Friday, December 18, 2009

Does God exist, and who is he???

Gravity explains the motions of the planets,
but it cannot explain who set the planets in motion.
Sir Isaac Newton

The other day I was driving to work across the San Mateo Bridge, which hovers only a few feet above the San Francisco Bay.  I had a beautiful view of the water, the peninsula beyond, bordered by the range of hills that separate the ocean from the Bay, and huge white clouds in the sky.  On the radio was a Christmas message of some sort.  They were talking about how all the angels came forth to celebrate at the birth of Christ.  I couldn't help but look up at the sky for a sign of angels.  Of course, there wasn't any sign.  For a moment I pondered the silliness of believing in invisible spiritual beings, angels or God.  The ancients, who first named God, undoubtedly marveled at the vast expanse of the sky.  What lay behind the beautiful blue, the majestic clouds, the storms, thunder and lightning, and what was the nature of the sun, moon, and stars?  But we know what is there.  Man has found his place in the sky and beyond.  He has mapped it, has explored it, has set foot on the moon.  He knows why it is blue, what forms clouds, what causes storms.  We don't need to believe in God.  In fact, we are so smart, we comprehend existence and the material world so well, we can even label belief in God to be silliness or superstition. 

But as I look into the sky and fail to see supernatural beings, I am aware that it is chock full of things that I know to be there, which are equally invisible and (to me, anyway) equally implausible.  There are microbes and that sort of thing, sure.  But what I find most amazing is that beneath that between that beautiful blue canopy and those huge, fluffy clouds, the atmosphere is filled with words.  Those words are traveling from radio stations to my car, from television transmitters to my TV.  Millions upon millions of words are traveling from cell phone to cell phone.  I know that there are people who understand exactly how that works, but to me it is nothing short of a miracle that I can pick up my cell phone and dial your number, and in an instant we will connect.  I can speak my words and they will thread their way through a million other words hovering in thin air, and will instantaneously arrive in your ear, through your cell phone.  Even more astounding is the fact that you can get on a jet plane (another amazing thing occupying the sky, by the way) and land on the other side of the country, and my calls to you will still find you instantaneously, without you even having to "check in" to your new locality, those words will fly through the air and arrive in a split second in a place it took you four hours on a jet plane to get to. 

We rarely give these things much thought.  We take them for granted.  They just work, so we just use them.  But if someone had just told you about the idea, without you seeing it for yourself, would you believe it?  I am not sure I would.  I know there are people who understand this phenomenon, who could tell you exactly how and why it works, according to laws of nature and physics and all.  I probably wouldn't understand it.  More to the point, I might not believe it.  The laws of physics have always seemed to me like a religion, things that you just have to take on faith.  For the most part, they are beyond my comprehension, or perhaps beyond my level of faith.  But if you delve into them much, I think you've got to be struck by a sense of wonder at the universe.

There are so many things that are hard to believe, impossible to wrap our minds around, and yet they have to be true, by definition.  Existence is hard to comprehend.  So we are all here, and we know where babies come from, and how mountains are formed, and yada yada yada.  But where did the original first stuff come from?  The First Cause.  I know that if you bring God in, it will just go back to the question of where God came from, but there you go.  It's just incomprehensible. 

And when did all this happen.  Can you fathom eternity?  How about infinity?  My dad used to say that if you traveled to the end of the universe, you would discover you were in a fish bowl in somebody's living room.  Then what at the end of their universe?  Yet eternity and infinity have to be true, because if they were not, there would have to have been a beginning.  And a beginning has to be contained in some larger whole, right?  If you got to the end of the universe and there was a wall, what would be on the other side of the wall?  If you got to the end of the universe and it had doubled back on itself in an eternal spiral, in what would that spiral be contained? 

Really, with all that is totally and completely inexpicable, is it so difficult to believe in a Creator, aka God?  I don't think so.  In fact, I think it's probably easier to believe in God than not to believe in God.  When you look at a magnificent work of art, your first thought is not that paint created itself and fell on a canvas and voila, a beautiful painting.  I think also that most of us experience the presence of that intelligent Creator in our lives, at least at some point. Whether we use the word God or not, there are things that happen that are just too synchronous to be coincidence. They point too strongly to a purpose to our existence. Generally, they convey too great a love to be inanimate.

Me, I believe in God.  From childhood I have searched for God.  I've been down many paths on that search, explored many things, believed many things.  Why have I believed anything?  That is the question that wracks my brain! 

