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Fog of faith I bet some folks see the graphic that inspired this essay and vigorously nod in agreement.

So why is it that me, and so many other serious Christians, found the world to be in a fog until we decided to follow Jesus Christ?

For years, I accepted the worldview pushed by my family, friends, co-workers, the entertainment industry and the media.

But it all lacked…focus. People, including me, weren’t satisfied. Struggling to climb the ladder of career success. Struggling to afford monster flat-screen TVs, bigger houses and cruise ship vacations. Struggling to obey our culture’s directive to ignore a world that seemed bent on slow destruction. Struggling to constantly turn our thoughts away from the nagging question “What’s it all for?”.

When I decided to follow Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians, and many others, believe is the son of God), the fog cleared and the truth of this world came into focus.

Struggling to get more money, more toys, more power and more sex is not the way to satisfaction. As a follower of Jesus, I know that satisfaction comes through following His example and His teachings.

Check out these teachings from one of the four Bible accounts of Jesus’ life on earth:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies. Pray for those who treat you badly.

When you do something good, don’t do it in front of others so that they will see you. If you do that, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

You cannot serve God and money at the same time.

Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars.

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.

Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment.

Do for others what you would want them to do for you.

Yes, some of these teachings are hard. And trust me, you are going to fail at some of them, just like me. And that’s OK. Serious followers of Jesus know that His sacrificial death on a cross wipes away the failures (you could even call them “sins”) of His followers, so that all God sees is the perfection of His son.

Furthermore, when you become a serious follower of Jesus, you welcome Him into your heart and your mind, where His strength, His perfection and His love for YOU start to transform your life. Right here, right now.

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

Religion pacifierJust for fun, I Googled “What does the human mind need?” There was no definitive answer. In fact, none of the dozens of links I saw even address the question.

So I tried “The human mind cries out for…”. Again, nothing.

So does the human mind cry out for facts and reason? Makes sense to me. I’m sure it cries out for more than that, but let’s stick with these two and move on to the bottom statement in this graphic (which I found on an atheist website).

I’m a man of faith, but I certainly want nothing to do with “religion” (here’s why: http://wp.me/p2wzRb-eu). So does having faith in God and Jesus Christ — whom serious Christians, and many others, believe is the son of God — act as a pacifier?

Sadly, the answer for some Christians is yes. But for most, the answer is absolutely NO. We see the world for how it truly is — broken, in desperate need of help. And we do our best to help, by going on trips to aid people in developing nations, by financially supporting aid organizations like Samaritan’s Purse, by asking our political leaders to do the right thing.

In other words, we strive, in our horribly imperfect way, to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ. Why? because “God loved the world [and that means EVERYONE IN IT] so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him would not be lost but have eternal life.” That’s from one of the four Bible accounts of Jesus’ physical life on earth. Serious Christians believe this, so if God loves everyone, then followers of His Son should, too.

Let’s move on to the human heart. What does it need? I don’t think I’m off-base when I write that the hearts of most people need love, acceptance and a sense of purpose. Our hearts need forgiveness — for the wrong things we’ve done and for the right things we’ve failed to do. Our hearts need community — the sense that we’re not alone in whatever joy or misery we are experiencing.

Do hearts get these things from family and friends? Certainly. But friends drift away. Families become separated by emotions or geography and, inevitably, death. From power and money? Only for a relatively short time. Sex? Same thing. Boats, mansions, 100-inch TV screens, Vegas vacations and Ferraris? It won’t take long for most people to become bored of them.

So what’s left? With whom can we find absolutely unconditional love? Where can we get a sense of purpose that’s real and won’t change? How can we achieve a sense of community around something more important than wine-tasting, cruise ship vacations or extreme sports? And where can we get unconditional forgiveness?

As a serious Christian, I believe a relationship with Jesus Christ is the answer to every one of those needs. God offers Jesus as a gift to you and me. When you accept that gift, with sincere seriousness, you open the door to God changing you, from the inside out. For the better. So you can join me in being an imperfect ambassador for Jesus in a broken world.

