April 23, 2011 § Leave a Comment
I am writing this on Easter Sabbath — the Sabbath during which Jesus Christ rested in the grave, dead to the world and to heaven, until he was resurrected early Sunday morning. I want to invite you to discover God on your own terms this Easter. By that I mean you should reason out for yourself who God is for you, why you believe in Him, and what that means for your life as you see it from this day forward.
It is vitally important that each person who calls himself a believer in God, or an atheist if you will, know exactly why it is they take that stance and how that decision has affected them. If they are just blindly going to church, and following a faith they believe only superficially, they will have wasted one of their most important faculties: that of free will. For I believe that faculty is a gift from God, and it was given to us specifically so that we may choose to acknowledge Him — or not.
To help guide you in your discovery of God on your own terms, I have selected three videos below that I’d like you to watch. These videos may be unsettling for some, but they are important, because for one thing, they will help distance your belief in God from organized religion (which I think is key in getting closer to God), and for another thing, they express the thinking of two very lucid people, who have synthesized for us the problems that arise when a church gets too big for its britches — when it gets big enough to pass laws, torture and kill people.
You may realize that I point my finger at the Catholic church, but I do not blame them directly, or say that other churches are better. Any one church that might have been in their place would have acted the same way; make no mistake about that. A rose by any other name would still have the same painful thorns. Once a church gets big enough to become an institution with worldwide influence, they will abuse their power. If absolute power corrupts absolutely, then the church is not immune from corruption, as history states in horrid details about every such church organization.
I often think atheists are the best people, in a sense. Whatever they believe, most of them have reasoned it out and have to live with their decision, day in and day out. They live their lives with the painful knowledge that they will end within the span of 70 short years, more or less, and they will be gone, completely, when they die. If they do something good, they do it because they think it’s right, not because they expect to go to heaven for it, or because they want to expunge their sins through it. If they’re decent people, and most of them are, they do it because it’s their nature to be so, not because their Bible tells them so, or their church commands it. If you’re being good or decent because you expect to go to heaven, I’ve got news for you — you probably won’t get there. God doesn’t want people who do things because they expect something back from Him. He wants people who do good and decent things because it’s their nature to do them. Therefore, I suggest we all start learning a thing or two from atheists.
I hope you’ve taken the time to watch these videos, and will take some more time this Easter weekend to think things over. May you awake one day soon with a newfound personal perspective on your faith, on God, and your life from this point forward.
March 12, 2010 § 2 Comments
This is an illustrated story with a powerful message, and it explains why we each have our cross to bear, and why we need to keep going even when it seems too heavy. I got it via email a while ago and I don’t know who the author is. I’d love to give credit, so if anyone knows, please let me know in the comments below.
March 2, 2010 § 2 Comments
Akiane Kramarik, a self-taught 15-year old girl, started having vivid dreams of heaven at the age of 4, and soon started to paint what she saw in her mind. The results are amazing, and they’re even more remarkable given that her family were atheists and had never talked about God in their home. They reveal a world beyond our imagination, and a vibrant, growing talent.
She was featured on CNN at the age of 12, as you can see below, and she was interviewed by Oprah when she was 10. She has received numerous awards and prizes, and she will likely receive more, as her talent continues to improve with age.
January 22, 2009 § 9 Comments
I have always been pro-choice. As a Christian, I can’t see it any other way. It’s about free will, and it’s about tolerance. Those two notions are clearly set out in the Bible, and if you’re a Christian who tries to love your fellow human beings, as the Bible says you should do, then you should also be pro-choice.
This is why I love this video I found on YouTube. A young man went to a group of pro-lifers who were demonstrating on the streets and asked each of them this question:
“If abortion were illegal, what should be done with the women who have illegal abortions?”
It’s a simple question, but one which gets back to the principles of compassion and tolerance so entrenched in the Bible. Watch them struggle to come to grips with what sort of punishment these women should receive, and you’ll see they can’t answer.
I’m glad someone had the courage to go out there and ask this question, because people who try to impose their religious beliefs on others are not doing God’s will. The pain that women suffer through after aborting is greater than any sort of pointless legal action that could be taken against them. They have pangs of remorse and go through bouts of depression for years or even decades. It’s not something I’d wish on anybody, but I strongly believe that they should have the option to do this if they feel it is necessary.