My chosen faith has been Christian.  I know it may sound dumb, but Jesus has called to me in many ways in life.  I think the first time was when I saw him in a movie, played by Jeffrey Chandler I think?  In my teen years, the songs of Jesus Christ Superstar, I heard "I don't know how to love him," and I just wanted to know how to love him!  Eventually, I did find a way to do that.  At times my faith as a Christian has been as strong as an iron-clad mountain, and yet there has always been a little box of questions over which I keep stumbling, sometimes falling completely away.  I love the Bible, have read it many times in its entirety, and yet there are some things in it that I find questionable, even objectionable.  Too much killing going on in the Old Testament, even of animals.  Then, too, as much as I love Israel, I just have to ask, out of the entire world God chose one nation to be his people?  That just doesn't seem right, and nothing can make it seem right.  When I read the Old Testament, I absorb it as allegory.  I am the nation of Israel.  Out of the entire world, God chose me (but not only me).  I must kill off in my life all that will separate me from God, cause me to turn away from him, before I can enter my Promised Land.  When I read the prophets I see God's sorrow over my turning away from him, as I continually do, even his anger, and his joy at my return.  The history, the literal interpretation of it, are those necessary to my salvation, to my relationship with God? 

Then there is the very basis of Christianity, which is that we cannot be good enough to enter into the Presence of our Holy God, and therefore Jesus died and in his death took the punishment for all our wrongs, and accepting that payment on our behalf earns us admission into that Presence.  That's okay, and simple enough, but how about all the people who lived before Jesus?  How about all the people who lived after Jesus and never heard about him?  Believe it or not, I am quite tender hearted.  My kids will tell you that I am really a  lousy disciplinarian. (But that's okay, because my kids have turned out to be really wonderful people anyway.)  The other thing I'm really not is narrow minded, in any way.  Gray is actually one of my favorite colors.  I don't believe in destruction, of self or others or relationships, but I do believe absolutely in love.  So I have a really hard time accepting the idea of eternal punishment for people who don't accept Jesus' death as payment whether because they didn't hear it, or didn't get it, or even just didn't believe it.  No, nobody is perfect.  Everybody is unjust, unloving, unlovely, even downright bad sometimes, but not bad enough to have earned eternal punishment.  My dad was a devout agnostic, right down to his dying day.  Since his death I have not spent a lot of time thinking about his eternal home, one way or the other.  I am not anybody's judge.  But several years ago I had an experience which told me, dramatically and unequivocally, that my dad was "saved" ... i.e., went to "heaven."  My dad was in and out of consciousness (a morphine-induced haze actually) for three days before he died.  Either God came to him in that haze and spoke to him in a way that allowed him to believe, or there is another way which allows even those whose intellectual objections prevent them from exercising faith, to be "saved."

I can wrap my faith around me like a warm blanket, hold it close, spin in circles and dance with joy.  I can put aside all those questions and just believe.  I love the fellowship of Christians.  What's the worst that could happen?  I could be wrong?  If there was no God, then I'd die and would be conscious of nothing, and it wouldn't matter.  In my life, I might have lived a little better for my beliefs, found more warmth.  If there was a God and my particular beliefs about him had been wrong, I don't think I'd be punished for them.

But I am not alone here in my belief.  What I say and do and think has an impact on other people, whether the few or the many, for better or for worse. I want to DO GOOD. I do not want what my daughter suffered to be for nothing. She is a bright and shining light and I want to shine it into the world and perhaps help others find their way.  How can I do that if I am lost myself?


I am really terrified to be saying this.  I can see other alternatives.  It's a pretty basic thing to believe that God exists, the creator and sustainer of the universe, that he wants us to love him and to seek him in the way that is best for us, without any one path or religion being universally better than the other.  That's okay.  But when I step out on that path I feel lost, cold, unsupported.  I pray, because prayer is just second nature to me.  I talk to God all the live-long day about everything.  God has been warm and near and close and he hears me, but what if he is more distant and detached?  Even though God does not often step in to my life in amazing and miraculous ways, what if that isn't even a possibility?  What if there is nobody to even ask for help?

And I am terrified over even the possibility of losing that fellowship of the heart with other Christians, most especially my little family of believers, my friends and prayer partners in my church, and most of all, my son.  Of all my children, only one is a Christian, and his faith is so beautiful, so pure, so loving, I just would never want to disturb that understanding, lose even a bit of that oneness of heart.

I think that doubt is a normal thing.  Am I wrong?  Are there people out there who believe and never doubt?  The Bible tells us that if we have faith and do not doubt, that we will be able to say to a mountain, be moved into the sea, and it will be moved.  For years I took this to be a statement on the power of faith, but I have come to believe that it is probably more an indictment on our ability to believe and not doubt.  After all, how many mountains do you see being moved into the ocean?  Okay, perhaps nobody really wants to move a mountain.  But we want to find our missing children and bring them home safely.  We want our beloved friends and family to be healed.  We want to find jobs and make enough money to be able to support our families and pay our bills.  Yet faith is by its very definition believing in something that cannot be known.  Under those circumstances, is it possible to not doubt, ever, at all? 

