J is for Jesus

Christmas is a good time to be prepared to answer the skeptics who gladly point out the celebration of the birth of Christ lacks significance if the facts about Him are not true.  The faith of many would be futile “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is useless; you are still in your sins. Furthermore, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished” 1 Corinthians 15:17

If Christ had not concluded His earthly ministry dying on the cross and being raised from the dead, this celebration would have no foundational substance and no consequence.  Skeptics through the ages have tried to disprove the reality of Jesus Christ and many have come away with a more confident faith than most believers.

In the recent film “The Case For Christ” Lee Strobel’s journey from skeptic to believer is skillfully portrayed. His story affirms that Christians have a reasonable faith. The film is based on Strobel’s book about his investigative journey into the heart of the Christian faith. Setting out to save his wife from what he saw as a cult, Strobel found himself confronted with a reality that changed his life forever.

His training and success as an investigative journalist allowed him to pursue evidence in support of the objections raised for the resurrection of Jesus. An associate reminded him that the Christian faith rests upon the fact that Jesus died on the cross and was raised from the dead. The resurrection of Christ is the glue that holds it all together.

With that in mind, Lee Strobel set out to find evidence to bolster these objections.

  • The Gospel accounts are not reliable.
  • Jesus did not die on the cross.
  • Jesus did not appear to people after His death.

What he discovered moved him to confront the truth and respond with a decision.

Are the Gospel accounts reliable?

The closer the account is to the actual event the more reliable it is.

 https://carm.org/manuscript-evidence

The earliest manuscripts of the Gospel account date to within 25 to 40 years of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. In comparison, the earliest copies of Homer’s Illiad are 500 years from the original. There is no doubt among scholars as to the integrity of the Illiad as well as many other works of antiquity.

https://carm.org/when-were-gospels-written-and-whom

The apostles and countless others have died for their beliefs. It is courageous and noble to die for one’s belief, however, it would seem foolish for anyone to die for something they know to be a lie.

Sean McDowell writes “there is the highest possible probability that Peter, Paul, James (the brother of Jesus), and James (the son of Zebedee) died as martyrs.”

http://www.equip.org/article/apostles-really-die-martyrs-faith/

In 2014 Christian History Institute published an article summarizing the total number of believers who have died for the Christian faith.

“Church statistician David Barrett defined martyrs as “believers in Christ who have lost their lives prematurely, in situations of witness, as a result of human hostility.” He estimated that around 70,000,000 Christians have been martyred since the church began.”

https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/article/father-forgive-them

Did Jesus die on the cross?

In an article by “The American Journal of Medicine”,  medical experts reviewed what Jesus had suffered during His crucifixion and have determined that the  “Modern medical interpretation of the historical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead when taken down from the cross.” According to the evidence, Jesus suffered severe blood loss and hypovolemic shock from the scourging He received from the Romans. His hands and feet were nailed to the cross and He suffered exhaustion and asphyxia. No one is likely to survive this type of execution. The spear to the side which released blood and water ensured Jesus death.

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/403315

http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?article=145

Did Jesus really appear to many people after His death?

The first eyewitnesses to testify of the empty tomb were women. It would be foolish for the apostles to use the testimony of women in their fabrication of an incredible story. The testimony of women held no value in the courts at this time in history. Being the first to hear the women’s story, Peter and John raced towards the tomb to confirm the fact that Jesus was not there.

Shortly after this Jesus appeared to the Apostles and many others and by over 500 hundred believers at once.

https://answersingenesis.org/jesus-christ/resurrection/the-sequence-of-christs-post-resurrection-appearances/

Skeptics claim these appearances were the product of hallucinations and or hypnotic suggestion.

According to phycologists, group dreams or visions are not possible.

J. Warner Wallace speaks of the numbers of individuals who have seen the risen Christ and concludes that a great number of people seeing the same vision is not likely or reasonable.

Some argue that this was a spiritual resurrection and not a physical resurrection. The Gospel accounts point clearly to the fact that Jesus appeared in a physical body.

Matthew 28:9 states the Apostles “took hold of His feet and worshipped Him”

John 20: 24-28  says that Thomas placed his finger in the nail marks of Jesus’ hand and the wound mark at His side. Thomas then declares “My Lord and my God”

Luke 24:42-43 details the breakfast they had with Jesus “and they gave Him a piece of broiled fish and He took it and ate before them.”

John 20:29 describes how Thomas rejoiced when seeing Jesus Christ in the flesh and Jesus responds “Thomas because you have seen me, you have believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”

http://www3.telus.net/trbrooks/jesus_resurrection.htm

A reasonable faith will strengthen your belief

The evidence is abundant, the experiences of witnesses and followers through the ages is overwhelming. The blood of confessors, saints, and martyrs cries out to this day. The resurrection of Christ proves there is a loving God who reaches out to us to redeem us to Himself to become the children of God. He is a God of justice and mercy and grace.

Our sin and rebellion have separated us from God. God came to us in the flesh as Jesus. He laid down His life for us.

“No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” John 10:18 

“It is rare indeed for anyone to die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

At one point Lee Strobel is advised that blind faith works both ways. Some will refuse to believe because of a prejudice or bias to one belief system regardless of the evidence presented. In order to believe in the Gospel accounts and have faith in their validity, you must choose to believe the facts presented as a reasonable account of the reality of Christ. Some refuse to believe because it means being accountable to a higher authority. Many have yet to learn that the promise of Christ is a new life of liberty from the emptiness of sin and His spirit is a source of peace, strength, grace, and joy.

Lee Strobel was overwhelmed by the evidence answering his objections to belief. He realized he had to make a decision.

The Lord calls us to examine the evidence, and to engage our reason.

Isaiah 1:18  “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”

The child we celebrate at Christmas is the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” John 1:29

He laid down His life and is now risen alive in power to show us the way to a life eternal with Him.

I pray that you will receive the gift of Christmas, open it and believe Jesus is the way the truth and the life?

https://carm.org/manuscript-evidence

https://carm.org/when-were-gospels-written-and-whom

http://www.equip.org/article/apostles-really-die-martyrs-faith/

https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/article/father-forgive-them

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/403315

http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?article=145

https://answersingenesis.org/jesus-christ/resurrection/the-sequence-of-christs-post-resurrection-appearances/

http://www3.telus.net/trbrooks/jesus_resurrection.htm

I is for Infiltrate

Following my wife’s suggestion, I have been making the deliberate attempt to taste my food before habitually adding salt to it. Salt has always been a valuable part of our diet and necessary for survival. I have always appreciated the value of both physical and spiritual salt.

In biblical times salt was a valuable commodity used mainly to cure and preserve food. Roads were built to provide access to the salt trade, and salt was valued enough to be accepted as payment for labor. The Church has a spiritual understanding of the value of salt. Jesus compared his faithful followers to the salt of the earth.

Matthew 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its savor, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.” Jesus is calling us to be salt as a preserving agent to keep our society from moral decay.

If salt loses its savor it is no longer able to infiltrate and preserve. Losing this quality renders it flavorless lifeless and powerless. The meat and food we would like to preserve is easily infiltrated by bacteria and begins to decay. In the same way, we see a trend towards blandness and powerlessness in the moral influence of the Church. It seems no longer willing or able to infiltrate into the culture as a moral preserving agent.

In order to maintain saltiness, the true Church has had to shield itself from the influence of strange teachings and doctrine. However, it is now struggling with an insidious infiltration of anti-Christian teaching spearheaded by a cultural revolution wielding the weapon of political correctness. The Church is losing its salt.

