Sometimes, I wish I had faith, trust and love like my dog…

1 Peter 4:12-16

As I interact with my dog and observe her behavior, it occurs to me that I could learn a lot from the way she interacts with me (her Master) and apply that to the way I interact with my Master…  As I read Scripture, I see parallels in how she treats me and how our God wants us to treat Him and others.

Sometimes, I wish I had faith, trust and love like my dog because…

She completely relies on me to supply all her needs.  If I didn’t supply her with food and water and shelter, she wouldn’t have them.  She doesn’t go out and try to hunt for her food – she knows her father loves her and will provide it. (See Matthew 6:25-34)  In fact, when she goes outside, hunting is the farthest thing from her mind – she’s more interested in sunning:

Whether I’m sitting at…

View original post 692 more words

Why Does God allow Evil?

Yesterday at AWANA, our Pastor came in and talked to the clubbers about what a Pastor is.  He told them how a Pastor is a shepherd, and that Jesus is the Great Shepherd.  Later on in the evening, one of the clubbers asked a leader, if God is a good shepherd, why does He allow bad people who hurt and kill others?  The leader didn’t have a good answer at the time.  So I went and did some research this morning.  I found a good article:

https://www.gotquestions.org/God-allow-evil.html 
Question: Why does God allow evil?”

Answer: The Bible describes God as holy (Isaiah 6:3), righteous (Psalm 7:11), just (Deuteronomy 32:4), and sovereign (Daniel 4:17-25). These attributes tell us the following about God: (1) God is capable of preventing evil, and (2) God desires to rid the universe of evil. So, if both of these are true, why does God allow evil? If God has the power to prevent evil and desires to prevent evil, why does He still allow evil? Perhaps a practical way to look at this question would be to consider some alternative ways people might have God run the world:

1) God could change everyone’s personality so that they cannot sin. This would also mean that we would not have a free will. We would not be able to choose right or wrong because we would be “programmed” to only do right. Had God chosen to do this, there would be no meaningful relationships between Him and His creation.

Instead, God made Adam and Eve innocent but with the ability to choose good or evil. Because of this, they could respond to His love and trust Him or choose to disobey. They chose to disobey. Because we live in a real world where we can choose our actions but not their consequences, their sin affected those who came after them (us). Similarly, our decisions to sin have an impact on us and those around us and those who will come after us.

2) God could compensate for people’s evil actions through supernatural intervention 100 percent of the time. God would stop a drunk driver from causing an automobile accident. God would stop a lazy construction worker from doing a substandard job on a house that would later cause grief to the homeowners. God would stop a father who is addicted to drugs or alcohol from doing any harm to his wife, children, or extended family. God would stop gunmen from robbing convenience stores. God would stop high school bullies from tormenting the brainy kids. God would stop thieves from shoplifting. And, yes, God would stop terrorists from flying airplanes into buildings.

While this solution sounds attractive, it would lose its attractiveness as soon as God’s intervention infringed on something we wanted to do. We want God to prevent horribly evil actions, but we are willing to let “lesser-evil” actions slide—not realizing that those “lesser-evil” actions are what usually lead to the “greater-evil” actions. Should God only stop actual sexual affairs, or should He also block our access to pornography or end any inappropriate, but not yet sexual, relationships? Should God stop “true” thieves, or should He also stop us from cheating on our taxes? Should God only stop murder, or should He also stop the “lesser-evil” actions done to people that lead them to commit murder? Should God only stop acts of terrorism, or should He also stop the indoctrination that transformed a person into a terrorist?

3) Another choice would be for God to judge and remove those who choose to commit evil acts. The problem with this possibility is that there would be no one left, for God would have to remove us all. We all sin and commit evil acts (Romans 3:23Ecclesiastes 7:201 John 1:8). While some people are more evil than others, where would God draw the line? Ultimately, all evil causes harm to others.

Instead of these options, God has chosen to create a “real” world in which real choices have real consequences. In this real world of ours, our actions affect others. Because of Adam’s choice to sin, the world now lives under the curse, and we are all born with a sin nature (Romans 5:12). There will one day come a time when God will judge the sin in this world and make all things new, but He is purposely “delaying” in order to allow more time for people to repent so that He will not need to condemn them (2 Peter 3:9). Until then, He IS concerned about evil. When He created the Old Testament laws, the goal was to discourage and punish evil. He judges nations and rulers who disregard justice and pursue evil. Likewise, in the New Testament, God states that it is the government’s responsibility to provide justice in order to protect the innocent from evil (Romans 13). He also promises severe consequences for those who commit evil acts, especially against the “innocent” (Mark 9:36-42).

In summary, we live in a real world where our good and evil actions have direct consequences and indirect consequences upon us and those around us. God’s desire is that for all of our sakes we would obey Him that it might be well with us (Deuteronomy 5:29). Instead, what happens is that we choose our own way, and then we blame God for not doing anything about it. Such is the heart of sinful man. But Jesus came to change men’s hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit, and He does this for those who will turn from evil and call on Him to save them from their sin and its consequences (2 Corinthians 5:17). God does prevent and restrain some acts of evil. This world would be MUCH WORSE were not God restraining evil. At the same time, God has given us the ability to choose good and evil, and when we choose evil, He allows us, and those around us, to suffer the consequences of evil. Rather than blaming God and questioning God on why He does not prevent all evil, we should be about the business of proclaiming the cure for evil and its consequences—Jesus Christ!

Stephen Meyer interview by Frank Turek on Cross Examined

1 Peter 4:12-16

I was listening to the CrossExamined radio program with Dr. Frank Turek from October 24th 2013.  He was interviewing Dr. Stephen Meyer about his book Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design.

During the conversation, Frank tells about a construction analogy from Stephen’s book.  Reading from the book, Frank says (at about 14 minutes into the podcast):

“At a construction site builders will make use of many materials: lumber, nails, drywall, piping and windows, yet building materials do not determine the floor plan of the house or the arrangement of the houses in a neighborhood… in a similar way DNA does not itself direct how individual proteins are assembled into these larger systems and structures.”

Stephen then begins to expound on this whole idea by explaining the necessity of ‘epigenetic’ information in “building an animal”:

“In…

View original post 322 more words

Apologetics Class 2/12/2017

Yesterday our topic was abortion.  Here were some videos we watched in class:

  1. The 180 Movie (~ ½ hour): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7y2KsU_dhwI
  2. The S.L.E.D. Test (total of 9 ½ minutes):
    1. Introduction: http://subspla.sh/cd6e7d6
    2. S – Size: http://subspla.sh/52200fa
    3. L – Level of Development: http://subspla.sh/c03b7b5
    4. E – Environment: http://subspla.sh/469db33
    5. D – Degree of Dependency: http://subspla.sh/fcd0a3f
    6. Conclusion: http://subspla.sh/60e03e2
  3. Trotting out the toddler: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ktPmgBX_FU

Unfortunately, all the people making the argument in these videos are men.  However, there are many strong pro-life women.  In some quick research, I also found this video from a woman abortion survivor to the Australian parliament:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOWMmx6eBjU

Very powerful.

This was not necessarily a “traditional” Biblical apologetics issue, but it is a moral issue that certainly flows from our Christian worldview.  There are a few Bible verses I quoted in the class, which are relevant to this issue:

  1. Jeremiah 1:5 Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations”.  This tells us that God forms us in the womb.
  2. Psalms 139:13-16For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,  your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”  Again, here we are told that God is the one ‘knitting us together in our mother’s wombs.
  3. Finally, I referenced how the baby John the Baptist leapt in his mother’s womb: “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy SpiritLuke 1:41.  This tells us that John was a human person – a baby, not just a fetus, when he was in Elizabeth’s womb.

It was a good class and we had a good discussion at the end.

After the class, I was talking to one of the students (a female student who is a senior in high school).  She expressed a few different concerns regarding the topic and the video:

  1. She might be considered hateful by others if she tries to convince them about the pro-life view.
  2. She’s concerned that the woman that have abortions do not feel loved, but rather, judged by Christians – that we need to show them more love and less judgment based on the situation they’re in
  3. It would be more effective to have women make these arguments for the pro-life position, since they’re in a position to know more about the special burdens and trials of pregnancy and childbirth

By the way, I do agree with all those points.  Part of my purpose in showing the videos in the class, was not only to equip the students to make their pro-life case, but at a minimum to convince them personally that the pro-life position is the Christian position and the most logical/moral position.  So, my biggest concern is that the students are personally convinced and have a chance to think through the issues their selves in a safe environment where they can ask questions.  So, I hope that at least watching these videos has had an impact on their personal views.

That being said, I completely understand that it is a daunting task, as a senior in high school, to go out and convince others of that position.  My hope is that the students would be able to stand up and say “I’m pro-life” if the issue ever comes up and will be able to defend their views if someone asks them why they’re pro-life.  That’s defensive apologetics – giving a reasoned answer for your views when challenged, and not being persuaded by the pro-choice view because you’ve taken the time to think deeply about the pro-life view.

I did share with this student the one pro-life video by a woman (15 minutes), who happens to be a survivor of an abortion that she would possibly be interested in watching:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOWMmx6eBjU

She did watch it and said “I watched the video and it was really powerful and got me to think more about abortion.”

I also shared with her some links to several female bloggers that blog about pro-life issues:

http://www.lifenews.com/author/mallory-quigley/

http://www.lifenews.com/author/kristan-hawkins/

http://www.lifenews.com/author/cora-sherlock/

http://www.lifenews.com/author/rebeccataylor/

It was a great class and I think it was a divine appointment for this particular student, because she had just been struggling with this issue.

Verses to memorize for sexual temptation

It is a fact of life that most men battle against sexual temptation.  Here are some verses for you to memorize to help you resist this type of temptation:

1 Corinthians 6:18-20

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

The important parts to me are that I am not my own.  I can’t just do whatever I want with my body.  My body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.  He is living in me and sees everything I do.  Which leads me to the next verse:

Hebrews 4:13

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

The following verse tells me what to do when I encounter anything that stimulates lust – RUN!!!

2 Timothy 2:22

Run from anything that stimulates youthful lust. Follow anything that makes you want to do right. Pursue faith and love and peace, and enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts

It is also encouraging me who to hang out with – that’s really important too.

1 Thessalonians 4:3-5

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God

Not many places in Scripture tell you explicitly what God’s will is – the above passage is one of them.  This passage tells me that I need to learn to control my own body.  That tells me that it is not “natural” to control my body.  I have to go against what feels natural and control my body.  Likewise, Paul says:

1 Corinthians 9:27

But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

Finally, the passage below has really helped me.  It tells me that as a regenerated follower of Jesus Christ, I do in fact have the power and ability to not let sin reign in my body or to obey my body’s evil desires.  What an encouragement that is!

Romans 6:12-13

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.

Self Centeredness is Anti Gospel

Philippians 3:8-9. Luke 9:23-26.  John 12:25. 1 Corinthians 6:18-20. If a person is a gay Christian, how would they apply these texts?  If you are not your own, and were bought with a price, what right do we have as Christians to fulfillment in living out sinful sexual desires because we believe it is our identity?  I am not a gay Christian, but I’m a Christian who has other sinful desires.  I constantly have to tell myself no.  Gays say that you can’t understand unless you have experienced same sex attractions.  But doesn’t it count that you have other desires and attractions that are sinful that you have to control yourself to not think about or act on?  What am I missing here?

Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio won the debate against pro-Democrat CNBC “moderators”

Good analysis – lot of great clips!

WINTERY KNIGHT

CNBC GOP primary debate candidates CNBC GOP primary debate candidates

The CNBC debate was a debacle. Leftist Democrat moderators tried desperately to make conservative ideas look as unpalatable as possible. Insults were phrased as questions, and substantive answers were constantly interrupted. But several of the debaters shined, in teeth of blatant media bias. The only questions that were not biased were those from Jim Kramer and Rick Santelli.

The best clip goes to Ted Cruz:

Transcript:

CRUZ: The questions that have been asked so far in this debate, illustrate why the American people don’t trust the media. This is not a cage match. And if you look at the questions, Donald Trump, are you a comic book villain? Ben Carson, can you do the math? John Kasich, can you insult two people over here? Marco Rubio, why don’t you resign? Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen? How about talking about the substantive issues people care about…

View original post 385 more words

mid-week Apologetics booster (10-16-2014)

I hope you’re having a fantastic week!

  1. The thought occurred to me while reading Job 38 this week that in this passage of the LORD speaking to Job, you could substitute any skeptic/atheist in place of the name Job.  For example:  Then the LORD answered [Richard Dawkins] out of the storm. He said:  “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?” Job 38:1-5
  2. Fair Mormon is a Mormon site meant to answer all the challenges being raised against Mormonism.  This is an article/site debunking some of the information on Fair Mormon:  http://cesletter.com/debunking-fairmormon/witnesses.html#summary There is a ton more on this page, but even this summary is compelling enough:

    Despite FAIR’s rebuttal to the Witnesses section of the CES Letter, major concerns regarding the credibility of the Book of Mormon Witnesses remain.  For instance, all 11 witnesses to the Book of Mormon shared a common worldview of second sight, magic, and treasure digging. All of the living Book of Mormon witnesses, except Oliver Cowdery, later accepted James Strang’s prophetic claim of being Joseph’s true successor and joined his church. All witnesses except Martin Harris were related to Joseph Smith or David Whitmer. Oliver Cowdery exhibited behavior that calls his credibility into question, such as attempting to use a divining rod for translating the a portion of the Book of Mormon (a fact which Joseph Smith later attempted to cover up by changing the wording from the Book of Commandments). Oliver was once excommunicated from the Church for, among other things, “falsely insinuating that [Joseph Smith] was guilty of adultery” and for “dishonestly retaining notes after they had been paid.” A letter written by Sidney Rigdon and signed by 84 members of the Church wrote that Olivery Cowder and David Whimer (among others) cheated and defrauded the saints out of their property “by every art and stratagem which wickedness could invent.”  Martin Harris can be regarded generally as a gullible and superstitious person. He joined at least five churches before joining Mormonism and joined many more, including James Strang’s sect, after Joseph’s death. At various times throughout his life, he stated that he had conversed with Jesus (who had taken the form of a deer), that he saw the devil with his four feet and donkey head, that he had chipped off a chunk of a stone box that would mysteriously move beneath the ground to avoid capture, and that a creature appeared on his chest which no one else could see.  Martin Harris also gave conflicting accounts of his experiences with the golden plates. He recounted on multiple occasions, for example, that he didn’t see the plates with his naked eye but rather with his spiritual eye. Moreover, Joseph Smith himself once wrote of Martin that he “gave loose to all kinds of abominations, lying, cheating, swindling, and all kinds of debauchery.”  David Whitmer likewise suffers from credibility problems. For example, after leaving the LDS Church, he testified that God spoke to him, just as God had spoken to the three Book of Mormon Witnesses, telling him to separate himself from the LDS church. Further, David Whitmer, as with Martin Harris, gave contradictory accounts of the events giving rise to his Book of Mormon testimony. For example, he once recounted that the angel who showed him the plates “had no appearance or shape” and that he saw the angel with “impressions.” In a separate account, he wrote that he and the other witnesses had experienced the angelic visitation “while we were yet in the Spirit.” Finally, David Whitmer was also included in Sidney Rigdon’s letter, described above, stating that David Whitmer had cheated and defrauded the saints out of their property “by every art and stratagem which wickedness could invent.”  Given these facts, one cannot help but seriously question the credibility of the Book of Mormon witnesses.

  3. When we fail to answer someone’s questions and objections, we become just one more reason for them to disbelieve. – Walter Martin
  4. The Rosetta Stone, SETI, and the Existence of God: http://apologetics-notes.comereason.org/2014/10/the-rosetta-stone-seti-and-existence-of.html
  5. City of Houston Demands Pastors Turn over Sermons (Yes, the MAYOR actually wants to inspect sermons.): http://standupforthetruth.com/2014/10/city-houston-demands-pastors-turn-sermons/
  6. Skeptics must provide more than alternative theories to the Resurrection; they must provide first-century evidence for those theories.  – Gary Habermas (quoted in, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist)
  7. Handling an Objection: “I love the moral teachings of Jesus but I don’t think He is divine.” Here is a quote from this article “First, since the person already admires the teachings of Jesus, I point to the blind spot in their thinking. First, it is not the moral teachings of Jesus that is the message. Rather, Jesus is the message!”  http://chab123.wordpress.com/2013/07/22/handling-an-objection-i-love-the-moral-teachings-of-jesus-but-i-dont-think-he-is-divine/
  8. Like it or not, Every Christian is an Apologist: http://www.saintsandsceptics.org/like-it-or-not-we-are-all-apologists/
  9. Do We Really Need to Teach Our Kids Apologetics When God is in Control Anyway?  http://christianmomthoughts.com/do-we-really-need-to-teach-our-kids-apologetics-when-god-is-in-control-anyway/
  10. Police Officer Sued For Pitching Christianity to Reckless Driver Instead of Issuing Ticket: http://allchristiannews.com/draft1/#.VDqC1PV-bDc.facebook

 

Have a blessed week!

mid-week apologetics booster (10-9-2014)

Hope you’re having a blessed week!  Here are some items for you to read and or watch/listen:

  1. 7 Tips on Engaging Skeptics Like Paul Did in Athens (in 3 parts):
    1. http://www.apologeticsguy.com/2013/05/acts-17-bible-study-apostle-paul-athens-1/
    2. http://www.apologeticsguy.com/2013/06/acts-17-bible-study-apostle-paul-athens-2/
    3. http://www.apologeticsguy.com/2013/07/acts-17-bible-study-apostle-paul-athens-3/
  2. Here is a snippet from Greg Koukl on the logical fallacy of the “Complex Question” (e.g. “have you stopped beating your wife?”) from his Stand To Reason radio program.  I made it into a 9 minute 30 second youtube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xW04uJdmm7g&feature=share
  3. This is an in depth article refuting the central thesis of the book by Mormon Apostle James E. Talmage’s “The Great Apostasy: Considered in the Light of Scriptural and Secular History”.  That book attempts to make a case that the Church of Jesus Christ apostatized shortly after the apostolic age.  The case is made, even from Mormon sources, that there is no reason for the “restoration” (which is what the LDS church claims to be), if the Church was never completely gone from the earth in the first place.  I think the author does a good job of dissecting the arguments in the book point by point:  http://souldevice.wordpress.com/2014/10/04/was-there-a-great-apostasy/
  4. Here is a snippet from a book I’m reading “O God: A Dialogue on Truth and Oprah’s Spirituality” by Josh McDowell and Dave Sterrett:
    elephantstory
  5. Thank you to a friend for passing this along:  http://calvarychapelahwatukee.com/bible/contending-faith
  6. How Evidence Helps Doubters Become Devotees: http://coldcasechristianity.com/2014/how-evidence-help-doubters-become-devotees/

I hope these help encourage, enable and equip you to defend and contend for the faith (Jude 3, 1 Peter 3:15)!

mid-week apologetics booster (9-25-2014)

Hope you’re having a great week.  Here are some interesting items I found this week:

  1. When It Comes to Ancient Texts, the More Copies We Have, the More Confidence We Have: http://coldcasechristianity.com/2013/when-it-comes-to-ancient-texts-the-more-copies-we-have-the-more-confidence-we-have/
  2. Ten Evidences for Creation (all represented by a graphic): http://www.icr.org/article/8343/
  3. Everyday Virtues of an Ambassador for Christ: http://truthbomb.blogspot.com/2014/09/everyday-virtues-of-ambassador-for.html
  4. These results are predictable, but saddening (‘SSM’ in the column headings means “Same Sex Marriage”):
    survey
  5. Stephen Meyer and Marcus Ross on Irreducible Complexity and the Cambrian Explosion (2 hour video): http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/arn-vid-stephen-meyer-and-marcus-ross-on-irreducible-complexity/
  6. How to Talk About “Evolution”: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2012/10/how_to_talk_abo065431.html
  7. In what ways is being a Christian difficult?  http://www.gotquestions.org/being-a-Christian.html
  8. As a Christian, you are a fully credentialed ambassador of the empire of Jesus, High King of the universe. God has entrusted to you the message of reconciliation, the good news that Jesus reconciles rebels to God. That’s as true from 9-5 Monday through Friday as it is for any other hour of your life. When you go to church, you’re an ambassador for the King. When you hang out with friends, you’re an ambassador for the King. When you go to work, meet with a client, participate in a meeting, work on a project, drive a nail, create a blueprint, welcome a customer, or write a white paper, you’re still an ambassador for the King. -The Gospel Coalition blog
  9. A good ambassador isn’t a one-dimensional fact-machine. He’s a well-rounded diplomat, able to present the entire truth of the Gospel to the world. – Melinda Penner

Have a great week!

Analogies about God from the realm of Software Development

Miracles

As a developer of a piece of software, I completely control its behavior.  The “average” user of my software is restricted to using it in the prescribed fashion and abiding by its “rules”.  However, as the software developer – the “creator” of this software, I may know how to make the software to behave in ways that are not possible for the average user (a secret key combination to enter or a particular login ID or a particular URL parameter).  If an average user was asked if it was possible to perform certain actions with the software, they would say no.  If I were to demonstrate one of these “impossible behaviors” in front of that user they may call it a miracle.  However, since I, as the creator of the software, control the “natural laws” for my software, I can make it do anything I want – even violating the “natural laws” I put in place.

In the same way, God, the creator of the universe (all time, space, matter and energy), has put “natural laws” into place.  But at any time, God can temporarily alter or suspend those laws, causing what we would call a miracle.  Miracles are hard to believe, yes, but are philosophically rational because God is the one Who put the laws into effect in the first place.

Omniscience / Providence / Sovereignty

As a developer of software, I put logging, monitoring and instrumentation into my program.  When a user of my software performs an illegal action, hopefully I have foreseen that this will happen and I put error trapping in place with notifications to the user that they are doing wrong – the program does not just “die” every time the user performs an illegal action.

