Posts Tagged ‘life’

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!

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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!!

The disciples of Jesus asked Him how they should pray, in His reply He teaches them what we now know as the Lords Prayer. So, what is this teaching all about? These disciples ask Jesus how to pray and what they get in return is one prayer? Or do they get a template on how to pray? So what do we have? He had been in close communion with His Father and he knew the right way to approach and communicate with Him. The Lord’s prayer is a template on how to commune with the Father. So, let’s have a look…

Our Father

Approach Him with respect recognising the right relationship between God and us.

In heaven

Let’s make no mistake who we’re talking to here, we are approaching the creator God of Heaven who made all that exists. Heaven is out of sight, and a world of spirits, therefore our conversation with God in prayer must be spiritual; it is on high, therefore in prayer we must rise above the world, and lift up our hearts.

Hallowed be your name

Hallowed – to make holy. Holy be your name, Holy is your name. A statement of Worship and statement of Praise. Psalm 100 tells us that we

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. “

Basically worship, praise, thanksgiving draws us into the presence of God. If we want to get God’s attention there is no better way than to praise Him.

Let Your Kingdom come

Let your rule, your reign, commence. Have your way with me. I am your servant. I am willing to be submissive to all you want to do in and through me. I acknowledge you are the King and ruler of my life.

Let your will be done

Not my will Lord, not my agenda, but yours. I want to know your will. I want to pray that Your will in all situations, whether I like it or not, be done. Now, I think this is a massively important point and one we continually pass over. We are so busy telling God what we want Him to do for us and those we know we miss what He might be wanting to do. We come with our shopping lists asking God to heal this person and help that person and give this person money and that person a job etc. etc. and we don’t stop to ask God what he would like to do in any given situation. We need to step back, say God this is the situation, what do YOU want to do in it? Seek God for His will and then ask Him to do it. When we find God’s will and then pray that into a situation we suddenly find God answers. Funny that!!

On Earth as it is in Heaven

We long for Christ to return and for God’s perfect rule to begin. Until then we are told that the Kingdom of God is at hand and we want to experience as much of that reality as possible. We are in the world but not of the world. We live here but are not under its rule. We want to usher in the Kingdom of God, we believe it starts in the here and now and we want that Kingdom on earth to expand.

Give us today our daily bread

So much can be taken from this one little line, in fact you can take it word by word.

Give

We are asking for the kindness of God. We’re not asking for a loan or for something we deserve or have earned we are asking for an unmerited gift from God.

Us

It is a term of inclusion. We’re not just asking for ourselves but for those around us. For those we love and care for.

Today

Here is our sense of urgency. As a new day is upon us we recognise the need for God’s provision. We need God’s provision for each day of our lives whether we recognise it or not.

Our

Here we recognise that we want God’s provision for us – we do not want the bread coming from others or due for others. We acknowledge that there is enough to go round and we don‘t want more than our share. We’re asking God to help us not to be selfish or greedy but to want what God wants to give us.

Daily

Thinking not of tomorrow, but trusting God for that, we ask for what is needed for today. We are aligning ourselves with our parts of the Bible that urge us not to worry about tomorrow but to stay focused on the here and now.

Bread

Here we are asking God for what is needed. Nothing fancy, simply bread. Yes, food to sustain us but also other everyday needs. God knows what we need and He is more than willing to provide that – we don’t need to spell out all our needs we simply need to acknowledge our need of God’s provision.

Forgive us our debts

An acknowledgement of our fallen, sinful nature; that we can be forgiven, redeemed and that God is the one who can forgive us. Taken in conjunction with the previous section the implication being that this is a daily request to continuously and constantly be forgiven. When this is prayed our slate is wiped clean once again.

As we also have forgiven our debtors

A call to duty. What good is it for us if we are forgiven but cannot forgive those who have wronged us? It is a great call to hope that if we can find it in our hearts to forgive those that have done wrong to us – how much more will God, whose forgiveness is perfect, readily forgive us.

And lead us not into temptation

We’ve admitted our sin, asked and received forgiveness and so it is natural that having a clean slate we ask for God’s help to keep it clean and not to err again. We are not saying that we believe God leads us into temptation but acknowledging the guiding hand and power of the spirit to lead us away from situations that may cause us to sin.

