Archive for June, 2014

is it really about fear?When I saw this graphic in an internet atheism community, my first thought was this: is it really about fear?

First of all, the reality is almost all of us have been taught to fear death. It’s certainly an effective way for parents to do all they can to make sure their children don’t consider suicide, no matter how troubled they might be.

Secondly, most of us fear death because we can’t be certain what, if anything, lies beyond it. Will we vanish into nothingness? Return as an aardvark? Become a ghost and haunt annoying relatives?

Because of these two points, many people, especially angry agnostics or atheists, make declarations like Ann Druyan (an agnostic author and TV documentary producer).

From my faith perspective (I follow Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is God’s Son), there is no need to fear death. Serious Jesus followers read quotes like these:

We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him. (from one of Jesus’s earliest followers)

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. (From one of the original source documents  of Jesus’ life)

Let me tell you something wonderful, a mystery I’ll probably never fully understand. We’re not all going to die—but we are all going to be changed … When this happens, the Scriptures will be made true: “Death is swallowed in victory. O death, where is your victory? Where is your power to hurt?” (from one of Jesus’s earliest followers)

So I return to my original question: is this this graphic really about fear? I suggest it’s about something else: obeying what our culture decrees about faith and ignoring everything else.

  • Our culture says whoever has the most toys when he/she dies wins.
  • Our culture says don’t think about anything spiritual – go shopping.
  • Our culture says regard with suspicion anyone who has a real faith in God.
  • Our culture says get a face lift, get botox treatments, dye your hair, wear tons of makeup – whatever it take to look young and immortal.

Meanwhile, people who truly follow Jesus say:

  1. He died on a cross to make up for all the bad things I’ve done and the good things I’ve failed to do.
  2. He rose from the dead after three days, thereby wiping out the permanence of death.
  3. These gifts are offered to every person on this planet, no matter who they are, where they live or what they’ve done. All we need to to is accept the gifts.

Does this make sense to you? Do you see what Jesus did as a gift that takes away the fear of death? Yes or no, type your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Irony 6.14This graphic, which I found on an atheist internet community, instantly grabbed my attention because the inference is crystal clear: if you don’t use your brain, then you’ll become a person of faith.

Indeed, I’ve discovered many atheist people enjoy pointing to studies that suggest the smarter you are, the less belief you have in God.

One such study, reported at charismanews.com, examined the findings of other studies going back to the 1920s and reported that a majority of those studies concluded more intelligent people were less likely to have religious beliefs.

But hold on here. The dude who examined all those studies, psychologist Miron Zuckerman, noted that his report does not mean only dumb people believe in God. Rather, he said, it shows only that more intelligent people may have less need for religion.

“It is truly the wrong message to take from here that if I believe in God I must be stupid,” he said in the charismanews.com article. “I would not want to bet any money on that because I would have a very good chance of losing a lot of money.”

Interesting, isn’t it? I’m a person of faith — I follow Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is the son of God — but I certainly have no need for “religion”. (Here’s why: http://wp.me/p2wzRb-cP.)

Besides all that I’ve written so far, here’s what else inspired this essay: They told me to use the brain God gave me. I did. Now I’m a follower of Jesus. Ironic, isn’t it?

Now, before anyone brings up arguments about age or indoctrination, let me tell you that everyone in my biological family abandoned even the social pretense of following Jesus 40 years ago. I was with them until the age of — get this — 42.

I still have my brain. In fact, I do what many, many non-”religious” people don’t do:

  • I always vote
  • I read fiction and non-fiction books
  • I listen to radio documentaries
  • I read newspapers
  • I reduce/reuse/recycle (in that order; recycling is the worst of the three ‘Rs’)
  • I engage in political discussions.

So, does any of this help you to rethink your notions about following Jesus? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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13+-+1-5I love this challenging quote. At the same time, I’m mystified as to why atheists consider it so credible, given that it was spoken by a man (definitely a brilliant man) who died in 1931. It’s hardly a stretch to write that there’s been a whole lot of research done since then.

Without getting into boring details of studies and terminologies (anyone who needs that stuff can certainly find it online), I’ll toss out a few interesting tidbits.

On life after death: In 1991, Pam Reynolds had a near-death experience while undergoing surgery for a brain aneurysm.

