Meeting God for yourself
Hi, how are you today? I'm Rob West, an ordained pastor.
GETTING TO KNOW GOD
This site presents truths about God as a help for you to get to know him for yourself. It's a selected mini-library of info and insights with this sectioned introduction acting as an entry lounge. There is also help in how to manage life's troubles with God in the filed content here, written and compiled to be broadly user-friendly. The focus is on presenting God being life and peace to us, as an invite to experiencing that for yourself. No presentation of God can be comprehensive regarding who and what he is and how he acts, but I pray that this presents a solid, knowledgeable invite to you meeting him, with key roads ahead for you to walk on, out from that.
Use your imagination to make this lounge welcoming and cosy to you. Grab yourself a mental or real cup of something and get 'mind comfy'! You could put some of your favourite relaxing music in the background for mental space. This introduction is written to give a lot in itself, but I expect that you'll want to venture into the various 'rooms' from it, accessed through the header buttons above. Take a look around them and ask God to lead and speak to you, be it profoundly through an image or a brain feed of facts - God is love and he knows all about you and your life already, so whatever he says or shows you is for your blessing. Relax in him, he is gentle and kind and you can trust him.
It should be obvious(?), but time spent reading or talking about God is fruitless if we don't intend to MEET him, get to know him and enjoy being with him, because that relationship is the whole point of human life. Perhaps you were taught that divinity is unknowable in this personal way, but that's exactly what you and I were made for! If you don't know God yourself yet, you are greatly missing out on knowing who and what life is, living to the full in the great peace and power that flow from God into us, even in the darkest of circumstances. In knowing God, we receive and share the life and peace that only come from him. Who and what God is and does will present themselves to us regardless of our backgrounds and experiences.
When meeting God, we're meeting someone who reveals himself to us with his unique, loving claims on us, inviting us into close relationship with him. As such, expect him to reveal himself to you, even when first coming with our bundle of 'us' to him. He knows your heart and you will get to see who he is, be humbled and confess that he is, in fact, LORD. This realisation is the most freeing thing, an experience of a huge weight being lifted. This is the release of moving into the freedom of seeing clearly what life is: that God made it all, knows it all, and has even died for us to enter it all for us (more of that in a moment). Life is all-miraculous as his planned, loving work. Most of all, it is knowing him, being in his committed, loving presence.
GOD'S LOVING PURPOSE FOR US
God does all this for us for one reason alone. He loves us so very, very dearly, so much more than human love alone is able to. Think about it: God is supreme, he has zero need of us, nor anything outside of himself. He can never be in want: he's one in complete, loving fellowship with himself - Father, Son and Holy Spirit (more of that in a moment). As for us, hardly like this, we're not his mistake or failed experiment, and it's certainly not a case of him being shocked by our bad behaviour. He's always known that we'd not be able to exercise the freewill he gave us in the holy, perfect way that he exercises his!
Because God is love, it follows that he made humans only to share himself lovingly. He's not an impersonal energy coldly pushing us about, manipulating like the Wizard of Oz. He constantly loves us and cares about every aspect of our life. His holy love chooses to greet us: it's the reason we're here. It means that we are a totally loved, purposed, creative expression of his supreme, committed love. We are not an afterthought on the fringes, but are slap bang in the middle of his loving attention and plans to bless us. That changes everything. How do you see your life? How do others see you and your life? Do they help you or undermine you? Rest assured that God is for you: he's not waiting for us to trip up or be perfect like he is, he just wants us to enjoy his love together in him. That's a decision we are always free to make, no matter what's gone before. In your own words or thoughts, just ask him now to come to you and love you.
THE HUGEST CON!
Yet tragically for those faiths that don't know God, needing to be 'perfect' is almost exclusively what is destructively believed and demanded of us, the worst part being that they also have various systems for us to work at achieving it! And people believe them! It's the greatest of all lies, the hugest con! DON'T BELIEVE IT! Only God is perfect - any relationship we can have with him can never be achieved by us accumulating enough religious 'points' somehow, but by him wanting it and making a way for it to happen. God knows that we are not supreme like him and has never set up any system that lies to us that we could change that. When he instituted his covenants with Israel, the nation he began working through for us all, he kept those covenants alive. They, like anyone, inevitably and repeatedly failed to keep it. And when he instituted the Old Testament Law, it exposed our human flaws and pointed towards his plan to offer his permanent solution for us all to know him. Sadly, it's us who think that we are perfect, or can achieve that, or are better or worse than others. This isolates us from God and one another. If not pretending, we may just give up, believing that we're doomed in our faults, which equally damages.
Through pedantic or manic perfectionism, we become addicted to either lording over others or to pleasing others unquestionably, often originally due to having manipulative parents who only gave their approval (rarely unconditional love) when we've done what they want. Perhaps we feel or know that our siblings were preferred or were declared 'better' than us. Just know that God truly cherishes you beyond the best loving mother and father ever could. He dismantles the accumulation of all the hurtful things said and done to us. In getting to know God, you will know his love and will be able to forgive others and yourself, learning to be appropriately vulnerable again.. and this time it will be your choice, getting released from hurt.
GETTING OVER OURSELVES
God longs for us to trust him, enjoying our intended relationship with him and the truth of things in him - we just need to get over ourselves and let him love us. Unlike those people who haven't loved us when they could or should have, God is totally committed to helping us and has even sacrificed himself to restore us back to deepest intimacy with him. That's a huge relief, because he did this knowing that in all cases, despite any improvements, we will continue to live imperfect lives: we simply aren't able to exercise our free will in the perfect way he does.
