Seeker Series: Why? Believe in God…

quote anselm

Should someone believe in God? The Christian Bible asserts,“11 Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, foryou created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”(Revelation 4:11) Christians believe that God is a personal creator, loving, merciful and knowable. The Bible tells us about God, who he is, what has done and will do. Can we know God exists without the Bible? Yes, there is very good evidence for the rational belief in the existence of God. We are able to know God exists without using the Bible!

· Does the universe exist?

Of course it does, we are all here functioning, enjoying our families and friends in this world. We see the created world all around us. Where did it come from? The modern education system teaches the Big Bang theory and then evolutionary theory over billions of years created all that we see. That is avoiding the answer. Take a step back further, to what started the chain of events. In everything in our lives, we know it had a cause. It had to come from somewhere. The computer you’re looking at, the chair you’re sitting on originated from somewhere. It didn’t just spontaneously pop into existence from nothing. Imagine for a minute how funny the world would be if items just popped in and out of reality that we live in. If a pink pony unexpectedly appeared next to you on the couch, you would be looking for an explanation of where that pink pony came from! Consequently, both the pink pony and the universe all around us must have a cause.

The line of reasoning it would look like this:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

2. The universe began to exist

3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

We know that all things that begin to exist have a cause. That is reasonable. The universe began to exist. This is attested to by the Big Bang theory of the creation of the universe, again reasonable to believe this point. Therefore, the universe has a cause. The question remains as to what is that cause.

For the universe and everything in it, including time itself to be created, that creator is required to be outside of time. The universe must have been created supernaturally by an “uncaused creator being” that can create on its own free will. This “uncaused creator being” must beoutside of the time that was created when the universe began. By definition the “uncaused creator being” can be a God that is transcendent, infinite and eternal creator. Anything that is created into an existence cannot be god, thus God is the uncaused, cause of the universe!

· Why does this universe support life?

Sir Isaac Newton once said, “This most beautiful system of the sun, planets and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.” Scientists know our universe is a very special place. If any of the physical properties of the universe were just slightly different, the universe and life would not exist! Here are a few examples:

1. After the Big Bang, if the universe expanded at a rate of one millionth slower than it did, expansion of the universe would have stopped.

2. “If the thickness of the earth’s crust were greater, too much oxygen would be transferred to the crust to support life. If thinner, volcanic activity would make life on earth impossible.”

3. Jupiter’s planetary gravitational pull acts as a cosmic buffer protecting the earth from bombardment from asteroids and comets moving around our solar system.

There are many other environmental constants (over 100) that need to be “just right” in order for the universe to sustain life. If any are just slightly different, no life on earth exists. Stating the argument formally, it looks like this:

1. The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either; physical necessity, chance or design.

2. It is not due to physical necessity or chance.

3. Therefore, it is due to design.

Could the finely tuned values to create the universe be what they are due to an unknown physical necessity? No, the constants and quantities are not necessary. They must have the values they do in order to support life. How does random chance fair? Not well, if left to chance any number of random variables of the universe could have occurred if the cosmos spontaneously originated out of nothing! Could it be design? Yes, that is a reasonable conclusion. God is a designer. An eternal creator of the universe specifically setup to sustain life for His creation. Does this support that belief in God is plausible? Yes, a universe that was created by a transcendent, infinite and eternal creator can have the “just right” attributes for a universe that sustains life.

· If universe began to exist and it is a special place. What does this mean for me?

“19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.
20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature
have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the
things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:19-20)

Utilizing these two lines of reasoning above
we have good reasons to believe God exists without using the Bible!

There are more reasons I would encourage you to investigate. I invite you to genuinely search for answers. (Jeremiah 29:13) Read the Bible, investigate thoroughly and ask questions. Asking questions like these defines what it means to be human. They deserve consideration. If there is an omnipresent, omnipotent eternal creator God who created the universe, than why is it so incompatible that he sent Jesus Christ to redeem us? We will cover that later…

“16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and
invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things
were created through him and for him.” (Colossians 1:16)

1. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Re 1:8). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

2. Geisler, N., & Turek, F. (2004). I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist (p. 95, 105-106). Wheaton, Ill.:
Crossway Books.

Are you still trying to change on your own?

Your New Self Green Road Sign Over Dramatic Clouds and Sky.

9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

This time of year brings a flurry of new aspirations and New Year resolutions. Thoughts drift to creating a better you, a slimmer body, or new lease on life that will catapult you into the coming months. Possibly you’re desired transformation is from a dark place and comes with a higher cost. Perhaps you must stop using pornography, mend a broken relationship, emotionally heal or surrender a physical addiction. The list could go on and on. Recently, I’ve been wondering why God created us as He did. We seem to have this fascination for self-improvement. So we attempt to modify and change ourselves, often failing miserably at the task. Any change we perform comes from the head, not the heart. This “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps” attitude rarely amounts to much behavioral modification in the long haul.