These questions are screaming in my head, however, and so I had to let them out somewhere.  I think that the reason they have come up now is at least in part because my world has widened so far in the last few months.  My questions could sit in that little box, but when I started encountering others who had those same questions and objections, I needed to have answers, and I didn't, not even for me.  Of course, my pastor would say my faith is being attacked, that the devil wants to take me out before I can become a really powerful force for God.  Which is it?  I don't know.  But I want to know.  I have more than enough unanswered questions in my life already.

Readers, I'd be really happy to hear from you and know what answers you have found.  I know it's the holiday season and you are all busy, but if you have a wise word for me, please take a moment and send it my way.






28 comments:

  1. This is from Daniel Silva, one of my son's friends. He posted it on facebook, but I'm posting it here. -- Sharon

    One of the preachers I listen to I think said it best,

    "Faith isn't the absence of doubt, it's the presence of belief."

    I think it's perfectly normal to have doubt. And even sometimes to doubt the existence of God. I still do sometimes even though I've had more than enough experiences to tell me otherwise. The other cool thing I just noticed is when Jesus talked about the mustard seed to his disciples (Matthew 17:19), He addresses the amount of faith they had, not the amount of doubt. :). He said, "because you have so little faith," not "because you have too much doubt."

    I'm tempted to say that a mustard seed of faith is greater than a 'mountain' size of doubt. :). If we can just learn to look at the mustard seed and stop being overwhelmed by the size of the mountain. A mustard seed of faith can lob a mountain of doubt into the sea! lol

    http://www.facebook.com/l/ebcf7;cacina.files.wordpress.com/2009/08/mustard_seed1.jpg
    http://www.facebook.com/l/ebcf7;breakthroughtogod.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/mustard-tree_mist.jpg

    ^_^. Anyways! I think you are wonderful and what you write is always great. And I could probably make this ten times longer. :D But I won't. haha."

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  2. A friend pointed me to your blog. I am a Christian. I can tell you are wrestling through a lot. Things I can't begin to fathom on more than a theoretical level. I want to tell you that I believe God is good, and that He is trustworthy. And I want to tell you further that those are the two biggest questions we all wrestle through.

    One of my greatest comforts in times of doubt is the Bible--particularly the book of Psalms. Here's why. Many of these Psalms were written by David, "a man after God's own heart." When you read them, they aren't all happy joy writings. There are times when David questions if God is there. There are times when David questions if God is even listening. David wrestles with doubt.

    And so do we.

    But David also remembers. David remembers the times when God came through in history. He remembers the deliverance of Israel from the Egyptians. He remembers God's promise to Abraham. He remembers the faith of those who have passed before him. He then remembers the instances when God came through in His own life.

    And that, is healing. To know that God is good, even in the face of evil, suffering and hardship, is both a challenge and a gift. We see in a glass dimly in this present moment, but in the end we will see clearly.

    If you enjoy reading, I'd recommend reading "The Shack" by William Paul Young also.

    Know that there are many who will read your post that you may never meet, but we are praying with you. :)

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  3. I never really noticed in one of the Gospels (I wish I knew which one and maybe it was my version of the Bible) that, when Jesus tells Peter about the cock crowing, he say to Peter, 'When you come back to me...' Jesus KNOWS that Peter's faith will be tested and yet he knows that He will never leave Peter and that Peter will find his way again.

    And I don't think it's bad to be angry at God. C.S. Lewis in 'A Grief Observed' says that, even if we shout angry questions at God, He still leads us with a smile.

    I know that I have moments when I doubt, but I also have moments of ridiculous joy, when what I feel, I can't describe. It's something I've only felt in church and with God. I know that I am not perfect and I feel like I could have written this post myself from my own thoughts, but I know that Jesus will have mercy on us.

    On a completely different note...have you ever seen the movie Dogma? Yeah, I know. But there's this part in there about faith being like filling a glass. When we're a child, the glass is very small and it doesn't take much to fill it. But as we get older, the glass needs to be filled more and more. Of course, I'm not going to go into the rest of that scene, but I always thought that made sense.

    I'll let you be now. :) It is okay. God is good and we will be okay.

