Archive for the ‘What About…’ Category

What About Conversion?

Posted: January 18, 2012 by Nathan in What About...
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Conversion is an event that takes place when you become a Christian. It is the act of turning a belief in God into a trust or a faith in Him. One of the most dramatic conversions is recorded in the book of Acts .

 

        Acts 9

Saul’s Conversion

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

                        “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

The men travelling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”

“Yes, Lord,” he answered.

The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

 

Saul went, in the blink of an eye, from Christianity’s fiercest opponent to its greatest proponent. It was quite some turnaround. However, although we now talk about people’s “Damascus Road” experiences (their conversions) it is more unusual than usual for people to be converted in this manner.  Many people will know the date that they decided to follow Jesus. They may have wrestled with the idea for many years, they may have taken a winding road that led them to the decision but will finally have taken the plunge and made the decision to turn from their old ways and put their trust in God. However, there are also people who have been converted over many years and can’t put their finger on a date or time when they decided to follow Jesus.  All people have different journeys towards God.  St. Paul’s was quick and dramatic but if you look at the disciples of Jesus in the Gospels they seem to have all gradually come to trust and believe in Jesus over a period of a few years. There is no right or wrong way to approach conversion.

 

However, a decision does need to be made! Whether we’ve had a dramatic experience of God or whether we have been exploring for years, there comes a time when we need to decide one way or the other. Are we going to believe and trust in God or are we going to reject Him? If we make no decision it is the same as rejecting Him. Unfortunately with Christianity you simply can’t just sit on the fence.

What will you do?

 

If you still have questions that need to be answered before you feel comfortable in making a decision please do ask me in a comment below and I will do my very best to answer them. We all need to make a decision to either trust God and His saving grace, mercy and love or reject Him. Please don’t leave it longer than you need to. As a friend of mine says “To Not Decide is to Decide”.

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It is very popular to talk about the Love of God, the Grace of God and the Mercy of God but we tend to sweep the Wrath of God under the proverbial carpet.  Is that because it doesn’t exist or we are ashamed of it or is it because it’s unpopular or just that we don’t understand it?  Well, it may well be for a mixture of reasons and although I don’t entirely understand it and will probably make a ham-fisted job of it I’m going to have a look at it now!

 

So, what is wrath?  If you look at a dictionary definition it will say something along the lines of…

strong, stern, or fierce anger; deeply resentful indignation; ire.

vengeance or punishment as the consequence of anger.

 

So we can see that God’s wrath is his strong, stern and fierce anger resulting in his vengeance and punishment!  Oh, if only it was as simple as that!!!  However, this is how many people see God!  They see him as this great God sitting in heaven just waiting for us to do something wrong so that he can smite us dead!! Now the problem with this view is that, and let’s be honest about it, none of us would have made it past nursery school!  So why isn’t this the case? Well, for start God cannot always be judged by our standards. It stands to reason that God’s wrath would be different to our wrath just as God’s love and mercy are different to ours.  God’s character is flawless, He does nothing out of selfishness, pride, envy etc. Much of our anger is fuelled by our faults – this is not the case with God. God’s wrath must be seen in relation to His love, mercy and grace.

 

Within the Christian faith, therefore, there is a great tension. We have a God of love, grace and mercy but we also have a God of Wrath. Now, many people are happy to accept the God of Love, Grace and Mercy and forget about the fact that he will also show His wrath. However, can you really have one without the other? Can you really have a God who loves you but doesn’t get angry when things happen that hurt you? Can you have a God of justice who just sweeps under the carpet all wrongdoing? We cry out for justice, we want the guilty punished. Do we really want to believe in a God who is going to let all wrong-doing go un-punished and the guilty set free?  Well, of course we do, when it comes to us at least – but when it comes to others that’s a different story!!

 

Let me explain here that there is a difference between anger and wrath. Anger in many ways is an emotional, human response to a situation. Wrath on the other hand is a well thought out, carefully planned response to the wrong doing that goes on. Love, grace and mercy are part of who God is, wrath is something that is not part of God but only a response to the wrong doings of man.

