Thursday, June 5, 2008

All good things...

Hi, everyone. Hope you all had a good couple of weeks. At long last, I have returned with goodies to share...

I learned a couple of tough lessons in the last few days. Not harsh rebukes or a painful process of discipline, just concepts that, frankly, a new Christ Follower like me needs to learn eventually, preferably sooner than later, and that for a former nonbeliever might be really difficult to wrap one's faith around. After all, as a nonbeliever, you wrap yourself in the cloak of "it's not possible." Some of that follows one into Christianity. Maybe not all new Christians, but I'll bet a goodly portion of them have trouble with this. Let me explain.

Someone raised in a healthy Christian home is taught from infancy that the Lord is real, alive and integral to our daily existence. All concepts spoken of in the Bible are commonplace topics of conversation among others of like faith. Even many of those who turn away don't stop believing; they just stop communicating with God. Someone who never really believed in the first place, like me, can be thrust into the world of God's people very quickly after the realization that the Lord is in fact real, and wants relationship with us on a personal level. One hears all sorts of unfamiliar diatribe that he/she used to shy away from. Concepts of faith healing, speaking in tongues, praying in groups, gifts of the Spirit, etc. don't often come up in mixed company, unless someone is poking fun at Christians, like I used to. To hear oneself speaking of these things seriously in a group of believers, all listening politely and not laughing at the one speaking is, for some, almost surreal. And processing them as part of the reality of God's kingdom, for real, no foolin', honest-to-goodness and all that, well, that's a horse of a different colour.

But it goes far deeper than that. Max Lucado writes that one of the fundamental questions people need to ask themselves when confronted with the Word of God is this: "Can I believe this?" Not, "Do I," or "Must I," but "Can I?" Here is where faith is tested at the core of our existence. I used to think I had to believe or do all the things God commands and swallow some pretty tough concepts whether I really believed them or not. This, I find recently, is not what it means to follow God's commands. It's simply, 'keeping up with the Christian Joneses.' The Lord doesn't want half-hearted faith and works without faith, "all our righteous acts are like filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6) before Him. So can we believe that His Word is true, really true, and not just the popular diatribe spouted off by half-hearted, cookie-cutter Christians regurgitated in the hopes that God will show favour to them for evangelizing in His name when in fact they don't really know if it's true or not? The Word is true, my friends. Don't just say it. KNOW IT!

How do we know it? God promises that if "you seek the LORD your God, you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul." (Deuteronomy 4:29). How then shall we seek Him? A number of avenues are open to us. We are not simply commanded to be weak-minded peons created to be used as pawns in some huge game that we were not meant to understand, just accept. A great many churches these days preach that same message: "Don't question the Lord. He will punish you. Just do what He commands without question and put extra in the collection plate and you'll be OK." Why would God create us with a curious mind and a strong human will if not to use them to seek out the truth of His Word? We were made to find our way back to Him! Isn't that awesome?! As I said, many avenues are open to us. So, I'll lay a few of them out there as I see them.

The first in my mind is prayer. Asking God if He is real, if He is there and if He sees us and loves us anyway is how I personally came to find Him. He answered me with a resounding, "YES!" The experience is different for everyone, and I'm not offering anything resembling a formula for proper prayer that the Lord will certainly answer so that there will be no doubt in your mind. In fact, all I'm saying is that if you ask, he will answer. How is solely left to His all-wise discretion.

Secondly, I encourage those who've ever been told by a 'Christian' that science is against God to take a look at that again. Scientific studies today are pointing to evidence of intelligent design like never before. The Theory of Evolution is sinking fast, as science punches more and more holes in its already shaky hull. This is not to say that Charles Darwin and his ilk are nothing but idiots. Someone who is distant from the Lord may possess a high degree of intelligence, but may not allow room for God into his search for truth. Science, by its very nature is the search for the truth. I believe it is one of the methods God empowered us with to find Him. We are learning more and more about the laws of the universe, about how if certain things like the range of gravity or the rate of expansion of the universe were off by just a slight amount, life could not exist. If the sun were hotter or cooler; if we were a few thousand miles closer or further away from it; if we were outside of the habitable zone of the Milky Way galaxy; if, if, if... Any of those conditions would result in the impossibility of life on Earth. Further, up to this point there has been NO evidence to support the theories of multiple universes, or that the universe was created in a great explosion, or that life began as the result of a random chemical reaction enacted by lightning hitting a pool of primordial slime and creating the amino acids that are the building blocks of life. These are easy theories that were generated by the minds of men struggling to find a way to explain creation without a Creator. These ideas can even be demonstrated using contrived conditions in a lab, but real scientific evidence today seems to point to an Intelligence behind creation and sadly, scientists who say so tend to be thrown out of the scientific community by the others. The genome, DNA, bacterial flagella, the living cell, gravity, magnetism, the Cambrian Explosion. Look them up. Take time to really understand them. You may be surprised to find how hard it is to believe secular theorists after seeing the majesty of what God made.

Third, read the Bible. I kid you not. Anyone can sit and watch a TV evangelist regurgitate some lesson from Scripture and then choose to see it their way or not. Anyone can take what they may have learned about God in public school if they are my age, or the basic knowledge of Christianity they may pick up from casual references to Him they hear in passing. But to investigate His Word for themselves is a way of truly seeking Him with intent to find Him. To inform oneself about something is the only way to discern whether to accept or reject it as truth. People who say that the Bible contradicts itself have not read it, or were looking for contradictions to begin with and the mere appearance of contradiction sets them off dancing victoriously that they've found evidence that God is false. Well, brothers and sisters, any apparent contradiction may come from the fact that the Bible was written by many different authors interpreting God's Word for the writing of His story. If the accounts, like the Gospels for example, were identical, the secularists would scream "COLLUSION! They must have all got their stories straight before they wrote it." But the whole of the Bible is the beginning-to-end dynamic that can shape a person's life in the way they were intended to be. It is the solution to all of the world's problems. Why is the Bible full of war? To show why war is not the way! Why is the Bible full of casual premarital sex and adultery? To show why it is wrong and expose the damage it can do to families and individual lives. Why is the Bible full of stories of people who say they are righteous and then go and commit murder, sexual sin, thievery, blasphemy and the worshiping of idols, and then some are punished while some are forgiven by God? Well, read for yourself and talk to others and the why will be revealed. I guarantee it. Read it again, and more will be revealed. Read it daily, and the Lord will reveal Himself to you through His Word. You can trust that, readers. Trust Him. He loves us and would never lead us astray.

Some go into the wilderness and wait for visions. Some climb mountains and call out to Him. Some cloister themselves away in monasteries and study ancient religious texts. Whatever method you are called upon to undertake to find the Lord your God, I suggest you follow it. God wants every single person to come to Him.

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