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Posts Tagged ‘Jesus relationship’

While I was being driven from work to pick up my car at the auto repair shop, the shuttle driver kept me fascinated explaining his research into family ancestry.

I can identify with him because while I haven’t done any ancestry research, I still place importance on my family’s past, present and future. I really like that sense of belonging.

Maybe you’ve heard it said that we all belong to what some spiritual folks call “God’s family”. Or maybe they’ve told you we’re all “children of God”. If you believe in a creator, that probably makes sense and has a sweet appeal.

But is it true? From the perspective of my faith – I follow Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is God’s Son – we are all God’s creations. Beyond the procreating actions of our parents, serious Jesus followers believe none of us would be here without God.

However, that doesn’t mean we’re in His family. Consider this: many of us know of someone whose family has a ‘black sheep’ – a person who, through their awful behaviour, has been kicked out of the family. They’re cut off from communication and banned from family events.

Now consider the character of God. Whether you agree or not, He’s perfect. How can I advance this? Well, let me quote Jesus: “you must be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

Note what Jesus is saying:

  1. This is the character of God.
  2. We must also be perfect in order to meet God’s standard and, after our earthly lives end, spend eternity with Him in Heaven.

The reality is, we’ve all fallen horribly short of God’s standard. An ancient prophet wrote, “It is your sins that separate you from your God. He turns away from you when he sees them.” So we’re all black sheep who are NOT in God’s family.

But there’s good news here. God WANTS YOU in His family. In fact, He’s so driven by that desire that He sent Jesus to earth to show us how to live and then to sacrifice His life to make up for all the wrong things we’ve done and all the right things we’ve failed to do.

If you give this serious thought, you’ll realize Jesus is a life-changing gift of love and mercy. All you have to do is accept it. And if you do that, with thoughtful sincerity, God sees you as He sees Jesus: perfect in every way.

Furthermore, if you accept the gift of Jesus, declare Him to be your Lord and Saviour, then you become more than God’s creation. You become part of His family. Then He comes into your life and starts to make you more like Jesus.

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

 

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Well colour me gobsmacked.

I don’t follow the National Basketball Association, but even I know who Kobe Bryant is. That’s why I was as shocked as so many others at the news that the 41-year-old former Los Angeles Laker and one of his daughters were among nine people who died Jan. 25 in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.

Bryant’s entire career (1996-2016) was with the Lakers. He is considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time. His accomplishments:

  • Five NBA championships
  • 18-time all-star (a league record)
  • NBA’s Most Valuable Player in the 2007-2008 season
  • Fourth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
  • Two-time basketball Olympic gold medalist

Tragedies are a fact of life in this world, but it seems like they don’t often happen to famous people.

That said, there’s a message in the midst of this horrible event. When even wealthy, renowned sports gods can unexpectedly die at an early age, what does that say to us ordinary folks?

The answer is plain: you and I could be done with this life before the end of the day. All our plans, our retirement savings, our accomplishments, our possessions, our relationships—in other words, everything we (and our culture) value—could be left at the side of the road.

That’s leads to another question: Do you believe you have a soul?

I know I do and I believe you have a soul, too And I know our souls have incredible value. God tells me so. Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is God’s perfect Son) says “What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?”

Kobe Bryant had everything our culture says a person could hope for: awards, fame, riches, relationships (a wife, Vanessa, and four daughters) and possessions. Now, I believe he faces his maker and has to account for every wrong thing he ever did and every right thing he failed to do.

I can write this because Jesus says “you must be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

That’s a tough standard. In fact, that’s an impossible standard for any human being to meet. And God knows it. That’s why He sent Jesus to this earth to show us how to live and then, for the people who believe in Him and follow Him, to pay the penalty for all the wrongs things they’ve done and all the right things they’ve failed to do.

The beauty of that gift is that God no longer sees our glowing wrongs. All He sees is His Son’s perfection.

We’ll never know where Kobe Bryant stood with God. But you can make sure you’re in the right place. Just accept the gift of Jesus and watch how He starts to change your life for the better right now.

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

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

Perhaps it’s not the God known to many people, including those who follow Jesus of Nazareth (who many believe is the Son of God). 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. Jeremiah, an ancient prophet, 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 of Nazareth. 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 finished 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. 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). A reformed demon from the “bad place”, he’s now trying to get some of his human friends into The Good Place. In this episode, he’s 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 way 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 of Nazareth (whom many people believe is God’s Son) says to anyone willing to listen that, “You must be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

But God knows that no one can 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 decides to follow Him 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 the ancient world, a dude named Paul experienced this transformation. Then he 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 [who many people 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 – 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 my spiritual world.

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

These 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 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 by one of the people Jesus trained to follow Him). 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 church goer and there are Sundays when I don’t go. People who follow Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is the Son of God) don’t have to go to church—indeed, going to church doesn’t make anyone a Jesus follower, 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 Jesus follower. 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 Jesus followers 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 Jesus follower 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 following Jesus 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.

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, one of the primary source documents of Jesus’s life 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 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 following Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is the Son of God) is all about, I would never have committed my life to following Him.

Thankfully, following Jesus 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 of Nazareth.

Serious Jesus followers like me believe He 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? Paul, an ancient opponent of Jesus followers, helped arrest and persecute people who followed Him. 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.

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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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 of Nazareth, who many people 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 ancient prophets and writers, 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?

The ancient prophets and Jesus followers wrote 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 Jesus followers forgiving acts of sickening violence (Google “Amish-Pennsylvania shooting-forgiveness”; it’s an incredible story). Each example shows how following Jesus 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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