[via Unreasonable Faith]
January 6, 2009 § 2 Comments
Got this via email. See my thoughts at the end.
Professor: You are a Christian, aren’t you, son?
Student: Yes, sir.
Professor: So, you believe in GOD?
Student: Absolutely, sir.
Professor: Is GOD good?
Professor: Is GOD all-powerful?
Professor: My brother died of Cancer even though he prayed to GOD to heal him. Most of us would attempt to help others who are ill. But GOD didn’t. How is this GOD good then? Hmm?
(Student was silent)
Professor: You can’t answer, can you? Let’s start again, young fellow. Is GOD good?
Professor: Is Satan good?
Professor: Where does Satan come from?
Student: From… GOD…
Professor: That’s right. Tell me son, is there evil in this world?
Professor: Evil is everywhere, isn’t it? And GOD did make everything? Correct?
Professor: So who created evil?
(Student did not answer)
Professor: Is there Sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things exist in the world, don’t they?
Student: Yes, sir.
Professor: So, who created them?
(Student had no answer)
Professor: Science says you have 5 senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. Tell me, son… Have you ever seen GOD?
Student: No, sir.
Professor: Tell us if you have ever heard your GOD?
Student: No, sir.
Professor: Have you ever felt your GOD, tasted your GOD, smelt your GOD? Have you ever had any sensory perception of GOD for that matter?
Student: No, sir. I’m afraid I haven’t.
Professor: Yet you still believe in HIM?
Professor: According to empirical, testable, demonstrable protocol, science says your GOD doesn’t exist. What do you say to that, son?
Student: Nothing. I only have my faith.
Professor: Yes, faith. And that is the problem science has.
Student: Professor, is there such a thing as heat?
Student: And is there such a thing as cold?
Student: No, sir. There isn’t.
(The lecture theatre became very quiet with this turn of events )
Student: Sir, you can have lots of heat, even more heat, superheat, mega heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat. But we don’t have anything called cold. We can hit 458 degrees below zero which is no heat, but we can’t go any further after that. There is no such thing as cold. Cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold. Heat is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it.
(There was pin-drop silence in the lecture theater)
Student: What about darkness, professor? Is there such a thing as darkness?
Professor: Yes. What is night if there isn’t darkness?
Student: You’re wrong again, sir. Darkness is the absence of something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light… But if you have no light constantly, you have nothing and its called darkness, isn’t it? In reality, darkness isn’t. If it is, were you would be able to make darkness darker, wouldn’t you?
Professor: So what is the point you are making, young man?
Student: Sir, my point is your philosophical premise is flawed.
Professor: Flawed? Can you explain how?
Student: Sir, you are working on the premise of duality. You argue there is life and then there is death, a good GOD and a bad GOD. You are viewing the concept of GOD as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, science can’t even explain a thought. It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never been seen, much less fully understood either one. To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing. Death is not the opposite of life: just the absence of it. Now tell me, professor, do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?
Professor: If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, yes, of course, I do.
Student: Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?
(The professor shook his head with a smile, beginning to realize where the argument was going)
Student: Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and can not even prove that this process is an on-going endeavor, are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you not a scientist but a preacher?
(The class was in uproar)
Student: Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the professor’s brain?
(The class broke out into laughter)
Student: Is there anyone here who has ever heard the professor’s brain, felt it, touched or smelt it? No one appears to have done so? So, according to the established rules of empirical, stable, demonstrable protocol, science says that you have no brain, sir. With all due respect, sir, how do we then trust your lectures, sir?
(The room was silent. The professor stared at the student, his face unfathomable)
Professor: I guess you’ll have to take them on faith, son.
Student: That is it sir… exactly! The link between man and GOD is FAITH. That is all that keeps things alive and moving.
My version of the email forward specified that the student was Albert Einstein. Snopes.com says that’s false.
At any rate, it’s an interesting conversation and the student makes some very good points. So does the professor. And that’s the trouble with this argument. You can’t really win it either way, not without a “deus ex machina” situation. The best thing to do is to stick to your faith and go on, leaving others to believe what they will if they aren’t interested. At some point, they may find God for themselves, or they may not. Instead of lecturing, live exemplary lives. A concrete example always beats a good theory.
