Friday, December 29, 2006

I have waited to long to put up the fourth and last point of discovery, funny how flipping a page on your calendar can complicate life. Moving on, my last point of discovery was that Jesus Christ offered the opportunity to actually know your standing with God. It was a sort of good news bad news find, but the good out weighed the bad. The bad news I more or less already knew; that being my unacceptability to God as I was. While I had no real sense of personal sin, something I am not sure you can know without God's assistance, I did not have to go far to believe I fell short of any standard God might apply.

Why would I feel this way? It boiled down to two basic reasons. The first was past behavior which I will not go into. Again, there was no over whelming sense of guilt or sin. Actually, I though I was a fairly decent person and was feeling pretty good about where I was headed in life. There was a war going on and I was in the military so I did have reason to contemplate my end even though the risk for myself was very low. But, having accepted the possibility of Gos being there, I also accepted the possibility of justice. The second reason was more a factor. I could not consistently live up to my own standards. That bothered me. If I found fault with myself should I not expect God to do the same.

The surprising discovery was that God through Jesus Christ had eliminated the issue of my imperfections and sin. Jesus' death on the cross had satisfied God's sense of justice. Jesus had stood in for me/us. Sin no longer being the main point of separation, God offers life with and in Him. The "in" Him part is an important distinction. Let me share some Bible verses.

"He (The Father) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (2 Corinthians 5:21 parenthesis mine.)
By being in Christ we are covered by His life and goodness so that Romans 8:1 becomes a reality.

"Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death."
Romans 8:1 & 2

John 3:16 says it all. We can know our standing with God by accepting the reality of Jesus Christ. That closed it for me. It made sense that a God of love would not leave us guessing. I never had to guess at my standing in my family or for that matter any other relationship so why would it be different with God.

So there it is. 38 years ago I sat down to really examine Christianity and found it fit with reality. I found an explanation of God that was reasonable. I decided to become a christian at that time and have spent a significant part of the time hence studying the Bible. I continued to evaluate my faith in light of opposing views and am still a christian. I thank God for giving me the life He promised is in Jesus.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

As I said in the last post, the precise nature of the prophecies about Jesus Christ got my attention. God's existence gains creditability with such evidence. The reason for Christ's birth is what held my attention. I suspect my experience with religion was much like everyone else at some level. Some how I needed to measure up to some standard in order to please God or achieve some higher state of existence. Not only did none of that appeal to me, but none of it made sense when I really thought it through. That is the short hand version of my thinking at the time.

Jesus Christ came to us because we could not go to Him. His motivation was love. Love not only for the creation collectively, but for individuals as well. That was a new idea to me. I admit it took some time for me to process the concept. Mainly because up to that time I had always seen it as the ball being in my court. God taking the initiative was new to me and I recognized it as unique to Biblical theology. That God might do things differently from how I would should not have been a surprise, but it was.

Humans tend to be merit based in their relationships. God interacts with us through grace which is the opposite of merit. His love is derived from Himself. When that was first shown me in the Bible it made sense. How could I ever expect to communicate with the mind that created the universe. I could not, He had to communicate Himself to me. He did that by becoming like me. The Christmas story is not a story it is history. God becoming a man so we could know Him.

One issue remained for me to understand. My sin or short comings were what separated us. God being perfect needed to impute perfection to me in order to make me acceptable. That is the last of the four points I want to cover.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Growing up I had heard the Christmas and Easter stories, but they never made much of a connection with me. The reason being, I treated them like stories never really trying to understand the significance. The facts I related in my last 2 posts changed that. For the first time in my life I took a serious look what the Bible had to say about Jesus Christ. That leads me to the third point. Jesus claimed to be God.

Normally, when someone makes such a claim we write them off as nuts. Jesus was taken seriously by both those who believed Him and His enemies. John relates an encounter between Jesus and one of Israel's leading scholars in the third chapter of his biography of Christ. Nicodemus gives us an indication of what his peers were thinking when he said, "Teacher we all know that God has sent You as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with Him." Two years later most of Nicodemus's colleagues had changed their minds and were plotting to kill Jesus. Interestingly, their strategy was to kill Him rather than expose Him as a fraud. Why? At no time did any of the opposition deny that Jesus was doing legitimate miracles because the miracles were real. If they could have exposed Jesus as a con man they would have. What they did try was to claim He worked miracles by the power of Satan rather than by God's power.

I realize there is the temptation to say these were ignorant people easily fooled because they did not know what we know today. The reality is they were quite knowledgeable about how things worked. They had the engineering and math, but lacked the technology to fully exploit what they knew. It is really quite amazing what people of that period were able to do with the technology they had. Anyway, when Jesus healed a man who had been blind from birth it was not possible to say it was a trick. At forty years of age and a life of begging the blind man was too well known for anyone to dismiss this healing.

Believing in the possibility opens the eyes to seeing evidence of the reality. As I said some time ago, I was open to the possibility, even the likelyhood of God being real. The predictions of Daniel and Micah being fulfilled at the right time in the right place by a man who claimed to be God and backed up the claim with miracles His enemies could not deny was enough for me to take a chance on this being real. The fourth point of Christianity which I will cover in my next post was the closer.

