Archive for November, 2014

repentedIs this offensive to you? The entire notion was certainly offensive to the person who posted the graphic on an atheist Internet community.

And I get it. We grow up learning concepts like “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth”. As kids we often hotly tell our parents “that’s not fair!!”. And as parents, we endlessly, sometimes obsessively, strive to treat our children with fairness.

So when people hear about others who seem to get away with murder, they rightfully scream and holler in protest. Like I said, I get that.

But consider the approach of Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is the Son of God. In one of the four original-source accounts of His life on earth, He says this to anyone willing to listen:

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you, don’t fight back against someone who wants to do harm to you. If they hit you on the right cheek, let them hit the other cheek, too.

This is radical. This is upside down to how our culture thinks. In fact, for some people (such as the person who posted the graphic above), this is downright ludicrous.

Is it really?

If you believe there is a Heaven, don’t you want it to be far, FAR better than this world? Don’t you want it to be free of anger, resentment, jealousy, rage, greed, violence and ignorance?

If you do, then what about forgiveness? Don’t you want Heaven to be saturated — heck, OVERFLOWING — with forgiveness?

If you’re still with me, then a Heaven that is free of our human weaknesses and welcoming to all will absolutely include killers and their victims. In both cases, these people will have repented of their sins (however big or small we might consider them to be) and been utterly, utterly transformed through faith in what Jesus did for them.

What did He do? For those who have sincerely accepted the gift of Jesus, He allowed Himself to be sacrificed on a cross to make up for all (and I mean ALL) the bad things we’ve done and the good things we’ve failed to do.

For those who seriously accepted the gift of Jesus, God looks at us and DOESN’T see murder or greed or theft or fraud or lying or betrayal or self-centredness. He sees only the perfection of His Son.

So when the murder victims depicted in the graphic above get to Heaven and are directed to the person who shot them, they will ABSOLUTELY go over and do more than say “Hi”. They’ll hug that person with overflowing love.

And that person, utterly transformed by following Jesus, will absolutely hug those people right back. It will be a time of joy, of tears, of praise for their creator who wiped away every moment of fear, anguish, pain and sadness and replaced them with praise and gratefulness.

That’s a place I want to go. That’s a place I want YOU to go, so we can hug, high-five each other and spend eternity with our creator. Are you in? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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mysteriousHave you ever encountered people of faith who think this way? Sadly, I have. I wouldn’t be surprised if they turned you off of considering a life of faith.

The frustrating thing is, many people of faith have not bothered to ask honest questions. Instead, if there are things they don’t understand, those things are just buried deep inside of them. And in turn, they want others to bury their questions, too.

And yet, the history is rife with people of faith asking God hard questions. Here are just a few from ancient writers:

  • My God, why did you dump me miles from nowhere?
  • Sometimes I ask God, ‘why did you let me down?’
  • I counted on you, God. Why did you walk out on me?

Probably the most amazing and poignant hard question for God came from the lips of Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is God’s son. When Jesus’s enemies succeeded in having Him put to death on trumped-up charges, one of His last statements (as He hung on a Roman cross) was this anguished cry: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

Call me crazy, but I think if Jesus can ask a question like that, then so can His followers — or any other person, for that matter.

I showed the meme that inspired this essay to a pastor friend. Here is Ross Carkner’s thoughtful response:

God is not afraid of our hard questions, but I can’t say that we feel the same way about His answers. I believe we are very afraid of His answers.

The mystery is not so much that God cannot be understood, but why we expect who He is to fit within our own understanding. When we have hard questions, we seem to expect easy and simplified answers.

Part of the deep mystery of God is that His ways are not our ways. If we want to know God, we need courage to set our own understanding aside and trade what has previously been a mystery, for faith in Him.

Since I became a Jesus follower in my 40s, I’ve had hard questions. And they’ve never gone away. But I know enough about God — about what He’s done for me and everyone else willing to accept the gift of His Son — to set those questions aside.

