What Next? – Finding a good church.

Posted: February 1, 2012 by Nathan in What Next...
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One of the best ways to continue exploring the Christian faith is to find a good church to plug into. A good church will, in as many ways as possible, help you to find the answers that you continue to search for.  Each church is different but any church worth going to will bend over backwards to help you in a search for God.  Many churches put of courses such as ALPHA  http://uk-england.alpha.org/alpha/home or Christianity Explored http://www.christianityexplored.org/ which are specifically designed to help people who are exploring the various issues of faith. These courses are relaxed, informal settings where you can come with no faith, a shaky faith or even a strong faith and ask those questions that you have been wrestling with. Have a look on a church’s web-site and I’m sure you’ll find details of any such course they are running or if you live in the UK visit the websites above and search for courses running now.

 

So what is a good church?  Churches come in all shapes and sizes and vary enormously in terms of style, format, age range and feel.  What will suit one person will be a complete put off for another. So finding a good church is more than just finding a church with a good theology!  In many ways it can be a question of trial and error but we can rule a few things out first.  What would you be looking for in a church?  Churches in many respects fit the character of those that attend. Some people like to meet in small groups whilst others prefer larger gatherings.  Would you prefer to express thanks to God using modern songs or traditional hymns? Do you want to meet with just people your own age or a real mixture? There are enough churches out that to suit most people’s character.  The best way to find out what churches are like is to visit a web-site like http://www.findachurch.co.uk/home/home.php where you can see the churches in your area, visit their web-sites and even e-mail the vicar any questions you may have.

 

The beliefs of a good church. Below is a very short list that would form the basis of belief of all good churches.

  1. The Bible is the inspired Word of God.
  2. There is only one God.
  3. The doctrine of the Trinity that there is one God in three, eternal, and distinct persons.
  4. That Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary.
  5. The Deity of Christ, that Jesus Christ is both divine and human.
  6. That Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead.
  7. That salvation is by grace through faith alone.

 

If a church is based on the above beliefs then you can, at the very least, know that they start from a good foundation.  However, ask around – is the church a bit controversial or known for holding conflicting beliefs.

Other than that the main thing would be personal taste. Do you feel welcome? Do you connect with people there? Are there activities, courses etc. that are of interest to you?

 

I would encourage everyone to get linked into a good church and receive the support that a church can give.  Please do comment below if I can help in any way.

Now the title of this blog does have a little bit of tongue in cheek intended. For many the idea that an ancient civilization can predict the end of the world is no more than a joke. However, for some and especially some children I have met there is a sense of apprehension about it.  Could the Mayans really have known something?  Everything in me tells me the world is not going to end on 21st December this year but….?

 

So, where did these doomsday predictions come from?  The idea that the world will end on 21st December 2012 seems to come from the convergence of two myths. The first from the Sumerians that a fabled planet called Nibiru will collide with the world in 2003. Now, when nothing happened in 2003 the date was subsequently moved to 2012.  The second myth is that the Mayan calendar ends at the solstice in 2012. Now it is true that a Mayan calendar ends at the solstice in 2012. However, it is also true that calendars in homes all around the world end on the 31 December each year; it doesn’t mean that the world will end then. A long-term Mayan calendar does end on 21st December 2012 but a new long-term Mayan calendar also begins on 22nd December 2012. So unless you’re going to worry that the world will end every year on 31st December you have very little to worry about (in that respect anyway!!).  And just to set your mind truly at rest NASA has confirmed that the earth will not collide with any planet anytime in our life time!

 

As a Christian I have reason to believe that the world will not end on 21st December this year. The Bible makes it quite clear that no-one will know when the world will end or when Christ will return.  In Thessalonians we read…

 

Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.

The implication here is that no-one will know and therefore it can never be predicted. In Mark’s Gospel we read…

 

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.

“Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”

Matthew puts it this way…

 

“Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming”

So, the Bible is pretty clear that we cannot know when Christ will return and therefore there is no point in worry about the predictions and claims of others. However, and it is a big however, Christ could come at any time and this life could end for anyone of us at any time. Now, I don’t want to be a scare monger or to worry anyone but the truth of the matter is that just as we don’t know when Christ will return we don’t know when our days will be up.  Again, it is nothing to be worried about but we do need to be ready in certain areas. There are things that we just can’t put off.  If the Bible is true we need to make a decision to believe and trust in God. If we do not our eternal future will be far from certain. However, if we make a decision to admit our sinfulness, repent and follow Christ then our eternal future is secure and certain – and what a wonderful future it will be!

