Posts Tagged ‘God’

Having a Relationship with God

Posted: May 16, 2012 by Nathan in What Next...
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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.

The death and subsequent resurrection of Jesus is not something to be taken lightly. It is not in the experience of most people to know of anyone who has died and then been brought back to life. A few of us may know people who have had near death experiences or even know of people whose heart have stopped and then been resuscitated, but not resurrected. So how do we get our minds around such a rare and hard to fathom event?

 

For me if Jesus did not rise from the dead there become a lot of unanswered questions. For me Jesus rising from the dead makes more sense of the situation than him not rising. Here is what I mean…

 

If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead then why was his body never found?  The Roman and religious authorities would have done all in their power to find the body. They hated this Christian uprising and to come up with a body would have put an end to it once and for all.

If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead did the disciples really steal the body from the tomb and if so how? How did eleven men get past at least 12 highly trained guards, move a two ton stone and remove the body of Jesus? The Roman authorities started a rumour that the disciples stole the body whilst the guards were sleeping. However, how did the guards know this if they were asleep? If this were true surely all the guards would have been killed by the Roman authorities and the disciples hunted down as well?

If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead perhaps he was not dead in the first place, revived in the cold tomb and escaped? The soldier guarding the cross pierced the side of Jesus and blood and water flowed out. It was only discovered centuries later that this only occurs after death, so we can be pretty certain that Jesus was dead. However, let’s suppose he did revive in the tomb. How would he have gotten out of His death clothes? How would this man that had just hung on a cross to an apparent death then roll a 2 ton stone away – there would have been no hand holds inside the tomb to aid him? Having miraculously moved the stone how did he then get past all the guards?

If Jesus did not rise from the dead what explains the sudden change in the disciples from cowering wrecks to emboldened preachers of the Gospel? Something happened to effect this change, what else could explain it? The disciples went from denying knowing Christ and hiding away in locked rooms to preaching in the market places and joyfully enduring tortured, imprisonment and being killed for the Gospel. How else would you explain it?

If Jesus did not rise from the dead how do you explain the hundreds of people who saw him alive after His crucifixion? Jesus appeared to His disciples but also to crowds of over 500 men. Was this mass hallucination the likes of which have never been seen before or since?

If Jesus did not rise from the dead why did the disciples (apart from one) all go to their deaths because of their belief that He did? They either saw him alive after the crucifixion or they didn’t. Would they have all been martyred for a lie or for a mistaken belief? All they would have had to do was say that He was never resurrected and all their lives would have been saved.

If Jesus did not rise from the dead would tens of thousands of Christians who would have had firsthand accounts of His resurrection believe in it enough to go to their deaths because of that belief? You’ve got to be pretty certain of your facts if you are willing to lay down your life for them. Do you believe that all these people went to their deaths because they had a vague belief that the resurrection had taken place?  No, they knew for certain!!

 

If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead how do you explain the incredible rise of Christianity? Something spectacular must have happened for people to be convinced in such huge numbers.

 

So, the fact of Jesus rising from the dead is difficult to comprehend – it is so far from our experience that it would be strange if we found it easy.  However, what is the alternative? Jesus prophesised that he would rise again. God is all powerful and therefore could do it. Jesus had already brought Lazarus back from the dead.  Is it such a huge jump to believe Jesus came back from the dead? That angels rolled the stone away? If you’re not convinced I’d really love to hear your answers to the above questions.

 

As always if you have any questions please do ask them in a comment below.

What If I don’t have enough Faith to Believe?

Posted: February 8, 2012 by Nathan in What If...
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Many years ago I was leading a course in Christian basics.  It was with a small group of people who were new to the Christian faith. As we discussed the various issues it became clear that all of the group would call themselves Christian apart from one lady. She said that it was alright for the rest of the group, they had been blessed by God with the gift of Faith. However, she had not been given this gift and therefore there was very little she could do to get it. To be honest I had very little to say in response.  If God hadn’t given her the gift of Faith how was she to then believe?  After a few weeks of struggling with this in the context of the group she stopped coming. I wish I knew then what i know now!!

