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CureForReligion 10.15When I first saw this graphic, generously shared on an atheist Internet community, my first reaction was “Hmm…wonder where I could buy a great shirt like this?”

I’m a Christian who knows the world needs a cure for “religion”. You know, all that stuff that says you can torture, rape and kill ‘unbelievers’. (Or worse still, people who leave my “religion” for another “religion”.)

Am I overstating it? Then let’s examine the “religious” part of Christianity. You may have experienced it:

  • People who appear to have it all together sitting in cold-hearted judgement of others.
  • People who sniff their disapproval of those with tattoos or nose rings.
  • People who claim they welcome others to their churches — as long as those people fit in, ’cause hey, we’re certainly NOT going to change for YOU.
  • People who seem to spend more time angrily opposing things than lovingly offering an alternative.

All this is how I see “religion”.

Is there a cure? Absolutely, but it’s controversial. It’s Jesus Christ, whom serious Christian believe is God’s divine Son.

Still with me, but wondering what the heck I’m writing about? Good.

During His physical time on earth, Jesus had little use for the rituals of “religion” and the self-righteous, soulless lives it so often produces.

In ‘Matthew’, one of the four Bible accounts of Jesus’ life, He says this to people like you and me: “Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.”

In his book The End of Religion, Canadian pastor Bruxy Cavey writes “Notice how Jesus is not pointing toward a different and better religion, but instead He invites us to Himself as an alternative to the weary way of religion.”

Exactly. That’s the thing you might not know: Christianity isn’t about a religion. It’s about a person and how you and I can have a relationship with Him that starts in this life and stretches into eternity.

That means no guilt-induced rituals that create nothing but spiritual fatigue. It also means thoughtfully, consciously turning away from the elitism of “us versus them” and the smugness of judgmentalism.

When people honestly, humbly come to Jesus, they come knowing they are very bit as imperfect as the people they are tempted to judge. They come with the realization that it’s them who must change.

That was the case for me when I decided to believe in and follow Jesus at age 42. And it’s made me a better person.

Do you want to be a better person without the shackles of religion? Then check out Jesus, because in a section of the Bible simply called ‘John’, He tells everyone who will listen that “anyone who drinks the water I give will never be thirsty again. The water I give people will be like a spring flowing inside them. It will bring them eternal life.”

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

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Star Trek: The Motion PictureEven me, who figures anything with the words “Star Trek” in the title MUST be good, has to admit that the first Star Trek movie was long, sloooow and generally underwhelming.

But when I sat down recently to watch 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion PIcture again for the first time in decades, I was struck by the plot and how it speaks to the human condition right now.

Admiral James T. Kirk busts himself down to captain in order to retake command of the Enterprise and help the United Federation of Planets fight off a truly gigantic threat.

The threat is called “V’Ger” and eventually Kirk and company find out it’s a 20th-century Earth space probe believed lost. But it wasn’t lost; an alien race figured out its mission — to gather information, then return to its creator — and massively upgraded it to complete the mission.

Over 300 years, the probe gathered so much information that it achieved consciousness. But returning to its creator? That was a problem. And without its creator, the probe “finds its existence empty and without purpose” (thank you, Wikipedia).

Perhaps this sounds entirely alien to you. But it hit home for me during a scene where Spock (the Enterprise’s science officer) tells Kirk, “V’Ger has knowledge that spans this universe, and yet, V’Ger is barren. It has no meaning, no hope, no answers. But it’s asking questions. Is this all that I am? Is there nothing more?

This monologue strikes me as describing the condition of humanity. And the questions V’Ger asks probably occur to any thinking person who has achieved what our culture considers success (even if that success is “just” a middle-class life).

“It knows only that it needs,” Spock relates a little later. “But like so many of us, it does not know what.”

Is this you? It certainly was me. I had the middle-class success our culture sets up as nirvana — good career, satisfying relationships, disposable income with little debt. And yet it seemed superficial. Boring. Meaningless. I was a miniature V’Ger.

If you’ve found yourself sometimes occupying this mental and emotional space, then be bold. Ignore the relentless call of our world and investigate the questions.

That’s what I did. After much thinking, talking, reading and praying, I came to know there’s a Creator. Bigger than all humanity. Bigger than V’Ger. I came to know this Creator loves His creation — you, me and every other human being on this planet — but we had turned away from Him. So He offers us a gift, a way back to Him.

That gift is Jesus Christ. Christianity teaches that Jesus sacrificed Himself to make up for all the wrong things we’ve done and all the right things we’ve failed to do. Because there’s no human way for us to do that on our own.

Furthermore, if you give the Bible any credibility, consider that it tells us Jesus rose from the dead after three days, thereby destroying the permanence of death that we horribly imperfect humans brought on ourselves.

When you accept the gift of Jesus, all this is open to you. The need is satisfied. The questions are answered.

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

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Robin Williams. Whitney Houston. Kurt Cobain. Cory Monteith. All these entertainers had one thing in common: extraordinary God-given talent.

