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Archive for November, 2015

thinking, religionWhen this graphic (posted on an Internet atheism community) caught my attention, the first thing I thought was: Religion? Yech.

I’ve written often about the poison of “religion”. Not the dictionary version, which few people in our culture understand or care about. No, I’m writing about the version that most people think of as soon as the word is mentioned:

  • People who are smug and judgmental.
  • People who don’t really care what happens to others who aren’t in their religious group.
  • People who are happy to welcome others into their group/church, as long as THOSE people change themselves to fit in.
  • People who spend their time being angry, paranoid and opposing things, rather than supporting anything.
  • People on TV who promise wealth and a good life as long as you send them money.

I follow Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians believe is the Son of God), so I want nothing to do with this “religion”. Indeed, He doesn’t either. In the Bible, some of Jesus’s most passionate words are against smug, arrogant, rule-obsessed “religious” leaders.

So what about the “thinking” part of this graphic? It’s easy to assume it’s true because in our culture, thinking people of faith are generally ignored by the media. Indeed, some of them may face such opposition to their faith in Jesus that they keep it hidden.

But they are out there. Here are just a few examples of these faith-filled thinkers, listed on Wikipedia:

Rosalind Picard (born 1962) is a Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the U.S. She’s also founder and director of the Affective Computing Research Group and co-director of the Things That Think Consortium. Picard says she was raised an atheist, but converted to Christianity as a young adult.

John Lennox (born 1945) is a mathematician, philosopher of science and pastoral adviser. His books include the mathematical The Theory of Infinite Soluble Groups and the faith-oriented God’s Undertaker – Has Science buried God?

Father Andrew Pinsent (born 1966), a Catholic priest, is the Research Director of the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion at Oxford University in England. He is also a particle physicist.

They think, therefore they are people of faith. This suggests the graphic that inspired this essay has little to do with reality. In the end, your level of intelligence has nothing to do with whether you believe in God and His Son.

Whether you believe in God and His Son has EVERYTHING to do with humility. A willingness to admit you don’t have all the answers (and never will, in this life); you don’t understand everything (and never will, in this life); and a realization that your life can be better, right now, because you believe in a loving God who offers this broken world the gift of His Son.

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

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PROOFHooo, boy. There’s a lot to unpack in this graphic, isn’t there?

Kindly presented by an Internet atheist community, I grabbed it because it presents such a wonderful opportunity to tell you the truth about the God of the Bible.

1.  If there were proof that a god exists, atheists would be denied the freedom to claim that God doesn’t exist. And if God has proven anything over the centuries, it’s that He’s all about free will.

Want proof? In a section of the Bible simply called ‘1 Timothy’, it says “God wants everyone to be saved and to fully understand the truth.” That’s right, God wants everyone to be saved. He doesn’t force a single person. It’s up to us.

Another section of the Bible, ‘Joshua’ goes further: “Today you must decide who you will serve … But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” See? More free will. In fact, the entire existence of atheism is proof of free will.

2.  Like it or not, God wants us to come to him in faith. The proof is found in a section of the Bible called ‘Hebrews’: “Without faith no one can please God. Whoever comes to God must believe that he is real and that he rewards those who sincerely try to find him.”

So the very thing that atheists hold in contempt is the very thing that God is all about. He wants a relationship with free-thinking people. He’s not interested in programming soulless robots to do His bidding because no matter how you look at it, that’s NOT a relationship.

3.  The “facts” that “could be repeated, tested and demonstrated” is for logic and mathematics, not for the Creator of time, space and the universe. As Matt Slick puts it on the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry website:

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, “A ha! There’s God!”? That would be the wrong approach. If God exists, He would be beyond our universe, non-material, and transcendent.

For me, the evidence of God is the universe. No God means no universe, no Frank’s Cottage, no you or me.

For me, the evidence of God is Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians believe is God’s Son and whom a majority of historians believe existed. The Bible refers to Jesus as God’s son in several places (see Mark 1:11, John 1:14, 1 John 4:10, Mark 5:7) and there’s no provable reason to believe that’s not so.

For me, the evidence of God is the set of morals that are common to a majority of people on this planet.

Where did these morals come from? How do we really know that it’s wrong to kill, to rape, to steal, to lie, to defraud, to cheat on our spouses?

Why are these moral absolutes? Because they were implanted inside us by our Creator. And we clearly see what happens when we ignore these implants (see: ISIS, the Taliban, Nazi Germany, the Pol Pot regime, Josef Stalin and whoever has committed the latest mass murder).

