Over the last few days I’ve had the honor of debating the existence of God with a self-proclaimed atheist. If you have read this space at all you know that I’m not. But you may not know that I was once a loudly self-proclaimed atheist.
Speaking from experience, Atheism is the loneliest place for a soul to reside. You rely upon your own strength and your own will, and because you are human, you fail. Yet, one of history’s greatest celebrated scientists, Albert Einstein said, “Every one who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe-a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble.”
But I didn’t want to get into a discourse on God and Science. I wanted to tell my own story. It was yearbook day at Casa Grande Union High School in 1982. I was a junior and about to move into my Senior year. A Senior that I had worked with in the Electronics Club and with TV Studio, Kris Weatherly took me aside and introduced me to God and asked me to try to speak in tongues. I did. Little did I know the gift I had been given.
A month later, in a fight with my mother, I declared myself an atheist and then set forth to live that life for more than 28 years. I worshipped myself, my dreams, my creations, my thoughts. In actuality I was insecure, unsure, and lonely. One of the top students at the High School flunked out of college. I would marry a woman out of desperation and she would extract a toll on me that was hard to bear. However, when my dad suddenly died, I picked myself up, and got myself back to school and finished a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree. I began teaching and found a peace with myself that lasted through a divorce and remarriage. My new wife started to urge me toward Christ, but I resisted. I had yet to hit the bottom. That came in the fall of 2010. I was working for IBM, on about four different anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medications. Really all they did was let you stop feeling part of the world. It was horrible.
I had a conversation with myself driving between Phoenix and San Diego, taking my wares to a gun show. My love for the United States left me wondering, were the founding fathers just lucky, or did they have God behind them in their writings and pursuit of a new nation. It took me a desert and half a mountain range to decide they had to have God behind them. I wasn’t ready to accept God back into my life, but I was then ready to have an open mind.
In the spring of 2011, my wife was recovering from life-altering back surgery. She was not going to be able to go back to her sit down job and was looking at a home based business. The woman she was learning from encouraged her to go to her church and listen to the pastor talk about “Getting Rich God’s Way.” She loved it. She came home and encouraged me to go the next week and I agreed. Little did we know that God had other plans.
The next Wednesday, the Wednesday before Easter, was not a “Getting Rich God’s Way” night at the church. Instead it was a full on Easter service. I didn’t know what I had gotten myself into, but I watched a worship singer and the love he had in his face as he sang praise to the Lord made me decide that I wanted something of what he had. Throughout the service my wife and Tara kept watching me out of the corner of their eyes to see when my head was going to explode. It didn’t, to their amazement. Instead I told my wife that we would be back the next weekend. We began going to that church and dedicated ourselves to God that Spring and Summer.
After about two months, we were at church and my head finally exploded. It was thoughts and instructions that were instantly downloaded to me. Don’t ask me how, but I knew at that moment I was supposed to take a chess set I had made, and which had won woodworking awards and donate it to the church for a silent auction. The only problem was the church didn’t have any silent auction planned. I spent the entire service planning how I was going to approach the leadership to get a silent auction started. Then the final part of the service came up, the Pastor’s wife came on stage to give the announcements. The first one she had was announcing the lady’s benefit silent auction. I was floored. How did I know about that? How did I get those instructions? The only answer I could come up with was there was a God and he had something he wanted me to do. I obeyed and donated the chess set.
You see, the relationship with God is exactly that, a relationship. I can prove my relationship with my wife by our marriage certificate, but I can’t prove a friendship, or a relationship with any other person, without bringing that person in to a room to corroborate my statement. That’s why I can’t prove God to anybody. He has proven himself to me multiple times, life-changing times, some even more astounding than the story above. But until you open yourself up to hear the gospel, to feel the love, to invite a small portion of belief into your soul, God will remain abstract and distant for you.
If you have questions about God, or are a professed atheist. I ask you to continue to question, but as you ask your questions, leave a small piece of your heart open to belief. You never know when God might show up and rock your world. I firmly believe that we live in incredible times. We will see the movement of God and millions if not billions accept him, and also other billions to deny him. We could be the generation that sees the final days and the coming of Christ. I hope that’s the case, I want to meet him and thank him for the things he has given me, hope, love, provision, health, and after 28 years of atheism, a sense of belonging and peace.
