A Believing Heart…Believing in God

In matters of religion, a skeptical mind is not a higher manifestation of virtue than is a believing heart

I’m not going to lie. Somehow, I have always known that there is a God and believed in Him and in His ability to help me. I have sensed Him in my heart and I have seen Him all around me: in nature, in loving relationships, in the solutions to life’s problems that seemed to be handed to me. I know that not everyone has that experience.

Though I know that not everyone believes in God or has a believing heart, I also know that virtually everyone born to this world questions at one time or another if there is a God.

I believe that my life is a testimony of his existence. Even if you exclude my near-death experience, there are just too many “directed” events for me to brush a belief in God under the carpet. If I had never had a near-death experience, I have found the “needle in the haystack” far too many times to ever question God’s existence!

In that light, I share today’s story. I love Marilyn’s story. I also love that she trusted her heart and recognized the tangibly intangible moments that she shared with God. I hope you enjoy!:

How an Atheist Found God

A personal account from an atheist who was convinced no god exists, and what facts led to God.

By Marilyn Adamson

Religious people seemed annoyed by my question, “How do you know that God exists?”

Perhaps they wondered about my motives. Or maybe they had no idea how to answer. Most of their responses were, “Well, you just know.”

I wasn’t trying to be difficult. But I certainly did not “just know.” And I was hoping someone did!

After many months of this, I thought, “Here are the people who say they believe in God, but no one knows why!” It was like learning the truth about Santa Claus. It seemed obvious that God was completely fabricated. Maybe some people needed to believe in God but clearly there was no proof. No objective evidence. I came to the most stark conclusion…God did not actually exist.

I held this belief for years, not expecting it to ever change. But then I met someone who caused me to become interested in the possibility of God. She was caring, kind, and very intelligent. It bothered me that someone that intelligent could believe in God.

She talked about God like he was her closest friend. She was convinced he deeply loved her. I knew her life well. Any concern she would take to God, trusting him to work it out or care for her in some way. She would tell me, quite candidly, that she was merely praying that God would act upon her concerns. For over a year, I regularly saw what seemed to be answers to her prayers. I watched her life through a myriad of circumstances, and her faith in God was unwavering.

So, I wanted to believe in God on one hand, because I admired her life and her love for others. But I couldn’t believe in something against my intellect, against my better judgment. God did not exist. A nice idea, but that was all. Wanting something to be true, doesn’t make it true.

During this time I was developing a personally built philosophy.

I tried something that I’m not sure many people do. Every few weeks, I would study a particular philosopher’s take on life …Nietzsche, Hume, Dostoevsky, Sartre, Plato, etc. and then try to apply it to my own life. I was looking for the perfect, workable philosophy for life. I found over and over, that either their philosophies seemed lacking, or were too impractical to implement. But I kept searching.

I was challenging my friend with every question that came to mind about God. I would find myself writing out questions late in the evening. This went on for well over a year. One day she handed me a book1 that briefly answered questions like, is there a God; is Jesus God; what about the Bible. It presented facts. No comments like, “you have to believe.”

I saw some evidence for God that was solidly logical. The parts particularly convincing to me were the chemical properties of water and the earth’s position to the sun. It was all too perfectly designed, too perfectly put together. My faith in “nothing behind it all” seemed weaker than the possibility of God. I had fewer reasons to be certain of nothing, and more reasons to conclude that God might be there.

I then encountered a situation that fully challenged my current philosophy on life. What I had been putting my faith in proved to be completely insufficient. It shocked me to see that I was at a loss for an approach to life that was fully reliable. However, the situation resolved itself and I moved ahead. I have a pretty steady personality. Throughout my life, I never really felt “needy.” No on-going crisis. No big gaps or struggles. And certainly nothing I felt guilty about.

But the concept of God was something I couldn’t get off my mind….was he there? does he exist? maybe there’s a God…..