 

C. S. Lewis summed up this tension we find between a God of love and a God who shows wrath by saying…

God is the only comfort, He is also the supreme terror: the thing we most need and the thing we most want to hide from. He is our only possible ally, and we have made ourselves His enemies

Many people find this idea of God very uncomfortable, but for me it makes much sense. You can’t have a God of love and justice without Him displaying wrath. God’s wrath is not some out of control anger that lashes out. God’s wrath is very controlled, so controlled in fact that it is restrained by His grace and mercy. As we looked at before God is not sitting there with a big grin on his face just waiting to punish any wrongdoing. We read in Ezekiel…

Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?… Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall.

God’s wrath had not been revealed yet as he is waiting for all to turn away and turn to Jesus. Jesus is the ultimate expression of God’s love, grace and mercy. Jesus came to take the wrath of God away from all who believe in Him. I guess this is why it is easier for us to focus on the love, grace and mercy of God – we have been shown those attributes in human form.  We have read the prophesies and seen them come true in the person of Jesus.  However, God’s wrath is something that is still to come!

So what might this wrath be like!! The Bible gives us quite a good idea, and it’s not good! Zephaniah tells us that…

The great day of the Lord is near–near and coming quickly. Listen! The cry on the day of the Lord will be bitter… That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish

Revelations tells us…

 

Out of his mouth there comes a sharp sword with which to strike the nations… He will tread the winepress of the furious wrath of God the Almighty

John explains that we will all undergo God’s judgement but only those not covered by Jesus’ saving power will experience God’s wrath…

 

Whoever puts his faith in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see that life, for God’s wrath remains on him.

And Nahum adds…

 

The Lord is a jealous God and avenging, the Lord avenges and He is full of wrath; the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and reserves wrath for his enemies.

In Romans we also read that…

 

What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath–prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory–even us, whom he also called…

And

 

Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you…

Just to press home the point in Thessalonians we read …

 

For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

So, God’s wrath is something to be feared. It is real and it is coming. However, for those who believe and accept Christ as Lord there is nothing to worry about. God protects those whose heart is set on Him. God keeps His great wrath in check in order to show His glory through His great mercy! To me that is quite amazing!

What About Other Religions – Sikhism?

Posted: October 12, 2011 by Nathan in What About...
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Sikhism in a nutshell

 

In many ways Sikhism is an attempt to combine Hinduism and Islam.

 

Sikhism was founded by a man called Nanak in about 1469.

 

Nanak’s successor introduced the idea that Nanak was equal with God.

 

Sikh scriptures contain a mix of Islamic and Hindu theology.

 

Most Sikhs do not know the contents of their holy book (Granth Sahib)

 

Sikhs believe in one God

 

Salvation seems to be found, for the Sikh, by becoming absorbed into God.

 

 

 

 

Sikhism and Jesus

 

Sikhism does not recognise Jesus.

 

 

 

Why I’m not a Sikh

 

There seems to be a lot of confusion in Sikhism. Is there one God or many? Did all the gods die?

 

Much of the fundamental teachings have been changed by different gurus over time.

 

Sikhism teaches that all religion leads to god.

 

There seems to be unexplained contradictions within the teachings.

 

Sikhs believe in an impersonal God.

Islam in a nutshell

Although Islam is an interesting mix of various religions it has its origins in the teachings of Muhammad.

Muhammad was born in Mecca in around 570 A. D.

Not much is known about Muhammad’s early life.

At the age of 40 Muhammad had his first vision.

Initially Muhammad’s view met with opposition in Mecca so Muhammad and his followers withdrew to what we now know as Medina. It is this event that marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar.

Muhammad is seen as the one prophet of God.

Islam teaches that there is a heaven and a hell.

Islam teaches that there are several holy books, the books of the law from Moses, the book of the Psalms from David, the Gospel from Jesus and the Qur’an from Muhammad.

Muhammad did not write the Qur’an – it was written by God and passed down to Muhammad.

The Five Pillars of Islam

Faith – The believe that there is only one God and his prophet is Muhammad

Prayer – Praying five time a day

The Fast – The month of Ramadan is a month of fasting during the hours of daylight.

Alms – there are strict laws about how much must be given to the poor.

