Category Archives: Christmas

Loose Your Religion – Make Room for Relationship

It’s hard for us to realize this today, but when Christianity first arose in the world it was not called a religion. It was the non-religion. Imagine the neighbors of early Christians asking them about their faith. “Where’s your temple?” We don’t have one. “Where are your priests?” We don’t have priests. “Where are the sacrifices made to please your gods?” We don’t do that kind of thing. Jesus himself was the temple to end all temples, the priest to end all priests, and the sacrifice to end all sacrifices. First century Christians were even called atheists. They were the non-religion.

Religion in general is man’s strategic manual for how to reach God. But Christianity is not a religion in this sense. Christianity holds that man, no matter how hard he tries, cannot reach God. Man cannot ascend to God’s level. Therefore there is only one remedy: God must come down to man’s level (that’s what Christmas is all about). Scandalous though it may seem, God must become man and assume the burden of man’s sins (D’Souza, Christianity, 290). Christianity teaches that this was the great sacrifice of Christ – from heaven to amniotic fluid. In religion, man must take the active role. In Christ, God does it all. And religious people generally find this offensive, because it takes away the “tax-payer status” with God. In other words, if I am good and do good things, I have rights to make demands of God.

Tim Keller, a New York City pastor, tells about a conversation he had with a woman. She said that she had gone to a church growing up and she had always heard that God accepts us only if we are sufficiently good and ethical. She had never heard the message of sheer grace through the work of Christ. She commented though on how scary that was for her. She said “If I was saved by my good works –then there would be a limit to what God could ask of me or put me through. I would be a taxpayer with rights. I would have done my duty and now I would deserve a certain quality of life. But if it is really true that I am a sinner saved by sheer grace – at God’s infinite cost – then there’s nothing he cannot ask of me.” Says Keller: “She could see immediately that the wonderful-beyond-belief teaching of salvation by sheer grace had two edges to it. On the one hand it cut away slavish fear. God loves us freely, despite our flaws and failures. Yet she also knew that if Jesus really had done this for her – she was not her own. She was bought with a price (Keller, Prodigal…).”

God’s grace does not come to people who morally outperform others, but to those who admit their failure to perform and who acknowledge their need for a Savior. Christianity proclaims that all the things that religion promised but couldn’t deliver have been delivered once and for all by Jesus.

The world has many religions, but there’s no Gospel in them. In all the world religions, man is endeavoring to reach up and somehow find God. Only in Christianity is God reaching down to man. Christianity holds that man, no matter how hard he/she tries, cannot reach God. Therefore, there is only one remedy; God must become man and assume the burden of man’s sins. And that’s what He did at Christmas. Loose your religion. Make room for relationship.

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Freud, Marx, Nietzsche, and Jesus Have It Right | Religion and the Hermeneutic of Suspicion at Christmas

Atheist Richard Dawkins offers a description of God in 23 adjectives: “jealous and proud of it, a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynist, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal…, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” Dawkins doesn’t just disbelieve in God; he detests Him. Dawkins has bought the hermeneutic of suspicion.

In 1976, faith was “a blind trust that goes against the evidence”. Then in 1989, faith is “a mental illness”. Now, in recent years, faith according to the new breed of atheists, is “one of the world’s great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate” (Alister McGrath). Dawkins even suggested that faith in God is morally reprehensible. The hermeneutic of suspicion.

John Shelby Spong tells about Michael Goulder, who unlike Richard Dawkins, describes himself as a “non-aggressive atheist.” He asserts that God has no real work to do. It’s not so much “Is God good?” The question for Gould is “What good is He?” This God no longer fights wars and defeats enemies. This God no longer chooses a special people and works through them. This God no longer sends storms, heals the sick, spares the dying, or even judges the sinner. This God no longer rewards goodness and punishes evil. God is an unemployed deity. Goulder asserts that the church has entered exile. God now rings with a hollow emptiness. The power once ascribed to this God is now explained in countless other ways. God is irrelevant.

