Archive for January, 2015

Star Trek: The Motion PictureEven me, who figures anything with the words “Star Trek” in the title MUST be good, has to admit that the first Star Trek movie was long, sloooow and generally underwhelming.

But when I sat down recently to watch 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture again for the first time in decades, I was struck by the plot and how it speaks to the human condition right now.

Admiral James T. Kirk busts himself down to captain in order to retake command of the Enterprise and help the United Federation of Planets fight off a truly gigantic threat.

The threat is called “V’Ger” and eventually Kirk and company find out it’s a 20th-century Earth space probe believed lost. But it wasn’t lost; an alien race figured out its mission — to gather information, then return to its creator — and massively upgraded it to complete the mission.

Over 300 years, the probe gathered so much information that it achieved consciousness. But returning to its creator? That was a problem. And without its creator, the probe “finds its existence empty and without purpose” (thank you, Wikipedia).

Perhaps this sounds entirely alien to you. But it hit home for me during a scene where Spock (the Enterprise’s science officer) tells Kirk, “V’Ger has knowledge that spans this universe, and yet, V’Ger is barren. It has no meaning, no hope, no answers. But it’s asking questions. Is this all that I am? Is there nothing more?

This monologue strikes me as describing the condition of humanity. And the questions V’Ger asks probably occur to any thinking person who has achieved what our culture considers success (even if that success is “just” a middle-class life).

“It knows only that it needs,” Spock relates a little later. “But like so many of us, it does not know what.”

Is this you? It certainly was me. I had the middle-class success our culture sets up as nirvana — good career, satisfying relationships, disposable income with little debt. And yet it seemed superficial. Boring. Meaningless. I was a miniature V’Ger.

If you’ve found yourself sometimes occupying this mental and emotional space, then be bold. Ignore the relentless call of our world and investigate the questions.

That’s what I did. After much thinking, talking, reading and praying, I came to know there’s a Creator. Bigger than all humanity. Bigger than V’Ger. I came to know this Creator loves His creation — you, me and every other human being on this planet — but we had turned away from Him. So He offers us a gift, a way back to Him.

That gift is Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is the perfect Son of God. Jesus sacrificed Himself to make up for all the wrong things we’ve done and all the right things we’ve failed to do. Because there’s no human way for us to do that on our own.

Furthermore, original-source biographies of Jesus’ physical life on earth tell us Jesus rose from the dead after three days, thereby destroying the permanence of death that we horribly imperfect humans brought on ourselves.

When you accept the gift of Jesus, all this is open to you. The need is satisfied. The questions are answered.

Sound interesting? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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ComfortingLackOfProof 1.15Are there people in this world who think the Bible proves God’s existence? The answer is almost certainly YES. I would beg to differ with them, and so would many thoughtful, wise people.

A majority of those who follow Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is the Son of God) believe the Bible is strong evidence for God’s existence and for the life and work of Jesus. But proof? Well, here’s how Matt Slick on the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry website puts it:

Proof is for mathematics and logic. How do you “prove” there is a Great Being outside of our universe? Do we look for footprints in a riverbed? Do we examine evidence under a microscope and say, “Aha! There’s God!”? That would be the wrong approach. If God exists, He would be beyond our universe, non-material, and transcendent.

Now look around you at this planet, then consider the solar system in which it exists. And the Milky Way galaxy in which our solar system exists. And the universe that includes the Milky Way. Did all that simply pop out of nowhere for no particular reason? I don’t think so. Indeed, an ancient writer says “The heavens are telling the glory of God; they are a marvelous display of his craftsmanship.”

That’s still not proof for God’s existence, of course. And I firmly believe there NEVER will be definitive proof. And I’m fine with that. God has never provided proof; following Jesus is about a mixture of reason, evidence and faith.

That last noun is a dirty word to some people, like the atheist who posted the meme that inspired this blog. But ancient writers acknowledge the need for faith. One of them wrote, “Whoever comes to God must believe that He is real and that He rewards those who sincerely try to find Him.”

