The Greatest Gift

In all honesty, I am pretty much just a big kid at Christmas. (Actually, I am pretty much a big kid all year ‘round, it is just easier to get away with at Christmas.) I am so filled with the excitement of everything it brings. I start to get excited as soon as the calendar turns to December. I love it all: the anticipation, the music, the food, the celebration and the reflection. To me, Christmas is the time of year where everything works together with beautiful pageantry.

Of course, there are the presents! I have a few guidelines I try to use when picking out gifts for people. I try to give something they want or need but wouldn’t buy for themselves. I like it to be a surprise, something they didn’t have on their list. I also want to give something that can be enjoyed over and over again. The best part about Christmas is that, even though it is Jesus’ birthday, He is the greatest gift.

When God gave us His Son, it was a gift we so desperately needed, but we could never buy ourselves. He foretold it for centuries but still managed to keep it a surprise; He even had to send angels and a star to get the message out. As for gifts that keep on giving, well, you can’t better than the gift of eternal life!

Jesus really was the perfect gift, no matter what criteria you use.

As we celebrate Christmas as the birth of Jesus, the Son of God, who came to be our Lord and Saviour, I find it very fitting that Christmas is best enjoyed when you focus on others. Jesus, throughout His life, was always focused on others. Christmas is a time of parties and presents; it is a time to celebrate and enjoy the company of family, friends and anyone else who joins in on the festivities. And when it comes to gifts, Jesus made sure that He set the example of “it is better to give than receive”, for as great as those first Christmas gifts were, Jesus is the greatest gift we could ever want or need.

Merry Christmas!

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What do you do with Jesus?

The Christian faith splits from all other religions at Jesus. It is the belief in Him that defines it. Actually, it is accepting the gift of forgiveness, believing Him to be the Son of God, the redeemer of the human race, and saviour of the world that defines Christianity. So, what do you do with Jesus?

First, you can deny His existence. This would be a fairly easy thing to do if the Bible was the only record of Him. Simply discount the Bible as nothing more than legend and the question goes away. Even though the New Testament has been shown over and over again to be historically accurate, there are many books written today that place fictional characters in historical events. The issue with doing this is that Jesus is referred to in other documents from the time, thus making a strong case that Jesus, the man, did walk this planet around 2000 years ago.

So, if Jesus did walk the planet, that doesn’t mean He was God. There are currently around 7 billion people on the face of the Earth, and none of them are the Son of the Most High. So what makes Jesus so special? Couldn’t He have just been another good moral teacher? Simply stated, no.

C.S. Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity, lays out the argument that Jesus could not have said the things He said and have been a good moral teacher. Very clearly Jesus proclaims Himself to be God. This leads Lewis to state “But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

So what do you do with Jesus? According to Lewis, you have three options.

First, you can write Jesus off as a lunatic. Claiming to be God is not something sane people do. If someone was to walk up to you on the street and say he or she was God, you would not offer to take them to lunch for the sole purpose of learning as much as you can from him or her.

Second, you can deny His claim and consider Him a liar. This is again possible, but a lie that great, and in fact so detrimental to the human race, would not come from a man who was a great moral teacher. The best reason I can think of is to direct people away from the True God; and that person would be working for, or in fact, Satan himself. Again, the title “great moral leader” would hardly be the right one.

The third option is that Jesus is Lord. He is what He claimed to be. His life an example for us all, His death our only hope and His resurrection our saving grace. He was a great moral teacher, and He is God.

So, we are back to the original question: What do you do with Jesus? This is the most personal question there is. It is a matter of faith – and not faith that He is a historical figure, but that He came to give you the gift of forgiveness and eternal life.  So, what do YOU do with Jesus?

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It Only Matters if He Loves

Science will never prove there is not a God because it is the study of natural things, and God is supernatural. Religion shouldn’t be afraid of science because God set up the world with natural order and precision. Using one to argue against the other is a little like using history to argue math. The one fact we can all agree on is that we are here. No matter how we got here, there is an earth, a heavens and intelligent life.

The question shouldn’t be simply “Is there a God?” it should be “If there is a God, what is His nature?” Because if God is not a loving God, does it really matter if he made the universe? If a god simply wound up the clock of time and set the universe in motion, not caring for its creation, what difference does it make today that he exists. If the creator isn’t loving, and there is no eternal place for the soul, then for all intents and purposes, it doesn’t matter how we got here, or really, what we do while we are here.

