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This meme, showing the World Trade Centre before it was destroyed by radical Islamic terrorists, answers the question plainly and succinctly, doesn’t it?

You might be surprised to know that lots of people like me, who follow Jesus of Nazareth (who many folks believe is the Son of God) agree with the meme. The world would be a better place without the tribalism, intolerance and judgmentalism of “religion”.

Then I watched a short video from Solas (a Scottish non-profit promoting faith in Jesus) that popped up in my Facebook feed. And it paints a startling view of a world supposedly rid of “religion”.

Host Andy Bannister notes there are officially secular countries that have aggressively tried to wipe out religion — or as I much, MUCH prefer to call it, “faith”. Those countries include the Soviet Union (when it existed) and North Korea.

Just consider the horrifying track record of government oppression and persecution in these undemocratic countries and one other Andy missed – China. Suddenly, secularism doesn’t look so attractive.

Ah, but what about the mostly secular Scandinavian nations admired by so many critics of faith? Those countries rank high on the happiness, tolerance and quality-of-life scales.

Andy points out “the things they hold most dear are very religious – the idea that human beings have rights and value and dignity and significance is actually a deeply Christian idea.”

Furthermore, the Man who I follow is all about two things:

  1. The rights, value and dignity of all human beings. During His physical time on Earth, Jesus didn’t hesitate to break many social taboos in His culture to show women and social outcasts that they are NOT second-class citizens in God’s kingdom.
  2. The uselessness of “religion”. Jesus often criticized people who used religion to gain power, oppress others and look good in public.

Jesus even went so far as to say this to anyone willing to listen: “Are you tired? Burned out on religion? Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Wow. Bet you didn’t know that about Jesus, did you? For many years, I certainly didn’t. It wasn’t until I looked hard into Jesus’s life, teachings, death and resurrection that I realized this guy is the real deal.

In fact, by committing my life to following Him, God no longer sees all the wrong things I’ve done and the right things I’ve failed to do. He only sees the perfection of His Son. And when this life ends, that perfection will get me into Heaven to hang out with Jesus for eternity. Sweet!  🙂

Does this sound interesting? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

While visiting the blog of Vinny, a guy who says he writes about “A bit of this…A bit of that…bit of everything”, one of his comments grabbed my attention.

“The good thing is I’m Catholic so I have a golden ticket [to Heaven],” Vinny wrote, after describing all his medical issues. “Front of the queue where St. Peter will give me a hug and point me to the pub up there, The Heavenly Arms.”

While appreciating his humourous tone — lots of us would love to find a Cheers pub or a Friends coffee shop in the Great Hereafter — this made me wonder: how many people believe their affiliation with some kind of faith group gives them a golden ticket to Heaven when this life ends?

Before I started following Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is the divine Son of God), I thought that’s what it took: get connected with the right group and I’m probably in.

But now that I’m on a life-long project to read about and understand the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, I can tell you that I was thoroughly, spectacularly wrong.

In one of the original-source biographies of His life, Jesus tells anyone willing to listen what is really needed to get a golden ticket: “You must be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect.”

Yikes. Does that mean being a good Catholic or good Buddhist or good Muslim or even a good agnostic won’t cut it? If you believe Jesus, then NO. Your membership card in any of those  groups won’t get you in the door.

Man, this is a tough one, isn’t it? How can any person on this planet get into Heaven when nothing but perfection will get you past the bouncer?

The answer, thankfully, is simple: Follow Jesus. Make Him your Saviour, your best friend, the person you trust with your life starting RIGHT NOW.

Some of you might be asking how that will help your case. The help comes because Jesus is the only person who has ever been– and will ever be — perfect. That’s right: not even one stain on His record.

One of the men Jesus personally taught to follow Him, the ‘St. Peter’ Vinny referred to, stated it this plainly: “He never sinned and He never told a lie“. And the four primary-source biographies of Jesus’ physical life on earth back up Peter’s assertion.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a Catholic or Buddhist or Muslim or Hindu or agnostic. When you commit your life, with serious sincerity, to following Jesus, then God no longer sees the wrong things you’ve done and the right things you’ve failed to do. All He sees is His Son’s perfection — and that’s your golden ticket.

