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Posts Tagged ‘Jesus relationship’

Elton John is being too kind here. The reality is, “organized religion” absolutely, overwhelmingly does not work.

In fact, “organized religion” is so wildly unsuccessful that just putting those two words together causes a negative reaction in people like me.

Because I follow Jesus Christ — whom serious Christians believe is the divine Son of God — you might not understand. Aren’t people like me all about “religion”? In a word, NO.

Serious followers of Christ have zero interest in “religion” because it does exactly what Elton John says. Religious people seem addicted to:

  • harshly opposing anyone who doesn’t agree with them
  • judging others based on horribly superficial criteria like clothing, body jewelry, language and political positions
  • ignoring or downplaying their own weaknesses
  • isolating themselves from the world, instead of working to improve it

Where does this all lead? So often, it leads to religious people concluding that because they’re right, everyone else is wrong. It’s a pretty short trip from that conclusion to persecuting those “wrong” people.

Unfortunately, history overflows with horrifying examples of that thinking, from Christians rioting against Jews in the Middle Ages to present-day Islamic terrorists murdering Christians, Jews and anyone else who opposes their radical agenda.

There you have it; the hateful lemmings of “organized religion”.

Now let me advance to you the position of Jesus Christ. In his book The End of Religion, Bruxy Cavey notes that in the Bible, Jesus “is not portrayed as the founder of a world religion, but the challenger of all religions. I am not suggesting that Jesus opposes all forms of organization, but that he opposes dependence on any one organization for our connection with God.”

Bruxy, a Canadian pastor, goes on to make this statement: “the primary mission of Jesus was to tear down religion as the foundation for people’s connection with God and to replace it with himself.”

Exactly. Being a Christian is not about being part of a religion. It’s about establishing a relationship with the Son of God through prayer, reading the Bible and attending church. As that relationship deepens, Christ followers open their heart, minds and souls to being led by Jesus to a place where we:

  1. Come to understand and support God’s position that all people, from terrorists to politicians, from blue-collar workers to billionaires, are worthy of His passionate love.
  2. Humbly agree that no one has the inside track on virtue; everyone has “sinned” — that is, missed the mark of what we can be — and that by following Jesus, God can and does change that through radical forgiveness.
  3. Recognize that we are Christ’s loving ambassadors in a world that most of us will agree is not doing very well. In fact, as Christ’s ambassadors, Christians are really God’s agents of change — allowing Him to work through us to make this planet a better place.

Do you want to be one of God’s agents of change? Yes or no, share your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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When I saw this meme, helpfully posted in an atheism community, it instantly grabbed my attention because most of us, me included, don’t really know who believes in Heaven.

So I did some research. According to Wikipedia:

Buddhists seem to believe Heaven is a temporary illusionary reality (though, to be honest, it’s hard to nail down exactly what Buddhism teaches in this respect).

Hindus believe Heaven is a place of eternal, sublime beauty for liberated souls, but it’s not Hinduism’s final pursuit. Like Buddhism (from which it springs), I find it’s difficult to discern an exact Hindu concept of Heaven.

Sikhs believe “Heaven and Hell are not places for living hereafter, they are part of spiritual topography of man and do not exist otherwise.”

Jews — at least the orthodox strain — believe Heaven is part of a three-level universe; it’s above, Earth is in the middle and the underworld is the realm of the dead.

Muslims believe Heaven is an afterlife in Eden for those who do good deeds.

So, in this way, the graphic meme has a good point: others besides Christians believe they could be going to Heaven when this life ends.

So why do most serious Christians (who believe Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God) believe that Heaven — the dwelling place of God, His angels, His Son and all truly committed followers of Jesus — is only open to those who proclaim Christ as Lord and Saviour?

The answer is simple: Serious Christians believe in what the Bible says and in it (a section on Jesus’s life called ‘John’), Jesus tells people “I am the way, the truth, and the life. The only way to the Father is through me”.