One night I was talking to my friend again, and she knew I had all the information I needed. She knew that I had run out of questions to ask. Yet I was still trying to debate. In one clear, abrupt moment, my friend turned to me and said, “You know, I can’t make this decision for you, and God’s not going to wait forever.”

And I immediately knew she was right. I was playing around with a very important decision. So I went home and decided that I was going to decide. I was going to either ask God to come into my life, or I was going to end the subject forever and never allow myself to consider the possibility of God again. I was tired of dealing with this decision. I was tired of thinking about it.

So, for the next three or four hours, I reviewed everything I had read and observed. I evaluated it all.

I concluded that the evidence for God was so strong that it made more sense to believe in God than to believe he wasn’t there. Then I had to act on that conclusion.

I knew that just intellectually concluding God existed, was way too light. It would be like deciding…airplanes exist. Faith in an airplane means nothing. However, if you need to get somewhere and an airplane is the way, you have to decide to act and actually get on the plane.

I needed to make the decision to actually talk to God. I needed to ask him to come into my life.

After a few hours of thought I addressed God, “Ok you win. I ask you to come into my life, and you may do with it whatever you’d like.” (It seemed reasonable to me, that since God exists, God had every right to influence and direct my life, if he wanted to.)

I went to bed and the next morning wondered if God was still there. And honestly, I kind of “sensed” that he was. One thing I knew for sure. I immediately had a huge desire to get to know this God whom I now believed in.

I wanted to read the Bible. When I did, it seemed that God was spelling out who he is and how he viewed this relationship with him. It was amazing. What really surprised me is how often he talked about his love. I hadn’t expected that. In my mind, I was simply acknowledging God’s existence. I had no expectations of him, but as I read the Bible, he chose to communicate his love to me. That was a surprise.

Now, my basic, skeptical nature was still there. The first few months or year, I would ask myself, “Am I really believing in God? And, why am I?” And I would methodically review five objective reasons why I believed God existed. So my “faith” in God did not rest on feelings, but on facts, on reasons.

To me, it’s like the foundation of a building. The facts/reasons support my faith. It’s like someone driving across the Golden Gate Bridge. They can feel whatever they’d like about the bridge. But it’s the construction/design/materials of the bridge itself that allows them to safely get from one end to the other. In the same way, the objective reality of God–the logical, historical, scientific reasons to believe in his existence, are important to me. There are people who don’t seem to need that. But I hate being fooled, and I have little regard for wishful thinking. The substantiating reasons for God’s existence mattered to me.

My Experience, Part 2 – Further Evidence of God

Since that time, now that I’ve been a Christian for a number of years—-why do I now believe in God? What reasons do I have for continuing to believe in God?

I’m not sure any of these are going to be believable to you. But I’ll try to put that concern aside and be candid with you. Previously my questions were about God’s existence. After beginning a relationship with God, I saw additional evidence that God is real. Such as…

1. When I have questions, concerns, or would like insight on a matter, God speaks to me through the Bible. What he shows me is always perfectly suited to my question, and a better, more satisfying answer than I expected. Here’s an example.

One day, my schedule, deadlines, and obligations were crawling up my neck and tightening their hold. You know that feeling when you’re so overwhelmed, you don’t know what to do first?

So I got out a piece of paper and pen, and asked God: “Just tell me what you want me to do, and I’ll do it.” I was fully prepared for shouldering 100% responsibility, and was basically asking God to just set the priorities, tell me how to approach it all, and I would.

I then opened my Bible and immediately read where Jesus was talking with a man who was blind. Jesus was asking him, “What do you want me to do for you?”

I read it again. Jesus asked: “What do you want me to do for you?” Rather amazed, I picked up my pen and began writing an entirely different list…to God. This, I have found, is characteristic of God. Reminding us that he is there. That he cares, and he’s capable.

I choose that example because it’s brief. But I could cite hundreds of examples where I was asking God a question and he perfectly, thoroughly answered me. It probably is the characteristic of God that I most appreciate and value–that he is willing to answer my questions.

