Archive for February, 2014

Eternal Damnation 2.14You know what? I agree with this graphic, which I found on an internet atheism community.

Sadly, there are people of faith who try to be “good” because of the threat of eternal damnation. I kinda feel sorry for them; they must feel pressured, hounded and even miserable.

That said, does this mean they are really “bad” people who are just trying to avoid being separated from God for eternity? Perhaps.

But let’s move on to the vast, vast majority of those who follow Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is God’s divine Son). For them, this graphic is as wrong as a snowstorm in July.

Indeed, for me and pretty much every Jesus follower I know, the threat of “eternal damnation” has nothing to do with our desire to be a “good person”. (And what qualifies as good? I address it in The Problem With ‘Good’: http://wp.me/p2wzRb-7j).

The want to be a good person comes because:

  • God wants us to be good
  • God has put his spirit inside us to help us be good
  • God wants to work through us to make this broken world a better place – and we’re not much use to Him when we’re only trying to be good to avoid “eternal torture”.
  • God offers everyone the gift of Jesus to guide us with His words, His sacrifice on a Roman cross (to make up for all the bad things we’ve done and the good things we’ve failed to do), and His resurrection. Jesus followers have accepted that gift, so we want to be worthy of all that we believe Jesus has done for us.

Here’s the thing: God offers everyone, including YOU, that gift of Jesus. All you have to do is accept it. Simply pray that you’re sorry for how you’ve fallen short of what God wants for you and, from now on, you want to accept Jesus as your lord and saviour – the man whose sacrifice makes up for how you’ve fallen short. Welcome that gift into your life.

Then, if you’re serious about what you’ve done, start reading original-source Jesus biographies (there are four, in total). Find a church and start attending. If that church doesn’t work for you, find another.

This process may seem tiresome, but it’s crucially important because when you’re surrounded by others who are serious about following Jesus, God can and will work through them to help YOU on your journey. And, just as cool, God can and will work through you to help them on their journeys.

Trust me, as someone who has been used by God for His mysterious, amazing purposes, there’s no feeling like it!

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

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God all-powerful? 2.14Is God all-powerful?

You’d think I would know better by now. And yet, I naively continue to be amazed at how some folks seem to willfully delude themselves and work like there’s no tomorrow to stay ignorant.

This graphic is a case in point. It was posted on an atheism internet community; in my experience, most of the people in these communities know the Bible pretty well. Then someone uploads a graphic like this…..

First of all God IS all-powerful. Consider these excerpts from ancient prophetic writings:

  • Look! I am the Eternal, the God of all living things. Is anything too difficult for Me?
  • God doesn’t come and go. God lasts. He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
  • There are things about God that people cannot see—his eternal power and all that makes him God. But since the beginning of the world, those things have been easy for people to understand. They are made clear in what God has made.

Now consider the evidence of hundreds of thousands of years: all the bad things me, you and the rest of humanity have done (and the good things we’ve failed to do). Could there be a clearer measure of proof that God is serious about the gift of freewill?

Indeed, God could have stopped Roman authorities from putting Jesus of Nazaareth (who many people believe is His divine Son) to death on trumped-up charges. But he allowed freewill to take its course.

In our day and age, God could have stopped Al Qaida from carrying out the 9-11 terrorist attacks. But once again, He allowed freewill to take its course. (You may not like that, but if He stopped that, then where would the limits on freewill end? I address that here: http://wp.me/p2wzRb-38.)

My point here is that God could easily force people to believe in Him. But what would be the point? To prove He’s powerful? Really? I don’t think the creator of time, space and the universe needs to prove a darn thing.

What He does want is for all of us to come to Him, through His son, because WE want to. Here’s how one of Jesus’s earliest followers put it: “God wants everyone to be saved and to fully understand the truth.”

The truth is this: “If you openly say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from death, you will be saved.” That’s from the same early follower.

Saved from what? From being judged on all the bad things we’ve done and the good things we’ve failed to do. When I decided to follow Jesus, His sacrificial death on a Roman cross cleaned my account with God. God no longer sees my mistakes, my pettiness, my times of thinking I can do everything without Him. He sees me as perfect – just like Jesus.

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

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Dead Man WalkingDead Man Walking is the name of a well-known 1995 film starting Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn. Until 2002, it was also the perfect description of my life.

