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Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

This meme, showing the World Trade Centre before it was destroyed by radical Islamic terrorists, answers the question plainly and succinctly, doesn’t it?

You might be surprised to know that lots of people like me, who follow Jesus of Nazareth (who many folks believe is the Son of God) agree with the meme. The world would be a better place without the tribalism, intolerance and judgmentalism of “religion”.

Then I watched a short video from Solas (a Scottish non-profit promoting faith in Jesus) that popped up in my Facebook feed. And it paints a startling view of a world supposedly rid of “religion”.

Host Andy Bannister notes there are officially secular countries that have aggressively tried to wipe out religion — or as I much, MUCH prefer to call it, “faith”. Those countries include the Soviet Union (when it existed) and North Korea.

Just consider the horrifying track record of government oppression and persecution in these undemocratic countries and one other Andy missed – China. Suddenly, secularism doesn’t look so attractive.

Ah, but what about the mostly secular Scandinavian nations admired by so many critics of faith? Those countries rank high on the happiness, tolerance and quality-of-life scales.

Andy points out “the things they hold most dear are very religious – the idea that human beings have rights and value and dignity and significance is actually a deeply Christian idea.”

Furthermore, the Man who I follow is all about two things:

  1. The rights, value and dignity of all human beings. During His physical time on Earth, Jesus didn’t hesitate to break many social taboos in His culture to show women and social outcasts that they are NOT second-class citizens in God’s kingdom.
  2. The uselessness of “religion”. Jesus often criticized people who used religion to gain power, oppress others and look good in public.

Jesus even went so far as to say this to anyone willing to listen: “Are you tired? Burned out on religion? Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Wow. Bet you didn’t know that about Jesus, did you? For many years, I certainly didn’t. It wasn’t until I looked hard into Jesus’s life, teachings, death and resurrection that I realized this guy is the real deal.

In fact, by committing my life to following Him, God no longer sees all the wrong things I’ve done and the right things I’ve failed to do. He only sees the perfection of His Son. And when this life ends, that perfection will get me into Heaven to hang out with Jesus for eternity. Sweet!  🙂

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

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While visiting the blog of Vinny, a guy who says he writes about “A bit of this…A bit of that…bit of everything”, one of his comments grabbed my attention.

“The good thing is I’m Catholic so I have a golden ticket [to Heaven],” Vinny wrote, after describing all his medical issues. “Front of the queue where St. Peter will give me a hug and point me to the pub up there, The Heavenly Arms.”

While appreciating his humourous tone — lots of us would love to find a Cheers pub or a Friends coffee shop in the Great Hereafter — this made me wonder: how many people believe their affiliation with some kind of faith group gives them a golden ticket to Heaven when this life ends?

Before I started following Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is the divine Son of God), I thought that’s what it took: get connected with the right group and I’m probably in.

But now that I’m on a life-long project to read about and understand the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, I can tell you that I was thoroughly, spectacularly wrong.

In one of the original-source biographies of His life, Jesus tells anyone willing to listen what is really needed to get a golden ticket: “You must be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect.”

Yikes. Does that mean being a good Catholic or good Buddhist or good Muslim or even a good agnostic won’t cut it? If you believe Jesus, then NO. Your membership card in any of those  groups won’t get you in the door.

Man, this is a tough one, isn’t it? How can any person on this planet get into Heaven when nothing but perfection will get you past the bouncer?

The answer, thankfully, is simple: Follow Jesus. Make Him your Saviour, your best friend, the person you trust with your life starting RIGHT NOW.

Some of you might be asking how that will help your case. The help comes because Jesus is the only person who has ever been– and will ever be — perfect. That’s right: not even one stain on His record.

One of the men Jesus personally taught to follow Him, the ‘St. Peter’ Vinny referred to, stated it this plainly: “He never sinned and He never told a lie“. And the four primary-source biographies of Jesus’ physical life on earth back up Peter’s assertion.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a Catholic or Buddhist or Muslim or Hindu or agnostic. When you commit your life, with serious sincerity, to following Jesus, then God no longer sees the wrong things you’ve done and the right things you’ve failed to do. All He sees is His Son’s perfection — and that’s your golden ticket.

