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Posts Tagged ‘Ross Carkner’

crisis of faith atheismI can’t speak for any faith but my own (Christianity), but I can tell you that most Christians 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. Christians live in a world surrounded by people who often don’t even believe in a creator, much less the God of the Bible.

That means Christians 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 Christians 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 Christ, whom serious Christians believe is the perfect Son of God.
  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.

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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 graphic 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 Christ, whom serious Christians 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 Christian 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 Christ, none of this would have happened.

Let me make it clear: this isn’t about self-confidence. It’s about what Ross calls “Christ confidence”. Consider this quote from a section of the Bible called ‘Philippians’: Christ is the one who gives me the strength I need to do whatever I must do.

That’s Christ 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 Christ confidence, you’ll see it for yourself.

All that said, if you’ve ever met any serious Christians, I’m sure you’ll agree we’re a long way from perfect. And that’s OK. One of the Bible writers, a missionary named Paul, acknowledged it himself when he wrote this (also in ‘Philippians’):

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 Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me.

Christ 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.

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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 became a Christian.

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 Christian 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 Christian 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.  To this day, I’m the only Christ 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 Christianity 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 wife (or husband) 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 Christ (whom serious Christians believe is God’s divine Son) 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.

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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.

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Are you holding out on considering spirituality 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 religion 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 even gossiping over the UK royal family are more important than living a life of faith.

The way I see it – and this is backed up by conversations with non-Christian 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 Christianity isn’t about religion. It’s about a here-and-now relationship with God, through Jesus, whom serious Christians believe to be His Son.

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. For one thing, as a regular church attendee, I’m part of 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.

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