Saturday, March 28, 2015

Expert Testimony: The Existence of God, the Problem of Evil, and the Facts on the Bible

One of the respected methods by which truth claims may be verified is by expert testimony. Expert testimony is offered in court cases to assist in the search for truth. In the same way, expert testimony from respected individuals in human history may offer voracity to the truth claims of the Christian faith.


True faith, Christian faith is grounded in hard facts and reasonable inquiry. I would like to offer forward verified quotations from great thinkers across the ages regarding three areas of inquiry: the existence of God, the problem of evil, and the reliability of the Bible.

Faith leads to knowledge. And knowledge leads to faith. God is not just a story, or a legend or a myth. God is real. We need only look through the annuls of time to see the great thinkers who have believed and testified to the reality of God.

Often we are simply not exposed to these facts, because many in our society seek to quietly ignore and dispose of the idea of God. But we must remember the ground we stand on. It is my firm belief that we must return to the faith of the founders of the United States, and western civilization. Why? So that western society will continue to survive, and prosper. Dr. John Lennox a renowned mathematician and devout Christian once traveled to Russia during the cold war era, a rare event, to speak to their scientists and great minds. Dr. Lennox was sharing regarding the many great scientists over history who have had devout faith in Jesus Christ, and the scientists in the audience were looking more and more angry. So much so that Dr. Lennox stopped his talk, and addressed them, asking them why they looked so upset. And one of them replied, "Why weren't any of us ever told about this?" The answer should be obvious... because knowledge is power. Knowledge is our road to truth.

So without further ado, I offer up this expert testimony regarding the existence of God, the problem of evil, and the reliability of the Bible for your consideration.

A. The Existence of God


1. The Design of the Universe: Does the universe need a designer?

"We have only to see a few letters of the alphabet spelling our name in the sand to recognize at once the work of an intelligent agent. How much more likely, then is the existence of an intelligent Creator behind human DNA, the colossal biological database that contains no fewer than 3.5 billion "letters" - the longest "word" yet discovered?" –John Lennox, God and Stephen Hawking: Whose Design Is It Anyway?, p. 75.

“Discoveries of the last half of the 20th century have brought the scientific community to the realization that our universe and our planet in the universe are so remarkably unique that it is almost impossible to imagine how this could have happened accidentally, causing many agnostic scientists to concede that indeed some intelligent creative force may be required to account for it.” –Dr. Walter Bradley, Professor, Mechanical Engineering, Texas A & M

“When you analyze all of the most current affirmative evidence from cosmology, physics, astronomy, biology, and so forth...the positive case for an intelligent designer becomes absolutely compelling.” –Jonathan Wells

2. The Hiddenness of God: Why isn't God more obvious?

"Either God exists, or he does not...Let us weigh the gain and the loss in betting that God exists...If you win, you win everything; if you lose, you lose nothing. Do not hesitate then, to gamble on His existence." –Blaise Pascal, French scientist and theologian, quoted in Harold Sala, Why You Can Have Confidence in the Bible, p. 159

"The chief reason people do not know God is not because He hides from them but because they hide from Him." –John Stott

“God maintains a delicate balance between keeping his existence sufficiently evident so people will know he's there and yet hiding his presence enough so that people who want to choose to ignore him can do it. This way, their choice of destiny is really free.” –J.P. Moreland

B. The Problem of Evil


1. Do our trials communicate to us?


“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” –C. S. Lewis

“I saw a young sister, just before this service; and I said to her, "When did you find the Lord?" She replied, "It was when I was very ill." Yes, it is often so; God makes us ill in body that we may have time to think of Him, and turn to Him....What would become of some people if they were always in good health, or if they were always prospering? But tribulation is the black dog that goes after the stray sheep, and barks them back to the Good Shepherd. I thank God that there are such things as the visitations of correction and of holy discipline, to preserve our spirit, and bring us to Christ.” –Charles Spurgeon

2. Does the evil in the world disprove the goodness of God?

“The Biblical world-view is the only one that accepts the reality of evil and suffering while giving both the cause and the purpose, while offering God-given strength and sustenance in the midst of it.” –Ravi Zacharias

Someone once asked Billy Graham, "If Christianity is valid, why is there so much evil in the world?" To this the famous preacher replied, "With so much soap, why are there so many dirty people in the world? Christianity, like soap, must be personally applied if it is to make a difference in our lives." –Billy Graham

C. The Facts on the Bible


1. Can the Bible be trusted?

“I must say, that having for many years made the evidences of Christianity the subject of close study, the result has been a firm and increasing conviction of the authenticity and plenary [complete] inspiration of the Bible. It is indeed the Word of God.” –Simon Greenleaf, (1783-1853), Founder of Harvard Law School


“Today there survives more than 25,000 partial and complete, ancient handwritten manuscript copies of the New Testament. These hand written manuscripts have allowed scholars and textual critics to go back and verify that the Bible we have in our possession today is the same Bible that the early church possessed 2,000 years ago.” –Charlie Campbell

“I have a fundamental belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by those who were inspired. I study the Bible daily.” –Sir Isaac Newton , legendary scientist

2. Does the Bible contradict itself?

"Men do not reject the Bible because it contradicts itself, but because it contradicts them.”
–E. Paul Hovey

“While many have doubted the accuracy of the Bible, time and continued research have consistently demonstrated that the Word of God is better informed than its critics. In fact, while thousands of finds from the ancient world support in broad outline and often in detail the biblical picture, not one incontrovertible find has ever contradicted the Bible.” –Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics

3. Does the Bible contain prophecies that were fulfilled in Jesus?

“The Old Testament contains over 300 references to the Messiah that were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Computations using the science of probability on just 8 of these prophecies show the chance that someone could have fulfilled all 8 prophecies is 10 (to the 17th power), or 1 in 100 quadrillion.” –Fritz Ridenour, So What’s the Difference?, p. 28.

