religion as cerealI imagine if you’re opposed to “religion” (as I am), then this graphic makes a great deal of sense.

So let’s not talk about “religion”, which is all about following rules, looking good in public and casting sanctimonious judgement on people who might not have it all together. Oh, and forcing people to follow your religion or you’ll kill them and burn down their homes and places of worship.

Let’s talk about faith instead. The briefest and most casual examination might suggest they’re all the same. But I’m going to assume you’re reading this blog because you want to go deeper and get closer to the truth.

No matter what anyone claims, the truth is the world’s faiths are so NOT the same. In fact, after a few commonalities between Judaism, Islam and Christianity, there is very little in common between the world’s faiths.

Wait a second, you say. Don’t all the major faiths believe in what most of us know as the Golden Rule? Yes. But even here there’s a difference. Consider what I found on Wikipedia:

  • Islam – Wish for your brother, what you wish for yourself
  • Buddhism – One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious to one’s own self
  • Hinduism – Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.
  • Sikhism – If thou desirest thy Beloved, then hurt thou not anyone’s heart

None of these advance a positive action. The closest is Islam, but it’s not about action, just wishing. In Christianity, Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians believe is God’s Son) tells everyone who will listen to “Do to others as you would have them do to you”. That’s from a section of the Bible called “Luke” and it’s all about action. Not wishing. Not avoiding anything bad. Actually DOING GOOD.

What else is different? According to the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry website, “Islam teaches that Jesus is not God in flesh–where Christianity does. Some religions teach that we reincarnate, while others do not. Some teach there is a Hell, and others do not.”

Here’s another significant difference: many faiths advance the notion of us reaching up to God, especially by doing good things and avoiding bad things.

Indeed, the reincarnation belief of Buddhism (which includes the scary notion of Karma) and Hinduism suggest your behaviour dictates the form of your reincarnation. Given how horribly imperfect we ALL are, reincarnation strikes me as very, very unpleasant.

Christianity is exactly opposite because it claims that God reaches down to us and offers to pull us up to Him. How? Certainly not by doing good and avoiding bad, because we can never do enough and avoid enough to pass God’s inspection.

Instead, God reaches down through Jesus – His life and teachings, His sacrificial death and His resurrection. Like Jesus Himself, that death and resurrection are gifts to anyone willing to accept them. And when we accept them, God sees us like he sees Jesus: perfect in every way.

That strikes me as a pretty good deal because accepting that gift doesn’t just mean I go to Heaven when I die. It means Jesus comes into my life and starts to change me NOW.

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

Jeffrey DahmerWhen I saw this graphic, on an Internet atheism community, the first thing I did was check to confirm its message. And that message is true.

If your memory is foggy (or you weren’t born yet), here are the horrifying facts: between 1978 and 1991, Jeffrey Dahmer raped, murdered and dismembered 17 men and boys in the American state of Wisconsin.

Deemed sane enough to stand trial, Dahmer was convicted of 16 murders and received life sentences for each one.

While in a maximum security prison, Dahmer began reading the Bible and in May 1994, he was baptized.

Dahmer had weekly visits with his pastor until November of ’94, when he was murdered by another inmate.

So there are the dry facts, the “highlights” of which were used in this graphic to express disgust without having to include a single adjective or exclamation mark.

Do I understand how nauseating the point of this graphic is to most people? Absolutely. Looking beyond the emotion, do I believe the statements in the graphic? Absolutely. Indeed, this reality is among the most important reasons that I call myself a Christian.

If you’re still with me and you believe in God, think about this: do you really want the creator and master of time, space and the universe to be consumed by the hatred, pettiness, hard-heartedness and lack of mercy to which we human beings so often cling?

I can tell you right now that I would not follow Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians believe is God’s Son) if His Father was no better than His creations. What would be the point? God would not deserve my love and worship.

So the truth of Jeffery’s Dahmer’s prison life shows me the depth of God’s love and concern for ALL of humanity. He wants everyone, including YOU, to spend eternity with Him in Heaven.

But how could that be possible when we all fall short of God’s standard of perfection? Every one of us has done wrong and failed to do right — so often, in fact, that there’s no way we can ever explain them all away for make up for them. In other words, we’re doomed.

Granted, I’m pretty certain no one reading this blog has even considered committing anything like the vile acts that Jeffery Dahmer did. But like it or not, that’s NOT the point. We’re still busted.

But God doesn’t want us to be busted. He wants us to spend eternity with Him. So He sent Jesus to earth to teach us about God, to show us how to live and, finally, to die as punishment for all the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do.

Believe in Jesus, commit yourself to following Him and when this life ends, God will see YOU just like he saw Jeffrey Dahmer: perfect, exactly like His Son. Without a single blemish. And He’ll welcome you into eternity with Him.

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

Weekend_at_BerniesSomebody mentioned it a week or so ago and since then, I’ve been thinking about the 1989 American cult movie favourite Weekend at Bernie’s.

If you know anything about this comedy (and its 1993 sequel), you’ll know it’s hardly a cinematic classic. Basically, Larry and Richard do their best to make it seem like their corrupt boss (Bernie) is alive and partying because the boss ordered them to be killed unless he – the boss – stays alive.

What follows are various hijinks as Bernie the corpse appears to be partying at his mansion and even having sex. Oh, and Bernie has a habit of disappearing, causing no end of trouble for Larry and Richard. You’ve probably figured out by now that this ain’t Casablanca or Citizen Kane.

But something about the movie’s theme struck me. We all are trying to hide something, to put on appearances and make things seem real to others when we know very well the opposite is true.

For Larry and Richard, it was making a corpse appear to be alive. For you and me, it might be pretending we’re better people than we really are. More compassionate and less judgmental, more generous and less petty, more interested in doing what’s right and less interested in serving our own greedy “needs”.

We know the truth, but if we can just fool others, then we’ll:

  • qualify for the raise in pay
  • get the girl (or guy) we desire
  • gain the favour of someone with power and influence
  • earn the promotion we’ve long wanted
  • win the respect of others.

Now consider this: if you believe in a creator, maybe that creator is personally interested in YOU. And that creator knows you better than you know yourself.

Serious Christians believe God knows everything about us. We also believe He is perfect and that’s His standard for judging every person on this planet.

If that’s the case, what are you going to do with the knowledge that all the flaws you’ve carefully hidden from the world are absolutely out in the open with Him? How are you going to explain them away?

You may not like the answer, but here it is: you CAN’T. No one on this planet, no matter how virtuous they seem, can. No one is good enough to get into Heaven.

So here’s the good news: you don’t have to be. God made a way for every person to spend eternity with Him, no matter how good or bad they are. And that way is Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians believe is His Son.

By dying on a Roman cross, Jesus paid the penalty for EVERY bad thing we’ve done and EVERY the good thing we’ve failed to do. Our only obligation is accept what He did. Believe in what He did. And know that He is alive and ready to work in your heart RIGHT NOW.

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

Jesus sword Mathew 10:34The atheist who posted this graphic online might be disappointed to find out that when I saw it, I felt flushed with gladness.

I love opportunities to reveal the truth about what Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians believe is the Divine Son of God) was – and is – all about.

The “verse” referred to here is from the Bible, in one of the four accounts of Jesus’ physical life on earth. Not only is it dead-on accurate, it’s NOT, as the atheist supposes a Christian declaring, out of context.

But exactly what is that context?

I get the feeling the atheist believes it means Jesus came to commit violence, start wars, fuel the fires of ugly tribalism – you know, all the unpleasant deeds carried out by certain charismatic leaders (read: Osama Bin Laden).

But anyone who knows anything about the Bible will admit that nowhere does Jesus start or participate in wars, nowhere does He kill even one person and nowhere does He even injure anyone slightly.

That’s right, not even tripping anyone (and goodness knows, there were a lot of people who intensely disliked Jesus and probably deserved to be tripped). In fact, there isn’t a single word in the Bible about Jesus even touching a sword.

There is, however, a scene where one of Jesus’ followers cuts off the ear of a Roman soldier who was part of a nighttime posse that came to arrest Jesus on false charges. What did Jesus do? He healed the guy’s ear.

OK, so the whole atheist premise of this graphic is false.

But here’s what’s true: deciding to follow Jesus often does NOT bring peace – not at first. And following Jesus often divides, just like a sword divides.

Here’s the simplest example: when I decided to follow Jesus in 2002, it divided me from my biological family – none of whom are Christian.

And at the time, I felt anything but peace because they didn’t (and still don’t) understand what I’ve done and why. In fact, they don’t really want to know, because our culture tells them to never think about anything related to faith.

Jesus knew – and knows – that His way is NOT the way of the world.  Lose your life to gain it? Love your enemies and pray for them? Follow Jesus and get eternal life in Heaven?

All these concepts are poison to our culture, which insists that:

  • Enemies should be hated and trampled
  • The key to life is gaining possessions, power and multiple sexual partners
  • Wondering what happens to us when we die is stupid.

But maybe you’re at the stage of life where the trophies our culture offers seem…empty. Pointless. If that’s the case, then the way of Jesus is worth a serious investigation. Even if it divides you from family and friends.

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

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.

Prayer-doubt 2.16No doubt about it: prayer is often a mystery, even to people who believe in it and practise it.

So I was intrigued by this graphic (found in an atheist Internet community) because it asserts a viewpoint I haven’t seen before.

Indeed, doing a Google search of the question “Is prayer an act of doubt?” brought up almost no links. Apparently, most people (even those who doubt God’s existence) have never thought to pose the question.

So is praying an act of doubt? Blogger Juanita Ryan (www.JuanitaRyan.com) puts it very well when she writes: “We want to trust God. We want to have faith. But we have so many questions. So many things are unclear and uncertain.”

In western culture, doubting there even is a creator is common. So wondering if God is watching over everything is hardly rare.

But watching over everything is not the same as arranging everything. If you believe in God, then you probably believe in freewill. And that’s part of the mystery. How, when and where does freewill mix with God’s will? And how does all that work in His plan for this planet, for you and for me?

There are no definitive, truly satisfactory answers to those questions  And I’m fine with that. Questions like these are a powerful and necessary reminder that God is God. And I am NOT.

So are my prayers an act of doubt? Sometimes. Remember, as a man of faith (I follow Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians believe is God’s divine Son), I’m surrounded by people — including my parents and brothers — who think praying to our creator is a joke, a quaint throwback to a time when Christianity was influential in my country (Canada).

Then I think about this point made by Juanita Ryan: “Where do we take our doubts if not to God? Where do we voice our uncertainties if not to God?”

Exactly. Just hours before Jesus was arrested on trumped-up charges, A section of the Bible called Matthew (one of four Bible accounts of Jesus’ physical life on earth) records that He spent anguished time on His own, praying to His Father about His fears and uncertainties.

“Jesus fell to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, don’t make me drink from this cup [of betrayal, torture and death on a Roman cross]. But do what you want, not what I want” (Matthew 26:39).

Right there is the biggest reason I can think of for praying. Jesus prayed. A lot. And he prayed about his uncertainties. And as a result, He was strengthened for the hard road ahead, so much so that He willingly carried out His Father’s plan to reconnect us defiant, sinful people to Him.

By trusting and believing in Jesus — His physical life and work, His death and resurrection — God no longer sees all the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do. Jesus has paid the price for it all. So when this life is finished, those who trust and believe in Jesus will spend eternity with Him in Heaven.

Sound intriguing? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

2.16Great question, isn’t it? As soon as I saw this graphic on an Internet atheist community, I knew it touched on an important topic that many folks just don’t understand.

First of all, let’s get the facts straight. Nowhere in the Bible does it even hint that Jesus — whom Christians believe is God’s divine Son — died to wipe out sin. Nowhere.

So why did He die? Let’s see what the Bible (which serious Christians believe is inspired by God) does say about that:

Because we broke God’s laws, we owed a debt—a debt that listed all the rules we failed to follow. But God forgave us of that debt. He took it away and nailed it to the cross. (from a section called ‘Colossians’).

Another version of the Bible translates that excerpt like this:
All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross.

In case one excerpt isn’t enough, check these out:

I [Paul, a missionary who spread Christianity through the Mediterranean] told you the most important truths: that Christ died for our sins, as the Scriptures [other parts of the Bible] say; that he was buried and was raised to life on the third day, as the Scriptures say. (from ‘1 Corinthians’)

Christ had no sin, but God made him become sin so that in Christ we could be right with God. (from ‘2 Corinthians’)

Christ redeemed us from that self-defeating, cursed life by absorbing it completely into himself. Do you remember the Scripture that says “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”? That is what happened when Jesus was nailed to the cross: He became a curse, and at the same time dissolved the curse. (from Galatians)

Now maybe you’re not convinced. Maybe you’re thinking “that’s just other people talking about Jesus. That’s not Jesus Himself”. So read this, from ‘Luke’, one of four Bible accounts of Jesus’ life:

Jesus took bread and spoke a prayer of thanksgiving. He broke the bread, gave it to [His apostles], and said, “This is my body, which is given up for you. Do this to remember me.”

Why would Jesus give up his body if it wasn’t for something truly epic, truly world-changing like wiping out the sins of everyone who believes in Him and follows Him?

In fact, Jesus was fulfilling a prophesy made hundreds of years before his physical life on Earth. Isaiah, a prophet, predicted the future when he wrote this:

He [Jesus] was being punished for what we did. He was crushed because of our guilt. He took the punishment we deserved, and this brought us peace. We were healed because of his pain.
(Isaiah 53:5)

So why is there still sinning? Because God gave us very imperfect creatures the gift of freewill and that means we use it to do wrong and fail to do right.

But as you can see from all the Bible quotes above, there’s a solution: believe in Jesus – His life, ministry, death and resurrection. Become His follower. Then watch how He changes your life.

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


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