Thursday, April 30, 2015

Article: Why We Need Apologetic Pastors by Andrew Corbett

Andrew Corbett wasn't always a pastor who embraced apologetics, but, as he explains:

"My embrace of apologetics is motivated primarily by my desire to honor God, but through it I’ve seen more people come to Christ, our church grow, and our community engagement open amazing doors. My desire is that more pastors and church leaders will discover the need for and the benefits of apologetics in reaching an unbelieving world."

Checkout his excellent two-part article "Why We Need Apologetic Pastors" here and here.  We are foolish to ignore his counsel.

You can also listen to an interview with Andrew Corbett here.

Courage and Godspeed,

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Lenny Esposito on Apologetics

"As apologetics wrestles with the conflicts people face in defending their faith against the social and cultural disintegration we see happening around us, it becomes incredibly relevant. A lot of people have doubts or very difficult questions that they are afraid to share with others, thinking they would be perceived as weak in their faith. Yet, the church should be the first place they come to find answers. Young people are especially searching to find the answers to a host of issues. Their friends and teachers will many times contradict what they've been taught at home or at church and they simply don't know how sift through the milieu to find out what is true. Apologetics can help them get the right answers and help them to share those with others, vindicating them when they are defamed."

Courage and Godspeed,

HT: The Poached Egg

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Debate Video- Frank Turek vs. Michael Shermer- What Better Explains Morality: God or Science?

This streaming video features a debate that took place on April 16, 2015 between Frank Turek and Michael Shermer.  It was hosted by New York Apologetics.

You can read Turek's brief post-debate comments here.


Courage and Godspeed,

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Video: How Can Young and Old Earth Creationists Work Together?

In this video, Dr. John Sanford, a geneticist and young earth creationist, discusses why we should hold our position regarding the age of the earth with humility.  He also discusses what OECs and YECs agree on.

For more on the age of the earth, see here and here.

Courage and Godspeed,

Friday, April 24, 2015

Adoption's Relationship to Salvation

Those of us who place our trust in Christ alone to stand righteous before God the Father have been adopted into the family of God. God's redemption plan is adoption. Yet adoption is also the means by which our redemption is secured. Russell Moore writes:

Joseph is not Jesus' biological father, but he is his real father. In his adoption of Jesus, Joseph is rightly identified by the Spirit speaking through the Scriptures as Jesus' father (Luke 2:41, 48)...

if Joseph is not "really" the father of Jesus, you and I are going to hell.

Jesus' identity as the Christ, after all, is tied to his identity as the ancestor of David, the legitimate heir to David's throne. Jesus saves us as David's son, the offspring of Abraham, the Christ.  That human identity came to Jesus through adoption.1

Stand firm in Christ,

1. Moore, Russell D. Adopted for Life:  The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families & Churches. Page 67.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Does Revelation 3:14 indicate that Jesus was a created being?

Revelation 3:14 says, "And the angel of the church in Laodicea write: 'The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation (ESV)."

Jehovah's Witnesses contend that one can logically conclude from these verses that the one spoken of in Revelation 3:14 "is a creation, the first of God's creations, who had a beginning" (Reasoning from the Scriptures, 1989, 409.)

However, as Norman Geisler and Ron Rhodes explain in their book Correcting the Cults, this is clearly not the case:

"The Greek word "arche," translated 'beginning' in this verse, here carries the meaning of 'one who begins,' 'origin,' 'source,' or 'first cause.'  The English word architect is derived from "arche."  This verse says that Jesus is the architect of all creation (See John 1:3; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2; cf. Isa. 44:24).

Furthermore, the same term, beginning, is applied to God the Father in Revelation 21:4-6.  It cannot mean a created being, or God the Father is also a creature, which Jehovah's Witnesses reject.  Hence, 'beginning' should be understood in the absolute sense of Beginner or Source of all things." [1]

Courage and Godspeed,

1. Norman Geisler and Ron Rhodes, Correcting the Cults, p. 305

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Video: Evidence for God- Key Arguments for a Reasonable Faith by William Lane Craig

This talk is from the 2014 Unbelievable? Conference that took place in the UK.  This video features some great graphics that makes the lecture especially enjoyable to watch.