And when this life is over,  Jesus’ sacrificial death on a cross wipes away all the wrong things we’ve done and all the right things we’ve failed to do. So God sees you and me the way He sees Jesus: pure in every way. And from there, we are welcome to spend eternity with Jesus.

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

Where's the plan? 2.15When I saw this graphic, posted on an atheist website, my immediate reaction was: I bet that’s how the world looks to a lot of people.

It’s hardly a stretch to write that planet Earth appears to be in permanent chaos. Wars, Ebola virus, fundamentalist terrorism, rampant corruption, female and child slavery, broken marriages, child sexual abuse. No need to go on; I’m sure you can easily add to the list.

So where’s the plan? Is all this playing out according to some orderly arrangement? Really?

In a word, YES. Now stay with me while I explain this.

Serious Christians like me believe God’s plan is not so much about events. It’s about people. It’s about a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians  (and many others) believe is God’s son.

That relationship has three key parts:

1. It can, and has, changed the world for the better. Consider these facts:

  • Christians have started hospitals and universities (this essay sheds like on that topic: http://wp.me/p2wzRb-9O).
  • A Christian, William Wilberforce, tirelessly led the decades-long fight to end slavery in Great Britain.
  • Christian scientist Francis S. Collins played a leading role in mapping the human genome.
  • Members of a Christian organization, the International Justice Mission, risk their lives to free female and child slaves in the developing world.

2. It can, and has, brought life-changing peace to lives torn apart by pain and misery. Two examples:

  • Second World War hero Louis Zamperini (subject of the Hollywood movie Unbroken) was an angry alcoholic tortured by regular nightmares of his time in a Japanese prison camp. Then he became a serious follower of Jesus Christ. The nightmares ended. The drinking stopped. And his troubled marriage was restored.
  • Beaten up and betrayed by his criminal friends, Michael “Bull” Roberts was at the end of his rope when he reached out to Jesus Christ. Since then, he’s left behind a life of crime and sought to help others in his situation. (You can read a bit more of his story here: http://wp.me/p2wzRb-5g).

3. It’s based on free will. This might seem difficult for you to accept because free will includes our ability to do all the nasty stuff I mentioned in the second paragraph. You might protest that a loving God would not allow all those things to happen. But centuries of evidence shows that free will is an all-or-nothing proposition.

If the nasty things I mentioned were stopped, then so would your ability to ignore God and reject the gift He offers you: a changed life, now and for all eternity, through faith in Jesus Christ.

It’s up to YOU to respond to the gift. It’s up to YOU to figure out whether you want to be part of God’s work to make this broken world a better place. It’s up to YOU to take hold of the life-changing peace He offers through Jesus.

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

Star Trek: The Motion PictureEven me, who figures anything with the words “Star Trek” in the title MUST be good, has to admit that the first Star Trek movie was long, sloooow and generally underwhelming.

But when I sat down recently to watch 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion PIcture again for the first time in decades, I was struck by the plot and how it speaks to the human condition right now.

Admiral James T. Kirk busts himself down to captain in order to retake command of the Enterprise and help the United Federation of Planets fight off a truly gigantic threat.

The threat is called “V’Ger” and eventually Kirk and company find out it’s a 20th-century Earth space probe believed lost. But it wasn’t lost; an alien race figured out its mission — to gather information, then return to its creator — and massively upgraded it to complete the mission.

Over 300 years, the probe gathered so much information that it achieved consciousness. But returning to its creator? That was a problem. And without its creator, the probe “finds its existence empty and without purpose” (thank you, Wikipedia).

Perhaps this sounds entirely alien to you. But it hit home for me during a scene where Spock (the Enterprise’s science officer) tells Kirk, “V’Ger has knowledge that spans this universe, and yet, V’Ger is barren. It has no meaning, no hope, no answers. But it’s asking questions. Is this all that I am? Is there nothing more?

This monologue strikes me as describing the condition of humanity. And the questions V’Ger asks probably occur to any thinking person who has achieved what our culture considers success (even if that success is “just” a middle-class life).

“It knows only that it needs,” Spock relates a little later. “But like so many of us, it does not know what.”

Is this you? It certainly was me. I had the middle-class success our culture sets up as nirvana — good career, satisfying relationships, disposable income with little debt. And yet it seemed superficial. Boring. Meaningless. I was a miniature V’Ger.

