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Posts Tagged ‘sin’

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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Bullies 8.16Sinner.

Bully.

Amazing human.

These words jumped out at me as I captured this graphic from an atheist Internet community.

“You are an amazing human” YES! Everyone who is, was and will be is absolutely amazing. Absolutely unique. And as a Christian, I can confidently add this: absolutely cherished by the creator and master of time, space and the universe.

To make the point as strong as possible, what I just wrote applies to me, to you, to Donald Trump, to Jean Vanier (the extraordinary founder of the international L’Arche homes for several disabled people), to the most sickening ISIS terrorist and the most committed community volunteer.

There are NO exceptions. How can I know this? As a Christian, I refer to a section of the Bible simply called ‘Romans’: “there is no difference between Jews and [non-Jews]; God is the same Lord of all and richly blesses all who call to him”.

“You are not a sinner”. OK, then besides being an amazing human being, what are you? Or to really make you think, what is an ISIS terrorist? I imagine you (like me) have no trouble calling an ISIS member a sinner. What about Jean Vanier…has he ever done anything wrong (or failed to do something right)? I’ve heard Jean on detailed TV interviews; he would have no trouble calling himself a sinner.

So if someone as “saintly” as Jean Vanier knows he’s a sinner, what does that make me? Or you? Or ANYONE of ANY age? I’m referring to the little girl in the graphic; can anyone honestly show me a six or seven year-old who hasn’t uncaringly whacked their sibling or ripped a toy out of their hands? Really?

“Bully” is an inflammatory word in North American culture, with school boards, teachers and parents on the lookout to stop this nauseating, soul-destroying behaviour. But does the word apply to people who are telling you and I the TRUTH about our condition?

Sure, they might be telling you in a judgmental, patronizing way (in other words, a sinful way), but that doesn’t change the truth of our condition. Acknowledging and acting on this condition is important because God knows us better than we know ourselves and so that’s inevitably how He sees us.

In fact,  that ‘Romans’ section of the Bible puts it like this: “All have sinned and are not good enough to share God’s divine greatness.”

So if you’re still with me, are you willing to admit you are (1) an amazing human being and (2) a sinner who doesn’t need anyone (least of all an obnoxious bully) to convince you of these two things?

If you’ve said yes, then consider that your creator doesn’t want you to live and die in your sinful condition. He wants to come into your life and make you more like the person He knows you can be. And he wants to do that through His Son, Jesus Christ.

When you accept Jesus into your life — and understand that He died to make up for all the wrong things you’ve done and all the right things you’ve failed to do — then you welcome God into your life. And when this life ends, you’ll spend all of eternity in the glorious presence of Jesus.

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

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DawkinsForegivness 2.16I’ll bet there are folks out there who see this graphic (helpfully supplied by an Internet atheist community) and think “ya, why not just our forgive sins?” Maybe you’re one of those people.

First of all, I can confidently write that God is NOT trying to impress anyone. When you’re the creator of time, space and the universe, trying to impress anyone (even Himself) is just silly.

Second, this quote (by one of the world’s best-known atheists) displays a blatant ignorance — or outright rejection — of who God is.

Is God merciful? Yes. Does God want to forgive us for all the wrong things we’ve done and right things we’ve failed to do? Absolutely.

But God is also something else: perfect. And that’s His baseline standard for everything, whether we like it or not.

So why doesn’t He just forgive us? Well, why do we have courts? Why can’t we just ignore the dude who killed that guy in a bar fight? Why don’t we just overlook how she faked having cancer in order to bilk people out of thousands of dollars?

If these examples offend your sense of justice, then imagine how our creator feels about  our greed, our self-centredness, our violence, our willful ignorance and our cultural belief that we “deserve” the good life.

Is God judge and jury? You bet He is. Execution victim? Yes, that too.

If that last point seems strange, then understand that this is how it goes with Christianity: Knowing that we could never do enough or be enough to earn our way into Heaven, God paved the way for us. That way is through believing in and following Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians believe is God’s divine Son (and also God in the flesh, but that’s a blog for another day).

