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Archive for the ‘Me & The World’ Category

Maybe you’ve wondered about the very pointed question in this meme. Certainly atheists and others have long argued that a loving creator would never devise anything as horrifying as hell.

So stick with me while we examine the facts around hell and a loving God.

1. Hell was absolutely NOT created for human beings. Says who? Says Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is God’s perfect Son.

In one of the primary source documents about His physical life on earth, Jesus referred to hell as “the fire that was prepared for the devil and his angels.” That’s right. NOT for people.

2. God’s love is absolutely unconditional. How do I know that? Because there are people in Heaven right now who have lived lives much more wretched and evil than you and me. I wrote a blog about one of those people: https://wp.me/p2wzRb-ko.

Maybe that fact disgusts you. I understand. But every person on this planet, including you and me, has committed moral crimes – either through the bad things we’ve done or through the good things we’ve failed to do. Every. Single. Person. So who are we to tell God where people should go after their lives end?

3. Hell continues to exist because many, many people – past, present and future – want it to exist. No, I’m not losing my sanity. Hear me out.

Getting into Heaven is simple. Just be absolutely perfect. It’s the price of admission because Jesus said, “you must be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

How can anyone achieve this impossible standard? On our own, we can’t. But it’s a different story when we decide, with sober thoughtfulness, to follow Jesus. He sacrificed His life to pay the penalty for the moral crimes of every person who declares Him Lord and Saviour. For those followers, God doesn’t see our crimes; all He sees is His Son’s perfection.

So what happens to people who reject Jesus? They’re sending God a clear, unmistakable message: I don’t want to go to Heaven when this life finishes. I want to go to hell. And so the God of unconditional love grants them their wish, even though He desperately doesn’t want to.

I know God wants everyone – including YOU – in Heaven because one of the people Jesus personally trained to follow after him wrote “The Lord does not want any person to be punished forever. He wants all people to be sorry for their sins and turn from them.”

So consider Jesus to be a gift. All you need to do is accept it, then He’ll come into you life and start to make you more like the person He knows you can be. And when this life ends, you’ll meet Him face-to-face in Heaven. Interested? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Let’s talk about the gods most of us worship.

Perhaps it’s not the God known to many people, including those who follow Jesus of Nazareth (who many believe is the Son of God). That’s probably who the creator of this meme, found on an atheist website, was thinking about.

So who — or what — god might it be? The list of candidates is, sadly, longer than Pinocchio’s nose.

  • Wealth: how many people sacrifice relationships, family life, peace and even a good night’s sleep trying to fill their bank accounts to overflowing? And how much do we really, really need to retire comfortably?
  • Toys: Are our garages big enough to hold the boats, RVs, ATVs and riding lawnmowers that our culture says we should own? Can I find the space needed to cram an 85-inch flat-screen TV into the family room?
  • Career: Is it enough to be a regional manager? Wouldn’t my resume look even better if I was a vice-president? Or maybe a government cabinet minister?
  • Public image: How many of us strive to look endlessly happy and witty on social media?
  • Sex: According to the publisher of adult-entertainment trade publication XBIZ, the North American pornography industry earns at least $6 billion annually. Can anyone credibly insist it’s not a god to millions?

I’m not off the hook here. My wife can easily advance the case that my photography hobby (obsession?) and computer are gods that I kneel before.

So what about you? If you look hard in the mirror, can you admit one or more of these gods sits on the throne of your life? And admit they’re probably not providing the satisfaction and purpose that our culture insists they should?

I write all this to tell you the creator of the universe leaves all these petty little gods in the dust. Why? Because wealth, toys, career, public image and sex couldn’t possibly care less about YOU in this life or the life to come. And when this life ends, all those little gods are left behind like smelly litter.

Believe it or not, the creator of the universe knows YOU and cares about YOU. Jeremiah, an ancient prophet, puts it like this: The Lord says, “I love you people with a love that continues forever.”