Challenge of the Enlightened 

The Age of Enlightenment brought the Church face to face with scientific and political theories which directly challenged its validity and authority.

Gerald Hiestand and Todd A. Wilson authors of “ The Pastor Theologian” point out that

The effect of the Enlightenment on Christian theology cannot be overstated. The Enlightenment reshaped the scholarly and cultural consensus regarding the ontology of the Bible and the place of theology within the wider culture…the Bible was no longer a sacred text and theology was no longer the queen of the sciences” ¹

The intellectual battle over the creation account and Darwin’s theory of evolution was lost. Great institutions of learning formally created to prepare individuals for service in the Church and ministry were now transformed into bastions of liberal scientific and political thought.

The Church reacted slowly and only now within the past 50 years or so has there been an advance in apologetic teaching that addresses concerns of reason and science and proposes a defense of the Christian worldview. Great teachers have emerged such as Francis Schaeffer and C.S.Lewis. The list of popular apologist is growing and so is their influence. This is a good thing for the Church and it would behove us all to become acquainted with their work and their reasoning.

The Church is now responding to arguments which the Enlightenment brought forth. However postmodern culture and the spirit of anti-Christ continues its infiltration of the Church with false teaching. The division which theistic evolutionary thinking brought about is one of many battlegrounds where truth has lost ground.

The Second Wave

The Church culture, intimidated by the advancing political correctness movement, has yielded ground to secularisms lies and deception. The Churches on the forefront of engaging the culture with their newly acquired confidence in apologetics are finding many intellectuals are no longer interested in proving the existence of God or Christ. They have moved beyond these foundational arguments advancing their secular cultural agenda, using PC as a weapon to fend off the call to repentance by labeling it as hateful.

The strength of the leftist culture is not in its reasoning because engaged in a reasonable debate its principles are soundly refuted. The strength of the left is the weakness of those with whom it engages. Sara Silverman the liberal comedienne has created a new series “I Love You America” in which she reaches out to discover America and to affirm her liberalism. In a recent episode, she meets and dines with a “Christian” family from down south. She attempts to solidify her leftist ideals by asking opinions on gay-marriage and allows a few weak-kneed responses from some of the family members and then declares “I have news for you, you’re really a liberal”.  Granted the obvious bias of creator and producer of this series has made it essential to edit any effective rebuttal, I have seen the same weak response from church members regarding this issue and other morally damaging yet culturally acceptable trends.

No longer questioning the reality of God and the validity of the Church, the left has infiltrated the Church’s domain of influence and hijacked the truth. Redefining the concept of love and grace they seek acceptance and affirmation of a sinful lifestyle. Having successfully reconstructed the immature Christian’s understanding of a calling to a pure life in submission to Gods truth, they are now pursuing and promoting a lifestyle of sin within the church.

Any call to repentance from members or the leadership of the Church is met with offense and a repeated misapplication of God’s word. How many have heard the verses “judge not lest you be judged” or “God is love” and other verses misapplied or misappropriated?  Yet those who misapply scripture to their advantage reject clear teaching on the need for repentance.    Such as found in

1 Cor 6:9

 “Or do you not know that the unrighteous ones will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals,”

Acts 2:30

Peter replied,” Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” 

No one is without sin, even those who are saved, so our struggle includes not only a daily repentance but a loving supportive outreach to those who are in need as we are. This  daily repentance is only possible in the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

 

 

Called to Disciple

Darrow Miller of Discipling the Nations has often said

“If the church is not discipling the nation, the nation will disciple the church.”

There are many reasons that churches are not effective in discipling.  In a 2013 presentation to the Disciple Nations Alliance Forum in Brazil, Luis Sena gives one explanation.

“Most plans for churches have as their focus the “expansion” of their size (i.e. numbers as indicators of effectiveness). Driven by self-preservation, preachers and teachers don’t touch the hot issues of the culture, because they know they will be persecuted. The privileges they enjoy as organizations will be lost. They will be challenged by the surrounding culture. Church leaders (usually) won’t risk publicly applying truth because it might mean putting the ministry in danger. But, when a church adopts this paradigm, it has inadvertently forsaken the truth.” ²

Until recently the Church has had much influence in forming a strong freedom loving society built upon the foundation of family and morals guided by the authoritative word of God. Yet as always throughout history, the Church is being asked: “hath God really said?”

As the Church, our challenge today is and has always been to be prepared to give a reason for the hope that fills us. 1 Peter 3:15  This means being able to explain what and why we believe as well as live out what we believe. We should be able to speak to our culture in defense of the sanctity of life and the sanctity of God ordained marriage. We should be able to speak to our culture about how the pursuit and justification of sin bring destruction to the individual and to society. Many churches have fallen into apostasy resulting in a trend affirming gay-marriage and transgenderism. Unless we see repentance and revival other pathologies will soon follow.

2Timothy 3:1-7  “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

The Healing Repentance

Discipling the lost does not begin by embracing sin it begins by embracing the sinner with a call to godly sorrow and repentance. It is in repentance that the grace of God is found. A doctor sharing bad news with a patient is not offensive, it is a word of compassion that wakens the patient to his need for medicine.  Reaching individuals struggling to make sense of their lives and speaking truth to a deceived culture is a compassionate calling of the Church.

Laura Perry, a former transgender, shared her testimony with Life Site News explaining that because of the support and care of loving members of her study group “God opened my eyes to the truth….He made me realize that the transgender life was … a dead end.” Many like Laura have been rescued from the snare of transgenderism, homosexuality and adultery and are actively sharing their testimony. They turned to God and sought Him with all their heart soul and mind.

Acts 26:20that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.” To repent means to change your mind and its proof is in a change of action.

Biblical repentance, in relation to salvation, is changing your mind from rejection of Christ to faith in Christ….Turning from sin is not the definition of repentance, but it is one of the results of genuine, faith-based repentance towards the Lord Jesus Christ.”³

A sorrow for sin and a desire to be restored, to be made whole, is what is needed. This is the role of the church to preach salvation in the name of Jesus and to make disciples of all nations.

Acts 4:12 “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

Jesus offers forgiveness.

John 8:11  “go and sin no more”

Jesus offers grace and power to live in peace with God.

2 Cor 12:9 “My grace is sufficient”

Phil 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”

We have no idea how much time we have left to save those who are lost to sin. So the call today is to engage with the knowledge we have in apologetics and to clearly stand with conviction and the power of the Holy Spirit upon the word of truth, which God has given us. The Bible speaks with clarity, there are no hidden meanings, mixed messages or private interpretations which allow for sin. Preached in love, God’s word brings conviction. Some will react to their conviction and deem it offensive. If it leads to repentance then it will redeem the once offended.  We will hear them declare as Laura Perry has “I am living proof that God’s love is greater than the devil’s lies,” 

We have no greater duty than to stand for truth in all areas of life and to live it and speak it clearly in love.

Pass the salt, please!

