The Spiritual Adventure Pack – # 1When I was an atheist, there was nothing more mysterious to me thanthis: “Having faith in God.”I wondered, how does a rational person even begin to believe in God?Is it something that just happens to a person? Or brought on by acrisis where they’re forced to believe…they have no choice?Or maybe it’s nothing that dramatic. Maybe some people just find iteasy to believe in God, without needing much reason.Problem was, I wasn’t one of those.I am more of the analytical type, and I had a mound of questions thatcouldn’t be shoved aside.How about you? Would you like to believe in God, maybe even have apersonal connection with God…but you’re scared of being duped?I was terrified of the possibility of moving toward God only tofind out that nothing was there, and I had jumped to a laughable,must-fail falsehood.No thanks.Why did I even care?Because I was impressed by a friend of mine who was consistentlyloving toward others, smart, and had a clear sense of purpose inlife, all of which she attributed to God.It made me wonder, “Could God be real?”As we begin this exploration, I’d like to clear away somemisconceptions.1. Do you wonder if God is aloof and doesn’t really care, aboutyou? In this series, I’m going to show you why no one loves you, orintimately knows you, or desires a relationship with you more thanGod. Wait and see.2. Are you hoping that someday you’ll be so convinced, sooverwhelmed by the evidence for God, that you will have no choicebut to believe? Hate to tell you, but that’s never going to happen.No one, including myself, is 100% sure that God exists. (He isinvisible, you know.) God asks you to come to him, but he willnever overpower you to where you are forced to believe. If you’rewaiting for him to do that, good luck.3. Faith in God is not a possession, or an experience. It actuallyis a decision you make. It’s based on reasons, facts, and desire,just like most of life’s decisions.You get on a plane, believing that the pilot is sober, theinstruments work, and there’s no terrorist on board. You havereason to believe this, but you can’t be 100% sure. Still, you makea decision.Or, how about marriage? Of all the people you could marry, couldyou be 100% sure that this person is THE one for you to marry? Thatthey’ll be faithful to you? That they won’t murder you on yourhoneymoon? Well, no. But you have reason to believe that it’s agood decision, or you wouldn’t get married.In much the same way, we will look at the reasons pointing to God’sexistence and character. We’ll also look at the reasons against God(there are some!). And we’ll consider some valid reasons to ask himinto your life…or not.There are some people who prefer to hypothesize and philosophizeforever about God, and never land on anything. Never make adecision. But what if it’s important that you get on the plane?
The Spiritual Adventure Pack – # 2Hi JohnI have already mentioned that it’s a decision to believe in God ornot.And, you will never be 100% sure….but you can be pretty confidentbased on the facts.A few ground rules.Some people like to play the game of possibilities. I would like usto deal with probabilities. I think it makes more sense.For example, this story…A prisoner was blindfolded, set before a 17-man firing squad forexecution. At the moment of “Ready. Aim. Fire!” all 17 fired theirweapons. The man stood untouched. Now, it’s possible that thesemarksmen all missed. But it’s more probable that something wasrigged. Which are you going to believe?See what I mean?When it comes to evidence for God, some skeptics love to live inthe land of possibilities. And they have a right to choose that.However, to do so often requires a lot of imagination and reach.The evidence might point toward one, supernatural Creator. Thatmight seem like the most probable explanation.But then you’ll see someone flee to possibilities. And let meemphasize…possibilities that have no evidence supporting them.Like this line of reasoning: “Well, maybe, it is possible thatmaybe we got here by aliens!”And, I will grant you, that is a possibility.But it’s not the more probable answer. Here’s why. Even if youthink aliens are the source of our being on planet Earth…where didthese smart aliens come from? It still doesn’t discount one eternal supernatural Creator.Why do I keep saying, “One” Creator? Because science shows that allthat exists, and time itself, and even space, came from one source.Take a look:
Beginning of the Universe
How did the universe get here? Scientists confirm the Big Bang Theory and the beginning of the universe.
Scientists believe that our universe began with one enormous explosion of energy and light, which we now call the Big Bang. This was the singular start to everything that exists. The beginning of the universe, the start of space, and even the initial start of time itself.
Nothing we observe today existed prior to that exact moment.
Further, it was something outside of time, outside of space, and outside of matter that caused all of this to come into existence.
The realization that our universe started, and did not always exist, brings enormous challenges to nontheistic scientists.
Are scientists certain of this Big Bang Theory? Yes. In the late 1920’s, astronomer Edwin Hubble saw through his telescope that galaxies (some millions of light years away) were hurtling away from each other at fantastic speeds. This was not caused by some force thrusting them away from each other. Rather, they were still moving as a result of a primeval explosion, all from one point of origin.
