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Posts Tagged ‘Faith’

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 the Christian faith.

Consider this quote from a section of the Bible called ‘2 Peter’: 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 ‘John’: God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending His Son [Jesus Christ] merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.

These Bible 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 the Bible quote from ‘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 in a section of the Bible called ‘1 Corinthians’). 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 Christian and there are Sundays when I don’t go. People who follow Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians believe is the Son of God) don’t have to go to church—indeed, going to church doesn’t make anyone a Christian, 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 Christian. 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 Christians 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 Christian 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 Christianity 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 to visit distant family members.

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, there’s a key section of the Bible, simply called ‘John,’ that 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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I was having on online conversation with someone who has a very unorthodox view of Christianity when he asked some fascinating questions:

What is there in God which makes God perfect? And what (by extension) is in Jesus Christ that makes him better than all of us?

I’ve never wondered about these things, but I imagine many people have, given the overwhelming imperfection of this world. If you’re one of those people, I hope my research and thoughts will be helpful.

Is God perfect (i.e. without fault)? Many people say yes, based on the words of Jesus (whom serious Christians believe is God’s divine Son). In a section of the Bible called ‘Matthew,’ Jesus establishes this astonishing standard for anyone who follows Him: “you must be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect.

Two points that need to be made here:

  1. Since God’s existence can’t be proven or disproven, the same can be very credibly written about Him being perfect.
  2. Who defines perfection? Ask 10 people this question and I’m pretty sure you’ll get at least five dramatically different responses.

So what is there in God that makes Him perfect? For me, it’s establishing free will for all human beings and then sticking with free will no matter what. Some might see this as bad, given wars, human trafficking, terrorism, hip-hop and most of Steven Seagal’s movies (hey, gotta keep it from getting too serious).

But I see free will as being the characteristic of perfection because it’s the characteristic of absolutely perfect love. And by perfect, I also mean the word’s less-known second definition: “complete, not deficient” (according to the Oxford dictionary).

That perfect love is also exhibited in Jesus Christ. Learn about his life by reading the Bible and you’ll find out He has unfathomable wisdom, unmatched understanding of the human condition, unshakeable trust in God and a willingness to sacrifice Himself for the good of everyone who’s willing to follow Him.

Why the sacrifice? Because the wrong things we do and the right things we fail to do build an impenetrable wall between us and God. When someone as remarkable as Mother Teresa knew she couldn’t be good enough to overcome that wall without Jesus, then what does that say about me? What does that say about YOU?

Only one person can—and has—penetrated that wall: Jesus Christ. Nowhere is there even the slightest shred of evidence to suggest he had even one fault. So he was capable of taking the penalty—eternal separation from God—that we deserve onto His perfect shoulders when he was put to death.

God rewarded that sacrifice by raising Him from the dead, putting Him in charge of EVERYTHING and offering Him as a life-changing gift to everyone on this planet. Including YOU. Are you willing to consider accepting this astounding gift? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Celebrated former TV talk show host and political commentator Jon Stewart certainly stirs the pot with this pithy statement. But is it true? There are two important points to unpack here.

1. Perhaps “religion” has given some people hope. But from my Christian perspective, religion is absolutely hopeless. If you know any “religious” people, it wouldn’t surprise me if you found them to be negative, judgemental and intolerant of those who don’t follow their rules.

That’s what religion does; it sucks compassion out of people as it divides humanity into “us” and “them”, into right and wrong, into good and bad. It’s just a small step from there to actually persecuting people who aren’t in your religious group (or tribe).

I can tell you right now, if that’s what Christianity was all about, I would never have committed my life to following Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians believe is the divine Son of God).

Thankfully, Christianity is about a relationship – something entirely different from religion. When you commit yourself to following Jesus, you enter into a relationship where He comes into your life and begins to make you more like Him.

Becoming more like Jesus means that over time, you become more compassionate, more generous, more trusting, more understanding, more loving – in other words, you become the exact opposite of religion.

There’s another part to this relationship. When you trust in Jesus – his life, his remarkable (and challenging!) teachings, his death and, finally, his resurrection – God no longer sees all the wrong things you’ve done and all the right things you haven’t done. All He sees is the perfection of His Son. That means when this life ends, you’ll spend eternity in the joyous, glorious presence of God and Jesus.

2. I may not have any use for “religion”, but I can write with confidence that this world has absolutely NOT been torn apart by religion. It’s been torn apart by the opposite of all the traits of Jesus – greed, intolerance, hate, fear, judgmentalism and tribalism.

Sadly, these are common traits for every human being on this planet, whether or not they’re involved in any kind of “religion”. The solution, for Jon Stewart, for me and for YOU, is a life-changing relationship with Jesus that starts NOW and goes into all eternity.

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

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This meme, helpfully supplied by an atheist faith community, left me puzzled.

The viewpoint, from the creator of the animated TV shows Family Guy, American Dad and The Cleveland Show, sets up an adversarial relationship between faith and knowledge.

So let’s ask the question: are faith and knowledge compatible? Does one have to “win” over the other?

Consider the words from thoughtful people of faith (specifically, Christianity, which is my faith):

Blogger Tom Gilson (ThinkingChristian.net) says “belief doesn’t arrive out of thin air, or wishful thinking, or fear, or hopefulness, or (especially) pretending. There is a strong knowledge connection there.”