We are incredibly broken people with quirks, anxiety, attention deficit disorders, controlling natures, and various mental proclivities. I weary of my personal quirks. I grow tired of fighting my heart, but also struggling with my head. (Ps. 139:23) The heart is where the change needs to occur. “The heart is the source of motives, the seat of passions, the center of the thought processes, and the spring of conscience.” (S.G.F Brandon, 1967) Realizing that you are broken with a heart that is depraved and deceitful (Jer. 17:9) is the first step in renewing your mind so change can occur. The heart is the center where the Holy Spirit will act to regenerate and continue the progressive work of God centered sanctification. (Ezek. 11:19)

I exhaust myself pleading with God to “fix” me, so I try to do it on my own. Perhaps the better answer is I confess my brokenness and repent of it. Repentance is the rejection of sin, a commitment to abandon it, and an action to follow Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 7:9-10) While outward appearances lead us to believe following Christ is easy, the truth of the matter is, it challenging. Culture continues to close in modern day Christians making the inward personal struggle to follow Christ a very lonely place. Where is God when we cry out in pain that no one sees from the outside? He is there. The Holy Spirit is the comforter that walks along side, and will be present with you during your darkest hours. (John 14:16)

“2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” (Isaiah 43:2)

Jonathan Edwards (1703 –1758) was a 17th century Christian preacher and theologian. Early in his life he wrote a series of personal resolutions in his diary. Edwards’s hoped that these resolutions would serve him as a reminder of spiritual principles to live his life by. While each statement said something about how he wanted to change his heart and mind, there was a focus on the eternal that would do us well to remember now. I consider these below my favorites from Edwards writing.

• “Resolved, never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can.”

• “Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.”

• “Resolved, to examine carefully and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and so direct all my forces against it.”

The anxieties in this life only matter for a short period of time and no doubt, our brokenness is frustrating. Strive for self-improvement, but complete this task in a way that is God honoring and works towards the One who knows your heart. When you ask for forgiveness the Holy Spirit will come. (Matthew 6:8-13) Place trust not in your effort, but in work and effort of Christ. Live fully, knowing you’re broken with the full assurance that Jesus paid the debt for your sin, quirks, anxiety, controlling nature, and all other personal characteristics you may be trying to change. (Galatians 2:20) Stop exhausting yourself and place your trust in Jesus, the one who knows how broken you are. Perhaps this is his task to complete, not yours…

“10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” (Psalm 51:10-12)

Brandon, S. G. F. (1967). Jesus and the zealots. New York: Scribner’s.

Acts 15- What must we do to be saved?

“16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16)

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What is the final destiny of life and how are we “saved” to receive that destiny? These could be the greatest questions that everyone needs to answer. The end of this life will find each and every one of us. There is no avoiding it. Individuals attempt to create an answer to what happens after this life ends. Culture also speaks strongly as to how or what our focus should be on during our life. Just live in the now, do “right” by people and everything will work out fine. Focusing on “living our best life now” provides a vain attempt to avoid the providing any answer. But, avoidance is not an answer. Living for the “now” does not contain the power to provide salvation from your sin and bestow admittance to enteral life in glory with God. Each religion or worldview (a worldview is a person’s fundamental orientation of looking at the world around them) must be held to the same critical standard. The all need to answer the same question; “What must I do to be saved and have access to the afterlife?”

What Paul and Barnabas answered in Acts 15 addressed an early argument within the first century church. “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved. 2 This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.” (Acts 15:1-2) Christianity believes in the gospel of Jesus Christ. God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ, by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:4-5) Other religions and worldviews must address this difficulty. No one receives a free pass not to provide a solution. Let’s consider three other common belief systems.

An individual who adheres to Mormonism will consider this the path to salvation:

• There are three kingdoms of glory: the celestial kingdom, the terrestrial kingdom, and the telestial kingdom. The glory we inherit will depend on the depth of our conversion, expressed by our obedience to the Lord’s commandments. It will depend on the manner in which we have “received the testimony of Jesus” (D&C 76:51; see also D&C 76:74, 79, 101)

In this Mormon doctrines and covenants (D&C) passage we see Mormons believe there are “levels” to heaven and that inheritance into “heaven” will depend on obedience or works completed in this life.

Devotion to Islam also claims a route to eternal life.