Ross was a big help in this. A few years ago, he had the wisdom to tell me that when I’m through with this life, all those hard questions simply won’t matter. They’ll be utterly irrelevant in the light of eternity in the presence of Jesus.

Do you have hard questions? Are they the reason — or the convenient excuse — you have not truly checked out what a life of faith in Jesus is all about? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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HSBCWhenever I fly, I always enjoy seeing the unusual HSBC (Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation) advertisements posted along the walls of the walkway into the plane.

This one struck a nerve. Why? On one hand, the statement is, in the broadest sense, true. Just think about all the changes that have happened in the last 30 years: iPods, internet commerce and media, iPads, “apps” on a “smartphone”, rear view cameras on vehicles, flat-screen TVs, Twitter and Facebook.

Together, these changes have created entirely new business models and changed the way many of us live. I can’t imagine what will happen in the next 30 years, but there are already entire teams of smarter people than me working on technologies and inventions that could make tomorrow “nothing like today”.

On the other hand, I feel quite safe in writing that in even more important ways, tomorrow will be exactly the same as today.

  • Human beings will still want and need love and sometimes do horrible things to get it
  • We will still be insecure and behave quite sadly to get others approval
  • People will still judge others on many ridiculous “criteria”, often without even knowing it.
  • Greed will still haunt us
  • We will still look to other people to bring us happiness and fulfillment — and still be let down many, many times.
  • Our egos will continue to rule over us, often convincing us to do and say ridiculous things.
  • Most human beings will still to be their own worst critics, driving us into depression and stunting our emotional growth.

All the technological, medical, scientific and psychiatric breakthroughs that humanity can ever hope to achieve will not alter those bullet points.

So what will? Let me be quite controversial and absolutely radical when I suggest this: a living, breathing relationship with your creator.

If you’re still with me, consider this: Loving God and having a daily connection to Him through Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is God’s son) has the potential to take all these bullet points off the table.

With God, you don’t have to do horrible things to be loved. You already are loved, beyond all measure. And the evidence is this: God offers Jesus  as a gift to you and every other person on this planet. No exceptions. All you have to do is accept the gift.

With God, you don’t have to feel better by judging others or looking to others for happiness. God has already done the judging. And every one of us has fallen short. That means the intrinsic value of a terrorist is exactly the same as that of a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Furthermore, He spoke these words through an ancient prophet: “I am the Lord, and I don’t change.” That means the things I’ve just written about don’t change. God’s love is the same  yesterday, today and tomorrow. The gift of Jesus is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. And our falling short of God’s standard is the same for everyone, yesterday, today and tomorrow.

But when you accept the gift of Jesus, declare Him (in complete, sincere seriousness) to be your Saviour, leader and best friend, all the judgement disappears. God sees you as he sees His Son: Perfect in every way and ready to spend eternity in Heaven.

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

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Religion+is+Slavery+-Robert+G.+Ingersoll-1I’m a person of faith, so what I’m going to write probably won’t make a lick of sense to you. But I’m gonna write it anyway.

1. “Religion” can never reform humanity. Ever.

2. Without a doubt, “religion” is slavery.

Religion is dogma, rules to follow, appearance to keep up, judgements to hand out. It all too often translates into numbing negativity that gives people of faith a bad reputation.

A quick example? You would be amazed at how many religious people spend their Halloweens telling followers of Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is the Son of God) how deluded and misguided they are to be “celebrating” what one called a “pagan holiday about death”.

I feel quite safe in writing if I line up 100 North American parents who are taking their six-year-olds out to collect candy and tell them what these religious people said, they would look at me like I’m out of my mind.

Sadly, there are people who become addicted to this kind of thinking. In other words, they become slaves to religion. Some even go so far as to pass judgement on people’s clothes and hairstyles, declaring that today’s men and women look too much alike and it’s “one of the reasons we have this is the epidemic of homosexuality”. Yes, I’m actually quoting from a religious person who wrote this on the Internet.

