Friday, October 12, 2007

The Advantages of being a Christian. . .

I spent the first 45 years of my life mostly not believing in God. I knew there was no God. There was no chance I was wrong. . .All that has changed. . . my eyes have been opened. . . I once was blind, but now I see. . .

I smile when I read the news stories about the latest atheistic best selling book on the New York Times book list. I was so intelligent. I knew so much. My logic was so certain. The one thing that I never stopped to consider was that the foundation my philosophical structure was built upon was sand. . . Jesus talks as recorded in Matthew 7:27 about the foolish man who built his house upon sand:

And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
All atheism is built upon an unknown. That is not a solid foundation. An atheist does not believe in God therefore he says there is no God. In a manner of speaking the atheist places himself in the center of the universe. I am not casting stones at anyone else. I am talking about my past. This was my belief. This was my position. There is a huge weakness in this position. I was so sure of my arguments and my logic. I mistook my certainty for fact. It was not conceivable that I could be wrong. It was not conceivable. . . but I was wrong. . . Who ever you are who might read this and not believe in God. . . You likewise may not believe in unicorns and you are welcome to continue that belief right up until the day when you open your curtains one morning and find one munching daisies on your front lawn. If you are the honest and logical person that you claim to be, you will apologize to the unicorn, admit that you were wrong, give him a hug and start planting more daisies. . . for now (in your mind) the impossible has happened

I am not writing this to debate the existence of God with unbelievers. I know first hand how unfruitful that is. You and I can have an interesting debate about unicorns and whether they exist, as long as neither one of us has ever seen a unicorn, but we cannot really have any kind of interesting discussion about the existence of my Father. You may not know him. You may never have seen him, but I will not long stand for your questioning his existence. For me, that will grow tiresome very quickly. He is my father and I have a relationship with him. If you don't know him, I will be glad to introduce you to him, but I see no benefit in our endlessly debating whether he exists or not. When ever you are ready, I will be glad to lead you to Him.

Rather I write this to explain to believers where I have come from. My wife and I have had a number of exchange students in our home in years past. I thought we would learn about another culture. Actually, I ended up learning more about my own culture than about theirs. In some ways to most of you I am probably a stranger from a strange land. My origins are undoubtedly completely foreign to most of you. Like any non-native immigrant, I may learn the language and the rules of courteous behavior, but I may also never completely blend in.

The last thing I want to say before I begin to explore this topic, is that these things I've chosen are not intended to be some all encompassing and theologically complete list of all Christian doctrine. I may overlook some aspect of Christian living that you may very rightly believe to be foundational. I'm sorry. No blasphemy is intended. I am just writing about a few topics that have come to my mind. Please don't take any offense or begin gathering wood with which to burn around me at the stake.

Not being alone. . .

The biggest change I've noticed in being a Christian today as compared to my first 45 years of atheism, is that I am no longer ever alone. Please I am happily married. . . I love you Jackie. . .I love my wife dearly, but I was a very lonely person as an atheist. There is a limit to the extent to which two people can ever come to know one another. There are places within me that I cannot describe in words. There are feelings and fears. . . needs. . . longings. . .that are impossible for me to completely share with anyone else. My own lack of skill in expressing myself, my lack of self awareness, in large measure the ugliness of things inside of me that no one would want to know, all prevent me from exposing myself, from sharing myself. Everyone, all of us. . . no exceptions!!! without any doubt, we have a shell that is impenetrable by anyone else.

Behind this shell where no one else can see, is the little vulnerable child that we all are inside. No matter how hardened you are outside, within you is a little boy or a little girl. . . the little boy or girl you were before the world toughened you up. As an atheist this side of me was only rarely revealed to anyone else. This innermost part of me would sometimes peek out under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but under normal circumstances it was always hidden deep within me. This little child was very very lonely for a very long time.

Now having a relationship with One who can be completely trusted. . . One who never leaves me. . . One who knows all about my ugliness already, I can let this vulnerable side of me come closer to the surface. This innermost part of me has found someone to talk to, that understands, that accepts, that isn't shocked, that forgives. . . This little boy inside me is growing stronger, more confident, less frightened. He is coming closer to the surface. He loves God so so much. He has been looking for someone very much like God for a long long time.

You cannot have this without God. There is no substitute that is at all satisfying or beneficial. You can try to let out the little one inside you with drugs or alcohol. You can spend your life ignoring him, pretending he isn't there. You can strive after money or power or lust and through the jolts of adrenalin or the raging of emotion and fleshly feelings that they bring hope to bring distraction from the child inside of you. You can try to make him so weak and push him so deep that you cannot hear his lonely cry or you can try to convince him that being alone is good. None of these things bring any lasting relief. In the dark hours of the night, the loneliness and yearning returns. . .

There is nothing to compare to the joy, the fulfillment of having God to share your innermost. . .everything with. He is right there. Never more than a breath. . . no that is wrong, even less than that. He is only ever a thought away. . .and even that is wrong. He is right there, never any distance at all away, closer to me than my thoughts. There is no away from Him. Without words, He is there. He understands. He loves me. He loves ME. Thank you my God. HE LOVES ME!!! Oh my God I thank you. The little boy inside of me. . . weeps now. . . He thanks you for loving him. . .

Easier decision making. . .

