Author: smcintos

Nativity Scene, New York City Credit: Gary Wong/Flickr/Creative Commons

Christmas Without Jesus

When I was in high school, we had a Christian club called BASIC. That meant “Bothers And Sisters In Christ.” Looking back, our weekly huddle in a classroom, with our dry sandwiches, was the first time I got to be a Christian without supervision. My older generation liked to control the kids, and religion was pushed on me constantly, at home and in church. We knew how to behave, to avoid criticism and discipline, but I think most of my friends dropped out of church as soon as they grew up, and they don’t identify as Christian now. In BASIC, we made our own choices. Maturity had to start somewhere, and I learned about Christianity that was just Jesus. The members of BASIC came from different churches, and some had no family church. I remember two girls from a Plymouth Brethren group, and they seemed to detest Christmas. To them, the season was filled with pagan symbols and idols and shrines, especially those decorated trees. I struggled with their ideas, but I learned that the …

Churches in South Korea often display red crosses. In what is described as Reverse Missionary, South Korean Churches are sending missionaries to the West. Two churches side by side in Suwon, South Korea Credit: donut2D/Flickr/Creative Commons

Have you met a Reverse Missionary?

Recently, a young man named John Allen Chau traveled to a place that belongs to India, North Sentinel Island, where the natives attacked him and probably killed him, although some family members think he might still be alive. The North Sentinelese have a long history of killing anyone who visit their island, and it is likely that Mr. Chau is dead. The government of India bans all travel to the place, and now no one can recover the body, or even identify it. RELATED: Missionary wrote ‘God, I don’t want to die’ right before tribe killed him Mr. Chau was a missionary, he went to the island to tell the natives about Jesus. His las name “Chau” might seem Asian, but he is from the U.S. Apparently his home is Vancouver Washington, on the north side of Portland Oregon, and I think he trained to be a missionary in Kansas. His story, and his probable death, have generated some discussion, like ‘He’s crazy.’ and ‘Those Christians are colonial imperialists.’ and ‘Why do those island people …

Credit: Bob Jagendorf/Flickr/Creative Commons

Is Religion Evil?

Is all religion evil? Some people think so. Recently, a large number of devout Muslims met in a wedding hall in Kabul Afghanistan to celebrate the birthday of their Prophet Muhammad. As they were celebrating their holy day, a suicide bomber detonated explosives among them, killing at least fifty and injuring many more. RELATED: Suicide bombing at Kabul religious gathering kills dozens I am not a Muslim, but I sympathize with the victims; they were innocently commemorating something that is sacred to them. The killer was a fellow Muslim, but many extreme Muslim terrorists have condemned the bombing. Some really dangerous people are appalled by what happened. They would never take it that far. Stories like this just boost the argument that religion is an evil force in the world and it should be removed. One famous quote, apparently by Karl Marx is “Religion is the opiate of the peoples” but that might have been a common proverb in his time. My impression of anyone who wants us to quit something, is that they want …

Las Vegas Credit: Mr. Jason Hayes/Flickr/Creative Commons

Vegas and Hollywood: the truth

On the evening of October 1, 2017, a man named Stephen Paddock used a gun to kill and injure spectators at a country music concert in Las Vegas. You probably know something about the story, but have you noticed all the comments and conspiracy theories that have spun off from the incident; the story about the story? It’s interesting because Mr Paddock is such a mystery. We don’t know why he shot those people except that he made a decision. His background story gives us no clues, so we are free to make our own judgments. That’s useful for some people. RELATED: Las Vegas Shooting: Wikipedia A few days later, on October 5, the New York Times published an article about Harvey Weinstein, one of the most powerful men in the Hollywood movie industry. He has been accused of gross misconduct with young women who were trying to make careers in movies and television. At this time, it is fair to say the accusations have been denied, and any accusations are only alleged; but that …

Brussels, Belgium Credit: Francisco Antunes/Flickr/Creative Commons

God Bless You

Do you feel better now? I hear people getting blessed all the time, when they sneeze. In ancient times, people worried that the soul would come out with the sneeze, where the devil might steal it. A blessing would put it back safely. But really, what is the point of a blessing? Is there something we should know here? I learned some lessons about blessing yesterday. Lesson 1) I already know that words spoken into the air have no power, unless God does a miracle. OK, not ‘no power’; I might feel better about myself if I hear myself saying the words, but the other guy only gets words. “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?” (James 2: 16) Lesson 2) Blessings are common in the Bible, so they must be a good idea. In ancient Israel, the priests were told to say these …