Maybe you’ve read that statement, then looked at your life or at the state of our planet and declared “no way”. So just consider these facts:

  1. Rock-hard evidence of God’s love for YOU is the gift of freewill. That gift is why this world is in its current broken state.
  2. Imagine how much worse things would be if God wasn’t involved in the world, if He wasn’t working in ways you and I will never understand in this life. No, don’t imagine it because that’s depressing. Just consider being thankful.

So what do you do with this love? Let me suggest a radical answer: accept God’s gift of His Son Jesus of Nazareth. When you accept Him and follow Him, God know longer sees the bad things you’ve done and the good things you’ve failed to do. He only sees His Son’s perfection, transferred onto you.

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

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I imagine there are some folks who’ll read this meme, helpfully supplied by an atheist internet site, and nod their heads in agreement.

If you’re one of those people, then let me pose these questions: Why is the second question like the first? Can you explain the connection?

This strikes me as a ‘bait-and-switch’, like showing up to take advantage of a great deal on a car, then told none of those cars are available but hey, how about this vehicle at a higher price?

Just as those deals have nothing in common, so it is with this atheist meme.

A wise pastor friend weighed in on it. Ross Carkner noted that the term “master” often has nothing to do with the viewpoint advanced in the meme. How about ‘master electrician’ or ‘master craftsman’? Those images are every bit as relevant as the ancient cliche of the slave-driving master.

The work done by master craftsmen (or women) brings shapeless objects to life and provides them with a purpose. A master craftsman sees potential in what the rest of us may only dismiss as a gnarly piece of driftwood.

The craftsman shapes that wood, cutting away the bits that take away from the whole, sanding the sharp, brittle edges to gentle curves that are appealing to touch. Then he applies layers of lacquer to bring out the barely-seen colours and make the finished product something people admire as art.

I’ve seen so much evidence, in my life and the lives of others, that the Creator of the universe – the creator of you and me – is that kind of master. (This Frank’s Cottage blog details a remarkable example of God’s transforming work: http://wp.me/p2wzRb-5g.)

In the ancient world, a dude named Paul experienced this transformation. Then he told others about it: “I’m sure about this: the One who started a good work in you will stay with you to complete the job by the day of Christ Jesus [who many people believe is God’s Son].”

That’s right; whether you know it or not, God the master craftsman has begun a good work in YOU. And He’s no quitter; He wants to finish that work and make you the person He knows you can be.

So how can you get in on this? Simple. Accept the gift of Jesus – His perfect life, sacrificial death and mind-blowing resurrection – whom God offers to every person on this planet.

When you decide to follow Jesus, then God comes into your life to begin changing you, a process that won’t end until you’re finished with this life. And when that day comes, you’ll spend eternity with Jesus in Heaven because God won’t see any of the wrong things you’ve done or the right things you’ve failed to do. He’ll only see His Son’s perfection.

There’s no bait-and-switch here. The incredible deal you came to accept is the incredible deal you’ll get. Sound good? Yes or no, comment below and let’s have a conversation.

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A few months ago, I found an entertaining blog that listed “32 Reasons to be an Atheist (as Opposed to a Christian),” by someone calling themselves ‘Violetwisp’.

I responded to some of them — you can read the response here: https://wp.me/p2wzRb-rT — but Violetwisp’s content is so rich that I’m revisiting it to tell you more about the truth of following Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is God’s Son). So let’s check out four more of those 32 points:

22. You can look at natural wonders and be amazed by them instead of thinking an all-powerful deity made them on a whim or plan.

Fascinating how this is presented as an “either-or” thing. Why can’t I be amazed by natural wonders AND think about their creator? Is it really wrong or backward to simply say “thanks for making this, God,” when I experience a mountain lake or a prairie sunrise?

23. You don’t have to worry that every political shift in the world is a sign of the inevitable end times.

Yes, there are Jesus followers who fixate on the end of the world and how this or that event is leading us to it.

I feel bad for those folks. They seem to forget that even Jesus didn’t know when the world would end. He says “No one knows when that day or time will be. The Son and the angels in heaven don’t know when it will be. Only the Father knows.