A section of the Bible, called ‘1 Peter’, describes Jesus this way: “He never sinned, and he never told a lie”. This is important and you’ll soon read why.

Jesus spent three years traveling around the Middle East with a band of followers, telling people the Kingdom of God (represented by Him) was near. He proved it by healing diseases, raising people from the dead and preaching revolutionary ideas like loving your enemies, refusing to retaliate when a wrong has been done to you and praying for those who hate you.

Then Jesus allowed conniving religious authorities to arrest him on trumped-up charges and convince political leaders to hand Him the ultimate punishment: death on a cross.

What they didn’t realize is that this death would pave the way to Heaven for anyone who believes in and follows Jesus. He paid the price that we should be paying.

Now, when God sees any Jesus follower, He doesn’t see the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do. He only sees perfection. It’s like Jesus transferred His perfection onto anyone who believes in Him and follows Him.

There. I’ve done my best to explain why God doesn’t just forgive our sins. As you can see, He goes even further than that — sacrificing His son for everyone who believes in Jesus.

Does this make sense? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Terribleness Of The CrossMy first reaction when I read this graphic on an Internet atheism community?

Yes, it is TERRIBLE that Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians believe is God’s divine son) had to die on the cross for me and everyone else who believes in Him.

In fact, I’ll go further: absolutely HORRIBLE. Totally AWFUL. Overwhelmingly WRETCHED.

And for us humans, any parent that would send their child to be killed IS a terrible person.

But if you have any belief in a Creator, I think you’ll also agree that there’s a *universe* of difference between us insecure, greedy, self-centred, violent, lying human beings and the Maker of time, space and the cosmos.

Consider this:

Christianity teaches that this Creator hates “sin” (an out-of-fashion word, but it best suits what I’m writing about). Yes, *hates* it. Christianity also teaches that when this life ends, every one of us will be called on to account for all the wrong things we’ve done and all the right things we’ve failed to do.

I guarantee you, without a shadow of a doubt, that you will NOT be able to explain everything away. You will not have reasonable, viable excuses. It simply isn’t possible.

The thing is, God knows this. And because the God of the Bible is a just and loving God,  He sought a solution that wouldn’t force Him to deny every person passage into Heaven (i.e., spending eternity in His presence).

The solution is hard, but Jesus Christ accepted it. He paid the penalty for the wrong things I’ve done and the right things I’ve failed to do. And He paid the penalty for every other person who believes in Him and follows Him.

Now, when my life is finished and I appear before God, He won’t see my sins. All He will see is the perfection of His Son.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not suggesting that we can all do whatever we want, declare we accept Jesus’s sacrifice and now follow Him, and simply get off penalty-free. Our Creator has no trouble seeing through this kind of cynical, arrogant thinking.

In fact, a section of the Bible called ‘Romans’ addresses this point: “So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? I should hope not! If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there?”

If you’ve truly, honestly and seriously accepted the gift of Jesus, then your life will begin to change. You’ll want to be worthy of that gift; you’ll want to live your life so that you become an ambassador for Jesus.

You can be that ambassador because you don’t have to do it alone. In a mysterious way, Jesus comes to live in your heart and soul. Furthermore, you’ll want to surround yourself with other Jesus followers who will pray for you, encourage you and keep you accountable.

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

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SinIt’s easy to make this call about a word that’s so loaded, isn’t it? In our culture “sin” has come to be associated of judgementalism, arrogance, hard-heartedness and “religious” people.

Some of those people, who lack full awareness of their own failures, think they’re doing others a favour when they call them out for the wrong things those people might have done.

But does that mean the word “sin” should be tossed in garbage? The person who created the graphic that inspired this essay might shout YES.

I suppose it’s easier to think everything is relative and there is no real “good” or “bad” that would necessitate a word like “sin”. Do you really think that’s so? Isn’t murder a sin? What about setting someone’s house on fire — can you think of a reason that would condone arson? Is there an excuse to justify printing and distributing counterfeit money?

Just like you, I haven’t done any of these things. But I examine my own life and see plenty of behaviours that qualify as sin:

  • I’m tired of putting up with the slow truck ahead of me, so I dangerously cut off another car in the passing lane to get around it.
  • I find pathetic excuses to stay on the computer when I should be turning it off and helping my wife clean the house.
  • I allow ancient, petty squabbles with my relatives to bubble up and stop me from reaching out to them.

Maybe these aren’t “sins” to you. Our culture might come up with softer descriptions like “shortcomings” or “mistakes”. To me, a shortcoming is not being able to resist sugary snacks (I’m absolutely guilty). A mistake is failing to notice a typo in a Frank’s Cottage essay (often guilty). A sin is different and I hope the bullet-point examples above make that clear.

So what can I do about these sins and many others? Lord knows, I’ve tried and tried to change my ways. I’ll bet you’ve tried to fix your sins, too. And I’ll bet you’ve had as much success as me. Kinda sad, eh?

But there IS something real and substantial and meaningful that we can do. I’ve done it and it IS making a difference. Not as quickly as I (or my wife) would like, but the change is happening.

Prepare yourself for what this is, because it’s radical and controversial: believing there is a creator. A creator who knows YOU. A creator who cares about YOU. A creator who is involved in this world and wants to be involved in YOUR life.

Furthermore, this creator has a son, whom He offers to this world (including YOU) as an extraordinary, life-changing gift. He is Jesus Christ and God wants YOU to accept the gift of Him. When you do that, you come to know that He died on a cross to make up for ALL the sins of EVERYONE who believes in Him and follows Him.

When this life is done and you come before God, He no longer sees your sins. He sees the sacrifice and the perfection of His son. Sound interesting? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Solution that isn't 6.14Our culture loves to toss the word “karma” around. I see it referenced in newspaper columns, online blogs and conversations at coffee shops.

But is it really the solution to anything, as this Internet graphic suggests?

Yes, there is a certain logic to karma, which Wikipedia defines as “the universal principle of cause and effect. Our actions, good and bad, come back to us in the future, helping us to learn from life’s lessons and become better people.”

From a Christian perspective (that’s my faith), there’s even some Biblical evidence to support it. A section called “Galations” says: What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.

But is that karma? No. The Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry website explains the difference: “The law of karma, which makes morality like a law of nature, does not allow for the possibility of forgiveness.  Its consequences are inevitable and inescapable. Because God is personal, and because persons can forgive, God can forgive us of our sins.  Moreover, He has done so through Jesus Christ.”

So, will karma solve anything? Not for me. I don’t want to be locked in a prison of cause and effect. And I don’t want karma to take the place of revenge.

Serious Christians (and I count myself among them) know and try their best to follow this Bible directive, found in a section called ‘Leviticus’: Forget about the wrong things people do to you. Don’t try to get even. Love your neighbour as yourself.

Do we fall short of that directive? Without a doubt. But now you know the ideal we strive for. And you know more about God — the only being truly worthy of judging us for the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do.

If you’re like me, you’ll admit that the ledger of wrong things done and right things not done is pretty long.

But there’s a way out — a way that karma will never offer you. That way is a guy named Jesus. Serious Christians believe He is God’s son and God’s gift of love to anyone who is willing to accept that gift.

When you accept that gift and declare yourself a follower of Jesus, then you also believe that when He was put to death on a Roman cross, He took on the sins of everyone who calls him saviour.

As a result of that, when God looks at a follower of Jesus, all He sees is the perfection Jesus bought for us. We are as pure as Jesus.

However, please note: That’s not a free pass to do whatever you like and cynically rely on Jesus to clean up the resulting mess. If you take that gift of love seriously, you’ll want to be with other Jesus followers, building each other up, holding each other accountable and allowing God to do amazing things in your life.

Does this sound interesting? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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