Saturday, January 24, 2015

A Word From Pastor Mike - Followers and Skeptics

John 1:43-51 NIV

Jesus Calls Philip and Nathanael
43The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”
44Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. 45Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
46“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.
“Come and see,” said Philip.
47When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”
48“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.
Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
49Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”
50Jesus said, “You believeh because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.”51He then added, “Very truly I tell you,i youj will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’k the Son of Man.”  

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C. S. Lewis was born in Belfast, Ireland in 1898. He was raised in the Church of Ireland (Anglican).
C. S. Lewis loved to read. In 1916 he was awarded a scholarship to Oxford University but WWI interrupted his study and he was sent to the front lines in the trenches in France.

In April of 1918 C. S. Lewis was wounded and two colleagues were killed when a British shell fell short of its target. His experiences in WWI left C. S.  Lewis and atheist, one who doesn't believe in God.

Lewis returned to Oxford and encountered Christian friends who gently persuaded and influenced him to return to Christianity. In his book, Surprised by Joy, he wrote, "Whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet, that which I had greatly feared, had at last come upon me. In the Trinity term of 1929 I gave in and admitted that God was God and knelt and prayed. (I was) perhaps the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England."

C. S. Lewis went on to become one of the most respected novelists and lay theologians of the last century. He went from believer to skeptic to atheist and back to believer.

Philip found Nathaniel and said to him, "We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Joseph." Nathaniel said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"

Nathaniel was a skeptic. He wasn't willing to jump on the Messiah Train without a little sarcasm, "Can anything GOOD come out of Nazareth?" And he wanted proof... "Let's be reasonable about this."

I am reading a book called 10 Answers For Atheists - How to Have an Intelligent Discussion About the Existence of God." by Alex McFarland. Alex McFarland go to college campusus, the  hotbed of Atheism, and he debates Atheists. But one wonders why Atheism has any pull at all in our society. Alex McFarland wrote, "In one of the debates the topic was 'Does God Exist'. The Atheist said, "Get this trough your head. Your life has no meaning. Your dead grandmother... is now turning back into dirt. In the big scheme of things her life meant nothing. And neither does yours. But isn't that liberating? Now we can get on with the business of living." It was so quiet you could almost hear crickets chirp. He continued, "In an ultimate sense,  in a very real sense, your life, your dreams, your memories, you - it all means nothing."

Guess what? Nobody got up and cheered. You life has no meaning? What good is that? People need hope and meaning and love and respect in order to carry on. Atheism will never be popular because it leaves people with despair.  Alex McFarland calls us to love our Atheist/Agnostic/skeptical brothers and sisters, to pray and confess our faith for them, to be gentle with them and to try and understand them.

In his book he identifies 10 different types of Atheists.
     Angry Atheist - unbelief fueled by negative emotion
     Scientific Atheist - have science and reason on their alter, no room for anything else.
     Injured Atheist - unbelief associated with negative experience, prayers not answered
     Resident Contrarian Atheist - voice of dissent, like to argue, rejects what is popular
     Worldly Wise Atheist - jaded with life, where is God?
     Reflective Atheist - introspective and philosophical, focus on injustice/pain/flaws
     Antinomian Atheist - question everything - religion, morals, politics - don't limit freedom
     Activist Atheist - crusade for unbelief for office, school board, be a fly in the ointment
     Bible Scholar Atheist - studies the Bible but only looking for flaws
     Hasty Generalisationists - related to priest scandals, TV evangelist scandals, crusades

Well, that's enough; You've heard it before. It's been going on for centuries... There is no god/There are gods/It's all about me/It's all about pleasure/It's all about science and reason... In the garden the serpent comes with the original temptation, "You will be like God." Since then we've been trying to put ourselves in the center of the universe or find a fitting substitute, but God is God.

Look at the gospel for today. Do you think Philip & Nathaniel sat down one day and plotted to turn their worlds upside down and follow an itinerant preacher around Galilee? I don't think so, but that's what happened.

Someone from the outside stepped into their world and called them. For some reason they followed. No one can predict faith, plan faith or force faith. For some reason the light comes on and we believe. Of course, we always have the freedom to not believe or to reject or even be mad at God.

Marilyn Adamson was an atheist. She would ask people, "How do you know God exists?" This seemed to make some believers uncomfortable. They mostly responded, "Well, you just know."

Marilyn didn't feel comfortable with that answer so she reasoned that God probably didn't exist. But then she mentioned a friend who caused her to be interested in God. This friend was caring, kind and intelligent. It bothered Marilyn that someone so intelligent could believe in God.

So, Marilyn observed her friend for a year. This friend's faith was unwavering. She loved God. She loved people. She was convinced God loved her. So, Marilyn moved to the stage of wanting to believe. But first Marilyn had to read philosophers like Nietzsche, Hume, Sartre and Plato...but they were lacking. Something was missing.

Marilyn kept challenging her friend with every question she could think of. Finally her friend said she should read the Bible. She kept putting it off. She started asking her friend more questions. But finally her friend said, "You know, I can't make this decision for you and God's not going to wait forever."

Marilyn went home and she prayed to God, "OK, you win. I ask you to come into my life and you may do whatever you want with my life."

She went to sleep and woke up the next morning. She kind of sensed he was there, but now she wanted to read the Bible. She was still kind of skeptical but as she read, she felt like she was loved by God.

Still, her faith needed to be built not just on feelings but on facts and reason. For her, faith had to be logical, historical and scientific. She found those things and she has been a believer for many years.

Marilyn's story is one story. Philip had another story. Jesus said, "Follow me." He did. Nathaniel had another story. He was skeptical so was a "doubting Thomas". But they turned around and both made confessions of faith in Jesus.


The way of belief and following doesn't have to be hard. Sometimes we just make it that way. Just remember, God is behind the scenes in a supernatural world calling to us in the physical world, "Follow me." God is working for our good. God plants the seeds of faith in people and gives freedom to believe.

God had a good plan for Philip and Nathaniel and for you and for me. God is good and God loves you. Put your trust in him.