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Posts Tagged ‘Jesus relationship’

Let’s talk about the gods most of us worship.

Perhaps it’s not the God known to many people, including those of my faith (Christianity). That’s probably who the creator of this meme (found on an atheist website) was thinking about.

So who — or what — god might it be? The list of candidates is, sadly, longer than Pinocchio’s nose.

  • Wealth: how many people sacrifice relationships, family life, peace and even a good night’s sleep trying to fill their bank accounts to overflowing? And how much do we really, really need to retire comfortably?
  • Toys: Are our garages big enough to hold the boats, RVs, ATVs and riding lawnmowers that our culture says we should own? Can I find the space needed to cram an 85-inch flat-screen TV into the family room?
  • Career: Is it enough to be a regional manager? Wouldn’t my resume look even better if I was a vice-president? Or maybe a government cabinet minister?
  • Public image: How many of us strive to look endlessly happy and witty on social media?
  • Sex: According to the publisher of adult-entertainment trade publication XBIZ, the North American pornography industry earns at least $6 billion annually. Can anyone credibly insist it’s not a god to millions?

I’m not off the hook here. My wife can easily advance the case that my photography hobby (obsession?) and computer are gods that I kneel before.

So what about you? If you look hard in the mirror, can you admit one or more of these gods sits on the throne of your life? And admit they’re probably not providing the satisfaction and purpose that our culture insists they should?

I write all this to tell you the creator of the universe leaves all these petty little gods in the dust. Why? Because wealth, toys, career, public image and sex couldn’t possibly care less about YOU in this life or the life to come. And when this life ends, all those little gods are left behind like smelly litter.

Believe it or not, the creator of the universe knows YOU and cares about YOU. A section of the Bible, simply called ‘Jeremiah’, puts it like this: The Lord says, “I love you people with a love that continues forever.”

Maybe you’ve read that statement, then looked at your life or at the state of our planet and declared “no way”. So just consider these facts:

  1. Rock-hard evidence of God’s love for YOU is the gift of freewill. That gift is why this world is in its current broken state.
  2. Imagine how much worse things would be if God wasn’t involved in the world, if he wasn’t working in ways you and I will never understand in this life. No, don’t imagine it because that’s depressing. Just consider being thankful.

So what do you do with this love? Let me suggest a radical answer: accept God’s gift of His Son Jesus Christ. When you accept Him and follow Him, God know longer sees the bad things you’ve done and the good things you’ve failed to do. He only sees His Son’s perfection, transferred onto you.

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

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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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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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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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The Calgary Herald headline intrigued me from the moment I read it:

City council faces ‘Come-to-Jesus moment’
as shrinking value of downtown towers leaves huge tax gap

The headline writer seemed to assume that most readers would comprehend the expression. But I don’t think that’s true; I spent more than 25 years in print journalism and I’m not even sure I fully understand it. So I looked it up.

UrbanDictionary.com appears to have the most reasonable definition of ‘Come-to-Jesus moment’: “An epiphany in which one realizes the truth of a matter; a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something; coming clean and admitting failures.”

I like the last part of that definition because it links back to the original meaning of the phrase: people realizing they’re not living right and fixing the problem by becoming followers of Jesus Christ.

Serious Christians like me believe Jesus is the divine Son of God and He is God’s gift to anyone willing to accept Him. Those who say yes to that gift find out Jesus has the power to change their lives.

Need evidence? One of the most dramatic examples is found in the Bible, where Paul, an opponent of Christianity, helped arrest and persecute Jesus followers. Then he had a spiritual encounter with Jesus; after that, Paul dedicating the rest of his life to starting churches and telling people how Jesus made him a new and better person. (You can read Paul’s story in a section of the Bible called ‘Acts’.)

Not all transformations are so radical and that might be comforting if you’re afraid of losing the essence of who you are. Sometimes, Jesus gradually tweaks personalities, strengths/weaknesses, likes/dislikes so people come closer to who God intended them to be. That’s what is happening to me and the process won’t end until I finish with this life.

Are you facing a ‘Come-to-Jesus moment’? The fact that you’re reading this blog suggests the answer might be yes. Keep in mind that no one on this planet is free of failures, disappointments, tragedies or mistakes. All of us have missed the mark on who God created us to be. Realizing this truth can be your ‘Come-to-Jesus moment’.

If you’re not in this situation, do you know someone who is? I suggest you send them a link to this blog; it might open the door to a spiritual conversation—and if you feel ill-equipped for such a conversation, please include my email address – fdking@hotmail.com. I’ll be happy to connect with them.

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