Source

¹ https://www.amazon.com/gp/search?index=books&linkCode=qs&keywords=9780310516996

² http://darrowmillerandfriends.com/2013/06/03/luis-sena-why-the-church-is-not-discipling-the-nations/

³  https://www.gotquestions.org/repentance.html

Other Resources

https://stream.org/salt-needs-get-salty/

http://www.notthesamelove.com/testimony/testimony-of-an-ex-transgender-ex-gay

https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/she-tried-to-change-her-gender-but-spiritial-awakening-brought-her-back-to

http://www.apologetics315.com/2009/06/100-christian-apologists.html

https://pjmedia.com/faith/2017/01/09/how-gay-marriage-is-infiltrating-evangelicals-reading-of-the-bible/

http://www.disciplenations.org/

http://seanmcdowell.org/blog/balancing-grace-and-truth-on-the-lgbt-issue-interview-with-author-caleb-kaltenbach

H is for Hope

Millions of people across the nation observed the recent American Solar Eclipse. For Christian believers, several biblical verses came to mind.  These verses have to do with the signs of the times and the coming fulfillment of the believers hope in Christ. Sharing scripture on Twitter, Franklin Graham tweeted

“And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” Luke 21:28

The tumultuous events in the US and worldwide punctuated by the eclipse draw us to reflect on prophecy as reminders of the hope we share as believers. Although there are great debates among Christian scholars as to the real meaning of many of these prophecies, this does not dilute or distort the reality of our hope built upon the word of God and established in the finished work of Jesus Christ.

The Divine Message Of The August Eclipse

The Sun Will Be Darkened: A Brief Survey of Apocalyptic Symbolism

In this post, we want to invite you to explore hope, what it is and where it is found. This is not a comprehensive journey through the concept of hope. However, the links below will guide you to sources where hope and its implications are examined in detail and perhaps you will choose to make your life a journey of hope!

In his article “Hope” J. Hampton Keathley III, Th.M. graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary defines hope as a feeling, an expectation, a desire for something to happen or to be true.

“Hope may refer to the activity of hoping, or to the object hoped for—the content of one’s hope. By its very nature, hope stresses two things: (a) futurity, and (b) invisibility. It deals with things we can’t see or haven’t received or both. It is a confident expectation of something we cannot see or that we have not received yet.”

The Christian believers hope is built on trust in God and His word. The humanist/naturalist hope is built on trust in reason and matter alone.

In the article “What About Hope?” at The Humanist.com, Lawrence Rifkin writes about his inability to provide an answer to a middle-aged woman when she asked the question “What about hope?” The answers Lawrence presented her with were bright and clear and positive but left the woman unconvinced. After another attempt at answering the question, Lawrence came to the conclusion that he could convincingly present humanism as a source of hope.

Here are a few of his answers to the question.

The humanist worldview is filled with hope. We may be made of matter, but we decide what matters.” 

“Humanism is about possibilities. Without some grand supernatural plan or destiny, the future is open. Possibility means the door for hope and change and goodness is open.”

“The fact that we can try to change ourselves, other people, and the world—and make it a better place through reason and compassion—is a fundamental wonder of being human, and can be celebrated. It is a cause for hope and wisdom.”

“So let’s admit straight out: humanism is not about hope. It’s about facing the world as it actually exists and making the best of it.”

The clue to humanists/naturalists inability to give any human hope is clear, it is all about the human. It denies the reality of God and our relationship to Him. These beliefs set us adrift in the cosmos of human confusion and delusion, by abandoning the very anchor of our souls, in fact denying that we are souls.

The confusion rest in the fact that without a comprehensive objective guide to understanding life, meaning and morality we are left to create our own. The delusion is the fact that many believe we are capable of deciding “what matters” and what is good and have no need of looking outside the box for answers.

The track record of humans living inside the box without any help is tragic. One only has to look at the Holocaust to realize that in the absence of God, morality is but a human convention, morality is subjective and non- binding. There is no hope in the foundational principles of humanism because it denies the source of hope and that is the supernatural reality of God. God is not contained within our box of reason and nature. He is the creator of reason and nature and beyond Him there is nothing else.

Hope for the humanists is not a reality because by definition hope is invisible and they will not allow themselves to hope in something unseen.

Romans 8:24

“For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with endurance” NET

It is like two captains wives watching from the cliffs over the sea. One sees her husband’s ship and declares “there he is” her hope has been fulfilled. The other waits in hope that her husband’s ship is close behind yet cannot see it but her daughter who is at higher vantage point behind her yells out “ I see him, he is coming! ”. Will this wife deny what her daughter saw and leave the cliffs without hope?

This is what the Word of God does for us – it yells out to us “I see him, he is coming”.

Rev 1:7

“Look! He comes with the clouds of heaven. And everyone will see him—even those who pierced him. And all the nations of the world will mourn for him. Yes! Amen! ”

Without a belief in the Creator and His Word, we are left with an empty hope in human wisdom. Humanist believe that humans are capable of doing good without God. Their hope is misplaced because of the fact humans who do not acknowledge God are without hope.

Can we be good without God?

http://www.reasonablefaith.org/can-we-be-good-without-god

Romans 3:10-12

“No one is righteous—not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.”

J.Hampton Keathley writes

 “There are a number of warnings in Scripture against putting our hope in anything other than the Lord because these things will leave us ashamed, frustrated, disappointed, and in ruin.”

Job 8:11-15

“Can the papyrus grow up without marsh? Can the rushes grow without water? While it is still green and not cut down, Yet it withers before any other plant. So are the paths of all who forget God, And the hope of the godless will perish, Whose confidence is fragile, And whose trust a spider’s web. He trusts in his house, but it does not stand; He holds fast to it, but it does not endure.”

The first of several points that Keathley makes is that “hope depends on knowing the Word of God”

Romans 15:4

“For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

Colossians 1:5-6

“because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel, which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth;”

Proverbs 30:5 tells us that

“Every word of God proves true. He is a shield to all who come to him for protection.”

New Living Translation

2 Tim 3:14-17

“But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the Holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”    New Living Translation

https://thehumanist.com/magazine/january-february-2012/first-person/what-about-hope

Key Summary Points

The humanist/naturalist has no hope because he:

  • Has no belief in the supernatural
  • Does not acknowledge God
  • Has no belief in the afterlife
  • Will not recognize the fallen nature of man
  • Will not recognize the promises of God
  • Will not recognize the life of hope attested to in Gods Word past, present and future
  • Attempts to do good without God
  • Denies the saving power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
  • Denies eternal life with or without Christ

https://bible.org/article/hope

The believer has hope because he

  • Believes in the supernatural
  • Acknowledges God
  • Believes in the afterlife
  • Recognizes the fallen nature of man
  • Recognizes the promises of God
  • Recognizes the life of hope attested to in Gods Word past, present and future
  • Attempts to do good with the power of the Holy Spirit of God
  • Affirms the saving power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
  • Affirms eternal life with or without Christ

Where is your hope?

 

Luke 21:28

The Divine Message Of The August Eclipse                                     http://www.unsealed.org/2017/06/the-divine-message-of-august-eclipse.html

The Sun Will Be Darkened: A Brief Survey of Apocalyptic Symbolism by Jeffrey T. McCormack Delivered 05/28/17 http://www.bereanbiblechurch.org/transcripts/topical/sun-will-be-darkened-apocalyptic-symbolism.htm

“Hope” J. Hampton Keathley III,

“What About Hope” by Lawrence Rifkin                               https://thehumanist.com/magazine/january-february-2012/first-person/what-about-hope

Romans 8:24

Rev 1:7

“Can We Be Good Without God?”  by William Lane Craig                                               http://www.reasonablefaith.org/can-we-be-good-without-god

Romans 3:10-12

Job 8:11-15

Romans 15:4

Colossians 1:5-6

Proverbs 30:5

2 Tim 3:14-17

 

G is for God

Hubble Star-Forming Region

In 1770 Voltaire, the famed critic of Christianity said ““If God didn’t exist, we would have to invent him.”  There are several interpretations of what he meant by this statement. I believe it means that in order to reasonably make sense of this world, to give meaning to life, and to understand who we are and what we are to do, that we would need to have a God. There are many arguments for the existence of God and I have linked to them below.