That statement alone should be enough to stop people from wasting time on the unanswerable question – especially when Jesus spent far more of his time telling us the best ways to live in the here and now.

24. You don’t have to worry about dying because there’s no sense that maybe you didn’t make it with your brand of faith (what if the Mormons are right?).

Sadly, there are some people who, despite having accepted God’s gift of His Son (and assurance of eternity in Heaven with Him) still worry about what happens after they die.

Sometimes, I’m one of them. I get caught up in this world’s superficial, ultimately meaningless concerns. I forget that I have nothing to worry about – and you won’t either, if you decide to follow Jesus.

25. You can let your children make up their mind about life, and not brainwash them with a specific belief.

It’s my firm belief that everyone, including me, is brainwashed in some way. (I explain that belief here: https://wp.me/p2wzRb-nb). I also know that as they grow up, children will receive a tsunami of brainwashing about our culture’s likes and dislikes.

Based on that, every parent should equip their children with a solid anchor when that brainwashing takes place. That’s why I write that Jesus followers who don’t tell their children about the benefits (and challenges) of following Jesus are seriously shirking their duty.

These parents are allowing others to twist and shape their children’s beliefs on something of utmost importance. After all, what happens after this life ends is gonna last a whole lot longer than the 70 or 80 years most of us have on planet earth.

So, what do you think about these four reasons and my responses? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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This meme, helpfully posted on an Atheist website, makes two points:

  1.  God isn’t real
  2.  People are afraid of reality.

I won’t bother with the first point; many websites explore the question of God’s reality (here are two from the perspective of Christianity, which is my faith: http://carm.org/ and http://www.ReasonableFaith.org), so I’ll leave it up to them.

As for the second point, my first reaction was to immediately think this: people believe in God because they are all TOO aware of the reality of their condition.

People who believe in God and follow Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is God’s Son) usually know they don’t live anything close to an ideal life.

Take me, for example. I’m aware that I’m:

  • Self-centred (and therefore don’t care enough about others)
  • Greedy (Frank, you have 700 CDs; do you really need more??)
  • Prone to hold grudges (which always hurts me, not the person who made me so angry)
  • Usually looking for something in return whenever I’m generous (It took me awhile to figure out this is giving with my hand out).

These are just the faults I can immediately identify; I’m sure my very patient wife can suggest more.

However long the list is, here’s the truth: while I can make little improvements, I can never truly fix all my weaknesses. I don’t have the willpower, the discipline or the discernment. And I’ll be bold here and declare that YOU don’t have what it takes to fix all your faults, either. In fact, no one does.

That’s the absolute, unblinking reality of humanity’s condition.

So, if we can’t fix ourselves, who can? Let me be quite radical and declare that God, our creator, is up for the task. In fact, His prime business is repairing broken people. The Internet has many stories about how following Jesus has restored damaged people. (I touch on two of those stories in this blog: https://wp.me/p2wzRb-fz.)

If you’ve met serious Jesus followers, I’m sure you’ll know we’re not perfect. Which might lead you to wonder if I’m truthful about God fixing people who following His Son.

I am truthful, but all this is mixed in with the mystery of free will. The horrors of human history make it plain God has never wanted humanity to be a race of goose-stepping robots. This means He permits people — including Jesus followers— to resist His efforts to fix us.

But when we accept the gift of Jesus and believe that He died for all the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do, then we welcome Him into our lives to start the repair work.

When will that work end? When this life is finished and we go to Heaven to spend eternity with Him. Until then, we serve as His ambassadors in a hurting world.

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

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I discovered this fascinating meme on Pinterest then, after confirming its authenticity (Jillette is half of the renowned Penn & Teller duo of magicians), I decided to see if my life as a follower of Jesus of Nazareth is compatible with his commandments.

Let’s go through the list.

1. Intelligence, creativity and love are wonderful ideals. The last one, in fact, is so important that an ancient Jesus follower wrote “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love”.

2. Putting things or ideas above other people inevitably leads to disaster. Look at the misery caused by ideas like communism and fascism. Look how some people drive themselves into bankruptcy in their pursuit of a bigger house, fancier vehicles and more vacations. So I’m definitely with Penn on this one.

