In John 10:10 Jesus promises His followers abundant life. This blog is about my life as His follower.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Mystery of Faith


Do you enjoy reading mystery stories?

I do. My husband John thinks it's so weird, my kids think nothing could be more boring than the Masterpiece Mystery put out by PBS that I so adore watching on TV. But me, I find mysteries captivating and I'm always trying to figure them out.

Our Faith is filled with mystery.

There's no way we can ever totally understand God. I'm reminded of how we're told in Isaiah 55:8-9 (KJV):

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

There is so much we can not fully understand.

But would you want a God who could be fully understood by you? Wouldn't that make Him equal to you?

What do you appreciate most about the fact that you can't fully understand God?

For me there are two things: One being that I can come to Him when I don't understand life or what to do in specific situations. I can spend time in His presence, time adoring Him, time talking with Him, time reading His Word and waiting on Him. I've got to be candid; sometimes I leave those times with an answer of exactly what to do in a situation and sometimes it sure doesn't seem like I've received one. But in those situations when I'm still unsure, and I've got to act quickly, I just go with my best guess and leave the results up to God. I know that doesn't sound very profound, but it's the only way I've figured out how to make life work. This leads to the second thing I appreciate about a God who I can't understand; I can know that He will work out things in ways that I'm not able to comprehend so I don't have to get all panicky because I don't "get it". There's lots of stuff I don't understand, but I know God does and I can trust in Him.

So, what do you appreciate most about the fact that you can't fully understand God?

11 comments:

Donna Bragg said...

Your post made me smile, that is how I feel. I am learning the older I get, that GOD is in complete control, HE is perfect in every way, HE has never made a mistake, so why not just simply trust HIM.

I am trusting HIM more and more in the hard things of my life, and when I do, HE continuously reveals HIMSELF a little more each time.

The BIBLE says in Hebrews 11:6, that without faith it is impossible to please HIM. My mission is to please HIM. I know it is yours too. (Still smiling)

I wish I could meet my sisters on the blogsphere. I love people, and I wish we could meet and fellowship...one day in the KINGDOM!!! I am so excited!!

GOD bless you sister! Keep up the good job on your blog.

Your sister in CHRIST,
Donna

jenny said...

hi ms tracy!

I was thinking if you could somehow raise an awareness over what has happened in or country.Uhm, i know it's a big favor to ask but we really need your help. who knows, someone with a good heart will donate. the damaged in our country is beyond repair with just us..thank you so much for the time:)

Tracy said...

Thanks for your kindness & encouragement Donna.

Jenny - thank you for encouraging me to speak out about the Philippines in the aftermath of the hurricanes. Sorry it took me until Thursday to do so.

GCT said...

Maybe this is a dead thread, but...

Question:
You openly admit that you don't really have the ability to understand god, and that's fine, but how do you know you can trust him then? Remember that this god, in the Bible, has literally wiped out whole entire ethnic groups and cultures. If we believe what others have told us, this god has told them to kill their children, or go to war with others, or many other heinous things. These are evil acts according to most people (and I'm sure you would agree). How do you know you can trust such a god? Do you consider your god to be omni-benevolent or omni-good? If so, how can you make that determination in the face of such evil acts?

If you claim that we don't have enough information to convict god of the evil acts contained in the Bible, then why would we claim that we have enough information to trust that god is good?

Tracy said...

GCT, fortunately it's not a dead thread.

First, I want to thank you for visiting (I found your blog when I was doing a google image search and was, of course, captured by that title).

I've seen a lot of people, use God's name to do horrible stuff, such as in the Crusades. But I think you're referring to Old Testament stuff in your point. My take on that is that, if you really look at the situations where God told His people to kill a bunch of people, those people were engulfed in evil (child sacrifices, sexual abuse of children, etc. on a wide spread basis. You can look into historians from that time period for background detail on this.) and the evil would contaminate His people and they would get caught up in it. I don't know of any scripture where God told someone to kill their innocent child except for Abraham with offering his son as a sacrifice and God then provided a substitute and that whole story was a type of the coming savior whom God the Father offered up for us all. As far as wars - I don't always think they are bad. John Stuart Mill once said the following about war that I think sums it up:
"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."

