Apologetics Class 11-29-2015

Currently, we are reading the book Unsilenced: How to Voice the Gospel by James Boccardo.  It is a great book about evangelism that also includes some information about Apologetics.

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Hi All,

Very good class today. Since our reading was primarily on evolution, that was pretty much the whole content of what we spoke about!  We read from pages 158 – 163 in the book.  The author’s focus was primarily on the evidence of the DNA in all living things, so that is where we focused.  We started off by watching a 6 ½ minute video with John Lennox (professor of Mathematics at Oxford University in the U.K.).  The video was John’s response to a student’s question during a Q&A session at an event.  He talks primarily about DNA and the information contained therein.

I also handed out a paper copy of an article on “Mutations” from the web site “Darwinism Refuted”.  I would encourage you to read the whole thing if you get a chance.  Here is the section we focused on because the book reading (from the Unsilenced book) mentioned the “famous fruit fly experiment”:

Every effort put into “generating a useful mutation” has resulted in failure. For decades, evolutionists carried out many experiments to produce mutations in fruit flies, as these insects reproduce very rapidly and so mutations would show up quickly. Generation upon generation of these flies were mutated, yet no useful mutation was ever observed. The evolutionist geneticist Gordon Taylor writes thus:

Since the beginning of the twentieth century, evolutionary biologists have sought examples of useful mutations by creating mutant flies. But these efforts have always resulted in sick and deformed creatures. The left picture shows the head of a normal fruit fly, and the picture on the right shows the head of fruit fly with legs coming out of it, the result of mutation.  fly

It is a striking, but not much mentioned fact that, though geneticists have been breeding fruit-flies for sixty years or more in labs all round the world- flies which produce a new generation every eleven days-they have never yet seen the emergence of a new species or even a new enzyme.

After our Unsilenced book reading of the 6 pages, we used the following questions to drive our discussion:

  1. (pg. 158-160) Why does DNA give evidence that God exists?
  2. (pg. 159-160) In order for the first cell to replicate like Darwinists thought it did, what needed to happen with respect to DNA?  Why is that compelling evidence of intelligent design?
  3. (pg. 160) What critical thing is needed to get from a single cell to a more complex organism?
  4. (pg. 162) What is the “famous fruit fly experiment” and why doesn’t it prove Darwinian evolution?
  5. (pg. 162) The big idea to focus on is not just that there is a d_______, but w____ h_____ when you m____ H___.  Your job is not to d______ e______; it’s to l_____ p_____ to J_____ so that their sins can be f_________ and so that they can have e_____ l_____.
  6. (pg. 163) How did the conversation with the college microbiology student go?

It was a very good discussion.  During our conversation, several other topics came up:

  • Irreducible Complexity: http://www.conservapedia.com/Irreducible_complexity
  • Bacterial Flagellum: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IRF0HeG-mhM
  • Blood Clotting: The function of the blood clotting system is to prevent the escape of blood from a damaged vessel. To do this, the blood has a special and very complex repair procedure in place. Once initiated by a cut, the first component in the process is activated, which in turn activates the next component, and so on, in a series of cumulative, mutually-dependent steps. This physiological chain of production, or cascade, results in the formation of a solid obstruction (a clot) in order to seal over the damage.  Some of the main components of the clotting cascade are the proteins fibrinogen, prothrombin, Stuart (anti-hemophilic) factor and proaccelerin. None of these are used for any other purpose in the blood. The system is very finely tuned to result in a repair process that achieves just the repair needed at just the right place and time to stop bleeding and begin the process of healing. Importantly, the process is also self-limiting to ensure that coagulation (clotting) of the entire blood supply does not occur.  The Intelligent Design advocate Michael Behe, in his book Darwin’s Black Box, has noted that the clotting cascade is an example of irreducible complexity. The removal or degradation of just one, any one, of the components or steps would cause the cascade to fail. Obviously this would have dire consequences for the organism. It is exceedingly difficult to see how the clotting cascade could have evolved, as any postulated simplified or ‘primitive’ version of the process would result in failure.
  • Micro-evolution vs. Macro-evolution: http://www.gotquestions.org/microevolution-macroevolution.html
  • Ben Stein / Richard Dawkins interview where he talks about aliens (here is a 2 minute clip of that interview): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BoncJBrrdQ8
  • I also mentioned that I’m reading “God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe”, which has in Chapter 4 (“Signs of Design”) 8 recognizable and detectable signs of intelligent design using the acronym D.E.S.I.G.N.:
    • Dubious Probability
    • Echoes of Familiarity
    • Sophistication and Intricacy
    • Informational Dependency
    • Goal Direction
    • Natural Inexplicability

Next week we will be finishing up the book and discussing where we’ll go next.

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mid-week apologetics booster (11-26-2015)

Good morning,

Happy Thanksgiving!  Here are some links.  Maybe you’ll have some time to look at a few of these over the long weekend.  Especially pay attention to the first one:

  1. What You Can Learn From the Pilgrims – great 48 minute audio podcast from Frank Turek where he interviews Bill Federer about the history of the pilgrims (it would be great to listen to with the family at Thanksgiving): http://subspla.sh/7277698
  2. They Did Not Honor Him or Give Thanks — Why Thanksgiving is Inescapably Theological | AlbertMohler.com: http://www.albertmohler.com/2015/11/23/they-did-not-honor-him-or-give-thanks-why-thanksgiving-is-inescapably-theological/
  3. Celebrating Thanksgiving in America: http://www.wallbuilders.com/LIBissuesArticles.asp?id=17984
  4. Religious Roots: Not All Turkey and Touchdowns – The Imaginative Conservative. From the Mayflower Compact: Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the first Colony in the northern Parts of Virginia; Do by these Presents, solemnly and mutually, in the Presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation: http://www.theimaginativeconservative.org/2012/11/religious-rootsnot-all-turkey-and-touchdowns.html
  5. A (Not Too) Serious Christmas Quiz: http://apologetics-notes.comereason.org/2014/12/a-not-too-serious-christmas-quiz.html
  6. Why Do Christians Follow Some Biblical Commands and Not Others? Brett Kunkle of Stand to Reason explains how some commands in the Bible were for a specific group of people at a specific time in history. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90_ZvhdXFWo
  7. Is Mormonism a cult? https://carm.org/is-mormonism-cult
  8. Do Christians really put their friends off Jesus? http://www.premierchristianity.com/Blog/Do-Christians-really-put-their-friends-off-Jesus
  9. Honoring the 41st Anniversary of the Discovery of “Lucy,” Google Offers a Misleading Doodle – Evolution News & Views: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2015/11/honoring_the_41101151.html
  10. Why We Need to Know Facts About the Bible: http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/why-we-need-to-know-facts-about-the-bible
  11. What Is the Point of Prayer? | Reasonable Faith: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/what-is-the-point-of-prayer
  12. 121 Quotes on Why We Need Apologetics: http://www.thepoachedegg.net/the-poached-egg/2014/12/121-quotes-on-why-we-need-apologetics.html
  13. Is Jesus Really God? By Mark Mittelberg — Think Eternity: http://www.thinke.org/blog/jesus-god
  14. 911 Call to Parents of Christian Kids in College: Get the EpiPen Ready: http://ratiochristi.org/boosters/blog/post/911-call-to-parents-of-christian-kids-in-college-get-the-epipen-ready/3806#.VlYuFb3n_qC
  15. What are the historical arguments for the empty tomb story? (includes video debate): http://winteryknight.com/2015/07/24/what-are-the-historical-arguments-for-the-empty-tomb-story-2/
  16. Grounded in the Gospel | Zeitgeist: http://groundedinthegospel.com/blog/zeitgeist
  17. Dare to be a Daniel? https://www.worldmag.com/mobile/article.php?id=35120
  18. Earth-like planet hyped by science-fiction-crazed atheists likely uninhabitable | WINTERY KNIGHT: http://winteryknight.com/2015/11/20/earth-like-planet-hyped-by-science-fiction-crazed-atheists-likely-uninhabitable/
  19. The Reliability of the New Testament | Stephen J. Bedard: http://www.stephenjbedard.com/reliability-new-testament/
  20. What Distinguishes a Text as Scripture? Authority Matters: http://apologetics-notes.comereason.org/2015/05/what-distinguishes-text-as-scripture.html
  21. Are Moral Truths An Illusion? http://crossexamined.org/are-moral-truths-an-illusion/
  22. Nancy Pearcey’s mission to reinvigorate the evangelical mind – On Faith & Culture: http://jonathanmerritt.religionnews.com/2015/06/10/nancy-pearcey-apologetics-influential/
  23. Inclusivism: http://www.str.org/articles/when-catholicism-hinders-the-gospel
  24. An Intro to Dismantling Alleged Discrepancies | A Clear Lens: http://clearlens.org/2015/11/18/an-intro-to-dismantling-alleged-discrepencies/
  25. Refugee Cost to bring them here vs. taking care of them where they’re at: https://www.afa.net/the-stand/immigration/2015/11/what-are-we-to-do-about-refugees/
  26. Two Things Terrorist Attacks Do NOT Tell Us About Religion: http://christianmomthoughts.com/two-things-terrorist-attacks-do-not-tell-us-about-religion/
  27. 10 Things Every Christian Should Know About Islam: http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/10-things-every-christian-should-know-about-islam
  28. The Rise of Islam: http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/rise-islam/
  29. Nabeel Qureshi (ex-Muslim, turned Christian apologist) – My response to the Paris Attacks: we need love and truth. Love for Muslims, but the truth about Islam: https://www.facebook.com/NabeelQureshi.RZIM/videos/1056491281038365/
  30. Generic view of religion undermines ability to respond to theological significance of Paris attacks: http://www.albertmohler.com/2015/11/19/the-briefing-11-19-15/
  31. What percentage of Muslims approve of radical Islam and terrorism? | WINTERY KNIGHT: http://winteryknight.com/2015/11/18/what-percentage-of-muslims-approve-of-radical-islam-and-terrorism/
  32. What Islam is Not (Video): https://shariaunveiled.wordpress.com/2013/06/02/what-islam-is-not-video-2/
  33. Do You Think Homosexuality Is Wrong? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBHodHT3pOk
  34. God Is Unchanging; Believe It – David Limbaugh: http://m.townhall.com/columnists/davidlimbaugh/2015/11/20/god-is-unchanging-believe-it-n2083010
  35. Saudi court sentences poet to death for renouncing Islam: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/20/saudi-court-sentences-poet-to-death-for-renouncing-islam

Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.  (John 20:30-31)

What is the Point of Prayer?