The great thing is, connecting with Jesus can make your life better immediately. In my case, following Him:

  • cleaned up my potty mouth
  • changed my career (I now work at organizations that specialize in telling people about Jesus)
  • influenced who I married (my wife is also a Jesus follower)

What do you think — is this the golden ticket you need? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Maybe you’ve read a statement like this (a fake quote which the actor and former Saturday Night Live member never said), or someone has simply told it to you and you’ve nodded in agreement then gone on with your life.

But does stating something so boldly make it true? I decided to do some research and soon discovered that it’s impossible to come up with a credible number of people “killed by religion”.

Here’s why: one website tackled the topic and concluded that in the history of this planet, more than 195 million people have been killed in the name of religion. That is a truly sobering, astonishing number.

Then I looked at what was included. The list includes:

  • the 1990s Rwandan genocide (800,000 deaths)
  • several hundred years of slave trading (14 million deaths)
  • AIDS in Africa (30 million deaths).

What’s wrong with including these tragedies? Well, the first was tribal warfare, the second was horrific economic racism and the third was deliberate government ignorance and prejudice against gay people.

Did religion play a role in any of them? Possibly, but it certainly wasn’t the major factor.

But let’s set that aside and look at the bigger picture. That picture makes it clear: religion is an overwhelming negative force. It makes people judgmental, it creates an “us versus them” mentality and, in the end, it encourages people to think anyone not in their religion is inferior.

The inevitable result is Islamic terrorism (150,000 deaths since 2000, according to this same website),  the Jewish Holocaust (six million deaths), the Spanish Inquisition (5,000 deaths) and more unspeakable horrors.

If you’ve visited Frank’s Cottage before, you might know where I’m going with this: leave behind the nightmare of religion and look instead to one man. Two thousand years ago, this man came to earth in physical form and, without a single act of violence against another person, He:

  1. physically and spiritually restored broken lives;
  2. proposed – and demonstrated – an entirely new way to live and love;
  3. sacrificed His life for the eternal good of everyone who follows Him, then;
  4. showed His ultimate power over death by coming back to life.

I’m talking about Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is the Son of God. His mission – then AND now – is to replace religion with a life-transforming relationship with the creator of time, space and the universe.

That relationship, made possible through faith in Jesus, can bring hope, change and restoration to every person who decides to follow Him. Just as important, anyone on this planet can say yes to this relationship, no matter what they’ve done or not done. That includes YOU.

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

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When I saw this meme, I instantly thought about the church I attend and what it does in the community. Here are a few recent highlights:

  • Serves more than 1,500 free meals each month to people in need
  • Established a partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association so it can better help people with mental issues
  • Created the Career Connection Network to help people find jobs
  • In partnership with the Calgary Food Bank, distributed almost 2,500 food hampers to hurting families during a one-year period.
  • Supports 250 families with special needs

I attend one of the largest churches in Canada; most are much, much smaller and don’t have the donor base to do this kind of work. But almost all of them are doing something – and doing it with less red tape and more efficiency than any government or business. The same applies to charities like Samaritan’s Purse and Compassion Canada.

Why is this happening? Because Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is the Son of God, tells everyone who follows Him that “anything you did for any of my people here [and Jesus came for ALL people], you also did for me.” He also said this:The way you give to others is the way God will give to you.”

I can’t speak for religion, since that has very little to do with faith in Jesus. (In fact, religion is often a scourge on society and I explain it here: https://wp.me/p2wzRb-q1.)

But I can write about Jesus followers. So, to the creator of this meme, I ask: imagine what kind of world we’d be living in if Jesus followers weren’t obeying His directive and making life better for millions and millions of hurting people?

Sure, they may not be making gigantic financial contributions to science and medical research (that’s being covered quite nicely by taxpayers, foundations and wealthy philanthropists), but through their actions and donations, they are on the frontlines of the battle against misery and hopelessness.

That’s where Jesus – God’s perfect gift to everyone willing to accept Him – calls His followers to be. And if you’re willing to accept the gift of Jesus, two extraordinary things will happen:

  1. He will come into your life and start making you more of the person God designed you to be. That includes becoming more aware of the suffering around us and more willing to do something about it.
  2. God will no longer 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. And when this life ends, He’ll welcome you to spend all eternity with Him in Heaven.

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

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I’ll admit right now that I initially found the image in this meme shocking. Can there be people in our world who actually think this way?

