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Thursday
Apr112013

perspectification

It's a pretty gloomy day here in Houston. The sky is as gray as wet newspaper. A steady drizzle is coating everything just enough to make it seem that there is a thin slime eveyrwhere. And despite temperatures in the 80s early yesterday afternoon, by late afternoon we were already heading into the 40s. Just outside my window it's cold, it's wet, it's kind of depressing.

And yet here I sit—warm, dry, in a pretty happy mood. 

What a difference a half-inch of glass can make! I can see a world, just beyond, that I know to be unpleasant and even painful, because I was out in it for a time. I know it's there. But here, where I choose to sit, I'm beyond that world. I'm outside of it, in a sense, by being on the inside. 

Life is like that for most people. Me included. We were out in the storm for a while, but then we chose to come inside. Maybe we were forced to be out there, to get to our job or to get back home. We come in contact with it from time to time, it can't be avoided. But ultimately that outside world, with its cold and drizzle and whipping wind, isn't for us. It's not where we choose to stay. Why would we?

Some do, you know. There are some who can't seem to escape it. The best they can hope for is to huddle up, to bundle up, to take shelter anywhere they can find it. They may know of a way out, but are unwilling or unable to take it. 

Sometimes it's up to us, the inside-dwellers, to help them get to someplace safe and dry and warm. Sometimes we have to take them by the hand and lead them, because they don't know the way on their own. We have to nudge them. We have to do a little investigating and thinking, find a way to convince them to get somewhere safe. Sometimes the burden of the other is on us, simply because we have the perspective of having been inside.

We should also remember that if we can still see that world, it'd be easy enough for us to end up back out in it. We do have to pass through it, sometimes. We have to operate in it, while trying to hold on to our dry, warm, comfortable existence. We have to pass through a rainy patch, open to the sky and the wind, before passing into the next warm, dry corridor. It would be so easy to get to the door and find it locked. So what then?

We knock like crazy. We bang on the door and beg to be let in. And if that doesn't work, we go looking for another way in, another door that isn't locked, another building that offers shelter. From our perspective, there's no need to resolve ourselves to our fate. We don't have to stay out in the cold and the rain.

Sometimes, though, we forget. Or we get discouraged. We decide that there really is no hope. The doors are locked, and that's the end. Why go looking for another way in? All the doors are probably locked anyway. The people inside either can't hear us, can't understand, or they don't care, don't want to hear our plight. 

So we give up, and we huddle up, and we bundle up as best we can, and we just try to tough it out until the rain and the cold give way to a warmer, dryer world. That happens, from time to time. The rain stops. The cold fades. And life seems pretty good, out here in the world. 

Trouble is, the rain and the cold come back. They always do. It's the nature of nature. It's the way of the world. No matter how nice the day is, it's just a day. Later, the day turns to night, clear days turn to storms, summer turns to winter, and there you are again, right back in the drizzle and cold of the world, trying to survive, trying to get by.

Come inside! 

Door's locked? Find another! Find a window! Keep banging until someone hears you, or go find a different building with an open door and a dry, warm place to sit! 

Often, our mistake is to get locked into only one way of seeing our world. But that's not how the world works. The world is a place of perspectives and opportunities.

No one wants to lose their job, because no one wants to struggle. I've been there. But I've also been in the spot where I was stuck in a job I hated, because I was too afraid to start looking for something else. I was afraid I'd just make a bad choice, end up somewhere worse. I was afraid my boss might discover I was looking and fire me for it. I was afraid I would just move laterally, from one crummy gig to another.

And then, when I lost that job, I suddenly had to get creative and proactive and organized. I got my resume together (finally). I started talking to people I knew (finally). I started putting in calls and applications (finally). I started thining about what I would want to do 40 hours a week for months and years at a stretch (finally). I started asking myself what I really needed and what I really wanted, and where, in that Vinn Diagram, was the overlap? Finally!

No one wants their health to go bad, because they fear being weak or sick or even dying. I was there, too. I was weak and sick, and then someone happened to notice that my pulse was too low. My heart wasn't working right. I had a birth defect no one had ever known about.