Credit: FrankGuido/Flickr/Creative Commons

Show Me The Easy Money

I once met a couple who won a lottery. They were ordinary people in a small town, and no-one would call them especially good-looking or interesting, they were just the neighbors. Before they won, they worked at jobs, and the cost of living was low in the small town. I think they had children and I’m sure their bills were all paid. After they won, they invested their winnings in expensive horses. They did not invest in each other, but they had to travel to the bank together to take out money, so they still had a relationship. I don’t know how anyone can make money on horses, and by now the money is probably gone. My best advice is, ‘Go back to work, that’s where you were successful.’ A woman in Canada won the lottery, one thousand dollars a week, for life. And guess how she is spending her money? She is not into investments, expensive jewellery, or sports cars. I made that up, but she is not doing what we expect. She decided …

Wealth comes to China Credit: Jimmie/Flickr/Creative Commons

Have You Fallen From Your Car?

Recently, a young man in Russia posed for a picture, with him sprawled on the ground. His feet were near the bottom step of a very expensive private jet. This was a joke, pretending to be richer than Solomon, and owning a fabulous private jet. Most of the world would never know about this small joke, except that it went viral and became a meme, in China. Now, China has a fad of ‘falling out of your car.’ Typically, a young woman, in expensive clothes will pose for a picture, sprawled on her face. Around her head will be an arch of expensive things that only rich people have, like high-end phones, make-up, jewellery, and wads of cash. Her feet will be near the open door of a very expensive car, as if she fell while getting out. All the hardware and clothes show that she lives the life of a fabulous movie star. RELATED: China’s ‘flaunt your wealth’ challenge goes viral with people falling out of cars with luxury goods I predict this meme …

St Paul Minnesota Credit: James McLarnan/Flickr/Creative Commons

When Our God Fails Us

I am sure that everyone believes. I am a Christian, and that comes from a choice that I made when I was young. Now I follow and worship Jesus. Many of the people around me, including some friends, do not follow Jesus; but everyone believes. Everyone has a god. Recently a famous journalist in Canada published an article starting with the words “People my age grew up believing the world, led by the West, was becoming more progressive. It wasn’t and isn’t.” The title was “Lose your illusions. It’s an ugly, dystopian world.” If you read Mr MacDonald’s article, you might be offended. He has some strong negative opinions, and he gives out much anger. For example, he describes the United States and Saudi Arabia as “Republic of Dystopia, our southern neighbor, and the Kingdom of Draconia, Canada’s most violent and temperamental weapons customer.” He also describes the President of the U.S. and his American supporters as the “savage, braying president, and guffaws from the simple-minded flying monkeys he commands at his rallies.” RELATED: Lose …

Red Square, Moscow Credit: Matt Shalvatis/Flickr/Creative Commons

How to be a Persecuted Christian

Are you a Christian? If ‘yes’ do you know that you will be persecuted? The Bible is very clear about that “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). “Will be.” I recently followed the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. And yes, it is dangerous for me to say that, but note that I live in Canada and I don’t want to pick sides in someone else’s argument. What I noticed was that accusers and the accused were like soldiers on the front line, and they could be sacrificed for the benefit of greater powers. I am sure the dispute was more intense because the U.S. was a few weeks away from mid-term elections, at the time. So much was at stake. I could say more, but I am now in dangerous territory. This is safe for me; I have often traveled to the U.S. and I am always impressed by the large numbers of good people that I meet …

Fire near Santee, CA during the 1980s. Credit: Rick Bolin/Flickr/Creative Commons

Apocalypse 5: The Final Occupation

This is about the end of the book that is at the end of the Bible. It’s the last installment in a series of articles on the book of Revelation, at the end of the Bible. Revelation is a future description of the end of this age in history. Christians are supposed to read this book, but too many of us are satisfied with a few pictures like 666 (chapter 13 and verse 18) and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (chapter 6), and Armageddon, the great final battle (chapter 16 and verse 16). The pictures are interesting, but we are told to read the whole book: “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” (1:3) We are supposed to make sense of this book, and to understand where we are in history. So, think about something that makes you angry, or someone who has that effect. Now calm down …

St Paul's Cathedral, London, England during the Great Fire attack during World War II, December 29, 1941 Credit: National Archives/New Times Paris Bureau/Public Domain