Inventing God

The history of mankind is guided by the innate need to search out and/or invent god. Early man invented gods from their understanding or misunderstanding of their immediate surroundings. Their imaginations helped them invent gods for air, earth, water, trees, and plants.  For them, all the natural world, every part of life and emotion was influenced by a god. They invented gods of sensual pleasure, and love, gods of fear and hatred, war and pain, gods of plenty and of poverty. In order for early civilizations to flourish, they had to share a common understanding of who their gods were. The Egyptians had numerous gods, and goddesses, they had a god of the underworld and the afterlife, a god of agriculture and gods of art, music and wisdom.

 People Forming God

Early civilization follows two paths. One formed their own gods and built their civilization upon the collective understanding of them. The early history of these civilizations have been described in countless history books through the ages and trace the evolution of their gods and the cultures that emerged under their influence. This influence was guided along by intellectuals and storytellers, priests and prophets, shaping the people’s imagination and understanding of their gods. This common understanding drew the people together first into tribes and communities and into larger cultures.

God Forming People

The other civilization was formed by the awareness of and understanding of the true God. The people forming this civilization followed the intellectuals and priest and prophets of God as described in the accounts of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. Prior to these written accounts of Moses, the understanding of God was passed on from generation to generation in the oral tradition by their intellectuals, storytellers, priests and prophets. After the written accounts of Moses, the understanding of God flourishes and the nation of Israel is established. After many years of living under the influence of the Old Testament books, the nation of Israel would encounter the true God in the way in which their prophets had predicted.  (See the top 40 Messianic Prophecies)

The Fullness of Time

These two developing civilizations merged for a time under Roman rule. Galatians 4:4-7  Rome had become the head and center of many cultures and the crossroads of civilizations. Rome had adopted a pluralistic form of religion in which all were free to worship as many gods as they wished or none at all as long as they bowed always to Rome. Ancient Rome is one of many examples of the attempts of the state to become a god. It is in this era that Jesus, the Son of God walks among His people and explains that “I and the Father are one” John 10:30

The Way

Jesus explains that He is the way the truth and the life and no one comes to God the Father except through Him. John 14:6  God sent His Son so that whoever believed in Him would not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16  While in Athens, the Apostle Paul explains to the Romans at Mars Hill that Jesus is the way to understand God. In order to honor all possible deities, the Romans had built an altar to the unknown God.  Acts 17:23-31 Paul, concerned by the number of gods the Romans worshiped, addresses them as a superstitious people and points to their altar to the unknown God.    He declares to them who this un-known God is. This is the true God, the one you don’t know and you never will know until you turn from your sin, and acknowledge and believe on His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus, the one who had recently been crucified and who many claimed has risen from the dead is indeed alive and He is the way the truth and the life.

Lost and Found

I once had a vague an incomplete awareness of God. For me, He was an unknown God. I was lost with no understanding of the true God. Nothing could explain my reason for being or the reason for the existence of anything at all. That changed once I personally came to a place of total surrender of all my imaginings and misunderstandings of God and began to study the one true God in the person of Jesus Christ. There is much to learn about God and a good place to start would be reading the New Testament Book of John. If you are seeking the true God and His meaning for your life, pray to God in Jesus name and read His book. Put aside all your defensive armor and allow His word to inform you and guide you and encourage you. Seek and you shall find.

Voltaire http://americanvision.org/5425/the-war-against-god-is-war-against-reality/

List of Egyptian gods and goddesses https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Egyptian_gods_and_goddesses

Top 40 Messianic Prophecies  https://jewsforjesus.org/answers/top-40-most-helpful-messianic-prophecies/

Galatians 4:4-7  “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

John 10:30   “I and the Father are one”

John 14:6-7  “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Acts 17:23-31  “For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship–and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.” The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples made by human hands. Nor is He served by human hands, as if He needed anything, because He Himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man He made every nation of men, to inhabit the whole earth; and He determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their lands. God intended that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. ‘For in Him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are His offspring.’ Therefore, being offspring of God, we should not think that the Divine Being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by man’s skill and imagination. Although God overlooked the ignorance of earlier times, He now commands all men everywhere to repent. For He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the Man He has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising Him from the dead.”

Matthew 7:7  “Seek and ye shall find, knock and the door shale be opened unto you”

“Is there a God?”  http://www.everystudent.com/features/isthere.html

“Jesus is Evidence That God Exists”  http://coldcasechristianity.com/2015/jesus-is-evidence-that-god-exists/

 

Department of Weights and Measures and Truth

by Maurice M Hebert

 

As I stood in the checkout line adjusting the goods I had purchased in my carry box, a young man excused himself passing through to gain access to the measuring scale behind the counter. He carried a modest size box a bit larger than a shoe box. It was bound in leather and appeared to have been in use for many generations. He lifted the two brass latches on either side and opened the box to reveal uniform blocks of shiny metal. It was apparently a set of standard weights.The care with which they have been handled and stored over the years revealed a sense of awe and respect for these shiny blocks of metal. I am guessing they were made of either polished hardened or stainless steel. They surely held some value beyond the price of whatever they were made of for they were conspicuously cradled within felt lined compartments.

I watched as he picked up a handful of eight blocks or so and placed them on the scale and checked the numbers that came up on the digital readout. He moved the whole group of them around to different positions on the metal plate noting the numbers at each position. He soon finished the ritual and gently placed all the blocks back in their snug compartments, closed the box and left as discreetly as he had arrived.

Completing the checkout process for my box of goods I pondered this ritual and was intrigued by how much effort we place upon insisting that all of our material dealings with each other are kept fair and square. We place such great value upon honest trade in weights and measures. We do not like to be cheated in any amount for goods we trade or purchase. Then I imagined what it would be like if we placed the same value upon our relationships with each other, with God and the truth.

Is there a standard by which we can know and gauge the truth? If there is none, should there be? How do we know we are not being cheated? There is no other book that explains the truth as consistently and concisely as the Bible.  Norman Geisler writes in his article “The Inerrancy of the Bible”

“The Scriptures declare emphatically that “it is impossible for God to lie” (Heb. 6:18, NASB). Paul speaks of the “God who does not lie” (Titus 1:2, NIV). He is a God who, even if we are faithless, “He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself” (2 Tim. 2:13, NKJV). God is truth (see John 14:6), and so is His Word. Jesus said to the Father, “Your word is truth” (John 17:17, NKJV). The psalmist exclaimed, “The entirety of Your word is truth” (Ps. 119:160, NKJV).”

Many of us have witnessed the disastrous effects of lies in history and in our personal lives. We balance and gauge our trust in people according to past history, appearances, experience, reputation and circumstance. Is there someone we can fully trust to tell us the truth at all times so we may live our lives in that relationship without fear of being cheated? Yes, there is, search Him out, His name is Jesus.

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 

http://biblehub.com/john/14-6.htm

http://whatisthegospeltruth.com/

https://www.namb.net/apologetics/the-inerrancy-of-the-bible

F is for Faith

What is Faith?

Faith is the personal and active expression of what we believe is true, it is trust and hope in the physical and/or the invisible based upon reason and knowledge. Our faith experience begins at birth. We bond with our parents, mother first and then our father. Being so dependent and having little choice, we develop a faith in them knowing they will provide our every need. We cry when the needs are not met and are comforted as they are. This faith grows and is based upon past experience, knowledge and love. Good parents will want to assure their child that they love them and can be trusted to provide for their needs and the faith of the child in them is justified and desired.

