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Archive for May, 2014

Religion bad 5.14A challenging graphic, isn’t it? I saw it on an atheist Internet community and knew it would be good for Frank’s Cottage. Mostly because I’m in full agreement.

Religion, from my point of view, often does BAD things in our world.

  • Religion says that because the group I belong to is right, then everyone else must be wrong. And it’s a pretty short trip from there to believing I can do whatever I want to “wrong” people.
  • Religion says I have to do things, or NOT do things, in order to get in good with whatever god is at the top of that group.
  • Religion says if I blow up a building or murder a doctor who performs abortions, I’m doing a good thing.
  • Religion says I’m supposed to have it all together and if I don’t, then others (who obviously DO have it all together) will judge me and exclude me from their social group.
  • Religion insists that certain behaviours are wrong (such as having an occasional alcoholic drink or getting a tattoo), even if my holy book is absolutely silent on them.

So where does all this religion get us? I like the response of Bruxey Cavey. In his book The End of Religion, this Canadian pastor writes, “Religion does not lead people to God any more than empty cups quench your thirst”.

To me, religion leads to an empty charade of a life. Or the sickening horror of thinking you’re doing good by blowing up a building or murdering a doctor who performs abortions.

Another pastor, Mark Driscoll explains the difference between religion and Christianity (my faith) this way:

Religion is humanity trying to reach up to God. The message of Christianity is God reaching down to people. Religion is about what people have to do to be right with God.  Christianity is about what God has already done to provide us the opportunity to be right with Him.

Religion says you must earn your salvation by doing good deeds or certain acts and not doing evil. Christianity says all we need to do is believe that Jesus Christ [whom serious Christians believe is God’s son] has already paid the price for the evil we have done.

And before you protest, yes, every human being on this planet (and that certainly includes ME) has done evil. Even the late Mother Teresa did evil — that’s one reason she dedicated her life to following Jesus. She wanted — and received, as far as serious Christians are concerned — the benefit of Jesus paying the price for all her wrongs through His sacrificial death at the hands of Roman officials. That benefit is eternity in Heaven with her saviour.

“Jesus did not come to offer an alternative religion, but an alternative to religion,” Bruxey Cavey wrote in The End of Religion. “He did not call people to leave one lifeless shell for another, but to live life beyond the borders of religious rules, regulations, rituals, and routines.”

Does this Jesus — and all He’s done for everyone who believes in and follows Him — appeal to you? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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is sin imaginary?At first I was reluctant to interact with this atheist person, who was commenting on a Frank’s Cottage essay (and the graphic to the left), and you’ll realize it in my initial responses. All too often, I’ve been disappointed to find that people who believe there is no God simply want to score points and win debates over people they look down on.

But Jill was different and when I realized it, we ended up having a good conversation. Read on and see if you agree with me:

Jill: I think the topic of sin is interesting. From my perspective, the graphic is meant to show that in order to sell the “cure”, you have to make people believe they are sick, right?

Pharmaceutical companies have figured out the same thing. They want to sell more drugs. What better way to sell more drugs than to convince people through commercials that they might have a whole list of diseases which they pitch all over media. And by reinforcing the sin/sick concept over and over it keeps people flocking back to church or to their doctors for the cure.

I believe there is a big difference between the word ‘sin’ and words like ‘mistake’, ‘error’, etc. They are not interchangeable.

Frank: Thanks, Jill. Guess it’s a matter of perspective.

Jill: Isn’t sin the hook which churches use to keep people returning each week? Christianity is based upon original sin.

Frank: Perhaps that’s the perspective of some non-Christians….

Jill: I really resent watching people being told they are broken. I sometimes wonder if there is any data to link religiosity to depression. There is no perfect standard by which we should be judged.

Frank: Yes, your resentment would be expected in the non-believing world. And for me as a follower of Jesus Christ, there absolutely is a perfect standard by which we should be judged.

Jill: Do you ever feel depressed to be compared to a perfect standard for which you will never meet?

Frank: Nope, I never feel depressed about that. Because Christ is my lord and savior, God sees me as He sees Jesus: perfect, without a single blemish. 🙂

Jill: I’m glad to read that, Frank. It makes me feel a little better. But why sin then? If God sees you as he sees Jesus, why is sin such an important part of Christianity?