This isn’t something I learned from other Christians. It’s just how my relationship with God operates. I ask a question, with an attitude that I really want to give him freedom to tell me whatever he wants to….to correct my thinking, to point out an area in my life that isn’t right, to show me where I’m not trusting him, whatever. And he always graciously speaks to me.

2. Similarly, when I need direction for a decision, he gives it. I believe that God cares about our decisions. I believe he has a plan for our lives, that he cares about who I marry, what kind of job I have, and some decisions smaller than that. I don’t believe he cares what toothpaste I buy, or lots of mundane decisions. But decisions that will affect my life or what he wants to accomplish through my life…I think he cares.

When has God given me clear direction?

One time I needed to decide about a trip to the Middle East. There was risk involved, and I was willing to go only if God wanted me to go. It was important to me that I knew what he wanted.

Two different times I asked God about a job. Both times his leading on it was so clear, that anyone watching would have concluded the same. Let me try one thin slice of an example.

During my senior year of college, I had decided to take a job with a Christian organization after graduation, that would require a move to California.

It was Christmas break, and I was now visiting my parents. One evening, I was alone and thinking through a long list of friends. I was wondering who I could talk into moving to California with me to be roommates. One person named Christy, came to mind, who had already graduated and settled in a job in Iowa. I thought she’d be the perfect roommate, but I hadn’t talked to her in several months. Just 30 minutes later, at my parents home, Christy calls me on the phone.

Her first sentence was, “I heard you are taking a job with this Christian organization.” I was floored because I had only told one friend, in Ohio.

Her next statement was, “Ok, I’ve got the pots and pans and dishes.” I said, “WHAT?!” She was moving to the same town in California and was calling to see if I would room with her.

Ok, so you see my point.

You might ask, why such a big deal, to even need God’s help in this decision? I knew that my parents would be completely opposed to this job. I thought it might cost me my relationship with my parents forever. So it was not a light decision. I asked God to guide me toward what he wanted. And he did. There were about ten other events related to this job, just as clear.

Other reasons I still believe in God…

3. In terms of explanations about life–why we’re here, what the purpose is, what is important in life, what to value or strive for–God has better answers than anything I’ve ever read anywhere. I have studied multiple philosophies and religions and other life approaches. What I read in the Bible, what I see from God’s perspective, all the pieces of the puzzle fit.

There is still a lot I’ll read in the Bible and close the Bible saying, “I don’t get it.” So I don’t mean to suggest I fully understand everything in the Bible. Instead, I’m saying that life only makes sense from the perspective of what God has revealed. It’s like reading the operating manual to life on earth, only we are not left to merely follow the manual. The inventor is explaining to us how it all works, and then offers to personally guide us through it, on a daily basis.

4. The intimacy with God is deeper than intimacy with any human being. I say that married, with two children, and tons of very close friends. His love is perfect. He’s incredibly gracious. He takes me right where I’m at, and as I said, speaks to me. He intervenes with actions that leave me amazed as the observer. He is not a belief or doctrine. I see him act in my life.

5. He has done more with my life than I would have done on my own. This is not a statement of inferiority or lack of self confidence. I’m speaking in terms of accomplishments that far exceeded what I ever had in mind. He provides ideas, direction, solutions, wisdom, and better motives than I could aspire to on my own.

Story shared from the following website: http://www.everystudent.com/wires/atheist.html

 

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God Can Calm All Storms…

sunrise over the earthI don’t know about you, but it seems to me that there is always some sort of “storm” in my life. I think it could also be called personal growth or personal challenges.

Less than three months ago, I sat in an intensive care unit beside the hospital bed of my granddaughter as her young body fought for life. Today, I watch her at home as she recovers and rebuilds her strength. I know without the smallest doubt that she and I and all of our family were assisted by angels  throughout those very difficult days.

Later today, I will sit in front of my computer and I will attempt to learn a new powerful software so that I can make my book available online again.