4. Does the Bible change lives?

“My father’s life was changed right before my eyes [when he trusted Christ]. It was like someone reached down and switched on a light inside him. He touched alcohol only once after that. He got the drink only as far as his lips and that was it—after forty years of drinking! He didn’t need it any more. Fourteen months later, he died form complications of his alcoholism. But in that fourteen-month period over a hundred people in the area around my tiny hometown committed their lives to Jesus Christ because of the change they saw in the town drunk, my dad.”
–Josh McDowell, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, xxvii.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

World Water Day: How vital is water?




How vital is water?  Without water I'd die in three days.  That's rather vital.  Imagine all the millions who don't have access to clean water.  Many must drink from dirty ponds.  But not on my watch, and not on yours, if we can help it.

I'd like to briefly highlight two organizations that provide water ministry to areas of the world without clean water.  The first is called Gospel for Asia.  The 2nd is called Charity: Water.  Some charities seem like it would just be a waste of money, perpetuating the cycle of poverty.  But with these two charities, it's really providing a long term solution to the water problem.  After the well is dug and ready, it's done.  That's it.  And they've got a deep well for the next 20, 30, 40, 50 years.  Seems a very logical way to help.  Of course I'm sure there are ways it could go wrong, like gangs charging for use of the well.  But that's the exception, rather than the rule.  We might as well try, right?  I believe in these two ministries.  Please support them if you can. 

Click here to Donate to Gospel for Asia's Jesus Wells.

Click here to Donate to Charity: Water.

Today is World Water Day.  Consider raising your voice today on social media to support water for the 3rd world.  There isn't a lot I can say about it, I just believe in the cause.  Here are some pictures of the wells from Gospel for Asia, and the impact they are making.
















Thank you, and God bless you.   

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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Five Powerful Speeches on the USA that Touched my Heart


As I've always said, Youtube is a wonderful free market of video content.  You can find anything from funny cat videos to inspiring sermons and everything in between.  I know in the past we've centered in on apologetics many a-time from the likes of Ravi Zacharias, Frank Turek, William Lane Craig, and many others.  We've dabbled into the antics of men like Eric Metaxas and Stephen Meyer as they rebuff the redoubts of modern intellectual subculture.  But today I'd like to offer up five powerful speeches that really hit me hard, in light of the United States and the future of the nation.  These are some great leaders, and great minds, with messages that we desperately need in the USA today.  Enjoy.

1. Dr. Ben Carson at the National Prayer Breakfast



2. Eric Metaxas at Liberty University



3. Ben Stein at Liberty University

 

4. Dr. Ron Paul to Congress "What if.."




5. Judge Andrew Napolitano - What ever happened to the Constitution? 



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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Reflections on the Salvation Army Regeneration Conference 2015



Psalm 39:7 But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.


Ministry is exhausting work.  Truly truly it is.  Sometimes you just need a break.  Burn out is high.  People are tough.  More often than not, I need a little regeneration.  

February 13th-15th I visited Camp Lake, WI to attend a Salvation Army Youth Leaders conference.  The experience was so profound for me, that I thought I would catalog the experience and some reflections regarding it. 

Eventually as I worked at the Salvation Army of Wausau TLC I begin to realize, maybe the Salvation Army is where I belong.  I know that I'm called to full time ministry.  It's something you just know internally.  But where might it be?  I'd often thought of being a traveling evangelist like Billy Graham.  Or a valiant Christian apologist like Ravi Zacharias, defending the faith in university forums.  I'd considered starting a church, and preaching regularly, like John Piper or Francis Chan.  Or even missionary work in India or China, like K.P Yohannan.  But it's tough to know.  The truth is.. How do I really know?  I mean like.. really know that I'm called to officership?  

I'd sat down with my DYS and discussed the possibility.  She suggested I attend Regen.  So there I was.  Terrified.  Excited.  Amazed.  Sometimes you just stare across a crowded room and wonder "What in the world have I gotten myself into?"  But I recall the words of a great thinker who said "If you aren't a little scared, the goal isn't big enough."  

Large groups of people had always scared me.  From junior high on, it had always been tough.  Let's just be real, I'm an introvert.  And that's not a bad thing.  I love being an introvert.  I love reading, writing, blogging, and spending quiet nights listening to music with my dog and cats.  I had often wondered though, how can I make ministry and introversion jive?  Hard to say.  I had to find a way to lead with quiet power and humility.

They called it "Camp Wonderland."  Now I immediately thought of Michael Jackson when I heard the name, but I'm not sure why.  Wonderland?  Regeneration?  Move mountains?  What's going on here?  Culture shock. DHQ? DYS? CFOT? Huh?

I never really knew what the Salvation Army was growing up.  My dad worked in a Salvation Army building in my hometown.  I remember playing basketball in the local SA gym.  I saw the logos.  But I didn't know it was a church.  I thought they just provided social services.  It's funny though, when you aren't a Christian you tend to see everything through secular lenses.  