The following is a question from the Reasonable Faith site:

Dear Dr. Craig,

I have recently moved on from Christianity to agnosticism, but I regularly check out your Q and A section as much of the content there is more sensible and thought provoking than the kind of thing I hear from a lot of Evangelicals.

So I figured that if there even is a satisfactory answer to my enquiry, you’d know about it.

My question is this: what is the point of prayer? Here prayer is defined as an attempt to communicate with God.

God either can read our thoughts or he cannot. If he can read our thoughts, there is surely no need to try to transmit or broadcast them to him as he already knows what they are. If he cannot read our thoughts, then any thought-based effort to contact him is futile. It doesn’t matter what type of prayer it is (e.g. petition, thanksgiving, repentance), there is no point in making any effort to send it up to him.

Of course, Christianity generally holds that God is omniscient and therefore able to read our thoughts, so the first of these scenarios would be the applicable one. The characteristic of omniscience makes the concept of prayer all the more redundant as it means God already knows any information that might be communicated to him, and exactly what the best thing is to do about it, so prayer could not in any way influence his decisions.

I am well aware that the Bible commands us to pray in numerous instances, but in the light of this argument this strikes me as an incredibly arbitrary thing for a good God to command, and thus makes the reliability of the Bible all the more questionable to me.

Currently it seems to me that the idea of prayer is most sensibly explained as an addictive placebo that gives people a greater sense of control over their circumstances than they actually have.

But just maybe there’s something crucial I’ve missed, and if so I would be grateful if you could point out what that might be.

Thanks,

Joe, United Kingdom


Read WLC’s answer at: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/what-is-the-point-of-prayer

Below is my answer.


Hi Joe,

I’m glad that you’re still thinking about Christianity. That shows that God is still working in your life!

I will attempt to answer your question by making a few points. Please note that since your question is an internal critique of the Christian worldview, my answer will include liberal use of Scripture to make my case:

God wants us to pray to Him

You say “I am well aware that the Bible commands us to pray in numerous instances”. You are correct – the Bible says:

Be joyful always. Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances. For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

But the fact of the matter is that, yes, God commands us to pray, but He also wants to hear from His children. The book of Isaiah says “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD” (Is. 1:18). The Bible describes our relationship with God as that of a little child to a father (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6). It says we are members of God’s household (Eph. 2:19). That’s a good analogy, because most of us can relate to an earthly father and what our relationship with him is like. Our earthly fathers were not perfect, but we all have a sense of how they’re supposed to act.

You say “If he can read our thoughts, there is surely no need to try to transmit or broadcast them to him as he already knows what they are”. Jesus even says God knows what we need before we ask Him:

Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. (Matt. 6:8b)

And He promises to meet all our needs:

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:19)

But think about this… In a similar way that we know that a human father often knows what his child wants, but nevertheless, he wants her to ask him for it, God knows what we want and need, but still wants us to ask Him for it. The child stares at the cookie jar and starts to walk towards it. The father knows she wants a cookie. He plans to give her a cookie – IF SHE ASKS FOR IT. He still wants her to ask for it, even though he knows that she wants it and plans to give it to her. A human father does not want to just give a child something she wants with no opportunity to communicate with her. The human father knows what she wants, but he desires to have a relationship (fellowship) with her. He loves her and enjoys her company. He wants her to love not only the gift, but also the Giver.

Prayer can change God’s course of action

You say “prayer could not in any way influence his decisions”. The Bible does say God does not change (Malachi 3:6; James 1:17; Hebrews 13:8). That does not, however, mean that God does not have conditions established upon which He may change His actions. In fact, the Old Testament explains a conditional statement where God will act in a certain way depending on our actions:

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chron. 7:14)

Notice the “if/then” logic in that statement from God… If His people do 4 things:

  1. humble themselves
  2. pray
  3. seek His face
  4. turn from their wicked ways

Then and only then will He promise to do the following 3 things:

  1. Hear from heaven
  2. Forgive their sin
  3. Heal their land

So, at least in that situation, God is making it clear that we human beings can influence His decisions and course of action. In several other places, the Bible records that prayer actually did influence God’s decisions. Here are several examples:

They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived. (Numbers 21:4-9)

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’ “I have seen these people,” the LORD said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.” But Moses sought the favor of the LORD his God. “O LORD,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.'” Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened. (Exodus 32:7-14)

In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.” Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, “Remember, O LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him: “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the leader of my people, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the LORD. I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.‘” (2 Kings 20:1-6)

So, it is clear that the Bible is reporting that prayer can influence the decisions and actions of God. The half-brother of Jesus, James, writes:

The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (James 5:16b)

However, that does not mean that prayer always changes God’s course of actions. One notable example is Jesus praying on the Mount of Olives on the night of His arrest:

Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (Luke 22:42-44)

Now, I’m sure that you’re aware that Jesus was praying here that He wouldn’t have to undergo the suffering and excruciating death on the cross (“this cup”) that was shortly to come. But it is clear that His prayer was answered with no, because He was ultimately beaten, mocked, scorned and crucified. So, if God the Father can say no to God the Son, we have evidence that although a “righteous man” is praying, God may still answer no. The book of Acts tells us that all of this happened according to God’s set purpose and foreknowledge, because God had His plan, which was ultimately the best plan. As Peter tells the crowd on the day of Pentecost:

Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. (Acts 2:22-24)

God even hears the prayers of people who don’t yet know His Son:

At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!” Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked. The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.” When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants. He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa. (Acts 10:1-8)

This centurion did not know Jesus. When Simon Peter came to his house, he told the centurion about the salvation that was available through faith in Jesus (Acts 10:23-48).

So, based on the record of the Scriptures, we can safely conclude that prayer does sometimes change God’s course of action. There is even extra-biblical evidence that prayers are answered. See the 2 volume set “Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts” by Craig Keener (http://www.amazon.com/Miracles-Credibility-New-Testament-Accounts/dp/0801039525/ref=tmm_hrd_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1448460264&sr=1-1).

Prayer changes the person praying

Finally, prayer is something that is good for the person praying. When you pray to God and trust that He is hearing you and has your best interests in mind, just this act of praying can reduce or eliminate your anxieties. The psalmist says:

Cast your cares on the LORD and He will sustain you. He will never let the righteous fall. (Psalms 55:22)

And the Apostle Paul writes:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Jesus says:

Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:28)

I’ve personally experienced great healing by praying for those who mistreat me. This also seems to be supported scientifically:

  1. Prayer Improves self-control
  2. Prayer makes you nicer
  3. Prayer makes you more forgiving
  4. Prayer increases trust
  5. Prayer offsets the negative health effects of stress

(For more specifics on these 5 points, see the article 5 Scientifically Supported Benefits of Prayerhttps://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/more-mortal/201406/5-scientifically-supported-benefits-prayer)

Apologetics Class 11-22-2015

Currently, we are reading the book Unsilenced: How to Voice the Gospel by James Boccardo.  It is a great book about evangelism that also includes some information about Apologetics.

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Hi All,

Thanks for attending the class today.  We had a full(er) house today 🙂  I was glad to see and talk to y’all!  We continued reading chapter 8 today. We also watched and discussed the following witnessing clip from Living Waters:

How you were raised determines your faith: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JpgnYX2Xp-4

In our chapter 8 reading we covered pages 152-157.  Here are the questions we covered after the reading:

  1. (pg. 152) Why worry about people who say, “Don’t worry about me, I’m good with the Lord”?  Well, they might ___   ___________.
  2. (pg. 152) How does Matthew 7:21-23 speak about the issue?  Jesus is talking about people who ________  ________  ________  Him.
  3. (pg. 153) What is a question that you can ask a self-proclaimed “Christian” that will tell you a lot in less than 10 seconds?
  4. (pg. 154) If the person says yes to the above question, but sounds shaky, what follow-up question can you ask them?
  5. (pg. 152-154) Should we just assume that every person attending church is saved? One of my favorite lines is “Tell me about ________  ____________  _________.”
  6. (pg. 156) Do you have to be knowledgeable about other religions before you can talk with someone of another religion?

Since we were talking about other religions, I was going to show you this following video, but didn’t have time:

Living Waters University: a Catholic, a Muslim, & a Hindu girl: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBZtTwOk1iQ

Also during our discussions a point came up related to Roman Catholic theology – the idea of inclusivism.  Here are a few articles that speak about the issue:

When Catholicism Hinders the Gospel: http://www.str.org/articles/when-catholicism-hinders-the-gospel#.VlJOhr9HSMI The following is a quote from the article:

“I first started doing public advocacy of Christianity on a secular program called “Religion on the Line” on the ABC affiliate here in Los Angeles (two hours on religious topics with a rabbi, a priest, a minister, and a host).  I was stunned when the first time a Protestant called in to share Christ with the rabbi he was opposed not by the rabbi, but rather by the Roman Catholic priest (“Rabbi, I’ll handle this one.”) 

The Jews have their own covenant, the priest argued.  They have their own way to God which does not require belief in Jesus.  That is also true for every other faith.  God can be found through virtually any religions.  The blood of Christ—which is necessary to forgive sins (this is the only sense in which Christ is the only way)—is not just for Christians, but is applied to anyone who sincerely and obediently pursues his own religion.  He is forgiven through Jesus, though he never believes in Jesus.  Put simply, the good Buddhist is saved by the blood of Christ.  This is called inclusivism.