So what do you think….do I, as a follower of Jesus, have a fiction that I simply want to believe? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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GETTING OVER YOURSELF

Getting Over YourselfWhen it comes to spirituality, who is it all about?

Our culture’s answer: YOU. What YOU like. What makes YOU comfortable. What fits in with YOUR lifestyle. What YOU have time for. What affirms how YOU are living YOUR life. What agrees with what YOU think is good or bad. What gives YOU a warm and fuzzy feeling.

In other words, YOU are God. You decide what spirituality is all about. And if you believe in a creator, YOU decree who he or she is and how he or she is going to assist YOU.

In this scenario, God is your servant, the one who gratefully helps YOU achieve all YOUR ambitions and your wishes to be happy and fulfilled.

At this point, I hope you’re getting a little queasy. Because here is the truth:

“It’s not about you,” are the first words in the first chapter of Rick Warren’s 2002 bestseller, The Purpose Driven Life.

“The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind or even your happiness. It’s far greater than your family, your career, or even your wildest dreams and ambitions.

“If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by his purpose and for his purpose.”

Looking for evidence? Consider this excerpt from the Bible, in a section called ‘Colossians’: Everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible … everything got started in Him [God] and finds its purpose in Him.

If this makes any sense, then you’ll have to admit that:

  • You are NOT God.
  • You don’t really have the powers that our culture insists you do.
  • REAL spirituality is about discovering your place in God’s world.

So how do you discover your place in His world? Start by establishing a relationship with Him. And yes, that IS possible, through Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians believe is God’s divine Son).

Indeed, in ‘John’, one of the four Bible accounts of Jesus’ physical life on earth, Jesus declares “I came to give life—life that is full and good”.

In a real, growing relationship with Jesus, you will realize that your abilities, your strengths and weaknesses, your passions can and will be used for a much greater good. For the good of all humanity, in this life and in the life to come.

I’m evidence of that. After 26 years in print journalism, I now use my writing skills to tell people about Jesus, how believing in Him and following Him translates into strength, purpose, energy, resolve and a capacity to do more, love more, care more than any of us can do on our own.

This writing is more valuable than anything I ever did in newspapers. It’s the most important writing I’ll ever do.

Does the relationship I’m writing about sound interesting? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Sin Eater 11.15While on a plane flight, I watched an episode of the American TV crime drama “The Blacklist”, staring the brilliant James Spader.

Besides enjoying the taut suspense, I was intrigued by an apparent power that Spader’s character had: he could suppress the terrible memories of people he wanted to protect.

“I’m a sin eater,” he tells co-star Megan Boone, who portrays a deeply troubled FBI profiler, in a 2015 episode. “I absorb the misdeeds of others, darkening my soul to keep theirs pure. That is what I’m capable of.”

How’s that for an amazing ability? Imagine if a real person could do such a thing? It certainly didn’t make Spader’s character, FBI fugitive Raymond Reddington, a happy person. So would a real life person use such a power?

Well, prepare yourself for a little controversy because a real person DOES have that power and uses it all the time.

His name? Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians believe is the son of God.

Stick with me while I explain.

More than 2,000 years ago, Jesus was physically on this earth, walking around Israel with a band of rag-tag followers and telling anyone who would listen that God was not a far-off, angry entity.

He was (and is) in the hearts and minds of anyone who would welcome Him, passionately loving that person and offering them an eternal place in Heaven.

The problem? This perfect God could not, and cannot, stand the “sin” that you and I commit. That means the wrong things we do every day and the right things we fail to do every day. That means turning our backs on God and living like He doesn’t exist.

God sent Jesus to fix that through an extraordinary process: Jesus, who was (and is) as perfect as His Father, became our sin eater, absorbing our misdeeds and taking the punishment for them by dying on a Roman cross.

Anyone who believes in Jesus and follows Him has their sins absorbed and their soul made pure through his sacrificial death and resurrection three days later.

This means when this life is finished and His followers appear before God, the wrong things they’ve done and the right things they’ve failed to do are wiped out. Jesus followers are as pure in God’s eyes as Jesus Himself.

This strikes me as a pretty good deal. That’s why, after much consideration, after reading many books and after debating with some brave Christians, I decided to accept that deal.

So Jesus lives in my heart and mind. The more I listen to His leading, the better my life is.

This same deal is available to you, no matter what you’ve done (or not done), no matter how dark (or light) your soul may be.

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

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