Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘church’

I’m pretty sure that when he drew this particular comic strip, Pearls Before Swine creator Stephan Pastis didn’t think it would become an educational tool. But the moment I saw it, my spidey sense tingled and I snapped a photo with my iPhone.

Pastis is criticizing Christianity here and even if you agree with him, I hope you’re open-minded enough to read on as I tell you the truth about this faith.

1. Going to church will NOT get you, or anyone else, into Heaven. This very common misconception has no connection with Bible-based Christianity.

Don’t get me wrong; attending regular services is a great idea. At church you can learn who God is, why He is passionately interested in YOU and how you can become the person He created you to be.

Oh, and along the way, you’ll learn exactly what Heaven is, why it’s the best place to be when this life ends and how you can make that happen.

But it doesn’t matter how often you attend church; on its own, it still won’t get you to Heaven.

2. In theory, cleaning up your act can get you into Heaven. But what does that mean? I can tell you right now that it means, way, WAY more than putting an end to drinking, swearing and carousing.

In terms of the Bible (which serious Christians believe is God’s guidebook to this life and the life to come), it means becoming perfect. In fact, a section of the Bible simply called ‘Matthew’ puts it this way: “you must be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect”.

I feel quite safe in writing that no one on this planet except Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians believe is God’s divine Son) has ever, EVER come close to that standard.

So, how are you feeling now about your chances of qualifying for Heaven on your own efforts?

3. Are there judgemental, “religious” people in Heaven? Nope. Not even one. The people who arrive there after this life ends are transformed; ALL their character flaws are deleted, leaving only the best behind to live in eternity with their Creator.

In fact, think of the people in your life who you most admire, who you love spending time with, who inspire and encourage you, who bring you joy. Those are the kind of people in Heaven.

So after all this, how do you get to Heaven? It’s simple: God offers you Jesus Christ — His life, His groundbreaking teachings, His remarkable compassion, His sin-destroying sacrificial death, His life-restoring resurrection — as a gift. All you need to do is accept that gift.

When you say yes to the gift of Jesus, He enters your soul and starts the life-long process of making you into the person God created you to be. That process finally finishes when this life ends and you enter into eternity with Him.

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

Read Full Post »

Elton John is being too kind here. The reality is, “organized religion” absolutely, overwhelmingly does not work.

In fact, “organized religion” is so wildly unsuccessful that just putting those two words together causes a negative reaction in people like me.

Because I follow Jesus Christ — whom serious Christians believe is the divine Son of God — you might not understand. Aren’t people like me all about “religion”? In a word, NO.

Serious followers of Christ have zero interest in “religion” because it does exactly what Elton John says. Religious people seem addicted to:

  • harshly opposing anyone who doesn’t agree with them
  • judging others based on horribly superficial criteria like clothing, body jewelry, language and political positions
  • ignoring or downplaying their own weaknesses
  • isolating themselves from the world, instead of working to improve it

Where does this all lead? So often, it leads to religious people concluding that because they’re right, everyone else is wrong. It’s a pretty short trip from that conclusion to persecuting those “wrong” people.

Unfortunately, history overflows with horrifying examples of that thinking, from Christians rioting against Jews in the Middle Ages to present-day Islamic terrorists murdering Christians, Jews and anyone else who opposes their radical agenda.

There you have it; the hateful lemmings of “organized religion”.

Now let me advance to you the position of Jesus Christ. In his book The End of Religion, Bruxy Cavey notes that in the Bible, Jesus “is not portrayed as the founder of a world religion, but the challenger of all religions. I am not suggesting that Jesus opposes all forms of organization, but that he opposes dependence on any one organization for our connection with God.”

Bruxy, a Canadian pastor, goes on to make this statement: “the primary mission of Jesus was to tear down religion as the foundation for people’s connection with God and to replace it with himself.”

