On Whose Authority?

One of the most common phrases I’ve heard this past week is some variation of ‘what gives you (narrow-minded, bigoted, hateful) Christians the right to tell anybody how to live?’ And they’re right. I have no authority, of myself, to tell anybody else anything.

IF, as most people assume, I am here by chance and there is no god, or only one of my own imagining; If religion is only a construct of culture and social engineering; if there is no absolute truth; then the only constraints on me are myself and whatever social and cultural constraints I choose to accept.

BUT, if there is an absolute truth, an absolute reality outside of any human construct; if there is a Being who created us, then that Being has the Right to direct me and correct me and constrain me.

  • The Bible says God created everything, including me.
  • The Bible says mankind rebelled against God.
  • The Bible says God chose a particular tribe to bring His message of love and peace with Him to all mankind.
  • The Bible says that He himself came to this world and lived as a man, to show us what a perfect man looks like, and to make a way for each of us to come back to Him.
  • The Bible says He taught His followers how to live in such a way as to please Him.
  • The Bible says that He was killed, was buried, and that He rose from the dead never to die again, went back to heaven, and is returning soon to settle all accounts and re-create this world perfect again.
  • The Bible says it was written by men who actually talked with God, and were directed by Him to write it.

Our choice is extremely simple:

Either the Bible is our authority for understanding who God is and what He wants from us, or we have made ourselves our own authority.

God help us to choose wisely.

God Speaks, Culture Responds

God says, ‘I alone am God, there is no other’.
Culture says, ‘What god? There is no god at all.’

God says, ‘Worship only me, do not make anything higher than Me.’
Culture says, ‘Self and pleasure are the highest good, that’s what’s important.

God says, ‘Respect My name and My character.’
Culture ignores God’s character and uses His name as a swear word.

God says, ‘Take one day a week to worship Me and to rest and reflect on all I have done.’
Culture says, ‘Go flat out 24/7 until you drop.’

God says, ‘Respect those who have come before you in this world.’
Culture says, ‘The elderly are washed up and need to be housed away from productive people.’

God says, ‘All human life is precious, don’t end it gratuitously or in malice.’
Culture says, ‘I’m important, you’re not, if you’re in my way, I will dispose of you.’

God says, ‘Marriage, between one man and one woman, is MY invention and is the only place where sex belongs.’
Culture says, ‘it’s MY body and I can do whatever I want, with whoever I want, whenever I want.’

God says, ‘Respect other people’s things, don’t take things that aren’t yours.’
Culture says, ‘Take all you can, give nothing in return.’

God says, ‘Honor, respect, speak, and live out truth.’
Culture says, ‘Tell people what they want to hear. Don’t offend them. Make up a good story to protect yourself.’

God says, ‘Don’t want what I haven’t given you.’
Culture says, More, More, More. Grab everything you can. Keep up with, and surpass, the Jones’s.’

God says, ‘There will come a day when I will suffer their sins and affronts no more.’
Culture says, ‘Yeah, right. When?’

God says, ‘I will come like a thief in the night. Behold, I am coming quickly.’

Even so, Lord Jesus, come.

In His Presence

Worship is not for you, dear Christian, it is for God.

Insofar as I make worship about me, my desires, wants, and feelings, I will fail in my attempts.

The paradox of worship is that as I leave myself behind as I approach Him, I find Him welcoming me into His presence. When I express my love for Him, I find that love returned, multiplied, pressed down, and running over.

Conversely, when I go into worship to get an emotional high or spiritual fix, I find heaven silent and cold. I can never achieve a closeness with God by demanding it.

May we all learn to come to God in humility, remembering we stand in the Presence of the Most High.

Stepping on Toes

Recently I stopped by a chapel at a truck stop hoping to introduce myself and maybe learn a thing or two from the chaplain there. We did have a nice chat and I stayed for the evening bible study. One thing he and I discussed before the study was the importance of focusing on the important matters of the faith and not getting bogged down in discussions of secondary issues.

In essence we restated the old adage;

In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas

in essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in everything, charity (or love).

