Posts Tagged ‘Ross Carkner’

When I came upon this meme, I immediately saw two inferences: (1) only people who our culture considers “weak” go to church and, (2) church (or any kind of faith, for that matter) cannot help us get through life’s challenges.

From my perspective, these broad generalizations entirely miss the point of faith.

Most importantly, when hard times smack you in the face, do you want to face them alone? As my pastor friend Ross Carkner points out, “church isn’t a place that you go to, but a people you do life with. And life isn’t an individual sport; it’s often a war and we do battle together.”

Ross’s point is significant because unlike, say, a wine-tasting group or a book club, church deals with the most important matters of life. And because of that, churches are uniquely equipped to help you deal with disappointments and bad news.

Are people of faith weak and incapable of standing tall when setbacks strike like a hurricane? Some folks might think so, but those of us who follow Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is the Son of God) know that He’s the one who makes us strong.

We are strengthened through His sacrificial death (to make up for all the wrong things we’ve done and all the right things we’ve failed to do) and His resurrection. We are made capable of forgiving even the most heinous crimes because through Jesus, we are totally forgiven.

That might make us seem weak to some, but there’s no point in living life angry and bitter. Before deciding to follow Jesus, that’s what I was like and it made me unpleasant to be around.

When Jesus followers encounter hard times, we absolutely want to fall to our knees and start praying. I know many critics of faith believe prayer is an eye-rolling waste of time, but for us, it:

  • connects us to Jesus
  • helps us to discern how He wants us to respond to the challenges before us
  • gives us the willpower to stand tall

Just as important as these points, connecting to Jesus helps us to understand that life isn’t just about our needs, our hopes and our struggles. It’s about seeing – and responding to – the pain and suffering around us.

Because of our faith in Jesus, we become God’s ambassadors in a world that even the most optimistic person will admit isn’t doing very well. Out of that has come Samaritan’s Purse, World Vision, Compassion Canada, Christian Blind Mission, International Justice Mission and many other charities that are helping people in crisis to get back on their feet and stand tall.

So let me end by making a suggestion that ties directly into the meme: if you have young kids, take them to church, even if you don’t fully understand what’s going on and even if you’re not sure what you believe. When you take that step, you keep the door of faith open for your children to explore. If you’re a person open to spirituality, I believe that would be important to you.

Agree? Disagree? Post your response below and let’s have a conversation. 🙂

Read Full Post »

Well, this caught me off guard. And maybe it will surprise you, too.

In his new book Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind, British author and historian Tom Holland, who is not a Christian, claims the morals of the western world would not exist without Christianity.

For many people, this claim might seem heretical, deluded and just plain wrong. But Holland makes a strong case.

Writing for stream.org, reviewer Jonathon Van Maren notes this:

While studying the ancient world, Holland writes, he realized something. Simply, the ancients were cruel, and their values utterly foreign to him. The Spartans routinely murdered “imperfect” children. The bodies of slaves were treated like outlets for the physical pleasure of those with power. Infanticide was common. The poor and the weak had no rights.

So how did we get from that horrific past to the much better (yet still very imperfect) present? Van Maren picks this up from Holland’s book:

It was Christianity, Holland writes. Christianity revolutionized sex and marriage, demanding that men control themselves and prohibiting all forms of rape. Christianity confined sexuality within monogamy. (It is ironic, Holland notes, that these are now the very standards for which Christianity is derided.) Christianity elevated women. In short, Christianity utterly transformed the world.

This is stunning – until you realize it’s part of a trend. Richard Dawkins, the celebrity atheist who wrote The God Delusion (considered by many to be a modern-day bible of atheism) has recently warned that if Christianity is wiped off the map in the western world, it could be replaced by something far, far worse.

That’s not a glowing endorsement for following Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is the divine Son of God), until you remember it’s coming from a very public, articulate and strident critic of Christianity.

If you’ve gotten this far, perhaps you’re thinking, “Well, that’s nice. Glad Christianity did some good stuff. But what does that have to do with me?”

Well, since you’re open to spirituality, this is a good time to ask yourself what other faiths have contributed to western civilization. And I include atheism here, because it takes faith to believe there’s nothing behind all we see and experience.

If you’re partial to the self-help approach to spirituality, then my pastor friend Ross Carkner has a few questions:

Does self-help make the world a better place? Or does it just help me? And if it’s just about me, isn’t that narcissistic? To be worth anything, self-help must eventually be turned outwards — and when it does, what guides it?

Given the viewpoints of Tom Holland and Richard Dawkins, and given Ross’s thoughts about a self-help approach to life, let me ask you this: is it time you seriously investigated the claims of Jesus?

I believe if you do this with open-minded honesty, you’ll be drawn to this extraordinary man and place Him at the centre your world now and in the life to come.