As a user goes about the business of using my software, each action they perform is logged with their user ID, which component they were interacting with and the exact time down to the millisecond when the action occurred.  At any time I want, I can get a complete “transcript” of a user’s session and activities.  If the user says that the software has not behaved correctly, I can ask them what they were doing and what data they were inputting.  I will certainly be able to tell if a user is lying to me because I have the complete transcript of what they were doing.  When a user commits an illegal action or a performance problem occurs, as the creator of this software, I have designed a mechanism to notify myself that the user is experiencing troubles. Since I’m aware of all “troubles” occurring in my software, I can choose to intervene in the situation by either silently correcting the issue without the user’s knowledge (maybe making a database update or granting special access to perform an action behind the scenes) or to send a representative to contact the user or in extreme cases, I may even directly appear to the user.  Or of course, I can choose to let the user struggle with the temporary issue, knowing that in the end, they will be able to accomplish what they need to accomplish and will not be “harmed” in the process.   The user may wonder how it is that I have this comprehensive knowledge of their activities when I’m not physically present with them.  Yet, I know about their activities and problems because they are operating in the “world” of my software (my creation).

In the same way, God, as the designer and sustainer (maintainer) of the universe, is aware of all “goings on” in His universe.  He can choose to silently correct problems on our behalves or to send a representative (messenger, angel or another person) to contact and help us or in extreme cases in history, He has even decided to appear directly to us.  Of course, He is always at liberty to just let us struggle through the issue that we’re having, knowing that in the end, it will not hurt us and may even improve our character.

Get your own dirt!

Software Developers use a language and runtime environment created by a “higher power” (e.g. in the case of Java, James Gosling – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Gosling) and after having created a piece of software are of the opinion that they’ve truly created something; however, they are just re-combining existing software in new and different ways.

In the same way, genetic engineers and origin of life scientists think that they are creating new and different life forms or creating life from scratch, yet, they could not do what it is that they do without the existing materials (amino acids, proteins, DNA, and all other matter).  Those existing materials were created by God, but these scientists ignore the Creator of these materials that make their jobs possible.

This is illustrated well by the following popular story on the internet:

One day a group of scientists got together and decided that humankind had come a long way and no longer needed God. So they picked one scientist to go and tell Him that they were done with Him. The scientist walked up to God and said, “God, we’ve decided that we no longer need you. We’re to the point that we can clone people and do many miraculous things, so why don’t you just go on and get lost.” God listened very patiently and kindly to the man. After the scientist was done talking, God said, “Very well, how about this? Let’s say we have a man-making contest.” To which the scientist replied, “Okay, great!” But God added, “Now, we’re going to do this just like I did back in the old days with Adam.” The scientist said, “Sure, no problem,” and bent down and grabbed himself a handful of dirt. God looked at him and said, “Huh-uh! You go get your own dirt!”

God does not change, but does He change His mind?

When I write a software program, it can exhibit different behaviors and responses to events, user actions and data input. The program itself does not change – I write the code and deploy it and it may run for years without change, but conditional logic built into the program will cause a different response given different input.

In the same way, God does not change and does not “change His mind”. However, He has stated in His word that there are certain conditions under which He’ll behave differently based on the behavior of humans. Consider 2 Chronicles 7:14: 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 I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land.

Notice the conditional logic in there? It could be written in java as follows:

if (people.humble() && people.praying() && people.seekingGod() && people.turnFromWickedWays()) {
God.setHearing(true);
God.forgiveTheirSins(true);
God.healTheirLand(true);
}

Also consider the story of Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20:1-6:
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.’ ”

This is a great case of God hearing prayer and changing His course of action.

My point here is that while it is true that God does not change and does not change His mind, He does have conditions that He has promised to respond to.

The Christian vs. the Pro Football team fan?

Yesterday was the opening game for our home NFL team, affectionately known as the “Cardiac Cards” (Arizona Cardinals).  True to their name, they held on to beat the Seattle Seahawks 20-16 in a nail biter that went down to the last play with about 20 seconds left.  The atmosphere was electric and we came away with a win.  My ears are still ringing from the noise in University of Phoenix stadium.  This morning, I found myself waking up and thinking about similarities between being a committed fan (follower) of a football team and being a Christian.

Do I defend my team in the face of opposition?

It is easy to be a fan of my home team the Cardinals when I’m at the game.  Everyone has their Red (or Black) jersey on with their favorite player’s name on the back (mine was a black Larry Fitzgerald jersey).  Some even go so far as to wear elaborate costumes with face paint.  It is easy to boldly speak up for my team in the “non-hostile” environment of the game surrounded by probably 80% Cardinals fans.  Every touchdown or first down that occurs, the fans in my area are “high fiving” each other.  Every ruling that goes against our team, the fans loudly protest with boo’s (whether the ruling was justified or not).  But how about when I’m in a “pluralistic” environment at the lunch table the next day at work where there are Seahawks fans and other “non-believers” who make disparaging remarks about my team?  “They got lucky”.  It’s the “same ‘ol Cards”.  They’re definitely going to lose their division!  None of the experts give them any chance to win.  Will I defend my team?  Do I know enough about my team to defend it?  Can I talk about the players and their stats?  Can I talk about my teams upcoming opponents and why we are positioned to do well against them?  Can I make a case that mathematically, we are still “in the playoff hunt”?  Do I care enough about my team to defend them?  Do we have enough committed fans out there who can defend the cause of our team?

There was a point in time back in 2008, when the Cardinals had made it into the playoffs and generally the commentators and everyone that I ran into was saying that they were going to be a “one and done” in the playoffs. But to nearly everyone’s surprise, the Cardinals won their first playoff game at home against the Atlanta Falcons.  While I was waiting in line at a movie theater later that week and I heard some people laughing about the pitiful, insignificant Cardinals and how their doom was certain.  I found a way to interject into the conversation and make a defense for the possibility that the Cardinals could at least make it to the NFC championship game at home, if we could beat the Carolina Panthers on the road and the Philadelphia Eagles could win their game.  These people laughed at me and continued to mock and disrespect the Cardinals who had “limped” into the playoffs.  I handled it graciously and after making my defense, just said “we’ll see what happens”.  Oh how I wished I could’ve been there with those mockers when the post season for the Cardinals played out exactly as I’d described to them and we ended up in the Super Bowl!  Unfortunately, we didn’t win the Super Bowl, but that’s a topic for another day…  In any case, the point was that I encountered opposition and mocking of my team and I spoke up in the context of a “hostile” situation and made a defense.  I did this because I had faith/belief in the team and I had also prepared myself to be able to give a defense for this hope.  Because I was prepared and knew that my argument was sound and reasonable, I was able to give the defense with “gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who spoke maliciously…would be ashamed of their slander”.  I was able to give a defense without getting defensive.

In the same way, I’m on a Christian team that appears from the world’s perspective to be a losing team.  It is easy to defend my team when I’m with the other “fans” at Church, but the real defending is needed the following morning at the lunch table at work or school.  Am I willing to speak up when someone pokes fun at my team or lobs out some half-truth or fallacy ridden argument against the Christian worldview?  Am I willing to declare the allegiance to my team – to go public with my support of them, no matter what it costs me in ridicule, mocking, exclusion, etc?  The thing about the Christian faith is that we already know who the winner is – we’ve seen the highlights of the game before the game is even finished!

In order to be able to make a defense of the team, we need to intimately know the team and all the “stats”.  We need to know the game plan.  We should be comfortable enough to give the basic arguments of the Christian worldview so that when someone raises an objection we can counter it with gentleness and respect.  I really like what the apostle Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:24-26:

“And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.  Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth,  and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”

Notice that it doesn’t say that when people oppose you, that you keep your mouth shut, “keep the peace” and later go on and pray for them.  Yes, we do need to pray for them!  But we also need to gently instruct them – provide a defense – an answer!  Know what you believe and why you believe it.

Enthusiasm Level

It is amazing when I go to a football game and I see the level of enthusiasm.  People in the stands are “sold out”, passionate and completely uninhibited when demonstrating their support for their team.  Both in the way they dress and the way they act.  They cheer when the team does well.  They raise their hands, shout, clap, scream and jump up and down.  They really like to make it difficult for the opposing team to take additional territory from us –   especially when it is 3rd down and we have a chance to make the other team punt the ball back to us.  On those 3rd down plays, everyone gets on their feet and makes noise.  Sometimes spontaneous chants will start up in the crowd – “Let’s go Cardinals” or “Defense – clap, clap – Defense – clap, clap”.  Part of this cheering is to disrupt the other team, yes, but a large part of it is to show our love and commitment for the team.  The team is playing the game – there’s not much we can do as fans to affect the outcome of the game, but to show up at the game, cheer and show support.

In the same way, as Christians, are we enthusiastically supporting our team?  If we can show our love and support of a football team, how much more we should be able to show our love and support for our Creator and Savior!  We’ve been given the free gift of eternal life!  We have a Coach who has a game plan that cannot lose!  Why can’t we let go and show more emotion in our response to God?  It is very convicting to me to compare my response at Church with my response at the football game.  I pray that I will be enabled by the Spirit to worship in spirit and truth and to give God the honor He deserves.  I love the words of Revelation 4:11 – “You are worthy our Lord and God to receive glory and honor and power.  For You created all things and by Your will they were created and have their being.”  A football team (or its players) is not worthy to receive glory and honor, yet, we as fans give it, when instead, we should be giving the true glory and honor to the only One Who deserves it!  Consider the words of King David 1 Chronicles 16:23-29:

Sing to the LORD, all the earth; proclaim his salvation day after day.  Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.  For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods.  For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the LORD made the heavens.  Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy in his dwelling place.  Ascribe to the LORD, O families of nations, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength, ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name. Bring an offering and come before him; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.

And expect that uninhibited praise to our God may invite scorn from others, similar to what David experienced (2 Samuel 6:14-16):

David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets.  As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in her heart.

Commitment Level

At some point in the history of your “fanship“ of a certain team, you may just make the decision that you’re a lifelong fan.  You don’t care how bad it gets, or how many losing seasons you have to endure.  You’re not going back, you’re not “falling away”, you’re committed for life.

If we can be committed, lifelong fans of a lousy football team, how much more should we be able to, as a committed followers of Jesus Christ, be committed for life to our Creator and Savior?  There is no turning back.  No matter difficult it gets.  Jesus said we would have trouble in this world.  In John 15:18-19, He says:

“If the world hates you, keep in mind it hated Me first.  If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own.  As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.  That is why the world hates you”

Interest vs. Apathy

Some people couldn’t care less about football (especially those of the female persuasion :)).  When the conversation turns to football, they just tune out.  When asked why they don’t like it, they often times report that they don’t understand the game.  It just looks like a bunch of grown men out there crashing into one another – kind of like the gladiators of Roman times.  Or they are just bored by it.

In a similar way, as sold out followers of Christ, people often don’t understand why we are so into this – why we have a “one-track mind”.  The Bible is just a boring book to them.  The Christian life of death to self and letting Christ live through you does not sound appealing to them.  Often times, they are just apathetic – “that may be your thing, but it’s not mine” – “I’m glad that works for you, but it doesn’t work for me”.  But sometimes they are downright opposed to your message.

