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Archive for the ‘It’s Not About ‘Religion’’ Category

CureForReligion 10.15When I first saw this graphic, generously shared on an atheist Internet community, my first reaction was “Hmm…wonder where I could buy a great shirt like this?”

I’m a Christian who knows the world needs a cure for “religion”. You know, all that stuff that says you can torture, rape and kill ‘unbelievers’. (Or worse still, people who leave my “religion” for another “religion”.)

Am I overstating it? Then let’s examine the “religious” part of Christianity. You may have experienced it:

  • People who appear to have it all together sitting in cold-hearted judgement of others.
  • People who sniff their disapproval of those with tattoos or nose rings.
  • People who claim they welcome others to their churches — as long as those people fit in, ’cause hey, we’re certainly NOT going to change for YOU.
  • People who seem to spend more time angrily opposing things than lovingly offering an alternative.

All this is how I see “religion”.

Is there a cure? Absolutely, but it’s controversial. It’s Jesus Christ, whom serious Christian believe is God’s divine Son.

Still with me, but wondering what the heck I’m writing about? Good.

During His physical time on earth, Jesus had little use for the rituals of “religion” and the self-righteous, soulless lives it so often produces.

In ‘Matthew’, one of the four Bible accounts of Jesus’ life, He says this to people like you and me: “Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.”

In his book The End of Religion, Canadian pastor Bruxy Cavey writes “Notice how Jesus is not pointing toward a different and better religion, but instead He invites us to Himself as an alternative to the weary way of religion.”

Exactly. That’s the thing you might not know: Christianity isn’t about a religion. It’s about a person and how you and I can have a relationship with Him that starts in this life and stretches into eternity.

That means no guilt-induced rituals that create nothing but spiritual fatigue. It also means thoughtfully, consciously turning away from the elitism of “us versus them” and the smugness of judgmentalism.

When people honestly, humbly come to Jesus, they come knowing they are very bit as imperfect as the people they are tempted to judge. They come with the realization that it’s them who must change.

That was the case for me when I decided to believe in and follow Jesus at age 42. And it’s made me a better person.

Do you want to be a better person without the shackles of religion? Then check out Jesus, because in a section of the Bible simply called ‘John’, He tells everyone who will listen that “anyone who drinks the water I give will never be thirsty again. The water I give people will be like a spring flowing inside them. It will bring them eternal life.”

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

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religiousWhat if I told you that I’m a serious Christian who thoroughly, enthusiastically AGREES with this graphic?

Posted on an Internet atheism community, the message is probably a shot at followers of Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians believe is the Son of God).

That said, I certainly don’t take any offence. Being “religious” no more makes a person “good” than going into MacDonald’s makes one a Big Mac.

In fact, I’ll go further and write that being “religious” is far more likely to make a person arrogant, petty, self-righteous and overwhelmingly judgmental.

Such characteristics should not be found in a devoted follower of Jesus. Indeed, a section of the Bible called ‘Galatians’ says this:

“But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity.

“We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.”

Compassion? A conviction that all of God’s creations (no matter how warped or broken they might be) are special? There’s precious little room for that in a person who’s busy being self-righteous and judgmental.

Let me be clear: Christians are a long, long way from anything approaching “perfect”. There are still moments when I find myself spending more time opposing people and positions than supporting their right to free speech.

But that’s okay. Like it or not, all Jesus followers are a work in progress. If we’re serious about this journey with the Son of God, we strive to:

  • Regularly attend church (a hospital for sinners, NOT a museum of saints)
  • Read the Bible (which gives us insights on who God is, why He sent His Son to earth and how we can live our lives like Jesus)
  • Give to charity, because as Jesus tells His followers in a section of the Bible called ‘Luke’, “Give to others, and you will receive. You will be given much. It will be poured into your hands—more than you can hold … The way you give to others is the way God will give to you.”
  • Practise humility and humbleness, because Jesus tells His followers (also in ‘Luke’), “For those who make themselves great will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be made great.”
  • Tell others about how following Jesus has changed our lives for the better and can do the same for them. Why? Because He clearly instructs his followers (in a section of the Bible called ‘Mark’) to “go everywhere in the world. Tell the Good News (about God and eternal life in Heaven) to everyone.”