The great theologian and philosopher St Augustine said “Thou hast created us for thyself, and our heart is not quiet until it rests in Thee.” We are created with an emptiness that must be filled with something. In filling our innate spiritual need we turn to the supernatural and put our faith in things invisible. In the days of Nero the infamous ruler of Rome, the Apostle Paul visits and debates with the teachers and leaders of thought. He sees that the people have many gods who control or represent many things. They have established for themselves a god for the river, a god for thunder, god of the sun, moon and sky. Their daily conversations where about pleasing the multiple gods they had put their faith in. Paul points at the inscription they had for the unknown god, and declares this is the God of creation, the God of all things seen and unseen, this is the one true God. He tells them of Jesus Christ and many become believers. Paul’s faith was made complete and effective when he realized as Jesus had said, there is but one way to a relationship with God and that is through His son Jesus who is Emmanuel, or God with us. Today as in Paul’s day many continue to insist they have a way to please their god and a way to ultimate fulfillment or nirvana. Many of us live in doubt and fear that we have not been as morally good as we would like to be and anguish over our relationship with God. There are those who count it all foolishness, denying the existence of a moral law giver claiming moral relativity while pointing out the moral failings of others, picking and choosing the absolute of the day. All of us have a desire to fill the void of the soul. Faith in Jesus affirms that God has reached out to man and in His love has done the work for us.

Christians come to faith in God based upon our understanding of scripture and the revelation of Jesus. As we read through the Bible we come to passages that inform us of the reality of Jesus and His life death and resurrection. Based upon evidence, facts and reason we build up knowledge and assurance that Christ is Lord and Savior. It is by trusting in what you know based upon evidence, facts and reason that you develop a personal relationship with God. This relationship is only possible by investing yourself in what you know is true. In today’s culture biblical faith is under assault and abused in many ways. We will look briefly at where the current dangers are in several areas of the life of faith.

 

 People of Faith

As we grow we place our faith in people, family and friends, doctors and teachers, churches and institutions and government. Each of these sincerely want to assure us they can be trusted to provide for our needs. Historically many have suffered at the hands of those who manipulate and abuse this faith. Those who survived the latest communist and statist regimes of persecution, tyranny, death and suffering attest to the fact that they had mistakenly succumbed to the promises of a brighter future where all the needs of the populace would be met. They had misplaced their faith.

There is a world movement gaining momentum embraced by world leaders to unite all people of faith regardless of what their faith is in. We read a warning in the Bible from 2 Timothy 3:1-17 that speaks of deception in the last days.

“They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!

He continues  “They have depraved minds and a counterfeit faith.”

The Christian faith is exclusive of all other faith claims. We must stand firm in this distinction and lovingly point out where the truth claims of other faiths miss the mark. For this reason through the ages Christians have suffered persecution.

“Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil people and impostors will flourish. They will deceive others and will themselves be deceived.

“But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the Holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” 2 Tim 3:12-16

In following the faith that we know is true we are confronted with truth claims from other faiths. We must be prepared to give them a reason for what we believe and allow the Holy Spirit to complete the work in bringing them to a saving faith in Christ Jesus. One major distinction of our faith vs all others is that we are saved by grace not by works.

“For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.” Eph 2:8-9

This is a concept that is not embraced in the personal sense by any other faith, or religion including but not limited to Catholics, Jews, and Muslims. This truth is certainly not understood in the eastern religions and philosophies and even some supposedly Christian denominations and other faith institutions such as Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

 

Faith and Freedom

For the Christian a secure faith is found in the liberty of Christ. As the recipients of a supernatural redemption we are free to live out the forgiveness, mercy and grace Christ has brought us. Our faith is in the one who set us free from bondage to our fallen nature and to death. Thus the Christian may

“Stand firm therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and don’t be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” Gal 5:1.

We are no longer tossed to and fro by the deceptive propaganda of the oppressive state which seeks only to control and build it’s empire of power and lust, it’s ultimate goal governing the whole world. It is no wonder that Christians suffer persecution from those who are not likely to ever win over our faith. Our freedom and faith in Christ is a threat and an obstacle to the globalist agenda. The followers of other religions whose faith is placed in deities or beliefs other than the state are a stumbling block as well. Thus Communist China’s crackdown on Tibetan Buddhist.

Realizing that completely removing people of faith from the planet is not possible and will always bring about a negative reaction in the form of rebellion and revolution or a state of constant war, these wise leaders are cautiously infiltrating all faiths.

In his article “Patriotism, Piety, and The Perfect Storm” Michael D. Peabody writes how many can be deceived by leaders who usurp the credibility of faith and use it to their advantage in building up the central powers of the state. He gives the example of how Hitler merged Christian themes with nationalism “Hitler had wrapped himself in the nation’s flag and spoken to their Christianity, and though he may not have followed that faith himself, it was a tool he used to persuade and launch his nation on a hellish path.”

Peabody continues with a statement that must be understood as we mature in the faith and we disciple others.

“If religion is to survive in an authoritarian state, it must remain shallow and symbolic, eschewing the intellectual and uplifting the emotional. A would-be dictator finds his greatest strength in associating unquestioning faith with clueless obedience to fabled patriotic prerogative.”

The current tide of relativism paired with a mistaken notion of freedom has made the Christian message more difficult to explain and thus many have abandoned the effort. Our nation no longer enjoys the benefits of a society nurtured and immersed in a Christian consensus. The Marxists proponents of their form of social justice take the emotionally charged new Christian believers hostage and recruit them into building an ever more dependent populace. These leaders have little understanding or need for the true message of Christianity put in place policies and programs which on the surface appear reasonable and charitable yet tear apart the banner of a free and responsible society.

Considering President Obama’s rejection of the Founding vision of the United States, Author Rick Pearcey reminds us of the words of Francis Schaeffer;

“When the Christian consensus died, it left a vacuum, and this will tend to be filled by an elite to form an authoritarian state. When we speak of an authoritarian state, we must not think of the model of Hitler or Stalin, but rather a manipulative authoritarian state. The governments of the world have at their disposal forms of manipulation beyond anything the world has ever known before.”

— Francis Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live? DVD, Episode 6, “The Scientific Age”

It is well that we Christians guard and focus our faith in Christ. We must consider that as we allow educational and cultural institutions and government policies to assume more control over our welfare, and lately even our opinions, thoughts and beliefs, we essentially hand over our birthright for a mess of pottage.

In maintaining our faith in Christ we must be alert to deception and discerning of the intents of those we place in positions of power as our representatives. Our faith is indeed a reasonable faith and it has grown and matured and manifested itself in the creation of a form of government like no other. Let us be aware of the consequences of resting quietly in the comfort of our reasonable faith. For the needy world around us is being called to challenge the beliefs of the past and are chopping away at the Judeo Christian values upon which this nation was founded. We are facing an assault from two fronts. One will use our faith deceptively to establish themselves in power and the other will challenge our faith as they seek total liberation from the chains they perceive our faith has bound them in. Are we prepared?

Faith and the Intellect

In the recent past the church has been ignoring the intellectual and embracing the emotional. The focus of teaching has mostly been focused on evangelism with less emphasis on discipleship, engaging the intellect and developing apologetic reasoning. An effective vibrant faith is built with all of the faculties of reason and a spirit filled heart of gratitude and joy, in a sense a Holy Ghost union of the heart and mind, of love and reason.

William Lane Craig writes on the importance of maintaining Christian scholarship at all levels in order to preserve our Christian heritage and to be salt and light in our culture.