The great thing is, connecting with Jesus can make your life better immediately. In my case, following Him:

  • cleaned up my potty mouth
  • changed my career (I now work at organizations that specialize in telling people about Jesus)
  • influenced who I married (my wife is also a Jesus follower)

What do you think — is this the golden ticket you need? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

 

 

 

“Physics says you’re an impurity in an otherwise beautiful universe.”

That’s one of the headlines in a fascinating, challenging article, first published on the Slate online news site, that recently popped up in my internet feed.

Written by physics professor David Goldberg, the essay details four reasons why humanity shouldn’t exist in a universe he calls “almost absurdly finely tuned”.

One of the main reasons we shouldn’t exist, Goldberg claims, is “the laws of physics themselves seem to be working against us. Ours isn’t just a randomly hostile universe, it’s an actively hostile universe.”

And yet, we do exist. And while Goldberg makes only one indirect reference to God, I’m going to challenge you by writing that God is the reason I’m here writing this blog and you’re here reading it.

Goldberg believes that even miniscule changes in the makeup of the universe would have made life on earth impossible. “If the universe were only minutely denser than the one we inhabit, it would have collapsed before it began,” he writes.

Ironically, his position is almost identical to the case built by scientists and authors who follow Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is the Son of God). Their point: this ‘actively hostile’ universe is fine-tuned by God in order to make life, as we know it, possible.

Why go to all that trouble? I believe it’s because our creator wants us here and that’s because He’s all about relationships. And every person on this planet can have that relationship.

You might shrug and wonder why anyone would bother. Briefly, here’s the reason: a relationship with God can make your life better now and when we depart what Shakespeare called “this mortal coil”.

Connecting with God can:

  • provide life-changing awareness that you are loved beyond all measure.
  • help you understand that all people are valuable, no matter who they are or what they’ve done (or not done).
  • strengthen you for the challenges ahead.
  • give you clarity on what’s right, what’s wrong – and the shifting tides of public opinion don’t change that.

Sadly, we very imperfect human beings have erected many barriers on the road to this relationship. Lack of faith, the wrongs things we’ve done, the right things we’ve failed to do, our stubborn insistence that we are our own gods — all these things and more build a wall between us and God.

But that hasn’t stopped God from doing all He can, while still maintaining His standards, to make a way for us. His Son Jesus is that way, made possible through His sacrificial death and game-changing resurrection.

Jesus clears away ALL barriers to a relationship with God — starting NOW and lasting for all eternity — for everyone who believes in Him, trusts in Him and follows Him.

If you say yes, with complete sincerity, to Jesus, then He’ll come into your life and start to make you the person God created you to be. That process won’t end until you go to Heaven to spend eternity with Him.

Interested? Yes or now, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

Maybe you’ve read a statement like this (a fake quote which the actor and former Saturday Night Live member never said), or someone has simply told it to you and you’ve nodded in agreement then gone on with your life.

But does stating something so boldly make it true? I decided to do some research and soon discovered that it’s impossible to come up with a credible number of people “killed by religion”.

Here’s why: one website tackled the topic and concluded that in the history of this planet, more than 195 million people have been killed in the name of religion. That is a truly sobering, astonishing number.

Then I looked at what was included. The list includes:

  • the 1990s Rwandan genocide (800,000 deaths)
  • several hundred years of slave trading (14 million deaths)
  • AIDS in Africa (30 million deaths).

What’s wrong with including these tragedies? Well, the first was tribal warfare, the second was horrific economic racism and the third was deliberate government ignorance and prejudice against gay people.

Did religion play a role in any of them? Possibly, but it certainly wasn’t the major factor.

But let’s set that aside and look at the bigger picture. That picture makes it clear: religion is an overwhelming negative force. It makes people judgmental, it creates an “us versus them” mentality and, in the end, it encourages people to think anyone not in their religion is inferior.

The inevitable result is Islamic terrorism (150,000 deaths since 2000, according to this same website),  the Jewish Holocaust (six million deaths), the Spanish Inquisition (5,000 deaths) and more unspeakable horrors.

If you’ve visited Frank’s Cottage before, you might know where I’m going with this: leave behind the nightmare of religion and look instead to one man. Two thousand years ago, this man came to earth in physical form and, without a single act of violence against another person, He:

  1. physically and spiritually restored broken lives;
  2. proposed – and demonstrated – an entirely new way to live and love;
  3. sacrificed His life for the eternal good of everyone who follows Him, then;
  4. showed His ultimate power over death by coming back to life.