Exactly. Being a Christian is not about being part of a religion. It’s about establishing a relationship with the Son of God through prayer, reading the Bible and attending church. As that relationship deepens, Christ followers open their heart, minds and souls to being led by Jesus to a place where we:

  1. Come to understand and support God’s position that all people, from terrorists to politicians, from blue-collar workers to billionaires, are worthy of His passionate love.
  2. Humbly agree that no one has the inside track on virtue; everyone has “sinned” — that is, missed the mark of what we can be — and that by following Jesus, God can and does change that through radical forgiveness.
  3. Recognize that we are Christ’s loving ambassadors in a world that most of us will agree is not doing very well. In fact, as Christ’s ambassadors, Christians are really God’s agents of change — allowing Him to work through us to make this planet a better place.

Do you want to be one of God’s agents of change? Yes or no, share your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

Read Full Post »

ChristeningI find it hard to believe that anyone still thinks like this. But sadly, there continues to be parents who believe that dipping their baby in water at a church will keep the little beaner out of hell.

That’s why, when I saw this graphic in an atheist community, I saved it for Frank’s Cottage. This is a good opportunity to tell you the truth about christenings, baptisms and many other traditions associated with the Christian faith.

Let me make it absolutely clear (and I’m supported by the Bible): christenings and baptisms don’t save you from ANYTHING. They save you from ZERO. Nothing.

In fact, they are as essential to Christianity as a screen door is to a submarine.

So what’s the point?

If christenings are done with the right motivation and understanding, then they serve to make a public statement on behalf of parents: they tell a church congregation that the parents are committed to raising their child with Christian values and with a full understanding of who Jesus is and what He continues to accomplish in this world.

In other words, it’s a commitment that, in Bible-believing churches, will hold the parents accountable for how their raise their child. From this perspective, a christening is absolutely a good thing.

Baptisms? This is also public statement, making it clear to everyone who witnesses the ritual of immersing your entire body in water that you have washed away the “old” you to make way for the “new” you.

This new you believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He died to make up for all the wrong things you’ve done and all the right things you’ve failed to do.

This might seem just symbolic, but consider this: Jesus Christ Himself insisted on getting baptized. At first, the man who baptized Jesus insisted he wasn’t worthy. Here is Jesus’s response, recorded in a section of the Bible called ‘Matthew’: But Jesus insisted. “Do it. God’s work, putting things right all these centuries, is coming together right now in this baptism.”

And so it was done. But please note, this still doesn’t mean getting baptized is the key to Heaven. Baptism happens as a result of a change of heart and mind. It’s evidence of what has already happened. And that certainly applies to the baptism of Jesus.

In fact, while Jesus was on a Roman cross, dying for all the wrong things we’ve done and all the right things we’ve failed to do, a section of the Bible called ‘Luke’ records a robber being crucified on a cross next to him.

As they died together, the robber said “Jesus, remember me when you enter your kingdom.” [Jesus] said, “Don’t worry, I will. Today you will join me in paradise.”

Notice what didn’t happen? There was no baptism. The man on the cross recognized his failures, recognized who Jesus is and what Jesus’s death could do for him and did the only thing he could do: speak his hopes to Jesus. The result? Jesus gave that robber a place in Heaven.

So, set aside any strange Christian traditions you might have heard about. Concentrate on the good news for YOU. Jesus is God’s gift to YOU. Will you accept that gift? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

Read Full Post »

Blind faith, Frank's Cottage, faithFar from being upset or offended, when I read this graphic (helpfully posted in an Internet atheist community), I immediately thought of some people I’ve met since 2002, when I became a Christian.

Those people exactly fit what this atheist declared. And it saddens me.

But notice I wrote “some”.  And as the ancient teeny bopper singers The Osmonds sang more than 40 years ago, “one bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch.”

In other words, to base one’s opinion on an entire faith based on the few people you’ve met is simply ludicrous and utterly without credibility. It would be like me reading news reports, then declaring that all Muslims are violent maniacs. See what I mean?

It’s important to keep this in mind: even if a person is raised by Christian parents to have blind faith, that hardly means that person is simply going to go along with what they’ve been taught.

Consider my story: raised in a nominally Christian home, my brothers and I were given the freedom (in our mid-teens) to decide for ourselves whether we would continue attending church. All of us promptly stopped and so did our parents.

Eventually, many years later and after much consideration and thought, I decided for myself to follow Jesus.  To this day, I’m the only Christ follower in my biological family.

There are many more stories just like mine and many more that aren’t. Every story is unique, no matter what any critic of Christianity might declare.