Is that exclusionary? In one sense, absolutely. In another sense, absolutely not. Anyone can accept God’s gift of Jesus Christ — His miracles and teaching, His dying on a cross to make up for the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do, and His resurrection from the dead.

All these things are taught in the Bible and there’s plenty of evidence to back up the key elements of Christ’s life. (Visit http://www.carm.org or http://www.ReasonableFaith.org and read the evidence for yourself.)

The key thing is — and this is the best news you’re ever going to read — it doesn’t matter if you’ve ignored God and His Son up ’til now. It doesn’t matter if you’ve followed another faith or guru. It doesn’t matter if you’ve committed evil for which you can’t forgive yourself. All of it becomes secondary when you believe in Christ and dedicate your life to following Him.

If you’ve done that, then all of Heaven is yours. And that Heaven, which includes an intimate relationship with God through His Son, starts right now, in THIS life.

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

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Dogma: an official system of principles or tenets concerning faith, morals, behaviour; a settled or established opinion, belief or principle.

–Dictionary.com

This word has taken on a negative context in our culture, suggesting narrow-minded inflexibility that many people insist is simply wrong.

Now, read this meme (posted in an atheist Internet community) again. Doesn’t it sound a little…dogmatic? Consider the points it makes:

“Dogmatic” people lack freedom. Well, freedom to do what? I’m a Christian, which means I believe Jesus Christ is the Divine Son of God and I do my best to live my life according to His principles.

What freedom does Lindsey believe I lack? Can I not think the world is a beautiful place? Of course I can. And I do.

Does this mean I’m going to walk around with rose-coloured glasses and ignore the many, many human-caused problems that plague this planet? Absolutely not. That would be delusional. So should I wonder if Lindsey is deluding herself?

“Dogmatic” people’s vision is clouded and close-minded. Really? Yet another dogmatic assertion. My vision is clear enough to see the world is beautiful AND horribly messed up. One of the reasons I’m a Christian is I believe faith in Jesus Christ is the starting point to fixing that mess.

As for the apparent horror of being “close-minded”, should my brain simply drift like an aimless amoeba for all time? Is that what Lindsey’s mind is doing?

I like what famed British writer and thinker G. K. Chesterton wrote about being open-minded: “Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.”

I shut my mind on something solid when I decided to trust the evidence and believe that the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ paid the price for all the wrong things I’ve done and all the right things I’ve failed to do (a price I could NEVER pay on my own). By doing this, the Bible — which serious Christians believe is inspired by God from start to finish — says I’ll “not be lost but have eternal life” (that’s in a section simply called ‘John’).

What Christ did is a gift that’s offered to everyone, including Lindsey. Including YOU. If you accept that gift, a section of the Bible called ‘Galations’ says you’ll have “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness [and] faithfulness”.

This won’t happen overnight. But if you say ‘yes’ to faith in Jesus, a life-long construction project will begin. And it won’t end until this life ends and you spend eternity with your creator.

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

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Oh boy; there’s a lot of fabulous content in this anti-Christian atheist meme. So let’s get started.

1. Brainwashing: Is there brainwashing in Christianity? Sadly, yes. I’m sure if you search long enough, you’ll find some parents who, in effect, brainwash their children to ensure they grow up without ever, ever questioning their Christian beliefs.

Gee, wouldn’t that also apply to parents in other faiths, as well as atheist parents? YES.  In fact, whether Matthew Laramore likes it or not, all of us — including him — are brainwashed in some way. To deny that is to ignore reality.

2. Has the history of Christianity been marked by violence? Unfortunately, yes. People who are opposed to this faith often bring up the Crusades (a series of violent wars, in the 1100s and 1200s, aiming at retaking the Middle East from Islamic rule).

What most critics ignore, however, is at least some of the Crusade campaigns were a response to large-scale violence instigated by Muslim forces against Christians. Investigate for yourself, if you don’t believe me.

Either way, except for the occasional lone-wolf lunatic, Christianity left violence behind many centuries ago. I thank God that followers of Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians believe is the Son of God) understand that love, not violence, is the way to tell the world about Him.

