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

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/

 

Review of “La La Land” or The Heartbreak of Fulfilling Your Dreams without Love

 

by Maurice M Hebert
week8
Illustration by Megan Tennant

I typically do not write reviews for films. However, I do tend to examine the film and try to sieve out the overall message that it is trying to convey. A good story has a message that is made clear as it unfolds.

The message I understood from the movie “La La Land” cannot be explained without a spoiler alert. If you have not seen the movie and plan on it, please do not read this. If you have seen the movie and enjoyed it as I did, you are welcome to read on. If you have not seen the movie and plan not to ever see the movie, I can only say you are missing one of the seldom seen sparkles from the “city of stars”.

The movie opens with a traffic jam of individuals enamored with the allure of dreams and the promise of love. Our characters Mia a coffee barista aspires to become an actress and Sebastian a jazz pianist dreams of rescuing jazz by opening his own jazz club. The two meet several times inadvertently and slowly fall for each other as they begin to share their dreams and aspirations. The songs, music and dance sequences are enjoyable and give the film a quality of joy and hope not seen often enough. Hope fades however as Mia and Sebastian both decide that it is best for them to pursue their dreams rather than maintain their love. Love is set aside for something better.

Mia achieves her dream after moving to Paris and Sebastian achieves his while Mia is away. Five years later when Mia returns we find that she is traveling with a man and her little daughter. We are left to assume that Mia married this man and had a child.

In the final sequence, Mia sits with her man in the jazz club Sebastian has finally opened and contemplates what could have been as she listens to Sebastian play his homage to love on the piano. We see a dream like review of the history of this couple play out with Mia and Sebastian falling in love and he leaves his dream aside to follow Mia to Paris. Mia achieves her dream and she and Sebastian have a son together and enjoy life and end up sitting together in a jazz club where her man plays a lament on the piano instead of Sebastian.

For most of us, the dream sequence is the apparent happy ending. The dreams and aspirations of both Mia and Sebastian should be fulfilled and it appears that it could only end happily this way by affirming the value and hope that love brings.

I will leave you to answer the following questions. After Mia and Sebastian realize how much they loved each other why did they not get married and continue following their dreams?  Are there not examples of dreams fulfilled within the context of love? Why was the love between Mia and Sebastian so unimportant that neither apparently attempted to stay in touch with each other? Was five years too long to wait? Were they truly in love?

The message of this film is important and should be explored. It leaves the viewer questioning which is more important, love or fulfilling your dream. It leaves you wondering if falling in love is compatible with following your dream. Do you have to make that choice? Or can you choose both?

When dreams and personal ambition discount the power of love, much is lost.

“Love is patient and is kind; love does not envy. Love does not brag, is not proud, does not behave itself inappropriately, does not seek its own way, is not irritable, does not keep a record of wrongs; does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Cor 13: 4-7P

Megan Tennant is an illustrator and entrepreneur. Check out her weekly comic where the above illustration came from at http://cardigansncoffee.blogspot.com/

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

B is for Bible

The Bible is the most popular and influential book ever written. Guinness World Records estimates there are over 5 billion Bibles in the world today. Billions of individuals have been transformed by its message. Communities and nations have been built upon its foundational precepts. The history of the worlds cultures, social communities, nations and government have been influenced by the Bible. A study of World History would be incomplete and inaccurate without exploring and understanding the Bibles direct influence upon individuals and historical events. The Ten Commandments, the Magna Charta, the US Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, Bill of Rights are all part of the chain of Biblical influence.

Reasons the Bible was written:

The Bible was written over a period of 1500 years by 40 different authors maintaining a consistent theme. The Bible was written for the glorification of God and to deliver His redemptive plan for fallen man. Beyond the most fundamental reasons, there are many other reasons why the Bible was written and they are described here in this article.

http://www.truthmagazine.com/archives/volume36/GOT036071.html

There is no other book in existence that has inspired the writing of so many others. Works of criticism and praise, prose and poetry, literature and science all have volumes of work inspired and influenced by the Bible. It is apparent that there is something powerful about its message. What other book has been so vilified through the ages, so misused and abused by the corrupt and reprobate?