If you’ve found yourself sometimes occupying this mental and emotional space, then be bold. Ignore the relentless call of our world and investigate the questions.

That’s what I did. After much thinking, talking, reading and praying, I came to know there’s a Creator. Bigger than all humanity. Bigger than V’Ger. I came to know this Creator loves His creation — you, me and every other human being on this planet — but we had turned away from Him. So He offers us a gift, a way back to Him.

That gift is Jesus Christ. Christianity teaches that Jesus sacrificed Himself to make up for all the wrong things we’ve done and all the right things we’ve failed to do. Because there’s no human way for us to do that on our own.

Furthermore, if you give the Bible any credibility, consider that it tells us Jesus rose from the dead after three days, thereby destroying the permanence of death that we horribly imperfect humans brought on ourselves.

When you accept the gift of Jesus, all this is open to you. The need is satisfied. The questions are answered.

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

ComfortingLackOfProof 1.15Are there people in this world who think the Bible proves God’s existence? The answer is almost certainly YES. I would beg to differ with them, and so would many thoughtful, wise Christians.

A majority of people who follow Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians, and many others, believe is the son of God) believe the Bible is strong evidence for God’s existence and for the life and work of Jesus. But proof? Well, here’s how Matt Slick on the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry website puts it:

Proof is for mathematics and logic. How do you “prove” there is a Great Being outside of our universe? Do we look for footprints in a riverbed? Do we examine evidence under a microscope and say, “Aha! There’s God!”? That would be the wrong approach. If God exists, he would be beyond our universe, non-material, and transcendent.

Now look around you at this planet, then consider the solar system in which it exists. And the Milky Way galaxy in which our solar system exists. And the universe that includes the Milky Way. Did all that simply pop out of nowhere for no particular reason? I don’t think so. Indeed, a section of the Bible called ‘Psalms’ says “The heavens are telling the glory of God; they are a marvelous display of his craftsmanship.”

That’s still not proof for God’s existence, of course. And I firmly believe there NEVER will be definitive proof. And I’m fine with that. Christianity has never provided proof; Christianity is about a mixture of reason, evidence and faith.

That last noun is a dirty word to some people, like the atheist who posted the graphic above on the Internet. But the Bible acknowledges the need for faith. A section called ‘Hebrews’ says “Whoever comes to God must believe that he is real and that he rewards those who sincerely try to find him.”

Why am I good with a lack of definitive proof? Because if such proof existed, the freedom to be an atheist — to declare there is no God and the future of this planet is all up to us horribly greedy, immature, violent and disloyal people — would be destroyed. And if the state of this broken world tells me anything, it’s that God prizes the gift of freewill. No matter how often we spit on it.

  • I’m given a choice of whether to believe that Jesus, and all the accomplishments the Bible declares He did while physically on earth, is for real.
  • I’m given a choice on whether to accept that Jesus’ death on a Roman cross makes up for all the wrong things done by His followers and all the right things His followers fail to do.
  • I’m given a choice on whether to trust that by declaring Jesus as my Lord and Saviour, I’ll spend eternity with Him in the presence of the Creator of the universe.

One thing I already know: my life is better because I believe in God and follow His Son. Because of that belief, I’ve forgiven people that others have been unwilling to forgive. That belief has also had a profound, positive and life-changing influence on my career, who I married and how I think about this world and everyone in it.

Are there times when maybe you need a new and positive influence in your life? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

Bible diversity intelligent happy tolerantAccording to this graphic, found on an atheist website, I’m probably not “saved”.

Here I am, a Bible-believing follower of Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians, and many others, believe is the son of God) and yet:

  • I’m reasonably happy, however one would define that word and apply to our culture.
  • I’m intelligent enough to have graduated high school and earned a college journalism diploma & a university management development certificate.
  • I have yet to write a single word on this website, or during my 26 years in journalism, condemning diversity.
  • Mentally stable? I’m on a mild anti-depressant, just like millions and millions of other people (it’s safe to write that some of them are atheists).

