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Posts Tagged ‘John 3:16’

I encountered this meme on Facebook and was immediately struck by its warm and inviting messages. I own more than 700 CDs (yes, I’m happily ‘old school’) and music is always part of my daily life.

That, however, is not why I saved the meme. Instead, it was the first sentence. Notice the love relationship only happens when you love music first? In other words, there’s no love unless you initiate it.

There’s a whole other relationship, that’s even more important than music, which doesn’t require you to do the heavy lifting. I’ll reveal it now, but you may be surprised and even annoyed when you read it, so I hope you’ll keep an open mind.

It’s your creator.

Still with me? Yay! Let me unpack this statement so you’ll fully grasp what I’m writing about.

The creator and master of time, space and the universe loves every person on this planet. No exceptions. I can write that because of Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is God’s Son.

One of the original-source documents about Jesus’ physical life on earth explains that “this is how much God loved the world—He gave His one and only, unique Son as a gift. So now everyone who believes in Him will never perish, but experience everlasting life.”

There are two things worth noting about this statement:

  1. Notice how it doesn’t say anything about God responding to us? He took the initiative. He acted first. Out of love.
  2. There is no footnote stating the gift is only offered to people who qualify – people who have their act together, who are “good enough”. This explains my earlier statement: all the wrong things we’ve done and all the right things we’ve failed to do don’t disqualify us from God’s love.

It’s clear that this gift of Jesus is important and whether or not we accept it is life-changing. But why? We will “experience everlasting life” through Jesus because when He was put to death by the religious and political leaders of His day, He paid the price for all the moral crimes of everyone who follows Him.

And why is that so vital? Jesus explains it when He told anyone willing to listen that “you must be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” So perfection is what it takes to spend eternity in Heaven with God and we can only achieve that through Jesus.

The second message in the meme, about music being the perfect life companion, is nice. But there’s a much, much better life companion: Jesus.

When you accept the gift of Jesus and make Him your lord and saviour, He comes into your life right now and starts to make you more like the person God designed you to be. Music is wonderful, but it certainly can’t do anything like that.

So what do you think? Interested in accepting God’s remarkable, life-changing gift? 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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Is there any truth to this viewpoint, which I found on an atheist Internet community? Unfortunately, yes.

Just visit some Christian or Muslim communities on social media and you’re sure to encounter a few “religious” people who believe they have all the answers to life’s questions.

But isn’t this the case for every group out there? I’ve spent time in atheist Internet communities and have encountered many, many people who announce their opinions — such as the assumption stated in this graphic — as if they were scientifically proven facts. It just ain’t so.

Most followers of Jesus of Nazareth that I know absolutely do not go around claiming to know it all. In fact, it just takes a few moments of mature, respectful conversation with thoughtful Jesus followers to discover they have all kinds of questions about the things they don’t know. And I’m one of them.

But here’s the thing: it’s not about what we don’t know. It’s about what we DO know. Here’s a brief summary:

1. God loves every person on this planet, no exceptions. How do serious Christians know this? Because one of the primary source documents about Jesus states God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him would not be lost but have eternal life.

2. God wants a living, breathing relationship with us. Consider these ancient writings, from prophets and Jesus followers:
Don’t worry about anything, but pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks for what you have. Notice the word “everything” in what we are to pray for?
I came to give life—life that is full and good (the words of Jesus).
I have good plans for you. I don’t plan to hurt you. I plan to give you hope and a good future.

3. The wrong things we’ve done, and the right things we’ve failed to do, have put a wall between us and God. Evidence? All have sinned and are not good enough to share God’s divine greatness (written by one of Jesus’ earliest followers).

4. God went to extraordinary lengths to knock down that wall, by offering Jesus — His life, his sacrificial death, His glorious resurrection — as a gift to anyone willing to accept Him. The evidence: Christ died for us while we were still sinners, and by this God showed how much he loves us (written by the same early Jesus follower).

5. When you accept the gift of Jesus, God no longer sees the wrong things you’ve done and the right things you’ve failed to do. He only sees His Son’s perfection. And when you accept the gift of Jesus, He comes into your life and starts a process of change that doesn’t end until this life finishes and you spend eternity in Heaven with Him.

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

 

 

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Bill HicksWhat would Bill Hicks think if he knew his words were still having an impact more than 20 years after his death?

The American comedian and social critic (1961-1994) wasn’t an atheist but, as you can read in this graphic meme (found in an atheist Internet community), he was no fan of his Christian upbringing.

But did Bill get it right? Is this an accurate depiction of God, as serious Christians understand Him? Or is it a simplistic way to avoid a life of faith?

Let me spell out some facts about the God of the Bible, then you can make up your own mind.

1. God is the creator of time, space, the universe and YOU. You say your parents, not God, made you? Certainly. But what – or who – gave them and all humans the ability to reproduce?

2. Yes, God’s love is infinite. To start with, there are lots of sections of the Bible that explain this. Here is one, from a section called ‘1 John1: “God is love. Everyone who lives in love lives in God, and God lives in them.” Another quote from the same section: “We should love each other, because love comes from God.”

3. God is perfect. A section of the Bible, called, ‘Matthew’, puts it this simply: “your Father in heaven is perfect”.
Do I understand how this can be so in a world that has childhood cancer and dementia? Certainly not. But I’ve read so much from people who rage against God for these things; it all strikes me as a depressing waste of time and energy.
Far better, I’ve found, is to acknowledge that God is God and I am NOT and there is much that I’ll never understand until this life is finished.

4. As the creator of this world and everyone in it, God has the right to hold all of us to account for how we live our lives. He is the sole judge.

5. On our own, we will never, ever be able to explain away all the wrong things we’ve done and all the right things we’ve failed to do.

6. God knows we can’t meet His standards. But rather than drop His standards, He found a better way: send His perfect Son, Jesus Christ, to this world. Jesus taught us the ways of God and the ways of true love for God, for ourselves and for others.
Finally, Jesus paid the penalty for the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do by dying on a cross.

7. Here’s the crux of the matter. One of the most famous quotes from the Bible, in a section called ‘John’, says “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him would not be lost but have eternal life.”
Notice that it says ‘whoever believes in him’? If you believe in Jesus and trust in what He did for YOU, then God no longer sees the wrong things you’ve done and the right things you’ve failed to do. He only sees His Son’s perfection.

8. If you don’t trust in and believe in Jesus, then when this life ends, you have to sufficiently explain yourself before God. If you can’t pull that off (and trust me, you CAN’T), then you face eternity separated from God. I guess that’s the “eternal suffering” part of Bill Hicks’ quote.

Does this make sense? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Jennifer Fulwiler atheism ChristianityFor life-long atheist Jennifer Fulwiler, the pivotal moment came when she held her first child for the first time.

“I looked down and thought ‘what is this baby’?” she recalled in a YouTube video. “From a pure atheist, materialist perspective, he is a collection of randomly evolved chemical reactions.

“I realized if that’s true, then all the love I feel for him is nothing more than chemical reactions in my brain. I looked down at him and I realized, ‘that’s not true’. It’s not the truth.”

Jennifer went on to research the world’s major faiths, but considered Christianity not worth the bother. Then her husband suggested she investigate Christianity because one of its most significant claims — that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh — would be easy to disprove if it wasn’t true.

So she did. Jennifer discovered a world of deeply intellectual thinkers (like Thomas Aquinas and Augustine of Hippo) who were also serious Jesus followers.

Men like them made such a compelling, reason-based case for the life, death and resurrection of Christ that, in Jennifer’s words, “I started to think something world-changing happened in first-century Palestine.”

Jennifer realized that atheists “don’t have the lock on reason that I thought. Christians had all the knowledge of science, but they have the total picture of the human experience — love and triumph and hope. Christians could articulate that in a way that atheists couldn’t.”

The result of all this is Jennifer went from denying there is a creator, to becoming a serious follower of the man that most Christians know is the Son of God.

Why do all this? Let me make it clear that following Jesus can be hard, especially when most of the world (sometimes including your family and friends) doesn’t follow Him and you can be mocked or even disowned for your beliefs.

As far as I’m concerned, the upside more than compensates. When I decided to follow Jesus, little things immediately changed (I stopped cursing and swearing) and bigger things followed (my wife and I have a firm commitment to donate regularly to charities and to our church).

In other words, like me, you’ll get a new perspective on life. The holy grails of our culture — gaining power and prestige, buying a bigger house, going on expensive cruises, having the latest iPhone — will start to look shallow and pointless.

You’ll start living for the approval of your creator, who the Bible says “loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in his Son would not be lost, but have eternal life.”

And as you start living for God and start attending a church regularly, you’ll be surrounded by others who are also in the midst of being transformed by following Jesus.

Finally, when this life is over, you’ll have real and solid hope that you won’t become nothing more than rancid worm food. You’ll become a citizen of Heaven.

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

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TruthOfMotivation 6.15What’s your motivation to do good? I wondered about that after encountering this meme.

Is it true that people who follow Jesus of Nazareth — who many people consider to be God’s Son — do good only because of fear and a desire of eternal reward in Heaven?

Here’s the answer: Almost all Jesus followers are motivated by faith and trust in Jesus. In the primary source documents about His life on earth, Jesus told His followers stuff like this:

  • Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God.
  • Whenever you saw a brother or sister hungry or cold, whatever you did to the least of these, so you did to Me.
  • Be generous. Give to the poor.

It’s statements like these, and many more, that inspire millions of Jesus followers to fuel the work of organizations like Samaritan’s Purse, Compassion Canada, World Vision, Food For The Hungry, International Justice Mission, World Relief Canada and many more.

Most Jesus followers keep in mind this key statement, found in one of the primary source documents about Jesus: This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in Jesus, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.

Since God loves the world (and that means EVERYONE in it), then those who follow God’s Son should have the same attitude.

Is it true that atheists only do “the right thing” because “it’s the human thing to do”? Well, let’s look at the truth: figuring out what is right is very often like staring into a mud puddle. What’s right for one person (atheist or otherwise) is often quite wrong for another. Just a few bloodcurdling examples:

  • In Nazi Germany, the right thing to do was imprison, torture and exterminate millions of Jews, gypsies, Slavic people, homosexuals, Jesus followers and many other groups.
  • In 1994 Rwanda, the right thing to do, for thousands of Hutu people, was slaughter members of the Tutsi tribe. As many as a million died before the massacre ended.
  • During the 1970s in Cambodia, the right thing to do, for many thousands of members of the Pol Pot regime, was execute, starve and torture more than a million people.

When I consider all this, it makes sense to decide what is good or right by following the one person who always had (and has) it figured out: Jesus of Nazareth.

By following in Jesus and trusting in what He accomplished through His life, death and resurrection, you’ll find yourself doing good things. Why? Because when you believe in Jesus, your life will be, in a word, transformed. Now and for all eternity.

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

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Hate 3.15As soon as I saw this graphic on an atheist website, I felt sorry for Patricia Ruth Barker. Sorry that she ever thought she had to “hate” anyone before becoming an atheist.

Who taught Patricia this kind of warped thinking? Did she consider murderous terrorist groups and decide this is how “religious” people think? (I follow Jesus of Nazareth, but I’m absolutely not “religious” and this blog reveals why: http://wp.me/p2wzRb-cP.)

Did she interact some religious people who, sadly, DO hate gay people and people of other faiths and figure this is standard thinking for spiritual people?

Since encountering this graphic, I’ve racked my brain to think of all the Jesus followers I’ve met who hate gays or people of other faiths. I can’t come up with a single person. And when I do encounter these misguided people, I’ll remind them of these passages from ancient documents and original-source biographies of Jesus (who many people believe is God’s Son):

  • Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
  • God loved the world so much [and that means EVERY PERSON in it] that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him would not be lost. but have eternal life.
  • God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.

