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Embracing FreedomSometimes, I’m amazed at all the things atheists and Christians have in common. That was my reaction when I saw this graphic posted in an Atheist Internet community.

I consider following Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians believe is the son of God) to be freedom.

Freedom to wonder. I can wonder how God does stuff like creating planets, creating babies and creating the mysterious relationship between my free will and His will. I can wonder how Jesus was God AND human at the same time (this is a core belief for serious Christians). I can wonder how He can (and does) love people who are simply beyond my pathetic ability to even tolerate.

Freedom to explore. I can explore science, just like atheists and just like Christian scientists such as Francis S. Collins (who helped map the human genome). I can explore different faiths and understand how they’re different from Christianity. I can explore who and what God is, even as I know I’ll never get all the answers (and that’s OK).

Freedom to doubt. I can read parts of the Bible where people who feel abandoned by God cry out to Him. In one section, called Psalms, the writer states “Has our Lord rejected us forever? Will he never again speak to us? Has God forgotten what mercy is?” I can feel amazement that this is in the Bible — amazement and relief, because it means I’m NOT condemned if (well, when is more accurate) I ask the same questions.

Freedom to be me. A key part of the Christian faith is that human beings are not only accepted, they are LOVED by God for exactly who they are. Right now. With all our faults, jealousies, doubts, fears, misplaced anger, pettiness, greed, self-centredness and ludicrous sense of entitlement.

How do I know this? Because one of the four Bible accounts of Jesus’ life, simply called ‘John’, says “God loved the world so much [and that includes you and me, with all our quirks and faults] that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him would not be lost but have eternal life.”

No one has “damned you into sin from birth”. It simply happened, whether you and I like it or not. We enter this world thinking only of ourselves; everything revolves around us. And to a certain extent, we carry at least some of that thinking right through to adulthood and old age.

Everything DOESN’T revolve around us. You and I are NOT God. And to the extent that we (encouraged by our culture) believe that we are, that is sin. Like it or not.

So I say, embrace reason. Embrace the God who wants to embrace YOU. Accept the gift He offers you — the Son who:

  • brought extraordinary ideas to the world (like loving your enemies);
  • died to make up for the wrong things you and I have done and the right things we’ve failed to do, and;
  • came back to life to prove He’s God and the Bible’s predictions about Him are true.

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

Christianity death cultI think I need to do a search. I need to find all these Christians who are looking forward to dying. According to this graphic, the earth is apparently overwhelmed with suicidal followers of Jesus Christ.

OK, so maybe I’m just having a little fun. But I have to wonder why anyone in the atheist community (which is where I found this graphic) could so thoroughly believe such a notion that they would create a graphic to tell the world.

While I’m sure there are some Christians out there who want to die (perhaps a few on their death beds, for example), I’ve yet to meet even one of them.

In the meantime, what about “wasting their lives”? The Christians who are still in the Philippines helping victims of 2013’s Typhoon Haiyan are certainly doing something that most people would call productive.

Same for the Christians who have joined Samaritan’s Purse in Nepal right now (and who will be there for many months to come) helping survivors of the devastating earthquake. Wasting their lives looking forward to death? Really?

Should I wonder about the Christians who put their lives on the line (again with Samaritan’s Purse) fighting the deadly Ebola Virus in Liberia in 2014? Was that just a death wish?

Now, about the central figure of Christianity: was He a human sacrifice? In some respects, yes.

Most Christians believe the Bible’s assertion that God put His love on the line for us through Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians believe is God’s son).

A passage in the Bible, from a section called ‘1 Peter’ explains it like this: “Christ himself suffered when he died for you, and with that one death he paid for your sins. He was not guilty, but he died for people who are guilty. He did this to bring all of you to God.”

Nothing you or I can do will make up for the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do. Nothing. Indeed, all of us go wrong every day, in ways we don’t see because we live in a world that suggests “if it feels good, do it” and “it’s only wrong if you get caught”.