Comparing ourselves with other people can have a positive place in terms of inpsiration or learning, but people-comparison is typically an entirely negative exercise born from our fears. We destructively believe that we are better or worse than whoever we've selected for the comparison, with the selection revealing our particular fears. But before God's perfection, we're no better or worse than anyone and there's no incremental scale for us to achieve to get up to him: only his open invitation to us. In his love, we are free and divinely able to lift up others, instead of feeling the need to climb over one other or declaring ourselves permanently defeated. Both these attitudes hold ourselves in fear, because they are false comforts or discomforts. Don't live in that stress - turn to God and get free.
People-comparison also directly serves our self-righteousness, wherever on the scale of 'worthiness' or 'made-it-ness' we place ourselves. This includes believing that we are unworthy of love, putting ourselves at the foot of the scale, because even if important people in our lives haven't loved us and have made us feel unlovely, the truth is that God continually declares us worthy and lovely to him up front. He loves us; it's usually us who don't love him. And him loving us first acts like grease on the believed 'good enough' pole that we create. There's no way for ourselves to get up to God's level of character and being, despite all that's preached and screamed at us(!); no actions and ceremonies that are claimed to be able to do that. No, what we alone need is to take his loving invitation back to him. He is freedom and where love and peace are.
Be clear that God knew he'd have to help us. He reached down to lift us up to him. We need to know and embrace this to be wonderfully and powerfully free in God's love. If we don't choose him, we stay slave to our fears and that master is insatiably cruel and destroys us. In contrast, God invites us to be free, seeing our true status before him alone. He knows we need to be forgiven by him in order to be thoroughly blessed and equiped by him. They go hand in hand. One of king David's songs to God expresses something of this: 'Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.' It's true: his hand is open in love to us, but it also requires us to decide to trust him and take it, because love by its very nature requires freedom of choice. In getting over ourselves and our damaging thoughts, therefore, we need to dare to firmly place our trust and lives back into God's safe hands.
HEAD AND HEART
We come to God exactly as we are, nothing is hidden from him and he wants to bless us. Sometimes our head needs feeding more and sometimes the heart more, but we need to engage both heart and mind to relate to God. If we approach him looking to engage intellect alone, then we will need to have the courage to stop talking for once and do some bungee jumps into God's presence. That's a major squirm if our safe place is the sound of our voice, where we comfort our fears or believed unlovliness/worthiness - but it must be done. Equally, if you merely want have your feelings affirmed, then you'll have to take the time to learn enough factual, head knowledge about God to see that emotions alone are just as limited in getting to know him. We have to meet him as he is and entirely as we are, being honest. It's essential to let our guards down - God already knows it all, anyway.
Theory and practice are inseparable in knowing God, as much as it is in us getting to know anyone. He is seamlessly and inseparably love/truth. Outside of him, we've sadly become experts at falsely unhinging love and truth to unhinge others. That is, we habitually speak false 'love' through denying the truth of things (including our real intentions, often) and hurtfully speak 'truth' to people without love, simply to put them down and lift ourselves up. That's just cruel; we all need love, encouragement and support, regardless if it's warm or tough love needed at the time. That's how God created us to be and we know it's right, yet we just so often keep serving ourselves, keeping us tightly bound.
We can become so desensitised to our self-serving nature that we're usually blind to it. How do you treat others? Do you see other people as important as you? Because God does - and we're all under him and all dependent upon his grace (underserved, given love). In going to God, we get the love and power to change how we are in relation to ourselves and others. We become We and us, instead of only I and me. Divine love is fully practical and more, transforming us to be more like God and treating others and ourselves as he does. God also gives specific spiritual abilities/gifting to help one another and transform the heart to see others as he does - taking away our limited, hurt filters.
If we're honest, this gets to the nitty-gritty of why many don't turn to God - we can think that we are somehow getting ahead by preferring ourselves at the expense of others, to 'gain the world', as it were. Instead, we merely pull God's judgement on ourselves, because nobody can fool him, whose love is perfectly just. And yet he still offers forgiveness to us, offering his hand to lift us up out of our selfishness. Sometimes we need to get scared of God to know that we are loved by him - that's a fact. It's one part of what it means to live safe in the fear of God, so that we don't have to fear all else. We often need shaking out of our selfishness, something that we will look back on and thank him greatly for.
HUMILITY AND DIVINE PEACE
Humilty and divine peace are two sides of the same coin. When we know God and his peace, we are deeply humbled, and when we are humbled, we experience God's peace. He made us to satisfy our hearts and minds, which requires getting to know his nature and character. When we know him, our 'hang up' questions almost become irrelevent, not because he won't give answers, but because in learning how faithfully he loves and cares for us, we see that we can trust him with all our combined mess ups and flaws and grow freely in him. We don't need to know 'everything' to have peace, we just need to know God. By illustration, we don't refuse to get on a plane just because we don't know what the pilot knows to fly it! And this is much more true when you know the pilot intimately and can recall his wonders thoughout your life and has continually proved his love to you. This is the developed, seeing trust of being in a relationship with God: blind faith has nothing to do with a relationship with him!
We should be diligent in what we do, getting whatever useful knowledge is needed to help, but we shouldn't be sweating the small stuff. We can't see all the possible outcomes of a situation and stressing to think that we can and must know them is where mental illness lies. It becomes a nervous 'OCD' desire to defend ourselves from all the unknowns or discomforts that other people and scenarios could come with. We weren't made to live with such phobia. It's never part of God's plan for us, so we know that he'll always help us with that. He actively loves, guides and equips us for life here and in heaven, so: let go and let God.
WHAT ABOUT HELL?
We are created by God to be continually living in intimacy with him. It's something that those that know him long to live in daily. God did not make people to be separate from his presence and blessing, which is what eternal hell is. Love must be freely chosen and responded to through freewill, however, so the possibility of separation is real for us by choice. Be sure that we cannot be 'born into' unity with God through being born into a paticular faith/ethnic situation: a considered decision is needed to seek then know him, so that hell gets kept well away from us.
