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challenging-beliefs-2-17One of my favourite activities is lining up in solidarity with atheists. It was an atheist who put this graphic on the Internet and I found myself so strongly in agreement that I downloaded it to use on Frank’s Cottage.

As far as I’m concerned, every honest and thinking person MUST challenge their beliefs. Like a jeweller checking a diamond’s purity, they MUST hold them up to the hard light of critical examination.

That’s what I did for a long time. I investigated the claims of Christianity and weighed them against what I knew about others faiths (including atheism).

I read books, thought hard about the reality of this world, and debated concepts with brave, knowledgeable Christians. Finally, at age 42, I decided to follow Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians believe is the divine Son of God).

Through this process, I escaped the prison of blindly accepting the dogma of our culture, which insists that we:

  • Buy the newest iPhone
  • Save for cruise ship vacations
  • Obsess over which celebrities are feuding on Twitter
  • Never, EVER consider the big questions of existence

So, to quote the graphic that started this blog, are you your own most effective prison warden? Or are you brave enough to wonder if a promotion, a new car and a bigger flat-screen TV will really boost your happiness?

If you’re at that place in life — and if you’ve read this far, I’m gonna assume you are — then consider these claims:

  1. There IS a creator, a perfect creator, and this creator knows everything about you.
  2. This creator wants to connect with you on the deepest level possible, but the wrong things you’ve done and right things you’ve failed to do have erected a Berlin Wall between you and Him.
  3. That wall is so tall and thick that nothing YOU ever do will ever break it down.
  4. So God, your creator, did the hard work for you — sending His perfect Son to this earth to show us how to live right and, finally, to die as a sacrifice. That sacrifice will destroy that wall for everyone who believes in the Son and follows Him. And I mean EVERYONE.

Why, you might ask, is this horrible sacrifice needed to break down the wall? Because what Christians call “sin” is serious business for a perfect creator. Far, far more serious than our culture will ever admit.

How do I know this? A section of Bible called ‘Romans’ says “When people sin, they earn what sin pays—death. But God gives his people a gift—eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

If you come to the place of understanding this, then you will also understand just how glorious the gift of Jesus is. Are you willing to accept that gift? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

crisis of faith atheismI can’t speak for any faith but my own (Christianity), but I can tell you that most Christians have experienced at least one crisis of faith in their lives. And that includes me.

This shouldn’t be a surprise, to the atheist who posted this graphic online or to anyone else. Christians live in a world surrounded by people who often don’t even believe in a creator, much less the God of the Bible.

That means Christians are constantly exposed to family members, friends, work colleagues, social media, TV shows and more that have a very, very different and often incompatible worldview.

At times, Jesus followers can feel like freaks in a culture that insists power, fame, money, vacations, a trophy spouse, gigantic flat-screen TVs and the very latest iPhones are what we should be pursuing.

Is there a God? Does He care about us humans? Is there anything beyond this life? Are there really standards of right and wrong that don’t change with every shift of the wind? Who cares! Worship your family, get more stuff and plan your next vacation. Somehow everything will all work out, right? Right?

Add it all up, and it’s easy to see that Christians are under a lot of pressure to give up their faith and follow the crowd.

I showed this graphic/meme to Ross Carkner, my thoughtful pastor friend. He agreed with the atheist who posted the meme in that a faith crisis is not about God testing us. He continues:

To my understanding, a crisis of faith is an inability to see the hand of God guiding us through the challenges of life. When we lose sight of God with the eyes of faith, then we become familiar with words like abandonment or betrayal.

So a crisis can take root in thoughts like, “my faith is weak” or “my faith is not big enough”. It may even extend to thinking that this whole God thing doesn’t work.

But faith is not about size, or perhaps even quality. Faith is about believing that God is present, working and guiding us, even when life circumstances seem to be blinding and confusing.

So, what is this “truth” that the graphic meme mentions? Is it the mantra that our culture peddles? Or is it something deeper, more profound and more important?