Courage and Godspeed,

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Article: Why Environmentalism and Animal Rights Are Dependent on a Christian Worldview by J. Warner Wallace

J. Warner Wallace has written an excellent article that questions whether or not atheism or Christian theism best grounds environmentalism and animal rights.  Jim writes:

"For many who deny the existence of the Christian God, environmentalism and the cause of animal rights have become a religion of sorts. The movement has its own doctrinal beliefs, its own set of commandments and its own set of prescribed consequences. At times, the doctrinal beliefs seem self-contradictory. I have many friends who fight vehemently for the rights of animals while supporting the abortion of humans. Maybe contradictions of this sort are the result of improper 'grounding'."

You checkout the rest of the article here.

Further, I highly recommend Jim's book Cold-Case Christianity.  You can find our review here.

Courage and Godspeed,

Monday, April 20, 2015

Nancy Pearcey on How to Dismantle Materialism

The City Podcast welcomed in Nancy Pearcey to discuss her latest book Finding Truth.  The five principles she discerned from Romans Chapter 1 for evaluating a worldview are covered.

You can listen to the podcast here. Enjoy!

Stand firm in Christ,

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Common Objection #25- "Jesus never said anything about homosexuality."

The person who makes this objection most often is implying that because Jesus didn't specifically address homosexuality, then it must be okay.  There are a number of problems with this assertion.

First, Jesus never specifically mentioned bestiality or incest either.  Are people who use the "only if Jesus specifically addressed it" standard prepared to say that bestiality and incest are okay as well?

Second, as Melinda Penner of Stand to Reason points out, Jesus has plenty to say about homosexuality:

"...Jesus said something in Leviticus 18:22-23, 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9, and 1 Timothy 1:10.

The Bible’s view of the Bible is that it is God-breathed. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, 'All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.' Jesus is God, therefore all of the Bible is His Word, not just the parts in red in the four Gospels.

Jesus spoke about everything from Genesis 1:1 through Revelation 22:21. And that includes anything in the 66 books about homosexuality." [1]

Finally, it is important to understand that Jesus did not address every single immoral behavior.  He addressed the issues that He was asked about or that came up in conversation.  However, we can be confident about what Jesus would have said if He would have been asked directly about homosexuality because we know He was an observant Jew living under the Old Covenant and was therefore bound by the Mosaic Law.  As speaker and apologist Alan Shlemon notes:

"...He often referenced it (e.g. Jesus references the two greatest commandments in Matthew 22:37, 39). Therefore, if He was asked what He thought about homosexuality, He would have cited the Levitical prohibitions (Leviticus 18:20 and 20:13) that unequivocally state that homosexual behavior is a sin." [2]

So it seems that the claim "Jesus never said anything about homosexuality" at best proves nothing and at worst is simply false.

Checkout our other "Common Objection" responses here.

Courage and Godspeed,

1. Melinda Penner, What Jesus Said about Homosexuality, April 7, 2015.
2. Alan Shlemon, Jesus Didn't Say Anything about Homosexuality, May 5, 2013.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Video: Is Gay the New Black? by Dr. Voddie Baucham

In this talk, pastor and teacher Voddie Baucham explains the strategic approach behind the homosexuality movement and how believers should respond to it.  This message is challenging for sure!

You can checkout Baucham's article on the same topic here.

Courage and Godspeed,

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Nabeel Qureshi on Truth

"To me, it was self-evident that truth exists.  What's the alternative?  If truth doesn't exist, then it would be true that truth doesn't exist, and once again we arrive at truth.  There is no alternative; truth must exist." [1]

Courage and Godspeed,

1. Nabeel Qureshi, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, p. 83.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Debate Video: What is God Really Like- Tawhid or Trinity? Dr. Shabir Ally and Dr. Nabeel Qureshi

This debate took place on April 8th, 2015.  It was moderated by Ms. Julie Roys of Moody Radio.  


Courage and Godspeed,

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Don't Settle for Mediocrity!

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to attend a conference where Pastor Voddie Baucham, Jr. was speaking.  He made a very good point that I want to share.  During the conference Dr. Baucham spoke to a gentlemen who had served in the Navy for 20 years.  Dr. Baucham explained that he would expect this man to be able to not only describe the basics but also the complexities of Navy life.  After all, he had been in the Navy for 20 years!  Contrast this with Christianity.  You can meet Christians who have been believers for 20, 30, or even 40 years but are often unable to answer the most basic of Bible questions and objections!  As Baucham went on to say, "The church is the only place where that type of mediocrity is accepted."  I concur.