Why am I good with a lack of definitive proof? Because if such proof existed, the freedom to be an atheist — to believe there is no God and the future of this planet is all up to us horribly greedy, immature, violent and disloyal people — would be destroyed. (Though some folks don’t let facts alter their worldview – see flat-earthers.) And if the state of this broken world tells me anything, it’s that God prizes the gift of freewill. No matter how often we spit on it.

  • I’m given a choice of whether to believe that Jesus, and all the accomplishments that original-source biographies declare He did while physically on earth, is for real.
  • I’m given a choice on whether to accept that Jesus’ death on a Roman cross makes up for all the wrong things done by His followers and all the right things His followers fail to do.
  • I’m given a choice on whether to trust that by declaring Jesus as my Lord and Saviour, I’ll spend eternity with Him in the presence of the Creator of the universe.

One thing I already know: my life is better because I believe in God and follow His Son. Because of that belief, I’ve forgiven people that others have been unwilling to forgive. That belief has also had a profound, positive and life-changing influence on my career, who I married and how I think about this world and everyone in it.

Are there times when maybe you need a new and positive influence in your life? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Bible diversity intelligent happy tolerantAccording to this meme, found on an atheist website, I’m probably not “saved”.

Here I am, a follower of Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is the son of God) and yet:

  • I’m reasonably happy, however one would define that word and apply to our culture.
  • I’m intelligent enough to have graduated high school and earned a college journalism diploma & a university management development certificate.
  • I have yet to write a single word on this website, or during my 26 years in journalism, condemning diversity.
  • Mentally stable? There have been times when I was taking a mild anti-depressant, just like millions and millions of other people (it’s safe to write that some of them are atheists).

I guess following Jesus has failed to save other people like me, too. Churches all over the world are attended by black men and women, Asian men and women, African men and women, native North American men and women. And some of those people are gay and/or divorced and/or alcoholics and/or convicted criminals and/or mentally challenged.

Intelligence? Ooooo, lots of failures there, too. Among them are university professor and committed Catholic Brian Kobilka, an American Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry. There’s also Christian paleontologist Mary Higby Schweitzer and 2007 Nobel Prize Winner (for chemistry) Gerhard Ertl.

That’s just the beginning; Wikipedia lists more than 60 Jesus followers active in biomedical sciences, physics & astronomy, chemistry and engineering. Gee, I’d call that an EPIC failure on the part of Jesus. (Chances are, most of these folks are mentally stable, too.)

Beyond all this sarcasm, I hope it’s obvious to you that deciding to follow Jesus — His life and teachings, His sacrificial death (to make up for all the wrong things his followers have done and all the right things we’ve failed to do) and His resurrection — often helps people become happy, intelligent, tolerant of diversity and mentally stable.

Following Jesus helps us understand that God loves us, and everyone else on this planet, equally and beyond measure. That love comes not from what we’ve done or not done. It comes because that’s who God is.

Serious Jesus followers also understand that just as we have been forgiven much, we should turn around and forgive much in others.

There’s more: serious Jesus followers appreciate science because it helps us understand how God does stuff. Serious Jesus followers believe something that famed evangelist Billy Graham said: “It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict (people of their moral crimes), God’s job to judge and my job to love”.

Do we fall short of this? Absolutely. But most serious Jesus followers have it in our sights and strive after it daily. And doing that makes us better people.

Interested in striving with us? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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God Auschwitz evilTake your pick: the Auschwitz concentration camp, 9-11 terrorist attacks, massacres in Las Vegas (2017), Connecticut (2012) and Norway (2011), barbaric ISIS warmongers.

These, and many other horrific examples of human evil, can serve as evidence of why there is no God. I certainly understand how people can adopt this viewpoint.

But I also understand that this is the path of least resistance; the conclusion any of us could jump to in the heat of anger and despair.

So I’m going to advance a very different proposition: there are Nazi death camps, vicious terrorists and rampaging “lone wolf” killers, so there MUST be a God.

How can that make sense? Let me explain:

1. The beautiful and terrible gift of freewill. We’ve been given it. And we spit on it. Every day. That absolutely includes ME, when I act as if there is no God and put myself in charge of me.