I guess the Bible has failed to save other people like me, too. Churches all over the world are attended by black men and women, Asian men and women, African men and women, native North American men and women. And some of those people are gay and/or divorced and/or alcoholics and/or convicted criminals and/or mentally challenged.

Intelligence? Ooooo, lots of failures there, too. Among them are university professor and committed Catholic Brian Kobilka, an American Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry. There’s also Christian paleontologist Mary Higby Schweitzer and 2007 Nobel Prize Winner (for chemistry) Gerhard Ertl.

That’s just the beginning; Wikipedia lists more than 60 Christians active in biomedical sciences, physics & astronomy, chemistry and engineering. Gee, I’d call that an EPIC failure on the part of the Bible. (Chances are, most of these folks are mentally stable, too.)

Beyond all this sarcasm, I hope it’s obvious to you that deciding to follow Jesus Christ — His life and teachings, His sacrificial death (to make up for all the wrong things his followers have done and all the right things we’ve failed to do) and His resurrection — often helps people become happy, intelligent, tolerant of diversity and mentally stable.

Following Jesus helps us understand that God loves us, and everyone else on this planet, equally and beyond measure. That love comes not from what we’ve done or not done. It comes because that’s who God is.

Serious Jesus followers also understand that just as we have been forgiven much, we should turn around and forgive much in others.

There’s more: serious Jesus followers appreciate science because it helps us understand how God does stuff. Serious Jesus followers believe something that famed evangelist Billy Graham said: “It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict (people of their sins), God’s job to judge and my job to love”.

Do we fall short of this? Absolutely. But most serious Christians have it in our sights and strive after it daily. And doing that makes us better people.

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

God Auschwitz evilTake your pick: the Auschwitz concentration camp, 9-11 terrorist attacks, massacres in Connecticut (2012) and Norway (2011), barbaric ISIS warmongers.

These, and many other horrific examples of human evil, can serve as evidence of why there is no God. I certainly understand how people can adopt this viewpoint.

But I also understand that this is the path of least resistance; the conclusion any of us could jump to in the heat of anger and despair.

So I’m going to advance a very different proposition: there are Nazi death camps, vicious ISIS/Al Qaeda terrorists and rampaging “lone wolf” killers, so there MUST be a God.

How can that make sense? Let me explain:

1. The beautiful and terrible gift of freewill. We’ve been given it. And we spit on it. Every day. That absolutely includes ME, when I act as if there is no God and put myself in charge of me.

When you and I claim we know what’s best for ourselves, we open the door to greed, unbridled lust, petty self-centredness, intolerance and so much more. Like it or not, this path can lead all the way to unspeakable evil.

2. Who gave us that gift? Who else but God, the creator of this universe and the air you are breathing right now? Does that mean He’s responsible for when we do wrong and fail to do right? Not even a little bit. God didn’t want goose-stepping robots; he wanted people with freedom. And he still wants that, no matter how hard it has often been.

3. Who can we turn to when despicable evil happens? God, who gave you air to breathe and free will to believe in Him or turn away and rely on yourself.

Serious Christians believe this statement in a section of the Bible simply called ‘John’:  “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son [Jesus Christ]. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him [Jesus], anyone can have a whole and lasting life.”

The news gets better. The Bible goes on to say: “God 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 came to help, to put the world right again.”

Notice how we haven’t been simply abandoned to free will and all it’s potential consequences?

In the midst of Auschwitz, Jesus Christ was there, offering people hope of eternity in Heaven with Him, long after the suffering ended. And with that knowledge came His strength and a willingness to forgive their Nazi torturers and escape the prison of rage and revenge.

In camps where refugees are living with practically nothing, just so they can escape ISIS terrorists, Jesus Christ is there, offering them more than blankets and food. Offering them His love and eternity with Him when this short life is done.

In the aftermath of massacres, Jesus Christ is there, offering a community of believers who are, in their midst of their own imperfections, ready to provide physical and spiritual help. To be the hands of feet of their Lord and Saviour.

Getting in on all this is simple. Accept the gift of Jesus, whose sacrificial death makes up for all your sins. Make Him your Lord and friend. Then watch as changes start to happen. Good changes. Changes that will take you into eternity.

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

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