Where do you go when things start falling apart?

[This article was emailed to me by ~]

This is my very real question.

There are times when you seek family or friends and there is time when you seek God. My question is when you have tried all known routes and still things appear not to work – where do you go then?

Is life just hard work? Am I being silly to expect that life can be fun?

What is wrong with hoping life to be full and rich?

Will you share biblical pointers or personal experiences?

The Soul Painting

There was once an Artist who believed in people. He believed that every single person who lived had within them one great masterpiece, a Soul Painting, and he devoted his life to this creed. As an in demand artist of considerable talent he could have committed himself to his work and lived in fair comfort for the rest of his days, but he forsook such things to travel, be with people and pass on the message of the Soul Painting.

One day the Artist met a woman whom no-one had ever believed in. She was enchanted by the Artist and his message of the Soul Painting. Although the wounds were still too fresh and raw for her to believe in herself, she dared to believe in his belief and began to paint. It took her many years but eventually she had finished her Soul Painting. It was strikingly beautiful, tragic and unique; one of the most amazing works of art that anyone had ever seen. During this time the woman had learned to love the Artist and his message and devoted the rest of her life to spreading the story of the Soul Painting. Wherever she went people clamoured to see her. Many were amazed by her story, many more captivated by her beautiful Soul Painting.

One of the men who heard her speak wanted more than anything to possess his own Soul Painting. He had heard her talk about the Artist and his belief in her which had led to her painting but he was too afraid and intimidated by her amazing Soul Painting to pick up a paintbrush himself. “I could never paint anything as good as her.” he told himself, torn between his desire and his doubt. One day he had an idea and, at a time when no-one was watching, he took out his camera and snapped a good photo of the woman’s Soul Painting. He took the camera home, printed out the biggest, best quality copy of the Soul Painting that he could afford and had it framed. He told his friends of the Artist and invited them to come and see his own Soul Painting. His friends visited his home and were awestruck and touched by the beautiful masterpiece on his wall. They too wanted their own Soul Painting. The man only knew of one way to pass on the magic of the Soul Painting, so he invited his friends to take their own photo of his photo and then it could be their own Soul Painting. His friends readily agreed, as it seemed an easy way to get a masterpiece.

The friends took their photos home and showed their friends, who in turn asked to take a photo of the photo of the photo. They, in turn, invited their friends to take a photo of the photo of the photo of the photo and so it went. With each layer of photos the detail and beauty of the original painting was distorted further and further until there was a crowd of individuals each clutching photos showing nothing more than an ugly splodge of random colours. The beauty had been lost a long time ago. Over time the number of people wanting to take photos declined and declined. Every now and then another person would be convinced to take a photo of one of the photos but whatever their motivation, it was now never because of the beauty of the Soul Painting.

One day the Artist will travel from town to town crying out “Bring me your Soul Paintings” and he will be crowded by a mob of people waving grubby, crumpled polaroids shouting “Master, Master, look at my Soul Painting, my beautiful Soul Painting!” and the Artist will look at them and say “Get away from me. I never knew you.”

Do you have to ask to be forgiven?

At youth group last night (sadly no longer considered young enough to be one of the youth, but still in denial about that) one question that got raised was whether you have to ask for forgiveness in order to be forgiven.

I realised as we were talking that I’d not really thought about it – and then we got side-tracked onto predestination, the trinity and other things…

Anyone have any comments?

Welcome to Wrestles with God!

Hello all! I’ve relaunched this site (which used to be called Guilty Expression), with a slightly different format, and hopefully some new energy.

I want to make it easier for people to contribute, so I’ve changed to a blog format, which allows (some) people to post directly to the front page (without getting any approval), and which encourages you to post short snippets as well as larger articles.

The name Wrestles with God comes from the name God gave to Jacob after he fought with him. The new name was Israel, which actually means Wrestles with God. As Christians, we inherit Israel’s name as adopted children, and that name encourages me that struggling and complaining are essential parts of being a Christian.

Have fun, and get in touch if you have any problems with the new format. Also let me know if you see any spam, or any of the stories from the old site are missing or corrupted.

If you had a login on guiltyexpression, the same username and password will log you in to this site.

I’m hoping we can get some discussion going in the new format, and one way I’m trying to help with that is by not creating a message board (forum) or Wiki. By limiting us to the blog and comments, I hope we will all bump into each other, instead of being too spread out. However, I’ve been looking though the discussions and Wiki pages from guiltyexpression, and there is some amazing stuff in there, so I am open to suggestions about what to do – I could certainly create a forum or Wiki, or I could just make the archive of the old stuff available, or something else. Let me know what you think. I may even edit some of the old Wiki pages and make them into articles.

