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Faith Bloopers | Christian Living

Accepting God's Gift - Personal Testimony

Christina Walker

Saturday, June 13, 2015

I read a wise quote once that stated, “Quoting from the Bible to warn me about Satan is like quoting from Harry Potter to warn me about Voldemort.”  If a person does not have faith that the Bible is the word of the only living God, then quoting from it may be ineffective.  I know this can be true, as I struggled for most my life with faith.

I was raised as an ELCA Lutheran Christian, went to church and Sunday School every Sunday, Vacation Bible School in the summers, Youth Group each week, the National Youth Conference.  I was a leader in the youth group and the Missions Team.  I sang in two choirs and played bells in the bell choir.  I wore Jesus-themed shirts to church, never cursed, and wanted to become a pastor.  But underneath all this, I had burning doubts about God and Jesus.  The universe is so big, and there are so many different beliefs about creation and life after death.  How can we ever really know what the truth is?  I cried out for God many nights to gift me with faith.  I became angry at Him and would go months without acknowledging Him and flat-out refusing to believe in Him.  I was scared that I was missing “it.”  Terrified I wasn’t His, that He didn’t want me.  And so I turned away and pretended to be a Christian.  There were times I put my faith in Jesus, but these were often short lived periods, only lasting from a few days to a month at a time.

So I want you to know what finally changed in my life about a year and a half ago.  But before starting, two things: First, everything we “know” we don’t actually know.  In fact, the more I learn and think about the world, the more I come to understand that the only thing I know is that I can’t really “know” anything.  Even things I see, taste, hear, smell, and feel.  I can only make deductions and form beliefs based on what I learn.

Secondly, I’m not attempting to convince anyone to believe in God.  I cannot do that, you can only come to Him as He draws you in.  Rather, I am sharing how I came to put my faith in Him after a life of struggling with belief.

In college, I took a Philosophy of Religion course which challenged the way my mind saw the world.  Interestingly, my professor was agnostic. There were only two significant things I remember from the class, and each of them support the idea that a higher being of some sort must exist.  

The first one is based on the simple physics principle that an object which is not moving or expending any form of energy cannot be put into motion until another force acts upon the first.  Now, this is one of Newton’s “Laws” that so far has not been disproven as far as we know. While we understand that anything we “know” today and form into a “law” could be disproved in the future, for life to make any kind of sense we have to work within the framework of what our minds find to be true.  Long ago, people thought the earth was flat, and why shouldn’t they?  Looks flat to me.  That was considered common knowledge until science proved otherwise.  

So, at this point in time, let’s accept that Newton’s law is true.  Scientists believe that the universe began with a big bang that exploded outwards and created the mass cosmos that makes up our universe.  Some also think that eventually we’ll reach a certain point, stop expanding, and begin to condense back to a single point.  Whether or not that’s true, I don’t know.  So, we could be in the first universe to ever exist, or there could have been many universes before us that expanded and then condensed back on themselves, repeatedly over and over again until we got to today.  

Whatever the case, there had to be a “first time.”  Despite what my favorite British alien says, what we have found is that time seems to progress in a linear fashion, with cause to effect.  If this is in fact true, then like I said, there has to have been an initial explosion.  For any matter to exist, for any force to be put into motion, a force had to act to “get the ball rolling,” so to speak.  Now, whether you call that force “God,” “Allah,” “Uri Ura,” “Jehovah,” “Alhou,” “Pranah,” “Field of Potentiality,” or some other concept for a supreme being or force, really, is up to each individual.

The second concept I learned in that class is the classic concept introduced by William Paley.  He compared the universe to a watch, with many parts that all depend upon one another to work in exactly a certain manner and fit together in exactly a certain way for the entire mechanism to work.  The more you learn about the building blocks of the universe, or what we think we know of them, the more you begin to see that even the smallest change in any one component would make the known universe impossible.  It simply wouldn’t function or exist without each component working in exactly the way it should.  

Now, not even taking life into account, as life is a more complex and higher level of functioning than other matter such as rocks or stars or anything non-organic, for the universe to have randomly somehow gotten all the right parts to be exactly the way they needed to be from the very beginning for progress to be made is extremely extremely unlikely.  Notice I say unlikely and not impossible.  In the watch example, it’s argued that if all the pieces fall from a table, it is theoretically possible for all the parts to fall together in the right way at the right time to create a functioning watch.  Possible, just extremely unlikely.  

And then there’s question of how the clock pieces even came into existence in the first place, but that would be a whole other point that would take too long to get into.  So let’s just say the right initial material to create the known universe was somehow available when everything started.  If it’s so unlikely for a watch, with immeasurably far less complexity than the universe, to just happen to fall together in the right way, how much more unlikely is it that the universe just happened to form on it’s own in such a complex and intricate manner?  Once again, not even taking life into account?  If the presence of a watch “proves” the existence of a current or past watch maker, then surely the presence of the universe at least strongly supports the existence of a universe maker.