In this point of origin, all the mass in the universe was compressed into a single point of infinite density…smaller than a single atom.2 Then in a cosmic explosion–the Big Bang–the universe came into being. Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate in Physics, gives further description, “At about one-hundredth of a second, the earliest time about which we can speak with any confidence, the temperature of the universe was about a hundred thousands million (1011) degrees Centigrade. This is much hotter than in the center of even the hottest star, so hot, in fact, that none of the components of ordinary matter, molecules, or atoms, or even the nuclei of atoms, could have held together.”3 He goes on, “The universe was filled with light.”
This eerily parallels the record, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…and God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”4 It came about not from matter, but from pronouncement. A spoken word. “Let there be light.”
Looking at the sacred texts of all the major religions, only the Bible describes what scientists have since discovered: there was an explosion of light and a beginning to our universe…from outside of the universe itself. With it came the very start of space, matter and time. It was a singular starting point for everything. Over and over in the Book of Genesis is the description, “And God said….” followed by “…and it was so.”
Instead, could our universe have come about through the laws of physics: such as gravity, electromagnetism, speed of light, etc.? No, because those things did not yet exist. The initial start of the universe itself produced the laws of physics and everything began without them.
The Beginning of the Universe – a Singular Start
Astrophysicist Robert Jastrow, a self-described agnostic, stated, “The seed of everything that has happened in the Universe was planted in that first instant; every star, every planet and every living creature in the Universe came into being as a result of events that were set in motion in the moment of the cosmic explosion. It was literally the moment of Creation. …The Universe flashed into being, and we cannot find out what caused that to happen.”5 As stated, this conclusion is distressing to atheistic scientists. To observe a reaction and not be able to document the cause is unsettling.
Jastrow concludes, “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”6
Imagine the relief of these scientists when astronomers Hermann Bondi, Thomas Gold, and Fred Hoyle advanced what became known as the “steady state” universe in 1948. Their theory was that the universe was infinite in age. Thus, no creation or no cause was needed.
Beginning of the Universe – Steady State Theory Proved False
However, in the 1960s, the steady state theory suffered a devastating blow when two radio engineers at Bell Labs (ArnoPenzias and Robert Wilson) discovered mysterious radiation coming from space. It came equally from all directions. When the temperature of the radiation was measured, its source was confirmed. This radiation did not always exist, or come from one part of the universe. It came from that singular, original moment of creation.
Later, in 1996, NASA’s Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite also further confirmed that the primordial background radiation pointed to an explosive start of the universe. The levels of hydrogen, lithium, deuterium, and helium that exist in our universe today confirm it as well.
Are there any scientists who still want to counter the implications of the Big Bang Theory? Yes. There are scientists who are uncomfortable living with: (1) an unknown cause or (2) the conclusion that God is the cause. So they opt for a third option.
Other Attempts to Explain the Beginning of the Universe
What explanation do these scientists give for the start to our entire universe, energy, time, and space?
They attempt to simply negate the foundational premise that science rests on: that everything that begins to exist must have a cause.
Physicist Victor Stenger says the universe may be “uncaused” and may have “emerged from nothing.”7 Philosopher Bertrand Russell adopted this position in a debate on the existence of God. He said, “The universe is just here, and that’s all.”8
It is one thing to state that something is eternal, and therefore no “cause” is necessary. But it is entirely different to scientifically observe the start of something, the instantaneous beginning of something, and then try to say that it had no cause.
Even David Hume, one of the most skeptical of all philosophers, regarded this position as ridiculous. For all his skepticism, Hume never denied causation. In 1754, Hume wrote : “I have never asserted so absurd a proposition as that anything might arise without cause.”9
Beginning of the Universe – Science Confirms
Pure scientific findings consistently point to only one conclusion: the universe had a singular start, an explosion, where everything we know–the universe, time, space, scientific laws we observe–all had a beginning. If you have ever wanted to believe in God, but certainly did not want to do so in contradiction of known scientific facts, science provides you reason to believe that God exists and powerfully created all things.
It is logical to conclude that God, who is from the beginning, eternal and outside of time, created time. God who is present everywhere and cannot be confined to space, created space. God who is spiritual, non-physical and outside of matter is the source of our universe and all that is. This is the message blatantly repeated throughout the Bible.
“Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.” Isaiah 40
“…for he commanded and they were created.” Psalms 148:5
The Bible says that God formed the earth to be inhabited, with us in mind from the start. He gave people his breath of life and a brief stay upon the earth with the full purpose that we would seek him and find him. If we do not come to know him, we have missed the entire purpose for our existence. Who knows better than God the reason for our being?