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

Read Full Post »

crisis of faith atheismI can’t speak for any faith but my own, but I can tell you that most followers of Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is the Son of God) 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. Jesus followers live in a world surrounded by people who often believe there is no god.

That means Jesus followers 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 Jesus followers 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.
  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.

Read Full Post »

faith-badIf, through some twist of fate, I happened to meet American science blogger Bruce Peeples, I would be sure to gratefully shake his hand. Because when I found this meme quoting him, I knew I’d been handed a gold-plated opportunity to explain what a life of faith is really about.

First of all, I’m struggling to understand how my faith — I trust in and follow Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is the divine Son of God — is keeping me from believing in myself.

I showed this graphic to my wise friend Ross Carkner and right away, he noted “believing in yourself and having faith in God are not mutually exclusive.”

Do I somehow not “truly” believe that I can be a valuable, contributing member of this culture? Why on earth would I accept such a notion? Certainly no pastor or Jesus follower I’ve met has ever suggested any such thing to me.

Secondly, I find that believing in God and following His Son makes me MORE powerful.

I have more power because I’m no longer struggling to fly solo through a world that I think most of us will agree is not doing well. I’m part of something larger — a movement of God, through all His followers, to make this hurting planet a better place.

This new power started when, after deciding to put my faith and my trust in Jesus at age 41, I came to understand that life is NOT all about me and my pleasures, my needs, my prejudices or my childhood grievances.

As a result of fully accepting this truth, I’ve learned to become more generous, more aware of suffering around me and more willing to invest in others. I can quite confidently write that without my faith in Jesus, none of this would have happened.

Let me make it clear: this isn’t about self-confidence. It’s about what Ross calls “Jesus confidence”. Consider this quote from one of Jesus’s earliest followers: “Jesus is the one who gives me the strength I need to do whatever I must do.”

That’s Jesus confidence. And it happens in a way that scientists like Steven Hawking can’t possibly explain. It’s supernatural. And if you encounter someone fully caught up in Jesus confidence, you’ll see it for yourself.

All that said, if you’ve ever met any serious Jesus followers, I’m sure you’ll agree we’re a long, long way from perfect. And that’s OK. That same early Jesus follower, named Paul, acknowledged it himself when he wrote this:

I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Jesus, who has so wondrously reached out for me.

Jesus is reaching out to Bruce Peeples. And through this blog, I believe He’s reaching out to YOU. Are you interested? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

Read Full Post »

Blind faith, Frank's Cottage, faithFar from being upset or offended, when I read this graphic (helpfully posted in an Internet atheist community), I immediately thought of some people I’ve met since 2002, when I decided to follow Jesus of Nazareth.

Those people exactly fit what this atheist declared. And it saddens me.

But notice I wrote “some”.  And as the ancient teeny bopper singers The Osmonds sang more than 40 years ago, “one bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch.”

In other words, to base one’s opinion on an entire faith based on the few people you’ve met is simply ludicrous and utterly without credibility. It would be like me reading news reports, then declaring that all Muslims are violent maniacs. See what I mean?

It’s important to keep this in mind: even if a person is raised by Jesus-following parents to have blind faith, that hardly means that person is simply going to go along with what they’ve been taught.

Consider my story: raised in a nominally spiritual home, my brothers and I were given the freedom (in our mid-teens) to decide for ourselves whether we would continue attending church. All of us promptly stopped and so did our parents.

Eventually, many years later and after much consideration and thought, I decided for myself to follow Jesus (who many people believe is the Son of God).  To this day, I’m the only Jesus follower in my biological family.

There are many more stories just like mine and many more that aren’t. Every story is unique, no matter what any critic of Jesus followers might declare.

Ponder these words of Ross Carkner, a wise pastor friend:

My life resembles much more a journey of discovery than it does a state of being. I am discovering who Jesus is for me in the life I live today – not my parents’ yesterday.

Like learning how to skate, it is not easy – it takes persistence and sometimes can be painful. My faith is a process of learning what the Bible says, seeking to put it into practice and appreciating what I encounter through it all.

The more I do all this, the more I can see that everyone puts their faith in something or someone. I have found a lot of personal satisfaction in putting my faith in Jesus.

So what do you want to put your faith into? A high-paying job with lots of cruise ship vacations? A trophy partner to look good at social events? Some kind of vague, superficial “just live a good life” philosophy?

Pick any of them and you’ll get the approval of our culture. Pick Jesus and you’ll get a whole lot more. You’ll get:

  • Strength to deal with life’s inevitable trials
  • A community that’s concerned about something much deeper than wine tasting or extreme sports
  • Moral clarity that so often seems lacking in our culture
  • An extraordinary ability to see every human being on this planet as being loved and cherished by God
  • A real, substantial hope – based on the life, teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus – for something glorious and eternal when this life ends.