Neither of these points “prove” the existence of a supreme power or force at work in the push-off and development of the universe, as we agreed earlier nothing can really be known.  But with what we have to work from, it is really the only logical explanation I can come to.  So I do believe that some sort of a supreme power exists or did exist at some point.

Everything I believe is just that, my beliefs based once again on what evidence I can gather.  From here on out, I will pull much more on my background in psychology and the way humans behave based on the patterns observed by humanity for millennia.  Every single thing anyone ever does is done with a purpose, and that purpose is always in their best interest.  Even in cases of suicide, or heroic sacrifice.  The person might be choosing death, but the alternative(s) seem worse to them than death.  Therefore, they act in a way that results in the better outcome from their perspective.  Just food for thought as you read on.

There is no reason to believe that a man named Jesus did not live in Israel about 2,000 years ago.   Due to multiple written accounts, many of which not included in the Bible, such a man did in fact exist.  Now whether or not he was the son of God is a different story.  What we know of him was written many years after he had died, and much of it by people who were not first-hand witnesses.  In addition, it is a fact that even immediately following an event people’s memory and accounts of the event are not always accurate and are never perfect (despite what you feel about BBC’s Sherlock Holmes).  Because of that, I don’t take the small discrepancies between the gospels to heart.  In fact, the discrepancies legitimize the documents to me more than if they were perfectly the same.  It shows that the writers wrote separately and didn’t “conspire,” if you will.  

What you’re left with is multiple accounts of a man, all of which only a few things are perfectly in common.  First, this man was able to do things that other humans cannot.  Non-Biblical accounts accuse Jesus of practicing “sorcery.”  Never, not once, are the miracles described in the gospels questioned of whether or not they happened.  People responded to them differently, some in awe and others in jealousy or anger or fear.  But none ever disputed that the events happened.  Interesting, but still not proof that he’s God.  

I mean, he could have just been lying or crazy, right?  Well, based on psychology I say no.  A man who claimed to be the Son of God because he performed miracles (healing people goes past magic tricks, I think) could just have been wanting the attention and admiration.  He could have been lying the whole time, despite the miracles.  But then came the hanging.  Let me ask you to contemplate something.  If you wanted to present yourself in some way and knew you were lying about who you were or what you could do, would you allow yourself to be whipped, humiliated, and die an excruciating and traumatizing death in front of your loved ones?  Unless you’re insane, I’m positive your answer would be no.  You’d come out and say you were lying.  

So, was he insane?  Possibly.  Except that his behavior and the recorded words we receive do not at all follow the patterns of those experiencing psychosis.  Enough of the recorded words in the ancient texts are similar enough to one another that several of his monologues or dialogues could be used to inspect if insanity was present.  It’s not.  People who are psychotic do not speak that rationally, and nor do they fool so many people.  Some argue that his words weren’t rational because they were so different from what his culture believed.  I don’t think having differing beliefs from the culture you live in constitutes insanity.  

You could argue that Jesus experienced delusions of grandiosity.  Except that his general character was humble, which contradicts what people experiencing delusions of grandiosity behave like.  In addition, as discussed earlier, the healings and other miracles of Jesus did happen. You’re hardly experiencing delusions if you’re actually healing the blind and raising people from the dead, whether these events are considered “miracles” or “sorcery.”  So, Jesus wasn’t lying and his speech and behavior patterns don’t match up with any known insanity.  Which means that he fully believed he was the son of God, without being insane.  Still doesn’t make him the son of God, but it’s interesting.  

That’s what I told myself for years and years, but it wasn’t enough for me to believe in him as a Christian.  Until last February, I spent my life pretending to be a Christian.  Trying to force myself to believe.  I even thought for a while that attempting to become a pastor would help me finally find faith.  Instead I became a social worker, but that’s because I gave up on God for a while.  And by a while I mean all four years I was in college as well as the following year in grad school.  Nothing could prove he was God, so I wasn’t going to believe it.  I couldn’t.  “I’m too intelligent of a person,” I would tell myself.

And then a little after I moved to nearly-Kansas Colorado, I was listening in church half zoned out like normal, when something I’d heard hundreds of times caught my attention.  Something that didn’t make sense.  Why the hell did the disciples die?  Sure, they followed this Jesus guy for three years, he became their good friend.  But he died.  After he died, they were terrified.  Scared people were going to come kill them since they were so closely associated with Jesus.  They were so scared they locked themselves inside.  