Frankly, I’m embarrassed by it. And I wouldn’t be surprised if Jesus is embarrassed, too. The original-source documents about His physical life on earth don’t have a single quote from Him about Halloween or about people’s clothing and hairstyles. Not. One. Word.

But in one of those documents, Jesus does have this to say about people in love with religion: “They pile heavy burdens on people’s shoulders and won’t lift a finger to help. Everything they do is just to show off in front of others.”

I’m sure you’re as turned off by all of this as I am. Indeed, if people tried to attract me to Jesus with this kind of thinking, I would have run the other way.

So what attracted me? The prospect of a relationship with the Son of God that starts in this life and extends into eternity. The idea that God loves — yes, LOVES me so much that He offered me an extraordinary gift: Jesus — His life and incredible teachings, His sacrificial death to make up for all the bad things I’ve done and all the good things I’ve failed to do, and His game-changing resurrection.

I wanted this relationship. I wanted to be reformed in a way “religion” never can. And I wanted to be free of the slavery of our culture — the meaningless drive for money, power and prestige, the irrelevant obsession with looking good and earning the praise of judgmental people.

And I have it. By no means am I anywhere within shouting distance of “perfect”. But because I follow Jesus, I’m a better person than before. And I have the assurance of life with Him for all eternity.

Do you find this at all attractive? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Hijacks mindIt’s such a common stereotype that many people accept it without a moment’s thought or investigation: people of faith just don’t think “critically”. For many years, I bought this sales pitch, too.

Only after becoming a follower of Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is the Son of God) did I check out the facts. And they left me astounded.

1. Between 1901 and 2000, more than 65 per cent of Nobel prize winners have identified Christianity as their religious preference. That’s according to the book 100 Years of Nobel Prizes.

The Christian Nobel list includes J.J. Thomson in physics, former Liberian president Helen Johnson Sirleaf for the peace prize, Ivan Pavlov in physiology or medicine and Gabriel Garcia Marquez in literature. A little bit of research will reveal that none of these people are brain-dead dolts.

2. In the entertainment world, how about actress Mira Sorvino (who won an Academy Award for Woody Allen’s 1995 move Mighty Aphrodite), Tyler Perry (who, besides his TV and movie acting/directing/screenwriting credits, owns a 200,000-square-foot movie studio) and two-time Oscar-winner Denzel Washington? Can anyone credibly state these people are idiots?

3. Scientists? I’ve already written an entire blog on just a few of the Jesus followers who are doing amazing work in the science world. You can read it here: http://wp.me/p2wzRb-e9

So does “religion” hijack the mind? More often than not, yes. Religion is about following rules, keeping up appearances and judging others. That’s not what serious Jesus followers are all about. We are about having a life-long relationship with Jesus.

In my case, I did all kinds of critical thinking before deciding to follow Jesus at age 41. I read books from a wide variety of perspectives. I debated the basics of Christianity with Jesus followers. I thought long and hard about I’d read, what I’d heard, and how this world has always worked.

That’s not all it took for me to become a man of faith. It took an understanding that God is not the evil ogre that some people make Him out to be. And finally, it took a leap of faith.

A mix of reason, understanding and faith is what it takes to become a Jesus follower.

Maybe that sounds like a lot of work. Maybe you’re shrugging your shoulders and thinking “Meh, I don’t need this. What’s on TV?”

Fine. But if you were satisfied by what our culture insists are the keys to success — money, power, fame, toys, sex, the newest iPad and cruise-ship vacations — would you be reading this blog?

You know there has to be more to life than that. And maybe you’ve even wondered what happens when this life ends. Do you simply become rancid worm food or do you have a soul that lives on? These are important questions. And Jesus has the answers.

Want to know more? Click the ‘links to other sites’ tab at the top of this page or email me at fdking@hotmail.com. I’ll do my best to answer your questions.

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