Apocalypse 4: The Atheist Wars

I don’t believe in Santa Claus. If Santa was God, I would be an atheist. When my children were little, I took them to the mall before Christmas, where other families brought their children to see Mall Santa. Those children had fun, and got coloring books and candy canes, all for free. So where were my children? In the line up with everyone else. With my Scottish name, it must be clear that I love not spending money, and free anything is attractive to me. I don’t believe in Santa Claus, and I told my children that he was not real, but fake Santa sure was fun. And my wallet stayed safe in my pocket. I have met one atheist who truly did not believe in God. I am a Christian and he was a friend of mine. I never saw him in church, but he probably would not object to a visit. He was an atheist, not a hater. Have you noticed that most people who call themselves atheists are angry at God? They …

Credit: L Geoffroy/Flickr/Creative Commons

Apocalypse 3: The Eco-Apocalypse

Doomsday cults, and doomsday predictors are everywhere. Some are Christian, but the end of the world is a big thing in most religions. The tradition in Islam is that Jesus will return and rule the world, and the teachings of the Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses are built around preparing for the end. Secular scientists have a Doomsday Clock, and climate change activists have their warnings about the end and our extinction. RELATED: The Doomsday Clock It seems like we all believe, and that makes us targets for cult groups that can manipulate us and ruin our lives. One group from Korea recently moved to Fiji to escape the coming apocalypse and the leaders are accused of abusing their followers. RELATED: ‘I lost my entire family to a cult’: How one woman escaped Grace Road: BBC Note that the Korean group, like most doomsdayers, are concerned about en eco-apocalypse. They were hiding in Fiji, from a coming famine. I have a serious warning for you: we all believe and we are all …

Desert in Qatar Credit: Sam Agnew/Flickr/Creative Commons

Apocalypse 2: Really, It’s their Fault

Have you ever thought about the future of war? The experts predict future combat that will be much worse than anything we have seen before. RELATED: Future war will result in destruction ‘beyond our comprehension’, says US General The Bible has been saying the same thing for thousands of years. Human beings have always been good at self destruction. We think we will succeed by conquering and stealing from the neighbors, and we always bring down destruction, in the end. The Christian Bible ends with the book of Revelation. Most people know about images from the book, but most people do not know the book. For example, if I mentioned the Antichrist, or the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, people everywhere would have some cultural knowledge, but it’s hard to find even a committed Christian who has read the whole book. Let’s change that. Revelation is one narrative, a story that progresses from a beginning to an end, and it is useful for us to read the whole big picture. Those images that we all …

Storm near Garden City, Kansas, US Credit: Dave Sills/Flickr/Creative Commons

Apocalypse 1: The Boring Part

Is it possible for people call themselves Christians to fail? Can we be wrong? That’s not a serious question, and the answer is yes. The famous Pentecostal television preacher Jim Bakker went to prison. RELATED: Jim Bakker And the Roman Catholic Church is trying to recover from the scandal of sex abuse by priests. RELATED: Child sexual abuse and the Catholic Church: What you need to know Sometimes we fail, and our failure has two sides; if we do something wrong, we are prevented from doing good things. Damage control to recover from our failures doesn’t leave room for all the good that we should be doing in this world. I think that is a good starting point to understand the Apocalypse. Everyone should read the book of Revelation. In the Christian Bible, it’s the last book, and one that we often talk about. What we seldom do is read the whole book. For me, that is the best starting point to understand the last book in the Bible. “Revelation” gives us images like the …

Abu Dhabi Credit: Stephane PERES/Flickr/Creative Commons

That Expensive Jesus in Abu Dhabi

Hey, would you like to see Jesus, the savior of the world? It’s gonna cost you. When viewing becomes possible, you will have to travel to the heart of the Middle East, and buy a ticket, if you can get one, and line up. Here’s the story. Leonardo Da Vinci is credited with painting the most expensive work of art in the world, although possibly some of his students contributed. The painting is a picture of Jesus and it’s named “Salvator Mundi” or “Savior of the World.” This painting recently went up for auction in New York and there was a fierce bidding war for it. The final price was $450 million US. The first reports were that a wealthy prince in Saudi Arabia named Mohammed won the bid; Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. That was corrected by records that showed the bidder was actually Saudi Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, a relative of the first prince. So, some wealthy Saudi princes just paid too much for a picture of Jesus, Savior of …