For you, today’s challenge will be different. Some of my challenges have been relatively easy to overcome (I am hoping that is the case with the new software today!). Others, have been very difficult – such as the 15 years it took to overcome my 24/7 migraines. I know now that life never was meant to be a cake walk. However, whether our current challenge is more similar to a sprint or a marathon – God can and will help us through it all.

There was a time when I was experiencing my migraine headaches that I wondered if I would ever know another day of life without skull crushing pain. Fifteen years is a very long time to have a headache.

Yet, a few days of headache pain would have never created the health advocate that I am today. Now, as I look back on that experience, it is easy to see that I was given incredible blessings through that trial. Somehow, I was enabled to function much better than I should have been able to function and step by step I was eventually led to the people and answers I needed to find health and healing once again.

Storms will be a consistent part of life but God can and will calm them all – if we ask and allow.  Sometimes, they may not disappear from our lives but where they remain, God will take us by the hand and help us walk above the waves.

Today’s story share’s a wonderful reminder of God’s watchful care. I hope you enjoy!:

THE FIRE

An article in National Geographic several years ago provided a penetrating picture of God’s wings.

After a forest fire in Yellowstone National Park, forest rangers began their trek up a mountain to assess the inferno’s damage. One ranger found a bird literally petrified in ashes, perched statuesquely on the ground at the base of a tree. Somewhat sickened by the eerie sight, he knocked over the bird with a stick. When he struck it, three tiny chicks scurried from under their dead mother’s wings.

The loving mother, keenly aware of impending disaster, had carried her offspring to the base of the tree and had gathered them under her wings, instinctively knowing that the toxic smoke would rise.

She could have flown to safety but had refused to abandon her babies. When the blaze had arrived and the heat had singed her small body, the mother remained steadfast. She had been willing to die so those under the cover of her wings would live.

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
Psalm 91:4 (NIV)

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God’s Gifts

God's gifts put man's best dreams to shame. Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I love sharing inspirational quotes through memes! I also love sharing the thoughts and stories of others. Even if I had never had a near-death experience, there is so much that testifies to me of God’s love for each of us!

My personal life experiences alone have shown me on a daily basis that I am incredibly blessed. My life is abundantly filled with evidence of God’s love for me and my family!

I have to admit that most days, even with the awareness of my blessings that I have, I know that there are blessings and gifts that I have received that are going unnoticed and unacknowledged. I miss out on way too many sunrises and sunsets and my exchanges with others are too often handled by a woman that is too inclined to let commitments and responsibilities drown out my ability to be sensitive to the needs of others.

Yet, I am grateful and as I carry on in this business of life, it is my hope and prayer that I will be better and better at the things that really count – the things that God has given me.

I hope that you are able to recognize, enjoy and use the gifts and blessings that God gives daily to you!

I hope you enjoy today’s story!:

Every Good and Perfect Gift

Do you like to receive gifts? According to Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell, authors of The 5 Love Languages,  receiving gifts is one of the ways some people best express and receive love.

What comes to mind when you think of “the best gifts ever?” For some the answer might be jewelry. For others technological gadgets, new tools. It has been said that “the best things in life are free.” If you agree you might think of a quiet walk in the park, watching a beautiful sunset, spending time with someone you love, or watching a child in a moment of discovery.

Certainly, forgiveness and life itself would be included in your list of ‘best’ gifts. But how do we achieve these? Your world view will lead you to one of two conclusions: “best gifts” either result from our own efforts and deeds or they come as a gift of love from God. Sometimes we receive these gifts and sometimes it seems we are oblivious to them.

There is a fable of a man who died and went to heaven. Upon arrival he was given a welcome tour where he was shown many great mansions and wonders. Coming to one building with no windows, he asked to go in but was encouraged and his guide to not pay any attention to it. The man insisted on seeing it and once inside he discovered a huge trove of beautifully wrapped presents. Looking closer he saw that each one had a tag with his name on it. Asking why they were here, the man was told, “These are the blessings you were freely given in life, but never received; they are gifts you never opened and so never enjoyed.”

