Tag Archive: Belief in God


The Thinking Man sculpture at Musée Rodin in Paris

The Thinking Man sculpture at Musée Rodin in Paris (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If everything was torn away could I, would I still praise God?  A hard question to contemplate.  An even harder one to try to answer honestly.

This year, actually the past couple have been hard on my career, my financials, even my personal life.  Two years ago a romantic relationship I thought would never end did, in an ugly way.  My career ears has been one set back after another.  Friends I thought, believed I could count on won’t even return a phone call.  And yet thru it all I am more thankful to God.  Not for what has happened, but because He keeps picking me back up and helping me to take one more step forward.

A shift in priorities

A few dollars I was not expecting showed up, just in time for new tires for my truck, which needed them desperately.  This past year God has provided, some times from places I never saw coming, other times from friends, family, or work.  Never too late, I haven’t missed a meal, but rarely early or more than just enough.
Not that long ago I would have been a mental disaster trying to deal with all the stuff.  Stressed out over where the money was going to come from or how to pay for this or that.  But now I find myself not just learning to be ok with not knowing, but laughing at how God provides, even when I can’t see how it will work out the night before.
It has brought me to a place of trusting and leaning more on the Father then I ever have.  However that said, I was reading Philippians this morning and I was thinking about Paul, hungry, beaten, all that he went thru and it started me thinking.

Could I praise God in that place?

I don’t know, and I am thankful I will probably never have to find out.
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If this then that.  

It is the IF that brings about the Then.  It all begins with a presupposition, an idea that if this, then that.  If there is a God, then he must have created everything.  Or conversely if we evolved then what was the origin?  But always there is the presupposition that begins the theory, the hypothesis, and therefore impacts the answer.
Richard Dawkins states “Christianity was founded by Paul of Tarsus”, this is the if.  If this is the founding, the beginning then the rest is laughable.  It is not based upon the reality of Christ.  Christianity then becomes a what should be, not a what is.  But if instead Christianity was founded by Jesus of Nazareth, what is the then?  Now it’s a truth system based upon factual accounts, grounded not in a way things ought to be but, on the way things are.
So what are the proofs, facts, and truths, that Christianity is based upon?  Mr. Dawkins would have us believe that it is based upon not the teachings of the Christ, but of Paul.  While it is true that much of the New Testament was written by Paul, not all of the New Testament, his were not the first writings, nor the last.
If Paul was the founder of the Christian faith then we Christians are to be pitied more than any others for we are not only following a religion that can not do what it claims, but leaves no hope for those that would trust in it.  One of the foundational truths, in fact I would say the foundational truth is the claim by Jesus “I am the way the truth and the light, no man comes to the Father but by me.”  How can Paul make such a claim for the Christ?

Or if ? then?

If, on the other hand, man is the result of matter+time+chance then there is no right or wrong.  Can one be moral without a Creator?  Not if we are the result of evolution.  If we are evolved then morality is whatever society says it is, but society can only declare what it must declare.  Gone is free-will, instead is instinct.  And morality determined by each society is anchored in nothing.  After all as Ravi Zacharias points out “some societies love their neighbors, others eat them.  Do you have a preference?”
On the other hand if there is a creator, then even the atheist can be moral.

For only with a moral law giver then there can be a moral law.

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Christ in Gethsemane (Christus in Gethsemane),...

Christ in Gethsemane (Christus in Gethsemane), oil painting by Heinrich Ferdinand Hofmann (Heinrich Hofmann). The original is at the Riverside Church (Riverside Church, New York City). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Working thru some things at the weekly men’s breakfast, the idea of God’s wrath came up.  We were looking at the fact that God is unchanging, and a couple of the guys who are newer to being disciples of Christ were asking about the God of the Old Testament vs. the God of the New Testament.  They had been given the idea that God pre the incarnation of Christ was mean, and punished and was full of wrath.  But now, since the life of Jesus, God is love.  Kind, loving, gentle, God is now different.

How can God be Loving and Wrathful?

So is God different?  Has he changed?  My Bible says he is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  So why the disconnect between the perception of what God was like in the Old Testament, vs God who is in the New Testament.  The one that created the biggest discussion is the wrath of God.
So did God stop being wrathfull after the crucifixion of Jesus?  First God released his wrath on Jesus when he was put on the cross.  When Jesus took my sin on himself, taking my place, he not only took my sin, my failure, but he also endured God the Father’s wrath.