San Antonio, Texas Credit: Brandon Watts/Flickr/Creative Commons

Religious Wars in Texas

Recently, a man took his stepdaughter to a Christian school in San Antonio Texas, to register her as a student. The interview went well until someone asked if the girl was a Christian. The answer was “no” because the whole family was Muslim. I think they are from Lebanon. The school administrator rejected the girl’s application because the private school was only for Christians, or at least one parent had to be a professing Christian. The stepfather was outraged and made a video about the experience, which went viral. This has produced much debate, and someone has pointed out that the local Jewish school only accepts Jewish students. As long as the school is funded with private money, they can reject anyone who does not believe what they believe. RELATED: Muslim family upset after daughter rejected from Texas Christian School I understand the debate and I’m not surprised. I hope the community can find a solution because they will still live together in the same space, after this argument is forgotten. There is one thing …

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (L to R): Death, Famine, War and Conquest. by Victor Mikhailovich Vasnetsox (1848-1926) Credit: Wikipedia/Creative Commons/{{PD-US}}

Yemen and the First Horseman of the Apocalypse

Did you know that the world has a huge war right now, involving millions of people? The best estimate is that twenty-two million people are directly affected by the war, and two million children are at risk from severe malnutrition. There is a real danger that the war could expand in the region, and there are reports of long-range missiles landing in wealthy countries in the Persian Gulf. RELATED: Yemeni Civil War I live far away from this civil war in Yemen, and the both sides are Arab Muslims, so I can’t criticize one faction or take sides. I know that the suffering is terrible and the UN sees no end in sight. Apparently no one is winning this “Vietnam War” of the Middle East. Did you know this war was happening? Many people in the world know nothing about it. The fighting started in March of 2015 and soon after that foreign powers intervened, or invaded. Saudi Arabia and Iran are powerful nations in the region and they are on opposite sides, with the …

Storm near Parana, Argentina Credit: Emilio Kuffer/Flickr/Creative Commons

Is the end really nigh?

On Sunday I went to a picnic-barbecue for a place where I work. The afternoon was beautiful, and we sat around talking about things, like old friends. We agreed that we would not talk about work, and the made the time almost perfect. One friend spoiled the happy mood by saying “I think the apocalypse is going to happen soon.” I don’t think he’s a Christian, but he drives long distances with a truck, and he visits a lot of places. His summary is simple, we can’t continue like this. He was just saying what he feels, and he spoke sincerely. My friend was watching people and nature, and sometimes I think the whole world is one big argument. People are divided. Nations like Turkey, India, Brazil, and Argentina are struggling with debt and economic collapse. Apparently, the Yellowstone Caldera, a super volcano, is larger and more ready to erupt than we thought, and there are other super volcanoes. We had so much smoke last week from forest fires in the west, that we called …

Camel caravan in Saudi Arabia Credit: Linda Polik/Flickr/Creative Commons

Defending Saudi Arabia

Recently, a huge fight erupted between Canada and Saudi Arabia. If you have not heard about this, you are probably saying “What? Who? Why?” I worked in a large university in Canada, and I taught students from Saudi. Thousands of them go to universities in Canada. The female students removed their veils in my classroom and one of them forgot hers on a table one day. That was the only veil in lost-and-found, when I dropped it off. Canada probably trains most Saudi medical doctors in its medical schools. The two countries have a history, but it’s mostly friendly. Until the blow-up happened, most of us could never imagine those two countries disagreeing about anything. RELATED: Gunter: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince is just using the Liberals to look tough Conservative Islam is the religion of Saudi Arabia; there is no doubt. If you ask the what they believe, they will tell you, … and tell you, … and tell you; and they will try to convert you. That was my experience in the classroom. I’m …

Protests in Iran Credit: Javad Saharban/Flickr/Creative Commons

The New Islamic Revolution

Did you know there is a revolution among us? I don’t know if it will succeed, but it is starting, and it is huge. Check out this video to see the brave leaders of the revolution: In Bangladesh, high school students are protesting in large numbers, for bus safety. RELATED: Bangladesh teenagers demanding road safety paralyse Dhaka: BBC In Iran, mass protests are demanding a prosperous western-styled economy, without the restrictions from the Islamic revolution. RELATED: Iran protests spread to 10 cities in widest unrest since January: VOANews And in Sweden, a young woman stood up on a plane to prevent it from taking off because one of the passengers was being deported to Afghanistan. The plane did not leave and the man was removed, to be deported later. The young woman said “It’s not right to send people to hell.” Note that “hell” is a Muslim majority country, Afghanistan. That is strong language from a 21-year-old woman. RELATED: Swedish student stops deportation of Afghan man with protest streamed on Facebook: CNN Bangladesh, Iran, and …

City of Toronto Credit: Duncan Rawlinson/Duncan.co/@thelastminute/Creative Commons

What’s going on in Toronto?