Interestingly enough, in answer to your question about how do I know I can trust God, there's 3 main ways:
1. The Bible
It's a very different experience for me when I read it than the one you apparently have. When I read it I see a God whose character is steadfast, trustworthy, powerful, loving, full of grace and mercy.
2. Testing Him
I mean this in the sense of me stepping out and choosing to believe what the Bible tells me and acting on it (before I see an actual confirmation of this in my present circumstance) - this is what I call faith. When I act in faith, I see God work, and then my ability to have faith grows.
3. The Holy Spirit
I know this is gonna sound way weird to you but you asked the question so I have to put this in the explanation. When I chose to follow after Christ, to accept His payment on the cross for my sins, God sent His Holy Spirit to live in side me. The Holy Spirit confirms God's Word to my heart, helps me understand God more, convicts me when I'm doing wrong, encourages me.

Sorry this is so long.

We can always talk this way or if you'd like you can always email me directly; my email is on my profile.

GCT said...

Tracy,
"First, I want to thank you for visiting (I found your blog when I was doing a google image search and was, of course, captured by that title)."

As long as you know that the title is hyperbole. I don't actually hate Jesus since you can't hate something that you don't believe exists. (I didn't pick the title anyway.)

"But I think you're referring to Old Testament stuff in your point."

There's NT stuff to point to as well. I think the worst thing that Xianity has done is introduce the doctrine of hell.

"My take on that is that, if you really look at the situations where God told His people to kill a bunch of people, those people were engulfed in evil (child sacrifices, sexual abuse of children, etc. on a wide spread basis. You can look into historians from that time period for background detail on this.) and the evil would contaminate His people and they would get caught up in it."

I would be careful of accusing those civilizations of heinous deeds. Child sacrifice? You mention Isaac and there's another story where a man says that he will sacrifice the first thing he sees in exchange for favor from god - and as it turns out the first thing he sees is his own child. But, the main thing is that Xianity is built on god sacrificing his own child. Doesn't it seem a bit hypocritical to chide others for things like that when the religion of Xianity is decidedly built upon it? Regardless, I still see no reason for an omni-max god to have to resort to violence of the sort that wipes out whole entire ethnic groups and to further needlessly embroil regular people in his actions, thus potentially causing them harm in the process.

"As far as wars - I don't always think they are bad."

There is a concept called "Just war" which is a series of precepts that one can use to determine whether it is just or not to declare and carry out war. Some of those precepts would preclude god from ever carrying out war, and would further stop him from totally annihilating the opposition (men, women, children, livestock, and salting the fields seems a bit over the top, does it not?)

"Interestingly enough, in answer to your question about how do I know I can trust God, there's 3 main ways:
1. The Bible
It's a very different experience for me when I read it than the one you apparently have. When I read it I see a God whose character is steadfast, trustworthy, powerful, loving, full of grace and mercy."

I submit that those feelings you have are what you bring to the Bible. If I'm right, then you would be projecting your ideas onto the Bible and then turning the attribution around.

"2. Testing Him
I mean this in the sense of me stepping out and choosing to believe what the Bible tells me and acting on it (before I see an actual confirmation of this in my present circumstance) - this is what I call faith. When I act in faith, I see God work, and then my ability to have faith grows."

The way this reads to me is that you first have faith and then you confirm that faith through your faith? This looks suspiciously like circular reasoning.

"3. The Holy Spirit
I know this is gonna sound way weird to you but you asked the question so I have to put this in the explanation. When I chose to follow after Christ, to accept His payment on the cross for my sins, God sent His Holy Spirit to live in side me. The Holy Spirit confirms God's Word to my heart, helps me understand God more, convicts me when I'm doing wrong, encourages me."

Again, I would contend that this is simply your own conscience or your own inner feelings projected out.

"Sorry this is so long."

I also write long messages, so I can't fault you for that.

"We can always talk this way or if you'd like you can always email me directly; my email is on my profile."

No offense, but I shy away from email exchanges. I'd rather make sure everything is public.

Tracy said...

GCT

No problem about no email. To be candid, this whole thing of talking with people I don't know via the internet is new to me, so I'm still figuring out what works best.

I laughed about the hyperbole title and how could you hate what you don't believe in. The fact that Jesus existed in rather historically substantiated - it's just if you chose to believe His claims that He was God and offers eternal life to those who follow that is in question. Also in question is if all the miraculous things really occurred (water into wine, healings, resurrection, etc.)

