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Archive for February, 2015

SinIt’s easy to make this call about a word that’s so loaded, isn’t it? In our culture “sin” has come to be associated of judgementalism, arrogance, hard-heartedness and “religious” people.

Some of those people, who lack full awareness of their own failures, think they’re doing others a favour when they call them out for the wrong things those people might have done.

But does that mean the word “sin” should be tossed in garbage? The person who created the graphic that inspired this essay might shout YES.

I suppose it’s easier to think everything is relative and there is no real “good” or “bad” that would necessitate a word like “sin”. Do you really think that’s so? Isn’t murder a sin? What about setting someone’s house on fire — can you think of a reason that would condone arson? Is there an excuse to justify printing and distributing counterfeit money?

Just like you, I haven’t done any of these things. But I examine my own life and see plenty of behaviours that qualify as sin:

  • I’m tired of putting up with the slow truck ahead of me, so I dangerously cut off another car in the passing lane to get around it.
  • I find pathetic excuses to stay on the computer when I should be turning it off and helping my wife clean the house.
  • I allow ancient, petty squabbles with my relatives to bubble up and stop me from reaching out to them.

Maybe these aren’t “sins” to you. Our culture might come up with softer descriptions like “shortcomings” or “mistakes”. To me, a shortcoming is not being able to resist sugary snacks (I’m absolutely guilty). A mistake is failing to notice a typo in a Frank’s Cottage essay (often guilty). A sin is different and I hope the bullet-point examples above make that clear.

So what can I do about these sins and many others? Lord knows, I’ve tried and tried to change my ways. I’ll bet you’ve tried to fix your sins, too. And I’ll bet you’ve had as much success as me. Kinda sad, eh?

But there IS something real and substantial and meaningful that we can do. I’ve done it and it IS making a difference. Not as quickly as I (or my wife) would like, but the change is happening.

Prepare yourself for what this is, because it’s radical and controversial: believing there is a creator. A creator who knows YOU. A creator who cares about YOU. A creator who is involved in this world and wants to be involved in YOUR life.

Furthermore, this creator has a son, whom He offers to this world (including YOU) as an extraordinary, life-changing gift. He is Jesus Christ and God wants YOU to accept the gift of Him. When you do that, you come to know that He died on a cross to make up for ALL the sins of EVERYONE who believes in Him and follows Him.

When this life is done and you come before God, He no longer sees your sins. He sees the sacrifice and the perfection of His son. Sound interesting? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Fog of faith I bet some folks see the graphic that inspired this essay and vigorously nod in agreement.

So why is it that me, and so many other serious Christians, found the world to be in a fog until we decided to follow Jesus Christ?

For years, I accepted the worldview pushed by my family, friends, co-workers, the entertainment industry and the media.

But it all lacked…focus. People, including me, weren’t satisfied. Struggling to climb the ladder of career success. Struggling to afford monster flat-screen TVs, bigger houses and cruise ship vacations. Struggling to obey our culture’s directive to ignore a world that seemed bent on slow destruction. Struggling to constantly turn our thoughts away from the nagging question “What’s it all for?”.

When I decided to follow Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians, and many others, believe is the son of God), the fog cleared and the truth of this world came into focus.

Struggling to get more money, more toys, more power and more sex is not the way to satisfaction. As a follower of Jesus, I know that satisfaction comes through following His example and His teachings.

Check out these teachings from one of the four Bible accounts of Jesus’ life on earth:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies. Pray for those who treat you badly.

When you do something good, don’t do it in front of others so that they will see you. If you do that, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

You cannot serve God and money at the same time.

Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars.

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.

Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment.

Do for others what you would want them to do for you.

Yes, some of these teachings are hard. And trust me, you are going to fail at some of them, just like me. And that’s OK. Serious followers of Jesus know that His sacrificial death on a cross wipes away the failures (you could even call them “sins”) of His followers, so that all God sees is the perfection of His son.

Furthermore, when you become a serious follower of Jesus, you welcome Him into your heart and your mind, where His strength, His perfection and His love for YOU start to transform your life. Right here, right now.

What do you think? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Religion pacifierJust for fun, I Googled “What does the human mind need?” There was no definitive answer. In fact, none of the dozens of links I saw even address the question.

So I tried “The human mind cries out for…”. Again, nothing.

So does the human mind cry out for facts and reason? Makes sense to me. I’m sure it cries out for more than that, but let’s stick with these two and move on to the bottom statement in this graphic (which I found on an atheist website).