If God is loving, if the God of the Bible is true, then it does matter. A loving God who cares about His creation and has an eternal plan for it is the opposite of not only atheistic views but theistic ones as well.

What would be the evidence of a loving God? There are miracles; events that happen outside of the natural order of things. Miracles do occur; I have been witness to more than one miraculous healing. You could also point to chance happenings that would suggest that there is someone looking over us and bringing into our lives the people we need, just when we need them. Of course, you could brush them away as just coincidences, but I have had them happen in my life more often than I can recall.

What better evidence would there be to the nature of God than to have Him tell us? For that, God gave us the Bible; throughout the scriptures, God reveals His love for His creation, especially humans.  The testimony is written down and has been kept safe throughout the ages. Every generation and culture can relate to it; its message is timeless.

We are again presented with a choice; we can look at the evidence and decide that there is a loving God who cares for us and longs to have a relationship with us, or we can reject it as fairy tale, folklore and coincidence. It takes faith to believe either way. To believe in a loving God is to take the scriptures as true and see the miracles that are around us as acts of love. For the atheist or theist, you must believe that the scriptures are not absolute truth and believe that miracles are nothing more than random luck. The key question is “what do you do with Jesus?”

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Evidence of God

When we come across a beautiful piece of art, we naturally assume that there is an artist out there, somewhere, that spent a great deal of time and energy to create the masterpiece. The natural assumption is that someone of great talent created it; not that, by some random accident, it came into being. The same is true of a good book; none of us has ever asked to meet the author and expected to be introduced to a room full of monkeys plugging away at typewriters.

Why, then, do some completely ignore the evidence of God in the world? Naturally, we should come to the conclusion that there is intelligent design and a greater being out there. Assuming there is no God is denying the evidence; this is not to confuse evidence with proof, as it does take faith to believe in God.

The simple fact that the universe exists points to a creator. Everything that exists was created by something; and the more complex the creation, the more intelligent and skilled the creator. To believe that it came about by cosmic accident is to make an assumption and try to fit the evidence to meet that belief.

Creation is not the only evidence available to us from God. There is the personal relationship that is available to anyone that wants it. Understandably, those who do not believe that God exists will completely discount any relationship with God as simple feelings that help comfort those who don’t really know any better. This is along the lines of denying that I have a wife simply because you have never met her. If you do not know me personally, you can only take my word for it that my wife exists and is not simply a figment of my imagination that I made up to comfort me.

The only way to experience the evidence that my wife is a real person is to get to know her. Simply seeing her out on the town with me would not be proof that she is my wife, but the more you get to know her and see us interact, the more evidence you would have that she is my wife. Simply telling you I have a wife is not proof that I have a wife; it isn’t even a strong piece of evidence. In order to obtain evidence the I have I wife, you need to get to know, which you can’t do until after you have meet her, and in order to meet her you would have to believe that she really existed. How would you know she really exists? You would have to see her with your own eyes.

The same is true with God. He has given us all a General Revelation through creation; that is, all the evidence that you need to “see” God is in His creation. Simply believing that God exists is not His end goal; it is the first step in building a relationship with you.

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Where Did God Come From?

Last week, my premise was that it takes more faith to not believe in the existence of God then it does to believe that God does exist. As I laid out why I think this is the case, I stayed away from the characteristics of God that Christians believe in because if you don’t believe that God is even real, you can’t believe that He is good, caring or anything else. I used the argument that it would take more faith to believe the stuff that was present so “The Big Bang” could happen than it would to believe that God created the universe.

Of course, the natural question is, “where did God come from?” It is a fair question, and I think helps my point. I believe that God has always existed. He did not come from anywhere (He wasn’t created). I admit, this may seem like a copout answer, and it kind of is. Every question about creation is answered with “I don’t know how, just that God did it.” My faith starts and ends (in this argument) on two pillars:

1)      God exists
2)      He created the universe

For atheists, obviously, pillar one, by definition, is rejected. Pillar two needs to lose the personal pronoun. I would expect the reserve pillars to be:

1)      There is no God
2)      There is a universe

I am sure that there is not simply one doctrine that all those who do not believe in the existence of God accept. For the sake of this post, I am choosing one example of why it takes more faith to believe the universe exists without God creating it. Whereas a Christian believes that God exists outside of time and space and therefore He can have always existed without having a physical world; an atheist would have to believe that matter (in some form) has always existed. If matter has always existed, then there would have to be an infinite number of days in the past; the clock would have always been running, in which case we would never have arrived at today (there would always be one more day to get through before today). The other option would be that matter could exist outside of time. This would take faith because we have never observed the world without time being in the equation.