There's always more than one way to look at things. I can see why you would think that I read the Bible differently because of what I bring to it, instead of what is there, and the same with what I contend is my experience with the Holy Spirit. I can mentally understand what you are saying but do not agree. Jesus talked repeatedly to His disciples about the concept of no one can understand the things of God, except that the Spirit of God reveals it to him. I realize that you call this circular reasoning, but there's no other way I can explain it.

I honestly can see your point about not liking the concept of a God who wipes out entire people groups. There are things I do not understand. That's whey I say God is God and I am not (and I can even see how you'll perceive that to be a cop out).

You are always welcome to comment here, but I want to clarify that although I'll always try to respond to the best of my ability, I do not write to try to convince other people that they should believe as I do. I write to share my experience. It's valid to, as you do, ask sincere questions that come to your mind, and I appreciate that. As long as we both respect and recognize that no one is going to convince the other that he/she is "wrong". (BTW - I sincerely do appreciate your respectful demeanor and have noticed that some of the people who read and respond on your blog are rather hostile in the way they respond and I'm perplexed by it.)

GCT said...

Tracy,
"No problem about no email."

Some people would be comfortable with email, just not me.

"The fact that Jesus existed in rather historically substantiated..."

I'm sorry, but that is simply not so. We actually have scant evidence of his existence. We have have zero contemporary accounts as the Bible and all other writings are from well after the events supposedly happened (the gospel authors were not eye witnesses either). Regardless, even if Jesus did exist, it's doubtful that the things written about him are true. They've been mythologized.

"I can see why you would think that I read the Bible differently because of what I bring to it, instead of what is there..."

And, I believe that how you apply the words of the Bible shows this very clearly. There are good and bad bits in the Bible, I don't think anyone can dispute that. Yet, you seem to point only to the good and toss out the bad. That is because you have a moral sense that comes quite separately from the Bible that you use to filter out the ideas that resonate with you. IOW, it's not coming from the book, but from you.

"I realize that you call this circular reasoning, but there's no other way I can explain it."

I'm not sure if it's circular, but it does sound like begging the question. I'm wondering how we can claim that anything that we "deduce" from faith in god is really true. And, if we're not able to claim that it is true, then why should we believe it?

"I honestly can see your point about not liking the concept of a God who wipes out entire people groups. There are things I do not understand. That's whey I say God is God and I am not..."

The problem I have with this (and yeah, it's a bit of a cop out) is that you're assuming your conclusion and ignoring all the points that don't fit as if they don't count. If you don't have the knowledge needed in order to convict god of wrong-doing when he slaughters whole ethnic groups, then you similarly can't claim to know enough to say that god is good.

"...I want to clarify that although I'll always try to respond to the best of my ability, I do not write to try to convince other people that they should believe as I do."

All I ask is that you actually listen to what I say and take it into consideration, as I will do for you.

"It's valid to, as you do, ask sincere questions that come to your mind, and I appreciate that. As long as we both respect and recognize that no one is going to convince the other that he/she is "wrong"."

All my questions (although many times I don't think there is an answer) are sincere, even if they are meant to be stumpers. As for whether we can convince the other, I would object. Unless one is open to the idea that one might be wrong, and is willing to entertain the possibility and change one's mind, the conversation will almost always end in frustration (although it can still end amicably). If the adherents at least approach it with an open mind, then there's the chance to end more favorably.

GCT said...

I ran out of space, so to continue...

"(BTW - I sincerely do appreciate your respectful demeanor and have noticed that some of the people who read and respond on your blog are rather hostile in the way they respond and I'm perplexed by it.)"

I'll admit that I can be hostile too, but generally only for people who really push my buttons and attack me personally. I can, however, be very tenacious in attacking arguments, and I hope that you will recognize that it's not personal, and that criticisms of arguments are not criticisms of people. Still, I allow others to comment as they please, with only a few provisos, like no threats. (I have had a Xian commenter threaten me after I disinvited him to comment due to his continuous bad faith arguments and other bad behavior...now, I simply delete his comments as a policy when he tries to post something, which he triumphantly claims means that I can't answer his arguments. It's all rather juvenile.) Also, it should be noted that it's rather hard to tell tone and body language over the computer, which often leads to people reading their own biases into the comments they read.

Tracy said...