I ended up with a pacemaker. And at first, all I could think about was how much I might have to give up. How limiting it might be. I was afraid. But turns out, I'm more alive than ever now. I have more options. My health is getting better. My energy is getting better. My life is getting better. That's a new feeling, and a new perspective!

No one wants to lose a loved one, because the pain of loss is too great. I know that first hand, too. I've lost some of the dearest souls in my life. It hurts. It always hurts. It hurts even now, years later, just as much as it did the day I lost them. I didn't "grow past" that pain. It became a thread within me. Something I could feel occasionally, even if I'd rather avoid it. 

But what wonderful memories I have of those amazing people! What brilliant, bright lights they have been in my life, even after their deaths! What great and wonderful growth I've experienced because of what they taught me while they were with me! I'll never stop missing them. I'll never stop loving them. I'll never stop being better because of them.

God doesn't want us to suffer or be targeted by evil. And we wonder why, then, it happens. And the reason is, at best, difficult to explain, and at worst, impossible for us to understand. My own take on why evil is allowed to exist is this: God allows some bad to happen so a greater good can follow

The argument I heard for this that resonates most with me, and even haunts me, was made by Christian Apologist Dr. William L. Craig. I'm going to paraphrase it, so what you read next is my interpretation and not a direct quote.

"God allows evil, such as a school shooting, to take place so that a greater good, such as a nation focused on better laws and strategies for gun control, will be possible." (remember, completely paraphrased by J. Kevin Tumlinson)

God doesn't want children to die because of violence. It grieves Him. It horrifies Him just as it horrifies us. If such a violent act leads to a change in how we, as a nation, approach gun control? If it changes the perspective of the nation, and of the world? If out of the tragedy new laws and new ways of thinking evolve or erupt, and make it more and more difficult for such a thing to happen? If the lives of billions of children, spanning into the future, are spared because these precious, invaluable lives were lost at the hands of a lunatic? That serves a greater good. It has purpose. It means something. It defines the tragedy in terms of strength and grace and growth.

That is bitter, cold comfort for those who lose children in this way. No, we do not want it. No, we DO NOT WANT IT. Please, dear God, take that evil from us for ever.

The answer is yes. Don't you see? God is saying, "Yes. I will take the evil from  you. Bite down on something, because surgery like this always hurts." It's a new perspective for us to thinking of tragedy in this way, and it's not comfortable. But it's necessary. It helps us grow. It brings meaning to horrible, unjust things.

Look for the other way. Look for the new perspective. Your life, marked and marred as it may be, isn't the limit of who you are and who you can become. Look at the tragedy, the pain, the evil, the darkness and cold and rain that you're in, and choose to see the opportunity it can provide. Pray for wisdom. Pray for faith. Pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Go look for another way.

Wednesday
Apr102013

brilliancification 

I was always very arrogant about how "smart" I was. And as a friend recently pointed out, I've recently gone the other way, falling into extreme self deprecation, pointing at myself and saying, "me not so smart after all." He actually chastised me about this, telling me, "God has blessed you with intelligence. Don't demean that by tearing yourself down." I'm paraphrasingthe conversation went on for a while.

So here's where I stand: I believe I'm pretty smart, and I believe I have been pretty arrogant about that in the past. And I believe that God has blessed me with a talent and an ability that, until now, I have used selfishly and foolishly. I'm a learner. I'm a grower. I'm a son of God, and I'm trying to be humble without demeaning the gifts God has given me.

What about you?

I think a lot about you. Most of you, I don't even know. I've never met you, and we've never corresponded. But I hope you realize how much I love and respect you, and appreciate you for being in my life. I thank God for you, because you are strength to me. You are a source of energy when I need it. I write this blog for God's glory, but the goal is to reach you and help you and show you what I learn as I learn it. And I also want to learn from you. I want us to interact and be a strength to each other in God's name and under His eye.

What I'm curious about right now is, what is the talent God has blessed you with? What is it you bring to the table, that you can learn to hone and improve? How can you maximize the potential of what God has given you? 

I am constantly working on improving myself and my life. I want to learn and grow. I do this because I want a better life, but I recently discovered that I can accomplish my goals better and faster by helping you learn and grow as well. In that pursuit, I've discovered a trove of treasures that help me meet my "learn and grow" goal, and I want to share some of these with you now. Use them to start your own journey.