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  4. Anonymous, I don't have any problem at all believing in God, and I absolutely believe in his goodness. I resolved those questions long ago (see my spiritual journey page on www.missingmichaela.com). My problems revolve around specific doctrinal issues -- primarily the narrowness of the road. I am not comfortable with excluding so many from salvation.

    I've read "the Shack." Perhaps it is a particular sensitivity I feel to people writing about child abduction when they don't know about it, but I didn't like it. No parent of a missing child is going to have a memorial service because an item of clothing is found, even blood stained. We don't give up that easily. And I was not completely comfortable with Young's portrayal of God.

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  5. I like the mustard seed reference. I have often gone back to that in the bible. I agree we look at the mountain side of doubt, because we are human, and that is an easy crack to fall into. I think it is quite normal to doubt our belief...at times. I think there are enough moments though, if we pay close attention, where God does give us enough of the carrot to see that our belief is not in vain or for nothing. I have had many moments where God has told me about something that was about to happen, or given me strength when I was at the end and could bear no more. A year ago this week I lost a job I had for 8 years. I loved the job, and more....the people I worked with. A downsizing came along and I lost my job. Since, many more people I worked with have too. However, in my case I was warned....or should I say prepared. I had gone to bed on December 15, 2008 praying for one of my co-workers who feared he would lose his job, and my boss....who I will admit I was not a big fan of. However, he had a wife, a newly adopted child and other kids, and no one wants to see someone, even someone they aren't close to, lose their job. At exactly 3AM on December 16th I was bolted awake with two words, "It's you!" I was like, "me?" I knew it was God who told me. I pretty much didn't go back to bed, and when I got up at 6AM, along with my husband, I was quite crabby; lack of sleep and knowing what I knew. My husband asked me why I was so crabby, and I said, "I'm going to lose my job today!" He said, "You don't know that!" I said, "Yes, I do....God told me!" He didn't say anything else, nor did I. At 9:20 that morning I lost my job, and when I phoned him, he couldn't believe it. I know why God told me though. He knew I was an emotional person, and it was his way of giving me pre-strength to sit through the termination procedure, without tears or worry. In fact, I wasn't scared at all, because he had prepared me well enough. It is those moments that I believe and know why I have to cling to my beliefs, and push my own mortal self doubt, down. I don't know why I told you this, or if it helps, but like you said, if we are wrong, what's the worst thing that happens for having believed?

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  6. I understand that question. I have that question as well...the narrowness of the road.

    I once watched an interview with Stephan Jones, the son of Jonestown founder, Jim Jones. He is a deeply spiritual person, which I found shocking, given the pain he felt in his life by a man who was religious. He said that he believes that there is a God that is more loving then any of us has ever understood.

    Maybe we'll get to heaven and see WAY more then we ever imagined.

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  7. Wow, there are a lot of questions there. As you said prayer is second nature to you, either way you look at it, prayer is the best place to start and finish your day. About the "non believers" or people who didn't know Christ, I believe in baptism of passion, they are good people and tried to be the best person they knew how to be. I don't know how else to explain it, and I'm not all that good at it.

    What I can say is that we all have doubts sometimes, we all chose to do wrong sometimes, it doesn't mean that we are bad people or that we don't have faith, sometimes we are of questioning nature. I don't believe that there is anything wrong with asking questions about your faith, or faith in general.

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  8. I wish I was as eloquent as you but you are going to get my rambling thoughts regardless.

    I'm agnostic and have had a lot of the same thoughts and questions as you (raised with some Christianity). I like your line of thinking of what harm does it do to believe, with the caveat that this is as long as you remain rational and open and accepting, and not fall into extremism or judgmental thoughts or behavior, which I think is really easy to do.

    I think if I ever went back to religion, it would not be to Christianity but to another religion that I perceive to be less tied to a story for a lot of the reasons you brought up. Maybe Buddhism or something. But I'm not there at this point in my life.

    This is an idea I've heard that I really like. It is that all religions really lead to one God or higher being and when it comes down to it, it doesn't matter which particular religion you believe or practice. They all point to the same place. I really like that because for me, it answers that same question about different times thoughout history, cultures and isolated locations which equated to not hearing about the "Truth" that I also had when I was growing up (and therefore not getting into heaven). That "all leading to one place" thought makes all religions fine and good for me and I think makes me a better person about accepting people's different beliefs. And I also think this idea could also mean that there could be a place for people who are agnostic or even don't believe, as long as those people are good and kind and warm and generous. Because isn't that what God and religion and sprituality should really be about, rather than believing in some specific statement from the religion?

    Some of my musings, for what they are worth...