Reynolds was kept literally brain-dead by the surgical team for 45 minutes. Despite being clinically dead, when Reynolds was resuscitated, she described some amazing things — like interacting with deceased relatives.

According to Time magazine, as many as 18 percent of people brought back from death after a heart attack said they’d had a near-death experience.

On the existence of Heaven: In 2008, neurosurgeon Eben Alexander III suffered an E coli meningitis infection which attacked his brain and plunged him deep into a week-long coma. Brain scans showed that his entire cortex was not functioning.

Against all odds, Mr. Alexander woke up a week later. And he claimed to have experienced something extraordinary: a journey to Heaven.

In his book Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife, he asserts that there is an eternity of perfect splendor awaiting us beyond the grave, complete with angels, clouds, and departed relatives.

On a personal God: The Internet is overflowing with blogs and articles from people who have experienced God in an intimate, personal way. So I’ll contribute two quotes:

  • “God even knows how many hairs you have on your head” (from one of the original source documents on the life of Jesus of Nazareth – even my wife, who knows me better than anyone, can’t make that claim).
  • “Before I made you in your mother’s womb, I knew you” (passed along by an ancient prophet).

Granted, none of this is the scientific proof that many people demand. But let’s be honest: the creator and master of time, space and universe, who’s responsible for the air you are breathing right now, will ALWAYS be beyond proving or disproving.

God will ALWAYS be past our ability to fully comprehend. Looking for a metaphor? It would be like asking a porcupine to understand the theory of relativity.

So let’s look beyond this to what we CAN understand:

1. God created YOU.

2. God wants to have a personal, eternal relationship with YOU, but there’s a barrier in the way: the wrong things you’ve done (including living your life as if He doesn’t exist) and the right things you haven’t done.

3. You can never do enough to make up for the wrong things you’ve done and the right things you haven’t done.

4. You don’t have to. Jesus, who many people believe is God’s son, did the heavy lifting for you when he died to make up for the moral crimes of everyone who accepts Him and believes in Him.

5. All you need to do is accept the gift of Jesus; make Him your lord and saviour, so you can see your life transformed NOW and have eternal life with Him.

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

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Solution that isn't 6.14Our culture loves to toss the word “karma” around. I see it referenced in newspaper columns, online blogs and conversations at coffee shops.

But is it really the solution to anything, as this internet graphic suggests?

Yes, there is a certain logic to karma, which Wikipedia defines as “the universal principle of cause and effect. Our actions, good and bad, come back to us in the future, helping us to learn from life’s lessons and become better people.”

From the perspective of a follower of Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is the Son of God), there’s even some evidence to support it. One of Jesus’ earliest followers wrote: What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.

But is that karma? No. A faith research website (www.carm.org) explains the difference: “The law of karma, which makes morality like a law of nature, does not allow for the possibility of forgiveness.  Its consequences are inevitable and inescapable. Because God is personal, and because persons can forgive, God can forgive us of our sins.  Moreover, He has done so through Jesus.”

So, will karma solve anything? Not for me. I don’t want to be locked in a prison of cause and effect. And I don’t want karma to take the place of revenge.

Serious Jesus followers know and try their best to follow this directive, written by one of the ancient prophets: Forget about the wrong things people do to you. Don’t try to get even. Love your neighbour as yourself.

Do we fall short of that directive? Without a doubt. But now you know the ideal Jesus followers strive for. And you know more about God — the only being truly worthy of judging us for the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do.

If you’re like me, you’ll admit that the ledger of wrong things done and right things not done is pretty long.

But there’s a way out — a way that karma will never offer you. That way is Jesus. He is God’s gift of love to anyone who is willing to accept that gift.

When you accept that gift and declare yourself a follower of Jesus, then you also believe that when He was put to death on a Roman cross, He took on the moral crimes of everyone who calls him saviour.

As a result of that, when God looks at a follower of Jesus, all He sees is the perfection Jesus bought for us. We are as pure as Jesus.

However, please note: That’s not a free pass to do whatever you like and cynically rely on Jesus to clean up the resulting mess. If you take that gift of love seriously, you’ll want to be with other Jesus followers, building each other up, holding each other accountable and allowing God to do amazing things in your life.

Does this sound interesting? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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