In Apologetics the Bible is central because in it you will find answers that best explain who God is, who man is, and what life and death and meaning are all about. If, as many claim, the Bible is just a book written by men, and is of little value for today, why does it have such lasting impact upon generations? Why is there so much animosity towards its teachings in comparison to other religious books? How do you explain the obvious life transformations of many individuals from depravity and despair to righteousness, joy and hope.

Questions about the Bible:

There are many questions about the Bible that have been asked through the ages. Some of these questions are explored briefly in this article.

http://www.everystudent.com/features/bible.html

Reasons to be skeptical:

Bible skeptics are passionate about discrediting the integrity, reliability and ultimate value of scripture for the individual and society. The American Humanist Association give many reasons to be skeptical of the Bible.

http://americanhumanist.org/humanism/Some_Reasons_Why_Humanists_Reject_the_Bible

Answering the Skeptic:

Bible scholars and apologist have many reasons to support and promote the truth and value of its teachings. They also do a good job of answering the skeptics such as the humanist and agnostics. The following links will bring you to sites that will encourage you and give you answers for the skeptics in your life.

https://carm.org/is-the-bible-reliable

http://coldcasechristianity.com/2015/four-reasons-the-new-testament-gospels-are-reliable/

Jim Warner Wallace, Cold Case Investigator has an inspiring testimony tracing his path from skeptic to believer.

 

Aids to responding with confidence:

Many of us use acronyms as a memory aid. In this valuable link to the article at the Christian Research Institute you will find such a tool.

http://www.equip.org/article/bible-reliability-m-a-p-s-to-guide-you-through-bible-reliability/

The acronym MAPS is used to aide you in describing how we can be certain of the Bible’s integrity and reliability.

  • M is for the early manuscripts. There are numerous copies of the original manuscripts, however there are no originals.

The Acronym BEE is used as an aide in remembering the test that help determine if we have an accurate and reliable rendition of the original.

  • B for Bibliographic support considers the numerous copies available, the sources and the time span between the copies.
  • E for Eyewitness support considers the testimony of eyewitness and contemporaries hostile and favorable.
  • E for External support considering evidence from other non- biblical sources both hostile and favorable.

Once the manuscript is tested the reasoning moves on to the second letter of the MAPS acronym.

  • A is for Archaeological support and
  • P for Prophecy or Predictive reliability, and finally
  • S for Statistics This helpful apologetic tool is described further at the CRI site linked above.

“The next time someone denies the reliability of Scripture, just remember the acronym MAPS, and you will be equipped to give an answer and a reason for the hope that lies within you (1 Pet. 3:15). Manuscripts, Archaeology, Prophecy, and Statistics not only chart a secure course on the turnpikes of skepticism but also demonstrate definitively that the Bible is indeed divine rather than human in origin.” Hank Hanegraaff

How to prove the Bible is true:

In an article at Answers in Genesis the author Mike Matthews explains how we can prove the bible is true.

https://answersingenesis.org/is-the-bible-true/can-we-prove-the-bible-is-true/

Many people will not be persuaded of the truth of the bible even within a reasonable discussion. You must remember that for many it is not a lack of evidence but a will towards un-belief. Matthews points out that

“It’s not a matter of evidence; they just don’t want to be convinced. So it is a mistake to proceed as though the main problem is a lack of knowledge. Your hearers have a heart problem. They have rejected the God of the Bible even before they begin to consider whether His Word could be true.”

Compelling evidence:

Another of Matthews articles “Seven Compelling Evidences Confirm the Bible Is True” presents seven clear and compelling evidences for the reliability and truth of scripture!

https://answersingenesis.org/is-the-bible-true/seven-compelling-evidences-confirm-bible-is-true/

As you explore these evidences and arguments for the reliability of the Bible I hope you will be encouraged to continue pressing on living and sharing these truths.

