Archive for May, 2015

Mike O'BrienUntil his death in 2015, I’d never heard of Mike O’Brien. You probably hadn’t either. But something he wrote sure grabbed my attention. This is the start of a story about O’Brien in the Calgary Herald:

In his final blog posting, Mike O’Brien said he exuded faith — faith in his radiologist, surgeons, nurses, pharmacists and counsellors — but not in God.

“Of course, I may be wrong. I often am. Fortunately, if God really exists, I’m confident he’ll look at my overall record and let me slide on the faith/skeptic issue. It just sounds like the kind of decent thing he’d do,” he wrote.

I need to satisfy your curiosity before going any further. O’Brien, who died of cancer at age 51, warranted a newspaper article because of his roles in several Canadian TV series, including the comedy cult favourite Corner Gas.

So, what about Mike’s blog post?

I can certainly understand why a hideous disease like cancer might turn a person into an atheist. A life-threatening condition tends to drive the victim into the arms of God or into the arms of…well, nothing, I guess.

The thing is, Mike exuded faith in an entire team of people. And, sadly, all those people could not stop what was happening to him.

Meanwhile, Mike ignored his creator. Now, considering what happened to him, you might say “well, what good did Mike’s creator do for him? He died of cancer!”

On the surface, I get that. But hang on; what if relieving Mike of his four-year painful struggle meant bringing him home? That might not be what his loved ones wanted, but do we hugely imperfect humans always know what’s best?

Sadly, I’m not sure the story goes like I just put it. I’m glad Mike left this world confident that if there’s a creator, that creator would “look at my overall record and let me slide on the faith/skeptic issue”.

But where on earth would such confidence come from? How does Mike, or anyone else on this planet, know how their overall record really looks?

The God that many people believe in is active in this world. He created us to have a relationship with Him – now and for all eternity. We messed that up by going our own way and, so often, doing what Mike did: claim He doesn’t even exist and this planet – heck this universe – somehow came from nowhere.

To repair that broken relationship, God has done far more than what Mike might call the “decent thing”; He offers us a gift: Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is God’s Son.

Jesus lived an extraordinary life, offered love and forgiveness to folks you and I wouldn’t turn our head to glance at, then died to make up for all the wrong things we’ve done and all the right things we’ve failed to do. To finish it off, he came back to life after three days, showing God’s power to do whatever God wants.

All we have to do is accept the gift of Jesus. Then we can have more than Mike’s vague optimism. We can have complete confidence that when this life ends, God will absolutely overlook our many, many shortcomings and welcome us into His presence forever.

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

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atheism humanityWhen I read this graphic on an Internet atheism community, I started searching my mind.

When was the last time anyone — even my wife — “demanded” I get up early every Sunday and go to church? I’m still searching and still haven’t found a single instance.

In my faith, Sunday church services are important because they bring together followers of Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is the Son of God) to:

  • strengthen each other;
  • learn together how to be better Jesus followers, and;
  • pray together and for each other and for a world that I think we can all admit isn’t doing very well.

So has it ever happened where one Jesus follower has demanded or “guilted” another into attending church services? I’m sure it has, but I’ll venture to write that those occasions are truly regrettable. No one should ever be forced to attend “religious” events. It should *always* be voluntary.

What about “overdressing”? Um, welcome to 1955; they want their suits, fedoras, dresses and white gloves back.

In a vast majority of North American churches, what you wear is pretty much irrelevant. The church I attend includes teens in jeans and T-shirts, seniors in suits and dresses, middle-aged men in cowboy boots and even recent African immigrants who love wearing their colourful ceremonial outfits. For many years, I haven’t gone to church wearing anything fancier than jeans and a golf shirt.

Are there churches where your clothing matters? Yes. But a majority of those churches are in decline; God doesn’t care what you wear to church, since He knows you inside and out and isn’t fooled by fancy and expensive outfits.

Apologize for being human? I suppose some people might think that’s what happens. But what really happens, in most churches, is people apologize for the wrong things they’ve done and the right things they’ve failed to do.

Let’s be plain here: in all the original source documents of His life, Jesus of Nazareth never once asked a single person to “apologize” for being human. And He still doesn’t today.

Bruxy Cavey, a Canadian pastor, tweeted this about our humanity: “I’m only human.” There is nothing “only” about being human.

Why did Bruxy tweet that? Because God made you and I and everyone else human. God made His Son human. So to “apologize” for that or feel bad about that is to insult our creator.

Finally, “nobody really knows where all this came from”? Well, where (and who) else would it come from but God?

In the end, while I very much appreciate the work done by dudes in lab coats (their work often tells me how God does stuff) I’d rather trust my creator. Because I love Him and follow His Son, I have a better life NOW. And I have ETERNAL life with Christ. Not even the most celebrated scientist can offer me that.