But deliver us from evil

We’ve asked for God to guide us away from situations that may cause us to sin. Now we are asking Him for His protection from the one who hounds us, the devil and all his agents. We are also asking for his deliverance from sin itself.

For thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory forever and ever Amen

And so we return to praise and adoration. Telling God what He has already told us. Affirming our hope that God can do all that we have asked of Him and so much more besides.

So Jesus was asked by His disciples how to pray and he gave them the Lord’s prayer. Now I don’t for one minute think that this was something that he came up with on the spare of the moment. We’re not told but my guess is that Jesus had been perfecting this prayer for years. Moulding it, perfecting it and using it as His own.

If you look at each petition they are all petitions that will receive a YES from God. Does God want to give us what we need – YES. Does God want to forgive us – YES. Does God want to deliver us for the devil – YES. God will always answer our prayers. However He will not always answer them in the way we would want. God will usually answer with a yes, a no or a wait! The Bible teaches us that God will give us what we need and whatever we ask, according to His will He will give us. Now, many people translate this as God will give us whatever we ask. So when they pray for a Ferrari and don’t get one they become disappointed and disillusioned. Their translation misses out the important part “according to His will”. The Lord’s prayer gives us a template to use in prayer helping us to pray according to the will of God. When we sincerely pray the Lord’s Prayer God will answer us in the affirmative. God is a God who provides for our needs but not necessarily for our desires. So when we pray we need to bear in mind our needs, not our wants and also have in mind what God may will for a situation.

In any situation that we face, in any situation that we pray about it is always worth praying first to try and discover God’s will for that situation. It is all too easy for us to try to force our will on God when His will is what really matters. If we can discover God’s will for a situation we can then go on to pray with confidence and certainty that He will answer us in the affirmative. Next week we’ll look at this in a little more depth but I just want to leave you with an example to help illustrate what I’m talking about…

 Your best friend gets very ill. Now, it’s our natural reaction to pray for healing. However, God knows the end from the beginning. He knows what is going to happen and what He wants to do in this situation. If it is not God’s will to heal your friend no amount of prayer for healing is going to change his mind. Therefore, it is better to seek God’s will for your friend and pray accordingly. It might be that God will is for your friend to learn something through this experience before God heals Him. Our prayers can help our friend learn that thing quicker and then God can bring about his healing. It may be for some reason or other that healing won’t take place immediately and what your friend really needs are prayers for patience, energy, peace etc. and not prayers for healing. It may be that God, in His wisdom, knows that your friend will not be healed and will in fact die (let’s face it we all die sometime). God’s will may be for you to pray for a strengthening of their faith or for a peace of mind or for their family in this difficult time. There is no point in us continuing to pray for healing when it is not God’s intention to heal. We are just banging our head against a wall which will never move. All it will serve to do is make us disappointed and disillusioned with God. However, if we can discover His will and pray accordingly we will see wonderful results and be encouraged and strengthened in our faith.

I don’t know about you but life seems to be flying by! You spend your childhood wanting to be a teenager and your teenage years wanting to be an adult. When you reach adulthood you long to be a teenager again and soon after that you’re on the home stretch. Life really isn’t that long. Before we know it it will have passed us by and we’ll be left wondering where it all went to.

 

Some of you will have started this New Year with some resolutions. A few of you will have broken them already!! I watched a Facebook thread unfold yesterday about New Year resolutions. People were going to lose weight, sort out their finances, be happier, spend more time with family, get fitter and work less. These are all admirable things and I could probably benefit from perusing all of them. However it got me thinking about all the things we really should do but put off year in and year out. I’m not talking here about the back bedroom that really could do with a lick of paint but no-one really sees it or the book that Auntie Maud gave you that you ought to read but “Using Quantum Physics in Everyday Cooking” doesn’t really strike you as that interesting a read! I’m talking here about things we put off without necessarily knowing it.