It’s the Nietzschean “God is dead” line all over again. Americans are really fulfilling the prophecy of a syphilitic and eventually insane German, but a brilliant philosopher. Friedrich Nietzsche wrote over 100 years ago, “God will be dead in the 20th Century.” He was a very bright man. He didn’t argue that there wasn’t a God in the Heavens. One could look at the stars and galaxies all in perfect harmony and know there was a God. What Nietzsche argued was that people would live as if God does not exist – and that’s precisely what we are doing; that they would kill God – and that’s what happened in the 20th Century and what is happening in the 21st.

Nietzsche had a hermeneutic of suspicion (Tim Keller). He suggested that religion was not just a product of wish-fulfillment (Freud); it was not just a way to control the masses (Marx); it was the suggestion that God doesn’t matter anymore. Nietzsche attacked our motives for being religious. We create religion so that we can feel good about ourselves, so that we have a system of payment for the bad things we do. And there is substantially no life difference between atheists and theists.

Rebecca Manly Pippert shares her story (Hope Has Its Reasons). A conversation with a Harvard professor went something like this: “Even though I am an atheist, I genuinely admire people like you who take faith seriously. There is no question that the human race needs help. But honestly Becky, isn’t life the same whether we believe in God or not? Don’t all of us long to be loved and understood?… Life is difficult for all of us. I don’t think cancer cells ask before entering a body, ‘Excuse me, are you a praying person?’ And don’t all of us, believers as well as skeptics, raise our children the best we can? And some make it and some don’t, leaving us with broken hearts and dashed hopes whether we believe in God or not?… And don’t believers fail morally? I grant that many of you do better in certain areas than we do. But I have met my share of religious people who were racists, gluttons, self-righteous, and full of pride, all the while mouthing religious platitudes… What possible difference does God make?”

That Harvard professor’s critique of religion is right on. Believers aren’t exempt from pain. They experience illness, sexist bosses, unemployment, violence, and marital problems just like everyone else. Christians fail morally. We are deeply flawed people.

What difference does religion make? The answer is “No difference.” It is easy to be just religious versions of the same people we’ve always been.

The atheists have it right. Religion is a power play to control others. It is the opiate of the masses. It’s a pain-killer. It’s a crutch for the weak. It’s a way to justify our behavior and allows us to feel good about ourselves. This is the way religion was perceived and what we learn is that Jesus Himself was anti-religious too and had some of the same issues that Frued, Marx, and Nietzche had with organized religion. That’s why he blasted the religious establishment guys, the Pharisees, like He did and kicked over tables and “violated their rules” like He did.

But what happened was that the ideas of these anti-religious establishment philosophers transferred over to God. Now people seem to see God one of two ways. “God does not exist, so life is meaningless.” Or, “God does exist, and here are the rules – keep them.” Jesus offers a corrective to all this and basically asserts that “I have fulfilled any requirement necessary to procure the salvation of mankind. All religion is inadequate and insufficient. And if you want to know what God is like and how He feels about humanity, then look at my life.”

Christianity goes beyond Judaism. It’s not just repackaging of the same system. Judaism (religion) could not contain it and it answers the deeper questions of life. Christianity blasts the lie that we’re OK or that we’re in charge. It shatters our religion. We can’t hide behind religion anymore. We want God without the hassle of looking at the mess we’ve become. Christianity forces you to look at the mess you’ve become.

What Nietzsche failed to consider is that in Christianity, God himself became the payment. In no other religion, do you have god or the gods becoming a payment for human evil. Stott says it best: “For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man.” The tragedy is that when people turn away from God and turn to religion or man-made theories, they begin to see themselves as the center of the universe and they miss grace. We hate not being god, just like Dawkins.

