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Archive for the ‘Me & The World’ Category

If you don’t follow hockey, then let me drop a surprise on you: goaltenders can get penalized.

The guy in the photo above, Ron Hextall, picked up a whopping 569 penalty minutes during his 13 National Hockey League seasons. That translates into almost 9.5 hours!!

But here’s the thing about hockey goalies: they don’t spend a single minute in the penalty box. Almost every league insists another player take the place of goalies in the ‘sin bin’. And it must be a player who was on the ice (rather than sitting on the bench) when the penalty occurred. The only exception in the NHL is game misconducts, which are *extremely* rare.

So the goalie is penalized, but someone else serves the time.

If you’re open to spirituality — and I assume you are, since you’re reading this blog — then consider this: the exact same scenario plays out every minute of every day in the spiritual world.

Let me explain. Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is the perfect Son of God, is *always* the other player on the ice who serves the penalty for ALL the wrong things His followers (like me) have done and ALL the right things they’ve failed to do. Every time, without exception.

Jesus does that through His death on a Roman empire cross. He was put there by false charges from frightened, power-hungry religious leaders who didn’t like what He was doing (healing the sick, forgiving people, hanging out with “sinners”) and what He was saying (God loves *everyone* and following Him can transform their lives for all eternity).

Those religous leaders thought they were getting rid of a nuisance, but all four original-source biographies of Jesus make it clear Jesus came back to life, appeared to many people, and set up His followers to change the world through their new way of living.

Did they – and, by extension, ME – sometimes get it wrong? Absolutely. But those ‘sins’ do NOT negate what Jesus is all about. And they don’t negate how He serves the penalty time for ALL His followers.

Why is this important? Because Jesus told anyone willing to listen that “you must be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” That’s right; in order to go to Heaven after this life ends, you must be without a single blemish or stain or imperfection.

Given that impossible standard, God took the extraordinary step of sending Jesus into our hurting world to show us how to live, how to treat others and how to follow Jesus to Heaven. Then, He had Jesus serve ALL our time in the penalty box.

The result of all that is when His followers finish with this life, God doesn’t see the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do. All He sees is His Son’s perfection. So the bouncer at the gate to Heaven welcomes us in to spend eternity with our creator.

From my perspective, that’s a *great* deal for Ron Hextall and every other person in this world. Sound interesting? Yes or no, post your comment below and let’s have a conversation.

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I think most of us can agree on the ideas advanced in this meme. The question in my mind focuses around hope.

It’s natural to “hope for the best” in all things. To hope our children will do well. To hope our parents live a few more years. To hope our finances survive the latest economic challenge. To hope that rap/hip-hop goes away (sorry, that’s just my hope ;-)).

But what about something bigger? Something beyond the 70 or 80 years we spent on this planet?

We live in a culture that constantly, subtly discourages us from pondering the BIG questions. Go shopping, get a tatoo, pursue another promotion, buy the newest smartphone. THAT, our culture insists, is what we should focus on.

Maybe you’ve done that for awhile. And maybe you’ve come to realize your soul is hungry for something more. Something deeper. (Perhaps that’s why you’re reading this blog).

I wanted something more, and that led me to Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is the Son of God. I follow Him because He offers a precious HOPE to everyone – including YOU – regardless of who they are or what they’ve done (or not done).

  • Hope to be the person you were created to be
  • Hope for this world, which even the most optimist of us must admit isn’t doing very well
  • Hope for something beyond this life

How can one guy do all this? Consider these quotes from ancient writers:

  • He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts.
  • The Spirit God gave us does not make us afraid. His Spirit is a source of power and love and self-control.
  • The Sovereign Lord is my strength. He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.

And these words, from one of Jesus’s earliest and most influential followers:

  • The Lord is true to His promises; He will hold you up and guard you against the evil one.
  • 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.

There it is. HOPE.

So how can you get in on this? Simple. God offers Jesus as a gift to anyone willing to accept Him. All you need to do is say yes to Jesus. Declare, with honest sincerity, that He is your Lord, Saviour and best friend. Ask Him to forgive you for all the wrong things you’ve done and all the right things you’ve failed to do. Ask Him to give you the HOPE only He can provide.

When that happens, Jesus comes into your life and starts to make you who you were created to be. It’s a long process that won’t end until this life ends. When that happens, trusting in Jesus means that God will see you like He sees His Son: perfect in every way. And you’ll be welcomed into Heaven to spend eternity with Him.

Sound good? Yes or no, post your comment below and let’s have a conversation. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Most of us know who Stephen Hawking is. For younger readers, Kirk Cameron was a swoon-worthy idol during his time acting on the 1980s TV comedy Growing Pains.