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  9. Guilt or fear because one sees alternatives? That is perplexing. Doesn't seem to mesh with understanding, love and goodness, and reaching spiritual growth. It may mesh with religious rules. Does guilt and fear about seeing alternatives promote people feeling strong, or do they keep one weak- and feeling bad? I think the latter. Who benefits by those sort of religious rules promoting one way, one narrow road?

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  10. I think, the amount of 'doubt vs faith' discussion can be viewed several ways- by, whether we see the 'glass half empty or half-full'? Or, how critical do we want to get about each other and ourselves when comparing one's amount of faith? We are always developing ourselves, it is ongoing, and we fluctuate in our growth, and spiritual understanding, just as we do in other areas of development. Can't we be compassionate and loving to all, and understand different aproaches to spiritual beliefs, as well as respect those who are agnostic. Alterntive beliefs don't necessarily amount to an act of a devil. There is no guarantee that a specific religious person is going to be more loving and/or a better person, than an agnostic person or one of a different religion than our own.

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  11. Sharon, I grew up in India, and am a Hindu by birth. When I was about 13, I started questioning all the "stories" and traditions of Hinduism. No one had any answers. Then I tried to see if another religion was able to provide me with answers. I tried Christianity for some time. I had the same question as you - so, if you don't believe in Jesus, you go to Hell..what about so many people out there, in tiny villages who have not even heard about Jesus. They have not been born into Christianity, so why should they believe? It was an unfair system where some people were born into the religion and get an automatic pass to heaven, and some have no clue..Anyway, Christianity is filled with stories that didn't convince me either. Eventually, all religion seemed to me that they were just that..wishful thinking - and a lot of religions have very much in common - floods, destruction, little mustard seed (that's a story I first heard in Buddhism). But you analogy is great..if God didnt create us, then who did? But then, who created God. My final thinking at this point (keeps changing) now is that: someone/something caused us to be created - maybe an alien species in a faraway planet, or maybe a all knowing being who once used to know everything, but may or maynot exist now, or an all-knowing, omni present God. There are so many ways things could have happened, and it seems to me that we are all guessing. In your analogy of painting - true, I find it hard to believe that the painting created itself and fell on the canvas. But whose to say the painter is still around and cares about the painting? On the other hand, is there any harm in believing? I myself fall into the category of being too logical and unable to accept anything. However, if my daughters can believe, I would be happy because it provides them with a safe haven and a place to turn to when in need - whereas I am stuck in the feeling that I need to take care of myself. But then again, so many people believe and fight and kill for their beliefs and religion. To each their own I guess. Sorry about the rambling - these are questions that have no right answer.

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  12. I am a Christian and I do have the same questions, as I am sure most of us do. I thought I would add my 2 cents to this interesting discussion.

    I think a lot of the confusion and questions we have come about because we are trying to understand the spiritual world while looking at it from the physical world. We are only seeing a very small piece of the big spiritual picture. I think things of a spiritual nature are hard for us to understand while we are in our limited physical bodies.

    I also don't think things are as black and white as we have made them. I think we make things black and white out of our fear of straying away from God, and that's probably ok I guess, as long as we aren't too rigid and unloving, and unwilling to grow because of it. I do believe that the Bible is God inspired, but religion is man made. Humans are imperfect, so religion can't be perfect, including Christianity. Some of our beliefs and Bible interpretations are likely limited to our earthly understanding. But I think we can be certain that God's love and compassion is not black and white, not limited, and not rigid.

    For me, I accept that I cannot understand the whole picture right now, but I try to just trust in God's love. The few times that I have managed to close my physical eyes and open my spiritual eyes long enough to experience Gods love, I am amazed, and I trust that God. When we do meet God one day, I don't think any of us will find him disappointing or lacking in love or compassion.

    I don't believe that God would ever condemn someone to eternal torment, who had never even had the chance to hear of Jesus's name. And there are a million other scenarios that we can come up with, of why someone might turn their heart from God in this hurtful world, or just not believe. But God knows those reasons, and he understands. He will be fair. This is where I believe our understanding is too black and white, but I think it's b/c right now, this is all we know.

    Having said that, I think if we do the hard spiritual work, we can have understanding and answers to these questions, God probably wants to answer these questions for us, if we ask and seek the answer. But many of us don't do that. (I haven't) If anyone has, please share!

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  13. I am a Christian who is also imperfect. I know at times I have doubts. However, whether I have faith the size of a mustard seed one day, or one that can move mountains another day, God is the same, yesterday, today, and forever! We may change but HE does not.
    I do believe that God has made himeslef known to all on earth. He said to us who are saved, "go out into all nations" and "preach the word in and out of season" So we do have work to do....but if we, as individuals, can't reach every corner of the earth, God says he has made himself known, so that man is without excuse.
    Romans 1:18-20.
    I am thinking of you this week Sharon, I'm sure Christmas must be hard....God Bless you:)

    Anna
    Kelowna,BC

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  14. I come here sometimes for hours and just read. I love that your faith is so strong. I pray so much that your daughter will be found and I have posted a link for your site on my facebook. God bless you!