After his death, they just tried to resume life as it had been before he showed up.  I mean, they had families to care for and raise.  But all of the sudden, these scared men who had given up and began to resume life as before did a complete 180.  Suddenly, they were out declaring that Jesus was risen, he was the son of God, and for people to believe in Him.  Why?  

Scripts have survived documenting 400 sightings of Jesus after his death, to more than just the disciples.  Most of these documents are not even part of the current Bible.  Two accounts from the Bible describe the disciples being in a locked room when Jesus appeared with them inside the room.   There is no such thing as a multi-person hallucination.  There are delusions that can be shared by a group, but the apparition of Jesus would be considered a hallucination, not delusion.  Couldn’t it be someone else that showed up, somehow, inside the locked room?  Possibly.  But these men spent 3 years staring at this man, I’m sure they would know if it was him or not.  

So, either the group saw Jesus, or they lied.  But why lie?  Why lie for a man who was dead?  Why endanger yourself and your family’s lives to share the triumphs of someone else, not you?  They were imprisoned, tortured, and killed in awful manners.  And yet they did not stop shouting about this dude named Jesus until they died, most many many years later after enduring a lot of pain.  

There is no rational explanation for their behavior.  They did not have multiple group hallucinations, as this is not possible and people other than the 11 disciples saw the same things.  They weren’t lying, because nobody would lie with those extreme consequences, and especially not that many people would keep the lie up.  So they firmly believed Jesus was the son of God.  Were they insane?  Once again, the speech and behavior patterns don’t match up with any known form of insanity.  They saw their friend Jesus alive again after witnessing Him die on a cross and after burying Him.

So my beliefs are, of course, based on deductions I draw from my “knowledge” of human behavior and psychology.  I could be wrong.  Aliens could be using Earth inhabitants like lab rats, testing our belief processes.  Or this entire universe and existence could just be a dream, and when I “die” I’ll wake up as some extreme, super awesome other-world being.  We can’t “know” anything.  But from what I can deduce, a supreme power exists, a man named Jesus lived, died, then most likely lived again somehow, and the impact on witnesses changed their lives in such a way as no logical alternative reason can be made.  

So, since the day I realized the disciples’ reactions don’t make sense, I have come to believe that Jesus is in fact the Son of God, God being the “Supreme Being.”  I could be wrong, obviously, but I don’t think I am.  And if I am wrong, meh.  I have a higher quality of life now.  I have a sense of purpose, community, and of safety and security in feeling like death doesn’t necessarily mean my end.  Most importantly, I have a close relationship with God.  He fulfills me through the scriptures, He paints beautiful sunsets for me, He allows me to draw near to Him as I gaze at the stars and laugh at my puppy rolling in the grass.  He’s mine and I am His.  That’s much better than living in the agony I did for 23 years of trying to figure out what I could or should believe.  What I needed to do.  Because it’s not about that.  It’s about knowing and loving Him.  The creator of all the universe.

For anyone who wants to renew their faith, or newly begin a life with Christ, here’s what you do:

Know that you are no different than anyone else, no matter what you have or have not done.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”

Romans 3:23 (TNIV)

Recognize that you CANNOT do anything to earn or deserve God’s love and forgiveness.

“For it is BY GRACE you have been saved, through FAITH -

And this is not from yourselves, it is the GIFT OF GOD -

Not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Ephesians 2:8-9 (TNIV)

“This righteousness is GIVEN through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.”

Romans 3:22 (TNIV)

Pray and ask God to forgive you.  Don’t pray as if you are skeptical that He could ever love or forgive you.  Rather, pray knowing that He already has forgiven you and that He loves you more than you can imagine.  Below is an example prayer, but allow yourself to pray from your heart.  And if words don’t come, that’s OK.  God speaks the language of your heart and knows what you are asking for.

Awesome God, I come humbly to you asking for your forgiveness for everything I’ve done against you.  Every sin I’ve ever committed, please forgive me.  I believe in the power of your Son, Jesus the Christ, who died for me.  Clean me through His sacrifice, because He is now the Lord of my life.  I ask that you walk with me, guiding me with your Spirit.  Thank you for all you have done.  You are more beautiful and amazing than I could ever have imagined, and I cannot wait to get to know you more! Amen.

And now, friend, welcome to the family of Christ!  Know that the angels are throwing a party for you in heaven!  I can’t wait to meet you one day!  But between now and then, get hooked up with other Christians.  Find a good church that will help you grow in Him.  Join a Bible Study, do daily devotionals, watch the sunrise and sit in His presence in the mornings.  Never do anything because you have to, this is your relationship with God.  Spend time with Him however feels most natural to you.  God connects with each of us in a beautifully unique way!

Join us next week as we explore how to determine God's direction for your life!