Let me advance this for your consideration:

  1. There is a creator who is absolutely perfect and, in many ways, beyond our ability to comprehend.
  2. This creator absolutely loves YOU and wants a relationship with YOU that begins in this life and extends into eternity.
  3. The wrong things you’ve done and right things you’ve failed to do don’t change that love, but they do put up a wall between you and your creator.
  4. No matter how hard you try, you can’t scale that wall or knock it down.
  5. In the end, you don’t have to do anything about that wall. Your creator did something about it through Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians believe is the perfect Son of God.
  6. Jesus died on a cross for all wrong things you’ve done and the right things you’ve failed to do. Accept what He did, believe in Him, follow Him and the wall is GONE. Forever.

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

Bill HicksWhat would Bill Hicks think if he knew his words were still having an impact more than 20 years after his death?

The American comedian and social critic (1961-1994) wasn’t an atheist but, as you can read in this graphic meme (found in an atheist Internet community), he was no fan of his Christian upbringing.

But did Bill get it right? Is this an accurate depiction of God, as serious Christians understand Him? Or is it a simplistic way to avoid a life of faith?

Let me spell out some facts about the God of the Bible, then you can make up your own mind.

1. God is the creator of time, space, the universe and YOU. You say your parents, not God, made you? Certainly. But what – or who – gave them and all humans the ability to reproduce?

2. Yes, God’s love is infinite. To start with, there are lots of sections of the Bible that explain this. Here is one, from a section called ‘1 John1: “God is love. Everyone who lives in love lives in God, and God lives in them.” Another quote from the same section: “We should love each other, because love comes from God.”

3. God is perfect. A section of the Bible, called, ‘Matthew’, puts it this simply: “your Father in heaven is perfect”.
Do I understand how this can be so in a world that has childhood cancer and dementia? Certainly not. But I’ve read so much from people who rage against God for these things; it all strikes me as a depressing waste of time and energy.
Far better, I’ve found, is to acknowledge that God is God and I am NOT and there is much that I’ll never understand until this life is finished.

4. As the creator of this world and everyone in it, God has the right to hold all of us to account for how we live our lives. He is the sole judge.

5. On our own, we will never, ever be able to explain away all the wrong things we’ve done and all the right things we’ve failed to do.

6. God knows we can’t meet His standards. But rather than drop His standards, He found a better way: send His perfect Son, Jesus Christ, to this world. Jesus taught us the ways of God and the ways of true love for God, for ourselves and for others.
Finally, Jesus paid the penalty for the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do by dying on a cross.

7. Here’s the crux of the matter. One of the most famous quotes from the Bible, in a section called ‘John’, says “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him would not be lost but have eternal life.”
Notice that it says ‘whoever believes in him’? If you believe in Jesus and trust in what He did for YOU, then God no longer sees the wrong things you’ve done and the right things you’ve failed to do. He only sees His Son’s perfection.

8. If you don’t trust in and believe in Jesus, then when this life ends, you have to sufficiently explain yourself before God. If you can’t pull that off (and trust me, you CAN’T), then you face eternity separated from God. I guess that’s the “eternal suffering” part of Bill Hicks’ quote.

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

Religion badWhy did I save this graphic after first seeing it in an atheist community? Because I can do better.

Yes, “religion” offers false hope for the poor. Yes, “religion” offers pretend wisdom for the stupid.

But it also offers opportunities to be judgemental. Hard-hearted. Unforgiving. Obsessed with keeping irrelevant rules. Unloving of anyone outside the “religious” group.

Had enough? I certainly have. That’s why I’ll always stand up, with any member of the atheist world, and declare that “religion” is downright horrible.

Before I go any further, let me clarify: the “religion” I’m referring to is what most of our culture generally thinks of when they hear the word. NOT the dictionary definition.

Let me move you on to something far more life-affirming, soul-enhancing and character-building: faith. In this case, faith in Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians believe is the divine Son of God.

Jesus had as much interest in “religion” as you, me and the creator of the meme that inspired this blog. In other words, ZERO.