Do you want to know the Author of the universe? Here is what he promises, “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.“ James 4:8 If we will seek to know him, God says, “I will be found by you.“ Jeremiah 29:14 In fact, he states, “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom. Let not the mighty man boast in his might. Let not the rich man boast in his riches. But let him who boasts, boast in this: that he understands and knows me...” Jeremiah 9:23,24
We have an opportunity to know the God who brought about the beginning of the universe.
(1) omitted (2) DineshD’Souza, What’s So Great about Christianity, (Regnery Publishing, Inc,; 2007) p118. (3) Steven Weinberg; The First Three Minutes: A Modern View of the Origin of the Universe; (Basic Books,1988); p 5. (4) Genesis 1:1&3 (5) Robert Jastrow; “Message from Professor Robert Jastrow“; LeaderU.com; 2002. (6) Robert JastrowGod and the Astronomers; (Readers Library, Inc.; 1992) (7) Victor Stenger, “Has Science Found God?” (Free Inquiry, Vol. 19. No. 1), 2004. (8) Bertrand Russell and Frederick Copleston, “The Existence of God,” in John Hick, ed., The Existence of God (New York: Macmillan, 1964), p 175. (9) J.Y.T.Greid, ed., The Letters of David Hume (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1932), p 187.
Next email in “The Spiritual Adventure Pack,” I’ll unload a wholetruckload of evidences for God…the facts that led me to say, outloudto God, “Ok, you win.”I’ll also tell you what God did in my life, after that moment.Talk to you again soon!
The Spiritual Adventure Pack – # 3Hi JohnIn the last email we covered a little science…the start of theuniverse, physics, telescopes.In this “Spiritual Adventure Pack” I promise that we will not spendforever on science.I don’t even like science. I studied ArchitectureYet, oddly enough, God chose science and historical facts, to getmy attention. I guess he knew I needed something I couldn’t wordsmythor philosophize my way around.I’m about to show you the factual evidence, that can bring even a skeptic/atheist to make decision about God.If you’re waiting for more real-life “why bother with God,” “whatgood is he,” “what’s God like, anyway” kinds of questions…we willget to those too.However, I want you to have solid reasons to believe in God. Thekind of reasons that don’t change. Objective reasons, not affectedby how you feel on any given day.God is either there, or he isn’t. Whether we believe in him or not.God is the most secure reality in all of life. I personally believehe has surrounded us with evidence of himself for one reason.It is because he wants a relationship with us. He wants us to knowhim.
“How an Atheist Found God” by Marilyn Adamson
Atheist vs. God: What moved me from my atheist experience to believing in God…
Here is a fuller explanation y Marilyn of what caused her to begin arelationship with God, and what else she discovered about God, after she asked him into her life.
I found out, you can disturb a lot of religious people by asking, “How do you know God exists?”
Perhaps they were wondering about my motives. Or maybe they simply had no idea how to answer. But, most of their responses were, “Well, you just know.”
I wasn’t trying to be difficult. But I certainly did not “just know.” And I was hoping someone did!
After many months of this, I thought, “Here are the people who say they believe in God, but no one knows why!” I felt much like I did when I learned the truth about Santa Claus. It seemed obvious that God was completely fabricated. Maybe some people needed to believe in God. But clearly there was no proof. No objective evidence. I came to the most stark conclusion…God did not actually exist.
I held this belief for years, not expecting it to ever change. But then I met someone who caused me to become interested in the possibility of God. She was caring, kind, and very intelligent. It bothered that someone that intelligent could believe in God.
She talked about God like he was her dearest friend who deeply loved her. I knew her life well. Any concern she would take to God, as if trusting him to work out a way or care for her in some way. She would tell me, quite candidly, that she was merely praying that God would act upon her concerns. Every week I saw what seemed to be answers to her prayers. For more than a year. I watched her life through a myriad of circumstances. She was convinced that God did exist.
So, I wanted to believe in God on one hand, because I admired her life and her love for others. But I couldn’t believe in something against my intellect, against my better judgment. God did not exist. A nice idea, but that was all. Wanting something to be true, doesn’t make it true.
During this time I was developing (what I thought was) a very personally-built philosophy. Later I identified it as existentialism, pretty thoroughly.
However I did try something with these philosophies that I’m not sure many people do. Every few weeks, I would study a particular philosopher’s take on life, and then try to apply it…Nietzsche, Hume, Dostoevsky, Sartre, Plato, etc. I was looking for the perfect, workable philosophy for life. I found over and over, that either their philosophies seemed lacking, or were too impractical to actually implement. But I kept searching.
