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Archive for January, 2014

Trustworthy 1.14Darn it, I guess I’m untrustworthy.

That was my reaction when I saw this graphic posted on the Internet.

Time and time again, I’ve “cleared my conscience” of my immoral acts by asking for forgiveness from my “imaginary friend”.

And it’s worked, too. I’ve been forgiven and had my conscience cleared. But then again, I’m a serious Christian, so I’m certainly not operating under the cynical world view of whoever created this graphic.

For example, I don’t treat the act of asking for forgiveness as a ticket to do whatever I like and then effortlessly get off the hook later on.

Because I follow Jesus Christ (whom Christians, and many others, believe is the son of God), I know that He gave up his life to make up for all the wrong things I’ve done and all the right things I’ve failed to do. That’s serious business. And that’s why I don’t take forgiveness lightly.

Every time I do something wrong or ignore opportunities to do something right, I’m showing contempt for Jesus’ enormous sacrifice. And every time I come to God with a humble and sad heart, asking for forgiveness, I’m saying what Jesus did matters. What Jesus did really does give me an opportunity to do things differently.

Compared to the cynicism of whoever created this graphic, that’s the key difference in how Christians view forgiveness. In our better moments, we don’t see it as ending there. In fact, asking for and receiving forgiveness is only the start of the process.

If we’re serious about it, then we open our hearts and minds to becoming the kind of person God knows we can be. We ask for His help in becoming that person and we read His guidebook (the Bible) to learn more about who a follower of Jesus should be and how we can get there.

We also go to church services to be surrounded by others who, for the most part, are on the same journey. In this way, we become the prime people God works through, in His mysterious way – to make each of us more like Jesus.

Being more like Jesus means:

  • 
Being kinder to everyone.
  • Being honest about our shortcomings and honestly seeking forgiveness from God and from each other when we fall short.
  • Seeing everyone – and I mean EVERYONE – as being loved equally by God.
  • Understanding that our world is damaged and God wants to work through us to repair it.
  • Standing up for the oppressed, for the weak, for the poor, just as Jesus did (and continues to do).
  • Being trustworthy, to prove, over and over, that the creator of this graphic is simply wrong.

You can join me on this journey. You can open your heart to God, to His gift of Jesus Christ, and then watch in amazement as God begins to change your life.

What do you think? Post your reaction below and let’s have a conversation.

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Missing The PointIs ‘sucking up’ really the only reason Christians try to be good? I’m sure there are lots of people out there who believe that. And, sadly, I’m sure there are followers of Jesus Christ who do, in fact, live with this sentiment in mind.

I’m not one of them. And neither are most other Christians who know the truth of their faith. And that’s why this graphic, found on an Internet atheism community, so hugely misses the point — and that’s disappointing because the author is a shining star in the atheism world and probably knows the Bible inside and out. All that said….

I try to be good because I want to be the person God knows I can be. In fact, when I decided to follow Jesus (at age 42), I welcomed God’s holy spirit into my heart and mind to help me be a better person – because I simply couldn’t do it on my own.

I try to be good because, in a section of the Bible called ‘Matthew’, Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians, and many others, believe is the son of God) tells his followers “Anything you did for one of the least important of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me”.

I try to be good because, in another section of the Bible called ‘James’, we’re told “Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?” In other words, I wouldn’t be much of a Jesus follower if my faith didn’t result in me at least attempting to do good.

I try to be good because a part of the Bible called ‘Titus’ puts it this plain and simple: “God’s people should be bighearted and courteous”.

Finally, I try to be good because as a serious Christian, I believe Jesus Christ was crucified to make up for the bad things I’ve done and the good things I’ve failed to do. Given his incredible sacrifice to wipe my slate clean with God, the least I can do to show my gratitude is try my best to get my act together.

Anyone who knows me also knows that I often fall short of being “good”. (Just ask my very patient wife.) But that’s why I follow Jesus. That’s why I attend church regularly, so God can use the pastor and other Christians to encourage me and instruct me on being good.

