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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.

Hitler freewillMaybe you’ve seen this quote in social media. And, like the atheist who created this graphic, maybe you also think it’s silly.

But before you instantly agree and move on, give this graphic some thought. In fact, give it more thought than the person who created it.

So what if God thought the world needed an Adolf Hitler or an Osama Bin Laden or a Josef Stalin or a Pol Pot?

Didn’t He also think the world needed a Mother Teresa, a Pope Francis, a Jean Vanier (creator of the L’Arche homes for severely disabled people) and a Nelson Mandela?

The point is not whether God created good and bad people. The point is He created people with absolute freewill. In other words, people like YOU and me.

Did God know how Hitler and Mandela would turn out? Quite possibly; serious Christians believe God exists outside of space and time (even as He created them) so we can speculate that he was aware of the choices Pol Pot and Jean Vanier would make.

So does that mean He suddenly changes His mind and stops Bin Laden from being born? I’m sure some folks would say yes.

If you’re one of them, this sudden denial of freewill is a slippery slope. If you believe God is perfect — a position held by serious Christians — and stands in rightful judgement of his creations’ choices, then where do the limits on freewill end?

Should God also stop YOU from driving because He knows that one day, you’re going to hurt someone in an accident?

Should God have forced eternal singlehood on singer Kenny Rogers, actress Joan Collins, director James Cameron and TV host Larry King? Each has been married at least five times; think of all the emotional pain and (possibly) financial hardship caused by all those divorces.

What about AK-47 machine gun inventer Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov? Wikipedia says Kalashnikov emphasized the weapon was for defensive purposes only and severely regretted the deaths it caused. But so what? Why not hold Kalashnikov and, by extension, God responsible for the actions of people Kalashnikov never even met?

Singer Amy Winehouse (1983-2011). There’s someone whose death we can certainly stick on God, right? After all, He should have denied her the right to ever touch a drop of alcohol, since it was a major factor in her death.

Casinos. Now there’s a good one. How dare God allow even one to be constructed, since gambling has contributed to freewill-loving people going bankrupt, to marriages and families breaking up, and to careers being destroyed.

Now let’s consider another element of freewill: The freedom to accept or reject the idea of a loving, perfect creator who has every right to judge you and me on all the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do.

If you accept the idea, then how about the notion that this perfect creator wants His creations to spend eternity with Him — wants it so much that He sent His equally perfect Son to live among us and be put to death to pay for the sins of everyone who believes in His Son?

One of those believing people could be YOU, if you accept the gift of Jesus Christ. What do you think? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

Hi and Lois HeavenSometimes, just reading the comics in newspapers — yes, I still read REAL newspapers — can provide great opportunities to tell folks the truth about the most important things in life.

In this case, that most important thing is Heaven.

If you believe there is something beyond this life, would you call it Heaven? And if you would, who do you think goes there?

In this Hi and Lois comic strip involving a conversation between twins Dot and Ditto Flagston, Ditto make a very strong point. Do you believe what he says to his sister?

As it’s understood by serious Christians, Heaven is where people can actually spend eternity in the presence of the creator of the universe and His Son, Jesus Christ. No one has to be a ‘goody-goody’ (which I assume means a smug or obtrusively virtuous person) to qualify.

In fact, Heaven is populated mostly by people who are anything BUT ‘goody-goody’. It’s occupied by those who often:

  • struggled to get their lives in any kind of order;
  • battled with drug, gambling or alcohol addictions;
  • missed the mark when it came to treating others well;
  • wrestled with temptations such as pornography, infidelity and crime.

Maybe this leaves you unimpressed. Maybe you feel like the late, great Groucho Marx, who once said “I wouldn’t join any club that would have me as a member”.

If that’s the case, you’ll miss out on something so extraordinary that even the writers of the Bible struggled to describe the glories of Heaven with simple words.

So if you and I don’t need to be a ‘goody-goody’, then what DO we need to spend eternity with God and Jesus? It’s simple:

  1. accept that Jesus Christ died on a cross as a sacrifice for all the wrongs things you’ve done and all the right things you’ve failed to do;
  2. confess all those sins to God and express sincere regret and remorse for them (also called repenting);
  3. believe that Jesus rose from the dead after three days in the tomb, to crush the power of death for everyone who follows Him;
  4. ask Jesus to become your Lord and Saviour.

Looking for evidence that I’m not just blowing smoke? A section of the Bible, called ‘Romans’, puts it like this: “If you openly say, “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from death, you will be saved.”

When you do these four things with humble honesty, then Jesus comes into your heart and begins to transform your life.

He gives you wisdom to truly discern what is good and what is bad in the eyes of God (it’s often very different from what our culture suggests) and strength to obey God.

He gives you the ability to see that everyone on this planet has the same intrinsic value in God’s eyes. That means, in the words of author Philip Yancey, “There is nothing we can do to make God love us more. There is nothing we can do to make God love us less.”

He gives you the understanding that no one can earn their way into Heaven; it’s a gift from God to everybody who freely decides to make His Son their Lord and Saviour.

So, you (hopefully) have a better understanding of Heaven. Interested in learning more? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

Etch A SketchSubmitted for your consideration: The Etch A Sketch.

