Is God For Reals?

I have this thing lately that I do with my grandson when he excitedly tells me something. I say “Are you for reals?” He thinks it’s funny and is convincing me in his own way that he believes what he’s telling me.

There are many beliefs out there in the world. Today, people are less likely to believe that God is “for reals” and it’s hard to convince them otherwise. It simply comes down to whether you believe or not.

When I was growing up, a lot more people believed in God. Today, there are either people who don’t believe or they have other gods they place their beliefs in.

I have seen that there are basically three types of people who don’t believe in God:

First, there is the person that just never believed in God or was never taught anything about God to begin with.

Second, there is the person who bases their beliefs on scientific proof rather than God.

Third, there is the person who once believed in God but at a crucial time in their life they were either hurt by God not answering their prayers or hurt by other believers.

If you are reading this blog expecting me to offer you conclusive evidence that God exists then you will be disappointed. I will not be able to convince you – especially if you are someone described in one of the above categories. I have never seen God nor has He ever spoken to me in an audible voice. I wish He would but He hasn’t it and, if I’m being honest with you, I don’t understand why.

I was raised in the church so my belief in God was formed at an early age. As I got older, I evolved into my own relationship with God based upon my personal experiences and studies. I did go through a period of my life when I was intent on getting God to speak to me. I prayed, pleaded and fasted to induce God to speak to me. I read books and listened to tapes about ways that God speaks to people. Some people I knew personally even claimed that God had spoken to them through other people or mysterious workings of the Holy Spirit. I even bought their tapes and listened to them repeatedly expecting God to do the same for me.

Well, you guessed it, He didn’t and never has. While it still puzzles me. I continue to believe. Without solid and undeniable proof? Yes. Can I explain why I do? No. That’s just who I am. I continue to believe regardless. I often explained to God how difficult it is for us to relate to Him when He doesn’t communicate to us like we do other people in our lives. We read in the Bible how He spoke to those people and did miracles that, if done today, would prove solidify to people that there is a God. Sometimes it really gives God some bad public relations when He doesn’t. I have even caught myself telling God that He missed a golden opportunity to show people that He is God. I’m sure He is amused by my commentary on His lack of activity.

The bottom line is that God is not a genie that we can summon whenever we want Him to appear and grant our wishes. He’s God and we’re not and that isn’t going to change. Sometimes I wonder about these people who claim God spoke to them or this who speaking in tongues thing that some religious folks do to show how spiritual they are.

Speaking of speaking in tongues, let me tell you some of my experience with this alleged method of communicating with God.

I grew up in a Pentecostal church which believed in this thing called speaking in tongues. In many services, people who speak some kind of gibberish language and then someone would “interpret” in English – usually the King James Version of English – to tell everyone else what the Holy Spirit said. Sadly, I would say I saw more of this method as a way of manipulation than it was actually something that came from God. In all of my years in the church I never understood this act of speaking in tongues. I studied it and I tried it but it just didn’t work for me. I knew many people who could speak in tongues instantly but they were difficult people otherwise. I even have known people who could fluently speak in tongues but would cuss you out the next day. I even had a former pastor who would even tell racist jokes. I guess they were out of the spirit huh? I’m still very skeptical of the practice of speaking in tongues. I won’t say it isn’t legitimate in some situations but I can tell you from first-hand experience that it was often not legitimate. I know of a couple in a church where my dad was the pastor who used this practice to tell Him he was wrong in what He was preaching and tried to manipulate the rest of the church into thinking their way about him while advocating how spiritual they were. So, no, I do not have good examples of this speaking in tongues thing.

So, let’s get back to the question….is God for reals? How is it that I can still believe when I have no proof?

I could list a bunch of Bible verses here in this blog but that’s not going to convince you or anybody else. There are people who don’t believe the Bible is the Word of God so if you try to use that as “proof” then that defeats the purpose. People don’t want to hear you use the Bible since it was written by man. I get that. That’s a difficult argument to overcome. They always say “inspired” men wrote the Bible which has been handed down and translated many time over the generations. Even Christians are quickly to hit you with a Bible verse to support their politic view while ignoring other parts which speak to them and their own sins.

So what’s so wrong believing in a God that I can’t prove to you that exists? How terrible is it that I do my best to live up to the principles of the Bible? The Ten Commandments? Jesus Christ? Is that so terrible? Believing in God doesn’t mean you have to be a freak about it and preaching on a street corner somewhere. It doesn’t mean you have to be an activist and preach hate on people who don’t believe.

