of the Trinity have been living in a perfect love relationship eternally. While many aspects of God will remain incomprehensible one thing is clear:

God is a God of love, relating to himself in perfect love and therefore suffered greatly while the Son was cruelly sacrificed under the weight of humanity’s sin.

While pain, suffering and loss will continue to rear their ugly heads throughout our lives, it should bring us comfort to know that when we need a God who is bigger than ourselves and who can relate to the anguish that so often accompanies loss and grief, our God understands and loves us. Not only does he want what’s best for us but he’s already taken care of it; as Jesus said on the cross, “It is finished.”

“Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

Father Time

By Ben Swift

Once a man is united to God how could he not live forever? Once a man is separated from God, what can he do but wither and die? (C.S. Lewis)

With every beat of our heart, with every tick of the clock, the time we have in this life edges closer to the finish line. If nothing else, this realisation should have us thinking about what it all means; this life we have as a human being.

If there’s one thing shared amongst western cultures, it is perhaps their relationship with time. As human beings so often do when it comes to making sense of life, things that are abstract or incomprehensible are reformed to reflect something more acceptable. They are moulded or created into something that better reflects finite human thinking. Perhaps this explains how the character, ‘Father Time’, came to be; an elderly bearded man with wings, seemingly depicting ‘time’ itself.

In this scientific age, it’s reasonable to believe that most people would not take seriously the idea of time having any link to a god, let alone the Christian God. But can God really be removed from this concept without losing real perspective on how we are to relate to time and to God himself? And if God is the Creator of all things, unbound by time, then wouldn’t that make time simply another aspect of creation with a beginning and an end?

It is often said that many aspects of God will always be hidden from humanity, at least on this side of Christ’s return. What God reveals to us about himself through Christ, The Scriptures and in the general revelation of creation is all we are able to comprehend about what He is like. Regular human beings can only perceive what exists in four dimensions – one being time. The dimension of time certainly leads to many questions causing us much philosophical angst as we journey through life.

I can still hear the voice of my high school headmaster trying to impart his knowledge based on life experience. “If only we could put an old head on your young shoulders, you could all be saved from learning things the hard way.”

Ironically the youth never heed this advice but continue to hand it over years down the track to the next generation.

How often do we hear lyrics that yearn for the ability to control time? After all isn’t this exactly what humans seek, to control everything for their own purposes? When The Rolling Stones once suggested that time was on our side, they probably weren’t reciting popular opinion. It’s more probable for individuals to relate to Cher in wishing to turn back time. Perhaps one of the songs that speaks most deeply to our lives came from the Australian band ‘Powderfinger’. Consider their words from the song ‘These Days’:
“It’s coming round again, the slowly creeping hand, of time and its command… These days turned out nothing like I had planned.”

And isn’t this the case for so many of us? I suspect that the moment our older experienced head sits firmly attached to our older body we can only reflect on what might have been if we’d only done things differently; if only the shackles of time could be loosened and we could have just one more roll of the dice.

“But the day comes when you’re lying in the bath and you notice you are thirty-nine and that the way you’re living bares scarcely any resemblance to what you thought you always wanted, and yet, you realize you got there by a long series of choices.” (Francis Spufford)

The writer of Ecclesiastes made it his mission in life to try out everything under the sun but often concluded all to be meaningless and warns those who are young that time has us all in its grip; life should not be wasted.

“Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, ‘I find no pleasure in them.’” (Ecclesiastes 12:1)

Without God and the hope that exists in his grace, life in the review mirror can sometimes appear meaningless or plunge us into a pool of regret. Our hope in Christ should remind us that the keys to the shackles of time are not in the hands of Father Time but rather in the hands of the one who created time in the beginning. He will bring time to an end and with it the consequences of our poor decisions that seem to hold us to ransom each day. If our lives are really like sands through the hourglass, that hourglass has been given an expiry date. Christ has promised to set us free from the decay of this cursed life. Those who belong to him will no longer feel the need to dwell on the past but will live in his presence eternally in the absence of time and its command.

