Archive for the ‘In The News’ Category

Jeffrey DahmerWhen I saw this graphic, on an Internet atheism community, the first thing I did was check to confirm its message. And that message is true.

If your memory is foggy (or you weren’t born yet), here are the horrifying facts: between 1978 and 1991, Jeffrey Dahmer raped, murdered and dismembered 17 men and boys in the American state of Wisconsin.

Deemed sane enough to stand trial, Dahmer was convicted of 16 murders and received life sentences for each one.

While in a maximum security prison, Dahmer began reading the Bible and in May 1994, he was baptized.

Dahmer had weekly visits with his pastor until November of ’94, when he was murdered by another inmate.

So there are the dry facts, the “highlights” of which were used in this graphic to express disgust without having to include a single adjective or exclamation mark.

Do I understand how nauseating the point of this graphic is to most people? Absolutely. Looking beyond the emotion, do I believe the statements in the graphic? Absolutely. Indeed, this reality is among the most important reasons that I call myself a Christian.

If you’re still with me and you believe in God, think about this: do you really want the creator and master of time, space and the universe to be consumed by the hatred, pettiness, hard-heartedness and lack of mercy to which we human beings so often cling?

I can tell you right now that I would not follow Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians believe is God’s Son) if His Father was no better than His creations. What would be the point? God would not deserve my love and worship.

So the truth of Jeffery’s Dahmer’s prison life shows me the depth of God’s love and concern for ALL of humanity. He wants everyone, including YOU, to spend eternity with Him in Heaven.

But how could that be possible when we all fall short of God’s standard of perfection? Every one of us has done wrong and failed to do right — so often, in fact, that there’s no way we can ever explain them all away for make up for them. In other words, we’re doomed.

Granted, I’m pretty certain no one reading this blog has even considered committing anything like the vile acts that Jeffery Dahmer did. But like it or not, that’s NOT the point. We’re still busted.

But God doesn’t want us to be busted. He wants us to spend eternity with Him. So He sent Jesus to earth to teach us about God, to show us how to live and, finally, to die as punishment for all the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do.

Believe in Jesus, commit yourself to following Him and when this life ends, God will see YOU just like he saw Jeffrey Dahmer: perfect, exactly like His Son. Without a single blemish. And He’ll welcome you into eternity with Him.

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

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Mike O'BrienUntil his recent death, I’d never heard of Mike O’Brien. You probably haven’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 painfully 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 most Christians 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 Christ, who serious Christians 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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DiscoveryOfSelf 2.14Isn’t it funny how life works? Actor Brad Pitt claims leaving “religion” behind helped him discover who his is. And yet, for millions of people around the world, entering a life of faith accomplished the same thing.

What fascinates me about this graphic (found on an atheist Internet community) is Pitt’s words about the “comfort” of “religion” (a word I dislike – it carries a ton of negative baggage with me and with many others).

I’m a serious Christian. Is my faith in Jesus Christ — whom Christians, and many others, believe is the son of God — a comfort? Of course it is. Just as a fat bank account or a prestigious career is a comfort for many others.

I’m comforted knowing that because I believe in and follow Jesus, His sacrificial death on a cross wipes my slate clean with the creator of the universe. God no longer sees the bad things I’ve done and the good things I’ve failed to do. He sees me as He sees Jesus – “in Him there is no sin” says a section of the Bible called ‘1 John’ .

But there’s something very uncomfortable about that, too. If I take what Jesus did for me seriously, then I’ll want to live up to His remarkable gift. I’ll want to welcome Jesus into my life so He can guide me away from bad behaviour and towards doing good.

You might think that’s easy to do and why on earth would I need Jesus to pull it off? I’ll tell you why: because it’s NOT easy to do. I miss the mark, of being the kind of person God knows I can be, so often that I don’t even realize it. And so does every other person on this planet.

It’s like we live blindfolded, believing everything our culture tells us, thinking we look so cool and “together” when, in God’s eyes — and He knows you and me better than we ever could — we are stumbling around like drunken fools.

That’s one part of the “discovery of self” that Brad Pitt mentioned. The other part is this: as a follower of Jesus Christ, I know that God loves me more than my wife, more than my parents, more than my stepkids. More than all of them put together. That’s pretty remarkable, especially as most of us (whether we acknowledge it or not) live with a harsh critic in our heads.