 

What is stopping you deciding? Do you still have questions? Although the world won’t end in 2012 there is a sense of urgency in making that decision. It is certainly one decision you don’t want to leave until it is too late. The world won’t end in 2012 but perhaps it would be worth thinking through the issues of faith as if it might? If you have questions, worries, queries I’m happy to try and answer them. Please just leave them as a comment below.

What About Conversion?

Posted: January 18, 2012 by Nathan in What About...
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Conversion is an event that takes place when you become a Christian. It is the act of turning a belief in God into a trust or a faith in Him. One of the most dramatic conversions is recorded in the book of Acts .

 

        Acts 9

Saul’s Conversion

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

                        “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

The men travelling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”

“Yes, Lord,” he answered.

The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

 

Saul went, in the blink of an eye, from Christianity’s fiercest opponent to its greatest proponent. It was quite some turnaround. However, although we now talk about people’s “Damascus Road” experiences (their conversions) it is more unusual than usual for people to be converted in this manner.  Many people will know the date that they decided to follow Jesus. They may have wrestled with the idea for many years, they may have taken a winding road that led them to the decision but will finally have taken the plunge and made the decision to turn from their old ways and put their trust in God. However, there are also people who have been converted over many years and can’t put their finger on a date or time when they decided to follow Jesus.  All people have different journeys towards God.  St. Paul’s was quick and dramatic but if you look at the disciples of Jesus in the Gospels they seem to have all gradually come to trust and believe in Jesus over a period of a few years. There is no right or wrong way to approach conversion.

 

However, a decision does need to be made! Whether we’ve had a dramatic experience of God or whether we have been exploring for years, there comes a time when we need to decide one way or the other. Are we going to believe and trust in God or are we going to reject Him? If we make no decision it is the same as rejecting Him. Unfortunately with Christianity you simply can’t just sit on the fence.

What will you do?

 

If you still have questions that need to be answered before you feel comfortable in making a decision please do ask me in a comment below and I will do my very best to answer them. We all need to make a decision to either trust God and His saving grace, mercy and love or reject Him. Please don’t leave it longer than you need to. As a friend of mine says “To Not Decide is to Decide”.

What If I’ve been Hurt by the Church?

Posted: January 11, 2012 by Nathan in What If...

As far as I know there aren’t too many people that have been hurt by the church worldwide. In fact there aren’t that many people that have been hurt by complete individual churches. However, when most people say that they’ve been hurt by the church they really mean they’ve been hurt by a particular individual or small group of individuals within a church. Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t make the hurt any less real or what these individuals did any less wrong. It does, however, help us to try and think about it with a better perspective. Would you blame a billion people for the actions of an individual? Would you miss out on winning the lottery because the newsagent was rude?

Whenever we enter into relationship with others we put ourselves in a place of vulnerability. If we are married it is our spouse that is likely to cause us more pain than anyone else. If we have children they are likely to cause us a different by still real and intense pain. Those we love the most and those that love us the most have the likelihood to cause us the most pain. Churches are meant to be places of security, love, care, intimacy, peace and trust. However, churches are made up of people, albeit Christian people. Now, people think that Christians are meant to be almost perfect. Let’s face it many Christians portray themselves that way. Christians should be better people than non-Christians, there is no question about it. Christians have a purpose, a calling, a God who instructs and a Holy Spirit that guide. Christian have been shown through Jesus and the Bible the way they should live and have been put into churches to help them along. However, Christians are still erring human beings with more faults than you can shake a stick at. Let’s be realistic a compulsive liar who becomes a Christian will still be a compulsive liar from one day to the next. Becoming a Christian doesn’t make to perfect overnight. The compulsive liar may double his efforts not to lie once he has become a Christian but he will still struggle with it for years and may never overcome the temptation to continue lying.

