Tuned in: Testing God once again

There is an interesting blog titled “A Year Without God” which caught my attention a few months ago. It is a provocative blog that describes a former Adventist pastor deciding to live a year as if God did not exist .   He says in one of his posts titled “Where I stand: a six-month report” that he does not believe in God because of lack of empirical evidence.  These are his exact words :

I don’t see how there is any empirical, scientific evidence for God’s existence.I don’t see any evidence for any recognizable pattern of God’s interaction in the world. I don’t think the Bible records anything more than ancient people’s search for the divine.”  (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/yearwithoutgod/)

This is a  powerful and bold statement regarding the possible existence or non-existence of an all powerful being.   Although I understand his point of view, I also tend to be cautious and vigilant about any conclusions I make about that which possibly created my mind in the first place.  I sometimes ask myself :  Can the cartoon character conclude that there is no cartoonist?  Can the painting prove that there is no such thing as a painter?  I cannot reach such a bold conclusion if I am not capable of fully understanding what the universe is all about and what other people are perceiving and experiencing.  It is true that we may not be able to “prove” the existence of God by using physical evidence that only our five senses can detect.  But do we have only five senses?

Having said this, I am currently in a position in my life where I felt the need to get on my knees and plead for an answer.  I have been evolving in my spiritual journey, from being a catholic, to a pentecostal fundamentalist, to a more liberal reflective Christian.    For the past two to three years, I have gradually distant myself from the traditional Christian faith.  I chose to liberate myself from living a fundamental religious lifestyle, and adopt a more liberal and inclusive approach.   I have learned a lot from other faiths and traditions in this journey of mine.  You can read more about this spiritual journey in the following posts:  Spiritual Roller coaster,  Is this all there is to Life?, Am I Losing Faith?, Embarrassed by the Church, How NOT to be a Good Christian,  Religiously Correct. 

I am not ashamed to say this, because I also believe that doubt and skepticism can be utilized to learn more about the true nature of my existence, and also about God, as I am capable of understanding Him.

To make a long story short, I recently encountered trouble in my immediate family and felt desperate about it.  More doubts came to my mind, but this time it was about the approach I have been taking in the last year.  I started wondering if this “God business” was actually a bad thing to walk away from.  The concept of hell, salvation through faith alone,  the “forgiveness” of sins, the Holy Trinity, and the divinity of Jesus Christ were a few of many questionable doctrines that simply became too mystical for me to accept and believe any longer.  But right now I am looking past these doubts and allowing God to work on me.  I still have my doubts, but my recent experience in life has been like a a bucket of ice water spilled on my face.  I needed to wake up.

 

So I started to pray, like I have not done in months.  I humbled myself against my rational and intellectual nature, and started to talk to this “invisible” and “distant” God out of desperation.  I often criticized the act of prayer as a manipulative way of getting God to do what I want, which you can read more in the post “Why pray?.”  But I felt like a vegetarian craving for a hamburger in the middle of a desert.

I also started posting and sharing messages in a Christian forum and started reading an inspirational Christian book as well.  As I read some of the pages, my rational mind kept saying to myself:  “be careful…. don’t fall into the religious trap…. you know it is just superstitious….. this is only religious fanaticism… fairy tales.”

But my personal family ordeal was pulling me away from my rational mind, and towards the “unknown” of spiritual life.  I craved for answers.  So I decided to give God another chance.  I blindly got to my knees and plead for my heart to be transformed.  Instead of blaming others and expecting circumstances to change, I accepted the challenge of opening my heart again and let “God” do whatever needed to be done.  I was basically “testing God.”  I remember praying : “you want my attention?…. you got it!”  I cried like a baby.   I remember saying, “I don’t have a lot of faith… but I am here pleading, just in case you are listening!”

I then came across this other wonderful blog titled “Isaiah 53:5 Project” where it has a recent post called “God is calling, Pick up the Phone” The author described a time when he decided to open up to the possibility of God’s call:

” Since I couldn’t escape thinking about the possibility of God or continue to ignore His constant calls I finally, and reluctantly, “answered the phone”.

 

This post helped me realize that God may be “calling me.”   I have asked God if He is listening.  This post asked me if I have been listening to God.  The answer is probably NO.  Like the prodigal son, who walked away from his father, but returned after he has been starving to death.    I still have my doubts.  But that is ok.  I don’t believe God expects me to know everything for certain in order to grow spiritually.   Christianity may still not have all the answers, but I am willing to learn.  I am willing to listen.

I am tuned in.

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About Noel

I am a person who has realized that the teachings of Jesus are centralized in the genuine care and service of others. I have evolved from fundamentalism to a moderate spiritual approach. I am a reflecting person who has grown to not fear doubt but to embrace it as a means to growth and increasing closeness to God. View all posts by Noel

11 responses to “Tuned in: Testing God once again

  • kenajos

    Rumi:

    “Then you pray the prayer that is the essence
    of every ritual: God,

    I have no hope. I am torn to shreds. You are my first and
    last and only refuge.

    Don’t do daily prayers like a bird pecking, moving its head
    up and down. Prayer is an egg.

