God is Real, Can You Believe It?

If a person is on the fence about whether or not they have full faith in the existence of God, what does it take to jump off and take a side? I say it requires something very personal, a dream, an experience or event that hits home, transforming what you know to be true.

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Maybe the jump is to the side of unbelief in God. Perhaps there was a critical time in a person’s life when they needed help or an answer. If they put the problem out there for God to solve or come to their rescue and they felt nothing happened, God must not exist. They gave God a chance to prove Himself, and they feel He failed them. If their parents or friends believe or don’t believe, can that determine which side to fall on? Does it mean they follow others or does it push them in the opposite way? Some people want to exercise control over their lives and believe that it is solely up to the individual to direct their path and make things happen. Having a God who wants them to relinquish control and has rules to be followed isn’t what they want.

Others see the suffering, evil and destructive forces in the world and conclude there is no God or if there is, He is not completely good and loving. For some, the decision to believe or not believe is determined by the actions of ‘so called’ godly people. There are church leaders caught in scandals or religious teachings that fuel conflict and hate. If God’s people don’t live as an example of God’s way of being good, why believe or follow it? Many religious organizations teach “what” we should believe but they don’t tell the reasons “why” we should believe.  Even if taught the reasons “why”, would it change anyone’s faith or lack of faith?

Some people are ruled by logic and objective reasoning; on the surface, the belief of God isn’t logical. There are skeptics that need hard evidence to convince them of the truth. Or could it be that whether to believe or not believe is based on genetics and how are brains are wired? Or is it more influenced by our environment? Nature or Nurture?  Maybe a little of both?

A huge factor that really drives us to choose a side with the divine comes out of our life experiences. Something awakens the spirit inside that says you are not alone and that there is meaning in this great big physical world. You find that you matter to The One most powerful, or your self-centered nature dies to something that matters most. It is a unique path for every person, but when it happens it changes everything.  You are different.

The pages of history are full of radical, personal divine transformations that have changed the world. Full religions have grown from visions, dreams and inspirations known by the person to be the result of supernatural direction over their lives. If it isn’t a personal god that is revealed, it may be a spiritual rebirth where the person’s understanding of the meaning of life and an individual’s role in it is fired up. There is a quest to put the experience in a greater context. If the experience is real for one person, what does it tell us about the rest of the society in which we live? What does one person’s transformation mean for the world? Once a fire is lit, the intensity and passion people have propels them forward. They do things and have impacts in unexpected, often amazing, ways. The commitment to their beliefs can be so strong they may be willing to die rather than deny it.

When I think of the transformations that have changed the world and have led millions of people to follow God’s way, it fills me with awe. There is no question for many, they believe God is real. They feel it, they know it! It is especially inspiring and incredible when I don’t put a fence around how God or the divine is defined by religion, culture and history. How different the world is because God revealed The Way and guided human leaders to spread the word.  God is still real!  Look at all that is happening around you! Think of your experiences in the context of being led by a super-powerful force directing you to your unique path forward.  Have you gotten off the fence and taken a side?  Have your experiences established your belief that God is there?  Wishing that you are filled with a holy fire and that you hear God’s voice providing the inspiration to live a life that fulfills your greater purpose.  You’ll be able to say with confidence that God is real.  Yes, I believe it! ‘

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God’s People—All Types of Stories

Imagine a God big enough for everyone in the entire world. 

What would that sort of God be like?  There is so much diversity across different cultures, a Big God would have to be adaptable, willingly accepting and embracing the world’s diversity.  The Jewish view of knowing that God selected them as God’s people was such an amazing and exclusive calling.  God used Abraham, Moses, Joseph, David, Daniel and many others in incredible ways.  The stories held within the Hebrew Bible inspire millions then and now to engage with God in a personal way, to hear God’s voice in the trials and in the joys of each day. The Muslim view of only Allah and the visionary experiences of Muhammed were the right stories and perspectives to change the Arabic world.  Then there is the Christian tenet that there is no way to God except through Jesus:  the miracles, the sacrifice, the resurrection, the love, the forgiveness, the eternal life. 