September 5, 2008 § 1 Comment
That sounds like a strong statement to make, doesn’t it? Fortunately, I have the Bible to back me up on this. Here’s a search for the word “religion” in the NIV. And here’s a search for the word “faith“, also in the NIV. There are 6 instances where the word “religion” is mentioned, and 422 instances where the word “faith” is mentioned.
Let’s look at those six verses where religion is talked about:
- Jeremiah 6:1 The verse itself is not relevant, but the chapter heading is. It says “False Religion Worthless”.
- Acts 12:19 “Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive.” Here Festus, the Roman ruler over the region, discusses Paul’s case with King Agrippa. Paul, if you remember, was about to be killed by the Jews because he strayed away from the religion, when the Roman soldiers intervened. Paul was then put in prison for his safety, to await a hearing by Festus and later King Agrippa.
- Acts 26:5 “They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that according to the strictest sect of our religion, I lived as a Pharisee.” Here Paul defends himself before King Agrippa.
- 1 Timothy 5:4 “But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.”
- James 1:26 “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.”
- James 1:27 “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
Religion is not something that God cares about. If it were, we’d see a lot more verses about it in the Bible. Religion is a man-made concept, introduced as a differentiator, or, if you prefer, a discriminator. Certainly, if you look at history, you’ll see how the term has been used through the ages, and it seems it’s always used to polarize, differentiate or discriminate. Organized religion always seems bent on influencing or controlling governments in one way or another.
Instead, we see that “faith” is something God cares about. “Church” is another concept that is important, but it is only introduced in the New Testament and mentioned 112 times. Most of all, God cares about “people“. There are 2221 instances of that word found in the Bible.
Why am I writing this post? James 1:27 is a verse that stuck to me when I read it. There it is, spelled out in black and white. The only religion that God accepts is to look after orphans and widows, and to keep from being polluted by the world.
Any time some religion or other claims to have some exclusive benefit over another, or worse, claims that they’re in the right and others aren’t, beware! That’s not Biblical, that’s not Godly, and it’s certainly not something you should be involved in, unless you want to get further away from God.
Want to do the right thing? Care about your faith, and care about people. That’s what’s important. That’s what’s Godly. That’s also what’s right, thank God!
August 23, 2008 § Leave a Comment
Hebrews 11:1 has one of the best definitions of faith in the Bible. Of all the English Bible translations (and I’ve looked at that verse in all 22 of them), the NIV (New International Version) says it best:
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” [reference]
Not even my favorite translation, the NJB (New Jerusalem Bible) comes close to capturing the heart of that definition. (You can read the NJB version here.) It’s surprising how many translators missed the boat when it came to the meaning of this verse, and the meaning of this very important idea. Who knows, given that these translations were written at different times in history, perhaps the language used in them made more sense to their contemporaries than it does to me or you.
We English speakers are very fortunate. We have over twenty translations of the Bible that we can look through and compare verses in order to arrive at the best understanding of a certain passage or concept. And online tools like the Bible Gateway make it incredibly easy to do this.
Other people are not so fortunate. If you look at other languages, you’ll see they have only a few translations, and some only one. They’re left at the mercy of that single translator or group of translators when it comes to understanding the Bible. As well intentioned as that one person or persons might have been, it is impossible to translate every verse correctly in a single translation, particularly when that translation draws upon not the original, but a secondary source.
And yet faith, this powerful, but hard-to-define concept, which I can only find clearly explained in a single version of the Bible (out of over 20) is so hard to find in action in English-speaking countries — the very countries that have the incredible benefit of so many translations and so much learning to illuminate the meaning of the Bible to them.
Should you go to a country where the translations are scarce or even non-existent, you’ll find that faith is abundant there. You see it on the faces of simple people and in their behavior. They understand it implicitly and put it into practice. Back here, it’s not fashionable to have faith or to talk about it — unless one is a politician and is stumping for public office, in which case we all know (or should know) that they’re lying.
