The Authority Issue

We live in a country with authority issues, and it’s not just a psychological or social problem. It’s also a spiritual issue. In fact, one could easily think of it as the most foundational of all theological problems, because everything else you believe theologically is subjected to and under the dictates of the authority issue.

Simply defined the authority issue is the question, who or what do you trust? What sources of information do you consider authoritative and what sources do you automatically distrust.

Who or what you choose to trust shapes everything else you think you know and choose to believe. Think about the current state of the press in America. Some people follow Fox News, and others believe CNBC. Some don’t trust either, but in all three cases, how they place their trust shapes their view of the world.

When one has not developed a capacity to choose the correct authorities to trust, they have all kinds of problems in life. Distrust the police and you have rioting in the streets. Trust into strangers and you will be stolen from. Theologically speaking putting trust in the wrong things has much the same results. Misplaced trust allows the devil to keep you spiritually angry, as well as to lie to you and steal from you.

Some people believe affirm that they trust God and believe they have settled the issue, but this decision only scratches the surface. Now you have to decide how God speaks to you. How God speaks, whether it is through a certain person, a church structure, or personal experience, then becomes the heart of your authority issue.

As a Baptist and Evangelical, my easy answer is that God speaks through the Bible. This would be a great answer, if people would only read it for themselves. Unfortunately most of us do not interact with Scripture independently, so the authority issue is not done. It continues with the question, who do we trust to interpret the Bible for us?

For some people it is a matter of trusting their pastor, or perhaps whoever is standing in their pulpit on a given Sunday. For others it is a favorite Bible teacher. For many it is anyone that agrees with a specific theological perspective. While all of these are not necessarily bad, they are likely to be the manner in which we get lazy with our theology, letting someone else think for us and decide for us what ideas to accept and reject. That is a lot of spiritual power and theological control to give away lightly.

We would better off to keep a constant eye on our own authority issue, so as to keep control of, and take personal responsibility for, what we believe.

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American Kestrel

Fisherman have stories about the one that got away. So do birders.

A week or so ago I was doing a few touch-ups on painting a house. I was up on a ladder trying to use a stiff bristle brush to fill the correct color of brown into some deep spots in the stucco. A flash of movement at eye level drew my attention to the side. A kestrel had flown into the top of a short palm in the neighbor’s yard. Thanks to the ladder, the bird and I were at each other’s eye-level.

The bird has been on my list of species I wanted to get a picture of for this blog. I see them all the time, but they are always too high up to get a good picture. They also are too shy, and fly when I try to approach them. Now here I was, up a ladder, with my hands full, and the perfect picture is just 30 feet away. It preened and posed and flashed out its wings in a display—all the things that would have made for a great picture over the next few minutes. I quickly finished what I was doing and started down the ladder, but the bird flew off as I did.

I asked my mom, who is also a birder and who lives in the house, if she had seen a kestrel hanging around. She indicated she had never seen one there, so it was unlikely I would be able to stake out the spot and wait for it to return.

This situation caused me to think about life’s frustrations and disappointments. How do you reconcile yourself to the one that got away? For most people it won’t be a bird but maybe a job, an investment, a moment with our kids, or maybe a relationship we failed to pursue. The experience of looking back and realizing we missed an opportunity is common to us all. But what does that mean in terms of God’s work in our lives?

It would be easy to blame God, believing He dropped the ball. He should have worked out the situation in our favor. At a basic level this reaction is accusing God of not giving us the best.

But in reality He always gives us the best, we just don’t always have the perspective to see it. Opportunities may not be as wonderful as we thought they were from a distance. Perhaps the job would have been beyond our abilities and damaged our careers. Perhaps the extra wealth would have trapped us into a sinful pattern.

It comes down to a trust issue. Do you trust God? Such a hard question to answer! It is easier to lie to ourselves than to answer truthfully. We know we are supposed to trust God so we answer, of course I do. But a more honest approach comes from examining how we evaluate the one that got away. If you trust God, believing that it got away because God had a better plan, then you really are living in trust.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.” You don’t even know what tomorrow will bring—what your life will be! For you are like smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes. James 4:13-14 (HCSB)

Placing Faith

Where do you place your faith? When you need to be healed, do you believe God will heal you? When you need to pay your bills, do you believe God will provide the resources? When you come before God with an intercession, a request for a friend, do you believe God will do as you ask?

As for me, I answer the first question, by saying I place my faith in God. I purposefully and intentionally choose to trust Him. This trust means I have to allow Him to make choices which affect my life in ways, which might not be what I think I want. He might choose to allow me to suffer in order to refine me. He will, sooner or later, chose some method of death. Death will be His way of bringing me to heaven. In cases like these, I might well be asking for something other than His will and His sovereign choice. Therefore, I would be placing my faith contrary to God’s will if I believed God would or should do whatever I am asking. I believe it is more faithful to voice my request and to trust God’s choice, knowing it might be different than I requested.

I am aware many teach the right way to use faith is to believe God will do whatever you prayerfully request. To me, this sounds more like manipulating God than trusting Him. Who really is on the throne, if you think God has to do whatever you ask, as long as you can muster enough faith in the request?

Placing your trust in God should inherently mean you trust His choices to be best. This does not mean you cannot speak to Him with your prayerful requests. Letting God know what you desire is a part of being in relationship with Him. However, if you allow God to be the boss of the discussion, you might find Him changing your desires, instead of giving you everything you think you need.

Place your faith in God. Allow your trust to be a path to a deeper relationship, instead of a way of manipulating God to give you what you want.

 

European Starling

Starlings

So am I the only one who instantly thinks of Alfred Hitchcock when they see this picture?

These birds are European Starlings. They were introduced into Central Park by a group of people who wanted to bring all of the birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s writings to America. They were so determined that when early attempts failed, they repeated the effort. For the individuals who were involved in this operation, it was a romantic gesture.

Birder’s all over North America see it more as a disaster than a romantic idea.  Starlings are not just an invasive species they are notorious bullies. They have become one of the most common songbirds in America.  Along the way mobs of starlings have been recorded participating in all kinds of acts of avian terrorism. They will raid nests, kill the young, toss the parent birds and destroy the nest.

Maybe Hitchcock was on to something.

Have you ever taken an action which had unexpected consequences? It’s a common experience.

But is there anything we can do to prevent the experience? Yes, there is. If we place ourselves under the direct command of the One who can see the future, and see the outcomes of all possible actions, we will be protected from ourselves. It’s not necessarily that everything will happen like we want, but that our lives and its outcomes will be in capable hands.

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”