I’m talking about Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is the Son of God. His mission – then AND now – is to replace religion with a life-transforming relationship with the creator of time, space and the universe.

That relationship, made possible through faith in Jesus, can bring hope, change and restoration to every person who decides to follow Him. Just as important, anyone on this planet can say yes to this relationship, no matter what they’ve done or not done. That includes YOU.

Interested in knowing more? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

If you read the statment in this atheist meme and declared “Yes, that’s me,” well, let me join you and say it even louder: “YES, THAT’S ME.”

Repeat Frank’s Cottage visitors know that I’m not a fan of religion. Perhaps it works for some folks, but I join much of the world in seeing religion as little more than:

  1. Following rules, many of them petty and pointless.
  2. Putting on appearances, so everyone will think you “have it all together”.
  3. Using the first two points to self-righteously judge people who don’t follow all the rules and don’t have it all together.

In the end, religion puts rules, appearances and judgmentalism ahead of people. It often descends into cold-hearted tribalism – ranking people based on whether they’re in or out of our “religion”.

Sounds awful, doesn’t it?

Let me offer an alternative that puts human beings ahead of dogma and traditions. Prepare yourself, because that alternative is controversial. That alternative is life-giving. That alternative, in my opinion, defines humanism for all time.

That alternative is Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is the divine Son of God.

During His physical time on earth, Jesus often ran afoul of rule-obsessed, stone-hearted religious leaders.

They were aghast at seeing Him hang out with what many in ancient Israel regarded as the bottom-feeders of their society. Today, those people might be:

  • supporters of widely disliked politicians or political parties
  • those who have unchanging ideas about right and wrong
  • convicts and those who have spent time in prison
  • alcoholics or drug addicts

In one of His four original-source biographies, Jesus says this about fans of religion:

They don’t practice what they teach. They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden. Everything they do is for show.

Jesus leaves dogma and traditions at the side of the road. In fact, He goes so far as to ask:

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

But Jesus doesn’t stop there. He challenges us with the truth about what’s required to qualify for Heaven when this life is finished: “You must be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect.

None of us can meet that standard, so Jesus took on his shoulders ALL the wrong things we’ve done and ALL the right things we’ve failed to do. He took them to the cross, where He was put to death on trumped-up charges. Then He showed His mastery over death by coming back to life three days later.

Now, anyone who declares Jesus as Lord and Saviour takes on His perfection. That’s how God sees Jesus followers and they spend eternity with their Creator.

Sound like a good deal? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

While the word “vaccine” has always had a positive connotation for most people, it’s now seen as a life-saver, a restorer of normal life and a saviour for the business community.

That’s a tall order, but a planet battered by the COVID-19 pandemic needs the vaccines being rolled out right now to be all that and more.

Sadly, the products being furiously manufactured don’t address humanity’s other serious problems. But there is a vaccine that does. So keep your mind open while I do my very imperfect best to explain it.

This vaccine isn’t a product. It’s a man. And He came to this planet on a rescue mission for anyone willing to listen to Him.

  • He saw how people like me so often struggle with greed, fear and regret.
  • He recognized that we seem unable to decide which of this world’s many competing voices should get our attention and resources.
  • Finally, He grasped how desperately we want love and acceptance–and will sometimes do horrible things to ourselves and others to get even a temporary version of them.

Knowing humanity’s spiritual and moral systems don’t address our real needs, He offers us something entirely different: Himself.

If you’ve read this far, then I’m going to risk losing you by revealing who He is: Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is the Son of God.

With startling confidence and self-awareness, Jesus said this to anyone willing to listen: “Come to me all of you who are tired from the heavy burden you carry. Learn from me. I am gentle and humble. And you will be able to get some rest.”

How does He do that? He taught that pursuing fame, riches and power won’t result in a satisfying life. But a life soaked in gratitude and love will.

In his book The End of Religion, Canadian writer Bruxy Cavey unpacks that by noting “the more of a fundamentalist someone becomes about the teachings of Jesus, the more loving, forgiving and gracious that person should become.

Jesus taught so much more, and ancient, original-source biographies describe how He backed up His authority by healing sick people and even bringing someone back to life.

Finally, Jesus proved His love for us by allowing Himself to be put to death to pay for every wrong thing His followers have done, and every right thing we’ve failed to do. That’s necessary because Jesus made it clear that “you must be perfect, just as your father in Heaven is perfect.”