“The average Christian does not realize that there is an intellectual war going on in the universities and in the professional journals and scholarly societies. Christianity is being attacked as irrational or obsolete, and millions of students, our future generation of leaders, have absorbed that viewpoint.” Read more

Having absorbed the irrational secular logic of the times and embracing cultural relativism these children are barely approachable with the gospel. For they have been taught that the way forward is progressivism buoyed by the affirmation that absolutes are the cause of strife in all relationships.

Rather than dedicate themselves to the pursuit of truth they are discouraged from this endeavor by being taught that truth does not really matter and claims to truth lead to violence. Craig references this quote from Allen Bloom’s book “The Closing of the American Mind”

“The study of history and of culture teaches that all the world was mad in the past; men always thought they were right, and that led to wars, persecutions, slavery, xenophobia, racism, and chauvinism. The point is not to correct the mistakes and really be right; rather it is not to think you are right at all.

As he describes today’s church as being in intellectual neutral, Craig exhorts us to be engaged in this cultural battle at all fronts.

 “But finally, it is not just Christian scholars and pastors who need to be intellectually engaged if the Church is to make an impact in our culture. Christian laymen, too, must become intellectually engaged.”

 

 

 

Unreasonably Sharing a Reasonable Faith  

A reasonable faith would be one that is guided or affirmed by past experience or knowledge. One may have faith in an individual’s likelihood of responding a certain way in a situation. One may come to assist another in difficult circumstances without hesitation. A person may be relied upon to be supportive in times of need. You may have faith that your uncle will lend you money based on the fact he has done so before.

A reasonable faith may be in regards to nature and physics. Because of past experience you may be confident in assuming that a leap from any height will result in you dropping to the ground, the effect of gravity. However that faith would be tested as you board a plane to fly over the ocean to visit your relatives. Past experience reminds you that objects by nature are pulled to the ground. Your knowledge informs you that working within the laws of nature one can fly with the appropriately designed machinery and equipment. However when we look at Jesus we see that in many circumstance he operated outside the realm of our understanding, of our past experience and knowledge of nature.

Your reasonable faith is within the construct of past experience and knowledge circumstances. It would be unreasonable to expect to be able to walk upon the surface of the water like Peter did as described in the Bible. However he did! I have a faith that allows me to believe this story is true.

Against all understanding of past experience, knowledge and common sense, Peter did what no one but God could do, he walked on water. You may say in this instance Peter had an unreasonable faith.

Many Christians are at this place where Peter was, teetering between reason and un-reason. Our reasonable faith is based upon trust that God’s word is true. It has been proven true by its effect in our lives and in the lives of those who have walked before us. It is proven true by its accurate and unquestionable description of the nature of man and his state of depravity. It is proven by the numbers of prophecy fulfilled and the historical testimony of eyewitnesses by both friend and foe. So we may be deemed reasonable by saying we walk by a reasonable faith.

Was Peter walking a reasonable faith when he walked upon the water towards Jesus? I believe it was this very question he asked himself when he began to flounder and sink. Reaching his hand up to Christ in total surrender Peter realized that his faith in Christ had to be one that is beyond reason and comprehension it had to be complete and childlike. It had to be like that of a child who trust his father to catch him as he leaps into the pool. This childlike faith is based upon trust that is formed by past experience and love. Was Peter’s relationship with Christ such that he had reason to believe that he could do the un-reasonable? Could he place himself at the mercy of the natural world to experience the reality of the supernatural world that Christ himself created? I believe Peter was able to venture beyond his reasonable faith only when focusing his whole being upon the reality of who he was in relation to his Creator, Lord and Savior.

As we grow in our knowledge and experience of the reality of our Lord and Savior, we will grow in our trust in Him and our love for Him. Each step we take that brings us closer to Him will allow us to walk in those places which may seem unreasonable to others but are perfectly natural for the believer. We will be empowered in our heart and mind as we share the reasonableness of our faith in the gospel and the grace of our Savior.

In today’s world generational distinctions have occurred in a rapid pace. Intellectually, the major distinction is the exalted ideals of relativism and the rejection of absolutes. We see generations living a life of inconsistent morals and reason.  As Christians we are called to speak the truth in love. This unconditional love is what trust is built upon. However, the culture around us has been taught to view truth claims that argue in opposition to current norms, values and morals as being hateful. Our challenge is to continue to speak the gospel truth in love. Reaching out to others today in this fashion with an understanding of their need for a Savior may appear as unreasonable as walking on water. However, the gospel message and its supernatural power will be evident for all, as we do this in love, maintaining our focus upon the person of Christ as Creator, Lord and Savior!

2 Timothy 3:1-17

2 Tim 3:12-16

Eph 2:8-9

Video – A Personal Faith: From Doubt to Conviction | William Lane Craig, PhD

Gal 5:1

“Patriotism, Piety, and The Perfect Storm” Michael D. Peabody

Francis Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live? DVD, Episode 6, “The Scientific Age”

Rick Pearcey  http://www.pearceyreport.com/blog/2010/12/schaeffer_quote.php

Read more http://www.reasonablefaith.org/in-intellectual-neutral#ixzz4S3hCXnZA

“The Closing of the American Mind” Allen Bloom

Video-Is Faith A Blind Leap? oneminuteapologist

 

We All Have A Gift!

We all have a gift. This gift is from God. Those who have opened it are called Christians. Perhaps one reason some people are so offended about the greeting “Merry Christmas”, is because it is a reminder of the gift they have left unopened. There it is under the nicely decorated evergreen tree forgotten and neglected. It may even get moved later on, after New Years Day, placed in a box with all the Christmas decorations and trimmings. “Perhaps I will open it next Christmas” many will explain.

If you are struggling with what to give your fellow employee, a partner at work, a family member or even the delivery person at your doorstep, consider helping them remember the gift they have left un-opened under their tree. The gift of Christmas is for everyone no one is left out.

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some understand slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish,2Peter3:9 BSB

Helping someone un-wrap the gift of Christmas is the best gift you can give. Perhaps what you share may be something like this.

“Do you know why we celebrate Christmas? It’s the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Some people have trouble with that right off the bat. You may be saying to yourself I don’t need a savior I’m fine. I’ve got nothing to be ashamed of, I have a good job and a family, I love them, I provide for them and do my best not to cuss around them and behave properly. God is love and I think He will let me into heaven. What kind of God would send a good person to hell anyway?

That’s right God is love and He has given you a gift.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16 WEB

Perhaps the reason you don’t un-wrap this gift is because you don’t realize how much you need it. Like a person floundering in the ocean at risk of drowning any moment you flail away and dismiss the rescue boat that has pulled up beside you. I felt the same as you once and then one day I realized what Jesus Christ did for me. His love and concern for me, and for my soul compelled Him to die an agonizing death on the cross. He did not have to, He chose to die on the cross. He said Himself

“ No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.”            John 10:18 NLT

There must have been a very good reason for Him to do this. God says we are all condemned.

“all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.”                   2 Thess NIV

There is no one without sin – we all fall short and we are all destined for eternity in hell.

“As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous–not even one” Romans 3:10 NLT

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our  Lord”  Romans 6:23 NLT

Everyone has broken the Ten Commandments no one has lived a perfect life, except our savior Jesus.

“but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” This is a free gift. We are not able to save ourselves. Nothing we do will save us from God’s perfect and just penalty.

We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.”  Isaiah 64:6NLT

Only the grace and mercy of God can save us.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,” Eph 2:8 ESV

God sent His son that

“we may have life and have it more abundantly” John 10:10 KJB

That we might be spared the penalty of sin which is death and eternal separation from the God of justice, who is also the God of mercy. Jesus received our penalty for us and as a sinless offering has fulfilled the demands of justice.

