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Posts Tagged ‘religion’

While watching the Halloween episode of TV sitcom Young Sheldon (a spin-off of the uber-popular Big Bang Theory), I grabbed a pen and paper and took notes because it gift-wrapped an opportunity to tell you what a life of faith is all about. And why you might want to give that kind of life serious, thoughtful consideration.

The episode revolves around a church Halloween production that Sheldon’s ridiculously religious mother is directing. As she describes the production’s gruesome theme around the dinner table, Sheldon’s grandmother pipes up, “hang on; y’all are trying’ to scare people into going to church?”

Then it’s Sheldon’s turn.

“Actually, fear has been a recurring tactic used by organized religion for centuries. When you add guilt to keep people in line, it’s an extremely efficient form of crowd control.”

“Our religion is based on love, Sheldon,” responds his mother. “Not fear.”

But then the script goes in this direction: “So what happens when people don’t follow the rules?” asks Sheldon. “They burn in hell,” answers his mother.

As the camera pans around the silent dinner table, Sheldon’s mother tries to save the conversation by adding, “Because God loves them.”

Yikes. And yikes again.

First of all, the entire conversation smacks of “religion” and that’s a nasty term I want nothing to do with. As you can probably tell, religion is not about love. It’s about creating and enforcing rules in order to control and judge people. In other words, religion is exactly how Sheldon describes it.

Secondly, this conversation portrays God as a vicious ogre who can’t wait to toss us all into Dante’s Inferno. I can tell you right now, if this was anywhere near the truth, I would not have become a Christian.

But I am a Christian, which means I follow Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians believe is God’s Divine Son.

I follow Jesus because He’s the living embodiment of God’s outrageous, break-open-the-champagne love for every person on this earth—no matter who they are or what they’ve done (or not done).

Jesus came to earth to show anyone willing to pay attention exactly who God is. In other words, look at Jesus and you’re looking at God. Now think about what Jesus has done:

  • He healed the sick
  • He hung out with the dregs of society
  • He lifted up the outcasts, favouring them over the privileged and powerful
  • He taught us radical ideas about loving our enemies
  • He criticized rule-loving, power-hungry religious leaders
  • He told us money and power aren’t where it’s at; a soul-restoring faith in God is the ultimate prize in this life and the life to come.

Finally, Jesus is God’s solution to the problem of human sin. God’s standard is perfection and that’s how he sees everyone who follows His Son.

God offers Jesus as a gift to YOU. Interested in accepting that gift? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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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 Christ, whom serious Christians 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 Bible, 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?

Orthodox Christianity says 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 Christians forgiving acts of sickening violence (Google “Amish-Pennsylvania shooting-forgiveness”; it’s an incredible story). Each example shows how following Jesus Christ 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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The late, great Andy Rooney (a beloved commentator on TV’s 60 Minutes for more than 30 years) said many profound and witty things during his 92 years on this planet. The quote in this meme, helpfully supplied by an Atheist internet community, is definitely among his most compelling thoughts.

First off, as a Christian, I’m 100 percent with Andy. We have centuries of history, much of it downright horrifying, to absolutely prove his point. More often than not, religious people are simply awful.

Here’s a brief list of what religion does:

  • It makes people judgemental
  • It creates a dangerous ‘us versus them’ mentality
  • It causes people to think that since they’re right, then everyone else is wrong and that leads to intolerance and persecution
  • It sparks vicious tribalism and if you want examples of how bad that is, think of the endless bombings in the Middle East or the 1990s genocidal ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and in Rwanda.

So who else opposes religion? How about Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians believe is God’s divine Son? Some of His harshest words in the Bible were saved for arrogant, judgemental, rule-obsessed religious leaders.

Furthermore, a case can be credibly advanced that part of Jesus’ mission was to get rid of religion altogether. In his book The End of Religion, pastor Bruxey Cavey says “I’m not suggesting that Jesus opposes all forms of organization, but that he opposes dependence on any one organization for our connection with God.”