“A” is for Absolute

The word “absolute” is used in many areas of life. In a brief Google search you will find “absolute adjectives” and “absolute phrases” in English and grammar. In mathematics you will find “absolute values and equations”. In an Excel worksheet you may find “absolute values” in formatting cells.

An absolute in the apologetic or philosophical sense is something that is free and independent of anything extraneous. It is complete in itself and independent of any other cause.

(Note: My aim in this series is to awaken a desire in the reader to explore in detail the principles and concepts presented. I am not fully able to expand on all, for it would be a tedious and untidy task on my behalf and a burdensome read. Thus the many links to sources.)

In Apologetics the “absolutes” we are concerned with are philosophical. In the concept chart below from the “Importance of Philosophy” 2001 Jeff Landauer and Joseph Rowlands, the hierarchy of relationship within the five branches of philosophy is identified.

http://www.importanceofphilosophy.com/FiveBranchesMain.html

Absolutes form an important aspect of, and are addressed generally within, each branch. At the root and forming the foundation of philosophy is metaphysics, the study of existence.

Metaphysically, reality is an absolute. It has a specific nature independent of our thoughts or feelings, it is important for us to form a correct understanding of this reality.

 “The primacy of existence states the irrefutable truth that existence is primary and consciousness is secondary… Existence is primary because it is independent of, makes possible, and is a prerequisite of consciousness.” Landauer, and Rowlands.

http://www.importanceofphilosophy.com/Metaphysics_RealityIsAbsolute.html

Closely related to metaphysics is epistemology, the study of knowledge, how we know about reality and existence. In epistemology we use reason and logic to come to an understanding of how we know what we know and to maintain consistency in how we acquire knowledge.

http://www.importanceofphilosophy.com/Epistemology_Main.html

In epistemology logic is an absolute. Logic guides us to the understanding of reality because it requires us to reason within the boundaries of its laws. They are the Law of Identity, the Law of Non-contradiction, the Law of the Excluded Middle.

J.P. Moreland explains in “What Are the Three Laws of Logic”

The basic laws of logic govern all reality and thought and are known to be true for at least two reasons: (1) They are intuitively obvious and self-evident. Once one understands a basic law of logic (see below), one can see that it is true. (2) Those who deny them use these principles in their denial, demonstrating that those laws are unavoidable and that it is self-refuting to deny them.

The basic laws of logic are neither arbitrary inventions of God nor principles that exist completely outside God’s being. Obviously, the laws of logic are not like the laws of nature. God may violate the latter (say, suspend gravity), but He cannot violate the former. Those laws are rooted in God’s own nature. Indeed, some scholars think the passage “In the beginning was the Word [logos]” (Jn 1:1) is accurately translated, “In the beginning was Logic (a divine, rational mind).”

These laws help us decide which is true and which is false. It within this discipline we find the ability to reason logically and consistently. These fundamental laws of logic form the basis of the “Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God.” This argument is heavily debated and admittedly difficult to follow because of the implications of it validity.

http://www.str.org/articles/evidence-for-god-from-logic#.VroE0lgrKUk

We find absolutes in the field of ethics, the third branch of philosophy. It is the study of what is the right thing for man to do. What is right and wrong? How do we decide? Again in this field you will find debates regarding absolutes. Are there moral absolutes? Do we discover them or do we create them? It is here I disagree with the reasoning of Landauer and Rowlands. They believe that morality needs no God. It is difficult for a theist to comprehend how that could be. Within this discussion you will find that there are moral absolutes and they form the basis of the “Moral Argument for the Existence of God.”

Absolutes are found in politics, the fourth branch of philosophy and a subset of ethics. Basically, it is how ethics is applied to a group of people. In society we are at our best when individuals follow a shared ethic and morality based upon the absolutes found in Scripture. In America we enjoy a system of government founded upon the framework of principles which enable and empower individual liberty under the law. The Ten Commandments formed the basis for laws established in America.

