Posts Tagged ‘meaning’

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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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!!

Let me tell you two mini stories. The first concerns my Great Uncle Neville (Whall) who people used to call Nunkie. He died well before I was born but two stories have been passed down to me about him. Both concern his great passion in life, cycling. The first tells that he was the president some cycling organisation and used to cycle all over the UK and Europe. As part of this role he went on to jointly found the Youth Hostel Association. The second tells of him cycling in the grounds of Windsor Great Park and meeting King George VI. There is a photo somewhere of my Great Uncle explaining to the King how the gears on his bike work.

 

Now the second story concerns me at school. I was never too keen on education, as my results and school reports will attest to. One of my favourite comments found in one of my old school reports states that “Nathan has decided that this subject is superfluous to his requirements”! If something interested me I would work hard and do well, if it did not then no amount of cajoling would make me do any work for it.

 

Both of these stories are, to the best of my knowledge and memory permitting, true. However, there is a difference in their reliability. The first story has been handed down to me. Facts may have been embellished or forgotten. In fact I’ve had to check with my dad some of the information before putting it down on paper. If someone wanted to find out the accuracy of the story they would have great difficulty. I’m sure that in the archives of the Youth Hostelling Association there may be a mention of it’s founders but my Uncle might not have wanted to push his name to the forefront. He may be mentioned, he may not. I’m sure King George VI didn’t drive back to Windsor Castle and write an account of meeting my Uncle. I don’t even know if he got my Uncle’s name. It would be an account that is very hard to prove or disprove. However, with the second story things would be slightly easier. If someone wanted to prove or disprove this story their task would be fairly simple. For a start they could be shown my report cards. They could interview my teachers and fellow class mates. They could interrogate me, my parents and family. It would soon become obvious whether this story was true or not.

 

So what on earth have these two stories got to do with the reliability of the gospels. Well, hopefully I can explain. For hundreds of years it was thought that the gospels were written by people in the 2nd Century. They were accounts that had been passed down through families or churches or groups of people. They were thought to be very much second hand accounts just like the story of my Great Uncle. It was thought that when they were written down the people that had been involved in the events were long since dead. You couldn’t have gone to them to verify the facts. You couldn’t have proved or disproved what was being written. However outrageous it seemed there was no proof to be had, no-one to argue against it. However, later research suggests that the gospels were all very likely written before the year A.D.70. So it also seems likely that they were first hand accounts of what happened. Many of the first people to read these accounts would have known the people involved. They could have checked out if the stories were true. The writers wouldn’t have been able to pull the wool over the eyes of people that had been around at the time. If I had written a famous book claiming to be an “A star” student people would soon step forward to tell the world that I was not. If the Bible were written within the lifetime of the events it would soon have become obvious if they were no more than lies or exaggerations. People would not have been prepared to suffer and die for what others were calling blatant lies. The whole idea of Christianity would have been extinguished before it even got started. There are no accounts of people calling into question the reliability of the Gospel account.

 

Backing up the Bible.

 

The Gospels as historical texts don’t stand alone. Events that take place within the Gospels are mentioned by Flavius Josephus a Jewish historian who wrote around A.D. 37 – A.D. 100; Tacitus a Roman Historian who wrote around A.D. 55 – A.D. 117; Thallus who wrote around A.D. 55; Pliny the younger who was governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor and also in the Talmud.

 

If you take the view that the writers of the new testament set out to deceive, to write lies and to create this new Religion called Christianity you have to ask three questions…

1.  What was their Motive? The writers gained neither fame or fortune from their writings – their writing did not push themselves to the forefront. In fact it bought them nothing but persecution. Why would they set out to try and deceive?

 

2. Why would they write the way they did? There are two major things that don’t add up unless the only motive of writing these accounts was to portray a true and accurate picture of the actual events that took place. Firstly, why would they write it in such an embarrassing way. The Gospels are written in a way that portrays the disciples as people who always got things wrong. Why would they write about Peter denying Christ; why would they include that the disciples we often afraid and got things wrong; that so many deserted him on the cross, that they misunderstood; said the wrong things. Secondly, why would they include stuff that was so difficult to explain or even seeming at odds with their beliefs. For example why would they make up that Jesus got baptised? At first sight this would seem to show that Jesus was not perfect as a perfect man would have no need to be baptised. These sort of things would clearly cast doubt on what they were trying to get across and would have been left out had they been trying to deceive.