Doesn’t seem to me God’s Wrath is gone

Secondly look at Revelation 6:16 which says “And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:”
That’s not the wrath of the Father, the Lamb is Jesus and His wrath is coming.
Now that’s not about trying to scare you.  Hopefully you are a disciple of Christ, a Christian, and the wrath mentioned above is not directed at you.  But it does go to show that God’s wrath did not go away, or stop.  He may withhold his wrath for a season, for a time, but patience isn’t the same as forgetfulness.
On the other hand if you have not made Jesus Lord, my question is what are you waiting for?  God may be long suffering, that doesn’t mean He is asleep.
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Free to choose?

English: Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvo...

English: Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir at Balzac Memorial Deutsch: Jean-Paul Sartre und Simone de Beauvoir am Denkmal von Balzac (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is man free?  

Is he truly free to choose?  If man is not capable of not sinning does that mean that he is not free to not sin!

Jean-Paul Sartre holds the idea that if God exists, man can not be free.  That freedom is not true freedom unless it is absolute.  That anything less than full autonomy is not true freedom.  But must there be complete, unrestricted freedom in order to be free?

Just an illusion

Is anything short of absolute autonomy only an illusion of freedom?  In the movie of the same name a member of the Adjustment Bureau states to the hero of the story, “You don’t have free-will you have the appearance of free-will.”  The presupposition being that if we don’t have complete free-will then it is all just an illusion.  But is it?  Do we have to have complete free will versus having none? Are those the only two options?
What are your thoughts?  If you cannot choose not to sin does that mean you don’t have free will?
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Earned Grace

I hear so many confused answers on Christian ethics and obligations.  This morning I heard a man I deeply respect say we are no longer under the law.  And then he stopped there, Romans says “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.”
And that’s true but that is not all, it goes on to say in the very next verse “What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.”

Can you earn a gift?

Can I earn God’s love and forgiveness?  Of course not.  I will never be good enough, there is nothing I can do to make myself good enough.  After all if I cut someone off on the freeway tomorrow, what do I do to make it right?  How about the lie I told my senior year of high school?(ok the LIES, plural). People I have hurt with my actions?  How would the scales ever balance out.
See grace can’t be earned, otherwise it is not grace.  Grace by one definition is unmerited favor.  It takes one of the hardest acts of man, to accept a gift.  We really want to make it on our own.  Our pride gets in the way, and we try to be good enough, strong enough, rich enough, wise enough.  But we can’t be anything enough to earn it.

 You can’t save yourself, and neither can I.

The law saves no one.  The law is God’s standard.  We don’t obey the law in order to earn Gods love.  We obey the law because we love God.

The resurrection was a sign from God that Jesus sacrifice, his shed blood, his death was sufficient.
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What is enough?

Who am I to expect more?

Ask – sure
Want-ok
Work for – of course
But expect?
How dare I. How presumptuous of me to expect anything beyond the grace of God.  Even expecting that seems, as I am writing this, to be the pinnacle of arrogance.
Max Lucado in his book “In the Grip of Grace.” Tells the story about praising God for saving his daughter from drowning.  “As clearly as if God himself were speaking, this question came to mind: Would I be less wonderful had I let her drown?”  I have to admit I probably would scream YES, yes you would be less wonderful.

What is the right perspective?

Right now I do not have the perspective to even really know what is good for me.  Yet I actually try to make that decision.  Should I keep working to build a business that is struggling?  What about being single, when not only do I not really want to be, after all didn’t God say “It is not good that the man should be alone.”  Yet if I was married I don’t see how I could work full-time(and then some), teach a couple of small-group classes, write this blog, study trying to better understand God, and love a wife as Christ loves the church.
My humanity, my desires, seem in conflict with my Christian ethics, my belief that God’s best is best.  Knowing that I just don’t have the wisdom to make the call, doesn’t necessarily make it easier, but it does make it do-able.
I may not have the answers, but I do know the one who does.
 Now if I would just be ok with that.
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Amish family riding in a traditional Amish bug...

Amish family riding in a traditional Amish buggy in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I wonder if the Amish are on to something?  Are they right to send the young men out into the world.  By forcing them to make their beliefs system their own, nobody can then take it away from them.  What they claim to believe isn’t just because of what their parents, friends, or family believe, but they are forced to make a choice.  To either accept or reject the beliefs that they have been raised with.

Or is someone else’s belief enough?