In my 13 years as a Christian I have met scores of believers who have no interest in learning to defend their convictions.  Why is that?  I recall once listening to an interview with Norman Geisler where he was asked, "Why don't more people learn the discipline of apologetics?"  Geisler calmly answered, "Laziness."  And, as J. Warner Wallace contends in this post, most people don't learn to make a case for the their Christian faith because they lack "a desire to work hard and do whatever it takes to master the material."

People will defend what they care about.  Sports fans provide us with a fitting example.  If you say something negative about a hardcore fan's team or favorite player, they will give you a list of reasons why their team is the best or why their favorite player is to be admired.  How much more so should we be equipped to defend the One who knew no sin "so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God?" (2 Cor. 5:21).

Apologetics is, without a doubt, challenging.  However, believers must remember they are commanded to defend the faith (1 Peter 3:15).  If you are interested in learning how to defend your faith, but you are not sure where to begin, I recommend our "Apologist's Quiver" and the following books and websites:


1. On Guard by William Lane Craig

2. Cold-Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace

3. Tactics by Greg Koukl

4. The Case for the Resurrection by Gary Habermas and Mike Licona

5. I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek

You can checkout our Free Online Apologetics Library here.


1. Apologetics315

2. Reasonable Faith

3. Stand to Reason

4. Cold-Case Christianity

5. gotQuestions?org

You can find other apologetics websites here.

Let us not settle for mediocrity.  I implore you to "contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints!"

Courage and Godspeed,

Monday, April 13, 2015

Book Highlight: Why Trust Jesus? by Dave Sterrett

Chapter Three:  Why Should I Trust Jesus When I Have Been Let Down So Many Times?

Life is full of disappointment - business ventures go south, hoped for and prayed for healing does not occur, divorce papers are received. The list is unending. Is Jesus any different? Sterrett sums up his answer well by writing the following:

Even in moments of confusion and disappointment, Jesus Christ is still trustworthy. You may pray, “Jesus, this doesn’t make sense to me right now.” But remember that He backed up His offensive claims by coming back from the grave. We may not understand and know what He will do, but we do know what He has already done. He has revealed enough of His character to prove that He is worthy of our trust, regardless of the mystery.1 

Sterrett reminds us that this is the answer Jesus provided to John the Baptist when he was in prison, for heralding Jesus as the Messiah, disappointed and doubting whether Jesus was indeed the Messiah. Jesus pointed to the evidence of His performed miracles and fulfilled prophecies.

Sterrett then provides three ways to respond while rotting in the “prison” of disappointment:

1. Focus on the goodness of God – This is the example we see in Scripture from Job to Paul. Both of these men suffered greatly but remained faithful to God.

2. Realize that the best is yet to come – Sterrett quotes Paul:  For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!2 It is clear throughout Scripture that God’s purposes for mankind spill over into eternity.

3. Continue to joyfully obey God – Sterrett writes:  When we feel let down or disappointed by God, we have a decision to make. We can either take steps away from Him by failing to trust him or take steps toward Him in obedient faith.3 He points to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego as an example of this joyful obedience. They knew God was capable of saving them from an idolatrous king ready to throw them into a furnace yet even if God chose not to they would remain obedient.

This is the response Sterrett calls us to when facing deep disappointment. Lastly he calls us to remember that Jesus Himself faced disappointment when He was betrayed, deserted, beaten, mocked, crucified and above all became sin for us and received the wrath of God in our place. For those who trust in this Christ, their disappointment is only temporary! 

Stand firm in Christ,


1. Page 63.
2. 2 Corinthians 4:17. New Living Translation
3. Page 70.

Forthcoming:  A summary of Chapter Four:  Why Should I Trust Jesus When Life Seems to Be Going Just Fine without Him?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Walking with God through Pain and Suffering

Chapter Sixteen: Hoping

“Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Rev 21:3-4)  At the end of the Bible we find the ultimate hope.  But to whom was John writing?  To people who were suffering terrible things.  Christians were being inflicted with large scale persecutions by emperor Domitian.  They were losing their homes, torn to pieces by wild animals in the arenas and being impaled on stakes and covered with pitch and lit afire.  To face such overwhelming pain and suffering, he gave them the hope of a new heavens and a new earth, and it is a simple fact of history that it worked.  The early Christians took their suffering with great poise, singing hymns and forgiving those who were killing them.  And the more they were killed, the more Christianity grew.  Why?  Because those watching saw that the Christians had something they did not, a living hope.