  1. Pray for change. Ask God, every day, to create change in your life. It can be a simple prayer: "Lord, change me." You'd be surprised how far this, alone, can take you! 
  2. Pray for wisdom. God blessed you with a mind, and it is amazing. Has anyone ever told you that before? Do you believe it? You should! Think about all the things you've learned to do in your life! Now pray for increased wisdom, every day. Ask God to show you truth in everything you study. Learn to look at everything—from books to television shows and movies to conversations with friends to everything you encounter in life—with your "discerning heart." Pray about everything you encounter and learn, and ask God what you need to take with you from the experience.
  3. Pray for increased faith. Did you know this was possible? I didn't. I always worried that my faith wasn't strong enough. I wasn't seeing miracles in my life, because I didn't believe enough. But then I read in Luke 17:5 that disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith, and suddenly it hit me that faith, like anything else, is something we can ask for and nurture for growth! So pray, every day, that God will increase your faith. 
  4. Pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit. When Christ went on to bigger and better things, He told the disciples that another would come and be their strength. The Holy Spirit, the third person of God, is God's agency on Earth. He is there, waiting for you to acknowledge Him, to let Him roll up His sleeves and get to work in your life. But He won't take over uninvited. You have free will. So you have to constantly put yourself in check, and ask the Holy Spirit to take the wheel. Surrender, and let the Holy Spirit act where you would have tried on your own before. Ask, every chance you get, to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
  5. Read, study, listen, learn, grow. I've never understood why people felt such dread about learning. We do it every day anyway! If reading isn't your thing, try podcasts. Watch documentaries and indie films. Watch television programs on a topic that interests you. Have a conversation with someone about a topic they know more about than you do. King Solomonwho wrote the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament, and who is considered to be the wisest man to have ever lived—studied more than just the writings of his faith. He studied works from Egypt and other cultures. He studied everything he could get his hands on, hungry to learn something new. And he applied his "discerning heart" to it. He viewed every new fact through the lens of his faith, to see how it lined up with the truth he knew about God. We humans all learn in essentially the same way—we connect what we're learning to what we already know. That's how learning and growth happen. So go out, learn something new, and think about how it connects to what you knew yesterday!

Here's a prayer you can pray every day to help you keep all of this in mind:

Lord, change me. Increase my wisdom and increase my faith. Fill me with your Holy Spirit. Give me a discerning heart, so I can learn and grow and glorify you in all I think, say, and do. Amen.

That prayer, or some variation of it, can be your mantra in daily life. It can be your road map for personal growth, and for Christian growth. 

And as you grow, share! Sharing what you learn with others is a sure way to cement it within yourself. Others will test you, debate you, argue with you. They can also support you, give you more information to consider and use for growth. Take it all.

When approached with debate that you can't answer, say, "That's interesting. I have to look for an answer to that. Thank you!" And then go look for that answer. Don't just pay it lip service.

When approached with new and additional or even contradictory information, say, "That's interesting. I need to think about/read about/watch something about that and learn more. Thank you!" And then go learn about this new thing! Every new piece of information is a chance to grow and change your life.

And be sure to share it with me! I need it! I need to hear from you, to learn what you learn, and to grow as you grow. We'll support each other, because that's what God wants for us. All for His glory.

We're all brililant. Just like God intended us to be.

So ... chat with you soon?

 

Tuesday
Apr092013

anxietation

There are plenty of things in my life that make me feel afraid or worried or anxious. Anxiety has been a growing issue over the past few years. Something I always dealt with by ignoring it, or hiding from it, or flat out running from it. The thing about worry and anxietythey may not run as fast as you, but they are tireless in their pursuit.

Lately I've taken a new approach to anxiety. I face it head on. And I pray. I pray without adding my anxiety to the formula God has laid out for me.

I have always prayed when things started getting tough, and that's a normal response, isn't it? I also prayed when things were going right, but when they went wrong it's like I would reach a whole new level of prayer. I'd start sweating it. And that isn't how God intended us to pray. 