Those of you of a certain age (i.e. children in the 1960s) will probably remember this fascinating little toy. For everyone else, here is the Wikipedia explanation:

An Etch A Sketch has a thick, flat gray screen in a red plastic frame. There are two knobs on the front of the frame in the lower corners. Twisting the knobs moves a stylus that displaces aluminum powder on the back of the screen, leaving a solid line. 
The knobs create lineographic images. The left control moves the stylus horizontally, and the right one moves it vertically.

Wikipedia goes on to note that Etch A Sketch is one of the best known toys of the 1960s and was later inducted into something called the National Toy Hall of Fame.

So what’s my point? I didn’t give Etch A Sketch much thought until I heard a chaplain use it to illustrate the reality of life and what is to come after this life.

Consider this premise: everyone’s life, including yours, is like an Etch-A-Sketch. Through our thoughts, our actions and our inactions, we twist the knobs to paint a picture of our lives.

Most of us would like to think that the picture we’ve been drawing is pretty attractive. Not perfect, of course, but still pleasing to the eye.

That’s hardly a surprise. North American culture strongly discourages any kind of meaningful examination of all the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do. We’re taught, by parents, friends, workmates, teachers and the media that we’re all OK. And that’s that.

But is it?

Do something unconventional. Really think about your life, about:

  • All the things you regret
  • Everyone who makes you angry
  • Those moments when you are accused of being petty or harbouring secrets
  • Every behaviour that causes you to react negatively
  • Occasions where you passed up ‘doing the right thing’ because it might inconvenience you or your loved ones
  • The times you quickly, subconsciously decided to avoid telling the exact truth because it might make you look bad.

If you’ve been honest and serious about pondering these things, does your Etch A Sketch picture still look good? Mine looks like a drunk cat went crazy on the control knobs until it passed out. Ya, my picture is that messy. That ugly.

Can you fix this picture on your own? Can I? In a word, NO. We don’t have enough stamina, enough honesty, enough wisdom, enough humility to do what must be done to transform the mess into an attractive picture.

So let me be radical and suggest who can. Prepare yourself, because this really is RADICAL. I’m talking about God, your creator.

He can, and does, fix ugly Etch A Sketch pictures every minute of every day. And here’s how: He offers the gift of Jesus, His Son, to everyone who’s willing to accept Him. No matter how ugly or  disgusting or sickening your picture really, honestly is, when you accept the gift of Jesus, then you hand over the Etch A Sketch controls to God.

The first thing he does is shake the Etch A Sketch to wipe out the old picture. Then he starts drawing a new one. And that picture is beautiful. It shows you as generous, humble, wise, loving and unconcerned about “looking good”.

This picture isn’t drawn overnight. In fact, God won’t finish the picture until you and I are finished with this life and in Heaven with Jesus. So it takes patience

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

Bizarro GodThe first thing I did when I saw this cartoon in the newspaper was whip out my iPhone and make a photo. I knew it would be the inspiration to reveal the truth about God. And it is.

No doubt about it, our culture portrays God as “damning” souls to Hell. It’s the easiest and fastest way to figure out “religion” (especially Christianity) and requires the least amount of thought.
But is it the truth?

Consider these facts about the God of the Bible:

1. God is perfect. Many, many people will disagree with this, but that doesn’t change the truth. And that perfection is exemplified through Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians believe is His divine Son.

One section of the Bible, called “Psalms”, states it this simply & clearly: “God’s way is perfect”. Another section, Matthew (one of four accounts of Jesus’ physical life on earth), Jesus tells his followers, “What I am saying is that you must be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

Jesus’ exemplifies that perfection. Here are two Bible quotes that serve as illustrations: “He [Jesus] never sinned, and he never told a lie.” (1 Peter); “There is no sin in Christ” (1 John).

2. God’s standard for all humanity is perfection. A Bible quote that backs up that statement: “Be holy in everything you do, just as God is holy. He is the one who chose you. In the Scriptures God says, ‘Be holy, because I am holy’” (1 Peter).

3. We cannot achieve God’s standard and get into Heaven on our own. I don’t think a single Bible quote is needed to prove that point.

4. In the end, we don’t have to be perfect. When we become followers of Jesus Christ — His teachings, His sacrificial death (to make up for all the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do) and glorious resurrection, God no longer sees our sins. He sees only His Son’s perfection.

This is a gift, offered to every person on this planet. It doesn’t what they’ve done (or not done). Their gender and age don’t matter. Their skin colour doesn’t matter. Their status in society doesn’t matter.

The gift is offered to EVERYONE, with no strings attached. And in my mind, this shows how much God loves me, YOU and every other human being.

So, who does the damning? Maybe it’s everyone who simply will not accept that gift. They declare there is no God, there is no Jesus and there is no gift. By doing this, they can continue living the way they please with no thought to any consequences.

The result is pretty obvious. When this life is done, you come before God — with every single wrong thing you’ve done and every single right thing you’ve failed to do — utterly exposed. And as a result, you fall far, far short of God’s qualification for spending eternity in His presence.