“The way you live now is completely controlled by what you believe about your future.”  Do you believe that when you die that is the end?  That this is all the happiness you’re ever going to get?  That the sun will eventually die and the universe will suffer heat death and that human civilization will be forgotten?  Or do you believe there will be a new heavens and a new earth?  That there will be a judgement where every evil and injustice will be addressed?  That you have a future of endless joy?  Which of these you believe will determine how you handle your own suffering.

Howard Thurman gave a response to the criticism that Negro spiritual songs were too “otherworldly.”  He said, “The facts make clear that [this sung faith] did serve to deepen the capacity of endurance and the absorption of suffering…It taught a people how to ride high in life, to look squarely in the face those facts that argue most dramatically against all hope and to use those facts as raw material out of which they fashioned hope that the environment, with all its cruelty could not crush…This…enabled them to reject annihilation and to affirm a terrible right to live.”  The slaves believed the Christian faith and knew of the new heavens and earth and the judgement.  They knew the perpetrators of their injustice were not going to get away with it, that their desires would be fulfilled and that no amount of oppression could extinguish it because their hope was not in the present, but in the future.  To those who responded that these songs were wonderful symbols but couldn’t be taken literally, he argued that if you can’t take them literally, then they cannot be a real hope.  “In the end to reject the literal truth is to deny life itself of its dignity and man the right or necessity of dimensional fulfillment.  In such a [secular] view the present moment is all there is – man…becomes a prisoner in a tight world of momentary events – no more and no less.”  Imagine telling a slave that if they could go to school, they would learn that this life is all there is.  There’s no heaven to make up for their suffering.  There’s no judgement to address injustice and put things right.  And then tell them to still live with hope and fearlessness.

We all have our own pain and suffering to walk through, but few can compare to the tortures of the early Christians or American slaves.  Yet if this great hope helped so many of them, shouldn’t it help us with what we face?  How can we know this future is for us?  Because it is based on God’s action, not ours.  Believe, trust in and rely on Jesus, who took what we deserve so we could have the heaven and glory he deserves.

Dr. Keller closes the book with these words of C.S. Lewis, “For if we take the Scripture seriously, if we believe that God will one day give us the Morning Star and cause us to put on the splendor of the sun, then we may surmise that both the ancient myths and the modern poetry so false as history, may be very near the truth as prophecy.  At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door.  We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure.  We cannot mingle with the splendors we see.  But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumor that it will not always be so.  Someday, God willing, we shall get in.  When human souls have become as perfect in voluntary obedience as the inanimate creation is in its lifeless obedience, then they will put on its glory, or rather that greater glory of which Nature is only the first sketch.  We are summoned to pass in through Nature, beyond her, into that splendor which she fitfully reflects.”


“If we know the biblical theology of suffering and have our hearts and minds engaged by it, then when grief, pain, and loss come, we will not be surprised…”  Dr. Keller gives us a list of ten things we should do.

1. Recognize the varieties of suffering and the feelings associated with each: wrong behavior – guilt and shame, betrayals and attacks from others – anger and resentment, universal forms of loss – grief and fear, and the horrendous – confusion and perhaps anger with God.

2. Recognize the distinctions in temperament between yourself and other sufferers.  How God helps you is probably not how he will help others.  The experience of affliction as consisting of isolation, self-absorption, condemnation, and complicity with pain will vary depending on the causes of the suffering, the person’s emotional temperament and spiritual maturity.

3.There is weeping.  Be brutally honest with yourself and God about your pain and sorrow.  He is very patient with us when we are desperate.

4. We must trust.  Despite your grief, you must wrestle with it until you can come to say as Jesus did, “Thy will be done.”

5. We must pray.  Though Job did a lot of complaining and cursed the day he was born – he did it all in prayer.  It was to God he complained; it was before God that he struggled.

6. We must be disciplined in our thinking.

7. We must be willing to do some self-examining.

8. We must be about re-ordering our lives.  Suffering reveals that there are things we love too much, or we love God too little in proportion to them.

