Is there someone in your life whom you love and whom loves you back? A parent, a good friend, a sibling, a spouse? Think about them over the next few minutes it will take to read this post.

Here's the big question for today: how do you know they love you?

They say nice things to you?
They Bring you gifts?
They are there for you?
They tell you they love you?
They put you first, even before themselves?

All of this is excellent, but it's not water-tight. Even with all of the above, the fact is that it takes faith to believe that your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling, friend loves you. Without that faith, a breakdown in trust occurs and no love can be exchanged from there forward.

Perhaps the most accessible example of the breakdown of trust is when a teenager stops believing his parents love him. The teenagers parents know they love him and they are doing their best to love him, but for some reason, he just doesn't believe it. Faith has broken down on the part of the teenager, so the relationship becomes strained.

A similar thing may happen in churches where religious people will do unloving things in the name of God, and this will set in motion a chain of events that eventually erodes faith in Jesus, whom religious people claim to represent.

Think of it this way: when a person betrays or hurts a loved one, why is it that they often say "but I love you". Do they? They are saying they do. Betrayal certainly doesn't show love, at least not in my understanding of Love - which is that "Love does no harm to a neighbor" Romans 3:10. Yet people use love as a get out of jail free card when they hurt others.

To bring this to a point, being brutal with your words to "speak the truth in love" isn't actually loving. It's being a jerk. We need to stop doing that. And we need to stop blaming God for when people do evil things.

Love, like many other things, takes faith, and faith is made real by actions.

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. 
Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. All who declare that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. 
God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first. 
If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers. 1 John 4:11-21  

No wonder it takes faith to believe. But even more than that, it takes building an actual relationship with God - through prayer, reading his Word, going spiritually deep with others, and practicing the art listening to God's still small voice as you process through the daily grind of life.

To believe the Gospel (The announcement that sin and death have been defeated, that there is a way out, and that Jesus IS the way out) is to first come to the humble understanding that I am more sinful that I dare imagine, yet more loved than I dare dream.
"Even truths born out by rigorous analysis are often laid asunder by a rapidly changing world.  Last year’s truths are often today’s red herrings.  As rapid technological change transforms politics, culture and economics, we need a new approach that is based less on false certainty and more on simulation." - Greg Satell

Greg Satell is no intellectual slouch. Recently, I came upon a number of compelling pieces he wrote about beliefs and the problems with hard data and modern the scientific worldview, from the perspective of a hard data analyst.

Here are some more thoughts on skepticism and faith.

Something else we do without irrefutable proof: we trust people.

“What I have a problem with is not so much religion or god, but faith. When you say you believe something in your heart and therefore you can act on it, you have completely justified the 9/11 bombers. You have justified Charlie Manson. If it's true for you, why isn't it true for them? Why are you different? If you say "I believe there's an all-powerful force of love in the universe that connects us all, and I have no evidence of that but I believe it in my heart," then it's perfectly okay to believe in your heart that Sharon Tate deserves to die. It's perfectly okay to believe in your heart that you need to fly planes into buildings for Allah.” 
― Penn Jillette

Episode 2 of the Reluctant Christian podcast is up!

I started a podcast! Mostly it was for my love of audio production and the enjoyment I get from hearing compression on my voice. I know. I'm lame.

If you like it, subscribe on iTunes, Podcast addict or any other podcasting app that can search the iTunes database. I'll try to release something worthwhile at least once per month. I'm working on doing a couple of interviews with pastors and skeptics, which will be a ton-o-fun!

Here is the iTunes podcast feed:

Also, feel free to rate the show with positively positive reviews :)

Check out Part 1

The Bible is many things. I want to zero in on one today. The Bible, among other things, shares experiences that real people had with God, and then it shares an unfolding story of historical reflections on those experiences.

In the book of Deuteronomy, Israel is commanded by God to wipe out their enemies. It's serious, unfiltered tribal warfare. The writers are convinced wholly that God told the Israelites to wipe out the Canaanites, babies and all. And as the story goes, Israel does it (well, they mostly do it but that's beside my point).

Faith is about trust. I know - that's obvious. But what isn't obvious is that faith really isn't about one book vs another or even one ideology vs another.

It's first and foremost about the trustworthiness of the person or people at the foundation. Are they reliable witnesses to the information they are presenting, and can their testimonies and conclusions be trusted?

I am a philosophy geek in general, but there is one philosophical idea that particularly intrigues me.

Last week, I made an audacious claim that if your picture of God doesn't look like Jesus, it's not God.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized I need to qualify this claim in more than one way.
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