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.

TruthOfMotivation 6.15What’s your motivation to do good? I wondered about that after seeing this graphic on an Internet atheism community.

Is it true that people who follow Jesus Christ — whom serious Christians consider to be God’s Son — do good only because of fear and a desire of eternal reward in Heaven?

Here’s the answer: Almost all Christians are motivated by faith and trust in Jesus. When He was physically on earth, Jesus told His followers stuff like this:

  • Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God (that’s from a section of the Bible called ‘Matthew’).
  • Whenever you saw a brother or sister hungry or cold, whatever you did to the least of these, so you did to Me (also from ‘Matthew’).
  • Be generous. Give to the poor (from ‘Luke’, one of four accounts of Jesus’ life).

It’s statements like these, and many more in the Bible, that inspire millions of Jesus followers to fuel the work of Christian organizations like Samaritan’s Purse, Compassion Canada, World Vision, Food For The Hungry, International Justice Mission, World Relief Canada and many more.

Most Christians keep in mind this key Bible statement, found in a section called ‘John’: This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in Jesus, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.

Since God loves the world (and that means EVERYONE in it), then those who follow God’s Son should have the same attitude.

Is it true that atheists only do “the right thing” because “it’s the human thing to do”? Well, let’s look at the truth: figuring out what is right is very often like staring into a mud puddle. What’s right for one person (atheist or otherwise) is often quite wrong for another. Just a few bloodcurdling examples:

  • In Nazi Germany, the right thing to do was imprison, torture and exterminate millions of Jews, gypsies, Slavic people, serious Christians and many other groups.
  • In 1994 Rwanda, the right thing to do, for thousands of Hutu people, was slaughter members of the Tutsi tribe. As many as a million died before the massacre ended.
  • During the 1970s in Cambodia, the right thing to do, for many thousands of members of the Pol Pot regime, was execute, starve and torture more than a million people.

When I consider all this, it makes sense to decide what is good or right by following the one person who always had (and has) it figured out: Jesus Christ.

By following in Jesus and trusting in what He accomplished through His life, death and resurrection, you’ll find yourself doing good things. Why? Because when you believe in Jesus, your life will be, in a word, transformed. Now and for all eternity.

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

faithIf I’ve learned anything during my years of writing about faith, it’s that there are folks out there who absolutely DETEST that word.

Most of those people would vigorously agree with the graphic that inspired this essay, which I found on an Internet atheism community.

Maybe you’ve never given the word much thought, but now that you’ve read the graphic, you’re thinking “ya, it’s all about ignorance!”.

So let’s look at the word for a moment. The Pocket Oxford Dictionary defines it as: 1. complete trust or confidence; 2. firm, especially religious, belief; 3. religion or creed; 4. loyalty, trustworthiness.

First off, I want nothing to do with “religion” and this essay explains why: http://wp.me/p2wzRb-eu.

Secondly, would anyone in their right mind credibly call someone like Henry Schaefer ignorant? Schaefer, a chemist, earned the 1979 American Chemical Society Award in pure chemistry. He also wrote Science and Christianity: Conflict or Coherence?

Here’s another person that no thinking person could ever label ignorant: Ard Louis teaches theoretical physics at Oxford, one of the world’s most prestigious universities. Before that, he managed to get rid of just enough ignorance to teach theoretical chemistry at Cambridge University.

What do Schaefer and Louis have in common? They’re Christians. And there are many, many more followers of Jesus Christ out there who are making contributions in chemistry, physics, engineering and biomedical sciences.

Schaefer and Louis have what the Pocket Oxford calls “complete trust or confidence” in Christ — His teachings, His death, His resurrection and the truth of what Jesus said about His creator (who also happens to be your creator).

So what isn’t faith? A pastor at my church, Henry Shore, laid it out just a week ago:

  • Faith is not a positive mental attitude.
  • Faith is not a belief in a force or in a formula
  • Faith is not psyching yourself up with wishful thinking
  • Faith is not believing I can accomplish anything if I put my mind to it.
  • Faith is not believing if I believe hard enough, like some TV preachers would have us believe, then it’ll become a reality.
  • Faith is not faith in our words, it is not faith in ourselves, it is not faith in faith.
  • True faith is in God. The focus isn’t on the faith; but on the object of our faith.

From a Christian perspective, faith is having firm belief — based on a mix of evidence and belief — that there is a creator for all that you and I see and experience. And that creator offers you and I a gift: Jesus, whom serious Christians believe is God’s son.

Look into that gift. Talk to knowledgeable Christians about Him. Despite what your friends and family may tell you, this is important and serious stuff. And it’s good news.

