Saturday, August 3, 2019

Why I Believe

Lydia:   Acts 16:14

"One of the people who was there in Philippi was Lydia, who was from the city of Thyatira. She was a Merchant who sold expensive purple cloth. She was a worshiper of the Lord God, and He opened her heart so that she would accept what Paul was saying."

Why am I a Believer in God?

Why do I believe in Jesus?

I'm not a particularly Religious or Spiritual person.

I am not unusually reflective, contemplative, or Philosophical.

I am not given to superstition, cult, occult, or magic (only card, coin, and rope tricks! Ha!).

I do not believe in UFO's, Area 51, Roswell, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, fairies, nymphs, sprites, leprechauns, spooks, ghosts, or monsters in the dark or under the bed.

I no longer believe in Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy (though in my childhood, I did). 

I know that Superman, Spider Man, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Harry Potter are all fictional, fantasy, characters of imagination and imaginary fun and entertainment.

I am skeptical and doubtful. I am suspicious and nearly impossible to convince. There is VERY little in this whole world that I believe in.

So . . . why do I believe in God? Why do I believe so deeply and profoundly in Jesus?

The Bible says that God opened Lydia's heart - and it became possible for her to believe the message that the Apostle Paul was preaching in the City of Philippi.

There were, no doubt, others by that river side on that day in that story (Acts 16) who saw the same Paul and heard the same message. Others who did NOT believe.

Lydia did not believe because of the persuasiveness or perfection of Paul's message. She was not swayed by his delivery or the ecstasy of the circumstance or situation. She was not slain by the clarity of the speaker's intellect or the alluring music of his words.

Ha! In one of Paul's letters, 2 Corinthians 10:10, Paul states that he had heard his preaching described this way:  "They say my bodily presence is WEAK and my speech is CONTEMPTIBLE!"

No, the Apostle Paul was not a crowd-drawing dynamo of Kool Aid pouring preaching. 

I was not raised in Church. 

My Mother sent my brother and I to Vacation Bible School every summer, but we seldom attended Sunday School or Church.

I can say that I enjoyed all of the boys and girls of VBS, but I remember clearly NEVER enjoying or wanting to go to Sunday Church. I always felt as if I were being punished for something that I did not do. 

My Mother's Mother - was the only religious person that I knew, and though I loved her dearly - it always chaffed me to have to join her in her bedroom for Bible reading and prayer each night when she came to stay with us.

Ah, you might say, you were being swayed, indoctrinated, brain-washed by VBS stories and the stories of your Grand Mother.

Believe ME!

I was NOT.

I can tell you with ALL certainty that I was not intellectually, mentally, psychologically, scientifically, or philosophically inclined to ANYTHING  about ANY religion, God, or Christianity. I was not even interested or curious. I was not wayward, struggling, or seeking.  I did not feel lost or searching.

I was not timid, malleable, shapeless, vacuous, sheepish, or waiting for or looking longingly for a Svengali or Mesmer moment in my life. I was clear-headed, strong-willed, and self-aware.

And then, one day - God opened my heart.

And I believed.

I have no other explanation. I am sure that Lydia had none.

In the Bible (also in the Book of Acts, chapter 13, verse 48), it says that "When they heard the story about Jesus, they were very glad and thanked the Lord for his message; and all who were chosen for eternal life became believers."

Jesus Himself told his disciples, "You didn't choose ME - I chose YOU!" (John 15:16)

Jesus came purposefully to the Tax and Custom Table of Matthew and said, "Follow me."

On the shore of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus said to Peter, James and John, "Follow me - I'm going to make you fishers for men."

EVERY ONE of Jesus' followers could make the same claim. THAT is why they followed Him. THAT is why THEY believed.

Jesus told the EXTREMELY Religious and Pious Pharisee, Nicodemus, that the only way that he would ever be able to SEE (perceive, grasp, accept, believe) what Jesus was talking about was if he experienced a New Birth that came from Above.

Believers are not smarter, more intelligent, more perceptive, more spiritual, or more receptive than unbelievers. They just have a heart that has been opened by God.

The only thing that makes believers special - is that God has opened their hearts. He didn't open their hearts because they were special. 

When I preach, teach, sing, and lead in matters of my faith - I am not trying to influence, sway, convince, or persuade others to believe. I have no interest in indoctrinating, mesmerizing, brain-washing, or programming minds to accept or adopt my bent or will or the dogma of ANY religion.

All I am called to do is share the story of Jesus - as Paul said, not with words of worldly wisdom or regal rhetoric. Just simple speech - communication.

And I wait for God to open the hearts of those who hear.

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