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Archive for July, 2013

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Actress Keira Knightley has earned adulation for the great movies she’s done since coming to fame in 2002 with Bend It Like Beckham. But do her thoughts on atheism and faith reflect reality?

I’m sure some folks agree with her. But for serious Christians, forgiveness and guilt simply don’t work that way.

For those of us who follow Jesus Christ, life isn’t a game where you do whatever you want, then sleepwalk through a hollow ritual of asking for forgiveness and assume God is a kindly, but dimwitted dolt who can’t see through your deception.

Judging by her comments, Keira probably doesn’t give the Bible much credibility. But if you’re more open-minded, consider this except, from a section called ‘Psalms’:

You [God] know when I sit down and when I get up. You know my thoughts from far away. You know where I go and where I lie down. You know everything I do. Lord, you know what I want to say, even before the words leave my mouth.

Does this sound like a creator Keira Knightley or anyone else can trick?

Forgiveness is available to everyone who accepts the gift God offers the world: Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians (and many others) believe is His son. According to the Bible, Jesus died to make up for the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do.

What Jesus did is a big deal. And those who truly accept that gift and make Jesus their lord and savior understand that. So they don’t treat it with contempt. In fact, one of the Bible writers, a missionary named Paul who helped spread Christianity through the Mediterranean, addressed this very notion:

So, do you think we should continue sinning so that God will give us even more forgiveness? No! We died to our old sinful lives, so how can we continue living with sin?

Now, what about Keira’s assertion of living with guilt? If you’re still with me, you may have figured out by now that forgiveness is real and important and all-encompassing. In fact, for some people, it’s a life-changer and you can read one example here: http://wp.me/p2wzRb-6K

Forgiveness also means you’re no longer guilty. If you follow Jesus and sincerely ask for forgiveness, you’ll get it and the wrong you’ve done is wiped from the books. So there’s no need to “live with guilt”, as Keira puts it.

Does this make sense? Yes or no, post your comments below and let’s have a conversation.

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Open DoorThe headline said ‘Extremism’s appeal for Canadian radicals’. That didn’t sway me to read the article in the National Post, one of Canada’s major newspapers. But what did intrigue me was the one-word “subhead”: ‘Superiority’.

A police officer, trying to figure out what was turning some young Canadians into violence-supporting radical Islamists, did extensive interviews with seven young Toronto men (six of them born in Canada) who fit the bill.

After the interviews, the officer came to the conclusion that they were deeply troubled men who, the reporter wrote, “found, in extremism, a reason to feel superior. In their minds, the had joined an exclusive fraternity that knew the truth. They weren’t losers after all; they were better than everyone else.”

Two things strike me about this:

1. The contrast of being a “loser” and feeling “superior”. Our culture loves nothing more than to constantly rank the value of people. It’s one of the main reasons that I decided to take my own radical turn and declare myself a follower of Jesus Christ.

Jesus followers know that we are neither losers nor superior. The evidence for this can be found in the Bible, in a section called ‘Galations’: “There is no difference between Jew and Greek, slave and free person, male and female. You are all the same in Christ Jesus.”

This may not be important to many people, but I need that reminder for those times when I see someone do or say something stupid. That’s when the Bible reminds me that I, too, do and say stupid things. The key difference is that, as a follower of Jesus, I welcome Him into my life to make me more like Him. And He never did or said a single stupid thing.

2. Can there be a more obnoxious word in our dictionary than “exclusive”? It comes from the word “exclude” and when it comes to thinking about my brothers and sisters in the human race, I have trouble understanding what possible good can come from excluding anyone.

Now you might be thinking “Well, you Christians think you’re in an exclusive club, that only YOU get to go to Heaven.”

To that I write that yes, when I’m done with this life, I have a certainty about where I’m going and I feel sure that I’ll see other followers of Jesus there. My confidence comes from a section of the Bible simply called ‘John’: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him would not be lost, but have eternal life.”

But exclusive? Not on your life. There is no lock on the doors to Christianity. In fact, there are no doors at all. The way is wide open to anyone who wants to enter.

