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divisionI do love all those times — and you’d be surprised how many there are — when I, a man of faith, want to high-five atheists.

When I discovered this atheist graphic (please, people, PROOFREAD the memes you generate before posting them), I certainly wanted to find the creator and tell him or her how much I appreciate this quote.

“Religion” divides people by ranking them, declaring some are better than others based on behaviour and adherence to group-think.

“Religion” controls people by declaring they must follow a long list of rules, most of which are gloriously petty and irrelevant to the big questions of life, death and eternity.

“Religion” deludes people by insisting they can earn their way into some sort of eternity with a creator if they only do enough good stuff, think enough ‘right’ thoughts and be enough of the kind of person that will win others’ approval.

I want nothing to do with “religion” because it has almost nothing to do with God.

“There is a difference, an important difference, between relating to God through doctrines, codes of conduct, inherited traditions, and relating to God directly, soul-to-soul, mind-to-mind, heart-to-heart,” writes pastor Bruxy Cavey in The End of Religion.

“Jesus [Christ, whom serious Christians believe is God’s Divine Son] taught this distinction, lived this message and was killed because of its implications.”

Does Jesus divide people? Absolutely. His message of love, acceptance and being a necessary intermediary between imperfect people and a perfect God split families and couples 2,000 years ago and it continues to do so today.

In fact, following Jesus and trusting that His sacrificial death makes up for all the wrong things I’ve done and all the right things I’ve failed to do has divided me from the rest of my biological family.

I’m not happy about this divide, but I’ve come to know that following Jesus is the most important thing I can do in this life and in the life to come.

Does Jesus control people? In a way, yes. When you trust in Him and commit yourself to seriously following Him, then he enters into your life and begins to change you. He’s working on me as you read this, making me more generous & less petty, more loving & less resentful, more charitable & less self-centred, more forgiving & less judgemental.

It’s a challenging, life-time project but I’m eternally grateful for what He’s doing because I’ve come to realize I can’t make me a better person on my own.

Does Jesus delude people? Just the opposite.

  • He reminds us of our complete and breathtakingly imperfect humanity.
  • He reminds us that God is perfect and that’s God’s standard for humanity.
  • He reminds us that even though we can never be perfect, we don’t have to be when we believe in Him and what’s He’s done for us through His life, death and resurrection.

In other words, when we accept the life-changing GIFT of Jesus Christ, we can be better people now and, when this life is finished, we can spend eternity with Him.

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

Religion is irrationalIs “religion” irrational, as this atheist graphic suggests?

First of all, I wouldn’t know because I’m not the least bit religious (and here’s why: http://wp.me/p2wzRb-i9). In fact, the world would be a much better place without religion.

So what about faith, which is a very different thing? Is it irrational? By the standards of our world, absolutely.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to declare that North American culture worships at the altars of science (don’t get me wrong, I find science quite fascinating), shopping, celebrity scandal, getting and staying rich, the latest technological gadgets and our next vacation.

All of these pursuits are pretty tactile; we can touch money and iPhones, suntan on a cruise ship, obsess over celebrities on our 60-inch flat-screen TVs, read all about the latest scientific discovery and stand in the middle of a crowded mall.

Can’t do any of that with faith. Can’t see or touch God, can’t make any money off Him (unless you’re one of those creepy televangelists) or obtain a vacation cottage or find out who’s wearing the black hat in the Brangelina divorce spectacle.

Now, let’s think about what else is irrational in our world:

  • Love: as the 1960s anti-war song said, “what is it good for?” What can love achieve that a solid contract with a willing business/life partner can’t?
  • Superstition: Beyond the obvious (fear of black cats and walking under ladders) there’s “Beginner’s luck”, 666, Friday the 13th and cross your fingers. Can anyone credibly tell me these are rational?
  • Fashion: The sports jacket I wore five years ago is now a joke? Seriously?
  • Fear of flying: so it’s okay to be in a speeding vehicle but so much more dangerous to go on an airplane? Have you read any statistics lately?
  • Facial hair: it grows naturally on both genders, so what on earth possesses so many of us to shave it off?

As you ponder this list, consider the fact that most people who want nothing to do with faith accept many of these irrationalities without second thought. And that includes the atheist person who created the graphic that inspired me to write this blog.

Why the double standard? Simple: faith is about something serious. Even more serious than love. It’s about how we view this world and how we think about what comes after this life ends.

Our culture tells us not to bother with such things, but if you’ve read this far, then I bet you’re willing to think for yourself.

