Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Everyday Virtues of an Ambassador for Christ

It is my desire to be an effective ambassador for Jesus Christ and I am willing to bet that many of you reading this share that same desire.

Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason has compiled an "Ambassador's Creed" that is worth repeating here:

An ambassador for Christ is…
  • Ready. An Ambassador is alert for chances to represent Christ, will not back away from a challenge or an opportunity, and will not be stumped by the same challenge twice.
  • Patient. An Ambassador won’t quarrel, but will listen in order to understand, then will with gentleness seek to respectfully engage those who disagree.
  • Reasonable. An Ambassador has informed convictions (not just feelings), gives reasons, asks questions, and aggressively seeks answers.
  • Tactical. An Ambassador adapts to each unique person and situation, maneuvering with wisdom to challenge bad thinking, presenting the truth in an understandable and compelling way.
  • Clear. An Ambassador is careful with language and will not rely on Christian lingo or gain unfair advantage by resorting to empty rhetoric.
  • Fair. An Ambassador is sympathetic and understanding towards others and will acknowledge the merits of contrary views.
  • Honest. An Ambassador is careful with the facts and will not misrepresent another’s view, overstate his own case, or understate the demands of the Gospel.
  • Humble. An Ambassador is provisional in his claims, knowing that his understanding of truth is fallible. He will not press a point beyond what his justification allows. 
  • Attractive. An Ambassador will act with grace, kindness, and good manners. He will not dishonor Christ in his conduct.
  • Dependent. An Ambassador knows that effectiveness requires joining his best efforts with God’s power. [1]
Koukl suggests revisiting the creed on a regular basis:

"The creed has been a great help to me. I reread it every month as a regular reminder of the kind of man I want to be for Christ.

I find that if I’m not vigilant and intentional about my character, it’s easy to become shrill, thoughtless, unkind, uncharitable, self-centered…Christ and His Kingdom deserve better than that, though, and reflecting on the Ambassador’s Creed helps me to live closer to my calling." [2]

Courage and Godspeed,

1. Greg Koukl, Virtues of an Ambassador for Christ- Everyday, Jul. 25, 2013.
2. Ibid.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Video: Why Don't Christians Witness? by Bobby Conway

Bobby Conway lays out the reasons Christians do not share the gospel.

Stand firm in, and proclaim, Christ,

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering

Chapter Ten: The Varieties of Suffering

So as we have seen, some people are ruined while others are able to gain strength and happiness despite experiencing the same traumatic experiences.  We want a one-size-fits-all solution for handling suffering despite the fact that we come in so many different temperaments and spiritual conditions.  Yet there is nothing less practical.  Also, the suffering itself comes in a wide variety of forms.  So not only can we not think that the same solutions will work for the same situations with different people, but that there are also so many different forms of suffering.  Dr. Keller discusses four basic forms that the Bible speaks of.

The first is simply the direct effects of our own failures.  David violated the law by committing adultery with another man’s wife and then having him murdered.  Jonah tried running from God and later was bitterly angry because God did not destroy Ninevah.  In both cases, God is not punishing them for their sins, but waking them to be humbled and realize something particular in their lives that needed to be dealt.

Other suffering is the result of good and brave behavior that causes betrayal or attacks from others.  Paul was constantly under attack by his own people as well as the Gentiles.  Jeremiah was put in stocks and imprisoned for simply “speaking the truth to power” (Jer 20:1-6).  Such suffering is accompanied by the temptation to become bitter and hardened under the guise of being the noble victim.  While confrontation and the pursuit of justice is required, the desire for vengeance must be resisted and forgiveness pursued.

The third type is considered “universal” because at one time or another, we all face it: grief and loss in the face of our mortality – accident, disease, decay and death.  We see this in Mary and Martha when Jesus comforts them at the loss of their brother.  Christians must learn to direct their minds and hearts to the comfort and hope that Christianity offers.  As Paul exhorted, we do not grieve like those who have no hope, we do not lose heart.

The final type is what many call “senseless”, the mysterious, sudden, overwhelming, horrendous, or needless for which there is no understanding of “why”.  While the Bible pays particular attention to this (see Psalm 44), there is the story of Job.  He wanted to know a specific sin.  He wanted a clear lesson from God.  He wanted to know what in his life had caused this.  But there was nothing in his life.  That was the point of his suffering.  God was leading him to the place where he would obey God simply because he was God, not in order to receive something or get something done.  Such suffering requires honest prayer and crying, the hard work of trusting God and the re-ordering of our lives.

The diversities of suffering not only stem from the external, but from the internal as well.  The different ways we tend to deal with pain and sorrow is described by Simone Weil in her essay “The Love of God and Affliction”.  One way is through isolation.  Either because we no longer feel a shared common experience with those around us or because others stay away because they don’t know what to say or do or they simply fear being drawn in themselves.  Another is implosion where we become so self-absorbed that we get sucked down into ourselves and are unable to see what is happening around us.  The third mark is condemnation when we feel we are being punished and our sense of self-hatred and guilt crushes us with a sense of doom and hopelessness.  Finally, there is the temptation toward complicity.  The noble victim becomes so wrapped in self-pity that it becomes a sweet addiction, an excuse to justify all sorts of behaviors.  Or it could be possible that at some level we feel we need to pay for what we’ve done, so our suffering becomes the means to some end.

Every affliction is virtually unique and every sufferer will need to find their own pathway.  But we can help one another.  We must be careful though not to be like Jobs friends and give true statements with inappropriate applications.  As Don Carson writes about them, “There is a way of using theology and theological arguments that wounds rather than heals.  This is not the fault of theology and theological arguments; it is the fault of the ‘miserable comforter’ who fastens on an inappropriate fragment of truth, or whose timing is off, or whose attitude is condescending, or whose application is insensitive, or whose true theology is couched in such culture-laden clich├ęs that they grate rather than comfort.”