You might have heard the news, a man with a gun walked down a quiet street in Toronto and shot people who were enjoying a warm summer evening. Many people were injured and at this time, two have died, a girl and a young woman. The alleged killer, Faisal Hussain, was a Muslim from a Pakistani immigrant family. Faisal’s brother is in a coma from a drug overdose, and his father has Parkinson’s disease and there is a history, in their community, of dangerous drug gangs. That’s where the guns and bullets allegedly came from. Also, ISIS has now claimed Faisal was one of their soldiers. RELATED: ISIS claims of responsibility for Toronto shooting raise questions of credibility: CBC If we ever learn the truth, we will probably find a toxic mix of immigrant desperation, with all the sources of stress we can imagine. All the bad things seemed to pile on that young man. If there is a good life, he could see it but he couldn’t live it. The authorities, including police and …

Credit: Amout Wurst/Flickr/Creative Commons

Migrants, Border Jumpers, Refugees, and Us

I saw something the other day, and it shocked me. This is not new for me, but I don’t like to be reminded that I am correct. We think we are good people, but reality can tell a different story. I have a volunteer contract with a famous Christian charity. I won’t name them and I won’t report what happened inside their building, to keep confidentiality, but they are famous everywhere for helping the poorest and most desperate. My job is to teach their staff how to write administrative reports, which fits some of my skill set. Two days ago, I reported for a tutorial session at a location in the inner city, and I was shocked. Outside, in the alley I saw several African people. Later, when I drove home, I saw more of them wandering the streets in our poorest neighborhood. My impression was that they were desperate and unhappy and they were begging for help from organized charities. The inner city is also called skid row, or the slums, and it is …

Credit: Sydney Daoust/Flickr/Creative Commons

Oh, you are such a loser!

A new buzz word in pop psychology is “vulnerable.” There is some good advice out there, and this idea can be good for us. If I looked at you and said “loser!” I would be rude, and you would take that as an insult. We learned that in elementary school. So, “loser!” I just called you a loser, and you can say the same to me. If we are not losers, we are failures. Every Christian should know the words in the Bible “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6) That is the bedrock of our Christian faith. Jesus made it right, after we made it wrong. A few days ago, I had a meeting with an old friend. We talked about business and we also had time to catch up on our personal stories, like old friends. This man is a Christian, my brother in Christ, and he described himself as …

Woman wearing a niqab in Egypt. Credit: MezzoMezzo/Wikipedia/Creative Commons

Burkas, Niqabs, Hijabs, Chadors, Dupattas, and Christians

One of the biggest political arguments in the world today is about Muslim women and what they wear. Some countries, mainly in Europe and Africa, have banned or restricted Islamic female clothing. In Canada, the province of Quebec has introduced a law with some restrictions. There are many variations, but in general, women in conservative Muslim societies cover up, and I don’t think this is voluntary. It’s part of a religious lifestyle. RELATED: Explainer: Why do Muslim women wear a burka, niqab or hijab?: ABC RELATED: Hijab by country: Wikipedia This is not a big issue where I live, I think because we have cold winters and everyone covers up. Also, we have large numbers of Hutterites, German Christians who live on farming colonies, and Hutterite women wear long dresses and cover their heads. Now, large numbers of conservative Mennonites, similar to the Hutterites and with similar clothing styles, are moving into our country districts. Also, I live near an Ethiopian church and the older women often walk in my neighborhood in traditional clothes, and …