Pilgrimage – Every Muslim must make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetime.

Islam and Jesus

Although Islam takes many of its teaching from Christian books many of the fundamentals are completely different.

Islam does not believe in the divinity of Jesus.

Islam does not teach that Jesus was crucified and resurrected.

Islam teaches that Jesus is not the son of God.

Islam teaches that Jesus was a sinless prophet, but was not as great as Muhammad.

Why I’m not a Muslim

The God of Islam is a very impersonal God.

There seems to be an emphasis on judgement to the exclusion of love, motivating its followers by fear rather than by grace as in Christianity.

Islam claims that the Bible has been corrupted – there is no evidence (historical or otherwise) that this is true.

Muhammad initially believed that his visions were demonic in origin.

Reward is based on man’s effort and not on the love, grace and mercy of God.

I could not accept the Islamic attitude, found in the Qur’an, towards unbelievers.

Daoism/Taoism in a nutshell

 

Taoism was founded by Lao-tzu. Almost nothing is known about him and many scholars believe he never existed.

There is some dispute as to whether Taoism is a religion or a philosophy.

Taoism is generally accepted to mean Way, Truth or Path.

The God of Taoism is an impersonal one.

It is the goal of a follower of Taoism to become one with the Tao – this is done through Wu Wei (meaning inaction)

The main book for Taoists is the Tao Te King.

Taoist believe that the Tao is the thing by which everything in the cosmos functions.

A harmonious life is achieved by becoming one with the Tao, going with the flow and leading an inactive life.

 

Why I’m not a Taoist

 

It has an underlying ethic of indifference and irresponsibility

Most scholars believe that it’s founder never existed and it’s origins are very vague.

It recognises no evil in the world.

The ultimate goal of a Taoist is not a higher place but just a protracted existence in this life. However, where is the evidence to suggest that any Taoist live longer?

It is a completely impersonal religion or philosophy and is ultimately unfulfilling.

What About Other Religions – Buddhism?

Posted: September 14, 2011 by Nathan in What About...
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Buddhism in a nutshell

 

Buddhism came into existence as a breakaway cult from Hinduism in around 500 B.C.

 

Scholars estimate that their could be up to 1.691 billion followers of Buddhism worldwide.

 

Buddhism was founded by Siddhartha Gautama.

 

Siddhartha Gautama, Buddha or the enlightened one was born in North-East India in around 560 B.C.

 

After spending seven days meditating under a tree Siddhartha Gautama changed his name to Buddha and started preaching as “the enlightened one”. Many people who had become disillusioned by Hinduism found his teaching appealing.

 

Buddha taught Four noble truths and the Eightfold Path –

 

Existence of suffering

Cause of suffering

Ending of suffering

Ending of all pain via the eightfold path which is…

 

 

Right Views

Right Resolve

Right Speech

Right Behaviour

Right Occupation

Right Effort

Right Contemplation

Right Meditation

 

Buddhist follow 5 precepts

 

Kill no living thing

Do not steal

Do not commit adultery

Do not lie

Do not drink alcohol or take drugs

 

Buddhism denies the existence of a personal God.

 

 

 

Zen Buddhism

 

Zen Buddhism is the most widely known form of Buddhism in the West although it’s origins are unknown.

 

Zen Buddhism originated over a thousand years after the death of Buddha. Zen Buddhism has no sacred literature but looks inward to man.

 

It has an emphasis on meditation as a path to enlightenment.

 

 

Buddhism and Jesus

 

One Buddhist nun, Ajahn Candasiri, a senior nun at the Amaravati Buddhist Monastery in Hertfordshire say this of Jesus… Although there is much said about him being the son of God, somehow that doesn’t seem nearly as significant to me as the fact that he is a person – a man of great presence, enormous energy and compassion, and significant psychic abilities.

 

Why I’m not a Buddhist

 

Buddhism is all about you. There is no personal God it is about how much you can put in in order to achieve things.

 

In Buddhism man is of no worth.

 

At it’s root Buddhism, a sort of reformation of Hinduism, is based on a man seeing a happy beggar and concluding that all life’s pleasures were worthless. To me this is not the greatest basis on which to start a religion!!