Think hard about this: how often do you put yourself down? Do you even recognize all those occasions? Then consider this: God knows all your shortcomings. All the bad things you’ve done and the good things you’ve failed to do. Yet He loves you. And loves you so much that He offers you the gift of His son. All you have to do is accept it.

If you do accept that gift with a sincere heart (not just as a way to avoid judgement when this life ends), then you’ll start on a journey of self-discovery that will leave Brad Pitt’s in the dust.

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

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Erabbi-090508ver heard of a black rabbi? Me neither. That’s why I read, with endless fascination, a National Post interview with Rabbi Capers Funnye (how’s that for a name?).

The 60-year-old Chicago resident converted to Judaism as a young man when he began having serious doubts about the Christian faith of his birth. He now runs one of the largest black synagogues in the United States.

Interviewed just before a Toronto speaking engagement, Rabbi Funnye told the Post that one of the reasons he converted to Judaism was, “I couldn’t understand how if Jesus was God, and then He was dead for three days after the crucifixion, who was in charge? I also couldn’t understand the idea of the Trinity — Father, Son and Holy Ghost [Spirit]. That idea was developed 325 years after Jesus, so I doubted the Trinity was true.”

I can tell you right now that Rabbi Funnye is hardly the first person to stumble over the idea of one god who is three distinct persons, all united in purpose.  Many Christians, me included, will testify that quantum physics is easier to understand.

And yet, the reality of the Trinity is written in the Bible. In one of the sections about the life of Jesus, He tells His disciples to “go and make followers of all people in the world. Baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” This quote not only connects the three persons of God, it puts them on the same level of importance.

So when Rabbi Funnye says he can’t understand who was in charge in the days between the death and resurrection of Jesus, the answer is simple: God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.

Rabbi Funnye told the Post something else that caught my attention: “Judaism does not put limits on God, [but] Christians do. To me, God is limitless.”

What’s so fascinating about this is that by denying the possibility of one God existing as three distinct persons, Rabbi Funnye has put a limit on God. And he apparently doesn’t realize it.

So what about you; is the Trinity a gigantic boulder in the middle of your road to faith? If it is, the word I just used – faith – is of key importance. Our limited minds struggle to understand this mystery and that’s why serious Christians accept the Trinity by faith.

And whatever you do, don’t underestimate the importance of accepting by faith, rather than scientific fact. Another section of the Bible says “Without faith, no one can please God. Whoever comes to God must believe He is real …”

Does this make sense to you? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Pat-BurnsI’m not much of a hockey fan, but I do keep track of the Montreal Canadiens. That means, like fans of the other National Hockey League teams he coached (the Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils), I was saddened by the death of Pat Burns in 2010.

I was impressed with the former cop’s tough-guy approach which rallied my Habs, then went on to rally the Leafs before finally winning a Stanley Cup with the Devils. Burns wasn’t an NHL player who was handed a coaching career; he worked his way up the ranks with determination.

He was weakened, gaunt and admitting the end was not far off when the Toronto Star’s Rosie Dimanno wrote a wonderful column about him. In it, she mentioned a recent interview in which Burns, 58, “spoke even about a newly realized appreciation for religious faith, because a person gets to thinking about God and prayer and the hereafter when staring straight into the abyss.”

This stuck with me, because the majority of my life is now behind me. That certainly changes a person’s perspective and I’m glad to have come to an “appreciation for religious faith” without having to stare into the “abyss” first.

That may not seem important to some folks. They’re busy with family or careers or pursuing fame or riches at the gambling table or extreme sports. The list can go on and on.

And yet, even in wealthy North America, with our massive healthcare systems and long lifespans – much longer than the age of Pat Burns – the end can come upon us with the shock of a shovel in the stomach.

I didn’t need such a shock to be reminded of that fact. I just read a ‘tweet’ on Twitter from Rick Warren (he wrote a book you may have heard of, The Purpose Driven Life) that simply stated, “When I’m tempted to be prideful, I just remind myself that I cannot even guarantee my next breath.”

That’s right, folks. It doesn’t matter if you’re battling cancer like Pat Burns did, or you’re a disgustingly young and fit triathlete. The end can come before you finish reading this sentence.