9. We should not shirk community.  Suffering can be very isolating.  Where is God when it hurts?  The answer to that question should be, where is the church when it hurts?  The church is to be a place of unparalleled sympathy and support.  Find a church where sufferers are loved and supported, or where you can provide love and support.  As I was walking with my wife through her cancer diagnosis and treatments, I learned that when we asked God where he was in the midst of our pain, the answer was that he was right there with us holding her in my arms.

10. Suffering from wrong behavior requires skill at receiving grace and forgiveness from God.  Suffering from betrayal and attacks from others requires skill at giving grace and forgiveness to others.

I hope you have found this review to be helpful.  As always, 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, April 10, 2015

Article: Three Steps to Protect Christian Wedding Vendors by Greg Koukl

It is a difficult time to be a Christian wedding vendor!  In today's featured article, author and speaker Greg Koukl offers 3 steps Christian wedding vendors can take to protect themselves.  Koukl writes:

"The basic strategy here is to put the prospective client off in a legitimate way so they don't call back, or have them disqualify themselves without the vendor having to weigh in explicitly regarding his willingness to participate in a same-sex marriage (SSM)."

You can checkout the rest of the article here

What do you think of Koukl's strategy?  Sound off in the comments below!

Courage and Godspeed,


Thursday, April 09, 2015

Do All Religions Lead to God?

It was Jesus Christ who said, "I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).  To some these words are offensive and to others they are downright unbelievable.  How can one hold to such a view?  Doesn't it make more sense to believe that all religions lead to God?  I have argued extensively that this view is false here; [1] however, in this post I just want to demonstrate that the view that all religions lead to God is necessarily false.  This means that there is no way this view is true.

This claim violates the law of non-contradiction that says contradictory claims cannot both be true at the same time in the same sense.  For example, God can’t be personal (Christianity) and impersonal (Hinduism) at the same time.  Jesus either died on the cross and rose again (Christianity) or He did not (Islam).  Jesus was the Messiah (Christianity) or He wasn’t (Judaism).  Jesus was the eternally existing One who made all things (Christianity) or He was a created being who was the spirit brother of Lucifer (Mormons).

Since various religions teach contradictory things, all religions cannot be true. Religious pluralism (the belief that all religions are true) violates the law of non-contradiction and is therefore necessarily false. 

Religions disagree on virtually every major issue, including the nature of god, the nature of man, sin, salvation, heaven, hell and creation and it is the differences that matter!

If you are interested in investigating which religion, if any, is true, I encourage you to start with Christianity because it is the only religion, according to the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. 15:14), that is historically testable.  Either Jesus rose from the dead or He did not.  If He did, we have good reason to believe Christianity is true.  If He didn't, then Christian faith is useless.  You can investigate the resurrection
here or here.

Courage and Godspeed,

1. J. Warner Wallace has written an outstanding article on this topic here.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

C.S. Lewis on the Gospels

“All I am in private life is a literary critic and historian, that’s my job…..And I’m prepared to say on that basis if anyone thinks the Gospels are either legends or novels, then that person is simply showing his incompetence as a literary critic. I’ve read a great many novels and I know a fair amount about the legends that grew up among early people, and I know perfectly well the Gospels are not that kind of stuff.” 

Courage and Godspeed,


1. C.S. Lewis, Christian Reflections, p. 209, as quoted by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.

The Propaganda Game

"The Imitation Game" is a very good movie and is coming out on DVD.  It has been our family tradition to go to a movie on Christmas day and this past year we saw “The Imitation Game”.  I was looking forward to the movie about mathematician Alan Turing and his work that helped crack Germany’s Enigma code during World War II.  The film is very well produced, directed and acted (I confess I’m a fan of Benedict Cumberbatch).  However, after seeing the film, I felt like I just witnessed a piece of propaganda for the homosexual political agenda, so I decided to investigate the historical accuracy of the film and found quite a different story.

There is a basic skeleton of facts the movie gets correct:  Alan Turing was homosexual; his work in mathematics and cryptography were instrumental in the development of the machines that cracked the Nazi code and led to modern computers; he was engaged to Joan Clark; his home was burglarized; he was convicted of indecency and sentenced to “chemical castration.”

