Warner's TheoBlog

Thoughts from a disciple who writes


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The glass bridge

I saw a video on Facebook today which I wish I had saved at the time. It was of the longest glass bridge in the world, over a chasm in China. The bridge is as long as three football pitches, about 1000 feet above the floor of the valley and constructed entirely of glass and steel. It has been designed entirely for the purpose and its parts are all far stronger than traditional building materials such as concrete.

As people crossed the bridge, the acted in interesting ways. A few of the people seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely, striding out over the drop with confidence. Most people on the bridge, however, were showing fear and trepidation of one kind or another. Some walked with their eyes closed, shuffling along whilst holding the hands of friends. Other crawled along, forcing themselves to move through their fear no matter how slowly they went. Still others were simply incapacitated with fear.

All of the people who walked onto the bridge were perfectly aware that it was a sound structure made from glass that is stronger than concrete and wires designed in such a way that not even the fiercest storm will destroy them… yet fear took its toll. Their imaginations ran wild and the evidence of their eyes altered their behaviour, their brains battling between logic and fear.

It dawns on me that the glass bridge is the perfect metaphor for me. It is how I feel when walking into a room of strangers. I know in my mind that everything will be OK, that I have a right to be in the room and that there is nothing to be afraid of… Yet, despite my knowledge, fear dominates me. I force myself to walk into the room and, more or less, talk to a few people, but, after not very long at all, I will be standing at the edge of the room watching everyone else and berating myself for the fact that I am too afraid to talk to them.

As for evangelism, think of the person who crawls onto the glass bridge as a sheer act of will. Inching themselves out, only seeing the chasm below despite the structure that holds them. In no time at all, the simple thought of going out onto the street incapacitates me. In reality, I know I am safe on the bridge of God’s love, but my mind closes my body down and I am simply unable to overcome my fear as an act of will.

My feelings then betray me, telling me that, “it’s better not to try the bridge. It’s only a pathway to terror and no good can come of it. All you will get is a bowel juddering sense of fear and an overwhelming dose of self-recrimination for your pathetic failure of courage.” I HATE THAT BRIDGE. I hate what it stands for, as the very image of the weakness of my faith and what it does to me. I HATE MY FEAR!

I hate the fact that the bridge exists and that I can, in reality, totally trust it to keep me safe from falling but that the truth of my actions tell me that I do not trust it at all. I hate the fact that even the thought of it makes my fear rise like vomit in my heart, paralysing me to inaction and making me feel awful in guilt and recrimination. I hate that I feel so guilty and stupid for trying in the first place; guilty and stupid for failing; guilty and stupid if I don’t try at all. I hate the feelings, I hate my actions and, inevitably, I come to hate myself. Mostly, I hate the devil for, over years and time after time, training my fear to be stronger than my faith so that now I find even the thought of going out fills me with fear.

I pray… “God does not give me a spirit of fear, but of love, compassion and a sound mind. PLEASE Father, let me live as if this is true!”


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Good faith is good

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1)

I have spent a lot of time in the last week or so cogitating on this verse and the chapter that follows it. I hesitate to blog on it, because I am not entirely sure that I have a proper handle on it. I seem to have a lot of interesting ideas but I am struggling to put them into plain English. (What is the point of an idea if no one except I can understand what I mean?). So let me know if the following is clear.

My first thought is this. Faith is good. Actually, let me put it slightly differently. Good faith is good.

Faith is, according to the verse above, surety of what we hope for and certainty about the things that we do not see. From the perspective of the passage, this is a good thing. All of the people listed in Hebrews 11 stand in faith upon positive promises of God. They hold on to the things that God has said to them and they act in accordance with the future that God has promised, but that is not yet realised.

All of us need to take this on board. What are the promises of God for you? There are many that are clearly general promises in the Bible. That God will bring us into His Kingdom, that those have faith in Jesus will be saved, that the Holy Spirit empowers those who have faith in Jesus, and so on. There are also promises that are specific to us. God speaks to His children (another promise) through the power of the Holy Spirit. What has He said? How we live our lives and the choices that we make point clearly and honestly to where our faith lies.

A specific example of this from my own life is that God called me, 4 years ago now, to leave the church, stay in Braintree and He promised to provide for me and my family. The decision that my wife and I made as a result was to leave our denomination and stay in Braintree. Even though we had no work or home of our own in the town, we put into action the decisions that were in accordance with God’s word to stay in Braintree. We found that, after we had acted in faith, God provided work and, miraculously, the ability to buy a home. God is always faithful to His promises. I have faith in this.

My second thought is similar and, possibly, equally obvious. Bad faith is not good. Faith is the surety and certainty of what is as yet unseen. Therefore, if one is sure that things are going to turn out bad and fearful that the path that might lie ahead could lead to difficulty or pain, then that too is faith (just not a good sort). This kind of faith will also determine our actions and lead us on a path other than God’s.