The only difference between you and me is I’ve figured this out. I know I can’t come close to God’s standard of perfection. But because I follow Jesus Christ, I don’t have to. Jesus did the heavy lifting for me.

Oh, one more thing. After doing that heavy lifting, He came back to life. Paul, a missionary who helped spread Christianity in its earliest days, wrote a letter in the Bible and that letter says “But Christ really has been raised from death”.

In fact, that’s such a central part of Christianity that in the same letter, Paul wrote “if Christ has not been raised from death, then your faith is for nothing; you are still guilty of your sins.”

Paul spent most of his life telling people this. And God worked through him to start churches and spread Christianity throughout the Mediterranean.

So much for a death cult, eh?

Does this make you rethink what you thought you knew about the Christian faith? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

Faith and evidenceSo, who insisted that Christianity is built entirely on faith? That’s never been my viewpoint and I’m struggling to think of even one Christian who makes this notion their line in the sand.

And yet, someone in an atheist Internet community posted this graphic and figured it would cause lots of people to nod in agreement.

But making a statement in a graphic doesn’t make it true. It would be like me insisting all atheists are militant, arrogant and patronizing. Equally false.

Before I get going here, let me make it clear that faith is definitely a key part of following Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians believe is the son of God). In fact, a section of the Bible called ‘Hebrews’ spells it out: “Whoever comes to God must believe that He is real and that He rewards those who sincerely try to find Him.”

But nowhere does the Bible claim that evidence is irrelevant. Indeed, evidence is mentioned at key points.

Consider the resurrection of Jesus, which is one of the most important parts of Christianity. In a letter that’s now part of the Bible, a missionary named Paul (who helped spread Christianity throughout the Mediterranean), told other Christians that after rising from the dead, “Christ appeared to more than 500 other believers at the same time. Most of them are still living today, but some have died.”

That certainly reads like evidence to me, especially as the underlying message is ‘if you don’t believe me about the resurrection, then go ahead and investigate for yourself’. If Christianity is built entirely on faith, why would this be in the Bible?

Here’s another example, from a section of the Bible called ‘2 Peter’: “We didn’t repeat crafty myths when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Quite the contrary, we witnessed his majesty with our own eyes.” Again, more evidence.

The website FaithFacts.org has this take on the faith vs. evidence debate:
Blind faith is faith without evidence, which would be superstition. The Bible does not call us to blind faith. The Bible calls us to faith in evidence. We submit that various truth claims, including Christianity, should be evaluated on the evidence.

I can tell you, without any hesitation, that if I was called to follow Jesus based solely on faith, I probably wouldn’t be a Christian today. I was presented with evidence, then asked to make a leap of faith based on that evidence and based on the logic of Christianity. I made that leap and have never regretted it.

So, where do you stand? Does a mix of faith and evidence make sense to you when considering Christianity? If it does, have you done any research? You may have friends or family members that discourage checking out the claims of Christianity, but this is important stuff.

Do the work. And if you still have questions, check out the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (http://carm.org/). Or email me at fdking@hotmail.com. I’ll do my imperfect best to help.

Bill Maher atheismFirst of all, “religion” certainly is dangerous, and for more reasons than Bill Maher lists in this graphic. Like Maher (a well-known TV host/political commentator/atheist), I want nothing to do with “religion” and here’s why: http://wp.me/p2wzRb-cP.

Now, what about “faith” (an entirely different thing) being dangerous? Are there people out there who believe their faith affiliation supplies all the answers to every question? Sadly, yes.

In my faith, saying Jesus Christ — whom serious Christians believe is the son of God — is the answer to everything is superficial and, in my opinion, shows a disturbing lack of thought.

(Then again, we live in a culture that discourages thoughtful living, so this shouldn’t be a surprise.)

