Tag Archives: Christianity

Shifting Focus

20 years ago, FOX owned the rights to NHL games in the USA. In an attempt to win fans over, they invented the “glowing puck” officially known as FoxTrax. They implanted technology into the puck that allowed it to glow blue or (red if it was moving faster than 70 MPH) on TV. The idea was that viewers didn’t like hockey because it was hard to follow the small, fast moving puck around the ice. If they made it easier to follow the puck, viewers would find it easier to enjoy the game. As a lifetime hockey fan, the only time I thought the “glow” was useful was when the puck was up against the near boards and obstructed from the camera. The technology made the “glow” appear through the boards; you couldn’t see the puck, but you could see the glow.

I don’t miss the blue puck for two reasons. The first is that, if you understand hockey, you know where the puck is (most of the time) without needing a visual aid; in fact, you don’t even need to see the puck to know where it is. Watching the players on the ice will tell you where it is. The second reason is that focusing on the puck takes you away from watching the whole game; you miss the strategy and beauty of the game. By focusing on only the puck, you miss the players moving around, setting up and trying to score. That is why hockey broadcasters sit high up; they can see the whole game, and don’t focus on just the player with the puck.

We can get this tunnel vision in life as well. If we only focus on one thing, we can miss the big picture. One of the ways we do this is by focusing on “what’s in it for us” and not stepping back and seeing how God can use us for His purpose. We pass up an opportunity to be the difference in someone else’s life because we don’t see how it will benefit us. We use our gifts to improve our own life, but miss out on the joy of using it to help others.

So, how do you stop “watching the puck” and enjoy the beauty of life to the fullest? That is a question each of us has to answer individually. God has called us all to different ministries. He has gifted all of us differently so that we can fulfill His purpose for our lives. So, the answer lies within you. There are different ways to learn about your spiritual gifts, and you may want to look into something like a spiritual gift aptitude test. What I have found in my life is that I get a burning desire towards something. Through prayer and seeking God an internal passion develops. In doing this, I have found that God can use me in ways I didn’t know possible and ministries that I could only see if I focused my eyes on His big picture.

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My God Can Move Mattresses

It’s funny how the smallest child can so simply remind us of a great truth.

The other day, I was making our bed after my wife had done the laundry. As I know she appreciates when the sheets are well tucked at her feet, I wanted to make sure that the sheets were well anchored. I proceeded to lift up the bottom end of the mattress and tuck the sheets under, and then drop the mattress back into place. Upon seeing my, what must have seemed to her, great feat of strength, my 17 month old daughter wanted to test her strength and tried to lift the corner of the queen-sized cushion. Of course, the thing didn’t budge. She then looked up at me as if to say, well, I guess you got that going for ya.

At that moment, I could almost hear God say to me “you know there is a lesson right there”.

I could blame it on many things, but the fact is, I like to be in control and know how things are going to work out. I rely too much on my own intelligence and ability, even when they are severely unqualified for the task at hand. I try to “lift the mattress” on problems that are too big for me to handle on my own.

The problem I run into is that if I can’t figure out how do to it, I assume it can’t be done. If I can’t figure out how it works, or what the best answer is, I assume it doesn’t work, and there is not an answer. I all too quickly limit the world of possibilities to what I can accomplish and understand. As if like an infant trying to figure out how to make her parents’ bed.

I need to be reminded all the time that I serve a big God. I am not talking about a God who I can present a problem and He will help me figure it out. I am talking about a God who knew the problems I will face before I was even born and has been working in my interest all along. My God isn’t reacting to the universe, He created it, governs it and cares deeply about it. My God can look at the “mattress” I am struggling to move an inch and simply will it to move. My God doesn’t just understand things, He knows them intimately. His plans are bigger than mine, His imagination far more creative than mine – and that is saying something, because I can come up with some pretty crazy ideas!

It’s funny how God can use the look of a small child to remind a grown man of something he should not forget in the first place.

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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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More than Words and Water

As I was researching “the sinner’s prayer” this week, I came across a web article basically saying that the prayer was worthless and that true salvation comes from water baptism. So, I dug a little deeper into that belief to better understand it. In short, they use both biblical references (usually one verse without the context around it) and the absence of anyone actually praying a similar prayer in the scriptures as the basis of their argument.

I disagree with the argument; Romans 10 speaks of belief in Christ as the path to Salvation. Sure, this is one chapter without context, but it is in line with what Jesus said in His teachings throughout the Gospels. This is not to ignore the command “believe and be baptized”; it is just to say that “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” Ephesians 2:8 (italics added)

As I thought about this further, I realized that the danger that the salvation-through-baptism crowd warns about is very true. If you simply pray the prayer and “get saved” are you really fulfilling your part of the deal? Not that we can earn anything from God – we are all woefully short on that account – but there are two commands given by Jesus that we must follow – “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:34-40). “Getting saved” is not the end, it is the beginning.

I am not even close to being qualified as judge or jury; so, I can’t tell you beyond debate that praying “the sinner’s prayer” and then walking away as if nothing happened and not changing anything else in your life would get you to Heaven. I do know that is not what God wants. He wants us to turn away from sin and obey His commands. After your conversion you should be a new person, turning away from your old nature, and trying to live for God and serve others with unconditional love.

Being a Christian is not about a one-time prayer or immersion in water – it is a life; a relationship that God desires with all of us. He seeks us out and longs to commune with us constantly. Boiling it down to one prayer or one act (and then debating the relevance of either) is missing the point. It turns Christianity into simply another religion and diminishes why God “became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”

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