Our Very Real God

The quotes used below are from the Jan. 15 posting at a blog at http://www.beautyfromtheheart.org/index.html. Great blog, and I’ll add it to my blogroll as soon as I get a chance.

Back in 1982, at the tender age of 21, I had become an atheist. I wasn’t an atheist very long, just over a couple months, but it wasn’t an accident. It was a conscious choice that I put a lot of thought into. It was at that point, however, that God really began to go after me in a personal way.

One of the ways was a movie called In the Presence of Mine Enemies. It made a huge impact on me. It’s about a guy who was in a Vietnam POW camp for seven years. It showed some of the torture he went through and a lot of the horrid conditions he lived in all those years. What affected me was what happened when he was released.

He was released when the whole POW camp was delivered by the Americans. All the prisoners were released at once, and they all made their way into a clearing, blinking in the bright sunlight. Immediately, they did two things. They sang “God Bless America,” and they all knelt and gave thanks to God.

I was incensed. I was in the military myself at the time, and I was alone in the barracks rec room watching the movie on TV. I stood up and started yelling at the TV. “Why are you giving thanks to God? If he really exists and can deliver you from the POW camp, then why didn’t he do it seven years ago? You should be cursing him for letting you go through all that torture!” I stormed out of the rec room, stewing and brewing in my own anger.

That night I laid awake in bed wondering how that could have happened. Why would all those POW’s give thanks to God? Why all of them, or almost all of them? Why didn’t most of them agree with me and curse God?

The only answer I could come up with is that God was with them, comforting and helping them during their imprisonment. Somehow, they did not feel abandoned by God despite the torture and despite the ongoing suffering. It shook my atheism, and it was the start of God showing me his Son and causing me to bend my knee to him.

Today, I was reading the story of another prisoner of war, this one at the horrible Nazi labor camp at Dachau. This prisoner of war, Alexandria Goode, was thirteen at the time. Listen to these portions of her story:

Countless prisoners from Alexandria’s own barracks were found dead after committing suicide in their bunks. Utterly alone and parentless, Alexandria credits God with saving her from that same fate. “Oddly enough,” she says, “that’s where I found Jesus.”

Not so odd to me. I became convinced 26 years ago, as an atheist, that God doesn’t abandon the imprisoned. Alexandria, who has much more right to speak about such things than me or you, agrees. She was the subject of Nazi “science” experiments. She had her tonsils removed by them without anesthesia. They injected her with various substances, resulting in boils all over her body (remember Job?). This is what happened to her:

Lying awake in the darkness atop her straw-strewn bunk, she begged God for the strength to survive. It was her bargain. Either should we commit suicide, or God would give her help, somehow.

Following her plea, a peace Alexandria still cannot fully describe overcame her agony: “I was filled, literally filled with the joy…I went to assure the girls who were with me that we were going to be okay, and they really thought I had lost my mind. But I was so sure! I was just filled with an assurance. It was unquestionable.”

Alexandria is living in America today. You can see her picture at the blog I linked above. She’s in her 70’s and serving God wholeheartedly and with great energy.

We serve an awesome God. Thank you, Alexandria Goode, for your incredible testimony and example.

About Paul Pavao

I am married, the father of six, and currently the grandfather of two. I run a business, live in a Christian community, teach, and I am learning to disciple others better than I have ever been able to before. I believe God has gifted me to restore proper foundations to the Christian faith. In order to ensure that I do not become a heretic, I read the early church fathers from the second and third centuries. They were around when all the churches founded by the apostles were in unity. I also try to stay honest and open. I argue and discuss these foundational doctrines with others to make sure my teaching really lines up with Scripture. I am encouraged by the fact that the several missionaries and pastors that I know well and admire as holy men love the things I teach. I hope you will be encouraged too. I am indeed tearing up old foundations created by tradition in order to re-establish the foundations found in Scripture and lived on by the churches during their 300 years of unity.
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