 

Buddhism is a religion of works and not of grace and mercy.

Buddha did not claim to be God or even a god and he did not claim that his teachings were divinely inspired. So what he have are the teachings (good or bad) of a man.

As in Hinduism there are major questions that I would need to have answered.

If everyone is reincarnated where did the first people come from?

If everyone is reincarnated why is the world population growing and not shrinking?

Hinduism in a nutshell

 

Hinduism came into existence in India around 1500B.C.

 

Hinduism has over 800 million followers worldwide.

 

90% of Hindus live in India.

 

Hinduism comes from the Aryan peoples who conquered the Indus Valley in north west India around 1500B.C.

 

The oldest and most revered holy writings in Hinduism are the Vedas. These consist of four collections of writings including chants, hymns explanations etc.

 

Numerous other “Holy Books” have been added to the Vedas over the years.

 

Hindus worship numerous gods.

 

Temples and shrines are very important in Hinduism with most families having personal shrines in their own homes where they worship their own personal collection of gods.

 

Communal forms of worship are not the norm within Hinduism.

 

Each Hindu village will often have a place of worship within it, often a natural feature such as a tree, a hill, or a boulder.

 

The Gods

There are many thousands of gods in Hinduism. Here are some of the more important or well-known ones

  • Brahma – the creator.
  • Vishnu – the preserver who sustains life.
  • Shiva – the destroyer.
  • Agni – the god of fire.
  • Surya – the sun god.
  • Indra – the powerful god of thunder and lightning.
  • Ganesha – the elphant-headed god, son of Shiva and Parvati.
  • Nandi – the white bull on which Shiva rides.
  • Garuda – the white bird-man which Vishnu rides.
  • Hanuman – the monkey god who helped Rama rescue Sita.

The four main belief systems of Hinduism

Karma – Actions and their subsequent reactions

Caste – the place you have in society

Dharma – the moral law combined with spiritual discipline that guides one’s life

Samsara – the continuing cycle of life, death and rebirth

 

Hindus believe that there are many ways to God – there is no one true religion.

 

Hinduism and Jesus

 

Hinduism does not refer to Jesus in its scriptures.

 

Some Hindu thinkers, however, include Jesus in their religion in one of two ways. Some believe Jesus was another incarnation of God. Others believe that Jesus spent the years between him being 12 and 30 (where nothing is recorded about him in the Bible) in India being instructed by Hindu teachers. It was then this teaching that he taught during his years of ministry.

 

Why I’m not a Hindu

 

For most Hinduism is a hope-less religion. Unless your good outweighs your bad (and most Hindus accept that they are more bad than good) you are onto a downward spiral. Take life one, if the bad you do outweighs your good you do then, not only do you move down a caste, but start the next live with negative karma, making it almost impossible to move up again!!

 

Hinduism has no end or beginning. Hinduism gives no coherent answer to where we came from or where we are going. There is the possibility of getting out of the caste system and circle of constant reincarnation but it is not know how or where you go to. There are many answers but no cohesion.

 

Hinduism has a real sense of vagueness about it. Most things are permissible and you only do wrong against yourself – not against god. One web-site I found estimated that although Hindus claim to recognise only one god there are 300 million gods worshipped.

 

Hinduism is a religion that has been added to here and there and tries to encompass all things into the religion.

 

Hinduism is a religion of works and not of grace and mercy.

 

There are major questions that I would need to have answered.

 

If everyone is reincarnated where did the first people come from?

 

If everyone is reincarnated why is the world population growing and not shrinking?

 

If the idea is for people to purify their lives over these different reincarnations why is the world not becoming a better place over time?

 

If you base your thinking on Karma (i.e. if you do good things good things will happen to you), why are so many of the countries where Hinduism is most prevalent the countries that have experienced a great deal of misery and suffering?

 

A friend has asked me if I could tackle the whole issue of other religions – so here goes. This blog is going to be just an introduction and then over the following weeks I will look at specific religions and what I, as a Christian, believe about them.

So, let’s start at the very beginning with two definitions so that we will all, hopefully, understand what I’m talking about..