 

Most of us are really good at putting things off. We put off getting life insurance until we get really sick. We put off visiting old relative until their funeral. We put off buying a new car until we’re broken down miles from anywhere with the tow truck on its way. However there are some things we really should not put off any longer, because who knows when it may be suddenly too late. I have a friend whose philosophy is “do it now for tomorrow you may be hit by a bus”. It sounds a bit grim but it means she lives for the moment and never regrets not doing things because she’s already done them. Another grim but true story that I love is that of a gunman who goes into a church during a service. He marches to the front and puts the gun to the Pastor’s head and tells the Pastor that he is going to kill him. The Pastor replies “By all means pull the trigger for I know exactly where I’m going, Do you?” The gunman had never thought about it but the Pastor, as he stared death in the face, had thought through the greatest issues of life (and indeed death) and had come to strong hope filled conclusions.

 

My New Year challenge to you it not to put off the bigger things in life any more!! And our commitment to you this year is to help you think through some of those bigger things. This year at What If…? we will be tackling some of those big things that we tend to put off thinking about. Such issues as…

 

  • What happens when we die?

  • Is there more to life than what we can see?

  • Is there a heaven and a hell?

  • Do all religions lead to God?

  • If there is a God why does he let people suffer?

  • Can a God of Love send people to hell?

  • Am I too bad to be saved?

  • Is it really worth looking into the claims of Christianity?

  • Is there truth in the Bible?

  • Does science hold all the answers?

  • Was Jesus who he said he was?

  • Isn’t Christianity past its sell-by-date?

We’d love for you to explore with us these and many other questions of life and faith. We want to hear your thoughts, whether you agree or disagree with us we’d love to dialogue with you. We hope and pray that you have a wonderful new Year and that you grapple with some of life’s biggest questions with us and not put them off!

 

Contrary to what the media would have us believe the vast majority of people in this world are not mass murderers, sexual deviants, fraudsters, cheats, thieves and so on. Most of us are law abiding, charitable, good people who care for our families and friends and even keep an eye out for the elderly person next door! We’ve never been to prison, don’t beat our wives and don’t even speed that often. So why do we need a saviour when we’re not bad people?

 

Well let’s start by being really honest with ourselves. We may be pretty good most of the time but can we really say we never have our bad moments? Moments where our goodness takes a back seat and the little devil on our shoulder wins? We may not have murdered anyone but we have thought unkind thoughts about others. We may not have had an affair but we have mentally undressed someone that we shouldn’t have. Even when we get outside our heads we’ve done little things that we’re not proud of. We’ve said things that were hurtful, unhelpful and undeserved. We’ve done things that we hope people don’t find out about even if it’s just talking behind someone’s back. There are things in our lives that we have done that are wrong. We’re not going to get the police knocking our door down for them but they are still wrong. The Bible tells us in the book of Romans that “all have sinned”. We also read in 1 John that

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us”.

Many people think of themselves a basically good but the Bible clearly tells us that we all fall short of the standard that God has for us.

 

When God created man they lived together in the Garden of Eden. We are told in Genesis that God walked in the garden with them. God and man were together, there was no separation. However, man did what God commanded him not to do and sin entered the world and into the relationship between man and God. God and man were separated by this sin. In 2 Corinthians we are reminded that

what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”

God who is all good cannot be together with fallen people and therefore there became this gaping void between man and God caused by man’s wrongdoings. We cannot bridge that gap. However good we are or however hard we try we cannot reach God on our own. It doesn’t matter if we are Hitler or Mother Theresa. We can never be good enough. It’s like people trying to jump across the Grand Canyon. You could train for years and not even come close to making it. Some, of course, would jump further than others. Some would train for years and some just going for it but the end result would always be the same.

 

So there’s the bad news – None of us are good enough to reconcile ourselves back to God. However, at the other end of the scale none of us are bad enough to escape the next part!!! God doesn’t want any of us to be separated from Him. Our sin had done this but God wasn’t going to let that be the end of the story. Probably the best know Bible verse John 3: 16 states that

“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.”

God sacrificed that which was most precious to him to bridge the gap between Him and us. No-one is beyond that love which caused God to give His son for us. No-one is good enough not to need the sacrifice that Jesus made and no-one is bad enough that their sins are not covered by that sacrifice.

