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Posts Tagged ‘religion’

This meme, helpfully posted on an Atheist website, makes two points:

  1.  God isn’t real
  2.  People are afraid of reality.

I won’t bother with the first point; many websites explore the question of God’s reality (here are two from the perspective of Christianity, which is my faith: http://carm.org/ and http://www.ReasonableFaith.org), so I’ll leave it up to them.

As for the second point, my first reaction was to immediately think this: people believe in God because they are all TOO aware of the reality of their condition.

People who believe in God and follow Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians believe is God’s Son) usually know they don’t live anything close to an ideal life.

Take me, for example. I’m aware that I’m:

  • Self-centred (and therefore don’t care enough about others)
  • Greedy (Frank, you have 700 CDs; do you really need more??)
  • Prone to hold grudges (which always hurts me, not the person who made me so angry)
  • Usually looking for something in return whenever I’m generous (It took me awhile to figure out this is giving with my hand out).

These are just the faults I can immediately identify; I’m sure my very patient wife can suggest more.

However long the list is, here’s the truth: while I can make little improvements, I can never truly fix all my weaknesses. I don’t have the willpower, the discipline or the discernment. And I’ll be bold here and declare that YOU don’t have what it takes to fix all your faults, either. In fact, no one does.

That’s the absolute, unblinking reality of humanity’s condition.

So, if we can’t fix ourselves, who can? Let me be quite radical and declare that God, our creator, is up for the task. In fact, His prime business is repairing broken people. The Internet has many stories about how following Jesus Christ has restored damaged people. (I touch on two of those stories in this blog: https://wp.me/p2wzRb-fz.)

If you’ve met serious Christians, I’m sure you’ll know we’re not perfect. Which might lead you to wonder if I’m truthful about God fixing people who following His Son.

I am truthful, but all this is mixed in with the mystery of free will. The horrors of human history make it plain God has never wanted humanity to be a race of goose-stepping robots. This means He permits people — including Jesus followers— to resist His efforts to fix us.

But when we accept the gift of Jesus and believe that He died for all the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do, then we welcome Him into our lives to start the repair work.

When will that work end? When this life is finished and we go to Heaven to spend eternity with Him. Until then, we serve as His ambassadors in a hurting world.

Does this make sense? 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 Christian and there are Sundays when I don’t go. People who follow Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians believe is the Son of God) don’t have to go to church—indeed, going to church doesn’t make anyone a Christian, 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 Christian. 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 Christians 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 Christian 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 Christianity 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 to visit distant family members.

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, there’s a key section of the Bible, simply called ‘John,’ that 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 Christian 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 Christianity was all about, I would never have committed my life to following Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians believe is the divine Son of God).

Thankfully, Christianity 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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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
.
  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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