In fact, Bruxey quotes Jesus from a section of the Bible called “Matthew” (Come to me all of you who are tired from the heavy burden you have been forced to carry. I will give you rest.) to make the point that “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.”

Now this is an invitation that should be attractive to anyone interested in spirituality (and I assume that’s YOU, since you’re reading this blog). Skip religion and connect with Jesus!

So what happens when you do this? Consider Jesus to be God’s gift to every person on this planet, regardless of what they’ve done or not done, regardless of their social status, gender, or age.

Anyone who accepts that gift invites Jesus into their heart and mind to begin a life-long process of making them the kind of people that God wants them to be. And when this life is over, all the wrong things they’ve done and the right things they’ve failed to do will be irrelevant. All God will see is His Son’s perfection.

Call me crazy, but this sounds like a GREAT deal. Are you interested? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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As soon as I saw this meme, found in a Facebook atheist group, my “spidey-sense” started tingling because it presents a golden opportunity to tell you the truth about “belief systems”.

First of all, every person on this planet has a belief system, including atheists. I’ve had hundreds of online interactions with atheist people. In almost every encounter, I’ve found:

  1. They believe there is nothing behind all we see and experience
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  2. They believe humans have no soul, so when we die, all that we are becomes nothing more than rancid worm food (sorry to be so blunt, but it’s necessary).
  3. They believe all people of faith are deluded, lacking in intelligence and even dangerous.

So, what kind of belief system do YOU have? This is an important question because if you’re open to spirituality, then you have beliefs about existence and the universe. You might even have beliefs about what comes after this life is finished.

So…do you honestly think (as the meme suggests) that your belief system has submerged you in mediocrity and distracted you from the real dangers of our existence?

Let me toss something else your way. Think about the often horrifying history of humanity. Think about our culture as it is today—the obsession with social media and celebrities, the belief that being “politically correct” will somehow make life better for everyone, the fixation on getting more money, more “toys” and more power.

Does all this make you even slightly confident that humanity can somehow save the world without any help?

You might be feeling a little down now, so let me reveal a belief system that’s shot through with hope for you and for humanity.

This belief system starts with the creator and master of time, space and the universe. He loves every person on this planet, including YOU, He knows you better than you know yourself and He wants to be involved in your life.

What do I base this on? Consider these excerpts from the Bible:

All who love me [Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians believe is God’s Son] will obey my teaching. My Father will love them. My Father and I will come to them and live with them. (From a section called ‘John’)

You [God] know all about me. You know when I sit down and when I get up. You know my thoughts from far away. You know where I go and where I lie down. You know everything I do. (From ‘Psalms’)

So how can you let God get involved in your life? Accept the gift of His Son. When you do that, 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 then Jesus comes into your life and starts to make you more like Him. It’s a process that won’t end until you’re in Heaven with Jesus.

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

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Well, this seems confusing.

Canada’s National Post newspaper has published a new survey that might leave you scratching your head. Or maybe not.

The survey suggests millennials (people born between 1982 and 2002) are:

  • Vastly more likely to believe in an afterlife than older generations. Seventy percent of millennials have this belief, compared to 66 percent of generation Xers and less than 60 percent of people 70 and older.
  • Less likely than older folks to belief in God or a higher power. The percentage stands at 66 for millennials, compared to 80 for pre-baby boomers.

Perhaps this makes sense to you. If that’s the case, let me ask two questions: On what do you base your afterlife belief – the prevailing culture or a favourite TV show or Oprah Winfrey’s philosophies? And If you believe there is no creator, then how is it possible for an afterlife to exist?

This challenge is worth tackling because as the years go by, you’re probably going to place more and more of your trust in your afterlife beliefs. It make sense to base that trust on something solid and unchanging.

I believe there’s far more to our existence than 70 or 80 years of eating, sleeping, working, vacationing and going to the bathroom. I base this on something many people think is radical and even ridiculous: a living, breathing, eternal relationship with God, established through faith in Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians believe is God’s Son.)