Tragically, with love's free choice, some people will consciously and repeatedly choose to reject God, but GOD IS FAIR - he knows exactly the reasons why someone chooses what they do. Being in right relationship with God doesn't come through some holy osmosis from the faith of one's family or cultural surroundings: it's between each of us and him. God knows every factor shaping our heart, mind and intentions, so don't think he is cruel or whimsical in any way in his judgements. He's sacrificed himself to deal with ALL our genuine guilt, so only we are to blame if we don't go to him and ask him to deal with that.
Everyone stands before God and each of us will have been given fair opportunity to choose for or against him in our lives, even if we've been ignorant of him over long stretches of our life. We should be telling others about him if we love people like he does. There is a spiritual battle to this, too, not merely our family, faith and cultural environments shaping our personal choices. The point is that God perfectly sees our intentions, unlike the rest of us. Everyone has to come through Christ to be right with God, no exceptions. It's therefore not controversial to say that some who have only nominally been going to church, rather than being in active relationship with him, will not be in heaven, whilst some others who have lived within other faiths will be there, having had a genuine revelation of Christ and having received him at some point. God knows the heart that seeks and responds to him and knows all our circumstances and choices.
Clearly, we need great humilty regarding others, because we don't possess God's complete knowledge of them, including their future choices. It's why he tells us not to pronounce effective 'sentence' upon anyone, reminding us all of our shared, flawed state before him. We're not qualified to sentence another's status in God and just belief in it causes severe damage for both for the self-appointed judge and their choosen 'target'. Of course, we need discernment at all times, but in all things we are to show love. Until someone takes their last breath, even the cruelest heart can have genuine conviction of the love of God and ask for his forgiveness. We should seek God for ourselves and lift one another up to him. Truly. Don't delay in getting your own house in order - be wise to get to know God for yourself, not wasting a moment away from him!
WHAT ABOUT SUFFERING?
It's our selfish attitudes and actions that are the overwhelming cause of suffering in the world: our intentions are not completely loving like God's. We currently live between Christ's first arrival and his coming return, living in a time when our selfishness is tolerated in order to give us time to chose God's love and peace for ourselves. We need to see how much more loving allowing this is, rather than him sentencing us to terrible eternity outside of his presence and blessing. When he returns to bring in his new, ongoing reality, he will remove all pain and sin from those that have trusted him, living face to face with him in heaven. It's a day which, although signs are described, no one knows, so ignore anyone giving specific dates. The ticking choice to receive him is ours, the invitation his.
Suffering also happens because we live in a physical, 3D world. Honestly, any of us could be injured or die from a small stumble, or just by being unwise and unprepared. Someone we love dearly may not love us in the same way, or vice versa, causing real heartache, but do we seriously want God to take away all we are because of the temporary pain we can suffer? Take away LOVE?? If we take out our nervous system, we're instantly prone to danger and death. Take out love and we cannot know God or love at all - we wouldn't be human in any way.
But we are human and God offers his love to us with peace that 'surpasses all understanding', as his follower Paul expressed it. It's like the personally known, personally proven and trusted pilot that I mentioned above, who we can suppose can fly the plane we're stepping into. Paul isn't saying that we attain peace through ignorance or rightly questioning things: most things are profitable when they are studied and challenged, because it gives useful accuracy and can present the sheer wonder of God's creation. He's saying that personally knowing and trusting God replaces unecessary fear with what we already know about him. I can vouch for that.
So, it's not a case of 'ignorance is bliss', where we lazily and dangerously accept all things. Blind acceptance can become a belief in fate, an unchangeable 'plan' that some divinity has hidden from us, for which reasons we can only guess and project. Some beliefs can do this because their 'divine' is believed to be impersonal, unreachable, not interacting with our lives here, nor even has the power or will to change them (despite creating us and everything!) But GOD is so loving, so personal, even sacrifcing himself to prove that he cares for us 100%. It expels the lie of any divine que sera sera. God invites us to change this world in his power, no less, living in love and truth! He constantly offers help - we just need to know him and know how to powerfully administer that. Humility and divine peace are always the keys to knowing God and exercising his power. Both knowing and administering it require a relationship with him to live and grow in.
THE LORD OF ALL THINGS
In contrast to fate, then, when we know God we experience his divine peace. In this, we have no craving or fear enough to demand to know 'all' the details, 'all' the reasons, 'all' the outcomes, because we know his character already and know that he's fully engaged and 'got this'. The question to be posed far more is are we fully committed and engaged? What have we done for him lately? We can always ask God for detail, because maybe we have a responsibility in it, or him a comfort to give, but it's not a nervous addiction to control our lives beyond our means and control, the release of which naturally protects our mental and physical health.
Let's be plain - what we need to know in life is always more than the handful of the most obvious facts of a particular situation and circumstance. The context is more important, because life is bigger than the single events that happen in it. Court judges appeal to the jury to bear this in mind. Motives and patterns of behaviour can explain the needed whys of an action beyond the mere hows of it. I can trust God (so can also have peace) to tell me what I need to know when he knows it will bless me and others most. If he can't do that, he's not God and a waste of our time to think he is. But I know him. He has shown himself to me, not just for things in my life, but also in the lives of countless others through me. I'm not special: I can always seek his presence and speak with him, like anyone else. He says new things, or confirms and gives more detail to something he's said earlier. It's all on a need-to-know, best need-to-have basis. I can trust my Lord, because his love and character remain the same. If we know him, we can absolutely live in peace with this, knowing what we should and shouldn't do and even seeing it beforehand.