I almost fell off my chair the first time I heard this.  Yet, every single Roman Catholic priest on that program since then—a show I’d done more than twenty times—held the same thing, even a bishop. ”

And Salvation: Truth, Not Just Sincerity: http://www.str.org/articles/salvation-truth-not-just-sincerity#.VlJPB79HSMI Here is quote from the article:

This difference of opinion is a historically new development in Roman Catholicism that stunned me when I first encountered it in the early days of being on Religion on the Line in the late eighties, a radio panel Dennis Prager hosted for many years. The priests on the panel uniformly held the conviction, informed by Vatican II, that Jews don’t have to believe in Jesus in order to receive the benefits of Jesus’ salvation. This is a view called “inclusivism.” It’s not the same as pluralism, but in my view, it seems to have the same impact: “Yes, Jesus is necessary for salvation, but you don’t have to believe in Jesus to benefit from Jesus.”

Finally, here is an article from catholic.org entitled “Pope Francis says atheists can do good and go to heaven too!”.  It is very hard to figure out what he’s really saying, but it certainly doesn’t sound like an orthodox, biblical view on soteriology (study of the doctrine of salvation):  http://www.catholic.org/news/hf/faith/story.php?id=51077

Next week, we should finish chapter 8, which covers evolution.

Have a great week and a great Thanksgiving celebration!

Success In Life

A thought occurred to me before I went to bed last night… It occurred as I was thinking about my quest to lose weight. I realized that in order to have the long-term success that I was seeking, I needed to forego momentary pleasures of eating whatever delicious food I desired. This is the concept of “delayed gratification”. Then I began to think of just how many things in life require the same discipline. Here is s short list I thought of:

  1. Weight loss (Prov. 23:1-3; 20-21)
  2. Getting a college degree (Prov. 1:5, Prov. 9:9, Prov. 18:2, Prov. 4:7, Daniel 1:1-21)
  3. Staying out of debt (Prov. 22:7)
  4. Staying sexually pure (1 Corinthians 6:18-21)
  5. Learning a skill such as a programming language, golf or a musical instrument (Prov. 22:29)
  6. Scripture knowledge and memorization (Ps. 119:11)
  7. Being well-read (having read many good books) and the knowledge and benefits that come from that. (Daniel 1:17)
  8. After staying with a company a long time, achieving a high level of vacation benefits
  9. Saving for retirement (Prov. 13:11)
  10. Persevering under trials rather than just quitting (James 1:12)

I’m sure there are many more examples that could be given. “Delayed gratification” is a message young people need to hear and understand today. It is a great skill to be learned in life, and it is a proficiency you should master in order to be successful in life.

“Delayed gratification” is even pivotal in the greatest and most important pursuit in life, the pursuit of the Christ. Jesus said:

If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. Luke 9:23

The Christian life is a life of self-denial – not as “a work” that will make you acceptable to God, but has a recognition that He is your Lord and Master. As Paul said:

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:20

If you’re not born-again, this is impossible. If you are born-again, this becomes possible and should be a natural inclination for you. Delay your gratification for something better later in this life, and ultimately in the life to come!

Cactus Clash

Yesterday evening I had the privilege of being a community judge at the 2015 Cactus Clash. This event is a speech and debate tournament for home schooled 12–18 year olds. What an amazing event! There were certainly hundreds of kids there. It was a whole new world that I didn’t even know existed. A friend of mine invited me to be involved. I share a great passion for Christian Apologetics with this friend of mine. We talk on almost a daily basis about apologetics and theological topics as we walk around this lake by our place of employment.

We didn’t know what to expect at this event, so we arrived there early. At sign in, we expressed our interest in being involved in the Apologetics part of the competition. Luckily, we were able to be assigned to judge apologetics speeches. After signing in, we asked if we could sit in on a debate to get a feel for how this worked. We found out that the competition consisted of 2 debate formats:

  1. Team Policy Debate (2 person teams)
  2. Lincoln Douglas Debate (individual competitor)

We were directed to a room where the format was Lincoln Douglas. There, 2 young adults were debating the topic of education with a focus on liberal arts vs. education that focuses on “practical skills”. It was an eye-opener! These kids were sharp! And it was a very formal debate format. After 45 minutes of debate, I walked out of there getting a sense of the seriousness of the event.

Next was our training. We were given our judging packets with a list of possible apologetics questions that the students could be given. Here was the list of questions:

  1. What does it mean that God is eternal? Why does this matter?
  2. What does it mean that God is holy? Why does this matter?
  3. Does God reveal Himself to man?
  4. Where did God come from?
  5. What does the unity of Scripture mean? Why does this matter?
  6. Is the Old Testament historically reliable?
  7. Can the Bible be trustworthy when it has been translated so many times?
  8. Does science contradict the Bible?
  9. What does sanctification mean? Why does this matter?
  10. What does the resurrection of the body mean? Why does this matter?
  11. Did a loving God create Hell?

The apologetics event is what they call a “Limited Preparation Event”. Here is the description of the Apologetics event:

In Apologetics, the competitor is given four (4) minutes to prepare a speech that defends a tenet of the Christian faith. The speaker crafts a speech to reach those curious, not in agreement, or Biblically uninformed with persuasiveness and reasoning.

And here is the goal of the Apologetics event:

Competitors will be motivated to study, articulate, and defend the core issues of their faith in a knowledgeable, sincere, gentle, and respectful manner.

Here is some more information on the Apologetics event:

Apologetics Preparation Rules:

  1. Competitors prepare for Apologetics through Bible study, research, analysis, and organization.
  2. Each competitor may create a card file with Scripture, definitions, quotations, and any other material deemed to be helpful.
  3. Competitors may work together on boxes prior to the tournament in order to research and compile information, but they may not share boxes during competition.

Apologetics Administration Rules:

  1. One judge in each room will be given instructions regarding room administration and the envelope of topics to distribute to the competitors.
  2. A list of possible topics will be given to each of the judges in the room.
  3. In the room, the competitor will draw three (3) single topics provided by the tournament, choose one (1), and return the other two (2) topics before leaving the room. The chosen topic should not be returned.
  4. Preparation time begins as soon as the competitor receives the topic choices.
  5. The timekeeper will start the digital timepiece when the competitor receives the topics and will give verbal countdown signals every thirty (30) seconds until four (4) minutes have elapsed.
  6. Unused preparation time may not be added to the speaking time.
  7. All questions/topics must come from the Apologetics Questions list on the main Speech Events page of the Stoa USA website.
  8. Apologetics judges should be in agreement with Stoa’s Statement of Faith. They will be given an additional orientation for this event using the Apologetics Orientation slides found on the main Speech Events page of the Stoa USA website.

Apologetics Presentation Rules:

  1. The competitor must answer the topic selected and MUST DEFEND THEIR POSITION.
  2. The speech must be the original work of the competitor, and may be supported by Scripture, quotations, and analysis from outside sources (e.g. commentaries, literature, news articles, testimonials, etc.)
  3. The question or topic should be approached from an apologetic perspective. It may or may not be an evangelistic opportunity.
  4. The competitor crafts a speech to reach those curious, not in agreement, or Biblically uninformed with persuasiveness and reasoning. The audience’s acceptance of the truth of the Bible should not be assumed.
  5. During prep time, the competitor may or may not use a Bible, access card files, and write additional notes on note cards.
  6. No computers, Kindles, iPods, cell phones, or other electronic media devices may be used for Apologetics preparation or presentation.
  7. During the speech, the competitor should use only note cards. Speaker may not use a Bible.
  8. The competitor must state the given topic early in the speech and adhere to it.
  9. No audio or visual aids or props may be used.
  10. Gratuitous vulgarity is strictly prohibited.
  11. The competitor must not listen to other Apologetics competitors speaking before him. He may stay after he has given his speech to listen to subsequent speakers.
  12. The timekeeper will start the digital timepiece when the competitor begins and will stop the digital timepiece when the competitor finishes. Hand signals will be given each minute showing the minutes remaining, at thirty seconds remaining, and a countdown from ten to zero seconds.
  13. Maximum speaking time is six (6) minutes. Preparation time – four (4) minutes. Speaking time – six (6) minutes. No minimum time.

Our speech competition started and we had 7 students to judge. I was one of 3 judges in the room along with 1 time keeper. The rhythm is rapid fire. The contestant comes into the room, and selects 3 of the questions (turned over) from the judges table. Then they have 4 minutes to choose one of the 3 topics and prepare for it on the spot. The student comes in with a box full of notecards which they’ve prepared ahead of time. After the allotted preparation time, the speaker moves to the front of the small room. They don’t immediately tell you which topic they’ve chosen. The speaker normally starts with some kind of a “zinger” – some kind of anecdote or personal story related to the topic to draw you in. Shortly they get around to telling you what question they’ve chosen. They have 6 minutes to answer the topic they’ve chosen. All seven of them had 3 point arguments – they must’ve been trained to do that. Below is the ballot the judges use to provide feedback to each speaker:

apologeticsballot

It was a daunting task to be a judge, but at the same time, very rewarding and encouraging. I definitely want to do this again. Out of the 7 speakers, there were 3 that, in my mind were in the top tier, 2 in the middle and 2 on the bottom. They all had great points and were well prepared.

A lot more could be said about this event than I have time for now. Witnessing this event and these young people gave me great hope that there is actually a generation of Christians being raised up that will be change agents in the culture, able to defend the Christian worldview in a captivating manner with gentleness, respect, conviction, compassion and clarity. I pray for these 7 speakers: Matthew, Nick, Jacob, Elizabeth, Nathan, Chase and Scott. I pray Lord that You might continue to nurture them and watch over them, growing them into mature, committed and thoughtful followers of Jesus Christ, who You can use to draw many to Yourself!

