I seem to be one of the few people left in the secular world who often signs off my public writings with the phrase God Bless. I have also included “religious sounding” statements in posts on rare occasions. I am frequently vague in my writings for a reason. I enjoy making people think about what I have said, and search for the meaning. I do however realize that at times that vagueness is counterproductive. I also realize, that on some occasions, my writing is poor enough, that it is hard to understand by itself, without having to decipher hidden meanings. I feel that it is time for me to explain why I write what I write, in the theological sense. The above mentioned subjects (God Bless, etc.) deserve, and “need” an explanation. I also realize that some of you may not care why I write what I write, or what my spiritual journey has been. It is certainly understandable if that description fits you, that the rest of this article will be left unread.
In The Beginning
I am speaking of my beginning.
I was brought up going to Sunday School and church. A Christian Church of the Lutheran denomination. It was a worthy effort, although my thoughts always carry me long distances from where I am supposed to be, plus I did not believe much of what was taught, and frankly I never listened as carefully as I should have. I was raised by good people, but other than church on Sunday, religion was not a central part of my up-bringing. We would take Sunday off from church anytime there was something we wanted to do, and I cannot remember one single time when we said grace before a meal. That is not a criticism. They were like most parents I knew at the time, they were God believing, but it wasn’t carried very far. As a teenager, when my church confirmation classes were complete, I left the church, in some ways, for good.
I have always thought a lot about life, God, and untold numbers of trivial things. Between the ages of 17-18, those thoughts led me to become a devout atheist. I am science oriented anyway, and I allowed myself to become a willing victim to the usual (now very tiring to me), statement, how can any god allow such tragedies happen? Often to children. While I now can reconcile that easily enough, it was a good question at the time.
A little past the age of 19, I left atheism forever. I found that philosophy to really be just another religion, and a weak one at that. It never actually explains anything about the origins of the universe or man, beyond their own belief system, which can never prove either hypotheses. In the end, they always rely on faith, just like any religion, only they lack the courage to admit it. There were always a thousand question marks behind their “facts”. It was a belief carried by (my opinion) mainly, arrogant, ego ridden, angry, and sad people. I asked myself the question, what’s next?
From that point on, I always questioned my belief system, and for many, many years, I searched for the truth. In and out of Christianity. In and out of organized religions. I found some Christian denominations/ministries to be weak in their beliefs. They skimmed the surface of the Bible, but preferred to keep you happy by telling you what they thought you wanted to hear. I found some religions to be cults. I found others to be pure evil. This includes many well-known religions. This is both in and out of what is usually considered to be Christianity. At times, I still made fun of religious orders, and I rejected any one form of religion. They always either seemed hateful, or overly ethereal, to the point of brain damage. Neither scenario led me to the truth.
Much of Christianity intrigued me, but I rejected Christ as my savior, and much of the Bible. The one thing I can rarely be called is a hypocrite. I don’t follow religions that I do not believe. I don’t pick and choose which parts to accept, and which parts to reject. I don’t pick and choose the parts of any so-called holy book (Koran, Torah, and also the Bible) to follow, and what to reject. I do not just embrace those things that make me feel good. I am searching for the truth, and I do not want to simply be told, what I want to hear. It is either truly the word of God, or it is made up by man. It may or may not be a good book, but I do not idolize or commit myself to the words and thoughts that I believe are those of man.
My journey has continued for many years. There was always something special for me in the Christian experience, but I passed it off as it was just my upbringing causing a bias in my thought process. I searched a bit through holy books. I found one major book used by one of today’s major religions to be Pure Evil. I found others to be lacking in substance.