After Jesus Christ saved my life two years and three months ago, I knew I was being called to ministry.  But ministry where?  I attended a good evangelical church.  I led Bible study, volunteered in various ministries, and began attending a religious college called Liberty University.  I started a blog.  I worked on a church plant.  But I found myself seeking a truly radical dedication to love and service.  That led to entering the Salvation Army through employment at a local Transitional Living Center.  I found the work extremely challenging at first, to the point that I nearly quit.  But eventually the struggle began to the grow on me.  The struggle to fight poverty, destitution, and addiction was so real and valuable.  I began attending Salvation Army church services and eventually started leading a Young Adult bible study.  The challenges ahead were very real, and fear often crept into my mind, wondering.. "Just how can I maintain in this kind of demanding environment?"  So many nights, head on my pillow, I would whisper up to the Lord "This isn't sustainable, and I don't have the strength required."  My eyes would tear up a bit, and then I would fall asleep.

It's no wonder that after 11 months at the shelter, Regeneration was a needed blessing.  We drove down in a minivan provided by the corps, myself, and three others.  I joked that God had a cruel sense of humor, because I had always vowed to never drive a minivan.  "I'm a man."  

It was February 13th.  I'd been running like a mad man about town trying to get things done, and I was tired and cranky.  My bosses son Marc was along with, sitting next to me.  He was the son of two SA career officers in Central.  He'd had his issues in the past, just like me.  Two girls came along, Danielle and Miranda, local nerds. Also volunteers at Captain Martin's camp in East Troy.  

When we arrived I felt somewhat terrified.  After all, how many times have I felt out of place in large groups?  More times than I can count!  Junior high, high school, basketball practice, football practice, at Bible studies even.  Oddly enough, I found myself feeling strangely "a part of" as we walked into the dining hall.  Oh my goodness, look at all these people I thought.  

Now I try to play it cool, but I grew up a rural kid in Wausau, Wisconsin.  I'm sure "gawking" would be a good word to describe the look on my face.  Who are all these people?  They're all Salvationists?  Christians?  That's a very excellent thing.  But could they really practice what they preach?  Do they?  That was a common question on my mind.  There is so much apostasy in America.  I wonder from the start with every Christian, do they really do it, or are they just talkers and not walkers? 

I was sitting there, watching people, as introverts often do, when I met the first of several new friends I would make.  Her name was Rachael and she had previously worked as a model.  Now she was a Young adult leader in the Salvation Army.  Fascinating.  We talked for a while.  I was doing my best to keep a low profile.  It's best to just watch and listen at first.  Then Captain Martin found me.  He came over with the SA gas card I was suppose to get from him.  He started laughing and joking with everyone at the table about a show called Breaking Bad.  Then he insisted that there was a password I was suppose to tell him before he could give me the card.  I told him there is no password, you're making that up.  Then he said, well, actually I can give you a hint but you have to sing it, it's a theme song from a 90s sitcom.  I sang the theme song for Friends, and thankfully he gave me the card.  Then we all went to the first session at the chapel.  

I found myself oddly pleased when the first speaker said he was an introvert.  Oh good.  Someone I can relate to.  He put me at ease instantly.  I thought I should perhaps have a cup of coffee with him sometime.  Couldn't tell you his name though.  He looked like a hipster, nerdy indie rocker.  I never knew Salvationists were such hipsters.  I saw so many hipster beards at Regeneration, it was like a grateful dead reunion concert.  IE: Citizens and Saints.

DJ Opdiggy was awesome.  Amena Brown quoting John 1?  Incredible, shocking, powerful.  Sometimes you just have to spin, right?  I've seen good and bad youth/young adult events, this was very good.  Citizens and Saints.  Well, they're indie rockers from Seattle.  That's definitely a huge plus.  However, given the mass defections of Christian rock bands in the recent past (Jars of Clay, As I lay Dying, George Perdikis - formerly of News Boys, etc) I tend to be skeptical at first of Christian rock musicians.  But for the most part, it seemed that Citizens and Saints led worship in a manner that directed attention to the worship of God.  At times in the past I'd felt the worship team was receiving worship, instead of directing it.  I think we can all imagine a worship leader we know who seems just a bit too flamboyant.  I know I can.  But Citizens and Saints were great.  Reminded me of Christian rock with a dash of Helio Sequence, Postal Service, and Passion Pit.  Impressive!

Bob Goff, need I say more?  He's just completely crazy and out there in the most beautiful and authentic way.  Reminds me of Francis Chan, except more wild.  Bob Goff was truly inspiring at the first session.  I loved it.  He fueled a lot of the regeneration I was feeling at the conference.  He encouraged the young adults of Salvation Army to take a chance.  He encouraged the young adults to step out, terrified, to do something special for Christ.  Such a deeply needed message. I need encouragement everyday, to step out and take chances.  When I'm encouraged to take chances, then I do.  Otherwise I tend to shy back.  Bob provoked a reckless abandon in me, an allegiance to do anything for Christ.  It's always been there, but like any character trait, it needs cultivation.  

In the past I've bashed the way Christians seem to have constant "conferences" and "seminars" but don't seem to be as active in the community as they should be.  The Salvation Army is active in the community while most other denominations are not.  That was a major draw for me to the army.  

Back at the dining hall there was a crazy rap dance party thing going on.  I sat along the sides and watched, smiling.  I wondered if dancing like that was a sin or not.  I was raised Catholic after all.  That's not Polka dancing.  But there doesn't seem to be anything inherently wrong about it either... confusing.  Maybe I work from a presupposition that anything fun must be sinful?  Hard to say.  But I was tired. 

Marc and I walked back to the cabin, in the below zero weather, freezing, but encouraged.  Well, at least I was.  Marc seemed to struggle through the conference.  I didn't know what was up with him, but I tried to focus on staying positive and learning what I could.

On Saturday things seemed to come together.  It was brutally cold on the wind swept campus at Camp Lake, but at least the sun was shining.  