So consider this: not only is there a Creator of everything we see and experience, this creator is vitally interested in YOU. So interested, in fact, that He offers YOU a gift: His perfect Son, who came to this earth to live, die and be resurrected for YOU and everyone else who’s willing to accept that gift.

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

false godsWhen I found this graphic on an atheist Internet community, it caused me to ponder the exact command.

(FYI, it’s in a part of the Bible called ‘Exodus’, and an easier-to-read version puts it like this: “You must not worship any other gods except me.”

So, is the God of Christianity and Judaism admitting He’s not the only god floating around the universe? That’s certainly an easy conclusion to make and it’s obviously the route taken by the creator of this graphic.

Let me be quite truthful: thousands of years ago, many people in the Middle East did, indeed, worship other “gods”. Or more accurately, they worshipped what they thought were gods.

Chief among those rival “gods”, mentioned in the Bible’s Old Testament, are Baal, Ashtoreth and Molech.

You’ve probably never heard these names before and the reason is simple: they turned out to be nothing but figments of people’s imagination — and often created to allow “followers” to do ghastly things, such as sacrifice children. Consider this: if Baal, Ashtoreth and Molech were “gods”, wouldn’t they still be around today?

All that said, the first of the Bible’s Ten Commandments certainly has application today because there are plenty of modern “gods” vying for our attention. Here’s a brief list:

Power: just watch what people will do to become prime ministers, presidents, premiers, governors, mayors and CEOs. How many lies are they willing to tell? How many promises will they make to financiers and lobby groups?

Wealth: I Googled “how to become rich” and found 22 (yes, TWENTY-TWO) pages of links. I think that’s enough to call wealth a “god”.

Sex: according to a 2013 Huffington Post article, pornography websites get more visitors each month than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined. Wikipedia lists 22 U.S. politicians who were forced to resign because of a sex scandal. And that’s just between 2000 and 2015. Yes, I can confidently write that sex is a “god” to many, many people.

Fame: Think about the endless number of TV reality shows in North America. Many of them, like The Bachelor, Keeping Up With The Kardashians, Dating Naked, Hoarders and Duck Dynasty, don’t showcase anyone with talent for anything other than achieving fame on those TV shows. Yep, definitely a “god”.

Do any of these gods have a place in your life? Do they have a place in mine? Probably. I try to be aware of how I use my time, my brain and my emotions, but I’m brought up in the same culture as you. And like it or not, that culture insists that the meaning of life is found in power, wealth, sex and fame.

One way I’ve found to keep these false gods from dominating my life is to stay focused on just one god: the creator and master of time, space and the universe.

I’m a Christian and that means I believe that the creator and master of time, space and the universe:

  • knows who I am;
  • wants to have a living, breathing relationship with me (not just in this life; for all eternity) and;
  • sent His Son to this planet to make that happen.

I follow that Son (Jesus Christ) and it’s made a tremendous, positive difference in my life. He can make a tremendous, positive difference in your life, too.

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

butterfly-mcqueen-10-16When I read the quote on this graphic, kindly supplied by a Facebook humanist group, part of me thought “oh, if only this were true.”

It’s not, of course. And anyone who thinks it is…well, they’re living in some sort or dream world with fairies and frogs that really do turn into princes.

Be honest with me: do you really think that without “mythology and Jesus Christ”, humanity would ever rise up and deal with hunger, homelessness or any of the many other problems that we create for ourselves? Really?

Thelma “Butterfly” McQueen, the actress who portrayed Prissy (Scarlett O’Hara’s maid) in Gone With the Wind, apparently did.

I wonder, did Butterfly consider the greed, self-centredness, prejudices, dishonesty and self-delusion that plagues our race? Was she somehow immune to these horrible weaknesses? I’m certainly not immune.

In fact, my weaknesses are one of the main reasons I decided to follow Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians believe is is the divine Son of God.

Despite what Butterfly and other critics say, most theologians agree that Jesus really did exist–and he really did come back to life after being crucified on a Roman cross. In fact, there’s powerful evidence right in the Bible.

Paul, a missionary who did so much to spread Christianity in its earliest days, wrote a letter (that’s now in the Bible) where he tells people that after dying on that cross, “he [Jesus] appeared to Peter and then to the twelve apostles. After that, Christ appeared to more than 500 other believers at the same time. Most of them are still living today, but some have died.”

Some critics of Christianity may think Paul was lying. I don’t see any reason why he would do so, especially since he was hardly getting rich telling people about Jesus. In fact, Paul spent much of his time in prison.