Religionthe belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power , especially a personal God or gods

Culta relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or as imposing excessive control over members

Definitions, can of course, be helpful but let’s not hold onto them too tightly. What one person will call a religion another may call a cult. I, for example, don’t like to think of Christianity as a religion or myself as religious. For me, Christianity is far more about relationship than religion and I feel for more spiritual than religious. For me the words religion and religious have negative connotations. For me, all the side of Christianity that has been created by man and the appalling things that have been done in the name of Christianity belong to the religious side of the faith. Christianity for me is more about a movement of people; it’s about the person of Jesus; it’s about our relationship with God. When I think about religion in connection with Christianity I think of things such as Church buildings; bells; candles, robes; guilt; control; darkness and man’s traditions. For me these things are in no way central to Christianity and some have no place whatsoever within it. So definitions can be helpful but please don’t get hung up on them or offended by my use of them.

Within Christianity there are many opinions about other religions. Ask three Christians what they believe about other faiths and you’ll get 5 opinions!! In general Christians fall into one of three camps, though the lines between these camps are a little blurred. Christians will tend to believe in either Pluralsim, Exclusivism or Inclusivism even if they don’t know it!!

Pluralism is the view that there are many, equally valid paths to God. Christianity is only one of these, and is no more superior than the others.

 

Exclusivism is the polar opposite of pluralism, holding that salvation is only through explicit faith in Christ.

 

Inclusivism holds that while Christ is the only way to salvation, people of other faiths may be saved.

 

So, where do I sit? Having said that Christians fall into one of three camps I would have to say that, if I had to choose, I would be in the Exclusivism camp. However, there is part of me that wonders about certain passages in the Bible that suggest that Inclusivism may have some weight.

 

All that is to explain that this series will be written mainly from the point of view of an Exclusivist but with some bending allowed!!

 

If Christianity and more importantly the teachings of the Bible are true then Christianity is true at the expense of other religions being not true. Jesus claims in the book of John that

 

I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me”

 

If this statement is to be understood correctly then it makes Christianity pretty exclusive. Equally in Deuteronomy we read that

 

the LORD is God; besides him there is no other.”

 

These aren’t wishy washy ideas but statements that are meant to be taken as fact! To me the Bible is pretty clear that the God of the Bible is the only God and any other god (note the small g) is a man-made creation. I believe that either the Bible is true and there is one one God – the one portrayed in the Bible or the Bible is not true. I cannot see how you can believe that the teaching of the Bible allows the possibility of other Gods (note capital G) existing. This is not always a popular view in today’s society as the concept of ultimate truth has been thrown out the window and has been replaced with relativism where I can believe one thing my friend can believe the opposite and we can both be right. For me this holds no weight!! When looking at religion either Christianity is true and other religions false, another religion true and all the rest false or all religions false. Two plus two can’t equal four, six, 9.5 and seventy three. Some things can seem opposing and yet both be true, but not in the case of Christianity. Just as when it comes to either He exists or he doesn’t exist – both cannot be true God cannot exist and not exist!

 

Next week we’ll start to look at some major religions and I’ll try and give a Christian view of it’s beliefs.

What about Homosexuality?

Posted: June 29, 2011 by Nathan in What About...
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Now here’s a subject not many people are brave enough to tackle. Not sure whether I’m brave enough or just stupid enough? Let me say from the outset that whatever I say on the subject there will be other Christians (even good friends of mine) who are bound to disagree with me. That’s OK! I’d like to say that the whole homosexual issue is very clear cut, very black and white – but unfortunately that is simply not true – there is so much grey – which is why it is such a difficult subject to tackle. So, let me start with what I do know.

God loves homosexuals. No matter what impression individual Christians give or what whole churches say – God unconditionally loves homosexuals. He loves those who refrain from sexual acts and those that partake. To go one step further if someone truly follows the teaching of Jesus they too will love anyone who is a homosexual, practising as well as non practising. I’d like to think that this is always the case and that the church has been very much misunderstood, but I know that this is simply not true. Christians all over the world have misinterpreted, misunderstood and completely gone against the teachings of the Bible, following their own agendas and using the Bible to try and justify their sinful words and actions. As Christians (as a whole) we get things massively wrong. We judge, we condemn, we hate, we sin and we are no better than anyone else. We let the passion that we have regarding our faith spill out in the wrong ways. We are, in many respects, human first and Christian second. We let our human emotions rule and things become twisted. So when it comes to the issue of homosexuality we see it as not being God’s ideal and end up giving the impression that God hates homosexuals. Fact: this is simply not the case!! God has many ideals, ideals that we as Christians fail to live up to every single day!

