Archive for August, 2014

who's getting hurt? 8.14Sadly, there was a time when the message of this graphic (found on an atheism internet community) was very true.

Arrogance ruled the roost. Christians, often in positions of influence, sought to increase their power over people who, because they refused to believe the same thing, were obviously defective and could be treated like enemies.

Indeed, 500 years ago, ISIS (the murderous radical Islamic terrorist group) could just as easily have been Christian.

So this meme was correct. Was.

Things are very different today and pretty much everyone (except the creator of this graphic, perhaps) knows it. Maybe it’s because Christians are not in positions of power. And that’s a good thing.

We all know power corrupts. The history of Christianity is certainly compelling evidence. Now, serious Christians understand that God is primarily about love and love does NOT threaten or coerce. Love offers a gift.

In Christian terms, that gift is Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is God’s son. Jesus – His teachings, His sacrificial death on a Roman cross and His resurrection – is offered to a world that I think we can all agree isn’t doing very well.

For much of my life, I thought I was was doing just fine without this gift. In fact, I believed what North American media, and most of my friends and colleagues, said about Jesus: nice guy (if he lived at all), but long gone and what does he have to do with anything?

He has everything to do with making people like me – and you, if you say yes to Him – more thoughtful, less greedy, more compassionate and less judgemental.

He has everything to do with seeing the things that our culture values in a new and discerning light – and discovering most of those things are trivial and ultimately irrelevant. Just think new cars, better smartphones, bigger TVs, yet another pair of shoes.

He has everything to do with feeling less lonely, less worried about the opinions of others and less concerned about what our culture defines as “success”.

He has everything to do with answering the most important questions of life: Why am I here? (To have a relationship with God through Jesus.) What happens when I die? (If Jesus is my saviour, then I’ll spend eternity in Heaven with Him because His death wiped away all my wrongs.)

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

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14+-+1-2Have you watched someone give their “testimony” on a TV show and describe being at their lowest point when they became a follower of Jesus of Nazareth?

Did you shake you head and have the same reaction as the words at the bottom of the graphic? Once, I would have been in your camp. After all, that is the easiest, fastest response, right?

So here’s a challenge: skip the path of least resistance, the path that our culture pushes us onto, and really think about this.

Perhaps someone said “I found God at the most vulnerable point of my life” because they suddenly realized that all the ‘stuff’ that’s supposed to be so, SO important is really trivial.

Maybe they realized that in the midst of their vulnerability, nothing that our culture offers us really changes anything. Self-help books can’t help. Friends sending out ‘positive vibes’ makes no difference. And drugs or alcohol will eventually leave them even worse off than before.

Perhaps they figured out that our culture’s focus on being self-reliant in everything just doesn’t pass the smell test. It’s not realistic.

Maybe their vulnerability has made them realize that dismissing/ignoring God and Jesus (who many people believe is His Son) is, in fact, brainwashing. And for the first time, they’re seeing life — and what could happen when this life ends — outside of our culture’s narrow and shallow confines.

I was in my 40s when I stepped off the path of least resistance and really thought about the how and whys of people deciding to follow Jesus. I wasn’t at the most vulnerable point of my life. In fact, I was doing just fine, by the standards of our culture. I had a decent career, parents who didn’t abuse me or abandon me, several meaningful romantic relationships, no serious diseases and a good future.

But I knew there had to be more to life than all this. I knew there had to be something deeper and something that would look beyond 80-odd years on planet earth. After much reading, a lot of thought and many debates with brave Jesus followers, I decided to become a follower of Jesus.

That decision had — and continues to have — a profound impact on my life. It greatly affected who I decided to marry and where I now work. It gave me hope — not in things or in people (the first is meaningless and the second will disappoint and hurt and abandon)  — but in a creator who offered me the gift of His Son.

I accepted that gift. Have you ever thought about doing the same? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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WAITING ON GODHave you met anyone sitting around, drinking margaritas and watching awful TV shows because they have nothing better to do than wait for God to fix stuff?

Me neither. I suspect this graphic, found in an atheist internet community, is making an offhand reference to prayer. If I’ve learned anything from my interactions with atheist people, it’s that almost all of them believe prayer is an idiotic waste of time.