I have all kinds of questions that following Jesus doesn’t answer:

  • Is there life on other planets?
  • If there is life on other planets, do they know about God?
  • Why is our world set up so people and animals kill and eat each other to survive?
  • When is Jesus going to return (as the Bible says He will)?
  • Why is spirituality so repugnant to some people and so welcome to others?
  • And finally, how did hip-hop ever become popular? ;-)

What’s truly fascinating is that Jesus Himself didn’t know the answers to all the questions. The Bible says that before He was crucified on a Roman cross, one of his followers asked when He would return. Jesus replied “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.”

Does this bother some Christians? Probably. But it doesn’t bother me; serious Christians believe Jesus is God AND man and when He was physically on earth, Jesus set his Godhood aside. Thus the lack of knowledge about His return.

But what about my questions? There was a time when some of them, especially the third question, disturbed me greatly. I’m not nearly so disturbed today, but these unanswered questions are still important. Our culture tends to suggest we can be God, with all the wisdom, all the technology and all the resources to command our lives and destinies.

But my questions (which I don’t believe science can ever answer) are important and necessary because they remind me that God is God. And I am NOT.

So what about you; do your unanswered questions keep you from seriously investigating what it means to follow Jesus and be transformed by His love, His life, His death and His resurrection? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

More than words 4.15When I first encountered this graphic on an Internet atheist community, I thought “No way!”

But upon investigation, I’ve concluded that the ‘charge’ is correct. Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians believe is the son of God, did not make a blanket I-love-you statement about all of humanity.

So why do people like me insist that Jesus does, indeed, love me, YOU and everyone else? Let’s look at the evidence:

1.  One of the most famous statements in the Bible comes from a section called ‘John’. It states “God expressed His love for the world in this way: He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not face everlasting destruction, but will have everlasting life.”

Does it make even a bit of sense that God would not want Jesus to love the world the way He does?

2.  In another part of ‘John’ (which is one of four accounts of Jesus’ physical life on earth), Jesus tells his followers “A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they [people who believe in Him] can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.”

Again, why would Jesus care about the kind of lives people are living if He didn’t love them?

3.  In a Bible section called ‘2 Corinthians’, we’re told “Christ had no sin. But God made him become sin. God did this for us so that in Christ we could become right with God.”

This passage refers to one of the basic tenets of Christianity, that Christ died on a Roman cross to make up for all the wrong things we’ve done and all the right things we’ve failed to do. Why would Jesus do this if he didn’t love humanity? Why?

4.  This brings to mind another Bible passage. In the account of his life called ‘Luke’, Jesus (knowing he was about to be arrested on trumped-up charges and eventually put to death) went off on his own and prayed “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

Why would he pray this if he wasn’t in complete union with what His Father wanted? His Father — who created you and me — wanted to take away the inevitable negative judgment on everyone who has “sinned” (and that means every person on this planet). Why would God  — and by extension, Jesus — want to do this if He didn’t love me and YOU?

After offering up all this evidence, I’m reminded of “More Than Words”, the 1990s pop hit by Extreme. Some of the lyrics go like this:
More than words is all I ever needed you to show
Then you wouldn’t have to say that you love me
‘Cause I’d already know.

Exactly. Jesus doesn’t say He loves me. Or you. He went further and proved it by his life, death and resurrection. And all this is offered as a gift to YOU. Are you interested in accepting it? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

Hate 3.15As soon as I saw this graphic on an atheist website, I felt sorry for Patricia Ruth Barker. Sorry that she ever thought she had to “hate” anyone before becoming an atheist.

Who taught Patricia this kind of warped thinking? Did she consider murderous terrorist groups and decide this is how “religious” people think? (I’m a Christian, but I’m absolutely not “religious” and this essay reveals why: http://wp.me/p2wzRb-cP.)

Did she encounter some religious people who, sadly, DO hate gay people and people of other faiths and figure this is standard thinking for spiritual people?

Since encountering this graphic, I’ve racked my brain to think of all the Christians I’ve met who hate gays or people of other faiths. I can’t come up with a single person. And when I do encounter these misguided people, I’ll remind them of these passages from the Bible:

  • Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love (from a section of the Bible called ‘1 John’).
  • God loved the world so much [and that means EVERY PERSON in it] that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him would not be lost. but have eternal life (from ‘John’).
  • God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him (also from 1 John).