During His physical time on earth, Jesus spent much of his time opposing the dominant religious authorities in ancient Israel. In ‘Matthew’, one of the four Bible accounts of Jesus’ physical life, he notes “They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden”.

Yep. Nailed it.

So what about faith – in this case, faith in Jesus? Now we’re talking about something entirely different. We’re talking about:

  • Understanding who God is – the perfect and mysterious creator of time, space and the universe.
  • Understanding who we are – horribly imperfect people who can never live up to God’s standard of perfection.
  • Understanding who Jesus is – God’s absolutely perfect love GIFT to everyone who is willing to believe in Him and follow Him above everyone and everything else.

When you understand this and accept the gift of Jesus, you also understand that you no longer have to live up to God’s standard of perfection because Jesus paid the penalty for everything wrong you’ve ever done and everything right you’ve ever failed to do.

Finally, when you understand all this, you’ll want to become more like Jesus. You’ll want to be more generous and less selfish, more compassionate and less judgemental, more concerned about others and less preoccupied with yourself.

This is all part of the miracle that happens when you cast aside the priorities of our culture and make Jesus your priority. It’s a life-long process of change and growth that doesn’t end until you’re finished with this life and start your next life – eternity in the transforming, glorious presence of your Creator.

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

ChristeningI find it hard to believe that anyone still thinks like this. But sadly, there continues to be parents who believe that dipping their baby in water at a church will keep the little beaner out of hell.

That’s why, when I saw this graphic in an atheist community, I saved it for Frank’s Cottage. This is a good opportunity to tell you the truth about christenings, baptisms and many other traditions associated with the Christian faith.

Let me make it absolutely clear (and I’m supported by the Bible): christenings and baptisms don’t save you from ANYTHING. They save you from ZERO. Nothing.

In fact, they are as essential to Christianity as a screen door is to a submarine.

So what’s the point?

If christenings are done with the right motivation and understanding, then they serve to make a public statement on behalf of parents: they tell a church congregation that the parents are committed to raising their child with Christian values and with a full understanding of who Jesus is and what He continues to accomplish in this world.

In other words, it’s a commitment that, in Bible-believing churches, will hold the parents accountable for how their raise their child. From this perspective, a christening is absolutely a good thing.

Baptisms? This is also public statement, making it clear to everyone who witnesses the ritual of immersing your entire body in water that you have washed away the “old” you to make way for the “new” you.

This new you believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He died to make up for all the wrong things you’ve done and all the right things you’ve failed to do.

This might seem just symbolic, but consider this: Jesus Christ Himself insisted on getting baptized. At first, the man who baptized Jesus insisted he wasn’t worthy. Here is Jesus’s response, recorded in a section of the Bible called ‘Matthew’: But Jesus insisted. “Do it. God’s work, putting things right all these centuries, is coming together right now in this baptism.”

And so it was done. But please note, this still doesn’t mean getting baptized is the key to Heaven. Baptism happens as a result of a change of heart and mind. It’s evidence of what has already happened. And that certainly applies to the baptism of Jesus.

In fact, while Jesus was on a Roman cross, dying for all the wrong things we’ve done and all the right things we’ve failed to do, a section of the Bible called ‘Luke’ records a robber being crucified on a cross next to him.

As they died together, the robber said “Jesus, remember me when you enter your kingdom.” [Jesus] said, “Don’t worry, I will. Today you will join me in paradise.”

Notice what didn’t happen? There was no baptism. The man on the cross recognized his failures, recognized who Jesus is and what Jesus’s death could do for him and did the only thing he could do: speak his hopes to Jesus. The result? Jesus gave that robber a place in Heaven.

So, set aside any strange Christian traditions you might have heard about. Concentrate on the good news for YOU. Jesus is God’s gift to YOU. Will you accept that gift? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

are babies atheists?, Babies are atheistsMaybe you’ve heard the claim in this meme, helpfully supplied by an atheist community. Maybe, without giving it much thought, you find yourself nodding in agreement. And why not? It’s just one more reason to live any way you please and not worry about what comes after this life.

Welcome to “Burst Your Bubble” 101.