I’m a man of faith, but I certainly want nothing to do with “religion” (here’s why: http://wp.me/p2wzRb-eu). So does having faith in God and Jesus Christ — whom serious Christians, and many others, believe is the son of God — act as a pacifier?

Sadly, the answer for some Christians is yes. But for most, the answer is absolutely NO. We see the world for how it truly is — broken, in desperate need of help. And we do our best to help, by going on trips to aid people in developing nations, by financially supporting aid organizations like Samaritan’s Purse, by asking our political leaders to do the right thing.

In other words, we strive, in our horribly imperfect way, to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ. Why? because “God loved the world [and that means EVERYONE IN IT] so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him would not be lost but have eternal life.” That’s from one of the four Bible accounts of Jesus’ physical life on earth. Serious Christians believe this, so if God loves everyone, then followers of His Son should, too.

Let’s move on to the human heart. What does it need? I don’t think I’m off-base when I write that the hearts of most people need love, acceptance and a sense of purpose. Our hearts need forgiveness — for the wrong things we’ve done and for the right things we’ve failed to do. Our hearts need community — the sense that we’re not alone in whatever joy or misery we are experiencing.

Do hearts get these things from family and friends? Certainly. But friends drift away. Families become separated by emotions or geography and, inevitably, death. From power and money? Only for a relatively short time. Sex? Same thing. Boats, mansions, 100-inch TV screens, Vegas vacations and Ferraris? It won’t take long for most people to become bored of them.

So what’s left? With whom can we find absolutely unconditional love? Where can we get a sense of purpose that’s real and won’t change? How can we achieve a sense of community around something more important than wine-tasting, cruise ship vacations or extreme sports? And where can we get unconditional forgiveness?

As a serious Christian, I believe a relationship with Jesus Christ is the answer to every one of those needs. God offers Jesus as a gift to you and me. When you accept that gift, with sincere seriousness, you open the door to God changing you, from the inside out. For the better. So you can join me in being an imperfect ambassador for Jesus in a broken world.

And when this life is over,  Jesus’ sacrificial death on a cross wipes away all the wrong things we’ve done and all the right things we’ve failed to do. So God sees you and me the way He sees Jesus: pure in every way. And from there, we are welcome to spend eternity with Jesus.

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

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Where's the plan? 2.15When I saw this graphic, posted on an atheist website, my immediate reaction was: I bet that’s how the world looks to a lot of people.

It’s hardly a stretch to write that planet Earth appears to be in permanent chaos. Wars, Ebola virus, fundamentalist terrorism, rampant corruption, female and child slavery, broken marriages, child sexual abuse. No need to go on; I’m sure you can easily add to the list.

So where’s the plan? Is all this playing out according to some orderly arrangement? Really?

In a word, YES. Now stay with me while I explain this.

Serious Christians like me believe God’s plan is not so much about events. It’s about people. It’s about a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians  (and many others) believe is God’s son.

That relationship has three key parts:

1. It can, and has, changed the world for the better. Consider these facts:

  • Christians have started hospitals and universities (this essay sheds like on that topic: http://wp.me/p2wzRb-9O).
  • A Christian, William Wilberforce, tirelessly led the decades-long fight to end slavery in Great Britain.
  • Christian scientist Francis S. Collins played a leading role in mapping the human genome.
  • Members of a Christian organization, the International Justice Mission, risk their lives to free female and child slaves in the developing world.

2. It can, and has, brought life-changing peace to lives torn apart by pain and misery. Two examples:

  • Second World War hero Louis Zamperini (subject of the Hollywood movie Unbroken) was an angry alcoholic tortured by regular nightmares of his time in a Japanese prison camp. Then he became a serious follower of Jesus Christ. The nightmares ended. The drinking stopped. And his troubled marriage was restored.
  • Beaten up and betrayed by his criminal friends, Michael “Bull” Roberts was at the end of his rope when he reached out to Jesus Christ. Since then, he’s left behind a life of crime and sought to help others in his situation. (You can read a bit more of his story here: http://wp.me/p2wzRb-5g).

3. It’s based on free will. This might seem difficult for you to accept because free will includes our ability to do all the nasty stuff I mentioned in the second paragraph. You might protest that a loving God would not allow all those things to happen. But centuries of evidence shows that free will is an all-or-nothing proposition.

If the nasty things I mentioned were stopped, then so would your ability to ignore God and reject the gift He offers you: a changed life, now and for all eternity, through faith in Jesus Christ.

It’s up to YOU to respond to the gift. It’s up to YOU to figure out whether you want to be part of God’s work to make this broken world a better place. It’s up to YOU to take hold of the life-changing peace He offers through Jesus.

So what do you think? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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