As a result (at least in part…) of that talent, they achieved everything our culture says should lead to permanent happiness and fulfillment. They were fabulously wealthy. They had throngs of adoring fans. They earned the highest honours possible in their industries. They were hugely admired by their peers.

Our culture says they had it made. So what happened – or, more importantly, what didn’t happen – that ended their lives so early?

  • Williams, the Academy-Award winning actor (for 1997’s Good Will Hunting) and an incredible comedian, died of a suicide-related asphyxiation at age 63.
  • Monteith was one of the stars of Glee, a popular TV show in North America. He grew up with substance abuse problems and that didn’t change when Glee transformed him into an award-winning celebrity. He died in 2013 from an overdose of drugs and alcohol.
  • Cobain, singer, songwriter and guitarist with the groundbreaking, phenomenally popular grunge music band Nirvana, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 1994. He was 27.
  • Houston, 48, who sold more than 170 million albums and collected 415 career awards, was found dead in her hotel room in 2012. She had a history of erratic behaviour and cocaine abuse.

Sadly, we can add more names onto this list of icons who had drug and/or alcohol problems and died early: singers Elvis Presley, Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse and Jim Morrison, plus  Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Where was the fulfillment promised by our culture? These people should have been much, much happier than you and me. Their tragic deaths make a clear and consistent case for that promise being an empty lie.

Their wealth didn’t satisfy, their awards apparently brought only temporary happiness, and there was no fulfillment to be had in their fans or peers.

So what (or who) CAN bring real, lasting satisfaction and fulfillment? Could it be…God? Blaise Pascal, the French mathematician, physicist and religious philosopher, certainly thought so. One of his most famous quotes says, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.”

Why is this possible? Because a life-changing relationship with God, through His son, doesn’t depend on anything our culture has to offer. Rich or poor, famous or obscure – these things mean nothing to God. In fact, a relationship with God doesn’t depend on anything in our resumes. It depends on Him.

If you give the Bible any credibility, consider these three words from a section simply called ‘1 John’: “God is love”. That fact explains why He sent His son to die for all the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we haven’t done.

He loves us and wants to wipe the slate clean of what serious Christians call “sins” so there is nothing blocking the way to a satisfying, fulfilling, and eternal relationship with us. All we have to do is believe this and claim Jesus as our saviour.

Does this make sense? Agree or not, post a comment below and let’s start a conversation.

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Forrest Gump, the Academy Award-winning movie, bowled me over when it first came out in 1994.

So when I encountered it while flipping channels the other night, I stopped and relived the magic of Tom Hanks portraying the slow-witted, über-innocent Forrest as he fights in Vietnam, meets presidents, runs across the United States, becomes a millionaire in the shrimp business and fathers a son with the love of his life.

More than Forrest, however, what sticks with me is his Vietnam platoon leader, Lieutenant Dan Taylor. Lieut. Dan (played by Gary Sinise) is saved in battle by Forrest, but his legs are so badly injured they must be amputated.

Dan curses Forrest for saving him and curses God for leaving him a wheelchair-bound cripple. He plunges into a life of drugs, liquor, prostitutes, and squalor.

Still, Dan can’t seem to stay away from Forrest and when Forrest goes into the shrimping business with his own boat, Dan and his wheelchair show up to join him. Their conversations are often spiritually charged, with Dan throwing out bitter barbs about God.

At one point, after their shrimp nets come up empty yet again, Dan caustically demands, “Where the hell is this God of yours?”

The answer comes moments later when a storm comes up, tossing the boat in gigantic wind-whipped waves. Where is Dan through all this? He’s hoisted himself to the top of the boat’s mast where, like Captain Ahab in Moby Dick, he has his life-defining confrontation with the beast. For Ahab, it was the great whale; for Dan, it’s God.

“You call this a storm?” he screams above the hurricane. “It’s time for a showdown – you and me! I’m right here, come and get me!!”

If you saw Forrest Gump, you might recall the boat didn’t sink. In fact, it was the only shrimping vessel in the area undamaged by the storm and, as a result, Forrest and Dan had no competition for the shrimp.

They become rich off the bountiful harvest and a later scene shows a relaxed Dan finally thanking Forrest for saving him in Vietnam. Near the movie’s end, Dan shows up at Forrest’s wedding – clean, sober, with prosthetic legs and a fiancé. He’s whole again.

What can one conclude from this? One commentator on Youtube notes “where Lt. Dan ultimately surrenders and survives, Ahab remained stubborn to the end and died in the wreck (of his whaling boat).”

This conclusion makes sense. It’s certainly a notion that resonates in my life. By finally surrendering my questions about God and Jesus, I opened the door to spiritual wholeness – a real, life-changing relationship with Jesus.

It reminds me of something I read in the Bible: “I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered. Heart-shattered lives ready for love don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.

Is there a point of pride or anger in your life, or the life of someone you know, that’s keeping the door closed to a relationship with God and his Son?

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