Atheism is believing there is no creator behind all we see and experience. Atheism is believing you have no soul and when you die, all that you are becomes nothing more than rancid worm food.

My wording may be crude, but I believe it’s necessary for you to stop living your life without thought and to truly ponder the big questions.

Do you really agree with the notion that a toddler believes there is no God? I have a year-old grandson and after all our interactions, I feel quite confident that he has absolutely no beliefs of any kind about God. Does that make him an atheist? Not a chance.

That doesn’t even make him an agnostic (people who claim to simply not know if there is or isn’t a God). That makes him a baby with a baby’s brain. Period.

What about these “lies” that are apparently told to babies and young children? My very brief answers will come from a Christian perspective, because I believe in and follow Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians believe is God’s Son).

1.  Most credible theologians and historians – including those with no connection to Christianity –  believe Jesus Christ was a real person who lived and died in ancient Israel when it was part of the Roman empire.

2.  Was Jesus the Son of God? Several places in the Bible say yes, and not just from the mouth of Jesus. If you’d like to look up those statements, check out Matthew 3:11, John 11:4, Luke 1:35 and many other places.

3.  Did Jesus die to make up for all the sins of people who follow Him? The Bible says yes. A few examples can be found at John 10:11, Romans 5:10 and 1 Peter 2:24.

4.  The single most important fact in Christianity is that after three days in a tomb, Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to as many as 500 people. This is explained in the Bible. If it wasn’t true, why would anyone at that time claim it is, then have it shot down when someone produced the body of Jesus? That has never happened.

I have just barely touched the surface of all the material available that testifies to the truth of the Christian faith. For more, I encourage you to visit https://www.carm.org/ or http://rzim.org/.

Please spend time in these websites. This is important stuff and I want you to be well informed before making any kind of decision about what atheists claim are “lies”. (Especially as you’ve probably heard at least some of the claims against Christianity.) Your eternal destiny is at stake.

faith-badIf, through some twist of fate, I happened to meet American science blogger Bruce Peeples, I would be sure to gratefully shake his hand. Because when I found this graphic quoting him, I knew I’d been handed a gold-plated opportunity to explain what a life of faith is really about.

First of all, I’m struggling to understand how my faith — I trust in and follow Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians believe is the divine Son of God — is keeping me from believing in myself.

I showed this graphic to my wise friend Ross Carkner and right away, he noted “believing in yourself and having faith in God are not mutually exclusive.”

Do I somehow not “truly” believe that I can be a valuable, contributing member of this culture? Why on earth would I accept such a notion? Certainly no pastor or Christian I’ve met has ever suggested any such thing to me.

Secondly, I find that believing in God and following His Son makes me MORE powerful.

I have more power because I’m no longer struggling to fly solo through a world that I think most of us will agree is not doing well. I’m part of something larger — a movement of God, through all His followers, to make this hurting planet a better place.

This new power started when, after deciding to put my faith and my trust in Jesus at age 41, I came to understand that life is NOT all about me and my pleasures, my needs, my prejudices or my childhood grievances.

As a result of fully accepting this truth, I’ve learned to become more generous, more aware of suffering around me and more willing to invest in others. I can quite confidently write that without my faith in Christ, none of this would have happened.

Let me make it clear: this isn’t about self-confidence. It’s about what Ross calls “Christ confidence”. Consider this quote from a section of the Bible called ‘Philippians’: Christ is the one who gives me the strength I need to do whatever I must do.

That’s Christ confidence. And it happens in a way that scientists like Steven Hawking can’t possibly explain. It’s supernatural. And if you encounter someone fully caught up in Christ confidence, you’ll see it for yourself.

All that said, if you’ve ever met any serious Christians, I’m sure you’ll agree we’re a long way from perfect. And that’s OK. One of the Bible writers, a missionary named Paul, acknowledged it himself when he wrote this (also in ‘Philippians’):

I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me.

Christ is reaching out to Bruce Peeples. And through this blog, I believe He’s reaching out to YOU. Are you interested? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.