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Posts Tagged ‘Frank’s Cottage’

Oh man, talk about arriving late to the party. The American fantasy comedy TV series The Good Place is in 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. Amongst all the other stuff going on, 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). He runs The Good Place and in this episode, is 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 system 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 Christ (whom serious Christians believe is God’s Son) said “You must be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” That’s from a section of the Bible simply called ‘Matthew’.

But God knows that no one 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 claims him as Lord and Saviour 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 a section of the Bible called ‘Philippians’, a dude named Paul, who helped spread Christianity in the Mediterranean, experienced this transformation and 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 [whom serious Christians 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 Christ – 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 Christ (whom serious Christians 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 Christians 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 Christ didn’t know when the world would end. In a section of the Bible called ‘Matthew,’ Jesus said “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 Christians who don’t tell their children about the benefits (and challenges) of following Jesus Christ 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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This meme, helpfully posted on an Atheist website, makes two points:

  1.  God isn’t real
  2.  People are afraid of reality.

I won’t bother with the first point; many websites explore the question of God’s reality (here are two from the perspective of Christianity, which is my faith: http://carm.org/ and http://www.ReasonableFaith.org), so I’ll leave it up to them.

As for the second point, my first reaction was to immediately think this: people believe in God because they are all TOO aware of the reality of their condition.

People who believe in God and follow Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians believe is God’s Son) usually know they don’t live anything close to an ideal life.

Take me, for example. I’m aware that I’m:

  • Self-centred (and therefore don’t care enough about others)
  • Greedy (Frank, you have 700 CDs; do you really need more??)
  • Prone to hold grudges (which always hurts me, not the person who made me so angry)
  • Usually looking for something in return whenever I’m generous (It took me awhile to figure out this is giving with my hand out).

These are just the faults I can immediately identify; I’m sure my very patient wife can suggest more.

However long the list is, here’s the truth: while I can make little improvements, I can never truly fix all my weaknesses. I don’t have the willpower, the discipline or the discernment. And I’ll be bold here and declare that YOU don’t have what it takes to fix all your faults, either. In fact, no one does.

That’s the absolute, unblinking reality of humanity’s condition.

So, if we can’t fix ourselves, who can? Let me be quite radical and declare that God, our creator, is up for the task. In fact, His prime business is repairing broken people. The Internet has many stories about how following Jesus Christ has restored damaged people. (I touch on two of those stories in this blog: https://wp.me/p2wzRb-fz.)

If you’ve met serious Christians, I’m sure you’ll know we’re not perfect. Which might lead you to wonder if I’m truthful about God fixing people who following His Son.

I am truthful, but all this is mixed in with the mystery of free will. The horrors of human history make it plain God has never wanted humanity to be a race of goose-stepping robots. This means He permits people — including Jesus followers— to resist His efforts to fix us.

But when we accept the gift of Jesus and believe that He died for all the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do, then we welcome Him into our lives to start the repair work.

When will that work end? When this life is finished and we go to Heaven to spend eternity with Him. Until then, we serve as His ambassadors in a hurting world.

Does this make sense? Yes or no, 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 Christian 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 a section of the Bible called ‘1 John’ says “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 Christianity. Not only does the Bible (which most Christians take very seriously) 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 Christians 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, a section of the Bible called ‘Romans’ says “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 Bible section, ’Proverbs,’ addresses it this way: “A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.

How about that? Turns out Christians 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 Christianity 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 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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