You might also not be aware that during the show’s seven-season run, Cameron decided to follow Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is the Son of God. Since the show ended, Cameron, now in his 50s, has starred in and/or produced many faith-themed movies and documentaries.

So why is he being mocked in this meme? Well, many of his productions have been….underwhelming. And some of his socially conservative public statements have made him a target of criticism from media, atheists and many celebrities.

What’s interesting about the meme that sparked this blog is how it singles out one controversial person while ignoring other Jesus followers who are widely admired for their intelligence and accomplishments.

Immediately, I can think of several:

  • Academy Award-winning actors Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington
  • Country singers Garth Brooks and Carrie Underwood
  • Scientist Francis S. Collins, who led the way in mapping the human genome (I wrote about him here: https://wp.me/p2wzRb-3o)
  • U.S. talk show host Stephen Colbert

There are many, many more Jesus-following notables – I listed a few in this blog: https://wp.me/p2wzRb-e9.

Here’s the thing, though: it’s not about who’s on what side, it’s not about popularity contests and it’s certainly not about anyone’s IQ. All these “measurements” are distractions, designed to prevent us from thinking about the big questions: who am I? Why am I here? What happens after this life ends?

If you’re willing to consider these questions, then consider this: you’re a creation of God. And one of the original-source biographies of Jesus says “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.”

Maybe you’ve read that statement before. Did you know it applies to you? God so loved YOU that He gave His only Son, so that if YOU believe in Him then YOU will not be lost, but have eternal life.

If this doesn’t make sense, then let me ask: do you believe there’s something beyond this life? Maybe even a “good” place and a “bad” place? If yes, then ponder these words that Jesus told anyone willing to listen: “you must be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect.”

So that’s the ticket we need to spend eternity in Heaven with Jesus and His Father. None of us have any hope of achieving perfection, so what to do? Simple. Trust in Jesus. Declare Him Lord, Saviour and your best friend.

If you do that with serious sincerity, then He’ll come into your life and start to make you more of the person God created you to be. And when this life ends, God will see you like He sees His Son: perfect in every way. And the doors of Heaven will be opened to you.

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

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Sometimes, I wish God was like pop machine. I insert spiritual money (a heartfelt prayer), hit the button for whatever I really want at the moment, then it pops out. Wouldn’t that be cool?

I guess, judging by this atheist meme (featuring Emmy/Golden Globe-winning actor Steve Buscemi) some folks wish this so bad that when it doesn’t happen, they angrily decide there is no God.

Doesn’t that seem a little….shallow and self-centred?

From my faith perspective–I follow Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is God’s Son–the creator and master of time, space and the universe is absolutely NOT a spiritual Santa Claus.

Does He care about us? Absolutely. In fact, one of the four original-source biographies of Jesus states: 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.

Furthermore, one of Jesus’s earliest followers told people to pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks for what you have. This same follower went on to write God will use his glorious riches to give you everything you need. He will do this through Christ Jesus.

Have you noticed the word he keeps using?

Needs. Not wants.

Most people living in well-off countries–and that definitely includes ME–often confuse the two words, especially as our culture insists that just about everything is a “need.” (Don’t believe me? Just watch a few TV commercials with a critical, questioning attitude.)

So if I earnestly ask God for a bigger-screen TV or the absolute newest iPhone, God may very well ignore me. If I close my eyes and wish the traffic would clear up so I can get to a movie theatre on time, God may very well pay no attention. If I pray for my favourite political party to win the next election, God may do nothing about it.

My wife and I have two cars. We don’t need two cars.

I have 700 CDs. I don’t need even one CD.

I have a fancy Apple desktop computer. I don’t need any kind of computer.

What do I really need in this life? Food. Water. Clothing. A basic income. Some kind of shelter that provides heat in the winter. Decent health. Love (but even that’s questionable).

See the difference?

One other thing I need is a sense of purpose. That’s where following Jesus comes into the picture. He gives me that purpose: to care for others, to have a strong confidence there’s something good beyond this life, and to tell others about Him and the gift of eternal life He offers to anyone willing to accept it.

Are you looking for a purpose beyond the superficial, meaningless wants of this culture? Then I suggest looking into Jesus with an open mind. He can change your life, just as He did mine.

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

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It’s been said that you can twist the Christian Bible to support almost any position. The paraphrases in this atheist meme certainly prove that.

The point is easy to see: the creator and master of time, space and the universe is an emotional abuser, constantly tearing down anyone who claims to love Him. Maybe you even feel that way.

