A winning choice
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
Although seemingly out of context in the surrounding story, the verse above relays a theme found throughout the Bible.
Christianity has been getting a bad rap lately with some shameful revelations coming to light through the actions of some individuals taking advantage of some religions. There is also an ongoing antagonism between conservative (traditional) values and modern (liberal) attitudes, both inside the church and outside looking towards the church.
The church however is still relevant at both a personal and society level. On a personal level, many have and continue to find answers to life's big questions. On a society level, the government would go broke if they had to take over the support for the poor and needy in the community which Christian churches provide on many fronts.
There are an array of religions that claim to have insight with the quest to connect with God. Christianity is in a unique position with the claims in that it has history from around year 0 (AD/ BC/ BCE) on our calendar to substantiate its claims.
Jesus warned the highest Roman authorities that if they killed him, God would raise him from the dead three days later. Because the Roman authorities feared that Jesus' followers would gain momentum if they could manipulate Jesus' body to fulfill that prediction, an extraordinary guard was placed around Jesus' body.
Jesus' body was placed in a cave tomb cut into rock and the entrance blocked with a huge rock. A guard was placed outside the tomb but still Jesus came back to life three days later as he predicted and was seen by many. This is substantiated history and is the reason Christianity has authority in being greater than death.
This article on the Historical Evidence for the Resurrection examines the evidence in detail. This is important because Christianity is focused on the resurrection of Jesus and what that power over death means to us individually if we accept the facts of Jesus' resurrection.
What is God's 'love' like?
I have a 12 year old fostered son - Andrew. When I come into the room he sometimes raises his hand slightly as a sign to me that he wants me to reassure and comfort him. He often does this when he is feeling down and he wants me to help him feel better. He knows that if he reaches out to me in a small way like that, I will respond to him and give him the love and assurance he is looking for at that moment.
That is exactly how God is with us. He waits for us to open our heart to Him in some small way and then He will go out of his way to reveal the love He has for us. The relationship of God to man is often described in the Bible as being an ideal 'father-son' relationship. God even says that He will be 'a father to the fatherless'.
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
The emphasis is always for a person to make the first move and God will then respond. This is one reason why people can go all through their long life and make statements like 'there is no God!' They were ignorant of the requirement that they had to make the first move in order to have God reveal himself to them. God did it this way so that those who want to find Him will do so out of their own free will.
Our minds have limits
Consider these options
Can your mind comprehend these two facts?
- Get your mind to imagine the solar systems and universe going on forever, in all directions with no ending.
- Get your mind to imagine the universe ending at some point and then try to comprehend what the void after the universe boundary is like. The void must go on forever as well.
One of the statements above has to be correct, but our mind does not have the ability to comprehend and process the fact.
The point is this: Our mind is finite - it has definite limits in its ability. That is why it is not sensible to rely on our own (or any other man's) ideas when it comes to issues bigger than our mind can fully comprehend - vitally important issues like 'is there a god?' and 'what happens to us after we die?'.
An example of those mind limits
- Compare an 8 year old girl explaining how the latest Ford production car operates
- against an adult explaining spiritual matters from his ideas.
- Her understanding of the car is limited.
- Our understanding of the universe is limited.
- She could produce an explanation of observed facts at her level - 'you put petrol in here and turn the key and push this pedal to go fast'.
- We have an understanding of the world and universe from facts we have observed.
- Her peers would have no argument with her explanation, because they all have approximately the same level of understanding.
- We all commonly lack the ability to grasp an infinite universe and must accept scientific and theological explanations within those limits.
- The people who actually designed the car would laugh at the little girl's sincere attempts to explain its operation.
- God says 'the greatest wisdom of men is foolishness!' (in the big picture)
- The little girl simply has to believe and trust the manufacturer when he says 'the EGO Lambda sensor constantly monitors the oxygen level in the exhaust and the ECU adjusts the fuel mixture accordingly'.
- We have to trust the God who says you must be 'born again' to have eternal life to be able to go to heaven when you die.
- The explanation of how the car operates is beyond her wildest imagination to try and comprehend. She has to choose whether to believe and trust the manufacturer or not - that he knows exactly what he has researched and designed and knows best how to operate the car.
- We cannot comprehend all of the ways God does His stuff. We choose whether to believe what He says or to trust in mans' limited understanding and explanations.
- The manufacturer realized that no one would have the same intimate knowledge of the car that he does. That is why he produced a handbook and workshop manual so people could understand how the car is to be operated and serviced to get the best out of it. It is completely voluntary to read the book, but there are consequences for not following its recommendations.
- The God who says He created the universe also gave us a book to understand how to run our lives to get the best out of our time here on earth. It too is voluntary reading and also has consequences for not following its requirements.
If you connect with God
- Imagine a light bulb
- and compare it to a person.
- Light bulbs come in all shapes and sizes - fluorescent, incandescent, spot lights, flood lights etc.
- People come in all shapes, sizes and abilities.
- They are all complete and perfect as designed.
- People are able to exist on their own. Each is made complete and perfect.
- They were all designed for a specific purpose.
- The Bible says that each person was created for a particular purpose.
- They can't produce light on their own. They have to be connected to an external source of power through the wiring.
- The Bible says that we can't achieve our full potential on our own. We have to be connected to God through the 'wiring' of Jesus Christ.
- Some will never achieve their purpose of producing light before being destroyed by an accident or breakage that ends the lamp's fragile life.
- Some people die before ever connecting to God. The Bible describes our life as "hanging by a thread".
- Other lamps will be connected to the power source via the wiring and the invisible energy flowing into them will cause the lamp to reach its full potential.
- People who accept God's way and connect to Him via His specified method (through Jesus Christ) find they come alive on the inside. Others who haven't made the connection find it difficult to understand how something invisible could change a person so much.
The Bible actually says that we become 'a light set on a hill' when we become connected to God.
How do I connect with God?
The basis of connecting with God is an attitude of acceptance and belief in Jesus Christ, his resurrection from the dead and what He did for us. God always looks on the heart of a person - not what is seen by others.
- A relationship with another person
- A relationship with God
- You might know all about the other person but never have met them personally.
- You can know all about God but not know Him personally.
- You need to introduce yourself or be introduced to the other person to begin a relationship with them.
- You need to 'look up' and introduce yourself to God through praying, to start that relationship.
- The relationship with the other person then has to be worked on if it is going to develop in any way at all. Worked on by spending time communicating and getting to know them.
- The relationship with God then has to be built the same way by spending time talking (praying) and listening (bible and prayer). The relationship thrives too by meeting together with others who have also introduced themselves to God (a Christian church is a place where such people get together)
- The relationship with the person becomes personal and intimate to a certain extent.
- Many Christians report that over time their relationship with God becomes indispensible because it touches them deep inside. This is in addition to their normal, fulfilling, people relationships.
Step by step to be a Christian
If you want a more formal way to start over as a Christian, here are some steps that should help it all become clearer. The steps are not really needed, they just help visualize what you are doing. It is all about changing your heart towards God and giving Him permission to come in to your life - begin following Him.
- Tell God you are sorry for how you have been living. Sorry that your life hasn't been pleasing to him. Sorry that in his eyes you are a sinner.
- Ask Him to forgive you for your life of sin and tell Him you want to live pleasing to Him from now on.
- Tell Him that you believe that Jesus died for you in order to open up a way so you can have access to God.
- Tell Him that you want to begin a relationship with Him. Ask Him to come and be your friend. Ask Him to come and live inside of you in your spirit!
- Tell Him you want Him to take over your life and to help you in areas that you struggle with.
In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.
When you have followed this through, the Bible describes you as a little baby spiritually. Just born - in fact just 'born again'.
The next step is to obtain nurturing, just the same as it is absolutely essential for a baby to be nurtured if it going to survive. Nurture is obtained by reading the Bible (get a modern translation which is easy to understand and begin by reading the section called 'John') Nurture is also obtained by praying (simply talking to God) and thanking God for your life and all He has done for you.
A third essential component of nurture is mixing with other Christians. Choose a Christian church that tells you they love Jesus and worship Him. There are many lively, modern Christian churches in nearly every town and city.
Am I on my own?
God has promised to 'never leave you or forsake you'. 'Nothing can separate you from God's love'.
Make the decision to spend time with other Christians - if you put a branch into a fire, it quickly catches on fire - if you take it out of the fire, it will eventually go out. No matter how hard you try, you still need the draft and warmth of other Christians to keep the fire of God's work in your life alight.
God made it that way. The Bible actually describes us as all part of one body that has Jesus as the head. No part of the body can successfully exist by itself!
It's all in your hands - nobody else can do it for you.