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  15. Merry Christmas, Sharon. I hope really, really good things happen for you in the coming year!

    Michele

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  16. Sharon, you have written so eloquently about the amazing world we live in, yet take everything for granted. It seems inconceivable that our solar system is just a speck of dust in the cosmos. We are so insignificant! And we know so little about our world, even about our own selves!

    God, to me, is this Supreme Being with infinite love, power, compassion and everything that is good. He loves us and listens to our prayers no matter how small or insignificant we may be.

    My thoughts and prayers are with Michaela and you this Christmas.

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  17. I want to believe in God. Really, I do. Sometimes I think I want to put the idea of of my head entirely...but I most vacillate back and forth between possibilities. I guess in a way you could say I like to have my cake and eat it too. It's comforting and reassuring to think that there is somebody looking out for all the children and animals, a person/being/entity has created all these wonderful things and is going to see us again when we leave this world. But then I think to myself: "how can this be possible? I have no proof."
    [[ First and foremost let me preface this by saying I am agnostic/atheist depending on the day, am very much involved with a Unitarian Universalist church that I love dearly, and enjoy studying about all faiths. I try to have an unbiased an open-minded approach. ]]

    That is my biggest problem. If I can't be guaranteed of something [and really I am the only one-- at least I believe-- that is truly in control of my destiny] then it is really hard to put my faith in something abstract, intangible, and seemingly so out of my realm of control.

    When my fiancee was killed I hated God. Until then I had sort of passively believed in the entire concept....but when he was cruelly taken from us I was overcome with rage. Why would God do this? How could God do this? I realize now this was an incredibly selfish mindset and not uncommon to what everyone who experiences a tragedy must grapple with as they explore their anger and their religion.

    Then I went to a very dark place. I felt that the only person I could ever rely on-- in this life or the next-- is me. I hate to offend anyone but I want to be honest.....at that time I was bitter and hateful. I made fun of those who believed in religions and God[s] I deemed 'silly' and said far worse things than that.

    I guess I'm....cautiously optimistic? If I die and even get the chance to admit that I was doubtfulthen I'll take it. But I am fully aware I may not have such redemption so the best I can say is that I hope everyone finds fulfillment with their chosen view regardless of where [if any place] I end up when I leave the planet.

    One final thing I would like to say is that I really don't think the afterlife has anything to do with religion. I believe that one of two things happens: 1) it's just like another life here on earth but elsewhere or 2) there are various levels of 'good' places we can go that have to do with how good of a person we were, not our religion. But that's just me.

    ~ Sloane

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  18. Sharon,

    Every Christian goes through "seasons". This season may be your season of doubt. The questions you ask are natural and rest assured, you're not the first to ask them. (There is nothing new under the sun). Just remember that Jesus is always there, in the background waiting for you to invite him in.

    Cling tight to everything you know to be true of God, and know that Truth ALWAYS sets you free.

    Also, know that God never intended for us to know "everything"... Some things are better left unanswered. you're a mother, you understand this.

    also, why do we as humans have to make things more complicated than they really are? God's word is simple and clear. It's the reader's eyes that are foggy and hazy.... (remember- His word is foolishness to those who are lost!!!) if you begin to feel that His Word is foolishness or that it is unclear, then it's time to take a step back and reevaluate yourself, and reestablish the basics and get reacquainted with Jesus.

    satan is the author of confusion. Doubt is ok as long as you are seeking the Truth, but keep in mind that it also fuels satan (allowing him to try and enter your open door). so take heed. keep Jesus in your sights and ask him to reveal truth to you.

    as far as alternative paths... girl, you already know the answer to this... jesus is the ONLY way.

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  19. To Michaela's dear Mother,

    I know some Bible passages that might answer your questions. You see, I was raised a Christian and I believed what I was told in Sunday school as a child. However, when I was 16, my faith was shaken due to a tragedy. I became an agnostic. I thought that even if there was a God, all religions lead to salvation, anyway.

    Fast forward a decade. I started going through personal troubles, and for the first time in years, I really turned to God and started to explore Christianity again (yes, this was after looking into other religions). I had some of the same questions as you, and I realized the Bible had all the answers.

    In regards to the people who lived before Christ so they never heard His word (I think it also applies to people who live in parts of the world today with no access to Christianity) this is what the Bible says:

    Acts 17:30 "In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent."

