Friday, November 21, 2008

Insight for Today

My Pastor sends out emails periodically with just some insight on what we as Christians, specifically Lutherans, ought to feel and believe on a given topic. They are very inspiring and have always conveniently come at just the right time when I may need them the most. I thought this would be a great outlet for me to share some of his words. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
Here is one for today:

God's Response to "Why Believe in a god?" Campaign
During the 2008 holiday season The American Humanist Association is running a provocative ad campaign to assure unbelievers that they are not alone and to challenge believers to question their faith. Messages such as, "Why believe in a god?" will be seen on buses as part of the $40,000 ad campaign in the Washington, D.C. area.
How are believers to respond?
Believers can never compel others to believe in God. Nor can we argue someone into having faith in God. Misguided Christians attempted this forced approach during the crusades of the middle ages and other points in history. Yet mistakes in history or warped expressions today do not negate the veracity of Christianity.
Bill Maher highlights in his recent movie Religulous that Christianity and other religions are filled with hypocrites, extremists, and assorted wackos. In Christianity we admit that Maher is accurate. Our expressions of faith are often feeble, flawed and inflexible. This is why those of us who are Christian admit our faults daily and humbly depend upon God's forgiveness for our imperfections (aka "sin").
Thank God (ironically) that in America atheists, agnostics and humanists have every right to question matters of faith, religion and even the very existence of God. In many nations believers are persecuted for expressing their faith. In many others, unbelievers would be arrested and punished for daring to doubt the official religion.
When I first heard about this ad campaign's latest attempt to question matters of faith, my reaction was one of outrage and defensiveness. But before I and other believers become all hyped up about every attack on faith, we must remember that such unbelief is recycled history. The Bible points out "there is nothing new under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9b).
God began a public relations campaign thousands of years ago in response to those who say there is no God. God's response is not found on bus placards. It is recorded in Psalm 14:1, "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'" And in case a person misses it in Psalm 14, the same message is duplicated in Psalm 53. Apparently Scripture wants us to be sure not to miss the folly of unbelief.
In the current American Humanist ad campaign, the alternative to believing in a god is stated in what amounts to an unbelievers' mini-creed: "Just be good for goodness' sake." Being a good person is the suggested alternative to believing in God. This, too, has been tried before.
During the Reformation Martin Luther attempted to practice the "be a good person" version of religion. Trying to be good led Luther to despair, because he could never be good enough to satisfy himself, much less satisfy a perfect God. He eventually discovered that knowing God, having peace and being saved do not hinge on human insight or efforts. These things are matters of grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Christians distinguish between faith and religion. Religion is a human system. Faith is a Divine gift. Faith has nothing to do with our attempts to act religious or to be "good for goodness' sake." Faith receives and believes what our five senses cannot prove, but what our hearts know is true. Faith is a Divine gift that recognizes and receives all that God has to offer-gifts like hope, peace, love, forgiveness and salvation.
The basic fact that we are here shows that a Power out there first began reality as we know it. Something cannot come from nothing. But even such general, philosophical speculation about the existence of God can only take a person so far. We finally need to wrestle with the specific truth claims of the Bible and of Jesus.
To those who question if God exists, I encourage them the read or re-read one of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John). Go on a journey with Jesus from Bethlehem to Jerusalem. Ponder the cross and the empty tomb and discover anew there is a God (capital "G") out there who loves you-even if you don't believe it yet.
Rev. Scott Schmieding

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