Why is that? How can we so readily throw away the privilege of so much understanding and not apply it in our lives? I’m reminded of the following verse from Luke 12:48:
“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
That’s a sobering thought.
July 26, 2008 § 1 Comment
The thing that I find amazing about this psalm is its subtitle: “A prayer of Moses the man of God”. That’s what it says in my KJV Bible. If you’d like to follow along, you can read the NASB (New American Standard Bible) version here.
If this psalm was indeed written by Moses, then it was put down on papyrus at a very interesting time of his life. Given the tone of the psalm, it was composed before Moses set out to free the Israelites from the slavery of Egypt. It may have even been written while he was still a prince of Egypt and had just discovered his true origin, or — the more likely possibility — while he was living a quiet life of dedication to the Lord in the deserts of Midian.
The psalm as a whole doesn’t necessarily stand apart from others — it is a prayer to God for the deliverance of Israel. There are numerous psalms like it. But the possibility that this one is written by Moses makes it interesting. And the tone in general is more subdued, more wise, less whiny than in other psalms.
Verse 10 in particular draws my attention: “The days of our years are threescore years and ten ; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years , yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”
Isn’t that true? Even nowadays, our life expectancy is generally around 70 years. Some people live to 80, and much fewer live to 90, but mostly through the help of modern medicine, not “by reason of strength”. At the time he wrote this, Moses didn’t know it, but his life was to be especially long. He lived to the ripe old age of 120 years (40 years more than he’d predicted), and his strength and vision were unabated to the moment of his death. That’s amazing!
If you’d like to read Moses’ life story, the Bible (book of Exodus) is your best bet. But if you want a good summary, you can find it here. That’s where you’ll find out that Moses’ life was divided into three periods of 40 years. He spent the first forty in Egypt, his second forty in Midian, and the last forty years leading the people of Israel out of Egypt.
Given this information, I think you can understand his reluctance to be their savior when asked by God. He still thought he was on the brink of death — after all, he was 80 years old when God asked him to go back to Egypt, and according to his own calculations, he didn’t have much more to live.
Finally, does God answer prayers? Yes. This psalm is a great example of how God answers them. It is usually not when we want Him to answer, and not how we want Him to answer, but He comes through, and miracles occur. The impossible becomes possible. Moses kept praying for Israel’s deliverance, all the while not realizing he was going to become their deliverer, and at an age when he thought he was going to be in the grave.
Furthermore, God performed so many miracles for Israel during their exit from Egypt, and their time in the desert, and while re-establishing them in their original lands, that no one, in their wildest imagination, could have predicted how much God was going to bless them.
Isn’t this amazing? You sit there praying, and you wonder if your words even reach God. Have faith! They do! And He will act on your prayer, in order to bring about the best possible outcome for you. It may not be what you expect, but it will be just what you need.
June 7, 2008 § Leave a Comment
You start reading Psalm 89 — it’s a fairly long psalm — and you’re literally fooled by its author into thinking it’s a text praising God and His many blessings bestowed on David and the nation of Israel. There are 52 verses in the psalm, and up to verse 37, that’s all the author does: praise God until the cows come home.
Then, in verse 37, the other shoe drops. We see now why he’s been praising God so much: it was all done because he wants to take Him to task for failing to live up on His promises — or so the author would have us believe. The whole three quarters of this psalm taken up by the excessive praises are a setup — a farce — and when the author reveals the truth, we see him for what he is: an angry person who’s been lying to the reader — and to God, one might say — all along.
Even the psalm’s byline is false. It’s called a “hymn and prayer to God the faithful”. Hah! Look what the author says in verse 49: “Lord, what of those pledges of your faithful love? You made an oath to David by your constancy.” And then he goes on and on, throughout verses 37-52, reminding God that He is NOT faithful. That’s mockery, plain and simple as the nose on my face.
Because the whole first three quarters of this psalm is a farce, I’m not even going to discuss those verses. Instead, I’ll focus on the “rebukes to God” section…
In verse 47, the author writes: “for what pointless end did you create all the children of Adam?” What the man is really saying is why he’s still alive, and why Israel’s enemies exist. First, let’s remember that everyone on earth, back then, and now as well, is a child of Adam. As to why God created us, and we we live, and why things are happening to each of us that we may not understand, I answer with God’s own words: “Who is this, obscuring my intentions with his ignorant words?” (Job, 38:2).