One cool feature of the new system is the live chat room on the right-hand side. It tells you who’s logged in, so you can chat live, but it also preserves the last thing someone said, so you can use it a bit like a message board. More like a fridge, really. Feel free to chat frivolously there!


What is Jesus view on martial arts?

Hi-ya! Ever since I was eight years old after seeing how practical it can be, I always wanted to take up some form of martial arts. At the time I probably knew the names of about six disciplines or so. That is how interested I was. Sadly, for some reason or other it didn’t really lift of. And what if the reason turned out to be Jesus? (Matt 5:39)

Would participating in any “art” -I may have considered- any art which put one in the position to defend oneself against another be undoing the command; “to turn the other cheek”? And hence be against God’s will for we who believe in His Son? Thus were the thoughts that I started to develop as the time for me to join any martial art lingered, and I was taking Biblical standpoints more seriously. (I have found that here is no sitting on the fence waiting to see what happens with one’s life). In the end the furthest I got to attend anything of the sort was an opening day for Wing-Chun at some Greenwich community centre six years ago.

Up until now this may sound like a simple polarised argument that perhaps paints the picture for or against marital arts/ self defence in black and white, but consider this; in martial arts training the student is made to practise moves that anticipate violent attacks. The student is made to practise moves that can save his life or take another’s. And from practise will come reliance, and what did the Bible say of relying on one’s strength of their own arm (physical force)?

Just look to the A-Z of martial art dojo’s available nowadays if you live in an England city, and you listen to all the spectacular moves your peers can execute knowing you can afford to do the same, and ask; What would Jesus do?



Season of the Moses

As we endure Lenten or fasting season and hold to our vows – hopefully more to be followed than this year’s resolutions – I am reminded of God’s commandments for his chosen ones as depicted in Exodus. How to act, how to worship, what to eat, what to wear, what not to eat, how not to worship, and so on. (See Exodus 20:1 onwards)

In short the legacy of Moses or Mosaic Law.

I know that we are not literally governed by these absolute Commandments anymore as in the Bible days, but aren’t they spiritually incorporated into our Christian lives still?

I feel there is something in the practicality of the original commandments that made things such as one’s faith and worship clear to the world. A worship that was obvious in a world of different cultures, and faiths as it is now. Who we associate with, what we do, wear, speak.

I wonder if this is what mostly confuses unbelievers about the Christian faith; it’s apparentness, its clarity. That it does not rely on concrete commandments but faithful or personal spiritual worship. Is Christian worship relative in this sense? In that practical worship is up to the individual’s judgement?

Fair Trade and Middle Class values

Although I think Fair Trade is a good idea I am convinced it often does little more than making middle class people feel good about being rich!

Can you afford to buy Fair Trade? I can and often try to. It makes me feel good as if I am making the world a better place! The problem, as I see it , is that I can do this because I have a middle class job that is paid a good middle class wage.

Have you ever thought about how ‘fair’ some Fair Trade products are? Have a look at one of the Fair Trade museli bars, often there is less than 30% that is actually Fair Trade. Having gained the logo the product can then be sold at a much higher price attracting those who have money to buy and feel good about themselves. I often wonder as I pay the cashier at the supermarket for my ethically sound products, how ethically sound it is that she or he is getting paid so poorly?

I believe in Fair Trade, in one sense, but as long as some have wealth and others don’t we will continue to pretend we are making a difference. What we really need is a stronger political will to make equality a reality. That would mean I have less and others more. It doesn’t mean I have more to make the choice to pretend I am making poverty history.

Oh and by the way before everyone starts going on about some commune in India benefitting from Fair Trade. Think about what you are saying. Do you think they are being helped enough to have an equal standard of living as ourselves or that they can eat a decent meal or send their kids to school. We fool ourselves!

What difference does it make?

People often say how, if you become a Christian, God will give you peace and joy in your heart. That just makes me wonder where that peace and joy is, and whether I misunderstand what those words mean.

People told me how encouraging it is to keep a prayer diary, because then you don’t just forget what you’ve prayed for, you can tick off all the prayers that have been answered. But after trying it for a while, I just found it discouraging because I could hardly tick anything off. Was I praying wrong? When an open-minded and searching friend asked me ‘Does God really answer your prayers? What prayers has he answered?’, I was embarrassed at how little I could say.

Is there something wrong? Shouldn’t I see answers to prayers, and feel peace and joy?