Three historians that I know of confirm that Jesus existed: 1)Josephus (AD 37 – c. 100), mentions Jesus in his "Antiquities" (20 separate books he wrote, Jesus is mentioned in the 18th book of this series). 2)Cornelius Tacitus (c. A.D. 55-120) was another historian who mentions Jesus in his writings. 3)Suetonius was the author of "The Lives of the Caesars" circa 120 CE, he mentions Jesus as well. I do not think IF he lived is the issue so much as if he was who he claimed to be.

What Christians refer to as Christian apologetics - presenting a rational basis for the Christian faith, defending the faith against objections has never been my strong suite or interest. For me, religion (and I use the word here in the sense that you did when you provided a definition) is about relationship and lifestyle. Relationship with God and people, and how those relationships impact my daily life. That's why I tend to focus on those aspects of the Bible that affect my life; those aspects that I can apply to daily life. In my post that you read about the FFRF I cite 1 Peter 3:15-16 where it talks about keeping a clear conscience so that if anyone speaks against you, they will be ashamed because see what a good life you live. I recognize that many people who are not Christians lead good lives; I have lots of friends & associates who are not Christians and who are really good people.

I think Penn Gilette got it right when he deduced this:
" "This I Believe" thing seems to demand something more personal, some leap of faith that helps one see life's big picture, some rules to live by". Now he decided that the leap of faith he would take would be that there is no God. That blows me away since the universe, the intrinsic order of things seems to speak to there being something out there; but any way you slice it, at some point it does boil down to a leap of faith.

The thing is though, that Jesus actually claimed that He was the only way to God, and herein lies the offensive thing about Christianity. Jesus also claimed that there is an eternal destiny, a life after death of being with God or apart from Him.

GCT said...

Tracy,
"Three historians that I know of confirm that Jesus existed..."

This is a well traveled myth actually. Most people believe that this is so, but the evidence suggests otherwise. I suggest you check this out. You can read just this page, although the rest whole essay (4 pages in all I think) is worthwhile reading.

"For me, religion (and I use the word here in the sense that you did when you provided a definition) is about relationship and lifestyle. Relationship with God and people, and how those relationships impact my daily life."

And, that's valid, but surely you recognize that not everyone needs or is interested in including a supernatural aspect, correct?

"That's why I tend to focus on those aspects of the Bible that affect my life; those aspects that I can apply to daily life."

At least you are candid about it.

"I recognize that many people who are not Christians lead good lives; I have lots of friends & associates who are not Christians and who are really good people."

Thank you. You may not know it, but there are many Xians who would argue that you can't lead a good life unless you are a Xian.

"Now he decided that the leap of faith he would take would be that there is no God."

Hmmm, that's unfortunate if that is really what he meant. It doesn't take a leap of faith to disbelieve.

"That blows me away since the universe, the intrinsic order of things seems to speak to there being something out there; but any way you slice it, at some point it does boil down to a leap of faith."

And, I simply don't see that. On a quantum level, we know that things happen rather randomly and uncaused in some instances. We know that complexity forms from the rather mundane physical phenomena of random mutation coupled with natural selection. We know that highly ordered things like crystals and snowflakes form from regular physical forces with no need to invoke anything supernatural. I see it as a giant leap to conclude that some supernatural entity is up there doing stuff, especially since it seems to violate Occam's Razor.

"The thing is though, that Jesus actually claimed that He was the only way to God, and herein lies the offensive thing about Christianity. Jesus also claimed that there is an eternal destiny, a life after death of being with God or apart from Him."

Actually, I find more than that to be offensive. Not to sound polemical, but I find the idea that we are all inherently sinful and worthy of damnation to be vile. I find the idea that we are judged not on our morality, but on our beliefs (which is literally thought crime) to be offensive. I find the idea that we should pay homage to a god that is a self-confessed genocidal killer and orderer of rape to be offensive as well. I know this is strong language and you may be offended by it, but it is all there in the Bible and the professed beliefs of Xians.

I believe that none of us deserve eternal torture. Even the worst humans to have ever lived don't deserve to be tortured for eternity (or for any time, as I am against torture in all forms). I believe that even though humans are not perfect, that we deserve better than to be called inherently sinful and evil. I believe that real love would mean that one could not send a loved one to hell or torture them. I believe that most Xians are more moral than the god they claim to worship.

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