But enough on that. Consider why people like me turn to Jesus to help us deal with our weaknesses:

  • By following Jesus, Christians have the benefit of having a clear set of timeless, unchanging rights and wrongs by which to live our lives. Shifting tastes and trendy opinions have no effect on what Jesus says is good or bad.
  • By following Jesus, I have access to a spiritual source of strength to deal with the many challenges of this life. Again, this source is absolutely unchanging and unwavering; how many things can you or I say that about?
  • By following Jesus, I can tap into a worldwide community of fellow believers. We support each other physically and through prayers. Yes, lots of people have communities, but this one is far more meaningful than wine-tasking or extreme sports groups.
  • By following Jesus, I have the same confidence that Paul the missionary had: eternal life in Heaven with Jesus. His sacrificial death pays for all the wrong things I’ve done and all the right things I’ve failed to do.

This is powerful stuff, folks. This is life-changing stuff. In fact, there is NOTHING more important than what I’m writing about here.

So, are you interested in Jesus? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

bludgeoning-9-16Maybe you read this graphic (supplied by an Internet atheism community) and thought “Ya, whoever this Lovecraft dude was, he has a point.”

Okay, then. I have no problem writing that sadly, some parents do try to “bludgeon” their young into artificial conformity. And it saddens me because those children will likely abandon faith rather than embrace it (you can read a few examples here: http://wp.me/p2wzRb-Y).

But consider this FACT: as children from a family of faith venture out into our culture, their worldview will be severely tested by a tsunami of ideas and trends that are absolutely opposed to everything they believe.

That tsunami of non-faith philosophies and lifestyles inevitably serves the exact purpose of H.P. Lovecraft — an American horror fiction writer who wavered between atheism and agnosticism — and others who are opposed to faith (especially Christianity, which is my faith).

That tsunami serves to bludgeon people into conformity with a world that acts as if there is no creator and no absolute truth.

Resisting the tsunami is challenging at the best of times. Followers of Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians believe is the divine Son of God) believe in what the Bible teaches:

  • God is the real, eternal creator of the universe, this planet and everyone on it.
  • God created the gift of freewill and stands by it, no matter how often we humans spit on it.
  • God is a personal god who is involved in the lives of everyone who permits Him to live in them through his Holy Spirit.
  • God is perfect and that’s his standard for every human being.
  • God knows humanity can’t even agree on a definition of perfection, much less adhere to  it.
  • God offers Jesus Christ as a gift to everyone who is willing to accept Him — His life, His words, His sacrificial death (to make up for all the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to to) and His glorious resurrection.

At least some of these basic tenets are rejected by most of humanity. Perhaps you’re one of them. But are you at least open-minded enough to realize that what H.P. Lovecraft considered an “unbending quest for truth” is usually quite subjective?

A remarkably telling three-word sentence in one of the three Bible accounts of Jesus’ physical life on earth speaks volumes: “What is truth?” asked the political leader of Jesus, who had been arrested on the authority of religious leaders who opposed Him.

Jesus didn’t answer the question. Can you, with absolute objectivity? Without my Christian faith, I know I couldn’t.

So from your perspective, do you know there’s nothing behind all we see and experience? Do you know that morality is entire subjective? Do you know that when you die, ALL that you are will become NOTHING more than rancid worm food?

If you don’t know all this for sure, then perhaps you’re open minded enough to consider that maybe there is a creator. And maybe He does have a divine Son who died to make up for all the wrongs YOU’VE done and all the rights YOU’VE failed to do. And hey, if you’ve come this far, perhaps you’ll even consider that by trusting in this Son and following Him, you’ll have a permanent place with Him in Heaven.

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

northkoreaquestion-9-16Our culture discourages thinking about what happens when this life ends, but maybe you’re one of those people with the courage to ponder the notion.

If there is a Heaven, is it like the numbing, monotonous ordeal described by militant atheist Christopher Hitchens? Is it, as Christianity Today postulated: “an uninspiring place, a subject of clichés and the butt of jokes”?

Surprisingly, there’s a lot of stuff on the Internet about Heaven, and it’s not just the Heaven of my faith (Christianity). Here are just two descriptions:

Wikipedia:
Heaven is often described as a “higher place”, the holiest place, a paradise, in contrast to Hell or the underworld or the “low places”, and universally or conditionally accessible by earthly beings according to various standards of divinity, goodness, piety, faith or other virtues or right beliefs or simply the will of God.