I didn’t get this belief from being raised by Christian parents or by trusting in a bestselling author or a pop culture star. This belief came from an open-minded investigation of Christianity’s claims. I debated people from a variety of perspectives, read many books and thought deeply about all the viewpoints out there.

After that, I decided at age 42 to trust Jesus Christ with this life and the life to come. I did that because, after my investigations, I believe that:

  1. God is perfect and that’s His standard for judging humanity.
  2. Through the bad things we’ve done and the good things we’ve failed to do, every person on this planet has fallen far short of God’s standard.
  3. Human history – and our own life stories – indicates we can’t achieve God’s standard on our own.
  4. Rather than condemn us all, God sent Jesus Christ to this earth to teach us how to live, then to pay the penalty for our “sins” through his sacrificial death and astounding resurrection three days later.

How do I know all this? A section of the Bible called ‘John’ says “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.”

Could there be any better news than this? And for those who trust in Jesus, when this life is over, God won’t see any of your flaws. He’ll just see His Son’s perfection.

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

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When I read this meme, helpfully created by an atheist, I started thinking hard about my Christian faith and about what Twain (1835-1910), the great American author/humourist/entrepreneur, had to say.

What “great” things have I given up in this life? Just look at the depiction of Twain in this meme. Can anyone credibly tell me smoking is a great thing?

As for alcohol (see the drink in his hand?), there is nothing in the Bible — which serious Christians believe is God’s handbook for this life and the life to come — that forbids enjoying the occasional beer or glass of wine.

Casual sex? Um, hasn’t the spread of sexually transmitted diseases taught us this isn’t necessarily the great thing that our culture says it is?

Money? The Bible doesn’t forbid providing a comfortable life for people and their families. What it does frown upon is loving money more than people, more than honesty, more than integrity and more than generosity. In fact, a section of the Bible called ‘1 Timothy’ says “Lust for money brings trouble and nothing but trouble”.

Power? There are all kinds of Christians in important positions who are not corrupted by power. Just one example is John Tyson, chairman of the U.S. food giant Tyson Foods. He has served with several significant non-profit organizations, including the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependance.

Now, about the “mediocre things of an imaginary (life)”. Twain believed there is nothing beyond the existence you are I are living now — in other words, when we die, all that we are becomes nothing more than rancid worm food (sorry to be this blunt, but it’s necessary). Give this some serious thought; do you have this hopeless belief?

Consider the brokenness of our world — wars, human trafficking, manmade famines and ethnic cleansing. As far as I’m concerned, all this happens because people have rejected their creator, rejected the idea of a life beyond this one, and therefore believe they should do anything and everything to grab all the power, money and prestige they can.

If you’re willing to contemplate this ugly reality, then you might start to realize there MUST be something better than our 70-plus years on planet Earth.

And if you do that, you might question Twain’s opinion that what comes after this life is “mediocre”.

So how can you get in on the promise of a glorious life to come? It’s simple: God offers you the gift of His Son — His life, sacrificial death (for all the wrong things you’ve done and all the right things you’ve failed to do) and glorious resurrection.

Accept the gift. Commit yourself to learning about Jesus Christ and what it means to love Him and follow Him. When you do that, He’ll come into your life and start to prepare you for eternity by slowly making you the kind of person He knows you can be.

Interested? Yes or now, comment 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 in Google+ or Facebook 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 Christians 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 Christians 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 we shine a light on a very important part of the Bible, simply called ‘John’, that 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 Bible excerpts:
Don’t worry about anything, but pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks for what you have (from a section called ‘Philippians). Notice the word “everything” in what we are to pray for?
I came to give life—life that is full and good (from ‘John’).
I have good plans for you. I don’t plan to hurt you. I plan to give you hope and a good future (from ‘Jeremiah’).

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 (from ‘Romans’).

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 (also from ‘Romans’).

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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