I was challenging my friend with every question that came to mind about God. I would find myself writing out questions late in the evening. This went on for well over a year. One day she handed me a book that briefly answered questions like, is there a God; is Jesus God; what about the Bible. It presented facts. No comments like, “you have to believe.”
The book delivered some evidence for God that was logical. I’m not normally drawn toward science. However, the parts particularly convincing to me were the chemical properties of water, and the earth’s position to the sun. It was all too perfectly designed, too perfectly put together. And my faith in “nothing behind it all” seemed weaker than the possibility of God. I had fewer reasons to be certain of nothing, and more reasons to conclude that God might be there.
I then encountered a situation that fully challenged my well-constructed philosophy on life. What I had been putting my faith in proved to be completely insufficient. It shocked me to see that I was at a loss for an approach to life that was fully reliable. However, the situation resolved itself. And I moved ahead. I have a pretty steady personality. Throughout my life, I never really felt “needy.” No on-going crisis. No big gaps or struggles. And certainly nothing I felt guilty about.
But the concept of God was something I couldn’t get off my mind….was he there? does he exist? maybe there’s a God…..
One night I was talking to my friend again, and she knew I had all the information I needed. She knew that I had run out of questions to ask. Yet I was still trying to debate. In one clear, abrupt moment, my friend turned to me and said, “You know, I can’t make this decision for you, and God’s not going to wait forever.”
And I immediately knew she was right. I was playing around with a very important decision. So I went home and decided that I was going to decide. I was going to either ask God to come into my life, or I was going to end the subject completely and never allow myself to consider the possibility of God again. I was tired of dealing with this decision. I was tired of thinking about it.
So, for the next three or four hours, I reviewed everything I had read and observed. I evaluated it all.
I concluded that the evidence for God was so strong that it made more sense to believe in God than to believe he wasn’t there. Then I had to act on that conclusion.
I knew that just intellectually concluding God was there, was way too light. It would be like deciding…airplanes exist. Faith in an airplane means nothing. However, if you need to get somewhere and an airplane is the way, you have to decide to act and actually get on the plane.
I needed to make the decision to actually talk to God. I needed to ask him to come into my life.
After a few hours of thought I addressed God, “Ok you win. I ask you to come into my life, and you may do with it whatever you’d like.” (It seemed reasonable to me, that since God exists, God had every right to influence and direct my life, if he wanted to.)
I went to bed and the next morning wondered if God was still there. And honestly, I kind of “sensed” that he was. One thing I knew for sure. I immediately had a huge desire to get to know this God whom I now believed in.
I wanted to read the Bible. When I did, it seemed that God was spelling out who he is and how he viewed this relationship with him. It was amazing. What really surprised me is how often he talked about his love. I hadn’t expected that. In my mind, I was simply acknowledging God’s existence. I had no expectations of him. But he chose to communicate his love to me. That was a surprise.
Now, my basic, skeptical nature was still there. The first few months or year, I would ask myself, “Am I really believing in God? And, why am I?” And I would methodically review five objective reasons why I believed God existed. So my “faith” in God did not rest on feelings, but on facts, on reasons.
To me, it’s like the foundation of a building. The facts/reasons support my faith. It’s like someone driving across the Golden GateBridge. They can feel whatever they’d like about the bridge. But it’s the construction/design/materials of the bridge itself that allows them to safely get from one end to the other. In the same way, the objective reality of God–the logical, historical, scientific reasons to believe in his existence, are important to me. There are people who don’t seem to need that. But I hate being fooled, and I have little regard for wishful thinking. The reasons for God’s existence mattered to me.
Atheist Experience: Part 2
Since that time, now that I’ve been a Christian for a number of years—-why do I now believe in God? What reasons do I have for continuing to believe in God?
I’m not sure any of these are going to be believable to you. But I’ll try to put that concern aside and be candid with you. Previously my questions were about God’s existence. After beginning a relationship with God, I then saw additional evidence that God is real. Such as…
1. When I have questions, concerns, or would like insight on a matter, God speaks to me through the Bible. What he presents to me is always perfectly suited to my question, beyond what I expected the answer to be. And it is usually a more satisfying answer than I deserve.
One day, my schedule, deadlines, and obligations were crawling up my neck and tightening their hold. You know that feeling when you’re so overwhelmed, you don’t know what to do first?
So I got out a piece of paper and pen, and asked God: “Just tell me what you want me to do, and I’ll do it.” I was fully prepared for shouldering 100% responsibility, and was basically asking God to just set the priorities, tell me how to approach it all, and I would.
I then opened my Bible and immediately read where Jesus was talking with a man who was blind. Jesus was asking him, “What would you have me do for you?”