Credit: Rennett Stowe/Flickr/Creative Commons

The Fermi Paradox and the Dark Forest Conspiracy

So where are all the aliens? And did you know that science fiction is not really fiction? The Fermi Paradox, a scientific puzzle, was made famous by the Italian-American physicist Enrico Fermi. The theory is that the universe must be filled with alien species, extra-terrestrials, and the paradox is that we haven’t made contact yet. Enrico Fermi is considered one of the great minds of the twentieth century, from the era of Einstein, and he is credited with the invention of the nuclear reactor. He also gave us the Fermi Paradox. RELATED: Fermi Paradox Imagine that Darwin’s theory of evolution is true, as it is commonly taught. Many millions of years ago, the universe exploded into being through the Big Bang and stars, planets, and galaxies were spewed across the empty universe. On one planet, among millions or billions, a reaction happened in some primordial ooze, and life emerged; living cells formed and began to reproduce from their own genetic material. Over vast spans of time, multi-celled plants and animals emerged, and then vertebrate animals, …

Credit: Jeff Wallace/Flickr/Creative Commons

Sanctuary Cities and Free Stuff

We went for a walk the other day, and I was amazed. I live in the city that still has American Elm trees, the Dutch Elm Disease hasn’t reached here, and many trees are almost a hundred years old. As a result, a walk in an older neighborhood is like a walk in a park. So, we went for a walk, close to where I grew up, and I was shocked to see that most of the houses were gone. I saw many construction sites and large new “infill” mansions, and some expensive cars. People with money want a piece of the older generation, before it’s all gone. The next day, I read a front-page newspaper article demanding that we become a “sanctuary city.” The details are, we must give free services to people who here illegally, and possibly hiding from the immigration police who want to deport them. This is a huge argument and I don’t want to argue right now, so let’s call them “undocumented migrants.” These people now want driver’s licenses, cheap …

Credit: jon watts/Flickr/Creative Commons

Jobs for Christians

Are you a Christian? Do you believe that God will provide? Do you know any Christian who is struggling to find a job? I know someone who is struggling right now and I have been there myself. I have worked in places where I never mentioned that I was a Christian and that I didn’t tell people that I went to church on Sunday. That information could have cost me my job, or I would have missed some promotions. A comedian in England, Tracey Ullman, has published a video comedy skit about a Christian in a job interview. The joke isn’t very funny, but sometimes comedians make serious statements behind the laughter. Getting and keeping a job can be a problem for a Christian. Most of my career work has been training people so they can qualify for employment, or getting them into schools where they could train for a job. At the same time, I had to get and keep my own job, and maybe get promoted. I also have good friends who work …

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Just Don’t Drink the Poison

“We teach people how to treat us.” (Dr Phil) Toxic people are everywhere, and one of them will find you if you give them a chance. They range from overbearing parents or others in the family who know how we should live our lives, to addicts and alcoholics, and sometimes to violent abusers. You might have heard words like this “You make me like this, it’s your fault.” or “I drink because of you.” or “I only lose my temper when you …” RELATED: Cut toxic people out of your life says Christian psychiatrist: Christian Today In my extended family, I have a cousin who came under the control of an abusive man. She tells this story in churches, and this is my summary. As a young woman, I think a teenager, she met an older man and then moved in with him. They never did marry and she was a Christian. After some time, she realized that the man was controlling and abusive, and she needed to get out. One day they had a …

Istanbul, Turkey Credit: Mehmet Aktugan/Flickr/Creative Commons

What’s happening in Turkey?

My family church, when I was a boy, was famous for talks about Bible prophecy. The pastor had giant charts the size of curtains, to explain what the Bible said about the future of the world. I remember that he could fill the church with his Sunday evening talks, and I vaguely remember pictures of animals with several heads, on those enormous sheets. This was before computers and projectors, and those wall-sized pictures were famous. Years later, as an adult, I met strangers in far away places who wanted to talk about those huge pictures. Our pastor was a good man, and his ideas were conservative. He just wanted us to know what the Bible said about the future of the world, and he made a sincere effort to teach us. I may have been the only kid in my school who knew about Gog and Magog in the land of the north. One thing I remember clearly from those talks was the advice to look north. From the Bible’s perspective, that means north from …

Canada and US Friendship Center in Havre, Montana Credit: James. G. Howes/Wikipedia/Creative Commons

The Truth and Havre, Montana

Recently, an US border patrol agent stopped two women at a convenience store in Havre, Montana and asked for their IDs. The women were not happy about this and made a video of their conversation with a cell phone. The officer was polite and explained that he stopped the women because they were speaking Spanish, and the Spanish language was almost never spoken in the region. This story went viral for a few days, and the women are still angry and they are talking about legal action. RELATED: They Spoke Spanish in a Montana Store. Then a Border Agent Asked for Their IDs: New York Times In the articles by journalists, there have been many comments about the lack of ethnic diversity in Montana and that everyone speaks English, as if that is offensive. There are also hints that Havre is a small backwater where police stop people, in an offensive way, because they are “different” from the natives. The word “redneck” fits that narrative. The story is popular because it fits a popular narrative …