Imagine Christianity Spreading from Your Small Town

Imagine that you lived in a relatively small town.  According to this article the population in Jerusalem during Jesus’ time was about 30,000, which by today’s standard is somewhere between the population of Kingman, AZ (28,279) and Marana, AZ (35,232).  So, a relatively small town by today’s standards…

In that town, imagine there was a man (let’s say his name was Ralph) who was kind of a counter-cultural figure – very controversial – but very charismatic and had a large following among the people.  This town was a very corrupt town and Ralph was upsetting the practices of those in political power and starting to turn the people against them.  Although Ralph believed in the form of government that was established, he realized that the politicians in this government were corrupt and that change was needed.  These powerful politicians were able to use the media to spin Ralph’s story and sway public opinion against him by charging him with an unsolved murder – a murder that he didn’t commit – to get him to be condemned to die.  They claimed to have physical evidence that Ralph committed the murder.  Although he was innocent, those in power had  control over the police department and judicial process through corrupt officers and judges who could plant evidence and offer “justice” to the highest bidder (picture Operation Greylord-style corruption in Cook County Court system in Chicago in the 1980’s)…

While Ralph is still alive, his followers gave a press conference and told the media that even if they execute him, Ralph had told them that he would not stay dead, but rise again in 3 days.  So, the time comes and he is given lethal injection and is pronounced dead.   His followers are discouraged and when interviewed say that they had hoped that he was for real, but now they know that they were wrong, since he has in fact died, so they’re ready to just move on with their lives.  They feel like they had believed in a lie. His family buries Ralph.  But the corrupt politicians, having seen the previous press conference by Ralph’s followers and the prediction, post an armed guard at the grave and make sure that it was secure and there would be no “grave robbery” going on.

Three days later after Ralph’s funeral, there is a local TV news alert saying that one of the friends of Ralph has seen him alive walking around in the neighborhoods of his town.  More and more reports start flooding  in that Ralph is seen around – in fact, he was seen at the house of a few of his followers and there is a report of him having a rally with over 500 people present (most of whom are still living, though some have died).  People are writing in to the opinion column of the local paper about their encounters with Ralph and even some of the “non-corrupt” members of the police force have documented witnesses coming forward and giving eyewitness testimony that corroborates the reports of appearances of Ralph.  The politicians that had him sentenced to death confirm that the grave is in-fact empty and the body of Ralph is nowhere to be found.  So, the politicians know that their problems with Ralph are not over yet and they have to do something.  The politicians give a press conference and say that Ralph’s body is indeed missing from the grave, but that his followers had stolen his body.  But the media reports that in prior interviews with the followers, they seemed to have given up on Ralph and it seems unlikely that they would’ve gone to the trouble of stealing the body to make it look as if he had risen from the dead, when they knew for sure that was a lie.

In light of the allegations that the followers of Ralph stole the body, the media sought them out to interview them.  By this time, these followers had already seen Ralph alive and were really fired up!  In fact sometime after seeing Ralph, the spokesman for the followers had reportedly been in the city center square – only about a mile from where the execution had taken place – proclaiming to a crowd of several thousand that Ralph had risen from the dead and was seen alive.  This spokesman, let’s call him Peter, said that he and the other followers were eyewitnesses to Ralph being alive.  When interviewed by the media, Peter strongly defended Ralph, knowing that there would be consequences when the corrupt politicians saw this interview on TV, but Peter was fearless.  He and the other followers of Ralph were absolutely transformed – not like the discouraged followers having a pity party that were interviewed immediately following Ralph’s execution.  Rather they had a certain confidence – even boldness – in the face of mockery and persecution for their belief that Ralph had risen from the dead.  And as a result of talking to those thousands of people in the town square, a large majority of them believed the eyewitnesses and now were followers of Ralph as well.

By this time, the corrupt politicians were furious and knew they had to do something immediately before these followers “turn the world upside down”.  They had the police go pick them up and throw them in jail overnight to give them a scare.  Then before releasing them, gave them a stern warning not to continue trying to convince everyone that Ralph rose from the dead.  But never-the-less, these guys were so convinced about what they’d seen, that they went right back to the town square and kept telling anyone who would listen about the facts of this case and that the corrupt politicians are just trying to cover this up.

Needless to say, the politicians by now had had it up to their heads with this non-sense.  It was time to put a stop to it once and for all.  So they brought the guys in now for a real scare.  They told them that if they didn’t stop what they were doing, they would end up like Ralph – dead.  They said they had plenty more unsolved murders that could be pinned on them as well.  But to their surprise, the followers of Ralph were not fazed by their threats.  In fact they said that it would be an honor to die for Ralph in the service of his cause.

By this time, the followers themselves had become quite famous and had gained a following of their own.  Although they always pointed people to Ralph and did not accept any praise or glory for themselves, the people continually followed them, listened to them and considered them leaders of a new movement.  They even had been called “the Way” and Ralphians.  Unfortunately, the fame of the followers did not result in any personal gain or benefit to them.  As had just been communicated to them by the politicians, if they continued to spread this information about Ralph, they would in-fact pay the ultimate sacrifice for it.  Yet they continued to spread the message both by speaking and the written word.

Finally the politicians decided to act.  One by one, they rounded up the followers, charged them with false charges and had them executed.  Before execution, they were all given a chance to recant the story about Ralph, but none of them did.  They proclaimed that as truth until they were executed.  Because of their bold witness about Ralph, the followers continued to increase and the facts about Ralph which were circulating around in writings from the followers were collected into a single book.  No one, to this day has been able to debunk the facts about Ralph and his being dead and rising again…

Holidays in America (including Halloween)

Americans seem to have a tendency to distort “holidays”.  Consider the following examples:

  1. Christmas – All about Santa, Reindeer, Elves, Presents and food.  Not so much about the Savior coming into the world.
  2. Easter – All about the Easter bunny, eggs and candy, not so much about the Savior who died on a cross in our place taking the punishment we deserved and the rising from the dead proving that He is God.
  3. Memorial Day – just a long weekend to start the summer.  Not so much about all of those who have died to protect the freedoms that we enjoy today.
  4. Independence Day – fireworks and cookout day.  Not so much about celebrating the birth of a great nation founded in the providence of Almighty God by Christians.  Why have we chosen to sing the first verse of the star spangled banner only rather than maybe the 4thverse, which contains these words:Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
    Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
    Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
    And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
  5. Thanksgiving – turkey and football day.  Not so much about what Abraham Lincoln said it should be:“…set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens…”

Then I come to Halloween.  Is it a holiday?  The word holiday once meant “Holy Day”.  For sure Halloween is not a “holy day”.  No matter where you stand on the topic of Halloween, I’m sure you’d agree with that.  The question to me is whether it is worth celebrating.  Most of the other holidays we have seem to be worth celebrating, even the so-called Hallmark holidays (Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc) as well as the ones mentioned above.  They all have merit.  But Halloween, at least the way it is celebrated in the U.S., seems not worthy of celebrating.  The “dark side” of Halloween seems to focus on:

  1. Fear
    1. 1 John 4:18 says “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
    2. 2 Tim 1:7 says “For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
  2. Death / Decay (undead zombies who can’t reach the afterlife, graves, etc):
    1. 2 Tim 1:10 says “…the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”
    2. 1 Cor 15:55 says “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
    3. Rom 8:21 says “…the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay…”
  3. Dark spiritual forces
    1. Eph 6:12 says “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

So, while I fully support the idea of kids dressing up in costumes and walking around to get candy (which is precisely why “Trunk or Treat” exists), I don’t think that the “dark side” of Halloween is worth celebrating.

Biblical Reflections on Government

As I contemplate yesterday’s election results this morning, I reflect on what the Word of God has to say about this topic and I take comfort:

  1. Daniel 2:20-21: and said: “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.”
  2. Daniel 4:17b: …the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of men
  3. 2 Chron. 7:14: 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.
  4. Ps. 33:12a: Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD
  5. Proverbs 21:1: The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.
  6. Ps. 22:28: for dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations.
  7. Ps. 47:8: God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne.
  8. Ps. 118:8-9: It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.  It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.
  9. Isaiah 33:22: For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; it is he who will save us.
  10. Mat. 22:21: “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then he said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
  11. John 18:36: Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
  12. John 19:10-11: “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”  Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”
  13. Romans 13:1-7:  Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.  For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you.  For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.  Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.  This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.  Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
  14. 1 Tim. 2:1-2: I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone–  for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
  15. Titus 3:1: Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good
  16. 1 Peter 2:13-14,17: Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority,  or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right…Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.

We must always remember that God is on the throne and these results do not take Him by surprise!

Is Faith Just a Feeling?

Evidence must play a role in faith.  As J. Warner Wallace says, at the point the evidence trail ends, you must “step off” in faith.  Faith is what covers the gap between the end of the evidence trail and what you believe.

Yesterday, I was in a conversation with someone who seemed to place a greater emphasis on “spiritual witness” than on evidence.  I asked, “What if you were walking along and found a bank statement that had your name printed on it and indicated that you had a $1,000,000 balance in the account?  Prior to finding this, you had no idea that you had a million dollars.  Would you investigate the authenticity and verify the legitimacy of that document before you started celebrating and spending the money?  Or would you just trust the feeling that this was true and never verify that it was really true?”  Now, as I think of this, there is even a better analogy.  How many times have you gotten an email (or even “snail mail”) indicating that you’d won a huge sum of money or a trip or something else?  Did you immediately trust that it was true based on your feelings?  Or did you rather investigate if it was really true?

Of course, the answer to all these questions is that you wouldn’t just blindly trust, but you would investigate.  We’re not going to just believe we’ve hit the jackpot without having some pretty good evidence that it is true.  In the same way, in matters of great importance like the Creator God and your eternal destination, you should have good reasons (other than just feelings or “spiritual witness”), that the object of your faith is real.  I’m not talking about conclusive proof, but rather evidence that this belief is true beyond a reasonable doubt.