There are too many paraphrases to discuss each one, but let me tell you right now: if I ever, for even a minute, thought God was an emotional abuser, I never would have decided to follow Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is His Son. I would not have married a Jesus follower and I’d never even think of entering a church.

So why don’t I agree with this meme? Because the cherry-picked paraphrases (most are not word-for-word quotes) are diametrically opposed to the entire over-arching theme of the Christian Bible. That theme is: God created us, we rejected Him, the world is a mess as a result, and He is constantly inviting to return home to Him.

In fact, this theme is the point of one of Jesus’s most famous stories, about the prodigal son. In that “parable,” the son tells his rich father he wants to get his slice of the family inheritance and leave home. The father sadly agrees, then the son goes out and blows his inheritance through partying, drugs, alcohol, sex and any other way of rock star living that our culture offers us.

Now in poverty, the son is reduced to taking whatever degrading job he can find until he realizes that any kind of life back home is better than what he has now. So he returns home, fully intending to apologize, throw himself on the mercy of his father and hope he can at least get a job as a labourer.

But even before he arrives, the father sees him, runs to him, embraces him in a tearful bear hug and orders his staff to put on a big celebration. The son’s awful behaviour is forgiven because he’s home again. Home!

That’s the overarching theme of the Bible. And the forgiveness the son receives is because of the sacrifice of Jesus. When Roman officials crucified Jesus on trumped up charges, His death wiped out all the wrong things His followers (like me) committed, and all the right things we’ve failed to do. Now, when this life ends, we are welcomed into Heaven because God sees us like He sees Jesus: perfect in every way.

Just one Bible quote makes this clear: This is how much God loved the world: He gave His Son, His one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in Him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didnโ€™t go to all the trouble of sending His Son merely to point an accusing finger. He came to help, to put the world right again.

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

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If I’ve noticed anything over the years of interacting with atheist people (who kindly provided this meme), it’s that many of them love to set up “religion” and science as competing entities. And, of course, science always wins in their worldview.

First of all, I follow Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is the Son of God, but I want nothing to do with “religion” (I explain why here: https://wp.me/p2wzRb-i9). Second, the comparison portrayed in the meme above is simply false.

Despite the unfortunate attitudes of some Jesus followers, science and faith have never been adversaries. Personally, I like science because it shows me what God is up to.

For example, humanity didn’t know God has an entire universe beyond the Milky Way galaxy. That all changed in the 1920s, thanks to scientist Edwin Hubble. Sure, the discovery didn’t change life for anybody, but I still appreciate the knowledge. Thanks, Ed! ๐Ÿ™‚

Here’s something else to ponder: Wikipedia lists more than 60 (thatโ€™s correct; sixty) living, Jesus-following thinkers in the fields of engineering, physics and astronomy, chemistry and biomedical sciences. One of them, Francis S. Collins, led the way in mapping the human genome. (I wrote about him, and others, here: https://wp.me/p2wzRb-3o.)

There are likely more Jesus-following thinkers, since Wikipedia notes โ€œThis list is non-exhaustive and is limited to those scientists whose Christian beliefs or thoughts, in writing or speaking, are relevant to their notability.โ€ If science and faith were truly enemies, how could there even be one Jesus-following scientist?

Let me highlight something else that’s important: comparing science and faith is no more logical than comparing aardvarks and baseball. They are two entirely different things.

My faith in Jesus deals with questions that science does not: Who am I? Why are you and I here? Is there a right and wrong that doesn’t change with every fickle wind of human thought? What happens after this life ends? These are important questions that all of us should consider, no matter what our money/power/sex-obsessed culture insists.

After pondering these questions, doing a lot of reading and having many conversations with brave Jesus followers, I decided Jesus is who He says He is and placed my trust and my future in Him.

This decision has had two vitally important results:

  1. Jesus has come into my life to make me more like the person God created me to be. That work won’t end until this life is finished.
  2. Jesus sacrificed His life to make up for ALL the wrong things His followers have done, as well as ALL the right things we’ve failed to do. (That’s something none of us could ever do on our own.)

As a result of what Jesus has done, God sees me like He sees His Son: perfect in every way. And so when this life ends, I’ll be welcome to spent eternity with God in a place so amazing we can barely begin to grasp it.

Does this interest you? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation. ๐Ÿ™‚

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As I consider this meme, I’m going to assume you, the reader, are neither illiterate or seven years old. That means the creator of this meme is feeling condescendingly sorry for you and anyone else who is open to spirituality.