The website BibleAsk.org goes even further, stating “There is no such thing as ‘blind’ faith. Genuine faith is built on facts presented to the mind. In the Bible, faith and knowledge are never in contradiction. Knowledge always comes before faith, and where there is no knowledge there can be no faith. Without knowledge, it is impossible to have faith.”

The point here is that thoughtful followers of Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians believe is the Son of God) have no interest in the either-or relationship between faith and knowledge advanced by Seth MacFarlane and others. And they’re backed up by the Bible. Chew on these excerpts, all from a section called ‘Proverbs’:

  • Wise people want to learn more, so they listen closely to gain knowledge.
  • Intelligent people want more knowledge, but fools only want more nonsense.
  • Drinking from the beautiful chalice of knowledge is better than adorning oneself with gold and rare gems.

Most Christians take these Bible excerpts seriously. In fact, some of those Christians, like author and geneticist Francis S. Collins, are among the most knowledgeable in the world and they work to advance knowledge, not hinder it. You can read about just a few of these people here: https://wp.me/p2wzRb-3o.

So that’s the good news. You can accept God’s gift of His Son — whose sacrificial death and amazing resurrection makes up for all the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do — and also advance the cause of knowledge. Both are utterly, beautifully compatible.

Interesting in knowing more about Jesus and how He can make you into the person God intends you to be? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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The late, great Andy Rooney (a beloved commentator on TV’s 60 Minutes for more than 30 years) said many profound and witty things during his 92 years on this planet. The quote in this meme, helpfully supplied by an Atheist internet community, is definitely among his most compelling thoughts.

First off, as a Christian, I’m 100 percent with Andy. We have centuries of history, much of it downright horrifying, to absolutely prove his point. More often than not, religious people are simply awful.

Here’s a brief list of what religion does:

  • It makes people judgemental
  • It creates a dangerous ‘us versus them’ mentality
  • It causes people to think that since they’re right, then everyone else is wrong and that leads to intolerance and persecution
  • It sparks vicious tribalism and if you want examples of how bad that is, think of the endless bombings in the Middle East or the 1990s genocidal ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and in Rwanda.

So who else opposes religion? How about Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians believe is God’s divine Son? Some of His harshest words in the Bible were saved for arrogant, judgemental, rule-obsessed religious leaders.

Furthermore, a case can be credibly advanced that part of Jesus’ mission was to get rid of religion altogether. In his book The End of Religion, pastor Bruxey Cavey says “I’m not suggesting that Jesus opposes all forms of organization, but that he opposes dependence on any one organization for our connection with God.”

In fact, Bruxey quotes Jesus from a section of the Bible called “Matthew” (Come to me all of you who are tired from the heavy burden you have been forced to carry. I will give you rest.) to make the point that “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.”

Now this is an invitation that should be attractive to anyone interested in spirituality (and I assume that’s YOU, since you’re reading this blog). Skip religion and connect with Jesus!

So what happens when you do this? Consider Jesus to be God’s gift to every person on this planet, regardless of what they’ve done or not done, regardless of their social status, gender, or age.

Anyone who accepts that gift invites Jesus into their heart and mind to begin a life-long process of making them the kind of people that God wants them to be. And when this life is over, all the wrong things they’ve done and the right things they’ve failed to do will be irrelevant. All God will see is His Son’s perfection.

Call me crazy, but this sounds like a GREAT deal. Are you interested? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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As soon as I saw this meme, found in a Facebook atheist group, my “spidey-sense” started tingling because it presents a golden opportunity to tell you the truth about “belief systems”.

First of all, every person on this planet has a belief system, including atheists. I’ve had hundreds of online interactions with atheist people. In almost every encounter, I’ve found:

  1. They believe there is nothing behind all we see and experience
.
  2. They believe humans have no soul, so when we die, all that we are becomes nothing more than rancid worm food (sorry to be so blunt, but it’s necessary).
  3. They believe all people of faith are deluded, lacking in intelligence and even dangerous.

So, what kind of belief system do YOU have? This is an important question because if you’re open to spirituality, then you have beliefs about existence and the universe. You might even have beliefs about what comes after this life is finished.

So…do you honestly think (as the meme suggests) that your belief system has submerged you in mediocrity and distracted you from the real dangers of our existence?

Let me toss something else your way. Think about the often horrifying history of humanity. Think about our culture as it is today—the obsession with social media and celebrities, the belief that being “politically correct” will somehow make life better for everyone, the fixation on getting more money, more “toys” and more power.

Does all this make you even slightly confident that humanity can somehow save the world without any help?

You might be feeling a little down now, so let me reveal a belief system that’s shot through with hope for you and for humanity.

This belief system starts with the creator and master of time, space and the universe. He loves every person on this planet, including YOU, He knows you better than you know yourself and He wants to be involved in your life.

What do I base this on? Consider these excerpts from the Bible:

All who love me [Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians believe is God’s Son] will obey my teaching. My Father will love them. My Father and I will come to them and live with them. (From a section called ‘John’)

You [God] know all about me. You know when I sit down and when I get up. You know my thoughts from far away. You know where I go and where I lie down. You know everything I do. (From ‘Psalms’)

So how can you let God get involved in your life? Accept the gift of His Son. When you do that, God no longer sees the wrong things you’ve done and the right things you’ve failed to do. He only sees His Son’s perfection. And then Jesus comes into your life and starts to make you more like Him. It’s a process that won’t end until you’re in Heaven with Jesus.

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

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