The structure of a representative republic is found in the Old Testament when Moses was directed to establish leaders over groups of tens and fifties and hundreds and thousands. Exodus 13:18-27.

The principle of three branches of government is found in the words of Isaiah 33:22.

Landauer and Rowlands state that

“Reason is man’s prime means of survival…the prime goal of a political system must be the preservation and enabling of the faculty of reason. Reason does not function under coercion…A moral political system must ban coercion… or the initiation of force”.

The means to protect society from evil being the use of retaliatory force and objectifying laws.

At the link below you will find a brief reflection on the character of our founders and how their reasoning from Scripture was integral to the formation of our government.

http://www.face.net/blogpost/1192984/226719/Reflections-for-Constitution-Day?hhSearchTerms=%22absolutes%22&terms=

Finally in the fifth branch we find absolutes in the study of esthetics. What life can be like, the study of art and the sense of life and what makes it all enjoyable and fulfilling. This area depends upon the understanding of the others. Absolutes are part of what make esthetics fulfilling and enjoyable and valuable for the character, vitality and moral of a society.

In the essay “Art and the Christian” Jerry Solomon and Jimmy Williams attribute the creative drive of man to the creator God.

http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/artandxn.html

“He has permitted humans to take the elements of His cosmos and create new arrangements with them. Perhaps this explains the reason why creating anything is so fulfilling to us. We can express a drive within us which allows us to do something all humans uniquely share with their Creator.God has thus placed before the human race a banquet table rich with aesthetic delicacies. He has supplied the basic ingredients, inviting those made in His image to exercise their creative capacities to the fullest extent possible. We are privileged as no other creature to make and enjoy art.”

However the consequences of man’s rebellion also appear in the creative process.

“Man is Jekyll and Hyde:noble image-bearer and morally-crippled animal. His works of art are therefore bittersweet.”

The absolutes that help us evaluate and appreciate art in all forms can be found in scripture.

Phillipians 4:8 “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, let your mind dwell on these things.”

Absolutes are found in the five branches of philosophy. The concept of an absolute is difficult to grasp for the definition of an absolute itself renders it dependent upon its relativity to something other. We use the word absolute in a casual way many times when we should strive to be more deliberate. In a pure sense the absolute is free and complete and is not dependent on anything. It is self-existent, apart from and independent of anything else.

From the Christian understanding everything that exist is created by God. That which is created cannot be a pure absolute. Only God, being self-existent, having always existed with no beginning or end is absolute. His incommunicable attributes (Self-existence, Immutability, Omnipresence, Omniscience, Etc) are what make Him absolute, His communicable attributes (Love, Mercy, Justice, Knowledge, Etc) allow us to be His image bearers. Those who are redeemed and guided by His Spirit who reflect upon the absolutes found in all God’s attributes become disciples and in turn will make disciples thus influencing nations and people to become more like Him.

“”A” is for Absolute” is an installment in the “Apologetics A-Z” series. Thanks for reading!

Apologetics A-Z

As a youngster I enjoyed reading ABC books. As an elder it is now a joy to read them to my grandchildren. I find that using the alphabetical prompt is also a great writing exercise. Thus in this New Year I will endeavor to define and summarize the major concepts and principles of Christian Apologetics. There are two reasons why I wish to do this. One is to exhort believers to stand firm upon the word of truth and encourage them in building up their understanding and confidence in their ability to share the “reason for the hope you have”. The other reason is to build up my confidence in this ability as well as in the ability to encourage and exhort believers.

It is appropriate that we start with a definition of Apologetics. The word “Apologetic” comes from the Greek “apologia” which means giving a well-reasoned response in defense of a belief or position.  It does not imply an admission of guilt or regret but a desire to explain the foundation for one’s belief or position. It appears many times in the New Testament, particularly in a passage from 1 Peter 3:15.