 

3. Would they really have carried the lie through until death? It might have been fun for a while to try and deceive people. They used their great minds to create something spectacular. But, let’s face it would they really have gotten so wrapped up in their lies and deceit that they would all be willing to die for some fabrication? If it were just one of them you could imagine that he was overtaken by his web of lies and could, perhaps, not tell reality from the lie, but all of the writers, all of the disciples, all of the martyrs? It just doesn’t make sense.


All of this doesn’t add up to prove that the Bible is true but I do hope that along with other blogs in the series “What If the Bible is Valid” it will go to show that the Bible has a lot more validity than many people would have to believe. It is not just a book that can be discounted or that you have to belief with blind faith. If you put all the pieces together you will hopefully see that the Bible is a factual document that is worth looking into.

 

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.

 

 

Wake up.  Get ready for work or school.  Go there.  Do your thing.  Go home.  Eat supper.  Get ready for bed.  Go to bed.  Get up and do it all again the next day.

Then there’s the weekend.  A little different, but basically a repeat of last weekend.

Add into the mix struggles with money, school, job, family, friends, your own self…what’s the point of all of this?

Will it ever end?  Or at least seem meaningful?

As in “The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem:

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless.”

What does man gain from all his labor
at which he toils under the sun?

Generations come and generations go,
but the earth remains forever.

The sun rises and the sun sets,
and hurries back to where it rises.

The wind blows to the south
and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
ever returning on its course.

All streams flow into the sea,
yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
there they return again.

All things are wearisome,
more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
nor the ear its fill of hearing.

What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.

Is there anything of which one can say,
“Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time.

There is no remembrance of men of old,
and even those who are yet to come
will not be remembered
by those who follow.”  (Ecclesiastes Chapter 1 – NIV)

Do you feel like that “teacher”?  I have.  I understand very well his ponderings.

Why do I live each day to only get up and do the same thing all over again?  Some barely make it through each one, others seem to “successfully” breeze through their days, but most of us regardless of our situation have found ourselves saying these same things.

Is there more to life than “this”?

Yes, there is.

Life is much more than each of those repetitive things we seemingly do without purpose at times.  We are not here to become successful and make profit.  We are not here to find our inner selves and attain the highest level of inner peace possible within us.  We are not here to get over our low self esteem and achieve a place of having self worth.  Meaningless, meaningless, that is all meaningless…like chasing after the wind.

No, we will never find fulfillment in who we are or what we can do.  Sometimes it may seem like it, but that too is fleeting.

We are on this earth because our Creator loves us and has a specific plan for each of our lives.  He wants to commune with us and share with us glimpses of Who He is and who He plans to make us.  He wants to have us all come home to spend our eternity with Him, though in the mean time, He deliberately has each of us on this planet at this very time for an appointed reason.  And, while we are here, He desires for us to live this present earthly life abundantly by accepting His free gift of eternal life, right here, right now.

We don’t wait until we are no longer on this earth to live abundantly and eternally – it starts here and now…the minute you confess that you believe in Him and what He has done to pay for our sin by sending His Son to die on the cross for us.  The minute you accept that free, but by no means easy, gift He gave us.

I don’t know what His intentions for you are on this earth, but I do know that you and I are here “for such a time as this.” (See the story of Esther for more on that.)

I don’t know specifically why you are here, but I know that He says:

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” (Jeremiah 29:11)

And He says:

“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD.  ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.'”  (Isaiah 55:8-9)

I know that our Creator and Father longs to commune with us so that we can overflow with His love and mercy onto those around us who so need love and mercy that they cannot and are not getting anywhere else.  He wants to use us, even the bad things that have been a part of our lives, to show others how precious and freeing and peaceful His redemption and forgiveness can be in our lives.

Our world is hungry and thirsty for things much deeper and more eternal than food and drink.  Just like all of the things that seem so meaningless in this life cannot satisfy, looking inside ourselves or to other people on this earth will leave us feeling void and pointless.

Only He, our God, through His Son gives us purpose and fulfillment in our lives.

He will lead you.  Confess your need for Him because of your sin and lack of faith in Him and accept His gift right now.

He will guide you from there.  He will show you “the point.”

That’s why you’re here.