• In Islam salvation is achieved through good works and including “honorable deeds” such as, keeping five “pillars,” of Islam: witness for Muhammad, ritual prayers five times daily, alms giving, fasting during Ramadan, and a pilgrimage to Mecca. The Koran states in Sura 21:47, “On the day of judgment Allah will have a set of scales to weigh one’s good deeds against his bad deeds.”

Completing enough “good deeds” to win favor with an impersonal and unknowable god is an impossible task and obedience to this leads groups and individuals down dangerous paths. In both religions, works are necessary to gain favor with god and entrance into heaven or paradise.

Finally, let’s look at Pantheism a worldview that is commonly seen in Western Washington.

• Pantheism is the belief that God and the universe are one. The “God is everything, and everything is God” approach of Pantheism creates problems as it removes the personal identity and relational attributes of God.

Without a personal identity, there cannot be a relationship. It follows there would be no human destiny of the soul after this life with god if a relationship does not exist. Some forms of Pantheism assert the divine is an illusion, therefore making a god unknowable. Pantheism doesn’t answer the question of, “What must I do to be saved and have access to the afterlife?” It appears to avoid the question entirely.

All three worldviews are in direct contradiction to the personal and knowable God of the Bible.

“4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7)

“26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.” “9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him…” (Hebrews 7:26 and 5:9)

So, what must we do to be saved?

“30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:30-31)

The apostle Paul and Barnabas are refuting a basic question that remains for us today. Who is included in God’s saving grace? Apostle Paul argues that the saving grace that Jesus provided is for all, both Jew and Gentile, provided by Jesus on the cross, and is God’s alone to impart. “8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.” (Acts 15:8) Paul references back to Peter in Acts 10, because the “gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles” (Acts 10:44) ensuring that God’s saving grace was provided by the Holy Spirit for all, both circumcised and uncircumcised.

How should we connect with others of a different belief system so they may have access to eternal life? Always with love, grace and the gospel of Jesus Christ. (Matthew 22:39) For all that come to the cross, hear and believe the true words of God are invited into His infinite grace. This is very good news! Someone who believes they need to “earn” their way into heaven should find a tremendous amount of relief and comfort knowing that God loves them and has provided the way for salvation! No amount of “works” or “deeds” will appease a god or defend a god that is detached from his creation.

To the believers, pray continually asking for the Holy Spirit to use you. Be the hands and feet of Jesus, doing the hard work that needs to be completed for the Lord. Witness boldly to others showing them God’s everlasting grace as it has been shown to you.

To the unbelievers, may we pray for you? We pray you find that your work placating God is unnecessary. We want you to know Jesus came to atone for your sins, transgressions, and failures. We, as Christians do not stand above you, but beside you, as sinners deserving of God’s wrath. We are all sinners. Jesus alone is the perfect sacrifice for you and for us all. Rest from your unwarranted works, my friend, they are not needed…

“29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

Why Mormons Do Better Youth Ministry Than We Do

A insightful article.   I fully agree.  We MUST expect more from our teens and youth.

Unless the goal is no church affiliation and a incoherent worldview is the new standard of excellence for our kids, we must get better.

Why Mormons Do Better Youth Ministry Than We Do.

Justice Divided Fairly, a Characterization of Heaven

Everyone is concerned with his or her future destiny. These infinite, open-ended questions of the afterlife appear to us at random times. A death of a beloved family member, an emotional television program or a story told by a friend may provide the mind cause to bring thoughts like these into focus. What happens to us when this life is over? Are Heaven angels bearing wings and harps, sitting on the clouds? Is there a final judgment for individuals, holding them accountable for their actions in this life? If there is a Heaven, does that mean there is Hell also? How can God send someone to Hell instead of Heaven? Is Heaven as great as a Christian believes? Both believers and unbelievers continually wrestle with the reality of an afterlife, heaven and causation’s for an eternal destiny. The questions are real, worthy of asking and insisting of solid answers.