Most Jesus followers take these passages seriously. They tell me that Jesus  came for ALL people — gay or straight, Christian or Muslim or Atheist or Buddhist, criminal or Nobel prize winner, male or female, young or old. No exceptions. Ever.

This is one of the reasons I decided in my 40s to follow Jesus and trust in what He’s done for everyone who believes in Him. He died on a Roman cross to make up for ALL the wrong things I’ve done and ALL the right things I’ve failed to do. He made up for all the times when, despite my best efforts, I end up living as if there is no loving creator who wants to be part of my life.

I also follow Jesus because I know that by doing so, I welcome Him into my heart, mind and soul to make me more like Him. That means hating ONLY the wrong things I’ve done and the right things I don’t do.

It also means I believe in what many people call the “Golden Rule”: Do for others what you want them to do for you.

I want atheists and people of other faiths to respect me. So I darn well better respect them. When that exchange takes place, I get to tell them, like I’m telling you now, about my faith in Jesus and how He can change them (and YOU) for the better – for now and for all eternity.

What are your thoughts on this? Post a comment below and let’s have a conversation.

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Religion pacifierJust for fun, I Googled “What does the human mind need?” There was no definitive answer. In fact, none of the dozens of links I saw even address the question.

So I tried “The human mind cries out for…”. Again, nothing.

So does the human mind cry out for facts and reason? Makes sense to me. I’m sure it cries out for more than that, but let’s stick with these two and move on to the bottom statement in this graphic (which I found on an atheist website).

I’m a man of faith, but I certainly want nothing to do with “religion” (here’s why: http://wp.me/p2wzRb-eu). So does having faith in God and Jesus Christ — whom serious Christians believe is the son of God — act as a pacifier?

Sadly, the answer for some Christians is yes. But for most, the answer is absolutely NO. We see the world for how it truly is — broken, in desperate need of help. And we do our best to help, by going on trips to aid people in developing nations, by financially supporting aid organizations like Samaritan’s Purse, by asking our political leaders to do the right thing.

In other words, we strive, in our horribly imperfect way, to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ. Why? because “God loved the world [and that means EVERYONE IN IT] so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him would not be lost but have eternal life.” That’s from one of the four Bible accounts of Jesus’ physical life on earth. Serious Christians believe this, so if God loves everyone, then followers of His Son should, too.

Let’s move on to the human heart. What does it need? I don’t think I’m off-base when I write that the hearts of most people need love, acceptance and a sense of purpose. Our hearts need forgiveness — for the wrong things we’ve done and for the right things we’ve failed to do. Our hearts need community — the sense that we’re not alone in whatever joy or misery we are experiencing.

Do hearts get these things from family and friends? Certainly. But friends drift away. Families become separated by emotions or geography and, inevitably, death. From power and money? Only for a relatively short time. Sex? Same thing. Boats, mansions, 100-inch TV screens, Vegas vacations and Ferraris? It won’t take long for most people to become bored of them.

So what’s left? With whom can we find absolutely unconditional love? Where can we get a sense of purpose that’s real and won’t change? How can we achieve a sense of community around something more important than wine-tasting, cruise ship vacations or extreme sports? And where can we get unconditional forgiveness?

As a serious Christian, I believe a relationship with Jesus Christ is the answer to every one of those needs. God offers Jesus as a gift to you and me. When you accept that gift, with sincere seriousness, you open the door to God changing you, from the inside out. For the better. So you can join me in being an imperfect ambassador for Jesus in a broken world.

And when this life is over,  Jesus’ sacrificial death on a cross wipes away all the wrong things we’ve done and all the right things we’ve failed to do. So God sees you and me the way He sees Jesus: pure in every way. And from there, we are welcome to spend eternity with Jesus.

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

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God Auschwitz evilTake your pick: the Auschwitz concentration camp, 9-11 terrorist attacks, massacres in Connecticut (2012) and Norway (2011), barbaric ISIS warmongers.

These, and many other horrific examples of human evil, can serve as evidence of why there is no God. I certainly understand how people can adopt this viewpoint.

But I also understand that this is the path of least resistance; the conclusion any of us could jump to in the heat of anger and despair.