(Here are some links to find out more: STOA  Mars Hill Speech and Debate)

Difficult Situation

Last weekend, I found myself in a difficult social situation.  I was in situation where I had to attend.  There was a lot of partying and worldliness going on.  But I decided to just accept it and make the best out of it.  I don’t drink and continued in the same pattern that Saturday night.  Many of the people at the event know that I’m a Christian.  So, I socially participated fully with the people around me as they continued to get more and more inebriated throughout the night.  I will tell you that it was very difficult – one of the more difficult social situations I’ve ever been in.  The following morning, after 4 1/2 hours of sleep (my body just woke up at 5:30 am 🙂 ), I was contemplating what had happened the night before, the Holy Spirit brought several Scriptures to my mind which gave me great comfort and peace about the situation.  I would like to share these with you, my readers, hoping that as you face similar situations, you may be similarly comforted:

John 17:14-16 “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.

1 Corinthians 5:12-13a What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.

1 Corinthians 13:2-3 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

1 Corinthians 9:22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.

Job 1:4-5 His sons used to take turns holding feasts in their homes, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would send and have them purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom.

I thank God that He answered my prayer and showed me that I was faithful to Him at that event.  The Holy Spirit was able to use Scripture I had memorized to comfort me greatly.  As Jesus says in John 14:26:

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

Praise His holy name!

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will–to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.  Ephesians 1:3-8

Amen!

mid-week apologetics booster (11-19-2015)

Good morning servants of the Living God!

I hope this morning finds you well in whatever situation you’re facing. Here are some items to encourage you to “earnestly contend for the faith, once and for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3):

  1. Objections to Christianity: Who Created God? I’ve heard this question 2 times so far this year from AWANA 3rd and 4th graders: http://weighingevidence.com/2015/11/10/objections-to-christianity-who-created-god/
  2. “You’re Only a Christian Because of Your Birthplace!”: http://www.saintsandsceptics.org/youre-only-a-christian-because-of-your-birthplace/
  3. Why Moral Evil Does Not Disprove the Existence of God: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qIOFYjoquUk
  4. Who Is Jesus, According to Other Religions? http://coldcasechristianity.com/2014/who-is-jesus-according-to-other-religions/
  5. We Share Many Genes with Lettuce, but that Doesn’t Make Us Part Salad: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2015/11/we_share_many_g100961.html
  6. A Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor: An Evangelical Response to Global Warming: https://erlc.com/article/a-call-to-truth-prudence-and-protection
  7. Did Jesus Exist? (Part 1: Tacitus): http://christianapologeticsalliance.com/2015/11/13/did-jesus-exist-part-1-tacitus/
  8. Confronting the Transgender Storm: A Sermon on Deuteronomy 22:5: http://bcsmn.edu/index.php/bcs-media/chapel-messages/item/transgender
  9. Apologetics is Becoming Very Practical in America: http://southernbyhisgrace.com/apologetics-becoming-practical-america/
  10. Interesting (actually shocking) Quotes From Brigham Young The Second Prophet of the Mormon Church: https://carm.org/brigham-young-quotes
  11. Jesus celebrated Hanukkah! http://hightimetoawake.com/2013/11/27/jesus-celebrated-hanukkah/
  12. Did Daniel Accurately Predict a Succession of Nations? – Christian Research Institute: http://www.equip.org/article/daniel-accurately-predict-succession-nations/
  13. Why Defend My Faith? http://coffeehousequestions.com/2015/05/04/why-defend-my-faith/
  14. Jihad, Jizya, and Just War Theory – Christian Research Institute: http://www.equip.org/article/jihad-jizya-just-war-theory/
  15. Video: Real Answers to Tough Questions: A Talk with J.P. Moreland: http://truthbomb.blogspot.com/2015/08/video-real-answers-to-tough-questions.html
  16. The Freethinking Argument: https://apologers.wordpress.com/2015/11/02/the-freethinking-argument/
  17. Helping Kids Learn to Ask Questions About Their Faith: https://beyondtm.wordpress.com/2015/11/05/helping-kids-learn-to-ask-questions-about-their-faith/
  18. Interview with Craig Evans, Distinguished Professor of New Testament. | Historical Jesus studies: https://jamesbishopblog.wordpress.com/2015/11/14/interview-with-craig-evans-distinguished-professor-of-new-testament/
  19. How Early Was Jesus Being Worshiped As God? http://www.thinkchristianly.org/how-early-was-jesus-being-worshiped-as-god/
  20. Why Naturalism is Simply Unbelievable: http://apologetics-notes.comereason.org/2014/12/why-naturalism-is-simply-unbelievable.html
  21. Were the Salem Witch Trials biblical? http://www.gotquestions.org/Salem-Witch-Trials.html
  22. Richard Dawkins, anti-Christian language and the rise of science: http://creation.com/anti-christian-rise-science
  23. Can A Good God Send People to Hell? http://pleaseconvinceme.com/2015/can-a-good-god-send-people-to-hell/
  24. Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God? http://www.str.org/articles/do-christians-and-muslims-worship-the-same-god#.VkvKWN-rTBU
  25. The Trinity: A Solution, Not a Problem Part 1 by Greg Koukl (Solid Ground Newsletter): http://www.str.org/Media/Default/Publications/Solid%20Ground%2011-2015%20The%20Tirnity-1.pdf
  26. An Argument for Jehovah’s Witnesses: Jesus Is Jehovah: http://www.str.org/articles/an-argument-for-jehovah-s-witnesses-jesus-is-jehovah

We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands. Psalm 78:4-7

 

Blessings to you all!

Apologetics Class 11-15-2015

Currently, we are reading the book Unsilenced: How to Voice the Gospel by James Boccardo.  It is a great book about evangelism that also includes some information about Apologetics.

————————————————————————-

Hi All,

In class this past Sunday, we started reading chapter 8 ‘The Varsity Team’.  The chapter seems to focus on some more advanced topics such as Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witness.  We also watched a short video on the following topic:

“Which Jesus Do You Follow?” by Living Waters

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=trwOqDnITvc

It is a 2 minute 43 second video which examines some of the false conceptions of Jesus that other religions subscribe to.  It was a good introduction to the content of the first part of this chapter.

We read pages 139-151 during our time together.  Here are the notes that we discussed after the reading:

  1. (pg. 140-142) What 2 things to Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses have in common that distinguishes them from Christians?
  2. (pg. 143-144) What does 2 Nephi 25:23 (in the Book of Mormon) say and how does that compare with Ephesians 2:8-9, Titus 3:5 and Galatians 2:21?
  3. (pg. 144-145) Did David forfeit his inheritance in heaven because of his adultery with Bathsheba, or was he saved despite his many sins?  Why and how?
  4. (pg. 145) How would you respond to the argument that Abraham was saved by good works based on James 2:21?
  5. (pg. 146) We’re not saved from _____ and don’t enter ______ by ________: only through _______.  That _______ will result in _______ because of the _________ that God gives us.
  6. (pg. 147-151) Where in the New Testament does it say that Jesus is God? Explain the difference between ‘direct references’ and ‘indirect references’.
  7. (pg. 150-151) Does the phrase ‘firstborn’ in Colossians 1:15 mean that Jesus is not eternal? What does Psalm 89:27 tell us about the phrase ‘firstborn’?

Next week we will probably be finishing chapter 8, reading about the following topics:

  1. What if you meet a “Christian”?
  2. What if I meet someone of another religion that I know nothing about?
  3. Evolution – your grandpa wasn’t a monkey

Thanks for participating!

Teaching on Ecclesiastes 6:10-7:14

Instructions from the Grave

(Ecclesiastes – Reformed Expository Commentary Douglas Sean O’Donnell pg. 132-144)

Ecclesiastes 6:10-12 (ESV)

Whatever has come to be has already been named, and it is known what man is, and that he is not able to dispute with one stronger than he. The more words, the more vanity, and what is the advantage to man? For who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life, which he passes like a shadow? For who can tell man what will be after him under the sun?

Ecclesiastes 7:1-14 (ESV)

A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth. It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools. For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fools; this also is vanity.

Surely oppression drives the wise into madness, and a bribe corrupts the heart. Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools. Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.

Wisdom is good with an inheritance, an advantage to those who see the sun. For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money, and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it. Consider the work of God: who can make straight what he has made crooked? In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.

2 Questions

Verses 11-12 raises a few questions. While there are actually 3 questions here, thematically there are only two:

  1. Who knows what is good for us? This question is answered in Ecclesiastes 7:1-12
  2. Who can tell what will happen to us? This question is answered in Ecclesiastes 7:13-14

What’s the Good?

Instead of babbling on to ourselves and others about what might benefit us in “the few days” of our transient lives, we come to listen to God’s eternal perspective. It is important to remember that our lives pass like a shadow:

O LORD, what is man that you care for him, the son of man that you think of him? Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow. Psalm 144:3-4 (NIV)

In chapter 7 verses 1-12 Pastor Solomon provides some pithy proverbs, using the Hebrew word tov (translated “good” or “better”) 9 times, telling us what is good for us, or what is better than something else. There are 7 “better than” comparisons, which we can divide into 2 scenes:

  1. (v. 1 – 4) Going to a funeral
  2. (v. 5 – 12) Coming to a fork in the road where we can choose between two pathways:
    1. The walkway of wisdom
    2. The footpath of folly

Going to a Funeral

The 1st scene takes place at a funeral. In this section, we read twice that attending a “house of mourning” is better than going to “the house of feasting and pleasure”:

A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth. It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure. (Eccl. 7:1-4 NIV)

The author points out that these teachings are counterintuitive, and are reminiscent of Jesus’ teaching in the Beatitudes. Jesus didn’t label the courageous, the funny, the intelligent, and the attractive “blessed”. Rather, He attached that title to those who mourn, are persecuted, and are poor in spirit:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Matthew 5:3-5

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:11-12

Do not underestimate the divinely appointed opportunity that every funeral allows. Outside each funeral home God holds up His picket signs:

  1. “Life is brief.”
  2. “Death is inevitable.”
  3. “Walk wisely!”
  4. “Redeem the time!”
  5. “How are you spending your time?”

The author admonishes us to ponder the questions “What will be said of you when people gather at the house of mourning to mourn over you? Will you be remembered as someone wise or foolish?”

