PART 1 MY SEARCH FOR THE ONE TRUE GOD
PART 1 MY SEARCH FOR THE ONE TRUE GOD Searching for life’s meaning and purpose? Tired of looking for God and never finding Him? There is a God who wants to change your life! ●Introduction ● My Quest To Find God ●Where Do I Go From Here? ●What Would I Look For In a God Who Is Personal? Contents Introduction My Quest to Find God. Where Do I Go From Here? What Would I Look For In a God Who Is Personal? Religion’s Story Thinking of Joining a Mainstream Religion? Judaism Buddhism Catholicism Episcopalian Christian Science Christianity (Born Again) Islam Seventh Day Adventist Jehovah’s Witness The Church of Latter Day Saints Unitarian The Emphasis of Faith – God’s Personal-ness Been There, Done That To Be With Him Forever Devoid Of Earthly Realities Thy Kingdom Come That I May Know Him Not By Human Merit Wait And Consider The End of the Journey to Find the One True Personal God 15. It’s Time to Claim Your Treasure Endnotes Introduction I owe the writing of this book to my son, Micah, who is not a believer in God. While visiting him in Washington D.C. we attended a church festivity together on New Year’s Eve. The music and video presentation prompted him to begin asking a thought-provoking question, “Who is the one true God?” Aware that I had just finished writing a book called Overcoming: Living Victoriously in Christ, he mentioned that if there were a way to write a book about the many religions, clearly showing that one of them evidenced the one true God, everyone would want to buy the book. This was an intriguing thought, not so much from the idea of selling a lot books, although that would be nice, but answering the question, “Why does every religion claim that the god that they are worshipping is the correct one, and yet every religion seems to have a different one?” Could it be true that there are many different gods who co-exist, and each of them will bring their followers to heaven? Could it be true that there is only one God that brings His followers to heaven? Who is right? If I were going to devote my life to the worship of God, then wouldn’t I want to make sure that this God is the right one? If there were one true God, then what would differentiate this God from all of the other imposter gods? This book will give you a glimpse into my own personal quest to find God and, hopefully, answer these questions. It will also present a synopsis of the major current religions in the world. I will briefly provide information about each of these religions in order to answer such questions as: Does each religion have writings that support it? What does a person have to do to become a member of this religion? Does this religion cause me to get to know God in a personal way? I hope that after you read this book, that the information presented here will give you a clearer understanding as to whether there is indeed a one true God. Chapter 1 My Quest to Find God Brought up in the Catholic faith, I was baptized (sprinkled) in water as a baby and confirmed later on. I partook of communion, went to confession, became an altar boy, went to church every Sunday as best as I could, observed the six Holy Days of Obligation, and participated in the two church fasts. I can honestly say that I hoped my religious convictions and fulfillment of the many church obligations brought me favor in heaven. However, all of my religion and religious activities had no effect on me in terms of changing how I thought about others and myself, and did not impact my behavior outside of church. While I could be kind and concerned about others, I could also be arrogant and self-centered. My religious hope was to earn favor with God and go to heaven when I die, but did I earn favor with God? At times I thought I did, especially when I had the altar boy clothing on. But something was missing, and I never had an absolute assurance that God was pleased with me, and that my eternal destiny was secure. The Catholic Church kept me pre-occupied with trying to keep up with my religious responsibilities. It was a faith I could be proud of, with a church hierarchy going back to the time of Christ, and buildings that in many cases are breathtakingly beautiful in their architecture. Most of my relatives and friends are Catholic and many of us would observe certain days of obligation together so there was also a comfortable family component built in. But again, something in my life was missing and, even as I write, I realize that for many people this may be a difficult admission. It’s kind of like acknowledging that a true friend since since grammar school has become more of an acquaintance now that you’ve grown up and gained the ability to reason things out on an adult level. You still know this person, but a true friendship in which you look out for one another’s welfare is lacking; a friendship that not only wishes the best for the other person but is also there to help in a time of need. When such realization occurs it might be wise to sever the relationship and find a true friend, but that’s not always so easy to do. If such a situation is the case concerning the church that you are attending, where do you go from here? Chapter 2 Where Do I Fo From Here? I left the Catholic Church during my teenage years, but didn’t start out immediately looking for God. After high school I went to a four-year college and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics. One of my elective courses was a critique of a book of the Bible called First Samuel. The professor believed that the account of the first king of Israel, Saul, was in contradiction with information from other books of the Bible. This course was interesting and the one thing that caught my attention as I read many of the related scriptures was that God