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Archive for October, 2013

JudgingA friend posted this graphic (billboard? poster?) on her Facebook wall and it caused such an immediate, gut-level reaction that I downloaded it for a Frank’s Cottage essay.

Two things struck me:

1. There’s a sad and ugly truth to these words. In our culture, most of us DO judge a book by its cover. All the time. And I’m as guilty of it as anyone. It’s like biting my lip or tapping my pen on the desk; it happens without me even knowing it.

  • “Wow nice colour combination – and I don’t even know fashion” is what I sarcastically thought when I spotted a certain co-worker one day. (As if that one outfit is all I need to know about them.)
  • When I saw (and heard) a neighbour back out of his garage I’ll think, “Rap? Really? You listen to that manure on purpose??” (As if that’s the only music they ever have on the car stereo.)
  • I’ll be walking by a group of teens at the shopping mall, hear them chatting and the first thing that darts through my head is “You kids must be truly vacant to be talking about TV garbage like ‘The Bachelor’.” (As if liking this one reality program makes them entirely brain-dead.)

That’s me; Sir Judge-A-Lot. And the title is accurate, even though – like most of us – I’ve often been on the receiving end of the hammer blow of false, superficial judgement.

2. There’s a truth that’s absolutely counter to all of this. Stay with me while I spell it out.

If you give the Bible any credibility, consider this excerpt I found in a section called ‘Samuel’: “God doesn’t look at what people see. People judge by what is on the outside, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

The message? My creator (and yours) has gone past the cover of the Book Of Me and read every word inside. And His judgements are more accurate than the finest Supreme Court justice.

For many of us, this isn’t good news. We hope others won’t notice the bad things we’ve done and the good things we’ve failed to do. But how do we get away from the all-seeing eyes of God?

In a word, we don’t. But there is a solution and it comes from God Himself. It’s Jesus, whom serious Christians believe is His son. God offers Jesus as a gift to everyone, no matter how poor our track record.

All we have to do is accept the gift. Make Jesus your friend – your savior – and God no longer counts your bad behavior and malicious thoughts against you. He sees you as He sees Jesus – perfect, without a blemish – and starts writing a new book. You’ll be amazed at what happens as that new book begins to unfold.

So, do you want the all-seeing eyes of God to see YOU in a new way? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Religion-and-Internet-ExplorerDid you know Internet Explorer is out of fashion? I didn’t, but then again, I’m a Mac person and Internet Explorer hasn’t bothered with us for years.

But what about the points that people of faith apparently have in common with Internet Explorer? According to this graphic, posted on an Atheism Internet community, people like me are dumb, frightened and unwilling to question anything they grew up with.

Let me present you with a very different point of view:

This dude went to church as a child, but at the age of 16, his parents told him and his two brothers they were free to continue with faith, or drop it.

The decision was unanimous. The entire family walked away from even the shallowest pretense of faith.

For this one dude, it never came to a point of becoming an atheist, but he did get very angry at God and figured people who followed Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians believe is God’s Son) were either naive children or frightened seniors.

That kind of attitude made him unpleasant to be around. And he knew it.

Then the day came, at age 42, when he became willing to change, willing to download something new, willing to seriously investigate what was there when he started.

After much discussion with mature, respectful Christians, much reading of a wide variety of books from several very different points of view and after much thoughtful consideration, he decided to become a Christ follower.

That person is ME.

Do I have all my questions answered? Nope. Do I understand everything in the Bible? Hardly. In the end, when I’m finished with this life, will either of these points matter? Not even a bit.

Because I accepted God’s gift to humanity (Jesus), I also accepted that He sacrificed His life for all the bad things I’ve done and all the good things I’ve failed to do. My slate is wiped clean. And as a result, I’ll spend eternity with Him in Heaven.

Does that mean I can just walk away and do whatever I want? Not unless I’m seriously deluded. If I take God’s gift seriously, then I’m overwhelmingly grateful for what Jesus has done.

That gratefulness opens the door for me to welcome Him into my heart and soul. Now He’s working to make me a better person – to myself, to my wife and stepchildren, to my parents and to everyone who doesn’t share my trust and faith in Him.

That gift is waiting for you, too. No matter what you’ve done (or not done), no matter how much you struggle with life. Interested? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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praying-hands-rt-hiPrayer is a big part of my life and I can easily construct and speak a tour-de-force that will tickle your ears and touch your emotions.

