I have a new acquaintance; someone I’ve never met in person; a man who read one of my blogs and challenged me in regard to its contents. I’ve come to appreciate his challenge as it has led me to think further on the matter; to question some aspects of my belief system and thus, in the process of verifying what I was professing to believe, I came upon information that, upon further study, is enabling me to discover the teachings I’ve believed in regard to Hell may not be based upon truth at all, but instead appear to be based upon misinformation long since taught.
To that end, I am compiling information on the topic to present in another blog, to be posted in the near future.
In the meantime, however, this acquaintance has posed a thought which inspired the thought process leading to this blog.
As a child I witnessed my dad, a stanch Mormon/LDS (joined church to marry my mom) sitting at my (Southern Baptists, hated Mormonism, loved me regardless) grandparents table, arguing with his older brother, a preacher of yet another religious denomination (one I don’t recall).
I remember feeling very uncomfortable and a little embarrassed in seeing my dad sitting there vehemently arguing his position on religion. (This is not to say the Uncle didn’t argue just as much but in this case my connection was with my dad). I guess even as a child I recognized this to be fruitless, pointless, and just somehow wrong.
Thus it is I was raised being taught the belief system of Mormonism. Incorporated into this indoctrination was a fear that should I reject these teachings my eternal salvation would be in peril.
Imagine my crisis of faith when I reached a crossroads of disbelief brought about over years of analytical thinking combined with recognition of what I see as significant contradiction within the teachings and history of Mormonism.
A crisis of faith seems too weak a term! There were moments when I was scared to death!
I went from praying with all my heart for God to show me truth to praying, despite a fear I might be praying to nothing at all. There were times I prayed solely because it was what I knew by way of long established habit, and in my crisis I clung to what I could hold onto lest I completely drown.
Why this additional crisis? Because maybe not only was my, up to that point, culture built on a bed of slippery sand, but maybe even the teaching of a God was a lie.
It was in these moments of crisis that a thought of logic and reason came to my mind; a thought that enabled me to recognize a belief in my core, a recognition which reached beyond dogmatic denominational teachings.
After that moment many personal experiences began coming back to mind which reminded me of specific times when I became aware God was not hidden from me, but was instead manifested to me.
Again I was able to feel God within my heart.
From there I began a new quest for truth, for God’s truth, not man’s belief of truth. It’s been a step by step journey.
What I am coming to recognize is this is a personal journey. I can share of my experience and the subsequent beliefs, but I cannot give to someone else the reality or divinity of God. I cannot prove His existence. I cannot establish by way of science, or any other means that he is real. For that matter, I don’t believe I can say, and still be honest, that I know—as in knowing with absolute certainty, that God is real.
So I go with the conviction I feel because of what I’ve experienced, and I combine it with the written testimonies, as recorded in the New Testament, of those who actually witnessed Jesus Christ who testified of the literal reality of God.
These recorded histories are of men who literally walked and talked with Jesus. They saw his miracles performed. But most importantly not only did they witness him hang upon a cross until death, and witness his burial in a heavily guarded tomb, three days later they witnessed the empty tomb followed up by a literal physical witness of Jesus having risen from the dead.
I have never heard in all of history another who was clearly and definitely dead, buried, only to rise again three days later fully alive. Then even later still these same people witnessed this same personage, Jesus, ascending into the heavens.
Added to this witness are the recordings of the Apostle Paul who eventually died a martyr’s death refusing to deny Jesus Christ. Unlike those who walked and talked with Jesus, Paul did not find himself in the presence of Jesus until long after His crucifixion and ascension into the Heavens. Thus it is, when Paul witnessed Jesus, Jesus was in His Godly form.
I am aware someone can take any experience I might share with them and shoot it down by way of rationalization to suggest an alternate means whereby it might have come. I am also aware there are those that dispute the validity of the Bible. Thus it is I am grateful to men, such as Lee Strobel, a very educated man in possession of degrees both in Journalism and Law, who, while a practicing Atheist, took upon himself the challenge to investigate the evidence for Jesus.
In process of this investigation, Lee Strobel learned that not only is there evidence of Jesus in the Bible but there are also secular historical records that establish Jesus existed. In reading the subsequent book written based upon his findings, titled: The Case for Christ, I was able to learn there is also evidence to corroborate the claims of the Resurrection of Jesus.
It is because of the evidence established via his research that Lee Strobel embraced Christianity.
It is, in part, because of what I learned in reading Lee Strobel’s book, The Case for Christ, that I gained further confidence in my belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ, and that I can rest in my belief there is a God, and that he is not silent.
Despite this, unlike my dad and his brother, I am intentional about avoiding argument over religion, or faith, or God.
However I will gladly share my belief, a belief system that is still flexible and growing. I’ve come to realize I do not have all the answers and even in some cases what I’ve been led to believe may not be completely correct or accurate. If I become aware an aspect of my belief system is erroneous, I will stand corrected and present the new information I’ve obtained.
I’m on a quest to find truth, whatever that may be.
While I don’t desire to force feed my beliefs down someone’s throat, I do wish I could give to others this feeling in my heart; this feeling of calm, despite the storms of life; this feeling of assurance that there is a God, and that I am actually known and loved by Him.
There may well be those who could put up a good argument against my beliefs. But this is how I’m coming to see it:
Should, when all is said and done and I utter my last breath, it turn out I am mistaken, what possibly have I lost? Life, by its very nature, is harsh. Yet, during the storms of life, I am sojourning with hope and peace in my heart. Should I die and simply vape off into nothingness, then I’ll have spent my time of existence with hope in my heart, and the feeling of being loved, cared for and watched over by a loving God. I’ll have lost nothing but gained so much, regardless.
On the other hand, if God is real, and if God is infinite love, and if God is absolute peace, and if God is full of grace– upon my last breathe of mortality my soul will leave my body to be embraced into the presence of this wonderful God. And because of His love, peace and grace, this will be a God who loves me and accepts me despite all my miserable mortal imperfections.
Thus it is again I have lost nothing, but have in fact gained everything!
Either way, I win.