Christ gave us the formula for prayer in what we now call "the Lord's Prayer," which goes exactly like  this

“This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one.’

Matthew 6:9-13

No panic there, right? No feverish begging that things will be alright. No anxious wringing of hands, "Please God, PLEASE!" Just a pretty calm and orderly request of God, tempered by obedience on our part.

This prayer is the model we should use for our own prayer. We don't have to memorize it and use it word for word, but instead use it as a formula and a guide for how we approach God. We acknowledge Him first, as well as His kingdom and His dominance. We acknowledge his will for all of creation, heaven and Earth. We ask that our needs be fulfilled each day. We ask that our debts (and our sins) be forgiven, and we promise to forgive anyone who is in our debt (or has sinned against us). And we ask for guidance, away from evil, delivered from the evil in this world (and into God's kingdom). Pretty basic, isn't it?

Where's the worry? Where's the anxiety? Where's the fear?

There's no room for it in the formula. You'd have to insert it between the lines. But really, why would you? It doesn't make sense. It's a contradiction. It'll mess stuff up.

Think about other formulas in your life. Think of a recipe. If you're trying to make a casserole just like grandma used to make, you use the recipe your grandma gave you. You could add to the recipe, if you want, but the result you get isn't grandma's casseroleit's your own. Fine, if that's your goal. But if the goal is to stay true to the recipe, to the formula, to get the results intended by the recipe's creator, then adding your own ingredients is just going to spoil the mix.

This analogy falls apart, of course, because in life we sometimes want and even need to change the recipe. But God's recipe is perfect. It meets all of our needs perfectly. It offers us the full protection of God perfectly. It tells us exactly how to live according to His will, perfectly. Adding an extra ingredient, like worry or anxiety, is just going to make us stray from the recipe, and get results that are unpredictable and maybe even undesirable.

God doesn't want us to worry. He doesn't want us to feel anxiety. Of course, it's easier to say these things than to live them, and God's aware of that, too. 

As I write this, I'm experiencing my own anxiety and worry. I'm anxious because something is outside of my control. I can't fix it. I can't resolve the problem, not right away, and the consequences of it could have a big impact on me and my family for quite a while. It's uncomfortable and undesirable, but it is what it is.

Except I know the truth. God is right here with me, watching as I watch, listening as I listen, feeling as I feel. He knows. And because He knows, I can let go of the anxiety and worry. I don't have to let that rule my life, because that position is already filled.

So instead I tell God He is holy.

I ask that His perfect will be done in my life.

I ask that He meet my needs (even those I may not be aware of).

I ask that He forgive me for when I fail, and I promise to forgive others when they fail.

I ask that He lead me away from evil, and protect me from it, and deliver me into his Kingdom. 

Worry has no place in my life. Anxiety isn't something I'm meant to feel. It's the thing I choose over God, moment by moment, and I have to die to that choice. I have to live for Christ.

The best cure for worry and anxiety is to face them head on. Pray to God for strength and guidance, for a clear view of the road to take, and then take action. Make the call you're dreading. Go through the door and into the meeting that scares you. Start the conversation that you don't think you're ready for. Endings have to have beginnings, and until you've faced the challenges in your life you are standing still, and you'll have nothing but anticipation as your companion. God walks with us when we are actually walking. 

Fear is stationary. It stands in place. It lives in the places we used to be, or in the places we haven't yet been. We only feel fear when we're standing in place. Action moves us forward, away from the past, away from what was and what used to be, and toward the new future, with new opportunities and choices that can change our lives faster than we could ever anticipate.

God designed us to move. He will take care of the path, but it's up to use to take it.

So anxiety, worry, fear? Those have no place in my prayers or in my life. I come to God with them, I hand them over, I surrender, and I take action. I walk. God will be my guide, my strength, the light at my feet. But my feet have to keep moving, or I'll end up standing in darkness.

Monday
Apr082013

failureocity

You are a complete and utter failure. Me too, actually.

Ain't it great? Wow! What freedom! What a wonderful gift! Can you believe that we ... err ... some of you have that "look" on your  face. OK, let me back up a bit.