Christians are not perfect. The Bible tells us that if we claim we have no sin the truth is not in us and we deceive ourselves. If you join a church and enter into relationship with people there they will let you down, they will hurt you, they will fall short of your expectations and let’s be really honest you will do the same to them. I guess the reason that many people feel hurt, let down, disappointed by the church is that our expectations of Christians is higher than they should be. We expect Christians to be loving, caring, kind, compassionate, trustworthy, honest, patient and selfless. Not only that but we expect that of them 24 hours a day 7 days a week 52 weeks a year. So when a Christian has an off day and every Christian does it is a big shock to the system. We feel doubly let down. Also there are people in churches who not only are not nice and loving and caring they are downright horrible, spiteful, hurtful and abusive. I’d like to tell you that these people are just wolves in sheep’s clothing, they’re not Christians but just pose as Christians to give Christians a bad name. Unfortunately, I can’t. Although there are people like this who go along to church, say the right things, do the right things and act as if they were Christians but in they’re hearts are far from it, there are also Christians who are far far far from what God would want them to be. Churches, like most big organisations are full of a wide range of people, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Jesus knew that His followers would not be anywhere near perfect. In the account of Jesus’ life that Saint Matthew wrote we read…

Then Peter came and said to Him (Jesus), “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

Jesus knew that we would continue to hurt each other. In this passage both seven and seventy are seen as perfect numbers so when Jesus say seven times seventy the implication is that we forgive our brother as many times as is necessary. I’m not trying to use this passage to say, get over it, forgive and bounce back. All I’m trying to show is that Jesus know that his church wouldn’t be this perfect community of believers who did nothing wrong. He knew that we would be needing to continually forgive each other because we would continually hurt each other. When people are in relationship together hurts happen – FACT! This is not an excuse – we should try and live together in unity, causing no hurt and being loving, caring, selfless individuals as much as we possibly can. However, we ALL make mistakes, we ALL have off-days, we ALL have things we struggle with, we are ALL tempted to do wrong, we are ALL human.

Now, here’s the thing… do we let our hurts, grievances, fall-outs and feuds keep us from what God has in store for us? Do we let these things get in the way of seeking the truth? Do we stop believing because we’ve been hurt? Do we give up the riches that God has for us because we’ve had a tiff with someone? Only you can answer these questions. However, I urge you to seriously think about them. Think about them in the light that one person or a small group don’t represent the whole church. Think about them in the light of Jesus being the only perfect person – he will never hurt you or let you down. Think about them remembering that people are flawed, faulty and very imperfect, but also think about them knowing that you are also flawed, faulty and very imperfect – but that God loves you just the way you are.

Having a relationship with God!

Posted: December 7, 2011 by Nathan in What Next...

Getting the right perspective.

Many people at times fall into the trap of confusing knowing God and knowing about God. I know I’ve done it – thought I’d been getting to know God better and yet all I was doing was learning more about Him.  I even went off to Bible College with the aim of getting to know God better only to find out it was all about learning about Him and what others have said about him.  However the two things are very much interlinked. I know a little about Australia, I don’t know it at all as I’ve never been there.  However, if I were to go there I would increase my knowledge about it before I went in order to make the most of getting to know it whilst there.  What I mean is I would read up about Australia before I went to make sure I saw the best sites, visited a good range of places and saw all that I wanted to see. Likewise with God we know about Him before we know Him.  We read His word, talk to people who know Him, we are taught by our churches about Him before we get to know Him.

Getting to know about God is a lot easier than getting to know God. Getting to know about God is a case of learning, getting to know God is a case of relationship.

Knowing about God

It’s good to get to know a little about God before we attempt to get to know Him.  Why is this important? Forming a relationship with God is not the easiest thing you will do – after all relationships are difficult things. The more we know about God the easier we will find it to know Him.  If I were expecting an important business call from someone on the other side of the world I would want to know as much about this person as possible. I wouldn’t want to be thrown by them not speaking English or being an intern when I was expecting the boss.  The Bible shows us how God communicates. 1 Kings 19:11-13 tell us that God didn’t speak in the earthquake or the fire but in a gentle voice. If we do not know about God we may assume that he will speak to us in one way and miss the other ways in which he speaks.