BibleInfo.com:
Heaven is a real place where the people of God will live one day. In fact, Heaven is where God and the angels live. In Heaven, those saved by God will have new bodies without the curse of sin.

Perhaps some people — maybe even YOU — believe Heaven resembles Christopher Hitchens’ nightmare. But who made him an expert on the subject?

Let me make it quite clear: beyond the illuminating BibleInfo.com explanation, an exact description of Heaven is hard to find. Note the words of Christianity Today writer John Koessler: “If Heaven is only a distant gallery from which the departed observe affairs as they unfold on earth, then it is a dull place indeed.”

Koessler’s words appear to apply to Hitchens. So is there something better? YES.

1.  It’s a place of reunion for all people who pass God’s test for entry.

2.  It’s a place of reconciliation, where people who opposed each other on earth leave behind all that (no matter how serious or grievous) in exchange for peace — with themselves and everyone else.

3.  It’s a place of perfection — perfect minds, bodies and spirits. Whatever tortures us in this life will become utterly irrelevant in Heaven.

4.  It’s a place of surprises — those who go there will likely be shocked by who else is there and NOT there.

All this may still seem, well, inexact, but consider John Koessler’s conclusion: “If ‘our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us’ (from a section of the Bible called ‘Romans’), then neither are our present joys or pleasures.”

In other words, when it come to Heaven, expect far, FAR more glory than anything our limited minds can imagine. (And anything that could ever exist in North Korea.)

So, what about this “test for entry” I mentioned? It’s quite simple: are you PERFECT? The Bible, trusted by most Christians, says that’s what you need to qualify. But since none of us are, how can anyone get in?

The answer is to that question easy, even if you don’t like it: trust in and follow Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians believe is God’s perfect Son.

For people who trust in and follow Him, Jesus Christ was crucified on a Roman cross to make up for ALL the wrong things they did and ALL the right things they failed to do. When Christ followers are finished with this life and stand before God, He sees NONE of our sins. He only sees His Son’s perfection.

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

Bullies 8.16Sinner.

Bully.

Amazing human.

These words jumped out at me as I captured this graphic from an atheist Internet community.

“You are an amazing human” YES! Everyone who is, was and will be is absolutely amazing. Absolutely unique. And as a Christian, I can confidently add this: absolutely cherished by the creator and master of time, space and the universe.

To make the point as strong as possible, what I just wrote applies to me, to you, to Donald Trump, to Jean Vanier (the extraordinary founder of the international L’Arche homes for several disabled people), to the most sickening ISIS terrorist and the most committed community volunteer.

There are NO exceptions. How can I know this? As a Christian, I refer to a section of the Bible simply called ‘Romans’: “there is no difference between Jews and [non-Jews]; God is the same Lord of all and richly blesses all who call to him”.

“You are not a sinner”. OK, then besides being an amazing human being, what are you? Or to really make you think, what is an ISIS terrorist? I imagine you (like me) have no trouble calling him/her a sinner. What about Jean Vanier…has he ever done anything wrong (or failed to do something right)? I’ve heard him on detailed TV interviews; he would have no trouble calling himself a sinner.

So if someone as “saintly” as Jean Vanier knows he’s a sinner, what does that make me? Or you? Or ANYONE of ANY age? I’m referring to the little girl in the graphic; can anyone honestly show me a six or seven year-old who hasn’t uncaringly whacked their sibling or ripped a toy out of their hands? Really?

“Bully” is an inflammatory word in North American culture, with school boards, teachers and parents on the lookout to stop this nauseating, soul-destroying behaviour. But does the word apply to people who are telling you and I the TRUTH about our condition?

Sure, they might be telling you in a judgmental, patronizing way (in other words, a sinful way), but that doesn’t change the truth of our condition. Acknowledging and acting on this condition is important because God knows us better than we know ourselves and so that’s inevitably how He sees us.

In fact,  that ‘Romans’ section of the Bible puts it like this: “All have sinned and are not good enough to share God’s divine greatness.”

So if you’re still with me, are you willing to admit you are (1) an amazing human being and (2) a sinner who doesn’t need anyone (least of all an obnoxious bully) to convince you of these two things?

If you’ve said yes, then consider that your creator doesn’t want you to live and die in your sinful condition. He wants to come into your life and make you more like the person He knows you can be. And he wants to do that through His Son, Jesus Christ.

When you accept Jesus into your life — and understand that He died to make up for all the wrong things you’ve done and all the right things you’ve failed to do — then you welcome God into your life. And when this life ends, you’ll spend all of eternity in the glorious presence of Jesus.

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