 

The Bible very clearly talks about the gift of faith.

1 Corinthians 12 states-

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

So, if faith is a gift from God if He doesn’t bless us with that gift what can we do about it? Well, if I had my time over again and could answer the lady in my group’s question this is what I would say.

 

I believe that everyone has a choice to have faith or not. As Christians we complicate things that are really quite simple. As humans with a God given mind we have the ability to make decisions. We can choose to believe in fairies, ghosts, Santa Claus, Bigfoot etc. We can also choose to believe in God. We can look at the evidence, talk about the issues, test the reality and then we have a choice, to believe or not to believe.

Now, billions of people around the world believe in God. A much fewer number have faith in God. Faith in God is really just a development of belief in God.  As with any relationship it starts tentatively and grows through time, experience, shared interest, conversations etc. At the beginning of each relationship the levels of trust will be low and will grow only if that trust is not broken and can be shown to be reliable. The same is true with God – you don’t go from simply believing in Him one day to completely trusting Him the next – it is a process, a journey that takes time. As you walk with God he will show you that He is trustworthy and your faith in Him will grow.

 

So, how does that square with the Bible Passage above?  Well, there is a gift of Faith but that is not the whole story. The Bible also talks about the gifts of giving, teaching, serving, leading, administration, mercy, helping etc.  Now it is clear with all these gifts that they can be down without a special touch from God. Everyone if they put their mind to it can give or help. Each of us can teach others in one form or the other. So is true with faith – each of us can have faith. We may need to develop it – start small and grow. I believe that when the Bible talks about such gifts it is talking about having an extra measure. Everyone can teach but some people have been appointed and equipped by God to teach in excellent ways. Everyone can give but some have been touched by God to joyfully give an extra measure.  With faith it is no different all can have faith but some will be given the gift of faith to have more than most to encourage others and lift up those whose faith is weak or shaky.

 

I believe that as we look to grow our faith God does His part and strengthens it alongside us. We are told to eagerly desire the gifts that God has to offer – if we eagerly desire faith in God, He will provide us with that faith that we desire.

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”.

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.

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!!

I have asked around to see what questions people would like to see answered through this blog. So, this is the first in a series of the questions that people have asked to have answered.

This question can be taken on a number of levels so I hope I can cover most of the angles. My first reaction was that I believe that religion is a human construct. Religion to me, along with many others has negative associations and connotations. To me religion is man’s reaction to the belief that God exists. If you strip Christianity down to it’s essentials all the bells and shackles fall away and you are left with a simple relationship between you and God through Jesus with the help of the Holy Spirit. You don’t need rituals and doctrines, church buildings and church meetings. You don’t need the bells and smells, the lectionaries and holy days. Now, this is not to say that all these things are not helpful to people in their relationship with God, but they are not essential. In fact sometimes the trimmings of Christianity can get in the way of the relationship which needs to be at the centre. Christianity is less about religion and more about relationship.

So, I don’t need irrefutable proof that religion is man-made because I already believe that it is. Having said all that I know that that reading of the question was not what was meant. So, let me rephrase the question to hopefully bring about a little clarity for myself. What if the idea of the existence of God is a purely made up concept by man? What if irrefutable proof were found that God didn’t exist but was just a man-made idea?”

I have found this question quite a difficult one to get my head around. In some respects, for me, it’s been like trying to think of a new colour – a concept that is almost impossible to do. The piece I struggle with is the concept of finding irrefutable proof. Where would it come from? What would it look like? Would everyone accept it as irrefutable? In general terms it is far easier to prove that something exists than doesn’t exist. Photographs, film, footprints and I guess ultimately a body would prove to most people of the existence of the Abominable Snowman. However, what proof could there ever be that it didn’t exist?