But I believe you’re reading this because you sense that everything this “age of information” claims is important just doesn’t cut it. Money, power, sex, giant screen TVs, cruise ship vacations and the latest iPhone leave something untouched in your soul.

How did this universe come to be? What is the purpose of life? What happens after we die? Why is there rap and hip-hop? (just kidding!) These questions, and more, are not addressed by science or this age of information.

There are lots of websites, gurus and spiritual paths that do attempt to answer these questions. So let me take you for a walk down my path. It’s a path that, in western culture, is often mocked and marginalized. But don’t let that close your mind.

I follow Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is the Son of God. After much thought, prayer, reading and debating with brave Jesus followers, I decided to walk with Him at age 42. All these years later, I’ve never regretted it.

Original-source biographies of His physical life on earth show us that Jesus offers answers to the questions that continually stymie science and this age of information.

God is the creator and master of time, space and the universe. Who else can we look to? Justin Bieber? Alfred Einstein? Steven Hawking? Even the most brilliant thinkers can’t offer up anything more credible.

The purpose of life is to abide–that is, to to remain stable or fixed in a state–in God. Welcome Him into your heart and life. Recognize that, as Jesus makes clear, God sees you. He knows you. And He loves you. As this life makes very clear, God’s love doesn’t mean you’ll be free from challenges, pain and tragedy. It DOES mean that you’ll never go through it alone. And that can make all the difference.

What happens after we die is entirely up to you. Jesus believes in Heaven (His followers believe He’s there now) and that there’s a place for EVERYONE there. But here’s the thing: Jesus told anyone willing to listen that โ€œYou must be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect.โ€

On the surface, that means Heaven is empty. But in fact, it’s full of people who decided to follow Jesus. That’s because Jesus sacrificed His physical life on earth to make up for ALL the wrong things His followers have done and ALL the right things we’ve failed to do.

So when this life ends and we all stand before God, He doesn’t see the “sins” of Jesus followers. He sees us like He sees His Son: perfect in every way. And He welcomes us to spend eternity with Him.

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

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It wouldn’t surprise me if you are in absolute agreement with George Carlin. Sometimes, I am too. That’s why I downloaded this meme for a Frank’s Cottage blog.

The question hinted at by the late, great comedian (1937-2008) is pretty obvious: how can there be a loving, involved creator when this world seems so shot through with violence, disaster, pandemics, corruption and disease? If He exists, does He just not give a darn?

These questions bugged me incessantly. But something changed after I made a life-changing decision. Prepare yourself, because this was — and is — radical. I decided to follow Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is the Son of God.

Once that happened, I started to see the world differently. I read about Jesus — His life, death and resurrection — and came to understand the gift of free will.

I’ll admit this is often a difficult, troubling notion that many people–maybe even you–struggle to accept and appreciate. But then I wonder:

  • Is it God’s fault that most people are greedy?
  • Is it God’s fault that governments often prefer to spend money on guns than food, healthcare and safe water?
  • Is it God’s fault that so many of us claim to hate corruption unless that corruption benefits us?
  • Is it God’s fault that most of us (and I certainly include me) claim to dislike hypocrisy, but are often so good at it that we’re blind to our insincerity?

Maybe you’re reluctantly admitting that it’s not God’s fault. But hey, why isn’t He doing something about it? To which I answer: He IS doing something about it.

God is using horribly imperfect Jesus followers like me, and Jesus-following organizations like Samaritan’s Purse, Lifewater, Compassion Canada, ShareWord Global, International Justice Mission and so many more, to show the world who He is and why Jesus is His solution to most of our problems.

When I chose to follow Jesus–to make Him (and not greed/selfishness/money/power/sex) the Lord of my life–I started to fully grasp the gift of free will. And fully realize the gobsmacking LOVE which motivates that gift.

Do you want to be a goose-stepping brainless robot? I know how you’ll answer, but this is an all-or-nothing proposition. Either we have free will, with all its pitfalls, or we don’t.

I used that free will to make Jesus my leader, my motivator, my strength, my ultimate source of life. And it’s made me a better person. Oh, I’m a long, LONG way from where I should be (just ask my wife), but that’s OK. Jesus is making me more of the person I was meant to be, and that work won’t end until this life ends and I meet Him face-to-face. And that will be glorious.

All this is available to you, too. And if you say yes, you also open the door to God working through you to make this broken world a better place. Interested? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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The statement in this meme, made by a Swiss-Austrian-American philosopher of science, is becoming increasingly popular in today’s culture. It’s a perfect fit with the “you have your truth, I have mine” approach to life.

