A Chat with a Friend: Thoughts on Trust and Guidance, John 14 and Proverbs 3


Credits: Michael Pokocky

The other day I was talking with a friend and not long after that I came across some Bible verses that felt quite fitting in the light of our talk. Let me share some thoughts with you.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever- the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. – John 14:16-17 (NIV)

The Holy Spirit has is there to give us counsel and a pathway to truth. It is very natural for us, me especially, to think of truth as a body of knowledge to identify right from wrong. Jesus however was not referring to that. Earlier in John 14 Jesus advises that He is the way, the truth, the light.

So, truth appears not so much a set of answers; truth appears to be referring to a person: Jesus Christ!Truth is the tree of life, and not the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We want clear, fixed solutions. It is part even of our survival mechanism. The Holy Spirit however wants to give us truth and with that life itself ultimately. But our human nature makes that we are almost naturally inclined to think that we can find that truth, on our own strength more often than not mixing up knowledge with life. I know I have been, and I still am regularly. This condition or human tendency is recognized and it is therefore no surprise that we read in Proverbs

 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
(Proverbs 3: 5-7 NIV)

I remember all to well how I reached a dead end, some years back. I had been searching and either not finding or been disappointed with whatever truth, life I did think I had found.  Christianity was no exception, and I was determined to expose it as a sham, a scam. It was at the time the last viable option. Ironically I ended up becoming a Christian and for the first time in many years, for as long as I can remember in fact, I have found the peace  I was so desperately searching for on my own strength. It is beautifully worded in one Jewish song: Ruach (Spirit).

“Not by might or by power, but by the Spirit of God.”

The matter of being comforted and guided by the Spirit, to follow the Spirit‘s lead, not to find answers but to find life, is not a quest but  a matter of trust. It is already available to everyone of us, its part and parcel of what being a believer is all about. It seems so obvious but in daily life it poses me challenges regularly. We are (I am) so used to living in a world in which we (are made to) believe that we have all the answers that it seems almost unnatural to place our trust completely in God. Yet that is exactly what Jesus did and while his life may have had some incredibly hard moments, he came out the winner. In all this and considering everything I remind myself of one thing: no matter how evolved we are as humans and as societies and civilizations, we have yet to find the answer as to why, if we are so advanced, pain and suffering are still not solved as a human problem?  All the advances we made over the centuries did not solve this problem and the scale has as far as I can see it only gone downhill.

Even though I fail in respect of placing my trust in God, in letting myself be guided, I have not been disappointed wherever I did, even where I did not understand the calls being made on my life. Sometimes matters become more clear along the way, sometimes not (yet).  I will try and am keeping on learning live with it and trust God, until one day I hopefully do see the purpose behind God’s way.  In any event I am peace, that is more than I ever achieved on my own strength for such an extended period. Christianity is not a guarantee for a trouble free life, but it makes a incredible difference to know that it may serve a purpose, you are not alone and that help is at hand to comfort and guide you through any storm.

 

An Inconvenient Truth?


32Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God (1 Corinthians 10:32)

Today is visited an acquaintance. We were supposed to be visiting the Healing Room Christchurch but it was closed because of the school holidays. Upon my arrival I saw his state of being was not too flash. He felt rejected by society and most of all by what are supposed to be his brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. Being the person whom he is, he did not blame or curse any off the people with whom he shares his faith; instead he wondered whether God had abandoned him and that as a result his fellow Christians were abandoning him.

I was reminded of some of the lessons I got when going through Law School. I thought back at how revealing it was to me that in law ot was not just what you did that could be legally relevant but also what you did not do: your omissions.  Paul very eloquently does not use any words that could indicate actions, he uses the verb causing. Which could also mean omission or in-actions. Could it maybe be that this was not a case of abandonment by God but by fellow Christians?

Admittedly, a wrong impression may easily occur. But looking through Christian goggles, that still does not mean that this man does not deserve a chance, no matter how different and needy he may be. And speaking from personal experience; give this man a chance and you will find a beautiful creation with a considerable depth in terms of faith and spirituality, despite some mental/psychological/psychiatric background and problems. Personally I can say, I have learned a lot from my acquaintance with him first and foremost that THERE IS SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL IN EVERYONE IF WE ARE WILING TO LOOK FOR IT. But are we all looking for it? Or are we feeling more at ease with just staying at a distance.How sad is it really if a pastor from Auckland need to shop around and see whether there is a church that will accept this man for who he is?