Contrast that with the following survey from the UK http://richarddawkinsfoundation.org/
“Asked why they had been recorded as Christian in the 2011 Census, only three in ten (31%) said it was because they genuinely try to follow the Christian religion, with four in ten (41%) saying it was because they try to be a good person and associate that with Christianity.”
Can what you believe be handed to you like a family heirloom?  For me I left the family beliefs behind.  I searched and looked and tried so many things.  Only to have a sense of emptiness that nothing could fill.
Oh I tried and trust me I worked really hard to make all kinds of things fill me up, make me feel complete.  Inside of me was what I now know was a God shaped hole.  But then I tried to make other religions fill that.  When that didn’t work I then looked at anything, everything else.  Other people, especially women, trying to make them fit that shape.

Until it is your own it will not fit.

I would put someone else in that place, and for a time it would kind of sort of work.  Imagine trying to make three pounds fill a twenty pound bag.  There is something there, and it doesn’t feel as empty.  But sooner or later you realize that there is still something missing.  A life that isn’t full, isn’t complete.
The only thing big enough is God.  And now, well those other things just don’t seem that important.  Actually not important at all.  I enjoy the company of friends and time with family.  And although some of them are women I don’t use them to fill me up.  In fact being involved, dating, even the idea of marriage doesn’t really fit, at least for now.

Unlike Jerry McGuire the only thing that completes me is God.

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Do I focus too much on the knowing, the need to know.  Rather then believe, and let God be God, accepting that some of his workings are beyond my comprehension.  Or should I trust what I do not fully understand while seeking knowledge and wisdom.  Search for truth, and understanding, believing that God wants to be known, or else he would not have made himself known in even an infinitesimally small way.  Which comes first, believing God or knowing God?

Faith ain’t always easy

Any of you who know me, know that I do not see Christianity as being dependent on blind faith.  I see God as one who has shown himself over and over again to man, and yes to me personally, tho before you get the wrong idea, no I have never had a vision, a dream or even a burning bush.  Still I find myself focusing on trying to know the why and the what of God.  Why are things in my life the way they are?  What is God trying to show or teach me?  But what if it is not about me?
Max Lucado has a great book “It’s not about me“.  Sometimes this book is a bit hard to read, at least for me.  Not because it is too deep or theological but because of what it makes me face.  One of the things Mr. Lucado talks about is the story of Job, yes that Job.  He points out that after all that Job goes thru and endures, loss of family, wealth, health.  When God comes and speaks to Job, and restores everything and more to him, God never tells him the why.  God doesn’t ease Job’s mind about the why.  God doesn’t tell Job, “Look people will be studying your life, and using it for an example for 5,000 years”

No my trials and issues are NOTHING like Job’s

Would it have made a difference to Job?  I don’t know.  I do know that sometimes I don’t get to know the why.  Maybe that’s just as well.  I can’t speak for you but if God came and told me.  “I know this is tough but someone reading this 20 years from now half a world away is going to make it through a hard time because of this.”   My first thought would probably be really, you can’t find someone else to use as an example?
I’m not one for blind faith, and even tho this might seem like what I am talking about having, it is not.  I have faith because God has been faithful.  God has done things in my past that make it seem realistic that he knows what he is doing.  Even when I don’t.
What about you?  Do you find God wanting you to know him or trust him more?
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While I understand that many may believe that the God of the bible expects blind faith, I wonder where this comes from?  I can not seem to find this teaching, this command anywhere in the Bible.

