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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.

WindowForTruth 3.15Sometimes I’m bursting with appreciation for the graphics that atheist people post on the Internet. They often present Heaven-sent opportunities to tell people what God and Jesus Christ are all about.

This is one of those glorious opportunities. Here we go:

1. God sends NO ONE to Hell. People send themselves to Hell through the wrong things they’ve done and through the right things they’ve failed to do.

That includes kicking God out of our lives and turning our backs on His gift of Jesus (whom serious Christians, and many others, believe is His son).

2. Even if you ignore my first point, who says God sends everyone to Hell for having an abortion? This graphic conveniently ignores the fact of forgiveness.

Why do I call it a fact? Because the Bible is quite clear about it (and Christians take the Bible seriously). A section called ‘1 John’ says “if we confess our sins, God will forgive us. We can trust God to do this. He always does what is right. He will make us clean from all the wrong things we have done.”

Please note: this isn’t a scam we can pull on a dimwitted creator. This is serious business and I explain it in detail here: http://wp.me/p2wzRb-8n.

3. “Kills His only Son”. First of all, it was Roman authorities who did the killing. They were urged on by manipulative religious authorities who felt threatened by Jesus, His popularity and His disregard for their petty religious rules and regulations.

Secondly, God allowed Jesus to die because a significant part of Jesus’s mission — many Christians would declare it was the most important part — was to be a sacrifice that would make up for all the wrong things we’ve done and all the right things we’ve failed to do. Well, it would do that for everyone who accepts the gift of Jesus.

For the people who accept that gift, who declare Jesus to be their lord, their saviour and their best friend, God no longer sees our “sins”. He sees only the perfection of His Son.

Why was a death necessary? Because this “sinning” business is deadly stuff, far more lethal than most of us truly understand. And nothing we can do or say or think or pray can make up for all the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do. All our efforts will always fall short. Always.

So God did the heavy lifting for us by offering the gift of His Son and his sacrifice. So carefully consider everything our culture tells you about life, about right and wrong, about how we should live and about what happens after this life ends. Does it make complete sense in light of a God that loves YOU, offers the gift of Jesus to YOU and wants YOU to spend eternity in Heaven with him?

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

Freddie Mercury QueenThanks to the advice of a wise friend, I’ve been reading up about rock singer Freddie Mercury (1946-1991), the flamboyant, amazingly talented lead singer of Queen.

Even now, more than 20 years after his death from AIDS-related pneumonia, most of us can hum such classic Queen hits as We Are The Champions, Crazy Little Thing Called Love or Bohemian Rhapsody. Mercury wrote or co-write these and many other songs that are staples of classic rock radio.

By any measure of our culture, Mercury was an over-the-top, break-open-the-champagne success. Fame, wealth, peer recognition and adoring fans were all his.

So what can explain the lyrics in the Queen song The Show Must Go On? Several times, Mercury (who was by then quite ill) sings “What are we living for?”

In addition, during one of his last interviews, Mercury said:

  • “I don’t have any real friends. I don’t think I do. I discard them. People tell me they’re friends, but there we are. I don’t believe them.”
  • “You can be in a crowded area and still be the loneliest person, because you don’t really belong to anyone.”
  • “In fact, my kind of loneliness is the hardest to bear. Loneliness doesn’t mean being shut away in a room by yourself.”

Does this sound like a man who had it all? Despite the approval of our culture, despite the 18-room London mansion, the extraordinary voice and the legion of male and female lovers, Mercury showed me (and you) something important: these are not the stuff of contentment. Indeed, these are lies.

In his last days, did Mercury pursue something deeper and more eternally important? We’ll never know. But it’s not too late for you and me to do that.

Strip away what our culture says is vital (and what Mercury proved is NOT) and you’re left with something very, very controversial. You’re left with God, your creator.

I’ll be bold and declare that beyond friends, parents, relatives, spouses and children, the only relationship that is completely loving and completely permanent (so permanent that it continues beyond this life) is with God.

God created you. And he offers you the gift of Jesus Christ, whom Christians and many others believe is God’s son.

Jesus teaches us how to live — to REALLY live — with such crazy notions as forgiving your enemies, turning the other cheek, loving your neighbour as much as you love yourself, not judging others unless you’re ready to be judged the same way, and doing for others what you want them to do for you.

Jesus did more than teach. He told his followers that for everyone who believes in him, he would die on a cross to make up for the wrong things they’ve done and the right things they’ve failed to do. Then He did it. And the Bible, which serious Christians believe, says He came back to life.

Just by believing in Him and following Him, you can have Jesus wiping out all your failures, too. And you can have a richer and fuller life NOW. Interested? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

SinIt’s easy to make this call about a word that’s so loaded, isn’t it? In our culture “sin” has come to be associated of judgementalism, arrogance, hard-heartedness and “religious” people.

Some of those people, who lack full awareness of their own failures, think they’re doing others a favour when they call them out for the wrong things those people might have done.

But does that mean the word “sin” should be tossed in garbage? The person who created the graphic that inspired this essay might shout YES.

I suppose it’s easier to think everything is relative and there is no real “good” or “bad” that would necessitate a word like “sin”. Do you really think that’s so? Isn’t murder a sin? What about setting someone’s house on fire — can you think of a reason that would condone arson? Is there an excuse to justify printing and distributing counterfeit money?

Just like you, I haven’t done any of these things. But I examine my own life and see plenty of behaviours that qualify as sin:

  • I’m tired of putting up with the slow truck ahead of me, so I dangerously cut off another car in the passing lane to get around it.
  • I find pathetic excuses to stay on the computer when I should be turning it off and helping my wife clean the house.
  • I allow ancient, petty squabbles with my relatives to bubble up and stop me from reaching out to them.

Maybe these aren’t “sins” to you. Our culture might come up with softer descriptions like “shortcomings” or “mistakes”. To me, a shortcoming is not being able to resist sugary snacks (I’m absolutely guilty). A mistake is failing to notice a typo in a Frank’s Cottage essay (often guilty). A sin is different and I hope the bullet-point examples above make that clear.

So what can I do about these sins and many others? Lord knows, I’ve tried and tried to change my ways. I’ll bet you’ve tried to fix your sins, too. And I’ll bet you’ve had as much success as me. Kinda sad, eh?

But there IS something real and substantial and meaningful that we can do. I’ve done it and it IS making a difference. Not as quickly as I (or my wife) would like, but the change is happening.

Prepare yourself for what this is, because it’s radical and controversial: believing there is a creator. A creator who knows YOU. A creator who cares about YOU. A creator who is involved in this world and wants to be involved in YOUR life.

Furthermore, this creator has a son, whom He offers to this world (including YOU) as an extraordinary, life-changing gift. He is Jesus Christ and God wants YOU to accept the gift of Him. When you do that, you come to know that He died on a cross to make up for ALL the sins of EVERYONE who believes in Him and follows Him.

When this life is done and you come before God, He no longer sees your sins. He sees the sacrifice and the perfection of His son. Sound interesting? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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.

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