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Posts Tagged ‘Jesus of Nazareth’

Maybe you’re among the people who believe the opinion in this atheist meme. But I’m encouraged that you’re open-minded enough to read this blog and be willing to ponder a mindset that prevails in much of our world.

So, let’s start with some questions:

  1. Is it superstition to believe there must be something behind all we see and experience?
  2. Is it a lie to believe that something must have created the universe–and set up the precise conditions that allow life to flourish on this planet?
  3. Is it superstition to believe that this “something” could be more than a blind, pitiless, indifferent creator?
  4. Is it a lie to believe morals are real – that some things are always right (like generosity and caring for our planet) and always wrong (like rape and pedophilia)?

If you’re still with me, then I believe you’re willing to ask your own questions, such as:

  • Since I believe morals are real, where did they come from?
  • Since I believe there is something behind all I see and experience, did this Something create these morals and stick them in the hearts of most people?
  • If these morals are in most people, does that mean this Something actually cares how I live my life?
  • If this Something cares how I live my life, does it mean this Something cares about ME?

A man named Jesus of Nazareth certainly believed in this Something. In fact, Jesus believed He was sent to this planet to represent our creator, to make sure we understand that this creator DOES care about us. Furthermore, He LOVES us and wants to have a relationship with us starting RIGHT NOW and stretching beyond this life.

How can this work? It’s not easy to understand, since we’re finite people who struggle with our thoughts, our emotions and our behaviours. But Jesus can show us the way, helping us to see the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do.

This is more important that you might think, because Jesus tells anyone willing to listen that “you must be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” In other words, that’s the standard we must meet in order to spend eternity with our creator.

It’s hardly a stretch to declare that no one can meet that standard. So what to do? The answer is simple: become a Jesus follower. Make Him your lord, your saviour, your best friend. Read about His remarkable life, work to follow His directions on how to live, and ask your creator to forgive you every time to do wrong or fail to do right. Then spend time with other Jesus followers; your creator can work through them to help you become the person He designed you to be

Do all this to the best of your ability and when this life ends, your creator will see you just as He sees Jesus: perfect in every way. And you’ll be welcomed to spend eternity with Him.

Sound like a good deal? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation. 🙂

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Perhaps you’ve had thoughts along the lines of this atheist meme. “No one can even prove God exists. So why should I bother with Him?”

I get that. We can feel foolish for believing something our culture insists is a joke.

But is it? I’m not about to explain all the evidence for a creator. Many websites make that case very well (check out the ‘links’ tab for a few of them). I’ll just highlight one: the existence of this universe and the fact it’s ridiculously fine-tuned to allow life as we know it.

The website Biologos.org explains my point like this: “If the universe had physical constants with even slightly different values, the universe simply could not support life. It would expand too quickly, or never form carbon atoms, or never make complex molecules like DNA.”

I hope this gives you something to think about. But notice the meme is making a different point? It claims God can’t prove He exists. That leaves me scratching my head; just because God hasn’t proven His existence certainly doesn’t mean He can’t.

Consider this: If God proved He exists, then there would be limits on His gift of free-will — in this case, the freedom to be an atheist. If the horrors of human history prove anything, it’s that God champions free-will above everything.

So if you’re beginning to suspect the claims of this meme are not important, then move on to consider a man. Not only did He believe God exists, He believed He was put on this planet to show people God’s new and better way of living and thinking.

His radical philosophy includes:

  • Don’t just try to tolerate those you dislike–actually LOVE them.
  • Don’t fight back against someone who wants to harm you. If they hit you on one cheek, let them hit the other cheek, too.
  • You will be judged the same way you judge others. God will treat you the same way you treat others.
  • If you forgive others for the wrongs they do to you, then God will forgive your wrongs. But if you don’t forgive, then God will not forgive you.

This man — Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is the Son of God — made another point that’s even more important than what you’ve just read. He told anyone willing to listen that “you must be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect.”

Oooo, that’s a tough one — an impossibility for us very imperfect humans to achieve. And the point Jesus is making is that perfection is the only ticket that will get us into Heaven when this life is finished.

So what to do? The solution is to trust in and follow Jesus. Original-source documents of His physical life on earth say that as the Son of God, He was put to death to make up for ALL the wrong things His followers have done and ALL the right things His followers failed to do.

When you trust in and follow Jesus, God sees you like He sees Jesus: perfect in every way. Not only will that get you into Heaven, it also opens the door to God coming into your life RIGHT NOW to help you become the person He always wanted 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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Most of us have grown so accustomed to living in a credit card world that we give it no more thought than breathing or going to the bathroom.