God describes His very best gifts in the love letter He wrote to us, the Bible. When we receive and open these we discover forgiveness, eternal life, love, peace, joy, and hope. We receive undeserved grace and mercy, compassion. We are filled with strength, wisdom, and courage. When we enjoy His gifts we are embodied with goodness, faith, perseverance, contentment, and the character of the living God. We don’t earn these by our own doing. They are free gifts from a loving God who knows the true desires of our heart and longs to graciously give them to us.

It’s true. The best things in life are free: good and perfect gifts from our Heavenly Father – love, life, laughter, friendship, forgiveness, freedom, and so much more. Receive and open the gifts He freely offers you today and every day. Live thankfully and share them with others and discover yet another great gift, the joy of living.

Every good and perfect gift is from above.  James 1:17

by Bryan Thaye.
Story shared from the following website: http://www.golightourworld.org/every-good-and-perfect-gift/

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The Golden Rule….Still a Good Idea

The Golden Rule

The Golden Rule…not only is it still a good idea; it is one of the easiest way to improve our lives, our relationships and the world!

The Golden Rule is not about controlling or manipulating. It is about honoring and understanding. I believe that that is what makes it so profound.

In order to utilize the Golden Rule, we must love: love ourselves, our creator, and those we call our fellowmen.

Many assume that loving ourselves is a natural accomplishment. I have found that most children love themselves easily. However, for teens and adults – loving ourselves is often filled with difficulties. Life seems to hand us experiences that challenge our ability to love and accept ourselves as wonderful and worthy of love. Yet, loving and honoring our self is fundamental to loving God and others.

Loving our Creator is an endeavor that requires effort and sacrifice. Knowing God through prayer, meditation, and the scriptures is essential and blesses our lives with strength that cannot be demonstrated but which I believe is tangible nonetheless.

Loving our Fellow man can be difficult. However, once we understand that each of us has the same basic needs, I think it becomes easier. We all need love. We all want acceptance. We all want to live a meaningful life and we all want security. Our personalities and beliefs may be very different but our core needs are very much the same.

During my near-death experience, I saw how we interacted with each other in that realm. I saw how we loved each other and cherished each other. Maybe even more important, I saw how we honored each other and supported each other in our various talents, gifts and endeavors. In other words, heaven was an amazing place to witness the Golden Rule being practiced and implemented.

As you read today’s story, I hope you will think about the Golden Rule and the positive impact it could have on your life!:

THE OLD MAN AND HIS GRANDSON

There was once a very old man, whose eyes had become dim, his ears dull of hearing, his knees trembled, and when he sat at table he could hardly hold the spoon, and spilt the broth upon the table-cloth or let it run out of his mouth. His son and his son’s wife were disgusted at this, so the old grandfather at last had to sit in the corner behind the stove, and they gave him his food in an earthenware bowl, and not even enough of it. And he used to look towards the table with his eyes full of tears. Once, too, his trembling hands could not hold the bowl, and it fell to the ground and broke. The young wife scolded him, but he said nothing and only sighed. Then they brought him a wooden bowl for a few half-pence, out of which he had to eat.

They were once sitting thus when the little grandson of four years old began to gather together some bits of wood upon the ground. ‘What are you doing there?’ asked the father. ‘I am making a little trough,’ answered the child, ‘for father and mother to eat out of when I am big.’

The man and his wife looked at each other for a while, and presently began to cry. Then they took the old grandfather to the table, and henceforth always let him eat with them, and likewise said nothing if he did spill a little of anything.

Story is shared from the following website and is a Grimm’s Fairy Tale: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2591/2591-h/2591-h.htm#link2H_4_0029

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For God So Loved the World…

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

As I reflect on the Christmas story and the Gifts that have come to each of us as a result of the Savior’s birth, I never fail to think about the Eternal Father of us all. It was he that I met with during my near-death experience. I never saw Jesus but I did see and meet with God the Father.

Because of my experience, I believe that I know better than most the complete perfection of God and the complete devotion and love he has for each of us as his children. I can tell you that words cannot begin to express or describe his love and his devotion.