What do you think of this? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Fear 12.13I’m still trying to work up some fear. If you see logic with this graphic posted on an Internet atheism community, then apparently that’s the basis of my faith (not “religion” – that’s a nasty word).

If I am to believe this graphic, then I came to a place of fear at age 42 – after reading many books from a variety of perspectives, debating several brave Christians and thinking long and hard about how this planet works.

After all that, I decided to follow Jesus Christ — whom serious Christians, and many others, believe is the son of God — because I simply became more and more fearful.

NOT.

There’s no doubt that ‘fear of the lord’ is mentioned in the Bible. Often, in fact. Here are just a few examples:

  • Wisdom begins with fear and respect for the Lord. (Psalm 110)
  • The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. (Psalm 111)
  • A simple life in the Fear-of-God is better than a rich life with a ton of headaches. (Proverbs 15)
  • Happy is the one who always fears the Lord, but the person who hardens his heart to God falls into misfortune. (Proverbs 28)

As I scanned these and so many other passages in the Bible, it became plain that there are good reasons to fear the Lord:

1. Fear the possibility of disappointing Him. God knows my potential. He knows yours, too. In fact, He put that potential into you and me. So I fear not living up to that potential, of not truly letting Him into my life so He can make me all that I can be.

2. Fear mixing up who is in charge. I don’t know about you, but in North American culture, I need constant reminders that God is God. And I am NOT, no matter how many channels I can get on TV, no matter how many pills I can take to try and extend my life & health, no matter how often I’m told that I have control over everything.

3. Fear makes at least some sense when approaching the creator of space, time and the air you and I breathe. I heard one pastor liken it to approaching a massive, stunning waterfall like Niagara. We want to come close, but we also know that if we get too close, the water could drown us. And yet we still cautiously approach because it’s just so amazing, so glorious, so spectacular. We want to be in its presence.

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

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PlaceholderGod 11.13I wonder: do I lack courage or intellectual honesty?

It’s a question I asked myself after seeing this graphic (or meme, as they’re better known) on an Internet atheism community.

I can say for certain that there are all kinds of important questions that I can’t answer and, I suspect, no one else can, either. Questions about stuff in the Bible, for example. Or questions about why our world is shot through with disease, violence and inequality.

But if you remember where I found this piece of Internet art, you can probably guess – as I did – that whoever created it doesn’t think “God” is an explanation for anything.

If your whole being is trusting in science, then maybe you hope it will eventually figure out everything. And we’ll be left with no creator.

I’m a serious Christian and so that’s not my hope. In fact, I know it will never happen.

Let’s get one thing straight, however. I like science. I like it a lot, primarily because it’s one of the ways God shows us how He works. I have lots of moments where I’ll read about discovery in physics or astronomy and think “Ah, that’s how God did it. Cool!”.

That said, science will never answer the most basic of all questions: Why are we here? What happens to us when we die? And I’m fine with that.

These unanswered questions are important because they remind me that even after all I can find out about God from the Bible, I still know that He is a mystery. To put it another way, God is God. And I am NOT.

“Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.”

That’s from the Bible, in a section called Proverbs, and it makes sense to me.

So how do you hear God’s voice? One way is to read the Bible and when you encounter something you don’t understand (and trust me, you will), ask someone with Bible knowledge. Or ask me (I’m no expert, but I can give it my best shot or direct you to where you can get a credible answer). Or go online to a website like the Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry (http://carm.org/) and ask your question(s).

You can also start attending church. That’s where you’ll meet pastors and Christians who will help you hear God’s voice.

Finally, you can pray. Prayer is a mystery (I wrote about that mystery here: http://wp.me/p2wzRb-9a), but it’s definitely worth doing, if for no other reason than Jesus Christ – whom serious Christians, and many others, believe is God’s divine son – prayed all the time.

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

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