As much as our culture is a culture of death (violent video games, violent crime, abortion, etc.), nevertheless we deny death when it gets uncomfortably close. This is shown in our language when we say compassionately, “She has passed away” or “gone to a better place” or, crudely, “He has kicked the bucket”. The author quotes Walker Percy from The Second Coming:

“The present-day unbeliever is crazy because he finds himself born into a world of endless wonders, having no notion how he got here, a world in which he eats, sleeps … works, grows old, gets sick, and dies … takes his comfort and ease, …watches TV, drinks his drink, [and] laughs … as if his prostate were not growing cancerous, his arteries [not] turning to chalk, his brain cells [not] dying by the millions, as if the worms were not going to have him in no time at all”

So, the Apostle Paul tells us that death is an enemy:

The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (1 Corinthians 15:26)

But death is also an evangelist. Death is the great mentor for diligence, sobriety, love, generosity, reverence and humility. Death forces the most profound questions to be asked, but mercilessly mocks those who sleep through its lessons. Death is like a detox clinic. It sobers us up!

When we go to a funeral, we should think deeply about the state and course of our lives. Who are we? What have we done with our lives? How will we stand before God?

So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God. (Romans 14:12 NIV)

In light of Christ’s trampling down of death by His death, we see death differently. Death is not the exit to extinction, but the entrance to eternity. Sure, our bodies are wasting away, but it is also true that our inner nature is being renewed day by day:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Cor. 4:16-18 NIV)

Thus we affirm with Paul:

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21 NIV)

Likewise, we affirm with Solomon that “the day of death” is better than “the day of birth” (Eccl. 7:1).

Traveling the Road Less Taken

Ecclesiastes 7:5-12 uses the language of the fool and the wise person:

It is better to heed a wise man’s rebuke than to listen to the song of fools. Like the crackling of thorns under the pot, so is the laughter of fools. This too is meaningless. Extortion turns a wise man into a fool, and a bribe corrupts the heart. The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride. Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools. Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions. Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing and benefits those who see the sun. Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: that wisdom preserves the life of its possessor. (NIV)

Wise / wisdom is repeated 7 times, fools 4 times, and heart 5 times. In Hebrew, the word heart (lev) has more to do with thinking and doing than feeling. The heart is the place where reflections and decisions are made. Here the thoughtful decision is between the walkway of wisdom and the footpath of folly.

Again, Solomon’s teaching is similar to Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount:

Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash. Matthew 7:24-27

The 3 “better than” comparisons in v. 5-12 can be summarized under two exhortations:

  1. Listen to the wise – v. 5 says “It is better to heed a wise man’s rebuke than to listen to the song of fools.”
    1. Instead of listening to fools, then, and their trivial jokes and Top 40 songs, we are to listen to the wise and their unpopular, but constructive, criticism.

      Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid. Prov. 12:1

      A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool. Prov. 17:10

  2. Wait wisely – v. 8 – 9 says “Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools.”
    1. The phrase “patient in spirit” is the central concept around which everything in these verses orbits. We all face temptations toward impatience. It might be the “quick fix”, as addressed in Ecclesiastes 7:7:

      Surely oppression drives the wise into madness, and a bribe corrupts the heart.

      Even the wise man may be tempted to embrace something that he would otherwise think crazy or evil (“madness”), and take a bribe or extort someone in order to pay off his debts.Beyond the temptation of the quick fix is the temptation to lose our temper, as stated in verse 9:

      Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools.

Closely related to losing our temper is complaining about the present, as we idolize and airbrush the past:

Say not, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask this (Eccl 7:10)

To paraphrase, “Ah, the good old days! When I was a boy, gas was a nickel a gallon and young men wore their trousers above their bottoms, not below.” Nostalgia of this sort nauseates Pastor Solomon, for he knows as we all should know, that each age has its own unique opportunities and challenges. For example, the Corinthian Christians lived in a city that was synonymous with illicit sex. The Greek word korinthiazesthai–to corinthianize–meant to live with drunken and immoral debauchery. We cannot face the challenges of our age by pining after another. Such praise of the past proves our impatience with the present. We are to manage the hand that we have been dealt, rather than longing for some ideal era.

Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing and benefits those who see the sun. Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: that wisdom preserves the life of its possessor. Ecclesiastes 7:11-12 (NIV)

Money has its advantages. If you have money, when adversity strikes – the loss of a job, a sputtering economy, or a natural disaster – you have some shelter and security. But money is worthless when standing before a Holy God:

Riches won’t help on the day of judgment, but right living can save you from death. (Proverbs 11:4 NLT)

Wisdom, however, protects. The wise know how to navigate through life’s deep and difficult waters. The wise know the wisdom of tempering the tongue, listening, waiting, and attending funerals. Yet human wisdom, without a right relationship with God, doesn’t ultimately get us anywhere. Thus, there is another step, a final step forward, that we must take. The last step is the beginning of wisdom – to fear the Lord:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (Proverbs 9:10 NIV)

Consider God

Remember the 2 questions from 6:11-12. The first question (“Who knows what is good for us?”) is answered in Eccl. 7:1-12, the second question (“Who can tell what will happen to us?”) is answered in 7:13-14. The second question is rhetorical. The tone is negative, as in: “Who on earth can possibly predict what will become of us in the future? Will tomorrow bring feast of famine, work or unemployment, prosperity or adversity, happiness or sorrow?” What is the answer to these questions? Only God knows. It follows that to God we must go. We go to Him not for answers but for shelter under His sovereignty. Here is how Pastor Solomon phrases it:

Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked? When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future. Eccl. 7:13-14 (NIV)

These verses exhort us to see our situation – whether seemingly straight or certainly crooked – as ordered and smooth in the sovereign mind of God.

Q: When the world is in the hand of a good and sovereign God, why is it such a “crooked place”?

The author calls these last 2 verses Pastor Solomon’s “Job moment”, because they reflect both the beginning and the end of Job’s drama. At the end, in Job 37:14, Elihu exhorts Job to “stop and consider the wondrous works of God.” Then in chapters 38-41, God cross-examines His creature (Job) with His creation. God summons even the ostrich to testify against human arrogance, ignorance and ingratitude. Finally in chapter 42, the righteous man repents. “I have uttered,” Job admits, “what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me … I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You” (v. 3-5). What Job finally sees clearly is that he could not see clearly (as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians):

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Cor. 13:12 – NIV)

He acknowledges that the Lord is lovingly involved in the operations of an exceedingly complex universe; that God’s mysterious providence is too wonderful to comprehend; that human perceptions of justice are not the scales on which the righteousness of God is weighed; and that God has an inescapable purpose in whatever He does, even if that purpose is never revealed to the creature it affects. Earlier in the beginning of Job’s story (Job 1-2), he experienced a very “crooked” world. Job lost his wealth. He lost his children. He lost his friends’ respect. He lost his wife’s love:

His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9)

Yet Job acknowledged, as Solomon does here, that God has made the day of prosperity as well as the day of adversity (“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away.” Job 1:21). He came to understand that both light and darkness (Isaiah 45:7), good and bad (Job 2:10; Lam. 3:38), come from the Lord’s sovereign hand. Both are works of God. Both are to be “considered.” If we do not know what the future holds, we can only submit to and trust in the One who holds the future. Martin Luther said it well: “Let us, therefore, be content with the things that are present and commit ourselves into the hand of God, who alone knows and controls both past and the future.” God can twist the times so that a proud boy sold into slavery (a bad thing) is the very man God uses to save thousands of people from starvation (a good thing). Trust in the Lord’s sovereign purposes, knowing that He once used the worst day in human history – the day of Christ’s crucifixion – to bring hope and happiness to the world forever. The Man of Sorrows is the God of joy (Isaiah 53:3; John 15:11). Do you really believe that He works all things together for your good (Rom. 8:28)? Then live like it. Trust God and tremble before Him. Trembling trust is the wise way forward in a fallen world. Trembling trust in the risen Christ is the only way to overcome the grave.

Waiting for Superman

In a modern world, where the work of God is considered benign, other idols – even in the form of make-believe superheroes like superman – rise to the surface. However, people need to understand that there really is Someone strong enough to save:

Ah, Sovereign LORD, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for You. (Jeremiah 32:17 NIV)

He is Someone that we cannot and should not argue with, but Someone that we can and should rest in. Our greatest good is God! God knows what is good for us, and He holds our futures in His sovereign, loving hands. So stop pounding on the door of doubt. Stop trying to squeeze through the doggie flap of purposeless pleasures. Stop shaking the locked gate of grief. Pastor Solomon has shut every door but one: faith! Knock, Open. Walk through. Acknowledge God’s greatness. Take death seriously. And for God’s sake, enjoy life while you’re at it!

Q: How can we understand both the sovereignty of Almighty God and the free will He’s given to creatures created in His image and that we experience in our daily lives?

mid-week apologetics booster (11-12-2015)

Good morning friends!

