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Posts Tagged ‘God’

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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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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While watching the Halloween episode of TV sitcom Young Sheldon (a spin-off of the uber-popular Big Bang Theory), I grabbed a pen and paper and took notes because it gift-wrapped an opportunity to tell you what a life of faith is all about. And why you might want to give that kind of life serious, thoughtful consideration.

The episode revolves around a church Halloween production that Sheldon’s ridiculously religious mother is directing. As she describes the production’s gruesome theme around the dinner table, Sheldon’s grandmother pipes up, “hang on; y’all are trying’ to scare people into going to church?”

Then it’s Sheldon’s turn.

“Actually, fear has been a recurring tactic used by organized religion for centuries. When you add guilt to keep people in line, it’s an extremely efficient form of crowd control.”

“Our religion is based on love, Sheldon,” responds his mother. “Not fear.”

But then the script goes in this direction: “So what happens when people don’t follow the rules?” asks Sheldon. “They burn in hell,” answers his mother.

As the camera pans around the silent dinner table, Sheldon’s mother tries to save the conversation by adding, “Because God loves them.”

Yikes. And yikes again.

First of all, the entire conversation smacks of “religion” and that’s a nasty term I want nothing to do with. As you can probably tell, religion is not about love. It’s about creating and enforcing rules in order to control and judge people. In other words, religion is exactly how Sheldon describes it.

Secondly, this conversation portrays God as a vicious ogre who can’t wait to toss us all into Dante’s Inferno. I can tell you right now, if this was anywhere near the truth, I would not have become a Christian.

But I am a Christian, which means I follow Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians believe is God’s Divine Son.

I follow Jesus because He’s the living embodiment of God’s outrageous, break-open-the-champagne love for every person on this earth—no matter who they are or what they’ve done (or not done).

Jesus came to earth to show anyone willing to pay attention exactly who God is. In other words, look at Jesus and you’re looking at God. Now think about what Jesus has done:

  • He healed the sick
  • He hung out with the dregs of society
  • He lifted up the outcasts, favouring them over the privileged and powerful
  • He taught us radical ideas about loving our enemies
  • He criticized rule-loving, power-hungry religious leaders
  • He told us money and power aren’t where it’s at; a soul-restoring faith in God is the ultimate prize in this life and the life to come.

Finally, Jesus is God’s solution to the problem of human sin. God’s standard is perfection and that’s how he sees everyone who follows His Son.

God offers Jesus as a gift to YOU. Interested in accepting that gift? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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The newspaper headline shouted, in capital letters, ‘I FORGIVE YOU’. The Calgary Sun article then detailed how a man pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in a 10-year-old homicide that could only be described as horrifying.

Sadly, during the trial the victim’s mother had to see photos of the badly injured, lifeless body and hear how her son was beaten to death.

Then it was her turn to speak and that’s when we understand the eye-popping headline. The mother, Linda Levesque, told the court she was still grieving over the brutal crime and all that her son suffered before dying.

Then Linda dropped this bomb: “Because of this powerful gift, I have come to forgive those who took our Daniel. I pray that this forgiveness will free your heart to know our Heavenly Father’s mercy, love and healing.”

What was the gift Linda spoke about? The Sun article only said it was her “faith”. I’m having no trouble reading between the lines and understanding it was her faith in Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians believe is the Son of God.

A Sun columnist, who covered the trial, pretty much confirmed it by referring to Linda’s “faith in God”. He went on to write “the fact she has been able to come to terms with such a devastating event and … forgive those responsible is truly remarkable.”

Yes, it’s remarkable. It’s also a sign of someone who understands what it means to follow Jesus. Linda knows that while she’s never taken a life, she (like you, me and the rest of humanity) is far from perfect.

According to the Bible, all the wrong things that people like you and me have done, and all the right things we’ve failed to do, will be exposed when this life ends and we stand before the perfect Creator of time, space and the universe.

We’ll have to somehow explain away all these sins; I can tell you right now that I would not do well in that situation. Would you?

Orthodox Christianity says that God sought to maintain His perfect standards while still enabling people to spend eternity with Him in Heaven. The way He did that was to have His Son pay for all those wrong things by dying on a Roman Empire cross.

Three days later, God brought Jesus back to life to tell anyone who follows Jesus that their sins are gone, they’re as perfect as Jesus and we’ll see Him face-to-face when this life ends.

Linda Levesque must have understood this and recognized that since she’s been forgiven much, she needs to show the same level of forgiveness. And she did.

There are other instances of Christians forgiving acts of sickening violence (Google “Amish-Pennsylvania shooting-forgiveness”; it’s an incredible story). Each example shows how following Jesus Christ can free us from soul-destroying pain and bitterness, no matter how big or small the wrong that’s been done. Does this sound like something you want to get in on? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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