Requirements for Salvation / Eternal Life / Entrance to Heaven / Avoidance of Hell According to God Speaking Through:

Jesus:

Belief in Him:

  1. John 3:16-18
  2. John 6:29
  3. John 6:40
  4. John 6:47
  5. John 11:25-26

Being born again:

  1. John 3:3,5,7

Hearing His Word and believing the Father:

  1. John 5:24

Listening to His voice, being one of His sheep:

  1. John 10:27-28

Believing the “I am He”:

  1. John 8:24

Standing firm to the end:

  1. Mark 13:13
  2. Matthew 10:22
  3. Matthew 24:13
  4. Luke 21:19

Knowing Him:

  1. Matthew 7:23
  2. John 17:3

Coming to Him:

  1. John 5:40

Doing the will of the Father

  1. Matthew 7:21

Acknowledging Him before men:

  1. Matthew 10:32
  2. Luke 12:8

Not disowning Him before men:

  1. Matthew 10:33
  2. Luke 12:9

Not being ashamed of Him and His Word:

  1. Luke 9:26

Losing your life for Him:

  1. Luke 9:24

Those who have done good:

  1. John 5:29

Entering through Him:

  1. John 10:9
  2. John 14:6

Acceptance vs. Rejection of His Words:

  1. John 12:48

Eating the Bread that came down from heaven:

  1. John 6:50-51

Eating His flesh and drinking His blood:

  1. John 6:53-54

Loving God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind and loving your neighbor:

  1. Luke 10:25-28 (to an “expert in the Law” who was testing Jesus)

He who overcomes and who remembers what they’ve received, obeys it and repents:

  1. Revelation 3:1-5

He who overcomes:

  1. Revelation 3:21

Giving half of possessions to the poor and paying back 4 times what you cheated anyone out of as proof of repentance:

  1. Luke 19:8-9

Keeping the commandments:

  1. Luke 18:18-20

Giving all you possess to the poor

  1. Luke 18:22

By your words:

  1. Matthew 12:37

John the Baptist:

Believing in the Son:

  1. John 3:36

Paul:

Trust God:

  1. Romans 4:5

Confessing with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and believing in your heart that God raised Him from the dead:

  1. Romans 10:9

Making a good confession if the presence of many witnesses

  1. 1 Timothy 6:12

Calling on the name of the Lord:

  1. Romans 10:13

By grace, through faith/belief:

  1. Ephesians 2:5,8-9
  2. Romans 5:1
  3. Romans 1:16
  4. 1 Timothy 1:16
  5. Romans 3:21-31
  6. Acts 16:31
  7. Acts 13:38-39

Knowing the Scriptures and being made wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus

  1. 2 Timothy 3:15

God is the Savior of all men, especially those who believe:

  1. 1 Timothy 4:10

Persevering in life and doctrine:

  1. 1 Timothy 4:16

Continuing in your faith, established and firm, not moved:

  1. Colossians 1:22-23

By the gospel, Holding firmly to the word Paul preached:

  1. 1 Corinthians 15:2

Hearing the gospel and believing:

  1. Ephesians 1:13-14

Godly sorrow which leads to repentance:

  1. 2 Corinthians 7:10

Being “in Christ”:

  1. Romans 8:1

Being chosen / predestined:

  1. Ephesians 1:3-8

Because of God’s own purpose and grace before the beginning of time:

  1. 2 Timothy 1:9

Because of God’s mercy, grace, through washing, rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit

  1. Titus 3:4-7

The grace of God:

  1. Titus 2:11

Not being immoral, impure or greedy:

  1. Ephesians 5:5-6

Those who long for his appearing:

  1. 2 Timothy 4:8

Not disowning Christ:

  1. 2 Timothy 2:12

Enduring / suffering:

  1. 2 Timothy 2:12

Becoming slaves to God to reap holiness:

  1. Romans 6:22

The writer of Hebrews:

Waiting for Him:

  1. Hebrews 9:28

Those who come to God through Jesus:

  1. Hebrews 7:24-25

Not ignoring such a great salvation:

  1. Hebrews 2:2-3

Holding firmly ‘til the end:

  1. Hebrews 3:14

Peter:

Faith / Belief / Grace:

  1. Acts 15:7-11
  2. 1 Peter 1:8-9

Repentance:

  1. Acts 11:18
  2. 2 Peter 3:9

Escaping the corruption of the world and then becoming entangled in it again:

  1. 2 Peter 2:20-22

James:

Accept the Word planted in you:

  1. James 1:21

Loving God:

  1. James 2:5
  2. James 1:12

Standing the test / persevering under trial

  1. James 1:12

Justified by what you do, not by faith alone – works are proof of faith, faith without works is “dead”:

  1. James 2:14-26

John the beloved disciple:

Acknowledging/believing that Jesus is the Son of God:

  1. John 20:31
  2. 1 John:415
  3. 1 John 5:13

“Having” the Son of God:

  1. 1 John 5:11-12

One of the “elders” said this: Coming out of the great tribulation and washing your robe in the blood of the Lamb:

  1. Revelation 7:13-14

Biblical Case for Apologetics

Outline

  • What is apologetics (is it biblical)?
  • Where is apologetics commanded in the Bible?
  • Does God value evidence and proof?
  • Are we to have a “blind faith” or a reasonable faith?
  • Did biblical authors provide evidence for belief?
  • Did the apostles use/teach apologetics?
  • Did Jesus use logic, debate and reason?
  • Can God use apologetics to draw people to Him?
  • What common questions and objections are raised by non-believers?

What is Apologetics?

  • Greek word “apologia” means to make a defense
  • apologia found 8 times in New Testament
  • Defense against questions, objections & attacks:

–      From outsiders: atheists, agnostics, skeptics, etc.

–      From those who claim to be insiders: heretics, scripture twisters, etc.

  • Equipped believers can use apologetics to effectively demonstrate that the Christian world view is consistent, rational, and corresponds with reality.

Apologetics in the Bible

We are commanded to defend our faith:

  • 1 Peter 3:15-16 (…always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks …)
  • 2 Timothy 2:24-26 (…Those who oppose him he must gently instruct…)
  • Colossians 4:5-6 (…know how to answer everyone…)
  • Jude 1:3 (…exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith…)

God Values and Provides Evidence

  • Acts 1:3 (…he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive…)
  • Acts 17:30-31 (…having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead)
  • Romans 1:18-20 (what may be known about God…God has made it plain to them)
  • John 20:24-29 (Jesus made a post resurrection appearance just for Thomas, the skeptic)

We are not to have a blind faith, but a reasonable faith using our God given intellectual abilities

  • Matthew 22:37-38 (1st and greatest commandment includes loving God with your mind)
  • 1 Cor 15:17 (If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile…) Paul pins our faith to a historical event.
  • Acts 26:24-29 (during Paul’s defense to Festus he says that his faith is “true and reasonable”)
  • 1 Thess 5:21 tells us to “Test everything. Hold on to the good”
  • Jesus tells us in many places to look at His miracles as evidence for belief in Him (John 5:36, 10:25,32,37-38, 14:11,29, Mat 11:2-5)
  • Eph 2:8-9 says we are saved by grace through faith – the biblical definition of faith is found in Heb 11:1, which includes the phrase “evidence of things not seen” (think forensics – a murder investigator has evidence of a murder he has not seen)

Some biblical authors wrote their books as evidence for belief

  • John 20:30-31 (Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples…But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God…)
  • Luke 1:1-4 (…I myself have carefully investigated everything…it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account … so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught)

Paul used/taught apologetics repeatedly

  • Acts 9:22,29 …baffled the Jewsproving that Jesus is the Christ…He talked and debated 
  • Acts 17:2-4 …As his custom was… reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving…Some of the Jews were persuaded 
  • Acts 17:16-17 ….So he reasoned in the synagogue…
  • Acts 18:4 …he reasonedtrying to persuade…
  • Acts 18:19 …reasoned with the Jews…
  • Acts 19:8-10 …arguing persuasivelyhad discussions daily…
  • Acts 24:24-25 …he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus…he reasoned 
  • Acts 25, 26 Paul was making a defense in front of Felix, Festus and Agrippa (who says in 26:28 “…You almost persuade me to become a Christian…”)
  • Philippians 1:7,16,27 …defending and confirming the gospel…I am appointed for the defense of the gospel…contending as one man for the faith of the gospel
  • 1 Corinthians 15:3-8,17 – This is a series of apologetic arguments about historicity/post-resurrection appearances of Jesus and then pinning the validity of our faith to that historical event of the resurrection
  • Titus 1:9 …refute those who oppose it [the trustworthy message]
  • Add’l passages: Col 4:5-6, 2 Cor 10:3-5, 2 Cor 5:11

Peter used/taught apologetics repeatedly

  • Acts 2:32 …we are all witnesses of the fact
  • Acts 3:15 …We are witnesses
  • Acts 5:32 …We are witnesses
  • Acts 10:37-41 You know what has happened throughout Judea…We are witnesses… witnesses whom God had already chosen
  • 1 Peter 5:1 …witness of Christ’s sufferings…
  • 1 Peter 3:15 …always being ready to make a defense…
  • 2 Peter 1:16 …we were eyewitnesses of his majesty

The apostle John used apologetics

  • John 21:24 This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down
  • 1 John 1:1-3 …we have heard…we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched…we have seen it and testify to it…We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard
  • Rev 1:1-2 …He made it known … John, who testifies to everything he saw…
  • Rev 22:8 – I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things

Jesus used logic and debate in His teaching and while defending Himself

  • Mat 6:24-34
  • Mat 7:9-11
  • Mat 12:26-29
  • Mat 21:23-27
  • Mat 22:23-34
  • Mat 22:41-46
  • Mark 2:16-17
  • Mark 2:21-22
  • Mark 8:36-37
  • Mark 9:39-40
  • Luke 6:1-4,39
  • Luke 11:11-20
  • Luke 13:10-17
  • Luke 14:1-6
  • Luke 20:1-8
  • Luke 20:23-25
  • John 5:39-40
  • John 5:46-47
  • John 10:24-39
  • John 12:7
  • John 13:8-10,19
  • John 14:5-11
  • John 14:28-29
  • John 15:18-25
  • John 18:33-37
  • John 20:24-29
  • John 21:22

Let’s look at a few examples

  • Mat 12:22-28 – Jesus is defending Himself against those who say He is casting about demons by Beelzebub
  • Mat 21:23-27 – Jesus is defending Himself against the chief priests and elders when they asked Him by what authority He was acting.
  • Luke 13:10-17 – Jesus is defending Himself against the synagogue ruler when He healed a woman on the Sabbath.  The end result was that (v17) “…all his opponents were humiliated…”

God can use apologetics to draw people to Him

  • God grew the early church using apologetic arguments of the apostles:

–      Acts 1:15=~120

–      Acts 2:41=~3,000 (after Peter’s sermon in Acts 2:14-40)

–      Acts 4:4=~5,000 (after Peter’s miracle in Acts 3:6-10 and following sermon in Acts 3:12-26)

  • Blind faith was not being preached during those sermons

Common Questions/Objections

  • What evidence is there to believe that God exists? (Rom 1:20, Ps. 19:1-3)
  • Are there non-biblical accounts that confirm that Jesus existed? (e.g. Josephus, Tacitus, Pliny, etc)
  • What evidence is there for the resurrection? (1 Cor 15:3-8 and F.E.A.T.)
  • Did Jesus actually claim to be God? (John 10:30-33)
  • What evidence is there that the Bible is God’s word (and by implication other “scriptures” are not God’s word)? (Is. 53, Is. 7:14, Zech. 9:9;12:10, Micah 5:2, etc)
  • If God is good and all powerful, why is there evil and suffering in this world?

Conclusion

  • Apologetics is not unbiblical
  • Apologetics is commanded
  • Apologetics is not only for some, but commanded for all
  • God can use apologetics to draw people to Him
  • Blind faith is not encouraged in the Bible, but reasonable faith

If you don’t tell your children what to believe, someone else will

“It is a fool who says. ‘I do not tell my children what to believe’, because if you don’t, someone else will.  The drug addicts are commanding your children and your children are obeying.  The lust mongers are commanding your daughters and your daughters are obeying.  For God’s sake YOU command something!” – Dr. Tony Evans, Portrait of a Real Man Part 1, Portrait of a Real Man Part 2, Portrait of a Real Man Part 3

Do we choose God or does God choose us, or is it both?

