real questions: God?

We as human beings have questions. Big questions. Significant questions. Questions about life, God, and the future. As a pastor, I often get questions from people inside and outside our church. These questions are real and expect real answers. I will begin a series of blog-entries that show some of these questions and seek to provide them with biblical answers.

Ned Anzers: I think that the largest reason I believe in God is because I was taught to. If I were born in an Islamic, Jewish, or atheistic family I think it is safe to say I would be what I was taught. Surely this is not what God wants my faith in him to be founded. In the past I have asked myself why I believe in God and have found ‘answers’ but after deliberating on them I no longer feel they  hold any weight. My question is this: Why do you believe in God?

This is a very good question. Can I ask you a question in return?

How is your belief in God different than your relationship with God?

To answer your question, I will give you both a short and a long answer.

Why do I believe in God? In short, I choose to believe in God. That’s my snapshot answer. If it is not satisfying I will try to give you a clearer panoramic picture of why I choose God. Actually, it is more like He chose me

The long story:

I grew up in a home that believed and taught about God. We were Catholic (by title and church attendance). My priest baptized me as a baby, yet I don’t remember a thing because I wasn’t even old enough to eat smashed carrots. I went to Catholic mass every week because my grandparents took (and sometimes dragged) me there. I went to Catholic Sunday School (called Catechism), and had my first communion. We called ourselves Christians, but I had no understanding what that meant. I believed in God too.

As I grew older church became less satisfying. God was still real, but less desirable. There was this disconnect between God and me. God was like some cosmic grandfather that I never talked to or understood. He was like some story my family told me, but almost like He was an ancestral fairytale. Little did I know this was a very small and insignificant view of a very big God.

I was a troubled kid. I had an appetite for attention. I didn’t “feel” like I received it at home, so I was sort of a class clown around school. I was well liked by my peers. I was a friend to all kinds of people. I truly treasured the attention I received from my peers. When the attention would wear off, I would do something wild and crazy to get attention. It would draw a crowd and satisfy my tastes buds for a bit, but more often I would get into trouble.

My quest for attention led me to friends that were bad influences and not law abiding. I found myself doing things I never intended or desired to do just to be around people that I thought cared. These friends introduced and diverted my attention to girls, pornography and vandalism. Note: I was still involved in church and considered a rather good kid. Overall, inside and out, I was left feeling empty, lost, confused, full of questions, needing hope, and handicapped by my guilt. I was to the point of thinking suicidal thoughts. God seemed even more distant.

My parents took me to see a local psychologist. This ended up being a waste of money. The school enrolled me in special classes. The only thing this meant was getting picked up early for school by the short-bus. I was both embarrassed and frustrated with my life.

In junior high, my mom and step-dad moved. I lived further away from my dad, which really broke my heart. Life seemed like it couldn’t get any worse.

We started going to a different kind of church because my mom and step-dad were dissatisfied with the churches of their youth. I did what most kids do: went to church because I had to. There was something about this Wausau Bible Church that was different than St. Al’s. First, most everybody had a Bible. Second, most everybody was friendly. Third, most everybody talked about God or with God as if He was a close companion. This all seemed very strange to me. On the other hand, I was quite curious. We continued to go. We bought Bibles, even though I could not understand it. I got plugged into the youth group and learned new things about God that I never knew before.

I remember clearly some of the lessons from my junior high boys Sunday School class. Here are 3 that I challenged my thinking and ripened my heart:

Judges 3:1-15

Not only a weird story about a fat king, but a lesson on Idolatry. The people are testing God. God is ready to hear their cries and deliver, but there is a need for a deeper deliverance than they desire. They desire deliverance from their situation, when God desires they to have a spiritual Deliverer. This passage gave me a radical view of Gods purposes. I need Him. I need a Deliverer. I have idols in my life that have taken His place.

Psalm 27

This song of David is a BIG picture view of life, not just reactive living. David is incredibly honest with God. He is living in a world of trouble [enemies, rejection, fear, etc]. Yet among all the trouble he is God centeredness [v.4, 14]. That is incredibly weird. I had to ask myself the question: when trouble comes where does my heart go? Not to God, but my attention in stuff or silliness that did not satisfy.

Colossians 2:1-15 

This passage hit me square between the eyes and stuck my heart with the present active benefits of God here and now. It showed me how a life without God is foolishness [vs.1-5]. I am victimized by my own foolishness. It showed me the power I have over sin in Christ [v.9]. The indwelling presence of God is given to do what He has called me to do. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me…and gave Himself for me. It shows me the freedom of having a relationship with Christ [v.13-14]. I do not have to hide, live in shame, worry about exposure, because Christ forgives all my sin, weakness and guilt. No more fatalism.

I was left with God, I thought “I really didn’t know Him,” but ached in my heart to have a relationship with Him.  I did not treasure Him, but knew only He could satisfy my loneliness and desire for attention. Instead of seeking His attention, I sought to put my attention on Him. It was then I fully understood I needed a Redeemer/Deliverer/Savior. I was lost, but now He found me. Thus, in July 1992, I humbled my view of self and my view of God. No longer did I believe in Him, but I began a relationship with Him.

Well, that’s the long version of His Story with me. Like you, I wonder what if I was born into a Hindu, Muslim, or Jewish family. Would I believe the Truth? Would God in His grace rescue me from a bogus view of God? Then I wonder, why did He choose me? All I can answer is, “Alleluia!!” I thank God that He did! I pray that I would be used to help others see God is real and that He desires a relationship with them.

I would encourage you to take ownership of your belief in God [Acts 16:31]. Take your parents teaching on God and make it your own.