3. Saying what you mean, even when talking to yourself, is a great ‘commandment’; how many of us delude ourselves—and others—through carefully worded deceptions?

4. Putting aside time to rest and think is vital. In fact, it’s a pillar of following Jesus. Not only do ancient writers and prophets depict God as resting after creating the universe, one of the Ten Commandments (#4) tells us “Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to God, your God. Don’t do any work.”

5. Loving your parents, partner and children is sometimes hard (given complicated family dynamics), but it’s still a no-brainer for pretty much everyone.

6. Respect and protect all human life. Yes! That’s why most serious Jesus followers are pro-life.

7. Keep your promises. Of course. And this requires us to be very thoughtful about what promises we make.

8. Don’t steal. So glad atheists like Penn agree with #8 in God’s Ten Commandments. 🙂

9. Don’t lie. This one lines up with #9 in God’s Ten Commandments.

10. Wasting time wishing, hoping and being envious? There’s nothing wrong with a little hoping. In fact, one of Jesus’s earliest followers wrote “I pray that the God who gives hope will fill you with much joy and peace as you trust in him. Then you will have more and more hope.” Envy? Another ancient writer addressed it this way: “A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.

How about that? Turns out Jesus followers and atheists have more in common than many folks might think. So, if you’re one of those people who leans toward atheism, maybe it’s time to give Jesus an open-minded second look.

In fact, you might find the ideas that (1) you actually have a soul and it’s vitally important to Someone, and (2) there’s an eternity beyond our 80-or-so years of working, eating and sleeping to be very attractive.

Your thoughts? Post them below and Let’s have a conversation.

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I imagine there are lots of people who saw this newspaper comic, instantly agreed with the sentiment, then moved on with their lives.

That kind of reaction isn’t surprising. North American culture strongly discourages thinking about anything connected with spirituality and most of us obey that directive.

But I’m hoping you’re reading this because you’re not one of those people. And maybe you’re wondering if Close To Home cartoonist John McPherson is being a little too stereotypical. You would be right.

It’s easy to follow the masses and believe the creator of time, space and the universe loves to punish “sinners”. But it’s simply not true, at least in my spiritual world.

Consider this quote from an ancient Hebrew writer: God is being patient with you. He doesn’t want anyone to be lost. He wants everyone to change their ways and stop sinning.

Here’s another quote, pointing in the same direction, from a Hebrew writer called John: God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending His Son [Jesus of Nazareth] merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.

These quotes portray God as doing everything He can to NOT “smite” any sinners. In fact, He wants to rescue people like me (and you) from the bad things we’ve done and the good things we’ve failed to do.

It’s no secret that we are incapable of perfect living. Even agreeing on a universal definition of perfect behaviour is beyond humanity.

So, as John hints at, God sent Jesus to show us what God is like: compassionate, forgiving, encouraging, strengthening, consoling, healing, absolutely consistent and all powerful. In fact, look at Jesus and you’re looking at God.

There’s one other characteristic of God that I saved for last, because it’s problematic for us sinful people: perfection. God is perfect and that’s His criteria for judging his creations.

How can we achieve this impossible standard? This is an important question because after this life ends, only the people judged to be perfect will spend eternity in Heaven with God and His Son.

Thankfully, this absolutely does NOT mean we’re all doomed. As the quote from John indicates, God sent Jesus to “put the world right”. This means that for those of us who believe in Him and follow Him, Jesus sacrificed His life to pay the cost for ALL the wrong things we’ve done and ALL the right things we’ve failed to do.

Then, three days after His death, Jesus came back to life and appeared to hundreds of people (it’s stated plainly by one of the people Jesus trained to follow Him). That proves He was — and is — God’s Divine Son with the power to wipe sin off the books. As a result, when God looks at Christ followers, all He sees is His Son’s perfection.

This is glorious news and a universe away from the “smiting” God portrayed in Close To Home. Do you agree? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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