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Archive for February, 2016

Prayer-doubt 2.16No doubt about it: prayer is often a mystery, even to people who believe in it and practise it.

So I was intrigued by this graphic (found in an atheist Internet community) because it asserts a viewpoint I haven’t seen before.

Indeed, doing a Google search of the question “Is prayer an act of doubt?” brought up almost no links. Apparently, most people (even those who doubt God’s existence) have never thought to pose the question.

So is praying an act of doubt? Blogger Juanita Ryan (www.JuanitaRyan.com) puts it very well when she writes: “We want to trust God. We want to have faith. But we have so many questions. So many things are unclear and uncertain.”

In western culture, doubting there even is a creator is common. So wondering if God is watching over everything is hardly rare.

But watching over everything is not the same as arranging everything. If you believe in God, then you probably believe in freewill. And that’s part of the mystery. How, when and where does freewill mix with God’s will? And how does all that work in His plan for this planet, for you and for me?

There are no definitive, truly satisfactory answers to those questions  And I’m fine with that. Questions like these are a powerful and necessary reminder that God is God. And I am NOT.

So are my prayers an act of doubt? Sometimes. Remember, as a man of faith (I follow Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians believe is God’s divine Son), I’m surrounded by people — including my parents and brothers — who think praying to our creator is a joke, a quaint throwback to a time when Christianity was influential in my country (Canada).

Then I think about this point made by Juanita Ryan: “Where do we take our doubts if not to God? Where do we voice our uncertainties if not to God?”

Exactly. Just hours before Jesus was arrested on trumped-up charges, A section of the Bible called Matthew (one of four Bible accounts of Jesus’ physical life on earth) records that He spent anguished time on His own, praying to His Father about His fears and uncertainties.

“Jesus fell to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, don’t make me drink from this cup [of betrayal, torture and death on a Roman cross]. But do what you want, not what I want” (Matthew 26:39).

Right there is the biggest reason I can think of for praying. Jesus prayed. A lot. And he prayed about his uncertainties. And as a result, He was strengthened for the hard road ahead, so much so that He willingly carried out His Father’s plan to reconnect us defiant, sinful people to Him.

By trusting and believing in Jesus — His physical life and work, His death and resurrection — God no longer sees all the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do. Jesus has paid the price for it all. So when this life is finished, those who trust and believe in Jesus will spend eternity with Him in Heaven.

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

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2.16Great question, isn’t it? As soon as I saw this graphic on an Internet atheist community, I knew it touched on an important topic that many folks just don’t understand.

First of all, let’s get the facts straight. Nowhere in the Bible does it even hint that Jesus — whom Christians believe is God’s divine Son — died to wipe out sin. Nowhere.

So why did He die? Let’s see what the Bible (which serious Christians believe is inspired by God) does say about that:

Because we broke God’s laws, we owed a debt—a debt that listed all the rules we failed to follow. But God forgave us of that debt. He took it away and nailed it to the cross. (from a section called ‘Colossians’).

Another version of the Bible translates that excerpt like this:
All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross.

In case one excerpt isn’t enough, check these out:

I [Paul, a missionary who spread Christianity through the Mediterranean] told you the most important truths: that Christ died for our sins, as the Scriptures [other parts of the Bible] say; that he was buried and was raised to life on the third day, as the Scriptures say. (from ‘1 Corinthians’)

Christ had no sin, but God made him become sin so that in Christ we could be right with God. (from ‘2 Corinthians’)

Christ redeemed us from that self-defeating, cursed life by absorbing it completely into himself. Do you remember the Scripture that says “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”? That is what happened when Jesus was nailed to the cross: He became a curse, and at the same time dissolved the curse. (from Galatians)

Now maybe you’re not convinced. Maybe you’re thinking “that’s just other people talking about Jesus. That’s not Jesus Himself”. So read this, from ‘Luke’, one of four Bible accounts of Jesus’ life:

Jesus took bread and spoke a prayer of thanksgiving. He broke the bread, gave it to [His apostles], and said, “This is my body, which is given up for you. Do this to remember me.”

Why would Jesus give up his body if it wasn’t for something truly epic, truly world-changing like wiping out the sins of everyone who believes in Him and follows Him?

In fact, Jesus was fulfilling a prophesy made hundreds of years before his physical life on Earth. Isaiah, a prophet, predicted the future when he wrote this:

He [Jesus] was being punished for what we did. He was crushed because of our guilt. He took the punishment we deserved, and this brought us peace. We were healed because of his pain.
(Isaiah 53:5)

So why is there still sinning? Because God gave us very imperfect creatures the gift of freewill and that means we use it to do wrong and fail to do right.

But as you can see from all the Bible quotes above, there’s a solution: believe in Jesus – His life, ministry, death and resurrection. Become His follower. Then watch how He changes your life.

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

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DawkinsForegivness 2.16I’ll bet there are folks out there who see this graphic (helpfully supplied by an Internet atheist community) and think “ya, why not just our forgive sins?” Maybe you’re one of those people.

First of all, I can confidently write that God is NOT trying to impress anyone. When you’re the creator of time, space and the universe, trying to impress anyone (even Himself) is just silly.

Second, this quote (by one of the world’s best-known atheists) displays a blatant ignorance — or outright rejection — of who God is.

Is God merciful? Yes. Does God want to forgive us for all the wrong things we’ve done and right things we’ve failed to do? Absolutely.

But God is also something else: perfect. And that’s His baseline standard for everything, whether we like it or not.

So why doesn’t He just forgive us? Well, why do we have courts? Why can’t we just ignore the dude who killed that guy in a bar fight? Why don’t we just overlook how she faked having cancer in order to bilk people out of thousands of dollars?

If these examples offend your sense of justice, then imagine how our creator feels about  our greed, our self-centredness, our violence, our willful ignorance and our cultural belief that we “deserve” the good life.

Is God judge and jury? You bet He is. Execution victim? Yes, that too.

If that last point seems strange, then understand that this is how it goes with Christianity: Knowing that we could never do enough or be enough to earn our way into Heaven, God paved the way for us. That way is through believing in and following Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians believe is God’s divine Son (and also God in the flesh, but that’s a blog for another day).

A section of the Bible, called ‘1 Peter’, describes Jesus this way: “He never sinned, and he never told a lie”. This is important and you’ll soon read why.

Jesus spent three years traveling around the Middle East with a band of followers, telling people the Kingdom of God (represented by Him) was near. He proved it by healing diseases, raising people from the dead and preaching revolutionary ideas like loving your enemies, refusing to retaliate when a wrong has been done to you and praying for those who hate you.

Then Jesus allowed conniving religious authorities to arrest him on trumped-up charges and convince political leaders to hand Him the ultimate punishment: death on a cross.

What they didn’t realize is that this death would pave the way to Heaven for anyone who believes in and follows Jesus. He paid the price that we should be paying.

Now, when God sees any Jesus follower, He doesn’t see the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do. He only sees perfection. It’s like Jesus transferred His perfection onto anyone who believes in Him and follows Him.

There. I’ve done my best to explain why God doesn’t just forgive our sins. As you can see, He goes even further than that — sacrificing His son for everyone who believes in Jesus.

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

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