was intimate or interactive in King Saul’s life. God wasn’t a figment of his imagination. During my college years, I worked for my father at his spa and grille business, which was located on one of the main streets of the city. One day a parade was passing by and, having just gotten off work, I decided to follow it to wherever it ended. When it broke up in front of the city’s town hall, I heard a voice on a loud speaker in the near distance. I walked in the direction of the sound and found a group of people speaking about how God wants to have a personal relationship with us. This sparked my interest, so I listened to what was said and obtained the time and address of their next meeting. The meeting was at someone’s home and I arrived at the appropriate time, and listened to someone talking about God. When the message was finished, there was a question, “Is there anyone here that would like to know God in a personal way?” I couldn’t imagine that such a thing could be possible. What would it be like to actually have an encounter with God? So, I stepped forward and responded with a prayer of confession that they led me in, after which I was filled with a presence that saturated me with a peace and joy such as I had never experienced before. (I’ll save a further discussion about what faith is for later.) I began to attend the weekly gatherings of the church as well as related get-togethers at various people’s homes throughout the week. After a few months, a church split occurred and most of the young people left but I stayed on. As time passed, the sense of God’s presence was not apparent and I didn’t understand why, but I was getting concerned. Eventually, I decided to leave and began attending churches of different faiths (e.g. Greek Orthodox, Pentecostal, Catholic, the Church of Bible Understanding, etc.). One week I would go here, and the next week I would go there. This probably lasted for about two months, until I had attended the gatherings of about six different faiths; but the presence of God was nowhere to be found. I was praying for God to direct me to a church where He would be found. One day I was driving my car down the main street of the city, heading to work, when I noticed a young man to my right who waved at me. He was someone that I used to hang around with but we’d lost touch. So, I pulled the car over, rolled down the window, and asked how he was doing. He answered that his life had changed because he’d found God. His days of drugs and alcohol were over, and he claimed to now have a personal relationship with God. He shared that the messages that he was hearing were both convicting and uplifting at the same time, and the presence of God was of great impact. He invited me to attend one of the meetings and I accepted. When I arrived, I sat in the back, hoping this was the place where God would help me to get to know him more personally. A young pastor walked up to the microphone, introduced himself, grabbed his guitar; and began singing. The words of the songs lifted up my spirit. Next, he talked about his church affiliation and then said it was time to present the teaching, mentioning the title of the message. As he began to speak, scriptures began coming out of his mouth without him even looking them up in the Bible, and I didn’t understand much of what was said, but I was both convicted and uplifted at different times. God’s peace and joy were penetrating my inner being. I knew I was where I was supposed to be for, in the midst of it all, God had shown up. For me personally, church is about God showing up, and while I might not agree with the content of every message, does God show up? Whether I was being convicted of sin or receiving a divine prescription for addressing a sinful behavior, I had found the one true personal God once again. Do you want to find Him? Eventually, the leadership of my church asked if I would consider going on staff as an outreach coordinator, and I replied yes. This position allowed me to not only visit people in hospitals, at their homes, etc., but also made it possible for me to interact with those of different faiths. I mentioned earlier that I had attended at least six different denominations in my search for God, and some of them will be mentioned in this book. Some other predominant ones that I have not visited personally are also presented because it’s likely that an individual searching for the one true personal God might visit them. I will do my best to provide the basics of their beliefs. If you did choose to attend these assemblies, what would it be like? Does each faith have a group of writings that its theology is taken from? What are the conditions that would be placed on you, if you wanted to become a member of said faith? Will this faith cause you to get to know God in a personal way, and if so, then how will this take place? Are you interested in finding a faith that will cause you to get to know God in a personal way? If so, read on. Chapter 3 What Would I Look For in a God Who Is Personal? During my quest to find God, I can honestly say that I didn’t know exactly what to look for; but in retrospect I can relate how He has become personal to me. You might think that my presentation will be biased—a result of the teachings of my particular religion. However, my own beliefs will not be used as a means to convince you which teachings are correct. If personal opinion is the basis for finding the one true God, then everyone could rightfully say that their teachings are those that will lead to Him. Rather, I will present instances in which God has become personal to me—these are some of the encounters I’ve had with Him that are evidence of His personal interaction in my life. A definition that I like from an online article describes Him