When you and I claim we know what’s best for ourselves, we open the door to greed, unbridled lust, petty self-centredness, intolerance and so much more. Like it or not, this path can lead all the way to unspeakable evil.

2. Who gave us that gift of freewill? Who else but God, the creator of this universe and the air you are breathing right now? Does that mean He’s responsible for when we do wrong and fail to do right? Not even a little bit. God doesn’t want goose-stepping robots; he wants people with freedom. No matter how painful this freedom has often been.

3. Who can we turn to when despicable evil happens? Two choices: God, who gave you air to breathe and free will to believe in Him; or turn away and rely on yourself.

Serious followers of Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is the perfect Son of God) believe this statement in one of the original-source biographies of His physical life on Earth: “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him [Jesus], anyone can have a whole and lasting life.”

The news gets better. This same biography goes on to say: “God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.”

Notice how we haven’t been simply abandoned to free will and all its potential consequences?

In the midst of Auschwitz, Jesus was there, offering people hope of eternity in Heaven with Him, long after the suffering ended. And with that knowledge came His strength and a willingness for suffering people to forgive their Nazi torturers and escape the prison of rage and revenge.

In camps where refugees are still living with practically nothing, just so they could escape terrorists, Jesus is there, offering them more than blankets and food. Offering them His love and eternity with Him when this short life is done.

In the aftermath of massacres, Jesus is there, offering a community of believers who are, in their midst of their own imperfections, ready to provide physical and spiritual help. To be the hands of feet of their Lord and Saviour.

Getting in on all this is simple. Accept the gift of Jesus, whose sacrificial death makes up for all your moral crimes. Make Him your Lord and friend. Then watch as changes start to happen. Good changes. Changes that will take you into eternity.

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

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WhatGodWantsAfter reading this graphic, posted in an atheist internet community, I started thinking about the hundreds and hundreds of church services I’ve attended in my years on this planet.

I tried to find recall one occasion where a pastor or church leader “demanded” money from me or anyone else. Just one.

I’m still looking.

Am I saying it’s never happened? Not at all. I’m sure there are despicable hucksters out there, using “religion” (a nasty term that I would never use to describe a person of real, serious faith) to guilt people into financing their cadillacs and acreage estates. Indeed, turn on the TV any Sunday and you can watch some of them in action.

But let’s be realistic: these shameless fraud artists exist everywhere in this broken world. And it’s safe to write that some of them are atheists.

There’s another point being made in this graphic that can’t go unaddressed: the notion that somehow, tossing cash at a “religious” leader will somehow dispose of the “threat of eternal damnation”.

This makes sense only if you believe God is a greedy, small-minded, narcissistic hypocrite. And if that’s the case, why are you reading this essay?

Followers of Jesus of Nazareth — whom many people believe is the son of God — know that God doesn’t need us for anything. He WANTS us. And He wants us to:

  • Have wisdom. James, one of Jesus’s brothers, wrote “Do any of you need wisdom? Ask God for it. He is generous and enjoys giving to everyone. So he will give you wisdom.”
  • Live right. Another ancient writer puts it this way: “This is what He wants from you: Be fair to other people. Love kindness and loyalty, and humbly obey your God.”
  • Help those in need. An early Jesus follower wrote, “If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love? It disappears. And you made it disappear.”
  • Come clean on all the wrong things we’ve done and all the right things we’ve failed to do. An ancient collection short sayings says “Whoever hides their sins will not be successful, but whoever confesses their sins and stops doing wrong will receive mercy.”
  • Prosper. An ancient prophet noted, “I [God] have good plans for you. I don’t plan to hurt you. I plan to give you hope and a good future.”
  • Have a relationship with him. There are many, many ancient writers who addressed this. Here are just a few:
    “Come near to God and he will come near to you.”
    “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.”

That last statement makes it clear how to have a relationship with God. Believe in His Son, follow His Son, trust in what His Son did for YOU (dying on a cross to make up for all the wrong things you’ve done and all the right things you’ve failed to do). Do that, and all the other things that God wants will start to come easier. And you don’t have to give anyone a single dollar.

Agree? Disagree? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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