    As for all religions leading to the same path, well, I no longer believe that. After years of looking into this belief, talking to Christians and doing my own research, I learned that Jesus was the only one who was/is the Son of God. Buddah, Mohammad and others were human. Jesus died for our sins, the others did not. Therefore Jesus is the only way to salvation.

    Trust me, while I believe Jesus is the only way, it does still cause me some degree of discomfort. I have many wonderful friends of other religions. They are good, no GREAT, people. However, they have heard of Jesus and have made their own decision to not believe. It is their choice to turn away, and God does give us free will.

    Matthew 7:13 "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it."

    I wish you the best for 2010.

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  20. See, this is something I cannot accept -- that all those wonderful people would be on "the road to destruction" just because they believe something else, or because they have a lifestyle that embodies love but does not fit into an "approved" pattern.

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  21. Well, the whole point of Christ coming to earth was to die for our sins. If all religions lead to salvation, then why did God bother to send Jesus to preach, die for us and then rise from the dead? If all good people go to heaven just for being good people, then there was no point to Christ suffering on the cross for us. We are given the choice to accept Jesus or not. If we do not, then we can not be saved because only One in all of history died for us. No amount of good deeds will allow one into Heaven if that person did not believe in word of God, who makes it pretty clear that Jesus took the burden of our sins. Buddah didn't do it. He was human. The same goes for all other religions. I have wonderful friends of other faiths, but their leader or prophet or whatever you want to call it did not die for their salvation and rise again from the dead. No matter how good they are, they are not saved. This is repeated throughout the Bible. People can't pick and choose what they want to believe or not believe because it makes them sad or uncomfortable.

    Three years ago I was in a bad car crash. I could have easily died. At the time, I was not a Christian. I was a good person, like I am now. I still gave to the poor, helped friends in their time of need, and went out of my way to be friendly, compassionate and helpful to all. However, I didn't believe in Christ at the time. Had I died that day, I now believe I would have gone down the path to destruction. I do not believe I would have entered Heaven, despite being a model citizen. It is scary to realize how close I came to that.

    Either people believe what God said, that Jesus is the only path to eternal life, or they don't. Christians can't have it both ways.

    If you haven't read "90 Minutes in Heaven" yet, I highly recommend it. It isn't totally about this particular topic -- Christ being the only way to salvation -- but it is a great book for those who are Christians or want to know more about it. I also suggest it to those who claim to be atheist. It's extremely interesting.

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  22. My son Andrew has been missing since 2007. I have had a nervous breakdown, suicide attempt, 4 months in psychiatric hospital and lost my job as a result. I am a Christian and I don't have the answers either. All I know is that Jesus Christ understands what it is to feel crucified, in the darkness, separate from God, in constant agony, exposed, gossiped about etc etc. I know our Father God understands what it feels like to lose a beloved only son. I know that in faith terms the depression I now suffer does not allow me to walk, or even crawl forwards, but that God carries me each day somehow whether I acknowledge it or not.
    What other God knows all this?
    What other saviour has experienced our pain?
    Who else could carry us for so long without tiring?
    Kevin

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  23. This comment is really long, so it is going to show up in a number of comments. I'm sorry. I just have a lot on my mind.

    I know this is kind of an old post to be commenting on, but you have been on my heart for a while now, and I think this is the post which relates most to the things forming in my heart concerning you.

    God's ways are something we can never completely understand. And that is just something we have to learn to deal with I think. It is never easy. Never. We always want to understand. We always want to have proof. We always want to have answers. Especially those of us who are prone to intellectual through and inquiry.

    But I have found over the past year or so that it is in those places of question that I find most comfort. This seems crazy I know, but God has taken me to a place in which I can finally enjoy places of tension and question. To me, it is so beautiful that God can both love the world so deeply, and yet choose His own special possesion. It gives me hope that no one is too far from God to be seen by Him. And also shows me that he cares personally about me and that he cares personally about our jouney with Him.

    It is clear to me that God did send His Son to die for all mankind, and this is the reason He needs us to accept His sacrifice for our sins. God did such a miraculous and wonderful thing to be with His creation, He can't just allow us to ignore and defile His precious and Holy sacrifice He gave to us. He can't stand and allow His Son's name and sacrifice for us to be mocked and ridiculed because He is a just God. There can not be grace without judgement. There is nothing to recieve grace for if there is no judgement. God had to send his Son so that we could recieve His wonderful grace and be spared the judgement that is to come.

    1 Peter 3: 18-22 states, "For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him." Jesus died. That is one thing we can not forget. And because He died, He went where every other person who had gone before Him before He came back to earth. In that process, He showed even the depths who He really was.