Here are some links for you to look at. Read/watch one or to become informed – then go out and use that knowledge! Jesus said “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:14-16) Also, read the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30):

  1. Tons of Great Biblical Training Classes Free: https://www.biblicaltraining.org/classes/all
  2. When Obvious Proof is Purposely Missed: The Willful Blindness of Atheists: http://goddoesexistuknowit.blogspot.com/2015/03/when-obvious-proof-is-purposely-missed.html
  3. 3 Things You Can Do to Encourage Apologetics in Your Church | Hope’s Reason: http://www.stephenjbedard.com/3-things-can-encourage-apologetics-church/
  4. Twelve Points That Show Christianity Is True: http://str.typepad.com/weblog/2015/10/twelve-points-that-show-christianity-is-true.html
  5. Notecard Answers for Why I Believe the Bible: http://truthbomb.blogspot.com/2015/10/notecard-answers-for-why-i-believe-bible.html
  6. Nine New Testament Facts about Jesus Corroborated by Josephus and Tacitus: http://www.apologeticsreview.com/2014/12/17/nine-new-testament-facts-about-jesus-corroborated-by-josephus-and-tacitus/
  7. Did Christians Make Up Sin So They Could Sell Salvation? http://entertainingchristianity.com/2015/06/08/did-christians-make-up-sin-so-they-could-sell-salvation/
  8. Discussing Jesus’ Death with Muslim Friends: http://subspla.sh/9efc6b7
  9. Mormonism: Same Language, Different Meanings: http://subspla.sh/df9d078
  10. What’s the Difference Between Bad Theology and Heresy? http://subspla.sh/1ea76c5
  11. When Your Beliefs Make People Angry: http://subspla.sh/f44f8db
  12. Reaching a Morally Insensitive Culture: http://subspla.sh/b828990
  13. Who’s Waiting for You? http://subspla.sh/bd15cbe
  14. Obama’s Legacy: Transgender Male to Shower with Girls! https://answersingenesis.org/blogs/ken-ham/2015/11/05/obamas-legacy-transgender-male-shower-girls/
  15. Myths About Science and Religion: Galileo part 1 – The Integration of Mann: http://www.apologeticsmann.com/2015/02/myths-about-science-and-religion-galileo-part-1/
  16. Only the Trinity Fits All of the Scriptural Data – Stand to Reason Blog: http://str.typepad.com/weblog/2015/11/only-the-trinity-fits-all-of-the-scriptural-data.html
  17. More “Design of Life” Evidence: Whales: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2015/11/more_design_of_1100621.html
  18. The Divinity of Jesus – Saints and Sceptics: http://www.saintsandsceptics.org/divinity-of-jesus/
  19. The Useful Delusion of Christian Belief | Cold Case Christianity: http://coldcasechristianity.com/2015/the-useful-delusion-of-christian-belief/
  20. Mormon Church Just Codified Two Major Policies Involving People ‘In Same-Gender Marriage’ and Their Children | TheBlaze.com: http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2015/11/06/mormon-church-just-codified-two-major-policies-involving-people-in-same-gender-marriage-and-their-children/
  21. Lila Rose: Why Should a Child Conceived in Rape Pay for the Crimes of Her Father? http://www.lifenews.com/2015/11/06/lila-rose-why-should-a-child-conceived-in-rape-pay-for-the-crimes-of-her-father/
  22. Christian Daycare Workers Fired for Refusing to Call a Little Girl a Boy: http://www.breitbart.com/texas/2015/11/06/christian-daycare-worker-fired-refusing-call-little-girl-boy/
  23. Watch “Frank Turek Responds to Atheist Comments Online | The Stream” on YouTube: https://youtu.be/eoCDgNZHFOE
  24. Watch “What The West Needs To Know About Islam | William J. Federer” on YouTube: https://youtu.be/-YpJjRzQDIM
  25. Watch “Jesus Makes Headlines: Was Jesus Intolerant? with Dr. Frank Turek” on YouTube: https://youtu.be/kESK1KSMPgQ
  26. Pray for persecuted Christians – This video was produced by the Religious Liberty Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance in line with the 2015 IDOP. The video is designed to help churches and small groups pray for persecuted Christians around the world: https://vimeo.com/143242316
  27. The Last Lecture: Life or Lie? http://faithactually.blogspot.com/2015/11/the-last-lecture-life-or-lie.html
  28. Has Science Buried God? John Lennox at Rice University: https://chab123.wordpress.com/2015/11/05/has-science-buried-god-john-lennox-at-rice-university/
  29. Eight-Armed Enigma? Octopus Research Reveals Problems for Evolutionary Theory: http://christiannews.net/2015/08/24/eight-armed-enigma-octopus-research-reveals-problems-for-evolutionary-theory/
  30. Radical doomsayer environmentalists refuse to express joy at new NASA report which says Antarctic ice sheet has been gaining ice for decades: https://danfromsquirrelhill.wordpress.com/2015/11/08/nasa/
  31. The Deception of Evolutionary Dating: http://www.creationmoments.com/node/2538
  32. What is the Earliest Complete List of the Canon of the New Testament? http://michaeljkruger.com/what-is-the-earliest-complete-list-of-the-canon-of-the-new-testament/
  33. Mark Mittelberg | My Reason for Faith: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEpRA5G8g84
  34. Video: The Abortion Debate- Scott Klusendorf vs James Croft: http://truthbomb.blogspot.com/2015/09/video-abortion-debate-scott-klusendorf.html
  35. Are gays ‘born that way’? Most Americans now say yes, but science says no: https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/for-the-first-time-a-majority-of-americans-believe-homosexuals-are-born-tha
  36. Richard Dawkins Vs Creationist (FULL DEBATE): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qnOIhLZTpg

“So he [the Apostle Paul] reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there.” Acts 17:17

Have a blessed day and rest of your week!

Diwali

I’m really struggling this week. I work with a bunch of people who are all from India. They don’t all practice the Hindu religion per se, but because of their cultural background in India, they all celebrate the Hindu religious holiday of Diwali. Apparently, Diwali, is kind of like their Christmas. It is a very special celebration for them. Apparently it is actually a 2-week long celebration. But, today is the culmination of the holiday. Looking into it on Wikipedia, it seems like it has various meanings in various areas, but seems related to the celebration of the triumph of good over evil and of Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth.

Since I work with all Indian people, I think they wanted to be nice, and invited me to an Indian restaurant for a Diwali lunch today. Also, tomorrow our department is actually having an official Diwali lunch. So two days in a row I will be going to lunch to celebrate Diwali with them. Not only do I not like Indian food, in fact I intensely dislike it (even the smell of it), I now feel like by attending, I’m attending a celebration of an idolatrous Indian Hindu religious festival.

The Lord is clear, that idolatry is a grave sin. It is listed in the Ten Commandments. You shall not make for yourself a graven image. You shall have no other gods before me. (Ex. 20:2-3) It is also listed in several lists of sins in the Bible. For example, Galatians 5:20 clearly says that idolatry is a sin. In fact Paul says in the same passage:

“I warn you as I did before, those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal. 5:21b)

That means these friends of mine who worship elephant heads and the goddess Lakshmi will be separated from God for eternity in hell. It emphasizes, those who live like this. I believe that a practicing Hindu is the epitome of living in idolatry. Likewise Revelation 21:8 says:

“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

Again, this verse is telling me that idolaters (along with a number of other categories of habitual sinners) will go to hell.  It is very ironic that this very festival, which is intended to celebrate the triumph of good over evil, in the very process of celebrating it, is perpetrating more evil (idolatry) against the one true God.

So when I attend this lunch today, I will be attending there with a very large group of people who are going to hell, unless they change before they die. I’m really struggling with the idea of going there and celebrating this event with them. I almost feel like, just by me showing up, I am endorsing this event and what it stands for. But then, another side of me says, they’re not believers in Christianity, so why would I expect them to act like believers? Paul says in first Corinthians 5:12-13,

“What business is it of mine to judge those outside of the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside! Expel the wicked man from among you!”

So, it is certainly not my job to judge them.

Some of these people, I have shared my faith with. They’ve heard the gospel. If I haven’t directly shared my faith with them, they know I’m a Christian. They’ve heard the message that Christianity says there is one God. They’ve heard the truth, yet they want to just continue to go their own way. Proverbs 16: 25 says:

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”

That is what I see happening here. Hinduism and idolatry seems right to them, but it will lead to death. I’ve tried to warn them, particularly this one person, who I had an hour conversation with about the gospel. I challenged him by asking, “What if you’re wrong? What if Christianity is right? If you were wrong, and Christianity is true then you will be in hell for eternity.”

So, at the end of the day, I’m going to attend to be polite. I hope that there will be an open door for me to talk about my faith and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As Paul said,

“To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Cor. 9:22).

One of my big dilemmas is whether I should say “Happy Diwali”. Please pray for me Christian brothers and sisters!

Apologetics Class 11-8-2015

Currently, we are reading the book Unsilenced: How to Voice the Gospel by James Boccardo.  It is a great book about evangelism that also includes some information about Apologetics.

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Hi All,

Thanks for your attendance and participation on Sunday’s class.  I really enjoyed the discussion as usual.  We read all the way through chapter 7! We also watched a short, 4 ½ minute witnessing clip:

God is for People Who Believe, But I’m Not a Religious Person: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H46Fr_n2m6U

Here are the questions we used to drive our discussion

Unsilenced Chapter 7 ‘More Than Knowing What to Say’ (11 pages:  pg. 125-135)

  1. (pg. 125-126) How is sharing your faith mysterious?  What does Mark 4:26-29 teach regarding this?  What is our job?  What is God’s job?
  2. (pg. 128-129) What are some things you should keep in mind after long periods of sharing the gospel without seeing any results?
  3. (pg. 130) We should share what we believe about Jesus with our ________s and our ________s.
  4. (pg. 129-130) What does the phrase “Good Works: Don’t Just Do Them, Use Them” mean?
  5. (pg. 131-133) What purpose do Gospel tracts serve?
  6. (pg. 134-135) How can we be persistent in sharing our faith?

Next week we’ll continue with chapter 8 (The Varsity Team).  It is a 25 page chapter, so we’ll definitely be splitting it up into 2-3 weeks.

Have a great week!

Response to a question from a Muslim – Omer

The following letter is something I found here:

http://www.comereason.org/religious-exclusivism.asp

I’ve given my response below Omer’s letter

************************************************************

Hi,

I’m a Muslim and lately I have been reading many of the questions and answers on your site and thought to myself that I needed to express my thoughts and feelings too and hear what you have to say about it.

The two biggest religions in the world, Islam and Christianity both have a rule that is extremely disturbing when the two religions have so many followers and both make a lot of sense.

According to Islam, if you believe Jesus as the Son of God you go to hell, and according to Christianity if you believe that Jesus is not the Son of God you go to hell. Now living in the 21st century in Australia, how are we supposed to know what exactly happened in the Middle East 2000 years ago? Of course we cannot know, we can only believe. Lately this has been really stuck on my mind. I still believe in God but I feel very lost and insecure.

People and religions say you should love God, but I do not understand how I could love someone who would put me into hell for eternity based on what I believe about Jesus, even though God knows my situation and knows that I could never be sure about which belief is true. I do not want to lose my faith and I do not want to not have a chance of going to heaven either and so we must do what we can to try to find answers.

