"Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen. You seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, " declares YHWH." (Jer. 29:13 & 13)
"Come now, let us reason together," says YHWH. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow...If you are willing and obedient, you will eat from the best of the land; but if you resist & rebel, you will be devoured by the sword." (Isa: 1:18-20)
"Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way...let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him..."For my thoughts are not your your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares YHWH. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isa. 55:6-9)
A few days ago I heard that Anne Rice, the lady that wrote all those Vampire books, had rejected "Christianity." She essentially said that she was fed up with the Christian religion, but she still wants to follow Jesus. I thought that was a very interesting way to look at the institutionalized church in America.
I don't know exactly where Mz. Rice is spiritually and such, so it is not for me to say much about this. But I would recommend that you click on this link for more information, and an excellent Op-Ed piece about this by Leonard Pitts. http://www.journal-news.com/opinion/columnists/leonard-pitts-keeping-faith-but-losing-religion-846014.html
You don't have to see eye to eye with everything that Mz. Rice or Mr. Pitts have to say, but it's hard not to be sympathetic to their views. The Institutional Church in America has largely blown it. All of the man-made rules we have heaped on to it have turned it into just another works oriented religion. For a people who are supposed to be saved by grace, it's so odd that we would then turn around and devise a series of hoops for people to jump through so that they can be acceptable in our eyes.
(I've recommended this book before, but I'll do it again. If you really want to know the sad facts of the way Christians are perceived by this new generation in the U.S., then read Un-Christian. It's a very scary wake up call. http://www.unchristian.com/ )
Anyone who knows me, knows that I am hesitant to call myself a "Christian" simply due to the negative baggage that is attached to that title. Thankfully, you don't need to wear a particular name badge to follow Christ. Seriously, there isn't some magic label or word you use. You either embrace Jesus and stand in awe & gratefulness of what he did for us, or you don't.
All of that having been said, I still see more and more everyday how hungry people are for some type of higher purpose, meaning, point, whatever to/for their existence. I see "Religion" exploding everywhere. People might not use the term Religion or Spirituality when they talk about it, but that really is what it is. The fact of the matter is that humans are hard-wired to seek for God...for some type of higher power & purpose. We simply are.
One the the "Apparent Contradictions" in the Bible is the idea that Humans are both %100 Spiritual/Metaphysical and %100 Physical at the same time. How can you be both at the same time? I don't know...but we are...and you know it in your guts that it is so. We are a fusion of two realms.
(Time for one of my favorite heretics)
I was talking with a friend of mine a few years ago. He made a comment about why he rejected the God of the Bible. He said, "I don't want to worship a God like that." Another friend of mine made the statement, "I want to find God on my own terms." I thought was a very interesting statement.
I asked my second friend if he would ever like to meet the President? I asked him, "If you wanted to meet the President, would you pull up in front of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., lay on the horn and yell out, "S'up Negro?!?!?! Get yerself out here and bring me a 40 while you're at it?!?!?"" My friend laughed and said of course not.
So I asked him why? He said that no one can talk to the President like that, he's the freakin' President after all! So I asked him if he would try the same routine if he wanted to meet the Queen of England? He said "No." So I asked him the same about a couple of other world leaders. His response was the same. He would never approach a head of state in that manner. If you want to meet the President, you meet him on HIS terms, not yours.
So I asked my friend why he would do that for a mortal, human leader...but not for God?
If you want to encounter God, you do so on his terms, not yours!
And that is the problem with people in general, "Religion" in particular...and even for most of what passes for the church in modern America. We want God, faith, spirituality all on OUR terms. It doesn't work like that. If you want to know and experience God, then you open up your mind & heart and search for him honestly, humbly and on his terms.
I just finished Brennan Manning's Ruthless Trust. Boy, do I recommend that book. In one of the chapters, Manning writes about how in our Grecco-Roman, Western way of looking at the world, we see knowledge as an intellectual understanding of reality. We need to weigh & measure it. We need to have our knowledge fit into a jar. As such, we need God to do the same for us. "Get in that box, you pesky divine being, you!"
However, in the ancient Hebrew mind, and certainly what is taught in the Bible, "knowledge is FELT, it arises from an experience of God in faith and love rather than from human investigation...it is simply not possible to receive the revelation of God in the transcendent/immanent Christ without experience."
That's kind of what I was telling a Skeptic friend of mine a few weeks back. I told him that I simply can't answer every question he has. I don't think it's possible to understand every little nuance in the Scriptures. But I also don't think we need to. What we ought to do is simply lay our doubts, fears and questions at the feet of Jesus and let him worry about them. (Seriously, if you needed to understand every single fact and detail about something before you made a decision, you would simply never make a decision.)
I say this because I think ultimately everything in life comes down to faith in one form or another. Seriously. You didn't bother to check the blue print or schematics of the chair that you are sitting in right now. You just sat down. Your experience has taught you that more often then not, that chair will hold you...no matter how big your well-fed American butt is. And that's faith.
"Faith arises from the Personal experience of Jesus as Lord. Hope is reliance on the promise of Jesus, accompanied by the expectation of fulfillment. Trust is the winsome wedding of faith and hope," says Manning in chapter 7. "...it must be noted that Jesus alone reveals who God is."
"The Kabod (God's Otherness) shines on the face of Jesus, and the absolute glory of God is manifest as the sheer glory of love. Since the incarnation, the question is no longer "Is Jesus God-like? But is God Jesus-like?""
The Bible makes the claim that Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God. Everything you need to know about God to be able to trust him was revealed by Jesus through his actions and interactions while doing his earthly ministry. So much of what we believe about some divine being is nothing more than poisonous man-made crap! It has polluted our brains and causes us to have, at best, a very warped view of a god hammered & beaten into our own image.
What I would tell my friend, and anyone else for that matter is this; Look to Jesus. Stare at him. Watch him. Study him. Toss out all of your preconceived notions of God and just look at Jesus. If what you think or believe about God does not match up with the character and behavior that Jesus demonstrates, then your notions are simply wrong. (I will yell that even louder at the church.) Don't worry about having every single answer to all of your questions. Just look at Jesus. He CAN be trusted.
The following is absolutely true.
As I said, ultimately everything comes down to faith...and there actually IS a great deal of logic to faith.
If you really want to have your questions about God answered...I mean REALLY answered, then seek him with all your heart, soul, mind & strength. What ever you do, DO NOT say that you want an answer and then walk away. Don't lie to me or yourself about wanting to know the truth, when all you really are doing is throwing out uninformed objections so you can keep living the way you are living. I get so fed up with some people I know who make the most ignorant arguments so they can justify sleeping around and getting stoned. (Do you really think I am that stupid?)
I guess I should also say to stop looking at me for answers. I'm about as "Finite" as it gets. I have plenty of my own doubts and fears...along with a heaping helping of "Issues" that I struggle with. The more I let go of myself and cling to Jesus, the more I find peace & mercy, without having to have all the answers...and that feels sooooooooooooooooo good.
There is not a man or woman on the planet that God does not love and wish to redeem. Someday, someday we will all stand before him. Every one of us will take a knee before Jesus and admit that he is Lord. It will happen! (You KNOW IT in your very bones.)
On that day, among the many things that will be said, I have a strong suspicion that Jesus will look at many, many people and ask, "I loved you so much. Why did you refuse me?"
P.S. Since I've been on a Johnny Cash kick recently, I now present a word to the wise.
It's just a thought.