The result of His Son’s sacrifice is when God looks at Jesus followers, He sees us as perfect like His Son, and welcomes us to spend eternity with Him in Heaven.

If you’re wondering how to get your hands on this vaccine, it’s simple: become a serious, dedicated Jesus follower. When you do that, He comes into your life NOW and starts to make you more of the person God created you to be.

Interested? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

When I saw this meme, I instantly thought about the church I attend and what it does in the community. Here are a few recent highlights:

  • Serves more than 1,500 free meals each month to people in need
  • Established a partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association so it can better help people with mental issues
  • Created the Career Connection Network to help people find jobs
  • In partnership with the Calgary Food Bank, distributed almost 2,500 food hampers to hurting families during a one-year period.
  • Supports 250 families with special needs

I attend one of the largest churches in Canada; most are much, much smaller and don’t have the donor base to do this kind of work. But almost all of them are doing something – and doing it with less red tape and more efficiency than any government or business. The same applies to charities like Samaritan’s Purse and Compassion Canada.

Why is this happening? Because Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is the Son of God, tells everyone who follows Him that “anything you did for any of my people here [and Jesus came for ALL people], you also did for me.” He also said this:The way you give to others is the way God will give to you.”

I can’t speak for religion, since that has very little to do with faith in Jesus. (In fact, religion is often a scourge on society and I explain it here: https://wp.me/p2wzRb-q1.)

But I can write about Jesus followers. So, to the creator of this meme, I ask: imagine what kind of world we’d be living in if Jesus followers weren’t obeying His directive and making life better for millions and millions of hurting people?

Sure, they may not be making gigantic financial contributions to science and medical research (that’s being covered quite nicely by taxpayers, foundations and wealthy philanthropists), but through their actions and donations, they are on the frontlines of the battle against misery and hopelessness.

That’s where Jesus – God’s perfect gift to everyone willing to accept Him – calls His followers to be. And if you’re willing to accept the gift of Jesus, two extraordinary things will happen:

  1. He will come into your life and start making you more of the person God designed you to be. That includes becoming more aware of the suffering around us and more willing to do something about it.
  2. God will no longer see any of the wrong things you’ve done or the right things you’ve failed to do. He’ll only see His Son’s perfection. And when this life ends, He’ll welcome you to spend all eternity with Him in Heaven.

Interested? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

WHO LOVES FIRST?

I encountered this meme on Facebook and was immediately struck by its warm and inviting messages. I own more than 700 CDs (yes, I’m happily ‘old school’) and music is always part of my daily life.

That, however, is not why I saved the meme. Instead, it was the first sentence. Notice the love relationship only happens when you love music first? In other words, there’s no love unless you initiate it.

There’s a whole other relationship, that’s even more important than music, which doesn’t require you to do the heavy lifting. I’ll reveal it now, but you may be surprised and even annoyed when you read it, so I hope you’ll keep an open mind.

It’s your creator.

Still with me? Yay! Let me unpack this statement so you’ll fully grasp what I’m writing about.

The creator and master of time, space and the universe loves every person on this planet. No exceptions. I can write that because of Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is God’s Son.

One of the primary source documents about Jesus’ physical life on earth explains that “this is how much God loved the world—He gave His one and only, unique Son as a gift. So now everyone who believes in Him will never perish, but experience everlasting life.”

There are two things worth noting about this statement:

  1. Notice how it doesn’t say anything about God responding to us? He took the initiative. He acted first. Out of love.
  2. There is no footnote stating the gift is only offered to people who qualify – people who have their act together, who are “good enough”. This explains my earlier statement: all the wrong things we’ve done and all the right things we’ve failed to do don’t disqualify us from God’s love.

It’s clear that this gift of Jesus is important and whether or not we accept it is life-changing. But why? We will “experience everlasting life” through Jesus because when He was put to death by the religious and political leaders of His day, He paid the price for all the moral crimes of everyone who follows Him.

And why is that so vital? Jesus explains it when He told anyone willing to listen that “you must be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” So perfection is what it takes to spend eternity in Heaven with God and we can only achieve that through Jesus.

The second message in the meme, about music being the perfect life companion, is nice. But there’s a much, much better life companion: Jesus.

When you accept the gift of Jesus and make Him your lord and saviour, He comes into your life right now and starts to make you more like the person God designed you to be. Music is wonderful, but it certainly can’t do anything like that.