There will always be skeptics who have their own ideas concerning God and will point to their own evidence and, for some, there will be no amount of proof that will convince them otherwise. That doesn’t mean they’re right.

Even if I told you God has spoken to me in an audible voice or done some sort of miracle in my life, that still wouldn’t prove anything to you since it didn’t happen to your personally. This is why the belief in God is a “personal” relationship. A church and a preacher can’t do it for you, you have to do it yourself. I have heard people say that I would rather believe in God and be wrong than not believe as if they have some sort of “insurance policy” when they die. That’s a pretty weak belief. You either believe or you don’t.

So, I choose to believe. Agree with me or not. That’s your decision. If you don’t believe I can’t debate you into changing your opinion. My only hope is that God will reveal Himself to you in your own life.

Can You Be A Believer And Not Attend Church?

The answer to this question is not as easy as you would think.  It is a different answer depending on who you are and what you need.  The avid churchgoer would answer this question with a resounding NO and back up their argument with the verse “Forsake not the gathering yourselves together” (Hebrews 10:25) along with other facts to support that answer.  The people who either aren’t regulars or even attend church at all will answer that they don’t need church or some story about how they were hurt by the church. 

So what is the answer?  What do you want the answer to be?  Are you waiting to pounce on my own answer to contradict it to line it up with the answer you want it to be?

Consider this….why is church important if you attend or not so if you don’t attend?

In my own personal experience, I attended church regularly for years.  Yes, I was one of those who some would say “cut their teeth on the church pews” although I always hated that reference.  It would bother me greatly if I ever missed a single church service.  Going to church was engrained into me so much so that going to church seemed to gauge my relationship with God.  Going to church was religious more than relationship.  It even got to the point where I was miserable and often left church feeling worst than when I got there.  

I guess you can figure out my answer.  I do not attend church now.  I will give some of you a moment to gasp and shake your head in disbelief.  

Don’t worry.  I’m okay and my relationship with God is strong.  

If you attend church faithfully I do not discourage it.  Everybody is different.  I’m also not saying that you shouldn’t be going to church.  That’s something between you and God.  Let’s not tune out from this article now and pass judgement on either side.  I have heard the sermons before about not being a spiritual Lone Ranger and how much we need the church.  I understand that completely.  

Some people need to go to the church building and be a part of a bigger group. That’s the way that they stay accountable and encouraged.  There’s no problem with that at all.  The problem is when we use church attendance as a barometer on how close we are to God.  Some act as if God is keeping roll for some heavenly spiritual attendance award.  I know.  I was there and I have done that in the past.  

I will admit to you that not attending requires someone with strong self discipline.  I’m not the model of self discipline but I have been able to maintain my personal relationship with God without attending church.  Certainly, it is hard to keep it up on your own.  When you are basically on your own, you have to do like David did and encourage yourself.  (1 Samuel 30:6). To stay spiritually in synch you have to keep communication open with daily prayer.  When you fail to pray you are setting up for failure.   In this time of technology and social media, there are many things available to help keep you spiritually sharp.  If you need to listen to a sermon, you can subscribe to a podcast or access a library of sermons.  If you need uplifting spiritual music, you have that available too.  If you need to be with a group of believers, you can do that online or meet with people in your life who are also believers.  

Church attendance is important but it isn’t a sin NOT to attend either.  I won’t say that I will never attend church again in the future.  I just don’t foresee myself ever being part of a church at this time in my life.   I grew up as a preacher’s kid and had been a part of the church for most of my life and have seen the good, the bad and a lot of the ugly about church.  Some might say that I am burnt out.  I would disagree with that but people will think what they want to think.  The turning point for me was a week I spent  in a monastery.  It was something that spiritually opened a new world for me.  Instead of the loud, Pentecostal environment I had been a part of, I learned the importance of being quiet and reverence of silence before God.  It was something I needed and gave me a better understanding of God than I had ever had before.   

That’s just me.  I’m not saying it is the same for you.  I know many pastors who genuinely care about people and have churches because they want to help people in their relationship with God.  

So, as you can see, the answer to this question is very objective.  It depends upon your need as a believer.  We all have to work out our own way in this life.