A while back I was thinking about my life. Mostly I was thinking, "Wow. I really haven't accomplished anything worthwhile, have I? And I'm overweight. And I'm in debt. And I tend to make some bad choices. I'm pretty sure God's unhappy with me."

Best. Thought process. EVER.

Because it was around that time I started to realize I have to actually change something if I want to live the life I want to live, and that God intended me to live.

Haven't accomplished anything worthwhile? Did I plan to do anything worthwhile?

Overweight? Was I adjusting my diet, and was I exercising more often?

In debt? Was I improving my financial education and making to changes to how I think about and manage money?

Bad choices? Was I learning from them, and consciously deciding not to repeat them?

God's unhappy with me? Can I blame Him? What have I done to please Him? What have I done to glorify Him? What have I done to be obedient to Him?

Thank God I finally woke up. I spent the first 40 years of my life vacillating about right and wrong, about wealth and poverty, about health and sickness, about all the aspects of my life I was unhappy with, and whether or not I was unhappy enough to CHANGE THEM. 

I wasn't. Or rather, I was, but I wasn't willing to change them. I hadn't made the decision to make changes in my life. I hadn't asked God to change me, because I was afraid of the pain that would come with change. But above all, I was afraid of failing.

Thing is, I actually made a thinking error right from the start. See, I made this assumption that God was unhappy with me based on the fact that I was unhappy with me. And sure, maybe God would have preferred I make better choices. Maybe He was displeased with the choices I was making. But "unhappy" is a long way from "not loving," which is how I was thinking of it. I was thinking, "I haven't done anything to earn God's love."

Brrrrt. WRONG! Back to zero. Re-read the rules. You are playing the wrong game. No wonder you're losing!

God may well be unhappy about your life and your choices. But that isn't the same as not loving you. He loves you, no matter what, because He made you to be loved. He sent Christ as a sacrifice, the embodiment of God and man, to die in our place for the evil and sin in our lives, and to be reborn to prove God's power over evil and sin and death. He did that so that He could just love us, straight up, without us having to do a thing to "earn it." 

We do not have to earn God's love. We have it. We do not have to earn God's forgiveness. We have it. We have only to accept Christ as the guiding force in our lives, the strength in our hearts, the rule for how we think and behave and decide. All of that, it's what Christ came here to make available to us.

And we fail.

Oh yeah, we fail. Big time. We lust. We envy. We lie. We steal. We cheat. We experience wrath and anger. We are gluttonous. If you don't fall somewhere in that list, I bet we can dig for a bit and find something that applies to you. Because we fail. It's what we do.

And God knows that. And He's OK with it. He loves you "even though."

That phrase has special meaning for me and my wife, Kara. When we were planning our wedding, our minister sat with us to counsel us about marriage and the decision we were making. And when he wrote our vows, he included something in them that he had brought up during those sessions. "God loves you even though." Even though you sin. Even though you become angry. Even though you doubt or disbelieve. Even though you fail. God loves you even though.

Look, we're all falling on our faces, all the time. It's going to happen. You should try your best to avoid it, try to make changes, try to be a better steward of the gifts God has given you. But you're going to fail sometimes. It's part of the package. 

God loves you, even though.

And God is your only way to improve. It starts by asking him to change you.

I recommend reading Lord Change Me, by James MacDonald. I first encountered this book when I started attending Sugar Creek Baptist Church in Sugar Land, and it was a great start for changing my life to the glory of God. It offers very practical advice and a structure for asking God to change your life, and for turning away from the sin that has dominated you in the past. 

Short version: Ask God to change you. Repent (turn away) from the sin in your life by proclaiming, "I'm dead to that. And Christ is alive in me." And act on what you know to be good while avoiding what you know to be sin. 

You're going to fail. God knows I do, every day. And when you fail, your first impulse will be to feel an overwhelming guilt and shame. Go ahead. Feel it. Then pray a sincere apology to God, and start again with "Lord, change me." Make the request every time you fall, and make your best effort to die to sin and live in Christ. The effort is worth a lot.