I deeply believe that the crisis we face today is not a crisis of the economy or the stock market or health care, the real crisis in American life today is a crisis of values. What can we believe in anymore? There is only one answer. God became flesh. He became a person in the person of Jesus Christ. He’s come over from the other side of the hedge to let us know that there is a true and living God, and that an unseen world parallel to this one exists and there is a great battle raging for the minds and allegiance of creation.

Religion has been replaced by Relationship.

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“My Only Hope is to Win the Lottery” – What Money Cannot Do For You

A Detroit homeowner was overheard saying: “I can’t ever get ahead. My only hope is to win the lottery. That would solve all my problems (Colson, Good Life Search… 7).” We have all wondered what it would be like to win a million dollars.

For one lady, the winning numbers were 10-25-38-39-50 with a Mega Ball 12. Sixty-seven-year-old Geraldine Williams just happened to pick the winning numbers. Her odds of winning: 1 in 135,145,920… This hardworking cleaning woman stepped forward to claim her $294 million, one of the largest jackpots ever to go to a single person. I hope it makes her happy. But for so many, it won’t even come close.

One-half of the American adult population spends $45 billion annually on 35,000 lottery games. Unfortunately, winning the lottery is not going to solve your problem. It’s easy to believe that life would be completely carefree if money were no object. Why doesn’t a winning lottery ticket buy happiness?

The unhappy winners of the lottery try to answer life’s deeper (spiritual) questions with money. You can’t. The happiest people you’ll ever meet are those who if their money was gone tomorrow, their lives would still have purpose and significance. If you try to answer life’s big questions with money and you stay with that philosophy, more than likely, debt will be in your financial future. If you’re going to define your life by what you can accumulate and the money you can place in a nest egg, you’re always going to be in hurry to get there. You’ll walk right past life and true success.

Money can buy you a bed, but not deep, restful sleep. Money can buy you books, but not the right kind of books. Money can buy you food, but not a healthy appetite and warm friends. Money can buy you finery, but not true beauty. Money can buy you a house, but not a loving family or home. Money can buy medicine, but not health. Money can buy luxury, but not an appreciation for the arts and sciences, learning and exploring, and valuing culture. Money can buy you flattery, but not a deep respect (Gray, Lists…Two, 132).

Money can’t buy you a good attitude. Money cannot choose a right direction in which to travel in life. Money cannot set right priorities. Money cannot keep your commitments to others. Money cannot give you a biblical worldview. Money can’t protect you from a stranger who steals your mate’s affection. Money can’t protect you from a lawsuit that instantly wipes out your nest egg. Money can’t protect you from job loss and layoffs that depletes your savings. And money can’t protect you from a stroke or tumor that sends you home. If you try to make money do all this for you, you’ll end up empty and perplexed by the “money conundrum”.

This blog is about answering the deeper questions of life. One of the greatest things that I can do for you is to help you avoid a dead-end road. Believe me. Money is not the answer you’re looking for. Knowing where you came from, why you are here, what went wrong in the world, what God is doing to fix it, and how I can help reclaim a fallen creation – now these are questions worth living for and money can never touch it. Financial status has nothing to do with it; offering all that you have in service to the larger story does have something to do with it. Money is simply a tool – nothing more. The goal is to place it into circulation to do all the good you can for all the people you can for as long as you can. Change your world and don’t waste your time or money on a lottery ticket.

Some years after he had won the lottery in New York, a man was asked during an interview by the media “What has been the biggest difference in your life since your sudden acquisition of wealth?” He paused, shrugged his shoulders, and said “I eat out more often.” Ravi Zacharias observed: “The laughter that followed revealed a strange but compelling truth. I have no doubt there were other changes – cars, homes, travel, and several other experiences made possible by money. But in the end, he was able to reduce it to food and choice. In a culture where the possibility of wealth is so great and the acquisition of things is so defining of success, we end up pursuing things that, even if we are successful, can never deliver what we envisioned they would (Recapture…, 67).” The presence of wealth is no protection against the ravages of the soul. Emptiness still stalks the rich, loneliness still haunts the icon, and disappointment still casts its shadow amidst the cheers under the spotlight.