    Hatch out the total helplessness inside.”

  • Rumi Moment of the Week — Prayer is an Egg « Be Beautiful and Dance.

    […] RMotW is inspired by a blog post by our friend over at Living The Kingdom. What does it look like when you’ve given up all expectation of achievement through […]

  • Ralph Jesperson

    I would first like to say that I read your blog post and I respect the place that you find yourself in now. Working through doubts is part of the process every Christian goes through. I too am a rational, in fact an INTJ according to the Kiersey sorter. When I was growing up, Spock of Star Trek fame was my hero I wanted to emulate. My love of logic lead me to get a degree in computer programming, which is all about logic of course. I understand the rational craving for understanding and for truth. I also have been through a family crisis some years ago that brought me back out of a 2 year period of “back-sliding” that I had gone through. It is my hope that through my personal experiences I might have something useful to share with you that might be of some help.

    The first point I wish to make is that truth is more then some rationalism or some systematic theology, it is a person. One of Christ’s titles is The Truth. I have noticed that you have bounced around some with radical shifts in your religious practices from one form of Christianity to something else very different. Likely you have become disillusioned with the religious forms, practices and theology of the churches you have left. One mistakes we rationals make is that we naturally look for truth as something that can be explained on paper, so our minds can grasp it. But if Christ is God, then He is the Truth. He is much more then what humans have written about Him. He is more then what is in the Bible, although what is written there is important. He is more then what can be theologized about in some systematic theological system. He is more then the Catholic understanding of him, more then the Pentecostal, more then the Fundalmentalist, more then the Baptist, or the Calvinist or the Armenian, or even the Liberal Christian. He is a person. We were made to have communion with Him. To know Him. Trying to rationalize a mere understanding of Him will never satisfy the itch down deep in our soul.

    For your questions and doubts about basics, let me suggest you read C.S. Lewis’s “Mere Christianity.” It covers the basics and yet is so very deep. I so get CS, his logic is so straightforward and what he says is solid. That is my opinion and experience any way.

    But getting back to my first point, there is no intellectual substitute for actually knowing God. No more then if your spouse gave you a book that described who she was in detail and then you chose to read it and never lived with her. Perhaps when the loneliness is at the worst, you pick up a phone and call her for a few brief moments, Then you go back to either ignoring her completely or just reading some third parties writings about who they say that she is. I wonder if you may be experiencing the emptiness of having only an intellectual relationship with God via third parties–namely the wings of the Church you have checked out. You can spend your whole life bouncing between the many different ideologies involved and still find yourself as empty as being married to a spouse that you have no actual close relationship with.

    The Bible states that the marriage relationship is a true reflection of the relationship Christ has with His bride-the Church. Hard for us men to understand, but Christ sees you as His bride. He loves you more then you loved your spouse when you married her. He calls His disciples His friends. The Father calls us as adopted children. If you adopted a child, would you want the child to have the kind of relationship with you that you have had with the great Father so far? If the answer is no, then you can do something to change that. You called yourself a prodigal child in your post. Do you believe that Christ wants you to be His friend? Jesus states that the one important difference between the Sheep and the Goats is that the latter “I do not know.” All these are terms of relationship with is more then intellectual. For all my own intellectual prowess, I find that what I am lacking and looking for is a closer relationship with the persons of God–the Father, the Christ and the Spirit. I too crave intellectual knowledge but it is empty without the actual pursuit of a living relationship with God. I want more then to just understand how Christ can call me as a friend, or the Father a son, more then just to understand my place as a servant to God. I want to actually experience the friendship and the sonship while I serve. The same way I experience the very best relationships I have with human friends and family.

    I have been a person who has been driven to do a lot of praying in my life. I have been a Christian now for 44 years. After 28 years, I was taken to hell in a dream to experience the place. All I can say that that place I spent a couple of minutes in was the most real place I have ever been too. There was something about it that was more real then this “real life” on planet earth. It was truly frightening beyond words. That was my first Prophetic experience. There have been many more since. After 34 years, I heard the audible voice of God for the first time. Within a short period of time I heard it again twice more. After that I have seen heaven a couple of times. I have seen Jesus Christ three times as well. The first time, he did not appear in a form that a typical American Christian would recognize. I say all this as my testimony that God is real. Then last year I saw the Holy Spirit in a dream, and asked her a question. She actually gave me a straight answer face to face! The words were not near as important as the actual experience. I saw God’s Holy Spirit and got a straight answer. That is something I know very few have ever experienced. His Scriptures do point the right way. It takes a real investment of time and a lot of faith, but He reveals who He is.

    You can have these types of experiences too, but it takes patience and waiting on God and spiritual discernment. Through the decades I have kept getting up from falls and kept stumbling forward slowly. I have no doubt that God exists, because I have heard His actual voice and seen the Christ, even seen the Holy Spirit which seams impossible. The driving force in my life is getting to know them better. Studying good theology is not an end to itself. It is only a means to a much better end. I must know them better. They are still too far from me on most days. There is something inside of me that keeps bringing me back to this basic pursuit over and over again. I hope that this helps you in your time of humbly opening yourself up to God again. It is my hope that you will eventually experience more then I have. What denomination I belong to or what theology I hold to pales in comparison. These too at their best are only means to a much greater end. Thanks for reading my response, and may God greatly bless you and encourage you at this time.