Do not judge the Bible or its teachings by what some others have done, and will do in its name. The Crusades, while initiated as a spreading and furthering of religious beliefs, became, a zealous land grab in the name of God. They were wrong and they interpreted the Bible to say what they wanted it to say. They took Old Testament teaching out of context in order to justify violence. Then there is that group of sick, lonely people (a group today) who say they are Christians, while protesting with vulgar signs, at the funerals of those who have died in their service to our country. They are anything but Christian, and they are not biblical. They are of Satan, not God. They bastardize the Bible and pluck verses out incorrectly, and corruptly, to spew their hate towards many groups of people. There has been, still is, and always will be those sick individuals who band together and corrupt any truth. The same is done today by many towards the U. S. Constitution and our founding fathers. Sometimes those “false witnesses” even reside on our Supreme Court.
Time marched on, and eventually I suffered a type of illness that left me without much of the freedom and ability to come and go that I revere. It was time to study harder.
I slowly realized there was a change in the writings of atheistic scientists over the years of my life, in respect to Jesus Christ. When I was a child, those writings often stated that Jesus, as man or God, never really existed. When proof that he did indeed live was found and accepted by all, the writings were changed to say, yes he did live, but he was never sacrificed on that Old Rugged Cross. Too many non-biblical writings proved that he was, so the crucifixion was confirmed by those who wanted it not to be true. The next step was to deny, that he resurrected. There were hundreds of witnesses that verified through many writings that he did indeed walk the earth “after“ death. Atheistic writers once again acquiesced. Now, the latest is to say, well yes he clearly did die, and he clearly did resurrect to walk the earth again, and that is indeed supernatural, but he wasn’t in any way or form a god. After all, mortals do that all of the time…….right. I wondered why so many, have tried so hard, for so long, to disprove Jesus. Some have devoted their life to it. Many atheists, devote an immeasurable amount of time trying to disprove a subject they claim they do not believe in. I don’t believe in space aliens. I’ve never wasted a minute of my life to disprove them. It makes no difference to me that many people believe they exist. That is their privilege.
Starting in 2012, I embarked on a journey to understand the Bible. What a journey it has been. I needed help from others and I have used that help as much as needed, although I question the motivation of their interpretation of every single verse, by every single teacher, every single time. Why do they believe that? What kind of biases influenced their interpretation? What is their background? What axes do they have to grind? Are they a love and peace fanatic, or maybe a let’s make war fanatic? Are they racist? Are they sexist? Is there a sin that they want to prove is not a sin? What does any and every word in the Bible actually mean in ancient Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic, and do they research those languages? How do they view the differences in the Old Testament, and New Testament? Which version of the Bible do they teach from? A word for word (hard to understand but usually honest) translation, translated paragraphs or phrases, which is open to much opinion and deception? I found that the Bible is dissected very differently by different people. The Bible is both accidentally and intentionally, (my opinion) translated incorrectly (also my opinion) in many cases. I also needed to know for my own edification, why does there seem like there are so many contradictions in the Bible? I finally began to understand, where symbolism and metaphors are used, where a point is made by telling a parable, and when the point is made straight up. Everything was becoming obvious.
After three years of study and thought, I have finally settled on a few different individuals or ministries, who put the Bible first. People who after lifetimes of study, and I mean lifetimes of study, give you their interpretation as straight up as possible, even when it says things they that they probably wish it didn‘t. The kind of people who welcome and even beg you to check out what they say. Read it for yourself. I still however, always question the motivation behind every interpretation any one of them makes.
The more you understand…….the more you understand. It multiplies. What can seem at first to be contradictions, become clear when you understand the context, era in time, and reason for the statement, or happening. Prophetically, this book is beyond anything you or I can digest. We’re simply too small for the job. It scared me for a long time, until the accuracy levels brought me faith. No mere human can answer everything. How so many, many, many things can be accurately foretold (75%, of all prophecy has already happened), will have to be left to God.
The Bible is the story of sin, and how to defeat it. That means it is also the story of salvation and faith. In the end, you are asked to repent, and believe. Faith always comes slowly to me, but I have learned much. Any day, no matter how bad, I have a Savior waiting for me. Comfort, forgiveness, and rest through grace.