That’s why I’m writing this essay for YOU to read. I want you to experience the same positive life change as me. I want you to know, like I know, that God loves YOU passionately and offers YOU the gift of His Son.

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

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Religion+is+Slavery+-Robert+G.+Ingersoll-1I’m a Christian, so what I’m going to write probably won’t make a lick of sense to you. But I’m gonna write it anyway.

1. “Religion” can never reform humanity. Ever.

2. Without a doubt, “religion” is slavery.

Religion is dogma, rules to follow, appearance to keep up, judgements to hand out. It all too often translates into numbing negativity that gives people of faith a bad reputation.

A quick example? You would be amazed at how many people who call themselves Christians spend their Halloweens telling other Christians how deluded and misguided they are to be “celebrating” what one Christian called a “pagan holiday about death”.

I feel quite safe in writing if I line up 100 North American parents who are taking their six-year-olds out to collect candy and tell them what these Christians said, they would look at me like I’m out of my mind.

Sadly, there are people who become addicted to this kind of thinking. In other words, they become slaves to “religion”. Some even go so far as to pass judgement on people’s clothes and hairstyles, declaring that today’s men and women look too much alike and it’s “one of the reasons we have this is the epidemic of homosexuality”. Yes, I’m actually quoting from a religious person who wrote this on the Internet.

Frankly, I’m embarrassed by it. And I wouldn’t be surprised if Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians, and many others, believe is the son of God) is embarrassed, too. The Bible doesn’t have a single quote from Him about Halloween or about people’s clothing and hairstyles. Not. One. Word.

But in a section of the Bible called ‘Matthew’, Jesus does have this to say about people in love with religion: “They pile heavy burdens on people’s shoulders and won’t lift a finger to help. Everything they do is just to show off in front of others.”

I’m sure you’re as turned off by all of this as I am. Indeed, if people tried to attract me to Christianity with this kind of thinking, I would have run the other way.

So what attracted me? The prospect of a relationship with the Son of God that starts in this life and extends into eternity. The idea that God loves — yes, LOVES me so much that He offered me an extraordinary gift: Jesus Christ — His life and incredible teachings, His sacrificial death to make up for all the bad things I’ve done and all the good things I’ve failed to do, and His game-changing resurrection.

I wanted this relationship. I wanted to be reformed in a way “religion” never can. And I wanted to be free of the slavery of our culture — the meaningless drive for money, power and prestige, the irrelevant obsession with looking good and earning the praise of judgmental people.

And I have it. By no means am I anywhere within shouting distance of “perfect”. But because I follow Jesus Christ, I’m a better person than before. And I have the assurance of life with Him for all eternity.

Do you find this at all attractive? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Religion bad 5.14A challenging graphic, isn’t it? I saw it on an atheist Internet community and knew it would be good for Frank’s Cottage. Mostly because I’m in full agreement.

Religion, from my point of view, often does BAD things in our world.

  • Religion says that because the group I belong to is right, then everyone else must be wrong. And it’s a pretty short trip from there to believing I can do whatever I want to “wrong” people.
  • Religion says I have to do things, or NOT do things, in order to get in good with whatever god is at the top of that group.
  • Religion says if I blow up a building or murder a doctor who performs abortions, I’m doing a good thing.
  • Religion says I’m supposed to have it all together and if I don’t, then others (who obviously DO have it all together) will judge me and exclude me from their social group.
  • Religion insists that certain behaviours are wrong (such as having an occasional alcoholic drink or getting a tattoo), even if my holy book is absolutely silent on them.

So where does all this religion get us? I like the response of Bruxey Cavey. In his book The End of Religion, this Canadian pastor writes, “Religion does not lead people to God any more than empty cups quench your thirst”.

To me, religion leads to an empty charade of a life. Or the sickening horror of thinking you’re doing good by blowing up a building or murdering a doctor who performs abortions.