    • Noel

      Ralph, thanks so much for providing such an extended and profound comment. I am also a big fan of C.S. Lewis, and have read several of his books, including “Mere Christianity”. I am currently reading the Love Dare book which also talks about how marriage represents the relationship between the church and Jesus. I also believe God is something more than what our rational minds can ever fully comprehend, which is why I don’t dare conclude God does not exist simply because there is no empirical proof. I appreciate you sharing so much about your spiritual experience. I have also believed that I have “sensed” God through unexplainable phenomenas, but I always wonder how much of these experiences are simply emotional driven or wishful thinking (self fulfilling prophecy). I have longed for the personal relationship that you talk about and the church teaches. But I question if a “friendship” with a “mystical” person such as Jesus is even real or part of my fantasy to make myself feel “loved.” Don’t know for sure, which is why my prayer has recently been to help me be as open as possible for God to intervene in any way he wants to. May God bless you as well, and thanks again for your kind words.

      • Ralph Jesperson

        I can appreciate your caution regarding things that could be only wishful thinking and self-fulfilling prophecy. I think I have personally experienced some of both growing up in a Charismatic church. And actually sometimes I still wonder how many of the experiences that I have might still fall in those categories. But beyond that there are things that are much less subjective that I can hold on to. For instance, I was born flat-footed. The last time I checked there is no medical cure for that. But if you and I were in the same room, I could take my shoes off and show you two perfectly normal arches on my feet. That is physical evidence of God’s reality. God healed my feet many years ago for there is no other explanation for my arches.

        And while this is my most concrete example, there are others I have as well. For these reasons I know that it is not just all made up in my mind as some kind of elaborate self-delusion. I am glad that you have a longing for a deep personal relationship with Jesus. I believe that this is what we were made for. I have had moments of experiencing some of the reality of this. But so far, I have not been able to really live there. Still perhaps I am a small part of the answer to your prayers. I do know that God is big enough and powerful enough to meet you right where you at.

        I know of two major obstacles we face in getting to that place in our personal relationship to Jesus. The first is the Deceiver who is also real and at work trying to confuse us. If God is real, then so is Satan. So it takes discernment to know what is going on in our own head. What does the voice of God sound like in my self-talk? What is the voice of the evil one? And what is actually my own voice?

        The other obstacle is pride. Pride is what made the evil one what he is. Getting beyond our pride and being able to recognize doubts, fears and confusion that are not actually are own self-talk is key. So do be aware of these obstacles. The Holy Spirit is given as “the Helper that will lead us into all truth.” He can talk to us anyway that He wants to, but what He does and says, I have found, are always consistent with what has been written in the Bible. There is also a place for faith. As I wrote before, I had to seek God for many years to have some of the experiences I wrote about. However, the healing of my feet happened before I even started on that journey. So there is no formula to this. But Jesus did say that “blessed are the pure in heart – for they will See God.” To the degree that I have seen God, I must have a pure heart. I am a person without guile. I think that is part of what it means to have a pure heart. I also think it involves dropping the denial, and the lying to others and to ourselves. I hope that there is something here that will help you. That is why I am taking the time to write this tonight. Bed time for me now. God bless.

        PS – Two other books I can suggest that I really liked: Desiring God by John Piper and The Sacred Romance by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge.

  • anaivethinker

    Noel, in reading this latest post I appreciate your ability to introspect with humility and honesty. It sounds to me like you have the Spirit, no matter what exactly this means in terms of natural brain phenomenon or supernatural. I do not think you are testing God though. I think you are risking your mind as a rational choice, knowing that you could well be wrong. You feel a compelling force inside you testifying to the truth of Jesus’ teachings, and this Spirit seems worth the risk to trust. The fact that you are willing to do this without having all the doctrine neatly ironed out is impressive. You have not thrown out the baby with the bathwater like all too many people have done in their journey.

    Anyway that’s my opinion, but I hope it’s encouraging!

    • Noel

      Naive thinker, thanks for your encouraging words. I agree that i am risking my rational mind by giving in to the “spirit” that may be calling me. It has been quite a journey.

  • portal001

    Thank you for sharing this Noel

  • portal001

    I’m on a similar journey. I want to be tuned in. I do believe this, that love is the Way. Jesus invites us to really live, live the way we were created to. God gives us the power to live, the gift of life, and opportunists to love come about all the time.

    We were made for so much more, as the song goes 🙂

  • portal001

    meant to write opportunities* to love come about all the time.

  • Howie

    Hi Noel – thanks for forwarding me to this. Thanks for sharing your journey here. We’re all making our best efforts at trying to work through the mystery of life. Sometimes perhaps just living, focussing on friendships, family and simply smelling the roses can also be a great way to go. If there are powerful gods somewhere out there interested in you then they will very likely know how to get in touch with you.

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