It's not that we only experience God's peace in easier cricumstances either, somehow sidestepping all the suffering here that we experience or put on others. The world and people are simply not like that. Indeed, some of the most loving, needed actions in the world require decisions knowing the considerable sacrifices involved. A sound person doesn't look for pain, but a mature one will see the needs of others and do their part to help, even at cost to themselves.
A person who does not suffer pain is either already in heaven or lives in constant danger with congenital analgesia. It's amazing how many people think that they are good, loving people simply because they lavish attention on their own family. That love stops at the front door, often indifferent to the needs of others beyond it. God calls us to work together to feed the hungry, befriend the lonely, heal the sick, look after the foreigner, take in the orphan - all of whom present themselves to us. We can show so much love, so much compassion in the supernatural power of God, when we do it as family in community. What vision do you have for your family or friends to bless others? Do you know God's vision for this?
Since God is the Lord of all things, we can experience his peace even when crying in the deepest of sorrows, ours or others, and when suffering and not. Not only that: we know that we can change circumstances in him. We can rest in knowing that he sees way beyond our horizons, whilst still caring about our immediate pains and plans. But it's not simply getting the right context and God-centered mindset, it's also in seeing him work mighty miracles through us together. That's why we need to be in relationship with him, not just throw 'Whys?' at him when things are tough. Who said things wouldn't be difficult in this current life, anyway? Not God. That wouldn't be a credible claim for anyone - we know the world we live in! That's why we need to live lovingy with him in it, before we live the greater time with him out of it. I know that I am fully loved by him, even as a sinner, and I am routined in ministering his love to others through specific wisdom, knowledge and healing as gifts given to me by him. I've been similarly ministered to by others. God's been doing that with those who know him all down the ages. It's no secret: he is Lord and can be leaned on.
AND THE LORD OF YOU AND ME
God is real, he's not the strained, almost hopeless hope at the other end of a message in a bottle. If that is how you view God, then seek him and ask him into your life. He is concerned, empathetic, committed love. You may have been burned or even abused by those claiming to know him, because, unfortunately, they are flawed people like everyone. In contrast, know that God is pure love and that we can go to him just as we are, whatever we've said, thought or done. How can we go to him in any other way? That's the reality of things. That's why we need to know that he isn't just the creator Lord of the universe and other people, but emphatically that he's MY Lord and created ME. That lovely, hazy memory of the smell and colour of those flowers that one summer - he's the Lord of that. That terrible behaviour against me and my loss - he's the Lord of that. That amazing time just last year... he is the Lord of you and that. He is the Lord of all: of who you are and can fully be. He loves you completely and no detail of our life is unkown or too small for him to be Lord of, to get rid of, to be transformed by, or be thankful for.
We often demand details from God (or someone) of the one, pressing jigsaw piece that's filling our attention at any given time, especially in the situations that cause us most pain. But if we know God for ourselves and saw some glimpses of the whole picture, then we'd have peace-giving perspective. God has already given us that wider picture and he reveals it both individually and corporately. That's important. It's for us to actively engage with God, because he's already fully engaged with us. The death of a loved one, sexual abuse, the neglect, the loss, the domestic violence, the alienation and loneliness - God knows them all throroughly and has suffered greatly himself. Of course, he also helps with the exciting situations that need his guidance. Unlike the so-called dieties of other faiths, God's suffering happened right here with us. How could we trust a deity that only spoke to us away from our suffering? How would we ever know God had any empathy with us at all if he did not 'walk the walk'? Jesus suffered in a way that no one else can ever suffer, in places that are still filling the rolling news. Beyond the dreadful physical pain metered out to him, he took the greater pain of all our sin upon himself, temporarily removing him from his closeness with God the Father. Only God can give us any glimpse of what that was like and our response will be a mixture of intense sadness and deep gratitude. Seeing the bigger picture, we know that he got through it, but these emotions still remain in our responding, profound love.
What we know is that God had US and our freedom firmly in mind when pushing through that event. The recorded medical detail of Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane, overlooking Jerusalem just before his arrest, tells us that his sweat had blood in it, such was his personal anguish at knowing what he had to suffer. He even asked the Father if there was any other way to gain our freedom before determining to carry on as planned. When Jesus allowed himself to be subjected to the physicality and spirituality of it all, it was your face and mine with our desperate need that kept his focus. He kept his eyes on the prize all through his ministry. Himself lacking nothing, that prize was YOU and ME, US. Never forget that supreme God does not need us, so his determination to do all this tells us all we need to know about real LOVE, against the rather pathetic claims regarding other gods and beliefs.
THE SACRIFICE OF CHRIST - OUR NEEDED RESCUE BACK TO GOD
However we come to it, in drama and argument or none, Jesus' death on the cross and his resurrection is the pivot of human life and history with God - even his return is intrinsically based on the offered relationship offered through them. I'll look at that in a moment, but we must first look at the context and US, who we tend to swiftly take out of the equation as wounded innocents in this world. Wounded we are, but innocent are not, and we are not able to fix this without God's rescuing intervention. God is love - he did not create us to simply suffer our own, Satan's or other's selfishness, nor even to merely suffer our mistakes and ignorance that also hurt and damage us. His plan was always bigger and better. Our time here is SHORT, so we need to look at our lives and choose to live as he planned right now, while we can. He's given us his one way out, keeping his rescue remarkably and lovingly simple, so people can take hold of it. Jesus' life and death go way beyond just saving us for a holier, transformative life today, brilliant though that is - it equips us powerfully throughout our lives into life forever with him. Through Jesus we are blessed and others get blessed through us, often even preserving their lives until they also choose to trust God.