I’m not going to delve into prayer in this essay; you can read my thoughts on the subject here: http://wp.me/p2wzRb-9a

What I will write, however, is perhaps the reason this world is struggling is because people DON’T stop and wait for God to do something. Consider:

  • If we had stopped and waited for God to fix the problem, would organized crime have come to North America? I’m referring to prohibition in the United States during the 1920s. Human actions to reduce alcoholism not only failed, they created negative consequences that are still being felt almost 100 years later.
  • People brought rabbits to Australia and New Zealand for food. What followed was an explosive growth in the rabbit population to the point where they are now major pests in these countries.
  • Still in Australia, people introduced cane toads to control canefield pests. Bad idea. Canefield pests are still there and cane toads are now a major problem in their own right.
  • How often have people, through their governments, introduced rent controls to deal with sky-high rent increases? How often has that resulted in major shortages of rental units – making it nearly impossible for low-income people to find a place to live?

So it’s clear that ignoring God and doing things on our own often makes this world a WORSE place.

Sometimes, I’m guilty of this very mistake. Because I’m part of a culture that lives as if God and Jesus of Nazareth — who many people believe is His divine Son — don’t exist, I get sucked into that same thinking.

I forget to pray about things. I forget to wait on God — even though a wise ancient prophet tells me “The Lord is good to those who wait for him. He is good to those who look for him”. In case I didn’t get it the first time, another ancient prophet says “Be strong and brave and wait for the Lord’s help”.

Patience is a gift I’m continually learning as a follower of Jesus. There are other gifts, too: seeing beyond my ego to what’s truly important; understanding that this world is NOT how God wants it to be; and allowing Jesus to work in my life to make me more like the person He knows I can be.

Do these gifts sound appealing? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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lifeMaybe that’s your impression of Jesus followers. Maybe you think they’re fixated on death.

Hey, there’s another one of their churches with a cross on it that they claim Jesus died on.

Every time one of those people gets on TV or radio or the internet, they’re talk about Jesus dying. Man, that’s getting old.

Yes, in the culture we all live in, the idea of a divine son of God (that’s who many people believe Jesus is) being sacrificed for the moral crimes of humanity is downright offensive.

We’re all doing just fine, right? We haven’t ran over anyone with our car or robbed a bank or given anyone AIDS, so what’s the problem?

This is where it gets controversial. And this is why serious Jesus followers appear to “celebrate” death.

People who are genuine about following Jesus know that there’s a lot more to “doing fine” than avoiding prison or causing death. Those are just the big-ticket, headline-grabbing wrongs.

How about greed? How big a TV do we actually need?  Another iPad? Wasn’t the last one good enough? Hang on, a double garage and a big driveway just isn’t enough for your boat AND your trailer AND your three vehicles? Uh, didn’t you just go on a cruise last year?

How about a lack of generosity? Why don’t those people take care of themselves? I’m not giving to poverty in Haiti — there’s poverty right here in North America!! (Uh, there’s a GIGANTIC difference between poverty here and poverty there.)

How about living your life as if God doesn’t exist? Genuine Jesus followers believe the words of one of the original source documents of His life, that “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”. Furthermore, “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, sadness, crying, or pain” (communicated to us through an ancient prophet).

So, if you give these words any credibility, then those quotes above indicate that God does, indeed, care about YOU and deeply wants to be part of YOUR life. So is it wrong to live like He doesn’t exist? I would say yes.

Now consider Jesus followers’ supposed “fixation” with death. What it’s really about — that this atheist graphic conveniently ignores — is that for those who believe in and truly follow Jesus, His sacrificial death erases all the bad things we’ve done and all the good things we’ve failed to do. For those who follow Jesus seriously, God sees us like He sees His Son: pure, without the slightest imperfection.

So the “fixation” is really about the results of Jesus’ death. It’s about something else, too. Serious Jesus followers believe the ancient documents when they say that Jesus came back to life just a few days later — and in doing so, wiped out the permanence of death for all who believe in Him.

So, in fact, what’s happening is opposite to the graphic. Genuine Jesus followers are celebrating LIFE. And it’s a life that’s available to EVERYONE, no matter who they are, no matter what they’ve done (or not done).

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

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