Unbalanced or Uninformed

Lately, I’ve been having a very involved discussion with a couple of friends of mine on Facebook concerning the theological viewpoint of a certain Bible teacher, scholar and pastor.  For the sake of anonymity, I’ll not use any names, but we’ll call him Fred.  One place this discussion has taken my thinking is, “Is it dangerous to focus in on an individual’s teaching, or multiple individual’s teaching, or Bible commentary, etc. to help you in your understanding of Scripture?”  Can you become unbalanced in your views?  Is it “un-Biblical?”  Do you run the risk of not developing your own faith?  Does it displace the Holy Spirit’s guidance in helping you understand Scripture?

All of these are what I feel like are very valid questions.  The struggle for me is this, I want to know as much as I can about the Bible and I need ALL the help I can get to understand it and help with the “process!”  Sure, I can understand some passages, no problem, but then there are the ones that totally boggle this poor, finite mind.  There are many times I lean on Fred for insight into Scripture or help understanding a passage.

There is the realization that focusing on one individual too much can make you unbalanced and when it’s a guy like Fred, you can become a little too scholarly in your views and thoughts. You are correct in saying growing as a believer, is a “faith pursuit,” but I need everything I can lay my hands on to help me understand Scripture and bolster my faith.  I guess I think of it as using the “tools of the trade” to pick up a commentary, or read a blog, or listen to a sermon, etc.

I do not feel that going outside the Bible (e.g. Commentaries, other teachers and study helps) is wrong at all. The Bible is a paradox in some ways, on one side it is simple and you do take it with a child-life faith. On the other side, it is very complex, just like the God we serve, and I want to know it at a much deeper level than just “trust and obey.” It’s important to take the Bible by faith and child-like understanding, but so is using our God-given intellect and mind.  The Bible itself talks of the mysteries of God, and the limited understanding we’ll have on certain subjects while here in these mortal bodies on earth.  So why not make use of those, like Fred, who are more “enlightened” than us, or who have more education or scholarly study.

There are way too many churches, and by association Christians, that never challenge faith or thinking when it comes to weighty theological subjects. Therefore, a lot of believers never have the opportunity to grow in their understanding. I’m pretty sure the Bible wants us to do grow in every aspect. Sure, we ask for the Holy Spirit’s help, but just like the early church leaders looked to the Law and the Prophets for instruction, we too should take advantage of all that is available to us.  The “Freds” of the world are given to us for that very reason.

The Bible holds teachers like Fred in pretty high regard, they are given to us to help us understand, it is a calling and we are in a position to receive from them as well as the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our Biblical pursuits.

Do I follow Christ? Absolutely! Do I let God’s Word speak to me directly? Certainly! Do I also use the writings of men who know a whole lot more than me to aid my study? Definitely!

Do we need to stay balanced in our faith and our attempt to learn from those who teach us outside of the Scripture?  Yes.  But I would rather be informed and lean on those who can aid me than be ignorant while attempting this on my own.

Praise Follows Pain…At Least It Should

Periods of pain in our lives come and go, but in each painful circumstance we would be remiss if we didn’t follow the journeys of pain with times of praise.  Or maybe, even exercise praise in the midst of our pain.  Allow the painful times in your life to draw you into a deeper worship of the Father, it will cultivate a richer walk in this life and open up a brand new perspective through which you will see His purposes much more clearly. 

You could almost think of it as a new dimension.  Remember the old Twilight Zone lead in line, narrated by Robert Sterling:

“You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension – a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into the Twilight Zone.”

Well, while we’re not exactly crossing over into another dimension of “sight and mind,” per say,  I do believe that when trials enter into our life we do crossover into another dimension of relationship with our Heavenly Father. So, maybe we actually do enter into another dimension of sight, mind, soul and spirit. But it certainly is NO twilight zone, it’s more like a God-zone!

I’ve pulled a few passages from the Bible, mainly the Psalms, that I believe illustrate this point of crying out to God in the midst of pain and then responding by praising Him, maybe before the deliverance from that pain comes.

(All Scripture is taken from the ESV, English Standard Version translation)

1 I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. 2 He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.   Psalm 40:1-3

5 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.  Psalm 43:5

15 …call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”  Psalm 50:15 (Emphasis added)

6 Blessed be the LORD! For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy.  7 The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.   Psalm 28:6-7

There are MANY other examples in Scripture of times of trials followed by praise, as well as times of praise in the midst of trials.

Does God expect us to praise Him for the trials? Perhaps Job said it best, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”  Job 1:21

God might understand when we don’t feel like praising Him in the midst of difficulties or trials but when we choose not to, it is our perspective that suffers and I feel we miss out on what might be some of the most intimate times in our lives with our Heavenly Father.