Unfortunately, the movie includes a great deal of fiction:  Alan Turing was open about his homosexuality; Joan Clark knew of his attraction to men; their engagement was not to rescue her from her conservative parents, they genuinely liked each other; he was not a brusque, humorless, narcissist; he did not singlehandedly design and build the machine; he did not name any of the machines he built “Christopher”; and he most certainly would not have committed treason to keep secret his proclivity that was not so secret.

The ultimate point of the film, on which the power of its propaganda rests, is that Alan Turing committed suicide because of the suffering he endured due to his sentence.  While the determination that his death was a suicide is itself questionable, he died a full 14 months after his treatments, not while enduring them as the film depicts.

These inaccuracies and many more can be found at these articles at history vs hollywood, the guardian and slate.  While I understand that film makers often add fictional aspects to historical events for powerful dramatic effect, i.e. Jack and Rose in "Titanic", I do wish they would take better care to get the historical data right.  With a generation that gets it’s truth in 30 second bites, objective truth will be lost to slickly produced images and special effects.

Don’t take my word for it – read the articles, don’t trust the movie.
Have a little hope on me,

Monday, April 06, 2015

Three Little Words Should Propel the Pro-Life Movement

In this article, Brian Fisher of Online for Life discusses what the resurrection of Jesus means for the pro-life movement. He writes:

The celebration of Easter is the recognition that Christ has overcome death. It’s fear is removed, it’s sting destroyed...Every time life wins, the gospel of Jesus is reaffirmed and God is glorified.


Stand firm in Christ,

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Walking with God through Pain and Suffering

Chapter Fifteen: Thinking, Thanking, Loving

Of all the sufferers in the Bible, Paul would have to be among those who suffered most.  Laboring and toiling without sleep, constantly moving, experiencing cold and nakedness, hunger and thirst, three times beaten with rods, stoned once, three times shipwrecked including an entire night and day on the open sea, and five times flogged with 39 lashes.  How did he handle it all?

He told the Corinthians that we learn not to rely on ourselves, but on God.  He told the Phillipians not to be anxious, to present God with our requests with thanksgiving, to think about what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable, and that he learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  In these the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds.  What is this peace?  First, it is an inner calm and equilibrium that does not come naturally, but which we must learn.  Next, it is not an absence of fear, but the presence of God.  Today, in order to overcome anxiety or fear, the purveyors of peace talk about controlling your thoughts and removing negative ones.  But that is really only refusing to face the facts and will not provide lasting peace.  When things are not all right, it is not positive thinking or willpower that carries us, it is the assurance of the solid foundation that ultimately, everything will be alright.  So how does one learn how to find this peace?

Experiencing the peace that passes understanding begins with the discipline of thinking.  When Paul says to think about what is true, noble, right, etc., he is not referring to relaxation, visualization or thought-control techniques such as can be found in any bookstore or self-help website.  These will never deal with the big questions: Where did I come from?  Why am I here?  What should I be doing?  Where am I going?  But why don’t today’s resources tell you to think deeply about life?  Because Western secular society operates without any answers to these questions.  So the only answer that they can provide is to not think about everything, but to relax and find experiences that give you pleasure.  Think about it!  Christian peace comes not from thinking less, but from thinking more.  Paul uses the word logizdomai, which means “to reckon”, to tell us to reckon our present sufferings as not worth comparing to the glory that shall be revealed.

Think about doctrine.  But how will that help?  Think.  Is Jesus the only Son of God?  Did he come to earth, die, rise and go to the right hand of God?  Did he suffer so one day you won’t have to?  If these are true, then that is all the comfort you need.  If not, then the only happiness you will ever know is what you can get in the 70 or so years you may have.  If you lose your happiness to some trouble, it is gone forever.  So either this is as good as it gets or Jesus is on the throne ruling all things.  So if you need peace, start thinking.  Think about who God is, what he has done, who you are in Christ and the future he has prepared for you.  Count it, add it up and let the glory of gospel salvation sink in.  Your bad things will turn out for good, your good things cannot be taken away, and the best is yet to come.