3. The whole “wearing a half-naked dead man nailed against a crucifix” thing has nothing to do with promoting Christianity as non-violent.

It wasn’t Christians who nailed Jesus Christ to a cross; it was soldiers of the Roman Empire, acting on the orders of their leaders. Those leaders were responding to pressure from religious authorities, who believed Jesus was a threat to their power and the religious laws they forced on people. They were right.

This leads to a wonderful truth: Jesus Christ came to free us from brainwashing, from violence and from religious laws.

Looking for evidence? Consider these passages from the Bible:

Give the Lord a chance to show you how good he is. (From a section called ‘Psalms)
In other words, don’t be brainwashed; check out God for yourself.

Don’t fight back against someone who wants to do harm to you. If they hit you on the right cheek, let them hit the other cheek too. (from ‘Matthew’, one of the four accounts of Jesus’s physical time on earth).
In other words, don’t resort to violence, even if someone is violent against you.

Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. (Also from ‘Matthew’.)
In other words, it’s not about “religion”. It’s about a relationship with the Son of God that can start now and stretch into all eternity.

Consider all this carefully. Jesus is about good news, not about anything advanced by Matthew Laramore. Interested? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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JesusThe basis of Christianity is a transformed life, now and for all eternity, through faith in Jesus Christ. So this graphic, posted on an atheism Internet community, brings up a very good point.

Did the millions of people who lived and died before Jesus was physically on this earth, about 2,000 years ago, have any chance of going to Heaven? Maybe that’s a question that’s occurred to people like you, who are open to spirituality.

The Bible, which serious Christians believe is the inspired word of God, does not provide an absolutely clear answer – as I’ve discovered while researching the question.

Depending on which website you visit, there are long essays that quote various parts of the Bible to make this or that point. I gotta admit, reading some of this stuff made my eyes glaze over.

But in the end, each website came to the same conclusion: people were granted admission into Heaven, where they will spend eternity with their creator, through faith. Not in themselves. Not in their ability to live good lives, to be kind to others and/or to attend church regularly.

They went to Heaven based on faith only in God. A section of the Bible called ‘Romans’ explains how this faith thing worked in the life of Abraham, who (1) lived and died thousands of years before the arrival of Jesus, and (2) is often considered the common denominator in the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths:

If Abraham, by what he did for God, got God to approve him, he could certainly have taken credit for it. But the story we’re given is a God-story, not an Abraham-story.

What we read in Scripture is, ‘Abraham entered into what God was doing for him, and that was the turning point. He trusted God to set him right instead of trying to be right on his own.’

A section of the Bible called ‘Hebrews’ (written after Christ’s physical time on earth ended) mentions a number of other faith-filled people who were prominent in the centuries before Jesus arrived.

Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world.

People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted.

But they were after a far better country than that—Heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City [a place in Heaven] waiting for them.

I think it’s pretty plain, from these Bible excerpts, that the atheist who created the meme that inspired this blog didn’t bother to research the character and principles of God before asking the question.

So what’s YOUR viewpoint? If you believe there’s a glorious life after this one, how do you think you’ll get in on it? By just being a “good person”? (If that’s where you stand, who defines “good” and how good is good enough?)

What about faith in Jesus Christ? Does it make sense to you? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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crisis of faith atheismI can’t speak for any faith but my own (Christianity), but I can tell you that most Christians have experienced at least one crisis of faith in their lives. And that includes me.

This shouldn’t be a surprise, to the atheist who posted this graphic online or to anyone else. Christians live in a world surrounded by people who often don’t even believe in a creator, much less the God of the Bible.

That means Christians are constantly exposed to family members, friends, work colleagues, social media, TV shows and more that have a very, very different and often incompatible worldview.

At times, Jesus followers can feel like freaks in a culture that insists power, fame, money, vacations, a trophy spouse, gigantic flat-screen TVs and the very latest iPhones are what we should be pursuing.