Albert Einstein God quoteDid Alberta Einstein believe in God?

A quick Internet search reveals this question has been debated for many decades, even before the famed physicist (1879-1955) and secular Jew died.

According to Wikipedia, Einstein used many labels to describe his “religious” views, including agnostic (one who simply doesn’t know if there’s a God) and religious nonbeliever (which appears to be pursuing inner spirituality without any connection to a creator).

Whichever term you prefer, I get the feeling Einstein lived most, if not all, of his life as if there was no God. In other words, he likely had more in common with atheists than with people of faith.

All that said, what about the quote in the graphic that inspired this essay? In some ways, he and I are in absolute agreement.

I am weak. Just like every other person on this planet. Fear, mistrust and self-doubt are part of my makeup. Just as they are part of yours.

So rather than God being a product of my human weakness, God is the solution — but not the sort of distant, disinterested creator that Einstein may or may not have believed in. (Wikipedia’s Einstein entry indicates he once wrote, “I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this.”)

A creator who simply winds up the universe like a clock, then walks away and lets it run with no concern or involvement is not a creator I would bother with. Would you?

But a creator that inspired and energized the entire life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians believe is God’s son)? Ah, that’s a God who’s making a difference in this broken world.

According to the Bible (which a majority of Christians take very seriously), that God offers this world a gift: Jesus, his life, teachings, sacrificial death and resurrection.

In ‘John’, one of four Bible accounts of Jesus life, a creator who cares about this world and everyone in it, “didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He [Jesus] came to help, to put the world right again.

Because all of us are weak, because all of us do wrong and fail to do right, I call that good news. And by accepting the gift of Jesus, we accept a perfect, eternal source of energy, confidence and love to help us overcome our weaknesses.

In addition, we have the encouragement (and often, the example) of other Jesus followers. When I join them in church, in prayer/discussion groups, in trips to help people in the developing world, I benefit from (and help contribute to) a synergy: the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

Do you want to get in on this? Yes or no, type your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

Mike O'BrienUntil his recent death, I’d never heard of Mike O’Brien. You probably haven’t either. But something he wrote sure grabbed my attention. This is the start of a story about O’Brien in the Calgary Herald:

In his final blog posting, Mike O’Brien said he exuded faith — faith in his radiologist, surgeons, nurses, pharmacists and counsellors — but not in God.

“Of course, I may be wrong. I often am. Fortunately, if God really exists, I’m confident he’ll look at my overall record and let me slide on the faith/skeptic issue. It just sounds like the kind of decent thing he’d do,” he wrote.

I need to satisfy your curiosity before going any further. O’Brien, who died of cancer at age 51, warranted a newspaper article because of his roles in several Canadian TV series, including the comedy cult favourite Corner Gas.

So, what about Mike’s blog post?

I can certainly understand why a hideous disease like cancer might turn a person into an atheist. A life-threatening condition tends to drive the victim into the arms of God or into the arms of…well, nothing, I guess.

The thing is, Mike exuded faith in an entire team of people. And, sadly, all those people could not stop what was happening to him.

Meanwhile, Mike ignored his creator. Now, considering what happened to him, you might say “well, what good did Mike’s creator do for him? He died of cancer!”

On the surface, I get that. But hang on; what if relieving Mike of his four-year painful struggle meant bringing him home? That might not be what his loved ones wanted, but do we painfully imperfect humans always know what’s best?

Sadly, I’m not sure the story goes like I just put it. I’m glad Mike left this world confident that if there’s a creator, that creator would “look at my overall record and let me slide on the faith/skeptic issue”.

But where on earth would such confidence come from? How does Mike, or anyone else on this planet, know how their overall record really looks?

The God that most Christians believe in is active in this world. He created us to have a relationship with Him – now and for all eternity. We messed that up by going our own way and, so often, doing what Mike did: claim He doesn’t even exist and this planet – heck this universe – somehow came from nowhere.

To repair that broken relationship, God has done far more than what Mike might call the “decent thing”; He offers us a gift: Jesus Christ, who serious Christians believe is God’s son.

Jesus lived an extraordinary life, offered love and forgiveness to folks you and I wouldn’t turn our head to glance at, then died to make up for all the wrong things we’ve done and all the right things we’ve failed to do. To finish it off, he came back to life after three days, showing God’s power to do whatever God wants.

All we have to do is accept the gift of Jesus. Then we can have more than Mike’s vague optimism. We can have complete confidence that when this life ends, God will absolutely overlook our many, many shortcomings and welcome us into His presence forever.

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


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