well, “A personal God is one with whom someone feels a one-to-one relationship, a deity who cares specifically for that individual and to whom that person can appeal directly.” ─ When a clergyman introduced me to this God, and I believed in Him, I was immediately flooded with joy (inner happiness) and peace (regulating, ruling, and harmonizing the heart) such as I had never experienced before. ─ In the early years of my walk with God, I was asked to stand up in front of the assembly and share my testimony. This was the worst thing anyone could have asked me to do because I did not like to stand up in front of people and speak. If they’d said go and visit someone, or volunteer for this or that task, all would have been fine. But to speak? In public??? But I agreed, and as I stepped up to the microphone, shaking like a leaf, I prayed for God to overrule my fear, and suddenly a peace came over me and the fear was gone. God showed up. ─ I heard that a woman was coming to my hometown that was known as a faith healer, and was of the same religion as me. At that time in my life, I was passing blood when I went to the bathroom, which seemed to indicate an ulcer. I decided to attend her healing service, hoping that God would address my physical issue. During the service, the woman would announce that God was providing healing in a certain part of the body and anyone with a corresponding physical issue was asked to stand up. Finally, she told anyone who was having a problem in the area of the stomach to stand up. For some reason, I took offense with the idea that I had to stand up in order to be healed, thinking that if this God is the one true personal God, then he could heal me even if I remained sitting. So, I didn’t stand, but I prayed quietly, telling God that if he was truly who he claims to be then he could heal me right where I was. Looking back, this was a childish response on my part, but that’s just where my mind was at this time. Nevertheless, God was faithful and answered my prayer and I immediately felt a tingling sensation around my stomach area, which lasted for about 15 seconds. After that, no more blood—I had been healed. ─ Years later, attending Bible College, I so wanted to do well in my studies. One evening I was concerned about one of my classes because the teacher would give unannounced quizzes. I prayed to God and asked if there was going to be a quiz the following day. This may seem like a silly request, but all of a sudden I heard a voice in my head (only audible in my mind) say as clear as day, “yes”, so I proceeded to study that evening as well as the following morning before class began. Sure enough, no sooner did I arrive and settle into the classroom with the other students than the teacher came in and said, “OK everyone, clear your desks because it is time for a quiz.” By the way, I aced it—thank you God! ─ After graduating from Bible College, I was asked to work in another state at an affiliated day school, and I took the job. Eventually, a person in leadership asked me if I wanted to oversee a Bible study during the week, and I eagerly accepted. After teaching the study for about 6 months, I was asked by the couple that hosted the study in their home to teach on a particular topic for which they needed instruction. Studying in preparation, I began reading some material from a different denomination in order to see what their view was, and found their teaching to be very different from the view espoused by my own church. I decided to teach the topic from both points of view, but did let the attendees know that I was not changing my personal opinion. One of the leaders in my church was there and heard my teaching. Afterward, he approached me and said that he had decided to remove me as the Bible study teacher because he didn’t like the idea of presenting opposing views on a topic. But it didn’t end there because my family and I had been provided housing on church-owned property, an arrangement that had worked out well since the school where I taught was initially located on the same property. (Because of financial constraints the school eventually not only had to be relocated but was also placed under the authority of a different church, which, interestingly enough was the same one whose teaching I had presented.) But now, I was also asked to pack up and move out of the church housing. I was devastated, to say the least. Having attended and graduated from an affiliated Bible College and being asked to work in one of their branch ministries, I was now required to move off the property because I taught a biblical topic from two opposing viewpoints. The next day I was praying for God’s guidance in relation to my situation, keeping a clear mind so that I could hear His response. One word came into my mind, “Providence.” I thought, “What in the world does this mean?” Then I realized the capital of the state is Providence, so I drove to the center of that city, parked my car, and began to walk around in the midst of crowds of people. Suddenly, a man came right up to me and started relaying words that he had received from God about my situation. After I listened to what he had to say he walked away. I went back to my car and headed home, crying tears of joy for the words of assurance and comfort I had received in the midst of an unsettling situation. ─ Removed from the Bible study and having to look for new housing, could things get any worse? Yes. In the midst of it all, I received a phone call from the person in charge of the day school (now under the authority of a different church). The school year was coming to a close and he asked me to meet with him to discuss my employment status. Initially when the school moved and changed hands, I had been given the choice of receiving my salary