I woke up from dreams, half asleep in the rustic woods of southern Wisconsin.  No one snored that night.  No one at all.  Obviously this was a Christian camp.  

Bob Goff stole the show again at the morning session.  I sat down, and listened and learned.  Quietly as I sat in the crowd of hundreds on Valentines Day I wondered if I would marry someone in the room.  Officership was starting to feel more and more likely.  So many prayers.  So many discussions with family and friends.  Is this the way I wondered... it could be.  I wish God would be a bit more clear though.  

Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.
 Psalm 25:5


I had to look out upon the people at the conference and simply admire them.  These are the young adults who hold out the hand of hope to thousands every year.  It's such a thankless job.  It's so difficult sometimes.  Heart to God, hand to man.  Such a rare thing in the modern era of selfishness and self-serving.  If they got any attention at all, any recognition it was probably for being weirdo religious people.  But who else walks the walk?  A lot of people have a lot of talk when it comes to world issues.  Whose got some walk?  It's the Salvation Army.  Youth leaders, young adult leaders.  Truly people of character, renown.  Unsung heroes.  Or so the picture seemed in my mind.  Being a part of a family like that seemed quite appealing.  

I got in front of the camera and told my story with a guy named Andrew.  He gave me a hug after we were done.  I was beginning to feel like the Salvation Army was exactly where I belonged.  But I needed that final word. Later that day I sat down with Major Tricia to discuss my possible future in the Salvation Army.  She talked with me for nearly an hour, and then we prayed together that God would bring everything together in just the right way. 


At the evening session I got the word.  There were chalk boards in various corners of the room.  And they told us to "move" in the direction of our dreams.  Move, even if we're afraid.  A different area of growth was written on all of the chalk boards in the various corners of the room.  I was afraid, sure.  But I got up and moved to the chalkboard that said "Officership."  There I got together with a group of people all moving in the direction of officership.  Some officers prayed with us, and encouraged us in taking the next steps toward Officership.  The feeling that came over me at those moments was powerful.  I could feel the Spirit moving in the room.  I could feel the peace coming over my heart, that this is where I belonged.  It was powerful.  I hadn't felt anything quite so peaceful and warm as being exactly where I was suppose to be at that moment, in the care of God and following the leading of his Spirit.  

The rest of the conference was wonderful.  Jo Saxton had a strong evangelism message that rung true with my heart.  Overall, it was great.  I left knowing where I belonged.  I had found my home.  The Salvation Army was the place to be, to serve Christ in the firmest dedication.  I wanted a life of not simply caring for a congregation, or preaching sermons, but a life of true, radical dedication to Jesus Christ.  And so I found it.  As William Booth said, "We are not sent to minister to a congregation and be content if we keep things going. We are sent to make war and to stop short of nothing but the subjugation of the world to the sway of the Lord Jesus.”


Mark 10:44-45 (ESV) 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Matthew 25:31-40 (NIV)
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’


Monday, March 16, 2015

How to trigger a Great Awakening




Ultimately the Holy Spirit is the only one who can trigger a great awakening in your area.  Yet the Spirit is willing.  God works through people.  He asks "Who will go?"  Who is willing to say: "Here I am Lord, send me!"  That is the beginning.  We become willing to be a vessel for the Holy Spirit to work through.  That is very powerful.  It's called "willingness."  After we're willing, and we start doing, prayerfully, it's really nothing more than details from there. 

What are those details?  Let's have a look see.  Are you ready to be Johnny Appleseed, planting wherever you go?  It starts with planting.  Hopefully others are watering, eventually a crop is growing. 

We need not reinvent the wheel.  The amazing thing is that God does the real work.  What's more amazing is it's all there in the Bible!  I just need to bring it to the surface of the culture around me.  Christianity in it's practice can become stagnant, and dead, in a short amount of time.  People grow old, slowly die inside, and eventually there are plenty of Bibles still about, but they're all collecting dust on shelves or buried at the bottom of boxes in the basement. 

Engagement is so important.  And it doesn't take an extrovert people person evangelist.  Myself, I tend to be more introverted then extroverted.  And I take that roll, I don't force myself into something I can't be.  I make it work to my advantage.

Just plant seeds, prayerfully.  It's not too tough.  The methods will vary with the personality of the person, but these are the methods I've put into practice that seem to be yielding fruit. 

In essence, it's about becoming a powerhouse.  It's about becoming a one man (or woman) army.  No one else is going to do these things.  I take responsibility to do them myself.  And I need to endure in that.  

I gotta be a dynamic, versatile assault carrier.  I've got planes I launch, I've got deck guns, I've got emergency crews, repair crews, deck hands, troops I can launch to shore, engines to take me places, etc.  It's a metaphor, but it's apt.  Let's dig into the things we can do, daily, and for me as a young guy, computer savy, reader, writer, speaker, these are tailored to my personality.  But anyone brainstorming can come up with their own awakening methods. 

1. Deliver the meat and potatoes - Drop Bibles   Purchase Bibles in bulk, and drop them at locations in your area.  Sometimes food pantries will have a "free books" area, where you could leave some Bibles.  Leave free Bibles at laundromats.  Tracts are good to leave too.  I usually put a sticker on the Bibles I leave with a link to my blog, to encourage a "journey" attitude to Christian living.  Websites like these are great places to order bulk bibles:
Christian Book
Bible League
All Bibles

2. Personal Prayer - on a daily basis, pray for a handful of people in your area.  And watch God work miracles.  Pray for churches in your area.  Pray for the community overall.  God works in mighty ways through prayer.  Continue in prayer, week by week, month by month, and year by year.