What are your thoughts? Post them below and let’s have a conversation.

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Embracing FreedomSometimes, I’m amazed at all the things atheists and Jesus followers have in common. That was my reaction when I saw this graphic posted in an Atheist internet community.

I consider following Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is the son of God) to be freedom.

Freedom to wonder. I can wonder how God does stuff like creating planets, creating babies and creating the mysterious relationship between my free will and His will. I can wonder how Jesus was God AND human at the same time (this is a core belief for serious Jesus followers). I can wonder how He can (and does) love people who are simply beyond my pathetic ability to even tolerate.

Freedom to explore. I can explore science, just like atheists and just like Christian scientists such as Francis S. Collins (who helped map the human genome). I can explore different faiths and understand how they’re different from following Jesus. I can explore who and what God is, even as I know I’ll never get all the answers (and that’s OK).

Freedom to doubt. I can read parts of the Bible where people who feel abandoned by God cry out to Him. In one section, called Psalms, the writer states “Has our Lord rejected us forever? Will he never again speak to us? Has God forgotten what mercy is?” I can feel amazement that this is in the Bible — amazement and relief, because it means I’m NOT condemned if (well, when is more accurate) I ask the same questions.

Freedom to be me. A key part of following Jesus is that human beings are not only accepted, they are LOVED by God for exactly who they are. Right now. With all our faults, jealousies, doubts, fears, misplaced anger, pettiness, greed, self-centredness and ludicrous sense of entitlement.

How do I know this? Because one of the four original source documents of Jesus’ life says “God loved the world so much [and that includes you and me, with all our quirks and faults] that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him would not be lost but have eternal life.”

No one has “damned you into sin from birth”. It simply happened, whether you and I like it or not. We enter this world thinking only of ourselves; everything revolves around us. And to a certain extent, we carry at least some of that thinking right through to adulthood and old age.

Everything DOESN’T revolve around us. You and I are NOT God. And to the extent that we (encouraged by our culture) believe that we are, that is sin. Like it or not.

So I say, embrace reason. Embrace the God who wants to embrace YOU. Accept the gift He offers you — the Son who:

  • brought extraordinary ideas to the world (like loving your enemies);
  • died to make up for the wrong things you and I have done and the right things we’ve failed to do, and;
  • came back to life to prove He’s God and the Bible’s predictions about Him are true.

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

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Christianity death cultI think I need to do a search. I need to find all these Christians who are looking forward to dying. According to this graphic, the earth is apparently overwhelmed with suicidal followers of Jesus of Nazareth.

OK, so maybe I’m just having a little fun. But I have to wonder why anyone in the atheist community (which is where I found this graphic) could so thoroughly believe such a notion that they would create a graphic to tell the world.

While I’m sure there are some Jesus followers out there who want to die (perhaps a few on their death beds, for example), I’ve yet to meet even one of them.

In the meantime, what about “wasting their lives”? The Jesus followers who are still in the Nepal helping victims of the devastating 2015 earthquake are certainly doing something that most people would call productive.

Same for the Jesus followers who join Samaritan’s Purse around the world helping survivors of earthquakes, wildfires, volcanoes, tornadoes, floods, tsunamis and cyclones. Wasting their lives looking forward to death? Really?

Should I wonder about the Jesus followers who put their lives on the line (again with Samaritan’s Purse) fighting the deadly Ebola Virus in Liberia in 2014? Was that just a death wish?

Now, about the central figure of Christianity: was He a human sacrifice? In some respects, yes.

Most Jesus followers believe the original source documents that state God put His love on the line for us through Jesus (who many people believe is God’s Son).

A letter from one of Jesus’s first followers explains it like this: “Christ himself suffered when he died for you, and with that one death he paid for your sins. He was not guilty, but he died for people who are guilty. He did this to bring all of you to God.”

Nothing you or I can do will make up for the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do. Nothing. Indeed, all of us go wrong every day, in ways we don’t see because we live in a world that suggests “if it feels good, do it” and “it’s only wrong if you get caught”.

The only difference between you and me is I’ve figured this out. I know I can’t come close to God’s standard of perfection. But because I follow Jesus, I don’t have to. Jesus did the heavy lifting for me.

Oh, one more thing. After doing that heavy lifting, He came back to life. Paul, an ancient missionary who spent much of his life telling people about Jesus, wrote a letter that says “But Christ really has been raised from death”.

In fact, that’s such a central part of following Jesus that in the same letter, Paul wrote “if Christ has not been raised from death, then your faith is for nothing; you are still guilty of your sins.”

Paul spent most of his life telling people this. And God worked through him to start churches and spread Christianity throughout the Mediterranean.

So much for a death cult, eh?

Does this make you rethink what you thought you knew about following Jesus? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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