People for thousands of years have tried to prove that God doesn’t exist. With all man’s intelligence, resources and theories no-one has even come close. In many ways Christians and Atheists are in the same boat. They both have strongly held beliefs that have no proof. They are either as wise or as stupid as each other. Both have weighed up the evidence and have drawn different, opposing, conclusions. The main difference, as I see it, is this. Some of you will have read this analogy before, but please bear with me.

When it comes to belief and faith I like to use the analogy of a chair. It’s perhaps because I’m quite a big guy so it is more relevant to me than others, but I hope you’ll understand the gist if it. When it comes to the question of belief in God billions of people around the world would say they believed in Him. Yet for only a much smaller percentage of the world’s population does that belief have any real meaning. Billions of people believe in God but far fewer have faith or trust in Him. Here is where the chair comes in. When it comes to a chair or a stool or anything you can sit on, when considering sitting on it we have to believe that it will take our weight. We don’t want to end up in a pile on the floor along with the remains of a chair that didn’t quite do the job. As a bigger than average chap I have to consider this more than most, especially when it comes to camping chairs or chairs that look less than robust. I can pick a chair up, examine it from every angle, pull it about, check the joints and even read the label for it’s weight limit. I can come to a stage where I can look at the chair and wholeheartedly believe that it will hold my weight. It is not, however, until I sit in the chair that I can be said to have moved from that belief in the strength of the chair to having faith that it will hold my weight. So it is with many people’s belief in God. They believe in His existence but have not yet moved to faith in Him. It is one thing to believe in God but another thing to put that belief into action by having faith in Him.

So with the Atheist they look at the chair, examine the chair, test it a little, read the safety label and come to the conclusion that the chair won’t hold their weight. With the Christian they also examine the chair, test it, read the safety label and come to the conclusion that the chair may well take their weight. However, for the engaged Christian they then take that belief a step further and sit down on the chair. It might feel a little wobbly, for a while they may feel uncertain that the chair will hold their weight but eventually the proof is in the sitting. Either the chair holds or it doesn’t. So, although in the testing of the chair the potential atheist and potential Christian are in the same boat it is when the Atheist walks away and the Christian sits that the difference occurs. The Atheist doesn’t continue his journey finding more and more proof for the non-existence of God. They don’t even continue, in a meaningful way, to experience the non-existence of God. However, for the Christian as they sit on the chair they start a journey where they begin to see God at work. They see prayers answered, they see prophesy fulfilled, they see things recorded in the Bible coming true, they experience the touch of God. Lots of little things that happen build up into an overall belief that God is real and working in their lives. Now, the atheist, quite understandably, will put this down to psychological factors, delusion, hype, hysteria and many other factors. However, to a Christian they are the same feelings as love, pain and fear. Things that you can’t always understand but are as real to you as anything you experience in the physical world.

Therefore, it is extremely hard to imagine irrefutable proof existing. It would be like finding irrefutable proof that pain or love didn’t exist. Once you have experienced something it is almost impossible to imagine not having experienced it. So, having said all that let me imagine that a proof did come forward that proved, without any shadow of a doubt, that God did not exist and that he was just a construct of the human imagination.

How does anyone react to something so huge? Something that was the centre of your life, that informed your thinking and your actions suddenly being swiped from under you. I guess you’ll get a much more objective answer now than if it really did happen. In the short term there would be a mixture of disbelief, confusion, anger, fear, despair, disappointment and so on. There would then follow a slow process of realignment where I’d have to get used to a new world view. However, in the long term I guess that not too much in my life would change on a day to day level. So why is that?