Let's be honest with ourselves regarding our being right with God. Isn't it because the death and resurrection of Christ only offer and demand nothing of us, that we don't immediately find Jesus to be very attractive as God's rescue?! Read that again! You'd think we would jump at someone choosing to pay what we cannot, to set us free! We'd surely prefer to win a ton of money in the lottery than bust a gut each day for much less than most people need - the average, global annual wage is just $1,480 (£928). This tells us what we already know - that we humans crave to be in control, believing or hoping that we can buffer ourselves from most discomfort and hurt. Some sound life choices will quickly help to do that, but we all inevitably get affected by circumstances and people beyond our control. The wiser choices we make are when we share control with people who can do what we can't, helping one another. When this is deliberately done in God's will and power, we access help way above our common insight and ability.
BUT HOW CAN JESUS DIE FOR US?
God always knew the rescue from our selfish nature was going to be necessary, because exercising our human ability to choose selfishly makes us guilty before his perfect love. It wasn't 'mean' God the Father suddenly throwing God the Son under the bus for us one day in shock at how we humans treat one another: Jesus' death was planned. In the Old Testament records, we see that Israel sacrificed lambs and other animals, a system instituted by God as an illustration that a cost needs to be paid for our human sin: that is, our selfish thoughts and actions that separate us from unity with him. Because God is lovingly just by nature, he can't just waive the debt. Killing a few animals was never going pay it, of course, and because God is perfect and we're not, any permanent cost could only possibly be paid by him. That's where Jesus comes in - his sacrificial death and the divine satisfaction of it wipes out all our selfish muck for all time - we just need to genuinely turn to him, say sorry, and receive that loving forgiveness and him into our lives. His sacrifice is what taking communion is all about. Just before he was executed, Jesus instituted the breaking and eating of bread and drinking wine together. It was an exercise of faith to remind us that our relationship with God is only possible through his sacrificial death for us, not though anything we can do. The Roman authorities believed for a while that the first Christians were actually killing people and eating and drinking their flesh and blood! Eyew! God would never demand such a thing.
I know it's a bit gory, this blood stuff, but how Jesus was treated was gory. Mel Gibson focused on it in his impacting film The Passion of the Christ, passion meaning: God's committed, sacrificial love, not just an emotion towards a person or something we like a lot. Whatever artistic licence Gibson took to present this focus, they're likely to be the most accurate film images of the events, because they are well detailed in the New Testament of the Bible and the details of Roman punishment are well recorded, including the personnel, hardware and the methods of flogging and crucifixion. Jesus was literally ripped up before he was nailed up. The soldiers even ripped out parts of his beard after his flogging. Pontius Pilate sentenced Jesus to flogging to save him from crucifixion, but Jesus came to die for us. Had Pilate been convinced of this, he may have directly sentenced Jesus to crucifixion, despite knowing his innocence. As it was, Jesus was forced to carry the cross-beam, half dead from the flogging. He remarkably managed to take it some way through Jerusalem before he collapsed. Simon of Cyrene picked it up and he and Jesus reached the execution site at Golgotha. It was truly grim, and with all this happening before the indescribable pain of the crucifixion itself.
The all-encompassing sacrifice of God is why Jesus' blood is so often the subject of worship songs to him. It administers his committed love to us, delivering his ongoing power to bless us and others and destroy evil. Even in the darkest times we have God's hope. This isn't just hoping what we'd like to happen, but recalls who aGod is and what he's done for us. It's a disciplined, proactive rememberance that his love for us doesn't change and will hold, no matter what. A focus on the blood is useful and appropriate there. Through Christ's death and resurrection, God offers rescue back to life in him. He sacrificed himself, bridging the gap between his perfection and our selfishness.
VERY MUCH NOT ORDINARY!
This is extraordinary. Jesus' life was evidently no ordinary life and death, or the events that happened immediately afterwards and since would not have occurred. Ask psychologists: the behaviour that Jesus' followers showed (including the remaining 11 disciples themselves) changed from complete, shocked dismay, disillusion and fear of persecution into remarkable, focused bravery and selflessness almost overnight. This can only be reasonably explained if the reports we have before us are true. The witness of the New Testament was not written to hoodwink people - the purposes are openly and clearly stated, often naming those involved and often detailing single points for clarity. Nobody would have taken the writers seriously if they were lying, either - the first contemporary readers would have totally exposed them! No, the moral character of the writers and/or the events were already widely known and their detail demands our proper consideration and response, because it's true: it happened.
Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormonism and Islam, among other faiths outside of personally knowing God, claim unique, divine purpose in Jesus, but roundly contradict him being God, despite the eye-witness reports of his repeated claims of divinity and what he uniquely did, purposely linking himself back through God's history with them. With considerable rage (and fear) Jesus was repeatedly accused of blasphemy for exactly stating those claims. As merely human, Christ would have no authority or ability to save anyone more than you or I. But this is contradicted by both his words and actions and further evidenced through the panic of those opposing him. They were at a total loss - and they were meant to be the nation's spiritual leaders! They could not deny the miracles that were so widely witnessed and didn't even attempt to. Strange, therefore, that some want to deny the miracles now as fabricated embellishments to the real events. Pontius Pilate, the infamous Roman governer of Judea at the time, saw right through the Pharisees' blood lust and recognised Jesus' innocence, publically washing his hands of the matter. In the end, even he was weak, still choosing to appease Jesus' accusers and had him crucified, even after he'd had him so visciously flogged. Jesus had all power to avoid all of it, but it's why he came and he steadfastly pushed on through to the cross for us.
To his killers, Jesus was got rid off at long last. It was a brief relief for them, since it was followed by the cataclysmic shock just three days later, when Jesus' body had disappeared from its tomb, despite guarded by a full Roman guard posted outside, who were unharmed and scared of severe punishment for failing their task. The leading priests even bribed them to say the disciples had taken Jesus' body. The guard didn't have it and the disciples certainly had no expectation of Jesus' coming back to life to begin with - they'd scattered to protect themelves. No invested party produced the body, which would have been an easy play.