 

If we believe that we are too good to need a saviour then we do not receive what God has done for us and Christ died in vain. If we believe we are too bad and are beyond saving we also do not receive what God did for us and Christ’s suffering and death was in vain. The price has already been paid to reconcile us with God the only thing we have to do is accept it or reject it. If we believe we are good and don’t need a saviour we don’t have to ask Christ to die for us because He has already done it. We just need to accept it. Why try and jump across the Grand canyon when someone has already hired a helicopter to take you over to the other side. It’s all paid for, the helicopters going anyway you just need to decide to get on board and enjoy the flight!

We live in a blame culture! When something goes wrong someone has to, not only be to blame but they have to, take the blame as well! We love to point the finger, proclaiming our innocence and somebody else’s fault!

 

Terrorists pilot planes into buildings and those fingers never stop wagging. We blame the terrorists; their families and friends; their religion and country of birth; we blame people in power for not stopping it; we blame airport security firms for not preventing it; we blame our government for causing the hate in the first place; we even blame emergency services for not saving more lives. All this is even before we turn our wagging fingers of blame at God!! How could He let this happen!! Why did He not prevent it? How can He love us and yet allow this to take place!!

 

When tragedy strikes it is easy for us to blame God. We don’t think about Him for years on end but when something goes wrong He becomes the focus of our wagging finger. It’s so much easier for us to blame something external. We blame God because He’s big enough He can take it. We blame God because that gives us some solace. Although we don’t usually acknowledge His existence when the chips are down we gain comfort from the fact that someone is in control. When our lives fall apart we want to know that someone has it all together, even if we don’t understand their actions and in fact blame them for what has happened. We may never thank God or even admit His existence in the good times but when the bad times come along God becomes a little more real in our lives even if He is just the butt of our anger and blame.

 

However, is it right that God be the focus of our blame when things go wrong? Well I guess in a small way it is. God created us, He brought us into being and therefore is in some part responsible for all the pain, sickness and tragedy that occurs in our life. He created the universe in which we live so anything bad that befalls us that is a result of our environment could be blamed on God as well. But do we blame our parents for all bad things in our lives just because they brought us into being? We may blame them for a poor upbringing or lack of love or a whole host of other things but do we blame them for us being born? I would say that we’re more thankful to them for the opportunity that they gave us in giving us life. Do we blame the builder of our house when bad things happen within it? Not usually, I would guess, because we have built upon the shell of the house. We have created our own environment within our homes so when we burn ourselves on the cooker it is not the builder of the house who is to blame. The same is true of our world. God created the world but man has created the environment in which we live.

 

Here we are not just talking about a physical environment but also an environment of greed, lust, selfishness, anger, lies, injustice, violence, hatred, pride, materialism, secularisation, power, unfaithfulness, crime and the list could roll on and on. Many of the so called natural disasters that we used to blame on God are now being shown to be man-made. Famines are no longer seen as being natural occurrences but are now seen as the greed of the few at the cost of many. Environmental changes that cause floods, droughts and other so-called natural phenomenon are now being linked to man-made causes.

 

Our actions have seen consequences but many unseen consequences as well. We’ve all heard of the butterfly effect, domino effect and chain reactions, these clearly illustrate that small actions can have far reaching consequences. What we do matters. What we do has consequences and we need to be aware of that both as individuals, communities and the wider populace. Many of our actions have far reaching consequences that we don’t really understand. Many time when we may be blaming God we should perhaps be pointing the finger back at ourselves. There is a wonderful saying that says that “God allows in His wisdom that which he could prevent by His power”. God had given us freewill. It is a most wonderful gift. For God to prevent many bad things happening would be an infringement of this freewill. We are free to be greedy and allow others to starve. We are free to get angry and inflict pain on others. We are free to lie, cheat and make any number of other poor choices. God loves us enough to allow us to make our own mistakes. Just as a parent allows their child to learn to ride a bike knowing that they will probably hurt themselves, God allows us to do things where we will get hurt or indeed hurt others. Would you blame a parent for allowing their child to further themselves?