As the mother of six children and the grandmother to eighteen grandchildren, I cannot begin to fathom the love that enabled God to send his son and allow his sacrifice for all mankind. We are each truly blessed in so many ways – many of which we are not even aware of!

As we celebrate the birth of our Savior – I pray that we will send thankful prayers to the Father of us all. May you and those you love receive the Father’s love and blessings in abundance!

I hope you enjoy today’s story the includes both sacrifice and a Christmas miracle!:

The Father’s Sacrifice: A Christmas Story
Patti Davis

For 5 years in the late 80’s and early 90’s, My husband and I were foster parents to infants and toddlers with special needs. It was a time of special blessing for us as we saw God’s healing power touch these little lives. We never bought into the sentiment that you can’t get too attached. We believed in fully investing our lives in these children for as long as we had them. Of course, we knew that would mean a real time of grieving as they left, but how could we compare that short time of pain with the incredible joy they brought us? And how could you even begin to weigh it against those children having a time in their life when they were loved completely. Whether or not they ever consciously remembered the experience, I firmly believe that we planted in their spirits something that, throughout their life, would be able to recognize and respond to love.

Our first little girl came to us in July of 1991. After 5 little boys in succession, I was especially excited to have a little girl to dress up in ribbons and bows. She was our little princess. And she was BEAUTIFUL! At 2 1/2 months old, she came to us babbling and cooing non-stop. There were also lots of smiles and giggles. As time passed, it appeared that there was a very good chance she might come up for adoption. But we kept in our minds that the goal of fostering was restoring families, not building our own. We continued to pray for her parents and lavish her with love. She captured our hearts and the hearts of all around us.

At Thanksgiving time when she was 18 months old, we got word that her mother had fulfilled reunification and our princess was going home in January. Our stomachs were in our throats as we faced the inevitable. The thanks were bitter-sweet that Thanksgiving. So grateful for the time we had, but heartbroken to see her leave. Thankful for having a year and a half to fill her with love and cover her in prayer, but knowing a time of real grieving was on its way.

Then, the first week of December, it happened. The social worker came and told us that the mother had decided to relinquish her parental rights and let us adopt. We were euphoric! She was going to be ours – all ours. I was to meet with the mother the following week to discuss what the relationship would be between her and our daughter after the adoption. But within 15 minutes into our conversation, it became very obvious that we were discussing two very different things. She had not yet made up her mind about releasing her daughter for adoption and was wanting to meet with me to decide whether or not this was, indeed, what she wanted to do.

In an instant, I had to completely turn my thinking around and once again become, not the adoptive parent, but the support system for a mother facing a difficult decision. An advocate for that family, not my own. I reassured her that we would support whatever decision she made and do all in our power to make that change a positive one for her little girl. That her decision needed to be solely based on what she believed was in her child’s best interest. My husband and I should not be a consideration. Again, I reassured her that she had our full support. For an hour and a half we talked and cried and hugged and cried and talked. In the end, her decision was one of the most selfless acts I’d ever personally encountered as she decided to give us her child.

I was not prepared for how incredibly humbling this experience would be. It would forever changed me in ways I could not even comprehend at the time. Christmas took on a new depth that year. This woman had given up one of her 7 children so that that child might have a better life. How great a sacrifice this mother, who loved her child dearly, had made. I could see in her eyes a pain I could only imagine and could never heal.

As the Christmas story was told and retold that year, I couldn’t help but draw the comparisons. God had given up, not one of many, but His only child. Not to have a better life, but to be sent to a place where He would be spat upon and rejected, reviled and tortured. And why? So that we would have a better life. So that His perfect life and sacrifice could pay the debt for our sin. The Father’s sacrifice had never been so real to me as it was that year and has been ever since.

As we go into this holiday season, let us reflect, not only on the sacrifice of the Son, but on the sacrifice of the Father.

Story shared from the following website: http://www.yourchristianhome.com/printStory.phtml?id=91

 

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