I read it again. Jesus asked: “What would you have me do for you?” Rather amazed, I picked up my pen and began writing an entirely different list…to God. This, I have found, is characteristic of God. Reminding us that he is there. That he cares.
I choose that example because it’s brief. But I could cite hundreds of examples where I was asking God a question and he perfectly, thoroughly answered me. It probably is the characteristic of God that I most appreciate–that he is willing to answer my questions. And it is very personal between us.
This isn’t something I learned from other Christians. It’s just how my relationship with God operates. I ask a question, with an attitude that I really want to give him freedom to tell me whatever he wants to….to correct my thinking, to point out an area in my life that isn’t right, to show me where I’m not trusting him, whatever. And he always graciously speaks to me.
2. Similarly, when I need direction for a decision, he gives it. I believe that God cares about our decisions. I believe he has a plan for our lives, that he cares about who I marry, what kind of job I have, and some decisions smaller than that. I don’t believe he cares what toothpaste I buy, or lots of mundane decisions. But decisions that will affect my life…I think he cares.
One time I needed to decide about a trip to the Middle East. There was risk involved, and I only was willing to go if God wanted me to go. It was important to me that I knew what he wanted.
Twice I asked God about a job. Both times his leading on it was so clear, that anyone would have concluded the same, with the same facts and unusual circumstances. Let me try one thin slice of an example.
During my senior year of college, I had decided to take a job with a Christian organization after graduation, that would require a move to California.
It was Christmas break, and I was now visiting my parents. One evening, I was alone and thinking through a long list of friends. I was wondering who I could talk into moving to California with me, to be roommates. One person named Christy, came to mind, who had already graduated and settled in a job in Iowa. I thought she’d be the perfect roommate, but I hadn’t talked to her in several months. Just 30 minutes later, at my parents home, Christy calls me on the phone.
Her first sentence was, “I heard you are taking a job with this Christian organization.” I was floored because I had only told one friend, in Ohio.
Her next statement was, “Ok, I’ve got the pots and pans and dishes.” I said, “WHAT?!” She was moving to the same town in California and was calling to see if I would room with her.
Ok, so you see my point.
You might ask, why such a big deal, to even need God’s help in this decision? I knew that my parents would be completely opposed to this job. I thought it might cost me my relationship with my parents forever. So it was not a light decision. I asked God to guide me toward what he wanted. And he did. There were about ten other events related to this job, such as clear.
Other reasons I still believe in God…
3. In terms of explanations about life–why we’re here, what the purpose is, what is important in life, what to value or strive for–God has better answers than anything I’ve ever read anywhere. I had studied multiple philosophies and religions and other life approaches. What I read in the Bible, what I see in God’s perspective, is like all the pieces of the puzzle fitting.
There is still a lot I’ll read in the Bible and close the Bible saying, “I don’t get it.” So I don’t mean to suggest I fully understand everything in the Bible. Instead, I’m saying that life only makes sense from the perspective of what God has revealed. It’s like reading the operating manual to something very complex, only we are not left to merely follow the manual. The inventor is explaining to us how it all works, and then offers to personally guide us.
4. The intimacy with God is deeper than intimacy with any human being. And I say that married, with two children, and tons of very close friends. His love is perfect. He’s incredibly gracious. He takes me right where I’m at, and as I said, speaks to me. He intervenes with actions that leave me amazed as the observer. He is not a belief or doctrine. I see him act in my life and speak to my heart.
5. He has done more with my life than I would have done on my own. This is not a statement of inferiority or lack of self confidence. I’m speaking in terms of accomplishments that far exceeded what I ever had in mind. He provides ideas, direction, solutions, wisdom, and better motives than I could aspire to on my own.
Well, there is more, but I think that gives you enough. I’m not sure any of it is believable to you, but I’ve been as honest as I know how to be.
Next email…evidences against God–valid ones that atheists have aright to point to. No side-stepping. We’ll hit it head on.I hope this series is serving you well.