 

Perhaps it is time for us as individuals and us as a society to stop wagging the finger of blame at each other and at God. Perhaps we need to wake up to our own responsibilities and take on some of the blame ourselves. I guess it’s an easy option to blame God, His shoulders are broad enough and it’s unlikely he’s going to come round after dark to pick a fight. But if we are going to blame God when things go wrong, if we are going to get angry at Him (and that is allowed) we also have to thank Him when things go right. He also wants us to trust Him when things don’t go as we’d like. He is big enough to take the blame (even if undeserved) but He is also big enough to care for you when things go wrong. It is at these times that we most need His help and He is there to do just that!

 

Well, my week progressed much better than it began last week.  (See the Part 1 post from last week for more on that)

My son’s health improved.

I drove safely to work in New Orleans.

I am now stopped for a break from driving for a few minutes while I am on my way back home from New Orleans.

I just finished a phone conversation with someone from work regarding the project we just launched this past week.  Seems to go along very well with this issue of planning not always panning out as hoped.

You see, I work with healthcare computer systems.

Myself and a couple of other co-workers recently developed and launched an innovative, cutting-edge computerized nursing documentation tool which intuitively guides nurses in more accurately assigning a stage (level) to a patient’s pressure ulcer.  They stage them in order to track their progression of healing or worsening as well as to know better how to treat the ulcer based on evidence proven to help in the healing process.

This new tool is so innovative and needed in this field that it has recently been presented in a national Wound Nurse Conference and has even more recently been awarded first place in our hospital’s annual nursing poster/project competition which was judged by an external panel of nursing school professors.

Now, with all of that said, there is no amount of planning and programming that can replace the human mind and its ability to make decisions.

Now that this tool is in use, we are finding some flaws in it, which we expected, but are also seeing errors based on poor judgment due to lack of knowledge.

My point?

We can guide and direct and suggest and even offer additional resources for accurate and informed decision-making, but ultimately the choice is up to the individual.

In spite of the thorough, extensive planning involved in this project, we cannot force people to make accurate decisions 100% of the time.

Life is very similar.

Our God has given us tools, evidence, support, direction, suggestions, and even examples from previous wrong choices made by individuals.

We, however, still often choose to go our own way, try out our own ideas, ignore the resources available to us, and just flat out refuse to trust the One who has a specific plan for us.

The difference here is that our God is not faulty in His planning and preparation and orchestration of the day-to-day events, big and small.  He is in no way weak or powerless in spite of the fact that we often choose to ignore His guidance.  Even that, He has a plan for.  He lets us choose our way, but He can and will intervene when necessary in order to work out His perfect will in our lives and for the sake of His glory.

Even if you’ve been ignoring and/or avoiding Him for a very long time, it is never too late.  His guidance is always there.  His Word is our Resource.  He will even send people along to help us understand things a bit better so that we can choose to make better decisions.  No matter how many bad decisions you or I have made, the next one can be the right one.

Don’t throw in the towel just because you’ve messed up in the past…even in the past few minutes.

Trust our Divine Planner, our Creator, our Father, our God.

Admit you don’t have it all figured out, and trust His guidance today!

Imagine this…

It’s a Monday (we all know how much we love Mondays).

You wake up with a sore throat.

You go to the car to take your son to school and a tire is flat (and you have to drive several hours out of town in a couple of days for work).

After a conference call meeting for work discussing a huge project with its deadline being tomorrow and many things not being ready for the deadline, you get a phone call from school that your son is sick.

When you get him home, his temperature is very high (103.2 degrees Fahrenheit).

Between work conference call meetings, you drive him to the doctor and back and forth to the pharmacy for medicine.

Unexpected large bills come in the mail, just a few days after your PayPal account has been hacked and hundreds of dollars of money have been stolen from your bank account.

Are you getting a sense that I didn’t make any of this up?

I didn’t.

This has been my week.

So, where is God in all of this?

He is everywhere.  He is my Strength, my Hope, my Guide.  I was never promised a life of ease as a Christian, and neither are you.  Do all of these crazy, unexpected, seemingly unfair things mean that God doesn’t love us or even that He doesn’t exist.