I spent my life making, what I felt at the time were the best decisions that I could, but I had no guidance, no direction. Sometimes I made good decisions. Sometimes very very bad ones, but for me there was little to distinguish them before hand. I had no reference point. I thought that I was in control of the situation and that most every path had equal chance of ending up in a desirable destination. I had no way to predict which choices would turn out well and which were doomed to failure. As an atheist, believing in the basic goodness of man and no higher moral code, often when faced with choices, I had no clue as to which way was the better of my options.

Now with God in my life, making decisions is so very much easier. The law of man takes feet and yards of books filled with incredibly difficult to understand codes and rules. Each state in the country, each county, each city. . . every country of the world has their own system. . . impossible for any man to completely understand. The rules of God simple. Jesus said they boil down to two:

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Now surely there is more to Christian doctrine than just that, but in any situation that I am faced with, at any fork in the road of my life. . . if I stop to consider which path leads me closer to my complete loving of God and which path takes me further away from him and which path best ministers to my fellow man, I will know the correct path to take. These rules are not exclusive. The answer to both of these commandments will be one path over the other. There is no conflict. This is my compass.

The rest of the Bible is both illustration and examples of how these rules work when followed and illustration and examples of the consequences of not following these rules. It does not take yards of library shelf space to explain God's commandments for us. They are made simple enough for us to understand and complete enough for us to be able to apply them in every situation of our lives.

Unless you have lived a life without direction, I do not believe that you can fully appreciate the comfort and security of having a way to find your way through the wilderness of life. Life is so much easier to live with a map to follow. . . I thank you my God. I thank you my Lord. . .

No Fear. . .
I am a chaplain. I deal with men and women every week who for all outward appearances have nothing to live for. Their lives are in ruins. Many face the rest of their lives, behind bars. . . never knowing freedom for long decades to come. . . . but even in that depth of trouble. . . it is not the worst that could happen. I do not care what situation you find yourself in. It doesn't matter. Look at Job. . . He lost his children. They all died. He lost his wealth. . . all gone. . . his health shot. . . seeping pus filled sores covering him. . . sitting in the ashes scraping his diseased skin with shards of broken pottery as his supposed friends stand around undeservedly accusing him and condeming him. . . In all that misery and pain, it is still not the worst that could happen. What is the worst that could be?. . . to die and spend eternity in the anguish of hell. That is the very worst thing that could be.

My fear of earthly terrors is gone. To be sure, if I take my focus off God, it can return for a season until I remember where my true happiness comes from. Now my only lasting fear is, the fear of somehow falling back into my old ways. This is too precious to give up. I must never lose this. Troubles of health. . . financial troubles. . . relationships. . . career troubles. . . my happiness does not come from any of those. This body will wear out. I will leave this body behind, but. . . but. . . but my reward lies beyond the doorway. My Lord is waiting for me.

Psalms 48:14
For this God is our God forever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.

I am not filled with fears and uncertainties like I was as an atheist. I am confident. I am strong abiding in the Lord. My happiness does not come from this world or its trappings. I love you so much my God. Thank you for everything You've done for me.

Fellowship. . .
This that I write tonight is maybe of no deeply spiritual insight. These are just things that I so very much appreciate about living for God, that I have found in the last 7 1/2 years. It would not be complete at all without expressing my appreciation of having others to journey through this life with. Really my entire life, I have not had many at all in the way of close friends. We bump into people all day long in our worldly walks, but it is only coincidence that we share the same path for a few steps. . . until we come to God. Now I am surrounded by wonderful, loving brothers and sisters, who in every way are striving for the same goal/goals that I am. We want to make it to heaven and we want to bring as many people with us as we can. . . This is such a complete change from life as an atheist. It's not like we had meetings and lifted each other up.

To have men and women around me. . . to help me carry my burden when it becomes too heavy. . . to help me share the victories and disappointments of my life. . . to help me pray for my loved ones. . . to pray for me when I am in need. . . What price can I ever place upon this? What value has this added to my life? . . . It is impossible to ever imagine going back to a life without being surrounded by the love of the body of Christ. I don't know. . . the pride of the world. . . the having to maintain an exterior where your weakness never shows. . . . It is so nice to have refuge in a church filled with love. Again it's beyond my words to express the value that this has for me and the contrast with my life before. . .

I could probably go on. . . but I will draw the curtain to a close here. . . I love you all. I thank you my God for everything. . .

Dave





6 comments:

9-uh! said...

What a powerful contrast.........
an antheist in the past and now a new creature in Christ......... I can only think of one scripture after reading this article. "Ye are complete in Him!"
Colossians 2:10. Many Christians go throughout their life not really having a full understanding of this scripure. Obviously you have a full understanding after only 7.5 yrs of knowing Him. That in itself is very Powerful! To God be the GLORY!! 9-uh!

Sam said...

Ive never read something I can relate to more.
Im 18 years old and recently turned Christian. I agree with everything you said, it is amazing to know that no matter what there is someone there that knows everything good and bad about you and will love you no matter what.
I wish everyone could be as open minded as ive brung myself to be, so they too could see god for all his is.

Amen

Suzanne said...

Wow, this is a really cool glimpse into what an atheist feels! Thanks for sharing. I love hearing the benefits you shared...you have a fresh way of putting them.

Anonymous said...

Greetings,

This is a message for the webmaster/admin here at anewcreature.blogspot.com.

Can I use part of the information from this post right above if I provide a backlink back to your website?

Thanks,
William

David A. Stokely said...

Yes you may. I have no problem with that.

Anonymous said...

Nice work, regards