Another pastor, Mark Driscoll explains the difference between religion and Christianity (my faith) this way:

Religion is humanity trying to reach up to God. The message of Christianity is God reaching down to people. Religion is about what people have to do to be right with God.  Christianity is about what God has already done to provide us the opportunity to be right with Him.

Religion says you must earn your salvation by doing good deeds or certain acts and not doing evil. Christianity says all we need to do is believe that Jesus Christ [whom serious Christians believe is God’s son] has already paid the price for the evil we have done.

And before you protest, yes, every human being on this planet (and that certainly includes ME) has done evil. Even the late Mother Teresa did evil — that’s one reason she dedicated her life to following Jesus. She wanted — and received, as far as serious Christians are concerned — the benefit of Jesus paying the price for all her wrongs through His sacrificial death at the hands of Roman officials. That benefit is eternity in Heaven with her saviour.

“Jesus did not come to offer an alternative religion, but an alternative to religion,” Bruxey Cavey wrote in The End of Religion. “He did not call people to leave one lifeless shell for another, but to live life beyond the borders of religious rules, regulations, rituals, and routines.”

Does this Jesus — and all He’s done for everyone who believes in and follows Him — appeal to you? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Popularity 2.14

What do you think? Does the atheist person who created this graphic have a good point?

I guess that depends on what you think the point is; for me, this graphic (which criticizes Christianity) doesn’t really speak about truth. It speaks about popularity.

Consider this: Nazism must be true, because it was very popular with a very large segment of Europe. For about a decade, people all over Germany, France, Austria and other countries were knocking on doors to get into the club.

And what about this: smoking cigarettes must be a good thing, since hundreds of millions of people have done it. In fact, there are still young people who knock on the door to get into the smokers club.

What I’m saying here is the truth of Christianity has absolutely nothing to do with its popularity. Zero. Zilch. Squat.

So let’s go further and explain why people are, for the most part, NOT knocking on the doors to get into the club.

1. Christianity starts with absolute reality and that reality is so unpopular, I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I write that some people would rather cut off their ears than hear it: we do bad things and fail to do good things. All the time – so often, in fact, that we often don’t realize when it happens. (That’s certainly the case for me.)

It can be as small as failing to give to charity or getting unjustifiably angry with your spouse. And it can be as large as sabotaging a friend’s marriage, cheating on your taxes or defrauding your workplace. The size doesn’t matter. It’s still reality. It’s still bad. It’s still happening all the time.

2. Many people think truth is kinda relative. But there is an objective morality to Christianity – a morality that doesn’t change with time or culture or anything else.

Wrong is still wrong, even if everyone’s doing it. And right is still right, even if no one is doing it. And that definitely makes Christianity unpopular.

3. The solution is as simple as accepting a gift from God – Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians believe is His son.

Christ came to serve anyone who believes in Him and follows Him – His death is a sacrifice that makes up for all the bad things we’ve done and the good things we’ve failed to do. And His resurrection provides a way for eternal life with Him, long after our lives on planet Earth are finished.

This is overwhelmingly unpopular because it forces us to examine our lives and admit we have blown it so often that we can never do enough to make up for it. Even someone as remarkable as Mother Teresa knew that.

4. One final reason for the unpopularity of Christianity? It takes a combination of reason and faith to become a follower of Jesus Christ. It will never, ever be possible to prove or disprove the existence of God. There is certainly evidence, but that evidence MUST be combined with a leap of faith (and I write about that here: http://wp.me/p2wzRb-3i). That’s certainly enough to turn off many people.

And yet, in the end, Christianity is so simple. And what you need to do to get in on God’s offer of a changed life NOW and for ETERNITY is remarkably straightforward.

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

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CarInDitchI’ve been reading a blog by a guy named Derrick Miller, who wrote about his trip in and out of Christianity and, finally, to atheism.

It’s pretty interesting reading, and Derrick makes some good points about some of the challenges of being a Christian. Among them, he notes:

•   The difficulty of reading and comprehending some parts of the Bible;
•   The challenge of living the kind of life he thought would be pleasing to God;
•   Coming to some sort of conclusion about the purpose of the universe; and
•   Understanding why there are so many Christian denominations (more than 50 in Canada alone).