There are things that we can say or do that may encourage some but at the same time discourage others.  We want to be encouraging, to let the sufferer know we understand or share a nugget of wisdom that we find helpful ourselves.  I can recall my own experience sitting in an ER listening to a counselor who was a Christian spout off a dozen or so cliches of encouragement and feeling each one land on my heart like a brick.  Such “help” can be discouraging because it implicitly says to the sufferer that they’re somehow spiritually immature because they are not experiencing peace or knowing the goodness and wisdom of God.  But if every affliction is unique, and every sufferer is unique, and every path through the suffering is unique, how can we help and comfort others in pain?  Be with them, listen to them.  Allow them to lament, wail or cry and lament, wail or cry with them.

Next week we begin Part Three: Walking with God in the Furnace, Chapter Eleven: Walking

Until then, don’t take my word for it, read the book – don’t wait for the movie,
and have a little hope on me,

To learn more about Timothy Keller and his work at Redeemer Presbyterian Church, you can check out his 
personal website, his Facebook page or the church homepage.

Keller, Timothy (2013), Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering. Penguin Group. ISBN 978-0-525-95245-9

Friday, September 12, 2014

Free Advance Pro-Life Argument Course

Below you will find links to a free course on pro-life arguments taught by Scott Klusendorf of the Life Training Institute and Scott Rae.

The course description is as follows:

Successful pro-life apologists pursue four essential tasks. First, they clarify the debate by focusing public attention on one key question: What is the unborn? Second, they establish a foundation for the debate, demonstrating to critics that metaphysical neutrality is impossible. Third, they answer objections persuasively. Fourth, they teach and equip.

The course videos are as follows:

Scott Klusendorf

Session #1: What is the Issue--The Nature of Moral Reasoning (52 Min.)

Session #2: What is the Unborn? (1:08)

Session #3: What Makes Humans Valuable? Part 1: The Substance View of Persons (52 min.)

Session #4: What Makes Humans Valuable? Part 2: The Religion Objection (15 Min.)

Session #5: Who Makes the Rules? Abortion: Law, Metaphysics, and Moral Neutrality (38 Min.)

Session #6: What is my Duty? The Bodily Autonomy Arguments of Thomson, etc. (54 Min.)

Session #7: Catholic Social Justice Teaching and Other Common Objections (46 Min.)

Session #8: Equipping Yourself to Engage at Your Church (46 Min.)

Course notes can be found here.

Dr. Scott Rae taught the other half of the course. His sessions, dealing with reproductive technologies and end of life issues, are found here.

Courage and Godspeed,

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Video: Should Marriage be Changed to Promote Same-Sex Couples?

This video argues that traditional marriage benefits society while same-sex marriage does not.

Courage and Godspeed,

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Dr. Holly Ordway on Truth

"It is a hard thing to look at the truth when it runs contrary to what you've always believed. The experience is like pulling back the curtains in a dimly lit room and looking out the window to see what’s really outside. When your eyes are used to artificial light, the bright sunlight is almost blinding; your eyes may sting and even water at the brightness, and the temptation is to turn away to the more comfortable dimness. But consider: the electricity that powers artificial light is produced by fossil fuel, made from plants that long ago took in the light of the sun—or from windmills, powered by air currents moved by the sun’s heat—or from solar panels, absorbing the sun’s rays. We may think we are in control of the light when we can turn it on or off by a flick of a switch—but ultimately that tame, comfortable indoor light has its source in the wild heart of the sun. Just so with the truth. Whatever we know of what is right and good and true comes from God, the Author of all Truth—whether we know it or not. But His truth is so much greater than our little partial glimpses of the truth that it can be blinding." [1]

Courage and Godspeed,

1. As quoted by Greg West at "The Poached Egg" here.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Article: Ten Important Questions for the Jehovah's Witness Worldview by J. Warner Wallace

Here is another great article by J. Warner Wallace that offers 10 sincere questions for Jehovah's Witnesses.

You can check it out here.

Courage and Godspeed,

Share Your Thoughts: The Substance View of Persons

Francis Beckwith writes the following description of the substance view of persons in his book, Defending Life:  A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice:

According to the substance view, a human being is intrinsically valuable because of the sort of thing it is and the human being remains that sort of thing as long as it exists. What sort of thing is it?  The human being is a particular type of substance - a rational moral agent - that remains identical to itself as long as it exists, even if it is not presently exhibiting the functions, behaving in ways, or currently able to immediately exercise these activities that we typically attribute to active and mature rational moral agents.1

He goes on:

Another way to put it is to say that organisms, including human beings, are ontologically prior to their parts, which means that the organism as a whole maintains absolute identity through time while it grows, develops, and undergoes numerous changes, largely as a result of the organism's nature that directs and informs these changes and their limits. The organs and parts of the organism, and their role in actualizing the intrinsic, basic capcities of the whole, acquire their purpose and function because of their roles in maintaining, sustaining, and perfecting the being as a whole. This is in contrast to a thing that is not ontologically prior to it parts, like an automobile, cruise ship, or computer. Just as a sporting event (e.g., a basketball game, a golf match) does not subsist through time as a unified whole, an automobile, ship, or computer does not as well. It is, rather, in the words of Moreland, "a sum of each temporal (and spatial) part."  Called mereological essentialism (from the Greek "meros" for "part"), it "means that the parts of a thing are essential to it as a whole; if the object gains or loses parts, it is a different object."  Organisms, however, are different, for they may lose and gain parts, and yet remain the same thing over time.2

Do you hold to this view of persons?  If so, why or why not? Feel free to weigh in in the comments below.

Stand firm in Christ,

1. Page 132
2. Page 133

Monday, September 08, 2014