Next, Dr. Keller describes the discipline of thanking.  Paul says to make our requests to God with thanksgiving.  Notice he does not say to ask God, then after you receive what you’ve asked for to give thanks.  We thank God ahead of time because Paul is calling us to trust God.  We will never be content until we acknowledge that our lives are in his control and that he is wiser than we are.  God says to us, “[When] a child of mine makes a request, I always give that person what he or she would have asked for if they knew everything I know.”  Do you believe that?  To the degree you believe that, you are going to have peace.  And if you don’t believe it, you won’t have the peace you could otherwise have.  Make your requests known with thanksgiving.

Third is the discipline of loving.  We are not only to think the right things, we are also to love the right things.  Augustine was familiar with the problem of Greek philosophy.  It was: how can you live a life of contentment?  For the Stoics, the problem was because we love things too much.  If you love success, even when you achieve it, you will be anxious.  If you love your family, you will worry about it.  You will always worry and be anxious about what you love, and if something goes wrong, it will devastate you.  The problem is loving things you cannot control.  (Does this sound a little bit like Buddhism?)  The answer was to love what you can control – your own virtue.  The only thing that can make you content is the knowledge that you are being the person you choose to be and want to be.  (Does this sound a little bit like what our current society says?)  But can you control even your own virtue?  You are human, frail, complex.  Your own virtue can let you down just as easily as anything else.  Augustine’s answer was that “only love of the immutable can bring tranquility.”  And the only thing that is immutable is God.  The problem is not that we love things too much, it is that we love God too little.  So the solution is to reorder our lives beginning by loving God supremely.

“When something is taken from us, our suffering is real and valid.  But often, inside, we are disproportionately cast down because the suffering is shaking out of our grasp something that we allowed to become more than just a good thing to us.”  We may say, “Jesus is Lord”, but functionally, we have gotten our self-worth from something else.  The answer to placing God at the pinnacle of our love is to rediscover the gospel of free grace.  Our hearts will tell us that God will not save us because we are unworthy, but we must remember that salvation is for the humble, those who admit they are not worthy.

When we suffer, we should examine our lives to see if the suffering is unnecessarily intensified by anything we have set our hearts and hopes upon too much.  We must reorder our lives.  Suffering often reveals that things we thought we could not live without we really can live without when we trust God.  When we cultivate an existential grasp of his love for us, then, though suffering will hurt, and often hurt deeply, it won’t devastate us because it cannot touch our main thing – God, his love and salvation.

“How can we bring ourselves to love God more?  “God” can be just an abstraction, even if you believe in him.  How can we feel more love for God?  Don’t try to work directly on your emotions.  That won’t work.  Instead, let your emotions flow naturally from what you are looking at.”  Horatio Spafford lost all four of his daughters when their ship sank in the Atlantic as they were travelling to England with their mother.  On his way across the Atlantic to bring his wife home he wrote a hymn – It Is Well with My Soul.  “Here is what I want you to think about: why would a man dealing with his grief, seeking the peace of God – the peace like a river – spend the entire hymn on Jesus and his work of salvation?  And why would he bring up the subject of his own sin at such a time?  He wrote:

            My sin, oh, though the bliss of this glorious thought!
            My sin, not in part but the whole,
            Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more.
            Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul.

What has that got to do with his four little girls who are dead?  Everything!  Do you know why?  When things go wrong, one of the ways you lose your peace is that you think maybe you are being punished.  But look at the cross!  . . .  Another thing you may think is that maybe God doesn’t care.  But look at the cross! . . . In that hymn you can watch a man thinking, thanking, and loving himself into the peace of God.  It worked for him under those circumstances.  It worked for Paul under his circumstances.  It will work for you.”

Next time Chapter Sixteen: Hoping

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, April 03, 2015

Killing Jesus - Read the book, don't watch the movie

I was looking forward to seeing the new film “Killing Jesus” based on the bestselling book by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard.  I was curious as to how the “facts” of the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth would be translated on the screen.  I enjoyed reading the book and thought it was quite good despite a few of what I thought were questionable historic facts.  You can read my review here. Unfortunately, the movie did not rise to meet expectations.

There were some things that I liked about it.  For example, some of the dialogue had a natural, conversational flow to it as opposed to parroting the Gospels verbatim as some films seem to do.  The conversation between Jesus and the disciples when he asked them who people thought he was was a good example of this.  I also appreciated that the actor playing Jesus wasn’t “pretty” or the stereotypical iconic image we have grown accustomed to seeing.

