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plan 10.14It’s one of the basics of the Christian faith, that God has a plan for each human being who decides to follow Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians, and many others, believe is God’s son).

For people who have accepted the gift of Jesus, that means seeking God’s will for their lives through carefully reading the Bible, praying (alone and with others) and attending church services.

Does this mean we’ve got it all figured out — that’s learning God’s plan is simply a matter of following an equation? Not even a little.

One of the things thoughtful Christians take very seriously is the truth that God is God. And we are NOT. God is, in many ways, a mystery. Indeed, a section of the Bible called ‘Isaiah’ says “I [God] don’t think the way you think. The way you work isn’t the way I work.”

With that in mind, it’s no surprise that figuring out God’s plan is sometimes as easy as decyphering string theory. Frustrating? Sometimes, but careful Bible reading, praying, attending church and consulting knowledgeable, experienced people of faith can make the process easier.

So what about the graphic (found in an atheist Internet community) that inspired this essay? Is God’s plan for so many a life of starvation and early death? Absolutely NOT.

Let me go out on a limb and write that in some ways, starvation is humanity’s plan. What am I talking about? Consider this:

  • Corrupt governments in developing nations are often far more interested in spending money on guns than on growing food.
  • Stingy governments — and the citizens they represent — in well-off nations just don’t care about people far away (who should just suck it up and feed themselves, darn it!).
  • Big business, which is beholden to shareholders, usually concentrates on sponsoring local charity runs and local community projects. In other words, helping people in well-off nations who are potential customers and/or shareholders.

All these things are certainly NOT part of God’s plan. Indeed, a case can be made that on a larger scale, the God that Christians believe in makes His plan crystal clear. In a section of the Bible called ‘Matthew’, Jesus tells anyone willing to listen that “Anything you refused to do for any of my people here, you refused to do for me.”

And because God so loved THE WORLD that He gave His only son (that fact is found in one of the four Bible accounts of Jesus’ life), that includes everyone who is starving.

You can be part of God’s plan, by welcoming Him into your life so you can learn what He has planned for YOU. Just accept the gift of His son. And if you’re serious about it, watch as things start to change. For the better.

Mind open to belief 10.14The message in this graphic, kindly offered up by an atheist Internet community, makes me smile. It’s a common notion in our culture, that people of faith are close-minded.

So stick with me as I advance some notions that might leave you wondering….

I asked questions about the universe; how it began, where did the planets (especially Earth) come from. My mind was open to all kinds of ideas.

After checking them out, reading about them, debating them with other open-minded people, I came to (what is for me and for many others), the logical conclusion: God began the universe. God created the planets.

I asked questions about how Earth seemed so perfect for life to form and thrive. Once again, I read up on the theories and talked to people.

After that, I came to the conclusion, as so many others have, that it was the work of God. No other explanation seems as logical.

My mind pondered the mysteries of human behaviour (and misbehaviour). Why do we act as we do? When and why do we fail to act? How did “right” and “wrong” come about?

I travelled back down the familiar road of reading the various viewpoints, talking to various people and thinking, thinking, thinking. My conclusion? God created right and wrong. God created freewill. And we humans have done many horrifying things with that gift.

What about life after death? My mind, opened by wonder, read all kinds of things about this. Some said it doesn’t exist. Other said it does and explored a myriad of possibilities.

I pondered those possibilities, discussed them and then came to the conclusion that’s shared by millions upon millions of others: after we die, there’s more to come. And what that “more” is depends on us (and how we’ve used the gift of freewill).

I wondered about this dude called Jesus. Did He exist? Was He who he claimed to be? Did He die on a cross as a sacrifice for all the bad things we’ve done and the good things we’ve failed to do? Did He come back to life after three days? Is He still active in our world?

I pondered these questions. Boy, did I ponder. I read articles and books, watched videos and heard church sermons. I had long discussions with people. In other words, I worked  like a miner through this mountain of questions.

In the end, I understood that not all my questions could be answered about Jesus. But enough of them could so that I could easily make the leap of faith and become a follower of Jesus.

When I did that, my life changed for the better. I saw the wonder of God’s creation in a new and glorious light. I saw the wonder of His gift to me (Jesus, offered to every person on this earth, regardless of race/creed/gender/behaviour). I gasped at the wonder of what is to come when this life ends — and how it will be amazing and more, because I accepted the gift of Jesus.

What do you think of this gift? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

(P.S. A mind open to wonder means a mind open to belief.)

stupidYears ago, I would have blindly accepted this graphic, which was kindly supplied by an Internet atheist community. It’s simple, right? “Religious” people hate science and scientists have no use for “religion”. End of story.

Well, not so fast. First of all, I’m a Christian but I’m absolutely not “religious” (here’s why:  http://wp.me/p2wzRb-cP). That said, is faith really just for people who are too dumb to figure out science?

Let’s examine the evidence. I went to Wikipedia and found an entry called ‘List of Christian thinkers in science’. The list from the past is looooong, but I skipped that because people opposed to Christianity could claim science simply hadn’t advanced enough for these thinkers to toss God on the trash heap.

I jumped down to the bottom and found more than 60 (that’s correct; sixty) living thinkers in the fields of engineering, physics and astronomy, chemistry and biomedical sciences.

There are likely more, since Wikipedia notes “This list is non-exhaustive and is limited to those scientists whose Christian beliefs or thoughts, in writing or speaking, are relevant to their notability.”

Want a few names? How about:

  • Rosalind Picard, a Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology and founder of the Affective Computing Research Group at MIT.
  • Don Page, a Canadian theoretical physicist who focuses on quantum cosmology.
  • Karl Giberson, a Canadian physicist who has published several books on the relationship between science and religion, such as The Language of Science and Faith: Straight Answers to Genuine Questions.
  • Joseph Taylor, an American astrophysicist and Nobel Prize in Physics laureate for his discovery (with Russell Alan Hulse) of a new type of pulsar, a discovery that has opened up new possibilities for the study of gravitation.
  • Ben Carson, an American neurosurgeon. He is credited with being the first surgeon to successfully separate conjoined twins joined at the head.

Is Wikipedia just a patsy for Christianity? Just in case someone out there is wondering, I investigated other sources.

The MIT site includes Rosalind Picard and her list of accomplishments is simply astonishing.  Don Page, Ph.D, is part of the physics faculty at the University of Alberta. Karl Giberson has a Ph.D from Rice University. The Nobel Prize website has an entry for 1993 winner Joseph Taylor. And the Academy of Achievement website inducted Dr. Ben Carson along with the likes of conservationist Jane Goodall, economist Milton Friedman and architect Frank Gehry.

All this leads to what I think is an obvious point: You absolutely do not have to be “stupid” to be a person of faith. In fact, I feel quite within my rights to leave you with this question: since following Jesus Christ makes perfect sense to these brilliant people, shouldn’t it be worth your serious consideration? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

WhenLoveLeadsToLoveHmmm…before my wanderings into atheist Internet communities, I’d never heard the notion that loving God means I have less love to give others.

Maybe that’s true for some unfortunate people, who are into “religion” and believe they should sit in judgement of others. But for most of the God-loving people I know, the reality goes something like this:

  • I love God, so I need to be more loving to homosexual people. That means speaking up whenever they are mocked, denigrated or unjustly criticized.
  • I love God, so I need to be more loving to homeless people.
  • I love God, so I need to be more loving to people who’ve been through the pain of abortion. (Ever met anyone who liked having an abortion? Me neither.)
  • I love God, so I need to be more loving to people who don’t care about the environment. (It’s God’s world, not mine, so I need to care about what we humans do to His planet.)
  • I love God, so I need to be more loving to people who are arrogant and pretentious.
  • I love God, so I need to be more loving toward people whose political views are diametrically opposite to mine. That means respecting and defending the values of democracy.
  • I love God, so I need to be more loving to Jewish people, Muslim people, Buddhist people and Hindu people. That means defending their right to worship without fear.
  • I love God, so I need to be more loving to atheist people. That means protecting their right to be atheists.
  • I love God, so I need to be more loving to people who oppose and mock or denigrate my Christian faith.

Serious Christians like me understand that we’ve been offered a great gift — Jesus Christ, whom we (and many others) believe is God’s son. Because we’ve accepted that gift, a perfect and holy God has hit the ‘delete’ key on all the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do (like not loving others enough, for example).

Serious Christians understand that the gift of Jesus is given out of unfathomable love. And that gift is offered to every person on this planet, no matter who they are, what they’ve done (or not done) and whatever faith they have (or don’t have).

How do I know this? If you give the Bible any credibility, consider this excerpt from one of the four accounts of Jesus’s life: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him would not be lost but have eternal life. God did not send him to judge the world guilty, but to save the world through him.”

That’s why I have more love to give. You can have more love to give, too. Interested? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

Logic 9.14If you know anything about Christianity, then maybe you’ve thought the same thing as this graphic.

This position advanced here refers to something called the “Trinity”. It states that God, as He’s understood by serious Christians, exists as three equal entities: God, Jesus Christ (whom Christians, and many others, believe is God’s divine son) and the Holy Spirit.

If this leaves you scratching your head, you’re certainly not alone. It’s probably easier to explain nuclear fission.

But let’s think more about the “logic” of all this, since it’s the main point of the graphic. Just because it may not be “logical” doesn’t mean it can’t be true — especially when even the most logical people accept and live out all sorts of illogical things:

  • Many professional athletes receive millions and millions of dollars per year while social workers, commercial pilots and nurses (who, let’s face it, do far, FAR more important work) sometimes need second jobs just to pay their bills.
  • People still attempt to climb Mount Everest even though it’s long been proven to be enormously dangerous and there is no legitimate reason to bother trying.
  • In Canada, elected politicians who want the province of Quebec to separate receive pensions paid for by all Canadians.

None of these things — and I’m sure you can think of many more without a lot of effort — are even slightly logical, and yet they continue to happen every day. Often without a peep of protest.

So if you are willing to accept the rampant illogic of the world we human beings have created, why aren’t you willing to accept what might seem illogical about the creator of time, space and the universe?

There’s something else to keep in mind here: God will never fit into a tidy box of what you and I consider “logical”. Like it or not, God will always be beyond our full comprehension.

But here’s something that’s easier to understand:
1. God LOVES every person on this planet, no matter their age, gender, sexual preference, place of residence, religious belief (or lack thereof), and behaviour.
2. Because every human being has fallen short of who God designed us to be (through the wrong things we’ve done and the good things we’ve failed to do), we separate ourselves from our creator.
3. God does the heavy lifting to bridge that gap, offering the life, sacrificial death and resurrection of His son Jesus Christ to every person on this planet.
4. Anyone who accepts this gift can find his/her life transformed in the here and now, and in the life to come when our time on this planet ends.

I accepted that gift in my 40s, after many years of reading, pondering and debating with Christians. I certainly don’t understand everything about my faith, but I also know that when this life is finished, all my questions simply won’t matter anymore.

Despite any questions you have, the gift of Jesus is offered to you too. Will you accept it? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

LOVE, NOT HURT

who's getting hurt? 8.14Sadly, there was a time when the message of this graphic (found on an atheism Internet community) was very true.

Arrogance ruled the roost. Christians, often in positions of power, sought to increase their power over people who, because they refused to believe the same thing, were obviously defective and could be treated like enemies.

Indeed, 500 years ago, ISIS (the murderous radical Islamic terrorist group) could just as easily have been Christian.

So this meme was correct. Was.

Things are very different today and pretty much everyone (except the creator of this graphic, perhaps) knows it. Maybe it’s because Christians are not in positions of power. And that’s a good thing.

We all know power corrupts. The history of Christianity is certainly powerful evidence. Now, serious Christians understand that God is primarily about love and love does NOT threaten or coerce. Love offers a gift.

In Christian terms, that gift is Jesus Christ, who the Bible teaches is God’s son. Jesus – His teachings, His sacrificial death on a Roman cross and His resurrection – is offered to a world that I think we can all agree isn’t doing very well.

For much of my life, I thought I was was doing just fine without this gift. In fact, I believed what North American media, and most of my friends and colleagues, said about Jesus: nice guy (if he lived at all), but long gone and what does he have to do with anything?

He has everything to do with making people like me – and you, if you say yes to Him – more thoughtful, less greedy, more compassionate and less judgemental.

He has everything to do with seeing the things that our culture values in a new and discerning light – and discovering most of those things are trivial and ultimately irrelevant. Just think new cars, lighter smartphones, cooler sunglasses, yet another pair of shoes.

He has everything to do with feeling less lonely, less worried about the opinions of others and less concerned about what our culture defines as “success”.

He has everything to do with answering the most important questions of life: Why am I here? (To have a relationship with God through Jesus.) What happens when I die? (If Jesus is my saviour, then I’ll spend eternity in Heaven with Him because His death wiped away all my wrongs.)

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

14+-+1-2Have you watched someone give their “testimony” on a TV show and describe being at their lowest point when they became a Christian?

Did you shake you head and have the same reaction as the words at the bottom of the graphic? Once, I would have been in your camp. After all, that is the easiest, fastest response, right?

So here’s a challenge: skip the path of least resistance, the path that our culture pushes us onto, and really think about this.

Perhaps someone said “I found God at the most vulnerable point of my life” because they suddenly realized that all the ‘stuff’ that’s supposed to be so, SO important is really trivial.

Maybe they realized that in the midst of their vulnerability, nothing that our culture offers us really changes anything. Oprah can’t help. Friends sending out ‘positive vibes’ makes no difference. And drugs or alcohol will eventually leave them even worse off than before.

Perhaps they figured out that our culture’s focus on being self-reliant in everything just doesn’t pass the smell test. It’s not realistic.

Maybe their vulnerability has made them realize that dismissing/ignoring God and Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians, and many others, believe is His son) is, in fact, brainwashing. And for the first time, they’re seeing life — and what could happen when this life ends — outside of our culture’s narrow and shallow confines.

I was in my 40s when I stepped off the path of least resistance and really thought about the how and whys of people deciding to follow Jesus. I wasn’t at the most vulnerable point of my life. In fact, I was doing just fine, by the standards of our culture. I had a decent career, parents who didn’t abuse me or abandon me, several meaningful romantic relationships, no serious diseases and a good future.

But I knew there had to be more to life than all this. I knew there had to be something deeper and something that would look beyond 80-odd years on planet earth. After much reading, a lot of thought and many debates with brave Christians, I decided to become a follower of Jesus Christ.

That decision had — and continues to have — a profound impact on my life. It greatly affected who I decided to marry and where I now work. It gave me hope — not in things or in people (the first is meaningless and the second will disappoint and hurt and abandon)  — but in a creator who offered me the gift of His Son.

I accepted that gift. Have you ever thought about doing the same? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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