SO HOW DO I FIND GOD?
Some books assume you already believe in God, that you have already found God, which is not always the case. Let’s look at the various ways people seek God through six broad paths.
THE PATH OF BELIEF
For people on this first path, belief in God has always been part of their lives. They were born into religious families or were introduced to religion at an early age. Their Christian faith also holds out the promise of life beyond this earthly one.
Ultimately, faith is a gift from God. But faith isn’t something that you just have. Perhaps a better metaphor is that faith is like a garden: while you may already have the basics— soil, seeds, water—you have to cultivate and nourish it. Like a garden, faith takes patience, persistence, and even work.
One pitfall for those on the path of belief is an inability to understand people on other Paths. Their arrogance turns them into the “frozen chosen,” consciously or unconsciously excluding others from their cozy, believing world. This is the crabbed, joyless, and ungenerous religiosity that Jesus spoke against: spiritual blindness.
These people often expect the religious instruction they had in grammar school to sustain them in the adult world. An adult life requires an adult faith.
THE PATH OF INDEPENDENCE
Those on the path of independence have made a conscious decision to separate themselves from organized religion, but they still believe in God. Maybe they find church services meaningless, offensive, dull, or all three. Maybe they’ve been hurt by a church.
Maybe they’ve been insulted (or abused) by a priest, pastor, rabbi, minister, or imam. Or they feel offended by certain dogmas of organized religion. Or they find religious leaders hypocritical. Or maybe they’re just bored.
Christians may be turned off by the church’s teachings on a particular moral question like birth control, or by the scandal of clergy sex abuse. They are sometimes called “lapsed,” “fallen away” or “recovering” Christians
Though they keep their distance from churches, synagogues, or mosques, many people in this group are still firm believers. Often they find solace in the religious practices that they learned as children.
THE PATH OF DISBELIEF
Organized religion holds no appeal (even if one sometimes find its services and rituals comforting), but have also arrived at an intellectual conclusion that God may not, does not, or cannot exist.
Sometimes the most selfless people in our world are atheists or agnostics. Some of the hardest working aid workers. These “secular saints” are real.
The main danger for this group is that they sometimes expect God’s presence to be proven solely in an intellectual way. Try explaining “God’s will,” and you will find yourself on the receiving end of a pointed lecture on personal responsibility.
THE PATH OF RETURN
As a child, for instance, they may have thought of God as the Great Problem Solver who would fix all their problems if they just prayed hard enough: “Let me get an A on my social studies test.”
They begin to have some serious doubts, which may lead them to consider the possibility that God didn’t exist. Who would believe in a God who would act so cruelly? The Great Problem Solver wasn’t solving problems but creating them.
Atheism was not only intellectually respectable but also had some practical benefits. They now have their Sunday mornings free.
After a childhood in which they were encouraged (or forced) to attend religious services, they find them either tiresome or irrelevant or both. Religion remains distant, though oddly appealing.
This path gets more crowded every year. People in this group typically begin life in a religious family but drift away from their faith.
Maybe they’ve achieved some financial or professional success and ask, “Is that all there is?” Or their children ask about God: “Who is God, Mommy?”
Perhaps a new tradition will speak more clearly to them. Perhaps they return to their original religion but in a different, and more committed, way than when they were young.
Returning to their original community may give them a renewed appreciation for their “spiritual home.” The most grateful pilgrim is the one who has finished the longest journey.
THE PATH OF EXPLORATION
Exploration comes naturally in American faith as well. Turned off by the failings of organized religion, and lacking extensive religious training, many Americans search for a religion that “fits” embark on a quest.
“Afoot and lighthearted, I take to the open road,” wrote Walt Whitman, “Healthy, free, the world before me. The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.”
A danger for explorers is not settling on any one religious tradition because it doesn’t suit them: God may become someone who is supposed to satisfy their needs. God becomes what one writer called a “pocket-size God,” small enough to put in your pocket when God doesn’t suit you and take out of your pocket only when convenient.
The search for a perfect religious community may be one without end. One search ended up at the local Unitarian church, which initially seemed suitable. There was broad-minded Christian based spirituality and commitment to social justice, as well as their welcome of people who feel unwelcome in other churches. But eventually a problem arose: the Unitarians didn’t espouse a clear enough belief system. In the end, our searcher decided to belong to no church. Now he stays at home on Sundays.
THE PATH OF CONFUSION
People who are on the path of confusion run hot and cold with their childhood faith. They find it relatively easy to believe in God at times, almost impossible at others. They haven’t “fallen away,” but they’ve not stayed connected either.
They may pray from time to time, particularly when in dire need, and they may go to services on key holidays. But for this group, finding God is a mystery, a worry, or a problem.
These people have not yet made up their minds, and so they are constantly refining their ideas about a religious commitment. Eventually confusion can lapse into laziness.
God the Problem Solver is replaced by a more amorphous spiritual concept: God the Life Force, God the Other, God the Far-Away One.
