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Posts Tagged ‘Bible’

If you think about this meme, you’ll realize what it’s really claiming: the creator and master of time, space and universe is a moral sicko who deserves to be scorned by all rational people.

To that charge, let me suggest this: the meme’s creator is depending on you making a superficial conclusion and moving on with your life.

But I’m going to trust that you’re interested in spirituality, so you’re ready to consider a very different picture of God.

First, there’s no doubt in my mind that our creator is merciful. Followers of Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is God’s Son, consider God so merciful that He sent Jesus to show us how to live and, just as important, to show us the character of God.

I write that with confidence because in one of the original source documents of Jesus’ physical life on earth, He told anyone willing to listen that “I and the Father are one heart and mind.”

So does God’s mercy extend to “repentant” murderers. It depends. For those who don’t know the word ‘repent,’ dictionary.com puts it like this: to feel sorry, self-reproachful, or contrite for past conduct; regret or be conscience-stricken about a past action, attitude, etc.

From my perspective as a Jesus follower, repenting for the bad things we do — and the good things we fail to do — is very good, but it’s only part of the equation. The other part is accepting the gift of Jesus as Lord and Saviour.

When we make a conscious, thoughtful decision to put Jesus in charge of our lives, then His sacrificial death on a Roman cross wipes away our moral crimes. God sees us like He sees His Son: perfect. And it’s that perfection that opens the door to us spending eternity in Heaven with God and Jesus.

My point is this: repentance plus Jesus makes things right with our creator. I wrote a blog about one notorious man who put these two things together and saw his life transformed: https://wp.me/p2wzRb-6K.

So what about “punishing a moral person for not believing in Him”? It’s not so much punishing as it is not achieving God’s standard for entry into Heaven. To expand on what I touched on earlier, that standard is perfection. I can write that because of what Jesus said: “you must be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

We can be a Michael Jordan of morality, but we’re still not perfect. Remember Mother Teresa? She was a shining rock star of morality, but she knew she fell short of God’s standard and that’s why she put Jesus in charge of her life.

So even if you believe you’re a moral person, please consider accepting the gift of Jesus. He’ll take you to a whole new place of morality and joy, starting right NOW. Interested? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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As the coronavirus (also known as COVID-19) spread and entire countries shut down in a desperate bid to stop it, some of us felt growing unease, fear, impatience and frustration.

Is there nothing anyone can do to stop it? Does the battle seem hopeless?

Perhaps. But I found an Internet meme that explains exactly why it’s NOT hopeless, because it contrasts COVID-19 with one of the most remarkable people in the history of this planet.

You may scoff at what you’re about to read, but I’m hopeful that you’re open minded enough to give my words mature, thoughtful consideration. It’s all I ask.

COVID-19 causes damage. But the man considered by many people to be the Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth, heals. How do I know this? Note these words by an ancient Hebrew writer: He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. You can read one example of a life healed here: https://wp.me/p2wzRb-5g.

Coronavirus creates fear. Jesus brings courage. Here’s evidence, written by an ancient Middle East prophet: Be determined and confident. Your God, the Lord himself, will be with you. He will not fail you or abandon you.

That courage made atheist Jennifer Fulwiller willing to re-examine her worldview after having her first child and, eventually, become a Jesus follower. I wrote a blog about her story: https://wp.me/p2wzRb-h4.

COVID-19 makes us weak. Jesus brings strength. The words passed along by an ancient Hebrew prophet: There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.

That strength helped me decide to follow Jesus even though it created a division with all my biological family, which wants nothing to do with Him.

Coronavirus separates us. Jesus wipes away divisions and brings people together. From a person Jesus trained to follow after Him: In Christ, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Greek, a slave or free, male or female. You are all the same in Christ Jesus.

COVID-19 creates chaos. Jesus gives us peace. The words of Jesus: Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give. I do not give it as the world does. So do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.

That peace helped a grieving mother to forgive her son’s killer. I wrote about it here: https://wp.me/p2wzRb-qB.

Coronavirus is temporary. Jesus is eternal. From an ancient Hebrew prophet: Earth and sky will wear out, but not you; you’ll stay the same, year after year; you’ll never fade, you’ll never wear out.

COVID-19 can lead to death. Jesus always leads to life. The words of Jesus: I came so people can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.

You can get in on everything Jesus brings to the world simply by making a serious decision to follow Him. Interested? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Well colour me gobsmacked.

I don’t follow the National Basketball Association, but even I know who Kobe Bryant is. That’s why I was as shocked as so many others at the news that the 41-year-old former Los Angeles Laker and one of his daughters were among nine people who died Jan. 25 in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.

Bryant’s entire career (1996-2016) was with the Lakers. He is considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time. His accomplishments:

  • Five NBA championships
  • 18-time all-star (a league record)
  • NBA’s Most Valuable Player in the 2007-2008 season
  • Fourth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
  • Two-time basketball Olympic gold medalist

Tragedies are a fact of life in this world, but it seems like they don’t often happen to famous people.

That said, there’s a message in the midst of this horrible event. When even wealthy, renowned sports gods can unexpectedly die at an early age, what does that say to us ordinary folks?

The answer is plain: you and I could be done with this life before the end of the day. All our plans, our retirement savings, our accomplishments, our possessions, our relationships—in other words, everything we (and our culture) value—could be left at the side of the road.

That’s leads to another question: Do you believe you have a soul?