The Spiritual Adventure Pack – # 4Hi JohnToday’s email will focus on real, damaging evidence against God’sexistence. Caution: not going to hold back here.I have frequent conversations with atheists, almost always at theirinitiative. Sometimes their arguments simply ignore the facts.However, atheists do have one very rational argument against God.Suffering.Not just some suffering. Many people experience incrediblydebilitating suffering. Some that lasts for years. Barelytolerable. Sometimes, not even.Yes, it’s true that much of human suffering is due to our choices.We wish people all acted in human kindness, but then it’d be toughto explain the Wars. Murders. Child abuse. Corrupt governmentsinflicting further pain on the poor. Rapes. Greed. Complacencytoward others’ poverty and hunger. Torture. Drug addictions andcartels. Sex slavery.However, we need to acknowledge there is suffering that lacks ahuman cause. Such as devastating earthquakes, floods, tsunamis,tornadoes, volcanoes, bringing death, pain, loss, and suffering.This earth is not easy. It’s not safe.Add to this, world disease, cancers, mental disabilities, birthdefects. Isn’t this evidence against God’s existence?Yet, I am convinced by the evidence that God exists, and that lifeisonly lived with meaning and sense by knowing him. So, what do I dowith this?Human suffering is not a show-stopper for me. Here’s why.God’s existence seems certain by observing what exists. Whatbecomesthe question is, why would God allow suffering?I’m going to give you links to other answers. But here’s mine.The evidence shows that God’s level of intelligence, his lack oflimitations of time and space, having infinite knowledge of somuch,puts God far above the human species.Far more different than we are from a mosquito, God is incomparablygreater than us. Therefore, it is easy for me to assume that he hasa reason for what we are experiencing, that is beyond what we*could* understand.I view it like a two-month old baby receiving an immunization. Theinfant cannot understand why the mother stands by while this doctoris inflicting pain. Doesn’t the mother love the child? Is themother some kind of jerk?Or, does the mother have reasons that are impossible for the childto comprehend, if the mother even tried?It seems fair to me to use a tad amount of humility and acknowledgethat we are limited in our capacity to understand an answer thatGod knows. Further, God is not obligated to provide an answer thatfully satisfies me.The evidence for God’s existence is compelling, scientific,logical.So I conclude that the question of suffering can not be completely,answerable to our satisfaction.Also, I told you we weren’t going to hold back. Here’s an answer tothe question, “Why would you worship a God who allows a child to beraped?” Why worship a God who allows a child to be raped?
Q: “Why would I worship a God who allows a child being raped?”
our A: I have a close relative who was raped as a child.
Believe me….I am intimately familiar with all of the ways that sexual abuse damages people. I truly understand your rage.
However, it is not God’s fault that people choose to take the good he has created and corrupt it. It is not his fault that fathers molest their daughters or that mothers verbally abuse their sons.
We human beings are pretty much free to do as we choose.
How should we feel about the fact that God doesn’t prevent other people from doing evil to us?
How should we feel about the fact that God doesn’t prevent us from doing evil to other people?
We might wish that God established a set of boundaries, beyond which people would be punished. We might suggest that God kill any man who molests a child.
Well then, how about the producers of child porn that might have helped motivate the man to molest the child? Would it be right if maybe God killed them too?
Ok, what should God do with, say, people who are verbally abusive?
Words wound deeply. If you ask a room full of counselors which causes more damage to people, in total – verbal or sexual abuse – I bet most of them will say verbal abuse takes a heavier toll. There’s certainly a lot more of it being done.
Should God shut our mouths when we’re about to say something harmful?
Suppose the world worked that way. What would it be like?
Would human beings go around seething with resentment, because we’re never allowed to say what we really think? Would we all know deep down that other people don’t really care about us, they just say nice things to avoid getting killed by God’s vicious lightning bolt? Would the world be even lonelier than it is now?
It seems pretty apparent to me we get to do what we choose to do. And I don’t see how we can be angry at God for letting us do that.
However, God has not been silent. God tells us how to best live our lives.
Is it not true that if everyone followed the 10 Commandments, no child would ever be raped or molested?
Is it not true that if everyone followed the 10 commandments, nothing would ever be stolen, no spouse would be betrayed, no one’s son or daughter would be murdered?
Rather than control us, God gives us freedom. God does not interfere with anyone’s choices. Rather he assures us that all will someday answer for what they have done and that justice will be administered. Judgment will be based on the guidelines given.
The problem is, being told how to live well, is insufficient. Even God says that.
Giving us an owner’s manual, such as the Bible, is not enough. Telling a child molester that it’s wrong to molest children, is not news to him. God says we need something deeper. Internal guidance, yes. But even more. Internal power to want to do what is right. That is what God can provide.
Here is what God says can be true of us, if we choose to rely on God:“The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.”1
God offers to live in us. Jesus said, “I came that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.”2 Not free-from-trouble lives. But lives that have an inward motivation to do what is right, and to please God whom we now know. God offers us a relationship with himself that uniquely brings stability and peace to our lives.
God is asking us to go through life with him. To know him. To be changed by an awareness of his love for us. And like a valued friend, to be counseled and influenced by him.
But there’s more to this. God is not aloof. He is notuninvolved.In fact, if you begin a relationship with him, you would find outthat he is much more deeply, fully involved in caring for you thanyou could ever have imagined or hoped for.Next email…what is God like? Why would you want to know God?This is where it gets fun.