3. Facebook posting on a daily basis - Christian pictures and scriptures, 3-5 times a day.  Imagine the impact you could have over several years as you prayerfully post on social media?  This is a favorite one for me, because I'm an introvert.  And in the sometimes police state-like atmosphere of America, if you preach out loud long enough without a "permit" you can be arrested and jailed.  I wonder if our founding fathers had to get "permits" for everything they wanted to do?  I post pictures on social media.  I post scriptures on social media.  I post links to articles and petitions for Christian organizations as well.  Get creative, and get bold!

4. Post on Community Pin up Boards - self made fliers, Christian tracts, encouragement, 12 step meeting lists, get creative.  I make my own and tag them up every two weeks at gas stations, apartment complexes, laundromats, and super markets.  I've found it to be very effective, and free.

5. Donate to Charities - pick a few, walk the walk, set up monthly donations.  Compassion International, Gospel for Asia, Salvation Army, there are many to choose from.  It's not gonna break the bank.  There are many organizations to choose from, but remember to always check the reputation of your charity on Charity Navigator or another charity review website.  Also, if you order regularly on Amazon, remember to order from "smile.amazon.com."  When you do, Amazon will donate a percentage of the cost of your order to a charity of your choice.  No extra charge to you.  Pretty cool, right!?

6. Start a Bible Study - This can be very powerful.  God will work through a Bible study.  Here's the thing though: Just go verse by verse through the Bible.  You don't need to study sermon series, or the latest book by Randy Alcorn or Francis Chan or Tim Keller.  No no no, those might be good and entertaining, but stick with the word of God.  The word of God is nourishing, we need it, verse by verse.  Keep it simple.  Host the Bible study week by week, eventually you could train a leader to replace you, and start another one.  See how powerful that could be, Johnny Appleseed?

7. Set up a Prayer Group - online or offline, I set one up on Facebook called "Wausau Prayer Group" for people in my area to post prayer requests.  One could also set up an in person prayer group that meets once a week to pray about issues in the area.  Train a leader to replace you, and start another.  Powerful.

8. Be an Advocate for Churches - And I don't just mean your church.  I mean churches in your area.  I'd encourage you to attend the services of a number of churches in your area, get a feel for their style, then use your experience at each of these churches to recommend them to people you may meet on a daily basis.  Baptist, Methodist, Salvationist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Lutheran, even Catholic churches in your area, visit, attend, and become an advocate for all of them.  Talk positively about them, and encourage people to try them out and see which fits best with them in light of God's word.  We have enough critics of the church of Jesus Christ in the world today, be an advocate instead.

9. Volunteer - I'm a very blessed and lucky man to work at a homeless shelter where I have constant chances to talk with people and encourage them.  Not all of us are so blessed.  But there are always volunteer opportunities where you can serve those in need.  Beyond all the donations, food, water, shelter, hygiene products, meeting needs, and various ways to serve the lost, possibly the best is simply talking with a person, one on one.  It's very powerful to simply sit and talk with someone who is struggling, treating them as an equal, listening to them and loving them.  Consider volunteering a few hours of your time weekly at a homeless shelter, food pantry, soup kitchen, warming shelter, prison ministry, or evangelism outreach.  Very often we simply don't encounter the struggling masses within the walls of our own churches.  We need to go to them.  Jesus said "Go" he didn't say "invite." 

10. Advocate for the Persecuted Church - This can be locally through supporting Religious freedom in the USA, or it can be through supporting foreign persecution.  There are many important organizations that need dedicated advocates.  

Religious Rights Advocacy Organizations:
Abolish Human Abortion - Join the movement to abolish human abortion, through abolitionist societies across the USA National Pro Life Alliance  -Join the pro life alliance Discovery Institute - I love the discovery institute! They put forward the reasonable evidence for intelligent design and actively appose the massive Darwinian establishment
Liberty Institute - An organization that actively supports religious liberty, I'm a firm supporter of Liberty Institute
ACLJ  - The ACLJ is a religious liberties ministry that advocates for religious freedom in the USA.
Focus on the Family  - A ministry in support of the nuclear family.
Alliance Defending Freedom - An organization focused on supporting religious liberties.


Persecution Advocacy Organizations:
Persecution.org - Help support the persecuted church in foreign countries by taking action through petitions and media campaigns
Voice of the Martyrs - Help support the persecuted church through this large ministry.


11. Be Courageous - It's amazing what you can do just by talking to people about God and Christianity.  So many people don't talk about it, because it's considered taboo.  Eventually no one is talking about it.  Once one person starts talking about Jesus and the Bible, politely, with love, others see that it's ok to talk about.  That mentality spreads, and eventually a revival is taking place.  And all you had to do was step outside the norms, and be vocal about your faith.  It's just that simple.  Step outside the cookie cutter, and be real about your faith in Jesus.  Talk about it.  Open up dialogue about it.  Eventually other Christians will follow suit.  As Billy Graham said, "Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened."

Do these things on a daily basis, not over weeks or months, but faithfully over years and you will see an awakening take shape in your community, God willing.  And in my experience, God is willing for his children to know him and love him with a sincere fire.  Amen.






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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Christianity and other Religions: Many roads or exclusive path?




March 2015 Synchroblog. "What do you appreciate about other religions?

A common objection to exclusive faith in Jesus Christ is "What about other religions?"   How can Christians claim to have the exclusive truth when there are so many other religions?  It's a very important question.  But the Christian really need not see all religions aside from it's own as completely false.  There may be certain slivers of truth in all major religions given the divine logos. (The knowledge of God within every person).  