I know I do and I believe you have a soul, too And I know our souls have incredible value. God tells me so. Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is God’s perfect Son) says “What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?”

Kobe Bryant had everything our culture says a person could hope for: awards, fame, riches, relationships (a wife, Vanessa, and four daughters) and possessions. Now, I believe he faces his maker and has to account for every wrong thing he ever did and every right thing he failed to do.

I can write this because Jesus says “you must be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

That’s a tough standard. In fact, that’s an impossible standard for any human being to meet. And God knows it. That’s why He sent Jesus to this earth to show us how to live and then, for the people who believe in Him and follow Him, to pay the penalty for all the wrongs things they’ve done and all the right things they’ve failed to do.

The beauty of that gift is that God no longer sees our glowing wrongs. All He sees is His Son’s perfection.

We’ll never know where Kobe Bryant stood with God. But you can make sure you’re in the right place. Just accept the gift of Jesus and watch how He starts to change your life for the better right now.

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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Oh man, talk about arriving late to the party. The American fantasy comedy TV series The Good Place finished its fourth and final season and I’d only seen part of the debut episode.

But then a friend turned me on to season 3, episode 9. That episode highlights Doug Forcett, a man doing absolutely everything he possibly can to live a “perfect” life. The idea is to earn enough points to gain him entry to The Good Place after his life is finished.

Doug (played by Michael McKean) lives off the grid, grows his own food, drinks recycled water (don’t imagine what that fully means), has adopted every stray dog he’s ever encountered and lets people take advantage of him.

Initially, this all seems great to Michael (Ted Danson). A reformed demon from the “bad place”, he’s now trying to get some of his human friends into The Good Place. In this episode, he’s masquerading as a reporter interviewing Doug because, as he tells Janet, his second-in-command, Doug “is the blueprint; he figured it all out.”

Leaving aside the silly comedic extremes, maybe that concept makes some sense to you. It’s definitely part of many faith systems—live right and you’ll get to The Good Place.

But read about how crazy this kind of thinking can become: Doug accidentally steps on a snail. His desperate attempts to resuscitate the creature fail, so after holding a funeral, he decides to walk three days (cars are bad for the environment and so he’d lose points if he used one) to make a donation to a mollusk association.

Even Michael starts to realize this is nuts, so he tells Doug “live your life. Travel. Drink regular water.”

“No, I can’t risk it,” Doug says. “There’s an accountant out there, measuring the value of everything I do. What if I do something and lose just enough points to keep me out of The Good Place?”

Thankfully, there is a way of living and thinking that’s absolutely opposite to Doug’s soul-crushing obligations. It’s called Christianity. Please stay with me while I explain this.

God’s standard is perfection. The evidence? Jesus of Nazareth (whom many people believe is God’s Son) says to anyone willing to listen that, “You must be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

But God knows that no one can meet that standard and gain entry to “The Good Place”. So He came to earth as Jesus, taught us how to live, then died on a Roman cross to make up for all the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do.

Now, anyone who believes in Jesus and decides to follow Him is seen by God as perfect. And that means they gain entry to The Good Place. Even better, it means that as soon as you accept the gift of Jesus, God enters your life and starts making you the person He 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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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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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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Lists are usually easy and fun to read, so I’ve been enjoying “32 Reasons to be an Atheist (as Opposed to a Christian)”, a blog by someone calling themselves ‘Violetwisp’.

Many of his/her points are worth consideration by people who are open to spirituality. Let’s check out a few of them:

1. You don’t have to get up on Sunday mornings if you don’t feel like it. This is referring to attending church services. Well, I’m a church goer and there are Sundays when I don’t go. People who follow Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is the Son of God) don’t have to go to church—indeed, going to church doesn’t make anyone a Jesus follower, just as going to McDonald’s doesn’t make anyone a Big Mac.

The idea behind attending church is to be surrounded by people who are doing their best to follow Jesus. Together, we learn from each other and from our leaders what it means to be a Jesus follower. And there’s no one taking attendance.

3. You don’t have to fake smile at people and pretend God is making your life wonderful. Sadly, there are lots of Jesus followers who are faking their way through their faith. Sometimes, I’m one of them. The key thing that ‘Violetwisp’ misses here is that Jesus never, ever promised people that following Him would make their lives wonderful.

In fact, sometimes following Jesus makes my life harder—for example, I’m the only Jesus follower in my biological family and that creates some challenges. But that’s OK; I didn’t decide to follow Him to put me on Easy Street. I follow Him because on my own, I can’t make me the person I want to be. But He can and, by the time this life ends, I’ll be much closer to that ideal person.

4. You can stop pretending that three gods are one god. This is referring to the Trinity, a key element of following Jesus that says there is God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Do I understand this fully? Certainly not. Does this cause me to lose sleep? Certainly not.

I don’t need to understand how the Trinity works to believe it, just as I don’t need to understand how airplanes defy gravity before taking a flight.

11. You don’t have to worry about your god being racist, choosing only one ethnic group to care about, then deciding Europe and North America are worth it only in recent years, but Asia is a lost cause. Just because God started His mysterious, planet-changing work in the Middle East hardly means he doesn’t care about the rest of the world.

In fact, one of the primary source documents of Jesus’s life fully explains how He thinks about humanity: God loved the world [that means everyone in it, including Asians] so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him would not be lost but have eternal life.

God wants all people—including YOU—to accept the gift of His Son and, through Him, have their sins forgiven and spend eternity in Heaven. Interested? Yes or no, share your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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