But do my prayers, and the prayers of everyone else, make any difference? For me, the answer is this simple: it depends.

Am I praying to obtain something? Is it something I need or something I want – and do I really know the difference?

Am I trying to change God or me?

Am I praying for someone? If yes, am I framing my prayer with the presumption I know what’s best for this person?

How am I approaching prayer? Am I desperate? Sad? Angry? Going through the motions?

Do I subconsciously think God is grading my effort – and His response (or lack thereof) depends on how I do?

When you consider just these questions, it’s no surprise that, in his wonderful book Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference?, Philip Yancey, writes “We who barely comprehend ourselves are approaching a God we cannot possibly comprehend. No wonder some Christians through the centuries have felt more comfortable praying to saints or relying on intermediaries.”

So why pray? For serious Christians, one answer is easy and simple: because prayer was a foundation of Jesus’s life. In the Bible’s four stories of His life, more than a dozen prayers by Jesus (whom serious Christians believe is the son of God) are recorded. And if you read those prayers, you’ll quickly realize Jesus prayed like it made a huge difference.

Here’s another good reason: when we pray, we open ourselves up to hearing or sensing what God wants to tell us. The website allaboutprayer.org puts it this way:  “Prayer not only establishes a relationship with God, it is vital to maintaining our relationship with him.”

A relationship developed in prayer can have immense ramifications. According to the late author and Catholic priest Henri Noewen, “One of the discoveries we make in prayer is the closer we come to God, the closer we come to all our brothers and sisters in the human family.”

Of course, this can be scary because the potential is there to shake us out of our placid, comfortable lives. As Philip Yancey put it in another of his books, “Prayer is the act of seeing reality from God’s point of view.” And once we see that reality, we may never be the same.

In fact, if our praying is sincere, we can be transformed into more generous, loving and forgiving people who have a truer picture of who God is and what He wants to accomplish in this world.

And that means we can be more like Jesus.

Does this make sense? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Keith Emerson Band“I’m running from the burning man inside me.”

From the first moment I heard this lyric, by singer/guitarist/songwriter Marc Bonilla, I was entranced by the imagery it presents.

The lyric is found on the CD “Keith Emerson Band featuring Marc Bonilla”. Some of you classic rock fans might recognize Keith Emerson as the keyboard genius with the 1970s progressive rock giants Emerson, Lake & Palmer.

But back to the lyric, which resonated in three ways:

1. The burning man image hit me because all of us have a burning man (or woman) inside us. Burning – or at least, smouldering – with passions like these:

  • Grudges we can’t (or won’t) release.
  • Bad habits we’ve lived with for so long that we don’t even recognize how destructive they are.
  • Attitudes that quietly, subtly poison us and our relationships.

2. We’re trying to run away from this burning man (or woman).

Somehow, during moments of clarity, we recognize at least some of the damage we’re doing to ourselves and those around us. We actually get it, that this burning man is making us miserable and, at some point, all this burning will hollow us out.

3. This burning man (or woman) is inside us. So I can run forever and not get away. I can travel in the fastest race car and it won’t make any difference.

I can even leave the planet on the space shuttle, but that burning man will still be with me. He’s a police sniffer dog I can’t shake, a shadow that never leaves me.

This might sounds hopeless to you, but it’s not, because there’s someone else who never leaves us. If you give any credibility to the Bible, consider this excerpt: “Your Spirit is everywhere I go. I cannot escape Your presence. If I go up to heaven, You will be there. If I go down to the place of death, You will be there.”

Sounds like the writer of this, found in a section called “Psalms”, is talking about the ‘burning man’, right? But he’s talking about God, who created him, me and you. And he goes on to write, “You formed the way I think and feel. You put me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because you made me in such a wonderful way.”

This is good news, at least in my books. But how can this make a difference in our lives? I suggest the answer lies in seriously checking out the claims of Christianity.

I found that when I decided to believe in and follow Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians believe is God’s son), He came to live inside me. And the longer He lives inside me, the more space he takes up and the less space there is left for the ‘burning man’.

Eventually, if I’m serious about my faith, Jesus will have the run of the house and the burning man will be left in the basement, shivering, cold and powerless.

Does this make sense? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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