Jesus, though, unexpectedly to all (despite all he'd said about being raised to life again) soon appeared to thousands of people in different locations, to crowds, groups and individuals. He'd been publically executed: people were in mourning, not waiting for this. Jesus was already dead when the Roman execution party routinely made sure all the crucified were dead, putting a spear into him and taking him down off the execution scaffold with the others crucified with him. When stabbed, the red and white blood cells had already separted post mortem, coming out of his side. Thousands of people were sentenced to Roman crucifixion as a deterrent to public disorder, which demands the explanation why this man was seen so uniquely differently by friends and foes alike. If this was put to trial, the evidence is overwhelming for the ressurection events, however surprising they were and still are, being unique in history. A book, The Case for Christ, lays the recorded evidence out. I recommend it for your own response, because the details are clear.
ONE MAN FROM PALESTINE... REALLY? ..HOW?
If you don't yet know all the events (I repeat the book recommendation and looking at the New Testament itself) then the claim that one man from Palestine being most important to all humankind and everything forever might seem bizarre. I mean, we know what we're like. Anyone claiming to be God isn't going to get much positive traction down the supermarket, are they? But Jesus constantly did, right in the middle of people's everyday: washing pools, roads, markets, paths, houses, palaces, wells, prison, graves.. he wasn't some solitary mystic down a pit or up a pole. He sided with anyone in need and those who showed humilty, be they a top official or those widely considered to be human vermin to be shunned. His was an open public ministry by design. For comic relief, go to the nearest shop or the office water dispenser and try telling people that you're God - and see how far you get! Those that genuinely believe that they are God are diagnosed with its particular mental illness, but that's not how people experienced Jesus at all - he was very quickly recognised as uniquly authoritative, challengingly compassionate, courageous, out-there smart, strategic, prayerful, immensely humble and very precise with his words and actions. Most importantly, all these were expressed with immense LOVE - even forgiving those who had falsely accused him and those who had just nailed him up!
Those people feeling most threatened by this stood in front of Jesus and wanted him dead - they couldn't and didn't wave him him off as 'deranged'. You have to ask 'Why?' and the answers are explicitly written and compiled in the Bible. Despite the history of God's relationship with Israel, many of the Jews who first followed Jesus also found him shocking or, rather, not at all what they had expected as their/our Messiah (saviour). His explaining the Scriptures to them as reference to who HE was - well, you can imagine! But we don't have to imagine - we have the New testament record to check for ourselves. Most were expecting the long-promised saviour to be a royal/political warrior, similar but far greater than their king David a thousand years earlier. In their expectations, the Messiah would be freeing them from their Roman occupiers and any other enemies. Jesus corrected them from this narrow view using the Hebrew Scriptures, which he said they should have understood better. Jesus' disciple Judas was one of them, trying to manipulate events to force Jesus into showing he was this merely political/national saviour. Sadly, instead of turning back to to Jesus when he realised how wrong he'd been, he hung himself.
RELIABILITY OF THE WITNESS TEXTS
If Jesus' death was the end of the matter and the events of his life before and after it were not as we have them written by the witnesses, then then it's highly unlikely that he'd be written about in detail or followed afterwards, but that's emphatically not what happened - we have 5795 ancient Greek manuscripts of the New Testament alone, with the average size of 450 pages each, the first of them written within maximum 40 years after Jesus' death and resurrection. That means that any other witnesses could easily refute the content, but didn't.
You don't have to know God to know the facts. The later manuscripts faithfully copied the earliest New Testament texts, so we can cross-reference them to know for certain that what they say is what the original witnesses wrote and weren't manipulated for any later pressures or audience. Then there's the Latin, Coptic, Syriac, Armenian manuscripts going in to the 10,000s. The higher the number of cross-referencable texts and the sooner they inform about their content, the stronger the historical reliablity of a text. No history of any person or events in the ancient world come anywhere remotely close to the historical reliabilty of the New Testament texts. Homer's Iliad, written in 800BC and being the next numerous text, has 1757 manuscipts, writing about events that occurred 400 years before it. After that, there's 340 copies of Demosthenes' Speeches, talking about events that happened a full 1100+ years earlier.
These numbers really matter. They show that Jesus caused an overwhelming wave of committed living and writing, first by people who were there with him as eye-witnesses and by more soon after who were compelled to make sure this witness was available to others. Significantly, they weren't simply preserving a set of texts, but the record of fully representative events and words of Jesus Christ. HE is the whole point, HE is the revelation of God. These people all claimed, as people in greater numbers do now, that they had also encountered God themselves and knew him personally, not just knew parts of the texts. They recognised the same God as the texts described (including the Hebrew Old Testament) not a different one. Jesus turned the world upside down then and has ever since. It's his world and time is ticking, so we need to get with the plan.
DEEP BREATH AND A RECAP
In relating to his beloved humans, God the Father accepts innocent, sin-free Christ as our human representative for our selfish nature. It means that we can get back to his planned potential for us, having open access to him and able to enter into a wonderful relationship with him. Christ is the bridge to personal intimacy with God. At Christmas you might see or hear the word 'Emmanuel', which means God with us, here in person. God's self sacrifice still stands because it was for once and for all. We couldn't bridge ourselves to God then and never can - no act by us can do that - he had to come to us and us respond to him.