To accept a book as the story of sin, you have to believe that sin exists. The secular moral doctrine of today, and yes it is a doctrine, is to believe that sin does not exist. In other words, you cannot help what you do, it is an accident of birth, or it’s your parents fault, and the one great answer, it’s society’s fault. Damn society. The other pop-phycology answer is that sin, is whatever it is to you. We each decide our own sin. Hopefully you are not the four year-old child living next to the pedophile who is deciding that child molestation is a religious experience, or something he cannot help doing. Christian teachings might tell of a seduction to sin by a devil, but you are in charge of saying no through your acceptance of Christ. True Cristian belief will always teach the road to salvation for all, but you have the free will to reject that message and suffer the consequences. You are held responsible.
I am not religious. Religions, including those that are part of Christianity, are created by man, for man. That doesn’t mean that some aren’t good, properly motivated and accurate. There can be great value in church fellowship with others in God, as well as group prayer and group worship. I’d just prefer to attach my heart-felt beliefs, to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost rather than a particular church or denomination. There is more than one road to the same destination..
Do understand, there are more charlatans, false teachers and even con-artists who call themselves Christians than in any other walk of life. There are some “super churches”, and TV ministries who are there only to separate you from your money. In general, churches and bible teachers are supposed to be there to feed you spiritually and intellectually with the word of God. Many are more concerned with manmade (and church) traditions and the ways of the flesh. Some are just pop-psychologists. That is the opposite of Godliness. In fact, each of us is biblically charged with the responsibility of rightfully dividing the Bible, as well as with our own spiritual discernment. Never settle for teachers or churches that only want to tell you what you want to hear. It might make you feel good in the short-term, but you will never grow in that environment, and you may wind up lost. You wouldn’t tell your children to go ahead and put their fingers in an electric socket, just because they wanted to. You would instead, explain why they should never do that, and sternly admonish them (with the truth) if you had to. You want them to grow and flourish long-term, not satisfy every worldly desire. It would be cruel to lie to them just to make them happy in the short-term, rather than share the harsh truth immediately, so they could go on to lead a rich and full life.
Being a true Christian, means that you are not asked to murder people, to chop off their heads, to lie to promote your belief, or to accept another (sometimes over 600) god every other week. What seemed to me, to once be so complicated, is in truth, ever so simple.
Just because you attend a church based on the Bible, and you hear them mention Jesus, does not mean you are born again. In my experience, it requires the specific action of accepting Christ, and repenting of my sins. It has to be true and from the heart. I am minus the skill, the words, or the emotional language to explain what being “Born Again” feels like. Imagine one million pounds of baggage on your shoulders……simply being washed away, in the Blood of Christ. You can stand up again. You can breathe again.
Being born again is the beginning of your journey, not the end. There will be difficult times. The “sin nature” will try to rule. You have a weapon (Jesus Christ), that guarantees you victory. You only need to know him, and seek him. He is indeed the Lamb of Life, but he can be the Lion when you need him.
Not to worry, I am no evangelist, although I often wish I was. I won’t be preaching the Gospel on Earth Images. I turn off the lights when those people come a knocking with those pamphlets in their hands, just like you do. The wonderful part of the “true” Christian experience is that everything, start to finish, is predicated on free will. It is ALWAYS up to you. The decision is yours.
My knowledge of world history and what I have witnessed in that world, tells me that some of you reading this will now think me either crazy or evil. I guess I’m assuming that you don’t already think that. Being persecuted for Christian beliefs, is thousands of years old. There have been several thousands of Christians, who have had their churches burned, their houses wrecked, have been imprisoned and killed, in The Middle East, Africa, and Central Asian countries, over just the past two years. I said the past two years. In some churches in Malaysia, they have armed guards during services. With all of that going on, I am pretty sure I can take a little ridicule. It would be a small price to pay if only one person takes these words to heart and begins their journey to salvation.
My own life has often been the polar opposite of Christian goodness. At times in my life, I have been the one that good people avoid. The good news is, it is never too late. For me or for you..
May God Bless, Wayne