“And this righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” Romans 3:23-25 BSB

We celebrate Jesus birth like the angels did when the shepherds heard their singing in the heavens. Jesus is our reason to celebrate. The Bible says

“that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth” Phil 2:10. NLT

He is uniquely qualified to be our savior, these are his qualifications:

  • He is God, Jesus is the triune God in the flesh.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  John 1:1NLV

 “ and the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 NIV

Keep watch over yourselves and the entire flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood.” Acts 20:28 BSB

  • He is the fulfillment of prophecy.His birth was announced ages before he came. From the first book to the last, the Old Testament is filled with prophecy of His birth, His life, His death and Resurrection. The most recognized prophecy is from Isaiah.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 ESV

  • His birth was miraculous. He was indeed born of a virgin.

“the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).Isaiah 7:14 NLT

  • He lived a sinless life although tempted as we all are, He overcame temptation.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who was tempted in every way that we are, yet was without sin. Hebrews 4:15 BSB

  • He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind and raised the dead. His miracles were witnessed by many and were a testimony of who He was.

Men of Israel, listen to this message: Jesus of Nazareth was a man certified by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs, which God did among you through Him, as you yourselves know.” Acts 2:22 BSB

  • He died on the cross fulfilling prophecy.

But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5 ESV

  • He was raised from the dead, having fulfilled the demands of justice He was the first to be raised to life.

For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave.”    Psalm 16:10 NLT 

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” 1Cor 15:20 NIV

 “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,” Hebrews 10:12 ESV

He appeared to many before returning to heaven as His friends watched him leave.

“He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas and then to the Twelve.  After that, He appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep” 1Cor 15:5-7 BSB 

When Jesus had led them out as far as Bethany, He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them, He left them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy” Luke 24:51 BSB

  • Finally He sent the Holy Spirit to testify of the truth and to indwell all believers with the power to share His message of love, life and liberty.

 “And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.” Luke 24:49 NLT

What is keeping you from opening this gift from God? Let me help you un-wrap it. Can I pray with you?”

“If only it was that simple you say” well sharing the truth of God’s gift gets easier as you practice and believe me I have not had enough practice. So let us as Christians pray for each other that we have the opportunities and the Holy Spirit power to follow through with helping others un-wrap Christmas. We experience such joy as we watch our loved ones open their gifts. How much more joy is experienced by the host of heaven as they watch someone un-wrap God’s loving and merciful gift to us!

“In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:10 ESV

 Joy and gratefulness abounds as we repent and embrace the Love of Jesus and His precious gifts.  For the gift of God is one that opens up an abundant gift of many.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,”                  Gal 5:22 KJB

I am praying that this post was helpful for you, and you will un-wrap or help someone nearby un-wrap the gift of Christmas!

References

https://gotquestions.org/is-Jesus-God.html

https://gracethrufaith.com/ask-a-bible-teacher/rejoicing-in-heaven/

http://coldcasechristianity.com/2016/why-we-know-the-story-of-jesus-isnt-a-legend-video/

Bible Versions Used

BSB – Berean Study Bible

WEB – World English Bible

NLT – New Living Translation

NIV – New International Version

ESV – English Standard Version

KJB – King James Bible

E is For Evil

Philosophically speaking one may find volumes on the reality of evil. Evil in the broad sense is considered either natural evil or moral evil. A natural evil would be something outside of our influence, the consequential injuries or death resulting from a natural event or disaster such as an earthquake or erupting volcano, or a personal injury or illness. Moral evils result from the intentional actions or non-actions of a moral agent.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy explains “Natural evils are bad states of affairs which do not result from the intentions or negligence of moral agents. Hurricanes and toothaches are examples of natural evils. By contrast, moral evils do result from the intentions or negligence of moral agents. Murder and lying are examples of moral evils.”

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/concept-evil/

Theologically there are discussions of how evil is characterized by different religions. Eastern Mysticism and Docetism explain for example that evil is an illusion. Naturalism and Postmodernism explain that evil is subjective as we humans perceive things to be evil.

http://evidenceforchristianity.org/how-do-you-explain-the-question-of-evil-from-various-world-views/

In the Apologetic sense evil is used to argue for both the existence or non-existence of God. The reality of evil is used many times as an objection to the existence of God. In the following article, Aaron Brake does an excellent job detailing reasons why the apologetic “problem of evil” is not a problem for the Christian.

http://pleaseconvinceme.com/2013/why-the-problem-of-evil-is-a-problem-3/

I write of the reality of evil from a christian perspective with an awareness that evil does exist. The fact that one may conclude something is or is not evil does not change the reality. Much like truth, one may or may not believe a truth, however it does not change the fact that the truth is. Some have an acute awareness of the existence of evil, others may have a lesser awareness of evil. One only need to review the headlines of the daily news to see evil acts and their consequences.

Many regard evil as an inherent consequence of a free will. Having the ability or freedom to choose right and wrong since our appearance here on earth, we have chosen wrong many times. The first instance of our choosing wrong is recorded for us in the Bible book of Genesis. Adam and Eve chose wrong by choosing to disobey God and eat from “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”. Notice the words “of the knowledge of good and evil”. Until that point they had no understanding what evil was. Everything they had was good. Only after deciding to ignore God and choose against God did they realize evil.

Now they had “the knowledge of good and evil”. They soon realized the initial consequences of evil in their immediate reaction of guilt and shame. They covered themselves from each other and hid from God. They remembered what God had said about eating from the tree and were awaiting the consequence.

Romans 6:23 “ the wages of sin is death”

How do we make sense of human evil verses natural evil?

In the article by Aaron Brake referenced above, a summary of Jesus clearest teaching on the problem of evil is given.

Luke 13:1-5

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.

“Not only is this Jesus’ clearest teaching on the problem of evil but we see Him addressing both moral and natural evil in His response. Notice that Jesus is first questioned regarding an example of what we would call moral evil: the murder of some Galileans by Pilate. In providing an answer, Jesus Himself introduces an example of natural evil: the falling of the tower of Siloam which killed eighteen.
How did Jesus answer the problem of evil presented to Him? Was Jesus taken back, struck by the profundity of such a pregnant question? His answer is short and to the point: “They weren’t worse sinners, they were just sinners. And unless you repent, you’ll die too.”

Many argue that evil is a necessary consequence of free-will. Without the ability to choose evil we would not truly have a free-will. Perhaps that is more correct than we can understand. But we are left with the struggle of how to choose to do good.
Jesus standard of right and wrong baffled the teachers and leaders of the day. He recognized that evil is in our nature and the evil acts we carry out are first born in the un-regenerate mind following the desires of the heart of flesh. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus teaches that whoever looks upon a woman with lust has already committed adultery in his heart.

Paul writes in Romans 7:24

“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
Who can escape the mind and body of sin? No one, but by the blood of the lamb the victory over sin and death is won!

Romans 6:6

“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.”
Romans 8:2

“For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”

In the New Testament we read of the change that comes about when one surrenders to the authority of Christ and His Spirit.

2 Corinthians 5:17

“ if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come!”

Further on we read of how one is able to walk and maintain integrity in choosing good.

Galatians 5:16

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”
As Christians we are called to this distinctive life where we still have a free will and may choose evil to our detriment, but we are more able and empowered to choose good because of the new Spirit nature that lives within us.

#ChooseTruth #ChooseLiberty #ChooseLife #ChooseJesus

Related links;

Does God Exist: The Moral Argument

The Difference Between Ethics and Morality

When the Problem of Evil Gets Personal

How Can God Exist When There Is So Much Evil In Our World Today?

