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.

Psalm 27:14 in a Poem

Wait

by Russell Kelfer 

 Desperately, helplessly, longingly, I cried; 

Quietly, patiently, lovingly, God replied. 

I pled and I wept for a clue to my fate . . . 

And the Master so gently said, “Wait.” 

“Wait? you say wait?” my indignant reply. 

“Lord, I need answers, I need to know why!

Is your hand shortened? Or have you not heard?

By faith I have asked, and I’m claiming your Word. 

“My future and all to which I relate 

Hangs in the balance, and you tell me to wait?  

I’m needing a ‘yes’, a go-ahead sign, 

Or even a ‘no’ to which I can resign. 

“You promised, dear Lord, that if we believe, 

We need but to ask, and we shall receive. 

And Lord I’ve been asking, and this is my cry:

I’m weary of asking! I need a reply.” 

Then quietly, softly, I learned of my fate, 

As my Master replied again, “Wait.” 

So I slumped in my chair, defeated and taut, 

And grumbled to God, “So, I’m waiting for what?” 

He seemed then to kneel, and His eyes met with mine . . . 

and He tenderly said, “I could give you a sign. 

I could shake the heavens and darken the sun. 

I could raise the dead and cause mountains to run.

“I could give all you seek and pleased you would be. 

You’d have what you want, but you wouldn’t know Me. 

You’d not know the depth of my love for each saint. 

You’d not know the power that I give to the faint.

“You’d not learn to see through clouds of despair;

You’d not learn to trust just by knowing I’m there.

You’d not know the joy of resting in Me

When darkness and silence are all you can see.

“You’d never experience the fullness of love

When the peace of My spirit descends like a dove.

You would know that I give, and I save, for a start,

But you’d not know the depth of the beat of My heart.

“The glow of my comfort late into the night,

The faith that I give when you walk without sight.

The depth that’s beyond getting just what you ask

From an infinite God who makes what you have last.

“You’d never know, should your pain quickly flee,

What it means that My grace is sufficient for thee.

Yes, your dearest dreams overnight would come true,

But, oh, the loss, if you missed what I’m doing in you.

“So, be silent, my child, and in time you will see

That the greatest of gifts is to truly know me.

And though oft My answers seem terribly late,

My most precious answer of all is still . . . Wait.”