So I’m going to advance a very different proposition: there are Nazi death camps, vicious ISIS/Al Qaeda terrorists and rampaging “lone wolf” killers, so there MUST be a God.

How can that make sense? Let me explain:

1. The beautiful and terrible gift of freewill. We’ve been given it. And we spit on it. Every day. That absolutely includes ME, when I act as if there is no God and put myself in charge of me.

When you and I claim we know what’s best for ourselves, we open the door to greed, unbridled lust, petty self-centredness, intolerance and so much more. Like it or not, this path can lead all the way to unspeakable evil.

2. Who gave us that gift of freewill? Who else but God, the creator of this universe and the air you are breathing right now? Does that mean He’s responsible for when we do wrong and fail to do right? Not even a little bit. God didn’t want goose-stepping robots; he wanted people with freedom. And he still wants that, no matter how hard it has often been.

3. Who can we turn to when despicable evil happens? God, who gave you air to breathe and free will to believe in Him or turn away and rely on yourself.

Serious Christians believe this statement in a section of the Bible simply called ‘John’:  “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son [Jesus Christ]. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him [Jesus], anyone can have a whole and lasting life.”

The news gets better. The Bible goes on to say: “God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.”

Notice how we haven’t been simply abandoned to free will and all it’s potential consequences?

In the midst of Auschwitz, Jesus Christ was there, offering people hope of eternity in Heaven with Him, long after the suffering ended. And with that knowledge came His strength and a willingness to forgive their Nazi torturers and escape the prison of rage and revenge.

In camps where refugees are living with practically nothing, just so they can escape ISIS terrorists, Jesus Christ is there, offering them more than blankets and food. Offering them His love and eternity with Him when this short life is done.

In the aftermath of massacres, Jesus Christ is there, offering a community of believers who are, in their midst of their own imperfections, ready to provide physical and spiritual help. To be the hands of feet of their Lord and Saviour.

Getting in on all this is simple. Accept the gift of Jesus, whose sacrificial death makes up for all your sins. Make Him your Lord and friend. Then watch as changes start to happen. Good changes. Changes that will take you into eternity.

Does this sound attractive? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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WhenLoveLeadsToLoveHmmm…before my wanderings into atheist internet communities, I’d never heard the notion that loving God means I have less love to give others.

Maybe that’s true for some unfortunate people, who are into “religion” and believe they should sit in judgement of others. But for most of the God-loving people I know, the reality goes something like this:

  • I love God, so I need to be more loving to homosexual people. That means speaking up whenever they are mocked, denigrated or unjustly criticized.
  • I love God, so I need to be more loving to homeless people.
  • I love God, so I need to be more loving to people who’ve been through the pain of abortion. (Ever met anyone who liked having an abortion? Me neither.)
  • I love God, so I need to be more loving to people who don’t care about the environment. (It’s God’s world, not mine, so I need to care about what we humans do to His planet.)
  • I love God, so I need to be more loving to people who are arrogant and pretentious.
  • I love God, so I need to be more loving toward people whose political views are diametrically opposite to mine. That means respecting and defending the values of democracy.
  • I love God, so I need to be more loving to Jewish people, Muslim people, Buddhist people and Hindu people. That means defending their right to worship without fear.
  • I love God, so I need to be more loving to atheist people. That means protecting their right to be atheists.
  • I love God, so I need to be more loving to people who oppose and mock or denigrate my faith.

People like me understand that we’ve been offered a great gift — Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is God’s son. Because we’ve accepted that gift, a perfect and holy God has hit the ‘delete’ key on all the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do (like not loving others enough, for example).

Serious Jesus followers understand that the gift of Jesus is given out of unfathomable love. And that gift is offered to every person on this planet, no matter who they are, what they’ve done (or not done) and whatever faith they have (or don’t have).

How do I know this? Consider this excerpt from one of the four original source accounts of Jesus’s life: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him would not be lost but have eternal life. God did not send him to judge the world guilty, but to save the world through him.”

That’s why I have more love to give. You can have more love to give, too. Interested? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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