The Spiritual Adventure Pack – # 5Hi JohnToday’s email…what can we know about God?I once read a book aptly titled, “Knowing God” by J.I. Packer. Hebrings up a good point.The more complex an object, the tougher it is to say you reallyknow it. To know a song, a book, a recipe is fairly easy.Living things become more complicated. If you have a pet dog or cat,you can likely predict how it will behave at certain times. You knowwhat it wants and what it is asking you to do.Knowing a person is even more complicated. People will hide someof their thoughts or feelings. Therefore, how well you know someonelargely depends on how much they are willing to reveal to you.What about with God? How well can we possibly know God? It entirelydepends upon what God chooses to reveal about himself. Doesn’t it?And, whether he will let us have a relationship with him. All ofthis is at his discretion.Here’s something quite astounding. God welcomes us to know him. Tobe fully accepted by God. To begin a relationship with him thatlasts eternally.And to enjoy intimate interaction with God, where we can be led byGod, instructed by him, comforted by him, and strengthened by him.After asking God to come into my life, I found myself reading theBible, wanting to know more fully this God that I just *met*.What surprised me most were so many statements about God’s love.Page after page, I kept seeing the sincerity of his love.Statements like this:“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. Igive them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one willsnatch them out of my hand.”“Whoever has my commandments and keep them, he it is who loves me.And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love himand manifest myself to him.”“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.”Is it really possible to know God’s love like this?Yes.J.I. Packer goes on to say, “We do not make friends with God; Godmakes friends with us, bringing us to know him by making his loveknown to us.”That is exactly what I experienced…and continue to experience.A few more quotes from Packer, because he says it so well:“All my knowledge of him depends on his sustained initiative inknowing me. He knows me as a friend, one who loves me; and there isno moment when his eye is off me, or his attention distracted fromme, and no moment, therefore, when his care falters.”Packer says this, because it is exactly what the Bible says is trueof all those who have begun a relationship with God.And best of all, we don’t earn or have to qualify for thatrelationship. God offers it to us, which I’ll explain in our series.Wrapping up with Packer:“There is tremendous relief in knowing that his love to me isutterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of theworst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion him aboutme, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself…”This is grounded in what God has revealed about himself. From theBible:“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God senthis only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us…”Here is a one-page summary of what God has revealed about hispersonality, and what we can experience, once we’ve begun arelationship with him.
Who is God?
Who is God? What is He like? Six personality traits of God…
He is Knowable.
God, who created the universe in all of its magnitude and creative details, is able to be known, by us. He tells us about himself, but even goes beyond that. He welcomes us into a relationship, so that we personally can get to know him. Not only can we know about him, we can know him, intimately.
“Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strengthor the rich man boast of his riches,but let him who boasts boast about this:that he understands and knows me,that I am the Lord,who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth,for in these I delight,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23,24)
He is Approachable.
God invites us to talk to him and engage him in what concerns us. We don’t have to get our act together first. Neither do we need to be polite, theologically correct or holy. It is his nature to be loving and accepting when we go to him.
“The Lord is near to all who call on him,to all who call on him in truth.” (Psalms 145:18)
He is Creative.
Everything we make is put together with existing materials or built on previous thoughts. God has the capacity of speaking things into existence, not just galaxies and life forms, but solutions to today’s problems. God is creative, for us. His power is something he wants us to be aware of and to rely on.
“Great is our Lord and mighty in power;his understanding has no limit.” (Psalms 147:5)“…where does my help come from?My help comes from the Lord,the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalms 121:1,2)
He is Forgiving.
We sin. We tend to do things our way instead of God’s way. And he sees it and knows it. God does not merely overlook such sin, but is prepared to judge and condemn people for their sin. However, God is forgiving and will forgive us from the moment we begin a relationship with him. Jesus, the Son of God, paid for our sin with his death on a cross. He rose from the dead and offers us this forgiveness.
“We are made right in God’s sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done… We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us.” (Romans 3:22,25)
He is Honest.
Just like a person who lets you know their thoughts and feelings, God clearly tells us about himself, the possible difference being, he is always honest. Everything he says about himself, or about us, is reliable information. Truer than our feelings, thoughts, and perception, God is totally accurate and honest in what he says. Every promise he makes to us can be fully counted on, he means it. We can take him at his word.
“The unfolding of your words gives light;it gives understanding to the simple.Your word is a lamp to my feetand a light to my path.” (Psalms 119:130,105)
He is Capable.
How would you like to be always 100% right, about everything? God is. His wisdom is unlimited. He understands all the elements of a situation, including the history and future events related to it. We do not have to update him, counsel him or persuade him to do the right thing. He will, because he is capable and his motives are pure. If we trust him, he will never make a mistake, never undercut us or deceive us. He can be fully trusted to do what is right, in all circumstances, at all times.