Heavenly Father, we are a rebellious and obnoxious people. We spend too much time satisfying ourselves and puffing up our pride. We should be honoring you for creating us, loving us, and giving us a chance in this world. I can’t answer all the questions that I’ve been given, but Lord, I ask that you keep bringing the questions. I want to show my love for you in my persistence in the face of persecution. Give me eyes to see and ears to hear, give me voice to give you glory. Give me a platform to be heard from. Give me breath that I may shout your greatness from the rooftops. You are great and glorious. May everything I do honor you. In Jesus mighty name, Amen.
What happened over the last year culminating with the horrific shooting in Roseville, Oregon should have all Christians praying and working together. Instead, it seems that we have different factions going in all different directions each telling the other what they should be doing and how they are not showing the love of Jesus with their current actions. They are right, for the most part, but also guilty of the same sin.
Each of us is individually responsible and accountable to God and Jesus for the life we lead. We are each given gifts that are unique and separate, and have a calling put upon us to do while ‘under the sun.’ Each of us will answer for the mistakes we make, and the opportunities we missed. We will all fall short. However, through the righteousness that comes with the blood of Christ, we can be forgiven and become sanctified and justified in the eyes of Our Father; “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.” – Ephesians 1:7
So what’s going on? We are scared. It’s as simple as that. We see our lives as being held up to ridicule, and as an example for eradication. Anybody would be scared with that as their future. The thing is, the bible says we will have trouble; “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33. We may be called to sacrifice our health, our bodies, and our lives for Christ. Look at the life of Paul or any of the disciples. All but John were martyred, and he was exiled to Patmos. The signs of the times are saying we are coming to troubling times. Many other news sources can detail the distressing and troubling times going on. But this too was foretold, look at the first nine verses of 2 Timothy 3.
That sets the stage for what could be the greatest time ever for the Church, or the worst. In my humble view, with what I’ve gathered in my prayer time, here is what we need to concentrate on:
Along with a list of things to do, are a list of things not to do:
Is the message of the Cross incompatible with America’s gun culture? It’s time we asked ourselves that question. Jesus said the two greatest commandments were to 1) Love God with all your heart, your mind, and your soul and 2) Love your neighbor as yourself. (See Matthew 22:34-40) How can that message of love be expressed through violence? It can’t. We can love God and love each other, and if our hearts are full of love, we should not have any hate or violence left in us.
Sadly, we are human. We are flawed. We have free will and we resort to violence to express that will onto others. We use other weapons to force our will on them too, our words, mockery, derision, rejection, those hurt as bad as a gunshot or knife wound, but the wound itself is deeper and very often unseen. I would submit that it is as bad to mock or castigate someone as it is to shoot them. Matter of fact our society is full of this. Our politicians seek to divide us, not connect us. The news media seeks to label different parts of society and show only the ugliness of that supposed label. We spend more time snarking and barking about people and politicians on social media than we do building up those who need it.
The gun is not the problem. Society and the culture of hatred is. I’m as guilty as anyone. I get passionate about an issue and I start throwing words out that are not loving, not kind. I’ve had good people unfriend me and I’ve often wondered why, then it occurs to me, have I always been as kind and loving a person as I need to be. I’m ashamed to say the answer is no. I’ve seriously thought about giving up on politics for a few weeks. It’s vitriolic and intemperate, it’s a feeding frenzy of social sharks, and do I want to jump in? However, do I abandon that part of our fabric as a nation when as a Christian and a man trying to make things better? Or should I go ahead and engage, but try to do so with love?
We live in historic and trying times. We are living on the back of the crest of the greatest nation on earth. Evil abounds in great swaths of the world. We see a deranged killer target Christians for destruction in heartland America. Things are not as they used to be. We have to make a decision how we are going to approach this age. Are we going to give into the fear, or are we going to boldly approach the age with love and compassion for everyone?
I’m not going to wrap up this message with an answer, each of us has to answer for ourselves. For me, I will do everything I can to live with love and to help my fellow man. I will be the greatest advocate that I can be. I won’t be perfect, and I won’t live up to some people’s measuring sticks. I don’t care, for I don’t live for the approval of man, but for the approval of my Father in Heaven.
I will also be keeping my guns because you can love a rattlesnake all you want, it will still bite. You can love a skunk and it will still spray. There are two legged snakes and skunks out there too.