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“I Don’t Have a Drinking Problem” | Alcohol, Christmas, and Getting Real through Tough Love

In Brennan Manning’s book, The Ragamuffin Gospel, he tells a story about confession. He found himself in a rehab center north of Minneapolis. The setting on this particular day was in a recreation room with twenty-five chemically dependent men and a counselor named Sean Murphy-O’Connor. A man named Max was in the hot-seat, a seat in the middle of the room.

Max was a nominal Christian, married with five children, owner and president of his company, wealthy, affable, and gifted with remarkable poise. Keep in mind that no alcoholic is truthful with how much he or she drinks. Sean knows this, and so begins his day of therapy.

“Max, how long have you been drinking?”

Max gives this long, detailed list of how much and what he drinks.

At the end of it, Sean, the counselor said, “You’re a liar.”

Max was offended, but composed himself quickly. Eventually, he admitted more than before. He kept a bottle of vodka in the nightstand, a bottle of gin in the suitcase, another in his bathroom cabinet, and three more at the office.

The questioning went on, “Have you ever been unkind to one of your kids?” Max asserted that he had a good relationship with them.

“But I didn’t ask you that.”

“When have you been unkind to your kids?”

Max suddenly knew what he needed to say about his daughter on last Christmas Eve, but said that he couldn’t remember the details. Sean, put the phone on speaker mode so that all could hear, and called Max’s wife for an explanation of what he suddenly could not remember. The conversation went like this:

“Hello ma’am. I’m calling in the middle of a group therapy session and your husband just told us that he was unkind to your daughter last Christmas Eve. Can you give the details, please?”

A soft voice filled the room (I’ll paraphrase), “Yes, I can tell you the whole thing…. Max gave Debbie some money to buy the nicest shoes she could find on Christmas Eve. On his way back home, Max stopped at the Cork-n-Bottle, a tavern a few miles from our house. He locked little Debbie in the truck with the engine running to keep her warm in the 12 degree weather. It was 3 in the afternoon. Max met some army buddies in the tavern and came out of the tavern at midnight. He was drunk. The motor had stopped running and the car windows were frozen shut. Debbie was badly frostbitten on both ears and on her fingers. When we got her to the hospital, the doctors had to operate. They amputated the thumb and forefinger on her right hand. She will be deaf for the rest of her life.”

Manning describes Max when he heard these words: “Max appeared to be having a coronary. He struggled to his feet making jerky, uncoordinated movements. His glasses flew to the right and his pipe to the left. He collapsed on all fours and sobbed hysterically.”

All of the other addicts left the room and no man will ever forget what he saw that day. Max was still on all fours. His sobs had soared to shrieks. Sean, the counselor, approached him, pressed his foot against Max’s rib cage and pushed. Max rolled over on his back. Sean told him, “Get out of here before I throw up. I am not running a rehab for liars!”

Manning summarizes: “The philosophy of tough love is based on the conviction that no effective recovery can be initiated until a man admits that he is powerless over alcohol and that his life has become unmanageable… For Max there were three options: eventual insanity, premature death, or sobriety…

Max later got honest and became more open, sincere, vulnerable, and affectionate than any man in the group. Tough love had made him real and the truth had set him free (123-130).” If we are a prisoner of our pride, confession is impossible. Lies trap you because you have to live in your own false little world that you have created. You can’t allow anyone to see the true you. You have to keep up the show and keep pretending that you’re that person that everyone loves you to be.

How about getting real with your need this Christmas? You are only fooling yourself and no one else. See the real you, and rather than retreat into denial, own your problem, refuse to medicate with alcohol, and achieve a new intimacy with those you want to love over the holidays. Tough love can set you free.