Failing does not make you a failure. In the end, every failure is just a chance to learn and grow and become stronger and better than before. When you pick up and keep going, the failures in your wake become the steps you climb to reach new heights. God is waiting for you at the top, but he's also walking along beside you, to help you get to where you're going. Trust that. Trust that even in failure, God has your back. 

You are amazing. God made you, so you know it's true. 

Friday
Apr052013

faithnicity

I was thinking about the atheist thing. You know ... there's a surprising number of people who don't believe in God. That always bothered me when I was younger, in high school or even in my early college years. I had a tendency to try to "convince" folks. I formulated complex but "unbeatable" arguments, as if I could somehow logic an atheist into believing. 

Shocker—you can't.

If someone doesn't believe, nothing you say is just going to magically convert them. But logic arguments, in particular, are going to fail. Because frankly, atheists have logic in their favor in an argument about God. They can point at hard evidence for anything they "believe," and all you have is "faith." 

Key words here. Read closer.

If you can point to something as a fact, you don't "believe" it.  You know it. You have evidence, concrete and verifiable. You can pick up the object of your knowledge, or touch it, or demonstrate it. Not so with God. 

Kicker for Christians—you either have "faith" or you don't, but if you do, then you don't just "believe." You also know. Logical arguments against the existence of God don't really work for persuading you, because even with the "evidence of your eyes" you still, deep down, somehow, know the truth. You've seen too much. You've felt too much. 

Some of the atheists in my life like to bring out this little gem: "You only believe because you were raised in a Christian household, here in the U.S. If you were born in another culture, you'd have different beliefs."

I think that's true. I think that being a Christian is in large part a matter of where you were born, how you were raised, what you encountered as you made your way through life. So you can pretty easily persuade me that my "Christian-ness" is a factor arising almost exclusively from my upbringing.

Don't know if you noticed, but the argument just shifted.

Go back. Re-read. You see it? It's right there in front of you.

We're no longer arguing the existence of God, but whether or not we'd be Christians in another culture. The argument changed, but the subject is close enough that most people shrug the change off as semantics. It ain't. 

Semantics would be arguing over the name of God. I say God, you say Jehovah, she says Jesus, he says The Eternal One, that guy says something else entirely (or says nothing at all ... some belief you can never utter the name of God ... so does not speaking His name mean he doesn't exist?). Bickering over how to refer to God is a semantic argument. It gets you nowhere. It's definitions of terms, nothing more. A rose by any other name would smell as omnipotent.

The logic trap from above is the subtle turning of the argument of existence to the argument of your particular flavor of religion. I'm a Christian because I was born into a Christian household, I was raised in a Christian home, I attend a Christian church and I participate in a Christian community. But I'm a believer in God and in the Word, and that is independent of my upbringing.

There's a reason that, universally, it is considered wrong to steal, bad to murder, unacceptable to hurt a child. "Human decency" is one of the semantic names we throw at these universal truths, but what makes them universal? What makes even the cultural "exceptions" to these rules somehow offensive to the rest of civilization? How many cultures were conquered and destroyed because they veered away from these universal truths, and why would that happen? Why should we care, we who live on this side of the globe, what people are doing to each other on the opposite side?

People are inherently good? Then what defines good? People are inherently a bunch of ignorant, angry jerks? Says who? Humanity? We're not fit to judge each other. We all have our hang-ups, right? How can I point at you and say, "You're wrong! You're evil!" and at the same time be unconcerned that someone else is pointing at me and saying the same thing?

So humanity isn't a good judge of good and evil, right and wrong. Those concepts are somehow outside of us, above us. And that's the rub for Christians, or people of any faith. We see that as evidence of God. Atheists see it as evidence of ... what exactly? Evolution of personality? We all spontaneously decided, as a species spread far and wide, at times with no contact with each other whatsoever for thousands of years (if ever), that "these are the rules by which we shall all abide?"

Ever heard of Occam's Razor? 

The principle (attributed to William of Occam) that in explaining a thing no more assumptions should be made than are necessary. (Pulled from Google, 5 April 2013. "Define: occam's razor")

Or put simply, "All things being equal, the simplest explanation is the most likely explanation."

What's simpler? Man evolved a universal sense of right and wrong despite little to no contact with each other across oceans and continents for thousands and thousands of years? Or universal rules for right and wrong exist because a higher intelligence established them?

