Can You Relate?

Does God exist? Romans 1:18-32 tells us that “what may be known about God is plain… that they are without excuse”  The question I found myself asking many times in the past was “what is God like?” “How do I get to know Him better?” “ Do I want to know Him better?” I am certain my friend Sal has had the same questions. So I asked him, “have you always been a Christian?”

I was not surprised to learn that like me he had been raised Roman Catholic. He explained that while in college, he met and dated his future wife. She attended an evangelical church. She asked him to come to her church one evening to listen to her sing. “Well” he responded, “I’ve already attended Mass” and she said firmly, “This is not an obligation but an invitation. It would make me happy if you came to hear me sing”. “So to please her” he said,”I went to her church, heard her sing, met her friends and after that experience I never went back to the Catholic Church.

His life changing event mirrored my own. My wife and I made friends at a CMA Church play group our children attended. We soon realized that these people had a relationship with God that was not born of a sense of obligation but in response to an invitation.

Jesus said “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Matt 11:28

Sal and I wrestled with the idea of God, not so much about His existence, rather it was about relating to Him. Our view of God and how to approach Him was distorted. We had a bad relationship with God. ¹

This may be difficult for some people to accept but a true relationship with God does not come by obligation, the works of man, ritual or tradition but by the cross of Christ. Col 1:20

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6

According to Jesus a right relationship with God is vital ;

“On Judgement Day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you….’ Matt 7:22-23

Even those who have done so much good have placed the foundation of their faith on works, obligation, ritual and tradition rather than the intimate relationship that God has designed for us to desire.

Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. Psalm 73:25

We tend to design our relational approach or non- approach to God according to our view of God. These distortions range from passive indifference to fanatical terrorism. Skye Jethani writes

“a great many people have settled for a darker existence… in which they relate to God in a way that leaves them discontent”.²
pg3 -“With”

He explains that most people mistakenly relate to God from four postures of religious life, spending their lives trying to live  “over, under, from, or for God” never having been given a more beautiful vision of a “life with God” pg13 –“With” ³

How about you? Do you have a vision of living life with God? Can you relate?

  Matt 11:28
¹Notes from lecture “The Psychology of Disbelief” Dr.John Coe ACC2014
  Isaiah 1:18
  Col 1:20
  John 14:6
  Psalm 73:25
²  Skye Jethani, “With” pg3
³  Skye Jethani, “With” pg 13

Life with Meaning

Meaning in life is only understandable by knowing God and immortality. Does a painting know it’s painter, a book it’s author? Does a human being know it’s creator? Do we have a way to know the creator? The Bible will tell us the way. It is the word of God, proven in history, fact and experience to be trustworthy.

Skeptical? Let us assume that it speaks truth, and perhaps you will find that it answers our questions most reasonably and better than any other source.

The first book of the Bible, Genesis, explains the history of our relationship with God, who created all things declaring them good. “let us make man in our image” Genesis 1:26  This is the first glimpse of the trinity. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit existent in one relational and personal God. Humans were created for relationship with God. We need to be in relationship with God to know meaning and life.

St. Augustine writes of God “Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee” – Confessions Book 1 ¹

C.S.Lewis -The Weight of Glory ²

A sincere search for meaning through a relationship with God would lead us to Jesus Christ, who said

“No man come to the father but through me.” John 14:6 . Jesus, the author of life, knows death is the enemy of life. Any meaning we think we have is vanity if we end in death.

Adam and Eve had a relationship with God. “And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” Genesis 1:31 They were created to be immortal beings. “but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” Genesis 2:17

Adam and Eve knew only good, they knew no evil until disobeying God. Genesis 3:7 Their decision to rebel, brought sin and corruption and death into the world.  Genesis 3:17. They became confused, unable to fully know God, meaning and eternal life.

“Thus by one man sin and death came into the world.” Romans 5:12.

We have since been trying in vain, with all forms of religion “to get ourselves back to the garden”.      Lyrics from “Woodstock” by Joni Mitchell ³

But God, in His mercy and grace made a way to restore us to relationship, meaning and life in Jesus Christ,who said:

“I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved… I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. John 10:10

Jesus gives us the meaning of life in this declaration, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Matt 22:37

Adam brought us sin and death but Jesus brings us righteousness meaning and life. We need to know God’s Love and His gift of life in Jesus to understand the meaning of life.

For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” 1 Cor 15:21-22

¹ Confessions, Book 1, by St. Augustine – Cyber Library

² C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory – Video from Crosswalk

³ Lyrics –Artists: Joni Mitchell “Woodstock”

Dr. John Lennox  – brilliant presentation

What Do You Mean?

A photo appeared recently on the web of a child’s delicate little hand grasping a surgeons’ finger. The child was reaching out from his mother in the midst of a C-section delivery. Could it be that even in the womb we are driven to reach out for life, meaning, for value, and purpose?

I have no memories of life at this infant stage. The memories I do have are affixed by emotions of great joy or sadness. With joy I raced with my brothers and sisters to ask Mom for money to buy ice cream from the “Mister Frosty” truck as its familiar chime like melody approached. Sadness fell upon us as Mom was not able to indulge our desire. Our joy plummeted to sadness in moments? Was disappointment and unfulfilled desire part of the meaning of life?

Mom died of rheumatic fever when I was 5 years old. I gazed into the reality that I had lost the first person who gave me meaning.

As a child I tried to find meaning in the basics; food and shelter, toys and games, movies, entertainment and music. At the holidays we would enjoy delicious food and large family gatherings. New clothing from Christmas would help define us as children of the 60’s. Our homes, our church and loved ones would shelter us from natural and cultural storms. The television, radio and magazines would entertain, educate, inspire and corrupt us.

Growing up Catholic, I had studied the Catechism which had answers to the big questions of life;Who is God? Who is man? What is man’s purpose? etc. In High School I began questioning my understanding of these ideas, searching for the truth.

My Dad died from a heart attack in 1972. When many of my classmates consoled me I realized I had friends who cared about me and enjoyed my company and shared my yearning for discovery. We explored the experience of alcohol and drugs together. After graduating I worked a few years and then decided to fund my way through college. Exploring experiences that seemed exciting along the way, life was now about experience and pleasure, indulging my flesh and numbing my mind. I had taken the advice of the infamous 70’s LSD advocate psychologist Timothy Leary “Turn on, Tune in, Drop out.” 1.

A drug induced brush with death (real or imagined) awakened me to the fact that I needed God in my life more than ever. I had encountered fear and as Huey Newton said “My fear was not of death itself, but a death without meaning.”2. After many hours of sleeplessness, sweating and prayer I determined to break free from the evil that was about to destroy me. I cried out to God. I felt His prompting to get on with life, marry the girl He blessed me with and draw closer to Him. Since then we have had 5 children, raised them to adulthood and now are enjoying the blessing of 5 grandchildren.

Each day consciously and subconsciously my search for meaning continues. Approaching 60 I have again the small luxury of time to contemplate life. In this blog I will share a part of my journey in exploring what scholars and others have to say about the meaning of life.

What is the meaning of life? Perhaps the search itself is part of the meaning and is as instinctive as a child reaching out to grab hold of someone’s finger.

1  “Turn on, tune in, drop out” is a counterculture-era phrase popularized by Timothy Leary in 1966. Wikipedia

2  Huey Percy Newton (February 17, 1942 – August 22, 1989) was an African-American political activist        and revolutionary who, along with Bobby Seale, co-founded the Black Panther Party in 1966.