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Your Money and the Church – Part 3

Here is one of the best secrets for managing your generosity and giving of money: Don’t. If you spend any time among religious people, you will be asked for money. When I go to church on Sunday, there is always an offering, a time when all other business stops and the ushers collect money from us. I have lived with this all my life and I have an acquired immunity, but some people who come with me are offended and disoriented. What will God think about them if they don’t give enough? So, don’t give. The exercise will be good for you. Yesterday I was walking in the mall. It’s not really my place but I had a meeting with someone. At an intersection in the walkways, I saw a display booth with two young women looking hopeful. They represented one of those Christian charities that sponsor children and they were looking for sponsors. I won’t name the organization, but there are several and they do very good work. What bothered me was all the …

Credit: Bernard Forand/Flickr/Creative Commons

Your Money and the Church – Part 2

Did you know that you are lazy? And me too, I can be included in that number. The basic nature of the human race is to always look for the easy way out, the softest cushion. We all have that affliction from childhood, and if you have learned to work hard, congratulations for resisting. Have you noticed how words like ‘luxury’ go with words like ‘ease’ and ‘relax?’ We don’t earn, we don’t learn, and we don’t manage, if we can find the couch first. That monster lives in all of us somewhere. The popular picture of success is doing nothing like some ancient European aristocrat supported by an army of serfs, and not a brave person climbing mount Everest with a gritty expression on their face. Did you also know that your life is a project, your family is a business and your church is a consortium? Everything requires diligent management. According to the Bible: “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!” (Proverbs 6:6) If ants could speak to …

Church in rural England Credit: Peter Smithson/Flickr/Creative Commons

Your Money and the Church – Part 1

No one likes their first job, or at least we can complain about it later, when we learn how the world really works. I have my own horror story. Just when I turned 18, almost on my birthday, I started my first real job. I left high school early and started working in January, in a cold winter, with short days and not much sunlight. I was hired to drive a small truck for a parts department in a shop that repaired construction equipment. Every morning I got up early, ate something in a bowl, and hurried to a bus stop. The bus took me to a remote suburb, and then I walked several blocks and crossed a busy road into an industrial area, and after more walking, I hurried into my workplace to punch the time clock. Then I did janitorial work and drove the truck when ordered, and I hardly knew how to drive. Travel to and from work, on the bus, was in darkness for weeks, and the weather was severely cold. …

The Black Church of Buoakirkja in Iceland Credit: David Soldano/Flickr/Creative Commons

How to argue with a “New Atheist”

A few years ago, a man I knew was diagnosed with cancer. He was older than me, and I think his health was not good. The cancer doctors used very aggressive treatments and his tumour began to shrink. His friends, including me, were happy about this because it seemed like he was going to beat the cancer. Then the bad news came. The treatment for cancer was so severe, it was killing him. The doctors were forced to stop the treatment to save his life, and the tumor started growing again. He knew he would die from the cancer, and he went to a hospice for palliative care, which means he went to a specialized hospital, and waited to die. And the end of his story is; he did die, after a few weeks. The palliative care unit was close to where I worked and I made a few lunch-time visits. He had visits from family members in the evenings. On my lunchtime work schedule, I had to walk several blocks and I could only …

Credit: Cindee Snider Re/Flickr/Creative Commons

Yes GQ, the Bible is Boring

Gentlemen’s Quarterly Magazine, now GQ, has decided that the Bible is a boring old book and they do not recommend it for reading. This has stirred up many Christians who are trying to defend the holy book. RELATED: GQ magazine puts Bible on list of classic books not worth reading, incurs the wrath of Christians: USA Today If you are a Christian and GQ’s criticism of the Bible offends you, note that you are being had. This is not news, this is a provocative statement invented to bother us and eventually to increase sales of the magazine. You could call it fake news. I don’t know the circulation numbers for GQ, but in general the print media is in big trouble, as we all switch to the Internet. When I go to the check-out in a supermarket I see large displays of glossy magazines, probably including GQ. What I don’t see is anyone buying a magazine. Someone must be buying those things, just not when I’m looking; that unicorn is invisible to me. We could …