Jesus ministry begins when he is fishing with Peter.  The two of them are in a boat on the lake fishing, but they’re just sitting in the boat watching nothing happen.  Jesus suggests they pray.  Before you know it, the fish are jumping into the nets.  Jesus seems almost as surprised as Peter at the “miracle”.  And other than “healing” a demon possessed boy, there are no other “miracles” in the film.  But then there weren’t any in the book either as they don’t constitute historic facts according to the authors.  And there were the fake beards several characters were wearing.

While some of the dialogue felt like it had a natural flow, it seemed that most of the sayings and teachings of Jesus were mixed up with no natural flow to his teachings during his three years of ministry.  For example at the trial before the Sanhedrin, there are no false witnesses, the high priest cuts to the chase and asks Jesus if he is the anointed one.  When Jesus replies, “I am”, the priest is quite nonchalant in his response to the “blasphemy” as he has Jesus’ head covered so he can be beaten and asked to prophecy who hit him.  And some of them had obviously fake beards.

The most egregious error occurred when Jesus teaches the golden rule.  The movie has Jesus stating it in the negative, “Don’t do to others…”  This is how it expressed in other religions.  To obey it, you simply need to remain inactive, mind your own business and leave others alone, you don’t have to do anything.  However, Jesus is recorded stating the rule in the affirmative, “Do unto others…”  This gives the connotation of a command to be actively involved with lives of others.  And there were the fake beards.

The crucifixion was followed with Nicodemus, Joseph, Mary Magdalene and a few others finding the tomb empty.  There are no scenes of any post mortem appearances by Jesus.  Just the final scene where we find Peter fishing, sitting in his boat watching nothing happen – until he decides to pray.  And voila!  Fish are jumping in the nets, and Peter is looking up in the sky laughing.  I guess he somehow figured out Jesus was resurrected?  Peter’s beard appeared pretty authentic.

The post script notes of the film mention the “traditions” of how most of the disciples died.  I really felt at that point that much of what I was watching was signed, sealed and delivered by the Jesus Seminar via producer Ridley Scott, not the fact based historical narrative the authors gave us in the book.  The close of the film was quite the contrast to these statements found in the afterword of the book:  “What comes next is the very root of the Christian faith.  The Gospels record that Jesus’s body was not stolen.  Instead, Scripture puts forth that Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven.  After his body was found missing, the Gospels state that Jesus appeared twelve times on earth over a forty day period.  The apparitions range from a single individual to groups of more than five hundred on a mountain in Galilee.  Some in that crowd would speak vividly of the event for years to come . . . After the crucifixion, the disciples of Jesus underwent a radical shift in behavior.  They were quite positive that they had seen a resurrected Jesus and soon went out into the world and fearlessly preached his message.  Known as the apostles, the men paid a tremendous price for their faith.”

As I thought after I read the book, so I still feel now.  If Killing Jesus was written primarily to tell the truth about important people, then there just has to be the sequel – Resurrecting Jesus!  Perhaps the upcoming mini-series “A.D.” will prove to be more factual and trustworthy, with better beards.

Take my word for it – read the book, don’t watch the movie,
Have a little hope on me,

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Article: The Commitment of the Apostles Confirms the Truth of the Resurrection by J. Warner Wallace

In this featured article, J. Warner Wallace contends that the commitment of the apostles to the testimony that Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to them provides powerful evidence that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead!

Jim writes:

"Many people are willing to die for what they don’t know is a lie. Martyrdom doesn’t confirm the truth, especially when the martyrs don’t have first-hand access to the claim for which they’re dying. But this wasn’t the case for the disciples of Jesus. They were in a unique position: they knew if the claims about Jesus were true. They were present for the life, ministry, death and alleged resurrection of Jesus. If the claims about Jesus were a lie, the disciples would have known it (in fact they would have been the source of the lie). That’s why their commitment to their testimony was (and is) so compelling. Unlike the rest of us, their willingness to die for their claims has tremendous evidential value. In fact, the commitment of the apostles confirms the truth of the resurrection."

You can read the entire article here.

Courage and Godspeed,

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Video: Proofs of the Resurrection? by Bobby Conway

For more from the "One Minute Apologist" Bobby Conway, see here.

If you are interested in investigating the evidence for the resurrection, go here.

He has risen!  He has risen indeed!

Courage and Godspeed,