God looks at us with such love. For us looking back at him, Jesus reveals God's character to us. In him we are shown his loving, complete, forgiving and fulfilling freedom. If we want to know anything about God's love, compassion and intentions towards us, it's all confirmed in the love, words and actions of Jesus while here on Earth. God has continued to reveal himself to us ever since, which we qualify with this earlier, temporary incarnation (in the flesh) revelation of Christ. The disciples recorded the revelation, but even they didn't quite understand it all until Jesus came back to them after his execution. We might give them a hard time: 'If I was there with Jesus..", etc, but what was happening in front of them was unique and new. Their Gospels and letters evidence a real roller-coaster of the building events. It's a miracle and privilege that, under God's inspiration and leading, these people with all their human foibles still got the message out so clearly, each with their specified purpose and audience. Most people were iliterate; the texts were primarily written to be read aloud. The disciples, despite all running scared at Jesus' arrest, were not the same men after they had met Jesus after his death - who would be? They bravely and faithfully went out to all compass points in God's love and power: to India, Africa, Europe, Asia Minor and Major, etc, continuing to perform many miracles, as did the congregations that grew with and after them. All the disciples were eventually murdered by authorities who were threatened by God's powerful presence in these humble people. For details of the very earliest stage of this history, read Acts in the Bible.
Jesus' words are uniquely powerful, so they might have gone down in posterity somewhere, along with his miracles. Some voices want to explain away these mostly public acts by divorcing them from what Jesus said each time, simply to deny the supernatural element as impossible. Read for yourself how what Jesus did and said worked as a unit, often with the witnessing writer adding 'smelly', mundane detail of the scene. Importantly, Jesus' miracle teaching focuses on the kingdom of God and people's relationship with God to be part of it. The disciples faithfully recorded as much as they could on the move with him, presenting what anyone needs to know to know God, be saved from their sin, and live a whole new life in him. God himself inspires and directs that witness through all the writers throughout the Bible texts. The miracles are personal, they're an awesome show of divine LOVE, not just power! Jesus knew people would be amazed by what they saw, more than his 'unit' teaching each time. For their sakes, he often directly confronted that. Read his words, they aren't the floaty tropes we often get on popular social media - they are the greatest truth and wisdom ever taught, because they are the loving, manifest wisdom of GOD to us. People were astounded, because is was so unlike the shallow, unloving words of their entrusted faith leaders, even when quoting from the same Hebrew Scriptures! These words of God are to set us free in him and invite us back into his loving presence. As such, they cut to the marrow of our fatal, sinful status without him and offer the way out, which brings us to..
Pot pourries are scented mixes of flowers and wood. Very nice, but they can illustrate how we approach comfortable spirituality, rather than spiritual reality and clarity with God. A personal relationship with God is intimate, it matures with time and depends on who HE is - it's not our own pick n mix of wants!
Jesus' public execution and resurrection disarm us: they challenge our nervous-religious control that we so often engage life with and spiritual matters with. That is, we want to our spirituality to be our spirituality, thank you - a comfortable, controllable, only emotionally satisfying one for us. This is done regardless of the truth and God's saving love, thus regardless of his rightful claims on us. Our innate self-serving nature without knowing him is one reason why so many of us concoct a pot pourri of all manner of contradictory beliefs, only breathing in one or the other when we feel the need, and not because God is real and has things to say and give to us - GOOD things! Until we admit that, we cannot be free - we'll just serve our limitations. In essence, we worship the gifts, failing to be mind-blown by the much greater. loving giver of them. God has SO much more to give to us in himself. When we know him, all creation becomes all the more profoundly valued and awesome to us.
Regardless of how our spiritual pot pourries can make us feel, we project our needs onto them without personal accountability of how we behave. We prefer impersonal, 'life forces and energies' etc, commonly deifying and worshiping creation as 'God' or 'the divine', precisely because of the comfort of control that offers. We'd much rather light incense and dress statues in flowers, or pray a prescribed number of times in a doable, prescribed way, because they are things, not a living person we are in vital relationship with. This also happens in churches, of course, whenever objects, projects and ceremonies are held as one's/a congregation's primary identity. So very often, too, we idolise (so serve) our various religious, ethnic, communal identities above seeking and knowing the love and truth of God. It's a huge, give away symptom of the self-destructive human condition that we need freeing from.
The superficiality of self-made belief, however singular, old, novel or widespread, is just us scratching what we instinctively know is missing, be it through something 'light', or through following a strict set of rules for life to give us meaning in it. In both cases, even though the second form will often make forced, coercive claims on us, we are still merely feeding our feelings and fears without knowing the far greater reality of God and all things in perspective. We will preach and convince ourselves about 'surrender' in following the stricter versions, but in following them we won't have opened ourselves to God's amazing presence and loving terms at all - just our same, nervous itch. There's no grace whatsoever in a religious 'system' - grace by its nature has to be be given by a person! The 'human itch', expressed religiously or otherwise, is a form of having a shifty, guilty, cigarette, when God has already come to make us all breathe easy in him. Turn God and see for yourself.
LIVING IT OUT
Jesus was very clear that choosing to live in love and truth would attract similar oppostion to anyone as it did to him. Makes sense. Even when you show sacrificial love, people, even family and friends, will often accuse of judging them. They could also be free in God's forgiveness, but instead choose to keep tight hold of guilt and a skewed sense of control.
In a relationship with God, we become compelled to live in love, no matter how others react. We need to love and support one another, including people we don't know. Equally, we are compelled to reach out to some reliable others in getting supported. We need to go to God and let him love us. It's the same when you're in a loving relationship with anyone, only much more so. When I wake up, however down or exhausted I might be, I discipline myself to deliberately pull the effect of Jesus' sacrifice over me, in the full knowledge that I am always blessed and am able to love and bless others powerfully. When (not if) I seek help, I'm still connecting myself and those people to God's love. It's a win-win. Us being brave enough to say that we haven't got it all together can draw such love from others: it builds us all up. Living with God demands a due level of vulnerability with others because love requires it - we need to start trusting some people without demanding that they be perfect like him. We grow together in that, just as he always planned.