These are the interconnected Abramaic faith stories, all starting with Abraham, the first father of monotheism.  The stories are shared generation to generation through the reading of the Torah, the Bible and the Qur’an.  These sacred texts hold the words of God and have changed innumerable lives. The impact of these stories on people and civilization as we know it cannot be underestimated.  God was right there in the middle of all these developments.  But intermingled in the pages of divine texts are conflicts, acts of cruelty and contradictions.  For some people, these and other factors are too great for them to buy into the religion inspired by the fundamental stories.  The stories are not enough to drive their passions or directly guide how they live their lives.  The stories do not reveal a God that seems right for everyone.  What was happening in other parts of the world?  Was God missing?  Over all of creation, did God place all of His attention on this one part of the world and let the rest of the globe move along without Him? 

What about all the other cultures?  Would a Big God leave India, Asia, Africa, Australia and the Americas and all the other civilizations across the globe, to live in darkness with no knowledge of the divine truth?  No way!  A true Big God would make Himself known to many people in many lands.  In Asia and India, the populations are great in number.  These are the regions of the world where believers envision many gods, millions of them in the Hindu and Buddhist tradition and in folklore of the Chinese there was a traditional understanding of a complex celestial hierarchy of gods.  When you are just a speck in the mass of humanity, like each of us is, wouldn’t it make sense that there were many, many gods, enough that there would be one who especially cared about and listened to you!? Yes!

Would the stories told by Christians, Jews and Muslims be enough to win the hearts of everyone to God?  It hasn’t happened yet.  Instead of uniting over their shared histories, the groups become fractioned off, sects form, with each holding strong to the stories that move them.  There is division, strife and clashes between groups.  Each group is sure they are right and everyone that doesn’t believe in the way they do, in the God they serve, is doomed.  Wouldn’t a true God be bigger than all the stuff that man allows to get between one another?  God wouldn’t want us to get bogged down with junk that interferes with our relationship with Him. 

Throughout history and today, there are so many stories where an encounter with God changes everything.  In the Axial Age, the inhabited world went through great intellectual, philosophical and religious evolutions that shaped human societies in Greece, India and Persia.  This time perior brought new ways of thinking based on the Hebrew Prophets and the Hundred Schools of China.  This period of several hundred years ushered in enlightened thinking, with people finding the “way” which led to a huge evolution in cultures, often associated with trends toward the greater good.  The “Golden Rule” for treatment of one another becomes more formally recognized as a beneficial rule for civilized society.  This philosophy becomes rooted in the individual’s conscience mind and in the tenets of organized religion.  “Love one another.”  “Do no harm.” These are the themes of behavior that lead to peace and harmony, a better way, a story with a good ending.  But people cannot just be simply sorted as right or wrong.  We are complicated.  In every person’s story, there will be opposition with people facing challenges.  There will be choices and actions that lead to specific outcomes.

Acting with love isn’t easy and there will be other drivers for action that work in contrast.  People want power, control, recognition, notoriety, material wealth, physical pleasures, you name it, there are dozens of passions and reasons people choose which result in love being a lower priority.  Enemies to peace and harmony abound.  We know in a physical world there will be suffering, disease, infirmities and death.  Love cannot conquer every problem.  We need to be able to tap into a universal super power, a creator, provider, protector, savior and leader.  However we describe it, name it, worship it, think about it, serve it, there is a force greater than the ways of the world.  This almighty power exists for everyone, everywhere, and with free will, each human can make their own choice as to how much they will be transformed to live a life at a higher level.

Not everyone will be moved by the same story, so there are many stories across cultures to guide us.   In my own life, I’ve found that God is present in a really personal, loving way.  I have my own story which secures my faith and trust in my God.  In the book “Life of Pi” (by Yann Martel, published in 2001) and later in the movie based on the book, the characters say that you will learn about God.  I have to admit that when I first watched the movie, I didn’t get it.  Then two weeks later, driving in my car, it dawned on me.  There was a question raised: “which story do you like?”  Pi had been raised a Hindu, fell in love with a Muslim and had an interaction with Jesus.  Pi had met God in a number of ways.  The author said that we can choose our story and that the one with God is a better story.  This God transforms lives, one at a time.  I might not be inspired by the story that changes you, but that is okay.  There are all types of stories for each one of God’s people.  If the story moves us to love one another, it is a Big God story.  We can each live out our own stories in a way where we are connected in relationship with the Divine, as a source of everything that brings true worth to living.  I like the moral of that Big God story best of all.