“If you are a Christian you do not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through. If you are an atheist you do have to believe that the main point in all the religions of the whole world is simply one huge mistake.”
C.S. Lewis,
Mere Christianity

It's ironic though, when such an objection is brought up: What about other religions?  Because 9 times out of 10 when I question the person further, they haven't a clue what any other religion has to say about anything.  They can't even name the prominent ones.  They can't even describe the basic doctrines of those religions.  And they have no intention of learning more about any of them.  Some do.  Most don't.  

It's similar to a drug addict complaining about Narcotics Anonymous, and how he "prefers different options" but simply returns to drug use after the conversation.  The suggestion of different options is simply a ploy to escape an urge to real transformation and change.  

Though of course the question is also posited honestly as well.  How arrogant is it to say that Christianity alone is true?  Yet I  could also turn that statement around and said, "How arrogant is it to say that all religions are basically true?"  If we're so humble and open minded, we can't make either claim, can we?  

To me, the answer to the question is to see the uniqueness of the Christian faith.  Other religions induce good works as a means of earning passage into nirvana, heaven, etc.  But in Christianity, it is acknowledged that no one can do it on their own.  We all need Jesus Christ, the perfect one.  Other religions are man attempting to climb to heaven, in the Christian faith, God comes down to save man.  All the same, I can and do appreciate other religions, if nothing else, because they help me to realize my need for Christ. 

What do I appreciate about other religions?  Buddha said life is suffering.  That is certainly the case for those who do not know Jesus.  And even if one does know Jesus, suffering will be common and expected.  Buddha reacted against Hinduism in east Asia.  He saw "desire" itself as the problem, and sought to remove all desire from his life.  One might've asked him, "Why do you desire that?"  

Christianity is of course quite different.  Desire is not the problem in the Christian worldview.  There is a necessary division between what we ought to desire and what we ought not to desire.  The battle within the Christian is between the desires of the "flesh" and the desires of the "Spirit."  After accepting and knowing Christ, the believer struggles with bad desires and good desires, fighting to "put to death" the works of the flesh.  The believer is encouraged to have the "mind of Christ."  In so doing the believer eliminates sinful desires like lust, envy, greed, and coveting.  Yet all desire is not to be removed, instead the believer is encouraged to "desire" the things of the Spirit, love, forgiveness, truth, justice, and kindness among others.  So there are certain differences and certain similarities, and I can certainly respect a Buddhist for their devotion to moral behavior. 

One can certainly appreciate the Jewish faith as well, and the dynamic saga of the nation God raised up as his own: Israel.  Truly spell binding.  I've always been fascinated by the saga of the Jewish people over history.  From one man named Abraham it all began.  The birth of Isaac.  The banishment of Ishmael, who later founded the Arab nations.  From Isaac to Jacob, then Joseph.  Into bondage in Egypt. The story of Moses and the journey through the wilderness.  Later once again falling away and being captured and taken to Babylon.  Returning to rebuild the city after the Babylonian captivity, only to be conquered and reconquered, to the destruction of the temple by the Roman empire after the crucifixion of Christ.  The scattering of the Jews about Europe and Asia.  The holocaust in World War II, and the return of the Jews to Israel.  The battles and skirmishes between Arab nations and Israel.  It's terribly fascinating.    

Jews and Christians are brothers and sisters.  It's important to remember that.   

I can also respect and admire the secular humanist for many reasons as well.  I like secular humanists because they support charities.  I like that they support humanity and the pursuits of humanity.  They tend to appose corruption (Occupy Wallstreet) and they are quick to go after human rights violations internationally (Sex trade Industry).  The nice thing about an opposition to Christianity is it's ability to critique serious problems within the church.  The sexual abuse cases with Priests comes to mind, such an unspeakable tragedy that must be decried and dealt with.  The mistreatment of women and African Americans comes to mind.  However, it's important to bear in mind that Christians supported the abolition of slavery.  Can't forget that it was a Republican party of it's time that voted to abolish slavery while Democrats fought fiercely against it.  Many churches have oppressed women.  Many non-Christian businesses and associations have done just the same though.  We don't want to forget that a Christian organization called the Salvation Army has been a champion for women's rights for 150 years, with women having equal standing in the church to men.  Yet I appreciate the critiques of secular humanists and even militant atheists.  It helps to remind us Christians to stay humble, stay full of love, and stick close to the Bible.    

One group I have a special affection for is the honest seeker.  They ask "What is the truth?"  And they search for it.  I like that.  That was me for many years.  What is real?  Why am I?  What is the purpose in all this?  What is the meaning of life?  I love those questions.  And I love the woman or man who asks those with zeal and seeks out answers.  The seeker is a beautiful thing to behold.  

In closing, I believe firmly that Jesus Christ as revealed in the books of the Bible is the exclusive route by which humanity may have forgiveness, freedom, and peace with God.  Other religions may indicate patterns of good behavior, but without a savior, attempts to pull ourselves up by our moral bootstraps will always be doomed to failure.  Man does not need a better rule book, time and time again nations and governments have proved that.  Humanity needs a savior for our personal failings, and a Spirit within to lead us and transform us into the people we were always meant to be: children of God.  Amen, thank you for reading!



  
 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What is the meaning of Life?

















"In an uncertain world, here is certainty; in a world without foundations, here is a rock-solid foundation" - Douglas J. Moo, The NIV Application Commentary: Romans

What is the meaning of life?  Ah, the age old question.  So many have asked the question, and so many have attempted to provide an answer.  This question must come up in the mind of man during his toilings on the planet Earth.  Of course it does.  We look up into the sky, across the wind swept horizon and ask: "Why?  Why am I here? What is the purpose in all this?  What is the ultimate end of life?" 