THE CROSS - OUR HOPE NOW
This is God's world, everything is on his loving terms, so we need to take up his offer to get free and live in it, powerfully sourced in him. Your life will be transformed totally, positively, if you seek him. Christ 'got his hands dirty', even becoming all our combined guilty mess on the cross, completing our rescue. Those were his terms that we might LIVE, 100%. We must grab hold of it to move on and thrive, not alone but together: supported and encouraged.
Before he returned to heaven with his rescue mission for us completed, Jesus taught in detail the nature and purpose of the third person of the Godhead, THE HOLY SPIRIT, who is our teacher, empowerer, enabler, comforter, encourager and equiper. Jesus sent him just 50 days after he left Earth (hence the name Pentecost) in order to continue God's planned work here. The Holy Spirit is 100% God, presenting the Father and Jesus to us. He's right there at creation - have a look at the first verses in the Bible. He makes all the difference. He works in and through those who have a genuine relationship with God. Note genuine relationship - not a pretend, 'perfect' one: a person is saved by grace, not by our actions or religious observance. Asking the Holy Spirit to help us gives us God's supernatural insight and power. Read that again. He transforms us to be more godly and gracious, able to serve others humbly and powerfully and to change situations.
Delve into the files here that detail the Holy Spirit and his work. You can read John's Gospel, where Jesus gives a detailed presentation of him, continuing into the book of Acts, when the Holy Spirit comes upon the believers, as he promised. The true global church is a Holy Spirit, charismatic body by default, because people accepting God's rescue plan and growing in relationship with him are only divinely identified as the 'people of the Spirit', not by any other characteristic or custom. If someone in a congregation tells you that the 'charismatic' or 'pentecostal' church is 'the one down the road', therefore, there's a glaring problem - how is their congregation in a vital relationship with God and his Word (the Bible), if they are not being vitally transformed and guided by the Holy Spirit?! How will they be more godly and do the things of God, if not in the power of the Holy Spirit? Well, they can't, plain and simple - no one can. JESUS himself applied the unity and gifts of the Spirit to do all he did, so imagine any of us thinking that we don't need him..
WE CAN'T JUST BELIEVE IN GOD - WE NEED TO GO TO HIM
Just believing in God means precious little, whatever we profess. Saying it is usually a vague statement about someone we haven't met or known yet. People alternatively apply the line that 'all religions lead to God'. No they don't. Most who say this don't even mean it either, because they rarely apply such flippancy to their own lives! Life has a practical reality and consequence to it! Faiths themselves are radically different and contradict sharply with one another: they are not different accounts of one thing or looking towards one, same being. Saying they do is typically a willfully uninformed defence, a stop-talking-about-religion device. Happily, God also rarely wants to talk about religion, except to expose how it cuts us off from from knowing and enjoying him. Knowing him happens through accepting his offer of grace after/through personal presentations of himself, not by religion as a 'thing'.
Don't worry about moving on from mere belief into actually meeting God. Christ came down to us, so we don't need to strain or climb up, but just step onto that bridge. This is illustrative language, but it encourages us in the truth that we can only be in union with God through responding to him, deliberately choosing to step forward. The bridge is is open for us to walk on, it's our right in God and our choice that nobody and nothing can take away from us. It will mean letting go of things that we have been doing to simply shore ourselves up, equally most actions prescribed by our previously believed 'deity/ies'. You won't regret it, because God meets us as we are and not as we should be. The simplicity of this can be incredibly offensive to our kept sensibilities, but just keep walking: the bridge holds and the land on the other side is amazing. This you need to do and see for yourself, even if others might be your effective bike 'stabilisers'!
One thing that joins virtually all faiths, except those who know Christ, is that that they declare that we can and have to work off our sins somehow to be in union with the divine. I've already presented the devastation of that lie, however well-meaning people can be. God is a person we meet, it changes everything. Go to him.
MEETING GOD - MEET OTHERS!
Find a good church near you that you feel at home in, where all or some of the people 'get you'. For whatever length of time, that will be the group/s of people near you that you will experience God with. If you're doing this for the first time, be patient to contact and visit a few congregations, be they ones in traditional church buildings or at a local cinema, pub or coffee house, whatever. My tip is that, no matter the church, if those you meet are real, down- to-earth people, they usually know God better. No one's perfect, but they'll be more 'normal' through having let God love them more than anything else they do. Definitely head for them!
I warmly encourage you to go onto zoom with SPIRIT CAFE (details below) as an invite to encounter God with others, wherever you've chosen to go to. It's a great, jargon-free, non-judgemental space where you are served by 'normal', spiritually mature folks from a wide scoop of church affiliations and countries. What happens there is outstanding, because it's God doing it. It serves nationally with the main language of each country, whilst the international link reaches across cultures for you to connect in English. I thoroughly recommend it for what it gives. As for this site, you can ask God to show you what files can help you most at any given visit. Go at your own pace. Sometimes we need a verse and a truth to saturate us thoroughly. Sometimes we need a set of related facts. Spiritual hunger works like food in that way! We just need to make sure that we also regularly meet with others to digest and grow, not only feed our thoughts on the internet.
When God presents himself, you will experience love beyond anything you've experienced before. Getting to know him is a process of discovery in stages, like getting to know anyone, so be free in that. We can meet him before knowing him and he lovingly meets us as we are.
I welcome emails regarding the content on this site and it's great if I can help in any way, but it's going to be local relationships that will best ground and support you. If we can't be real and commit to growing with other people, then we're hardly likely to be real with God, are we?! If you really are isolated, then Spirit Cafe online is always an excellent place to start meeting God yourself (link at top). You might be amazed by what will happen there if you've not experienced God yet(!) Later, sharing your experience can also really help others, too, even if you might not have considered that yet. It doesn't take much time to realise that we're all in the same boat, in constant need of God. He truly offers love, life and peace to all who seek him.
God bless you today, be so encouraged.