Knowing God

As I said before, knowing God is about relationship. So how do you build relationship and is building a relationship with God any different from building one with those around us?

Keys to building relationship

1. Contact

Let’s face it it’s pretty difficult to form a relationship without contact.  It doesn’t have to be face-to-face, though that may help. The same is true with God we can’t start to form a relationship with Him unless we have contact with Him, spend time in His presence.

2. Communication

One of the main things that will help a relationship grow is good communication. With God that is done through talking to Him and listening to Him.  It’s what we call prayer and is a vital part of getting to know God.  It isn’t easy and takes some getting used to, but is worth persevering with.

3. Common ground

In most relationships that flourish there is an element of common ground.  You talk about things that interest each of you and discuss things that are important to you.  With God it is no different.  A lot of the common ground that you share is you.  God loves you and is very interested in you, what you think and how you are feeling.  God wants to know about you even more than you want to know about God.  God created you and knows all about you yet loves to hear you talk about yourself, what your worries are and what you like to do.

4. Commitment

With humans one of the ultimate signs that a relationship is going well is to commit to each other.  With a male/female relationship this commitment may take the form of getting married.  It’s a sign that both people make to show their commitment. God is wholly committed to you, so much so that He sent His Son to die for you so that you may be reconciled back to Him.  God longs for us to be committed to Him. He know our hearts and knows when we are committed to Him, but we might make an outward sign of commitment to Him by being baptised or confirmed or giving a public declaration of faith.

5. Continuity

If we had a friend who visited us every day for weeks on end and then one day just stopped coming round we’d think something was wrong. So it is with God.  He is constantly their for us but we tend to blow hot or cold.   We go through good stages where we seek him regularly but then life crowds in and we forget about him, our prayer life falters and our bible gathers dust. We need to try and be consistent in our relationship with God.

6. Compromise

In order for most serious relationships to work there needs to be some level of compromise.  Many of us like to get our own way but in relationship with others something has to give. I remember in the first few months of our relationship my wife and I had to work out what areas of our lives needed compromise. It wasn’t the easiest of things to do but we know that to work as a couple there were areas of our individual lives that we needed to change. This sounds very heavy but all I mean is that, for example, spending time with each other meant spending less time with our own friends.  We both wanted to spend time together and in order to do that we had to compromise in the times we saw others.  It wasn’t a big deal but for the relationship to work it had to be done.

With God the compromise is slightly different and can come across as slightly unfair but it is anything but that.   God is perfect, all His ways are good and just. He is all powerful and all knowing and all loving. He made the ultimate compromise in sending His son to die for all the wrong we have ever done and will ever do. Now it is our turn to respond. We have to remember that God always has our interests at heart.  Any changes in our lives that he wants us to make are for the good of ourselves.  God loves and accepts us just the way we are but for our own good He doesn’t want us to stay that way. If we want a good relationship with God there are changes in our lives that we will need to make. If you kept giving sound advice to a friend who constantly ignored it you would still love them but it wouldn’t do much to enhance your relationship.

Through all of the above we can begin to develop a relationship of love with God. It takes time and effort on our part.  It is an ever changing journey that will continue for the rest of your life.  It will, of course, have it’s ups and downs.  You will have days when you think you’ve cracked it and days when you feel like your right back at the very beginning.

So How does this Relationship Start?

Any relationship has to have a firm foundation or BASE!

B Believe in God and what the Bible states about Him, that He is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe and that He came to earth in human form as Jesus.

Genesis chapter 1 verse 1

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

John 3: 16

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Romans 10:9

That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

A  Accept what God has freely offered you – forgiveness of all your wrongdoings and eternal life through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 2:8-9

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not by yourselves, it is the gift of God – not through works, so no-one can boast.

S Switch to following God’s pathway for your life

Ephesians 5: 8-9

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of Light. (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth.)

E Entrust your life to Jesus Christ and His direction.

Colossians 2: 6-7

So, then, just as you received Jesus Christ as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted  and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught and overflowing with thankfulness.