My point is, that either you accept, through faith, the first set of pillars, and when you get to a point where you can’t explain or prove your belief, you fall back to “God did it”, or you accept the second set of pillars, and when you can’t explain or prove your belief, you fall back to “I don’t know, it just is”. For me, the latter takes more faith because my mind is always trying to figure things out, so “just because” is seldom an acceptable conclusion.

What you or I believe has no effect on the reality. However it happened is the way it happened. We are left with the choice to believe, by faith, one way or the other (or we could sit on the fence and be agnostic). The fact is, we exist and exist on a planet that works for us. How did we get here? Your answer to this question lays the building blocks for a much bigger question which I will address in the coming weeks.

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Believe not to Believe

I have to admit, I have a lot of respect for atheists. I don’t agree with them; but I do respect them. I am not talking about agnostics either, but true atheists. Where agnostics basically choose to sit on the fence and not put their faith in any camp, atheists put their faith into the no belief camp; believing what can’t be proven. You can’t prove something doesn’t exist; so, it takes extreme faith to believe that there is no God.

Christians, too, have to have faith to believe what they do. Though God works through our lives on a daily basis, it is possible to explain it away (though you cannot prove it is not God’s work) as coincidence or luck – even karma. What Christians do have is a mountain for proof that there is a creator, an abundance of evidence that a being greater than us is looking over us, loving us and ultimately working for our benefit.

Atheists, however, have to have faith in a lot of things, even if it can be played off as no faith at all. Take creation/evolution for starters. An atheist must have faith that the answer is not God but some other non-intelligent design based theory. For simplicity sake, let’s assume that the answer is based in the secular worldview “Big Bang” theory (I say secular because I, as a Creationist, believe there probably was something like an explosion at the centre of the universe to get us going, I just believe that God caused it!).

To believe that the “Big Bang” happened and that this is no superior being takes a lot of faith. Where did the stuff come from that was mixing before the Bang happened? What sparked it? What stabilized it? Even if you accept that you can never know the specific answers, you have to believe there is an answer. Whereas the Christian faith simply believes God did it, the answer for an atheist has to be more complex than that.

Boiled down to the simplest statements, there are three options we have when it comes to faith. We can decide not to believe (agnostic), we can believe in a superior being (religion), or we can believe not to believe (atheists).

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Youthful Observation

Back in my grade school science class, we had a lesson on observation. We were given a series of boxes and instructed to write down what we thought was inside each box. We could lift, shake or smell the box, but we couldn’t open it to see what was inside. In other words, we could use all our senses except for sight (and taste, but using that to determine an unknown specimen is usually not a good idea).  The boxes contained different things, like sand or nails, and one box gave no indication that anything was inside. Since the instructions were that every box contained something, I wrote down air. The next class we passed the boxes around again, but this time we were to open the box before we wrote down the answer. When I got the box of air, I wrote “nothing”. When I got my sheet back, that answer had been marked incorrect. I had been right the first time.

I was reminded of this lesson by my four-year-old son this week. My daughter was admitted to the hospital overnight and being only 15 months-old, my wife was staying with her. To give me the flexibility to come and go as I was needed, and to make what could be a stressful situation into a fun event for my son, he was spending the night at grandma’s house. As I was gathering up all he needed for the night (including the tent for a family room camp out) and getting some essentials together to take to the hospital, this conversation ensued:

“I am going to miss you tonight.”
“Why?”
“Because you will be at grandmas, and I will be here all alone.”
“You won’t be here all alone.”
“Who will be here with me?”
“God will be.”

He was right, and I told him so with a big hug. Just because I couldn’t see anyone, didn’t mean I was all alone. Sometimes, that emptiness is there only because we rely too much on our physical senses. God is always there with you, even if you don’t believe it or want Him around. He will never leave you. We don’t have to feel alone.

Sure, that night I would have loved to have all members of my family under the same roof, but I didn’t need to feel alone. This instance, I had been wrong the first time.

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November 13, 2013 · 11:00 pm