No.  Not at all.  Throughout His Word we can see that His people struggled and we are even told we will struggle as well.  But, as my BSF Teaching Leader said when discussing our Isaiah Bible Study, “People who focus on God see everything else through Him;  those who focus on fear rarely see anything else.”

As Jesus says of His Word and all that He has told us, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Sometimes life seems unfair, but remember Jesus.  Remember what He willingly did for us by being brutally beaten and murdered and left to die on a cross so that He could shed His blood once, for all, to pay the price for our sin before we had even committed it.  And for us, this forgiveness and pardon and freedom is offered as a FREE gift.

Now THAT is unfair.

But I am so thankful that God doesn’t choose to be fair, but instead chooses love.

Will you accept that today if you haven’t already?  If you are running from Him, give up the fight.  Come back to Him.

We would be glad to help you with this if you have any questions.  Just go to our Contact Us page and send us an email…or just comment on this post if you would like.

Imagine, if you will, a trip to the Grand Canyon. You arrive and spend a week exploring one of the greatest sites on the planet. You see it from the air as you arrive, you walk down into it and spend the night at the bottom. You visit the North, South and West rims. You visit the gift shops and buy your souvenirs. You see the canyon at sunrise and sunset and every time in between. Finally you head for home. When you arrive home you’re told that the Grand Canyon doesn’t exist. Imagine how you would feel. Imagine your unbelief of what you are being told. You’ve been there, experienced it and now you’re being told that all of that was untrue.

 

I guess this is a little of what I feel when I try to imagine Christianity not being true. I’ve believed it, I’ve stepped out in faith, I’ve experienced it, I’ve found it to be true. I’ve tested it and evaluated it. I have seen God at work in my life and in the lives of others. I have felt His presence and seen answers to my prayers. This is all to say that trying to imagine that Christianity is just a Myth is an extremely difficult things for me to do. I know you can discount the experiences of others but when you’ve experienced something it is hard to discount it.

 

Having said that lets have a look at the bottom line. Belief in God is a leap of faith. However, let’s not confuse that with blind faith. Belief in God is not blind faith. Belief in God is about looking at the available information that you have, evaluating it and then coming to a decision. So belief in God does take faith and therefore isn’t something you can prove. You have to trust that you have based your decisions on correct information, made wise judgements and trusted in something that not only intellectually viable but is also true! So, at the end of the day what if you based your decision on a myth?

 

Now, I know that this whole subject might just seem like a exercise in covering one’s back but what I’m wanting to convey is that a step of faith isn’t such a major thing. It’s not about diving headlong into a gaping chasm, it’s about taking small steps, carefully exploring and finding out wonderful things along the way. If at the end of the day you decide it’s not true you will have lost nothing, even if you live your whole life as a Christian only to discover it was a myth you will have lost nothing. If Christianity is not true, when you die that is it, no judgement, no hell, just nothing!! Your body, mind, spirit, soul is no more. Whatever you believed makes no difference. We will all find ourselves in the same boat.

 

But will you look back with huge regrets? Regrets of living your life for something that’s not true? If I were to get to the end of my life and discover somehow that Christianity were not true I would be gutted, but not because of a life wasted. I believe that so much of the teaching of the Bible is the best way to live. Even if you were to take away the bed-rock of the truth of the Bible, if you were to say that God didn’t exist I would argue that much of the teaching of the Bible, even being man created, gave us the best way to live. Even disregarding the Bible altogether I believe that it is…

 

  • better to love than to hate

 

  • better to pursue peace than war

 

  • better to give than receive

 

  • better to put others first than yourself

 

  • better to faithful than unfaithful or faithless

 

  • better to be sincere than insincere

 

  • better to be truthful than to lie

 

  • better to be selfless rather than be self-seeking

 

  • better to be polite rather than be rude

 

  • better to be satisfied rather than be dis-satisfied

 

  • better to be focussed rather than be aimless

 

  • better to see the good in people rather than the bad

 

  • better to be trusting rather than sceptical

 

  • better to hate injustice rather than embrace it

 

  • better to work for the good rather than evil

 