I can only give my opinion of what I believe that the Bible teaches and how we should live out that teaching in our lives. My understanding of the subject is open to change. If you disagree with what I say I don’t believe that that puts us at odds with each other. Each of us are on our own journey towards understanding and truth. I am always willing to learn from others and am hopefully open minded to the points of view of others. I urge you therefore to bear with me and dialogue with me instead of becoming annoyed or angry.

It is my experience that the major influence on a Christian’s theology of homosexuality is people they know well who are gay. It seems to me that a Christian who has a relative or close friend who practices homosexual acts is prone to change their theology to make sense of that relationship. Not many Christians would like to think of their child or sibling living a lifestyle contrary to that which God would desire. Therefore many Christians seem to change their theology to make things simpler, less awkward, less contradictory. It is very easily done, after all we live in an age where tolerance is at an all time high, belief is sidelined and everything is OK as long as it doesn’t impinge on someone else. However, does the church now believe that homosexual relations are OK in the sight of God or are Christians just falling in line behind a societal shift of homosexual acceptance? I believe it is the latter? I believe that the teaching of the Bible in not only what it says about homosexuality (not too much actually), but also its emphasis on family, marriage before God and man/woman relationships remains the same. Now I do believe that the church has gotten things wrong for hundreds of years in the way it has treated homosexuals. In my mind and I believe in God’s mind to, sin is sin. Why the church decided to single out the homosexual issue for more condemnation than any other sin is beyond me. I am as sinful as the next man. You are as sinful as me and I am as sinful as you. When it comes to sin, in God’s eyes we are all as sinful as each other.

So should a church welcome practising homosexuals? Of course they should! Should the church condemn homosexuals? Of course not? My view in a nutshell is this. I welcome homosexuals to my church, I love them and support them. However, if they were to ask me what they could do to draw nearer to God they wouldn’t like what they hear. I do believe that the practise of homosexuality is not what God would want for a person. I know of many people who would vehemently disagree and that is fine. I also believe though that the most important thing in the world to God is a person’s relationship with Him. I believe God would prefer someone to be a practising Christian and a practising homosexual than someone with homosexual tendencies to abstain from sex and not be a Christian. Practising homosexuals should be warmly welcomed into our churches. They are deeply loved by God and should be deeply loved by us as well. In my life I have been friends with a whole range of Christian and non-Christian people with homosexual tendencies. Of those who were Christians some having been practising, some celibate and some have pursued a heterosexual life. I hope that I have treated them all the same. When asked I have made my views clear, but I hope I have shown them that I love them whatever they do. It is easy to love and support those that agree with us and heed our advice, but we need to love people whatever! We are not here to judge, we are here to love, encourage, support, care and witness.”

Now, I know I’ve opened up a whole can of worms here, but I look forward to hearing from you. I know people will have differing opinions and as I said before that is fine, however please can we keep any discussions civil, polite and let’s understand that we are all coming from different backgrounds with different struggles and and are all on differing journeys. I will not remove differing opinions but I reserve the right to remove posts that I feel may be intended to be hurtful. That said, debate away!!!

Cultivate a Heart for God

Do you find yourself increasingly desiring the things God desires? When you look to Jesus do you see yourself reflecting Him a little more than you used to? Do you find yourself now more willing to be willing in areas God is prompting you about?  Let us pray with eagerness “Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name” (Ps. 86:11).

When we cultivate a heart for God we produce in us a heart more like God’s. When our heart is more like God’s we desire that which God desires.  Our will becomes more like God’s will.