over either 10 or 12 months, and I’d chosen 12 so I could receive some money over the summer. Now I was told that the church could not simply give me money over the summer without me working for it in some capacity during that time. I responded that the monies I’d agreed to receive for my job was the same amount whether it was over 10 months or 12 months, and he said he understood but this was a change in the financial condition of my employment, and if I didn’t accept it I would not be hired back to teach during the following school year. So, there I was; married with one child, no longer teaching Bible study, having to leave the church housing, and now possibly out of a job in the fall. But I told him that I would pray about it and get back to him. The next day I respectfully rejected this change in my employment agreement. He said that I would receive the rest of the monies that were owed to me over the summer and that he was sorry to see me go. I’m sure some would ask, “How could you make such a decision?” Simply because the income would not have covered rent on a new apartment, so I knew I had to do something different. When the school year ended I secured a summer job driving bus for a local YWCA. But every day I prayed that God would provide three things: a new job for the fall, new housing, and finances sufficient to our needs. I put together a resume, indicating that I was a certified high school teacher in mathematics and sent it out to about 100 schools across the state. Within a short time, I received a job offer from a public school that was located on an island. One part of my prayer request had been answered, and I accepted. I immediately began trying to find a place to live, but year-round housing on the island is very difficult because of the seasonal demand, with most housing units rented out during the summers and vacant only during the winter months. As I looked in the local newspaper, I saw only one ad and I called the owner who said that she was showing the apartment to someone else as we spoke, but asked me what was I planning to do on the island. I told her that I’d been hired to be the next math teacher at the school. She was a teacher in another state, and said that if I came over ASAP to look at the apartment she would rent it to my family if I liked it. This is exactly what happened, and the second part of the prayer was answered. Finally, we needed money in order to be able to afford to move our belongings. An unexpected check arrived in the mail that not only covered the moving expenses but also the amount needed to pay for the first month’s rent of the new home. The 3rd part of the prayer was answered. Again, I thanked God for being there for my family and me. ─ Having settled in to my new job and home, I decided to check out the churches on the island but it seemed to me that there was no evidence of the one true personal God operating in any of them. Over time, I met up with some like-minded people and we decided to form a Bible study. We prayed to God for someone to provide consistent teaching and support, and one day a pastor from New York showed up on the island. He told us that God had given him a vision to come to this place and co-labor with us, so he did. The Bible study is still in operation, and I share teaching responsibilities with some others each week. The messages are placed on the website of the local newspaper with a weekly readership of about 100. ─ Eventually, I secured ownership of a taxi business on the island. During one taxi season an accusation was made against me by a fellow taxi owner/driver for violating a taxi ordinance. I was deeply hurt by the accusation because this was someone that I had worked with for years and he didn’t even come to talk to me about this matter privately. I prayed to God that He would provide a solution to this problem, and told my employees about it so that they would be aware of what was going on. Apparently, one of them, accompanied by a relative, went to this taxi owner/driver to ask about the particular ordinance he said was being violated. During this discussion, the taxi owner/driver admitted to not only having violated the ordinance himself but also doing it on a consistent basis. My driver put his witnessed response in the form of a letter and made it available for use in an upcoming hearing. ─ When I taxi I always ask God to use me in some way to evidence his personal work in me to others. During one evening shift, a man got into my cab and asked me to go to a certain place. As we drove, I asked how he was doing and he responded that he had a short time to live due to a medical condition incurred from working in an auto body shop. As he spoke, I sensed God’s presence stirring within me, a feeling that I describe as a prompting by the Holy Spirit for healing. I proceeded to tell him about this one true personal God who has changed my life and asked if I could pray for his healing. He replied yes, so I put my hands on him and prayed. As that occurred, he told me that he was experiencing a tingling sensation which I believe was an indication that he was being healed. I then told him about this one true personal God, whom he chose to believe in. ─ During an evening Bible study at my house, three new people showed up who were members of the same faith as myself. They were working on the island for a short time and, having heard about this Bible study, decided to attend. Immediately after I’d finished teaching one of them said to the other something like, “Are you ready?” Initially, I didn’t know what was going on, but then the first person began to speak in what I believe was a foreign language, and when she finished the second person translated what had been said into English. God had given a word of edification