All of us have a belief system.  Steve calls himself an Agnostic, but he has a belief system. I call myself a follower of Christ.  I have one.  Steve has great faith in his belief system. I have great faith in my belief system.

Many people will come to me and say, I’m not sure I have enough faith to be a follower of God and a follower of Christ. I want to pray for more faith. And I share with them, what I’d like to share with you today.  For the most part, no one needs “more faith.”  The size of your faith is relatively irrelevant,  you may think it strange for a pastor to say that, but Jesus said that… he said,

Matthew 17:20 Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.

Jesus is not suggesting we all become landscapers and dirt movers. He is using hyperbole to make a point. He picks the smallest item his audience knew about…a mustard seed…and said, “that’s all you need” to do great things. The size of the faith is irrelevant. The issue is what you put your faith in. If you put a little faith in the right object.

When I was a kid our family went over to grandma’s lake and my father would bring our three wheeler and we’d drive it out on the lake and pull sleds behind the three wheeler.  This lake was 20-30 feet deep.  If we fell through we’d be in trouble.  I was nervous about the ice.  So was my mom.  We didn’t have much faith.     My dad took his battery operated drill and walked out to the middle of the lake and pulled out a core sample that was 2 feet thick.  Two feet of solid ice in the middle of the lake protected us from the freezing water.    If I had a little faith the ice would’ve held me.  If I had a lot of faith the ice would’ve held me.  The faith was irrelevant.   What the faith was in was paramount.   Last year my son and I went out to the river to explore in January.  The Little Miami was frozen over.  My son was “sure” it would hold him.  He had faith…he took one step out and crashed through the ice into the freezing water.  I scooped him up in my arms.  Ran him 100 yards to the car, tore off his freezing wet clothes and turned on the heat in my car…   His faith was irrelevant.  The object of his faith, now that’s what really matters… OUR FAITH IS ONLY AS HELPFUL AS THE SUBSTANCE OF OUR BELIEFS.   If our beliefs are thin, we will fall through the ice. If our beliefs are true and thick, we will stand firm in hope and joy and safety even with minimal faith…. as Yoda said to Luke Skywalker, “Size matters not…” in using the force.   The same is true with faith.

I want to challenge us all to think about this… “Don’t Examine Your Faith. Examine Your Beliefs.”  If our beliefs are true -whatever that means- if they are rooted in truth, if your beliefs have substance and thickness, and correspond to reality….a little faith in that can change everything.

So I’d like to begin by helping you figure out where you are in your belief system right now.  Many of us might label ourselves as Christians, Methodists, ex-Baptists, recovering Catholics, Agnostics, Atheists, etc.  I am not hung up on labels, nor are we as a church. Call yourself whatever you want. I’d like us to examine what you believe about the key questions of life.  You may find that you call yourself one thing…but line up with a totally different group on their beliefs about “the afterlife” or the problem of evil, etc.


Question 1: What is God Like?

Let’s begin with the first question: What is God Like? I mentioned a few weeks ago a theologian, thinker, philosopher once said, “The most important thing you think about, is what you think about, when you think about God.” Place a check on your menu as to where you think you are right now.

What is God Like?

I believe there is one God who is a Personal Spirit -not energy- who is Creator, Lover, and Final Judge who offers to make me right with Him.

God is a Personal Spirit -not energy- who is Creator, Lover, and Final Judge who forgives me and accepts me when I do good deeds.

God is Irrelevant compared to the importance of connecting yourself to your own sense of spirituality -whatever you call it.

God is a biological crutch/glitch of DNA from evolutionary leftovers

God is the eternal, impersonal, formless ultimate Reality and Energy in everything.

Which one best describes where you are right now?  Make a mark next to the phrase.  Notice that these are radically different views of God. The naive idea that all religions are basically discussing the same God in different ways is not even remotely intellectually honest.  Hopefully as you see them side by side, you can see the differences. As you think for a moment, let me tell you a story.

In January 2006, Hemant Mehta posted an auction on eBay where he explained his background in atheism and offered to go to the worship services of the winning bidder’s choosing. The auction ended on February 3, 2006 with a final bid of $504 from Jim Henderson, a minister from Seattle, Washington. Mehta later donated that money to the Secular Student Alliance, a non-profit organization in which he serves as Chair of the Board of Directors. Henderson asked Mehta to visit a variety of churches and write about the experiences on Henderson’s website, Mehta eventually wrote about his visits at nine different churches as well as two additional pieces dealing with atheist conventions and Christian media. Nearly a month after the auction, an article about Mehta’s experiences appeared on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, leading to a flurry of media coverage. I read his book, “I sold my soul on Ebay…” and what I respected about this guy is his marketing savy 🙂 as well as his sincere attempts to examine his beliefs and others.

Hemant began his journey exploring faith and differing views of God. That view of God affects question number 2.

Question 2: Where Did We Come From?

Where Did We Come From?

I came from the purposeful, intentional, and loving design of a personal God, but I am unable to do the good I was designed to do without Him.

I came from the purposeful, intentional, and loving design of a personal God, and I am able to work toward my full potential.

I came from Nothingness and am nothing; thinking “I” exist as a person is part of the problem that causes cravings and suffering since I will return to nothingness.

I came from a random Meaningless Accident.

I came from an Impersonal Cosmic Cycle of Energy.

Again, notice how radically different these views are.  They speak to our purpose, our origin, and the nature of the universe. Is the universe designed? Is it an illusion? Is it an accident? Is it impersonal? Mark the box that best reflects your thoughts on where you come from. Do you believe your life came from a purposeful, intentional deign… From a random meaningless cosmic belch… from a cycle of energy that always has been and always will be… Or you came from nothingness or Nirvana?

Where we come from is a question hardwired into every human being.  A young boy came home from school one day in 4th grade and asked his father, Where do I come from?  His dad wasn’t ready for the birds and the bees speech.  He broke into a cold sweat… “Um, ur… let’s chat about this before bed.” Dad spent the evening googling, reading, and researching how to talk to your children about the birds and the bees.  That night, he launched into an hour long anatomy lesson with his son, who quietly listened with jaw-dropping intensity. His dad concluded with, “So, John… That’s were you come from. Why did you ask son?”  After a long pause, John said… “WOW!…  Um… Today at recess Mark said he came from Cleveland, and I was wondering where I came from?”

Our beliefs about our origins have consequences. They shape how we view ourselves, our purpose, our  meaning, and our world… And where we come from shapes the third questions: Who Am I?

Question 3: Who Am I?

Who am I?

Eternal person who lives forever somewhere based on either forgiveness or fairness

Eternal person who lives forever based on the fairness of what I do

Deluded nothingness who thinks I am a person with cravings

Temporal highly-evolved animal

Eternal energy that is transferred into different forms in the universe over time

So, which of these describes who you believe you are? Are you an eternal person who will love forever somewhere?   A real place will real people based on either forgiveness or fairness?  Or do you think you live somewhere based on the fairness of what you do or did?  Do you think that you are deluded into thinking you are a person, and those cravings and beliefs are tricking you into not realizing this world is unreal and your personhood is an illusion?  Do you think you are temporal (meaning when you die, you die)?  You don’t live forever anywhere. That’s all fairy tales. We are highly evolved animals.   Or, do you think you are energy deposited into this current body that might be deposited into another body, animal, tree, etc later?  Mark which one rings true to where you are right now….

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