The problem came during the meeting, when a common bible topic was raised, to which there are several valid interpretations. He told the group “what it meant”, and when I mentioned one of the alternatives, I was shut down quickly. While he was not rude, his posture and tone made it clear that “this is the only way to read that passage”. That bothered me. Ok… I was peeved. By God’s grace, I wisely shut my mouth and the meeting went on. But that got me thinking….

  • How do we understand what Truth is?
  • Are some Truths more important than others?
  • How should I respond when there are conflicts in our understanding of Truth?

What is Truth?

First and foremost, far and above all else, the Bible is Truth. God supernaturally superintended the writing of the scriptures. Because of that, what the original authors wrote was exactly what God wanted written. Our problem understanding is because we live in a different culture and we speak a different language that the writers did.

So we learn all we can about the author and his audience (the historical and cultural context) and we rely on scholars to translate the text into our language. We also make every effort to keep passages in textual context. For example, in psalm 14:1 David says “there is no God”. That is contradictory to the rest of scripture. But in context it reads “The fool has said in his heart, there is no God”. That is in line with the rest of scripture.

So what do we do when even in context a passage doesn’t make sense? Or when several passages seem to be contradictory? We turn to two friends, reason and tradition.

Reason, our mind, intellect, and logic, controlled and directed by the Spirit of God, is the first path to an understanding of a passage. We can compare passages with each other. We can use logic, ie if A its true and B is likeA then B must be true also.

Tradition can be viewed as a record of the interpretation of scripture through the church’s history. Another way to view it is as a compilation of godly men’s reasoned attempt to understand scripture.

Unfortunately, Much of our beliefs about the bible come not from personally wrestling with it, but rather from hearing someone else (usually our pastor) tell us what he thinks it means. Problems occur when we accept our own reason and our favorite traditions’ version of a complicated or debated doctrine as the ONLY acceptable understanding.

Are some truths more important than others?

Of course! I once heard the are four kinds of truth: the 4D’s

  • Truth you would Die for
  • Truth you would Divide over
  • Truth you would Disagree about
  • Truth you would Discuss over coffee

The problems arise when we put a truth in the wrong category. Say we elevate a “discuss over coffee” to a “divide over”, for example, was Paul right or left handed? Or worse, we demote a “die for” to a “disagree about”.

And that is what happened the other night. We were talking about a topic I thought was a “discuss over coffee” or maybe a “disagree about” and he thought it was a “die for”. That’s when toes got stepped on. I was hurt that my view was squashed and he thought I was bordering on heretical.

What should I do when disagreements arise?

  • PRAY! For and with the other person.
  • BE KIND! Remember, he is your brother.
  • Seek to understand the other’s view
  • Review my own points to see if I have misstated anything or maybe misunderstood scripture.
  • Look for points in common.
  • Disengage BEFORE harm is done.
  • PRAY!

ps. I have intentionally used examples that I thought were non issues. I sincerely apologize if anyone was offended.

pps. For me, the authority and inspiration of scripture is a “die for” doctrine. All authority and truth comes from Jesus, passed to the apostles, who then wrote it down. If He was and is God as the apostles claimed He said, surely He is powerful enough to have overseen the writings. As all but one book of the Old Testament is referenced or cited in the New as authoritative the church has historically accepted all 66 books as divinely inspired. All of true doctrine flows from a right understanding of scripture. If, as some claim, it is just a man-made book, then it has no authority and no claim to be truth or even true. In that case, we could not trust any of it including Jesus’ own story.

Love & Hate

I am shocked! I think I have discovered one of the reasons there is such discord between Christ followers and unbelievers. We have wildly different definitions of words.

First this is how the words are defined to the world (from Merriam Webster):


  • strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties
  • attraction based on sexual desire :  affection and tenderness felt by lovers
  • affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests 
  • intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury
  • extreme dislike or antipathy
  • an object of hatred

And this is how I have always understood them to be defined:

Love, whether used of God or man, is an earnest and anxious desire for and an active and beneficent interest ins the well-being of the one loved.
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

Hatred: A feeling of strong antagonism and dislike, generally malevolent and prompting to injury (the opposite of love); sometimes born of moral resentment.
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

Please note the difference especially in the definition of Love. The world says if you love me, you must like me, and if I don’t like what you do, I must hate you because I fear you. The church says love wants what is best for you. So when we tell someone that what they are doing is, according to our understanding, harmful or detrimental to their spirit, then are we not being loving? Of, course we can say it in a way that demeans or disrespects and then we have stooped to hatred. But to just say what we believe to be true should not be taken as hatred.