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Women – The Climax of Creation (For Men Only)

God made women beautiful. They are the crown of His creation – the one final thing that God made in Genesis. She is a work of art. She is the crescendo. Creation was brought to completion with Eve. God gave Eve a beautiful form and a beautiful spirit. There’s something about her that is mesmerizing. Of course, the Fall has impacted how we see women and how women go about being beautiful, but for the record, women are the climax of a creative Genesis week. They should be adored; but not worshipped.

Jesus makes sure that we should take great care to appreciate, cherish, and value this special climax of creation that belongs to God. Jesus uses extreme and graphic figures of speech to convey this truth.

Matthew 5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully [Lustfully is the keyword. Jesus is OK with acknowledging the beauty of a woman; it’s the lusting that He has an issue with.] has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin [or stumble, coming from a word that describes part of a trapping mechanism. If you’re in a trap…], gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.

Jesus uses hyperbole – extreme exaggeration for effect – that is, more is said figuratively than is literally meant.

In a dramatic way, so that you wouldn’t forget it (many men can still quote this part of the Bible, even though they haven’t read it in years), He says “Don’t look lustfully, don’t act, and don’t go there. It’s a trap. Enjoy love and intimacy and appreciate beauty, but do whatever it takes to stay morally clean. Amputate the sources. Cancel subscriptions. Take another route. Put the computer in a public place in the home. Be as drastic as you have to be.”

When you mess with your sexuality, you open Pandora’s Box. I don’t believe Jesus endorsed self-mutilation, but He did believe in self-control. It is better for you to lose one part of your body, and forgo some experiences if that is what it takes, than for your whole body to go into hell (NIV).

Why does Jesus use such extreme and graphic figures of speech in this passage?” He understands what incredible harm can be done in this particular area of life. We hunger and thirst for love and relationship and we go about fulfilling this in all the wrong ways. We live in a world in which people are dying to be loved and don’t know where on earth to find love and intimacy. So what we do is that we confuse sexual fascination and desire with true love and intimacy.

Jesus gets extreme here because we have gotten extreme in what we do with, for and to others and how we view each other, especially how men view women. Jesus gets graphic because we have gotten graphic in our consumption of people. Jesus is not telling us to deny the beauty that God bestowed on a woman at Creation. He’s telling us to cherish the beauty, not consume it.

Randy Rowland argues: Lust is the under functioning of love and sexuality as God intended it to be. “We fear rejection, abandonment, alienation, failure to be lovable and adequate in relationships. The insecurities drive us to what we feel are safer places to explore our sensual and erotic urges. In doing so, we under function. We become less than what God created us for. You see, love and sexuality are meshed together in the context of a committed relationship… Sexual intimacy is a bonding agent (Sins We Love, 173).”

When we are in lust instead of in true love, we consume objects rather than love persons. The focus is entirely on yourself. We fixate and build scenarios in our mind that emerge as fantasy. We look in all the wrong places to feed this displaced sexual urge. In all our attempts, we dehumanize, degrade, and consume what should be loved, cherished and respected. Love gives; lust takes. Love values; lust uses. Love endures; lust subsides. Love is a process; lust is an act. Love is learned; lust is instinctive. Love requires constant attention; lust takes very little effort. Love takes time to develop and mature; lust needs no time to develop. Love requires emotional and spiritual interaction; lust requires only physical interaction. Love deepens a relationship; lust (operating alone) dulls a relationship–and will often end up killing it. It drives you into secrecy and hidden activities and self-absorption and self-hatred. The longer lust takes charge, the greater the loneliness and more extensive the shame.

True love and intimacy is a covenantal promise to understand the depths of another and stand with them for the long haul. Love is about a deep relationship over time. Love seeks the highest good of another. Love always pays a price. Love always costs something. Love is expensive. When you love, benefits accrue to another’s account. Love is for someone else, not for me. Love gives; it doesn’t grab. Love honors; it doesn’t devalue. Love leads to greater openness, enjoys creativity and leads to a bond of closeness. It all results in a very satisfying, guilt-free relationship with a spouse.