Frank: Great questions! Why sin? Because of the gift of freewill. Serious Christians believe God knew this would be the result of giving us freewill, but He did it anyway because He wanted (and wants) a REAL relationship with real people, rather than goose-stepping robots.

Serious Christians believe sin is important because in the end, it’s a rejection of God. It’s telling Him we know better than Him how to live our lives. And thousands of years of history have shown how horribly wrong this is.

In addition, serious Christians believe God is perfect and cannot stand the sin that all human beings commit. But rather than condemn us all, we believe God sent His son as a gift to everyone who wishes to accept the gift. And that gift (a) clears away the sin and (b) strengthens us to see our sin clearly and avoid it more in the future.

Jill: But he’s God, for goodness sake. He could have created perfect beings, couldn’t he? He could have created goose-stepping robots if he wanted to, correct?

Instead, he created humans with flaws, which he already knows about because he’s omniscient. Then he grows frustrated with them and causes great harm to many. Whose fault is that?

Frank: Yes, He could have created perfect beings who were in perfect relationship with Him. And it would be a real as a TV “reality” show.

Serious Christians believe the Biblical viewpoint that humans are made in God’s image. That means the emotions we experience are the emotions He experiences. Pain, frustration, anger, joy, etc. Goose-stepping robots would be as useless to Him as they would be to us.

Jill: How do you know those are the emotions God experiences? How do you tell the difference between real emotions as God experiences them and human emotions which humans project upon God? Couldn’t “in His image” be just a physical descriptor? Or a metaphor for something else?

Frank: I know these are the emotions God experiences because the Bible – which serious Christians trust as absolutely reliable – depicts God with those emotions.

In addition, I guess “in His image” could be a physical descriptor because we all resemble Jesus – human beings with two arms and two legs and a face that expresses every emotion known to humans.

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So, what do you think? Is the idea of ‘sin’ — and the way to escape the prison it creates for every person on this earth — more real to you now? And what about that ‘escape’? Do you want to know more about it? Type your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

 

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Good Christians 5.14Have you encountered Christians like those described in this graphic? I’m pretty sure the answer is YES. In fact, I’m sad to write that there may be one or two of you out there who would name ME as one of those people.

All too often, those of us who claim we are Christians act the same as everyone else on this planet. We are obnoxious, two-faced, self-righteous sinners who are usually ready to point out the errors of others while ignoring our own shortcomings.

Sometimes, we even go so far as to claim we are being persecuted while we are busy persecuting others.

There are times when non-Christians wish we would do what our leader — Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians, and many others, believe is the son of God — did when he was physically on earth: help those for whom our culture has little time or regard.

Jesus did that repeatedly, treating people from other tribes and cultures with respect, defending a woman caught in adultery from heartless “religious” leaders, having dinner with people who were scorned by arrogant authorities and more.

I’m glad to tell you there are many examples of Christ followers who behave in ways that make it clear, without any need to declare it, that they ARE good Christians. Here are a few:

  • I know of many Christian doctors and nurses who volunteer to serve in hospitals in the developing world.
  • We often read in the news about church leaders protecting people (often non-Christians) from heartless deportation or from death during violent times.
  • Most major North American cities have Christian ministries whose entire reason for existing is to feed and shelter homeless people.
  • Canadian Catholic humanitarian and theologian Jean Vanier started (and still oversees, at age 85) a worldwide network of non-profit communities called “L’Arche”. Those communities provide homes and support services for mentally challenged people.

There are many more examples, but you get the point. In each case, these Christians are being the hands and feet of Jesus to a world that we all know isn’t doing very well.

Could Christians be doing more? Of course we could. That’s why we gather at churches every Sunday, to understand how we can overcome our shortcomings and be “good” Christians. Without having to tell people that’s what we are.

What about you and your failures — the bad things you’ve done and the good things you’ve failed to do? Do you want to find out how you can overcome them through an awesome power that’s truly beyond your understanding? Then check out Jesus Christ. He’s God’s gift to everyone who’s willing to accept that gift.

What are your thoughts? Post them below and let’s have a conversation.

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Sin+is+an+imaginary+disease+invented+to+sell+you+an+imaginary+cureI’d never heard anybody call “sin” an imaginary disease, so when I saw this graphic posted on the Internet, it instantly grabbed my attention.