I believe that God chooses us. I believe that we choose God. Sounds like a contradiction, doesn’t it?

Ephesians 1 clearly states that God chooses us:

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– 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves…11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will

And many others communicate that same truth (Rom 8:29-30,33-34, 10:20; Prov 16:9; John 6:37,44,65,17:6,9,13:18,15:19; 2 Thess 2:13-14; 1 Peter 2:9; 2 Peter 1:3; Eph 2:3-10; Rom 11:2-7,29; 1 Thess 5:9; 1 Pet 1:1-2; Luke 10:22; Mat 11:27; Mat 24:22,24,31; Col 3:12, Jude 1; Mark 13:27; 1 Thess 1:4; Rev 17:14; Titus 1:1; 3:3-7).

Additionally, it is true that we are born spiritually dead and at enmity with God and that satan blinds us (Rom 8:7; 1 Cor 1:18; 1 Cor 2:14; 2 Cor 4:4; Eph 2:1).  There are probably many more passages that support these assertions.

I do believe in election/predestination, because it is in the Bible.  The following verse has been particularly informative in understanding how the process works:

Romans 8:29-30 – For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

It seems to say that God knows ahead of time who’s going to believe and those are the ones He predestines (this depends on God having what is referred to as the “middle knowledge” – He knows not only the actual future, but all possible futures).  However, this predestination is from God’s viewpoint.  But from man’s viewpoint, since God said the He does not desire anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance and “whosoever will may come”, we should be aware that the “offer” is out to everyone – from our point of view, there should be no predestination.  From man’s point of view, everyone needs to make a choice.  And we are all responsible for our choice.

Romans 2:14-15 says something very interesting about the unconverted/unregenerate:

(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law,  since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.)

So according to this passage, the unconverted/unregenerate know they are doing wrong…  If that is true of the Gentiles, then it is certainly true of the disciples.  They had no excuse from a human point of view for not believing and/or listening to what Jesus told them about what was going to happen to him in Jerusalem.  In addition, no one has any excuse for not believing there is a God (Rom 1:20).

We choose God and that we’re responsible for our choice or lack thereof.  And it is true that God uses other humans and their persuasion and apologetics to open people’s eyes.  Here are some scriptures that I’d like you to consider that cause me to believe that we can choose God:

Jeremiah 29:13 You will seek me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.

Isaiah 55:6-7 Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.  Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

Amos 5:4 This is what the LORD says to the house of Israel: “Seek Me and live”

Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.

Romans 10:13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Acts 16:31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved–you and your household.”

Acts 17:27 God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

Acts 14:1 At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed.

Acts 18:4 Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks

James 4:8,10  Come near to God and He will come near to you.  Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded….Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up.

Joshua 24:15 But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

1 Kings 18:21 Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing.

Proverbs 28:5 Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the LORD understand it fully.

Ps 119:30 I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws.

And even though the TULIP acronym (from the 5 point Calvinist) teaches Irresistible Grace, consider Luke 13:34:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!

And from John 12:

37 Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: “Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 39 For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: 40 “He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn–and I would heal them.” 41 Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.

I think Dr. Norman Geisler provides a great treatment of this topic in this great series of videos explaining why he is not a 5 point Calvinist:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9n_NUoslp0&feature=mfu_in_order&list=UL

This is 9 videos of around 7-8 minutes each which will “auto-play” in sequence.  The video and audio are out of sync, but the audio is clear.  He makes his point from Scripture with humor and humility, acknowledging that this is an “intramural” debate, with born-again, true believers on both sides of the issue.

Here an analogy I thought of. God is like an employer who offers an unconditional job offer. The potential employee didn’t even apply for the job, but once he finds out about the offer that has been extended to him, he can choose to accept or reject the offer. No matter how attractive the offer looks and how much the potential employees are persuaded by others, many choose to reject the offer.

I do not claim to understand this topic fully and certainly will not in this lifetime. The Bible teaches that both are true – God grants repentance and faith, but man is responsible for choosing to repent and believe (Mk 1:15).

Evidence that contradicts the theory that dinosaurs evolved into birds

  1. Feathers are too dissimilar to scales
    – Scales are sheets that cover the body – feathers are more like hair follicles
    – Reptiles shed their skin including scales all at once in one large piece – one event.  Birds lose feathers one at a time.
    – Feathers are well designed for flight – interlocking barbules which close on the down stroke so as to be impenetrable to air and provide lift for the bird and open on the up stroke to allow air to flow through to make it easier to lift up the wing.
  2. Dinosaurs are reptiles, which are cold-blooded (ectothermic) and birds are warm-blooded (endothermic).
  3. Birds have avian (flow through) lungs, while dinosaurs do not.

Cell Division

This 2 min 50 second Discovery Channel video Curiosity: The very first living thing makes some pretty astounding assertions. One of them is this:

“3.5 billion years ago, they (the first cell) do something extraordinary: they copy themselves and the cell to create a perfect clone”.

Now, assuming that the first cell did come into existence by unguided, natural processes (which is itself highly improbable as the video admits), why did it “decide” to copy itself? How many times did it try copying itself before the process worked perfectly?  Going back even further, why did the first RNA strand “decide” to repair itself (which is not covered in the video)? There is no evidence presented in the video for the first cell division.  It’s just thrown out there with no backing evidence – a “just so story”. Granted, this is a ~3min video with no time to present the full case, but I’ve seen quite a few of these types of presentations on TV for public consumption, but unfortunately, you don’t see dissenting views such as Darwin’s Dilemma presented for public consumption as well.

The Characters You Love to See Transformed

As I’ve seen a few movies recently (The Magic of Belle Isle, Trouble with the Curve, The Last Song and others – even Beauty and the Beast), I started to reflect on a common plot of these movies.  It starts off with the building of a character you’ll want to hate.  In the above movies, the bad character was played by Morgan Freeman, Clint Eastwood, Mylie Cyrus and “The Beast” respectively.  Abrasive, bad attitude, not very likable at all…  The character confirms your assessment of him/her with every action.  The character becomes so bad, it makes you cringe.  Then, sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly and dramatically the character changes and starts to soften their heart.  By the end, the character becomes downright likable often bringing some viewers to the point of tears when they consider magnitude of the character’s transformation.  It seems that the depth of depravity the character sunk to actually made you rejoice with greater joy when you saw their transformation.

I sometimes wonder if God has the same plot in some of our lives…  I’m sure if you’re a Christian reading this, you have people that you’re praying for that they would be saved.  Maybe they are very far off from God right now – living “in the world”, maybe even in the depths of depravity and celebrating it, even bragging about it.  But the story of their lives is not ended yet.  In Romans 8:28 we read that “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Maybe, just maybe, God is letting them stray from Him so that in the end, He will be able to bring glory to Himself by creating another trophy of His grace.  Just maybe…

Consider the apostle Paul.  He was one of Christianity’s biggest persecutors.  In Acts 26:9, when speaking in front of Agrippa Paul said “I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth.”  Likewise, in 1 Corinthians 15:9, he said “For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”  And in Galatians 1:13, “For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it.”  In fact in Galatians 1:22-24, he goes on to say “I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ.  They only heard the report: ‘The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.’ And they praised God because of me.”  I wonder how many people were praying for Paul and hoping that he would be saved and transformed?  How sweet do you think it was for those that were believers, knowing of him, and seeing him transformed and born again?  It must have been pure elation!  Only God could take an enemy of Christ and turn him into one of his leading followers and witnesses.

So, let’s not give up too quickly and become discouraged when those we love are far from Christ.  If God could transform Saul of Tarsus into the Apostle Paul, He certainly will have no trouble bringing back those we love who’ve strayed far away!

Conversation with a Skeptic (Part 2)

This past Friday, I went out to lunch with this associate of mine who is a skeptic (here is the post where I talk about our first conversation: https://1peter41216.wordpress.com/2014/09/18/conversation-with-a-skeptic/).  This was as a result of him talking with me one day while we were in line at the cafeteria.  He was bringing up all these objections about Christianity (in a rapid fire fashion) and I said that this is probably not a good place or time for us to have this conversation.  I suggested we go out to lunch some time.  So he sent me a calendar invitation and after one cancellation, we were finally able to do it this past Friday.  Initially, he said he was real busy and maybe we should just go downstairs to the cafeteria, but I said that we won’t be able to talk there, let’s go out – we can make it at a “semi” fast food place.  So I suggested Espo’s, this “hole in the wall” Mexican restaurant where you walk up to the counter to order your food.

On the way over there, we were talking about work and then started to talk about some more personal stuff (hobbies and family).  He was relaying how his life has totally changed since he got married and had kids.  He has no time anymore for himself.  At this time, I felt it was a good time to get into spiritual topics.  I started off by saying (in reference to the comment about putting family above his own interests) that a Christian gives their life to Christ.  That started the spiritual part of our conversation.  What follows is what I can remember of the conversion.  The topics are not necessarily in the exact order we covered them in and the wording may not be exact, but this represents the general flow of the topics we talked about.

Skeptic: He has a big problem with Hypocrites in the Church; he said that I’m only one of about a handful of Christians he’s ever met that seems to be authentic.

Me: I thanked him and said that hypocrites grieved me as well.

Skeptic: He was talking about tragedy in the world and people dying.

Me: I replied that in the Christian worldview, people don’t die; they just change locations (either heaven or hell).

Me: I asked him why he has rejected Christ.

Skeptic:

  1. He said “I haven’t really rejected Christ, I just lack faith.”
  2. He also said that “Christianity is the new kid on the block.”  We’ve had religions for thousands of years before it.  What should make me think that this new kid on the block is the right religion?

Me: I replied that just because it came along later doesn’t mean it is false.  You have to evaluate the claims of Christ and come to your own conclusion.

Skeptic: He said that he wished Christianity was true.

Me: So, I asked him, “If you found out that Christianity was true, would you become a Christian?” (the answer should’ve been an immediate yes)

Skeptic: He hemmed and hawed, never really gave an answer.  But then, oddly enough, he started talking about the rapture of all things… (he has some Church background as a youth)  He was fired up about the rapture, he said it would be really cool.

Me: I suggested you should believe before the rapture happens – don’t wait until it happens!

Skeptic: He said he would like to be able to take retribution against all the bad things that are happening in the world – he wished God would (can’t remember the exact words) authorize/empower/allow him to take revenge.

Me: I told him that no Christian is allowed to take revenge – God says “’Vengeance is mine’ says the LORD.  ‘I will repay’”

Me: Forgiveness – we talked about this after the talk about vengeance. I brought up the example of the Amish in Ohio when someone came into their community and killed a bunch of people and how they just forgave them.  I brought up Luke 6:28 where Jesus says – Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

Skeptic: He said “could you really forgive someone who did that (murder, rape) to your own family”?