  “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,”

Christianity is a reasonable faith, as Peter states our hope is built upon reason. In the Forward to the book “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist” by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek, David Limbaugh writes

“Nor is the study of apologetics disrespectful to our faith. Rather, it augments it, informs it, bolsters it, and reinvigorates it.”

It is with this understanding that I invite you to join me in a year of prayer, study and practice. Feel free to share your experiences and comments as you embark on this journey.

There are five basic types of Apologetics:

Classical Apologetics:

This is the oldest method of apologetics based upon the classical philosophy of early church leaders. Wikipedia states “ Philosophical Apologetics concerns itself primarily with arguments for the existence of God, although they do not exclusively focus on this area.”  Thomas Aquinas and St Augustine developed the system used by many apologists today. (J.P. Moreland, William Lane Craig, R.C. Sproul, Norman Geisler, etc)

Evidential/Historical:

Apologetics which seeks out historical evidences from both secular and non – secular sources to validate the Christian truth claims. This method brings together research evidence from areas of science, archaeology and history. Many of the evidential apologist will argue evidence for the resurrection and the reliability of scripture to prove the existence of God. (Justin Martyr and Dr. Gary Habermas and Dr. Ken Ham, John W. Montgomer, J.W. Wallace, etc)

Experiential/Existential:

 This type of apologetics relies upon personal testimonies of individuals whose lives have been changed by the transforming power of Christ. Many miracles are also described and used to validate the reality of God’s existence and His supernatural attributes.  (Blaise Pascal, Soren Kierkegaard, Emil Brunner, Rudolph Butmann, Karl Bath, etc)

Presuppositional:

Presupposes the reality of Trinitarian Christianity. The focus of this apologetic is to prove Christianity superior to other religions. Arguments are frequently made that present Christianity as the only faith capable of answering the questions of life reasonably and consistently. Presuppositionalist argue transcendentally that all meaning, fact and logic itself presupposes the God of Scripture. ( Francis Schaeffer,Cornelius Van Til, Gordon Clark)

Cumulative Case:

Seeking to harmonize and use the best of all arguments the Cumulative Case Apologist will generally appeal to reason and the cumulative evidence from all arguments in order to persuade the skeptic. Named by Basil Mitchell, an early proponent of this method, Mitchel explains that it is an informed argument that brings together several types of data into a hypothesis which best supports the argument. (Lee Strobel, Josh McDowell, C.S. Lewis, C. Stephen Evans)

Each of these types of Apologetics have strengths and weaknesses thus the approach used in the apologetic defense is oftentimes tailored to the particular individual or circumstance of the discussion. Many apologist will develop arguments which sometime overlap the various types of apologetics described. J.W. Wallace for instance may be considered an Evidential as well as a Cumulative Case Apologist.

I do not intend to delve into each type but will refer you to sources for further study.   Please explore these links for valuable insights into Apologetics and begin your own personal study of these arguments.

An in depth explanation of Apologetics along with valuable charts can be found here:

http://www.bethinking.org/apologetics/an-introduction-to-christian-apologetics

The chart found in the section “The Dynamic of Apologetic Dialogue” is helpful for determining which apologetic argument is best suited for the particular circumstance or discussion you may find yourself in.

A concern today is that many Christians are politely avoiding the marketplace of ideas and the intellectual debates concerning reality and truth in deference to political correctness. Scripture reminds us that the gospel and the truth is foolishness to those who are perishing.  (1 Cor. 1:18-25)

“The Offense of the Cross” http://timothyjhammons.com/2010/05/09/the-offense-of-the-cross/

Our “Apologetic” is becoming an “Apology”. An apology implies guilt of an offense and usually results in a plea for forgiveness. This is usually accompanied by abandoning one’s position, making doctrinal integrity and honest evangelism impossible.  Typically it will appear as a denomination acknowledging a concern that the fundamental position on a certain moral, social, or doctrinal issue is offensive to a particular group. The next step is that the denomination caves under pressure from these groups and alters their statement of faith and or the doctrinal position to accommodate the group. Hardly ever do you see a concerted effort to instruct the group with the teaching of scripture in regards to the issue in question. The apologetic takes a back seat to the apology.