At some point the underlying lack of peace take its toll in stress or disease (dis- “ease”). They begin to observe that a few Christians seem to have a countenance radiating a peace that to they may seem unknown, or at least forgotten.
And when the path becomes the goal, rather than God, people may ultimately find themselves unfulfilled, confused, lost, and maybe even a little sad.
SPIRITUAL BUT NOT RELIGIOUS
Everybody seems to be spiritual these days. This is usually expressed as follows: “I’m spiritual but not religious.” If “spiritual” is fashionable, “religious” is unfashionable
The thinking goes like this: being religious means abiding by the arcane rules and hidebound dogmas, and being the tool of an oppressive institution that doesn’t allow you to think for yourself. Religion is narrow-minded and prejudicial—so goes the thinking.
Or worse, religion is the most despicable of social evils, responsible for all the wars and conflicts around the world.
Sadly, religion is responsible for many ills in the modern world and evils throughout history: among them, the persecution of Jews, endless wars of religion, the Inquisition, not to mention the religious intolerance and zealotry that leads to terrorism.
Of course there is a human and sinful side to religion since religions are human organization, and therefore prone to sin.
Still, you could stack up against the negatives the positive aspects: traditions of love, forgiveness, and charity as well as the more tangible outgrowths of thousands of faith-based organizations that care for the poor, like charities or the vast network of hospitals and schools that care for poor and immigrant populations.
And Jesus of Nazareth. Remember him? Though he often challenged the religious conventions of his day, he was a deeply religious man. (This is something of an understatement.)
By the way, atheists often fail to question their own record. Think of the cruelty and bloodshed perpetrated, just in the twentieth century, by totalitarian regimes that have professed “scientific atheism.” Stalinist Russia and Hitler’s reign of terror comes to mind.
On balance, religion comes out on top.
THE SPIRITUAL SIDE TRACK
Many people would still say, “I’m not religious,” adding, “I’m serious about living a moral life, maybe even one that centers on God, but I’m my own person.” Spiritual, on the other hand, is taken to mean that, freed from unnecessary dogma; you can be yourself before God.
You find what works for you, but you don’t subscribe to any one church: that would be too confining. Besides, there’s no one creed that represents exactly what you believe.
But there’s a problem. You, alone, are relating to God. And that means there’s no one to suggest when you might be off track.
Not belonging to a religious community means less of a chance of being challenged by a tradition of belief and experience. It also means less chance to see that you are misguided, seeing only part of the picture or even that you are wrong.
They may be attracted to New Age movements that find their goal not in God, or even the greater good, but in self-improvement—a valuable goal—but one that may degenerate into selfishness.
Religion helps you to “connect and correct.” You are invited into a community to connect with one another and with a tradition. At the same time, you are corrected when you need to be.
Overall, being spiritual and being religious are both part of being in relationship with God. Neither can be fully realized without the other. Religion without spirituality can become a dry list of dogmatic statements divorced from the life of the spirit. This is what
Jesus warned against. Spirituality without religion can become a self-centered complacency divorced from the wisdom of a community. That’s what I’m warning against.
GOD ENTERS INTO RELATIONSHIPS WITH US.
Some agnostics or atheists await a rational argument or a philosophical proof to demonstrate the existence of God. Some will not believe until someone can show them how suffering can coexist with the belief in God. A few may even hope for an incontrovertible physical “sign” to convince them of God’s presence.
God communicates with us. Seekers, then, need to be aware of the variety of ways that God has of communicating with us, of making God’s presence known. The beginning of the path to finding God is awareness. Not simply awareness of the ways that you can find God, but awareness that God desires to find you.
Little by little you may begin to recognize the difference between the spirits that agitates you, one from the enemy and one from God. What is called “grace” is not simply that you have these insights, but that you begin to understand them as coming from God.
But God often speaks in ways that are beyond our intellect or reason, beyond philosophical proofs.
Gratitude, peace, and joy are ways that God communicates with us. During these times, we are feeling a real connection with God, though we might not initially identify it as such. The key insight is accepting that these are ways that God is communicating with us. That is, the first step involves a bit of trust.
In the end, you may even experience a change in your outlook on life, and a great sense of peace or joy. You are feeling what St. Augustine described in the fourth century. “Lord, our hearts are restless,” he wrote, “until they rest in you.” The pull that draws you to God comes from God.
A DIFFERENT KIND OF GOD
Find this God who is with you in your suffering, a God who takes a personal interest in your life, even if you don’t feel that all your problems are solved—doesn’t life started to make more sense.
The maxim of illusory religion is as follows: Fear not; trust in God and He will see that none of the things you fear will happen to you. Real religion has a different maxim: Fear not; the things you are afraid of are quite likely to happen to you, but they are nothing to be afraid of.
THE GOD OF SURPRISES
Have you ever heard about the God who surprises, who waits for us with wonderful things. It’s a playful, even fun, image of God.
God can speak directly with people in astonishingly personal ways. The key, or the leap of faith required, is the believing that these intimate experiences are ways God communicates with you.
