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Posts Tagged ‘theology’

I encountered this meme on Facebook and was immediately struck by its warm and inviting messages. I own more than 700 CDs (yes, I’m happily ‘old school’) and music is always part of my daily life.

That, however, is not why I saved the meme. Instead, it was the first sentence. Notice the love relationship only happens when you love music first? In other words, there’s no love unless you initiate it.

There’s a whole other relationship, that’s even more important than music, which doesn’t require you to do the heavy lifting. I’ll reveal it now, but you may be surprised and even annoyed when you read it, so I hope you’ll keep an open mind.

It’s your creator.

Still with me? Yay! Let me unpack this statement so you’ll fully grasp what I’m writing about.

The creator and master of time, space and the universe loves every person on this planet. No exceptions. I can write that because of Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is God’s Son.

One of the original-source documents about Jesus’ physical life on earth explains that “this is how much God loved the world—He gave His one and only, unique Son as a gift. So now everyone who believes in Him will never perish, but experience everlasting life.”

There are two things worth noting about this statement:

  1. Notice how it doesn’t say anything about God responding to us? He took the initiative. He acted first. Out of love.
  2. There is no footnote stating the gift is only offered to people who qualify – people who have their act together, who are “good enough”. This explains my earlier statement: all the wrong things we’ve done and all the right things we’ve failed to do don’t disqualify us from God’s love.

It’s clear that this gift of Jesus is important and whether or not we accept it is life-changing. But why? We will “experience everlasting life” through Jesus because when He was put to death by the religious and political leaders of His day, He paid the price for all the moral crimes of everyone who follows Him.

And why is that so vital? Jesus explains it when He told anyone willing to listen that “you must be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” So perfection is what it takes to spend eternity in Heaven with God and we can only achieve that through Jesus.

The second message in the meme, about music being the perfect life companion, is nice. But there’s a much, much better life companion: Jesus.

When you accept the gift of Jesus and make Him your lord and saviour, He comes into your life right now and starts to make you more like the person God designed you to be. Music is wonderful, but it certainly can’t do anything like that.

So what do you think? Interested in accepting God’s remarkable, life-changing gift? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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I’ll admit right now that I initially found the image in this meme shocking. Can there be people in our world who actually think this way?

After a moment’s contemplation, my conclusion is, sadly, yes. I guess they believe that God is no smarter than a bag of hammers and can be manipulated by anyone who knows how to “work the system”.

But maybe there’s something else going on here. Perhaps this meme is a blunt, crude challenge to followers of Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is the Son of God.

Are we Jesus followers subconsciously living like the girl in the meme? Oh, we’re not burning down houses, committing murder or running Ponzi schemes, but some of us are living however we please and believing the forgiveness offered by Jesus is a “get out of jail” card to play whenever our conscience bothers us.

That’s absolutely not what following Jesus is all about and I apologize right now if you’ve met someone (perhaps me?) who appears to live this way.

Here are the facts of the matter:

  1. Do you want to get to Heaven when this life ends? Then just being good isn’t going to get you there. Jesus told anyone willing to listen that “you must be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
  2. No one but Jesus has ever, or will ever, meet Heaven’s admission standard.
  3. God, knowing we couldn’t achieve eternity with Him on our own, did the heavy lifting by sending Jesus. He showed us how to live and then sacrificed His life to pay for ALL the wrong things we’ve done and ALL the right things we’ve failed to do.
  4. Anyone who believes in Jesus and follows Him has their moral crimes wiped off the books. Every sin has been forgiven–even the ones you and I might think are unforgivable–and God now sees that person as perfect.

If you’ve read this far, then I’m sure you’ve figured out this is a big deal. A game changer. Something that should begin transforming you as you come to fully understand what Jesus has done.

That’s a key part of placing your faith and trust in Jesus–He comes into your life and starts making you the person God meant for you to be. He makes you interested:

  • in gathering with other Jesus followers
  • in reading original-source documents about His life
  • in leaving behind your old, unsatisfying, superficial ways of living.

This remarkable process of transformation won’t end until this life is finished and you go to meet Him.

Are you understanding that the forgiveness offered by Jesus through His life, His death, and His resurrection three days later is more incredible and more important than anything you could hope to experience on planet Earth? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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If you’ve ever thought about Jesus of Nazareth — who many people believe is the Son of God — then perhaps this meme’s message has crossed your mind.

Believing the cliche provides an easy reason not to bother exploring who Jesus is, if He matters at all in this pandemic world and, most importantly, if He should matter to YOU.

But I trust that because you’re here, you’re open to spirituality and open to going beyond the dogma pushed by our culture.

First of all, what’s a reasonable definition of “fun”? Among the answers offered by Dictionary.com, this one applies most to the meme: something that provides mirth or amusement.

So what are the “somethings” that Jesus followers supposedly avoid? We can certainly “party” – only for us, that shouldn’t have to include drugs and/or excessive alcohol. I’m going to be bold and suggest that folks who need these to enjoy socializing have problems that require immediate attention.

Sex? Up to the last 100 years ago or so, many Jesus followers bought into the bizarre and stifling notion that it was a necessary evil to have children. Once that was accomplished, we could move on to more noble pursuits.

I thank God that this lie has been dumped in the garbage bin of history. We can absolutely enjoy one of our creator’s greatest gifts. We’re just supposed to do it in the context of marriage.

I imagine this is part of what the meme is addressing. How dare we treat sex as something important and perhaps even sacred, rather than just another fun part of a drunken night on the town.

But look at the results of our culture’s obsession with sex: broken relationships, pedophilia, sex trafficking (see: Jeffrey Epstein), disease and violence (if you ever talk to a prostitute, ask how often she’s been beaten up). I’m sure more social ills can be added to the list.

In the end, I believe the pursuits valued by our culture are really about searching for meaning and significance. And that search will be fruitless until we are willing to ask the BIG questions:

  • Why am I here?
  • Is there more to life than 70-plus years of sleeping, working, going to the bathroom and waiting to expire?
  • What happens when this life ends?

This is where following Jesus makes sense. If you’re willing to explore who He is and how He can be part your life right now, I believe you’ll come to understand the words of a dude named Paul, who was one of His earliest and most remarkable followers. Paul told anyone willing to listen that “It is through Jesus that we are able to live, to do what we do, and to be who we are.”

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

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Maybe you’ve wondered about the very pointed question in this meme. Certainly atheists and others have long argued that a loving creator would never devise anything as horrifying as hell.

So stick with me while we examine the facts around hell and a loving God.

1. Hell was absolutely NOT created for human beings. Says who? Says Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is God’s perfect Son.

In one of the primary source documents about His physical life on earth, Jesus referred to hell as “the fire that was prepared for the devil and his angels.” That’s right. NOT for people.

2. God’s love is absolutely unconditional. How do I know that? Because there are people in Heaven right now who have lived lives much more wretched and evil than you and me. I wrote a blog about one of those people: https://wp.me/p2wzRb-ko.

Maybe that fact disgusts you. I understand. But every person on this planet, including you and me, has committed moral crimes – either through the bad things we’ve done or through the good things we’ve failed to do. Every. Single. Person. So who are we to tell God where people should go after their lives end?

3. Hell continues to exist because many, many people – past, present and future – want it to exist. No, I’m not losing my sanity. Hear me out.

Getting into Heaven is simple. Just be absolutely perfect. It’s the price of admission because Jesus said, “you must be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

How can anyone achieve this impossible standard? On our own, we can’t. But it’s a different story when we decide, with sober thoughtfulness, to follow Jesus. He sacrificed His life to pay the penalty for the moral crimes of every person who declares Him Lord and Saviour. For those followers, God doesn’t see our crimes; all He sees is His Son’s perfection.

So what happens to people who reject Jesus? They’re sending God a clear, unmistakable message: I don’t want to go to Heaven when this life finishes. I want to go to hell. And so the God of unconditional love grants them their wish, even though He desperately doesn’t want to.

I know God wants everyone – including YOU – in Heaven because one of the people Jesus personally trained to follow after him wrote “The Lord does not want any person to be punished forever. He wants all people to be sorry for their sins and turn from them.”

So consider Jesus to be a gift. All you need to do is accept it, then He’ll come into you life and start to make you more like the person He knows you can be. And when this life ends, you’ll meet Him face-to-face in Heaven. Interested? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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While I was being driven from work to pick up my car at the auto repair shop, the shuttle driver kept me fascinated explaining his research into family ancestry.

I can identify with him because while I haven’t done any ancestry research, I still place importance on my family’s past, present and future. I really like that sense of belonging.

Maybe you’ve heard it said that we all belong to what some spiritual folks call “God’s family”. Or maybe they’ve told you we’re all “children of God”. If you believe in a creator, that probably makes sense and has a sweet appeal.

But is it true? From the perspective of my faith – I follow Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is God’s Son – we are all God’s creations. Beyond the procreating actions of our parents, serious Jesus followers believe none of us would be here without God.

However, that doesn’t mean we’re in His family. Consider this: many of us know of someone whose family has a ‘black sheep’ – a person who, through their awful behaviour, has been kicked out of the family. They’re cut off from communication and banned from family events.

Now consider the character of God. Whether you agree or not, He’s perfect. How can I advance this? Well, let me quote Jesus: “you must be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

Note what Jesus is saying:

  1. This is the character of God.
  2. We must also be perfect in order to meet God’s standard and, after our earthly lives end, spend eternity with Him in Heaven.

The reality is, we’ve all fallen horribly short of God’s standard. An ancient prophet wrote, “It is your sins that separate you from your God. He turns away from you when he sees them.” So we’re all black sheep who are NOT in God’s family.

But there’s good news here. God WANTS YOU in His family. In fact, He’s so driven by that desire that He sent Jesus to earth to show us how to live and then to sacrifice His life to make up for all the wrong things we’ve done and all the right things we’ve failed to do.

If you give this serious thought, you’ll realize Jesus is a life-changing gift of love and mercy. All you have to do is accept it. And if you do that, with thoughtful sincerity, God sees you as He sees Jesus: perfect in every way.

Furthermore, if you accept the gift of Jesus, declare Him to be your Lord and Saviour, then you become more than God’s creation. You become part of His family. Then He comes into your life and starts to make you more like Jesus.

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

 

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Well colour me gobsmacked.

I don’t follow the National Basketball Association, but even I know who Kobe Bryant is. That’s why I was as shocked as so many others at the news that the 41-year-old former Los Angeles Laker and one of his daughters were among nine people who died Jan. 25 in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.

Bryant’s entire career (1996-2016) was with the Lakers. He is considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time. His accomplishments:

  • Five NBA championships
  • 18-time all-star (a league record)
  • NBA’s Most Valuable Player in the 2007-2008 season
  • Fourth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
  • Two-time basketball Olympic gold medalist

Tragedies are a fact of life in this world, but it seems like they don’t often happen to famous people.

That said, there’s a message in the midst of this horrible event. When even wealthy, renowned sports gods can unexpectedly die at an early age, what does that say to us ordinary folks?

The answer is plain: you and I could be done with this life before the end of the day. All our plans, our retirement savings, our accomplishments, our possessions, our relationships—in other words, everything we (and our culture) value—could be left at the side of the road.

That’s leads to another question: Do you believe you have a soul?

I know I do and I believe you have a soul, too And I know our souls have incredible value. God tells me so. Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is God’s perfect Son) says “What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?”

Kobe Bryant had everything our culture says a person could hope for: awards, fame, riches, relationships (a wife, Vanessa, and four daughters) and possessions. Now, I believe he faces his maker and has to account for every wrong thing he ever did and every right thing he failed to do.

I can write this because Jesus says “you must be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

That’s a tough standard. In fact, that’s an impossible standard for any human being to meet. And God knows it. That’s why He sent Jesus to this earth to show us how to live and then, for the people who believe in Him and follow Him, to pay the penalty for all the wrongs things they’ve done and all the right things they’ve failed to do.

The beauty of that gift is that God no longer sees our glowing wrongs. All He sees is His Son’s perfection.

We’ll never know where Kobe Bryant stood with God. But you can make sure you’re in the right place. Just accept the gift of Jesus and watch how He starts to change your life for the better right now.

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

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Let’s talk about the gods most of us worship.

Perhaps it’s not the God known to many people, including those who follow Jesus of Nazareth (who many believe is the Son of God). That’s probably who the creator of this meme, found on an atheist website, was thinking about.

So who — or what — god might it be? The list of candidates is, sadly, longer than Pinocchio’s nose.

  • Wealth: how many people sacrifice relationships, family life, peace and even a good night’s sleep trying to fill their bank accounts to overflowing? And how much do we really, really need to retire comfortably?
  • Toys: Are our garages big enough to hold the boats, RVs, ATVs and riding lawnmowers that our culture says we should own? Can I find the space needed to cram an 85-inch flat-screen TV into the family room?
  • Career: Is it enough to be a regional manager? Wouldn’t my resume look even better if I was a vice-president? Or maybe a government cabinet minister?
  • Public image: How many of us strive to look endlessly happy and witty on social media?
  • Sex: According to the publisher of adult-entertainment trade publication XBIZ, the North American pornography industry earns at least $6 billion annually. Can anyone credibly insist it’s not a god to millions?

I’m not off the hook here. My wife can easily advance the case that my photography hobby (obsession?) and computer are gods that I kneel before.

So what about you? If you look hard in the mirror, can you admit one or more of these gods sits on the throne of your life? And admit they’re probably not providing the satisfaction and purpose that our culture insists they should?

I write all this to tell you the creator of the universe leaves all these petty little gods in the dust. Why? Because wealth, toys, career, public image and sex couldn’t possibly care less about YOU in this life or the life to come. And when this life ends, all those little gods are left behind like smelly litter.

Believe it or not, the creator of the universe knows YOU and cares about YOU. Jeremiah, an ancient prophet, puts it like this: The Lord says, “I love you people with a love that continues forever.”

Maybe you’ve read that statement, then looked at your life or at the state of our planet and declared “no way”. So just consider these facts:

  1. Rock-hard evidence of God’s love for YOU is the gift of freewill. That gift is why this world is in its current broken state.
  2. Imagine how much worse things would be if God wasn’t involved in the world, if He wasn’t working in ways you and I will never understand in this life. No, don’t imagine it because that’s depressing. Just consider being thankful.

So what do you do with this love? Let me suggest a radical answer: accept God’s gift of His Son Jesus of Nazareth. When you accept Him and follow Him, God know longer sees the bad things you’ve done and the good things you’ve failed to do. He only sees His Son’s perfection, transferred onto you.

Sound like a good deal? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Oh man, talk about arriving late to the party. The American fantasy comedy TV series The Good Place finished its fourth and final season and I’d only seen part of the debut episode.

But then a friend turned me on to season 3, episode 9. That episode highlights Doug Forcett, a man doing absolutely everything he possibly can to live a “perfect” life. The idea is to earn enough points to gain him entry to The Good Place after his life is finished.

Doug (played by Michael McKean) lives off the grid, grows his own food, drinks recycled water (don’t imagine what that fully means), has adopted every stray dog he’s ever encountered and lets people take advantage of him.

Initially, this all seems great to Michael (Ted Danson). A reformed demon from the “bad place”, he’s now trying to get some of his human friends into The Good Place. In this episode, he’s masquerading as a reporter interviewing Doug because, as he tells Janet, his second-in-command, Doug “is the blueprint; he figured it all out.”

Leaving aside the silly comedic extremes, maybe that concept makes some sense to you. It’s definitely part of many faith systems—live right and you’ll get to The Good Place.

But read about how crazy this kind of thinking can become: Doug accidentally steps on a snail. His desperate attempts to resuscitate the creature fail, so after holding a funeral, he decides to walk three days (cars are bad for the environment and so he’d lose points if he used one) to make a donation to a mollusk association.

Even Michael starts to realize this is nuts, so he tells Doug “live your life. Travel. Drink regular water.”

“No, I can’t risk it,” Doug says. “There’s an accountant out there, measuring the value of everything I do. What if I do something and lose just enough points to keep me out of The Good Place?”

Thankfully, there is a way of living and thinking that’s absolutely opposite to Doug’s soul-crushing obligations. It’s called Christianity. Please stay with me while I explain this.

God’s standard is perfection. The evidence? Jesus of Nazareth (whom many people believe is God’s Son) says to anyone willing to listen that, “You must be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

But God knows that no one can meet that standard and gain entry to “The Good Place”. So He came to earth as Jesus, taught us how to live, then died on a Roman cross to make up for all the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do.

Now, anyone who believes in Jesus and decides to follow Him is seen by God as perfect. And that means they gain entry to The Good Place. Even better, it means that as soon as you accept the gift of Jesus, God enters your life and starts making you the person He created you to be.

Sound like a good deal? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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I imagine there are some folks who’ll read this meme, helpfully supplied by an atheist internet site, and nod their heads in agreement.

If you’re one of those people, then let me pose these questions: Why is the second question like the first? Can you explain the connection?

This strikes me as a ‘bait-and-switch’, like showing up to take advantage of a great deal on a car, then told none of those cars are available but hey, how about this vehicle at a higher price?

Just as those deals have nothing in common, so it is with this atheist meme.

A wise pastor friend weighed in on it. Ross Carkner noted that the term “master” often has nothing to do with the viewpoint advanced in the meme. How about ‘master electrician’ or ‘master craftsman’? Those images are every bit as relevant as the ancient cliche of the slave-driving master.

The work done by master craftsmen (or women) brings shapeless objects to life and provides them with a purpose. A master craftsman sees potential in what the rest of us may only dismiss as a gnarly piece of driftwood.

The craftsman shapes that wood, cutting away the bits that take away from the whole, sanding the sharp, brittle edges to gentle curves that are appealing to touch. Then he applies layers of lacquer to bring out the barely-seen colours and make the finished product something people admire as art.

I’ve seen so much evidence, in my life and the lives of others, that the Creator of the universe – the creator of you and me – is that kind of master. (This Frank’s Cottage blog details a remarkable example of God’s transforming work: http://wp.me/p2wzRb-5g.)

In the ancient world, a dude named Paul experienced this transformation. Then he told others about it: “I’m sure about this: the One who started a good work in you will stay with you to complete the job by the day of Christ Jesus [who many people believe is God’s Son].”

That’s right; whether you know it or not, God the master craftsman has begun a good work in YOU. And He’s no quitter; He wants to finish that work and make you the person He knows you can be.

So how can you get in on this? Simple. Accept the gift of Jesus – His perfect life, sacrificial death and mind-blowing resurrection – whom God offers to every person on this planet.

When you decide to follow Jesus, then God comes into your life to begin changing you, a process that won’t end until you’re finished with this life. And when that day comes, you’ll spend eternity with Jesus in Heaven because God won’t see any of the wrong things you’ve done or the right things you’ve failed to do. He’ll only see His Son’s perfection.

There’s no bait-and-switch here. The incredible deal you came to accept is the incredible deal you’ll get. Sound good? Yes or no, comment below and let’s have a conversation.

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A few months ago, I found an entertaining blog that listed “32 Reasons to be an Atheist (as Opposed to a Christian),” by someone calling themselves ‘Violetwisp’.

I responded to some of them — you can read the response here: https://wp.me/p2wzRb-rT — but Violetwisp’s content is so rich that I’m revisiting it to tell you more about the truth of following Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is God’s Son). So let’s check out four more of those 32 points:

22. You can look at natural wonders and be amazed by them instead of thinking an all-powerful deity made them on a whim or plan.

Fascinating how this is presented as an “either-or” thing. Why can’t I be amazed by natural wonders AND think about their creator? Is it really wrong or backward to simply say “thanks for making this, God,” when I experience a mountain lake or a prairie sunrise?

23. You don’t have to worry that every political shift in the world is a sign of the inevitable end times.

Yes, there are Jesus followers who fixate on the end of the world and how this or that event is leading us to it.

I feel bad for those folks. They seem to forget that even Jesus didn’t know when the world would end. He says “No one knows when that day or time will be. The Son and the angels in heaven don’t know when it will be. Only the Father knows.

That statement alone should be enough to stop people from wasting time on the unanswerable question – especially when Jesus spent far more of his time telling us the best ways to live in the here and now.

24. You don’t have to worry about dying because there’s no sense that maybe you didn’t make it with your brand of faith (what if the Mormons are right?).

Sadly, there are some people who, despite having accepted God’s gift of His Son (and assurance of eternity in Heaven with Him) still worry about what happens after they die.

Sometimes, I’m one of them. I get caught up in this world’s superficial, ultimately meaningless concerns. I forget that I have nothing to worry about – and you won’t either, if you decide to follow Jesus.

25. You can let your children make up their mind about life, and not brainwash them with a specific belief.

It’s my firm belief that everyone, including me, is brainwashed in some way. (I explain that belief here: https://wp.me/p2wzRb-nb). I also know that as they grow up, children will receive a tsunami of brainwashing about our culture’s likes and dislikes.

Based on that, every parent should equip their children with a solid anchor when that brainwashing takes place. That’s why I write that Jesus followers who don’t tell their children about the benefits (and challenges) of following Jesus are seriously shirking their duty.

These parents are allowing others to twist and shape their children’s beliefs on something of utmost importance. After all, what happens after this life ends is gonna last a whole lot longer than the 70 or 80 years most of us have on planet earth.

So, what do you think about these four reasons and my responses? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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