I encourage you to read God’s entire answer there in the Book of Job, from chapter 38 to chapter 41. If you don’t understand any of it, it’s okay. That’s the point. We don’t understand God, and no matter how hard we try, we never will. When He chooses to reveal something to us, He does so of His own will, and only when we can understand it.
As for this whole blaming God thing, I understand the author’s viewpoint. We all tend to blame God when things go wrong. And when they’re right and we’re doing great, we tend to ascribe the credit for that to ourselves, not to God. Because we can do it all, right? Well, if we’re so damned smart and capable, why can’t we manage to get ourselves out of situations like the one that the author of this psalm writes about?
The author acknowledges that when God made the covenant with David, He said:
“Should his descendants desert my law, and not keep to my rulings, should they violate my statutes, and not observe my commandments, then I shall punish their offences with the rod, their guilt with the whip, but I shall never withdraw from him my faithful love, I shall not belie my constancy.” (verses 30-33)
What did he expect? That God would wag His finger at Israel and say “No, no, bad country! Don’t do that again!” Did he expect God’s punishment to equate to a slap on the wrist? God made it clear through the ages (and even when He made his covenant with Israel during the time of Moses), that He would punish Israel severely if they did not stay faithful to Him. He threatened to dissolve their country and to spread them throughout the world, and that happened repeatedly throughout history. The longest such punishment took place after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
God’s wrath is awesome. Don’t take His punishment lightly. I think that’s the lesson to be gotten from this psalm. His blessings are bountiful and go beyond measure. Our cups overflow when He pours them out, but let’s keep in mind that they will overflow as well when He pours out His punishments. He is to be feared. He is God. Don’t mess with Him, and don’t attempt to understand Him. Don’t blame Him, either, especially after He made it clear what would happen to you if you didn’t obey Him. The author of this psalm doesn’t seem to get this part, but I have a feeling that he learned his lesson at some later point of his life.
March 7, 2008 § Leave a Comment
This psalm is a typical, almost formulaic, prayer for help. These sorts of prayers are a common theme in many of the psalms, and they all follow a sort of pattern. There is praise involved; it could also be called flattery. God is praised for being wonderful, and powerful, and helpful, and everything one would want Him to be, and then the request for help is put in.
At the risk of sounding rude, I could phrase it something like this:
“God, you’re amazing. You do all these things for me and for others, and everyone fears You. I fear you and obey Your commandments. Every one already adores You or will adore You. You’ve done a tremendous amount of stuff for me already. So, since You can do all these and are so amazing, why don’t you help me? I’m in trouble and it would be a piffling thing for You to help me. You wouldn’t need to move a muscle. You’d just will Your help into existence, and poof, my enemies will be put to shame.”
When you consider the whole thing from a distance, it looks cheap, doesn’t it? You’re resorting to outright flattery with an ulterior motive. It’s pretty distasteful, and it doesn’t befit us as Christians to engage in that sort of behavior.
Yet, it’s so easy to do, isn’t it? It’s so easy to fall into that mindset and let our fallen human natures take over our interaction with God. It’s so easy to think God needs our flattery, that He needs to be deceived and manipulated the way we deceive and manipulate other people in order to move Him to act on our behalf.
He can see right through that. You already knew that, didn’t you?
Don’t think I’m blaming the write of this psalm and pinning the blame on him. Not at all. We are all guilty of this. I’ve done it plenty of times, too. But it’s important to step back and realize that it’s wrong. It cheapens our relationship with God. It saddens Him to see that we’re not truthful with Him.
A simpler, more natural prayer for help would have gone something like this:
“Lord, I come before you to ask for your help. [Tell Him what's going on in a sentence or two.] I know you already know all of this, and you know how lonely and helpless I feel. You’re the only one I can turn to. Even though I don’t deserve it, as I don’t deserve any of the gifts you’ve given me, including that of eternal life through Jesus Christ, please come to my aid. I will wait for Your powerful Hand to protect me and carry me through this. Thank you for this and for all that you do for me. Amen.”