Ponder these words of Ross Carkner, a wise pastor friend:

My life resembles much more a journey of discovery than it does a state of being. I am discovering who Jesus is for me in the life I live today – not my parents’ yesterday.

Like learning how to skate, it is not easy – it takes persistence and sometimes can be painful. My faith is a process of learning what the Bible says, seeking to put it into practice and appreciating what I encounter through it all.

The more I do all this, the more I can see that everyone puts their faith in something or someone. I have found a lot of personal satisfaction in putting my faith in Jesus.

So what do you want to put your faith into? A high-paying job with lots of cruise ship vacations? A trophy wife (or husband) to look good at social events? Some kind of vague, superficial “just live a good life” philosophy?

Pick any of them and you’ll get the approval of our culture. Pick Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians believe is God’s divine Son) and you’ll get a whole lot more. You’ll get:

  • Strength to deal with life’s inevitable trials
  • A community that’s concerned about something much deeper than wine tasting or extreme sports
  • Moral clarity that so often seems lacking in our culture
  • An extraordinary ability to see every human being on this planet as being loved and cherished by God
  • A real, substantial hope – based on the life, teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus – for something glorious and eternal when this life ends.

Sound interesting? Then post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

Read Full Post »

What About Money? Usually, when I encounter graphics on Internet atheism communities, they’re created by people who know the Bible as well (if not better) than many Christians.

Sadly, whoever is responsible for this one is an exception.

The actual quote, from a section of the Bible called ‘1 Timothy’, goes like this: “For the love of money is the root of all evil.”

Now I’m not surprised that this truth was misstated. Many of us have heard it put exactly how it is in the graphic. But I’m sure you can see the significant difference.

Money never has been and never will be the root of all evil. Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians believe is the Son of God, never said it was.

But He did state this, in ‘Matthew’, one of the four Bible accounts of Jesus’ physical life on earth: “You cannot serve two masters at the same time. You will hate one and love the other, or you will be loyal to one and not care about the other. You cannot serve God and money at the same time.”

Whether or not you care about Jesus, His point is absolutely worth considering. Do you ‘serve’ money? When all is said and done, is it the driving force in your life? Is it the driving force in mine? It’s a good question for both of us to consider frequently because the more you love money:

  • The more you’ll do to get as much of it as possible.
  • The more you’ll sacrifice in your family and personal life.
  • The more you’ll turn a blind eye to the wrong things you do (and the right things you fail to do).
  • The more you’ll listen to people who are similarly driven to get more.

Think about all these things.

The accurate Bible quote about money that I mentioned above kinda negates the question posed in this graphic. But I’ll tackle it just the same.

Churches ask for money because it’s mandated in the Bible. ‘Luke’, another of the four accounts of Jesus’ physical life on earth (serious Christians believe He is still here, in spirit), notes this scene:

“Jesus looked up and saw some rich people putting their gifts to God into the Temple collection box. Then he saw a poor widow put two small copper coins into the box. He said [to his followers], ‘This poor widow gave only two small coins. But the truth is, she gave more than all those rich people. They have plenty, and they gave only what they did not need. This woman is very poor, but she gave all she had to live on’.”

Note two things about this excerpt:
1.  Jesus has nothing negative to say about giving to a “religious” institution.
2.  He makes a very clear point about what giving really means.

Beyond churches needing money to keep the lights on and (in Canada, where I live) the winter snow out of the parking lot, churches ask for money to do good.

For example, the church I attend has a million-dollar annual budget to support more than 20 non-profit organizations. These organizations supply food to the hungry, help troubled teens, provide emergency disaster relief, support churches in the developing world and much more.

Most churches that are truly committed to following Jesus are just like mine. God loves everyone — including the atheist who created the graphic that inspired this blog — so churches and the people who attend should show the same love.

Do we fall short on this? Absolutely. But please remember: churches are not museums for saints; they’re hospitals for sinners.

As far as I can see, every person on this planet is a long way from perfect. But by following Jesus and allowing Him to work in your life, you can come closer to sainthood. Interested? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

Read Full Post »

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

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

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

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

All this is how I see “religion”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read Full Post »

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »