Posts tagged Faith

Apologetic Wednesday: Love Then Logic

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Love Then LogicIt is roughly one o’clock in the morning. It is a pretty familiar scene for me. I sit working in front of my computer in a dimly lit living room while the rest of my family sleeps. I watch my son over a monitor that streams live to my cell phone. As is often the case, he wakes up crying. I walk into his room to console him. He wants in my bed. I pick him, hug him, and place him gently beside my wife. He snuggles into her and is back to sleep in an envious matter of seconds, safe and secure.

I enjoy this time of life. My children are dependent upon me. I can allay their fears, bring comfort to their hearts, kiss away their pains, and shelter them from an often toxic and harsh world. Yet, I know one day they will make their own way. Their decisions will be their own. It will no longer be I that guides their every step.

Early yesterday morning, I read an article before I began my day. It was written by Rachael Slick, which is the daughter of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry founder, Matt Slick. In her article she tells about her childhood, which she seems to paint as restrictive, sheltered, and legalistic, and her journey into atheism. She recounts all the time that her father spent pouring into her good reasons to embrace Christianity. Then one day, she thinks of a question that she cannot answer, and walks away from her faith. Though her article does not make it clear, she seems to walk away quickly without really wrestling with the question that sent her spiraling away from the center of her Christian universe. It is also interesting to note that the question she felt posed a great problem for the Christian is really not problematic for belief in God.

As I read her story, I felt deeply saddened, but I also felt the crushing weight of responsibility. As a father of two, I hope I can instill into my children the love of God and why faith in Jesus Christ is reasonable. Why? Because I know that what they believe about God is the most important thing about them. Yet, as I read her article, it caused me to think about my own children and their journey through life as they formulate their own worldview. What if my children also decided to depart from the faith? What would I do? I would love them. Plain and simple, I would love them. There is nothing that can ever separate them from my love. No decision they could ever make can change the fact that I love them, and always will.

I have seen so many Christians who allow a host of different things to form a chasm between them and the people they love. Yet, we would do well to remember that there is nothing that can kill love, it is we that choose to withhold our love and affection.

As I read Ms. Slick’s article, it seemed (and I am psychologizing here) that though her father poured philosophy into her young mind early on and taught her to employ sound logic; she might have missed out on something she needed much, an understanding of God’s deep love and experiencing that love. We must remember that love isn’t something to be earned. It can only be given. It is the same with God. We can’t earn it. It is something He gives freely.

As Christians and Apologists (if you are a Christian you are called, though some to a higher degree than others, to be an apologist and have a reason for the hope you have) we need to remember that it is our love that must precede our logic. Do I want my children to develop solid answers for what they believe? Absolutely! Do I want my kids to remember their dad as being a defender of truth, who sought truth regardless of where it leads, and studied hard to make a case for Christianity? You bet! But long before they remember my arguments I want them to remember my love, because without a heavy dose of love from their dad my arguments won’t seem to carry much weight. In fact, without my love all of my words will just sound empty, like a “clanging symbol” that is beat annoyingly.

Let’s continue to redefine the way the world views Christianity. We are not a group of people scared by current scientific research. We do not cower down to the philosophies of the secular mind. We are not sheltered and fearful of “being bullied.” We have reasons for what we believe. But can we, as believers, please employ love before logic? Can we make sure that the world knows God’s love and be ambassadors of that love? Can we make sure that Christianity isn’t just a cognitive exercise, but also is a love story between God and His creation?

Ms. Slick, though you may not believe in God, He still loves you. To my own children, I will always love you regardless of the decisions you make. To the rest of us, may we remember the words of the Apostle Paul:

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,  nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. –Romans 8:38-39

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Apologetic Wednesday: Stephen King and God

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Stephen King and GodI don’t read scary books, but apparently a lot of people do. Stephen King, Mr. Boogyman himself, has sold over 350 million books. In fact, there is a forest strictly devoted to milling paper solely for his books. Okay, maybe I made that bit about the forest up, but the fact remains that his macabre mind has slain a lot of trees.

Last week, National Public Radio interviewed Mr. King, and he was asked about his beliefs in God. King asserts, “If you say, ‘Well, OK, I don’t believe in God. There’s no evidence of God,’ then you’re missing the stars in the sky and you’re missing the sunrises and sunsets and you’re missing the fact that bees pollinate all these crops and keep us alive and the way that everything seems to work together. Everything is sort of built in a way that to me suggests intelligent design.” Here, he waxes both theological and philosophical. King echoes the thoughts of Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher, who once said, “The order of the motion of the stars, and of all things under the dominion of mind which ordered the universe” often leads men to believe in God. The Apostle Paul also makes his case in the same manner.  “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20, NIV)

Creation points us toward a creator. Here, Mr. King employs, whether knowingly or not, the teleological argument for the existence of God. Quite simply, creation works so cohesively together it seems apparent that it was designed by an infinitely powerful and creative mind. There are a number of constants in our universe that are so precise, had they been off just slightly life would be impossible. The odds that these life sustaining values arose solely based on chance is inconceivable. William Lane Craig asserts that the odds of these constants arising based on chance would be similar to “firing a bullet toward the other side of the observable universe, twenty billion light years away, and nailing a one inch target!”

Later, King states in the interview that he also has his doubts about God. He shares, “But, at the same time, there’s a lot of things in life where you say to yourself, ‘Well, if this is God’s plan, it’s very peculiar,’ and you have to wonder about that guy’s personality — the big guy’s personality… I choose to believe in God, but I have serious doubts.” Here, I appreciate the honest way that he expresses his wresting match with faith. He looks at the cosmos and sees the hand of God, but he also struggles with big questions that cause him to doubt. Faith and doubt, these are opposing sides of the same coin. You can’t have one without the presence of the other.

People that seek truth wherever it may lead often wrestle with questions and experience times of uncertainty and doubt. They also surge through periods where their faith is bolstered and rock-solid. It is interesting that King says, “He chooses to believe.” He could have meant several things by this statement, but I think at times when it comes to faith we must choose to believe in the midst of uncertainty and strive for answers and understanding. It was C.S. Lewis that once said, “Faith…is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.”

Often, Christians feel as though doubt, whatever the cause may be, means that they have lost their faith, are less of a Christian, or are distant from God. Doubt is often cast in a negative light. Yet by suffering through those periods of spiritual drought our faith often grows. You see, I have struggled with questions of my own, but instead of keeping my struggles a secret or becoming worried that I would lose my faith I chose to believe. I pressed forward. I prayed for answers. I talked with people. God has been faithful to answer my questions slowly throughout my spiritual journey. It is interesting for me to look back and see the questions that use to shake my faith, now only to realize that those questions are not even close to being a stumbling block for me. God is faithful.

Stephen King is right when he says that sometimes God is difficult to understand. Yet, I don’t have to completely understand God in order to have faith. The fact of the matter is, if I could fully comprehend God, He would no longer be God. He would simply be an equal. God reminds us in Isaiah, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” While God has been faithful to answer many of my questions and provide me with greater understanding of who He is, some of my questions will have to wait. Perhaps my finite mind could not even fathom the answers in my present state. At any rate, God has provided me, and I think all of humanity, with enough evidence for faith to be reasonable. He has answered enough questions for me to keep the faith, fight the good fight, and finish the race laid out before me.

I admire Mr. King for his honesty and candidness about his faith. I hope he continues to look for the evidence, wrestle with questions, and choose to believe during times of uncertainty. I hope, if he hasn’t already, that he would read the Gospel of John and fall in love with Jesus Christ as many of us have. I hope that we all keep searching and looking for truth. The believer must not let doubt keep him from asking questions and growing. I have known many that struggled with their faith for years because they would not allow other believers to be a part of their doubt. We are not alone in our struggles. More times than not other people have struggled with the same questions we have. We can only get answers if we seek God, read, study, and allow others to speak truth into our lives.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Baited By the Beard?

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beardsRoad Trip! Many people hate piling in the car and staring at the road for hours on end, but I happen to enjoy it. Sure, flying is great at times, but road trips are conducive to great conversations and opportunities to reflect on life. It had been several years since we hopped in the car and drove across the country so my wife and I decided to drive to Atlanta this week, with our starting point being close to Houston. As we mapped out our route, we just so happened to notice that passing through West Monroe, Louisiana, was only about thirty minutes out of our way. What’s in West Monroe? Don’t you know? The bearded boys from Duck Dynasty, who else?

My wife and I began watching the show in season two, and quickly caught up by buying season one (which we watched in a night). We have been hooked ever since. We tune in every Wednesday night to see those friendly, fuzzed up faces.

When I stop to think about the show, it’s hard to say what drew me in to begin with. Sure it’s funny, but there are a lot of funny shows I don’t watch. I have never gone duck hunting (which I am not opposed to if anyone wants to give me an invite) a day in my life. I don’t even own a rifle. I have never even shot a deer, or at one for that matter. I really don’t even watch much television period, so it is interesting that I tune in faithfully every week this show airs. I even watch reruns from time to time, despite the fact that I own the seasons.

As we rolled up to Duck Commander, that’s the dynasty headquarters for those not sucked into the cult of duck yet, I was amazed. The facility wasn’t some huge corporate operation sprawled out over acres. It was a modest warehouse with some offices and a newly added gift shop. It is located right beside a small town car wash with some houses just down the road. To be honest, it looks smaller in person than on television. It is fascinating that the network, A & E, took a bet on the beards in the first place.

The gift shop opens at nine in the morning, and we arrived about eight-thirty. To my surprise, we were not the first ones there. We took some pictures while we waited for the gift shop to open. People continued to arrive by the minute. When the gift shop opened there were probably fifty people inside. The place was bustling with beard enthusiast by nine-thirty. I was amazed that this place attracted so many people.

This season, Duck Dynasty attracted an average of 8.4 million viewers per episode. It was the number one rated reality show this year. Just a bunch of guys, with beards, that make duck calls for a living. What is the appeal? It is something very simple, but so counter cultural that it almost elicits shock value. The success of Duck Dynasty is wrapped up in faith and family.

The show promotes a very family oriented lifestyle that flies in the face of our individualistic society. Each episode ends with the extended family sitting around a dinner table and some kind of moral is presented to tie the show together. There is also a healthy slice of faith served up with every episode.

It is my opinion that these two things, faith and family, are what pull people in (though Uncle Si’s antics also help). Why are people so drawn by these two things? Because it is what everybody wants. Who doesn’t want to have a close family? Most people want to find something that guides their life and instills a sense of purpose as well.

The sad fact is, much of our society is lacking in these two areas. So many people feel they can’t have what is seen in the lives of the Robertson’s, but they can. Anyone can have a life devoted to family and faith. Now this may be to varying degrees because, for many, the past plays a part in the present. Families don’t immediately change over night, but they can start the change process in a night. The Robertson family has what it has because it is willing to do what many people are unwilling to do, which is making faith and family a priority.

One of the cleanest shows on television right now is at the top. How does that happen? Because many people want to be a part of something good (not perfect). Maybe it also serves to show that there is a bigger desire for wholesome entertainment than some would have us think.

We were made for community. We find that fulfilled both vertically and horizontally. We need one another and we need God to feel fulfilled, have purpose, and be healthy. We long to be in community with God, family, and friends, whether we are cognizant of it or want to admit it. Somewhere, Duck Dynasty gives us a taste of what that feels like, and it feels nice.

We  have to remember though, to have what most people don’t have, we have to do what most people don’t do. Invest in our families and make faith a priority, each of which require a certain amount of sacrifice, but the reward is worth the effort.

You were made for community. I was made for community. We were all designed with a void that only God and family can fill. How are you doing at filling your void?

Seek God. Invest in family. Live in community. Enjoy life. And if you want, grow a killer beard.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Apologetic Wednesday: God Won’t Give Us More Than We Can Bear?

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Have More Than We Can Bearyou ever had a dark night of the soul? Those periods in life where you feel as though you are about to break into a million pieces, and no matter how hard all the king’s horses and all the king’s men try, you will never be put back together? Sometimes, life is hard. The things that people go through are sometimes difficult to even hear. I spend roughly twenty-plus hours a week locked in a room with various people as they unpack their hurts, disappointments and wounds. At times, I shed a tear with them because I can empathize. Other times the hurt is too great for me to understand.

But no matter how hard life gets, “God will never put more on us than we can stand.” Really? Is that true? I hear this repeated so much in Christian circles. I think people mean it to be some sort of comfort to those with pain filled eyes and bleak circumstances. “God won’t put more on you than you can handle?” It really doesn’t sound that comforting. Many would say, “I can’t handle what is in my life now. What will a little more pressure do to me?”

God won’t give you more than you can handle? Is that so? What if we told that to the 150,000-plus Christians that are martyred for their faith each year? God frequently allows more than we can handle into our lives. At times, God even invites more than can be handled into the lives of His followers. I am reminded of some advice Chuck Swindoll once gave, “Be ready for the breaking.” At times, God will break his followers and strip them down to nothing. What about Job? Remember what befell him? He lost everything. Every form of affliction touched his life, save for having his own life taken.

This Christian platitude comes from a twisting of I Corinthians 10:13, “And God is faithful;he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” The idea here is that God will never allow us to be presented with a temptation with no way out. In other words, just because we are tempted to do wrong does not mean we have to succumb to the temptation. There is nothing here that talks about the weight of the burdens a Christian must carry.

Sometimes, believers have more in their lives than they could possibly handle. Jesus even warned that those who live a life in His service will encounter difficult times. His original disciples were killed for what they knew to be true. At times, Christians feel the full weight of more than they can handle, and God allows it.

In difficult times, when the night is darkest, when affliction presses in from every side, we might be tempted to ask, “Where is God?” God, where are you in my pain? Where are you in my loss? Where are you when things fail to make sense? Where are you in my tragedy?

Yet, even in the midst of tragedy, pain, and hardship, God is right there. He may allow more on us than we can handle, but he steps in to help shoulder the load. Even at the point of death, he is there. He went through it all Himself as well. He understands our hurts intimately. So when life brings us to the point where we are burdened with more than we can handle; “God’s power is made perfect during our weakness.”

During difficult times, we can lean into God or pull away from Him. When we turn away from God we become immobilized from the burdens life can lay on our shoulders.  Only when we lean in to God do we find the comfort of a healing hand at our side. We may be persecuted, but we will not be abandoned. We may be struck down, but we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.

Your afflictions may only prove that you are more immediately under the Father’s hand. There is no time that the patient is such an object of tender interest to the surgeon, as when he is bleeding beneath his knife. So you may be sure if you are suffering from the hand of a reconciled God, that His eye is all the more bent on you. - Robert Murray McCheyne

 

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Is Faith Blind?

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Every time I hear a Christian refer to their belief in Christ with the term “blind faith” I cringe. No worldview should be built on blind faith. While I will concede that at times we have questions that are challenging where we are left wanting for greater explanation, I refuse to accept my most precious beliefs blindly. Blind belief means we are in the dark. We hold to something without good reason. There are many good reasons for why I hold to my Christian beliefs.The very fact that the adjective “blind” is sometimes placed before faith is indication that the term “faith” does not carry the connotation of being blind. Faith is meant to be informed.

Believers must be encouraged to engage their faith with their minds. I am not saying that faith is to be strictly reduced to the use of logic at the expense of emotional expression. I am saying that we have been commanded to use our minds in seeking truth. Luke 10:27 reminds us that we are to “love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind.” Faith is an act of will, emotional engagement, spiritual sensitivity, and intellectual fervor. If we ignore any part of this command it is to our detriment. So often, it seems the mind lacks emphasis in regards to our faith. Perhaps this is because it commands a great deal of discipline and hard work.

We cannot afford to disengage our minds when it comes to our faith. Ravi Zacharias states, “What your mind rejects, your life will eventually reject also, however close it may be to your heart.” One area where Satan is greatly succeeding is his attack on the mind. Let’s make sure we are keeping the commandment to love God with our minds. Read. Seek. Study. Ask questions. Spend time in the word. Meditate on it. Know what those skeptical or hostile to Christianity are saying. Be informed.

Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. – I Corinthians 16:13

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Christianity Is Right, So Deal With Being Wrong

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One time in Graduate school, I had a conversation with a good friend who asked me, “Why are Christians always trying to convert non-Christians? It seems like you people just want to validate what you believe. Sometimes I think you just want to be right.” Ouch. Is that how we look sometimes?

One thing I have noticed about Christianity is we often have an “us vs. them” mentality. We go to church. We read our Bibles (sometimes, as long as it hasn’t been a busy day and it isn’t the night where our favorite TV show is on). We read books. We deepen our theological prowess because we want to witness to the world around us. After all, every good Christian is suppose to share the Gospel, right? Right!

So, why do we share the Gospel? Why do we give our faith away to the world around us. Is it because we want to be right? Is it so  we can win arguments? Is it so we can show non-believers that we are right, they are wrong, and they look foolish? Is it so our other Christian friends can see us earning our witnessing badge?

The goal of apologetics, evangelism, and fine tuning what we believe is so we can share with others something amazing that is at the center of our lives. When I see an amazing film, I tell my friends. When I eat a wonderful meal, I recommend the restaurant. Why? Because when I find something that enhances my life, I want to share it. The goal of sharing Christ with those around us is not to be right or win an argument. It is to share something in our lives that is so overwhelmingly amazing that we can’t help but tell everyone about it. It isn’t us versus them. It isn’t Christian’s against the world. It’s Christians seeking to love others as we have been loved. It’s Christ followers pointing others to the source of their joy, peace, and strength.

So, how can we effectively love people around us? How can we reflect Christ? How can we share the faith that is so foundational in our lives without creating a chasm between us and others? Might you to permit me to share a few insights?

  1. Love at all cost. Remember, more than anything else, that you are trying to communicate the love of Christ.
  2. Remain humble. It isn’t about winning an argument. It is about having a conversation and sharing what you hold dear.
  3. Listen. Respect other people enough to listen to their views and what is important to them.
  4. Don’t be defensive. We can defend what we believe and make a case for Christianity without being defensive. When someone disagrees with our beliefs or even insults them we cannot be reactive. If we zing somebody with hell, fire, and brimstone we cab pretty much write off future conversations.
  5. Keep focused on the core of what the Gospel is.  We fall short and do wrong, Jesus loved us, died for us, and we can have a relationship with God through Christ. Sure, there are other important theological points, but don’t drive people away due to the smaller theological issues.
  6. Pray that God would give you opportunities to share your faith with others and the wisdom to do so effectively.
  7. Remember, to have intimate conversations with people we have to develop close relationships. When you meet someone, the first thing out of your mouth should not be, “Hey, do you know Jesus? Wanna come to church? You’re a sinner.” Relationship first. Conversations about your faith later.

“But set apart the Messiah as Lord in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason  for the hope that is in you. However, do this with gentleness and respect.” -Peter 3:15

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

A Dirty Christian Word

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I use to know a guy that cleaned port-o-potty’s for a living (sounds like a glamorous job right?). Every few days he had to hose these portable poop-stops out. One thing he noticed while cleaning them out was a substantial amount of vitamins in the bottom. People would take their gel coated one a day’s, and they would slip right trough them completely intact. Sometimes, the exact thing happens with our beliefs. We simply swallow them without ever considering the validity of those beliefs. Then one day something comes along that calls our beliefs into question, and our worldview comes into serious doubt.

In the Christian community, sometimes “doubt” is considered a dirty word. “You are doubting? You better check yourself? Do you even know God?” I believe this is problematic. Instead of encouraging people to examine what they believe and get answers for their doubt, they are often told to stuff their doubts down and ignore them. Overtime, these doubts build up, a crisis occurs, and their faith cannot weather the gale force winds. Beliefs that are never questioned or examined tend to be shallow. Sometimes, doubt is what drives one’s roots deeper and deeper into solid ground.

I have had conversations with people who lost their faith in God. I have met some who read something, and it casts doubt in their minds about God or His existence. I have seen others question God due to events that happened in their lives. They question God’s goodness, His plans for them, or His provision. I have had seasons of doubt myself. What should we do as believer’s when we question? Seek truth. Always seek truth. When we are willing to follow the truth wherever it leads, I believe it will always lead us back to God. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) When we seek truth. When we look for answers to questions. When we weather through a dark night of the soul. We will find God, because He is truth.

We must remember that without doubt, there could be no faith. Faith and doubt coexist in a strange dance. Doubt can actually strengthen our faith. Ever single time I have asked hard questions and looked for answers my relationship with God has always been strengthened.

One day, we will no longer have to be subjected to bouts of doubt. One day we will see Jesus face to face. There will be complete certainty. “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (I Corinthians 13:12)

So how does God view our doubt? Is He disgusted that we could ever doubt His provision, presence, existence, or goodness? I think we can find an example in scripture as to God’s response in our periods of doubt. Remember Thomas? He had a doubt problem. So much that he got the nickname “doubting Thomas”. He did not believe in Jesus’ resurrection even though his cohorts testified to its happening. How did Jesus respond to Thomas? Did He berate or humiliate him? No, He simply said come, look, believe. God is gracious in our periods off doubt. You doubt? Come. Look. Believe. Seek truth, always.

If our faith is true, it can certainly handle our doubts. Sometimes doubt can even help us gain a correct understanding of life, God, and scripture. Because at times our beliefs are incorrect and need to be challenged so we can come to a correct understanding of who God really is.

Certainly, if we are constantly doubting there could be a deeper problem. I have met people that want every single question answered before they will commit to a belief in Christ. We may never have every question answered because we see through the glass darkly. Yet, we can have the important questions answered.

Have doubts? Seek truth. Always seek truth. God commands us to do so, and if we are honestly seeking the truth, we will find it.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed
Josh

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