I wondered, what do the great minds of the world consider to be the meaning of life?  I did a quick Google search for quotes from the great minds of history regarding the meaning of life.  On a list from Goodreads.com are quotes on the meaning of life ordered with the most "liked" quotes at the top.  I had to laugh as I scrolled through the quotes.  

The first and most "liked" quote is very revealing, regarding what the internet, and the intellectual prefer to believe about meaning:

“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”
Albert Camus 


The second quote in the list is equally revealing:

“Life has no meaning. Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life. It is a waste to be asking the question when you are the answer.”
Joseph Campbell 


These two "great thinkers" insist that you must not even ask what the meaning of life is.  Albert Camus seems to suggest happiness is the meaning of life.  For Joseph Campbell, you are the meaning!  You make the meaning.  I've heard that many times before.  That humans infuse their own meaning into any given situation.  Now why would that be the case?  It seems somewhat contradictory.  In addition, there is no rational there.  And that is something I simply cannot accept, that truth is simply my personal preference.  Sounds more like a selfish western view, very individualistic and conceited.  So the question remains, even when post-modernists shock us with the conclusion that "you shouldn't even ask."

Another writer that I've read, named Henry Miller (Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn) said, "Life has to be given a meaning because of the obvious fact that it has no meaning.”  Given the debauched, erotic lifestyle of Henry Miller, the fact that his books are banned in many countries for their depravity might lead to the conclusion that Henry Miller himself may have a personal stake in a necessary lack of meaning.


Included on the first page of results for quotes on the meaning of life were three different quotes from Christopher Hitchens, a renowned atheist who died of complications from alcoholism at a relatively young age.  A quote is also included from Frederick Nietzsche, a man who fought God his entire life and eventually succumbed to inner madness later in his life.  Kurt Vonnegut, Douglas Adams, Philip K. Dick, Stephen King.. fascinating...  That we look to fiction writers to describe meaning in life.  

We can pretend life has no meaning, perhaps to fight for a clear conscience, but that is never quite satisfactory.  We know internally that there is something more.  We know it.  There is a deep desire within man to understand the purpose of all things.  It is an indescribable sense of meaning.  We know deep down that truth is not subjective, but objective.  We know deep down there are fixed truths.  

I don't buy it when someone tells me not to search for something.  I don't believe it when someone tells me that "absolutely" all truth is relative.  It cannot be.  Those around me cannot cancel my journey.  I have taken it.  Life is not a vacant search for pleasure.  Life is not a merry go round of self service.  Those ideas are at the roots of the problems of this world, not the solutions.

Now at the next level, perhaps up a floor, we have those who say we must look within.  That's a very appealing suggestion on the surface.  Look within for the truth, as they say, trust your heart!  Follow where your heart leads.  Yes, I've been down that road as well.  It didn't work out particularly well.  My heart was interested in.. pleasure.  My heart was interested in say, a penultimate happiness.  Or a constant state of satisfaction.  Unfortunately there was no way to arrive at such a place.  There was no perfect romantic relationship, or perfect concoction of prescription medications that could fill the void in my soul.  There was no perfect job.  There was no toy, car, house, or award that could keep me satisfied.  Ultimately there was always the hazy morning after, and a vacant feeling of loneliness, guilty, and emptiness.  And again the next day, after the hang over subsided, the neurotic search for eternal pleasure would begin again.  A great thinker once said, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.  

Now one could approach the meaning of life in a sort of circumspection breaking down the variables and painting a four dimensional tapestry of man kind in space-time.  One could examine the various angles, and counter the necessary punches to reach a conclusion where-in spiritual thought is placed at the height of the terrain.  But I'm not going to do that today.  

One doesn't necessarily take that route when confounded with reality.  In my travels and discussions in small town America I've found that people just don't give it that amount of time and thought.  We just kind of move forward haphazardly, at the heights of pride, thinking we know something about something.  We really don't know much.  We've made up a lot of big words and a lot of people have studied long enough to be considered "experts" and they henceforth issue decrees from the heights of intellectual imbecility to the dismal masses below, to describe the state of things as they see it.  And people tend to accept that.  Yet we often grant authority and unwavering belief to anyone with a title, MD behind their name (aka Mdivinity) or a white lab coat on.

For me, after being prescribed medications by family practice doctors for years, I began to realize finally, that they really had little idea what they were doing.  Just kind of groping in the dark, burying mistakes and playing with brain chemicals.  After that realization... that my doctor is not divine in his/her decisions, I began to realize that the same was probably true for molecular biologists, nuclear physicists, Oprah Winfrey, Deepok Chopra, and my dentist.  Or as many have indicated: People will believe anything as long as the phrase begins with "new study shows" or "scientists have discovered."

My point in all this is that one must be capable of breaking free from the post-modernist nonsense to even approach the meaning of life.  One must also be able and willing to break out of materialism as well.  We come with many, many preconceptions whether we realize it or not.  In the past I might've argued from a preconceived desire for there to be no God.  Or from a scientism view of reality.  Or from a desire to defend a depraved lifestyle.

Now even further, one must then step out of the New Age as well.  Admittedly, this is a large umbrella.  But it is perhaps best summed up in the idea of spiritually "making it up as you go along."  I used to read the book of a woman named Doreen Virtue.  She was a new age writer, and her books were certainly an interesting read.  But it eventually dawned on me as I reading her books... shes just making this stuff up as she goes along.  I had reached the point where I realized a spiritual answer was logical.  I was looking for answers.  I read a great deal about horoscopes, the zodiac signs, tarot cards, Chinese spiritual beliefs, dream interpretation, lucid dreaming, and other sort of "spiritualish" ideas.  Pick what you like, leave the rest, right?  That's certainly entertaining, but hardly an honest approach to truth and meaning.  