Logic again. Sorry. That won't work to persuade anyone. It's just an exercise in showing how smart I am (Answer: Not very, when considered on the whole of my life). But there's a reason why logic doesn't win a faith argument. It comes down to "choice."

In Matthew 13:10-17, the disciples ask Jesus why he's always goin' about and speaking in parables. His reply reveals a lot about why logic can't win a faith argument, and what it takes, exactly, to believe in God:

10 The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”

11 He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables:

“Though seeing, they do not see;
    though hearing, they do not hear or understand.

14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
    you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
15 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
    they hardly hear with their ears,
    and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
    hear with their ears,
    understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’

16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17 For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

Matthew 13:10-17

It's there. You can pray for wisdom to understand it and it will probably pop out at you. I'll do my best to nudge that along with my pitiful and inadequate summary:

God hides the truth in plain sight, but to believe in Him you have to choose to believe. Faith is, in the end, the choice you make to believe, even when all evidence and all logic tells you it can't be.

And suddenly, miraculously, this goes from being "choosing to believe" to "knowing the truth!"

Seriously. I can't explain it any better than that, because God actually designed the Word so that it cannot be understood until you believe.

You can logic it all you want. You can scoff and eye-roll and sneer. But it's right there in front of you the whole time, waiting for you to notice it. And the only way you can is to choose it.

It's a little like germs.

Bear with me, this works.

Germs are there. We know they're there. But how? We see their effect, sure. People get sick. We know a lot about germs, these days. But before their discovery, no one would have ever believed in the existence of tiny bugs that live everywhere and make people sick. Still, there they were, whether we believed in them or not. 

Then, one day, someone says, "I bet if I take this powerful set of magnifying lenses and start looking at stuff, I'll find all kinds of things." And they did. They chose. They took action. They built something that let them start looking closer, and then they saw them. Germs, never having existed before in all the knowledge of man for centuries, suddenly came into existence.

Now you can buy soap for a buck that helps you kill germs on contact. Thank you, science. We live because of your endeavors. But frankly, the majority of the Earth's population, throughout all of history, has never actually seen a germ. We believe they are there, and we take actions to prevent them from harming us. We make a choice to behave as if they are real, whether we can see them or not, and that protects us from their machinations. 

Believing in God is a little like believing in germs. Not the best analogy I've ever come up with, but let's put a little thought into it. 

God is there, whether we know it or believe it or not. Right now, we don't have the tools to see Him. No microscope. But even if we can't see Him, we can make a choice to behave as if He is real. We can study His Word, we can commune with His people, we can seek His will for our lives. And when we do that, something starts to happen within us. 

God responds.

Suddenly, we are watching a movie we've seen a million times and some small throw-away line takes on new meaning, maybe even shapes our life a bit. A book we're reading about the invention of the printing press suddenly opens our eyes to how people work together. We hear someone utter a Bible passage we've heard a million eye-rolling times, and suddenly WE UNDERSTAND IT.

Our tiny, insignificant, mustard-seed-sized act of faith is suddenly blossoming into the bud of a tree, and that bud is starting to grow, and suddenly it fills our whole life with the truth of what WE see but what otheres CAN'T see, even though it is RIGHT. THERE. IN FRONT. OF. THEM.

That's why logic doesn't work to convince an atheist about the existence of God. It can't. They're smart. They have that tool on their side, all sewn up. All we have is He who invented logic in the first place. They're arguing from within, where the rules are established and make no allowances for anything that doesn't fit. We're arguing from outside and above, where the one who made the rules is keeping the next level of knowledge, unbound by the rules of the system.

The Kingdom of God is hidden right in plain sight, and we can only see it when we choose to see it. That's why it's so hard, even impossible, for some people. They argue that if you have to "believe" something for it to be true, then it isn't true."The great thing about science is it's true whether you believe or not!" That's brilliant. I couldn't agree more! Science is about facts! Provable facts! 

That's right. It is. And Faith is about Faith. It's a paradox that people can't live with. Until they do.

And that's just about as plain as this Wordslinger can make it.