Some people see Christians as thinking they have all the answers.  With some Christians this reputation is well deserved. However, the truth of the matter is that as Christians we know very little. By this I don’t mean that we are all uneducated, half-brained, blind sheep following aimlessly but just that there is so much to know and so little that as humans we can comprehend.  Becoming a Christian doesn’t suddenly give you all the answers and you certainly don’t have to have all the answers before you become a Christian.  Let’s face it if we had all the answers there would be no need for faith.

When it comes to God who is infinite we will only ever know a minute part of what there is to know. So, when do I know if I have enough information to make a wise decision?  Becoming a Christian is not the end of your journey into faith but almost the beginning. Once you become a Christian you will continue to learn and grow in your faith. Just as in deciding to marry someone or even to start going out with someone you don’t have all the answers before you set out on the relationship together. Becoming a Christian is, simply put, entering into a relationship with God. We don’t need to know everything about him in order to start that relationship.

 

So what do I need to know or understand?  I would say that the only things you need to understand or trust in before becoming a Christian are these 5 points

 

  1. That God exists
  2. That we do wrong
  3. That our wrongdoing separates us from God
  4. That Jesus died to reconcile us back to God
  5. That we need to ask Jesus to be our personal saviour (i.e. saving us from the results of our wrongdoing)

Now, I’m not saying that this is a perfect list (and I’ll be interested to hear other people’s opinions of it) but I hope it shows that the things we need to understand in order to become a Christian are not that complicated. If we can understand these 5 thing we can then wisely start our Christian journey. There is so much more that we will learn and struggle to understand but let us not complicate the beginning of our journey more than we need to.

 

The Christian faith is a lot to do with relationship and as we all know human relationship can get very complicated. However, the premise for a relationship is very simple. Two people meet, they communicate and the relationship is formed – it’s a very simplistic view but the reality is, at its very basic level, that is what relationship is about.  God wants to meet with us and to communicate with us. He does this in various ways one of which is through the Bible. The Bible is a mysterious collection of stories about God communicating with man. It’s complicated stuff but if you had to sum it up in one sentence you would probable quote John 3: 16.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

We don’t need to know all the answers before becoming a Christian, just as we don’t need to know how an engine works in order to drive a car. We need to know a little and be willing to continue to learn and discover and grow. You will never have all the answers but we were never meant to. God, in His infinite wisdom, knows that we will never know it all, even when we think that we do!!

If, however, you do have unanswered questions that you feel are a block to you understanding the Christian faith please do ask away in the comments box below and I am very happy to try, in my inadequate way, to answer them.

It is very popular to talk about the Love of God, the Grace of God and the Mercy of God but we tend to sweep the Wrath of God under the proverbial carpet.  Is that because it doesn’t exist or we are ashamed of it or is it because it’s unpopular or just that we don’t understand it?  Well, it may well be for a mixture of reasons and although I don’t entirely understand it and will probably make a ham-fisted job of it I’m going to have a look at it now!

 

So, what is wrath?  If you look at a dictionary definition it will say something along the lines of…

strong, stern, or fierce anger; deeply resentful indignation; ire.

vengeance or punishment as the consequence of anger.

 

So we can see that God’s wrath is his strong, stern and fierce anger resulting in his vengeance and punishment!  Oh, if only it was as simple as that!!!  However, this is how many people see God!  They see him as this great God sitting in heaven just waiting for us to do something wrong so that he can smite us dead!! Now the problem with this view is that, and let’s be honest about it, none of us would have made it past nursery school!  So why isn’t this the case? Well, for start God cannot always be judged by our standards. It stands to reason that God’s wrath would be different to our wrath just as God’s love and mercy are different to ours.  God’s character is flawless, He does nothing out of selfishness, pride, envy etc. Much of our anger is fuelled by our faults – this is not the case with God. God’s wrath must be seen in relation to His love, mercy and grace.

 

Within the Christian faith, therefore, there is a great tension. We have a God of love, grace and mercy but we also have a God of Wrath. Now, many people are happy to accept the God of Love, Grace and Mercy and forget about the fact that he will also show His wrath. However, can you really have one without the other? Can you really have a God who loves you but doesn’t get angry when things happen that hurt you? Can you have a God of justice who just sweeps under the carpet all wrongdoing? We cry out for justice, we want the guilty punished. Do we really want to believe in a God who is going to let all wrong-doing go un-punished and the guilty set free?  Well, of course we do, when it comes to us at least – but when it comes to others that’s a different story!!