Of course I can’t believe the idea that God gives prosperous lives to all faithful Christians – that our health and comfort are an indicator of how much He’s blessing us, how much He loves us and how much we please Him. That idea could only survive in our affluent society, and you only have to look at the material poverty of the majority of the world’s Christians to see how ridiculous it is. But I find it easy to slip into believing subconsciously that God’s approval and my relationship to Him is revealed by the way my life is going – whether I’m on a clear and productive path, comfortably settled with a clear purpose, or struggling to keep going.

But what’s the truth? Obviously God doesn’t make our life cushy, and Christians are often hit by tragedies, but surely it doesn’t make no difference whether we live our lives with him or not? So what difference does it make?

One clear answer is that His Holy Spirit is available to give us help and strength, so we can experience God’s help both in our own selves and through other Christians. But God doesn’t just take over the control of our lives, like when you ask a computer officer or someone to teach you how to do something, and they say ‘It’ll be easier if I do it myself’ and can’t be bothered to explain it to you. He wants us to learn and grow and be given responsibility and trust. His help is available, but we have to draw on it as we continue to live out our lives in our own will and with our own mind. As a result, our efforts to live better lives can show very little progress at times, or even go backwards, but at other times we can make good progress with His help.

So that’s one difference that should always apply. But what about external circumstances and events? Does God never intervene in ‘miraculous ways’ that are clearly special? Should our prayer just be about developing better character and allowing the Spirit to work in us, or can we also pray for things to happen? Can we expect God to make our lives better in any sense, or are we called to cope with the effects of this fallen world just like anyone else?

The last thing is obviously important as a testimony to other people – to show that God helps us overcome difficulties and persevere – and to stop us getting too settled in this world and forgetting about Heaven. But there are plenty of examples people testify to of God doing miraculous things or clearly answering prayer, so it’s not simply a matter of waiting for the next life. One point the book ‘Wrestling with God‘ makes is that God’s answers to prayer may be quite different from what we expect or can understand – He chooses what’s best for us with His infinitely higher understanding, and we shouldn’t feel His ears are closed to us if we don’t get what we think is right. Part of faith is learning to trust that He’s there and cares for us beyond a simple ‘I prayed and got what I wanted’ level of evidence.

So if we feel there’s no sign that God’s doing things in/with our life or listening to our prayers, we shouldn’t straight away conclude it’s our fault for not praying right, or being dedicated enough to Him, that He doesn’t care for us, or that it’s stupid to believe He answers prayers and that we should feel embarrassed by the lack of evidence for that. We can continue to pray for what seem to be good things, like people being kept safe or healed, as well as for internal ‘faith and character’ things, but we shouldn’t be discouraged and feel we’re praying wrong if we don’t see what we prayed for. God’s given us what He knows is right, and we can learn from what happens – more about God and ourselves and life – either directly from what we get, or indirectly from how we cope with it.

It’s often said that if we don’t get what we ask for, we should learn from that – but in the sense that we can learn to pray better, less selfishly, more as God wants – ‘He answers our prayers, but only if we ask according to His will’. But I think that a lot of the time, the learning is not about praying better, but about understanding what ‘God answering prayer’ means. We need to learn from what God brings about, the things we face in life.

As for joy and peace, I’ll get on to that later…

The Religious Hatred Bill Question

I’ve been following the progress of the religious hatred bill debate since the start of last October (05) when the protest of hundreds against it took place. I’ve even been doing pieces on it for an online writer/journal called Dogmanet. But I have not made my view (where I stand) on the possibility of the Bill known. Neither in the journal, nor to myself.

Needless to say but when I say the Religious Hatred Bill debate I am speaking of that debate which brought comedians like Rowan “mr.bean” Atkinson to be alongside Premiere radio and evangelical alliances representing the Christian voice of Britain. Both sides protesting against such a Bill to ever come into existence. One of the actions the lay believer could have taken was to sign a petition at your local church or through Premiere radio website to name a few. My elder brother signed one, and I would have done the same if presented, though I am not so optimistic about the effectiveness e-mail signatures to stop a law.

There is one question that ran through my mind while I was submitting the latest happenings on the Bill for the journal, and that was where do I stood on the issue, on the debate over the Religious Hatred Bill. Where I stood on whether it should be brought into existence or not. I ask myself where I stand because I am not a public street preacher, or preach from the rooftops, I am not in a position in a religious institution to indoctrinate one faith, nor am I taking phone numbers inviting unbelievers to my local church, or door knocking to convert. So I come to the conclusion that the passing of this Bill may not directly affect me, but as a believer my faith is based in a book, which speaks of exclusions and damnations as well as salvation. So I wonder whether I should support and sign petition against the Bill on Christian Principle not practice alone.


I hope this fits in Andy, and keep it up.