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

Read Full Post »

religion God evidenceBefore I attempted to write about this graphic (found, as always, on an Internet atheism community), I went to Dictionary.com, to look up the meaning of “evidence”:
1. That which tends to prove or disprove something; ground for belief; proof.
2. Something that makes plain or clear; an indication or sign: “His flushed look was visible evidence of his fever.”
3. Data presented to a court or jury in proof of the facts in issue and which may include the testimony of witnesses, records, documents, or objects.

Based on that, please consider these facts:

The Earth: How did it come to be that this planet we live in is so perfectly attuned to support life – and not just one species of life, but millions? Even the size of this planet and its distance from the sun are just right to make our existence possible. Who did this? Elvis? Justin Bieber?

The universe: our solar system and who knows how many thousands of others. Our galaxy and innumerable other galaxies. Black holes, stars, comets, etc., etc. Has even a genius like Stephen Hawking told us who created it all?

“Through my scientific work, I have come to believe more and more strongly that the physical universe is put together with an ingenuity so astonishing that I cannot accept it merely as a brute fact,” wrote former University of Adelaide theoretical physics professor Paul Davis in his book The Mind of God.

Our consciousness: In The Case for a Creator, former journalist Lee Strobel interviewed many scientific minds and noted “many scientists are concluding that the laws of chemistry and physics cannot explain our experience of consciousness”.

Indeed, Strobel quotes philosopher Michael Ruse who conceded “no one, certainly not [believers in Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution] seems to have any answer” to the question of the origin of human consciousness. Hmm…it’s starting to look like God did it.

Beyond these questions, I showed the graphic that sparked this essay to a wise pastor. Here’s a little of what Ross Carkner had to say:

“The twin towers of New York City’s World Trade Center were made of tons of concrete and miles of steel, the best that we are able to build. Thousands of people depended on those buildings every day. They trusted their lives in the strength of the towers; but it was insufficient.

“Even the tried, tested and true in the physical world — the very things that we live in, work in, travel in are all quite capable of letting us down. Can I then say I do not believe in buildings???”

Then there’s the question of personal experience. Ross writes:

“My experience [of God] may not be evidence enough for you, but then again it might. [In fact,] my experience is considered acceptable evidence in court — it forms my witness while on the stand.”

So an atheist like Dan Barker may not have any evidence for the existence of God, but Ross Carkner does in his own life story. That evidence is credible enough to be used in court trials.

If you wonder whether there’s a God, is that fact credible enough to make a difference to you? What about our Earth, the universe and YOUR consciousness? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

Read Full Post »

Are you holding out on considering a life of faith because you figure you have plenty of time for that down the road?

A study out of the U.K. says yes.

According to a 2011 National Post article, the study suggests the decline of spirituality in developed nations can be linked, at least in part, to our ever-increasing life expectancy. It causes people to postpone any sort of faith life because they don’t sense any urgency to, as the National Post termed it, “secure a place in heaven”.

I can understand this because our culture insists that pursuing fame, saving money for a Caribbean cruise, advancing your career and buying the biggest possible flat-screen TV are more important than living a life of faith.

The way I see it – and this is backed up by conversations with family members and friends – most people don’t see any benefit in considering spirituality because they have no concept that it’s about so, SO much more than the afterlife.

The media will never tell you this, but following Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is the Son of God) isn’t about religion. It’s about a here-and-now relationship with God, through Jesus.

Yes, what happens to us when we die is of infinite importance, but to ignore the benefits of knowing God and following Jesus NOW is like buying a cottage and never using it until you retire.

This leads me to the thoughts of Ross Carkner, a pastor friend who read the same National Post article: “What about retirement planning? Do people put off saving for retirement until they retire? What is it that you and I need to have ‘in the bank’ with God before we expire, let alone retire?”

I get what Ross is saying. If you have no relationship with God, if you don’t know who He is or have even a vague understanding what Jesus has done for everyone who follows Him, then will you get much comfort from a last-minute deathbed “conversion”?

In the meantime, what happens if you lose your job or your house burns down or a loved one is hurt in a car accident? Challenges like these happen to everyone, but I’ve found that having a here-and-now relationship with God, through Jesus, makes them easier to bear.

That relationship has the best chance at growing when it includes attending church services. That’s part of my faith life; it means I’m included in a supportive community that’s based on something so much more important than a shared interest in extreme sports or wine tasting.

Here’s something else to ponder: Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney infamously spoke about “rolling the dice” during the early 1990s on constitutional negotiations with the country’s 10 provinces. His gamble failed and Canada’s constitution remains unsigned by Quebec.

Are you as brave – or as foolish – as Mr. Mulroney? Are you willing to risk “rolling the dice” that nothing will prevent you from sitting in a rocking chair, enjoying retirement and leisurely doing what it takes to  “secure a place in heaven”? Post an answer below and let’s have a conversation.

Read Full Post »