Can I address these difficulties in a credible way? Some of them, perhaps, but not all. I don’t believe many people can, simply because they are huge topics requiring an incredibly wide range of knowledge.

But there’s something larger here to address. Something that Derrick’s blog made very clear: he didn’t understand that Christianity isn’t primarily about comprehending all the Bible or the universe. It isn’t primarily about pleasing God by trying to emulate Mother Theresa or Billy Graham. And it’s certainly not about grasping all the viewpoints held by Christian churches.

In the end, the things that tripped up Derrick are merely colorful, shiny billboards on the road of life. Spend too much time staring at them and, like Derrick, you’ll drive off the road and land in a ditch.

Ultimately, Christianity is about a relationship between you and Jesus, whom serious Christians believe is the son of God. Plain and simple? Yes, but it’s very radical and utterly opposite to doing stuff and understanding stuff and reading stuff and getting our act together and, and, and…

I suspect if Derrick had encountered someone who could have explained this relationship and lived it out in front of him – a mentor or a Christian friend or an interested pastor, for example – then his life would have been very different.

A mentor could have guided Derrick to resources that would provide a new and relevant understanding of the Bible.

A pastor could have shown Derrick that while it’s great to get his act together, he (a) could never be “good enough” for God – and didn’t have to, thanks to Jesus’ death and resurrection – and, (b) he didn’t have to even try on his own.

A Christian friend could have made it plain to Derrick that there have always been, and always will be, unanswerable questions. Those questions are the evidence we egotistical humans need to remind us that God is God and we are NOT.

Are the things that put Derrick’s “car” into the “ditch” the same things that are keeping you from even sliding behind the wheel and turning the ignition key? Respond below and let’s have a conversation.

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ReligionThe other day, I encountered a blog by someone named David Foster who disputed the claim I and many others have made: that Christianity is about a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, rather than an ‘organized religion’.

“Even if this ‘being’, which you claim to have a relationship with, does exist, your worshipping of him or her still constitutes a religion,” David writes. “I would say the same about people whose praise of their boyfriend or girlfriend crosses the line into worship.”

An interesting point. But just because serious Christians worship God and his son, Jesus, doesn’t make it a religion. Serious Christians – and many others – believe God made this entire universe, including the air you are breathing as you read this essay. You and I would not be alive without some sort of creator, so why shouldn’t He be worshipped? And that’s the precise reason why worshipping God is nothing like worshipping your spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend.

Another point from the David Foster blog:  “To me, it seems that Christians are simply believing in something they were indoctrinated to believe in, usually since childhood.”

Okay, then, David. How do you explain me? My entire biological family bought into the ridicule our culture has for Christianity and abandoned it decades ago. Until 2002, I was with them 100 per cent. Yet, I changed – and it wasn’t because of an awful crisis, either.

So my question remains, David: how do you explain me and so many others who were NOT ‘indoctrinated’ into Christian beliefs, yet they still made a life-changing commitment to Jesus?

Finally, David Foster makes this assertion: “To me, the relationship Christians have with Jesus is in no way distinguishable from the relationship children have with their imaginary friends. I’ll change my mind in the event a Christian demonstrates that Jesus can do something tangible that an imaginary friend cannot.”

There are all kinds of examples of Jesus doing what most of us would consider nearly impossible. Off the top of my head, I think of Michael ‘Bull’ Roberts, a man who graduated from a horrific childhood to become a gang leader who ran most of the drug trade in the Canadian province of Alberta.

Michael’s ‘friends’ in the drug world eventually turned on him, beating him savagely and leaving him for dead. In the aftermath, he turned to Jesus.

Today? No more gang activity. No more drug dealing. No more violence. In fact, Michael now spends his time helping street kids, society’s outcasts and people in prisons.

I suppose if David Foster and other skeptics want to credit Michael’s new life to an ‘imaginary friend’, they will find a way. But wouldn’t that position smack of the very desperation that David attributes to Christians?

So what about you? Where do you stand on the notion of Christianity being a relationship rather than a religion? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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