God is larger than the church but God enters into relationships with us through others in a faith community.
A Précis of a Path to God from Chapter 2 of the “Jesuit’s
Guide to Almost Everything.” by James Martin, SJ
THE THREE STAGES OF SPIRITUAL GROWTH
IN EACH OF THESE STAGES, YOU GROWS A LITTLE.
- When you begin, you are trying to overcome sin and you go through purification. You try to take the sin out of your life. You will then move on to a stage where sin is put out of your life.
- To enter this stage, the dark night of senses will usually occur. When Jesus was taken away from the apostles, they went through their dark night experience.
- Finally, you have a sense of conscience and the Holy Spirit operates in you more. You will evolve into a loving union with God. Having perfect joy is the farthest that we can go in this world. Not many people make it this far.
SOMETIMES THE MASKS HAVE TO COME OFF.
WHAT IS DELIVERANCE?
Deliverance is defined as “a rescue from bondage or danger.” Deliverance is often sought from evil spirits or the spirit of lust, jealousy, etc. We are told to “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith.” 1 Peter 5:8,9
All aspects of deliverance are available only through the person and work of Jesus Christ:” When the seventy-two disciples returned, they joyfully reported to him, ‘Lord, even the demons obey us when we use your name!’” Luke 10:17
DO YOU NEED DELIVERANCE?
To determine if you are in need of deliverance, ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you continually argumentative or contrary–usually on the verge of anger?
- Are you violating, neglecting or causing pain in a relationship?
- Are you practicing sin and can’t seem to stop?
- Do you see a pattern of issues in your family, whether disease, poverty, anger, divorce, sexual perversion or other issues?
- You are sick all the time and the doctors find nothing wrong. You could be dealing with a spirit of infirmity?
- Are you having “spiritual” encounters, including recurring dreams/nightmares that you leave you fearful?
- Do you sometimes sense that the problem isn’t you, but rather something in you?
- Are you attracted to the occult. , e.g. Ouija Boards, Seance, Fortune Telling, Horoscopes, Hypnosis etc, or Witchcraft?
- Have you experienced traumatic events that have impacted your life negatively?
- Do you keep hitting the same wall.
THE AMAZING MAGIC OF DELIVERANCE 2
God divinely inspired the BIBLE . How do we know? Each of eight accurate predictions show a high probability mathematically. The probability of one individual fulfilling eight prophecies have odds of 1 in 10 17 (1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000). Jesus Christ fulfilled all prophecies, therefore the Bible MUST BE TRUE.
The Old Testament indicates another 40 astonishing predictions.
Christianity experiences stunning growth—from approximately 3.8 million adherents in China in 1956 to an estimated 87 to 100 million Christians today.
In the end, one Christian conversion will benefit the whole family. The gifts of the Holy Spirit of healing and deliverance will help the whole family. A prayer of deliverance of evil spirits will leave any member of the family with a complete sense of peace immediately. A prayer of healing from a Christian disciple produces 80% healing. The remaining healing comes from continued prayer of praise and thanksgiving until all the healing is complete. This healing comes from the Holy Spirit through the power in the Name of Jesus Christ. No other god or deity or doctor uses this power. This proves the TRUTH OF CHRISTIANITY.
BILLIONS OF CHRISTIANS CAN’ T ALL BE WRONG!
Christianity is not a philosophy, but it is a relationship with God, your Creator, in Christ TODAY. It is not knowledge of abstract principles. How do we know this? Healing takes place TODAY in the Name of Jesus Christ.
GOD’S HEALING ASSURED 2
Many Christian disciples use the gift of healing. They also use deliverance to deliver away evil spirits influencing people. These evil spirits cause depression, addictions and illness through all forms of stress. Only the Name of Jesus Christ makes healing and deliverance possible.
AN EXPERIMENT OF GOD’S TOUCH 2
HOW IS JESUS STILL ALIVE TODAY?
Jesus is alive today! He heals today (through His followers) and in many cases it is realized immediately. How else can you explain the explosion of Christianity, the world’s largest religion, on earth: 2.2 billion adherents, nearly a third (31 percent) of all 6.9 billion people on Earth.
Christians know and feel His Presence; they communicate with Him personally; Christian prayers are always answered.
This author has been given the Gift of Healing only because he is a Christian Lay Missionary, who travels two to three places every year. On his last trip to Columbia he successfully transferred his Gift to his Spanish translators, who were able to heal as he did. He has healed Muslims to their great surprise.
He also delivers away evil spirits along with their healing. All those who are delivered from evil spirits feel a complete physical sense of peace.
DREAMS AND VISIONS
God can give a message to those non-Christians to change their heart. God knows faith will be developed eventually. God will come to you in the form of dreams or visions. So be sensitive to any dreams or visions, when you ask God for it earnestly.
NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCES 2
PROOF OF HEAVEN 2
Is the BIBLE true? 2
HAVE YOU EVER WONDERED HOW TO BECOME A CHRISTIAN?
Continue reading SIX PATHS TO GOD 2