D is For Determinism

Determinism is the idea that events unfold in a predetermined systematic consequential way that is beyond our control. Some call it fate or destiny, others karma and some God’s will. The CARM ministry web site defines Determinism as

“the philosophical view that every event in the universe is caused and controlled by natural laws. This would dictate that there is no free will in humans and that all events are the result of natural and physical laws.”

It is an interesting thing that I came to the place of decision in this series of major terms of apologetics. I had the opportunity to make choices along the way. I am writing this series using the alphabet as my guide. The first three topics were fairly easy to confirm. The decision for this one came down to choosing to write on the concept of design or on determinism.

I had the opportunity to make a choice. That statement describes our understanding of the concept of freewill, which is directly related to determinism. As I ramble about these two concepts trying to make sense of them, I would like to point out that other wiser philosophers have wrestled with this as well. You will find links to the various types of determinism as you read on.

As Christians we understand the Bible as the word of God. In His word He describes this relationship between determinism and freewill in many places. Beginning with Genesis we see that He has created us with a freewill.

Genesis 1:26-28

“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

In these verses we see that God created us in His image. As we study and look upon the characteristics and attributes of God we see that we have a freewill and we are commanded to rule and work and create and multiply within the confines of a godly nature. God cannot do anything outside of His Godly nature He would not be God.

Our calling at creation was to live eternally within the godly nature God has given and to do this willingly as free agents enjoying all the blessings of a god nature freewill.

Genesis 2:16-17 ESV

“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

This passage reveals a choice that results in a determined outcome. There are types and levels of determinist that look upon freewill with varying amounts of liberty. Hard Determinist argue there is no freewill and all our actions are determined and thus we are not able to do other than what has been determined. This is refuted in the outline below.

At the following site you will find a chart and a very good explanation of the levels of determinism and a refutation of Hard Determinism with an argument favoring Compatibilism.determinismxfreewill-svg1

Created as we were originally before the fall, we were of one nature. Our nature was in the likeness of God. We were allowed to make all of our choices within the framework of that nature. There were multitudes of possible choices all with consequential effects within that nature.

A second nature was introduced at the fall by that which is in direct opposition to God and His creation. We see that nature appear as Eve falls for the lie of the serpent. The freewill choices Adam and Eve had are distorted when obedience to God was made to look restrictive and that God was keeping us from something good.

In this disobedience the choice was made to open up a whole new dimension of awareness and possibilities. However that choice came with a pre-determined consequence that was ignored and overlooked by Adam and Eve and that consequence was death.

This would be considered a deterministic outcome. Within the realm of these two natures regardless of what decisions or choices are made the inevitable outcome will always be death.

From this point on, all of humanity was allowed to work within these two realms, we could choose to live life within the God nature or the anti-God nature. Our choices would always be distorted, compromised and colored by the desires of our newly acquired sin nature. However hard we tried to maintain our lives within the God nature, the anti-God nature would overrule because of the fact that the original choice resulted in the determined outcome of death.

Now we can look at the many verses of scripture and understand the determinism that appears along with our freewill. We can understand the futility of living a life by all the Godly rules and yet still be overpowered by death.  We can get a better idea of the universal aspect of salvation through Jesus Christ and the cost of being restored to our original nature.

Some verses on Determinism and Freewill

Deuteronomy 11:26  “I am setting before you today…”

Deuteronomy 30:1 -19 “ the blessing and the curse…”

Proverbs 11:19 “ He who is steadfast in righteousness..”

Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but…”

Joshua 24:15  “Choose this day whom you shall serve…”

Galatians 5:1 “Stand therefore in the liberty…”

Compatibilism

What is Compatibilism?

The next two resources give an explanation of how Determinism and Freewill are Compatible.

 

In reflecting on Determinism and Compatibilism I have come to realize that the choices I make are either motivated by the sin nature or the Spirit of Christ. Many times I find my prayers are to make the right choice not out of fear of a determined condemnation but of love for the one who has rescued me from fear and death, and that this love would rule my heart and mind always.

These verse are helpful in reminding me there is a way to choose the right path.

Romans 8:1-2

“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.”

Philippians4:8

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

 

 

C is for Cosmological Argument

The Cosmological Argument is presented as an argument proving the existence of God. It is for this reason that debates rage about the logical conclusion that is reached in this argument. It is a look at the universe and its existence and formation and ultimate design. The argument basically supposes existence is related to a creator, much like this article’s existence is related to the author.

Brief Note:
The design and massive enormity and complexity of the universe is also mirrored in a biological sense. When considering the deep complexity of the DNA structure many concede that it is highly unlikely to have come into existence on its own. Thus the conclusion is there must be a creator.

“One of the most extraordinary discoveries of the twentieth century,” says Dr. Stephen Meyer, director of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute in Seattle, Wash., “was that DNA actually stores information—the detailed instructions for assembling proteins—in the form of a four-character digital code” (quoted by Lee Strobel, The Case for a Creator, 2004, p. 224).

DNA

http://www.ucg.org/the-good-news/dna-the-tiny-code-thats-toppling-evolution

(Please excuse the “Brief Note” above pointing to the biological argument for the existence of God. I could not help but make the connection from the universe to the microverse.)

Cosmological Argument

The Cosmological Argument examines the universe and its origins reaching the conclusion that there must be a creator.

There a several constructs of this argument detailed at this site:
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/cosmological-argument/

The most popular argument is the Kalam Cosmological argument.
http://www.reasonablefaith.org/kalam

The Kalam Cosmological Argument is:

• Whatever begins to exist has a cause
• The universe began to exist
• Therefore, the universe has a cause

Whatever begins to exist has a cause

The first premise is confirmed by every day and scientific experience. Never has anything come into existence without a cause. However,there have been interesting events in the field of quantum physics where particles seem to appear out of a vacuum but many scientist have questioned this result commenting that these particles appear out of a vacuum which is not entirely empty.

“The scientists detailed their findings online February 11 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”This work and a number of other recent works demonstrate that the vacuum is not empty but full of virtual photons,” says theoretical physicist Steven Girvin at Yale University,” Charles Q. Choi article Scientific American Feb 12, 2013

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/something-from-nothing-vacuum-can-yield-flashes-of-light/

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”
John 1: 1-5

The universe began to exist

Many scientist have concluded the universe originated from a singular event. They point to the expanding universe as evidence of such an event. This is the Big Bang theory and there has yet to be another theory which explains the reason for the evidence from which scientist draw their conclusion. This is an interesting article which gives more detail.

http://www.everystudent.com/wires/universe.html

Apologist, William Lane Craig, has popularized the Kalam Argument and writes of the origin of the universe in this response to a critic of the argument.

“In 2003 Arvind Borde, Alan Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin proved that any universe which is on average in a state of cosmic expansion cannot be eternal in the past but must have an absolute beginning. The fact is, there is no mathematically and physically tenable model of the universe which is extrapolable to past infinity.” William Lane Craig

http://www.reasonablefaith.org/36-arguments-for-the-existence-of-god#ixzz46Y9NDEo1

Therefore the Universe has a cause

The nature of the cause of the universe has to be un-caused, eternal, outside of time and space, creative and all powerful. Science has affirmed what is written in scripture. That the universe and all that exist has a creator. The struggle for many scientist and others is to affirm that God is sovereign over all creation and that we are accountable to Him.

“Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? …Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.” Isaiah 40

As you read through the related articles at the referenced links reflect upon this question, do you know the Creator?