    God has always been about relationship and faith with His people. Before Jesus came to the scene, God had the sacrificial system set up so that His people could be reconciled to Him and live with Him. And even before that, Abraham's faith in God and obedience to Him was credited to Him as his righteousness as stated in Genesis, Hebrews, and Acts. God has never left His people without a way of knowing Him and being righteous before Him in order to have relationship with Him and spend eternity with Him.

    We also can not forget that we are part of God's plan to reach to world with His word. The great commission is our part in getting everyone to hear the Good News. And Jesus will not come back for his final judgement until ALL have heard the gospel message. 2 Peter 3:9 says "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." And who are we to say that God does not reveal himself to those we only think have not heard the Gospel. God does not need us to spread His word, He chooses to use us.

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  24. And concerning the wars and deaths in the Old Testament, one thing we need to keep in our minds is the context in which all of this was happening. In the time and culture in which all of this was taking place, the way to establish your group in the land was through war and hostile take-over. They didn't have diplomats or presidents in those days. War was the way in which the situations we can sort out through other means were reconciled. God works inside of the culture we have created. He uses OUR limits to reveal Himself and to have His will accomplished.

    Also, God had to separate His people from the other nations that were inhabbiting the land of Israel to keep them holy and pure before Him. Every Christian knows first hand the influence others can have on our view of God and our relationship with Him. God was eliminiating all distractions and influences for His people.

    The war in the Old Testament has always been a struggle for me. I am a hippie at heart, and I can't deny it. But God has helped me to understand His work in these areas through my time with Him and my continued devotion to opening my mind to all of God's explanations, even if they don't necessarily fit into what I think should happen.

    God chose the Israelites to set an example for us today. The prophets were prophesying in the days of the kings of a day when Gentiles would be able to worship the Lord. It was God's plan for a very long time to include all of His creation in salvation. He set an example of His expectations of His people and revealed His character through His relationship with Israel.

    I think it is also important to note that God is not afraid of our questions. He is the only one who can answer these questions fully and is more that willing to reveal Himself to give us answers to these questions. Now that isn't to say that God is going to give you every answer there is to have. There would be no purpose to faith if we knew everything. And it would take away the mystery of the journey of discovering God all the days of our lives. Even the angels in heaven are constantly seeing more of God everyday. As described in Isaiah, the angels sit around God's throne constantly crying out Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty because they are constantly seeing more of God that they hadn't known before. The being described in Revelation that surround God's throne are covered in eyes so that they can see God's glory in every direction and yet they still cry out Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty because He is STILL revealing Himself to them.

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  25. It isn't wrong to ask questions. We wouldn't continue to seek God if we didn't seek answers. The only thing in question here is where you search to find those answers. Are you searching your own thoughts to find the answers or you diving into His Word to find answers? Are you asking your fellow Christian friends about the things God has revealed to them concerning the same quesitons?

    We will spend our whole lives seaching and seeking to know God. We can't know Him completely. He is so multi-faceted and complex than we could ever understand. He holds things in tension that our minds can not wrap around because He is EVERYTHING. He is both sides of the balance, and weighs each side perfectly so the balance brings wholeness. His tension is beautiful. It humbles us and reminds us of who we are not, and who He is.

    Keep seeking the Lord. God promises you will find answers. They may not come as quickly as we'd like, but it is that time of planting that the seed struggles and dies, and then comes the growth and life (John 12). Real growth can't happen with out putting to death our flesh and standing firm in the midst of many obstacles.

    Sharon, I love you so much. You are such an amazing, wonderful, loving individual. Immerse yourself in God's love, His true unconditional love, and you will be satisfied. You love love. Get to know God's love more deeply for You and for the world. Ask Him to reveal to you more deeply what His love entails. Discovering God's love has changed my life in so many ways. I pray everyday for Him to further reveal His love to me so that I may be transformed.

    I am praying for you Sharon. Stand firm. Be strong. Seek God. These last few months have been so hard. Allow God to make them into something new. Choose to use all that has happened make you stronger in Him.

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  26. Courtney, I have read your message twice now, and each time I cried. Thank you for taking the time to write this long message to me. You know I love you dearly.

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  27. PHEW! I,m through being Pesty here! Last week after daily prayer to the God you said you followed here “My chosen faith has been Christian” I had a vivid dream where I saw a picture of Michaela and heard the words “Will you help my mother”. Since then I have posted several songs, poetry, news links. My spirit finally feels peaceful. I wish for you and your journey the very best.

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    1. “P.S.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OspL1xS-h1I


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