I must write, however, that popularity should never be a measuring stick of truth. Remember: Adolf Hitler was extremely popular for many years and Osama Bin Laden still has millions of fans. So does rap music (hey, this old white guy’s gotta have some fun). ๐Ÿ˜‰

Now consider this: is child pornography always wrong? I feel quite safe in believing that outside of a few very disturbed individuals, all of us would agree. So isn’t that an absolute truth?

Here’s another one: genocide. Can you find anyone besides the occasional megalomaniac dictator and his lunatic followers who think genocide has its time and place?

I believe slavery, racism and deliberately poisoning our air/land/water can be added to the list of universal wrongs.

So there you have it. Five examples of absolute truth and it took me just a few minutes to mentally find them. I bet you can find several others.

If you agree with me so far, then that means most of us strongly believe in a clear and unchanging morality. That leads to my next question: where did this morality come from?

Some people claim morals are simply the result of evolution. But in his book Making Sense of God, Tim Keller notes itโ€™s hard to imagine that noble and moral acts like self-sacrifice or service for someone โ€œoutside your family, tribe, or race could have been a trait that led to greater rates of survival.โ€

I’m going to be bold & radical and declare that absolute truth comes from the creator of time, space, the universe and YOU. In other words, it comes from God.

Now a step further: the originator of absolute truth and morals is perfect and, as the only being capable of sitting in judgment of humanity, that’s the standard He uses. I believe this because I follow Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is God’s Son) and Jesus tells anyone willing to listen that โ€œyou must be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect.โ€

Well, that certainly creates a problem, doesn’t it? If you believe there’s life beyond the 70 or 80 years on this planet, how can you and I get in on that life when we’re so, SO far from being anywhere close to perfect?

The answer is we can’t. Not on our own strength and efforts. We’ll always, ALWAYS fall short.

But God solved this by offering Jesus as a gift to anyone willing to accept it. Jesus died to make up for ALL wrong things His followers have done and ALL the right things His followers have failed to do. So when this life ends and we go to meet God, all He will see in Jesus’s followers is perfection. And we’ll be let in the door to spend eternity with Him.

Just as important, when you seriously and sincerely accept the gift of Jesus, you welcome Him to come into your life RIGHT NOW and start the lifelong process of making you more like the person God created you to be.

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

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In my country (Canada), most classic rock fans will know a 1980s hit song called A Criminal Mind by keyboardist/songwriter/singer Larry Gowan.

In an episode of the ‘Behind The Vinyl’ video series, Gowan unpacks how the song came to be. It was cool to hear, for example, that A Criminal Mind was recorded in Ringo Starr’s home, which means if he was around, Ringo probably overheard the song dozens of times.

But what made me sit up and take notice was when Gowan pondered the lyrics — about an unrepentant, repeat offender — and said:

“I’ve come to believe everyone has this dark side in them, no matter how much [or little] of it has made it out into the world. And I think the song taps into that.”

Gowan is right. All of us have the ability to do wrong and fail to do right. Followers of Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is the Son of God) readily acknowledge that truth because one of Jesus’s earliest and most influential followers wrote “All have sinned and are not good enough to share Godโ€™s divine greatness.”

There it is. Gowan knows it, Jesus followers like me know it and, perhaps, even you know it.

If you’re like me, you’ve tried to overcome your moral shortcomings. Occasionally you’ve even succeeded. But I bet that, like me, you’re like the world’s worst sharpshooter. You and I miss the target again and again and again and…..

This is important not just for today, but also for after this life ends. In one of the original-source biographies of his physical life on Earth, Jesus told anyone willing to listen that in order to hang out with Him and God, โ€œyou must be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect.โ€

Yikes! I think it’s fair to write that none of us can meet that standard. So, on our own efforts, a bouncer will stop every one of us outside the door to Heaven.

Thankfully, you and I don’t have to rely on ourselves. Jesus did it for us, dying on a Roman cross to make up for ALL the wrong things we’ve done and ALL the right things we’ve failed to do. Consider it a life-changing gift. All you have to do is accept it.

Commit your life to following Jesus and God will see you like He sees His Son: perfect in every way. That means when you show up at the door to Heaven, the bouncer will welcome you inside for all eternity.

There’s something else to this gift, too. Accept it and Jesus will come into your life RIGHT NOW and start to make you more like the person God created you to be. Over time, you’ll come to see yourself and others in a new light. You’ll come to a new understanding of life and how this world works. Most important, you’ll become an ambassador for Jesus to a planet that desperately needs the hope only He can provide.

Sound interesting? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation. ๐Ÿ™‚

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