But the question is often asked, ‘what right have I to criticize another’s actions?’ The right of a Brother living in the same Family.

Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.  Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:1-2 (NIV)

That is assuming that I am truly interested in helping my brother and not just playing some game of ‘I’m right, He’s wrong’, or one-upmanship. Now when there are honest differences of opinion over what is right or wrong, we should carefully go to the source of our knowledge (the Bible) and make sure we are hearing from it what God is saying.

Another common question is ‘Doesn’t the Bible tell us to not judge?’ Let’s take a look at that.

 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  Matthew 7:1 (NIV)

The word translated Judge is also used elsewhere with the fuller meaning of condemn, as in pronounce eternal judgement. We are not to take the place of God and pass judgement on someone but we are to inspect each others’ lives and help them to be more Christlike.

My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back,  remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20 (NIV)

To those outside the Family I believe the first thing is to clearly show that we Love them and want what is best for them, then cogently lay out God’s salvation plan:

  • God loves each and everyone of us and wants to have a relationship with us.
  • Each of us has chosen our own way and spurned Him, thus killing any relationship with Him.
  • Jesus is the ONLY way back to a relationship with the Father.
  • All we have to do to have that relationship is to trust Him and believe.

After that the only thing we have to say is what Jesus said:

 “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.  What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?  Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?  If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
Mark 8:34-38 (NIV)

Sacred Cab

Sacred Cab? Huh? How can the cab of truck be sacred?

As I have spent the last few weeks learning to listen to God and experience Him, this description seemed to apply very well.

Sacred Spaces evoke a feeling of a sacredness of space and time, where Heaven seems to touch Earth and we find ourselves aware of the Holy, and filled with the Spirit. A higher energy is resides in a sacred space, a power beyond human control which is part of the feeling of “awe”. To find ourselves in the midst of great natural beauty is an awakening into moments of heightened spiritual consciousnessThis feeling of “sacred” invokes a connectedness, a presence of the blessing of existence. It is “sacred” when it becomes for us a “window to the Kingdom of God” and a reminder of the sacredness of all space as space created by God.

Sacred spaces present creation to us as a window to this kingdom of God, a glimpse of heaven here in this lifetime. It’s an experience of the divine in life itself, in the very landscape of all things. We see all things as interdependent within an “inclusive community” and we experience a feeling of harmony as the process of having achieved balance.

This experience comes to us so clear, so inviting, and so welcoming, like good hospitality. At the same time shadows of unknown drift off in all directions. They remind us of the Unknown who is far more than we ever dreamed. We leave the sacred space with the new knowledge that life is far more than we dreamed. Our souls go deep into the rivers of the Spirit.

The glory of sacred spaces is not just in enjoyment of that which is created, but in seeing and feeling God’s very presence in creation. <see link here>

While I have spent the better part of 40 years as a believer in God, learning (and discussing <OK, arguing>) the finer points of theology, I have always found it difficult to connect my heart with Him. I have always thought that relating to God meant assent to certain principles and dogmas. What I am learning now is to hear His heart and just relax in His presence. By quieting my mind and stilling my thinking, I can reflect on who He is and What he has done and is doing.

He seems to be leading me into an exploration of the spiritual disciplines and how they can be used of Him to order and realign my heart and actions. I am drawn to the awareness that Salvation is much more than ‘Heaven when I die’, that He desires to remold my doing and thinking in the here and now.

One quote from this week, ‘How can we expect to answer the the question ‘What Would Jesus Do’ in the difficult times of life, if we are not walking like Jesus walked in the daily life?’. As an analogy, I have an acquaintance who is an amateur body builder (and quite good). He doesn’t sit around eating bonbons and watching TV then expect to win competitions. Instead, he goes to the gym and works out. He diets properly. He refuses things that he know won’t help him in his goal. So I must learn the things I must do to re-order my mind and then faithfully do them.

Stay tuned for more to come….