Me: I acknowledged that it would be very hard if it was just me, but Christians have Christ living in them and through them by the power of the Holy Spirit.  It is only by the power of Christ that I could forgive.  Also, it is not like you’re forgiving someone to their face who doesn’t think they’ve done anything wrong.  You forgive them completely and unconditionally in your heart and in prayer before God, but you don’t communicate that forgiveness to them face to face until they acknowledge what they’ve done as being wrong (until they repent).  Otherwise your act of forgiveness would be taken as an insult by someone who is proclaiming their goodness and innocence. I also brought up where Jesus was hanging on the cross and the Roman soldiers were below Him and He said “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing”.  If He would’ve just said to the Roman soldiers “Hey you guys, I forgive you for nailing Me to this cross”, they would’ve just said, hey I was just doing my job bro!  But Jesus said this forgiveness out loud so that others could hear it but not directly to the perpetrators.  And I also relayed the story about the thieves hanging on the cross beside Him and how one was cursing and insulting and the other acknowledged that Jesus had not done anything wrong and asked Jesus to remember him when He came into His kingdom and how Jesus responded “Today, you will be with Me in paradise”.

Skeptic: He brought up bad design (he said “Intelligent Design” is a joke).  He gave all these examples of things gone wrong in our world (e.g. cancer) and various examples of “bad design”.

Me: I said that “bad design” is not “no design”.  And you can’t really know if you have a bad or good design unless you know the intent, requirements and constraints of the designer.  If I wrote some software, you might look at the code and say that is rotten.  But maybe it does exactly what I designed it to do for reasons that you are not aware of.

Skeptic: He asked me what I thought about homosexuality

Me: I stated that I thought that is no worse than all of the other sins.  All of humanity are sinners in need of a Savior.  I admitted that I’d lied and lusted too.  I’m as guilty before God as the homosexual.  We’re all in the same boat – we’re lost without Christ.

Skeptic: Talked about some Native American tribe that went underground during some disaster and talked to the “ant people”.  I think he was trying to draw some kind of parallel between this and the New Testament authors.

Me: I think it was at this point that I communicated to him that the New Testament consists of 27 books written by 9 authors over a period of somewhere between 30 – 60 years (within the lifetimes of those who’d witnessed these events).  These were all people who either had direct experience with Jesus or interviewed those who did.  All but 1 of them went to their deaths proclaiming what they’d seen and heard.  All they would have to do is recant and save their lives but they didn’t.  How can 9 guys keep a conspiracy/secret under this kind of pressure for that long?  The authors of the New Testament did not gain power, money or sex from writing what they wrote.  Instead they were chased around and persecuted and eventually killed for what they were proclaiming.  Why would anyone knowingly die for a lie?  I brought up about suicide bombers who die, but they don’t know for sure that what they’re dying for is true.  These people lived, walked and ate with Jesus for 3 years while He was on earth.  They certainly knew whether it was true or not.  I even relayed how Paul, when he was speaking before Festus (a ruler) who’d accused him of basically being crazy, said that he was not “mad” but what he was saying was reasonable and true and that these things had not been done “in a corner” and it couldn’t have escaped Festus’ notice.  I also shared with him about how over 500 people had seen Jesus after He’d risen.  I shared Acts 1:3 “After His suffering, He showed Himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive.  He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.”

Me: I talked about how we all have the same evidence (beginning of the universe, fossils, archeology, etc.).

Skeptic: He had a problem with God’s sovereignty and how Christians use that concept in whatever way suits them.  For example, if someone is trying to get pregnant and they finally have a baby, they claim that God gave them the baby, but if something bad happens, they are not likely to claim that as something God did to them.  He also talked about the girls that were held by that guy and raped for 10 years.

Me:

  1. I stated that sin entered the world when Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the garden and after that everything doesn’t work the way it should, there is a curse on the creation.
  2. I also talked about a biblical example where things looked really bad, but God turned it around for good.  I relayed the story of Joseph, which culminated in Genesis 50:20, where Joseph said “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good, to accomplish what is now being done; the saving of many lives”.
  3. I re-iterated the point that God can take sinful actions and use them to fulfill His purposes.  He’s like the master chess player, whatever move you make, He is able to make the necessary counter moves to achieve “checkmate”.

Skeptic: He had a problem with God having Sovereignty and humans really being free.

Me: I gave him an example of being on a large ocean liner going from New York to London.  On that ocean liner, you’re free to go wherever you want and do whatever you want.  You have freedom within the ocean liner.  But you can’t change the fact that the ship is headed to London.  You can’t get off the ship and you can’t change its direction.  In the same way, we were all born into a certain circumstance, with our particular parents in our particular location in the world and with our genetic code and physical characteristics.  I will never be an Olympic athlete.  Some things are just impossible for me based on the hand I’ve been dealt.  That doesn’t mean I’m not free.  I’m able to make free choices every day.  The fact that God knows what I’m going to do before I do it does not mean I’m not free.

Me: I told him that I was really happy that we could have this conversation and be calm and not hostile or argumentative.  He said that the problem was that most Christians are pushy and trying to persuade you of their view and convert you.  He acknowledged that I probably would be happy if he agreed with my view as well.  I then asked him why he thought I’d be happy.  He replied that he assumed that I thought it would be “better for him” and make is life more “fulfilling”.  I replied, that while I think that is true, that is not why I would want him to agree.  But rather, it is because I believe this worldview to be true beyond a reasonable doubt.  I can’t prove that God exists or that Jesus is who He says He is any more than he can disprove those things.  But I can provide a lot of evidence that supports those assertions.

Overall, it was a really great conversation.  We ended up and shook hands and both said that we should do this again sometime.  I truly hope that we will.  I hope that I’ve put a pebble in his shoe…  And I pray for this person that God would use what I shared with him to consider the claims of Christ and to put his trust in Him.

Conversation with a skeptic

I had lunch with a skeptic yesterday.  It was a great conversation and we both enjoyed it.  So I wrote down all I could remember (his objections and my answers):

  1. There are a ton of hypocrites in the Church – more inside the Church than on the outside (Tim/Tammy Fay, Benny Hin, Jerry Falwell, etc…)
    1. Answers I gave
      1. Not everyone who professes to be a Christian is a Christian (Jesus said by their fruits you will know them)
      2. Jesus reserved his most condemning rebukes for hypocrites – I cited some of the stuff out of Matthew 23 and the “Pharisees with flowing robes” stuff.
      3. No one is perfect – we are all sinners and Christians are in the process of being transformed by God.  However if a person stubbornly persists in sin and is unrepentant about it, that is probably a good sign they are not a Christian.  However, I am not the judge of people, only God knows the heart of each individual.
  2. God becoming man (how could an Infinite God send a man to earth?)
    1. Answers I gave
      1. If you wanted to get to know an ‘ant’, how would you do it?  Could you do it in your present form?  No, you’d have to become an ant to really know ants.  Jesus became a man to be like one of us (Heb 4:15-16), show us the way, seek and save us since we were lost (Luke 19:10).  We discussed this analogy quite a while – he seemed to like it (he said “it works for me”).
  3. Christianity is the “new kid on the block” in terms of religions, why would I listen to it (Hinduism has been around for thousands more years)?
    1. Answers I gave
      1. Well actually, it is not the new kid on the block.  Islam started around 600AD and Mormonism started around 1820AD.
      2. (I also wanted to give an additional answer, but we changed subjects – Islam and Hinduism do not teach the correct view of Jesus, so I would have a problem with them for that reason)
  4. I as a father couldn’t hurt my child, how could God send us to Hell?  He said that God is supposed to be our Father, and we are supposedly created in His image, so how could He do that (not sure I remember the exact wording):
    1. Answers I gave
      1. God will respect the right of a person to reject Him.  If a person wants nothing to do with Him during their life on earth, He will not drag that person into heaven for all eternity to worship Him and live with Him.  So the person that rejects God for His whole life will receive his wish and be separated from Him in a place called hell.
      2. He countered that a good parent would not do that.  To that, I responded with an example of a run away.  For example [name with-held] (a guy we both know at our work) – his daughter essentially ran away to Mexico with his ex-wife.  She is 16, so [name with-held] could legally take action to bring her back.  But she would end up resenting him and ultimately, she would probably just run away again.  [name with-held] knows what is best for her (to be in America with him).  He knows that she will have a hard life in Mexico and that her education will not be as good.  Yet, he is not going to try and force her to come back.  In the same way, our heavenly Father knows what’s best for us, but we think we know more than him.  At a certain point, He will no longer try to pull us back to Him.  He won’t override our free will.
      3. I also explained how the message of the cross is central to Christianity.  The cross is where God’s Justice and Love intersect.  God is a just Judge, so He can’t let sin go unpunished, but He loves us so much that He doesn’t want to punish us.  So He sent His Son to earth to live the perfect life and then to be our substitute and pay the penalty for our sins. Here is where I gave the gospel presentation and told him how sinful humans can be forgiven for their sins and receive the free gift of eternal life if they repent and place their trust in Jesus.
  5. Why do I need a book to tell me what’s right and wrong?
    1. Answers I gave
      1. You don’t – God has written the law on every man’s heart.  Man was created in God’s image having the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 1:26-27; Rom 2:14-15).
  6. The idea of “3rd party forgiveness” (I think that is how he phrased it) is abhorrent/disgusting/revolting to him.  For example, if someone rapes his daughter, then apologizes to God and receives forgiveness, that is not “just” – he sinned against me, so asking and receiving forgiveness from God is just wrong.  I think he also mentioned about last minute conversions of people who have been sinning their whole life and also he talked about people who view forgiveness as kind of a get out of jail free card where they know God will forgive them, so they just sin anyway.
    1. Answers I gave
      1. God is the One who instituted the law (e.g. 10 commandments) and He is our creator, so ALL sin is ultimately against Him.  The person needs to ask for both horizontal (to the person they harmed) and vertical (to God) forgiveness
      2. Also, God knows the person’s heart and whether they truly have repented.  I asked him if he’d ever heard of repentance or knew what it was.  He replied yes and that there’s much too little of it.  I explained the biblical view of repentance to him.
  7. Why are Christians so unforgiving?
    1. Answers I gave
      1. I quoted this Scripture to him:  Jesus said “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Mat 6:14-15).  So, this is one of the core attributes of a true Christian that they are supposed to be very forgiving (not perfectly, but increasingly)
      2. I also told him about the parable of the unforgiving servant and how that relates to Christians who’ve had all their sins forgiven and yet won’t forgive someone when they sin against them.  That this is a core characteristic of Christianity.
  8. The Bible was written by uneducated, primitive people who were afraid of nature (lightning, death, etc.) and needed an explanation and comfort
    1. Answers I gave
      1. Even if the message of the Bible (including forgiveness and life after death) is comforting, one should not believe it unless it is true – unless you have good reasons for believing it.
  9. He had some history in the Church (youth group) – Mom was southern Baptist (previously J.W.).  He had good friends at church, but started to see how people acted compared to what they professed with their lips and came to the conclusion that it was not true.  He also knew the Pastor’s kids and they were very rebellious and it struck him that they were that close to someone who’s supposed to be a real Christian, yet, they were putting on an act to make the parents believe they were good and behind their backs, they were living a life that did not match up with their profession.  He also noticed that when he went to Church where people were supposed to be focused on God, they were more concerned about gossiping (who was wearing what, who did what, etc.).
    1. Answers I gave

i.      To all of this (including the “Christian leaders” who are hypocrites), I responded that it grieved me as well.  I think people that profess to be Christians, yet act like non-believers do much harm to Christianity and to people with a worldview like you, who look at those people and don’t know how it (Christianity) could be true.

ii.      Specifically regarding the “Christian leaders” who are hypocrites, I mentioned that there are Christian leaders who are good role models and are really striving to practice what they preach and live lives of integrity.  Unfortunately, they aren’t “news worthy”, so you don’t hear about them as much, if at all.