We use the card, a bill arrives every month and we either pay it off or pay the minimum and eventually deal with the interest charges.

This system exists in another world, too: the world of our behaviour. When I’m rude to another driver, engage in hurtful gossip or find shady ways to avoid paying taxes, that goes on my spiritual credit card. When I ignore the needs of people around me, stay silent in the face of injustices or fail to use my God-given gifts for good, that goes on my spiritual credit card.

You might notice that I’m writing about two elements of behaviour: the wrong things we do and the right things we fail to do.

As a follower of Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is the Son of God), I know both elements are equally important to my creator.

Do you pay attention to both? I often don’t and that’s something I need to pray about, asking God to open my eyes and heart to see and act on the opportunities He gives me to be the hands and feet of Jesus in a hurting world.

Returning to the spiritual credit card theme, I’ve built up quite a list of items, many of them things I’m not even aware of. So have you.

As with the credit card in your purse or wallet, all the wrong things we’ve done and all the right things we’ve failed to do must be paid for at some point. This is more important than you might think because Jesus tells everyone who’s willing to listen that You must be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect.”

Jesus says this because when this life ends, perfection is the admission price to spending eternity with Him in Heaven. Nothing else will get you past the bouncer at the door.

So my question is: how will you pay off your spiritual credit card? I know that I can’t pay off my card and achieve perfection. It’s simply not possible. And I believe that’s the case for you, too.

Acknowledging this FACT means someone has to pay off our cards for us. And the only person who qualifies – the only person who is perfect – is Jesus.

When He was physically on earth, government and religious officials who were offended by His words and deeds arrested him on trumped-up charges and put Him to death. But their actions served an entirely different and life-changing purpose: His death paid all the credit card charges for everyone who believes in Him and follows Him.

Now, when God looks at Jesus followers, all He sees is His Son’s perfection. And that’s what the bouncer at the door to Heaven will see, too. But just as important, when you say yes to God’s gift of Jesus, you welcome Him into your life RIGHT NOW to help you become the person God 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’m fascinated by the underlying points being made by this meme. Maybe you’ve noticed them too:

  1. Authority, revelation or faith are absolutely useless when it comes to beliefs.
  2. evidence will always destroy beliefs.

That’s what Dawkins, the author and controversial atheist, is really saying here. As a person of faith, I don’t agree with him, but having beliefs with zero evidence to back them up is a sad way to live. That said, I can’t imagine there are many people walking around with beliefs for which they can’t provide at least a crumb of evidence.

In my case, I believe in and follow Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is the Son of God. I’m not going to get into the evidence for His life, miracles, death and resurrection here (there are many, many books and websites that explore the evidence in great detail), but I will write that without that evidence, I would not have become a Jesus follower.

Still, evidence AND faith are needed to become a Jesus follower and I have no problem with that. Whether we like to admit it or not, we all live with this mix. One quick example: getting on an airplane means placing your faith in the pilots, the maintenance crews and the manufacturer that this metal tube is gonna get you to your destination in one piece. (Wikipedia lists more than 200 examples of where that faith was misplaced, each time killing at least 100 people.)

So let’s get to my main point and that is: atheism is a belief. Atheists believe there is nothing behind all we see and experience. Atheists believe we have no soul and, when we die, all that we are becomes nothing more than rancid worm food (sorry to be so blunt, but it’s necessary).

What is the evidence for these beliefs? I imagine they would point to this horribly messed up world and declare no god would ever allow wars, ethnic cleansing, dementia, poverty or hurricanes. All of that is good evidence. But for millions and millions and millions of people like me, it’s nowhere near enough.

Without exploring this in detail (that would require entire blogs), suffice it to say that much of this evidence can be explained by the gift of freewill. For example, poverty happens because:

  • Economic systems keep rich countries rich and poor countries poor.
  • governments spend billions of dollars on military instead of education, social programs and providing clean water.
  • Corruption prevents resources from getting to people in need.

As a Jesus follower, I know that the creator and master of time, space and the universe is working to change that, while still respecting His gift of freewill. Jesus-following organizations like Samaritan’s Purse, LifeWater, Compassion Canada and Christian Blind Mission are among the tools He’s using.

So, what kind of beliefs do you want? Atheism strikes me as being utterly hope-less and I don’t think anyone wants to live without hope. So check out Jesus. Learn why He’s God’s gift to anyone willing to follow Him. And how accepting the gift of Jesus provides you with credible, meaningful hope for this life and the life to come.

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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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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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