to all of who were present. ─ The last incident that I will share occurred during this past summer. I had been praying for God to make me aware of a church on the mainland that I could attend once a month. Being isolated on an island during the winter among the few residents who remain, I felt that I needed a place to go where I could receive God’s word from someone else. One early morning as I drove my taxi into town, I noticed what appeared to be an inebriated person standing on the yellow lines of one of our roads, Chapel Street. Pulling up next to him, I asked if he was OK and he replied that he was waiting for a ride to work, but the person who was supposed to pick him up hadn’t shown; so he asked me to taxi him to the work site. After dropping him off, I headed back to town. As I turned onto Chapel Street, one of the store proprietors waved me down. I stopped beside her and asked if she needed help. She told me that she was giving away all of the flower perennials that were in her store for free and that if I would like to have them I could take them. I thought this was kind of strange but I filled up the trunk of my taxi with the plants and headed home in order to drop them off. Driving along, I received a call from a woman asking for an island tour. I said I could take her, asked for a location, and she replied that she was on Chapel Street. Hearing Chapel Street again, I knew that God was up to something. So, I picked her up and we went on the tour. As we got to know each other a little better, she mentioned that she was attending a church on the mainland that was of the same faith as mine, saying that the person who started this church was from California but that one of his fellow pastors had started an affiliate ministry here in New England. Believe it or not, I still asked God to give me another verification concerning the church. Within a week, I was conversing with a pastor friend of mine from New York. As we talked about our families, he asked how my younger daughter, who had relocated from Chicago to California, was doing and I told him that she was fine. Then he mentioned that if she was looking for a church that there was one that he highly recommended. Is it any surprise by now that it was the same church the woman in my taxi had suggested? Can you believe it? Needless to say, further proof was no longer needed. A summary of how this personal God has interacted with me: Impacted me with his presence (e.g. peace and joy), when I believed in Him. Answered my prayer by providing divine peace in the place of overwhelming fear during a speaking engagement. Provided healing for my bleeding issue. Gave a yes-or-no answer with an audible voice in my mind as I prayed about a possible quiz in my Bible course. Provided a one-word answer to my prayer for guidance in a desperate situation, indicating a particular geographical location where I should go next. Relayed information from a total stranger that provided assurance and comfort concerning the situation that I was in. Provided the things I asked for in prayer: a new job, new housing, and the necessary finances to move my family. Answered prayer by conveying to a person from out of state a vision to come and co-labor in the faith on the island where I live. Answered prayer in the form of a letter written by an employee for the purpose of addressing an accusation made against me by a fellow worker at a hearing. Used me as an intermediary to pray over someone for healing, and have him experience a divine sensation. Used others to convey God’s thoughts through an unknown language, spoken by one person and interpreted by another so all present could understand and be blessed. Answered prayer regarding a place of worship for me during the winter season by using different people who didn’t know each other, providing clues and confirmation of the place He had for me. I’d like to leave you with a few thoughts concerning this one true personal God, because whoever this God is, we can deduce some important things about Him. He wants to be involved in our life in an interactive way. He wants to heal us, provide answers to our prayers, and provide for our needs. In order for him to be involved in our life, he has to come into our life. I believe that I can also infer from these examples that after we die He has prepared a place for us that will allow this personal relationship to continue. You might ask, “Isn’t that idea a stretch?” But let me ask you a couple of questions. If God has personal relationship with us now, wouldn’t He want to continue it when we depart from this life? Would it make sense for the one true personal God to decide that He would only want to be with us for a finite period of time? Some might jokingly say, “Would you want to be with so-and-so for eternity?” While this may be funny, it is earthly thinking. If God only wants to be with us here on earth, with no future possibility of personal relationship after physical death, then I would question whether or not this is the one true God. Please keep these thoughts in mind as we examine the belief systems of the mainstream religions. But before we do this, I would like you to be aware of religion’s story. You might ask, “What is religion’s story?” I refer to the basic story that most mainstream religions are based on. Let’s find out more. Weekly Messages: http://bit.ly/1N9SHdX Website: http://www.makingtheonerightchoice.com/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/jamesrondinone/media Facebook Author Page: http://on.fb.me/1Q0MJ3w Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/james.rondinone

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Synopsis
What would I look for in a God that is personal?
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