  1. He had a problem with God’s omniscience vs. man’s free will – doesn’t that mean that our actions are already determined if God knows in advance what we’re going to do and He can’t be wrong?
    1. Answers I gave
      1. I talked about how we are “stuck in time” and God is eternal (outside of time), so He can see it all at once, whereas we cannot and it is very hard for us to fathom being able to know the end from the beginning, but that doesn’t mean it is not possible.  God can have foreknowledge of events without overriding our free will.
      2. I also talked about the concept of the “middle knowledge” of God.  He knows not only the actual future as it will play out, but all possible futures (e.g. if person X living in the jungle would’ve believed if he had heard the gospel, but person Y would NOT have believed).

He also said a crucial moment for him was when he envisioned 2 soldiers in opposing fox holes in a war both praying to God for an opposite result and he realized it couldn’t be true.

I also gave my testimony how for 37 years of my life I acted like God didn’t exist and then at an Easter Sunday service my eyes were opened.  I went through a lot more than that.

Joke about Free Will vs. Calvinism

A man died and went to heaven and he saw 2 lines.  One line said “Predestined” and the other line said “Free Choice”.  So, being a good 5-point Calvinist, he got in the predestined line.  And he worked his way up to the front and the angel in charge said “Why are you in this line?”  He said, “Well, I chose to be here.”  The angel said, “Well, this is the wrong line.  The free choice line is over there.”  So he moved over to the other line and he worked his way to the front of the line and the angel at the desk said, “What are you doing in this line?”  He said, “Somebody made me come here.”

Taken from “Why I Am Not A 5 Point Calvinist’ – By Dr. Norman Geisler” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9n_NUoslp0&feature=mfu_in_order&list=UL)

The Victory of Christ compared to the Super Bowl

If the story of Christ is like the Super Bowl, then Christmas is the opening ceremony (the coin toss if you will). Good Friday is like the 2 minute warning and the opposing team has just scored what would be the winning touchdown. We think there’s no way our team could pull out a victory. Easter Sunday morning is like 2 seconds left no chance to win and our team receives the kickoff 8 yards deep in the end zone and the kick returner does the impossible weaving his way through all the defenders scoring the winning touchdown as time runs out. We as fans go from despair to absolute elation. Following the football analogy, I guess Hebrews 1:3b (NLT) describes the equivalent of the awarding of the Lombardi trophy:

After he died to cleanse us from the stain of sin, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God of heaven.

Of course all analogies break down at some point.  Christ was not involved in a game, and if you can call it a game, the outcome of it is far more significant than a football game – our (eternal) lives!

Christ was, is and will be victorious!!!

H.E.A.R.T. of the Gospel

– H – Hear the Gospel (Romans 10:14,17; Acts 17:32-34)
– E – Engage your Heart, Soul AND Mind (Matt 22:37)
AND
– E – Evaluate the evidence (John 10:37-38; Rom 1:20; Ps. 19:1-3)
– A – Admit you’re a sinner (Rom 3:10-11,23; Eccl 7:20; John 8:24)
– R – Repent of your sins (Luke 5:32; Mark 1:15; Acts 17:30)
– T – Trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior (John 3:36; Acts 4:12,16:31)

20 Quotes from “The Grace Awakening” by Chuck Swindoll

  1. The definition of justification: it is the sovereign act of God whereby he declares righteous the believing sinner while still in his sinning state. It doesn’t mean that the believing sinner stops sinning – it doesn’t even mean that the believing sinner is made righteous in the sense of suddenly becoming perpetually perfect. The sinner is declared righteous.
  2. Ponder this: if the Father is satisfied with his Son’s full payment for sin, and we are in his Son by grace through faith, then He is satisfied with you and me. How long must Christians live before we finally believe that?
  3. Legalism is an attitude, a mentality based on pride. It is an obsessive conformity to an artificial standard for the purpose of exalting oneself. A legalist assumes the place of authority and pushes it to unwarranted extremes.
  4. Legalism: the manufacturing and manipulation of rules for the purpose of illegitimate control. Perhaps the most damaging of all the perversions of God’s will and Christ’s work, legalism clings to law at the expense of grace, to the letter in place of the Spirit. – Daniel Taylor
  5. A Theology that rests its salvation on one ounce of human performance is not good news, it is bad information. It is heresy. It is antithetical to the true message that lit the spark of the Reformation: Sola fide – faith alone.
  6. A Salvation that begins with God’s love reaching down to lost humanity and is carried out by Christ’s death and resurrection results in all the praise going to God. But a salvation that includes human achievement, hard work, personal effort, even religious deeds distorts the good news because man gets the glory, not God. The problem is, it appeals to the flesh.
  7. Grace says you have nothing to give, nothing to earn, nothing to pay. You couldn’t if you tried!
  8. Allow the quickening power of God’s grace to awaken within you a hunger for Liberty. Those who let freedom be taken from them not only embrace heresy, they live under the thumb of grace killers who love to control and intimidate.
  9. You want to mess up the minds of your children? Here’s how- guaranteed! Rear them in a legalistic, tight context of external religion, where performance is more important than reality. Fake your faith.Sneak around and pretend your spirituality. Train your children to do the same. Embrace a long list of do’s and don’ts publicly, but hypocritically practice them privately …yet never own up to the fact that that it’s hypocrisy. Act one way but live another. And you can count on it emotional and spiritual damage will occur.
  10. There came a day when an eternal Emancipation Proclamation was made known throughout the heavens and all the way to the pit of hell – “the sinner is officially set free!” It is the announcement that originated from Christ’s empty tomb on that first Easter, the day our great Emancipator, Christ, set us free. Doctrinally, the word is redemption. He redeemed us.
  11. Christ came on the scene and he saw every one of us on the slave block – lost, miserable, spiritually useless, and unable to change ourselves or escape from the bondage of our master. Moved by compassion and prompted by love, He, in grace, paid the price to free us. The price was His death. By doing so, He said to every one of us, in effect “You don’t have to live under your former master any longer. You’re free. You’re free to serve me for the rest of your life.”
  12. [Suggested prayer:] Jesus you are my Lord and Savior. I am your child, liberated and depending on your power. Therefore, Christ, this is your day, to be lived for your glory. Work through my eyes, my mouth, and through my thoughts and actions to carry out your victory. And, Lord, do that all day long. When I face temptations I will present myself to you and claim the strength you give to handle it. Sin has no authority over me any longer.
  13. Being creatures of habit, we still prefer the security of slavery to the risks of Liberty. That is why the slaves stayed on the plantation, and that’s why we continue to be sin-conscious even more than Savior-conscious. We know deep down that he lives within us, that he has redeemed us, but most are at a loss to know how to get beyond the fear, failure, shame, confession syndrome. How is it possible to break the habit of serving the old master and start enjoying the benefits of being free under the new one?
  14. Christ died for us on the cross. He was raised from the dead for us at the tomb. When we believed in the Savior’s death and resurrection, we were dipped into the same scene. Our identity was changed. We didn’t feel it, we didn’t see it, we didn’t hear it, but it occurred, never the less. When we came to Christ we were placed into him as his death became ours, his victorious resurrection became ours, his “awakening” to new life became our “awakening”, his powerful walk became our powerful walk. Before we can experience the benefits of all that, we have to know it.
  15. Our adversary does not want us to think like this. He would erase grace immediately if he could. But since he cannot, his strategy is to do everything in his power to deceive us into thinking like slaves. Why? Because when we start operating like Free men and women, our old master can no longer control us.
  16. Grace can be and sometimes is abused. By that I mean exercising one’s liberty without wisdom, having no concern over whether it offends or wounds the young and impressionable fellow believer. But I must hasten to add that I believe such restraint is an individual matter. It is not to be legislated, not something to be forced by someone else. Limitations are appropriate and necessary, but I fail to find in Scripture any place where one is to require such restraint from another. To do so is legalism.
  17. The best restraint is self-restraint that comes from the inner prompting of the Holy Spirit through the person and presence of Jesus Christ in each individual life. It’s been my observation over the last 30 years that the vast majority of believers need to be freed, not restrained. Our job is to free people, God’s job is to restrain them. God is doing his job much better than we’re doing ours.
  18. Before Christ we had no choice. Sin was our one and only route. All of life was marked by unrighteousness. Once we came to the cross and gave the Lord Jesus the right to rule our lives, we were granted a choice we never had before. Grace freed us from the requirement to serve sin, allowing us the opportunity to follow Christ’s directives voluntarily. So as long as we do this, we will not sin! But as soon as you or I compromise with his mastery over us, the old master stands ready to lure us into sin.
  19. Carnality occurs when a believer deliberately operates in the strength of his or her own will, stubbornly refusing to acknowledge wrong in choosing to walk contrary to the teachings of Scripture. The prompting of God’s Spirit are ignored his disobedience becomes a lifestyle.
  20. Grace comes to us in 2 dimensions, vertical and horizontal. Vertical grace centers on our relationship with God. It is amazing. It frees us from the demands and condemnation of the Mosaic Law. It announces hope to the sinner – the gift of eternal life, along with all its benefits. Horizontal grace centers on our human relationships. It is charming. It frees us from the tyranny of pleasing people and adjusting our lives to the demands and expectations of human opinion. It gives relief–the enjoyment of freedom along with all its benefits. It silences needless guilt and removes self-imposed shame.

I would highly recommend reading this book

Evidence from the 1980 Mt. St. Helens eruption

This eruption provided remarkable insight into the great Flood of Noah’s day, for it produced geologic products and landforms that mirror those stemming from the Flood. Its results included:

  1. Up to 600 feet of water-deposited sediments, which look strikingly like those found worldwide in the greater geologic record;
  2. A deep, eroded canyon through those sediments that has been dubbed the “Little Grand Canyon”;
  3. Fresh basalts that are dated by radiometric means to be over two million years old;
  4. A log mat of about four million trees, a forest that was catastrophically ripped from the ground and is now floating in a nearby lake;
  5. A thick peat layer accumulating under the mat that is poised to become a coal deposit;
  6. Upright floating logs that have the signature appearance of the Petrified Forest at Yellowstone National Park.

Consider that most of the damage done by the 1980 Mount St. Helen’s eruption was water related, not volcanic. The glacier on the mountain’s summit suddenly melted, sending avalanches of water and debris cascading down the mountainside, depositing thick, water saturated sediments on the lower slopes and throughout the drainage basin…the eruption was so well observed. Earth features that had been considered to have taken long ages to be accomplished were seen to happen rapidly, almost instantaneously.

Read more here.