Of course as these things were going on, the reading and the spiritual journey and all that, life was happening too.  There were problems in my life.  There were pains.  Addictions were starting to gather.  Stress and depression were becoming issues.  Relationships were not being well maintained.  It was becoming more and more clear that I could not function well on my own two feet, making it up as I went along.  

In life I've found that there is nothing like pain and suffering to refine the parameters of a search.  I was forced to ask my questions more honestly than in the past. 

It was around that time when the sorrow mounted, that I began to study a Bible and carry it around with me.  I read it for fun.  I liked the stories, especially in Genesis.  

Did I think the Bible contained the meaning of life?  I don't know really.  Maybe.  Probably not.  I was more concerned with being entertained.  I never truly realized until looking back, just what an arrogant, entitled little snot I was.  

I was dumb, didn't even understand basic logic.  And I had been educated in one of the best school districts in the United States.  The D.C. Everest district.  I recall several families who had moved to the area for just that reason.  In fact I met some kids whose parents had bought a house for them in the area just so they could attend the district.  Guess what we did at that house?  Public school though, is still public school.  Reminds me of one of the lines from Malcom Muggeridge I believe, who said that man has educated himself into imbecility at his own academic institutions.  In addition, I had started my college studies at one of the most well respected college systems in the United States: the university of Wisconsin system.  Didn't really matter.  

Western civilization has really taken on the philosophies and ideologies of Marx, Freud, and Darwin.  They aren't too functional in my humble view.  But that's a whole new topic. The point is we have to remember what has worked empirically in western civilization: Judeo-Christian principles.  

So yes, with a devestating sigh, we come to it.  Christianity.  The Bible!  No, not that old thing!  Truly truly, I can understand that reaction to the Bible.  It was the last thing I wanted to be true.  It seemed like a book of nonsense fairy tales to me.  But my best research had been reading a novel called "The Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown.  I hadn't actually read any research, or done any serious investigation.  Yet I found I didn't really have to.  That could come later.  The issue was that my life was falling apart.  I needed not just an answer to the question, I needed a functional solution.  I needed a cure to my malady.  I malady I didn't even fully understand that I had.  The age old "God-shaped" hole in the chest as they say.  

In desperation, collapsed on the floor by the fireplace, I prayed a little pray, "God help me.  Jesus save me!"  And I kept repeating it.  Louder and louder.  And after that day, everything changed in my life.  That was the irrefutable evidence that I had so sought after.   Was it the answer I preferred?  Definitely not.  It was more like a worst case scenario as far as the answer went.  Oh no, please no, anything but the Bible, anything but that Christian stuff.  Because I despised that Christian stuff.  I really did.  I hated it.  I wanted it to go away and stop telling me what to do.  It seemed so stupid.  Yet now.. here I am, a follower of Jesus Christ.  In my own unique way.  I go to a church.  But not a dumb church full of hypocrites.  I go to a church full of sick people who are trying to get well through the power of Christ. I go to a church with people who really want to get out there and do something real for Jesus.  Not just some token effort, but a full force mission of Christ.

I'm sorry to leave you there friends.  I really am.  But it's the truth.  I discovered that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.  Just like he said.  Before that I was a Liberal, New Ager, Agnostic, civil rights, free sexual, pot head, hippie, cigarette smoking tripper free spirit.  And now I'm a follower of Jesus Christ, outspoken, organic-eating, Libertarian indie rocker, occupier, anti-Gmo, truth teller, activist, free spirit, set free by God himself.  I still held onto a lot of my beliefs and ideas, yet my life was also fundamentally transformed by the indwelling presence of God himself.  God-sized hole = filled.  Not bad, not bad.  I still listen to Sonic Youth and the Helio Sequence and complain about things being too mainstream and decry corporate and government corruption, yet with even more power and effect, given the indwelling Spirit.  It's great actually.  And I don't have to be addicted to drugs or alcohol anymore either.  I don't have to smoke cigarettes anymore.  I don't have to chase girls endlessly, hurting people and constantly ending in feelings of guilt.  I still drink coffee and laugh loud with my friends.  Yet it's transformed.  It's better than it ever would've been.  I've got real friends today, brothers.  All thanks to Jesus. I'm asking you today to consider that possibility.  Because let's just be real, it's mainstream to be a sex addicted, gamer, liberal, pothead, druggy, drinker hippie these days.  Everyone is doing that.  For me, it's indie to be a Christian, not like the weird church people, but a radical follower of Jesus, a total sold out on Jesus kind of guy, going anywhere and doing anything in service to my savior.  It's awesome.  And it's real.  It's the real truth of life.

What is the meaning of life? 

Answer: The meaning of life is to wake up on the Earth, and smell the roses, and see the fields and the snow drifts, the mountains the oceans, and the night skies, and to be touched deep down, by an awe in the power and complexity of life.  The meaning of life is to live and make mistakes, until we realize that the problem of evil in the world, the troubles of the planet are not outside us, but within us.  The meaning of life is to inquire, to seek out, and to read and study and learn and by doing, discover that a life as complex and harmonious as this requires a first cause architect.  And in coupling those realities together, we see the need outside and the need within us for a savior who is not like us, a perfect savior: Jesus Christ, a God who does not just tell us how to live morally, but a God who comes down and walks the walk, shows us how to live, and then dies for us, to offer us reconciliation to himself.  The meaning of life is to realize our need for God, and to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ our own Savior.  And to tell others.  And to live that for the rest of our days in joy, awe, and trembling love.











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