 

Let me explain here that there is a difference between anger and wrath. Anger in many ways is an emotional, human response to a situation. Wrath on the other hand is a well thought out, carefully planned response to the wrong doing that goes on. Love, grace and mercy are part of who God is, wrath is something that is not part of God but only a response to the wrong doings of man.

 

C. S. Lewis summed up this tension we find between a God of love and a God who shows wrath by saying…

God is the only comfort, He is also the supreme terror: the thing we most need and the thing we most want to hide from. He is our only possible ally, and we have made ourselves His enemies

Many people find this idea of God very uncomfortable, but for me it makes much sense. You can’t have a God of love and justice without Him displaying wrath. God’s wrath is not some out of control anger that lashes out. God’s wrath is very controlled, so controlled in fact that it is restrained by His grace and mercy. As we looked at before God is not sitting there with a big grin on his face just waiting to punish any wrongdoing. We read in Ezekiel…

Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?… Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall.

God’s wrath had not been revealed yet as he is waiting for all to turn away and turn to Jesus. Jesus is the ultimate expression of God’s love, grace and mercy. Jesus came to take the wrath of God away from all who believe in Him. I guess this is why it is easier for us to focus on the love, grace and mercy of God – we have been shown those attributes in human form.  We have read the prophesies and seen them come true in the person of Jesus.  However, God’s wrath is something that is still to come!

So what might this wrath be like!! The Bible gives us quite a good idea, and it’s not good! Zephaniah tells us that…

The great day of the Lord is near–near and coming quickly. Listen! The cry on the day of the Lord will be bitter… That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish

Revelations tells us…

 

Out of his mouth there comes a sharp sword with which to strike the nations… He will tread the winepress of the furious wrath of God the Almighty

John explains that we will all undergo God’s judgement but only those not covered by Jesus’ saving power will experience God’s wrath…

 

Whoever puts his faith in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see that life, for God’s wrath remains on him.

And Nahum adds…

 

The Lord is a jealous God and avenging, the Lord avenges and He is full of wrath; the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and reserves wrath for his enemies.

In Romans we also read that…

 

What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath–prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory–even us, whom he also called…

And

 

Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you…

Just to press home the point in Thessalonians we read …

 

For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

So, God’s wrath is something to be feared. It is real and it is coming. However, for those who believe and accept Christ as Lord there is nothing to worry about. God protects those whose heart is set on Him. God keeps His great wrath in check in order to show His glory through His great mercy! To me that is quite amazing!

None of us like change that much, we are comfortable with the constant and familiar. Change can make us feel awkward, fearful, anxious and uncomfortable. We look at our lives and have a “better the devil you know” attitude. My life may not be perfect but why rock the boat. We may look at Christianity and think that although it claims to offer good things I’d have to change too much to become a Christian.

I won’t lie to you, if you become a Christian your life will change! It may very well change quite dramatically. However, if anyone can manage change well it is God. Many people see Christianity as a set of rules that we all must follow and so it looks like we would have to suddenly change our lives to fit in with these rules.  This is a bit of a warped view of how God works. Christianity is far more about relationship than rules. Relationships do cause us to change, some fairly quickly others more gradually and all the changes are made because we want to change.

Consider two situations one falling in love and the other having a baby.  People fall in love because they want to, you don’t find many people who fall in love against their will. However falling in love brings change. There are the changes in your emotions and then there are the changes you make to accommodate the other person in your life. You don’t look at a stunning young man or women and say well I don’t want to date them because it would bring about too much change, I’d have to give up my weekends and a few evenings and I’ll have to buy some smarter clothes and even start cleaning my teeth. No, you meet someone you like and you want to make changes. As you grow to know and love that person you may want to make major changes in your life. That person is not forcing you to make them but you may want to make them to please that person. These changes can be made at your own pace, nothing is forced but over time you will have change quite a bit.  You are see very much you but as the relationship grows you will both change to please each other.