So what do you think? Interested in accepting God’s remarkable, life-changing gift? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

I’ll admit right now that I initially found the image in this meme shocking. Can there be people in our world who actually think this way?

After a moment’s contemplation, my conclusion is, sadly, yes. I guess they believe that God is no smarter than a bag of hammers and can be manipulated by anyone who knows how to “work the system”.

But maybe there’s something else going on here. Perhaps this meme is a blunt, crude challenge to followers of Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is the Son of God.

Are we Jesus followers subconsciously living like the girl in the meme? Oh, we’re not burning down houses, committing murder or running Ponzi schemes, but some of us are living however we please and believing the forgiveness offered by Jesus is a “get out of jail” card to play whenever our conscience bothers us.

That’s absolutely not what following Jesus is all about and I apologize right now if you’ve met someone (perhaps me?) who appears to live this way.

Here are the facts of the matter:

  1. Do you want to get to Heaven when this life ends? Then just being good isn’t going to get you there. Jesus told anyone willing to listen that “you must be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
  2. No one but Jesus has ever, or will ever, meet Heaven’s admission standard.
  3. God, knowing we couldn’t achieve eternity with Him on our own, did the heavy lifting by sending Jesus. He showed us how to live and then sacrificed His life to pay for ALL the wrong things we’ve done and ALL the right things we’ve failed to do.
  4. Anyone who believes in Jesus and follows Him has their moral crimes wiped off the books. Every sin has been forgiven–even the ones you and I might think are unforgivable–and God now sees that person as perfect.

If you’ve read this far, then I’m sure you’ve figured out this is a big deal. A game changer. Something that should begin transforming you as you come to fully understand what Jesus has done.

That’s a key part of placing your faith and trust in Jesus–He comes into your life and starts making you the person God meant for you to be. He makes you interested:

  • in gathering with other Jesus followers
  • in reading original-source documents about His life
  • in leaving behind your old, unsatisfying, superficial ways of living.

This remarkable process of transformation won’t end until this life is finished and you go to meet Him.

Are you understanding that the forgiveness offered by Jesus through His life, His death, and His resurrection three days later is more incredible and more important than anything you could hope to experience on planet Earth? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

If you’ve ever thought about Jesus of Nazareth — who many people believe is the Son of God — then perhaps this meme’s message has crossed your mind.

Believing the cliche provides an easy reason not to bother exploring who Jesus is, if He matters at all in this pandemic world and, most importantly, if He should matter to YOU.

But I trust that because you’re here, you’re open to spirituality and open to going beyond the dogma pushed by our culture.

First of all, what’s a reasonable definition of “fun”? Among the answers offered by Dictionary.com, this one applies most to the meme: something that provides mirth or amusement.

So what are the “somethings” that Jesus followers supposedly avoid? We can certainly “party” – only for us, that shouldn’t have to include drugs and/or excessive alcohol. I’m going to be bold and suggest that folks who need these to enjoy socializing have problems that require immediate attention.

Sex? Up to the last 100 years ago or so, many Jesus followers bought into the bizarre and stifling notion that it was a necessary evil to have children. Once that was accomplished, we could move on to more noble pursuits.

I thank God that this lie has been dumped in the garbage bin of history. We can absolutely enjoy one of our creator’s greatest gifts. We’re just supposed to do it in the context of marriage.

I imagine this is part of what the meme is addressing. How dare we treat sex as something important and perhaps even sacred, rather than just another fun part of a drunken night on the town.

But look at the results of our culture’s obsession with sex: broken relationships, pedophilia, sex trafficking (see: Jeffrey Epstein), disease and violence (if you ever talk to a prostitute, ask how often she’s been beaten up). I’m sure more social ills can be added to the list.

In the end, I believe the pursuits valued by our culture are really about searching for meaning and significance. And that search will be fruitless until we are willing to ask the BIG questions:

  • Why am I here?
  • Is there more to life than 70-plus years of sleeping, working, going to the bathroom and waiting to expire?
  • What happens when this life ends?

This is where following Jesus makes sense. If you’re willing to explore who He is and how He can be part your life right now, I believe you’ll come to understand the words of a dude named Paul, who was one of His earliest and most remarkable followers. Paul told anyone willing to listen that “It is through Jesus that we are able to live, to do what we do, and to be who we are.”

Interested? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a fun conversation! 🙂