I recently saw a video by Aron RaFaith is not a Virtue, and he will contend that to have faith is to disengage your mind, to turn off your cognitive ability.  Just some examples are:
  1. “Faith is a secure confidence not based on evidence”.  Can’t speak for anyone else but my faith can only be based upon past experience, and the fact is the same with much of science.  After all what much of what is called scientific “fact” is taking multiple results to an experiment and based on getting the same result multiple times, believing that the results will continue to be the same ad infinitum.
  2. “Faith is unsupported wishful thinking”.  Christianity isn’t about wishing things were all puppy dogs and rainbows, but rather an acceptance of what is, not about how we wish it was.  We accept what is and make the decision to live our lives based on that, working to achieve what we believe to be the best possible outcome, even if we do not have the certainty of success.
  3. “Religion is a belief system that means you are required to believe this, and forbidden to believe that” – guilty as charged, however science is in the exact same boat, for example, if you’re a mathematician aren’t you required to believe that 2+2=4, and not 6? Or how about an evolutionary biologist?  If you don’t believe the theories of this discipline can you still call yourself an evolutionary biologist?
  4. “The real problem for empirical scientists and rational skepticism is we care more about truth than the religious do” – really? As a follower of Christ the pursuit of truth is a requirement, not an option.  The problem with scientists and skeptics is the refusal to admit, at least in public, that those data points most often used as “proof” of evolution, the beginning of the universe, and the like are assumptions, an if this then that, line of thinking.  Where is the willingness to stop and say clearly that ” We believe that The universe began because of X, therefore Y, but if the beginning is actually Z then the answer would be completely different and the truth is we can not know if for no other reason then there are different ways to get to this point and there is no empirical evidence which can say with absolute certainty that X is really the starting place.”  Will you ever hear a Hawking, Dawkins or other scientists who believe in evolutionary origins say this?  Will they freely admit to doubt or other possibilities?  I doubt it but time will tell.
  5. “All sin can be forgiven if you believe in Jesus, and simply because you believe in Jesus” – Close but not quite, yes all sin can be forgiven, however as James says “Thou believe that there is one God; thou doesn’t well: the devils also believe, and tremble”.  So no just belief is not the key, it starts there, but it also requires, a declaration of Jesus as Lord, see Romans 10:9-10, and if you think this is just some sort of lip service to God think again.
  6. “He(God) lives by those rules even when circumstances demand exception” – really and what exception would that be?

Not having the answers doesn’t make you wrong

Oh don’t get me wrong there are far too many who call themselves Christians, and even claim to speak for God espousing some of the things mentioned above.  Even saying some incredibly ridicules things as if they were a prophet.  Maybe according to some I am a heretic for even questioning their beliefs.  I think however that those of us that dare to claim Jesus as Lord should be neither closed-minded to what science has to say, or to take it on blind faith.
Unlike Mr. Ra I can freely admit my prejudices but also accept that at this point there are some things that neither science or Christianity can answer.  Things like how exactly was the universe created, when the Bible speaks of a 6 day creation is it 6 literal days?  Or is it like Peter spoke of that a day is like a thousand years?(2Peter3:8). Only time will tell.

I’ll keep looking for answers,thank you very much.

For now I must be content with not knowing all the answers, but continue to search for them.  I don’t believe God gave us a brain only to turn it off when the questions get tough.  Although I am a little frustrated with others, especially non-Christians, trying to define Christianity, I will continue to do my best to point out the flaws, even glaring errors in their definitions.  Maybe it won’t matter to them, but it matters to me.
What about you, have you encountered people mis-representing what Christianity is?  Did you speak up?  What did you do about it?
Want to make people uncomfortable, even angry? Accuse them of being religious.  Let the subject of religion, faith or belief come up & if there is more than 3 people it’s almost a certainty that one of them will preface their statement with “I’m not religious but…”
Why the fear or worse, anger over being labeled as religious?  Oh I know there are those so busy trying to walk the tight rope of “I’m not religious I’m spiritual” thinking, hoping, maybe even believing that some mamby-pamby amalgamation of oh there is this supreme being and if I try hard enough, not too hard mind you, but hard enough I’ll graduate to the next level.  Or “After all if there is a God he must love us, and he wouldn’t want to send anyone to hell, in fact I’m not even sure there is a hell.”
Having that kind of half-hearted, no real commitment type of feel good belief system is bad enough but that’s not what I am talking about here.

Who are we afraid of offending?

I’m talking about those of us who  ought to know better.  We get more worried about not offending someone then being real about who and Who’s we are.
Now before you think I’m getting all judgmental let me be clear I have fallen into this more than once myself.  But the question is what is it that drives this.
Is it because we are afraid of being labeled a bible thumper?  Maybe becoming an outcast? What?  And why do we shy away from those labels, JesusFreak, Christian, or horrors RELIGIOUS
How do we stand face to face with a God who embraced humanity, subjected himself to the shame and humiliation of being put to death on a cross, for our sakes not for his own.  Wanting nothing more than to give us a way to be able to embrace and have a real relationship with him, and we blanch at, even become defensive about, being called his.
Have we all become like the church of Laodicea in Revelations 3:14-22 no longer passionate for God.  More worried about what others might think of us, of me.  What does it really mean to be a Christian?
Maybe it’s time to be a certifiable religious nut.
Maybe it’s time to be a Jesus Freak.
Are you more concerned with what label someone else puts on you then what name Christ will call you?