 

Pray for God’s Wisdom and Leading

If you are unsure what God’s will is in any given situation . . . ask Him! There are numerous examples of prayers for wisdom in the Bible. The following are two of them. James says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul . . . Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” (Psalm 143:8, 10)

It is so easy for us to forget to ask God for wisdom in making decisions; prayer is absolutely essential to this process.

Seek Sound Advice and Wise Counsel

Let’s face it however wise we think we are we’re never as wise as we think we are!!  We might not like to admit it but in most things that are important, we need help. Not many areas of our lives are more important than seeking the will of God and His purposes in our lives and the life of His church.  The book of Proverbs is full of passages encouraging us to bring wise counsel into the process of seeking God’s will. For example: “Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise” (Prov. 19:20). Here’s another: “The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice” (Prov. 12:15).

I would say that when looking for wise counsel there are two main types to lookout for.

Biblical counsel. Who is someone in my life saturated with the Word of God who can help me discover what the Bible says about my situation?

Experienced counsel. Who is someone who has been in this same situation? Who has special expertise in the area where I need advice?

Examine Your Motives

Earlier we said that the more we mature in Christ, the more we will be able to follow the desires of our heart. But we also need to critically examine our motives, because the blinding effects of sin often keep us from seeing how selfish we can be. The prophet Jeremiah put it this way:

“The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

It is good to ask ourselves some tough questions. Why are we doing this? Are we being selfish here? Will others benefit from our doing this? Sometimes we can become so preoccupied with finding God’s will that it becomes unhealthy. We either are presented with several options and freeze up (paralysis by over-analysis) or we walk around thinking and talking about ourselves all the time!

Ask God to reveal to you the motives of your heart.

 

One way of doing this would be to pray as David prayed in Psalm 139:23–24: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Use Your Head

God created us and gave us a mind to think and to reason with. Now we are not infallible beings or anything, but we possess the ability to think critically about life’s situations. It is good to wait on God’s direction and leading. However, this doesn’t mean that weighing various options or scenarios is unspiritual—far from it! However, we need to learn to use our head wisely and learn to make godly choices in the face of other alternatives. We need to make decisions using a sound mind and this means that our thought process is being renewed (Romans 12:2) and is under the control of the Holy Spirit. It is far better than common sense.

Cultivating a sound mind is part of possessing the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:15,16) as a result of God’s transforming and renewing work (Romans 12:2). We need to surrender to the direction of the Holy Spirit by faith and thus receive wisdom and guidance from God. By contrast, dependence upon man’s wisdom will lead us away from God’s best for us because it is based on self-interest with an undue emphasis on emotions and chance circumstances.

Steps to making a sound mind decision.

1. Pray for wisdom  (James 1:5,6).

2. Be sure you are walking in the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).

This includes doing what you already know to be God’s will.  Why should God reveal His unknown will when we’re not even doing His known will?  This also includes being faithful in the small things (Matthew 25:21).  God may want to adjust your life and character in the smaller assignments in order to prepare you for the larger ones.  God develops character to match the assignment.

3. Determine the options in the decision and list the pros and cons for each option.

4. Search the Bible for any relevant principles and commands.

5. Collect available information and godly counsel on each option.

6. Trust God for His wisdom, evaluate the options and make a decision according to His promises in Psalm 37:23,24 and Proverbs 3:5,6.

7. Do not depend on feelings:  God promises wisdom not the feeling of wisdom.

8. Take steps to act on your decision by faith.  Sometimes a step of faith may be to wait on the Lord

Believe That God Is at Work in the Circumstances of Life

God is always at work in the circumstances of life. Sometimes His providence is imperceptible to us; but other times He will reveal His thoughts and ways . . . if we are paying attention.

Be Sensitive to the Leading of the Holy Spirit

This one makes some people nervous. Who hasn’t heard the words “God told me to . . .” and then cringed at what was said next?  We must be reminded that we should be wise as we try to discern whether the Holy Spirit is prompting us or not. We must not ignore Him in our decision-making. Even though this is a subjective process, God could be trying to get your attention; the question is are you listening and open to what He may say?

Now this principle is best understood in light of the previous ways of seeking and we should always test our “impressions” with God’s Word and with wise counsel. The Spirit’s leading is not a trump card to be used selfishly—remember to check your motives.