I think Jesus Christ (who most Christians, and many others as well, believe is the son of God) knew this. That’s why, in the Bible, he told his followers, “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. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.

It seems to me that if our “treasure” is in the right place, then the end won’t be an “abyss”. In fact, it won’t be the end at all. It will just be the end of the beginning.

Do you agree? Yes or no, post your response below and let’s have a conversation.

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Open DoorThe headline said ‘Extremism’s appeal for Canadian radicals’. That didn’t sway me to read the article in the National Post, one of Canada’s major newspapers. But what did intrigue me was the one-word “subhead”: ‘Superiority’.

A police officer, trying to figure out what was turning some young Canadians into violence-supporting radical Islamists, did extensive interviews with seven young Toronto men (six of them born in Canada) who fit the bill.

After the interviews, the officer came to the conclusion that they were deeply troubled men who, the reporter wrote, “found, in extremism, a reason to feel superior. In their minds, the had joined an exclusive fraternity that knew the truth. They weren’t losers after all; they were better than everyone else.”

Two things strike me about this:

1. The contrast of being a “loser” and feeling “superior”. Our culture loves nothing more than to constantly rank the value of people. It’s one of the main reasons that I decided to take my own radical turn and declare myself a follower of Jesus Christ.

Jesus followers know that we are neither losers nor superior. The evidence for this can be found in the Bible, in a section called ‘Galations’: “There is no difference between Jew and Greek, slave and free person, male and female. You are all the same in Christ Jesus.”

This may not be important to many people, but I need that reminder for those times when I see someone do or say something stupid. That’s when the Bible reminds me that I, too, do and say stupid things. The key difference is that, as a follower of Jesus, I welcome Him into my life to make me more like Him. And He never did or said a single stupid thing.

2. Can there be a more obnoxious word in our dictionary than “exclusive”? It comes from the word “exclude” and when it comes to thinking about my brothers and sisters in the human race, I have trouble understanding what possible good can come from excluding anyone.

Now you might be thinking “Well, you Christians think you’re in an exclusive club, that only YOU get to go to Heaven.”

To that I write that yes, when I’m done with this life, I have a certainty about where I’m going and I feel sure that I’ll see other followers of Jesus there. My confidence comes from a section of the Bible simply called ‘John’: “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.

But exclusive? Not on your life. There is no lock on the doors to Christianity. In fact, there are no doors at all. The way is wide open to anyone who wants to enter.

That openness is why I’ve written this essay – to invite YOU to enter and have your life changed for the better – now and for eternity – by Jesus. Will you accept the invitation? Yes or no, post your response below and let’s have a conversation.

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ChickenManureIt’s safe to write that this was not the kind of international media attention the Canadian city of Abbotsford, British Columbia wanted to achieve.

Like most large cities, there are homeless people in Abbotsford and they like to gather in a spot called “The Honey Tree”. Apparently some folks aren’t happy about that because city workers dumped chicken manure at the site.

An attempt to drive the homeless away? That’s certainly the logical answer, but nobody at the city said so. Especially when the move attracted international attention and widespread criticism. Instead, city officials scrambled to undertake an investigation and the mayor held a news conference to apologize.

As I read articles on this controversy, I was forced to confront my own discomfort with homeless people. Often, they are unkempt and smelly. Often, they are mentally ill. Often, they want money from me – to buy something I may not approve of.

But I follow Jesus Christ, and if you give the Bible any credibility, then consider how it makes clear that “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.”

As far as I’m concerned, that statement means God loves the homeless people of Abbotsford, British Columbia every bit as much as he loves me or Barack Obama or Nelson Mandela. That also means Abbotsford’s homeless have the same intrinsic value as billionaires and Hollywood royalty.

Our culture doesn’t think so – the actions of Abbotsford’s city staff are certainly evidence of that – but it’s why I follow Jesus. He hung out with the marginalized people of ancient Israel and He often made it clear that the “in” people of that place were the ones he had issues with.

My own discomfort aside, I want to be more like Jesus. I want to pay less attention to what our broken world thinks is “cool” and pay attention to what He thinks. Because like all serious Christians, I believe he lived, died and came back to life for people like me. And people like the homeless of Abbotsford, British Columbia. And people like you. All you have to is accept the gift.

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

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