 

Now consider having a baby.  Babies bring massive change to people’s lives.  This time the change is much quicker. One minute there are two people in the relationship and the next there are three. The baby requires round the clock supervision, lots of attention, feeding, money spent on it, and so on. The parents suffer from sleepless nights, lack of time, a complete change in routine, a change in their relationship, constant visitors etc. However, most people who want a baby don’t mind the change in the slightest because the baby more than makes up for it.

 

Becoming a Christian can be like these two situations. Becoming a Christian is simply entering into a relationship with God. He doesn’t suddenly demand that you change to fit in with Him. God is far more likely to gently bring you to a place where you can see that a change in what you do will be of great benefit to you, not to Him.  The changes we may make over time when becoming a Christian are far more beneficial to us than they are to God. We may change the things we do because we want to please a partner and the partner benefits but with God we may change the things we do to please God but in fact it is us that benefits not God. It may please Him but it is us who really benefits.

Some people who become Christians go through the baby situation. They suddenly see that the way they have been living is wrong and change overnight. Their world is turned upside down by understanding who God is and the love He has for all of us. It is however, purely their decision. They’ve decided that they want to change and that that change would be good for them. In both cases change is driven from them not God. In both cases change is entirely positive.

 

A friend describes his life before becoming a Christian as being great. He was a generally good person. He was happy. He had no major problems in his life. He saw no need to change. However, after exploring the Christian faith he did become a Christian. He says that before he was a Christian it was like watching a black and white television. It was great, he didn’t know any different. There was nothing wrong with watching the television in black and white; he was more than happy with it. However, being a Christian for him is like watching television in high definition full colour. There is no way he’d want to return to watching television in black and white, it would be sorely lacking. His life has changed, changed for the better.  There is no way he’d want to go back to his black and white viewing.  He has changed because he wanted to change, not because he had to or felt obliged to.

In summary:

With Christianity change is for our benefit, it is not forced and it is always at our own pace. If the God who created us cannot manage change well then who can? Our lives do not need to be in a mess or bad for change to be really great!

Many people don’t want to believe in the Christian faith until they understand everything about it.  This is very understandable – after all you don’t want to buy into something and later find things that shock you or you just can’t believe.  However, the problem with this is that, as humans, we will never be able to understand everything about the Christian faith. As finite beings we will never be able to understand an infinite God and His infinite ways.  It will never be possible.

 

In some respects that is the key.  When you understand that you will never be able to understand something, in some senses, you can stop trying. You can focus your energy on the things you can understand. If you speak to Christians you will find that Christianity hold no bad surprises.  You don’t suddenly discover that behind a front of goodness and love God is really an evil dictator – but because you’ve believed in Him for so long you just continue to believe in some sort of brain washed state.  God is who He says He is right from the start and the only surprising thing that you discover is that He never changes.  If you speak to Christians you will also discover that Christianity doesn’t give you all the answers to life’s questions. It does answer some of them and it puts even more into some sort of context but there will still be questions that we will never have answered. For centuries people, Christians and non-Christians alike, have grappled with the issues of suffering, evil, existence, conscience, love, death, the afterlife and so on. No satisfactory answers have been found and we will all continue to grapple with them. Christianity won’t give you neat, conclusive, simple answers to all of life’s big questions. However, it will give you context.  What I mean by this is that, for example, if you believe in a creator God who loves and wants the best for His creation it helps you to see things in a correct context.  In some respects it may appear to make things more difficult. If God loves His creation why does He allow it to suffer? Again there are no easy answers but we have a context within which to explore.  Is all suffering always bad? Is suffering caused by the freewill of others? Is God causing the suffering or just allowing it? If we see this world as the entirety of our existence does that change our view on suffering? What if we believe that this life is but a minute part of eternity?  If we see suffering as part of a much greater plan does that aid our understanding? If we truly believe that God is GOOD and He truly LOVES His creation how does that affect our view of suffering and God’s part in it? These are questions that Christians still have to work through but in the right context it brings far more meaning and understanding even if nice simple satisfying answers are never achieved. We constantly need to remember that the finite cannot understand the infinite.