After a moment’s contemplation, my conclusion is, sadly, yes. I guess they believe that God is no smarter than a bag of hammers and can be manipulated by anyone who knows how to “work the system”.

But maybe there’s something else going on here. Perhaps this meme is a blunt, crude challenge to followers of Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is the Son of God.

Are we Jesus followers subconsciously living like the girl in the meme? Oh, we’re not burning down houses, committing murder or running Ponzi schemes, but some of us are living however we please and believing the forgiveness offered by Jesus is a “get out of jail” card to play whenever our conscience bothers us.

That’s absolutely not what following Jesus is all about and I apologize right now if you’ve met someone (perhaps me?) who appears to live this way.

Here are the facts of the matter:

  1. Do you want to get to Heaven when this life ends? Then just being good isn’t going to get you there. Jesus told anyone willing to listen that “you must be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
  2. No one but Jesus has ever, or will ever, meet Heaven’s admission standard.
  3. God, knowing we couldn’t achieve eternity with Him on our own, did the heavy lifting by sending Jesus. He showed us how to live and then sacrificed His life to pay for ALL the wrong things we’ve done and ALL the right things we’ve failed to do.
  4. Anyone who believes in Jesus and follows Him has their moral crimes wiped off the books. Every sin has been forgiven–even the ones you and I might think are unforgivable–and God now sees that person as perfect.

If you’ve read this far, then I’m sure you’ve figured out this is a big deal. A game changer. Something that should begin transforming you as you come to fully understand what Jesus has done.

That’s a key part of placing your faith and trust in Jesus–He comes into your life and starts making you the person God meant for you to be. He makes you interested:

  • in gathering with other Jesus followers
  • in reading original-source documents about His life
  • in leaving behind your old, unsatisfying, superficial ways of living.

This remarkable process of transformation won’t end until this life is finished and you go to meet Him.

Are you understanding that the forgiveness offered by Jesus through His life, His death, and His resurrection three days later is more incredible and more important than anything you could hope to experience on planet Earth? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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If you’ve ever thought about Jesus of Nazareth — who many people believe is the Son of God — then perhaps this meme’s message has crossed your mind.

Believing the cliche provides an easy reason not to bother exploring who Jesus is, if He matters at all in this pandemic world and, most importantly, if He should matter to YOU.

But I trust that because you’re here, you’re open to spirituality and open to going beyond the dogma pushed by our culture.

First of all, what’s a reasonable definition of “fun”? Among the answers offered by Dictionary.com, this one applies most to the meme: something that provides mirth or amusement.

So what are the “somethings” that Jesus followers supposedly avoid? We can certainly “party” – only for us, that shouldn’t have to include drugs and/or excessive alcohol. I’m going to be bold and suggest that folks who need these to enjoy socializing have problems that require immediate attention.

Sex? Up to the last 100 years ago or so, many Jesus followers bought into the bizarre and stifling notion that it was a necessary evil to have children. Once that was accomplished, we could move on to more noble pursuits.

I thank God that this lie has been dumped in the garbage bin of history. We can absolutely enjoy one of our creator’s greatest gifts. We’re just supposed to do it in the context of marriage.

I imagine this is part of what the meme is addressing. How dare we treat sex as something important and perhaps even sacred, rather than just another fun part of a drunken night on the town.

But look at the results of our culture’s obsession with sex: broken relationships, pedophilia, sex trafficking (see: Jeffrey Epstein), disease and violence (if you ever talk to a prostitute, ask how often she’s been beaten up). I’m sure more social ills can be added to the list.

In the end, I believe the pursuits valued by our culture are really about searching for meaning and significance. And that search will be fruitless until we are willing to ask the BIG questions:

  • Why am I here?
  • Is there more to life than 70-plus years of sleeping, working, going to the bathroom and waiting to expire?
  • What happens when this life ends?

This is where following Jesus makes sense. If you’re willing to explore who He is and how He can be part your life right now, I believe you’ll come to understand the words of a dude named Paul, who was one of His earliest and most remarkable followers. Paul told anyone willing to listen that “It is through Jesus that we are able to live, to do what we do, and to be who we are.”

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

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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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Well, this caught me off guard. And maybe it will surprise you, too.