In one of your responses you said that no matter how much you have sinned, if you repent and believe Jesus is your savior you will still go to heaven. So on judgment day if I was to see very bad people who have repented and been saved, and if I was a very good person who always believed in God and never did bad things, only small mistakes that we all do and I go to hell being a much better person, then where is the just, merciful, understanding and loving God that I used to know and believe in? It looks as if Christianity shows an easy way out for Christians and makes it impossible for everybody else. I don’t like the thought of this as it does not sound fair and at the same time it sounds scary since I am a Muslim.

If God was to toss a coin and ask you “heads or tails? If you are correct you go to heaven, but if you are wrong then you go to hell”, then would you see this as a fair way of deciding who goes to heaven and hell? Of course you wouldn’t but when you think about it, you have a much better chance this way since it is fifty-fifty. In real life it isn’t fifty-fifty between Muslims and Christians, there are more religions too. Knowing that God has the power to do anything, both religions would be possible in terms of who Jesus really was.

I feel insecure but it is not something that can be ignored. My eternal life and all of ours is at stake. Now before you reply, instead of listing more contradictions in the Qur’an and trying to persuade me that your religion is correct, if you could just think what if YOU were born into a Muslim family and it was ME who was born into a Christian family, then who would be correct? Who would go to heaven and hell then? I was born into this game without a choice where if I win I have nothing to gain (Heaven is unneeded if one does not exist) but if I lose than I have everything to lose.

When there are so many murderers, rapists, people who do not believe in God at all, so many people who do not deserve to go to heaven, why is it that somebody who believes in God should burn for eternity just because they didn’t correctly guess the right religion? People are going to be eternally punished for being unlucky.

Why should I be one of those who end ups burning forever for a reason so unreasonable and for something not in my hands (as you notice nearly all people raised in a family of a particular religion would stick to it and if I was to think about changing religions I am tossing up between a chance of guaranteed hell and a chance of guaranteed hell).

Nothing feels as bad as living blindly, knowing you might go to hell no matter how good you are as a person all because of something that is not in your hands as you can never know for sure what is right. I cannot accept something like this but cannot do anything about it. God is supposed to be fair but I do not see any fairness in this. If God understands our situation then why doesn’t God forgive us for the incorrect belief of Jesus a lot of us have? (I am not saying which is right and wrong)

Thank you for reading, I really hope to get a reply from you and I really do not know what sort of reply to expect for something like what I wrote. There are so many little questions in my writing and you probably will not have the time to answer it all in detail and I do not know how helpful any reply would be keeping in mind that even the good go to hell but I would really like a reply not only for me but for all the people who visit http://www.comereason.org that have similar thoughts to what I have since I believe that what I wrote about is the most important and the most scariest thing of all.

If I had a choice right now to die and never come back, I would choose that than to go on with this and have a high chance of ending up in hell. Nothing is worth the risk of eternal pain. It is not our fault that there are so many religions to choose from that sound right.

Thank you for having the website to give people the opportunity to express themselves and ask questions.

Sincerely,

Omer

Hi Omer,

I don’t know that much about the Qur’an, so, you won’t have to worry – I won’t be pointing out contradictions in the Qur’an. But I can try to explain to you why believing in Jesus is so important in Christianity.

First of all, I want to commend you on a few things you said in your letter:

  1. we must do what we can to find answers
  2. it is not something that can be ignored. My eternal life and all of ours is at stake

These are excellent points! In my response to you, I would like to build on those themes…

My first question is: what have you done to find the answers you’re seeking? You say that you don’t want me to try “to persuade [you] that [my] religion is correct”. But how will you find out answers to your questions if an advocate does not educate you about his position and why he believes it to be correct? And if my position is correct, why shouldn’t I try to persuade you? As you say “it is not something that can be ignored. My eternal life and all of ours is at stake”, and I would strongly agree! Since our eternal life is at stake, I’d better try to make you aware of what kind of trouble you’d be in if you were to meet a Holy God on judgment day outside of a saving relationship with His Son. So, my concern is for your eternal life – I want to see you be “saved” from the punishment due your sins (more on that later).

You say in your letter “Of course we cannot know, we can only believe [what happened in the Middle East 2000 years ago]”. It seems like you’re setting up a false dichotomy. Either “know” or “believe”. It sounds like the choices you present are “absolute certainty” or on the other hand, “blind faith”. But I would argue that there is a 3rd alternative – “true beyond a reasonable doubt”. Objective truths do exist and can be known – not always with 100% certainty, but “beyond a reasonable doubt”. In fact, there’s not much in this life that you can know with 100% certainty. Here are some examples:

  1. Every time you eat at a restaurant, you can’t know with 100% certainty that the people preparing your food didn’t poison it.
  2. When you are driving down a 2 lane road you can’t have 100% certainty that the person on the other side won’t veer over into your lane and hit you head on!
  3. You can’t know with 100% certainty that when you press the brake pedal in your car that it will stop!
  4. You can’t know with 100% certainty that George Washington or Abraham Lincoln existed and did the things history tells us they did.

But there is an objective truth about all these things. Likewise, there is a historical, objective truth about who Jesus really is and what He said and did. Similar to a cold case detective, we (those who seek to know the truth about Jesus) no longer have direct access to the eyewitnesses to personally interview them. Some of the evidence is lost. Yet we do still have a lot of evidence. We have writings from the eyewitnesses that are included in the Bible. The New Testament specifically is composed of 27 letters written by 9 different authors, who either personally knew Jesus or interviewed eyewitnesses who did know Jesus. These writings were in circulation within 25-60 years of the events they record. Some of those writings can be traced back to within 3 years of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:3-8). History tells us that Jesus’ disciples were persecuted and died as a result of proclaiming His resurrection and Lordship. His disciples would’ve been in a position to know the truth, having been with Him for 3 years during His public ministry. As Chuck Colson said “The fact is that people will give their lives for what they believe is true, but they will never give their lives for what they know is a lie.”

We also have early, extra-biblical writings from the time period of Jesus by neutral or hostile sources (enemy attestation), such as Josephus, Tacitus, Suetonius, Thallus, Phlegon, Pliny the Younger, and the Jewish Talmud. So, like a cold case detective, we can construct a cumulative, circumstantial case using the available evidence. People are convicted for murder on circumstantial cases with no physical evidence all the time in the United States. Circumstantial evidence is powerful enough to condemn a man to death in our human courts and, likewise, there is enough circumstantial evidence to believe that what the Bible says about Jesus is true (beyond a “reasonable doubt”). God has not left Himself without evidence in the world. There is the evidence of natural revelation (the universe, the earth and the apparent design in life), the evidence of special revelation (God inspired writings from His witnesses), as well as the evidence from other writings of the time. I would recommend that you read “Cold Case Christianity” for more information on this approach to examining the evidence concerning Jesus.

Now to the question about why you need to believe in Jesus. You say “According to Islam, if you believe Jesus as the Son of God you go to hell, and according to Christianity if you believe that Jesus is not the Son of God you go to hell.” I don’t think you stated the Christian point of view quite accurately. Your statement is only partially correct. Yes, John 8:24 says “Unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins”. So, in that sense, what you’re saying is true, but it is only partially correct. The Christian view is that all human beings are sinners, destined to hell to pay for their own sins, unless they recognize and accept the free gift of Jesus’ payment for their sins and trust in Him to save them and reconcile them to God, so that they can spend eternity in heaven with Him. I will explain more…

I think that you and I would both believe that God is the supreme judge of the universe and that He has established laws that He commands people to adhere to. However, we can see that these laws are not adhered to. People break the laws – a lot. In Christianity that is called sin. Now as a righteous and holy Judge, God cannot ignore sin – He must punish law breakers. Yet, in addition to being holy and righteous, God is loving. He wants to save law breakers, but He cannot deny justice in the process. Someone has to pay the penalty for the laws broken. Since the laws that are broken are ultimately against God, He has the right to decide the penalty and how it can be paid. So, since everyone has broken these laws at one time or another, there is no one on earth who is free from guilt and able to be a substitute for others. So, God put a plan in place, where He Himself would come to earth as a man (in the person of Jesus Christ), live a sinless life under the law, and die a horrific death as payment for the penalties of all those law breakers. But if a person rejects Him and His payment for the person’s transgressions of the law, then God will not force this free gift on that person. The free gift must be received and the recipient must acknowledge the giver.

You say in your letter “I do not understand how I could love someone who would put me into hell for eternity based on what I believe about Jesus, even though God knows my situation and knows that I could never be sure about which belief is true”. As I said, we are not “put in hell” due to what we believe about Jesus, but rather because of our sins. But I want you to also consider what hell is and what heaven is. Heaven is being in the presence of Christ for all eternity. Does it sound reasonable to you that someone who wanted nothing to do with Jesus here on earth would be ushered into His presence for all eternity to be with Him? It does not sound reasonable to me. Here on this earth, it is our chance to make our decision where we’re going to spend eternity. Jesus said, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” Notice that Jesus said, “I never knew you”. Jesus doesn’t want you to spend eternity with Him if you don’t want to be there with Him. As an illustration, imagine if one day you and your family showed up at the mansion of a well-known person in your city. You had all your belongings and luggage with you and told this well-known person that you wanted to move into his house. What do you think he’d say? “I never knew you! You’re not going to move in here! What kind of nerve do you have to expect that you could just move into my house without ever having known me?” Well, there is a similar thing going on with Jesus. We can’t “knock on heaven’s door” and ask to move in having never wanted to know Him here on earth.

Regarding Hell… The Bible has a lot of ways to describe hell. One of those ways is “separation from God”. For example:

They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power (2 Thessalonians 1:9)

Being shut out from the presence of the Lord may not sound too bad. But the Bible says that every good thing comes from Him (James 1:17). That means, if hell is separation from God, then it is separation from everything good, which only leaves everything bad.