Serious Christians take the Bible seriously. And I take these passages seriously. They tell me that Jesus Christ (whom Christians believe is God’s son) came for ALL people — gay or straight, Christian or Muslim or Atheist or Buddhist, criminal or Nobel prize winner, male or female, young or old. No exceptions. Ever.

This is one of the reasons I decided in my 40s to follow Jesus Christ and trust in what he did for everyone who believes in Him. He died on a Roman cross to make up for ALL the wrong things I’ve done and ALL the right things I’ve failed to do. He made up for all the times when, despite my best efforts, I end up living as if there is no loving creator who wants to be part of my life.

I also follow Jesus because I know that by doing so, I welcome Him into my heart, mind and soul to make me more like Him. That means hating ONLY the wrong things I’ve done and the right things I don’t do.

It also means I believe in what many people call the “Golden Rule”: Do for others what you want them to do for you (from a section of the Bible called ‘Luke’).

I want atheists and people of other faiths to respect me. So I darn well better respect them. When that exchange takes place, I get to tell them, like I’m telling you now, about my faith in Jesus and how He can change them (and you) for the better – for now and for all eternity.

What are your thoughts on this? Post a comment below and let’s have a conversation.

Jesus fake not realSo, did a guy from the ancient Middle East called Jesus actually exist? And did he do miraculous stuff and change the world forever?

If you’re unsure, you probably haven’t looked into it. So using nothing but the Bible, let me advance the case for Jesus being real and doing the things that serious Christians like me believe He did.

Consider the life of Paul, a tent maker from the ancient Turkish city of Tarsus. Paul was a devout Jew who went out of his way to persecute Christians, supported by religious leaders who felt threatened by Jesus and his followers.

But something extraordinary happened to Paul. While traveling to Syria to arrest Christians, the Bible records him having a dramatic spiritual encounter with Jesus.

After that, Paul became a fervent Jesus follower and travelled around the Mediterranean region starting churches and mentoring others who believed Jesus was the Son of God.

Think about it: Paul went from being a staunch member of the Jewish religion and culture to someone spurned by his own tribe, a black sheep to be forever shunned. Why would he do that to follow just another person who claimed to be special?

Think about it: traveling around the Roman Empire 2,000 years ago was HUGELY risky. Indeed, in letters he wrote to church leaders (letters that make up a significant part of the Bible’s ‘New Testament’), Paul mentions being in prison for his faith, getting whipped five times and beaten three times. He also survives a stoning and several shipwrecks.

Again I ask, why would anyone go through all that? Could anyone possibility be that delusional for more than half his life?  To me, the answer is plain: Paul wasn’t delusional. He was risking it all because he knew Jesus existed and he knew Jesus was God’s gift to a sick and broken world.

Think about it: If Paul got rich from his work telling everyone he could about Jesus Christ, the Bible certainly doesn’t record it. Did he get girls? Again, no mention. Fame? He was probably well known among fellow Jesus followers, but to others he was everything from an annoyance to a serious threat. Thus the jail time (at least five years) and beatings. So, no riches, no girls and only dangerous notoriety. Would you go through all this for someone who didn’t exist?

What about this resurrection thing? Serious Christians believe the Bible’s accounts of Jesus being put to death by Roman soldiers (on the urging of vindictive religious leaders) and coming back to life three days later.

False? Well, consider that in a section of the Bible called ‘I Corinthians’, Paul writes “After that [His resurrection], Christ appeared to more than 500 other believers at the same time. Most of them are still living today, but some have died.”

In other words, Paul wrote that there were living witnesses to the resurrection. And as Tom Harper wrote in his book For Christ’s Sake, “Paul is saying those who do not believe him can go and find out for themselves.”

Think about it: was Paul just lying? Was this just more delusions? Paul put his credibility as a Jesus follower on the line with his statement. And there’s no reasonable justification to doubt him.

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

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