Many people who believe there is no God or just don’t know see religion as this big evil that suppresses the masses, spreads lies and is general a bad thing. However, and I’m speaking solely for Christianity here, I believe that the teachings of the Christian faith are basically an excellent way in which to live. If the Bible were proven to be a man written, man inspired, totally human creation I would still have to say that whoever wrote it was an extremely wise and informed person. I believe that if people followed the teaching of the Bible, whether they believed in the God behind it or not, the world would be a much better place. I have always found it hard to understand how someone, or indeed a society, with no faith can decide on the nature of right and wrong, just and unjust. This is not a criticism or saying that people with faith are better moral people. In fact the opposite is true. Christians have the perfect reason and motive to do good and yet we still do wrong. If you live in a society with no faith, no moral compass what is it that stops you living solely for yourself? How do you decide that it’s wrong to be cruel to animals but OK to eat them. What makes a civilised country civilised? How would a faithless society make laws and why would people abide by them? Most people would agree that they have within them a sense of decency, of right and wrong, good and bad etc. but where does that come from? Who is to say person A’s sense of right is better than person B’s when they differ? Having come to terms with there being no God these are the things that I would really struggle with.

So, I think my everyday actions (apart from dropping the Church services!!) would change very little. I would still believe that it was better to give than receive, love than hate, live at peace not war, care rather than ignore, treat people as I would like to be treated. I would still hold onto the teaching that it is a good thing not to murder, steal, lie, covet, commit adultery etc.

However, I believe that there would be a huge gap in my understanding of this world if I knew God did not exist. I do not believe science holds all the answers. The questions of Why am I here? What’s the point? Why bother? Why believe this? Why not live entirely for myself? What is my purpose? Why don’t we all just end it here? How do I decide what is moral and not? All of these questions and so many more would keep coming back to me again and again. Christianity doesn’t give you all the answers, far from it. However, the non-existence of God would create far far more. So I guess, at least in the short to mid-term I would feel lost, aimless and maybe even purposeless. I would need to find a point of reference from somewhere else. Things that I took for granted as being important because the Bible says they are such as family, honesty, other people, integrity, our planet, leaders and so on would have a huge question mark over them. Are these things important just because we’ve grown up being told that they are? What tells me what is important, moral, ethical or not? A government who changes it’s mind from year to year? The majority? Those who shout the loudest?

At the end of the day I believe that there will never be irrefutable proof that God doesn’t exist. For thousands of years people have been seeking for that proof it without success, who is to say that that won’t change. I also believe that proof will not be found (in this life) of the existence of God. Living as a Christian, I believe, takes nothing away from my life but in facts adds to it. I don’t sit around longing to do things that I’m not allowed to but I have had my life enriched by the Christian journey, by people I’ve met, experiences I’ve had and the comfort, peace and hope that my faith has given me. I personally believe that it is better to live with hope than live with no hope. Even, at the end of the day, if it is false hope.

I guess I must finish with the reverse of the question. What if irrefutable evidence existed that God did exist? How would that change your life? I suppose at the end of time or the end of our lives we will all get an answer. Either God exists in some form or other or He doesn’t. If the Christian is wrong and the Atheist is right then I guess the end of the story lies in a wooden box and a hole in the ground where the Christian and the Atheist lay side by side. Both having lead, more or less, the life that they wanted to. If the reverse is true though and the Christian is right and the Atheist is wrong then at death the story is much different. I don’t believe in God just so that if it just happens to be true I will go to heaven. Belief in God is not my insurance policy. I believe in God because all I have read, heard, seen, and experience point to the existence of God. I have seen the chair, tested it and have finally sat in it. It took my weight and I have continued to sit in it. I don’t believe in God to keep me from hell or from rotting in the ground, but it sure does make me think!!

What about Homosexuality?

Posted: June 29, 2011 by Nathan in What About...
Tags: , , , , ,

Now here’s a subject not many people are brave enough to tackle. Not sure whether I’m brave enough or just stupid enough? Let me say from the outset that whatever I say on the subject there will be other Christians (even good friends of mine) who are bound to disagree with me. That’s OK! I’d like to say that the whole homosexual issue is very clear cut, very black and white – but unfortunately that is simply not true – there is so much grey – which is why it is such a difficult subject to tackle. So, let me start with what I do know.