In your letter, you say “on judgment day if I was to see very bad people who have repented and been saved, and if I was a very good person who always believed in God and never did bad things, only small mistakes that we all do and I go to hell being a much better person”. I want to tell you 2 teachings from Jesus that tell you His thoughts on this matter:

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14

Omer, if you were to place yourself into this story, which one of these 2 people do you think you would be more like, the Pharisee or the tax collector? Based on your own statements, I see you identifying yourself with the Pharisee more than the tax collector. Surprisingly to His hearers Jesus says that it is the tax collector (the sinner) who acknowledges his sin and asks for mercy who goes home justified before God. That is Jesus’ heart in the matter.

Here is the other story, which is not a parable, but the historical account of Jesus being crucified between 2 criminals (Luke 23:39-43):

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.

Again, Omer, regarding your statement “if I was to see very bad people who have repented and been saved, and if I was a very good person who always believed in God and never did bad things, only small mistakes that we all do and I go to hell being a much better person”. This account clearly tells us that the second criminal who asked Jesus to “remember me when you come into your kingdom” did not go to hell, but rather was to be in paradise with Jesus that very same day that he was to die. It was a deathbed conversion! And I’m sure he was one of these “very bad people” you talked about who have repented. Several things are evident in reading what this condemned criminal said:

  1. He fears God – this is evident because of the way he asks the same question to the other criminal. This is ALWAYS a good place to be – fearing God. Proverbs 9:10 says “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom…”.
  2. He repents by saying “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve”. That shows a true change of mind about his crimes. The other criminal only wants to get off scott-free! But this criminal knows that they are just getting what they deserve – nothing more, nothing less.
  3. He uses a logical argument to try to convince the other criminal! “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
  4. He defends Jesus, by saying “this man has done nothing wrong”. So, he’s giving the other criminal a reason for the trust that he has in Jesus – His sinlessness. In John 8:46, Jesus had said “Which one of you convicts Me of sin?”, and the writer of Hebrews says “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin.”
  5. He acknowledges the Lordship and Deity of Jesus by acknowledging that He will be coming into His Kingdom.
  6. Finally he asks Jesus to save him. Romans 10:13 says “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” So, he’s acknowledging a few things:
    1. There is life after death
    2. Jesus has ultimate power and controls exactly who enters His kingdom.
    3. The same Jesus who is hanging on the cross next to him is the same Jesus who will come into His kingdom (i.e. He will be able to “remember” the criminal he was with in this historical account).

So, Omer, you have enough evidence to make a decision about Jesus. You can be sure, beyond a reasonable doubt that the Bible accurately reports “what Jesus said and did” (Acts 1:1-2). Now the ball is in your court. Jesus says “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matt 7:7). The prophet Jeremiah says the words of the LORD to the exiled Israelites: “You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.” (Jer. 29:13). The prophet Isaiah says “Seek the LORD while He may be found” (Isaiah 55:6a). The writer of Hebrews says “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts”. The apostle Paul says “We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20b).

I will pray for you to come to terms with Jesus’ claims and your predicament. Please, call on the Lord and be saved! (Rom. 10:13).

AWANA Teaching on Philippians 2:3-4

This was the content of teaching I did last night to 3rd and 4th graders on Philippians 2:3-4.  This is a passage they all have to memorize:

It was well received by the kids and they were challenged to look to the interests of others at school in the coming week and that we would be following up with them next week!

As a side note, during the evening, a 5th grader came up to me and excitedly told me that “prayer works”!  She told me that she and her friend had lost something at school, so she prayed, then she found it.  I commended her for remembering to pray in that situation.  She was so excited to tell me that I didn’t want to dampen her enthusiasm…  Then, later in the evening, during game time, she had to sit out because she was “tagged” by being hit with the ball, and she sat down next to me.  I asked her if she remembered the night before Jesus went to the cross in the Garden of Gethsemane?  “Did you remember what He prayed?”, I asked her.  She said, “Yes, that He wouldn’t have to go and die on the cross”.  I reminded her that the Father didn’t answer yes to His prayer – and that’s Jesus!  So, yes, prayer works, but the answer is not always yes and that doesn’t mean God isn’t listening.  She smiled and agreed.  I felt like I had to make that clarification, because this is the type of thing that could end up destroying one’s faith if she thinks that every time she prays she’ll get exactly what she needs.

mid-week apologetics booster (11-5-2015)

Good morning everyone,

I hope you’re enjoying this cool weather and a bit of rain (Matt. 5:45)!  Here are some links for you to browse at your leisure:

  1. I can’t believe in a God who would send people to hell: https://carm.org/i-cant-believe-god-who-would-send-people-hell
  2. Five Reasons Everyone Should Reject Abortion: http://intelligentchristianfaith.com/2015/03/23/five-reasons-everyone-should-reject-abortion/
  3. Is God Unfair to Those Raised in Other Faiths? http://www.comereason.org/religious-exclusivism.asp
  4. Question: “How does God judge those who were raised in non-Christian cultures and have been taught their entire life that their own religion (such as Islam or Hinduism) is correct, and Christianity is wrong?”: http://www.gotquestions.org/God-judge-religions.html
  5. MARTIN LUTHER WARNED ABOUT APPEASING ISLAM 500 YEARS AGO | JEWSNEWS: http://www.jewsnews.co.il/2015/11/01/martin-luther-warned-about-appeasing-islam-500-years-ago/
  6. “Molecular Clock” Can’t Save Darwin from the Cambrian Explosion – Evolution News & Views: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2015/10/molecular_clock100431.html
  7. Errors in the Bible? At SMU Dr. Frank Turek was asked (during a Q&A), “How do we account for the errors of the scribes in the New Testament since these documents were handed down from one person to the next and what if these errors are not simple and interfere with the teachings of the scriptures” (7 min video): https://www.facebook.com/CrossExamined.org/videos/962656043795879/
  8. Loving God With All Your Mind | J. P. Moreland, PhD (45 min video lecture): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PfxkKlWVk9g
  9. Is the Apocrypha Scripture? http://pleaseconvinceme.com/2012/is-the-apocrypha-scripture/
  10. Think LGBT relationships are wrong? Then you’re not right in the head, claim scientists: https://www.lifesitenews.com/opinion/think-gay-sex-is-wrong-then-youre-not-right-in-the-head-claim-scientists
  11. Reason doesn´t exist in atheism (Frank Turek – short video): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v426fnZn1Og
  12. How Should Christians Fulfill the Great Commission? https://carm.org/should-christians-fulfill-great-commission
  13. The Super-Supercomputer that Heals Itself: http://www.creationmoments.com/content/super-supercomputer-heals-itself
  14. Can you give your testimony in 140 characters? (Todd Friel) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gJUsE_T-1o
  15. Atheist: Okay to Disparage Christians, But Islam Off-Limits Because of ‘Fear’: http://cnsnews.com/news/article/penny-starr/atheist-okay-disparage-christians-islam-limits-because-fear
  16. “Now I’m a Believer in Jesus Christ” | Answers in Genesis: https://answersingenesis.org/blogs/ken-ham/2015/11/01/now-believer-in-jesus-christ/
  17. Amazing Evidence of God in the Design of Our World (Come Reason’s Apologetics Notes): http://apologetics-notes.comereason.org/2014/09/amazing-evidence-of-god-in-design-of.html
  18. The Economist Admits Cambrian Explosion Is a “Mystery” – Evolution News & Views: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2015/10/the_economist_a100471.html
  19. God’s Not Dead 2: The Heart of the Story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=11hSq-WgSys
  20. Radiocarbon in dino bones – International conference result censored: http://creation.com/c14-dinos
  21. For SETI Researchers, Here Is a Guide for Handling Fallacious Objections: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2015/10/a_guide_for_set100511.html
  22. Why Did Christianity Grow? http://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/kevindeyoung/2015/03/19/why-did-christianity-grow/
  23. Four Ways the Earth Is Fine-Tuned for Life (Cold Case Christianity): http://coldcasechristianity.com/2015/four-ways-the-earth-is-fine-tuned-for-life/
  24. Greg Koukl debates Michael Shermer on God, atheism, meaning and morality (32 page transcript): http://winteryknight.com/2015/11/03/greg-koukl-debates-michael-shermer-on-god-atheism-meaning-and-morality-5/
  25. The Resurrection of Jesus Comes from Ancient Religious Myths? http://shieldyourfaith.org/blog/?p=320
  26. Why Is It Important for Young Christians to Be Able to Make the Case for Christianity? (2 min video): http://coldcasechristianity.com/2015/why-is-it-important-for-young-christians-to-be-able-to-make-the-case-for-christianity-video/

“They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. From morning till evening he explained and declared to them the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe.” Acts 28:23-24

Let’s do like Paul this week!

Apologetics Class 11-1-2015

Currently, we are reading the book Unsilenced: How to Voice the Gospel by James Boccardo.  It is a great book about evangelism that also includes some information about Apologetics.

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Hi All,

We finished reading the closing notes for Chapter 6 (Bumps in the Road) and we watched a 10 minute witnessing clip where Todd Friel shares the gospel with a soft-spoken British guy on a train.  Really good video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FY6CXOAIsTc

Here were the questions that we discussed related to the reading, as well as some witnessing tips from the video:

  1. (pg. 120) Ending notes:
    1. (pg. 120) How are we supposed to take advantage of “the stunned moment” after answering an objection?
    2. (pg. 121) Is it always your fault if someone is not interested and just walks away from you? What does Jesus say about this in John 7:7?
    3. (pg. 122) How do you handle an awkward pause in the conversation? What questions can you ask?
  2. Todd Friel video – witnessing tips:
    1. Start in the natural
    2. Swing to the supernatural
    3. Open God’s Law
    4. Warn of God’s Judgment
    5. Law to the Proud, Grace to the Humble: 1) If the sinner is proud and self-righteous, uphold the law. 2) If the sinner is broken-hearted and contrite, offer grace.
    6. Share the Good News!
    7. Call them to repentance and faith

Next week we start on chapter 7 (More Than Knowing What to Say).

Have a great week!