What happens to us after this life is over has been fiercely debated by the science and philosophy disciplines for centuries. Science, while excellent with providing a hypothesis in this area can do little to provide concrete evidence. The existence of heaven cannot be tested evidentially by a designed experiment as with other areas of science. It would follow that since science has little to add, philosophy or more specifically the philosophy of religion is the discipline of choice. Well known Italian physicist and philosopher Galileo Galilei stated, “…the scriptures tell us how to go to heaven, but not how the heavens go.” (Groothuis, 2013) Depending on your beliefs, Jesus of Nazareth is the only one that has been to heaven and returned. An explanation of heaven, the nature of what heaven is, and well-defined directives to gain entrance are contained in the scriptural New Testament account of Jesus and his teachings. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (ESV) offers a sense of this life is not the end. “16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” This verse tells us that even with our earthly bodies “wasting away”, there is more. “The eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” describes heaven as a place where no association to anything in this life can be drawn too. Many have heard the stereotypical descriptions of heaven, and these thoughts come to mind; all white, with no distinguishing colors, drifting angels sitting of puffy clouds, softly playing harps and of course the “wings”. Verse 21:1 (ESV) in the book of Revelations offers insight as to how heaven will be upon the second coming of Christ. “1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.” This is a tremendous statement. The weight of this shatters the myth of a placid, color neutral heavenly world, while a brand new heaven and earth is established. This would point to a fully restored earth, with real ground for God’s children to dwell and live within the magnificence of Christ and not drifting around on free-floating clouds. Revelations 21:3 (ESV) affords the believer another reason for excitement, as God himself will live in his newly created heavenly earth among us. 3 “…Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” The claim of no pain and crying, all former problems of this life will be gone offers a fantastic argument for belief in heaven. When this life is completed a gift is given. The gift of heaven is one of a new earth, where we will live among our Lord. Consequently, if we are to interpret these biblical texts correctly, no white clouds, wings and harps will be available.

Life on earth can be difficult and unjust. Humanity continues to act selfishly towards one another letting our own self-centeredness wound people we do not know. Even the people we hold closest to our hearts are not immune to unjustifiable hurt and distress. The cries for justice and fairness are heard constantly. As a community, we incorrectly look to government at all levels to protect us from ourselves. This is a misplaced hope, as hope ought to be in the one who created the heavens and earth. Naturally, with God’s promise of heaven also comes with the price of hell. This justice will befall on both believers and skeptics at the Day of Judgment. Each of us will be held accountable for our actions. Actions directed toward others, but also actions imparted on ourselves will be scrutinized. This is true justice. Justice divided fairly and in equal measure from a God fully outside the limits of a finite morality. It follows then if our actions and thoughts are true to God, heaven will be the reward but the opposite hell needs to exist for those who choose a life apart from God. How can a just and loving God send someone to an eternity of hell? How could God not send the unrepentant and unrighteous to hell? For God to unequally measure out justice would make God less of the God he is. God is the quintessential characterization of fairness. In this life, we desperately need him to be God in all of his immensity.
Sin is so horrendous to God, take into account the verse of Matthew 18:9 (ESV) “And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.” The Apostle Matthew uses an incredibly strong analogy that if your eye sins, it would be better to remove the offending body part than continuing in that sin. In the book of James our spoken words are called into question, “And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.” James 3:6 (ESV) These verses are two of many in the Gospels that repeat God’s command for belief in Him and requiring a change of your life for following the only sinless one, Jesus. These passages are direct calls to repent and do our very best to lead a sinless life. At this point, God has literally no choice but to disseminate judgments to hell, if after these declarations man still chooses to exercise his or her “free will” and live a life apart from Him. A one-dimensional definition of Heaven and Hell can be understood as follows:

  • Heaven, an everlasting life living with God’s greatness and glory in his predestined creation.
  • Hell is an interminable existence of deadness while living apart from God and all His creation.

Heaven is as great as a Christian believes! Luke 12:32 (ESV) 32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” God wants to invite us into the Kingdom of Heaven. “Good pleasure” is the phrasing used by the Apostle Luke. The Lord wants to offer us the pleasure of being in his sight. As discussed earlier, scripture does not give the impression of a heavenly space void of all color or a drifting space of clouds. Actually, scripture alludes to heaven as a great feast or party. Isaiah 25:6 (ESV) “6 On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.” This verse is very powerful with its description of “great” wine and “rich” food alluding to a magnificent celebration. In addition, Revelations 21:18-21 describes, “walls built of Jasper and a city of pure Gold and Glass”. Other jewels are depicted as well, Sapphire, Emerald, Onyx, Carnelian, Beryl and Amethyst among others. All the colors, food and drink in their splendor are illustrated in these scriptural accounts of Heaven. What images come to mind? Perhaps this invokes a great earthly vastness, full of glory and significance grounded in a physical reality, with no pain and sorrow with endless amounts of hope. Contemplate the absolute greatest time ever in your life. Thoughtfully think about on how you felt inside. Now, wonder about what this feeling would be if it was momentously more than it was. The finite human mind can hardly conceive let alone dream of a “heaven” this tremendous.

All have been offered admittance to this heavenly world, whether is the offer is accepted is a choice everyone must make. Micah 6:8 (ESV) “8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God…”