It would be really nice to be able to put Christianity in a box, evaluate it, understand it and then decide whether to believe or not to believe. If only life were so simple. However, I do believe that the Christian faith is intellectually viable. To have faith in it is not blind faith. It is a faith worked out using our intellect and our experiences. We don’t have to understand everything about it to believe. Just as you don’t have to know how the engine of a car works in order to drive it. You need to know enough, you need to know what all (or at least most) of the buttons do, which pedal will make you go and which will make you stop.  You need to know what fuel to put in the tank and the fact that a service no and then with help prevent breakdown. However, you don’t need to know how the engine works or how the engine drives the wheels or how the fuel powers the engine in order to bring movement. Yes, the more you know the better it is, especially when things go wrong. If you can strip and engine down and rebuild it – great – but it is not essential to your everyday driving. The same is true with Christianity. You need to know enough but you certainly don’t need to know everything. You can learn more, if you choose to, along the way. That’s why we have churches and vicars and theologians to make up for what we don’t know.

 

However intelligent we are (or would like to believe we are) we will never understand the complexities of God – however hard we try. We can’t put God in a box and study Him. Trying to understand Him fully is a futile exercise which will only lead to frustration and ultimately dissatisfaction. We need to understand enough and ultimately understand that God is infinite and will never be fully understood. When we can understand that it is then that we can get into the car and drive away!

Some of the top minds over the centuries have argued for and against the existence of God. Neither side has won the argument and as no proof exists either way they probably never will. So how can I with slightly less a magnificent mind know what to believe?

 

However much I would like to be able to answer that question for you once and for all you and I know that that is not going to happen. There will never be any proof that God exists!  I also believe that there will never be any proof that He doesn’t exist.  So, just as Christianity will never be able to prove that God is who He says He is in the Bible, Science will never be able to prove that He doesn’t exist.  From a faith point of view I find that fairly comforting.  Some of the greatest minds in the world have tried to prove God exists with no success whatsoever. Now that doesn’t, of course, mean that because you can’t prove that He doesn’t exist that He does exist.  However, if you believe that the Bible was created by simple men of faith thousands of years ago you would have thought that the greatest scientific minds of the 21st century should be able to completely pick it apart and if not find proof at least find considerable fault with it. In reality this is not the case and in fact my scientists believe in God.

 

So if there is no proof how can I believe or indeed reject the claims of Christianity.  I believe one of the ways forward can be found in Matthew 7: 7. Here we are told that if we seek, we will find. This is expanded upon in the parable of the prodigal son. The parable tells of a son who leaves his father having asked for his inheritance early. The son goes off and spends all of his money on parties and fast living. He ends up poor and working on a pig farm. He is so hungry he considers eating the food of the pigs. It then occurs to him that even if he went back and worked as a servant for his father he would be much better off. He returns home to find that his father has been looking out for him every day and runs to meet him. The father throws a robe on him, puts a ring on his finger and throws as party to welcome him home, not as a servant but as his son. The parable shows that God is always on the lookout for us – if we seek Him he will run to us.  If we make the move towards him he will make a move towards us. Many people have seen this in their own lives.  As they have seriously sought God on their own or on courses like ALPHA or Christianity Explored God has moved towards them with open arms and revealed himself to them.

 

Many people have seriously looked for God just to rule his existence out and have ended up meeting Him in amazing ways. Many people, however, write God off before even examining the evidence or seeking him at all. I feel it a shame that something so potentially important can be written off so easily.  Science may offer different theories but Christianity, if true, offers so much more. Science offers little in the order of purpose, hope, freedom, reason, comfort or redemption.  Christianity offers all of those and lots more besides.  Surely those claims alone deserve to be looked into – even if just to write them off.

 

There is estimated to be up to 2.1 billion people in the world who would call themselves Christians. A friend who had no belief in God looked at this and concluded that they can’t all be mad and deluded!! He began to seek and discovered God for himself. I believe that the personal testimony of millions upon millions of people can’t just be discounted. It is the experience of millions of people around the world that God has moved in their life. It is not just the intellectual conclusion that they have come to that God exists, it is the consequent experience of Him in their lives. This may be in the form of healing, guidance, answered prayer, prophesy, miracles or a whole host of other things.

 

There may not be proof that God exists but there is, however, enough evidence to make His existence well worth looking in to!!