So, men, let’s do the honorable thing. Let’s affirm the beauty that God placed in a woman. And, if we are married, let’s focus our attention on the beauty in the One woman that He has allowed us to be with. Your woman doesn’t have to be on the cover of a magazine to make her truly happy. She just wants to know that she would be on “your magazine” and that she is a beautiful person to you.

Give her this gift this holiday season. What a climax!

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Pornography – A Thirsty Person Craving Salt

I like Frederick Buechner’s words: “Lust is the craving for salt of a man who is dying of thirst.” Pornography only creates more thirst, and quenches nothing, damaging our ability to be intimate with anyone. Sex is a beautiful concept. It is sacred; there’s nothing casual about it. But it has been twisted into insatiable thirst.

Even though pornography is not a source of lasting satisfaction, people who view it usually do so because they’re looking to fill a deep intimacy need. Pornography is a cheap substitute for what they’re really seeking — intimacy. And porn just leaves you more thirsty.

For many guys, an image is easier to relate to than a young woman with a heart, mind and emotions. An image has no expectations. You don’t have to impress an image or deal with any of the awkwardness that comes with relating to a real person.

Moving into the context of marriage, sex between a husband and a wife is giving yourself completely to your spouse. Those who masturbate to pornography, are engaging in sex with self. Masturbation is giving nothing. Masturbation can take a man into a fantasy world where he can be with anyone he wants and do anything he wants. That’s why married men can get caught up in pornography; it’s a low risk, self-centered way to get that “chemical pop” or rush. But something is lost, intimacy is lost, when we handle our sexuality in this way.

Pornography viewing can begin with something seemingly harmless: airbrushed photos in a magazine or a click on the Web. Soon you’re desiring more graphic material and falling more often. Pornography, a closet addiction, grabs you when you’re weak and holds you in its clutches. Planting seeds of alienation, it attacks and destroys relationships and robs you of self-respect.

Some things that we need to know before we click on those images and masturbate to pixels on a screen are offered by Steve Arterburn.

1. Attraction to a person of the opposite sex is natural.

2. Sex is exhilarating and it is God-given. God made sex beautiful; we have twisted this gift from God.

3. Sex is a slippery slope. Little compromises turn into bigger compromises.

4. God has sexual standards for His creation. To “lust” for something is to have “an intense desire or need” usually to the point that you’re willing to violate God’s word or use another person for your own gratification. Lust must be gratified now at any cost. Again, I like Frederick Buechner’s words: “Lust is the craving for salt of a man who is dying of thirst.” Lust is never satisfied.

Scripture illustrates this. Genesis 19 records the perversity of Sodom. Judges 16 tells of Samson’s fatal flaw. 2 Samuel 11 tells of David’s voyeuristic rooftop lusting that led to sin. Perhaps, one of the saddest pictures of lust comes from 2 Samuel 13 where Amnon rapes Tamar, his half-sister.

The NT speaks against homosexual relationships (Rom.1), incestuous relationships (1 Cor.5:1,5, 9-11) and immoral relations (1 Thess.4:3-7). Contrast all of this with the story of Joseph in Genesis 39 who showed restraint and control. So lust can be controlled, and Joseph shows us that we have to literally flee in some cases.

5. God’s love endures through our failure to keep His standards.

6. There is a devil and he will exploit this area. Before marriage, Satan does everything he can to get you to have sex with your boy/girlfriend. After marriage, he does everything he can to keep you from having sex with your wife. One of his ploys is pornography. It sets you up for temptation and moral failure. It degrades people, children, and undermines families. It normalizes immorality.

I may be sharing more on this. But for now, get yourself sexually sober, allow God to show you true intimacy, and rebuild your interior life over the holidays. What a great gift to give to those people who you truly want to be intimate with. If you are married, take ALL of your sexual energy to your spouse and recover true intimacy. What a great Christmas present!