That openness is why I’ve written this essay – to invite YOU to enter and have your life changed for the better – now and for eternity – by Jesus. Will you accept the invitation? Yes or no, post your response below and let’s have a conversation.

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Original Cinema Quad Poster - Movie Film PostersLike death, taxes and reality TV, giving someone or something the benefit of the doubt is an ever-present part of life, even when we don’t know it.

I like Wikipedia’s definition the phrase: A favourable judgement given in the absence of full evidence.

My wife did this the other day when, while at work, she emailed the names of a half-dozen fruits and vegetables to add to my grocery shopping list. She gave me the benefit of the doubt that I’d see the email and buy those items without her having to phone and check up on me. (A risky move on her part, I’ll admit.)

This approach is the foundation of most of our thinking:

  • We fly thousands of feet above the ground without evidence that every bit of the airplane is in perfect working order;
  • We drive our cars without being absolutely certain the muffler won’t fall off;
  • We marry someone even though there’s no scientific way to prove they will always be faithful;
  • We pay to watch a movie with only the presence of a favourite actor as evidence we’ll enjoy it.

Giving benefit of the doubt is also the meeting point for me and Christianity. Before deciding to follow Jesus, I had many tough, in-depth debates with some brave Christians who were willing to field my questions and charges.

I still recall one conversation with a friend who, like me now, didn’t understand everything about his faith and didn’t have all the answers to my questions (or his). But he did ask me this: would I be willing to give God the benefit of the doubt, just as he had?

I didn’t answer immediately, but over time I said yes because I figured it would put me in a much better place, now and for eternity. And that’s exactly what it’s done.

Since then, I’ve come to realize that giving God the benefit of the doubt, day after day, is part of the Christian faith. Why? Because it’s a powerful and necessary reminder that God is God and I am NOT. I like how the Bible defines it: “Faith makes us sure of what we hope for and gives us proof of what we cannot see.”

Spiritual faith is such a tough concept for our culture that many people would rather put their faith in a parachute or a bungee cord. But if you want it – if you’re ready to give God the benefit of the doubt, just as you do for countless other things – then you can have your life transformed. And you can be where Jesus most wants you to be: by his side, in Heaven, forever.

Do you agree? Do you think I’m crazy? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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ChickenManureIt’s safe to write that this was not the kind of international media attention the Canadian city of Abbotsford, British Columbia wanted to achieve.

Like most large cities, there are homeless people in Abbotsford and they like to gather in a spot called “The Honey Tree”. Apparently some folks aren’t happy about that because city workers dumped chicken manure at the site.

An attempt to drive the homeless away? That’s certainly the logical answer, but nobody at the city said so. Especially when the move attracted international attention and widespread criticism. Instead, city officials scrambled to undertake an investigation and the mayor held a news conference to apologize.

As I read articles on this controversy, I was forced to confront my own discomfort with homeless people. Often, they are unkempt and smelly. Often, they are mentally ill. Often, they want money from me – to buy something I may not approve of.

But I follow Jesus Christ, and if you give the Bible any credibility, then consider how it makes clear that “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him would not be lost but have eternal life.”

As far as I’m concerned, that statement means God loves the homeless people of Abbotsford, British Columbia every bit as much as he loves me or Barack Obama or Nelson Mandela. That also means Abbotsford’s homeless have the same intrinsic value as billionaires and Hollywood royalty.

Our culture doesn’t think so – the actions of Abbotsford’s city staff are certainly evidence of that – but it’s why I follow Jesus. He hung out with the marginalized people of ancient Israel and He often made it clear that the “in” people of that place were the ones he had issues with.

My own discomfort aside, I want to be more like Jesus. I want to pay less attention to what our broken world thinks is “cool” and pay attention to what He thinks. Because like all serious Christians, I believe he lived, died and came back to life for people like me. And people like the homeless of Abbotsford, British Columbia. And people like you. All you have to is accept the gift.

Agree? Disagree? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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