Well what about your own church?

He does not want to go there any longer because of how he has been approached. He wouldn’t go there even if I tried to take him and believe me I will, again and again, despite his objections. What do you say to someone that cries out to you: “I have no church to go to anymore.” What do you say to someone that is experiencing a paradox daily as a resulted of the well meant but safe advice of fellow Christians.

You should be more amongst people.

However implicitly or explicitly it is also made clear that this does not include ‘the people’ that form part of the body of the ‘wise adviser.’ It all reminded me of the healing through Jesus, most of all the healing at the Pool of Bethesda. On several occasions people are urged by Jesus to go to the Temple. This is not so in the text of John 5 but thee a second encounter with the healed invalid takes place in the Temple. A number of the healings performed had a another significance:  hey did not just mean a physical healing, but also a spiritual healing which ensured that people could be entering the temple again. People that were crippled, or had other physical or mental conditions were not allowed access to the Temple, the core of their faith as a result of the Mishnah, the laws for Israel derived from the scriptures. Jesus did not just physically heal them, he ensured that the could be reconciled with the core of their faith in God. It fits in perfectly with his mission, with the concept that God wants to reconcile with His creation and uses Jesus and so illustrative are the words

“See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” (John 5: 14)

He did not say “Stay well” but “stop sinning.”  At the same time how harsh a law that prevents people that need it the most to have entry to the core of their faith. What else is there left than to stumble? What else is there left than to think that ‘you are not worthy of God’s grace because God’s law ordains it’?

At the same time I now wonder what is harder for a man: being denied on the basis of a religious law that is supposedly put in place by people that knew what they were doing, or being denied by people that purportedly care about your health and well being also in the spiritual sense?

You’d be better of finding another church, you would not or do not fit in. You are better of where there are more people like you.

Is this not the word upside down, and certainly not in line with what Jesus was teaching?  Paul, referenced at the start,  continued:

For I am not seeking my own good, but the good of many so they many be saved.” (1 Corinthians 10: 33)

Do we need to fit in with the worldly standards of the congregation of who is acceptable and who is not or do we as a Body of  Christ show the world that there is a place within the body for anyone and everyone no matter what their state of being is.  Yes it may be inconvenient in worldly terms, bit is that a reason to deny access, whether explicitly or implicitly?

I could well imagine someone saying to me referring to 1 Corinthians 10: 13:

Well if this man is tempted to turn away from God because of out alleged actions and omissions should we not expect God to provide a way for this man to stand under this temptation?

My rhetorical answer would be:

You are absolutely right, but given what I said earlier on, could it maybe be that we as the church, as the body of Christ arre that way out if we are willing to face the inconvenient worldly truth that comes with that.

Paul said:

20For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. (1 Corinthians 4:20)

With that in mind as well as out claim to be living out the full Gospel what is holding us back to restore this man to a state where he is no longer denied the core of his faith.

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

10“See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. 11 “The son of man came to save what was lost (only according to some manuscripts)

12“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost. (Mathhew 18: 10-14)

Can we really look ourselves in the eye when we have to admit that it is our worldly standards rather than our spiritual that is keeping such a man away from a fellowship in Christ? Is it maybe time for a “gutter bucket” ministry? And if so, “why me?”

What am I to do? Your words of wisdom would be appreciated as I am lost in this all.

John 1: 1-18 on pulling it all together


1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning.

3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

6There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.

10He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

14The 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.

15John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ ” 16From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. 17For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only,who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.

What shall I say? Perhaps it is best to be quiet an sit back in awe about this beautiful caption of the Old and the New Testament in a few sentences. For those that ever doubted whether or not the Old Testament was still valid or useful: here’s your answer from the Apostle John.

It is a clear indication of how the Old and New Testament are all part of the one story of the world and that we need both the Old and the New Testament to get a good grasp of the bigger picture of man and its place in creation.

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