To overcome the temptation to look constantly into the rearview mirror of life – as Lot’s wife did when she was transformed to a pillar of salt – it is a difficult thing. It goes against our natural way of thinking and in fact our tendency to focus on ourselves rather than Christ. As we remind ourselves as to who we belong to and the truth about time, perhaps we can join with the Psalmist as he prays:

“Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath.” (Psalm 39:4-5)

And The Word Was God

By Ben Swift

“Let your Christianity be so unmistakeable, your eye so single, your heart so whole, your walk so straightforward that all who see you may have no doubt whose you are and whom you serve.” (J.C. Ryle)

My father once told me a story of an elderly lady who attended his church for many years, only to abandon her faith upon hearing a sermon that conflicted with her long held belief that Jesus Christ was in fact an Englishman. While this may seem ridiculous to most Christians, it does raise an important question. “How is it that any person within a church community can come to hold beliefs that lie so far from the truth revealed in God’s Word?”

Isn’t this the same problem that enables agenda driven television networks to host guests claiming to represent main stream Christianity whilst simultaneously rejecting the resurrection of Christ?

To truly understand how this happens I believe we need to travel all the way back to the beginning; to where the heart of humanity first sprouted from the seed that gave birth to our inherent, fallen nature. Since that dark day, humans have continued in their thirst for equality with God, to know his thoughts, to even control his thoughts, all in the name of ‘the self’. It seems we are not nor have we ever been exclusively satisfied with the Logos; God revealed to us in Christ. Instead we seek to comprehend the incomprehensible, the hidden God, a God that in the end is often created in our own image according to human reason. This is how – even those who attend Christian churches – come to adopt twisted, alternative versions of God’s truth. A Jewish rabbi can even lose his historical roots and somehow become an Englishman.

Perhaps this is why John Calvin suggests, “The human heart has so many recesses for vanity, so many lurking places for falsehood, is so shrouded by fraud and hypocrisy that it often deceives itself.”

Without eyes focused firmly on Christ, Christians are not exempt from this self-deceit.

Is it not true that even those who are being transformed to be more Christ-like, contrary to their ultimate longings to live in communion with God, still fall short of the perfection of Christ? Are they not at war with their own tendencies to manipulate God for their own purposes? Surely we all at times need to be dragged back into Job’s quivering boots to be confronted once again by the truth about our place before God as mere mortals?

“Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? I will question you and you shall answer me….Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him.” (Job 38:1-3 and 40:2)

What then is the answer to the ongoing conflict within the hearts and minds of Christians and between those within the church? Surely our interpretation of Scripture and the authority we assign to it correlates with the opinions we form and the decisions we make both on a personal and church community level?

To live a Christian life is to follow Christ and if we are to walk in his light we need to recognise and listen to his voice. Perhaps this is why Jesus challenges us with these words right before his parable about building our lives on the rock that is himself:
“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46)

These words should sink deep into the conscience of anyone seeking to truly follow Christ. Wisdom is not formed by the one who is blown around by the influences of alternative truths but rather in submitting to the Logos; God’s wisdom revealed in Christ. This is why theologian, Martin Luther, wrote the following words:
“The Power of Scripture is this: it will not be altered by the one who studies it; instead it transforms the one who loves it.”

“He who has made himself master of the principles and text of the word, runs little risk of committing errors. A theologian should be thoroughly in possession of the basis and source of faith – that is to say, the Holy Scriptures.” (Luther)
It’s once we cease to test doctrines and interpret Scripture with Scripture that the foundations upon which we stand soon crumble, leaving us with a mishmash of subjective opinions formed by serve-serving human beings.

Without being anchored to the rock of the Logos, the Church and its’ people become increasingly indistinguishable from the world around them. The light that once shone brightly becomes hidden under the bushel of tolerance for alternative truths and current agendas trending in society.

What we desire as Christians should align with what God wants. This is the path to the narrow gate through which we enter his pastures and his rest. Jesus words are very clear:
“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)

With childlike humility we are called to submit to what has been revealed to us in God’s Word. He knows what leads us to life because he is life, having spoken all of life into being; breathing breath into each one of us. And so as we seek to interpret the complex world in which we live, let it be done through the wisdom of Christ. When we seek illumination to interpret his Word, let our interpretations be tested with his inspired Scripture. When anybody makes a claim on God’s behalf, let the claim be analysed under the exposing light of the Logos.

Is it clear then to whom you belong? Is there any doubt in the eyes of those in your life as to the source of your faith, hope and truth?

In the words of Jesus not long before his execution, “Not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)