Is this you? Are you choosing to damn yourself by declaring there’s no God and no gift? Maybe that’s how all your friends and loved ones think. But look beyond them; is this really what you want to do?

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

Aiden-WastedSpaceDoncha just love how arrogant we human beings can be sometimes?

That’s the first thought that went through my head when I saw this graphic in an atheist Internet community. The quote is from an American author, blogger (we have something in common!) and atheist activist.

Think about his statement for a minute. Then think about all the things humanity DOESN’T know. Like what is consciousness? How do we store and access memories? Does life exist anywhere else in the universe? Why are moths attracted to light? Who is responsible for creating hip-hop? (OK, that last one might show my bias.)

This little list is just the start. Spend some time researching on the Internet and you’ll find a universe of articles delving into the myriad of other things we humans simply don’t know or understand.

So ye gotta give Hemant Mehta for his audacious ego. I mean, who is he — or anyone else, for that matter — to declare that if humanity is God’s special creation, then the universe is full of a “lot of wasted space?” How would Mehta credibly define “wasted space” in the universe?

I do believe humans are God’s special creation. To our limited knowledge, no other creature has anywhere near our level of self-awareness. Or awareness of a world beyond our own. Or awareness that something, or someone, must have created it all.

To me, all these “awarenesses” are a gift from the creator and master of time, space and the universe. The One who decided there would be air to breathe, music to hear and way, WAY too much reality TV. (OK, God didn’t decide that last one. “Reality” television is a cunning and diabolical Hollywood initiative.)

As God’s special creation, most of us have a clear knowledge of right and wrong. It’s called the Moral Law and without a creator, it simply wouldn’t exist.

Most of us also know we’re a long, LONG way from anything resembling “perfect”. Indeed, humanity can’t even agree on what is perfection.

From my faith perspective — Christianity — I’m relieved that I don’t have to address that idea. People like me who follow Jesus Christ (whom most Christians believe is God’s divine Son) know that perfection is established by our creator. And it’s utterly out of our reach, no matter what we do or how hard we try. It’s like hoping a certain U.S. business mogul and politician will develop class and empathy. Not gonna happen.

Those of us who follow Jesus are blessed in that we don’t have to be perfect to satisfy our creator. Oh, we still have to strive for it. But even as we fall short (it’s called “sin”), God offers all of humanity a gift — the life, teachings, sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus.

God wants perfection. That’s a fact. And when we accept the gift of Jesus, when we make Him our Lord and Saviour, God doesn’t see the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do. He sees only the perfection of His Son. Then he welcomes us to spend eternity with Him.

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

Elegance Richard Dawkins If you’re not sure there’s a god, but you’re open to spirituality, then give this graphic (kindly supplied by an atheist internet community) a moment of thought.

Am I crazy? Or do you also think the message seems….contradictory? I mean, how can ANYTHING be elegant if it’s just random?

Toss a handful of potato chips on the ground. According to Richard Dawkins – one of the world’s best known and most provocative atheists – the scrambled, disorganized puzzle you see is somehow elegant. And all on its own.

I was extraordinarily blessed to visit the west coast of Canada’s Vancouver Island recently. As I walked along the glorious beaches, I came across a sand dollar. You can see one of the photos I made of it just below.

Now Wikipedia describes this exquisite creation as “a species of extremely flattened, burrowing sea urchins belonging to the order Clypeasteroida”.

But look at that unfathomably artistic pattern. Wikipedia’s clinical explanation says “The petal-like pattern in sand dollars consists of five paired rows of pores. The pores are perforations in the endoskeleton through which podia for gas exchange project from the body.”

SandDollarLook at that sand dollar pattern again. Did it really have to be organized like this? Centuries ago, only the most Rembrandt-like artist could have come anywhere close to conjuring up this design out of nowhere.

Today, the rest of us couldn’t do as well with a Spyrograph (the geometric drawing toy). And yet, there are people in our world who will insist, to their dying breath, that this is utterly random.

Bringing up unfathomable artistry leads me to the comments of Ross Carkner, my wise pastor friend to whom I showed the graphic that inspired this blog.

I immediately think of painting by Rembrandt or VanGogh … when I do, the statement in this graphic just seems to be so stupid! Their paintings had a master who gave them elegance.

Symphonies and operas that move people and touch deep parts of the soul have a passionate composer, gifted musicians and a talented conductor – they work together to give paper with ink blotches elegance.

Even a snow flake is not random. Its elegance is created by forces outside of itself – temperature and moisture. But Richard Dawkins wants to see no consistency in life … nature is random but humanity is somehow organized. Where did human beings get the compulsion to organize everything? Why do we not live out the random existence found in creation??? We don’t, because creation was organized, not random.

So what am I getting at? Not only is there a creator, there is a creator who regularly conjures up unique and fantastical creations. That includes me and YOU.

However, by living our lives as if we have no creator, we inevitably do wrong and fail to do right.

How can we fix this problem? On our own, we simply can’t. But God can. He offers us Jesus – His divine son whose life, sacrificial death and glorious resurrection makes up for all the wrongs of anyone who accepts the gift of Him.

Follow Jesus and He’ll change your life, for the better, for now and for all eternity. Interested? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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