“No one whose hope is in youwill ever be put to shame…” (Psalms 25:3)
Next lesson…..like it or not, Jesus is central to experiencing arelationship with God. There are solid factual reasons to believe.You’ll see what I mean.Thank you again for staying with me in all of this.
The Spiritual Adventure Pack – # 6Hi JohnOnce I realized that the evidence was pointing to God’s existence,my next question was…which God?In this series, I want to steer clear from taking shots at otherreligions. So let me just say, my search was for objective evidencein what God has revealed about himself.Everything up till now seemed to show that God wants us to havesound reasons we can point to, leading us to believe in him.When it comes to Jesus, there are a wealth of historical andlogical reasons to believe in him, that are unmatched by anyone orany belief system.I’d like to focus on that evidence about Jesus, but first let meclear up some points of confusion.Jesus did not come about 2,000 years ago. He wasn’t a man whobecame God. He was God who became man.Here’s what I mean. There is only one God. Yet, at the verybeginning of the Bible, you see God described in the pluralpronoun: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after ourlikeness.'”Jesus is spoken about throughout the Old Testament (the JewishBible), referred to as the Christ, the Messiah, Redeemer.In Handel’s “Messiah” sung at Christmas, Handel quotes from thebook of Isaiah, written 700 years before Jesus, which says this:“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…and his nameshall be called, ‘Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father,Prince of Peace.'”I don’t expect that will convince you of anything. I’m onlymentioning it so you realize that Jesus was not a new religion, oneof many.In fact, Jesus was not wanting to set up any religion. He claimedsomething much greater than that.John was a close friend of Jesus. He hung out with Jesus for severalyears. John wrote a biography of Jesus and in it said this aboutJesus: “[He] was God. He was in the beginning with God. All thingswere made through him.”Why would John say such a thing? Because Jesus said it of himself,and gave proofs to support it.Here are some of the reasons to believe in Jesus:http://www.everystudent.com/features/faith.htmlNext and last email…what God is specifically offering you, and howyou can begin to know him, personally.We’re almost done. As you’re going through this, I hope you’ll takea minute and ask God directly, “Show me what’s true about you.”He will answer that.
The Spiritual Adventure Pack – # 7Hi JohnThis is our last email in the series, “The Spiritual AdventurePack.”I hope it’s been helpful to you. (I especially hope that you didnot skip # 6. It’s an important one.)In this email I’d like to describe what God might be offering you.And what it could be like for you, if you take him up on it.When I was an atheist, I remember my friend saying that heaven wasa free gift. I immediately challenged her on that.“IF there is a God, heaven would definitely *not* be a free gift.”I was so cocky. What did I know? I didn’t even believe in God’sexistence and yet I’m arguing about his policies.So again, we need to look at what God tells us. I’m going to listsome of what he says he’s offering us. Ready?+ we could be fully accepted by God, all of our sins (past,present, future sins) completely forgiven, because of Jesus’ deathon the cross for us. He paid for them all. No more barrier betweenus and God.+ we could no longer be under God’s judgment, but instead, begin arelationship with him, that lasts eternally. (My friend was right.A relationship with God and eternal life are free gifts offered tous.)+ we would not go through this life on our own, he says, “I willnever leave you nor forsake you.”+ we would “not walk in darkness, but would have the light of life.”+ we could experience his peace above and beyond what thecircumstances warrant.+ we could pray to God, know that he hears us, and actually see Godtake action.+ we could be guided by him, and see him work in our lives tobecome a better person that we could be without him. Just like anysignificant relationship has an affect on us, knowing God changesus.+ we could experience his love on a very personal level.There’s so much more, but that gives you a start. This is what heoffers you.Now, some disclaimers.I don’t want you to get the impression from this, that life becomeseasy, or that you therefore escape problems, crises, heartache,pain. You won’t.You also won’t suddenly become holy and sinless. You will still gothrough life often choosing to do things your way even when theyare opposed to God’s ways. You remain free to choose how you willthink, feel, and act.However, over time, as you get to know God better and spend timelistening to what he says, your perspective will change, yourvalues will likely change, and you will find a new motivation tolive in a way that honors him.Just like now, where you are not forced to believe in him, you willcontinue to have freedom to choose whether to trust him in momentsof your life, or not.When you grow to know someone, if they are trustworthy, you learnto trust them more. God is always trustworthy, so your trust in himwill likely grow.Thank you again for going through “The Spiritual Adventure Pack”with me.If you have a question you’d like to ask, you can email it here,and someone will send you a personal email reply: