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Aug. 2015I guess there are some atheists out there who believe that people of faith are just gritting their teeth and tolerating this nauseating existence before going on to unending glory in the life to come.

But from my perspective as a follower of Jesus (whom serious Christians believe is God’s divine Son), atheists and Christians have “life before death” as a common belief.

Let me make this as clear as possible: while life after death is of supreme importance, life BEFORE death is just as significant.

How can I write that? Consider these words of Jesus, recorded in a section of the Bible called ‘John’: “I came to give life—life that is full and good.”

He’s not talking about life after death; He’s talking about life RIGHT NOW.

So what does that mean?

1.  Life becomes full and good because you’ve join a worldwide movement of believers. So you don’t have to make a go of it solo. You can attend a church, read the Bible, regularly pray with (and for) others and support each other through good times and bad.

2.  Life becomes full and good because you have a new power that helps you set aside the meaningless, superficial priorities of our culture and focus on what’s truly important.

So you are put on a path to stop worrying about whether you have a new car, the latest smartphone and the biggest flat-screen TV. You stop looking to your mate or your friends to give you happiness because you realize that happiness comes through following Jesus.

3.  Life becomes full and good because you have a pathway to becoming truly generous. It’s no longer about getting a charitable tax break or seeking something in return when you give. It’s about being Christ’s ambassador in a world most of us are willing to admit isn’t doing very well.

4.  Life become full and good when you realize that the 70-odd years most of us spend on this planet is merely a blip in time compared to the eternity Christ followers have in Heaven with Jesus.

The blessing of that perspective means we no longer have to put so much stake in every good or bad thing that happens to us in this life. We see the bigger picture and it changes everything.

5.  Life become full and good because you realize that Jesus died to make up for all the wrong things you’ve done and the right things you’ve failed to do. So the burden of guilt and shame is lifted from you; God sees you as He sees His Son: perfect in every way.

(This essay highlights an amazing example of the power of God’s forgiveness: http://wp.me/p2wzRb-6K.)

Now I’m not going to sugar-coat this and claim followers of Jesus float on a cloud of bliss. In another part of ‘John’, Jesus tells His followers “In this world you will have troubles. But be brave! I have defeated the world!”

That means the world doesn’t automatically have the final say on your life. If you decide to follower Jesus, then HE has the final say. And that final say is glorious.

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

Open mindedAccording to Dictionary.com, to be open-minded is to have have or show a mind receptive to new ideas or arguments. It also means being unprejudiced, unbigoted and impartial.

As I pondered these definitions and looked at the message of the graphic above (posted in an Internet atheism community), I realized something: being fully, completely open-minded is absolutely impossible.

First of all, consider the person who created this graphic. The arbitrary words make it clear: he or she is close-minded when it comes to Christianity. It’s easy to make this statement because he or she didn’t write “Most open-minded Christians probably won’t (or might not) be a Christian for long”.

The wording in this graph sounds like a fact — which the author certainly cannot prove. And trust me, from my interactions with aggressive atheists, I can confidently write that most of them are all about proof. Ironically, most of these people are close-minded to anything else.

Secondly, the thing about Christianity is it can’t be proven. And I don’t regard that as a bad thing. In fact, I think the lack of conclusive, scientific proof about Christianity is no accident. If God is about anything, He is about free will. Make Christianity provable and at that moment, free will is gone.

A lack of free will means atheists, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, agnostics and everyone else who doesn’t follow Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians believe is the divine Son of God) can’t be who they are — since they’ve all been proven wrong.

God has shown again and again that He’s not interested in goose-stepping robots. He’s interested in an eternal relationship, through Jesus, with free-thinking, overwhelmingly imperfect people who realize they’ll never really get their lives together without Jesus. In other words, people like YOU and me.

I like how famed British writer and thinker G.K. Chesterton wrote about being open-minded: “Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.”

That’s what I did when I decided, at age 41, to follow Jesus Christ. He’s as solid as I (and many millions of others around the world) need Him to be.

Making that decision didn’t mean I suddenly lost respect for non-Christians. In fact, I’m called to love non-Christians just as God loves them and offers His Son to them as a gift.

What happens when you accept that gift? If you’re serious about it, your life should begin to change almost immediately. In my case, I effortlessly stopped using offensive language. And that was just the start. With Jesus in my life, I became more generous. I changed jobs to one that is focused on telling people about Jesus. I married a woman who is also committed to Jesus (which almost certainly wouldn’t have happened if I wasn’t a Christian).

More changes are coming. In fact, those changes won’t end until I’m finished with this life and go to Heaven to spend eternity in God’s presence.

The same can happen to you. Interested? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

end of the worldI am just LOVING the photos used to illustrate the point in this graphic, found on an Internet atheism community.

Apparently as a Christian, I’m rubbing my hands in gleeful anticipation of an epic nuclear war annihilating our world. And I have no use for gloriously sunny summer days. Yech. Where’s my wonderful atomic bomb? ;-)

OK, now that we’ve had a laugh, consider this: in all my 13 years of being a follower of Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians believe is the divine son of God), I’ve never met a single person who’s counting the days ’til God puts an end to this planet.

Not even one.

Oh, I’m sure there are a few out there; maybe they’re holed up in some bizarre, remote compound with guns and emergency supplies (which wouldn’t make sense; what use would that stuff be if the world ended?). But they’re a rare and possibly damaged breed.

The rest of us are enjoying the same beautiful places that atheists, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews and agnostics appreciate. The only difference is most Christians are keenly aware of who is behind not just sunny days, but every kind of day: the Creator and master of time, space and the universe.

That means the most beautiful day for Christians is every day. Just like it is for the atheist person who created this graphic.

All that said, there is a grain of truth here: the end of the world is coming. Sadly, there is an industry out there amongst some Christians who damage the credibility of Christianity by trying to predict that time.

All they — and you — have to do is read this excerpt from ‘Mark’, one of the four Bible accounts of the life of Jesus: “No one knows when that day or time will be. The Son and the angels in heaven don’t know when that day or time will be. Only the Father knows.”

These are the words of Jesus. So why waste time trying to figure it out? Instead, I keep in mind this Bible excerpt (found in a section called ‘2 Peter’) because I’m thinking about non-Christians like YOU: “God is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone space and time to change.”

That’s right. YOU, and millions of other people who don’t follow Jesus, are the reason this broken, sputtering world is still lurching forward.

If you believe there’s nothing beyond this life — and when you die, ALL that you are will become nothing more than worm food — then maybe these “holdouts” are a good thing to you.

But if you somehow know there MUST be more than 75 years of eating, sleeping, working, having children, getting sick and leaving behind all your precious possessions, then it’s worth seriously checking out Christianity.

It’s about a gift: Jesus Christ, offered to every single person on this planet, no matter how “good” or “bad” you are, how rich or poor you are, how joyous or miserable you are. That gift leads to eternal life in Heaven with Jesus. Look into it, ‘cause no matter what our culture insists, this is the most important investigation you can ever undertake.

10440724_10152229802268262_1660947865292267107_nIndoctrination: the act of indoctrinating, or teaching or inculcating a doctrine, principle, or ideology, especially one with a specific point of view – Dictionary.com

I found this graphic on an Internet atheism community, so it’s obviously aimed squarely at people of faith. The inference is clear: believing in a loving creator is false, so the only way to make it acceptable is to brainwash young minds that don’t know any better.

If that’s true, then how does one explain Rosalind Picard? According to Wikipedia, she’s a professor of media arts and sciences at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Picard is also director and founder of the Affective Computing Research Group at the MIT Media Lab, co-director of the Things That Think Consortium, and chief scientist and co-founder of Affectiva, an emotion measurement technology company.

Here’s the kicker: Picard, 53, says she was raised an atheist, but converted to Christianity as a young adult. So is it fair to say she was indoctrinated to believe there is no God? And if that’s true, why did this brilliant scientific mind go in the opposite direction – and stay there?

Let’s be honest here: absolutely EVERYONE gets certain ideas hammered into their minds while they’re young and defenceless. Deny it all you want, but think hard about your own life.

  • If you live in a developed country, wasn’t it likely you were indoctrinated with the virtues of capitalism and democracy?
  • If your father abandoned your mother at a very young age, isn’t it possible you were indoctrinated to believe that he (and often, by extension, all men) are self-centred and irresponsible?
  • If you live in certain Middle Eastern countries, isn’t it quite feasible that you were indoctrinated to think of the United States — and by extension, the entire “west” — as immoral and evil?

In each of these cases, the truth didn’t matter very much. The world was seen through biased eyes, just as I believe the graphic that sparked this essay was created with a deep-seeded bias.

So, if you’ve given this some thought and realize you’ve had a long bias against following Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians believe is the divine Son of God), then maybe this is the time to investigate this whole Christianity thing with an open mind.

Why Christianity and not other faiths? Consider these facts:
1.  Eight hugely important predictions about Jesus, made in the Bible’s Old Testament, came true. Among these were where Jesus was born, the fact He would be betrayed by a friend, that He would be crucified and that He would be resurrected.

2.  Jesus said that He alone was the Way, the Truth, and the Life and that no one can find God without Him. Nice claim, but what backs it up? The Bible details all kinds of miracles performed by Jesus, including healing diseases, restoring sight, feeding thousands of people with just a few loaves of bread & fish and coming back from the dead.

3.  As the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (www.carm.org) explains, “Buddha, Muhammad, Confucius and Krishna did not rise from the dead.  Only Jesus has physically risen from the dead, walked on water, claimed to be God and raised others from the dead. Why trust anyone else?”