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The New Testament Summed Up for Atheists

I have found that many people, especially atheists, struggle with a comprehensive understanding of the New Testament Bible books. In this post, I mention each of the 27 New Testament books by name; I succinctly in one sentence or less sum up that particular book or authors argument; and I tie it all together in a flowing, historical narrative that reflects the chronology of when books were written. This is literally the product of years of study. Again, I offer it to you free.

Here’s how I would sum up the New Testament for everyone, especially atheists:

After centuries of writing about and waiting for Israel’s expected Messiah (the Old Testament – see The Old Testament Summed Up for Atheist post), He finally arrived (that’s what Christmas is about) as the King of the Jews (Matthew), as the Suffering Servant (Mark), as a Human Being (Luke), as God’s Son (John) and some people slowly began to realize who He was and what He represented as they matched Old Testament teaching with what they had witnessed or heard about in the life and ministry of Jesus and they believed in Him, whereas others, specifically Israel’s leaders, rejected Him as Messiah and had him crucified. This resulted in a postponed kingdom implementation (the actual, literal reign of Christ on earth).

Nevertheless, He was resurrected from the dead, appeared to eyewitnesses to validate his life, prepared His followers for life in his absence and ascended back to heaven, after which His followers, specifically Peter and Paul, empowered by the Holy Spirit, spread the news of what God had done for the world through Jesus Christ (Acts) while building expectation of Christ’s return someday to rule and reign over the world in perfect justice and to love and heal the wounds of mankind.

Until then, those who believed Peter and Paul’s message became a part of the New Community of God, the Church, and needed instruction and training in how to live in this New Community, how to be a new Christ to the world, and what to believe and practice regarding several key beliefs (doctrines), such as the Second Coming of Christ (1 & 2 Thessalonians) and how to live a Christian lifestyle in the world and how to conduct themselves in the local church (1 Corinthians) and how to submit themselves to Paul’s authority (2 Corinthians) and how to be justified by faith and live the Spirit-filled life (Galatians, Romans).

Paul also taught that Jesus is Lord and that we should submit to His Lordship (Colossians), that we should forgive one another (Philemon), that we should live in light of our spiritual riches in Christ (Ephesians) and that we should joyfully serve Christ in a selfless manner (Philippians). Paul also trained leaders in how to lead in the New Community and on what viewpoints they should subscribe to regarding important issues (1 Timothy, Titus) and to stand firm for the Gospel even in his absence (2 Timothy).

James adds that believers are to be obedient to the Lord, even in trials (James) and to stay faithful to the superior Christ even when persecution makes it unpopular to do so (Hebrews, 1 Peter) and to stay ready for Christ’s return (2 Peter), earnestly contending for the faith (Jude), being careful to maintain a fervent love for God and one another in true fellowship (1 John) while exercising cautious support in showing hospitality to those who teach and proclaim the truth (2 John, 3 John) and do all of this in light of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ into the world where He will be glorified in human history after which believers will live forever with Him unhindered by sin in a New Heaven and a New Earth (Revelation).

And that’s the New Testament summed up for everyone, especially the atheist.

Christianity basically asserts that the end of all religions has come. They are no longer needed to be in a right relationship with God. Even though some choose to practice them, Christ has done all that needed to be done in order to bridge the gap between humanity and God. So “oppressive religion” does not have a monopoly on God’s grace. No religious group can contain what God has done for the world in Jesus. No special sect has a “corner” on the truth.

The truth has been embodied in a person – Christ Jesus, Our Lord. By-pass religion, and go straight to Christ. He will lead you home. And much of the New Testament is written to help those who have by-passed religion and who have come together to “be Christ” in a broken, and lonely world. Until He comes, may we all gather in New Community to be His hands, his feet, his body – to learn how to do life differently than we’ve done it before, to steward the creation, to be agents of redemption in a world of hate and revenge, to keep the memory of Jesus alive, to be the Church, and not just attend one.

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