Is there a God? Does He care about us humans? Is there anything beyond this life? Are there really standards of right and wrong that don’t change with every shift of the wind? Who cares! Worship your family, get more stuff and plan your next vacation. Somehow everything will all work out, right? Right?

Add it all up, and it’s easy to see that Christians are under a lot of pressure to give up their faith and follow the crowd.

I showed this graphic/meme to Ross Carkner, my thoughtful pastor friend. He agreed with the atheist who posted the meme in that a faith crisis is not about God testing us. He continues:

To my understanding, a crisis of faith is an inability to see the hand of God guiding us through the challenges of life. When we lose sight of God with the eyes of faith, then we become familiar with words like abandonment or betrayal.

So a crisis can take root in thoughts like, “my faith is weak” or “my faith is not big enough”. It may even extend to thinking that this whole God thing doesn’t work.

But faith is not about size, or perhaps even quality. Faith is about believing that God is present, working and guiding us, even when life circumstances seem to be blinding and confusing.

So, what is this “truth” that the graphic meme mentions? Is it the mantra that our culture peddles? Or is it something deeper, more profound and more important?

Let me advance this for your consideration:

  1. There is a creator who is absolutely perfect and, in many ways, beyond our ability to comprehend.
  2. This creator absolutely loves YOU and wants a relationship with YOU that begins in this life and extends into eternity.
  3. The wrong things you’ve done and right things you’ve failed to do don’t change that love, but they do put up a wall between you and your creator.
  4. No matter how hard you try, you can’t scale that wall or knock it down.
  5. In the end, you don’t have to do anything about that wall. Your creator did something about it through Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians believe is the perfect Son of God.
  6. Jesus died on a cross for all wrong things you’ve done and the right things you’ve failed to do. Accept what He did, believe in Him, follow Him and the wall is GONE. Forever.

Sound interesting? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Religion badWhy did I save this graphic after first seeing it in an atheist community? Because I can do better.

Yes, “religion” offers false hope for the poor. Yes, “religion” offers pretend wisdom for the stupid.

But it also offers opportunities to be judgemental. Hard-hearted. Unforgiving. Obsessed with keeping irrelevant rules. Unloving of anyone outside the “religious” group.

Had enough? I certainly have. That’s why I’ll always stand up, with any member of the atheist world, and declare that “religion” is downright horrible.

Before I go any further, let me clarify: the “religion” I’m referring to is what most of our culture generally thinks of when they hear the word. NOT the dictionary definition.

Let me move you on to something far more life-affirming, soul-enhancing and character-building: faith. In this case, faith in Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians believe is the divine Son of God.

Jesus had as much interest in “religion” as you, me and the creator of the meme that inspired this blog. In other words, ZERO.

During His physical time on earth, Jesus spent much of his time opposing the dominant religious authorities in ancient Israel. In ‘Matthew’, one of the four Bible accounts of Jesus’ physical life, he notes “They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden”.

Yep. Nailed it.

So what about faith – in this case, faith in Jesus? Now we’re talking about something entirely different. We’re talking about:

  • Understanding who God is – the perfect and mysterious creator of time, space and the universe.
  • Understanding who we are – horribly imperfect people who can never live up to God’s standard of perfection.
  • Understanding who Jesus is – God’s absolutely perfect love GIFT to everyone who is willing to believe in Him and follow Him above everyone and everything else.

When you understand this and accept the gift of Jesus, you also understand that you no longer have to live up to God’s standard of perfection because Jesus paid the penalty for everything wrong you’ve ever done and everything right you’ve ever failed to do.

Finally, when you understand all this, you’ll want to become more like Jesus. You’ll want to be more generous and less selfish, more compassionate and less judgemental, more concerned about others and less preoccupied with yourself.

This is all part of the miracle that happens when you cast aside the priorities of our culture and make Jesus your priority. It’s a life-long process of change and growth that doesn’t end until you’re finished with this life and start your next life – eternity in the transforming, glorious presence of your Creator.

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

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