God loves homosexuals. No matter what impression individual Christians give or what whole churches say – God unconditionally loves homosexuals. He loves those who refrain from sexual acts and those that partake. To go one step further if someone truly follows the teaching of Jesus they too will love anyone who is a homosexual, practising as well as non practising. I’d like to think that this is always the case and that the church has been very much misunderstood, but I know that this is simply not true. Christians all over the world have misinterpreted, misunderstood and completely gone against the teachings of the Bible, following their own agendas and using the Bible to try and justify their sinful words and actions. As Christians (as a whole) we get things massively wrong. We judge, we condemn, we hate, we sin and we are no better than anyone else. We let the passion that we have regarding our faith spill out in the wrong ways. We are, in many respects, human first and Christian second. We let our human emotions rule and things become twisted. So when it comes to the issue of homosexuality we see it as not being God’s ideal and end up giving the impression that God hates homosexuals. Fact: this is simply not the case!! God has many ideals, ideals that we as Christians fail to live up to every single day!

I can only give my opinion of what I believe that the Bible teaches and how we should live out that teaching in our lives. My understanding of the subject is open to change. If you disagree with what I say I don’t believe that that puts us at odds with each other. Each of us are on our own journey towards understanding and truth. I am always willing to learn from others and am hopefully open minded to the points of view of others. I urge you therefore to bear with me and dialogue with me instead of becoming annoyed or angry.

It is my experience that the major influence on a Christian’s theology of homosexuality is people they know well who are gay. It seems to me that a Christian who has a relative or close friend who practices homosexual acts is prone to change their theology to make sense of that relationship. Not many Christians would like to think of their child or sibling living a lifestyle contrary to that which God would desire. Therefore many Christians seem to change their theology to make things simpler, less awkward, less contradictory. It is very easily done, after all we live in an age where tolerance is at an all time high, belief is sidelined and everything is OK as long as it doesn’t impinge on someone else. However, does the church now believe that homosexual relations are OK in the sight of God or are Christians just falling in line behind a societal shift of homosexual acceptance? I believe it is the latter? I believe that the teaching of the Bible in not only what it says about homosexuality (not too much actually), but also its emphasis on family, marriage before God and man/woman relationships remains the same. Now I do believe that the church has gotten things wrong for hundreds of years in the way it has treated homosexuals. In my mind and I believe in God’s mind to, sin is sin. Why the church decided to single out the homosexual issue for more condemnation than any other sin is beyond me. I am as sinful as the next man. You are as sinful as me and I am as sinful as you. When it comes to sin, in God’s eyes we are all as sinful as each other.

So should a church welcome practising homosexuals? Of course they should! Should the church condemn homosexuals? Of course not? My view in a nutshell is this. I welcome homosexuals to my church, I love them and support them. However, if they were to ask me what they could do to draw nearer to God they wouldn’t like what they hear. I do believe that the practise of homosexuality is not what God would want for a person. I know of many people who would vehemently disagree and that is fine. I also believe though that the most important thing in the world to God is a person’s relationship with Him. I believe God would prefer someone to be a practising Christian and a practising homosexual than someone with homosexual tendencies to abstain from sex and not be a Christian. Practising homosexuals should be warmly welcomed into our churches. They are deeply loved by God and should be deeply loved by us as well. In my life I have been friends with a whole range of Christian and non-Christian people with homosexual tendencies. Of those who were Christians some having been practising, some celibate and some have pursued a heterosexual life. I hope that I have treated them all the same. When asked I have made my views clear, but I hope I have shown them that I love them whatever they do. It is easy to love and support those that agree with us and heed our advice, but we need to love people whatever! We are not here to judge, we are here to love, encourage, support, care and witness.”

Now, I know I’ve opened up a whole can of worms here, but I look forward to hearing from you. I know people will have differing opinions and as I said before that is fine, however please can we keep any discussions civil, polite and let’s understand that we are all coming from different backgrounds with different struggles and and are all on differing journeys. I will not remove differing opinions but I reserve the right to remove posts that I feel may be intended to be hurtful. That said, debate away!!!