The term comes from the United States prison system and generally refers to a death row inmate making his or her last walk to their place of execution.

So why did it once describe my life? In its more informal meaning, Dead Man Walking refers to any person in a doomed or untenable situation. And that’s where I was.

  • I lived how my family, friends, co-workers and neighbours wanted me to live:
  • Bigger was better.
  • Shopping was *never* a waste of time or resources.
  • I deserved luxurious, expensive vacations (even if I had to go into debt to pay for them).
  • I certainly didn’t waste much time thinking about the big, supposedly unanswerable questions of life.

If you’re still with me, then think about it for a moment: does my life before 2002 sound at all like your life today?

Living like that didn’t make me miserable, but it didn’t make me happy, either. I came to realize that playing the comparison game, which is what our culture relentlessly “suggests”, was a dead-end street. My life had as much meaning as an episode of Two and a Half Men; it was as shallow as a mud puddle. I was in a doomed or untenable situation.

So what changed? I always believed there had to be a creator for all that we see and, from time to time, I would ponder who or what that creator might be. And I pondered what might come after this life ends.

Finally, after much thought, reading and debates with people who value a relationship with God, I put my trust in God and in Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians believe is His Son.

At age 42, I was no longer a Dead Man Walking. I knew – and still know – why I’m here: to have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ; to do my best to represent Christ to everyone I encounter; and spend eternity with Him.

This relationship is teaching me to think about:

  1. people in a more compassionate way (as being loved by God, whether I like them or not)
  2. our Earth in a better way (it’s God’s planet, not mine to do with as I please) and
  3. my life in a deeper way (what is truly of value?).

Are you at a place where you’re willing to consider that maybe you’re in a doomed or untenable situation? And is my solution worthy of consideration? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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sin-picture2There’s a simple sentence in the Bible that is mysterious, possibly offensive to some, and yet has great hope for all humanity.

The sentence comes from Paul of Tarsus, one of the people most responsible for spreading Christianity throughout the Mediterranean.

In one of his letters to churches he helped create, Paul wrote “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

Huh? Reactions to this can range from bewilderment to indignant rejection. When I first encountered this sentence, I had these responses. But something kept tugging at me, so I puzzled and pulled at it until these facts emerged:

1.    Yes, we have all fallen short, somehow, of achieving the hopes and dreams God has for every single person on this planet. Even the people most idolized by North American society – Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, the late Steve Jobs, U2, Brad Pitt, the late Mother Teresa – could list regrets or occasions where they dropped the ball. If they can’t, then I’ll be bold and declare they are fooling themselves.

2.    Paul is being universal. Notice how he doesn’t say “please see the end of this letter for a list of exceptions.” Or, “the following groups have sinned a little less (or more)…”. No, he simple makes the statement and gets out.

So, what does this mean for all humanity? One inescapable, controversial truth: the intrinsic value of every person that ever was, is and will be is identical. That’s right, folks: my intrinsic value is the same as Pope Francis. And Billy Graham’s value is the same as the late Osama Bin Laden.

Are you recoiling in horror? I wouldn’t be surprised. Our culture encourages us to judge others by their deeds and “status”. You see it all the time, such as when professional athletes are allowed to “jump the cue” and get flu shots before the rest of us.

But I don’t think deeds and status are the barometer for God. I believe He loves us not for who we are or what we’ve done, but because He is love. He invented it and another quote in the Bible tells us God so loved the world – and that means everyone on it – that he gave his only son (Jesus Christ) and whoever believes in and seriously follows the son will go on living even after his or her body dies.

That statement doesn’t say God loved some people more than others. Like Paul’s sentence, it simply says He loves and that’s it.

Is there a challenge for us here? You bet. Think about this:

  • Would the 1994 genocide in Rwanda have occurred if we all took Paul’s words seriously?
  • Would the Nazis have carried out the Holocaust if they agreed with Paul?
  • Would there ever have been the horrific “honour killings” of women that still occur in Pakistan and India (and even in Canada!)?
  • What about the Hindu caste system that condemns some people to a life of poverty? Would it exist if Paul’s words resonated in the Hindu faith?

I know I stand condemned for things thought and done (or not done) because I haven’t always lived up to the facts behind St. Paul’s simple sentence. But as long as that sentence exists, there is hope for me. For you. For this world. Do you agree? Post your response below and let’s have a conversation.

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