“Sin” has become a strange and cliched term in our culture. Either something is “sinful” (a favourite positive term in TV commercials for rich foods like chocolate) or it’s something most of us associate with annoying, badly dressed TV evangelists.

So I looked up the term. The Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry website defines it this way:

Sin is the breaking of God’s law.  If God says “Do not lie” and you lie, then you have broken His law and sinned.  The reason God says to not lie, not cheat, etc., is because these laws reflect the moral purity of His nature.  Therefore, the law is a reflection of the character of God.

Dictionary.com is a little briefer:
Any act regarded as such a transgression, especially a willful or deliberate violation of some religious or moral principle. Any reprehensible or regrettable action, behavior, lapse, etc.; great fault or offense: It’s a sin to waste time.

Maybe that’s not a “sin” to you. So let’s use less loaded words: Misdeed. Mistake. Error. Wrongdoing. Imperfection.

Whatever your preferred term, I can’t for a minute believe it’s an “imaginary disease”. Is there even a single person on this planet who hasn’t done or said something they regret? Or NOT done or said something and regretted that?

It seems crystal clear to me that this is a universal human condition. We “invented” it and, sadly, we live it out every day.

So what about the “imaginary” cure? The person who created this graphic is probably an atheist and so believes if the “disease” isn’t real, then there’s no need for a cure.

But if you’re comfortable in disagreeing with the former, then the latter is no longer imaginary.

For people like me, the cure is wonderfully simple: Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians (and many others) believe is the son of God. Jesus is God’s gift to humanity, given to all who believe that He died to make up for our sins. All we have to do is accept the gift.

Obviously, this doesn’t mean we will avoid the consequences of our actions (or inactions). But it does mean that, if we truly believe Jesus offers the way to eternal forgiveness and if we sincerely ask for that forgiveness, we will receive it from the creator and master of time, space and the universe. No matter what.

(Looking for an incredible example? Then read about the ‘Son of Sam’: http://wp.me/p2wzRb-6K)

So, does the cure for your “disease” interest you? Yes or no, post your answer below and let’s have a conversation.

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Bertrand RussellHow’s that for a challenging statement, eh?

When I found this graphic on an Internet atheism community, I knew I had to grab it and explore the viewpoint — as much for me as for you.

To start with, I emailed the graphic to a wise and thoughtful pastor friend. Here’s how Ross Carkner responded:

I would have thought that it would be impossible for a person to sit at the bedside of a dying child and NOT believe in God.  I am hard-pressed to think of a better place in which to find God – amidst the crippling heartache and shattered dreams of parents, siblings and family.

It is the convenience of living in the western world, overflowing with an optimism fueled by a seemingly never ending supply of individualism and materialism, which insists that life is grand!

Life is not grand.

Sure, life is filled with mounds of joy and the pursuit of happiness. But pain, disappointment and death also fall like rain. Every single day.

Sooner or later, we must come to grips with the reality, no matter how painful it is, that we live in a broken and hurting world.

The gift of God is His presence and that in His plan there is a promise of better things to come. This world isn’t all there is, but right now, it is all that we have. We live in brokenness, but God is already working out His plan.

Doesn’t that give you lots to think about?

It occurs to me that behind the statement in the graphic, made by a renowned 20th century philosopher/atheist/writer, is this question: How can one sit by the bedside of a dying child and still believe God is good?

First, let’s remember that no “religion” has ever promised that life would be perfect for even one person. In my faith, Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians, and many others, believe is the son of God) told his followers: “In this world you will have troubles. But be brave! I have defeated the world!” That’s in the Bible, in a section simply called “John”.

So what does “I have defeated the world” mean? I like the answer provided by blogger Jack Zavada:

God doesn’t spare us from [our troubles], he doesn’t shield us from [our troubles], but He does deliver us. We may come out the other side with scars and losses, but we will come out the other side. Even if our suffering results in death, we will be delivered into the hands of God.

That’s the key part of the question about the goodness of God. If you believe this world and this life is all there is, then the idea of God delivering you from your ills – and, in the case of the graphic that sparked this essay, your child’s ills – is simply utter nonsense. And you have no hope.

But if you somehow know that 70-plus years on planet Earth can’t be the entire story, then consider God’s gift of His son. Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection — which are at the very core of the Christian faith — clears the way to eternal life for you, your children and anyone else who accepts that gift and makes Jesus Lord and Savior.

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

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