This capitulation occurs at all levels from the leadership of the denomination to the individual. This is the result of a lack of learning and teaching scripture.

Christ calls each of us to be salt and light and not to lose our saltiness or hide our light under a barrel but to let it infuse a culture and shine into the darkness of deceit. (Matt 5:13-16) We are called to be ambassadors of His grace and redemption, not to apologize for the exclusivity of the gospel, but to call all to repentance with an apologetic of love and reason.  (2 Corintians 5:20)

Sources and Links:

Apologia: http://biblehub.com/greek/627.htm

1 Peter 3:15

https://whybelievethat.wordpress.com/2013/09/19/5-types-of-apologetics/

http://dougandmarsha.com/essays-seminary/ch28_apologetics_explained.htm

http://www.bethinking.org/apologetics/an-introduction-to-christian-apologetics

“The Offense of the Cross” http://timothyjhammons.com/2010/05/09/the-offense-of-the-cross/

(1 Cor. 1:18-25)

https://bible.org/article/apologetics-and-evangelism

(Matt 5:13-16)

(2 Corintians 5:20)

Other recommended books valuable for individual study:

“Thinking? Answering Life’s Five Biggest Questions” by Andy Steiger

“I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be an Atheist” by Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek

“Cold Case Christianity” by J.W. Wallace

Websites containing many useful apologetics resources:

www.bethinking.org

www.bible.org

http://www.apologeticscanada.com/

www.carm.org

https://www.probe.org/

 

 

 

Life with Meaning

Meaning in life is only understandable by knowing God and immortality. Does a painting know it’s painter, a book it’s author? Does a human being know it’s creator? Do we have a way to know the creator? The Bible will tell us the way. It is the word of God, proven in history, fact and experience to be trustworthy.

Skeptical? Let us assume that it speaks truth, and perhaps you will find that it answers our questions most reasonably and better than any other source.

The first book of the Bible, Genesis, explains the history of our relationship with God, who created all things declaring them good. “let us make man in our image” Genesis 1:26  This is the first glimpse of the trinity. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit existent in one relational and personal God. Humans were created for relationship with God. We need to be in relationship with God to know meaning and life.

St. Augustine writes of God “Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee” – Confessions Book 1 ¹

C.S.Lewis -The Weight of Glory ²

A sincere search for meaning through a relationship with God would lead us to Jesus Christ, who said

“No man come to the father but through me.” John 14:6 . Jesus, the author of life, knows death is the enemy of life. Any meaning we think we have is vanity if we end in death.

Adam and Eve had a relationship with God. “And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” Genesis 1:31 They were created to be immortal beings. “but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” Genesis 2:17

Adam and Eve knew only good, they knew no evil until disobeying God. Genesis 3:7 Their decision to rebel, brought sin and corruption and death into the world.  Genesis 3:17. They became confused, unable to fully know God, meaning and eternal life.

“Thus by one man sin and death came into the world.” Romans 5:12.

We have since been trying in vain, with all forms of religion “to get ourselves back to the garden”.      Lyrics from “Woodstock” by Joni Mitchell ³

But God, in His mercy and grace made a way to restore us to relationship, meaning and life in Jesus Christ,who said:

“I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved… I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. John 10:10

Jesus gives us the meaning of life in this declaration, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Matt 22:37

Adam brought us sin and death but Jesus brings us righteousness meaning and life. We need to know God’s Love and His gift of life in Jesus to understand the meaning of life.

For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” 1 Cor 15:21-22

¹ Confessions, Book 1, by St. Augustine – Cyber Library

² C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory – Video from Crosswalk

³ Lyrics –Artists: Joni Mitchell “Woodstock”

Dr. John Lennox  – brilliant presentation https://youtu.be/88WMQVpHZCU