Thoughts about God

Published 11:01 pm Friday, August 25, 2006

You do it so often it has become second nature. You think about God. You cannot not think about God. In fact all normal people have regular thoughts about three major subjects: death, sex, and God. The tendency to think about God is so powerful that all religions arise from meditations on Deity. While the instinct is universal, each religion instructs its adherents to respond in different ways. Believers are called upon to do everything from the trivial to the sacrificial.

In last week’s column I gave a summary of the faith and practice of moderate Muslims in contrast to the terrorists who practice such horrible acts as suicide bombing.. I also expressed my regret that Muslims are forbidden to convert to other faiths. However, I received information from a well informed Muslim friend this week that my assumption is not so. He wrote, “A Muslim can convert to another religion if he wishes to. Now, in certain cultures he might be shunned, but it is not the teaching of the religion to do so.” In this democratic nation where freedom of expression is essential, we can freely welcome all like-minded Muslims.

My friend went on to say, “The Koran is very tolerant of other religions specifically. Christianity and Judaism.people of the books. (The Old Testament and the Bible). The Koran teaches both tolerance and respect for these two religions.” Then he made another very significant statement about the right of a Muslim to pursue his or her own search for God. He wrote, “A true Muslim is one who finds God on his own, not just being born or taught to be a Muslim.”

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According to my friend, and contrary to popular opinion, a true Muslim, like every American, has the right to explore his mind and soul until he comes to his or her personal view of God. This view, along with the legal tradition that allows each citizen to freely practice his or her faith, is the foundation of America.

When we think about God we would do well to remember:

God is where he has always been:

Many years ago I spent three summers serving as Camp Chaplain for Camp Rockmont in North Carolina. One night I stopped by one of the cabins to say good night to the little guys who had spent a busy day in a variety of camp activities. Just as I got up to leave one of the boys motioned for me to come over to his bunk and asked me one of the deepest questions a person can ask,

“Dr. Jack” he whispered, “Where is God.?”

My mind went immediately to the answer to that question by the prophet Isaiah, chapter 57, verse 15

“For thus saith the high and lofty one who inhabits eternity, the Holy One, says this: ‘I live in that high and holy place – with those also whose spirits are contrite and humble.’ “ I simplified the verse by explaining that, While God lives in heaven he is also present in our hearts and lives every day.” He seemed satisfied with the information.

God loves beauty:

The psalmist sings, “The Heavens declare the glory of God, the skies show forth his handiwork. Day after day they continue to speak, night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or a word; their voice is silent in the skies.” Psalm 19:1-3

Several years ago I had a simple but unforgettable experience. Some of us were carpooling back to New Orleans after a professional conference in Birmingham Alabama when we came around a curve and over a rise. Across a green valley the sun was setting, creating a breathtaking scene. After a fraction of a second I heard the prayer of the young nun who was sitting beside me as she murmured, “Thank you Lord.” I have often followed her example by offering my humble compliments to the Artist who displays his love of beauty day after day and night after night.

God nurtures life:

Human beings must be carefully tended to survive. Our atmosphere must be within a narrow temperature range, neither too hot nor too cold. Our distance from the sun is right, the gases that make up our atmosphere are well balanced, and the ocean tides, under the influence of the moon and on a regular schedule, flush out and clean the bodies of water that cover two thirds of the earth. No doubt about it, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything that is in it. The world and all its people belong to him.” Psalm 24:1.

God’s moral standards call for judgment:

Moses’ instructions to Israel in the Old Testament are highly appropriate for America today: “I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord our God will bless you..” Deuteronomy 6:18

God is redemptive.

At the heart of virtually every religion is the hope for survival in this world and in the world to come. Most religions call for believers to do good deeds and to avoid bad deeds as the way to earn eternal life. On the other hand, Christianity teaches that God entered into human history through Jesus Christ who, as God in the flesh, paid the full price for man’s sin and gained eternal salvation for everyone who will accept him.

The believer’s part is to dedicate his life to carrying on the ministry of Jesus on earth. He must sign up for the duration of his life to love God supremely and serve him by loving others without limitation. The source of power and guidance for each believer comes from the Holy Spirit that abides in his mind and heart. His textbook for living is the Bible. Its theme is how God, throughout history, has moved in many ways to nurture and save mankind.

God reveals himself to every person:

Since there is a universal instinct in the heart of all of us, it is fair to say that God has not left us in the dark about his existence. John pointed out that Jesus Christ was the true light which lights everyone that comes into the world. John 1:9

Some unknown author composed an insightful poem which asks,

God, are you there?

The man whispered, “God, speak to me.”

And a Meadowlark sang.

The man did not hear.

So the man yelled, “God, speak to me.”

And the thunder rolled across the sky,

But the man did not listen.

The man looked around and said, “God, let me see you.”

And a star shone brightly

But the man did not notice.

And the man shouted, “God, show me a miracle.”

And a life was born,

But the man did not know.

So the man cried out in despair,

“Touch me God and let me know you are here.”

Whereupon God reached down and touched the man.

But the man brushed the butterfly away,

And walked away unknowingly.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart Jeremiah 29:13