Fear is not simply the opposite of faith, it is another kind of faith. How many of us who claim to believe in the word of God really, beneath the surface, worry that it is not real or true? Many, many Christians live by fear of what might go wrong rather than faith that God is REALLY all powerful.

For example, how many of us have a stronger belief in our own unworthiness than we have in the grace of God? If we believe, at the heart of things, that we are unworthy of God’s love more strongly than we believe that God offers His grace to us freely and without any need for us to earn it, then we will act accordingly. We will live in fear of God’s punishment rather than assurance of His love. It is so easy to believe that, really, after all is said and done, in the end, I need to be a better person in order to know God. All that this leads to is a guilty conscience and slavery to religious practices that are supposed to purify us for God. When we have faith that God offers free grace then things are very different. It is only after we come to God in Jesus that we change and are transformed into better people because we know God. When we come to God in faith, in humility and submission, then God’s plan unfolds in our lives and we are transformed by it. We are not changed in order to come to God, we are changed because we do come to God.

Fear is a faith that things might not turn out well and it dominates many Christian’s as they try to live in Jesus. Fear ruins the lives of disciples, because it is twisted faith.

I guess the question goes something like this… what do you have faith in most strongly – God or something else? If our faith is in God, then we will act in a way that opens the way for the power of God to move, because we will be in step with the Spirit. If our faith is in something else, then we will act to please or mollify that thing… or we might not act at all. Even then, we will probably try to justify what we do by saying we are doing it for God.

It is hard to think of examples that are simple to give. Yet we all know the competing voices that call for our attention in every area of our lives. The “What if…” question is always loud and it can cripple us as we seek to follow the will of God for our lives. If Noah had listened to what if… he would have drowned in the flood. Had Abraham listened to the what if voice… he would have died in Haran like his father before him.

There is only one voice that matters. The voice of God. When God speaks, there is no what if because we can be sure that He has the what if in hand. Our calling is to walk the path rather than plot the course.

The question I ask myself is this. “What has God said to me and am I acting upon it by faith? If I am not acting in accordance with it then why not?”

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1)


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Keep your distance

In Exodus, we see that under the leadership of Moses the people of God witness some incredible things. Each of which shows them that God is on their side and WANTING to rescue and nurture them.

  • The plagues of Egypt. Miraculous disasters aimed at their enemies, which led to their freedom from slavery.
  • The guidance of God by a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night.
  • Protection from the armies of Pharaoh by fire and water.
  • A miraculous escape route through the depths of the Red Sea, walking on dry land between walls of water.
  • The utter defeat of the mightiest army in the world when Pharaoh and all of his chariots are overwhelmed by the Red Sea that opened to let the people escape.
  • Food was given to them on a miraculous and massive scale. Manna and Quail.
  • Water purified by a stick and, later, gushing from a rock.
  • A pyrotechnic display on Mount Sinai that results in tablets of stone and the law of God.

God gives them event after event as evidence and help, amply showing His favor and grace for the tribes of Israel. God systematically removes the limitations that stand between the people of Israel and the presence of God. He leads them to a place where their sin is no longer a barrier and they can hear his voice… and what happens?

“They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die” (Exodus 20:18-19)

The people believe a lie. “Do not have God speak to us or we will die”. After all of the evidence that they have witnessed, they seem to believe that God has literally moved heaven and earth so that they can be destroyed.

Even though Moses has told them that, by the commandments of God, the people can be enabled to draw close to God, they simply will not step out in faith and into God’s presence.

“Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning” (Exodus 20:20)

Moses assures the people that they have no need to be afraid. God has turned up, in person, to instigate a relationship with them. He tells them that their sin ordinarily makes it impossible for them to know God’s presence, so God has offered them a way to get past their sin and know Him. By the law, God is opening the door to His presence and their faith is under test… but still they keep their distance.

“The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was” (Exodus 20:21)

As I read this passage I am struck by the simple matter that the people’s fear is what stops them from knowing the presence of God. It is not their faith.

They believe that God is God and that Moses is His man. That the words of Moses are trustworthy and that they need to follow them, yet, they pass the opportunity to hear the voice of god for themselves because they a fearful. It is, after all, a very dark cloud!

I wonder how many of us have passed up the possibility of drawing closer to God for fear of what might happen?

Here is a question – Does God love us?

For me, the answer is a resounding “YES!” and yet I find that I quiver in fear in case I fail time and again. God is my Father and He loves me. First, he would not set me up for failure. Second, even if I did fail, he would not let me hurt myself or His plan.

I guess I am wondering around in order to ask a simple question of myself and others. Do I believe the voice of my fear MORE than I believe the Word or God? We do what we believe… what does my action say about what I believe?

More cogitation needed, I feel. Any thoughts would be appreciated…