I have spent much of my life refining my understanding of Jesus Christ studying both His supporters and those who oppose Him. I figure God can stand up to scrutiny and by extension Jesus can as well. I have uncovered things that are hard to understand, accept and go against my proclivities. That should not be surprising, the mind that could conceive of and create the universe transcends human thought and experience. What I have not found is proof that Jesus was not who He claimed to be. Quite the opposite, the evidence is in His favor.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The second chapter of Matthew's Gospel gives us the account of the Magi who came to Israel looking for the new born Messiah. We know them as the 3 wise men, though in truth the number is unknown. This record of their visit is important because it collaborates two predictions concerning Jesus' birth. The Magi came to Israel seeking to worship "He who is born King of the Jews." According to the custom of the day and assuming the nation of Israel would be as excited as they were about the matter, they came to King Herod in the capital. As soon as he heard the nature of their visit, Herod called in the scholars and priests to find out where Messiah would be born. They told him Bethlehem and soon after Herod had all the male children in Bethlehem under two years of age killed.

Key questions to ask and answer are: How did the Magi know the significance of a sign they had seen in the sky back in their home land? Why did Herod immediately know they were speaking of the Messiah?

The answers are in the Old Testament books written by the prophets Daniel and Micah. Daniel's prophecy detailed the year when the Messiah would be "cut off" or be executed by linking it to the date when a decree to rebuild Jerusalem would be issued. We know this degree was issued by Artaxerxes in 445 BC which would put the date of Messiah being cut off 483 years later or around 33-37 AD (allowing for errors in the calendars). Micah's prohecy stated Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.

The Magi saw something new in the sky that looked like a star and searched their ancient writing to see what significance it might have. Among their manuscripts was Daniel's prophecy. Daniel had been taken captive and trained up as a magi in the Babylon government some 600 years earlier. That is why they had a copy. Since they knew the time of Messiah's death it would be easy to determine a window to time for his birth. So, they set out on a journey that would lead them to Jerusalem some 18 months or so later.

The Jews knew these prophecies as well and that is why Herod knew what the Magi were talking about and the scholars knew where to look.

This is what caught my attention and gave me reason to look into the matter of Jesus' identity. These prophecies predate His birth by hundreds of years. They are precise in detail and could be understood before the fact as to their meaning. That makes them unique. Both men claimed they got the information from God. I wanted to know more.

As I have pointed out, I had reached the conclusion that God's existence was not just a possibility, but was probable. I just did not know what to do with it until I met some Christians who were willing to talk at more than a superficial level. Precluding the question, I had spent time with other belief structures - it was the '60s after all.

I came into the discussion a bit cold as I had never given the Bible that much time. Like many I liked to talk about Christianity (among other views) without ever really looking at the foundation. I learned a lesson here. It is best to go to the source rather than depend on what others say about the subject.

I discovered 4 things that I want to develop in the next four posts. These are unique features of Biblical Christianity.
1. The rise of Christianity and the arrival of Jesus Christ was predicted.
2. The basic tenant of Christianity is that of God reaching out to man rather than man trying
appease God. It is not merit based.
3. Jesus Christ claimed to be God. I know, others have made the same claim. What made this
special is that people took Him seriously and these people were the most rabid mono-theist
people group in history.
4. Christianity offered a guarantee. You could know your standing with God. That was so bold
a claim that I took the time to investigate.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Getting back on track, allowing for the possibility of God was the first step in discovery for me. Some of this will be a repeat of earlier posts, but the mere fact of existence forced some of my thinking. As I have pointed out before, the evidence for the universe not being eternal is overwhelming. First of all, it is not rational simply because we are here in the present. The theory of relativity (actually there are two, general and special relativity to consider) makes the tie between time and 3 dimensional space. If the universe is eternal, then time extends into the past to infinity. So, the question is: how much time would have to elapse to get to the present? Answer - an infinite amount thus you never can get to the present. Our awareness of the present is evidence of a beginning.
The physical evidence of an expanding universe also supports this. Expansion presents an even stronger case for the universe having had a beginning. A beginning consistent with having been initiated from a single point. What makes this significant to me is that all our theories on how the universe works only apply to a material universe. Quantum theory, general and special relativity all deal with properties of energy and matter in dimensional space. These physical laws did not exist until after the initial expansion of the universe. So, we are left with nothing in science to explain two major concerns. First, what initiated the expansion and secondly how was it controlled to maintain the precision needed to establish the foundation for what we now call the universe?

Going back to relativity, the other factor that interested me was the tie between time and space. Before the big bang there was no space and therefore no time. Yet there must have been something that triggered the beginning of both. There is work going on to try and develop a theory that gets around this problem, but here is where faith comes into play for everyone . You either have faith there is an uncaused, self existence cause or, nothing gave birth to something. We have no way of ever measuring or detecting what was there before the beginning so everything is a matter of faith.

The Bible, I learned, has always presented God as being timeless and immaterial. That He is spirit is how Jesus Christ put the matter. Not a spirit, but spirit. If this means He does not occupy space then time is not a factor for God. He could in fact exist outside of and before what we know as the universe.

The possibility for God started looking more realistic at this point. This is not yet what I would call evidence. It is however, reason to look for the same. I also find, based on the above, the idea that the evidence leans more towards the absence of God is wishful thinking.

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