In his new book Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind, British author and historian Tom Holland, who is not a Christian, claims the morals of the western world would not exist without Christianity.

For many people, this claim might seem heretical, deluded and just plain wrong. But Holland makes a strong case.

Writing for stream.org, reviewer Jonathon Van Maren notes this:

While studying the ancient world, Holland writes, he realized something. Simply, the ancients were cruel, and their values utterly foreign to him. The Spartans routinely murdered “imperfect” children. The bodies of slaves were treated like outlets for the physical pleasure of those with power. Infanticide was common. The poor and the weak had no rights.

So how did we get from that horrific past to the much better (yet still very imperfect) present? Van Maren picks this up from Holland’s book:

It was Christianity, Holland writes. Christianity revolutionized sex and marriage, demanding that men control themselves and prohibiting all forms of rape. Christianity confined sexuality within monogamy. (It is ironic, Holland notes, that these are now the very standards for which Christianity is derided.) Christianity elevated women. In short, Christianity utterly transformed the world.

This is stunning – until you realize it’s part of a trend. Richard Dawkins, the celebrity atheist who wrote The God Delusion (considered by many to be a modern-day bible of atheism) has recently warned that if Christianity is wiped off the map in the western world, it could be replaced by something far, far worse.

That’s not a glowing endorsement for following Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is the divine Son of God), until you remember it’s coming from a very public, articulate and strident critic of Christianity.

If you’ve gotten this far, perhaps you’re thinking, “Well, that’s nice. Glad Christianity did some good stuff. But what does that have to do with me?”

Well, since you’re open to spirituality, this is a good time to ask yourself what other faiths have contributed to western civilization. And I include atheism here, because it takes faith to believe there’s nothing behind all we see and experience.

If you’re partial to the self-help approach to spirituality, then my pastor friend Ross Carkner has a few questions:

Does self-help make the world a better place? Or does it just help me? And if it’s just about me, isn’t that narcissistic? To be worth anything, self-help must eventually be turned outwards — and when it does, what guides it?

Given the viewpoints of Tom Holland and Richard Dawkins, and given Ross’s thoughts about a self-help approach to life, let me ask you this: is it time you seriously investigated the claims of Jesus?

I believe if you do this with open-minded honesty, you’ll be drawn to this extraordinary man and place Him at the centre your world now and in the life to come.

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

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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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While I was being driven from work to pick up my car at the auto repair shop, the shuttle driver kept me fascinated explaining his research into family ancestry.

I can identify with him because while I haven’t done any ancestry research, I still place importance on my family’s past, present and future. I really like that sense of belonging.

Maybe you’ve heard it said that we all belong to what some spiritual folks call “God’s family”. Or maybe they’ve told you we’re all “children of God”. If you believe in a creator, that probably makes sense and has a sweet appeal.

But is it true? From the perspective of my faith – I follow Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is God’s Son – we are all God’s creations. Beyond the procreating actions of our parents, serious Jesus followers believe none of us would be here without God.

However, that doesn’t mean we’re in His family. Consider this: many of us know of someone whose family has a ‘black sheep’ – a person who, through their awful behaviour, has been kicked out of the family. They’re cut off from communication and banned from family events.

Now consider the character of God. Whether you agree or not, He’s perfect. How can I advance this? Well, let me quote Jesus: “you must be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

Note what Jesus is saying:

  1. This is the character of God.
  2. We must also be perfect in order to meet God’s standard and, after our earthly lives end, spend eternity with Him in Heaven.

The reality is, we’ve all fallen horribly short of God’s standard. An ancient prophet wrote, “It is your sins that separate you from your God. He turns away from you when he sees them.” So we’re all black sheep who are NOT in God’s family.

But there’s good news here. God WANTS YOU in His family. In fact, He’s so driven by that desire that He sent Jesus to earth to show us how to live and then to sacrifice His life to make up for all the wrong things we’ve done and all the right things we’ve failed to do.

If you give this serious thought, you’ll realize Jesus is a life-changing gift of love and mercy. All you have to do is accept it. And if you do that, with thoughtful sincerity, God sees you as He sees Jesus: perfect in every way.

Furthermore, if you accept the gift of Jesus, declare Him to be your Lord and Saviour, then you become more than God’s creation. You become part of His family. Then He comes into your life and starts to make you more like Jesus.

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

 

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