So what makes all this credible? Simply read about the life of one of Jesus’s most devoted followers, Paul of Tarsus. I write about him, and how he is a testament to Jesus’s reality, here: http://wp.me/p2wzRb-g3

BuyingIntoHeaven 7.15No doubt about it; Microsoft co-founder, philanthropist and uber-billionaire Bill Gates has done a lot of amazing things in his years on this planet.

Through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, he’s given away $28 billion (almost half of his total wealth) since 2007.  That money has gone to improving education, providing medical aid for millions of children, upgrading water/sanitation in the developing world and much more.

Along the way, Gates has persuaded other billionaires, such as Warren Buffett, to similarly dedicate massive amounts of their personal wealth to charity.

In short, this guy ROCKS.

So what about the graphic (found in an Internet atheism community) that inspired me to write this essay?

I did some research; after reading several interviews, it seems Gates can best be described as agnostic. That means he declares that he simply doesn’t know if there’s a God.

So, is Bill Gates going to hell, as this graphic suggests? The simple answer for me is: I don’t know.

As a follower of Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians believe is God’s Son), I DO know that giving $28 billion or $280 billion to charity is not the ticket to Heaven. No one can buy eternal life with God. It’s not for sale.

Indeed, a section of the Bible called ‘Ephesians’ says “Your salvation doesn’t come from anything you do. It is God’s gift. It is not based on anything you have done. No one can brag about earning it.”

On the other hand, having faith in Jesus and doing nothing about it isn’t going to go over well, either.

A section of the Bible called ‘James’ put it this way: “Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?”

I don’t know where that leaves someone like Bill Gates. After all, despite his “God-acts” he is not (and never will be) anywhere close to perfect.

For example, under his direction the United States government took Microsoft to court over anti-competitive business practices. Despite Gates’ testimony, the company lost. In addition, while Gates was chairman and chief software architect, Microsoft lost another major anti-competition court case, this time to the European Union.

Meanwhile, Gates still has more than half his massive fortune and will almost certainly finish his life a very, very wealthy man.

But never mind Bill. What about YOU? You can’t buy your way into Heaven, so how does your behaviour stack up? Examine it with cold, hard realism. Can you defend and account for every wrong thing you’ve done and every right thing you’ve failed to do?

If you’re like me, you can’t. But by believing in Jesus Christ and following Him, you don’t have to. He’s the gift that gives you eternal life. How about giving Him serious consideration?

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.

Jennifer Fulwiler atheism ChristianityFor life-long atheist Jennifer Fulwiler, the pivotal moment came when she held her first child for the first time.

“I looked down and thought ‘what is this baby’?” she recalled in a YouTube video. “From a pure atheist, materialist perspective, he is a collection of randomly evolved chemical reactions.

“I realized if that’s true, then all the love I feel for him is nothing more than chemical reactions in my brain. I looked down at him and I realized, ‘that’s not true’. It’s not the truth.”

Jennifer went on to research the world’s major faiths, but considered Christianity not worth the bother. Then her husband suggested she investigate Christianity because one of its most significant claims — that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh — would be easy to disprove if it wasn’t true.

So she did. Jennifer discovered a world of deeply intellectual thinkers (like Thomas Aquinas and Augustine of Hippo) who were also serious Jesus followers.

Men like them made such a compelling, reason-based case for the life, death and resurrection of Christ that, in Jennifer’s words, “I started to think something world-changing happened in first-century Palestine.”

Jennifer realized that atheists “don’t have the lock on reason that I thought. Christians had all the knowledge of science, but they have the total picture of the human experience — love and triumph and hope. Christians could articulate that in a way that atheists couldn’t.”

The result of all this is Jennifer went from denying there is a creator, to becoming a serious follower of the man that most Christians know is the Son of God.

Why do all this? Let me make it clear that following Jesus can be hard, especially when most of the world (sometimes including your family and friends) doesn’t follow Him and you can be mocked or even disowned for your beliefs.

As far as I’m concerned, the upside more than compensates. When I decided to follow Jesus, little things immediately changed (I stopped cursing and swearing) and bigger things followed (my wife and I have a firm commitment to donate regularly to charities and to our church).

In other words, like me, you’ll get a new perspective on life. The holy grails of our culture — gaining power and prestige, buying a bigger house, going on expensive cruises, having the latest iPhone — will start to look shallow and pointless.

You’ll start living for the approval of your creator, who the Bible says “loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in his Son would not be lost, but have eternal life.”

And as you start living for God and start attending a church regularly, you’ll be surrounded by others who are also in the midst of being transformed by following Jesus.

Finally, when this life is over, you’ll have real and solid hope that you won’t become nothing more than rancid worm food. You’ll become a citizen of Heaven.

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

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