  • better to help rather than to hinder

 

  • better to build up rather than to destroy

 

  • better to see people as equal rather than superior or inferior

 

  • better to provide rather than withhold

 

  • better to respect rather than disrespect

 

  • better to persevere rather than give up

 

  • better to live in unity rather than in discord

 

  • better to forgive than to hold grudges

 

  • better to seek forgiveness rather than revenge

 

I’m sure the list could go on. Surely a life lived by these principles won’t hold too many regrets. If God does not exist a life lived as if he does exist will not be wasted or full of regrets – it will be a life lived along great principles, for others, with passion and with hope. But hey, I truly believe that you’d have an easier task convincing me that the Grand Canyon didn’t exist than convincing me that God didn’t.

 

 

Do you Ripple like Grateful Dead?

Posted: October 6, 2010 by Haelie in What About...
Tags: , , , , ,

Positive or negative, I must admit that Grateful Dead truly has had a ripple effect, as have many music and entertainment icons over time.

However, the “Ripple” to which I am referring is actually one of their songs.

A friend of mine mentioned to me recently that he had a bit of an epiphany when this song came on Pandora as it not only reminded him of how much he has always liked “Ripple” but also made him realize why he liked it so much – beyond the Jerry Garcia music part.  He said it was because the lyrics (written by Robert Hunter) “just absolutely slammed (him).”

Then he requested my thoughts on it.

So, here I will provide you with the lyrics followed by my thoughts on them:

Ripple 

If my words did glow with the gold of sunshine
And my tunes were played on the harp unstrung
Would you hear my voice come through the music
Would you hold it near as it were your own?

It’s a hand-me-down, the thoughts are broken
Perhaps they’re better left unsung
I don’t know, don’t really care
Let there be songs to fill the air

(Chorus)

Ripple in still water
When there is no pebble tossed
Nor wind to blow

Reach out your hand if your cup be empty
If your cup is full may it be again
Let it be known there is a fountain
That was not made by the hands of men

There is a road, no simple highway
Between the dawn and the dark of night
And if you go no one may follow
That path is for your steps alone

(Chorus)

Ripple in still water
When there is no pebble tossed
Nor wind to blow

You who choose to lead must follow
But if you fall you fall alone
If you should stand then who’s to guide you?
If I knew the way I would take you home

My thoughts:
Those are very good and deep lyrics (no water pun intended). 

Makes me think of how we all have our own intended path & purpose in life that no one else can fill.  Also that our words and action may be that ripple that start small but ultimately reach much farther.

And the reference to leading yet following…perfect example of a good, true leader – a servant leader.  I personally think of Jesus in that aspect because He was/is the true servant leader who taught His disciples and us, His followers, to lead by serving and genuinely caring for others regardless of whether they recognize or appreciate it and regardless of whether the love and service is returned.
Also, to me, the reference to the fountain not made by the hands of men, a very clear reference to the fountain of living water of eternal life and ultimate, eternal fulfillment in Jesus.  He says in John 4 to the woman at the well, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (Referring to His Holy Spirit which comes to live in us when we ask Him to and confess that we believe in Him.) 

Even the songs references to reaching out your hand if it is empty reflect that initial asking for the drink of Living Water. And though we, as believers, have His Spirit in full forever in us, some days we feel less full and drained from this life and don’t always live in the fullness of His power and love that is in us, so in those times, all we have to do is tap into the One who resides in us and we will feel full again.

Oh, and then, the part about the road, ours as followers of Christ is just that – a narrow, road – not a simple highway. We are assured in the Bible that there will be few who will follow that road, so many times we feel we are even on it alone.  The road of faith is often lonely and is tough, because it is just that – faith – “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1).”  So as we walk that road, we are, like the song says, risking falling “alone” since so many others choose not to walk that road at all for fear of being wrong. But the hope and assurance I have, which I feel the song writer at that time was just on the edge of but not quite ready to go there, is that I am not alone. My God is always with me and though no one on this earth may be able to guide me safely, He is my guide as I stand and as I fall and is leading me safely home.

That’s my take on the song.

What is yours?  I would love to hear your feedback.
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